The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2014-10-19T22:56:07-04:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Our technology is bad and we should feel bad Nic Lindh 2014-10-19T00:00:00-04:00 <p><img src="/images/memtest.jpg" /></p> <p>The state of technology these days is incredible—we have a world-wide instant communications network accessible to the majority of people living in developed countries (and spreading fast to the rest of the world); we are able to carry devices in our pockets that connect to the global network and sense where we are and what we are doing; we have covered the sky in satellites. Think about that: We put man-made objects in orbit and they perform duties for us all day every day. It&rsquo;s mind-boggling.</p> <p>But.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s all duct tape, bailing wire and custom code all the way down.</p> <p>Hardly a day goes by without some security vulnerability hitting one of the pieces of software we depend on. Target, Home Depot and who knows who else have leaked customer credit cards. Heartbleed, Poodle and Shellshock have exploited old, old bugs lurking in the foundations of the code that runs our entire online civilization. Flash and Microsoft Word—just to provide high-profile examples—keep releasing security updates for horrific vulnerabilities that would allow anybody to control your computer and see all your data from anywhere in the connected world.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s a plugin that plays videos and a word processor. They are leaky enough that somebody could use their flaws to control your computer. You should be asking yourself why either of these programs have enough access to your computer this is even possible.</p> <p>Massive vulnerabilities are just background noise at this point.</p> <p>Back in a previous life I worked with a bunch of electrical engineers who explained to me at a very high level suitable for a dummy how a computer actually works. Ever since, I&rsquo;m slightly gratified any time one of them actually boots and works. The complexity is mind-blowing. It really is. Seriously, if you&rsquo;re physically close to a university, roll by and buy a few engineering students some coffee and/or beer and have them explain this stuff to you. You will never believe your phone will work right again.</p> <p>Now think about software. Whether you have an Android or iOS device, you probably enjoy using it. The software is <em>nice</em> and lets you do what you want with a minimum of headaches. Now think about your job. If you work for any kind of large or specialized organization, you get to use custom software. </p> <p>How is that going for you? </p> <p>Most likely it&rsquo;s terrible. Turns out, writing software is really hard and the big companies like Adobe, Apple, Google and Microsoft expend an incredible amount of effort and spend a ton of money hiring the smartest people possible to make that happen.</p> <p>Most companies do not have that kind of talent pool or that kind of resources. They still write software. And most of it is terrible. Because, again, software is <em>hard</em> and most people will do a terrible job of writing it.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s the custom order system that makes you want to stab somebody at work every day.</p> <p>But not only can&rsquo;t &ldquo;normal&rdquo; people write good software: The exploits that are coming out all the time are against the best code we, as a species, can write. The smartest people with the most experience are writing code with horrible vulnerabilities. Not because they&rsquo;re not good at their jobs—they are. But because we humans are not capable of explaining things to computers, at least not the way we&rsquo;re doing it now.</p> <p>This whole problem used to not be that big a deal when it was mostly nerds talking about Star Trek on the Global Network, but now it&rsquo;s tied in to everything, including the status of your retirement account and how much money is owed on your credit card.</p> <p>And soon, your house, your refrigerator, <em>the power grid</em> and your car will be controlled by a system that is full of holes.</p> <p>Do you enjoy knowing that soon your car will be vulnerable to some sociopathic griefer taking out the brakes for lulz?</p> <p>So apart from fear mongering, what can be done? We really, really need to make it a priority to shore up our basic infrastructure and to realize that humans just can&rsquo;t write safe C and assembly code. We don&rsquo;t have the wiring for it. No matter how smart you are, you will screw up. And then some hacker will take control of a nuclear power plant and things go from bad to horrible.</p> <p>We have to get away from C and assembly. But that would mean a lot of billion-dollar companies stopping what they&rsquo;re doing and ignoring Wall Street for as long as it takes to retool from the ground up. Odds of that happening? Well, Ghostrider, that would be a zero.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s going to get worse, much worse, before it&rsquo;s done.</p> <p>Hope you have a diesel generator.</p> <p>Oh, and you should totally invest in a hockey mask.</p> <p></div></div></div> <div class="supermax" style="background: url('/images/humongous.jpg') no-repeat; background-size: cover;"> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"></p> Book roundup, part 16 Nic Lindh 2014-10-05T00:00:00-04:00 <h2>Non-fiction</h2> <h3><a href="">All Hell Let Loose, by Max Hastings</a> ★★★★★</h3> <p>World War II was arguably the most disastrous event in human history, causing staggering suffering and death. In this tremendous volume noted historian Max Hastings focuses on that suffering and the experiences of soldiers and civilians around the world as they experienced this cataclysm.</p> <p>It is often breathtaking: the suffering people endured is often literally incomprehensible. But above all, <em>All Hell Let Loose</em> illustrates just how little people knew about what was going on, and not just the common people, but right at the top of the command structure. </p> <p>The confusion and pain is often hard to stomach, but the book is full of stories that should be told.