The World of the Magicians

Soon I should be reading Levi Grossman’s new book, The Magicians and offering up a review shortly after. It’s being billed as a Harry Potter for grown-ups and I have to confess I’m pretty excited to get my hands on it.

Until then, would be fans can dive into the world of the book well before it is released in August. The protagonist is a fan of the fantasy world of Fillory which you can explore now at that site. Fillory is the creation of Christopher Plover who now exists on the web. (I feel for any kid out there that runs across this and decides he’s going to do a report on Plover for school. Then again- based on some of what I’ve seen they may get a good grade.) And what modern school of wizardry wouldn’t have its own web page (click on the flower at the bottom.)

It’s interesting to see how the internet is providing a completely additional layer to this story. Hopefully the book deserves all this work, I’ll let you know. I just wish stuff like this had been around when I was in Junior Highschool saving my allowance for weeks to buy one of the cheaper guides to Middle Earth.

Posted under Fantasy, Fiction Tags: ,

Hello World!

Hitting middle age has been an interesting time. I catch myself thinking about how well kids have it today and sounding a lot like my father. One difference is while my dad was happy to teach me about sports or cars, we never spent any time knocking out code together. I think he did realize that home computers were important and I will always be grateful for the Commodore Vic-20 be brought home one day. It was a substantial purchase for our household. I spent many days copying lines of basic from magazines and saving the results to cassette tapes. In my home today we have a considerably better situation, computing wise. There are usually a couple laptops running as well as the desktop machine upstairs. My kids take for granted what I found to be amazing and new. Still, that’s all pretty normal and I’d like to give them an opportunity to go deeper if they are so inclined, just like we give them opportunities to explore other skills and pursuits. With that in mind I brought a copy of Hello World! home a few weeks ago, and the response from my oldest has been surprisingly enthusiastic.

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Posted under NonFiction, Programming, Python Tags: ,

The Twitter Book

Microblogging service Twitter has undeniably been a hit, with growth rates that were at times in excess of 1400%. The growth was rapid enough that the site became well know for its periodic and at times extensive downtime. Even with these issues, the service continued to grow rapidly, and with celebrities getting into the mix Twitter was quickly on the radar of mainstream media. The ubiquity of twitter and ever increasing coverage of ‘tweets’ has also brought the inevitable backlash. As with anything that gains high profile popularity there are plenty of Twitter haters out there, though the role that Twitter has played in the recent Iranian elections seems to have brought more legitimacy to Twitter in the eyes of many. With popularity come books and quite a few are already out there about and for twitter, but my favorite so far is The Twitter Book by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein.

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Posted under NonFiction, Social Tags:

CJKV Information Processing, 2nd ed.

The end of last year I made a move from an IT shop focused on supporting the U.S. side of our business to a department that provides support to our operations outside the U.S. This was the first time I’ve worked in an international context and found myself running into long time assumptions that were no longer true on a regular basis. My first project was implementing a third party, web based HR system for medium sized offices. I found myself constantly missing important issues because I had such a narrow approach to the problem space. Sure I’ve built applications and databases that supported Unicode, but I’ve never actually implemented anything with them but the same types of systems I’d built in the past with ASCII. But a large portion of the worlds population is in Asia, and ASCII is certainly not going to cut it there. Fortunately a new edition of Ken Lunde’s classic CJKV Information Processing has become available and it has really opened my eyes.

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Posted under NonFiction, Programming Tags: ,

A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, 2nd ed.

One thing I love about Linux is the rapid development and frequent updates that allow me to run the latest versions of all my favorite software packages. My favorite distributions make it simple to always have the latest and greatest. In fact the distros themselves roll out new version regularly and I am always excited to see what new packages and features will be included. For book publishers this must be a little less exciting. Anything tied to a specific product that is under active development is going to quickly be behind the times. Mark Sobell’s A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux managed to avoid the worst of this by providing a lot of information that is useful for any Linux user running any distro. But still things move forward and almost exactly a year later we have A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux 2nd ed.. I was very pleased with the first edition and I think they’ve managed to really improve what was already a solid resource.

