World War Z – Audiobook VS Film

World War Z coverThis is a long post, one I wanted to write since I first created this blog, so please bare with me.

Most people know the film World War Z, but few people know it’s based on an audiobook. I’m not sure if “based” is the right word, because the only thing they have in common is the title. That’s right, even the zombies are different, in the audiobook they are not sprint machines, they are just typical slow zombies.

While the film follows the story of an American superhero saving the entire mankind, the audiobook takes a more realistic and credible approach to the zombie apocalypse. Here there was no Brad Pitt to save the day, so the entire world collapsed. The main plot takes place several years after the breakdown, and it follows Max Brooks, a journalist who travels the world recording testimonials of people who survived the zombie war. He interviews key elements from governments, armed forces, along with civilians and even children. The audiobook is a collection of this interviews, following the chronological order of the events.

I don’t care to much about audiobooks, and I thought World War Z was just another lame production for people who don’t like to read books. Nevertheless I decided to give it a try, and listened to just a couple of interviews. For the next several days I found myself rushing home just to listen to this audiobook. I would serve myself a glass of wine, roll some cigarettes, lay back on the couch, and spend hours listening to it. The featured voices are from real cinema actors, which helps adding credibility to the interviews. Forget about everything you have seen in films and series, all the facts stated in this audiobook have been thought to the tiniest detail, and if some day the zombie apocalypse really takes place, I’m sure everything will happen just like in this audiobook. It is THAT realistic.

Most of the interviews are from doctors or politicians, explaining how they first reacted to the outbreak, what impacts it had in societies and international relationships, how the governments had to manage resources, and how societies had to be organized to become self-sustainable. But then you have the civilian and military testimonials, and those are the ones that will keep you glued to your couch. The little girl who is dragged by her parents to north Canada, trying to use the cold as a defence, later finding themselves resorting to cannibalism to stay alive? You don’t see that in the film.

I can’t even imagine the disappointment of the original fans when they first saw the footage. There are so many memorable stories in the audiobook: the Irish mercenary who deserts his master for honourable reasons; the essential role dogs play during the war, and the high suicide rates of their trainers; the Battle of the Five Colleges, where a group of students turn their schools into strongholds, and hold their ground with improvised weapons; the Battle of Yonkers, which was suppose to be the first American offensive turns out to be a last stand for the troops in New York; the air force woman who crashes her plane and finds herself in shock, outgunned, and wounded, fighting through hordes of zombies to reach the extraction point on time; the mentally challenged girl who is saved by her aunt, while her mother was trying to choke her with her bare hands to prevent her from being eaten alive – I still feel the chills when I think about that interview. Actually, during my listening of World War Z, I lost the count of how many times I felt the chills running up my spine.

I don’t know why they decided to make the film the way they did. I mean, they could have made the story true to the audiobook if they wanted. Regarding this matter I’ll just cote a phrase told by a soldier during an interview, while explaining the reason for the military failure: “Don’t pull my pud with stories about budget cuts, the only thing in short supply was common fucking sense”.

Bottom line, the film sucks, the audiobook is a masterpiece. I highly recommend it.

Battle of Yonkers

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Weekend in Arouca

Arouca CalvarioLast month I attended a wedding in a Portuguese town called Arouca. It’s a beautiful place located in the north of Portugal, half the way between Porto and Aveiro.

This small town was settled during the Roman occupation, I don’t know exactly when that was, but I’m sure it was a long time ago. It was settled in a giant valley, surrounded by huge mountains and thick vegetation, making it a perfect place if you seek nature and peace of mind. The landscape is breathtaking, enough to make Arouca a member of the Global Geoparks Network. In the town itself you can find those old buildings made with granite stone, a few parks, and many references to Christian religion.

I spent the whole weekend there and I had the opportunity to attend the Feira das Colheitas (Fair Crop). Arouca has fertile land, and during this fair people mount little tent stores along the streets to sell their fruits and vegetables, along with some regional gastronomic products and handicrafts. I kid you not I saw figs the size of apples, and olives the size of walnuts. It’s probably due to fertilizers or Chernobyl’s radiation, but I don’t discard the possibility of alien experiments.

During this weekend the small town of Arouca becomes crowded with tourists, and when I say crowded I do mean crowded. The masses of people moving through the streets can only be imagined by those who have seen The Walking Dead. A day in this Fair Crop will dramatically improve your abilities to dodge and squeeze through. You can think of it as an intense training to the inevitable zombie apocalypse. But don’t be alarmed, I’m sure the town is quite peaceful during the rest of the year.

If you like to explore those isolated towns in north of Portugal, you will surely enjoy spending your time in Arouca.

