Recall of Apple AC Wall Plug Adapters

apple-acIf you live in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand or South Korea, and own an AC wall adepter that came with your iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac device, you may want to read below:

CUPERTINO, California — 29 January 2016— Apple® today announced a voluntary recall of AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand and South Korea. In very rare cases, affected Apple two-prong wall plug adapters may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. These wall plug adapters shipped with Mac® and certain iOS devices between 2003 and 2015 and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. Apple is aware of 12 incidents worldwide.


The recall does not affect any other Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, United States or any Apple USB power adapters.
 
Because customer safety is the company’s top priority, Apple is asking customers to stop using affected plug adapters. Customers should visit www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter for details about how to exchange the affected adapters for new, redesigned ones.
 
An affected two-prong plug adapter has either four or five characters or no characters on the inside slot where it attaches to the main Apple power adapter. Visit the program website for more details on how to identify an affected adapter.

Vinyl From The Vault: Gilles Pellegrini 12 Hits No.76

An ongoing series showcasing less common albums and their covers

French pop covers record – no. 76 in the series. No year displayed but given there’s covers of Elton John’s Nikita and Lionel Richie’s Say You Say Me, it was released circa 1986-1987:

gilles-pellegrini-12hits-no.76

Dune Turns 50: Is It Still Relevant?

illustdnEarlier this year, Frank Herbert’s  “Dune” celebrated fifty years since it was first published in novel form – it had previously been serialised in Analog magazine from 1963. My first exposure to the Dune universe came through the David Lynch movie, and I got my first copy of the first book shortly after that. As a teenager, I found myself reading the book as a novelisation that wasn’t written by Alan Dean Foster. Over the next decade or so, the novel was on my high rotation – I read it at least every other year – and I started to discover the other themes and ideas.

As a man now in his forties talking about a book I’ve read since my teens, the question becomes: is it still relevant? Some would say the basic premise – a bunch of fanatical killers sitting on the edge of the desert waiting to destroy civilisation – would be fairly relevant, given recent events. However, there is more to this book than that. There is enviromental change,  politics, leadership, hero worship, the dangers of messiah, addiction,  and resource management. I read the novel this year, and discovered that many of the ideas in book are something that have become part of my philosophy in life. When you look around and see the blind worship of those we see as heroes, and how that power can be harnessed and abused, Dune remains very relevant. Many have commented on the ecological side of the novel, which is certainly a main theme – but given the feudal universe in the novel, there is a lot of deception; something the characters note to themselves as they talk about feints within feints and plans within plans.

And what of the novel? It can come across as a little simple.  The noble good Atreides , the evil Harkonnens headed by a pedophile, the servile Fremen Stilgar . These characters can sometimes come across as a little wooden in places, placing plaititudes here and there. Once the novel gets going, they do tend to flesh out a little better , espically Paul and his struggle with who and what he is becoming. Where the novelt excels is in description – although describing a desert doesn’t seem all that hard in theory –  Herbert created an ecosystem that was logical and true to itself. There are prey and predators, all evolved to survive in the desert and to hunt every trace of moisture they can.

Away from the planet, there is a formed society of kings, dukes, merchants, spacing guilds, sisterhoods, the whole shebang. The shaping of this larger universe is helped by the use of quotes of fictitious books at the start of each section which not only sum up the theme of the next bit, but expand our understanding of the larger universe. The impression created is that this story takes place in a book bigger than it actually is.

This is a book that has maintained its appeal over the years because there is so much in it. You can read it as I first did – a rollicking Space Opera – and then read it again and see the subtle things going on in the book. If you haven’t read “Dune” in the last twelve months, do yourself a favour. Read it.

Apple Mail and POP Account Offline in El Capitan

Since upgrading to OSX El Capitan, I noticed one of my POP accounts keeps going offline. That account is hosted on Godaddy and after some web trawling it seems that Godaddy hosted POP email accounts won’t play nicely with Apple Mail under El Capitan. This may be the case with other hosting providers as well.

Thankfully, the solution is simple. Go to Preferences in Apple Mail and under the ‘Advanced’ tab there’s an option labeled ‘Automatically detect and maintain account settings’. If you
uncheck that box, your account will start working again.

Here’s a screen shot example:

Accounts

I hope that’s of some help!

My Teen Is Moody – Is It Normal?

Some reassuring news from science this week, on the mood swings of teens. A Dutch study published in Child Development has a bunch of outcomes that should put at least some parents’ minds at ease:

Most Teen Mood Swings Decline with Age

Adolescence is typically regarded as a period of heightened emotionality. Although the teen years are an important time for youth to learn to regulate their emotions, little research has looked at the development of teens’ emotional stability. Now a new longitudinal study has found that adolescents’ mood swings decline gradually as they get older, which should reassure parents about their moody teens while also helping identify when instability is considered risky and requires intervention.

