Posts by: Steve Manke

Consumer Alert: These Scammers Don’t Work for Comcast

scam_shield_iconI received a call last week that was just too nasty not to share (listen to the recorded call below).  A man named Dean claimed to be calling from Comcast, and he wanted to offer me a special deal on an upgrade to my broadband internet service.  When he explained the particulars of the deal, it became instantly apparent that the deal was entirely too good to be true.  First of all, I was being offered a major increase in both my downstream (50Mb/s) and upstream (19.3Mb/s) bandwidth.  And this would cost only $25 per month for the next two years.  The only requirement from me was that I pay the first year of service in advance: 12 months@$25=$300.  If I did that, I would be guaranteed the $25 per month price for the next 2 years, and they would even give me a free Kindle Fire HD as part of the promotion.  Comcast had partnered with Amazon for the promotion, I was told.

Sound too good to be true?  You better believe it!  So when good old Dean told me about this amazing offer, I explained that I was in the middle of a meeting and asked him to call me back the following day.  It gave me time to get some recording software installed on my phone.  I wanted to properly document this “special offer.”  Dean dropped the ball and didn’t call me back the next day, but he did call me the day after.  And I recorded all of the details in their fraudulent glory.
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Haywire by Justin R. Macumber

9780983765585_p0_v2_s260x420Like science fiction?  Are you a fan of old school action/adventure stories?  If this is you, Haywire is a must-read book.  This story is science for the sake of fiction, and that’s what makes it shine.  It’s a fast paced novel that doesn’t get bogged down in the technical aspects of space travel or try to sell you on the plausibility of technology that exists in this futuristic look at our world.  The story doesn’t spend time explaining the politics of the future or try to tell a less that subtle cautionary tale of what’s to come.  Haywire is, from page one, a quick moving story about interesting characters.  Space is the setting for this book.  There’s no dull, heavy handed lesson in science or technology to slow the pace of the story.  If you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of space travel, or how wormholes helped humanity reach out into the stars, you won’t find it here.  That’s not what this book is about.  It’s far more grounded in the lives of the characters, and that’s what I loved about it.

When an alien race attempted to invade our solar system, the people of Earth created an army super soldiers who were powerful enough to drive them back to where they came from.  What happened after that is entirely unknown.  100 years passed and no one on Earth knows what became of the aliens or Earth’s super soldiers.  At least, until one of those soldiers returns home.  She is sick with an alien infection, and she is the only one with a chance of stoping the next great threat to Earth.
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Xom-B by Jeremy Robinson

xom-b-by-jeremy-robinson-smallThis is, by far, one of the more unique genre fiction novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  And while the title implies a zombie based plot, the book is more distinctively science fiction than it is horror.  Set in the not distant enough future, this is at its core a cautionary tale— an all too plausible, “what if” scenario that at first seems somewhat farfetched.  But by the end of the book, odds are that you’ll find yourself no longer considering the events of this book as implausible as they might have first seemed.

First and foremost, Xom-B is the tale of one man’s wide-eyed and innocent discovery.  It’s told from the first person-present perspective.  While at first this point of view was a little jarring and unfamiliar to me, it soon became more comfortable.  I have no doubt that it was the right perspective from which to tell this particular tale.  So much of what happens is made much more effective by the real-time first person point of view, and I think my initial discomfort from the perspective came simply from the fact that so few books utilize this perspective.
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Influx by Daniel Suarez

influx_iconInflux, the latest novel from Daniel Suarez is certain to be another smash hit.  Daniel’s first book, Daemon was a bestseller and foretold technologies that are only currently seeing the light of day.  Modern tech like Goole’s still-in-production Google Glass, and lesser altruistic advents such as the recently dismantled Silk Road.  Part two of Daemon was titled Freedom™, and was another massive success.  This was followed by Kill Decision which proved to be only moments ahead of its time since it dealt with drone warfare and posed a question that is becoming crucial at this very point in time: should automated systems or artificial intelligence be allowed to make critical life and death decisions?

Book number four from Mr. Suarez, Influx, deals with a fictional government agency who’s mandate is to police leaps in technology that are deemed disruptive.  The BTC, or Bureau of Technology Control, is proactive in its efforts, striking at scientist and innovators before they can bring key innovations to market— innovations that are certain to change the world in some profound way.  When such a technology comes to the attention of the BTC, the innovator behind the discovery is offered membership into the unique and secret organization.  But only if he or she agrees to keep their discovery from the world and continues development while working for the BTC.  But what happens when someone refuses?
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The Best Way to Blanket a Home in Wi-Fi

wireless_iconA recent Facebook post started me thinking that this was a subject worth covering.  Here’s the original question:

JR: Computer people, what is the absolute, most amazing and powerful wi-fi extender I can get? My current extender is slow and totally unreliable, needing to be reset frequently. I’ve read reviews online, but can’t seem to come up with an obvious choice.

It’s a great question with a few possible answers.  First, let’s make some assumptions about the environment.  Like most folks in this situation, I’m betting that this is a larger house with the router located at one end and that the wi-fi reception on the opposite end is the real problem.  Upstairs and downstairs variations are likely not the issue.  There could be obstructions in the middle of the house the interfere with the signal.  These are typically kitchen related.  The refrigerator and stove can really tank a wi-fi signal.

So what’s the best way to extend the range of the wi-fi router?  There are extenders, but as the question suggests, your mileage may vary.  What are the alternatives?