</p> <p><em>All Hell Let Loose</em> is required reading.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=this%2Bmonster%2Blives&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1410052238">Metallica: This Monster Lives, by Joe Berlinger and Greg Milner</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Tells the backstory of the intense documentary <em><a href="">Some Kind of Monster</a></em> which chronicles the journey of therapy Metallica went on before and while recording <em><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=metallica%2Bst.%2Banger&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1410052836">St. Anger</a></em>—mostly known for being the album where Lars Ulrich decided to play with a broken drum kit—<em>donk! donk! donk!</em> The documentary itself is a fascinating insight into the minds of the damaged people who make up arguably the biggest band in any genre around today and it turns out the creation of the movie was just as intense and random as the product.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re interested in Metallica, the creative process, or how to make a documentary involving serious egos, <em>Metallica: This Monster Lives</em> is well worth reading.</p> <p>And yes, it answers (some) of the questions the documentary made you ask about the band&rsquo;s psychiatrist&hellip;</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=harris%2B10%2526&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1411860594">10% Happier, by Dan Harris</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Dan Harris was a hard-charging TV reporter making a career in New York and nursing an escalating coke habit when he had an anxiety attack on national live television. In <em>10% Happier</em> he tells the story of how, as a skeptic A-type, he goes on a spiritual journey that ends up with him discovering meditation and how it has helped him deal with his addictive personality and basically being an A-type asshole.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a quick, breezy, and enjoyable read.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=onward%2Bschultz&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1410052416">Onward, by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon</a> ★★☆☆☆</h3> <p>Howard Schultz is the CEO of Starbucks and <em>Onward</em> is the story of how he led the company through the 2008 financial meltdown, which coincided with the fallout from a lot of bad decisions coming home to roost for the company.</p> <p>I picked up this book since I had heard good things and also wanted to get a better insight into the mindset of a CEO, and will admit to rage-reading a large part of it.</p> <p>Schultz comes across as a high-energy, high-ego individual who is nowhere near as bright as he thinks he is. But the fascinating thing about the book is the delusion—to be a leader you have to have a delusion: <em>Things right now are x but if we work hard we can make them y</em>. Schultz&rsquo;s delusion is that each Starbucks store is <a href="">a third place</a> where people make meaningful connections that make their lives better <em>and</em> that Starbucks is a coffee authority that serves the best coffee you can get anywhere.</p> <p>In the reality I inhabit Starbucks is a place where tired office drones grab chemical relief, young people buy 200-calorie cream concoctions and the coffee is at best passable.</p> <p>Obviously, Schultz&rsquo;s delusions have worked out better for him than my reality has for me.</p> <p>Apart from the ideal-Starbucks fantasy, what made <em>Onward</em> such a rage-read was how Schultz kept discovering the most basic business concepts and presenting them like they were divinations. Things like, you should only open stores in locations where they are likely to do well. That&rsquo;s fascinating, Captain Obvious.</p> <p>There are many anecdotes of Schultz visiting stores and being moved almost to tears by the dedication of the &ldquo;partners&rdquo; (what Starbucks calls employees since they are in no way running a retail chain, nope, they are creating opportunities for people to meet and connect blah blah).</p> <p>Just like with McDonalds or Apple, I do have a lot of respect for the sheer logistics of Starbucks—being able to serve a cup of coffee or hamburger that tastes exactly the same <em>no matter where you are</em> is an impressive feat all by itself.</p> <p>But reading about the mental anguish of the CEO as he struggles so very hard—and demands absolute commitment from his &ldquo;partners&rdquo; to do the same—to maintain a fantasy is headache-inducing.</p> <p>But <em>Onward</em> is an interesting look into the power of self-delusion.</p> <p>Oh, and the title comes from Schultz&rsquo;s email tagline, as he mentions with pride&hellip;</p> <h2>Fiction</h2> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=echopraxia&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1410052047">Echopraxia, by Peter Watts</a> ★★★★★</h3> <p>The follow-up to the weird and disturbing <em><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=blindsight%2Bpeter%2Bwatts&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1412561771">Blindsight</a></em>, <em>Echopraxia</em> is by far Peter Watts&rsquo;s best work. It&rsquo;s a world where technology has run amok and humanity is busy rewiring bodies and brains, splintering into subspecies at a dizzying rate, mysterious aliens have made first contact, and the world is falling apart in frightening ways.</p> <p>The writing style is completely different, but you can think of <em>Echopraxia</em> as <em>Neuromancer</em> if it was written by a completely strung out and paranoid neurologist who seriously needs an intervention.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s amazing.</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=cibola%2Bburn&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1411256240">Cibola Burn, by James S.A. Corey</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Cibola Burn</em> continues the excellent Expanse series and is a given for fans of the series. (Which you should be—it&rsquo;s the best new sci-fi in a long time.) It does feel like a transitional novel, though, one that lays the groundwork for the next phase in the series rather than bringing the story arch forward much.