Lars Wirzenius: Review, 2004


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Review: "Vanha Koira" (Old Dog) by Ville Vuorela, with illustrations by Petri Hiltunen

This review may be biased. Ville is my friend. It may also contain spoilers.

Vanha Koira (Finnish for "Old Dog") is a sword and sorcery style fantasy novel of the "low fantasy" persuasion. Set in Jaconia, the world created by Petri Hiltunen, a Finnish comic book artist, the novel describes part of the story of an old praedor. In Jaconia, there are many areas of wilderness and ruins where sorcerers used to live. They are now quite dangerous, but some people do go there to find forgotten treasures. They are called praedors. Though Hiltunen created the world and has made several graphic novels set in it, and has also illustrated this book, the story is all by Ville. Ville has also written the role-playing game, Praedor.

If you have read any of the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard, or some of the original Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ville's novel will have a familiar feeling. Plenty of action, plenty of gore, and a very vivid scenery.

Also common is a certain lack of depth in the characters. This is typical for the genre. The reader is left wondering what motivates even the main character, Old Dog, and why he goes on one sort of mission rather than another sort, or why he doesn't stay at a place of peace when he finds it. Some answers to such questions are given, but they feel attached to the characters rather than coming from their personalities. Or, to be precise, there is no conflict between act and personality, because the reader does not really get to know the characters.

Yet, this is not a problem. The characters feel live enough to be interesting and the point of this genre is not introspection and character development, it is action, violence, sex, and cheap thrills. As Ville himself says, Vanha Koira is written in the spirit of the pulp novels from the 1920s and 1930s. Mass entertainment, not exploration of the human condition. Die Hard, not Cat on hot tin roof.

The book certainly is entertaining. It is also well written entertainment: the text flows nicely, and the story is nicely paced, with neither long dull passages, nor mere descriptions of actions. It is a pleasure to read and easy to immerse in what happens, as opposed to how it is told. Oh, and did I mention the scenery? I like scenery, and I like it when I can visualize it myself from the author's descriptions. Ville is good at that, too.

Hiltunen's illustrations are true to his form. They are, however, merely illustrations. The book would work without them.

I do hope Ville will write more. Lots more.

One day, it might be fun to have all the Jaconia/Praedor related stuff translated to English. Right now, it is all in Finnish. I'm pretty sure there would be an international market as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Review: Underworld

I should have watched Underworld in a movie theater. It is a very pretty movie, and the experience would have been so much better on a big screen. Still good from DVD.

Of course, people who are not falling in love with the goth look as perpetrated by Hollywood might not think it pretty. Their loss.

The plot was OK, though not very gripping. The actors played their parts adequately, though not memorably. They looked good, and for this movie, that was enough.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Review: Romeo + Juliet

Tragic love stories can be as enchanting as romantic comedies, except they need to be told with supreme taste. Baz Luhrmann has such taste.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, directed by Luhrmann, tells the classic story using Shakespeare's words for the dialogue, but using a modern setting: a modern city with skyscrapers, cars, guns, and so on. This works quite well, although I did require subtitles so I could follow the story better, medieval poetic English not being familiar to me.

The film's story follows the play's completely, as far as I can tell. Romeo and Juliet is, of course, a classic, and therefore I haven't read it. The story is corny and unrealistic, yet it manages to move me. I may have trouble sleeping tonight.

Signs of Luhrmann's later masterpiece, Moulin Rouge, are already visible in this 1996 film. The irreverent combination of the ancient and the modern, the rock video like of photography, the brilliant use of music. Luhrmann's style is different from mainstream English language movies, and that is enough to make it refreshing. The superb execution is, however, what takes the movie to a masterly level.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Review: Courtesans by Susan Griffin

If you're looking for pornography, The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues by Susan Griffin is not your book. It is also not a collection of biographies of famous prostitutes. Instead, the author looks at the kinds of qualities women needed to not only survive but become successful in past societies.

Through many centuries and many parts of Europe, women could not own wealth. If they were noble, they were dependent on their husbands or relatives to support them. If they were commoners, they were still dependent, but also had to work hard for a living. An unmarried woman, or a widow, would find it difficult to earn a living. Some might escape to convents, many more would prostitue themselves.

