Better Default Search in Browsers

A typical search result on

A typical search result

Several weeks ago, certain channels announced that Linux Mint changed their default search engine in Firefox to DuckDuckGo. I do not care much for Linux Mint but decided give DuckDuckGo a try.

What is the matter, you might ask? I used to use ubiquitous Google for everything related to web searches (if nothing else). Whenever I would search for something, I would type some keywords in Firefox’ address bar, hit enter and pick promising Google results. For instance, instead of visiting Wikipedia by hand I would Google wiki Murphy's Law and hit the first link. Combined with bookmark completion, this worked so well that I almost never typed in a proper URL anymore.

The big issue is privacy. It is well-known that Google saves search results and tracks users for their own purposes and to set up their filter bubble1. Read more »

  1. While the bubble has its advantages I dislike the potential for censorship it offers.

Some Short Stories

Richard L. Sanders: Betraying Nexus

David Sartof: Gloria

Mark Aragona: Vector

All happy about my new Kobo Touch, I went and downloaded a couple of short stories for free at Smashwords.

Richard L. Sanders: Betraying Nexus — Jason is a mind bender of Nexus, a global, secret organisation that prevents crime by changing the intentions of potential criminals with them non the wiser. Jason has just brought down a former friend and colleague gone rogue; now he is to be promoted. When he discovers why Nexus works at all, his loyalty falters.
The story has an interesting setup and a good conflict. It may have worked even better in a longer format, I think; as it is, the amount of progress made feels too much for the timeframe. If you liked the movie Minority Report, you like this story.

David Sartof: Gloria — Oliver finds himself inside a remote cabin deep in the woods. He holds a bloody axe, standing above another man tied to a chair. He is going to kill this man, just like he just killed his own wife. Oliver just does not know why.
Fascinating short story! The amount of twists the author put in with so few words is amazing.

Mark Aragona: Vector — An alien race carefully investigates earth. Suddenly, one of their scout parties ends up in the middle of a beginning zombie apocalypse. What happened? Is there still a way to settle on earth in a peaceful way, maybe even help humanity survive?
Interesting idea and good writing, but the twist came too soon; the ending seemed more like an afterthought. Reversing the answers to “what” and “why” would have worked better. There is potential for much more in this one!

I have never really read short fiction before but I know see that it has its appeals. Maybe I will go back for more, but first I have to read some free classics and gratis novels.

About Kobo Touch

Kobo Touch next to a standard US mass paperback

Kobo Touch next to a standard US mass paperback

Last week I wrote about my thought process that lead to me buying a Kobo Touch ereader. I have used it quite a bit since and think I should write about my experience now.

The Kobo Touch has good haptics. It is relatively light with about 185g and has a surface texture that makes it easy to hold in one hand. The E-Ink display is great; all current ereaders have one of those. Text quality depends on font and size; on the settings I read I can see almost no difference to printed books. Of course you have shadows of former pages because they completely refresh the display only every few page turns (for sake of turning speed). You can adjust the number of turns before that happens between one and six, though, so every taste should be catered.

I had my opinions about ereaderes with touch screens—basically I though they were useless—but I am very pleased with the experience. It reacts in a natural way and the system is responsive enough to avoid slowing me down too much. This is in particular true when using the on-screen keyboard which works great for the tasks you need it for. You can turn pages by swiping or tapping the display. You can adapt the regions where tapping has an effect in order to account for people holding the device with either hand, but you can not turn off tapping yet. Turning the last page prompts Kobo to leave the book which has annoyed me sometimes when I accidentally prompted a page turn while in a one-page document. There is only one key that takes you to the home screen. It can be a bit hard to press but you do not need it too often. Read more »

Joe Abercrombie: Before They Are Hanged

Joe Abercrombie: Before They Are Hanged

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie continues right from where The Blade Itself left off; in this book, the story starts rolling. While all characters converged in Adua during the prequel, they now scatter in almost all directions. Collem West travels aide to Lord Marshal Burr, the army’s commander-in-chief, into the north; Bethod has finally moved his armies into Angland and forced the Union to fight back. They lead mostly untried lads, the only experienced troops under the command of two generals who put their rivalry before military sense. As if that was not bad enough, pampered Crown Prince Ladisla tags along, his mind set to harvest glory for himself.

Inquisitor Glotka heads in the opposite direction; he has reveiced a delicate mission from the head of Inquisition himself: He is to return to the country of his downfall. The city of Dagoska, won from the Gurkish during the last war, threatens to fall to its old master. Glotka is to make sure the city holds no matter what and solve his predecessor’s mysterious disappearance while he is at it.

The rest of the cast including Logen and Jezal is dragged to the far west by suspicious magus Bayaz. Their goal is to obtain a powerful magical relic with which to fight Bayaz’ former colleague Kalul who draws the strings behind the Gurkish war effort. Not exactly role-models and trusting traveling companions, the party has to meet more than one challenge on their trip, a fair number of them between the members themselves. Read more »

Choosing an Ereader

Kindle, Nook and Kobo Touch
by Ellis Hamburger [source]

If you want to buy an e-reader in Germany, you are up for some hard decisions as the local industry has not quite jumped on the train yet. If you look for opinions on the web, you will find mostly US-based reviews. Over there, people talk—besides tablets—mostly about Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle. As Nook is not available in Germany at all and Kindle only in old versions1 and for much more money than in the US2, what to do3?

Meet Kobo Touch! Reviews place it closely to both Nook and Kindle and it can be bought for 129€ from a major German electronics chain. Read more »

  1. For instance, neither Kindle Touch nor DX are available on
  2. At the time of this writing, the basic Kindle costs 80$ in the US but 99€ (over 125$) in Germany.
  3. One should note that a major book chain seels the Oyo e-reader in Europe. I have tried it; it is an inferior device compared to the ones discussed above but costs more.