Option 1: Replace the Router
Replacing the main wireless router with an 802.11n or an 802.11ac version could be the ticket.  If the original router was 802.11a, 802.11b, or 802.11g, then these newer versions offer greater ranger in most situations.  But there’s a catch.  To take full advantage of that greater range, the wireless adapter that’s part of your computer should also be 802.11n or 802.11ac.  If it’s not, you’re not going to get the full range extension.  And upgrading the hardware at the computer could be impractical (adding a card of some kind) or impossible (some laptops, and all tablets).  At some point, the price becomes an issue and option 1 might not be the best route if you’re dealing with legacy hardware.

Also keep in mind that 802.11n and 802.11ac routers drop in performance to match the requirements of the oldest connecting device.  This means that, if you have an old device (only 802.11b 22Mb), your super fast 100+Mb wi-fi will down-step the performance of the entire network to accommodate that old device.  Some of the latest hardware circumvents this issue by putting the older hardware on a different frequency, but in far too many cases, having an old device on a modern network will cause the entire network to slow down.  Worse yet, depending on the router, it might also limit the range of your wi-fi network as it works to accommodate those older specifications.  Few people see that coming.  It’s difficult to anticipate and even more difficult to diagnose, so be aware.
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Refuge Omnibus Edition by Jeremy Bishop and Friends

refuge-omnibus-big-by-jeremy-bishopRefuge was a five book serialize release from Jeremy Bishop and a host of additional talented authors that is now available in an omnibus edition.  If you tuned in to the series as it was released on a weekly basis, you could buy the books as they were released.  But now that the five book series is complete, the omnibus version is available.  It contains the complete series in a single book, and at a reduced price.

Each book in the series was co-authored by Jeremy Bishop and another author.  Each guest is a talented and accomplished author in their own right, so the tag-team effort insures that each book is nothing short of spectacular.  Book one is written by Jeremy Bishop and Jeremy Robinson.  Fans of Robinson’s work will recognize Jeremy Bishop as the pen name that Robinson reserves for his horror work.  His collaboration with his alter ego is as fun as the book is chilling.  With book 2, Bishop teams up with Daniel S. Boucher.  Book 3 pairs Bishop with Robert Swartwood who wrote The Serial Killer’s Wife and The Calling, among numerous other thrillers.  Book 4 teamed Bishop with David McAfee of 33 A.D. and 61 A.D. fame.  And book 5 concludes the series by pairing Bishop with Kane Gilmour, author of ResurrectThe Crypt of Dracula, as well as co-author of several of the Jack Sigler books.
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Beyond Judgment By Richard Bard (Brainrush #3)

beyond_judgementI fell in love with the series when I read books 1 and 2 back to back. I had impossibly high expectations when I started reading book 3. To the point where I was nervous… worried that the third installment couldn’t possibly live up to my lofty expectations. Especially after waiting a year for the latest release.

All of my worries were for nothing. Book three was a smash hit that managed to surpass my expectations in every possible way. It was an action packed thrill-ride from beginning to end. But maybe even more impressively, the way book three ties into the events and characters from the earlier releases actually managed to pull at my heartstrings. While the book was an action thriller, it had more than a few touching moments that were brilliantly written.
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Sideloading eBooks Onto The Kindle Reader

kindle_paperwhiteThere are a couple of reasons why Amazon grew to dominate the e-book market early in the game.  First, the store’s selection is first-rate.  A ton of content is key.  But the real brilliance on the part of Amazon was the way the store tied into the Kindle Reader.  Buy a book online and the Amazon website makes it very easy to pop that new book onto a Kindle compatible reading device.  It doesn’t matter if that reading devices is a Kindle branded reader,  iPad, iPhone, Android device, or even a laptop/desktop Mac or PC.  Just click the buy button on Amazon.com and select your destination device (assuming you have more than one device registered in your Amazon account).  Amazon’s backend infrastructure takes care of the rest.  Just buy the book and start reading… very easy.

But what if you buy a book from Smashwords or you download it directly from an authors website?  If that book wasn’t purchased through the Amazon store, getting it onto your device suddenly becomes a lot less intuitive.  Actually, it can be a down right painful experience… Until you know the tricks.  But there is good news.  There are a number of ways to get those books onto your Kindle compatible device.
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Grey Lady, by Paul Kemprecos

paul_kemprecos_grey_lady_iconThere’s something about a detective story that’s told in the first person.  When it’s done right, it just works.  That is, hands down, the case with Grey Lady.  But it’s far more than you classic who done it? mystery.  It’s also a wild ride with a riveting plot that pulls you in at the start and keeps you locked locked within the pages for the duration.  Everything centers around a character named Aristotle Socarides, better know as “Soc” to his friends and adversaries alike.  And while this is book 7 in a series, that shouldn’t prevent anyone from jumping into the series right here.  I haven’t read the earlier books yet (Though they have all been added to my to-read list now).

This a tale of murder, a rich man’s mental break with reality, and the search for the great white whale immortalized by Herman Melville.  What do all of these things have in common?  Not a single thing, unless you’re Paul Kemprecos.  But for an author with his pedigree, they’re the base ingredients for a fantastic mystery thriller than involves lost American history, scrimshaw, hive based drone technology, and cannibalism.
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Omega by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour

omega_book_iconI have so many things that I want to say but I can’t because I don’t want to spoil this amazing novel for anyone.  So no spoilers here.  It’s enough to say that this book takes the team, and a couple of characters in particular, to some very interesting and unexpected places.  Adding to the fun, Omega takes what we know about the series so far— and some of the characters— and just turns all of that on its ear.  There’s some really brilliant stuff that you wouldn’t expect to see surface this far into a well-established series.

Of course we get the requisite gun toting, ass-kicking that we expect from our favorite special-ops team, and a few things are revealed that threaten to make us look back at the earlier books in an entirely different way.
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