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Patterns defining the near future

Dumpster-diving the zeitgeist, I bring to you:

* IEEE Spectrum discussing how much software goes into your new car — about 100 MLOC, and growing rapidly. Money shot: the radio and navigation system in the current S-class Mercedes-Benz requires over 20 million lines of code alone and the car contains nearly as many ECUs [Electronic Control Units] as the new Airbus A380.

* John Siracusa talks sense about ebooks — depressing but true. (More on why ebooks are the wave of the future — and always will be if the large publishers get their way — here.)

* Cloning Little Boy — one man's struggle to understand the atomic bomb. (Here starts the new discipline of nuclear archeology).

* Blogger fixing to dieI like bacon too, but a scanty sense of nutritional self-preservation tells me that this is not clever. (What else are people going to get up to in attempts to grab more than their share of click-throughs in the post-Web 2.0 Depression 2.0 world?)

* OpenPandora — the Linux Taliban, empowered by rapid prototyping, swarm development, and outsourced manufacturing, are developing the ultimate geek answer to the Nintendo DS, a positively Frankensteinian pocket computer and games console emulator. Remember, this thing is homebrewed by enthusiasts and is about fifty times as powerful as an old-time Cray X-MP. (More hot Linux boot sequence porn videos here.)

* Cornify.com — sparkly unicorn kitsch to add to your favourite apocalyptic website. More unicorn stuff (Do not click that link if you have small children present.) My work here is done ...




So it's official: we're in a depression, and the flagpole sitters, goldfish swallowers, and marathon dancers will get here any minute. Should have known it from all those TV reality shows where people compete to degrade themselves for tiny amounts of money.


He's probably not a vegetarian.


Mike Nelson (the bacon eating link)has much experience in TV unreality shows and the degradation thereof. He did Mystery Science Theater 3000 for years. It must be the residue of the strange experiments performed upon him in the Satellite of Love that brings him to this.

May his teeth not fall out.



I, for one, am very much looking forward to owning a Pandora, and not for playing games on it. Given the capability and size as well as the fact that it has a keyboard .. should make accessing vital stuff on the go (well, "vital" depending on your perspective here, my wife would probably roll her eyes) finally something in my grasp. WiFi is built in, UMTS can be had via USB-stick, looks great to me.


There is allegedly a port of Ubuntu to Pandora's architecture in the works. A Pandora running Xubuntu and OpenOffice (don't ask) with an external bluetooth keyboard would suit me down to the ground as an uber-PDA. Especially as the price point they're shooting for is around the £200 mark (i.e. comparable to a PSP and a couple of games).


What's especially depressing about the bacon thing is that it's being done by Michael J. Nelson, of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame. How the mighty have fallen. Not even fearless bacon enthusiast John Scalzi would try something like that... unless Benjamin Rosenbaum double-dared him.

A Pandora running Xubuntu and OpenOffice

Why don't you just use Windows? [Ducks]


HOW MUCH code in a Merc S-class????

That, of itself, shows that something's wrong.
The oil-powerd car is dying.

Hopefully, my Meccano-on-wheels Land_Rover will keep going long enough.
It doesn't have ANY electronics, apart from the alarm .....


Hmm, thanks for the inspiration. Going to attempt a short story about unicorns, bacon, atomic bombs and open source software. If my head melts in the process you'll be hearing from my lawyers.


I am going with the premise that Mr. Stross was just consciously gliding along with the premise of Mike Nelson's humor and not seriously believing Nelson is just some hack looking for 15 minutes of fame. I mean, if Michael Palin said he was going to do this, would you say "how sad; what people will do for a few click throughs."


Sorry, in #9, the second "premise" should have been "conceit". Did not mean to sound like a redundant knucklehead.


Mr. Nelson might not kill himself...but the *next* month will be devoted to the all-oatmeal-cholesterol-reduction plan. (But, seriously, *ewww*. Even those of us who are happy, bacon-loving carnivores shudder.)(He did pick a short month, however.)


Mr. Nelson might not kill himself...but the *next* month will be devoted to the all-oatmeal-cholesterol-reduction plan. (But, seriously, *ewww*. Even those of us who are happy, bacon-loving carnivores shudder.)(He did pick a short month, however.)


