Yearly Archives: 2014

Nerd Tree

A sampling of some of our nerdier Christmas ornaments.

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Mmm, a merry Christmas have, yes.

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Rawr.

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VLCNR Forever

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Matt finally sent the stickers! The Bonanza lives on.

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Frost

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Too Many Cooks

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This store display amused me. (You really should watch the video. Multiple times. Until the theme song haunts your dreams.)

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Spread

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Bear on the Wing

Griswold the Bear on Frontier, DEN ✈ PDX.

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Pirate Cinema

Pirate Cinema
Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this as part of an ebook Humble Bundle some time ago, and finally got around to reading it. It only took me me three flights to or from Boston to finish it! (This was largely due to finding other activities on the plane, like movies, iPad games, and designing D&D encounters.) That is for me a somewhat unusual context for reading a book, but it’s a good chance to find time to do so.

This is very political fiction; Doctorow has a strong copyleft position that comes out both in the overall plot of the book, and occasionally in multipage lectures conducted in the voice of one of the characters. If you agree with that position, you’ll probably like the story. The main character is famous for his recut films, using the movies of a particular actor to tell new stories; this naturally gets him in trouble with intellectual property authorities, who in this dystopian near future have significant powers. As the popularity of his repurposed art grows, the powers that be in Parliament and Hollywood try to put a stop to his art.

As a quick aside, from someone who strongly believes in Fair Use protections, I would recommend watching Kirby Ferguson’s series Everything is a Remix. It uses several examples (including Star Wars, The Matrix, and Steve Jobs) to demonstrate how art stands on the shoulders of giants even when considered a new work. The films the main character creates are to me clearly transformative works that are new art, so I definitely agree with Doctorow there.

The story is set mostly in London, so there’s a fair bit of British slang throughout. That, combined with the Chaotic to Neutral alignment of most of the characters, did make it a little hard for me to identify with them. The story is mostly interesting; there weren’t really any slow parts. I did find the denouement kinda disappointing; in that regard it reminded me of older Stephenson. It felt like the book very quickly wrapped up the remaining threads after the climax in an unsatisfying way. On the other hand that probably means I wanted to see more from these characters.

This is the first novel of Doctorow’s that I’ve read, though I have tackled a few of his essays online at various points. I didn’t really notice anything distinctive about his style, outside of the political statement underlying the story. I liked it well enough, so I definitely want to read some of his other books.

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Misty Morning

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Croissant Donut

Tell Andrle and Theo that I love them.

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OS X 10.10 Yosemite

OS X 10.10 Yosemite: The Ars Technica ReviewOS X 10.10 Yosemite: The Ars Technica Review by John Siracusa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read every one of Siracusa’s epic OS X reviews since 10.5 on. Lately they provide my feature overview before I get around to installing the actual update; this year is no different. One of the best values he brings to these is his history with Macs – he can connect the past and present like few other Apple observers.

This review’s section on Extensions, with callbacks to the Classic era, was interesting because of my own fond and frustrating memories dealing with extension conflicts on System 7 through Mac OS 9. The absolute highlight of this review, and I say this in part as a computer scientist, is his overview of the new Swift programming language, and how it fits into the Apple ecosystem and developer toolchain. The technical detail he gets into with intermediate languages and type systems is fascinating. The future in that regard is particularly exciting, and I hope to find time to work in Swift myself soon.

I read the iBooks version of the review, but I would recommend the Ars Technica web version for a couple of reasons. First, John himself considers that the canonical version. Second, it has better image layout and some dynamic content demonstrating the various interface changes. Third, the reference links provide important context, and are easier to jump out to on the web than leaving the iBooks app on an iPad (especially on a poor A5-powered mini that likes to swap the book out of memory as soon as you open a link in Safari). I read the web version up until last year’s Mavericks review, but now I see that the iBooks experience, while an easy purchase, is an inferior read of (almost) the same content.

Obviously I am a Siracusa fan, so I’m predisposed to like his analytical style, but I also appreciate his Mac cultural references sprinkled throughout, like titling his conclusion using a quote from the “1984” commercial for the original Macintosh. If you are interesting in exactly what you are getting by upgrading your Mac’s operating system this year, read this.

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Nicolas Ward

Software engineer in Natural Language Processing research by day; gamer, reader, and aspiring UltraNurd by night. Husband to Andrle
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