Among the prostitutes, some were more successful than others. The most successful ones were called courtesans and were accepted, even respected in society. Where women ordinarily would not be allowed to own anything, a courtesan might be richer and more powerful than any man except the monarch. Such success required special talent, special qualities, and good luck. It is these qualities (virtues) Griffin looks at.

Griffin lists seven virtues, special qualities a courtesan needed: timing, beauty, cheek, brilliance, gaiety, grace, and charm. She then describes how these worked together to make her irresistible and helped her gather wealth and power. Her analysis seems emotional at times, as if she admires the successes of the women she writes about, but without glorifying or judging the things they had to do.

Intermixed with the analysis of the virtues is a fair amount about the lives of several famous courtesans, from several centuries, though always from Europe or the US. These mini-biographies are embedded in discussions about the virtues, and sometimes sprinkled over several chapters. This makes it difficult to follow them, but since the book focuses on the virtues, not the women, this is understandable.

Not having studied history, I am not qualified to judge whether Griffin's facts are correct, but I didn't spot any errors, either. She does write well, however, and if read purely as entertainment, Courtesans is certainly a good book.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Review: The good soldier Svejk by Jaroslaw Hasek

Funny, but boring. That pretty much sums up Jaroslaw Hasek's Osudy dobreho vojáka Svejka za svetové války, or at least it's Finnish translation Kunnon sotamies Svejk maailmansodassa. I think it is called The good soldier Svejk (with various spellings) in English.

The book tells the story of how Svejk gets drafted to the Austria-Hungarian army during World War I and what happens to him during the war. The story is written as a political satire, and contains many funny twists. Svejk is a peculiar character, a simple-minded genius, and all sorts of funny things happen.

Actually, herein lies the problem: not all sorts of funny things happen, instead only a fairly limited set of funny things are repeated, with variations, and though they are funny in isolation, I got tired after about three hundred pages. With about 400 pages still to go, I quit.

This is, or so I'm told, a classic book. I can see why. It is long and it requires a great effort to finish it. If you go through a great effort to suffer for a long time, you are allowed to sneer at people who can't be bothered. That's the surest sign of classic art.

On the other hand, the good soldier's story isn't bad, if portioned in suitable pieces. Perhaps if you read about a chapter at a time once per year aloud to friends it would be hilarious.

(Due to character set problems, both experienced and anticipated, I have removed significant parts of some letters in this entry.)

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Review: Aikavalotuksia / Tapio Laine, Asko Vivolin

This log entry is in Finnish, since it is a review of a Finnish language book.

Kirjan koko otsikko on Aikavalotuksia. Valokuvausalan tarinoita aikalaisten kertomina ja sen ovat toimittaneet Tapio Laine ja Asko Vivolin. Tämä arvostelu on alunperin kirjoitettu kirjan ostettuani ja luettuani vuonna 2001, mutta julkaisen sen vasta nyt.

Laine ja Vivolin ovat keränneet kirjaksi puolen sadan ihmisen muisteloita ja valokuvia viime vuosisadan loppupuoliskolta. Muistelot ovat pitkälti anekdootteja ja esitetään aakkosjärjestyksessä. Mitään yritystä systemaattiseen historianesitykseen ei ole, mutta eipä kirjan otsikko tai takakansiteksti sellaista yritä väittääkään. Koska olen itse melkein täysin ummikko, enkä tunne alan kehitystä Suomessa tai eri tahojen keskinäisiä kytköksiä tai historiaa, jäin kaipaamaan edes jonkinlaista aikajanaa, johon olisi merkitty tärkeimpiä merkkipaaluja.

Tarinat ovat kyllä ihan hupaista luettavaa, mutta monet niistä toistavat hieman samoja teemoja: on ryypätty, digi jyrää, vanhoja ollaan ja kivaa oli. Pidin itse eniten Hannu Hautalan kirjoituksesta. Sen sijaan valokuvakauppiaiden kauppareissuista ja messumatkoista oli tylsä lukea. Olisin suonut, että tarinat olisivat keskittyneet enemmän valokuvaukseen ja sen kehitykseen kuin mitä tekivät.

