Posts for August 2011

2011-08-01: Git Debian packaging notes revised

It's a new month, so as usual for the beginning of the month I'm hoping to be a bit better about regularly updating, and ideally with more than just software release announcements and book reviews.

Sadly, today has not been a good day for concentration despite a good early start, but I did manage to finally get through a long-delayed revision of my page of notes on using Git for Debian packaging. The revision drops the idea of using a separate debian branch to track Debian-specific changes so that master could be a pure feature branch. While appealing for its conceptual purity, this ended up confusing people horribly and was extra work for no apparent benefit.

There are also a variety of other revisions to bring things up to date and a few new minor tips. Unfortunately, I haven't yet had a chance to write up how to maintain the upstream branch as a merge between the upstream Git repository and the released tarball, an idea from Sam Hartman that I'm now using very successfully for the openafs package, but at least now there's a pointer to it.

I'm not really sure what to do with the initial part of that page that offers an introduction to Git. I've now written about three of these in separate places, and I'm still unconvinced of how much they actually help. And there are a ton of tools and basic techniques that I use all the time in Git that aren't mentioned in there (like git pull --rebase --stat, which I aliased to git update, or the whole concept of aliases, or how this all plays with 3.0 source packages). I've left the basic instructions for now, but I think at some point I may cede the tutorial aspect to other sites and just collect neat tricks that aren't part of the basic workflow that everyone describes.

2011-08-02: Kindle haul

I have little brain this evening, given that I've spent the entire day writing code. (This is, to note, a substantial improvement over yesterday, when I spent the entire day looking at the Interwebs because my brain was refusing to write code.) So you get the previously-promised list of things I've picked up so far for the Kindle, since I use these haul posts to try to remember what books I own.

Yes, writing a database is already on my to-do list. It's been there for about four years. (No, I don't trust the Interwebs to keep track of much for me.)

I picked up a Kindle this year as an experiment, mostly because the Hugo nominee list had several books on it that I didn't really want to buy in hardcover (*cough* All Clear *cough*). So far, the experience has been somewhat mixed; I miss some things about reading on paper, but some other things are improved. Most ebooks so far appear to be at least a little bit buggy. The experience will be better when the level of quality control approaches that of printed books.

Anyway, one of the nice things about the Kindle is that authors can make a fair bit more money than they can with paper books, particularly with selling short stories. Another nice thing about it is that there's a lot of public-domain literature available for it in various forms. (The version from Amazon is the most convenient and the most sleazy, since Amazon strips out all the credits to the people who actually did the work of making it electronic and just makes a token pass at saying that it was done by "volunteers.") So the books fall into a few different categories.

First, full purchased books, bought via Amazon:

Edmund de Waal — The Hare with Amber Eyes (non-fiction)
Tabitha Dulla & Cecilia Tan (ed.) — Like Heaven and Hell (sff)
Mira Grant — Feed (sff)
Kay Kenyon — Bright of the Sky (sff)
Ian McDonald — The Dervish House (sff)
Richelle Mead — Succubus Blues (sff)
Justina Robson — Keeping It Real (sff)
Will Shetterly, Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, & Sarah Monette — Shadow Unit 1 (sff)
Connie Willis — Blackout (sff)
Connie Willis — All Clear (sff)

Second, novels found elsewhere in Kindle-compatible formats and imported:

Lois McMaster Bujold — Cryoburn (sff)
Cory Doctorow — Eastern Standard Tribe (sff)
Cory Doctorow — For the Win (sff)
Cory Doctorow — Overclocked (sff)
Cory Doctorow — Makers (sff)
Daniel Keys Moran — The AI War: The Big Boost

Third, short fiction purchased via Amazon:

Mira Grant — "Apocalypse Scenario #683: The Box" (sff)
Mira Grant — "Countdown" (sff)
Adam Roberts — "Anticopernicus" (sff)

Finally, public domain literature downloaded from Amazon:

