Thursday Jul 19, 2007

Dissecting the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Covers

In further anticipation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the cover art on the various editions can give us some clues about the plot.

  • The US Version. This image, which spans both the front and back cover, seems to show Harry and Voldemort in a coliseum-like location with onlookers in the background. A few comments and questions:
    • Is the coliseum supposed to imply a gladiator-like battle?
    • The rubble in the front of the image seems to imply that there was a battle, but in the picture Harry and Voldemort don’t seem to be actively fighting. Why not?
    • Instead, Harry and Voldemort both appear to be facing something or someone not shown instead of each other. Harry appears to be reaching out for it. Is Voldemort reaching for it also, or holding his hands out to block it? Could it be Fawkes the phoenix or the sword of Gryffindor to which Harry is reaching out? Or is it someone?
    • Why are neither Harry nor Voldemort holding a wand?
    • Why are there curtains on either side of the image? Could they be the veil in the department of mysteries behind which Sirius fell when he died? Could Harry and Voldemort actually be behind the veil fighting each other?
    • Who are the onlookers? If Harry and Voldemort are really behind the veil, perhaps they are dead people like Sirius and Harry’s parents?
    • In summary, this image basically shows us that Harry and Voldemort will be face-to-face at some point in the book, which I think most of us have already guessed.
  • The UK Version. This cover contains four images.
    • The large front-cover image shows Harry, Ron, and Hermione plunging through some sort of treasure-chamber. A small creature on Harry's back appears to be holding a sword, while Harry looks like he is diving for something. Are they in Gringott’s? Is the creature a house-elf (Dobby perhaps) or a goblin? Is it holding Gryffindor’s sword? Are they looking for a horcrux?
    • The smaller image on the front shows a white antlered animal, perhaps a white stag, which is Harry’s patronus. Does this mean that Harry’s patronus will be important to the plot of this book?
    • The large back-cover image shows Hogwarts, possibly with smoke behind it. Does this mean that Harry will go to Hogwarts at some point in the book, even if he doesn’t attend his complete seventh year?
    • The small image on the back shows a snake inside a glass ball. Is the snake Nagini (Voldemort’s snake, and possibly one of his horcruxes?)
  • The UK Adult Version. This cover shows JK Rowling on the back, and what I think is Slytherin’s locket on the front. As we already knew the locket would be important, I don’t think this image sheds much light on the plot.

Rank Ordering the Harry Potter Books

Continuing the Harry Potter theme this week, here is my rank ordering of the first six books in the series from favorite to least favorite.

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In addition to conveying key information about Voldemort and the over-arching plot, this book held together well, with good pacing. I also enjoyed seeing Harry’s maturing relationship with Dumbledore and the clues as to how much Dumbledore cared about and trusted Harry.
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I liked this book also for its revelations about the over-arching plot and about James, Lupin, Sirius, and Wormtail, as well as its good pacing.
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This first book in the series is difficult to compare to some of the later ones as it feels so light in comparison (and I don’t just mean physically!) However, the introduction to the wizarding world is unbeatable.
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I think the climax of this book, where Voldemort regains his full body and Harry escapes, is excellent. However, the book itself is I think a bit too long and bogs down in places. I also didn’t really like the whole impersonation plot point that much.
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I haven’t re-read this one recently, but I remember feeling somewhat dissatisfied after reading it. I didn’t really like the whole chamber of secrets and diary plot, though after reading later books I can see better how they relate to the larger plot.
  6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. I felt that this book bogged down somewhat and didn’t really further the over-arching plot much. I finished the book feeling somewhat frustrated. But note that even as my least-favorite in the Harry Potter series, I’d rather read it than most other books around!

Where will Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows fall?

Thursday Jul 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Top-Ten Questions

In anticipation of the imminent release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, here are the top ten questions for which I hope to find answers or resolution in the final book.

