Atlas Shrugged: 645,000 Words Later (A Book Review)

Atlas Shrugged, written by Ayn Rand, is by far the longest book I have ever read. At approximately 645,000 words, it is quite the undertaking. For comparison, it is 2.5X as long as the largest Harry Potter book (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”), which sits at 257,045 words. According to Wikipedia, Atlas Shrugged is the 20th largest novel of all-time (9th longest novel written in English).

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Steve Jobs (2015) Movie Review — Michael Fassbender

Steve Jobs (2015) takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.
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The most important thing to know about the 2015 take on Steve Jobs is that the movie focuses almost entirely on his Steve Jobs’ personal life, which both helps and hurts the movie. After all, Jobs was a man of many facets and he arguably spent the least amount of time worrying about his personal life. This focus is also what makes this movie so interesting, however. Most people know the other sides of Steve – the self-destructive artist, the visionary and the businessman. So Steve Jobs (2015) decided to take a much closer look at the side we know less about.

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In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides is a book that I could not recommend more about the perils of Arctic exploration.

The book is the unbelievable true story of the USS Jeannette. Its captain, George Washington De Long, embarks on a mission to reach the North Pole, as no explorers had yet done. Their voyage is like nothing I have ever read about or seen — in life or on screen.

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The Unbelievers Movie Review

Renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss cross the globe as they speak publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world.
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What The Unbelievers lacks in entertainment and excitement, it makes up for in brilliance.

The Unbelievers is essentially a compilation of some of the great international appearances of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they discuss the importance of science and logic.

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Battlefield 4 Review: The Best FPS

Chances are, if you are a gamer and love the first-person shooter genre, you have already played Battlefield 3 or 4. If you have played them already then I am surprised you could peel your eyes away from the screen long enough to read this blog post. You already know this but others don’t: Battlefield is the best FPS, hands down.

Here’s why:

Amazing Teamplay

If you play COD or similar shooters, you have yet to experience the teamplay dynamics created by Battlefield. Balanced classes, an array of awesome gear for each class, and vehicles make teamplay necessary for success. A team working together will almost always win over teams that are playing lone-wolf. If you have played Battlefield solo, you do not understand even half of its potential. Which brings me to . . .

Vehicles!

Vehicular combat is one of the biggest differences between Battlefield and other franchises. You actually feel like you are playing on a battlefield because of the intensity vehicles create. Attack boats zoom past you in the water while jets attack helicopters above you, all while you are launching rockets to take down a tank shaking the earth all around you (see the video below for a taste of the action).

Flexibility

Some of the best aspects of Battlefield can also be some of the most annoying for some players. Massive maps, for example, annoy people who are accustomed to playing games like COD. Vehicles can also be annoying if you do not know how to effectively take them out. Thankfully Battlefield is very flexible with game modes and maps to satisfy everyone’s needs.

Vehicle-free “infantry” modes allow you to get in close quarters and duke it out on a scale similar to other first-person shooters. These modes use smaller maps or section off larger maps so you are always in on the action. With a large variety of maps, mods, weapons, vehicles, classes and gear, there is truly something for everyone.

Visuals

Large visual differences exist between the Ps3/Ps4 and the Xbox 360/Xbox One. The PS3 and Ps4 are more powerful so the games look better (PC even more so, for some). However, even accounting for differences between consoles, Battlefield offers a visual experience that COD cannot even touch. The graphics are far superior and incorporate many more intense elements (read: helicopters ploughing into buildings to incredible effect).

Overall

Let’s get this straight: I am not a Battlefield fanboy. There is nothing (other than my wife) that I would support unconditionally. Battlefield is the best FPS from a purely rational point of view. Of course, franchises like COD will always have blind loyalty but hopefully, over time, players will begin to see the light.

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Best Free Tax Software Canada | Studio Tax Review

It’s about that time of year again — tax season. That means spending copious amounts of time collecting forms, stubs, and receipts to appease the good ol’ taxman.

To simplify things, I used to go to H&R Block. What I didn’t realize is that H&R Block provides little service over and above what you can do yourself with proper tax software. It made sense at the time — as a student their $29.99 rate is fairly reasonable. However, out of school their rate jumps to $59.99+ making it worthwhile to do it yourself.

The second thing I didn’t realize is how easy it is to do your own taxes. Even those with “more complicated” tax situations should find it quite easy with a program like Studio Tax.

Studio Tax is 100% free (no catches) for up to 20 returns, so unless you are the Duggar family, you shouldn’t come close to hitting the limit.

Studio Tax is the best free tax software in Canada that I was able to find. It is surprisingly robust and helps walk you through the tax-filing process; even asking you questions about yourself like a tax professional would. Based on your responses to those questions, it will automatically serve up the necessary tax forms. You can then choose additional forms that are applicable to you.

The forms are easy to follow — as easy as “painting by the numbers”. The best part about Studio Tax, however, is the easy way in which it makes the final file available for net filing. Once you have filled out your forms, Studio Tax will create a TAX file that can easily be uploaded directly to the CRA via Netfile. I am a huge fan of this approach because it means you deal with no paper (other than what you have received).

The only room for improvement for Studio Tax is the interface (see below), which is frankly atrocious. Doing your taxes is not supposed to be a fun experience, but an interface uplift is desperately needed nonetheless. Thankfully, its ease of use more than makes up for its poor interface.

Download Studio Tax (Free Canadian Tax Software)

Studio Tax Software Interface

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Dell XPS 18 Review | My New “Ridiculous” Computer

“I just bought a new computer”. Normally this is something someone will post to FB, grab a few likes and move on, however the computer I recently purchased is pretty unique, so I thought I would share it in a more detailed post.

I recently picked up the Dell XPS 18, an 18-inch All-in-One / tablet. You read that right. It’s essentially an 18-inch tablet. Except, well, it’s not.

The Dell XPS 18 functions primarily as a desktop. It’s large screen size means it has a full-size monitor “built right in”. It’s secondary purpose is as a tablet. 18 inches is pretty massive for a tablet but the picture below will hopefully make the use-case a little clearer.

Dell XPS 18 as a Tablet

You see, the XPS 18 is not meant to be held in one hand like smaller tablets; instead it is perfect company resting on your lap on your couch. It comes with a charging stand that you can set up on your desk and when you want to relax with it on the couch, you simply grab it off the stand and away you go!

You can see in the main image (above) that it is a very flexible device. You can lie it flat, stand it up, put it in the stand or hold it in your hand.

The decision to pick it up wasn’t easy, though. I spent months agonizing over which new computer to buy to meet what I thought were simple requirements:

  • 90-95% use as a desktop
  • 5-10% as a tablet

I was pretty excited about the Surface Pro 2, an amazing tablet that operates as a full desktop, but the price tag blew me away and the 10-inch screen was lacking, considering I would use it primarily at my desk. There were very few machines that were both portable and powerful with good screen real estate.

The XPS 18 is definitely the best of both worlds. It weighs 5 lbs so it is easy to grab off the stand and carry around, it’s quite fast and comes with ample storage (500GB). Complete with 8GB of RAM, it can run anything you throw at it easily, with the exception of intense games.

So if you’re looking for a new desktop with some versatility, try the Dell XPS 18. It does help that I got it on sale for $699 down from over $1,000.

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