</p> <p>That being said, it is chock-full of action and displays Corey&rsquo;s talent for putting people in a bad situation and then sadistically escalating that situation. My inner monologue reading <em>Cibola Burn</em> pretty much went: &ldquo;Oh, man, this is bad. Uh-oh, now it&rsquo;s really bad. Wait, what? At least it can&rsquo;t get worse now. Oh crap. Nonono. Well, <em>now</em> things can&rsquo;t get worse. WHAT?&rdquo;</p> <p>So, an enjoyable read, and one that leaves you wanting to find out where this series is going to go next.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=8-1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;_encoding=UTF8">The Getaway God, by Richard Kadrey</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Also a continuation of a series, <em>The Getaway God</em> finds Sandman Slim once more attempting to save the world. If you liked the other installments in the series, you&rsquo;ll like this. But of course, you need to <a href=";sr=8-2-ent&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;_encoding=UTF8">start at the beginning</a>.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=lock%2Bin%2Bscalzi&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1410051683">Lock In, by John Scalzi</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Highly entertaining and eminently readable clever near-future sci-fi, the conceit is that an influenza-like epidemic has spread around the world, killing some people and leaving others &ldquo;locked&rdquo; in their bodies—the sufferers are fully alert but cannot control their bodies at all.</p> <p>Thanks to some technological hand-waving, the sufferers are equipped with remotes, essentially robots they telepathically control, enabling them to interact with others.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a good concept and Scalzi uses it to great effect to construct what is basically a techno-thriller whodunit.</p> <p>Highly recommended.</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=red%2Bfirst%2Blight&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1412565357">The Red: First Light, by Linda Nagata</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>(Looks like the publisher pulled the Kindle version of this, so the link goes to the paperback.)</em></p> <p>Set in a near-future dystopia where defense contractors are employing armies of mercenaries to fight endless brush-fire wars, <em>The Red</em> tells the story of Lieutenant Shelley, who seems to have pre-cognition that allows him to repeatdly save the soldiers under his command.</p> <p>But what is behind his talent? </p> <p>The novel is tightly written with a plot that moves along quickly. If you like techno-thrillers or military sci-fi, you&rsquo;ll enjoy <em>The Red.</em></p> <h3><a href="">Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Solid near-future military sci-fi with lots of shades of Heinlein, <em>Terms of Enlistment</em> is set on an overpopulated Earth that has started to migrate to the stars. If, like most people, you are born in a welfare slum, your only options to get out are to either win the actual lottery and get a ticket to an uncertain future on a colony or to join the military and help keep the welfare slums under control.</p> <p>The novel is a classic hero&rsquo;s journey, with a likeable protagonist and some interesting plot twists. If you like the genre, you&rsquo;ll enjoy this.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=departure%2Bkloos&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1410051888">Lines of Departure, by Marko Kloos</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Continues the story begun in <em>Terms of Enlistment</em> and broadens the scope while staying action-heavy. If you liked the first novel in the series, you&rsquo;ll like this.</p> The WATCH is nigh, and I don't get it Nic Lindh 2014-09-11T00:00:00-04:00 <p>Turns out I&rsquo;m a <a href="">terrible Apple precog</a> and despite my convictions that the hype must mean something grander was afoot, the products Apple announced at its Sept. 9 event were straight out of what the rumor mill had skried: New iPhones, a grab bag of smaller announcements, and of course the WATCH.</p> <p>The phones make sense. Bigger, faster, stronger, etc. </p> <p>But I have a hard time with the WATCH. It&rsquo;s just what you would expect if Apple were to enter the smartwatch market: A much nicer version of what&rsquo;s already out there, poised to occupy the high end of the market.</p> <p>I had <a href="">assumed they would aim higher than that</a>, and I don&rsquo;t get how large the market Apple is going for is. For a company that habitually sells umpteen millions of things, it seems very niche. For example, according to Apple there are more than 200 million iPhone 5 and up in the world. That&rsquo;s the kind of market Apple has.</p> <p>And no, this isn&rsquo;t a &ldquo;random nerd on the Internet knows better than Apple&rdquo; post; it&rsquo;s a &ldquo;random nerd on the Internet doesn&rsquo;t understand what Apple is doing&rdquo; post.</p> <p>Apple&rsquo;s leadership know their business. It would be arrogant beyond belief to assume they don&rsquo;t. Which means they know something I don&rsquo;t. Because I can&rsquo;t see the smartwatch market being large enough to bet the company on.</p> <p>A smartwatch is a consumer electronics product, one you discard for the next, better, version after a few years, while fancy watches (or, &ldquo;<a href="">haute horlogerie</a>,&rdquo; which apparently are two real words used by English-speaking humans) are things you purchase and hope to pass on to your children at some point.</p> <p>I can&rsquo;t see the overlap there.</p> <p>And the next time you&rsquo;re at a high school or university campus, look at people&rsquo;s wrists: these days they&rsquo;re even devoid of yellow Live Strong armbands. It seems like a high bar to set for yourself that you&rsquo;re going to get the masses to spend $350 and more on an iPhone-only accessory that requires you to pick up new habits.