Here's the important question; if we're going to have to replace most of our meat producing animals with kangaroos (for reasons previously discussed elsewhere on this site) what is kangaroo bacon like?

I suspect not like normal bacon; if I recall it's like gamy beef, or maybe venison as a first approximation.


The e-book article was interesting, but it didn't address a concern I (And a lot of my friends) have about e-books.

When I buy a book, it's mine. I can resell it, I can lend it, I can give it away, or I can keep it for years and not have to worry about the format becoming obsolete.

When I buy a download - Well, this writer's musings sum up the problems with e-books: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2009/01/dark_ages_start_here.html


Thanks, Charlie. Another jolt of nostalgia. The Merc S-class has as many lines of code as do each of the 5 redundant GPCs (General Purpose Computers) on the Space Shuttle. I say this as someone who worked with that software, in the Software Engineering department of the Space Systems Transportation Division of Rockwell International.

Some of our improvements were to retrofit color displays (they'd had monochrome monitors) adapted from the Boeing 757 and 767 designs (they called this "Glass Cockpit"); and to replace the 20 volumes of loose-leaf notebooks with a CD-ROM for onboard Maintenance manuals.

Astronauts, annoyed by the limits of the archaic legacy GPCs started smuggling their own laptops into space, starting with a Grid Systems Compass.

As an auditor of the 20,000,000 lines of code (slightly deifferent for each mission) I got dumped for reporting in detail how sometimes the wrong Math equations had been coded, or was improperly reduced to an algorithm, or had typographical errors. After I'd found literally hundreds of such errors, I was replaced with someone who just stamped APPROVED on the documentation.

It is only slightly better that this was a step AFTER each flight was over. Because if the critical software crashed, the Space Shuttle crashed. I was one of those engineers who kept saying "if you don't fix this, the Shuttle will blow up and kill people." Had to contact the FBI and the NASA Inspector General, after the Shuttle did blow up and kill people. But the NASA IG still refused to force the 6,000 page "Pearl Harbor file" from the lawyer who'd hidden it, and later presumably destroyed it. A lawyer who then had 3 Legal Malpractice suits against him. Dirty business.

The closest thing I did in that department to what I suspect Mr. Stross would have done was the research contract I won for genetically engineering neural networks for evaluating Shuttle Fuel Cell sensor readings onboard. They would (in our demo) say "I don't know why, and I can't tell you why, but there's something that just doesn't feel right about those numbers lately. You know, like the HAL 9000 warning that the AE-35 was about to fail...

As to my nostalgia for heavy snow in Edinburgh and London, yes I know what month the Worldcon was -- that doesn't affect me, my wife, and our son being in Edinburgh in summer AND winter. Thus, on not necessarily the same extended trip, catching both record highs and record lows.


@Ian (No. 14)

I've never bought a downloaded book yet, preferring to sample from a free download and buy the dead tree version. However, surely it's easy enough to create and store a fairly future-proof plain text version from an ebook? Or does current ebook formatting not allow this?


Isn't e-ink the big thing that differentiates now from the 1990's? I mean, sitting down to read lengthy blocks of text from a screen is annoying (which is why I print out PDF's whenever I can), but with something that removes the staring at a light bulb effect, you've actually created something that's usable. So I figure that at the moment we're just waiting to see if it's the Kindle or something else that winds up being the Coming Thing. So all you early adapters need to get out there and help the market decide.


The big publishers (With a few exceptions, like Baen) are very interested in DRM. And a lot of the companies testing e-book readers are likewise interested in spreading their proprietary formats - Amazon and Sony don't like PDF.

Yeah, changing formats often (Usually) destroys some part of the document format. It's bad enough for a short document (Try transferring your resume from OpenOffice to Word or Google Documents or RTF and back), for a novel it would be nightmarish. And electronic media are notoriously volatile - That was a major part of Charlie's post on corporate formats. So I jumped through hoops to create a plain text version of the book I bought, and stored the file on a convenient flash stick, but now the computer manufacturers have upgraded to MODNA bioptronic isolinear chips and my flash stick is physically incompatible with all the new e-readers. And the publishers have stopped making new e-books in any format that my old reader can handle...

