The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2017-02-12T03:19:30+00:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Never retreat. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl Nic Lindh 2017-02-11T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>Never retreat. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Benjamin Jowett</p> A wet man does not fear rain Nic Lindh 2017-02-03T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>A wet man does not fear rain.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Russian Proverb</p> What to expect when you’re expecting a Hackintosh Nic Lindh 2017-01-09T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/hackintosh-front.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Hackintosh with blinkenlights and USB Bluetooth adapter.</i></p> <p>I’ve been <a href="">running a Hackintosh since early 2014</a>, after getting tired of Apple’s refusal to sell a normal mini-tower. You know, a decent machine you can buy and then replace some parts and add some functionality as you go along.</p> <p>It’s important to understand Apple has never wanted to be in that market. Never. For many years, Apple <em>had</em> to be in that market, since that was what the technology could support. But Apple has always wanted to sell toasters—a magical machine that does what Apple thinks you need.</p> <p>And now they do. The technology is here now for that vision to be a reality.</p> <p>You buy an iPhone. The iPhone is what you have. Once there’s a better iPhone you want, you buy it and get rid of your old iPhone.</p> <p>That’s the vision.</p> <p>And I understand the vision. I <em>like</em> buying a new iPhone and have it be great in many ways without me doing any work.</p> <p>But I’m also a nerd, so I’m in the minority in that I actually know—and sometimes enjoy—system administration.</p> <p>I find installing operating systems to be soothing. It’s relaxing to see the little progress indicators go across the screen and see the software packages getting installed.</p> <p>Granted, I am in the vast, vast minority on this. Most people are not like this. At all.</p> <p>Which is fine. Hakuna Matata. (If people like me were the majority we’d still be on Savannah, but starving and spending all our time arguing about the <em>best</em> way to track the wildebeests instead of actually hunting them.)</p> <p>The way Apple is going about things is the right way to get the most customers. They are being very smart and purposeful. And it’s amazing that Steve Jobs clearly saw this way back when personal computers were starting. He was surrounded by people like me and he always wanted to make computers for people who are not like me.</p> <p>But let’s say you’re upset that Apple won’t make a freaking mini-tower, or even—lowest difficulty setting—update the Mac Pro and the Mac Mini to track Intel’s processor upgrades?</p> <p>Why isn’t the most profitable company in the world updating their line of computers?</p> <p>My guess would be that they think it’s boring. They want to make new things. Magical things. Like the Apple Watch and AirPods. Which are great, don’t get me wrong.</p> <p>But that’s magic. Speed bumping the Mac Mini so some nerd will be happy about what he hangs behind his TV or some IT guy uses for the company’s file server? Yawn. That’s the kind of crap Dell does and they can have it.</p> <p>As an aside here, I worked at so many places where all the IT staff were Microsoft Certified and hated “MacinTrash.”</p> <p>Then iPhone came out and the CEO bought one and told the IT staff to <em>make this work</em>.</p> <p>It was <em>delicious</em>. Oh, let’s wallow in this for a minute. <em>Delicious</em>. The assholes who had made my life so much more difficult than it had to be all of a sudden had somebody with weight telling them to do the thing they should have done years ago, and their <em>hurdihur MacinTrash</em> was all of a sudden canceled out by executives getting an iPhone and dictating “make this work” and they could not say no and keep their jobs.</p> <p>That was glorious. “Oh, it turns out your job is to help people do their jobs in the way that’s most effective instead of pushing your own crap?”</p> <p>Sweet, sweet tears.</p> <p>Thanks for indulging that little detour. Back to the Hackintosh. As discussed above, Apple is really good at, and takes very seriously, <em>hiding complexity</em>. That’s their core competency. Take something very difficult, prune away all the BS that makes it unnecessarily hard, then deliver that as a product. This is what made iPod a hit. You don’t have to be a nerd to put your music on an MP3 player! Cue selling infinite millions of the things.