</p> <p>At this point I can only assume Apple knows things I don&rsquo;t, and it will be very interesting to watch this play out.</p> <p>As to myself, I&rsquo;m already a <a href="">Pebble</a> nerd, so of course I&rsquo;m buying an WATCH the second I can punch my credit card into a Web form for it. But I&rsquo;m not so sure about the rest of the world.</p> <p>Interesting times.</p> Apple might enter the home integration field Nic Lindh 2014-09-08T00:00:00-04:00 <p><strong>[Post-keynote update]</strong> Well, I&rsquo;m certainly no Nostradamus. Sigh. And effing U2 to rub salt in the wound. <strong>[/Update]</strong></p> <p>As usual this time of the year, the nerdosphere is all-aflutter with predictions about tomorrow&rsquo;s big Apple event, with the most common speculation being two new, larger, iPhones and the long-awaited and mysterious wearable device.</p> <p>(As an aside here, kudos to Apple for their Kremlin-level security—apart from the predictable iPhone parts from the supply chain, nobody has anything concrete&hellip;)</p> <p>But take a step back and think about Apple&rsquo;s core competency: Find a technology that&rsquo;s out there and has the potential to become <em>huge</em> but is mired in neckbeardery. </p> <p>The first home computers—huge potential, but required soldering; the first PCs—huge potential, but required mastery of command-line arcana to accomplish anything useful; MP3-players—huge potential, but required headache-inducing amounts of technical jiggery-pokery to get your songs actually on to the devices; smartphones—huge potential, but required endless patience and button-mashing to accomplish magical things like syncing your contacts.</p> <p>There&rsquo;s a massive market out there ripe for exactly this kind of swooping in and making the technology useful and attractive to normal people: Home automation. The technology is out there, it&rsquo;s just hidden in needless complications and über-nerd-think. Make it usable by—and attractive to—normal humans, and there&rsquo;s billions of dollars to make as well as the opportunity to improve peoples&rsquo; lives.</p> <p>Plus, think about it: Apple <em>built a house</em> by the conference center. Hmmm? Might that be useful to show off their home integration technology?</p> <p>Or, I could end up looking like an idiot tomorrow&hellip;</p> An Apple ebook reader would be nice Nic Lindh 2014-08-23T00:00:00-04:00 <p><img src="/images/kindle-sideways.jpg" /></p> <p>The Kindle changed my life—being able to carry around my books on a small, lightweight device that looks close-enough to paper, is readable in sunlight and in the dark, lets me change the font and font size depending on my needs, and has fantastic battery life is so future. Going on a trip? Load up more books than you think you need on the device. Find out while on the trip there&rsquo;s a new book you want? Buy it right there.</p> <p><em>Future.</em></p> <p>But of course, being a <a href="">tech douchebag</a>, I have problems with it. First off, the Kindle is made by Amazon to be as cheap as possible. This makes sense based on Amazon&rsquo;s business model and is a decision I understand, but it means it turns pages slowly, sometimes stutters, occasionally crashes, sometimes the backlight doesn&rsquo;t turn off when you put the device to sleep so you have to reboot it, and the software is &hellip; usable, not lovable.</p> <p>So there&rsquo;s this company called Apple that makes beautiful devices with great software. Apple also runs an ebook bookstore. But Apple seems to have zero interest in making a reading device. Which also makes sense, given that their business model is to make a small matrix of great devices focused on the higher end where the profit margins live.</p> <p>But, you know, at this point, since I do the vast majority of my reading on the Kindle, I&rsquo;m completely in the Amazon ecosystem for ebooks. If I wanted to start buying my ebooks from Apple I&rsquo;d have to manually de-DRM and convert them to AWZ3. Which it is within my technical grasp to do, but would be a pain in the nethers, and I wouldn&rsquo;t be able to have them in sync across my devices. (If I have an unexpected 20 minutes of waiting somewhere, like at the tire store or whatnot, I&rsquo;ll use the Kindle app on my iPhone to read. Having the books just magically synced for those occasions is also quite future.)</p> <p>I get that one of the secrets to Apple&rsquo;s success is focus, but if you&rsquo;ve already <a href="">taken the rap for price fixing</a> and you have any kind of serious interest in selling ebooks, why wouldn&rsquo;t you make a reader?</p> <p>Apple might think the iPad is a fine reader, so just use that. Which is understandable, and is underscored by Amazon releasing their Kindle tablets with LCD screens. (And thanks, Amazon, for muddling the Kindle brand with a non-e-ink device with the same name as your e-ink device.)</p> <p>But if you&rsquo;re a serious reader, no, you don&rsquo;t want to read on an LCD instead of an e-ink display. Nope. It&rsquo;s a completely different experience, and for the pure task of just reading words, an LCD is inferior in every way. And serious readers spend real money on their ebooks. You&rsquo;d think that would a nice niche for Apple to take over.</p> <p>Plus, think how great a $200 Apple e-ink tablet could be, with none of the &ldquo;ugh&rdquo; moments of the Kindle.</p> <p>It sure would be nice. Oh, well.</p> Flashing a Gigabyte BIOS should be easier than this Nic Lindh 2014-08-19T00:00:00-04:00 <p><strong>This post is just here so Google can find it and hopefully save some other poor soul some time.</strong></p> <p>And lo, there is much sadness in the land of the Hackintosh, as <a href="">my machine</a> with a Gigabyte H87n-WiFi board has an unfortunate tendency to keel over every few weeks: Hard lock, nothing in the logs, just instant death. So I&rsquo;ve been looking around for what to do to get this otherwise excellent rig to stop having seizures. And <em>sigh</em> there&rsquo;s a lot of magical thinking in Hackintosh land. But going back to first principles it makes sense to update the BIOS to see if Gigabyte fixed some bugs. Can&rsquo;t be too hard, right? It&rsquo;s just a BIOS update, right? Like we&rsquo;ve been doing for <em>effing decades</em>, right?