Get Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code & A Sneak Peek into Inferno For Free

Dan Brown DaVinci Code Book Cover

I just noticed that Dan Brown’s most famous book The Da Vinci Code, which is still banned in Lebanon, is available for free until March 24th as an e-book from all major retailers online.

So if you have never read the book and are in the possession of an iOS or Kindle-enabled device, this is your chance. The offer is valid for U.S. and Canada but if you have a U.S. iTunes store or Amazon account, you’re good to go.

If you don’t have a U.S. iTunes account, here are the steps to do one:

  1. Sign out of your current iTunes account,
  2. Go to the U.S. iTunes store and try to buy a free app.
  3. Set up a new account using a different email from the one you already have and choose payment as none. Billing address and phone numbers can be anything.
  4. Verify your account.

Amazon has a similar approach. Just go to and set up an account.

This will allow you to buy free stuff, including books and music, that are available on the U.S. iTunes store only.

You can find the book on iTunes here and on Amazon here.

This free version of the book also contains an exclusive sneak peek into Dan Brown’s upcoming book Inferno. It includes the prologue as well as the first chapter. It seems the book will be centered around an organization called “The Consortium.”

Inferno will be released on May 14th and I’ll read it and review it then.

Apple Launches Lebanese iTunes Music Store

iTunes Music Store Lebanon

This should be interesting. Apple has launched iTunes’ Music Store in over 56 countries yesterday, one of those being Lebanon. In addition to the AppStore which Lebanese customers had for a while now, they’ll be able to – yes you guessed it – buy songs and albums online, however far-fetched that happening might be.

In addition to Lebanon, Apple’s iTunes Music Store has launched in other countries of the region such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain as well as Israel. This means it’s the first time the region gets a legal alternative for websites such as Nogomi which allow free downloads of music.

I personally buy most of the music I listen to off the American iTunes Store. Some Lebanese have called me crazy for doing so. So I wonder how many Lebanese are actually willing to leave their music piracy ways behind and start paying for the music they listen to? I’m sure it won’t be many.

State of Grace (Lyrics) – Taylor Swift

These are the lyrics of the final countdown single by Taylor Swift before the release of her new album, Red, next week. State of Grace is an alternative song about, yes you guessed it, falling in love.

I’m walking fast through the traffic lights
Busy streets and busy lives
And all we know is touch and go
We are alone with our changing minds
We fall in love till it hurts or bleeds or fades in time 

And I never saw you coming
And I’ll never be the same

You come around and the armor falls
Pierce the room like a cannonball
Now all we know... is don't let go
We are alone just you and me
Up in your room, and our slates are clean 
Just twin fire signs, four blue eyes
So you were never a saint
And I’ve loved in shades of wrong
We learn to live with the pain
Mosaic broken hearts
But this love is brave and wild

And I never saw you coming
And I’ll never be the same

This is a state of grace
This is the worthwhile fight
Love is a ruthless game
Unless you play it good and right
These are the hands of fate
You're my Achilles heel
This is the golden age of something good and right and real

And I never saw you coming
And I’ll never be the same
And I never saw you coming
And I’ll never be the same

This is a state of grace
This is the worthwhile fight
Love is a ruthless game
Unless you play it good and right

Begin Again (Lyrics) – Taylor Swift

As part of the promotion leading up to the release of her new album RED, Taylor Swift will be releasing a new song weekly to iTunes. This is the first of them and it’s called “Begin Again.”

It’s about the first date you go to after a messy break up.

