The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2014-11-16T18:15:53-07:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. It's the words, stupid Nic Lindh 2014-11-16T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/bookshelf16by9.jpg" /></p> <p>I love books. Always did. I was the kid in middle school who&rsquo;d be late to class after lunch because I was in the library reading.</p> <p>But with the advent of e-readers and read later-type apps I&rsquo;m realizing more and more that it wasn&rsquo;t <em>books</em> I loved, it was the content of those books. This is not a semantic quibble, it&rsquo;s at the core of the disruption happening to the publishing industry.</p> <p>I still love going to a bookstore to browse the aisles and get ideas about things to read, but I&rsquo;m not purchasing more corpses of trees. Which is of course very bad news for the bookstore and I do feel bad about that. I&rsquo;ll usually buy a cup of coffee so I&rsquo;ve at least done something to keep them in business.</p> <p>(I should add here that if you&rsquo;re a fellow book lover who&rsquo;s fuming at this cavalier attitude to Keeping Bookstores in Business, I feel you. I get loving books as objects. The image at the top of this post is a fraction of the books in my home. Books I&rsquo;ve read and loved.)</p> <p>We&rsquo;re at the point now, though, that e-readers are valid ways to read all by themselves and the artifact that is the book as physical object is no longer necessary.</p> <p>Not only is it not necessary, but it is <em>worse</em> than the electronic equivalent. </p> <p>Can you change the font and font size in a printed book? No you can not. </p> <p>Can you tap on a word you don&rsquo;t know and get a dictionary definition? No you can not.</p> <p>Can you finish a book, be super excited about reading the next installment in the series, buy the thing right there and start reading it? No you can not.</p> <p>Can you realize you don&rsquo;t remember who a character is and search for the first time that character was introduced? No you can not.</p> <p>So, the utility of a dead-tree corpse is actually worse than an electronic version. And yet, and yet. It does hold a special place in a book-lover&rsquo;s heart. Holding the thing. Smelling the thing. It&rsquo;s a <em>thing</em>, a physical manifestation of a writer&rsquo;s blood sweat and tears. It&rsquo;s real in a way an e-book just isn&rsquo;t.</p> <p>But then, so were CDs, which were in themselves a much better audio experience than vinyl, but also a much worse physical manifestation than vinyl.</p> <p>Listening to an album on vinyl was a physical experience: Taking the album out of its cover, putting it on the turntable, cleaning it with the brush and cleaning solution, lowering the needle, hearing that static before the track started&hellip; Physical and real.</p> <p>And way worse of a presentation of the actual content of the medium than the CD provided in its own detached, clinical way.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re the kind of person who relishes touching and holding physical books (or vinyl albums, for that matter), more power to you. Keep doing your thing. As long as you have money to spend you will be catered to. But you are a member of a diminishing minority.</p> <p>Apart from but related to the conveniences listed above, here&rsquo;s the number one reason I love e-books: They give <em>me</em> the choices. Not the publisher or the designer. I get to choose (within Amazon&rsquo;s needlessly limited options, granted) which font to use and which size I want it and—and this is the important part—that choice applies to all the books I read. This way, the only thing I care about in the book, the content, is distilled down to its essence.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s just me and the words.</p> <p>You can&rsquo;t influence my perception with nicer paper or a better design. It&rsquo;s just the words.</p> <p>As it should be.</p> Voting in America Nic Lindh 2014-11-07T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/american-flag.jpg" /></p> <p>I became an American citizen in 2006 and have voted faithfully in every election since. And every election I&rsquo;m struck by just how willfully archaic the American system is.</p> <p>Which I think stems from the fact that <em>America loves the idea of America more than it loves the actual America.</em> </p> <p>The <em>idea</em> of America is of a hardy frontier nation of hamlets full of white people, all bandying together to fight off the enemy, however you defined the enemy. (Hint: Usually people who weren&rsquo;t white.) </p> <p>Which America sort of was, you know, 300 years ago. But the America that exists now is a nation of people of different skin colors living in sprawling metropolises, not knowing their neighbors, trying to make ends meet by working post-industrial jobs.