</p> <p>The Mac does the same thing, it hides so much complexity, even though it’s still a thing that requires its user to have much more computer awareness than an iOS device.</p> <p>But they’re still hiding a lot of complexity from you. If you go Hackintosh, you have to deal with that complexity.</p> <p>BIOS updates. Driver updates. Bootloaders. Knowing exactly which motherboard you’re using. Apple lets you treat a Mac pretty much as a black box, something you can <em>not</em> do with a Hackintosh.</p> <p>And of course it’s completely and utterly unsupported except for the kindness of strangers on message boards.</p> <p>If you have a problem you will not be hauling your rig to the nearest Apple Store.</p> <p>So what’s it like in practice to run a Hackintosh?</p> <p>You will become intimately familiar with the <a href="">TonyMac x86 forums</a>—that’s the main hangout for the scene and where you will go to see if an update is safe and any necessary workarounds that may be necessary. It’s a pretty friendly place, though the testosterone levels can get a bit out of hand.</p> <p>That’s the first difference with running a Hackintosh instead of a “real” Mac. You can’t assume things will be hunky dory. Always check for somebody who’s running similar hardware to report in that an upgrade went well.</p> <p>The second thing to be aware of is that things like Continuity and Handoff, not to mention Messages, <em>might</em> work for you, or they might not. Depending on exactly which hardware you have and how much effort you want to put in, you might be able to get it to work, or you might not. That’s just life in Hackintoshville.</p> <p>I very much don’t recommend running your business on a Hackintosh—no matter what, sooner or later something will take your machine out of commission and you’ll have to go down a forum rabbit hole looking for clues.</p> <p>That being said, though, once you get the rig up and running it’ll mostly run like a Mac and act like a Mac, so the day-to-day experience is the same as the real thing.</p> <p>The elephant in the room for the Hackintosh is of course Apple’s benevolent indifference: So far the company’s been admirably hands-off with the Hackintosh. They obviously know it’s happening, but haven’t done anything at all to hurt the scene.</p> <p>Which is one of the things to have in the back of your head when thinking about building a Hackintosh: Apple can kill that scene tomorrow if they wanted to. They’re being hands-off right now, but all it takes is somebody at Apple getting pissed off enough to want to dedicate the engineering resources to start a cat-and-mouse game.</p> <p>Personally, I think they’re letting it be as both a push valve where the people unhappy with Apple’s hardware decisions can make their own thing, and as place to watch what the enthusiasts are really interested in—a radar for the feral tribes in the desert.</p> <p>Since I don’t work at Apple I obviously don’t know that, but it feels truthy. There are so few people who get involved in the Hackintosh community that it doesn’t hurt the bottom line in any measurable way.</p> <p>As for myself, my current rig will be my last Hackintosh—I value having a boring machine that just works more than my ability to put whatever boards I feel like in the machine. You might make a different call.</p> <p>And it is a good learning tool—once you’ve figured out how to build the machine and install Mac OS on it, you’ve learned a lot about the things Apple shields you from.</p> <p>I am going to miss the disk access blinkenlights, though…</p> Book roundup, part 22 Nic Lindh 2016-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 <h2 id="non-fiction">Non-fiction</h2> <h3 id="grunt-the-curious-science-of-humans-at-war-by-mary-roach-"><a href=";me=&amp;tag=thecoredump-20">Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Tons of interesting science about humans at war, especially modern war. Not so much about weaponry and combat, but the stresses violence and existing in chaotic circumstances puts on the body.</p> <p>As an example:</p> <blockquote> <p>For every American killed by battle injuries during the Mexican War of 1848, seven died of disease, mostly diarrheal. During the American Civil War, 95,000 soldiers died from diarrhea or dysentery. During the Vietnam War, hospital admissions for diarrheal diseases outnumbered those for malaria by nearly four to one.</p> </blockquote> <p>Roach writes in an energetic and engaging way, though sometimes the humor feels a bit forced to this stodgy Swede, and there’s some padding even in a short book. But it is fascinating in an often icky way. Roach does emphatically not flinch from ick.