</p> <p>Well, gather round, children while uncle Nic tells you a sad tale. </p> <p>Turns out Gigabyte have finally realized that not everybody who buys their boards are running Windows (thank you!) so you no longer have to download a weird Windows app to update the motherboard. Which, when you think about it, was <em>insane</em>. But those dark days are behind us now: Newer GigaByte boards have a Q-Flash utility right on the BIOS. You download the updater, put it on a FAT-formatted USB stick and boom! </p> <p>Except you&rsquo;ll get a &ldquo;File size incorrect!&rdquo; error.</p> <p>Urgh.</p> <p>So let&rsquo;s Google that. And get a lot of noise about how the BIOS file got too big so you have to use a Windows utility called @Bios to update the BIOS to make it understand the BIOS is larger now.</p> <p>Say it with me, kids: &ldquo;Sigh.&rdquo;</p> <p>This turns out to be incorrect. The BIOS file you download from Gigabyte is a zip file and you have to decompress it, then put the actual update file on the USB stick and you&rsquo;ll be golden. Hint: The actual flash file is the one that doesn&rsquo;t end in .exe or .bat.</p> <p>At this point you may be asking yourself things like, &ldquo;Couldn&rsquo;t Gigabyte just have put this information in the Readme file?&rdquo; or &ldquo;Shouldn&rsquo;t people not post shit on the Internet where they&rsquo;re just guessing?&rdquo;</p> <p>Those are valid questions, indeed.</p> <p>But for now, go forth and update ye olde BIOS firmware and put thine thumbs together to hope it fixes thine problem.</p> <p>In the meantime I&rsquo;ll be over here shaking my head.</p> Red immigration meat in the Arizona primaries Nic Lindh 2014-08-02T00:00:00-04:00 <p><img src="/images/statue-of-liberty.jpg" /></p> <p>Arizona is electing a new governor this year and the primary elections are upon us. This means the candidates are playing to their base and since there isn&rsquo;t a snow flake&rsquo;s chance in hell of a Democrat being elected governor here without Joe Arpaio&rsquo;s blessing, the spotlight is on the Republican field. And as you&rsquo;d predict, the Republican field is playing a hard game of being <a href="">further to the right than everybody else</a>. Which in Arizona is far, far indeed. </p> <p>The candidates seem to have all settled on illegal immigration and, to a lesser extent, ObamaCare, as their push-button issues for this primary season, with all of them promising to be harsher on illegal immigrants than the next.</p> <p>Which is interesting, in a sad way, since the border is a <em>federal</em> issue and something state governors have no control over. You know, what with the Constitution. Which of course hasn&rsquo;t stopped any of the current crop of candidates from laying out their plans to seal the border. Which, again, they legally can&rsquo;t do. <em>Sigh.</em></p> <p>But the base wants red meat, and red meat is what the base is going to get.</p> <p>Former GoDaddy executive Jones has perhaps the most coherent idea (faint praise indeed), <a href="">where she&rsquo;d spend a bunch of money to build a fence, deploy troops, etc. and then send the bill to the federal government</a>.</p> <p><em>Uh-huh.</em> That would go over just as well as my daughter sending me a bill for labor she performed doing her chores.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s pretty amazing. But then, they&rsquo;re playing for the base of extremely agitated old and not very educated white people who want the brown people stopped, dammit! Stopped! <em>What part of illegal don&rsquo;t you understand?</em></p> <p>The border between the US and Mexico is <a href="">estimated at 1,933 miles long</a>. For comparison, the Wall of China is <a href="">5,500 miles long</a>. And the Wall of China was mostly built to <em>keep people in</em>. Fencing the entire border between the US and Mexico would cost an astronomical sum. And it turns out the state of Arizona is quite broke. (And New Mexico and Texas aren&rsquo;t exactly full of chests of gold.)</p> <p>Building a Berlin Wall across the entire border is a ridiculous idea as anybody who&rsquo;s glanced at a map knows. </p> <p><em>But</em> there <em>are</em> realistic ways to significantly lower illegal immigration.</p> <p>The far-right crowd running for Arizona governor is correct in that the federal government is doing a poor job of enforcing the border. It&rsquo;s notoriously porous and most of the border defense is security theater.</p> <p>But haven&rsquo;t you wondered: Why is that? One thing I&rsquo;ve learned in life is that when a bunch of people come up with a product and it&rsquo;s bad, it&rsquo;s not because those people are uniquely stupid. It&rsquo;s that they are operating under a set of constraints I don&rsquo;t know about. Using that idea, why is current US border security so bad?</p> <p>Well, duh, because the people in charge don&rsquo;t want it to be good.</p> <p>Think about illegal immigration as a push-pull. There are people who desperately need to leave the places they were born. In most places we would call them &ldquo;refugees&rdquo; but in America today we have decided to call them &ldquo;illegals.&rdquo; Be that as it may. Then there is a pull: America desperately needs exploitable people to work in the agriculture and service industries; people to mow golf greens, clean hotel rooms, pick melons, and clean cars. The current economics of those industries can <em>not</em> work if they have to pay their workers the minimum wage. Can. Not. </p> <p>The agriculture and service industries in America need an exploitable class of workers.</p> <p>Those are the jobs illegals come to America to get. Not your job, white guy. Truly terrible jobs that a civilized society would outlaw. Those are the jobs the scary brown people come here to steal.