</p> <p>But before we get into the current problems, let&rsquo;s first cover the basics of the American voting system. For people unfamiliar with the system, the process goes like this:</p> <ul> <li>First, you register to vote and indicate which party you want to be affiliated with: Democrat, Republican or Independent. Yes, you have to indicate who you&rsquo;re going to vote for. Nobody here finds that odd. The reason for this is so you can vote in the primary election where each party elects their candidates. This is so the parties don&rsquo;t have to actually do the work of figuring out who their representative should be. Efficiency, you see?</li> <li>Then, depending on which state you live in, <em>many different things can happen</em>. This is because each state gets to make up their own rules for how to run elections. Yes, even elections for federal office. Nobody seems to find this strange, not to mention a massive waste of time, energy and money.</li> <li>In Arizona, the only state where I&rsquo;ve voted, we can choose to vote by mail. This is civilized and good.</li> <li>So in Arizona, a bit before the election, your ballot arrives.</li> <li>You fill it out and mail it in and hope it didn&rsquo;t get lost somewhere. </li> </ul> <p>Ah, the ballot. The piece of high-grade paper you are sent. On the ballot are the choices you&rsquo;d expect, like president, governor, secretary of state and whatnot. But it doesn&rsquo;t end there. Nope. America is a direct democracy where the voter gets to have her say on many, many things.</p> <p>Which I&rsquo;m sure made sense in the 1800s when the majority of people lived in tiny burghs where everybody knew everybody and <em>of course</em> you should have your say in who sits on the school board.</p> <p>However, now that the majority of Americans live in metro areas, turns out I don&rsquo;t know who Joe Blow is or whether he&rsquo;d be a good candidate for the corporation commission.</p> <p>Not to mention the judges. International readers, did you know America elects it judges? Again, something that made sense in Deadwood but is now just archaic idiocy.</p> <p>And then there are the propositions. These are suggestions for laws proposed by either citizen initiatives or the legislature. In theory this is so the legislature can wisely get the people&rsquo;s direct input on controversial proposed laws so everybody gets their say, but in practice it&rsquo;s usually ideas the legislature recognizes are so nutty they don&rsquo;t want their names behind them but at the same time special interests they are beholden to want to see them pass, so they kick them out into the propositions. &ldquo;Hey, I tried.&rdquo;</p> <p>Not surprisingly, the citizen initiatives that manage to collect enough signatures to become propositions tend to also emanate from special interest groups. So they are often concerned with keeping particular industries unregulated.</p> <p>You take the sheer amount of people you have to know well enough to decide whether to vote for or not and the amount of propositions you have to read through and think about together in order to feel good about casting your ballot and it leads to three classes of voters:</p> <ol> <li>The wonks who&rsquo;ve researched the heck out of everything. All three of them;</li> <li>The fired-up base who are rolling in to vote a straight party ticket; and</li> <li>The ones who just can&rsquo;t be bothered to deal with all this bullshit and also need to get to their second job so they can keep food on the table. Those don&rsquo;t vote, especially not in a midterm election.</li> </ol> <p>In the 2010 midterm election, <a href="">Arizona&rsquo;s voter turnout was 35%.</a> Which is not a shameful number at all. Nope.</p> <p>So, every two years the citizens of America must make sure they are still on the voter rolls, hoping there hasn&rsquo;t been a new rule change they didn&rsquo;t hear of that kicked them off, then make sure to get the time off to go vote on a Tuesday. </p> <p>Yes, a Tuesday. America loves democracy so much we decided to have our elections on a work day. And if you live in a state without mail-by-vote and your boss won&rsquo;t give you time off to go vote? Well, clearly you didn&rsquo;t deserve to anyway. </p> <p>The hours the polls are open of course differ by state as does the density of polling places. Because it&rsquo;s important the states get to make decisions about these things which clearly differ so widely between states since they are not all peopled by humans. Or something.