</p> <h3 id="1177-bc-the-year-civilization-collapsed-by-eric-h-cline-"><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=1179%2BBC%2Byear%2Bcivilization%2Bcollapsed&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1481064649">1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, by Eric H. Cline</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Bad stuff out front first: The book has very little meat on its bones and spends a lot of time being carefully scholarly by telling the reader more about what we don’t know about the late Bronze Age than what we do. And (spoiler) at the end we aren’t really sure what caused a cataclysm around 1177 B.C.</p> <p>The good stuff: We know a lot about what life and civilizations were like in 1177 BC! Which was a long time ago, the Bronze Age, Old Testament times. And it was a complicated world of civilizations, religions, and above all trade around the Mediterranean.</p> <p>It is pretty metal that some Mediterranean civilizations left behind records about the Sea Peoples, who were supposedly doing some serious ravaging, but that we can’t be sure who they were or where they came from.</p> <p>There’s also surprising pathos in some of the old clay tablets, like this one from the <a href="">city of Ugarit</a> after it was overrun:</p> <blockquote> <p>When your messenger arrived, the army was humiliated and the city was sacked. Our food in the threshing floors was burnt and the vineyards were also destroyed. Our city is sacked. May you know it! May you know it!</p> </blockquote> <h3 id="louder-than-hell-the-definitive-oral-history-of-metal-by-jon-wiederhorn-and-katherine-turman-"><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=louder%2Bthan%2Bhell%2Bthe%2Bdefinitive%2Boral%2Bhistory%2Bof%2Bmetal&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1481064838">Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, by Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Oral history of heavy metal as told by the people who lived it, from the first bands to be considered metal in the 1970s up to today.</p> <p><em>Louder Than Hell</em> is interesting both if you’re a metal fan and if you’re fascinated by unstable, self-destructive humans. Because most of the people involved are <em>amazingly</em> damaged in so many ways. I mean, seriously, these are people who need intensive counseling. And I’m not saying that in a condescending way, but in a concerned way. If you have any kind of empathy you’ll read <em>Louder Than Hell</em> and want to help these people.</p> <p>Sure, it’s great you’re able to have all your escalatingly weird sexual fetishes met and you have access to all the drugs, but dude, really? Is this really good for you?</p> <p>Perhaps I’m just old and in dad mode.</p> <p>The biggest issue with the book is that it aims to be all-inclusive, so it suffers by including much too much. There really are only so many stories of drugs and groupies you can read before they start to blur together. If it was edited down to about half the length it would be much less repetitive and more interesting.</p> <h3 id="smarter-faster-better-the-secrets-of-being-productive-in-life-and-business-by-charles-duhigg-"><a href=";url=search-alias%253Dstripbooks&amp;field-keywords=duhigg%2Bsmarter%2Bfaster%2Bbetter&amp;tag=thecoredump-20">Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>A neurotic New York journalist decides to be less neurotic and neurotically works super hard at finding the best way to be more productive.</p> <p>At times reading this, I just wanted to tell Duhigg to mellow the heck out and perhaps go into therapy. The problem is inside you, dude; it’s not a societal problem.</p> <p>But he does talk to a lot of people, some of whom have really good ideas, so <em>Smarter Faster Better</em> is a worthwhile read.</p> <p>The ideas he finds include taking control of your attention and setting goals in a mindful way.</p> <blockquote> <p>To become genuinely productive, we must take control of our attention; we must build mental models that put us firmly in charge. When you’re driving to work, force yourself to envision your day. While you’re sitting in a meeting or at lunch, describe to yourself what you’re seeing and what it means. Find other people to hear your theories and challenge them. Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what’s next. If you are a parent, anticipate what your children will say at the dinner table. Then you’ll notice what goes unmentioned or if there’s a stray comment that you should see as a warning sign.</p> </blockquote> <p>It’s a good book. New Yorkers especially will love it.