Sunday, December 30, 2012

Trilisk Supersedure

I just finished reading The Trilisk Supersedure by Michael McCloskey.
Another good read from McCloskey; he really does aliens very well. I particularly liked reading the aliens' internal thoughts, they're just very different from us with strange motivations and cultural drives. They're not just some sentient creatures, they're intelligent, but driven differently. I like that the main characters are nowhere near as safe as they think they are when trusting them - it's very well done.
I also like some of the style of writing, where different individuals drive the different chapters or parts, but with overlapping descriptions of events or time periods It can be really interesting just working out whether parts are overlapping at all, and whether the events are similar, but when things do match up, you get the benefit of different points of view subtly changing your understanding of what is going on.
While the story, tech, ideas and aliens are all really good, again its only the characters that are bit soft, but not in an annoying way. Actually, Cilrith wasn't bad, and the aliens were cool, but perhaps needed more from Magnus and Telisa. More Telisa really :_)
The tech and ideas were really good though, and I particularly liked the reveal of just what Trilisk Supersedure was referring to, right at the end. Excellent. I'll read more for sure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Galaxy Unknown

I just finished reading A Galaxy Unknown by Thomas DePrima.
This is a classic space adventure novel featuring a cute young Ensign lost in space for ten years, who after being found turns out to be a brilliant warship commander. All the expected elements are there with FTL travel and communications, space stations, hollowed out asteroids, laser weapons, torpedoes, and so on. I don't think there were many new ideas on show, but it was written quite well and had a good pace.
I wasn't completely convinced by some of the main bad guy actions. Why worry about strict controls on  abusing prisoners when they heal easily and you're just going to mind wipe them later? I thought the full court-martial for the heroine when she returned triumphantly home was pretty cool. I've always wanted to see how a rigid big-military society might actually deal with this sort of action in the aftermath.
I think I'll read more of the series, it was a relaxing, enjoyable read.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nymph: The Singularity

I just finished reading Nymph: The Singularity.
Lets get the obvious stuff out of the way first. There were lots of sex scenes, both android on android and android on human, so that was fun for a change.
There weren't really a lot of new, interesting ideas here, and I was hoping that there might be a few more with the part title, 'The Singularity'. I suppose I was hoping the novel would cover how technology driven by development of sex technology (and this has been an historically strong force) causes humanity to spiral into a technology singularity, driven by AI arising from ever better sex robots. That would have been interesting, even if its not a particular novel idea.
No, this was more covering 'the androids are people too' element, with discussion on how humanity is all going to die because of their environmental disasters and selfishness, and the clever immortal robots will inherit the Earth. I'm pretty sure Asimov covered all of that in the 50s, before the Singularity concept was conceived.
Still, even with some editing problems, I enjoyed reading this, it wasn't badly written, paced quite well, and fun to read. The scenes where the main Android-girl was naive with respect to aspects of humanity and getting social things wrong were fun, and the general process of learning through experience was quite well done.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Kindle Paperwhite

I've been using a new Kindle Paperwhite recently.
I haven't used a Kindle much before, although my wife has one, so I can do some comparison. What I'm really comparing to is reading on my iPad (1) with the Kindle app.
I wasn't sure that it would be much better than reading on the iPad, which is why I've put this off for this long. Reading on the iPad is just fine.
Reading on the Kindle is better.
The resolution is now quite good, 212ppi, and the page turning action is pretty fast. I thought I might get annoyed with the page turn time, but this is just fine. Almost not noticeable - slightly faster than the previous Kindle model.
I didn't think I would really want to use the Kindle PW light. But you can't actually turn it off. But that's ok because it is actually really good, unobtrusive, and just fills in that bit of contrast when you need it, and is effectively gone when you are in good light. It's perfect in bed with the lights off, and its great in the sun, of course. There is a slight unevenness to the light at the bottom of the screen, as reported in many places, but isn't annoying.
The time left to read the chapter (and book) feature is pretty cool, so when you are thinking about putting the book down, you can see how far away the next chapter is easily.
I haven't used the X-Ray feature yet. It may be more useful after finishing a book, if you wanted to check out the characters further I suppose. And when the book supports it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Animal Farm

I just finished reading Animal Farm by George Orwell.
This is a quite amusing commentary on politics and power and corruption. Its not a long read and well worth the small effort required. Essentially, the animals on a farm kick out their human overlords and take over the running of the farm themselves. It turns out the pigs are the most intelligent, and end up managing the running of the farm. The corruption and politics of the pigs and the way they take advantage of the other animals becomes more and more extreme.
This has some clear parallels with Nineteen Eighty Four too. The pigs rewrite history and convince the others that things happened differently to how they remember, and rewrite their '7 Commandments' subtly in their favour and so on. There's also the enforcement of correct thinking and abuse of power.
There is plenty of depth if you want to go into the details of the allegory if you are interested, but the main point is pretty obvious really.

