Do you have a,, or Xbox 360 account?

If you have a, or account, or if you have one of these as part of your Xbox 360, you should know that more than 10,000 of these account passwords were just posted online. Most of these accounts were in Europe, but quite a few were here in the US.

If you have any one of these accounts, take a moment right now to change your password. In Hotmail, you need to go to OPTIONS in the top menu and then down to MORE OPTIONS. From there you can choose VIEW AND EDIT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION. Finally, click the CHANGE link next to the password field to type in something new.

Music recognition on the iphone : Shazam vs. Midomi

Have you ever heard music on the radio or while you were out shopping and wondered who that was? With an iphone and either of these two programs below, you can find out!

Shazam logo

Shazam logo

Shazam is the first contender. When you hear music you want to know the name of, you just launch the application and then click the small TAG NOW button in the upper right corner. The iphone will start to listen to whatever is playing around you as a pie chart fills up to show the deciphering progress. When it finds the result, it will buzz the iphone and display the artist, song title, a link to YouTube for the video (if it’s available) and a link to the iTunes store to purchase the song. Shazam does fairly well in crowded areas, and picked up songs that were playing in a busy toy store as well as a restaurant during dinner rush. The only problems with Shazam is that it displays ads all over the application, does not return good results on classical or jazz music, and it now requires iphone system software 3.0. But it is completely free, and correctly deciphers most mainstream music.

Midomi Logo

Midomi Logo

Midomi is the second contender. When you launch Midomi there is a giant WHATS THAT SONG button to click on. In a few seconds, Midomi will listen to your surroundings and show you the result of what it hears almost the same way that Shazam does. But with Midomi you get a massive increase in song recognition speed, no advertising clutter, and better recognition on jazz and classical music. Midomi picked up “Drop me off in Harlem” by Richard Wyands, “Symphony #40 in G minor” by Alberto Lizzio, and “Remember Tomorrow” by Mo’ Horizons when Shazam returned a “no idea” for each one of them. But Midomi missed “Symphony No. 25 in G minor” by Mozart and “Love Supreme, Pt. 2: Resolution” by John Coltrane. Then again, Shazam missed both of these, too. Midomi works just as well in crowded locations as Shazam does and correctly deciphers most mainstream music as well. For the vastly superior speed and for a slightly better classical and jazz recognition, Midomi will set you back $4.99.

Both programs let you post your finds to social networking sites like Twitter, view the music video on YouTube (if available) and email a “hey I like this” email with the song artist and album to whoever you want.

It comes down to whether you want to pay a little extra for speed and marginally better classical and jazz recognition, or use a free but slower application that works good enough with vocal performances.

I have both. Just in case.

Shazam: Three and 3/4 out of five stars

Midomi : Four out of five stars

The Taking by Dean Koontz : Mini Book Review

The Taking by Dean Koontz

The Taking by Dean Koontz

10 words or less : Great start, poor ending. Had potential to be really great.

Long version : “The Taking” was my first book by Dean Koontz. Like most of the books I buy, it was in the bargain bin at a local book store, so I grabbed it for a quick weekend read.

Before I go on with the review, I have to say that horror movies and horror books seldom work on me. The solution to 85% of horror movies? Shotgun. Jason Voorhees? Shotgun. Michael Myers? Shotgun. Blair Witch? Shotgun. I know what you did last blah blah blah? Shotgun. Just shoot the friggin’ bad guy and be done with it.

As for the paranormal kind of horror, most of the time I think those kind of things are just really funny. If I ever run across a ghost, I’ll probably pull a Ray Stantz on them… take some technical readings, and then make fun of them.

Movies that worked for me? Aliens. The Thing. The Shining. Session 9. The Silence of the Lambs. Movies with intelligent people who were in situations appropriate for their characters, who were also properly equipped for their environment, and who were still having really bad things happen to them.

Now, having said all that, I think “The Taking” was almost great. Almost. And that’s what’s really frustrating about it.

The book starts off with a rush. Bad things start to happen immediately and you get to know the characters as the book unfolds and as things happen to them. It reminded me a little of the very first episode of LOST.

The story and characters are well written, and they react like people with decent intelligence and some self-defense capabilities would in their given situation. And they had a shotgun! Bonus! I was really getting into this book.

But a little more than midway in, the terror part of the book runs out of gas. Things push way too far into the unbelievable, and the bad guys’ motivations and abilities become far too excessive. I was wondering if this story was heading for a sequel when a textbook “deus ex machina” tied up the ending. And not to ruin the book, but if that was who the bad guys were, then what exactly were the good guys? That’s a far more disturbing thought for me.

Amazon reviewers say not to judge this book as one of Koontz’s better ones. So having seen those comments, and being very impressed with the first part of the book, I will try one of his earlier books for next time. Because if Koontz can write a whole book like the first few chapters of “The Taking”, I’ll be really impressed.

Checking in at around 450 pages, “The Taking” was a decent summer / weekend read.

Three and 3/8 out of five stars.