Took a deep breath in the mirror
He didn’t like it when I wore high heels, but I do
Turned the lock and put my headphones on
He always said he didn’t get this song but I do, I do

Walked in expecting you’d be late
But you got here early
And you stand and wave
And I walk to you
You pulled my chair out and helped me
And you don’t know how nice that is
But I do

And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cause he never did
I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking all love ever does
Is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again

You said you never met one girl
Who has as many James Taylor records as you
But I do
We tell stories and you don’t know why I’m coming off a little shy
But I do

But you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cause he never did
I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking all love ever does
Is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again

And we walk down the block to my car
And I almost brought him up
But you start to talk about the movies
That your family watches every single Christmas
And I wanna talk about that
For the first time, what’s past is past

‘Cause you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cause he never did
I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking all love ever does
Is break and burn and end
Then on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again
Then on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again

Haifa Wehbe’s New Album MJK is #1 on US iTunes

I may not like her but I think this is impressive. Haifa Wehbe is the first Lebanese artist to hold a #1 position of any sort on US iTunes. Granted, it is the #1 World Album which means it’s not exactly selling in the buckloads like the #1 All-Genre album (incidentally, that’s Blown Away by Carrie Underwood, whom I really, really like. Obviously.)

I actually had no idea she had new music out. But her international fans are buying. Good for her, I guess. Nice exposure. On the all-genre chart, however, her album doesn’t come in the top 200, which is expected.

Other places where MJK (what does that mean?) is charting are:

Carrie Underwood’s Album Blown Away Available For Streaming on iTunes April 24th

After Carrie’s fan club announced an online listening party for members at 9 pm CT on Tuesday April 24th, a high ranking spokesperson for Arista Nashville confirmed to me that the album will be available for streaming on iTunes for everyone on April 24th, akin to the streaming option made available for The Fray as well as Coldplay’s latest albums.

My review, as well as the lyrics for all the songs on the album, will be published immediately after I get to listen to the album. You can check out my review of the lead single Good Girl here and the lyrics for Wine After Whiskey here, a song I correctly predicted would be on Blown Away.

Until then, here are the Blown Away-related news that we know for certain.

– The album is darker, evolutionary for Carrie and spans the gamut of styles. You can check out the track descriptions here.

– The second single is the title track Blown Away, as I confirmed here. The first line off Blown Away was also published by yours truly here.

This might be the reason music retailers haven’t released snippets of the album and why they didn’t do a promo singles release schedule (iTunes countdown). The wait has been cut down by one week. April 24th, here we go.

Mac OS X Lion – Overview

Mac OS X Lion has just been released and these are my thoughts of the new Mac operating system that I’ve been using for a couple of weeks now.

Installing Lion is a very easy task. You just run the installer that you download, input your administrator password and the OS automatically installs. Of course, it’s always advisable to back up your data beforehand since you never know what might go wrong but most probably nothing will.

Once the installation is done, you’ll be taken to a newly designed welcome screen where you enter your password and access your desktop.

The first thing Lion welcomes you with is an introduction its new way of scrolling. However, Apple has decided to set the scrolling to “natural,” which, like the iPad, is actually the reverse of what you’re used to: scrolling up takes you down and vice versa. However, unlike the iPad, your Mac does not have a touch screen making the scrolling as set by Apple not “natural” at all. So I went to system preferences and changed it.

OS X Lion boasts many addition and tweaks that are truly great. But I think there are five which can be considered as the highlight of this update: Resume, Mission Control, Airdrop, Full Screen and Launchpad.

1 – Resume:

Have you ever shut down your laptop and regretted it because you didn’t have something saved? Well, with OS X Lion, you don’t need to worry about that anymore. Whenever you turn on your mac after shutting it down, you will be presented with the exact same state you left your mac in prior to shut down. Did you have iTunes, Twitter, Firefox and iPhoto running? They’d still be running and open to the tabs you were browsing, the tweets you were seeing and the songs you were selecting.

I’m the type of people who don’t like to turn off their laptops simply because I find the time it takes for them to boot and start launching my apps too long. With OS X Lion, I boot my Macbook Pro and before I know it, it’s as if I never turned it off. That is truly this update’s highlight. Sure, it’s not the most dazzling addition but in the long run, it’s the most useful one.

You can opt out of it before shutting down. But why would you?