</p> <p>And that&rsquo;s why the border stays porous: Those industries need a steady stream of workers to replace the ones they wear out. And those industries make more than enough money to influence Congress.</p> <p>So, you have a push of people escaping unbearable conditions and a pull of companies needing workers to exploit. and the stream of people across the border will continue as long as that is the case.</p> <p>Building a Quixotic fence across a 1,993 mile border is a delusional fantasy, but if you&rsquo;re serious about stopping the flow of illegal immigration, here are two things that would work:</p> <ol> <li><p>Nation building in Mexico and Latin America to make those countries not be unbearable shitholes. They don&rsquo;t have to become utopias by any means, just not so horrible that risking your life is worth it to leave. This would cost way less than we already spent in Iraq and Afghanistan and would actually improve lives.</p></li> <li><p>Make it a felony to hire an illegal worker. This would dry up the job market for illegals very quickly, and without jobs the stream of people crossing the border would stop. Problem solved, right? Except it would mean putting wealthy white people in jail, so, good luck getting that passed.</p></li> </ol> <p>Those are the two things fueling illegal immigration: &ldquo;Life where I am sucks so bad I&rsquo;m willing to die to get out of here&rdquo; and &ldquo;I need some people working for nothing that I can kick around&rdquo;. Fix either one and the problem gets better; fix both and the problem disappears.</p> <p>But for the Arizona primary voters it&rsquo;s so much more satisfying to imagine an Alamo where they&rsquo;re standing tall next to their mobility scooter, wrapped in the flag, pointing their AR-15s at the dusky crowd of snarling illegals, yelling, &ldquo;Here&rsquo;s my damn fence!&rdquo;</p> <p>The main thing the <em>What part of illegal don&rsquo;t you understand</em> crowd willfully refuses to acknowledge is that these are human beings making a rational choice. (Yes, it turns out Mexicans are people.) They are mostly uneducated, but they are not idiots. These are people looking around and saying to themselves, &ldquo;My situation is bad enough that making a journey that may well kill me and <em>best case</em> ends up in indentured servitude, looking over my shoulder for the cops every day of my life, is <em>better</em> than my current existence.&rdquo; </p> <p>Illegal immigrants aren&rsquo;t mindless zombies. They are humans. And they are making the kind of horrible choice I sure hope my privileged white ass never has to make.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s why they are coming. <em>Things are that bad where they are.</em></p> <p>It&rsquo;ll probably make the angry old white people even angrier to learn that illegal immigrants aren&rsquo;t fueled by some idealized idea of America the beautiful. They are running <em>from</em> a fire, not running <em>to</em> a paradise. Not to put words in anybody&rsquo;s mouth, of course, but when your house is on fire you don&rsquo;t dream of a mansion—you just have to get out. And America is right there, a place where you&rsquo;re not starving or having a smirking gang member tell you your daughter is going to be raped next.</p> Book roundup, part 15 Nic Lindh 2014-07-20T00:00:00-04:00 <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=console%2Bwars&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405821695">Console Wars, by Blake Harris</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>The story of how Sega rose to challenge Nintendo&rsquo;s market dominance in the early 1990s. Well researched and sourced and tells the story of an interesting era in video console gaming.</p> <p>The book is upfront about how much time has passed since the events it chronicles and that quotes are mostly made up and intended to capture the essence and spirit of conversations rather than being verbatim, which is fine, but unfortunately Harris is far from an Elmore Leonard, so most of the conversations read awkward and odd, which detracts from the immediacy of the narrative in a fatal way. </p> <p><em>Console Wars</em> could also have benefited from another proofreading pass—there are instances of missing words and misplaced quote marks in too many places. Though unless you&rsquo;re plagued with a proofreading eye that won&rsquo;t shut off, it won&rsquo;t bother you.</p> <p>Despite its faults, it&rsquo;s worth reading for a very interesting look at a pivotal time of video gaming.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=your%2Binner%2Bfish&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405908996">Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>A wonderful journey back in time through our and our ancestors&rsquo; anatomy, Shubin shows how we can trace the shape of our bodies—especially the arms—back through the mists of time.</p> <p><em>Your Inner Fish</em> is a wonderful read, unravelling evolution through time with joy and wonder. Highly recommended.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=flash%2Bboys%2Bmichael%2Blewis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405909455">Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>This book made me very, very angry, and it will probably do the same to you. As usual, Lewis writes with flair and draws out the human drama in what could be excruciatingly dry material, this time about high frequency trading. Which as it turns out is a parasite on the stock market and thus on our entire global economy.</p> <p><em>Flash Boys</em> is required reading.</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=digital%2Bwars&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1397684658">Digital Wars, by Charles Arthur</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Chronicles the battle between Apple, Google and Microsoft for the future of computing, focusing on search and mobile.</p> <p><em>Digital Wars</em> is well sourced, especially inside Microsoft, and reads almost like a techno-thriller in its descriptions of the thinking inside the companies. </p> <p>Arthus is best sourced inside Microsoft, which is good since that&rsquo;s the company I&rsquo;ve paid the least amount of attention to over the last 10 years, and he answers the question of how Microsoft managed to miss the boat so badly in both search and mobile and how it&rsquo;s attempting to turn things around in those sectors.