Arouca

Das Leben der Anderen – Excellent German Film

Das Leben der Anderen CoverDas Leben der Anderen, aka The Lives of Others, is a German movie directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

It takes place in 1984, when the country was still divided, and it follows the live of an agent of the East German Secret Police. Ulrich Mühe plays this character brilliantly, a quiet yet serious man, extremely meticulous, who occasionally resorts to unorthodox methods to get what he needs. He lives a lonely life entirely devoted to the Ministry for State Security. One day he gets assigned to spy on a German couple and everything changes, as he starts getting emotionally involved with their lives. The film is slow paced, is well directed, has a solid screenplay and brilliant performances. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, along with a BAFTA Award in the same category, and dozens of other awards and nominees in cinema festivals all around the world.

Das Leben der Anderen is an excellent film and a great example of what the European cinema has to offer.

Das Leben der Anderen

A Day in Porto

Porto Torre dos ClerigosNot so long ago I found myself in the city of Porto. I had been there several times before but that day I decided to explore it as a tourist.

Porto is the second largest city of Portugal and one of the oldest in Europe. It’s located in the north of the country, it’s very old and full of history, dating back to the Roman Empire. It’s also home to the famous porto wine, and some famous Portuguese dishes.

This year Porto was elected the Best European Destination, by European Consumers Choice. It’s not the first time Porto gets this award, and let’s not forget that in 1996 its Historical Centre was classified as World Heritage Centre by UNESCO. The whole city is crawling with tourists from all over the world, so it’s quite easy to find interesting people to spend the day with. The people who actually live in Porto are known for several things, being the most famous their ability to swear. Swearing for them comes as natural as breathing. So when a guy from Porto says “What the fuck are you doing here, you son of the bitch?”, he actually means “Hello dear friend, I’m so glad to see you here”.

If you plan to see the city keep in mind that it has a lot of ups and downs, so don’t forget to stretch your legs before you begin sightseeing. Having all those elevations in a city can be exhausting, but they aren’t such a bad thing, because they will provide you with amazing views through out the city.

Also don’t forget to check the wine caves across the river, where you can taste the real good porto wine. Oh that sweet porto wine…

Porto City

Linux – What is it?

Linux DuckLinux is an operating system, like Windows 7 or Mac OS, but it has a couple of major differences: it’s free and it’s open source.

You don’t have to pay a penny to use it, just download it and install it. You can replace your Windows or install Linux alongside – in this case the computer will ask you which operating system you want to use when the computer is booting (starting). But the best thing about Linux (or one of the best things) is that you don’t have to install Linux on your computer, because it has the ability to boot from a CD-ROM or a Pen Drive. This is called a Live Version, and it’s very simple to use.

When you download Linux, generally you will download a virtual image (most of the times an ISO or IMG file), then you can use Windows native Image Burner to burn it into a CD. To do so, just click on the image file and you will see the option on top of your window, or right click on the file and explore the options “Open With”. To burn it into a Pen Drive you have to use a third-party program, I recommend you “Universal USB Installer”, it’s pretty much straight forward. After the process is complete, insert you CD or Pen Drive in your computer and reboot. Linux will start up just like if it was installed. When you’re done using it, just turn off your computer, remove the CD or Pen Drive, and your old Windows will boot like nothing ever happened. Keep it in mind that to use Live versions you might need to access your BIOS and change the Boot Order, but it’s a very simple process, just search the web for tutorials.

What are the advantages of using a Linux? In one word: security. Linux is way more secure than Windows or Mac Os, and I mean way more. Traditional virus do not affect Linux, and hacking this operating system is an herculean task. Which makes it perfect for managing online bank accounts, or to use your credit card on online shops. Some banks are now recommending their clients to use Linux Live CDs, because CDs are read-only devices, once they are burned no one can change its content.

Now the tricky thing, there isn’t just one Linux distribution, there are hundreds. Each one is developed with a specific purpose in mind. Some are design for old machines, some are designed for enterprise companies, others are designed for hacking, but luckely most are designed for the nowadays common user. The distribution I use for online banking is Puppy Linux, because it has a size of only 160Mb, and it’s mind blowing fast, just takes a couple of minutes to boot. But this distribution can be a bit complicated for a first time user. If you never used Linux before, I recommend you: Lubuntu or Elementary OS. They are light, fast, and simple.

If you care about online banking security, use Linux.

Elementary OS

The Fall – One of the best tv series in years

The Fall

“No one knows what’s going on in someone else’s mind. Life would be intolerable if we did.”

Once in a while anyone who watches TV series will find himself searching for new shows. All our favorite series eventually come to an end, and when it happens we’ll surf the internet looking for something to fill that void we’re left with.

I was there when I first came across this show. The only reason that led me to watch it was the main actress, Gillian Anderson. Yeap, I’m a fan of the X-Files. So one night I turned off the lights and gave this show a try. I had no expectations, and after watching the first episode I was left speechless. As the credits rolled over I kept asking myself how was it possibly that I had never heard about this show before.

This psychological thriller takes place in Belfast, following the lives of two urban predators, a detective and a serial killer. Their everyday routine is constantly being compared, and even though they are in opposite sides of the law, they have more in common than one could ever anticipate. They are both meticulous and intense, both take pleasure from control and dominance. Both have a normal life during the day, holding themselves on family or work, but when darkness falls each one indulges on his own secret ritual.