Valokuvia on kiitettävän paljon ja ne on painettu isoina: usein koko sivun kokoisena eikä vain marginaalissa olevana postimerkkinä. Kun valokuva-ala on aiheena, ovat valokuvat välttämätön ja keskeinen osa sisältöä. Tässäkin kohtaa tosin huomaa, että kirja on anekdootti-kokoelma: jos tarkoituksena olisi ollut kertoa historiaa, eikä vain anekdootteja, kuvien valinta tai esitystapa olisi voinut keskittyä kuvakerronnan kehityksen ja valottaa esimerkiksi sitä, miten lehtikuvan asema ja käyttötapa on muuttunut vuosikymmenien varrella.

Taittaja on jättänyt keskelle kirjaa monta tyhjää sivua. Tämä oli omituista, joskaan ei suorastaan häiritsevää.

Yhteenveto: Ehdottomasti lukemisen arvoinen, mutta jättää minut kaipaamaan oikeaa historiankirjoitusta.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Review: Vidocq

Vidocq is a French mysterious detective movie set in Paris of the 1830's. It is mysterious, because the story has some supernatural elements, and a detective movie, because the story is about the solving of some murders. I do not know how truthful the setting of the movie is, probably not very much. As a semi-realistic fantasy movie it works quite well, however, and the historical accuracy, if any, is merely a bonus.

The architecture and clothing in the movie might be characterized as gothic, which I find it strangely attractive and romantic. More importantly, the story is also attractive, though not romantic. Except for the unnecessary Hong Kong style balletic fighting scenes, the storytelling, including the photography and the acting, is quite excellent.

Review: Blueberry

The movie Blueberry, directed by Jan Kounen, is loosely based on the Mike Blueberry comics by Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean Giraud. It is, however, utterly different, the same way a James Bond movie is loosely based on the James Bond books, but even less so.

If what you want is a movie adaptation of the comic books, then this movie is going to disappoint you. Since it is not really an adaption, please ignore the comic books and judge the movie on its own behalf. That way you too may consider it to be an almost boring western movie.

Part of the plot of the movie is that various characters take native American drugs and then the audience is treated to depictions of hallucinations which vividly remind one of screensavers, as Anu pointed out. These got quite boring for me, and therefore I would have preferred to have them much shorter.

Apart from the hallucinations, the movies was quite nice although not altogether different from traditional westerns. So many western movies have been made that it is difficult to do something completely new. On the other hand, Blueberry manages to do tell its story in a pleasant enough manner.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Review: Sorcery & Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Sorcery & Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot is a charming romantic story. It is set in a magical version of England in 1817 and is the correspondence between two young ladies over a few months. Katherine gets to go to London for the Season, while Cecelia is left behind in the country. This promises to make life very dull for Cecelia, but cleverly the authors introduce all sorts of plot twists that keep boredom in control for both the girls and the reader.

Dressing up the story as a sequence of letters is quite refreshing. It makes for a nice pacing of the storytelling: since each letter has to be fairly short, the authors do not have the luxury of long chapters and thus the plot advances at a pleasing speed.

The sequel is to be published in September this year. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Review: Flatlander by Larry Niven

Flatlander contains several novellas about Gil "The Arm" Hamilton, a police officer in Larry Niven's Known Space universe. The stories are detective stories in a science fiction setting, in the 22nd century. Hamilton has a telekinetic psi power: an imaginary third arm, as he says himself. It allows him to move small objects without touching them physically. This and Niven's vision of the future, both technical and sociological, give the stories a flavor that distinguishes them from the average detective story. On the other hand, that is pretty much the only important distinction: as detective stories, these aren't particularly interesting.

On the other hand, Niven's Known Space is a large and interesting place, very much the kind of thing that many science fiction fans like to read about. The world he paints in these and many other stories is at the same time familiar and very strange: you can recognize some parts of his imaginary future as being obvious developments from our reality, but many things are inventions of the author. Known Space also holds together pretty well: it is internally consistent.

To me, the most important part of these stories is the world. The characters and the plots are there to make it more interesting to read about the world: even if they are pretty boring, they give life to the world.

Well, not exactly boring. The stories are written adequately well, but they lack the wow factor that is so crucial for really good science fiction.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Review: Clueless

I have a developed an acute desire to watch more comedies and romantic comedies are the best kind of comedies. Clueless can be classified in that category. It is also a bit of a parody, but I ignored that, since I didn't understand the thing they were making a parody of. Even so, it is a delightful movie. Unfortunately, since most comedies are merely fun, with no serious elements or reflection on life, I can't seem to find anything intelligent to say about them. They're good for when you're feeling down, though, and should not be ignored.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Review: Freaky Friday

Freaky Friday is the first movie I've seen in a theater this year. It is quite funny, I laughed out loud several times. Not at all surprising, as far as the general plot is concerned, but executed with excellent taste.

