Archive for the 'Books' Category

The iPad & Reading (Free Books, too!)

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Update:I’m keeping a list of ebook publishers/sources for which I’ve found inFeel free to send me suggestions. This is, by no means, a complete list — I’m just taking notes as my OCD-compulsive nature kicks in and I build up a huge set of books to read.

  • The Baen Free Library contains quite an amazing selection of donationware ebooks from many well known science fiction and fantasy authors.
  • Feedbooks contains a ton of public domain and original content as they are also a publisher of ebooks. Their blog is pretty interesting, too.
  • A one-off; Charlie Stross’s Accelerando comes highly recommended.
  • In the meta-category; a weblog post claiming to point to the “top 20 websites for DRM-free Sci-Fi Books”.
  • This list is impressive and also leads to cheap sources for ebooks, too. I’m perfectly happy paying for ebooks (just like real books), though I’m not at all happy about paying more than the paperback price for an older book.
  • Tor books — publishers of Jordan’s Wheel of Time series — has embraced ebooks to a large degree.


I know lots of people that have picked up iPads — no surprises there. What is surprising is that just about everyone has something for which their reaction is “the iPad changes everything”.

I have several of those, but — at the moment — the biggest is reading. I used to read tons and tons of books, but gradually tapered off because I carrying around a couple of books was a pain in the ass and, for vacations, I would need to take up to a dozen, depending on duration.

That and, frankly, it has been bloody obvious for years that an e-book read that is “good enough” would provide a portable library and a decent reading experience. The Kindle was almost the one, but having 40% of the front surface area covered by a keyboard seemed like a complete waste to me. I did, however, use the Kindle app on the iPhone to read a couple of books — good, but not great.

I find iBooks to be a wonderful reading experience. Easy on the eyes, very nice user interface and — with the versatility of the iPad — I can read Kindle books, and do a myriad other things on the device. Haven’t spent much time with the Kindle app, but if it is like the iPhone, it’ll be just fine, too!

I, however, am a cheapskate. I haven’t quite brought myself to drop money on books. Fortunately, there is a large number of freely available books in both the iTunes and Kindle stores.

With a bit of hunting, I have also hit upon a treasure trove of mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy — my favorite genres — books! In particular, Baen Books made available a large number of their books in many formats! In particular, you can find a list of the participating authors, click through to their titles, then select the EPUB/Nook/Stanza Format on the download page.

Note that the books have covers as in the picture on the left, but the cover art doesn’t show up in the iBooks application on the iPad.

I donated $51 in return for a ton of books.

Kitchen Ratios; A Foundation for Bread (and so much more)

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Rosemary Boule

At left is a picture of the first loaf of bread I have ever made.

Simple bread; the dough was comprised of nothing more than flour, water, yeast, a touch of salt and some finely minced rosemary. It was baked in a cast iron dutch oven, lid on for 30 minutes and off for 20 (the captured steam yields an amazing crunchy crust without requiring a steam injecting oven).

But that isn’t the point of this post.


Minus the yeast, add some fat. And… pie dough!

No yeast, add fat, and add sugar? Cookies. Just flour and egg? Pasta.

They are all that simple. But not that simple. The key is the ratio of the ingredients.

And that brings me to the point.

Cooking is generally about taking some foundation — some basic combination of ingredients — combining them in the appropriate ratio, adding some additional goodies for flavor (cookie dough + chocolate chips…. basic bread dough + honey + nuts…. etc.), and then changing the temperature in the right way to yield good eats.

Not just doughs, but batters, sauces, stocks, sausages, brines, custards, and many other forms of food are all based around a simple set of ratios. Know the ratio of a given type of food, and you have the foundation that will yield a basic, delicious, meal or be the carrier for more far flung culinary adventures.

This book — Ruhlman’s Ratio — describes a number of the foundation ratios, the basic science behind them and then describes a handful of recipes built upon each.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daemon (by Leinad Zeraus)

Friday, March 7th, 2008

I just finished reading Leinad Zeraus’s book Daemon.

In short, it computer oriented, current themed, science fiction that is the polar opposite of Digital Fortress.

The book strikes an excellent balance between depth of plot and sheer unadulterated action.

I would like to say “fun read”, but that isn’t correct. The store is often brutal, but such brutality makes sense in context.

And the technical side of the book pretty close to dead on without being overwhelmingly pedantic in detail. Where Brown’s Digital Fortress dove into incredible detail of ludicrously incorrect descriptions of technology, Daemon provides fast paced use of network and social hacking terms that the knowledgeable will find appropriate and the ignorant will be able to gloss over without being lost in the story.

The book also does a brilliant job of tieing together various memes from modern computing; bots, DDOSes, MMORPGs and the pervasiveness of databases throughout the modern world.

Great book. If you liked Neuromancer, Snow Crash or Shockwave Rider, you’ll probably dig Daemon.

I’m looking forward to the sequel in November.

The Young Widow (A Book Review)

Saturday, November 26th, 2005

I just finished reading the Young Widow by Cassandra Chan. It is a murder mystery set in London and the surrounding countryside. A quick read without a huge amount of complexity, though the characters are well developed. Overall, it was an enjoyable book if completely out of character with the typical horror, fantasy, or science fiction that I enjoy.

So, why the heck did I read it?

It was Ms. Chan’s first full length novel. She is a friend of a friend and I helped her buy and configure the iBook she used to write the book. She was kind enough to thank me in the acknowledgments.

Google, being the ever efficient beast that it is, has already scanned the book, including the acknowledgments. Kind of amusing to be able to search for “Bill Bumgarner” and come up with a murder mystery along side a couple of technical books.

Digital Fortress

Thursday, December 2nd, 2004

I just finished Digital Fortress by Dan Brown. Same guy who wrote Da Vinci Code.

The book is a techno-thriller set in the NSA and centered around cryptography.

It sucks. Awful. Barely good enough to light a charcoal grill.

What kills it isn’t the writing or, even, the story line, but the technical details surrounding the NSA, cryptography, computer security, and related technology.

I like techno-thrillers (along with many other genres) and can overlook the occasional bit of techno-stupidity in an otherwise well told tale.

Digital Fortress is just too technically moronic. In particular, the stupidity is at the center of the plot.

How stupid? Passwords in the NSA are only 5 letters… and never have spaces in them but are still super-secure. The NSA uses FTP as a secure means of transferring files. The NSA uses wireless keyboards and allows employees to come and go with equipment at will. Random computer viruses will infect custom system architectures and OSes that exist nowhere else in the world. All of this while portraying the NSA as the most advanced computing center in the world. It was so poorly done that even my Mom saw through it (she is not technically inclined).

Sadly, one of the key characters within plot is an expert in romance languages and that particular angle is played well within the book. But not well enough to overcome the rest of it.

Don’t waste your time on this book.