On the other hand, in 1912 my great-great grandfather gave my great grandfather a set of books for his 15th birthday, and my Mark-1 Optical Sensor is still perfectly compatible with that format.


Wow. That's two of my favorite authors now that have fallen on the uninformed, knee-jerk "Eating only bacon for a month is lethal" bandwagon. How depressing. I expect better of such insightful people.


Another NSFW unicorn. Last image in the post.


Dave @19: it's certainly lethal for the pig.

It's probably not going to be lethal for the human in the loop, but it's probably not going to do him any favours in the long run. (Nitrosamines alone from the preservation process on smoked bacon have been known to be carcinogenic for something like thirty years now, and that's before we start looking into vitamin availability and so on.)

PrivateIron @9: I had no idea the guy was famous for anything. (His TV show hasn't, as far as I know, ever been shown in the UK -- except possibly on obscure cable channels at 3am, if that.)


Ah, the memories. It had all started with a freight train derailment west of Calgary, which meant I was going to miss the sailing of the Joe Hill. So the transportation syndicate found me a ride with the mail-plane. And the two thousand-mile hops over the Pacific would get me to the Spontoons three days early.

It's not exactly a civilised way to travel. Bit of a mish-mash, in fact. It might have the Dornier name but the prototype was built in Switzerland, and this one was built by the Dutch, with American engines. And the gun turret in the middle of the cabin is rather obvious. You don't get luxury. You get a lot of noise from those three radials, and a cold draught down the back of your neck.

You have to dress for the 'plane. Well, I had my old college scarf (but that's another story). And a scruffy old sheepskin coat I'd picked up in Peshawar in '23. You've heard of the Fakir of Ipi? Another time, perhaps. Doesn't matterm because that was the day I met Helen. After her father had died, her brother had "encouraged" her to sell her Mew Gull, and then packed her and her stepmother off to Australia with one-way tickets.

She doesn't like her brother. Can't blame her. But she can dress for a 'plane. Looks good too, whatever she's wearing.

Neither of us expected to have to deal with the oyster soup...

[This is a certified vintage line shoot. Do not try this at hom,e.]


I wonder if they will end up open sourcing the code on those cars? It seems silly to me to have the same type of code but broken in different ways in these cars. If the manufactures could come together on this they could potentially save a large amount of money.


Colin @23: you do realize that Chrysler just sold 35% of the company to FIAT in return to access to their technology?

And FIAT's route out of being a laughing stock over their in-car electronics was to partner with Microsoft ...?


Charlie @21 Too bad you never got to see it. I can see you either loving its mushy, rough hewn goofiness or just staring in blank incomprehension. Either way, it will confuse your cat up a treat, squire.

In the US its fame is probably one-millionth of House's, one hundredth of Buffy's and 100 times that of Babylon 5 or Farscape; so maybe equal to Stargate's, but further back in time. (I mean general population fame, not fan boy fame.) However, the critics loved it, so even 10 years after it went off the air, Crow and Servo made the top 5 in several Most Famous Robots lists. (However, more germane to this post, a lot of people I asked forgot there even was a human character sitting with the robots--so maybe Mike Nelson is not as famous as I claimed.)


Actually Mystery Science Theater 3000 was shown in the UK on the Sci Fi Channel, back when I used to get cable, around 10 years ago. Mike Nelson was the human at that time, although Joel somebody did it previously, allegedly. They also made a movie.

I saw Tom Servo in a pub in Brighton once. He's working as a peanut dispenser these days.


I'd be willing to bet that after a month of such a low carb regime that his weight and triglycerides go down, and his HDL increases.

On nitrates, nitrites, cancer and more. - AMI: Experts Cast Doubt On The Meat & Cancer Hypothesis



Ian @18, books from 1912 would aggravate my originial-owner oxygenation device.


The bacon-eating blogger story reminds me of the radio contest they had where people had to chug gallons of water without peeing. One person died.


Hmm, came over here because this little gadget reminded me of the early tech in Accelerando. And there's a tech post. If I hadn't spent 10 hours fighting classic ASP and wishing I could live in the 21st century, I'd think it were my lucky day.

The only shame about code that has grown 'organically' is that it never dies soon enough... And that I have to work with it.