I admit that I like my comedies simple and obvious. Those who prefer theirs intelligent probably don't like Freaky Friday as well as I did.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Review: Under siege

I first saw Under siege in the early 1990's in a movie theater, and have seen it a couple of times on television since. It is a very weird movie, since it seems to be the only movie starring Steven Seagal I can stand watching multiple times.

I'm not saying Under siege is a good movie on an absolute scale, but in its genre of brainless, simplistic, action movies with unnecessarily graphic violence and some unnecessary nudity it is a competent, though not extraordinary contender. And that's as much as I have to say about it.

Review: Bourne identity

One of the joys of having a nice laptop is that you can watch DVD movies in hotel rooms. When we went to Almere in the Netherlands this week, our hotel was in the middle of nowhere and no chance to go anywhere for recreation. I had brought with me a DVD with Bourne identity, the 2002 filmatization of a spy novel by Robert Ludlum. I spent a nice evening watching the movie.

The main character is played well by Matt Damon, and the supporting cast are also up to their job. I also like the story, even if I don't think it is all that realistic: I really doubt the CIA assassins are anywhere near that well trained. That, however, is one of the assumptions one makes when watching spy movies, or reading spy books. It is similar to the assumption that, say, faster-than-light travel works in science fiction stories.

I quite liked the film and can't find anything wrong with it. It did, however, leave me somehow unsatisfied. I was expecting something more, something better, perhaps something that was actually relevant to the human condition. That is a bit too much to ask from a piece of entertainment, I guess.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Review: Firefly

I borrowed Firefly TV series as a DVD box from a friend and watched it over the weekend. The disks were Region 1, but luckily my DVD player can handle those. DVD regions are such a pain.

The pain is well worth it, though, in the case of Firefly. Firefly is a Wild West space opera set into the future, when space travel is commonplace and humanity has spread throughout the galaxy. The main characters are the captain and crew of the old space ship Serenity, and in each episode they have an adventure of one kind of or another. The series was created by Joss Whedon style, of Buffy the vampire slayer fame. True to his style, he evolves the characters and their relationships by subjecting them to the worst thing his sadistic mind can conjure. This, of course, made the series quite enjoyable right from the beginning. It helped, of course, that the pretty much the entire crew was good looking, in addition to being good actors.

The TV company ended the series suddenly, in the middle of the first season, after fifteen episodes had been made. As far as I can see, they had no good reason to do so. They obviously don't understand anything about anything. It could have become a new Star Trek. Too bad.

Review: Fatal instinct

I bought Fatal instinct cheaply on a DVD since I recognized the name Carl Reiner. He's the director of Dead men don't wear plaid, an ingenious parody of film nour detective films. Also, incidentally, the film from which the name of my mailing list manager is borrowed.

My expectations were therefore fairly high. Unfortunately, they were not met. Fatal instinct is not a disaster, but it's nowhere near what I was expecting. Still, it was funny, in a early teens sort of way. Plenty of giggling at sexual innuendo and the like.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Review: 28 days

28 days is starred by Sandra Bullock and is basically a story about getting your life into order. Bullock plays the character of Gwen Cummings, a drunk, who eventually messes things up so badly she is sent to a rehabilitation center. The story of her path to recovery is not particularly surprising: there is the denial, the cataclysm that turns her mind, the rejection of her former life. What the story lacks in surprise, it compensates in the fine way it tells the story. The storytelling manages to stay away from being too romantic about the addictions or making the relationships of the character involve too much romance. This is not a romantic film. It is also not a comedy, though it contains a finely judged amount of warm humor.

This movie also manages to stay away from excess grossness and depression. While the subject matter is difficult, the movie leaves a hopeful feeling as it ends. Not exactly happy, but the confidence that happiness will happen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Review: Laulu yön lapsista by Petri Hiltunen

Petri Hiltunen may very well be the reigning king of Finnish comics. One of his main series is Väinämöinen, a comedy featuring the ancient Finnish pagan god returning to his people in modern times. All sorts of hilarities ensue. The other main series is Praedor, a set of adventure stories somewhat in the Conan spirit set in the fantasy world of Jaconia. Praedor is not funny.