2 – Mission Control:

The negative thing about mission control is that it takes time to get accustomed with the new finger gestures. I had my mac set up for four-finger gestures: up removed all windows from my desktop, down took me to expose. With OS X Lion, the four-finger gestures are removed entirely and replaced with three-finger gestures.

Going up with three fingers + thumb launches Mission Control.

Don’t mind my Harry Potter wallpaper. The movie is simply epic after all.

What Mission Control does is show you all of the windows and apps you’re working with, allowing you to organize them.

You can drag for example your internet browser and make a new desktop out of it.

This new desktop can now be accessed via a two-finger swipe to the left (or right, depending on where you are).

Mission Control is highly useful when you want to relieve yourself of clutter. Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed with windows, simply drag a few of them into new desktops and go to those desktops to finish your work. When you’re done, hover your cursor over the new desktops and you’ll be able to close them.

3 – Airdrop:

Ever wanted to share something with someone and you were out of a flash drive or any way to send it over to them? Well, if you’re on the same Wi-Fi network, OS X Lion has the solution in the form of Airdrop.

Found in all the windows of “Finder” on the side, airdrop allows you to share that file with any Mac in the vicinity.

4 – Full Screen:

This update also boasts the ability to go full screen in many apps: iTunes, iPhoto, Garageband, etc…. Whenever you go full screen with an app, you can use a three-finger scroll sideways to switch between all full-screen apps running. I have yet to fully use this capacity, simply because I don’t feel like it’s really needed. What’s the point of looking at iTunes (or any other app) full screen?

Moreover, a simple click on the escape button wouldn’t take you out of full screen mode. You have to hover your mouse to the top of the page in order for a blue box with two reduction arrows to appear. Clicking on that takes you back to normal screen mode.

Interestingly, going full screen in Quicktime automatically transfers you to a new desktop so you can keep the movie you’re watching at full screen when you need to pause it to work with other things. However, I still don’t get how to make Quicktime work as my media player after connecting my Macbook Pro via HDMI to my TV so I’ve resorted to VLC instead.

5 – Launchpad:

Out of the new additions I have chosen to discuss in this overview, I’m the most disappointed by Launchpad. Why? Because it’s practically useless. A three-finger squeeze launches launchpad from which you can launch any app.

As you can see, it has been built in a way very similar to how apps are presented on an iPad’s screen. Even folders are the same. But I’m used to launching an app simply by clicking on my “Applications” folder in the dock and clicking for the app. With Launchpad, it’s one extra step for me to do that.

Installing any app will from the Mac App Store will appear as a “download bar” underneath the Launchpad icon, similar to what happens on an iOS device.

Launchpad is basically the most obvious of bringing iOS to OS X. But it pales in comparison to the other additions in OS X Lion.

OS X Lion has many other tweaks that are not discussed here. Preview has its interface changed, as well as the Mail app, which now allows threaded conversations as well as flagging emails in various degrees of importance. You can no longer change the size of icons and folders automatically rearrange to limit empty spaces between contents.

Is OS X Lion a must-have update? I’m inclined to say it’s no. But I personally advise everyone to update because soon enough Apple will start to iron out the kinks. OS X is a very, very strong operating system that will stay a market leader for long. Windows has a lot of catching up to do and even though OS X Lion is not a giant leap forward, it opened up even more grounds on Windows. After all, by combining elements from Mac OS X with iOS, although far from perfect, has taken the user’s mac experience to a whole new level. Mac OS X Lion gives you the feeling that you are working with a futuristic device, even though for example my Macbook Pro is almost 2 years old.

Apple is known not to release a product unless they’re sure it’s the best they can offer at the moment. Sure, they’ve had missteps. But OS X Lion is not one of them. And for $29.99 and the ability to install it on any mac computer you own, it sure is a bargain. So should you buy it? Hell yes. It offers enough for $29.99 to make the must-have update question I asked earlier somewhat irrelevant.