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ADO.NET ConnTest A simple, free Windows program to test ADO.NET connection strings.

Lines of C# Ever wanted to know how many lines of C# code are in a file or folder hierarchy?  This free Windows program will tell you.

XmlTools Free tools to process XML files from the command line.

‘Augmented Brains, Network Telepathy’
Score: 3/5

Ramez Naam
£21.98 (Really? I didn't pay that much!)

I’m in two minds about this book. When it was good it was thoroughly enjoyable. When it wasn’t good, it was a bit of a slog picking it up.

Some of the good parts were the action scenes, which were well paced and made the book hard to put down. The ideas behind some of the augmentation was also interesting, and there was more about meditation than I expected in a science fiction book.

Some of the rest felt I was plodding through the book rather than being carried away by the plot.

Posted by 'geoff' on Wednesday, 22 October 2014. No comments.

‘A Fitting Follow-Up’
Score: 4/5

Steven R. Boyett

I did enjoy ‘Ariel’ but I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from the follow-up. The author himself said he didn’t really feel like it lent itself to a sequel.

I’m glad he changed his mind though. Much as I enjoyed Ariel, I think this book is better. I felt it a bit more compelling and I felt a bit more in tune with the characters.

The discrepancies between the first and second were annoying though. The author explains why they’re there in the afterword, and I can see his point of view, but I stumbled a bit when I first came across them.

It also suffers a bit from why-don’t-they-just syndrome. There were a few occasions where I thought ‘But why don’t they…?’ and it was never explained why they didn’t. I don’t know if it’s because the author didn’t think of it, or it didn’t fit within his view of that world, or if it had already been explained away and I missed it, or something else.

Even so, it didn’t really detract from the quest nature of the plot, and I did enjoy this book a lot. I wonder if there’ll be any more.

Posted by 'geoff' on Friday, 26 September 2014. No comments.

I don't need Microsoft to save me from myself, I need someone to save me from Microsoft.

This was brought home to me once again this week when I put a 'Windows 8.1 with update' on a VM. (Side note: seriously, Microsoft, you are really, really bad at naming things.)

I have the VM on a Linux machine, and my plan was to use Remote Desktop into it from my laptop to do some occasional fiddling with ‘vNext’, the next version of .NET.

Developing on Windows involves a whole lot more rebooting of the machine than I'd like, but it's less of a problem with a fast machine. Except Microsoft have taken the dumb step of preventing you from restarting your machine via Remote Desktop. I guess this is because they don't want you accidentally shutting a remote computer down when you're far from the power button for switching it on again. (No idea why they won't let you reboot it though, unless they're not actually confident it'll come back up...) But I don't need or want that kind of protection, I want it to make common tasks easy.

In previous versions of Windows it was possible, even if (from memory) you had to change some of the security policies to put the Shutdown and Restart options back on the menu button. But now even that's not possible.

Someone has actually had to spend time taking this feature out. It was already in place, along (I think) with the security policy to control it, and they've had to take the time to delete that code. And in doing so, Windows takes another step back.

So I don't need Microsoft protect me from myself here. I'm all growed up now, and if I want to shut the damn thing down it's up to me, not Microsoft. I resent them going out of their way to make this harder. Yes I can just put commands in batch files on the desktop (for this release at least, until they fuck up the desktop some more), but every time I have to use them I'll be thinking again about how Microsoft has gone out of its way to make Windows a bit more hostile.

And yes, that's one of the reasons the VM is on a Linux host.

We don't need Microsoft protecting us from ourselves, we need protecting from Microsoft.

Posted by 'geoff' on Friday, 12 September 2014. No comments.

‘Boy And His Unicorn’
Score: 4/5

Steven R. Boyett

In contrast to that last book I read, I really did get into this book. I found it quite engaging, even though I wouldn’t have expected the subject to interest me.

It’s not giving anything away to tell you it was written in the early 80s, and is set in an almost post-apocalyptic US where technology no longer works but some magic does. And it’s about a boy and a unicorn. (This is all part of the set-up in chapter 1 so there are no spoilers here. This tells you much less than the blurb on the back of the book.)

The tale is told simply, and it does suffer from the occasional ‘Why don’t they just…’ but even so it was fun to read and I did keep turning the pages.

After a couple of decades of saying there’d be no sequel, the author has apparently relented and written one. I’ll let you know how I get on with it too.

Posted by 'geoff' on Friday, 12 September 2014. 1 comment.

