PaperLater: First Impressions

I had heard of Newspaper Club because they came in to the Guardian (my workplace) a while back to talk about what they do – they are a service that allows you to design and print your own newspaper.  I stumbled across PaperLater – Newspaper Club’s new service – last week and signed up for an invitation to the beta programme.

PaperLater lets you send them links to web articles and turn them into a single copy of your own personal newspaper.  Their software automatically does the layout and decides how many pages each article will take up. Your newspaper can be up to a maximum of 24 pages and each issue costs £5 inc p&p.  They deliver in the UK (only) via Royal Mail and it took 5 days for me to get my copy (including a weekend, otherwise it would have come through sooner).

Here are some observations:

  • the newspaper is tabloid size, think the Sun / Mirror
  • the paper it is printed on is whiter and thicker than, say, the Guardian (the other newspaper I have to hand)
  • the text looks like the same size as in the Guardian, but it is more widely spaced so is easier to read
  • the print quality is good
  • the layout of the articles is basic but clean – it will normally take the web article’s first or main picture and use that in the layout
  • there is the odd gap on some pages where the text doesn’t quite fill up the page – this looks a bit strange but can’t really be helped.  I don’t know if it would fill up the remainder of a page if it had another short article that would fit in the gap as I have chosen to print only a few longer pieces rather than many shorter ones
  • some articles include text content that doesn’t appear in the main text of the article – for example, captions to pictures that feature in the web article but not in the printed version.  I guess that this will improve over time as their software matures, and I suppose that it is better to include the content rather than miss out something that people expect to see there.

This would be good if you want to read long-form content from the web but do not feel comfortable getting your phone / tablet / laptop out in a public place.  It is ideal if you are a frequent flyer as there is no chance that the authorities will confuse it for something more explosive or if you are a holiday-maker and don’t fancy getting sand in the Lightning port of your iPhone.  No-one is likely to pinch it when you are in the swimming pool, although if the articles you printed are particularly good then you never know…

Overall, it is hugely impressive that this is actually possible now.  Some of my articles were very long so the prospect of reading them on a screen of any size was daunting – this is much more convenient.  I will definitely be doing this again and could see it becoming something I do monthly if there is enough content to include.

 

 

Mini review: “Berlin Game” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

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I rarely read a book twice - let alone review it twice – but this popped up on Audible out of the blue and I could not resist.  Berlin Game was the first book I read in the espionage genre and led me to read the majority of Len Deighton’s books.

That was over a decade ago now and it was with some trepidation that I started listening.  What if the book is not as good as I remembered?  What if I found that the book has dated or that it does not compare with books I have read since?

No such problems here, I’m pleased to say.  I loved being back in Bernard Samson’s company.

In relation to the narration: the narrator is the same person who also did the recent “Spy with no name”/”Harry Palmer” novels.  He does a very good job, handles accents and place names well.  It was a little jarring at first as it did not sound like the Bernard Samson voice I had in my head when reading the books the first time round, but that soon went away.

The good news is that the remainder of the trilogy is also coming out in audio format.  Mexico Set is due out in October 2014 and London Match is out in December.  From what I remember, Mexico Set is even better than Berlin Game, so I can’t wait…

HMS Ocelot – submarine visit at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent

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An excellent visit to The Historic Dockyard the other day.  I go there every once in a while but had never checked out their submarine HMS Ocelot.  Only managed to do the short tour – I’ll try to get on the longer tour next time so I can have more of a look around. (Check out the astounding Google Tour of the sub so you can see what to expect – puts my pics to shame).  I’ll also explore the other two historic warships whilst I’m there.

Mini review: “Fatherland” by Robert Harris (audiobook version)

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Pretty much a perfect thriller.  An excellent fusion of fact and fiction.

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• Spare Cycles:  Mini review: “An Officer and a Spy” by Robert Harris (audiobook version)

• Spare Cycles: Review: Pompeii (audiobook)

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: Imperium – the audiobook

• Spare Cycles: Mini review: Lustrum – the audiobook

Mini review: “Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe” by George Dyson (audiobook version)

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This is the story of the early development of the computer in the United States, one that is inextricably linked to the creation of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Despite Turing’s name in the title, he only plays a small role.  Rather, this book concerns John von Neumann and the Institute for Advanced Study - how a group of mathematicians and engineers took Turing’s idea of a Universal machine and made one of the early computers.

I am conflicted about this book.  It is a definitive telling of the story of what happened on the other side of the Atlantic and I do recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.  On the other hand, it can be rather dry and contains some largely unnecessary information.  I’m all for details to make the history come alive, but some passages take you into quite long diversions from the tale being told.  This could put off some readers early on, but I’d advise you to stick with it.  Also, towards the end of the book the author tries to link the early developments with the internet and technology companies of today but he doesn’t do a particularly good job.  To me it seemed redundant.

In relation to the audiobook version, the narrator does as a professional job – another default American male voice.  It can be a little monotonous, but consistent.  He does a good job with some challenging names of people and places.  There are a lot of characters in this book and he wisely does not try to give each person their own voice.

Overall I would recommend this book.  It is not perfect but in general it is a good story well told.  This is one of the rare books where I would recommend you go for the paper version – there can be a lot to digest at points and it would be easier to follow.  At some point I will pick up a copy myself, not to fully re-read but to be able to refer back to.

 

• The Wall Street Journal: The Nucleus of the Digital Age

• The Guardian:  Turing’s Cathedral by George Dyson – review

Mini review: Third Shift – Pact (Part 8 of the Silo Series)

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Looking back, its been more than a year since I reviewed the previous parts of Shift and a lot has happened in the world of Wool in the meantime.  Shift is now out as a book containing all three parts of the story.  Not only that but the final part of the trilogy – Dust – is also available, so reviewing the final third of a book after all this time now seems like a strange thing to do.  Still, I thought it would finish off the reviews I’ve done so far.  Reviewing Dust at some point in the future will be a lot more straight-forward.

This part of the story looks at two things in particular – the workings in Silo 1 (Donald taking charge, finding out some answers and settling some scores) and Jimmy’s life as the last survivor of a Silo that has been shut down.  This second aspect of the book works really well.

Going back to the story after so long made things a little confusing at times but this is not something that you will experience if you are reading the whole book.   It reminds you that Hugh Howey is a really good writer.  He knows hows to leave you with a cliffhanger.

This is a satisfying end to the book but overall Shift does not match the original Wool story.  I remember that - a couple of years ago - as soon as I had finished Wool I was waiting impatiently for new parts of the story to arrive.  I have the feeling that at the time Hugh was writing Shift he was trying to keep up with demand and maybe something suffered.  I didn’t feel the same compulsion to read on.

Even so, if you enjoyed Wool, Shift is well worth exploring.

The Wool / Silo series reviews

• Wool

• Wool 2 – Proper Gauge

• Wool 3 - Casting Off

• Wool 4 - The Unraveling

• Wool 5 - The Stranded

• First Shift – Legacy

• Second Shift – Order