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Posted under Linux, NonFiction Tags: ,

Wired for War

The US Army’s Future Combat Systems program calls for one third of their fighting strength to be robots by 2015. The American pilots seeing the most combat in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, do so from flight consoles in the United States, and they are controlling Predator unmanned vehicles. Every branch of the U.S. military has aggressive robotics programs in place. This is not anything unusual. Other nations are also developing and purchasing robotic systems designed to be used in combat. Advances in communications, software and hardware make it inevitable that robotics will have a profound effect on conflict in the future. The development of these systems has been rapid and while technology hurtles forward, culture and understanding seem to lag behind. Similar to the way our legal codes are playing catch up with new technologies, combat enabled robots raise questions and issues that did not even exist a short time ago. Wired for War by Dr. P. W. Singer is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested to dive into just what is going on all over the world with regards to robotics and their use by the military.

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Posted under NonFiction Tags: ,

SQL in a Nutshell

The cover of SQL in a Nutshell sports a chameleon, the little lizard well known for its ability to blend in just about anywhere. This is a great choice for the Structured Query Language. SQL has been around since the seventies, helping developers interact with the ubiquitous relational database management system. Thirty some years later, SQL grinds away in the background of just about any interactive web site and nameless other technologies. New alternatives are popping up constantly but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that SQL is going to be around for a long time. Anyone interacting with an RDBMS is in all likelihood going to need to use SQL at some point. For those that do, who also want a handy desktop reference available, SQL in a Nutshell has been there for the last 9 years. The SQL language itself has not stood still over those years, and neither have the products that use SQL, and so now the book has is available in a third edition.

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Posted under NonFiction, RDBMS Tags:

Cisco Routers for the Small Business

I’ve held jobs with small businesses and large enterprises. There are a few things that I’ve observed about small businesses that are probably true for many of them. The first would be that often wages for technical positions are lower than at the bigger shops, but so is the bar to entry. That often means employees have less experience. At the same time, in a smaller shop, people are often called upon to wear many hats. I spent about 5 years with one company where I was lead developer, the only DBA and the system administrator for all our Linux servers. Our team was small and all of us had complete access to pretty much everything. It was a great opportunity to learn. The one thing I never did get into too deeply was networking, things had to be pretty bad for them to pull me in on a problem in that area. When we needed to make changes to our Cisco routers we brought in a guy from outside. I wish Cisco Routers for the Small Business had been around then. I think we’d have been able to save quite a bit of money and I’d have learned quite a bit more about networking.

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Posted under Networking Tags: ,

Space Vulture


In 1953 John Myers brought his friend Gary Wolf a book he had just read, Space Hawk by Anthony Gilmore. The two were already avid readers but this would be their introduction to an entire genre, Science Fiction. They both say that it was Space Hawk that sparked a life long love of all things Sci-Fi. According to both of them, they had an opportunity to re-read Space Hawk as adults and found that it had not weathered the years well. They decided they would write their own science fiction adventure in the same style, but do a better job. The result is their book Space Vulture. (more…)

Posted under Fiction, Sci-Fi

The Manga Guide to Databases

Princess Ruruna, of the Kingdom of Kod, has a problem. Her parents, the King and Queen, have left to travel abroad. Ruruna has been left to manage the nations fruit business. Much is at stake, Kod is known as “The Country of Fruit.” Ruruna is not happy though, as she is swamped by paperwork and information overload. A mysterious book, sent by her father, contains Tico the fairy. Tico, and the supernatural book are going to help Princess Ruruna solve her problems with the power of the database. This is the setting for all that takes place in The Manga Guide to Databases. If you are like me and learned things like normalization and set operations from a rather dry text book, you may be quite entertained by the contents of this book. If you would like to teach others about creating and using relational databases and you want it to be fun, this book may be exactly what you need.

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Posted under NonFiction, RDBMS Tags: ,
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