It has gotten to the point where pretty much every comment I get is spam. I was manually moderating the comments, in addition to employing filters, but I don’t really see the point any longer, so I am turning off comments. If you are a real person you should be able to find me without any trouble.
This book is for people who like to go back and revisit the early days of Open Source. When this was written, Google didn’t even appear, Yahoo was the world’s #1 web site, and Netscape was the fresh-faced challenger upsetting the established computing order. Much of it involves long explanations of things like licenses that are probably well-known to people today. But it can be interesting to revisit this history, particularly if you were not paying that much attention when it first happened. For example, understanding what Cygnus was doing before it got bought by Red Hat can be enlightening, and now that some people want to get away from the GCC it may even be relevant. The book is a series of essays written by the participants, and explain arcana such as why we use RFC’s (and why are they called that, anyway?) For that reason, I would not call it a book to sit down read through cover-to-cover. This would be a great book to dip into when you had 20-30 minutes to spare, however, and didn’t want to start on a long novel.
There is a follow up volume called Open Sources 2.0 which I have started reading, but it also is one I dip into, so it may be some time before I finish it.
Mark Russinovich is the developer of the Sysinternals suite, and moved to Microsoft when his company was purchased by the Redmond Behemoth. And this matters because this is a techno-thriller where accuracy matters, at least to those of us who understand how this works. Hollywood thinks you can just type “Override’ on any green monochrome terminal and get instant access to any computer system. But Mark knows how things actually work, and it shows in this book. Everything in it is plausible and believable.
As you might infer from the title, the plot hinges on a deadly computer virus/malware that has no known “antidote” when first encountered. It has seriously bad effects on computer systems, and is responsible for multiple deaths because those systems control so much of of our infrastructure today. That is one of the things this book really brings home, how vulnerable we are to a properly crafted piece of code that can turn our systems against us.
But who is behind this malware? And how do they plan to benefit from this? That is what you need to read the book to find out, I don’t plan to give any spoilers.
This is part of series involving the main character, but it is the only one I have read so far.
This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand project management on a practical level. The author, Scott Berkun, was a project manager at Microsoft, working on Internet Explorer, and draws on this experience in presenting his ideas on managing projects. One thing I like is that he shows his own growth and how he learned lessons in the course of his work, instead of just handing down pronouncements from on high. And the book is definitely full of experience and practical advice. What it is not is another PMBOK, which is OK because we already have one of those.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One focuses on the planning process, and discusses the usual planning and scheduling, but also adds some very valuable material on why you need a vision, what constitutes a good vision, Where good ideas come from, and how to use them. This gets into some very specific application, such as putting prototypes together and getting in front of people, which I think will seem natural to anyone in an Agile environment.
In Part Two he dives into Skills, with topics like “How to make good decisions”, communications, meetings, and how to not annoy people. This is very useful because sometimes we do things that do annoy people, and that is not helpful when we need their assistance to make the project move forward.
The last section is called Management, but a lot of it is based on an analysis of what constitutes leadership, how to get power, and how to use power. He is very practical, and I liked his discussion of the pluses and minuses of an office near the boss. The minus happens if your boss is a micro-manager who interferes with you, but being in a position to hear everyone else’s interactions with the boss can be priceless.
All-in-all, I think any project manager will find a lot of valuable advice in this book. The other good thing is that Berkun is a good writer, so I found I was drawn to keep reading, unlike some books that you slog through for a few nuggets.
Certain questions are perennial, and one of those is why the Roman Empire fell. Peter Heather provides an explanation that is detailed and nuanced, and surely better than Edward Gibbon’s work. First of all, it was only the Western part that fell at the time he is writing about (5th century, basically), and there were certain accidents of fate that helped the outcome. At the same time, the Eastern part of the Empire remained strong and vibrant at least up until the rise of Islam in the 7th century, and technically the Easter empire did not fall until 1453 when the Ottoman Turks finally conquered Constantinople.