The study, conducted by researchers at VU University Amsterdam, the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Utrecht University, and Tilburg University, all in the Netherlands, appears in the journal Child Development.

“We found that early adolescence is the period of the greatest volatility, but adolescents gradually stabilize in their moods,” according to Hans M. Koot, professor of developmental psychology at VU University Amsterdam and the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, a coauthor of the study. “An important message to teens, parents, and teachers is that temporary mood swings during early adolescence might actually be normal and aren’t necessarily a reason to worry.”

Researchers followed 474 middle- to high-income Dutch adolescents from ages 13 to 18. Forty percent of these adolescents were at high risk for externalizing behaviors (e.g., aggressive or delinquent behavior) at age 12. Using Internet diaries, the teens rated their daily moods in terms of happiness, anger, sadness, and anxiety during three weeks of the school year for five years (that is, a total of 15 weeks spread over five years). Using these daily assessments, the researchers calculated fluctuations in day-to-day mood and then analyzed whether these showed any developmental changes across the five-year period.

During the course of adolescence, teens’ moods became more stable for happiness, anger, and sadness, the study found. Although girls had higher variability than boys in happiness and sadness, the rate of change across adolescence was similar for both sexes.

The researchers posited that teens’ moods could become more stable because events that are new in early adolescence (such as first romances, which can be exciting, and conflicts with parents about leisure time, which can be frustrating) happen less frequently as teens grow older. And it’s likely that adolescents figure out over time how to deal more effectively with changes in their moods.

Anxiety was the only mood that didn’t fit in with this overall pattern. The variability in teens’ anxious moods waxed and waned, with an initial increase, then a decrease, followed by an increase again toward the end of adolescence. This trend could be explained by the transition toward adulthood, the researchers suggest, which might induce more anxiety swings in late adolescence due to teens’ increasing responsibilities (such as leaving school, going on to higher education, or getting a job).

“In general, heightened mood variability will eventually pass,” notes Dominique F. Maciejewski, a Ph.D. student at VU University Amsterdam and the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, and the study’s first author. “By demonstrating that most teens get less moody across adolescence, our study provides a solid basis for identifying adolescents who develop in a deviant way. In particular, teens who continue to be extremely moody or who get even moodier across adolescence may need to be monitored more closely since earlier studies have shown that extreme mood swings are related to more emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal problems.”

So there you have it – though there’s one very important point to make. You are likely to know your teen best so if you think something’s up, then perhaps there is an issue to discuss or get help for. If in doubt, seek guidance from a qualified professional such as a psychologist, counsellor or general practitioner.

[For the research nerds to full citation is: Child Development, A Five-Year Longitudinal Study on Mood Variability Across Adolescence using Daily Diaries by Maciejewski, DF, van Lier, PAC (VU University Amsterdam and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research), Branje, SJT (Utrecht University), Meeus, WHJ (Utrecht University and Tilburg University), and Koot, HM (VU University Amsterdam and EMGO Institute for Health Care Research). Copyright 2015 The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved.]

Is Skype Dead? Why Yes It Is

Update: Skype came back online for a few minutes at 11.30am AEST but is down again now.

In case you hadn’t heard, for the past half a dozen hours and counting, Skype has been dead:

Cursor_and_Skype_Support___SkypeSupport____Twitter

The said the fix is hopefully close, but in the meantime queue the Microsoft gags….

Can’t Find The Apple News App On Your iOS 9 Device? Here’s Why

Happy man distracted when reading a newspaper.

No News App FOR YOU!

Today I downloaded iOS 9 for one reason only: to check out the News app and see how it compared to the third-party options out there. After installing iOS 9 I was surprised to find no news app. After trawling for a while online for reasons why, I then resorted to asking friends on Facebook.

Thankfully Macworld Australia’s editor pointed me in the right direction: Australia alongside a bunch of other countries don’t have content deals sealed, so it’s no News app for us.

Not happy but not surprised when i think about it. Now it’s a waiting game on how long it takes. Anyone want to place wagers on 2016 or 2017?

[Huge hat tip to Macworld Australia Magazine]

The Hugo Awards: Let’s Talk Puppygate

044602139-ibm-electronic-data-processingSince 1953 the one award science fiction writers have valued is the Hugos. Previous winners include Issac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Arthur C Clarke, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Over the last few years, there has been tension as a voting bloc has tried to move the awards towards how they think science fiction should be.