Also, how did bacon supplant LOLcats as the new viral meme? That's a bit silly, even for the intarwebs.


PrivateIron #25: In the US its fame is probably one-millionth of House's, one hundredth of Buffy's and 100 times that of Babylon 5 or Farscape; so maybe equal to Stargate's, but further back in time.

Those are all TV series, right?

You do realize I haven't seen any of them?[*]

([*] Well, I think I may have watched five minutes of a Buffy episode once, before I switched off and went to do something interesting instead.)


Charlie, you missed a treat with Farscape.

Kangaroo meat is really lean, so I don't think it would make good bacon. Kangaroo jerky is pretty good though.

Does it bother anyone else that the unicorn's mouth doesn't appear to be connected to its anus?

Oh, and Greg T: you mention your Landrover EVERY time cars come up on this site. Are you some sort of oil-leak loving Landy tragic? My car doesn't have any computers either, and it's cooler than yours :-)~


Marilee @28, depends on how you store them. These were stored in a clean basement in Saskatchewan and now occupy a bookshelf in Alberta. Other parts of the world have a problem with mold, but other parts of the world have a strange phenomenon known as 'humidity'. We don't have that here.

Rob @27, that link is a joke, right? Meat industry experts explaining why people should eat more meat. Especially the really salty stuff, with lots of extra preservatives.


Kangaroo is even leaner than Venison, and both are tasty.
My local butcher (re-opened his shop just as the world finances collapsed, and appears to be doing OK (because he sells GOOD stuff) has started selling triple-smoked bacon - totally delicious, no shrinkage/wastage ...
It's trusting and knowing the souce/supply chain which makes a difference in foods, especially meat and fish of any sort, of course.

Erm, L-R .. probably. It is CHEAPER to run, than almost anything else, and mine doesn't leak (which I'm told is unusual), so it probably IS tragic, except ...
Something has gone horribly wrong with the auto industry worldwide.
I realise that gas-guzzlers, and "unsafe at any speed", and pollution has to go, but the industry doesn't appear to be doing anything right. They're imitating the ouzelem bird in their ever-tightening circles of complication and "design". It can't go on like this.

Incidentally, there is an "Electric_Vehicles.pps" doing the rounds currently, which CLAIMS that successful electric cars have happened, but the manufacturers (under pressure from big oil, natch) have withdrawn and crushed them ...
Urban myth? Half-truth?
Which brings us to Jonathon vos Post's scary tale of corruption and murder in NASA.

I sometimes wonder about commercial Stirling engines - I Know the soviets used Hydrogen-powered ones at one point - scarily high operating pressures/temperatures, though.
Interesting family, the Stirlings; - priests and Engineers, I wonder if they were the model for Kipling's McAndrew - though they specialised in railways, not ships, later ....


The thing about a Land Rover, particularly the line which led to the Defender, is that they have an incredibly long working life, and that makes a huge difference to the effects of the carbon-cost of making the things. And there's carbon-neutral hydroelectricity in the aluminium.

But I'm glad I wasn't in a Series III when I crashed a couple of months ago. No crumple zones and no air-bag--I'd likely be dead.


But ... Land-Rovers DO have crumple zones - they're just called "Other Cars"


Charlie, snippets of MST3K, both short: Johnny at the Fair, a 6-minute piece about a Canadian expo with original host Joel, and Why Study Industrial Arts, nine minutes of earnest advocacy with Mike Nelson.


The Ars piece on ebooks was quite good, except for the Apple-worship. As a consumer I think there are fewer things I'd like less than having Apple as the big player in ebooks. They're easily enough avoidable in music through buying and ripping CDs or less economically-involved means ;-) but scanning and OCRing books is far far more annoying than ripping CDs. Also I'm not sure why the iPhone is such a big deal for so many people when it brings nothing substantially new into being (willing to be corrected here).


Oh, and one more Mike Nelson: Mike and Weird Al Yankovic on Jurassic Park, from Rifftrax.

David, I realized some years ago that explaining what I like about Apple's work is very much like learning from my father, an engineer who did a lot of programming, about the aesthetic appeal of matching up the right language and structure to solve a particular problem, about the complementary pleasures of a solution for the specific task at hand in most elegant form and of generalizing to elegantly solve a lot of related problems, and so on. That is, it's as much about processes and methods as about outcomes.