The fall of the western Empire was a complex phenomenon made possible primarily by changes in the political organization of the Germanic tribes (mostly Gothic) brought about by two different forces. One was the move of the Huns from the area to the east, who moved into the Hungarian plain in the 4th century and began absorbing Germanic groups into their own empire. And the other was the pressure from Rome itself. By its commerce, its military pressure, and its diplomacy, Rome essentially molded the Germanic tribes into larger and more effective political units that could seize the opportunities they were given as a result of military reverses Rome faced. And because the elite groups in the Empire held most of their wealth in the form of landed estates, once the balance of power began to shift they looked to transfer their allegiance to the new barbarian kingdoms. You can’t pick up land and take it with you, after all.
All in all, a very good book on the subject
Bruce wrote this book in 2003 as a response to 9/11 and how it lead to changes in security practices in the U.S. He criticizes many of the security measures taken as “security theater” that makes it look like something is being done without actually accomplishing anything useful. His criticisms probably are nothing terribly new to people 2013 when many people have come to similar conclusions, but what I think is more important in this book is that he attempts to lay out a way of thinking about security that is rational. Security can never be 100% in a world of human beings, and security always entails trade-offs that make it a cost-benefit decision. As an example, you would never hire an armed guard to protect your empty bottles for getting the 10 cent deposit back. That just doesn’t make sense. Bruce lays out a 5 point analysis you can do with any security plan that asks questions about what you are trying to protect, what are the costs of the protection, will the proposed solution actually work, etc. It is a good analysis and worth a read if you want to learn how to think intelligently about security.
This book is a very good review of the history on encryption and explains the basic principles involved. It is a lot like David Kahn’s The Code Breakers, but is available for a good deal less. Beginning with Herodotus and some secrecy measures from The Persian Wars, it then moves forward with Arab scholars, medieval developments, and right up to asymmetric public key encryption used today. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to get an overview of what the issues are, but is not looking to dive into the mathematics.
Having just read Katie Hafner’s Where Wizard’s Stay Up Late I was ready to tackle this book, which is both deeper and more ambitious. Where Hafner’s book was purely about the origin of the Internet, Waldrop is taking on the whole idea of personal computing. Licklider thus provides the focus for this book, for while he played a crucial role in promoting networking, his true aim was always what he termed a symbiotic partnership between humans and computers, and for him networking was just a necessary step to getting there. That is one of the reasons Licklider provided crucial support to Doug Engelbart, for instance. And even when Licklider was out of the picture (during the heyday of Xerox PARC, for instance) Waldrop keeps his focus on the development of the personal computer. If you like this kind of history and want to know just who did what in those early days, this book is indispensable.
This is a classic book that sat on my shelf for a while and I just decided to pick it up and read. It was very rewarding. It tells the story of how the Internet came to be, and opens with one of the pioneers explaining that he wants to kill the myth that the Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear war. It wasn’t, and most of the people involved never thought about it (though Paul Baran did, apparently). But the way it happened is fascinating, and people who pulled this off were some of the best and brightest of technology. I recommend it highly.
In a blog post by Julie Crisp of Tor Books UK, we get a progress report on the decision to drop DRM from their e-books. The big take-aways are:
- There was no increase in piracy of their books from removing DRM. Julie says this could be because the SF community is close-knit, and authors and readers have a lot of contact. Of course, anyone who has ever gone to a Science Fiction convention knows how that works. I think what this reinforces for me is the idea that in this 21st century networked world, a relationship between the artist and the audience is a key factor in success.
- They found that their authors, even the most commercially successful ones (like Peter F. Hamilton and China Mieville) were completely supportive of the move, and saw it as showing respect for the paying customers. And given the piracy results above, ti might appear that showing respect for your customers is more likely to encourage them to show respect for you.
- They saw this as hugely positive, saying ” it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern—and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community.”
Now we need other publishers to learn from this, and maybe DRM in e-books can become a thing of the past.