Friday, October 31, 2008

I just finished Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, his paean to privacy, cryptography and "stickin' it to the Man".

Set after a terrorist attack in San Francisco, Little Brother is basically an excuse for Doctorow to go off on the stupidities of "homeland security" and the ways it can be spoofed by even tech literate teens.

In some ways, it resembles Heinlein's juvenile novels, for both good and ill. The story keeps moving and is interesting, and the writing is good in a straightforward way, but it gets bogged down in his pet interests/issues (privacy vs security) in a way that gets tiresome and, like a lot of Heinlein, there doesn't seem to be much distinguishing the protagonists of his various books, particularly not in the way they are written.
(I wrote about another book by him here.)

The other notable thing about this book for me is that it is the first one I have read in a digital format, in this case on the eReader app on my new Ipod Touch. I can't compare it to a Kindle, since I don't own one of those, but reading on the Touch is actually a pretty decent experience. The interface is easy to use, the screen/fonts are a decent size/appearance and, aside from some html text interpretation issues, it was an overall positive. I also tried the Stanza app, but abandoned, and deleted, it after it crashed for the twentieth time.

I could see transitioning a lot of my reading onto digital forms except for one thing - lack of reading material. 99+% of what I read these days is from the library and I buy very few books. Since there is no way yet to match DRM requirements and library use with digital readers, this limits me to free downloads, like Little Brother, or books that are in the public domain. Since the later includes most "classics", including personal favourites like the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle, I will keep it stocked for emergency situations, but most of my reading will remain in the standard book form.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I just finished Infoquake by David Louis Edelman, the first book in a new science fiction trilogy.

Infoquake is set in a future where a combination of nanotechnology and advanced programming referred to as bio/logic has transformed society. Society has also developed into a combination of tyranny/libertarian fantasy where a council seemingly rules everything but most day to day living is done without a global governing body.

It's an ambitious work, creating a full world that is very different from most, and a lot of the back story is still left untold, other than in a timeline included with the book. The beginning of the book also features an extensive section developing the main character, Natch, before the real plot continues. It's fairly well written, and the combinations of ideas are intruiging and new enough that I will definitely read the 2nd book in the trilogy when it comes out.

Last night we saw the David Thom and Del Williams bands at an RBA show.

I've seen David Thom a number of times before, and his band gets better every time I see them. They used to be just a good local band, but have changed into a very good, professional level, bluegrass band. The band has a very tight, high energy sound with lots of originals as well as traditional bluegrass songs. And it doesn't hurt that they've added a few Bay Area veterans, Paul Shelasky and Butch Waller, to the band.

The headlines, the Del Williams band, are a newer band, and you can tell. Their show was excellent, but less tight. The band itself is killer with excellent singers and pickers in all positions, except bass. The bass player seemed to struggle throughout the evening. They stuck to mostly traditional bluegrass and put on a great show.