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re at all interested in the business side of technology, <em>Digital Wars</em> is a given.</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=junger%2Bperfect%2Bstorm&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405822353">The Perfect Storm, by Sebastian Junger</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>The tragic story of the Andrea Gail which perished with all hands in the Atlantic &ldquo;perfect storm&rdquo; of 1991. It&rsquo;s a fascinating book that discusses the fishing culture of Massachusetts, the mechanics of fishing boats, the physics of waves, the meteorology of storms, the resources of the coast guard, and the lives of the men aboard the Andrea Gail as it went to its tragic end.</p> <p><em>The Perfect Storm</em> is a tragedy, a page turner, and an education. You should read it.</p> <h2>Fiction</h2> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=tower%2Blord&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405822833">Tower Lord, by Anthony Ryan</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Now, this is how you do page-turner fantasy. The follow-up to the excellent <em><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=blood%2Bsong&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405822918">Blood Song</a></em>, <em>Tower Lord</em> continues the story of our hero Vaelin, but expands to the greater struggle in which he&rsquo;s involved and the secondary characters (some already known and some new) who also play big parts in the larger war to come.</p> <p>Now, <em>Tower Lord</em> is not as good as <em>Blood Song</em>, let that be said up front. But then, <em>Blood Song</em> was one-in-a-million. <em>Tower Lord</em> moves the story forward and feels a lot like a <a href="">David Gemmell</a> novel (which is high praise indeed) in its relentless pace and addictiveness. There are way worse authors to emulate, and <em>Tower Lord</em> keeps you turning the pages to the end.</p> <p>As a sidenote, it&rsquo;s great to read a <em>story</em> instead of &ldquo;I wrote down my awesome D&amp;D campaign&rdquo; which too much modern fantasy consists of. So if you liked <em>Blood Song</em>, get thee to <em>Tower Lord</em>, and if you haven&rsquo;t experienced <em><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=blood%2Bsong&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405822918">Blood Song</a></em> yet and you like fantasy, run don&rsquo;t walk to click that mouse.</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=by%2Bblood%2Bwe%2Blive&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1402075372">By Blood We Live, by Glen Duncan</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>The third book in Duncan&rsquo;s gritty reboot of the Werewolf mythos is as full of gore, sex and literary allusions as the previous novels in the series, <em><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=duncan%2Blast%2Bwerewolf&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1402075558">The Last Werewolf</a></em> and <em><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">Talulla Rising</a></em>, but while as enthralling and likely to keep you up past your bedtime as the other ones, <em>By Blood We Live</em> stretches the mythology past its breaking point. </p> <p>There&rsquo;s (clears throat) <em>prophecy</em> and <em>visions</em> and Oldest Vampire Ever Who is Tired, and it does indeed feel, well, tired.</p> <p>Nevertheless, if you liked the previous novels, you&rsquo;ll enjoy this. Just not as much as the previous awesome novels.</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=i%2Bam%2Bpilgrim&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405613413">I am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>I am Pilgrim</em> should be with you the next time you&rsquo;re on an airplane or on the beach. It&rsquo;s a huge, sprawling techno-spy novel and murder mystery rolled into one.</p> <p>The novel reads like a gritty reboot of classic Robert Ludlum with some Tom Clancy thrown in for good measure.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s far from perfect, though: The plot relies enough on coincidences and chance encounters to make you roll your eyes and most characters stay two-dimensional. And if you&rsquo;re a nerd like me the novel also hurts from some utterly ignorant techno-movements where hard drives start flashing red lights because the CPU is stressed too hard. <em>Ay, ay, ay</em>. Those moments make you doubt all the other Tom Clancy-style Cool Tech Things that happen in the novel.</p> <p>But be that as it may, it&rsquo;s a damn fun ride that will have you turning the pages way too late into the night.</p> <p>Bonus fact: Hayes co-wrote the script for <em>The Road Warrior</em>.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;_encoding=UTF8">Lexicon, by Max Barry</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Taut and fast-paced with an interesting conceit, but plagued a bit by a confusing plot.</p> <p>The idea is that our brains are hard-wired to respond to certain words in a way that bypasses our conscious thought and will—anybody who masters the difficult art of using the right words can make anybody do anything. </p> <p>So naturally there&rsquo;s a secret organization that rules the world and finds children it trains to become masters of this art.</p> <p>And then, not surprisingly, things go horribly wrong&hellip;</p> The rumored iWatch won’t be what you think Nic Lindh 2014-07-12T00:00:00-04:00 <p><img src="/images/pebble-knife.jpg" /></p> <p><i>A Pebble on the author’s slabby big man wrist.</i></p> <p>The rumor mill has been working itself into a fever pitch about the new product category Tim Cook has stated Apple will enter this year. Most of the speculation has focused on the so-called iWatch. But speculation is all it is.