Thornton W. Burgess — The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat (childrens)
Thornton W. Burgess — The Adventures of Mr. Mocker (childrens)
Thornton W. Burgess — The Adventures of Poor Mrs. Quack (childrens)
Thornton W. Burgess — The Adventures of Prickly Porky (childrens)
Thornton W. Burgess — The Adventures of Reddy Fox (childrens)
Thornton W. Burgess — The Adventures of Unc' Billy Possum (childrens)
Thornton W. Burgess — Blacky the Crow (childrens)
Thornton W. Burgess — Mrs. Peter Rabbit (childrens)
Thornton W. Burgess — Old Granny Fox (childrens)
Daniel Defoe — Moll Flanders (classic)
Charles Dickens — Bleak House (classic)
Charles Dickens — David Copperfield (classic)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (mystery)
Alexandre Dumas — The Count of Monte Cristo (classic)
Rudyard Kipling — The Jungle Book (classic)
William Hope Hodgson — the Night Land (sff)
Jack London — The Call of the Wild (mainstream)
Jack London — White Fang (mainstream)
Herman Melville — Bartleby, the Scrivener (classic)
E. Nesbit — The Story of the Treasure Seekers (childrens)
Anna Sewell — Black Beauty (childrens)
Adam Smith — An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (non-fiction)
William Makepeace Thackeray — Vanity Fair (classic)
Anthony Trollope — The Way We Live Now (classic)

Phew. This will all keep me busy reading for a while. A lot of the public domain stuff I downloaded just because I could — it was there, I've been wanting to read a lot of it for a while, and this way it's handy.

2011-08-03: Approaching the finish

Evening sun through the clouds

I see it's been nearly seven months since I've posted a photograph, which is kind of ridiculous. That's something I want to get back to doing.

Today was a nice breakthrough. My main project for the past few months has been version 4.0 of WebAuth, which will add multifactor support. This has proven to be quite a lot of work, including a significant restructuring of the mod_webkdc Apache module. But I finally finished and tested the majority of the work in the module this morning, and then this afternoon a coworker and I added the remaining pieces to support OTP authentication. So the end is in sight. We still need to implement support for session factors in addition to initial factors, but I'm now far enough ahead that I might be able to work on some other things.

I've not been very newsy for a while. In general, things have been busy but good, and will be better when they're less busy. After this project, I'm going to have a blessed few months to catch up on everything else in life that I've been putting off, and am already making plans about what to work on. It will be lovely to get to work on a variety of minor things with no set timeline instead of always having to spend as much time as possible on projects.

I'm also almost caught up with book reviews (just two books and one magazine behind, which is massively better than I have been), which is a very good sign for getting on top of things.

Hopefully posting will become more frequent here.

2011-08-04: Code complete

Grapefruit

Not code complete on everything for our September 1st delivery date. There are a few more stories left to implement, mostly additional work around the edges. But today I finished the last piece of end-to-end multifactor authentication through the WebAuth code with both OTP validation and session factor support. Well, at least to the extent that it passes its unit test suite. We'll of course have to deploy and do more thorough testing.

This is a huge weight off. The goal was finishing this by the end of last week, but I knew last month that we weren't going to quite make it, and thought it would take an extra two weeks (which was part of the contingency plan). Turned out it only took another four days, which isn't bad at all. Looking at the remaining stories, we shouldn't have much difficulty hitting our target date at this point.

Tomorrow I may even get to do something on something other than this project!

2011-08-05: Completionist

Backlit

This is a week for finishing things. I worked a bit late several nights this week, so I took off a bit early today to play video games, and finished off the last achievement in Final Fantasy XIII. The game starts a bit slow (you don't unlock the full combat system until quite late in the game), and it's very badly on rails for the first 70%, but it's got a fairly good story and a great combat system. It took me about 97 hours to get all the achievements, and only 5-10 hours of that was grinding out farming; the rest was either story, sufficiently interesting missions that they felt like story, or wandering around doing things that I wanted to do.

Definitely recommended if you like RPGs. And it's satisfying to be able to finish something that large, which is one of the reasons why I like RPGs. I seem to have more patience for things like it than for the practice required to finish action games.

Now I have to decide if I'm going to pick up some other video game this weekend or do something else. Catching up on reviews again would be a good idea.

2011-08-13: NPR Top 100 SFF meme

By way of firecat, this is the result of a public nomination process, panel review, and Internet voting on the NPR web site: an attempt at the top 100 works of science fiction or fantasy. Series are counted as single works for the purposes of the list.