</p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="the-hanging-tree-by-ben-aaronovitch-"><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;_encoding=UTF8">The Hanging Tree, by Ben Aaronovitch</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>The Hanging Tree is the fourth installment in the <em>Rivers of London</em> series and after the kind of pause and hemming and hawing that was <em>Foxglove Summer</em> it moves the story arc and the character development forward in able fashion.</p> <p>Basically the series follows a policeman called Peter Grant who becomes part of a spook unit of the London Metropolitan Police which investigates supernatural happenings.</p> <p>It’s a really charming series.</p> <p>If you’re a fan, this is a fun read with all the things you like. If you’re not already a fan, you obviously need to start at the beginning with <em><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;psc=1&amp;_encoding=UTF8">Midnight Riot</a></em> (which confusingly enough is called <em>Rivers of London</em> in the UK).</p> <h3 id="deaths-end-remembrance-of-earths-past-by-cixin-liu-"><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=deaths%2Bend%2Bcixin%2Bliu&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1481065310">Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past), by Cixin Liu</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Hoo, boy. <em>Death’s End</em> is the final installment in the <em>Three-Body Problem</em> trilogy and it’s … well … just not that good.</p> <p>If you’re a fan of the trilogy, you probably do want to read it to get closure about the Trisolarians and what will happen to our planet, but Cixin really turns up the darkness that started in <em>The Dark Forest</em> and, well, if you’re looking for a happy ending, prepare to be disappointed.</p> <p>The Universe is dark and hostile, my friends. Dark and hostile.</p> <p>As a Western reader, though, it’s interesting to get the Chinese perspective, and even more to get the Chinese perspective packaged into a traditionally Western form like hard sci-fi.</p> <p>As an example, there’s a scene that really caught my attention where Earth is being evacuated. Our protagonists are at the space port with their ship and find a school class of young children also trying to evacuate, but they only have three seats available.</p> <p>Here’s what happens (AA is a character’s name, because future):</p> <blockquote> <p>“You pick three, then,” said AA. The teacher let go of AA and stared at her, even more terrified than before. “How am I supposed to pick? How…” She looked around, not daring to meet the eyes of the children. She looked to be in utter pain, as if the gazes of the children burned her. “Fine. I’ll pick,” AA said. She turned to the children and smiled. “Everyone, listen up. I’m going to ask three questions. Whoever gives the right answers first gets to come with us.” She ignored the stunned looks from the teacher and Cheng Xin, and held up a finger. “First question: Say we have a light which is off. After one minute, it blinks. Half a minute later, it blinks again. Fifteen seconds later, it blinks a third time. It keeps on going like this, blinking at intervals that are half of the immediately preceding interval. I want to know how many times it will have blinked by the two-minute mark.” “A hundred!” one of the children blurted out. AA shook her head. “Wrong.” “A thousand!” “No. Think carefully.” After a long pause, a timid voice spoke up. The speaker was a gentle and quiet little girl and it was hard to hear her with all the noise. “An infinite number of times.” “Come here,” AA said, pointing at the little girl. When she walked over, AA guided her to stand behind herself. “Second question: Say we have a rope whose thickness is uneven. To burn it from one end to the other takes an hour. How do you use this rope to track the passage of fifteen minutes? Remember, the thickness is uneven!” This time, no child spoke up in a hurry, and they all fell into deep thought. Soon, a boy raised his hand. “Fold the rope end to end, and then burn it from both ends at the same time.” AA nodded. “Come over.” She pulled the boy behind her to stand with the girl. “Third question: eighty-two, fifty, twenty-six. What’s the next number?” “Ten!” a girl shouted. AA gave her a thumb up. “Well done. Come over.” Then she nodded at Cheng Xin, took the three children, and headed for the shuttle.</p> </blockquote> <p>It’s obviously reasonable to want to save the smartest to ensure humanity’s future, but damn, that’s cold. I can’t see a Western novel pull off the same scene without <em>a lot</em> of handwringing about it. But in <em>Death’s End</em> it’s just done and nobody talks about it afterwards.</p> <p>And that isn’t even the dark part of the novel.