</p> <p>The only thing I&rsquo;m sure about when it comes to this new product category is that it won&rsquo;t be a watch. Why? Because a smart watch is a niche device and Apple isn&rsquo;t interested in anything that won&rsquo;t ship millions of units per quarter. A smart watch will not do that. At least not a smart watch as we know them today.</p> <p>I say this as a happy <a href="">Pebble</a> owner. I love my Pebble. For me it&rsquo;s great: Getting notifications on my wrist is <em>fantastic</em> and having a stopwatch and timer as well as the ability to control music and podcast playback from my wrist is very nice. But then, I&rsquo;m a huge nerd, the kind of person who thinks it&rsquo;s worth it to charge yet another device twice a week in order to get notifications on your wrist.</p> <p>The smart watch market just heated up when Google recently announced <a href="">Android Wear</a>. Ars Technica has a predictably <a href="">thorough look</a>. It is essentially an upgrade to the Pebble with nicer screen and UI and deeper integration with Android.</p> <p>From reading the Ars article and listening to various nerd podcasts, Android Wear looks like it was rushed to market, presumably as a first strike against the iWatch of which, again, people outside Apple know nothing.</p> <p>(Which, if I&rsquo;m correct, is a sad commentary on the intellectual rigor of a company as large as Google. All those meeting, all those planning sessions, all that work against a phantom idea? That&rsquo;s just sad. I hope I&rsquo;m wrong about all of this. But then, these are the people who thought Google Glass was a game changer.)</p> <p>My money is on the first generation of Android Wear devices to sell poorly to say the least. First off, you have to own a recent Android phone to tether the devices to, which cuts the market significantly, and second, from what I&rsquo;ve seen of Android devices in the wild here in Phoenix, there are two distinct sets of Android users: </p> <ol> <li>An extremely vocal minority of hard-core nerds who love changing their ROMs and skins and keyboards; and</li> <li>The vast majority who picked up whatever phone the salesperson at the carrier store was pushing that day. <em>Hey, it does texts and Facebook: It&rsquo;s fine.</em></li> </ol> <p>The first group will no doubt pick up an Android Wear device and install strange hacks on their wrists. The second will have no idea what you&rsquo;re yammering on about.</p> <p>That second group is who Apple wants to reach. An iteration on the Pebble or Android Wear with the customary Apple polish won&rsquo;t do that.</p> <p>So what is coming? I have absolutely no idea, but I know that it will be successful if it meets one condition: When Apple announces it you look at it—just like with the iPhone—and go, <em>Wow, that is so obvious</em>.</p> After the empire fades Nic Lindh 2014-06-29T00:00:00-04:00 <p>The fourth season of <a href=";sr=1-3&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=rr%2Bmartin&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1404085967">George R. R. Martin&rsquo;s <em>Game of Thrones</em></a> has ended and to console myself I just finished a re-read of <a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=first%2Blaw%2Btrilogy%2Bkindle&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1404086026">Joe Abercrombie&rsquo;s <em>First Law Trilogy</em></a>. </p> <p>The two series are similar in that they both have fleshed-out people attempting to survive in horrible realities and are both loaded with brutal, sociopathic violence. But they differ in the kinds of realities the characters face, and I think those differences are telling in that they call out how America and England are dealing with a new era. Martin is American and Abercrombie is English and the worlds they build reflect the Zeitgeist in those different countries and cultures.</p> <p>Martin&rsquo;s Westeros is of course a horrible, horrible place, almost post-apocalyptic, where wannabe-king warlords rule according to their whims, spreading chaos and horror, and might makes right. It is also what happens after the fantasy ends: Our heroes have defeated the mad king and one of them is the new, just, king and has married his beautiful queen while his stalwart friend has has returned to his family holdings to raise his family in peace. But our hero has been too long at war and soothes his PTSD with drink, women and hunts—anything to give him a thrill—while his queen has, ahem, her own issues. And things fall apart, to out it mildly.</p> <p>This feels very post-Cold War American: Hey, we won! We are the only standing super power! And now we have to deal with all the internal problems that were overshadowed by the larger struggle against the Russians. Those problems can&rsquo;t be swept under the rug anymore. </p> <p>Issues are coming to the surface. How do we deal with them? Are they going to tear the country apart? Some people want to secede from the union, some demand their religion be the only religion allowed, some want to believe the Russian threat is still out there, and some want the armed forces to be kept strong because we have needed the strong armed forces before and not having them would betray what the country is all about.</p> <p>Abercrombie&rsquo;s Union, on the other hand, is European. It is also a horrible place to live, a crumbling remnant, but not a Road Warrior nightmare. Instead it&rsquo;s ossified, a place that worships its old glories and the Way Things Are Done. A place where a self-made man is looked upon with suspicion and denigration. <em>How dare he?</em> A place where blood is what counts and no matter how unsuitable a man may be he is still a member of the aristocracy and thus better than you, <em>sir</em>.</p> <p>Which of course is very British and a remnant of the way things used to be in the heyday of the British Empire, where the troops pillaging the colonies would be lead exclusively by the classes that could afford to buy commissions for their sons, no matter how incompetent they might be.</p> <p>The Union is corrupt, an empire in the last, unfit years of its life, and Westeros is tearing itself apart.</p> <p>But of course it&rsquo;s entirely possible I&rsquo;m overthinking this&hellip;</p>