The Sad Puppies first appeared in 2013, as an attempt to get a particualr novel to win. It failed. Since then, the Sad Puppies have put forward their ideas for nominations. Recently, the founders of the Sad Puppies have tried to distance themselves from the splinter group, known as the Rabid Puppies. Whilst both groups do seem to be wanting the same idea – a popular competition, not one based on the writer’s political, gender, racial or sexual leaning – the Rabid Puppies do seem to lean a little more to the right.

(If you want to do a deep dive into the whole issue, this Wired article is an excellent place to start – Ed.)

Seems rather confusing doesn’t it ? It also misses the point.

Science fiction is a wonderful genre. Within it, there can be thought provoking ideas, philosophies, and inspiring characters. It tells stories that can be intellectually stimulating but also be good old fashioned pulp fun. Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy showed that the two can live together. For people to say that the genre should lean one way or another is to avoid one of the major selling points of science fiction:  it is a genre that can be everything.

This debate shows that the genre is still a living, vibrant entity that is being supported by people with a real passion for it, and how they see it evolving. So long as the debate stays in the background, then this is good. When it comes to the fore, then we end up with no award being given in many categories as happened this year. This denies those of worthwhile merit not being recognised.

What’s your take on the matter?

 

The Hugo Awards: 2015 Winner Prediction

Cursor_and_The_Hugo_Awards___The_Official_Site_of_The_Hugo_AwardsSince 1953, the Hugos have been an award that those in the Science Fiction and Fantasy fields have prized. Over the years, many novels have won that have gone on to become classics. That’s not to say that the awards are just about novels. Magazines, movies, television shows, podcasts, even fan activity are all recognised amongst the awards. Locally, Andromeda Spaceways In Flight Magazine was nominated this year in the Best Semiprozine category.

This year’s nominations for novels have shown the range of the field, with Space Opera, Hard Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy all getting nominations. To read all of the nominated novels has been something I have been wanting to do for a few years, and this year, I managed to achieve that goal.

The quality of the overall writing I have found to be of high quality, and anyone wanting to write in the field could do worse than to read the five nominated novels to see where the genre is right now.

With almost six thousand ballots recieved, it will be interesting to see which of the novels is being seen as the best . For myself, a novel in the science fiction and fantasy genre has to be entertaining, imaginative , original, thought provoking, and painted with a small brush on a grand canvas. While most of the novels certainly ticked all these boxes, some did more than others. Skin Game was entertaining,  Ancillary Sword was imaginative , Three Body Problem was thought provoking, and  The Goblin Emperor was certainly a grand canvas.

Kevin Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars ticked all the boxes for me. A grand space opera, played over a galaxy-wide stage with characters that felt real and a pacing that kept the pages moving. All that remains now is to see if a majority of voters feel the same.

Results will be announced on the 22nd of August in Spokane, Washington.

Review: Skin Game

skingame_lgWhen a novel is the fifteeth in a series, there is one thing you can bank on: the author is comfortable with the setting. In Jim Butcher’s Skin Game, he is sitting in the ezy chair, kicking back with a beer and watching the game on television.

The world of the book will be familiar to any readers of urban fantasy. Creatures of myths roam the modern city street, in this case Chicago. In the middle of it all is a human who is tormented in some way, usually by circumstance. They are chosen, or are a human/ mythical half breed. For Harry Dresden, the torment comes from being the “The Winter Knight”, which is a power to be controlled. Further torment comes from being manipulated by the various creatures around him. Demons, Angels, and Fairies from various cultures all combine to make for an interesting world, and Dresden is certainly one of the more interesting characters in the field. His world-weary cynicism adds a hardness that is often lacking in this genre.

Harry is co-opted by Queen Mab to help with a break in to Hades, so you know this is not going to end well for all those involved. Along the way, Harry becomes a likeable character, with his full geek showing. Anyone willing to make a reference to 1979’s “The Black Hole” is definetly an out of the closet geek. Being so far into the series, it would be possible to create a book that anyone new to the series would not be able to follow. However, Butcher is able to put in background information as needed, without slowing the pacing. This is my first Dresden file and I was able to keep tabs of what was going on.

I felt the final reveal was a bit out of left field. This is more to do with the betrayal to the reader. If you are going to go with the first person narrative throughout a book but not reveal everything that you do, then that’s what happens. While Harry may go through the story playing characters and twisting the truth, at the end of the experience the person holding the book is the one that he has to trust with everything.

That said, I did find Skin Game an enjoyable, easy read. Jim Butcher is certainly one author I will read if he crosses my path again.

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