</p> <h3 id="chains-of-command-by-marko-kloos-"><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=kloos%2Bchains%2Bof%2Bcommand&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1481065382">Chains of Command, by Marko Kloos</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>Chains of Command</em> is the fourth installment in Kloos’s very good military near-future sci-fi <em>Frontlines</em> series. In order to remain spoiler-free, let’s just say the series involves humanity escaping from a dystopian Earth and starting to colonize other planets and running into scary aliens. If you’re into military sci-fi, <em>Frontlines</em> is a solid series.</p> <p><em>Chains of Command</em>, though, is fine, but doesn’t really advance the story arc of the series—it feels like Kloos doesn’t know where he wants to go and is stalling a bit while he figures stuff out.</p> <p>Hoping for more story progression in the next installment.</p> <h3 id="who-killed-sherlock-holmes-by-paul-cornell-"><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=who%2Bkilled%2Bsherlock%2Bholmes&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1481065492">Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, by Paul Cornell</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Yes, the ghost of Sherlock Holmes is murdered in the beginning of the third installment of the <em>Shadow Police</em> series about police officers in contemporary London who are accidentally given “the sight,” enabling them to see all the supernatural things going on in the city.</p> <p>The setup may sound a lot like <em>Rivers of London</em>, but it’s tonally very different—<em>Rivers of London</em> is charming and fun, while <em>Shadow Police</em> is grim and dark, with some extremely unpleasant things going on and with a creeping sense of existential dread.</p> <p>If you’re in the mood for gritty urban fantasy, you won’t go wrong with <em>Shadow Police</em>. But of course, start at the beginning with <em><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;psc=1&amp;_encoding=UTF8">London Falling</a></em>.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.</p> It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don't know too much about the problem Nic Lindh 2016-09-05T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Malcolm Forbes</p> Malazan Book of the Fallen Nic Lindh 2016-08-29T00:00:00+00:00 <p>The <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em> series consists of 10 brick-sized novels that <a href="">according to Wikipedia</a> make up 3.2 million words. Yup, 3.2 million words. That’s a lot of words.</p> <p>Fortunately, it’s fantastic.</p> <p>What we’re looking at here is a massive series, not just in terms of word count, but also in terms of world building—it spans thousands of years, several continents, several cultures, a multitude of races, several systems of magic, and a sprawling host of characters. <em>Massive</em>.</p> <p>But what’s most impressive to me is that despite the insane word count, <em>Malazan</em> is tight. Unlike most high fantasy with 100-pages-to-walk-around-a-bush sections, there are no draggy bits—every word reveals character, builds the world, or moves the story forward. It’s written like a series of interconnecting short storys or novellas that snap together to create a story arc. I get a headache just thinking about creating something like this. Massive respect to Steven Erikson for even undertaking such a massive job, no less pulling it off.</p> <p>Erikson also trusts his readers—there is no coddling. If a character disappears for three novels and then comes back, there’s no reintroduction or reminder of who that character is. They just show up and it’s up to the reader to remember who they are. The same thing goes for character introductions: There’s no signaling to let you know if this will be a major or minor character. It might be a major character the series will turn on, or the character might die four pages later. You don’t know. You have to pay attention at all times. No coasting.</p> <p>The same thing goes for the systems of magic. Wizards do magic stuff from the get-go, but the reader has no idea how it works—there are systems, but it’ll take the reader a while to figure them out. In the meantime, you just have to roll with it.</p> <p>So what’s the <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em> about? There’s obviously a lot—<em>a lot</em>—of high fantasy plot happening, but at its heart it’s a meditation on mortality and the choices we make.</p> <p>If you’re the kind of reader who enjoys being challenged and you like fantasy, definitely give the first book in the series, <em><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=gardens%2Bof%2Bthe%2Bmoon&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1472341005">Gardens of the Moon</a></em> a shot. Just be prepared to be both awed and confused.