on the edge

computers & technology, books & writing, civilisation & society, cars & stuff

Greg Black

gjb at gbch dot net
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If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

FQE30 at speed

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Worthy organisations

Amnesty International Australia — global defenders of human rights

global defenders of human rights

Médecins Sans Frontières — help us save lives around the world

Médecins Sans Frontières - help us save lives around the world

Electronic Frontiers Australia — protecting and promoting on-line civil liberties in Australia

Electronic Frontiers Australia


(Coming soon…)


(Coming soon…)

Software resources

GNU Emacs


The FreeBSD Project

Wed, 29 Jun 2005

Greg Bear books

I’ve been meaning to blog about my reading, but have not really got around to it until now. But I’ve just waded through the 400,000-odd words of Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio and Darwin’s Children, and it seemed like a place to start.

As I had expected, the books have a strong scientific underpinning with interesting speculative elements and the overall story is fascinating, although he gets bogged down in detail and loses the thread of some of his characters. I was surprised by the general low quality of the writing—he doesn’t really get narrative or characterisation. And I was dismayed by the woeful editing—sentences appearing twice, words doubled or left out, and a variety of other sins.

And then there was the depressing nature of the world, especially the USA, as he portrayed it. I suspect that the authoritarian outcomes he predicts are in fact quite likely—but it depresses me to read about it.

My final beef is with the descent into a credulous belief in god late in the second book. The story didn’t need this, and the general insistence on this as a “scientific” SF book (where most of the main characters are scientists) just doesn’t fit with an unexplained and unneeded god. I really don’t know what went wrong there, but it has certainly dampened any interest I might have had in his future books.

Wed, 24 Nov 2004

Enough to make you gag

Today’s collection of books in the mail included a hardback that came out of its packing with the back cover facing up. On a black background in white block capitals was this:

The Macintosh is more than a computer. It’s a way of life. … This book is about what it is to be a Macintosh person. It gives insight into the greatest love and loyalties of any product of our era.

That tripe is attributed to Steve Wozniak. The book is The Cult of Mac by Leander Kahney. The front cover is almost as bad—a photo of the back of the head of some pillock who has had an Apple logo shaved out of his hair. I don’t think I can face the inside of this one.

I don’t mind it when geeks build some cute thing and run about patting themselves on the back; or when they show it to their mates so they can bask in a bit of praise from people who understand what they’ve done. I do that myself, after all.

But making a commercial product—especially a seriously flawed one as the Mac has been for almost its entire history—into a cult object is really absurd. Even today, with modern hardware and a Unix-based OS, my Mac is much less useful to me than a clunky old PC running X11. It’s good enough for a travelling email tool and web browser—so long as you don’t want to do anything important with the browser. And it is useful for sucking photos off my camera when I’m on the road. And it is slightly useful at home if I want to do some browsing or email out on the deck. But that’s it. As for having an emotional attachment to it, I’ll stick to humans thanks.