The Clockwork Rocket

I just finished reading The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan.
Wow, you really have to admire the lengths Egan will go to for a novel. I thought Incandescence was pretty hardcore, and Schild's Ladder was there too. Where in Incandescence he explains general relativity as the characters discover it for themselves from basic experimentation, and in Schild's Ladder he builds on existing Quantum Theory, in The Clockwork Rocket (and soon parts 2 and 3) he proposes a whole new universe where the laws of physics are subtly yet vastly different. For a near complete explanation of these new laws of physics, you can have a look at his extensive web site on it.
As in Incandescence the reader discovers the universe through the characters experiments and discoveries. Essentially light can travel at different speeds depending on its wavelength and the ramifications are pretty weird. Following the theory is very difficult and I got lost quite a bit, but you have to remember it's a novel, and you are not studying at university, and to just try to enjoy the ride. Familiar Egan territory.
Yes, Egan is amazing and produces such massive depth and such incredibly different ideas in SF, but I'm not sure I enjoyed this as much as I would have liked. The explaining of physics through the experiments of the characters was interesting once, and while very different, still somehow very similar. If that makes sense. There were lots of really cool ideas along the way though such as the reproduction cycle of the 'people' and how it affected their society and reflections on our society I guess.
Brilliant and amazing and wondrous, but somehow also a little flat.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pacific Hi Fi

Some months ago I bought a set of speakers from Pacific Hi-Fi. The speakers are great, but I was just as impressed with the service I received. I have had some problems in some other Hi-Fi stores where you can get quite a bit of the superior, dismissive attitude because you're not interested in the top of the line equipment, or the sales droid wants to seem impressive, or something, I don't know.
The guys at Pacific Hi-Fi have been very helpful again recently when my sub-woofer died. It was checked, taken in for repair and returned within a few days on warranty, no problems, no fuss.
Well worth the trip if you need some new gear.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Departure

I just finished reading The Departure (Owner Trilogy 1) by Neal Asher.
Asher has taken the Orwellian nightmare, and pushed it to its horrible, brutal limit using some more modern SF devices such as AI integration. Set a century or so in the future, the world governments have centralized their power into a monolithic, all-controlling, ever wasteful "Committee". Those in power enjoy wealth, while the rest of Earth's twelve billion not only languish in poverty, but are instructed on politically correct thought and constantly monitored to ensure compliance. Those guilty of incorrect thought, are sent for "adjustment" which involves incredible torture and very often termination, including being fed live into an incinerator.
Of course, Asher describes all of the horrors in gloriously intense detail. My favourite part of the Committee control infrastructure was the readergun, which is a massively powerful automatic weapon emplacement with an id-chip reader, programmed to annihilate anyone with an ID on a blacklist, or alternately anyone not on a whitelist. A very nasty control device indeed. Then there is the laser weapon satellite network designed to similarly zero in on and kill individuals.
The story follows Alan Saul's journey of revenge against the Committee, and a particular member of the Inspectorate. It all comes down to control, who has it, who is willing to use it, and how far they are willing to go. Since this is a game of the highest stakes, all the main characters were willing to commit massive amounts of atrocity to achieve their aims and their struggle makes for some hugely violent reading.
Entertaining, satisfying and very dark.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Monitoring of Torrent Downloaders

A friend recently passed me this article. Probably significantly overstates what is actually happening, but still. You might want to consider paying for a binary news server instead of using torrents.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Trilisk Ruins and The Trilisk AI

I just finished reading both The Trilisk Ruins and The Trilisk AI.
Both of these were pretty small, but tight reads (200-300 pages), and at $6 for both, it was a pleasure to read a new author. I read and enjoyed the first enough to go straight into the second, which is unusual, but I couldn't resist.
The first was probably the better book, introducing new aliens and technology which is always fun. There was a switching between the alien point of view to the humans across chapters producing great contrast. This also made it difficult and quite interesting to work out just what the hell was going on for a while in the quite novel environment of the Trilisk Ruins.
The characters were ok, maybe a bit washed out, but they had their faults and challenges and individual goals, and the author was quite happy to kill many of them off too. That helps.
I'll definitely be interested to see more in the series.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire

I just finished reading this, by George R.R. Martin.
Obviously I read this because I enjoyed the TV series so much. I don't usually read Fantasy anymore, although I used to read quite a lot of the genre, and at the time this book was released, but I never picked up on this author. I knew all the authors who wrote one liners for the book, just not Martin. Ah well, I'll be catching up with his work now, although not however before watching the TV series that corresponds to each book. I don't want to spoil the awesomeness.
I enjoyed reading the book as much as watching the TV series, and I really didn't think I would. It was really great to get a deeper feel for the politics and relationships of those involved as well as some of the history and greater events and happenings. It's really well written too; the language is quite beautiful in parts, and there are the classic one-liners and dialog that we know and love from the TV.
The characters and events closely followed the TV series, and I now have even more respect for the screen version given how close it is to the novel.
Thoroughly recommended.

Does the ABC actually get it? *gasp*

Wow. The ABC are going to make Dr. Who episodes available as digital downloads immediately after they have originally aired in the UK. Part of the reason is apparently an attempt to reduce piracy by providing supply where there is obvious demand. This is a big step in the right direction for television stations making themselves relevant again in terms of rebroadcasting material from foreign networks.
OK, the episodes will appear on iView, which is a pretty low quality streaming broadcast, but this is a good step and shows they are trying to make progress. I find iView excellent for catching recently missed ABC programs, however it still doesn't really compete with downloading 720p content from the intertubes, either torrents or news servers.
Good stuff ABC, I hope the Dr. Who fans go for it.
(Thanks to The Register)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's all in the Cloud

Mozilla's recent announcement of putting Thunderbird into maintenance mode has prompted me to sweep away the last vestiges of keeping my personal information on my local desktop.
I've just started uploading my entire local (Thunderbird) mail history to my gmail account via IMAP. I probably won't ditch the local copy entirely. Maybe I'll still use Thunderbird over IMAP to gmail for a while.
Recently I started paying for Google Drive, and using Cloudfogger for encryption, I am now storing all my personal documents and projects there. There are a bunch of providers of cloud storage these days, but it does make sense to use one provider for everything, and Google covers pretty much everything. Sure, I use the Apple cloud for storing some stuff between my iDevices, but they tend to exist behind their own little wall anyway, and it tends to presented more as magic integration between devices. GDrive is now available for ios devices too.
Next on the list is all the family photos and video and all that will be left is my cache of films and music. That's a little big for the cloud at the moment.
Cloud. It's a just wanky term for server storage.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Discovery of the Higgs Boson

You should already know by now that CERN is calling a discovery on the Higgs boson. Probably the best coverage I've read yet is at the New York Times.
This is exciting stuff, not because they've essentially confirmed a theory, but because it may lead them to further discovery and understanding as the LHC is ramped up to full power.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rule 34

I just finished reading Rule 34 by Charles Stross.
I would say that writing near future SF would have to be one of the hardest genres to write to. It has to be plausible enough for 20 years in the future, so recognisable, even familiar, yet encompass changes worthy of SF and futurist predictions. I think Stross does an excellent job here, and has produced probably the most interesting near future novel I can think of.
In addition to cool SF and futurist possibilities, its also quite, er, dirty! Murdered sex fetishists, psychopath sex scenes and internet porn memes abound.
The technology being used was very cool. Some obvious ones like self driving cars, remote operated police air-drones, and HUD glasses, and some more subtle things like virtual machines on smartphones. Nothing crazy here, all quite plausible, and in fact much of it in prototypes now. In fact, it was very cool to have a vision of how some of this prototype tech we do have would affect us if it was usable and completely functional.
Stross writes very well. I prefer his writing to Neal Stephenson's because its tight, interesting and punchy. I often have to hit the Kindle dictionary which is always fun. Fun because it's so easy, and you learn crazy new words.
I won't ruin the story, you should go read it. Excellent. Hmm. I may have to read it again actually, I mean, what was...

