Monday, March 27, 2023

Launch applications from Touch Portal (or any other launcher) and force them to the front

No matter how hard you try, sometimes Windows 11 doesn't let you push a window to the front. It can drive somebody nuts!

Why doesn't Windows have a, per application, setting to allow that specific application to be brought to the front by other apps and itself? It would save a lot of heartache.

If you're using Touch Portal, WallX, or in general want to force a window to the front, there simply is no clear 'one size fits all' solution... You have to experiment.

TTS Examples

I've added a TTS example for those that want to hear the difference between SAPI5, Windows 11 'Immersive Reader' and Amazon Polly. It's on YouTube and you can find it here:

More on TTS.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Magix Video Deluxe reminds me how I hate online installs (and dislike Magix)

Magix repacks and resells other products. Some of those are great (Xara comes to mind) but Magix often manages to screw up their installation and support procedures. And don't get me started on license issues...

And in several ways they did it again... sigh.

Free TTS (Text to Speech) on Windows, better than your regular SAPI5

Windows has a build-in TTS engine which is better than the older SAPI5 engine, but... it's a little hard to get at. And silly enough, any regular program (for example Balabolka) that calls the SAPI5 API routines isn't using the new code in Windows.

But it's actually very easy to use with a little work around! And the quality is definitely better than, for example, Word's build-in TTS tool.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

DON'T switch language on Shift+Space on Android Tablets (The Sticky Shift Key that Isn't Sticky!)

Here's a nice and troublesome one. When you use an external keyboard with a tablet, such as the Logitech K380 together with the Samsung Tab S6 Lite, you may suffer from spontaneous 'language switches', which seem to eat up spaces when typing.

Don't throw away your external keyboard yet. There might be a solution. (I also found some other issues with the Samsung keyboard driver when trying to figure this out. Read on.)

Friday, March 24, 2023

Setting up Amazon Polly on Windows 11 - Step by Step

This is a step-by-step instruction of how to set up Amazon Polly.

Unfortunately, it doesn't solve my real problem: I am looking for a way to use Polly voices with a TTS reader, such as Balabolka. There are some problems...

Well, at least I managed to get Amazon running, in spite of their poor online instructions.

Monday, March 20, 2023

LED Lamps and Life Expectancy

LED lamps use less energy and last much longer. Though, perhaps, not as long as often suggested.

Ikea suggests their LED lamps can last up to 20 years. Well... probably... if you leave them off.

Netflix - Bushwick (2017)


Violence. Explosions. Dave Bautista. A movie without a point.

I am completely unsure what to make of this one. It's just a movie, with lots of violence, supposedly about Texas separating itself from the rest of the US. It's not entertaining, and the only message it sends is that war kills. And even then it sends that message poorly. 

The verdict? Watching this is a waste of your time. It certainly was of mine.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Farewell Dilbert... Good Riddance Adams


In one fell swoop Scott Adams pretty much killed his primary source of income: Dilbert.

That's... sad. Not because I like Scott Adams. In fact, I never liked him much with his borderline Trump adoration, and the smug way he presents himself as the all-knowing. This time he went one step further and basically dug his own grave by publishing a near racist rant that's simply over the edge. As a result, a 100+ newspapers kicked him and his cartoon out.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Sensitivity Readers - Boon or Farce?


I understand the worry and need for 'sensitivity readers' but I'd also worry about 'giving in' too much. You see, you can't care about each and every opinion, and you're bound to step on some toes, no matter what. So, the question is: are you looking to 'remove' sensitive matters from your work entirely (for example because you're afraid to insult someone), or are you looking for expertise on specific subjects? 

In my experience, there's a lot of difference between the two.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Dean Koontz - Wintermoon (1975)


Wintermoon by Dean Koontz would make a good movie. As a book it's just ''. I can't recall the title (Splinter perhaps?) but it resembles another book I've read quite some time ago. Something about 'something alien invading earth modifying (dead) animals and stuff alike'. Anyway, this book was good enough to keep my attention for three or four hours during the flight back to the Netherlands... I wouldn't read it again though.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Richard Kadrey - Sandman Slim 1 - Sandman Slim


Sandman Slim is everything Bobby Dollar tries to be... hardboiled, noir-styled, supernatural detective. It's moody, dark, first-person present tense, and the hero is just as much a jerk as you and me... if not even more so.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Wallpaper - Firefly

I believe Serenity is still flying...

These are three wallpapers from one of my favorite SF series, Firefly.

No matter what you think of Jos Whedon, he did leave some very good television in his legacy. Buffy, Dollhouse, and Firefly are simply standouts in the (cult) television series landscape.

Monday, February 27, 2023

B.V. Larson - Star Force 1 - Swarm


I'm not entirely sure what attracts people in these books. Like the previous B.V. Larson books, there is something off about them, almost something stupid. It isn't that the man can't write. He can, perhaps with a little false pathos, but the writing itself isn't that bad. By itself...

But there's so much wrong with this, I'm not even sure where to start...

Monday, February 20, 2023



Farscape returned! Okay, that's a lie... but I'd love for it to happen.

Say what? Farscape? You didn't even know? What?!? You did not even watch?!?!? You don't even  know what Farscape is?!?