This list has a ton of problems, like any list of this sort will have. It leans rather more heavily towards white male than the actual literature, and certainly than my reading. The lack of non-white writers is particularly troubling. But it's still an interesting selection. (For those wondering about some obvious omissions, young adult was explicitly excluded.)

The rules are to bold the works one has read in their entirety and italicize the ones you've read part of but not finished. I'll add underlining the works that I own, which provides some indication of the things that I've not read but that are on my to-read list.

  1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien: It's a boring winner because it always wins, but it's an amazing book and I can't argue with it. I'll probably never review this one since I'm not sure I have anything original to say about it.
  2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams: Probably the best humorous SF. I've read the entire series except for The Salmon of Doubt, the unfinished book left when Adams died. Will re-read them all at some point.
  3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card: I intensely dislike Card's politics, but this book is still very good. It's on my re-read list so that I can write a proper review of it.
  4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert: I've read the whole series, but only own the first, which is by far the best. I'm tempted to re-read the whole series at some point, since I don't remember it well enough to analyze it, but I'll probably stop after re-reading just the first.
  5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin: I own the first couple and have read and reviewed the first four. I think they're somewhat overrated, but will probably read the latest. I'm not sure if I'll re-read the previous books to remember what the heck was going on.
  6. 1984, by George Orwell: I've somehow never read this. I keep meaning to, particularly since I generally love Orwell.
  7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury: Massively overrated, or perhaps just made unoriginal by subsequent history. I found it boring and uninteresting.
  8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov: Thoroughly enjoyed this when I was a teenager. I suspect I'll like it less as an adult, but definitely on my to-read list.
  9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley: Another classic I've never read.
  10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman: Great book. Need to re-read to review.
  11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman: On the list to read. Apparently significantly better than the movie, which I liked less than everyone else on the planet.
  12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan: I read up to book eight (The Path of Daggers) and bailed halfway through it. It started as somewhat interesting fantasy with deep world building and fun world surprises, but the writing got worse and worse and the characters became miserably unlikeable. I'm still occasionally tempted to re-read and finish it, but it's a bad temptation.
  13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell: Great book, and a political and historical classic. Best read in combination with a good history.
  14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson: Meh.
  15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore: Brilliant. On my list to re-read.
  16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov: Okay, but I generally find Asimov a bit overrated. Good for intellectual puzzle stories, but not that deep of ones, and the characters are essentially nonentities.
  17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein: The only book that I've ever put down within fifteen pages of the end and could never muster enough caring to pick up again. I should re-read it at some point to review it, but I don't think it's very good.
  18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss: Well, I own the first one at least.
  19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut: Need to read.
  20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley: I've never actually read this, but I'm not sure there's much point in reading it. I've been so thoroughly exposed to the angles and interpretations of it that reading it at this point would be an odd experience. I probably should for completion's sake at some point. (This is the first woman on the list, and of course she's long-dead and not writing in the modern SF tradition.)
  21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick: I do need to read more Dick. I don't think this is as good as its placement on the list; everyone just knows Blade Runner (which was based on this).
  22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood: I have a bunch of Atwood, but haven't yet read any of it.
  23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King: It's rare for me to find any horror I actually like, but my understanding is that this is less horror than a lot of King. I may give it a try someday (but probably won't).
  24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke: Much better than the movie since it actually explained what was going on, although it wasn't as atmospheric. Not actually as good as its position on lists like this would indicate. Mostly it's just a book everyone has heard of.
  25. The Stand, by Stephen King: See above about horror.
  26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson: One of my favorite humorous SF books, plus features the trademark Stephenson infodumping and some neat bits about building a virtual world.
  27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury: On the list to read.
  28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut: Need to track down and read.
  29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman: Quite possibly the best comic book series ever written. Utterly brilliant. The one set of graphic novels that everyone should read at some point in their life.
  30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess: Huh. Not really on my radar to read, although of course I've heard of it.
  31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein: Also overrated, particularly since it's not much of a story. It's an extended and multifaceted political essay, which isn't as simple as it appears to be. The movie, quite contrary to the negative impression people have of it, is a delightful parody of how the book comes across on its surface reading.
  32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams: Yeah, yeah, I know I should read it.
  33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey: I loved the Pern books as a teenager up until the point when the just became retellings of the same book from a new perspective. I'm afraid to re-read them.
  34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein: Much, much better than Starship Troopers. One of the better non-juvenile Heinleins. Still not as good as people think it is.
  35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller: I was disappointed in this given how much people like it, but it deserves some credit for being foundational to post-apocalyptic SF.
  36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells: More interesting than you might think it would be, given when it was written and the emphasis on description rather than characterization. But it still suffers from a lack of characters for me. Hard to come to this fresh now, since the ideas have been so used elsewhere.
  37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne: I've seen the movie take on it. I've not felt a strong urge to read the book, although I probably "should."
  38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys: Unforgettable and very strongly affecting (and depressing).
  39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells: Will read at some point.
  40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny: Will probably read soon.
  41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings: Yeah, I read this as a teenager and quite liked it. But I have no idea what it's doing on this list; it is in absolutely no way one of the best 100 SFF works of all time. (Well, that's not true; I know what it's doing on this list. People have heard of it and read it. But it shouldn't be on this list.)
  42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley: On the list.
  43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson: Want to read this.
  44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven: Interesting idea fiction with a great sense of scale. Shame the characters aren't as good as the background. But it's a good book, worth reading.
  45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin: A deserved classic of anthropological SF with profound things to say about how culture and friendship are constructed.
  46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien: I love this book, but the first section is hard going if you don't like reading mythology. Skip ahead if you're struggling; the gems are later.