Laulu yön lapsista does not, however, belong to either series. Instead, it is set in actual history, in 16th century Russia. Hiltunen then takes some liberties with reality and introduces vampires. The story tells what happens when a Russian poet is taken to the king of vampires.

The vampire story is somewhat similar to Praedor and very much unlike Väinämöinen. Where the Väinämöinen stories are drawn as daily strips in a faily standard and light funny pages style, the Praedor stories and this vampire story are dark. They are dark both in the style of their drawings, and in their stories. What humor they have is black. It is pleasant to see that Hiltunen is not restricted to one genre, in addition to being rather productive.

Review: Miten sijoitan rahastoihin by Puttonen and Repo

I wanted to learn a bit about investing money and had the general impression that various sorts of mutual or open end funds were the thing to do. To learn, I read the book Miten sijoitan rahastoihin by Vesa Puttonen and Eljas Repo. It is in Finnish; sorry for any foreign readers.

This book starts with the very basics, and explains what funds are and how they work. They go through various kinds of funds and their operation, and the Finnish laws that govern them. They do not give advice on which fund to choose, but explain the process of choosing and the kinds of decisions one has to make. They explain some of the typical comparison numbers, such as Sharpe's index: how they are computed, what they mean, and how they are used.

All in all, this seems like a worthwhile book to have, if this kind of thing interests you. It does not go into economic theory very deeply, but being an introductory book, it isn't supposed to. It seems to have been written in a hurry, and at least the copyediting is occasionally very bad: there are paragraphs (possibly added late in the process) that are full of spelling mistakes, for example.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Review: Evolution 1.4.5

I have been using Evolution as my mail program for over two years now, having used various others such as mutt, pine, Slime (Stupid little mailer, something I wrote myself), exmh, and mush. Of these, Evolution is clearly the best one, although that doesn't mean much when you compare to mush. Even Slime was better than mush.

I'm not totally happy with Evolution. I have version 1.4.5 and it still occasionally crashes on me, or behaves strangely. Mostly, however, it works well enough, which is more than most mail programs manage to do. There is something about Internet e-mail that makes all programs that process it be bad.

As a mail program, Evolution is competent enough in providing the basics: fetching mail, putting it in local folders according to various rules, showing the contents of folders nicely threaded, making it easy to move mails between folders, letting you send mail using various profiles, etc. As a nice touch, Evolution has a "reply to list" feature which works automagically without my having to configure any lists (mutt for example requires the lists to be listed). The automagic actually works most of the time, though it gets things wrong just often enough that it is you don't start to trust it and always remember to check whether the recipient addresses are correct. This is actually a good thing.

This version of Evolution does not have a built in spam filter, but it is easy to integrate, say, bogofilter with it, and that's what I have done. This works pretty well.

Evolution also contains a calendar, address book, and to do list. I don't much use the to do list: if something is important, I'll remember it anyway, and if it isn't, there's no point in putting it in a to do list either. Having an address book work well together with a mail program is, however, extremely useful. It becomes much easier to manage contact information for a large number of people when it can be done in the context where you have or need the contact information. The address book in Evolution works fairly well for my simple needs, though it is a bit slowish.

The calendar, on the other hand, could just as well be a separate application for all I care: my calendar stuff and my mail stuff do not mix and having everything in one program gives me no benefits. Also, the only calendar view I find usable is the one that shows a whole week at a time. I rarely have enough calendar entries to warrant a more detailed one. I don't even bother to tell Evolution the times for my entries, since it would be more work and give me no benefits. People whose calendars are more full would probably have a different opinion of Evolution's calendar. I use it mainly because it's there, not because it would be better than something else.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Review: Miller's Crossing

I first saw Miller's Crossing in a movie theater in 1990 or 1991, when it was new, and I thought it was excellent. After that, I didn't see it in video rentals or as a DVD, though I occasionally looked for it, until I stumbled upon it in SF Bokhandeln on the recent trip to Stockholm. I didn't hesitate at all.

Miller's Crossing is a gangster movie. It is set in a town run by a gangster boss, during Prohibition, and tells about gangsters fighting gangsters.