The series is very well produced. It has a dark atmosphere, and the tension is slowly built through out the episodes. Sometimes it builds so much tension it can be frighting. You will not be frightened due to scare jumps or loud noises, you will be frightened because there are no scare jumps or loud noises. All you hear is the water dripping in the bathroom, the wind outside. You know something is wrong, something horrible is about to happen, but it doesn’t, and the tension just keeps raising, leaving you on the edge of your sit for long periods of time. The camera plays a very important role here, sometimes leaving you staring at that dark corner, or that creepy window at the back. There are also long takes without cuts, adding realism into the action, along with some Point of View shots, you will find yourself immersed into the show. It basically looks like a chilling horror movie disguised has a crime investigation thriller. The camera is something to praise here. If you are really into cinema or television production, you will notice some very interesting shots in a couple of episodes.

The main characters are brilliantly well-acted. Gillian Anderson has been kept under the radar since the X-Files. If you were a fan of this cult series, you will surely be pleased to see her performing in The Fall. She plays the role of a dominant Irish woman, reveling all of her talent as an actress. The second main character is played by Jamie Dornan, who also performs exceptionally well.

The Fall is one of those pearls waiting to be found. Not only is one of the best series of 2013, it’s one of my all-time favorites.

The Fall 2

Free Antivirus – Which one to choose?

Antivirus List

As you know antivirus are pretty much essential if you are running Windows on your computer. Let just get something straight right away, if you want an excellent protection on your system, you have to pay for it. Luckily for those who don’t want to spend money on software, there are free solutions. They aren’t as good as the paid versions, but they will do the job reasonably well.

There are five major brands that provide free antivirus: Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, and Panda. Both Bitdefender and Panda free versions are “cloud based”, which means that it’s not your computer that does the protecting stuff, but a server on the web. They claim it is fast, light and secure, but how secure is it when your internet connection goes down and the server can’t reach your computer? This brands claim they will still be efficient by 90%, or 80%, or whatever. There is just no consensus on the efficiency of a cloud based antivirus on an offline computer. So let’s cross this two of the list. The real choices you should take in consideration are: Avast, AVG, and Avira.

The best way to make up your mind is to check on independent labs. What are independent labs? They are a bunch of people that test antivirus in a very professional way, and then sell the reports at high prices. Luckily there are a couple of sites that offer some reports for free: AVComparatives and AVTest. Forget about searching the web for opinions, if you really want to know the truth about an antivirus check this two websites. I’ve have been following their results for the past three years, while testing each product, so I’m ready to give you an opinion.

Avira is my favourite. It’s the best for virus detection, if Avira says a file is infected it’s because it’s really infected. It also stands out on blocking and cleaning. But nowadays virus are the least of your problems. Most of the infections come from the internet, and thrust me, there are a ton of things crawling the web ready to infect your machine. So one of the things you may need for browsing the internet safely, besides common sense, is a link scanner, and Avira’s link scanner is awful. It forces you to install an add-on on your browser and it gets constantly in the way. Oh, and did I say that Avira constantly bothers you with pop-ups trying to convince you to buy the paid version? Don’t get me wrong, you can still work around this problems, and if you have good informatics knowledge this is definitly your best option.

AVG it’s one of the oldest free antivirus and it’s still a pretty good choice. In the last months it received high scores from independent labs, reaching almost the level of top tier security products. But this Moravian antivirus has a big problem. In the last few years it gained a reputation for having a high level of false positives. What is a false positive? It’s when the antivirus makes a mistake by telling you a file is infected when it really isn’t. So it makes it hard to believe anything AVG tells you, specially if you have illegal software installed on your computer, which you really shouldn’t have.

That leave us with Avast. This antivirus is not the best at anything, but it’s good in everything it does. It has a good link scanner that works with all browsers without the need to install additional add-ons, it just runs silently on background. The antivirus is only reasonably good, but you can install additional security software, like MalwareBytes or ClamWin, without experiencing compatibility problems. Finally it has an Email Scanner that scans your emails for virus (dah!). If you check your emails on the website through a browser, you won’t need to install this feature. Email Scanning is only for people who use email programs like Thunderbird or Outlook Express. Avast is my recommendation for the common user. It’s light on resources, simple, fast, and all of its features run flawlessly right after you install it, without the need of additional configuration. Its interface is clean and pretty straight forward, it has a low false positive rate, and it does not annoy you with pop-up adds.

There is just one thing you need to be careful: when you install Avast chose “Custom Installation”, somewhere during the process you will be asked which features you want to install. There will be three columns, one for the major three features, other for optional features, and other for languages. Just keep it simple and make sure to uncheck all the optional features, because they will not bring you any real advantage, besides slowing down your computer I guess…

And that’s it. If you’re a computer newbie who doesn’t want to spend money on an antivirus, get Avast!

http://www.avast.com/

Avast Free 2014