I'd be happy to ramble further, or stop if you want to say that you get the aesthetics of Apple like I get the aesthetics of COBOL and FORTRAN - something I understand others get but don't myself, and have never been motivated to fix this.


Charlie, you honestly mean to say you don't know House? I'm quite certain you'd love it .. a doctor who behaves like a sysadmin (or maybe like a sysadmin wants to behave) because he hates people, more or less. Genius.


Why on Earth shouldn't small children learn about bivalve anatomy?


Michael @30: is "House" a TV drama show? Because if so, the odds are that I've never heard of it.

I don't watch TV drama. I don't really do movies, either.

Life's too short for entertainment media that rely on you being a passive couch potato -- and that's before you get to the adverts. I'm so allergic to TV advertising that at the first intermission I'm likely to flip channel or turn the TV off and go do something else.


The e-book article was interesting, though the argument might be summarised as "all those of you don't want e-books are going to die one day anyway so e-books will take over".

The first bit is obviously true. I don't know about the second. It depends whether e-books successfully sell themselves to our successors. My son (10) is happy with printed books. He's also happy reading from a screen, for ephemeral stuff like this.

Anyway, it didn't persuade me to try them. I can see a useful niche - I work in tax and having the whole of UK tax legislation in one handy reader would be a boon. But the whole point of that is that you don't sit down and read it from cover to cover. When it comes to proper books, I want something I can hold, and read, and then put on my shelves - and I have no interest at all in replacing that with an e-book.


Charlie, you'll probably enjoy watching your first episode of House - Hugh Laurie does a magnificent American accent and plays the part like a drink-sozzled, thirty-years-older version of Wooster, in mourning for his beloved Jeeves (who died tragically in a freak accident involving a banjolele).
You'll watch the second episode with eager anticipation - then wonder why they're running basically the same story, with Laurie going through exactly the same eccentric tics. You'll start watching a third episode, realise it's still the same story and decide you've got better things to do with your life.
Well, that's what happened with me.


I saw a lot of 'why don't you idiots appreciate this cool new technology?' in that article. He seemed to be personally insulted by the lack of market penetration.

I also think the writer missed a major point when he was thinking about how people pick up new technologies: The new tech has to be much better than the old tech it aims to replace. CDs were more portable and easier to store than vinyl, flash drives are more portable and easier to store than CDs and hold more music. Despite all the interesting new features of e-book readers, they are not significantly better than an ordinary book and have a high cost of entry. If I want to change my library to an e-book collection, I have to buy an expensive reader that doesn't quite work as well as a book and then spend more money to buy the actual files.

The writer says that people are willing to spend long periods of time reading on a screen. He points to the time we spend on computers at work and the time we spend surfing the internet at home as proof. But both examples actually undercut his claim. We spend long periods of time staring at the screen at work because we have no choice. We're paid to do it. And when we surf from home - We don't read. We avoid long blocks of text. We watch YouTube, or read e-mails or Twitter chains, or we jump through short articles broken up by lots of pictures and flash. People do not want to read long blocks of text on a computer screen. The constant glare hurts our eyes.

E-papers or iPapers or whatever the marketers want to call the new no-glare screens are as easy to read as ordinary paper. But the readers are still expensive, fragile, come with all the DRM problems we expect from electronic media these days, and are easy to steal. Before e-books can replace ordinary books the price needs to go down, the screens and casings need to be toughened up, and the DRM open/closed format problem needs to be solved.

As for easy to steal: http://oldfathertime.com/watchchains.htm


Re #25, #31, #32, #42, #44:

I, for one, much prefer that Mr. Stross keep writing full-time, rather than waste his time watching even the better shows in the fading Golden Age of TV drama. Suffice it for him to to have read Dr. Stanley Schmidt's editorial on why "House" appeals to science fiction authors, editors, readers.

True, Isaac Asimov's favorite TV series was "Laverne & Shirley" (American television sitcom that, ABC, 1976-1983, starring Penny Marshall as Laverne De Fazio and Cindy Williams as Shirley Feeney, roommates who, as the series began, worked in a Milwaukee brewery. The show was a spin-off from Happy Days) -- but he was Isaac Asimov, and we're not.