</p> The car is going digital and that’s a good thing Nic Lindh 2016-08-21T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/prius-shifter.jpg" /></p> <p><i>The Prius shifter is unapologetically a joystick. And yes, Phoenix, AZ gets a bit toasty in the summer.</i></p> <p>My favorite feature in <a href="">my Prius</a> is the one in the hero image above: The gear shifter is, unapologetically, a joystick. The shifter tells you by its shape and design that you are performing no mechanical action—you are telling a computer what your intention is, not actually initiating the action yourself.</p> <p>For car nerds this is sacrilege—the enjoyment of the car is tied to your connection to the vehicle, your physical involvement with the iron that makes up the car. And the Prius puts the fact that it’s all fly-by-wire <em>right in your face</em>.</p> <p>You can compare with BMW piping pre-recorded engine sounds through the vehicle’s sound system in a misguided effort to help the driver feel more in touch with the machine.</p> <p>Because no matter how much Potemkin feedback car manufacturers add to their products these days, a modern car is a computer on wheels. And that’s a good thing—I’m old enough to have spent my childhood and early, formative, driving years in analog cars and they were <em>terrible</em>.</p> <p>Constant breakdowns. Slurping gas like an Amy Schumer character slurps white wine. Constant leaking of mystery fluids. Gearboxes that <em>grind</em>.</p> <p>Remember using the choke to get the car to start on a cold morning? (For any millennials reading this: The choke let you override the fuel to air mixture that went into the carburetor by pulling out a freaking stick on the dashboard. After the car started you had to push the choke back in as the engine warmed up or it would stall. Yes, this was a real thing—ask your parents.)</p> <p>Cars were a mess back then. But we didn’t know that because the concept of a car that mostly just worked was unthinkable. And of course being a teenager, the freedom of the car and the open road, <a href="">parking with a person of your preferred gender</a>, these are powerful experiences and feelings that a lot of people have transferred into the bucket of bolts that broke down on them all the time instead of their youth and hormones.</p> <p>Which doesn’t make it wrong for a person to enjoy tinkering with an old car in their spare time—on the contrary, whatever constructive hobby a person can find is a great thing and I hope it brings you happiness.</p> <p>But as the defiant little joystick in the Prius shows, cars are moving to a much better technological place. And that is something that should be celebrated. And props to Toyota for being completely unapologetic about it.</p> Review: Kindle Oasis Nic Lindh 2016-08-05T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/oasis-and-voyage.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Oasis Walnut leather cover, the Oasis itself, and a Voyage.</i></p> <p>The <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=kindle%2Boasis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1470417409">Kindle Oasis</a> is for the connoisseur of e-readers, the person who reads a lot on them and who also enjoys the feel of a premium device in the hand.</p> <p>Because that’s what you’re spending close to an extra $200 on, compared to a lowlier Kindle <a href="">like the Paperwhite</a>: page-turn buttons, more even backlight, lighter weight, and a very nice leather cover.</p> <p>Apart from that, the software is (sadly) much the same and the speed of the device is much the same.</p> <p>The leather cover (sorry, vegans) does look and feel premium, and since it holds moar battery, this Kindle can go for longer than previous versions—not that they were ever slouches in the battery department—by sipping from the cover when it’s attached.</p> <p>The drawback with this sceme of using the cover as a battery pack is, of course, if you use the Oasis without the cover you have a Kindle with terrible battery life.</p> <p>If you read a lot—<em>as I do, he insisted, justifying his purchase</em>—being blessed with actual page-turn buttons instead of the weird touch areas on the <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=kindle%2Bvoyage&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1470418567">Voyage</a> alone is worth the price of admission, since it lets you actually feel where buttons are instead of having to look at where your fingers are on the device. (One day there’ll be a fascinating article or book chapter written on what got into the water at Amazon when they decided chintzy touch sensors with fake clicks were much more future than pedestrian buttons. I look forward to reading it.)