‘Didn’t Get Into It’
Score: 3/5

Paul McAuley

I felt like reading some science fiction a while ago, so when I came across a shortlist for some science fiction award I bought some of the books. I can’t honestly remember which award it was, but it could well be the ‘2014 John W. Campbell Memorial Award’ because I bought several of the books there. (This book came 2nd, apparently.)

Anyway, it seems a nice enough book but I just didn’t get into it. I didn’t feel like the characters were real, and the different settings never felt like a coherent narrative. This is a personal thing, but I found some of the other works on the list much more engaging. (I also thought one of the others was a pile of pants.) It’s not that this book was bad, just that I didn’t think it particularly good either.

Posted by 'geoff' on Friday, 12 September 2014. 1 comment.

‘Charming Tale Of Israel’
Score: 4/5

The author finds himself spending a year in Jerusalem, and so he draws cartoons of his experiences and interactions with the locals. Some are friendly, some are hostile, some are baffling, and (to the best of my knowledge, which isn’t very far) it seems a fair enough portrait of the peoples.

I enjoyed this graphic nature of the narrative. At times it was thoughtful, other times poignant, and often funny. It did make me think, too.

Posted by 'geoff' on Wednesday, 10 September 2014. No comments.

‘I’m Confused As Ever’
Score: 4/5

Lee Smolin

I’ve never really understood what time is. It obviously seems to exist, but I’ve never really come up with a good definition or way to describe it. Things like temperature have nice enough definitions and explanations that make sense – not just enough sense to be practical, but enough allow for testable predictions.

Not so time.

(FWIW I’m equally confused when it comes to space. What does it actually mean to say that a wall is 3 feet away?)

A lot of the current physics models say that time doesn’t really exist, because there’s no real ‘arrow’ of time in the equations and so the equations are reversible. Smolin’s approach here is to say that this doesn’t mean what it’s currently purported to me, and that instead physics should try treating time as ‘more real’ than space.

It’s an interesting idea, and one which should give some testable predictions. As to whether it’s right or not, even the author says he doesn’t know but that it’s important to try thinking about.

Maybe we are at a turning point in some of our thinking, like before the Copernican view of things where the paths of planets couldn’t really be explained. Once we had the heliocentric model, things started making a lot more sense. At the minute(?) our confusion over time may be similar – we’re just waiting for the right leap to a new model.

As for the book itself? I thought the first half was interesting but the second half dragged on a bit. I appreciate that it’s worth the author exploring the different approach in all the different avenues, but my attention span isn’t what it once was and I didn’t get as much from that as I got from the start of the book.

The book didn’t really end my confusion so much as add a new layer on top of it. Still, fascinating stuff.

Posted by 'geoff' on Wednesday, 30 July 2014. No comments.

‘More Brain Twisting Fun’
Score: 4/5

Daniel P. Friedman

This follows on from the earlier book ‘The Little Schemer’, and it’s a similar structure. Fun examples that lead to complete brain meltery. This book tackles things like ‘continuations’, something a lot of programmers these days aren’t that familiar with. It adds an interesting way of tackling problems, and it does need a slightly different way of thinking about things.

Confused Note: I have no idea why Amazon’s listing makes no mention of Matthias Felleisen as co-author.

Other random note: Amazon tells me I bought this book in May 1999. Yes, that’s how long my to-read pile is. 15 years.

Posted by 'geoff' on Wednesday, 30 July 2014. No comments.

“Darkly Different African Drama”
Score: 4/5

Kwei Quartey

Confession time – I have no idea who recommended this book. (If it was you – thanks!) I bought it in 2011 and it finally made it near enough the top of the to-read pile for me to grab it.

It’s a lovely story. It’s a police mystery/thriller, but what makes it more compelling is the setting (Ghana) and the different textures surrounding everyday life there. There are inevitable comparisons to The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, but this is quite different in tone as well as setting.

I have no idea how realistic a depiction this really is, but I don’t think I’d be averse to reading some more of the Darko Dawson series.

Posted by 'geoff' on Saturday, 19 July 2014. No comments.

‘The Culture, Only Nasty’
Score: 3/5

Ann Leckie

An interesting take on the notion of ships-as-people, or what could happen when we have pervasive AIs and pervasive monitoring.

I still miss Iain M. Banks and his Culture novels though.

Posted by 'geoff' on Wednesday, 02 July 2014. No comments.
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