Unlike many other films I've only seen long ago, this one is still as good as it was back then. It is a film by the Coen brothers, and in fact the first of their films I saw, and like later successes such as Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and The Man Who Wasn't There, it is basically a fairly straightforward tale told in a twisted yet most enchanting yet way. The photography is almost magically good in all its subtle simplicity, the acting is superb, everything just works.

This movie is one of the reasons why I love movies. Most movies are just fun entertainment. There's nothing wrong in being fun entertainment, but it doesn't touch you. Miller's Crossing touches me. It is not exactly a pretty tale, even if the movie is beautiful, but the way the Coen's and their cast and crew tell stories about human failings makes the world a better place. They let you emphatize with the bad people without having to feel dirty about it later. They make you understand humanity's negative side without making you a worse person. A movie such as Godfather paints a glorious picture of humanity's bottom feeders, and almost makes you want to become a mafioso yourself. Miller's Crossing is not glorious, not even particularly romantic, but it also avoids being judgemental or preachy. It has, in fact, just about the perfect balance between showing the intriguing and revolting parts of the dark side. You're fascinated by the dark side, but not enough to desire it.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Review: Wikipedia

Wikipedia is an on-line encyclopedia being written using wikiwiki technology: anyone can edit anything. Occasionally this results in very biased or inaccurate information, but this is almost always corrected, at least eventually. It sounds amazing, but it does seem to work pretty well.

In its about three years of existence, Wikipedia has grown to contain almost two hundred thousand pages, which is huge for any encyclopedia. The quality of the pages is somewhat variable, but I've rarely seen really bad errors. (Perhaps I just don't look up enough pages on topics I do know something about.)

What's more, as Lauri Alanko put it, it is becoming difficult to ignore Wikipedia since it's popping up in Google search results every so often.

If you're looking for information on any topic, Wikipedia is now something you should search in parallel to Google. As with Google, you should evaluate the reliability of whatever you find: if you heard it anywhere on the net, you shouldn't trust it blindly.

Friday, January 9, 2004

Review: Hercule Poirot

Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot with David Suchet in the leading role is simply the best adaptation of Agatha Christie's detective stories. Suchet portrays the little Belgian detective with perfection. The supporting cast, with Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings, Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector Japp, and Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon, is equally good.

It is not the fault of the makers of the TV series that the characters are somewhat flat, almost caricatures, or that the plots are simple and often predictable. They have stayed quite true to the original stories and it is part of the charm of the series (both literary and TV) that it builds on repetition of basic elements, none of which dives very deep into the human condition: Poirot's little eccentricities and mannerisms, his superiority over the police, the weird little clues, and the supposedly suprising choice of culprit. Poirot is entertainment, and succeeds in that quite well.

I watched the series (or 50 episodes of it) from a huge DVD box. The disks are very simple, and have no extras, not even subtitles in English. The picture quality were sufficient, however, to not prevent enjoyment. Not quite as good as those for typical movies, but then Poirot is made for television and the quality of the master originals is likely to be worse than for most films. Adequate, but not very good DVD version.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Review: Linux Weekly News

The best Linux-related news site I know is Linux Weekly News. They are subscription based: the last two or three weekly issues are restricted to subscribers only, but after that they become free for all. Subscription is cheap at 5 or 10 dollars per month. What makes LWN different from most news sites is that they don't just repeat stuff they find elsewhere, but they also analyze things and write longer articles themselves on topical issues. They have a clear and explicit bias towards free software, of course, and this is often visible in their articles, but they do a pretty good job at separating opinion and fact.

I also find that reading one issue per week is about the perfect pace for me. They publish (for everyone, not just subscribers) news items as they find them, but I don't follow those. The weekly issue is not just a compilation of all the news items for a week, it also includes analysis. By not having to comment on things immediately, the editors also have more time to digest things. As a result, the quality of reporting is much higher than on, say, Slashdot.

I highly recommend LWN to anyone for whom what happens in the Linux world is interesting or important.

Monday, January 5, 2004

Review: GQview

GQview is a tool for watching digital images. It has rudimentary support for copying and moving the images around the directory tree, but what it really excels at is showing a bunch of images. It is very easy to look at a series of images, perhaps flipping back and forth. As a digital photographer, I appreciate this very much, as it is something I do a lot. GQview does not get in the way, and requires the minimum of setting up.

I wouldn't use GQview as an image organizer. It is not what it is good at, and it doesn't need to be. For watching images, it is the best program I've found.