Yes, I've written and submitted to editors over 200 pages (over 50,000 words) since Xmas, but, except for the puns, Wendell Urth references (he was physically based on Asimov's good friend Norbert Wiener), dirty-old-manisms, and fascinations with the contingencies of the History of Science, the best of my paragraphs falls short of the worst of Asimov's Science/Mystery fictions.

If somebody wants to write spec adaptations of Stross for TV, or option them for same, that is the Agents's job (often one Literary Agent and one Multimedia Agent).

"Life's too short for entertainment media that rely on you being a passive couch potato" -- Thank God, or Thank Darwin, as he case may be.

Re: bacon. Yes, there are complicated issues of lipid-levels in people, where the individual variations in metabolism outweigh age- and "race"-related ones (there being no such thing as races, in the neodarwinian synthesis). Ditto nitrates and nitrites. Remember the Stross education and pratice in Pharmacology. This is the Golden Age of Lipidomics.

Re #34: "Which brings us to Jonathon vos Post's scary tale of corruption and murder in NASA." I've ranted about this as an insider whose aerospace career effectively ended because I fought the good fight and lost. This is not my soap box, so I'll only mentions snippets when they are actually on-topic of these threads. True, this week's Launch of the Shuttle was delayed because of record cold at Kennedy Space Center. NASA has learned 1% of what they needed to from Feynman/s having fought the good fight, and at least (thanks in part to the intervention behind the scenes of Neil Armstrong) ending in a Draw.


Michael @40: Ha! So many IT guys I know claim to BE House.


Ian @33, not just mold, but dust. I have problems with my own books sometimes.

Michael @40, I watched the first two seasons of House and then stopped because they were too repetitive.

Charlie @42, learn to bead, then you're an active couch potato. (Actually, I'm going to crochet tonight.)


FAO J.V. Post: ever thought of penning a 'NASA Babylon' type book? I'd say there'd be a market for it. . .


DJPO @49: you sound as if you're taking him at face value.


Not having met our man JVP face-to-face, I can hardly estimate his face value.

Are you implying that there's something . . . Thurberesque about our man JVP?


DJPO: You might think that; I couldn't possibly comment.


If you can't trust some random bloke on the interweb, who can you trust?


Charlie @52: Francis Urquhart strikes again!

I actually tracked down and read House of Cards because of an earlier 'You might think that; I couldn't possibly comment' reference. The book ends differently than the TV series. Worth while, though.


House of Cards?

Hmmm - did the dastardly Mr Urquhart penetrate the public psyche so even non-watchers of TV drama pick up on it?

(Mind you it was at the time of the witch burning)

Oh - hang on, you read the book :)

If I ever write a book (and I fall into the category of "someone who would like to have written a book") - I suspect I'll try something nutty like the self publishing of an ebook. There's an expanding class of people who would find it easier to self-publish (and market) than go through the living hell of getting a first book published.

I am aware of Sturgeon's Law here - but things are rarely 100% crap.

I suspect that the publishing industry might wake up one day and find it's be bypassed completely.


Andy W: Yes. (Haven't seen the TV show, haven't read the book. Nevertheless, it's a wonderfully turned phrase ...)


If you are going to break your habit and watch TV Drama, House Of Cards would certainly not be a waste of time. In the first series in particular, Sir Francis is what Machiavelli wanted to be when he grew up.


As someone who will have to give away what few books he has accumulated when he leaves the country, I'm a huge ebook fan. Like John Siracusa I've been using PDAs as readers (and already worn one out); it'd be nice to have a bigger screen, but then again the PDA is pocketable and its antiquated 64Mb memory card can store nearly 100 books. I've been looking at the Bookeen and the Sony ebook readers, but neither is cheap, neither has a backlight, and I hear a lot of complaints about the Sony's software, so I suppose I'll just soldier on with my trusty PDA a little while longer...


So, the bacon experiment should be interesting, especially since there is not alot of evidence that fat is bad for you. For kicks, you might want to take a look at Gary Taubes "Good Calories, Bad Calories".


