Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review #118 - Star Trek: Enterprise: The Good that Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin

Book 42 of 52
Page count - 446

I really enjoyed this book. 

This is truly the first book in the continuing story of Star Trek: Enterprise with Jonathan Archer and his crew.

Most people agree the last episode of Enterprise; "These Are The Voyages ..." was terrible.  What made this book so enjoyable was how the authors used the same kind of framing of the story as the TV finale but tweaked it to give us a more satisfying story and jumping off point for the next "season."

The entire book is really a reworking of the finale; setting the story straight and allowing the authors to set the scene to continue the stories of the crew of the Enterprise NX-01.

I look forward to more in this time period of Star Trek.

Andy Mangels

Michael A. Martin

Mangels and Martin with Armin Shimerman AKA Quark

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review #117 - Insanely Simple by Ken Segall

Book 41 of 52
Page count 213

I'd have to say that this book is a good read.  However ...

The author spends a lot of time beating you over the head with his Simple Stick; constantly repeating the idea that Simplicity Is Very Important.

The book is also a bit of a gushing love letter to Steve Jobs.  Man, the author loved Steve.

Okay, enough basing the book.  There were many insights into Steve Jobs and Apple that I found very interesting.  The best take-away from the book is: Keep It Simple and Stick To Your Guns.

I most enjoyed the many comparisons between Apple and IBM, Dell and Intel.  Apple is a unique entity in the business world.  It will be interesting to see if they can survive without Jobs in the picture.

Unfortunately I found the book a bit preachy.  I only skimmed the conclusion because I really, really wanted it to end.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review #116 - Black Code by Ronald J. Deibert

Book 40 of 52
Page count - 312

The author tackles a very large and very complex subject here.  On-line security means something different depending on who you are addressing.  Individuals may not want to use their credit cards on dodgy websites; national leaders may want to protect military secrets; criminals may be looking for ways to exploit vulnerabilities.

Since the world is largely migrating to the internet the subject of security needs to be studied very seriously.  We are living in the cave-man days of the internet and it's very important to remember that and to understand just how vulnerable things really are.

Black Code is a scary book.

My blood was chilled after reading Chapter 3 about big data and how all these cherished free services (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are just sucking up so much information about us, individually.  What we choose to share on-line can go further than we know;  upload a picture and all the meta data goes up with it.  This includes the date the photo was taken, the GPS information, the type of device used to take the picture.  Facial recognition software can work to identify everyone in the photo ... and on it goes.

It's not just what were posting but many mobile apps are also uploading our contact lists, our movements in and out of cell towers and WiFi hotspots. 

It truly feels like an invasion of my privacy when my whole day can be reconstructed from where my phone has been and how I've used it.

The book continues to expand on the subject by moving into the world of governments, hackers, military espionage, organized crime and oppression.

The subject is so large I found myself starting to gloss over what I was reading.  But I believe it to be a very important book if you are interested in the subject.  What it will do is change how you look at what you are doing with your cell phone or computer.  It will also point you in directions for further reading.

Here are some websites I visited after reading this book.

The Citizen Lab

Canada Centre for Global Security Studies

National Cyber Security Awareness Month. 

Ronald J. Deibert

Paperback cover

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review #115 - The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Book 39 of 52
Page count - 352

It is hard to review a book which has an iconic movie attached to it.  It is the wonderfully interesting story of the Original 7 astronauts and the race to send Americans into space.

That said the movie practically used the book as a script.  Next to nothing was left out.  What the book highlighted greatly was the attitudes of the government to the program but, more importantly, the attitudes of "career" military test pilots and this new rocket-propelled civilian agency.

What was most interesting was how the pecking order of the Original 7, and test pilots in general, was fiercely fought over.  Everything rides on being first.  It drives every decision pilots make and effects their wives and families in the process.  Climbing to the top of the pyramid and trying to stay up there is what motivates these incredible people every single day.

The competition between the astronauts was wonderfully paralleled by also following the career of the man who, arguably, started it all; Chuck Yager.  Yager was the first to break the sound barrier but kept his career on the track of fixed-winged aircraft.  He was at the very top of the pyramid and kept on fighting to stay there for as long as he could.

Chuck Yager and the Bell X-1
Ultimately the story focuses on the original Mercury astronauts but the author never forgets the larger picture.  He kept his eyes on the Russians, the president, the military, the scientists and the doctors who played large roles in this adventure.

The whole thing was wonderful.

Read it.  Watch the movie.  Be inspired and reassured that humans can do wonderful, wonderful things when we want to. 

Project Mercury mission patch

Mercury 3 Alan Shepard's mission patch

Alan Shepard inside Freedom 7

Movie poster

Tom Wolfe