You must be one of those people comforting their Nielsen boxes 😔

Monday, February 13, 2023

The Tommyknockers (1993)


Back in 1995 I was staying in China, looking for something to watch on late-night Guangzhou television. Well, Hong Kong television, but they had that on the hotel's channels. Just by accident I 'rolled' into The Tommyknockers based on Stephen King's story. I heard some negative stories about the book and had never read it. I still haven't, so I can't compare book and movie adaption.

Sunday, February 12, 2023



Nearly thirty years of progress... Did we make any? I compared the layout of the same app on old style Windows NT / 98 (XP with a theme), Windows XP, Windows 10, and Windows 11.

Just from a stupid user's point of view... did we make any progress? If you just look at the user interface then it's still the same beast. So why is Microsoft so desperate to change the looks, when in the end we'll buy the new version anyway?

When you think about it... things haven't changed much for the last 30 years...

Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Headphones Made Me Do It - Dear Republican (nope, this is NOT about politics but Formula 1!)


I like F1. I like the drama surrounding it, the games, the challenges, the emotions. Racing is more than just fastest man + fastest machine = certain win. Well, at least I believe it should be. It certainly shouldn't be all about 'hate'.

Some self proclaimed 'fans' are so narrow minded they keep repeating their view on reality in endless posts on every forum. One of those is 'Republican' who thinks he is funny. But... he isn't.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Disney+ - Firefly


Joss Whedon delivered another classic, even though it was canceled before its time. It's cowboys and rebels in space, but not exactly...

It only took some out-of-order broadcasting to kill this show. Fortunately it received some well-deserved wrap-up in the form of a movie.

Watch it. Even if you don't like Whedon as a person, his TV shows were great...

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Wallpaper - Tabula Rasa

Some of these wallpapers are just pretty images, others may have a story behind them. Some of those stories are intense, emotional, have a personal meaning (and I might simply not share the associated wallpapers) but others only go skin-deep.

This is one of the latter 😇 Ever heard of the game Tabula Rasa?

Monday, January 30, 2023

Aer-ki Jyr - Star Force - Origin


Okay. Those who've read my reviews might have figured out I don't like LitRPG much, and Cultivation even less. Now, LitRPG and Cultivation primarily take place in the fantasy domain, so what's this?

My key issue with LitRPG is its obsession with stats, and being better / worse than someone else. I have a similar problem with Cultivation, which often boils down to 'follow the rules and you will become god' -- which amounts to pretty much the same thing. Unfortunately, that's what Star Force is: yet another cultivation novel but this time set in space.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Marko Kloos - Frontlines - Points of Impact (2018) / Orders of Battle (2020) / Centers of Gravity (2022)


After not being entirely sure where to take the story (or that's my impression, at least) the author returns to the main thread and plot of the series: the fight against the Lankies.

These three books (6,7,8) wrap up the series, and in the final book he gives his protagonist love couple a fair and well-deserved send-off. The final book does hint at the nature of the Lankies but doesn't go into detail. This clearly leaves space for another series of books using new characters.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Andromeda - s01e15 - Forced Perspective

Well, cheesy as it may be, sometimes Andromeda gets things right. If not in the episode itself, then at least in the 'pseudo historical quotes' preceding every episode. Take this one:

Humans say the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Why? Do they think there's a shortage of bad ones? 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Joel Polowin - There Is Good (The Final Frontier - West Side Story Style)

All credit goes to Joel Polowin... All I did was remove / add some spaces / carriage returns to adjust the indents for this blog...

I think he wrote it back in the day when Fido was still a thing and many of us hang around on SF.028. Oh, who still remembers those days...

(Hey, I think I've found some remaining presence... though it seems a little outdated. Still, the last update suggests a new recipe in 2020...)

Monday, January 16, 2023

Harper North - Manipulated 1 - Modified


Apocalyptic setting. Check. Female teen protagonist. Check. First Person Present Tense. Check.

What could go wrong? Well, a lot. A regular dose of disbelief won't work on this one. Slave / miner / teen girl gets injected with some kind of genetic mod and becomes Miss Perfect. Ah... that should have been a red flag.

Sorry, the story just doesn't seem to work.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Netflix - Spiderman - No Way Home


Maybe it's formally not part of the MCU (as in being more of a Sony than a Marvel property) but hey, it fits nicely, and Doctor Strange does a good job making things worse.

The movie is enjoyable if a little forgettable. Tom Holland is great, as usual. I'm still not convinced by Zendaya (a little overhyped) but the best participants in this movie are the faces of old...

Monday, January 2, 2023

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff - Aurora Burning / Aurora's End


Very good. Very, very good. Ah, the first review of 2023 should be a positive one, shouldn't it?

I thought they couldn't pull it off. Ending the first book with an overpowered enemy is one of the two 'beginning writers' problems. (The other one is an overpowered protagonist.)

But they managed to do it. They managed to pull it off.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Wallpaper - Pinky & The Brain

Megalomania isn't a problem... Well, it is (Musk, Putin, Trump, and you can come up with a few names of your own) but at least it isn't a problem in cartoons... Meet Pinky & The Brain!

Click image to enlarge / More wallpapers...