  47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White: Definitely on the list to read.
  48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman: I'm not sure I'd put it on this list, as there are better Gaiman (and Gaiman is already overrepresented), but it's a solid "urban" fantasy in the old sense of that term. Inventive, with a feel similar to some of the Sandman stories.
  49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke: I read this eons ago and can barely remember it. I definitely need to re-read it.
  50. Contact, by Carl Sagan: Liked the movie, have never had any particular urge to read the book.
  51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons: Some of my favorite SF novels ever. The third book is the weakest, and the fourth book has problems, but I adore it.
  52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman: Really far too much Gaiman on this list. But also a good book.
  53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson: Fantastic stuff. Not SF in any traditional sense. It's a combination of secret history and contemporary thriller. But it's written in the Stephenson massive entertaining infodumping style, so it feels like SF and makes it onto lists like this. It's very long, but I've read it twice and don't regret it.
  54. World War Z, by Max Brooks: Have a hard time believing this really belongs here, but I haven't read it so I couldn't say for sure.
  55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle: Eh, it's not a bad book, but I'm not sure it really belongs on this list. But it does have an aesthetic that's hard to find in any other book.
  56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman: A very important response to the whole sub-genre of military SF, and very influential.
  57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett: Getting to it.
  58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson: Read the first book, wasn't much of a fan. I might get back to it at some point, but I'm not particularly eager.
  59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold: I don't like the early books as much as some, but I love some of the later books. The last few have been disappointing, but overall very much worth reading, and belongs around here on the list.
  60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett: Getting to it.
  61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: Read many years ago and barely remember it. I need to re-read it, particularly since there's a new sequal by Pournelle's daughter that looks well worth reading.
  62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind: I read way too many books in this series. Others should not repeat my mistake. Generic fantasy about incredibly stupid people that turns into libertarian political ravings.
  63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy: Not my thing.
  64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke: A nearly unique reading experience, and the best footnoted fantasy that I've ever read (and that includes Pratchett). Great stuff if you don't mind the slow pace. I'm eagerly hoping for an actual sequel.
  65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson: Having a hard time getting interested enough in a book about zombies. But I've been wrong about that before.
  66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist: Heard of it, but not enough to get it onto my want list.
  67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks: Heard enough about it to not put it on my want list.
  68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard: Something that I feel like I "should" read, but usually I'm not a big fan of pulp.
  69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb: Own the first, which has been on my to-read list for a very long time. Someday I'll get to it. I should probably buy all of the trilogy before starting it.
  70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger: Surprisingly good for a literary fantasy, with some fantastic moments of description.
  71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson: Want to read at some point.
  72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne: As above, uninspired to read Verne.
  73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore: Read the first one, and unless they get substantially better, I have no interest in reading more. Very stock power fantasy with one-dimensional characters.
  74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi: The later books in the series are better than the first one. An interesting take on military SF, but I'm not sure it really rises to the level of this sort of list.
  75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson: One too many Stephenson for this list, plus Anathem is probably more deserving of this place, but there are some neat bits about computation theory.
  76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke: Completely overrated. A bad book that just happens to be foundational in a particular sub-genre of SF. Done much better by other people.
  77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey: By far my favorite epic fantasy series. Lush, involved, very creative, and with a truly unusual heroine. Wonderful stuff.
  78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin: Great, thoughtful SF. Probably the best in the utopia genre, even though it isn't a utopia.
  79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury: Horror. Eh.
  80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire: On the list, but after a general Oz re-read.
  81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson: Own the first. Completely intimidated by the length of the series.
  82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde: On the list.
  83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks: Brilliant stuff, highly recommended. I only haven't read it all because I'm slowly digesting it. Should be higher on the list than this.
  84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart: On the list.
  85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson: On the list.
  86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher: I'll read the Dresden series, or least part of it, first, and see if that inspires me to read more Butcher. Dubious that this belongs on this list.
  87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe: Incredibly influential and important fantasy-flavored SF that should be much higher on the list than this.
  88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn: This is a Star Wars media tie-in series, and one of the few of that type that I've read. I remember quite enjoying it a long time ago, and it's on the list to re-read at some point.
  89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan: The only thing on this list that I've never even heard of.
  90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock: Definitely want to read this at some point, once I figure out the right place to start and probably after I've read some other Moorcock.
  91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury: Waiting to see if I like the better-known Bradbury first.
  92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley: Quite possibly the best urban fantasy (in the modern definition) that I've ever read.
  93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge: A little overrated, but it has a fun rendition of Usenet and some neat aliens.
  94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov: Read long ago. Enjoyed it, but don't remember being grabbed by it. There's a bit too much Asimov on this list.
  95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson: The most detailed and in-depth politics that you'll find in SF, even more than Le Guin, at the cost of being mind-numbingly boring. Very ambitious, but just doesn't move fast enough or have enough plot. Robinson is less a novelist than a political and hard science essayist in the form of a novel.
  96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle: Large-screen disaster novel with a heavy helping of libertarian utopian politics. Does not belong anywhere near this list.
  97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis: The best of Willis's time travel novels, with fewer communication failures and frantic faffing about than the other ones. Borderline for this list, but probably deserves to be here.
  98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville: Revolutionary fantasy. The founding book of New Weird. I think The Scar is a better book, but I can't argue with this being here.
  99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony: I've been warned off these.
  100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis: I need to re-read this and write long reviews of them, since I have a lot to say about them. But they need to be read in the context of the Christian faith to make any sense.