  1. Whose side is Snape on? Is he truly a follower of Voldemort, really a loyal member of the Order of the Pheonix, just out for himself, conflicted, or playing both sides? I believe that whatever loyalties he currently has or has had in the past, he will redeem himself in the end, possibly by saving Harry’s life and in the process sacrificing himself.
  2. Why did Dumbledore trust Snape? While related to the first question, this point was emphasized so much in the last book that I think it will be important in this one.
  3. What will Draco do? He proved in the climax to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that he wasn’t in his heart on the side of Voldemort. Will he redeem himself, as Dumbledore no doubt hoped?
  4. How will Wormtail repay his life-debt to Harry? Recall that Harry spared his life in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This debt has not yet been repaid.
  5. What is the meaning of Dumbledore’s "gleam of triumph"? Recall that this look occurred when Dumbledore discovered that Harry’s blood was used to resurrect Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  6. How will the prophecy be resolved? It states in part that, "…either must die at the hand of the other…" I think that Voldemort will be killed in the final book, but I’m not convinced that Harry will be the one to do it. Although not likely, I do think there’s a small chance the prophecy actually refers to Neville instead. Which brings me to…
  7. What will be Neville’s role? I think Neville will have a significant role to play in the final book – it will be interesting to see what it is.
  8. Who is R.A.B.? He claimed to have stolen one of the horcruxes. Speculation is that it’s Sirius’ brother.
  9. More information about Lily and the night of her murder? It seems like there are still some things we don’t know about that fateful night.
  10. Is there any more to Aunt Petunia? I suspect there are still a few things we don’t know about her.

Friday May 04, 2007

First Freedom First

I believe that freedom of religion is one of the most valuable aspects of life in the United States. To this end, I signed the First Freedom First online petition co-sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance Foundation and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Tuesday Apr 17, 2007

Why I Didn’t Buy Norton Save and Restore

A while ago, I bought an iomega network drive so that I could backup the computers on my home network. I’m now trying to automate that process with some backup software for Windows XP. The first one I tried, Norton Save and Restore, from Symantec, was a disaster.

The problems started with the product web page. Browsing it with firefox gave me this message:

ERROR: LiveCode is not defined.

After downloading and installing the trial version of the software, I noticed a new program that must have come with Save and Restore called Norton Protection Center . This “protection” center was complaining that my computer didn’t have virus or firewall protection. I thought that was particularly odd because my computer is running Symantec Anti-Virus Corporate Edition and Client Firewall software. Since Norton Save and Restore also is sold by Symantec, you’d think they’d work together! Evidently not, according to Chris Breisch's post.

Additionally, all the Symantec products use something called Live Update for virus definition updates, product fixes, etc. Not surprisingly, when I ran Live Update from Norton Save and Restore, it didn’t show the anti-virus or firewall software, and when I ran it from the firewall or anti-virus programs, it didn’t show Save and Restore. So I had to run live update twice from two different programs to get all the updates for my Symantec software.

I figured I could live with these minor inconveniences, as long as the backups worked properly. And indeed, the first backup went fine. The only problem was the speed: it took over 12 hours to back up approximately 32 GB of data.

I then set up a schedule to do an incremental backup every day. During the next couple weeks I saw the backup event starting when it was supposed to, presumably backing up my data. However, when I finally checked the event log, I noticed that only the first few backups had succeeded. The rest had failed with this error:

Description: Error EC8F1C50: Cannot create file backup for job: File Backup. Error E4BC0012: An interaction with the catalog's database layer failed unexpectedly: sqlite3_step--5: database is locked.
Details: 0xE4BC0012
Source: Norton Save and Restore

So not only was the backup not working, but the only notification was in an obscure error log!

When I tried running a backup manually, I saw the same error. Following the “More Help on the Web” link told me to run live update.

When I tried to run Live Update (from Norton Save and Restore, of course), I received the message,

This update could not be installed.

There was no offer for further help.

At this point I gave up and tried to uninstall the software. Even that didn’t work right! Now every time I reboot, I got an error window saying:

A necessary file could not be loaded: NSC.

According to Symantec’s technical support, the only way to remove this error message is to uninstall all my Symantec products! The tech support guy even had the nerve to tell me that this wasn’t a bug, and refused to escalate it to the next level of support. I haven’t had the patience to uninstall and reinstall the anti-virus and firewall yet. If anyone has any suggestions for cleaning up this mess without doing that, please let me know!

I’m now evaluating Genie-Soft Backup Manager. So far it’s working great.

About

Nick Solter is a software engineer and author living in Colorado.

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