@27: Rob, seriously, the Cattle Network is quoting a bunch of tame PhDs employed by the "AMI" (American Meat Institute) saying that the epidemiological and global world health consensus on the carcinogenicity of nitrites combined with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons is "unproven". You're going to have to do better than that.

Their only real product is doubt. And tasty, cancerous bacon...


Lance @60, fat isn't bad for you. In moderation. Eating nothing but bacon for a month is not 'moderation'. It's not low-carb either, because an actual low-carb diet still requires some carbohydrates. It probably won't kill him, but he's not going to come out of this stunt healthy.


If you *do* decide ever decide to watch something, I'd recommend The Wire. Such esteemed luminaries as Elizabeth Bear and Barack Obama have declared it awesome. You'd be in excellent company.


11, Posted by: Deb Geisler:
"Mr. Nelson might not kill himself...but the *next* month will be devoted to the all-oatmeal-cholesterol-reduction plan."

Nah, the semi-weekly blood flushes will take care of that, along with the weekly liver liposuction.


And in other news - Halting State comes to Derby: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7883479.stm

This is where I live, so it's very odd to see the actual physical technology described in the book being walked round the streets.

Mind you, I'm now keeping a wary eye out for Laundry operatives and "things that should not be" due to Charlie's obvious prescience.........


The e-book article became unreadable quickly, and not due to eyestrain. Because for anything of good length the eyestrain does matter and that is where the author invalidates himself.

I've done a fair amount of novel reading from electronic displays. When I've been working at events minding the NOC for days on end waiting for something to go wrong, the Baen Free Library and less legit sources got a lot of use on successive generations of laptops and other items. (IIRC, the fourth Harry Potter book was the first novel I read off an electronic display, acquired from a newsgroup while minding an event network in Miami for a few days.) If the actual book had been at hand it would have won out immediately after the novelty of reading on the computer wore off. Nowadays, with my eyes that much older, I'd need to be really lacking for short material to peruse before I'd attempt another reading of a novel off a laptop or handheld device. It's too easy to get deeply engaged and find you've gone an hour without blinking.

The technology really does matter. After the technology, the price really does matter. The tech comes first because it has to exist before price becomes an issue. Peanut Press ignored those issues and was doomed from its inception. This may be incomprehensible to its enthusiasts but it simply lacked a mainstream business model.

Remember, as many of those reading this can, when almost nobody had a computer at home but you and a lot of your friends? Remember how you knew this would be huge someday but it had to get hugely better in numerous ways before it would even start to reach more than a tiny percentage of the populace? There were always those enthusiasts who just couldn't understand why everybody didn't buy in RIGHT NOW because it was just so wonderful and why couldn't they appreciate this?

Get the tech right and the price within Nintendo DS range and the world market would be measured in the hundreds of millions of units. Then, and only then, can anyone really expect to get a handle on the right way to sell e-books. Everything up until now and for some time to come is just practice for the real thing.

Also, Sircusa thinks portability is a paramount issue. I disagree. At least not coat pocket portability. Check out Plastic Logic. They're developing an e-paper product sized more along the lines of a magazine, about the same dimensions as an issue of The Economist, including thickness. I spent some time with a prototype at CES and found myself really liking it. I wouldn't take it EVERYWHERE but it would definitely have a place in a backpack or shoulder bag I take almost everywhere.

This form factor really works for me in covering a lot of the bases. The comfort of a hardback-sized novel, a size large enough for a virtual newspaper, and even a good way to read graphic novels, albeit without color any time soon.


The price will still be too high at their intended ship date for making any big inroads on the mainstream but it gets the product category a lot closer to being an strong impulse buy for bookstore browsers.


The electronic paper in the Kindle makes reading novels easy; I read up to one a day on the damned exercycle, and have experienced no eyestrain at all.

The download is easy and quick; I get the four newspapers I read every morning.

And with the SD card, I can carry around thousands of books. Prices are very reasonable (half the dead-tree cost, usually) and of course there are the huge numbers of out-of-copyright books you can get for free these days.

The only real problem is the high price for a lot of "academic" books -- up to $100 dollars or more for some of them. That's ridiculous.

Otherwise, what's not to like? I'm not surprised they keep selling out of stock.