2011-08-25: Giant summer haul

It had been a while since I bought a nice large chunk of books, and I have several vacations coming up that will hopefully involve a fair bit of reading. And I've been reading lots of reviews lately that have gotten me excited about reading various things, so the books I wanted were adding up. So, my part in stimulating the economy.

Poul Anderson — All One Universe (sff)
Iain M. Banks — Surface Detail (sff)
Gregory Benford — In the Ocean of Night (sff)
K.J. Bishop — The Etched City (sff)
Michael Bishop — Brittle Innings (sff)
Anthony Burgess — A Clockwork Orange (mainstream)
Italo Calvino — If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (mainstream)
Dave Duncan — Mother of Lies (sff)
Kelley Eskridge — Dangerous Space (sff)
Kim Harrison — The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (sff)
Maggie Helwig — Girls Fall Down (mainstream)
Ken MacLeod — Engine City (sff)
Ken MacLeod — The Sky Road (sff)
Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear — The Tempering of Men (sff)
Noriko Ogiwara — Dragon Sword and Wind Child (sff)
J.A. Pitts — Honeyed Words (sff)
Tim Powers — Last Call (sff)
Dubravka Ugresic — Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (sff)
Kurt Vonnegut — Cat's Cradle (sff)
George Zebrowski — Brute Orbits (sff)

Last modified and spun 2017-10-16