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 Sunday, April 16, 2006

Every now and then I post a list of what I’ve been reading lately. You’ll note that I don’t read all that many computer books. I live computers day in and day out, and when I sit down to read, the last thing I typically want to do is read more stuff about computers (unless it is gaming-related)…

 

Vernor Vinge - Fire Upon the Deep, Deepness in the Sky and the upcoming Rainbows End

 

I am confident that Rainbows End will absolutely rock! Vinge has yet to disappoint. Seriously. I’ve read almost everything the man has written and it has always been excellent. This includes True Names, his novella that is wrapped together with a set of mid-1990’s essays on the Internet (which are interesting in and of themselves, especially given the perspective of reading them 10 years later). And of course The Peace War is an absolute must-read (I read it as a multi-part serial in Analog magazine so many, many years ago).

 

Alastair Reynolds - Revelation Space, Chasm City, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap

 

I’ve mentioned Reynolds before, but he’s worth mentioning again, as these are four of the best books I’ve read in a long time. An excellent blend of sci-fi, science, nanotech and a nice, edgy, cyberpunk-ish flavor.

 

John Scalzi - Old Man's War

 

Billy Hollis put me on to this author, and he’s quite good. Not as deep or intense as the other authors listed here, but if you are looking for a fun, thoughtful and quick read this is the book for you. I really enjoyed the book, and The Ghost Brigades is on my reading list.

 

Timothy Zahn - Angelmass

 

I’m a serious Timothy Zahn fan. He wrote the best series of Star Wars books out there, hands down (it starts with Heir to the Empire). Cobra was an incredible book and social commentary that has been translated into other forms, such as a ST:TNG episode. I see that it is a full-blown trilogy now (I’ve read I and II, but I was much better than II…) I should say too that his Conueror’s series left me cold, so he’s not as consistent as Vinge… Angelmass was a really fun read though, and I recommend it.

 

Joe Haldeman - Camoflauge

 

This book is a brain-bender. He had me guessing who was who until near the end of the book. Really enjoyable and thought provoking, and it is a quick read. Haldeman is an excellent author, so make sure to check out The Forever War as well.

 

Karen Armstrong - A History of God

 

OK, so this is a college textbook – or at least it is often used as such. But if you are looking for a very thought provoking summary of the evolution of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all rolled into a single book this is hard to beat. It is particularly interesting because Armstrong puts the various events and evolutions of what “god” means and who “god” is into a historical context. She also draws on and compares various conflicting views of theologians, contrasting the interpretations of events and religious texts.

 

Superheroes and Philosophy, Star Wars and Philosophy

 

I find philosophy intriguing. In many ways it requires the same type of thought process as software design and computer programming, but it is even more abstract. These two books are part of a broader series (including two books using The Matrix movie), where philosophers write articles about philosophy, using contemporary concepts like superheroes (Superman, Spiderman, stuff like that) or Star Wars to draw out and illustrate their points. I find the approach very accessible and downright fun, because the books draw together two of my interests at the same time.

 

Sells, Griffiths - Programming WPF

 

Yes, I do read some programming books :)  At the moment I’m trying to have at least a basic familiarity with WPF and XAML. I am firmly of the opinion that if normal developers ever need to actually see or use XAML that this whole experiment is an utter failure, but for the next few years it is clear that we’re stuck in tag-land… Maybe by version 2.0 of WinFx the tools will have evolved to the point where the technology will actually be useful and productive, and humans won’t be subservient to obscure angle-brackets. In the meantime however, if you are looking to understand how WPF works, you can’t beat this book.

 

Eric Evans – Doman-Driven Design

 

This book has been sitting on my reading list for quite a while now, and I’ve finally gotten the time to skim through it. It is very good, and I appreciate many of the author’s points. Like almost all books of this sort (including David West’s Object Thinking), I really like what the book has to say, but don’t necessarily agree with all the conclusions or solutions. All choices are trade-offs, based on a set of priorities. Evans’ choices are all perfectly valid, but don’t always reflect my set of priorities and thus don’t always agree with my choices. I think this is the beauty of working in the computer field – there are such a wide variety of options that you can apply to problems that you can almost always arrive at valid solutions based on your priorities – even while other (equally valid) solutions exist in the same problem space.

 

Neal Stephenson – The System of the World

 

Stephenson rocks. I do believe he is the most talented author writing today, in terms of his mastery of language and ability to paint the most exquisite mental images with his writing. He’s also perhaps the most dense author going; in that there’s no wasted space in his books. Unlike most books (even most of them listed here) where you can often skip a sentence or even a paragraph now and then without losing the story, with Stephenson you can’t ever skip anything. You can’t gloss over anything. You have to take the time to read, comprehend and remember what’s been said, because everything becomes important later. I love it!! This book is the last of a trilogy, and the trilogy is a “prequel” to Cryptonomicon (which you should really read first though). I’ve been working on the trilogy for a very long time now (months), savoring every bit of it.

 

Whether you like these dense pseudo-historical books or not, I strongly recommend reading Stephenson’s Snowcrash. This book, along with Gibson’s Neuromancer, really defines the cyberpunk genre – at least for me.

 

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading lately. Of course my reading list is long, and seems to grow longer faster than I can read. Hopefully in a few months I’ll have ploughed through a few more books to list in another entry.

Sunday, April 16, 2006 11:56:08 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
 Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I don't know how long this behavior has existed, but the other day I ran into an interesting (and unpleasant) side-effect of Microsoft's focus on security. I am guessing lots of people have run into this before me, but it was frustrating nonetheless.

It turns out that when you download a zip file with IE onto an NTFS drive, IE kindly puts a note in the file system indicating that the zip file came from an untrusted source (the Internet). When you unzip the contents to an NTFS drive, Windows kindly propagates that note, so all the unzipped files are marked as having come from an untrusted source.

In many cases you may not notice this flag. But if you unzip a VS 2005 solution like this and then try to open it VS will tell you it came from an untrusted source – possibly causing you some issues.

So of course the first question I asked was “how do I get rid of this note/flag so I can do my work?” There are some answers however.

You can go file-by-file and open each file’s properties dialog. Then you can click a button to mark it as trusted. You can’t do this at the folder level, only file-by-file. So this is pretty useless for a large number of source files.

You can copy the zip file and/or the unzipped contents to a FAT drive and back to your NTFS drive. Since FAT can’t store this metadata about the files, it is lost and your files are “fixed”.

You can use Firefox to download the zip file in the first place. Firefox doesn’t collaborate with Windows to protect you, so these security features (which I think are good in general terms). I’m not too thrilled by this discovery actually, as I think it illustrates a security hole (of sorts) in Firefox – at least as compared to IE.

I think you can mark the zip file as trusted (through its properties dialog) before unzipping the contents. Unfortunately I haven’t tried this (I actually stopped with using Firefox, because it did solve my problem :) )

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 5:34:54 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
 Friday, April 07, 2006

Most people are aware of DotNetRocks. But fewer people are aware that the talent behind DotNetRocks has started a new venture: DNR TV. It is kind of like DotNetRocks, only with live video of the computer screen during the conversation. I recently recorded two episodes on CSLA .NET 2.0 for DNR TV:

Look for more DNR TV episodes on CSLA .NET 2.0 in the future.

Friday, April 07, 2006 9:48:59 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
 Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Apress has made the beta ebook of my VB book available at http://www.apress.com/ecommerce/ebooklisting.html

Tuesday, April 04, 2006 8:22:45 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
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