</p> <p>Seriously, this is not the way to do this and it hasn&rsquo;t been the way to do this for over 100 years. </p> <p>It&rsquo;s embarrassing and scary how large a portion of the <a href="">second-largest democracy on the planet</a> finds this state of affairs &ldquo;well, shrug, fine&rdquo; or even scarier &ldquo;best ever hell yeah!&rdquo;</p> <p>The country I adopted is better than this. Or at least should be.</p> The Kindle Voyage is a solid update with an achilles heel Nic Lindh 2014-10-25T00:00:00-07:00 <p>Not long ago I wrote about how much I love reading on my Kindle, but <a href="">lamented its deplorable build quality</a> and wished Apple would enter the e-ink field with a premium device. As expected, that didn&rsquo;t happen, but surprisingly enough Amazon instead released <a href="">a new, premium Kindle, the Voyage</a>, which addresses most of my complaints.</p> <p>The Voyage has a better screen, even backlighting, a brightness sensor, is <em>much</em> faster to respond to touches, and has vastly improved build quality. While not what anybody would call Apple quality, the Voyage is significantly nicer to hold than previous Kindles, which as you know feel disposable and chintzy.</p> <p>So yay for Amazon! If you spend a lot of time with your Kindle, the Voyage is a very nice update, with improvements pretty much everywhere.</p> <p>Theoretically one of the nicest features of the Voyage is buttons. Yes! No more moving your thumb to the screen to turn the page!</p> <p>Which is nice and overdue. But. Somebody at Amazon decided that actual physical buttons are passé. So instead we get something called PagePress. </p> <p>Yes, let it sink in, take a deep breath, find your chi and just become one with the idea that instead of physical buttons like you use every day we now have a technology named after the button but which assuredly is not a pedestrian button that smells bad what with all the common people touching it. </p> <p>Instead of last-century button bullshit where you push the thing and something happens we now have PagePress. With PagePress you &ldquo;Simply apply pressure on the bezel to turn the page, and PagePress will provide a silent haptic response for consistent and immediate feedback.&rdquo; You know, like a button except it&rsquo;s nothing so gauche as a button. Nono. Instead it&rsquo;s a touch sensitive area on the bezel you mash to turn the page.</p> <p>This is clearly a huge win for our civilization that was <em>so over</em> buttons so long ago. I mean, <em>eye-roll. Buttons. Sheesh.</em></p> <p>So with PagePress you get no feedback until your Kindle buzzes—sorry, &ldquo;provides a silent haptic response&quot;—and turns the page. </p> <p>I&rsquo;ve read hundreds of pages on my Kindle Voyage and I still don&rsquo;t have muscle memory for exactly how hard to push. Because I&rsquo;m pushing on rigid plastic.</p> <p>Perhaps it will come. Perhaps not.</p> <p>To make it worse, the pressure-sensitive areas of the bezel only have a visual indication that they&rsquo;re pressable, so when you&rsquo;re reading and—you know, as you do when you&rsquo;re reading—focusing on the screen, you have to visually check your thumb is on the right area.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s really inexcusably stupid and I wonder what kind of corporate culture could let this kind of dumb get out the door in a premium product.</p> <p>But nevertheless, if you&rsquo;re a heavy Kindle user, it&rsquo;s still worth the upgrade. If nothing else, having your Kindle respond to touches the same day is worth it, and yes, the screen is gorgeous.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s just amazing that smart people could get together and tell themselves that mashing on an area of the bezel would be way better than a lowly button. I wonder if any of those people have ever actually sat down on the couch to read a book on a Sunday afternoon.</p> Our technology is bad and we should feel bad Nic Lindh 2014-10-19T00:00:00-07:00 <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> <img src="/images/humongous.jpg" alt="Welcome to the future" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"></p> Book roundup, part 16 Nic Lindh 2014-10-05T00:00:00-07:00 <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 2014-09-11T00:00:00-07:00 <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 2014-09-08T00:00:00-07:00 <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 2014-08-23T00:00:00-07:00 <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 2014-08-19T00:00:00-07:00 <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 2014-08-02T00:00:00-07:00 <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>