</p> <p>So as hardware it’s nice—an excellent reading machine. But Amazon keeps making me sad by not delivering best-of-breed software. Amazon is in the business of delivering good-enough. The most egregious example is that the Kindle still doesn’t have automatic hyphenation. In 2016.</p> <p>Nope. You’ll see the rivers of white and you’ll like them, dammit. Just because we have a screen that aptly mimics paper doesn’t mean we should think about typography, does it?</p> <p>As an example of the patented Amazon Attention to Detail™, the instruction manual preloaded on the devices says Welcome to your Kindle Placeholder. Yes, Placeholder. And the title is Kindle Solstice. That is some attention to detail.</p> <p>I so, so wish Apple would get into the e-ink reader market, but it doesn’t look like that will ever happen—imagine an e-ink device running iBooks. <em>Wistful sigh.</em> If Apple had that, their bookstore might actually take off.</p> <p>But in this universe we have Amazon’s Kindles. And this one is physically a very nice device, one that’s worth upgrading to if you read a lot and appreciate the finer things in life, but not one that will get you meaningfully more than a cheaper Kindle.</p> <p>As a side note, if you happen to be a cheapskate and just want a cheap thing to read on, let me implore you to at least get a <a href="">device with backlighting</a>—it’s a massively nicer experience.</p> <p>Let’s hope the Oasis 2 will come with a faster processor and that Amazon will somehow find the motivation to crack the mysteries of automatic hyphenation.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny cut. It doesn’t add anything to the price.</p> Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes Nic Lindh 2016-06-03T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Bertolt Brecht</p> “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” Nic Lindh 2016-05-29T00:00:00+00:00 <p>Virtual assistants are hot. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s, well, Google are becoming more and more capable and smart. While Apple, Google, and Microsoft are shipping assistants on their smartphones and wearables, the one for the home right now is Alexa—Amazon’s ghost in the cylinder.</p> <p>But competition is heating up: Google recently announced a competitor to the Echo coming in the fourth quarter of 2016, and Apple is rumored to introduce something in this space at <a href="">their developer conference</a> in mid-June. So competition is coming for Alexa, but right now it (Alexa is a bunch of software running in who knows how many data centers across America, so I’m going to refer to it as “it”, despite the female name and voice) is the only one you can buy and plonk down in your home.</p> <p>If you’ve read this blog before you know I’m a massive sci-fi nerd, including of course the brilliant-if-uneven <em>Star Trek: The Next Generation</em>. I love Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Star Trek as showing us how we, as humanity, can be better. And despite the rickety sets and wobbly acting—apart from Sir Patrick Stewart, of course—<em>Star Trek: TNG</em> hit on so many great technological advances, like their reading pads that were pretty much tablets, the holodeck, which I never understood how they got people to leave voluntarily, the tricorders, which were pretty much smartphones with even more cool gear, and, of course, the taken-for-granted masterpiece, the ship itself. Just talk to the air and ship will know you’re talking to it. Ship will do what you need it to. Ship is your friend.</p> <p>And now you can have ship in your house. Kind of. Ship’s primordial ooze ancestor. And you know what, ship’s distant ancestor ain’t half bad. Alexa knows thing. Alexa can help you with things.</p> <p>But above all, <em>you can talk to the air and the air responds.</em> Sure, it’s not a true AI in any sense of the word—it’s dumb as a box of bricks, but when you talk to the air and it gets it, it’s <em>magical</em>. Seriously, it’s magic.</p> <p>I giggled like a little girl when I first set it up and it responded to me.</p> <p>“Alexa, tea, Earl Grey, hot.” Of course it knew how to respond to that.</p> <p>For my use case, Alexa fits in well. I ask it random questions that pop into my head. “Alexa, what’s the temperature?” etc. I have it set timers and alarms. I have it play podcasts from my phone through its not-great-but-okay speaker.</p> <p>It’s a spirit I can command. A dumb spirit now, sure, but it’s getting smarter every day, and who knows how smart it will get.</p> <p>It’s future now.</p>