Monday, May 14, 2012


I just finished reading Conquest.
The series is starting to wear on me now. I think the first person narrative is starting to annoy me. As is the main character, he's just a bit of a dick. The other main characters are becoming more shallow rather than being developed.
But in the next book they build a huge space weapons platform!

Monday, April 30, 2012


I recently finished reading Anomaly.
Although quite short, and more like a long short story, this had some great concepts and is well worth the read. Not your typical alien first contact storyline, I found this engrossing and somehow plausible. Oh, except for the bit where the U.N. invades the U.S., that was jsut silly, but nevermind.
OK, I don't want to spoil any of the actual interesting content, so just go read it. Short, cheap, interesting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I just finished reading Rebellion.
Quite good fun, light reading, not particularly well written, but still very readable.
In this episode of the series, the machines keep pushing the human marines to fight for them, but Rigg's Pigs fight back, having had enough, it being pretty clear the Macros are just going to make them keep fighting until they are all dead.
There were some good concepts and sequences, involving a race of centaur-like people that have been forced off their homeworlds to live in giant space habitats. They did seem a little fragile though, not sure how they haven't all been killed off looong ago. There was also an introduction of a new race of group intelligent bio goop, a new Nano intelligence and some more information regarding the Blues.
So a nice easy holiday read, maybe a bit sexist and simple, like the protagonist, but there is still interest for me to keep reading the series.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I just finished reading REAMDE by Neal Stephenson.
Designed as a play on README, the commonly found computer file, REAMDE is a virus written by one of the characters in the novel, aimed at making money from a massive online role playing game called T'Rain.
This covers about ten percent of what REAMDE is about though, as the story is by far outweighed by a story of survival, fighting terrorists, Russian mobsters, and just plain bad luck. There is one really massive coincidence that drives the plot from about 30% of the way through, but I figure you can always forgive one plot device, it's what the novel is all about after all.
This is a really long book at over 1000 pages. Stephenson seems to be in the waxing lyrical mode, or failing that, the just plain too-much-detail mode. A couple of times I was thinking, "just get on with it!".
But generally, it is very well written, and paced, so this isn't a big deal.
Lots of violence, shootings, beatings and so on, crashes, money, more guns, heriocs.
Good stuff.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review of DigitalCentre

I recently tried to buy a receiver from DigitalCentre ( (Not linked, don't bother)
On the surface, it appears this site sells equipment at very good prices, but I'm here to tell you, you'll pay in all sorts of other ways if you use this site. The only hint that you may have problems is in the FAQ where they specify that purchases may take "up to 12 business days but this can vary".
In my experience, I waited the 12 business days, then received an automated email saying it was on back order. I rang up to cancel the order as I wasn't willing to wait any further for them to get stock. I don't think this is entirely unreasonable, in fact, I've had other online sites call me proactively shortly after purchase to tell me when there would be a delay and give me options on other products, a refund or waiting. The manager stronly wanted me to wait for another week, when he guaranteed I would have the product delivered by Friday.
By the Wednesday, I was calling them to see how it was going, and by Thursday afternoon I had finally managed to get the manager to call me back to tell me that in fact, no, it would be delayed for another two weeks. Uh-huh. I just cancelled on the spot, and sent the required email to request refund. At this point its already been three weeks into them taking my payment, and I asked when my refund would happen. This started out as being, "sure, by next Wednesday", and for the next three weeks, every time I managed to get someone to tell me when it would be refunded, it was always either tomorrow, or "by Friday". I eventually received a refund. I should note that the FAQ specifies that you can lose 20% for cancelling an order. Seriously!! Happily, that didn't happen to me.
Generally, I am very unhappy with the customer service and the experience. Rarely did anyone call me back, let alone respond to email. Promises of time periods were not once accurate.
I think though, that I didn't have as bad an experience as some others.
This person posting on whirlpool was told after a long delay that they would have to pay extra because the price had gone up. That's outrageous!
This person had a horrible tech support experience.

Just don't use this site. The customer service is just horrible. Don't expect to get equipment within a month, and don't expect any happy support if you do.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Snow in the Desert

I just finished reading Snow in the Desert by Neal Asher.
This is a Short Read (novelette) set in the Polity universe from Asher's Cormac novels.
You have sex, violence and plenty of action packed into this punchy little short story. It adds a new bio/tech anomoly to the Polity setting which was interesting, and ties in various aspects from the Polity that we already know and love.
Good stuff.

[updated for typos]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012