hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Republicans Can’t Be Christians — Sorry!

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 1, 2016

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-like-jesus-disciples_us_583e48d7e4b04fcaa4d5bd72?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-like-jesus-disciples_us_583e48d7e4b04fcaa4d5bd72?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

 

Oh, holy shit! If this doesn’t discredit ALL CHRISTIANS in everyone’s eyes, than what will? Trump a disciple of Jesus? Trump EVERY disciple of Jesus rolled into one? Are the Christians going totally insane now? At this point, with 81% of all white evangelicals having voted for Trump, it’s obvious to me that today’s Christians have sold out, have sold their souls to the Republican Party and to Fox News, do not care about Jesus or his teachings, especially about “love,” “the poor” and caring for them, loving your neighbor as yourself, treating everyone — including immigrants!!! — as equals (Remember the story of the Good Samaritan they always teach in church? Do the Christians ever learn anything from that, considering the Samaritan was from a group of unacceptable immigrant types Trump and his Christian/Republican friends would have thrown out of the country by now, showing their great Christian love and compassion?), about healing the sick — for free, dammit! — and healing the sick occurs a lot in the New Testament, but apparently Christians/Republicans must skip over those parts of the Bible … if they ever actually read their Bibles. What about believers of other religions? The Old Testament God would have had his Israelites go kill all of them. He was permanently pissed off, in a bad mood, and ready to kill everyone who was on his shit list. That’s why so many fundies like OT God. But see, I don’t believe in OT God. Not anymore. I was brought up to believe in him. I was brought up to “love” (hate) and fear (yep!) him. That’s how the “Church” controls you, controls the Christians in its clutches. But I threw that out the window decades ago. There’s no room in my life for brain washing, mind numbing, soul destroying bullshit like that. I feel that God, if there is a god — and I often wonder — created all people and if he does love people, he loves them all equally, no matter what their color, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or anything else like that is. And I really think Jesus would support that. He said the most important commandment was to love your brother like yourself. He didn’t say white brother. He didn’t say straight brother. He didn’t say that person must definitely be a male. Yet, our wonderful Republican Christians pretty much hate all other religions, and if you go by Trump and his followers, and 81% of white Christians do, then they all hate Muslims especially, even though there are two billion of them in the world today. Hating two billion of God’s children is sure to make God proud of you, his personal representative on earth, showing the rest of us just how great it is to be a Christian and what a loving, tolerant religion it is. Not. Christians, I’m not convinced God would approve of you actively hating two billion of his children and acting to work against them in one way or another, at a minimum, to keep any of them from entering our country, a nation of immigrants, a nation where each and every one of our families have come from other countries through immigration, something we’re now trying to deny people of a different religion, and most of them a different ethnicity, just because they’re not white Christians and therefore not acceptable. I’m becoming more and more convinced that it is literally impossible to be a current Republican, especially a Trump Republican, and a true Christian at the same time. No true follower of Jesus and his teachings would ever endorse what Trump and the current Republican party stand for. They simply clash too much. Today’s Republicans stand for hatred, not love, helping the rich and hurting the poor, screwing the sick, starting or sustaining violence and wars, something Jesus symbolically taught Peter he wouldn’t have supported on the night of his arrest, Republican oppression of women, while it’s clear in the New Testament that some of the most important disciples to help Paul were women and the first people to be given knowledge and proof of a risen Jesus were women, Republican hatred, repression of and oppression of virtually all minorities, especially black people, while New Testament Christians had members of all races, including Jews, obviously, other Middle Easterners, Africans, Romans, Greeks and other Europeans, even Asians and apparently far Eastern people. Jesus welcomed people from all demographics. God made everyone, let’s not forget that. It seems that most of today’s Christians/Republicans have, unless he did it to create slaves for them? Cause I honestly don’t know what their thinking is regarding God’s motivation for creating minorities since they obviously hate, resent, repress, oppress, and abuse them so brutally and have for centuries. How do today’s Christians justify this? Cause I just read an article yesterday that basically said that it was white, rural, Christian, mostly poor voters who just put Trump in office, as well as many of these other Republican freaks who want to destroy the country and the world, and that pretty much every single one of them are white Christian racists, whether overt or not, as well as anti-education (did God tell us he wanted us to be stupid?), anti-“liberal,” (cause obviously *I’m* the bad guy here, right? Cause I’m an educated liberal “elite.” Shit. Pretty much every Republican political leader has an impressive college education. Trump has an Ivy League education!). But I’m getting off topic. Today’s Republicans can’t be Christians because they all want revenge and vengeance for everything. Long jail terms! Stiffer prison sentences! Three strikes! Death penalty! Hell yeah! Oh, what did the Bible say? Vengeance is mine says the Lord? Judge not lest ye be judged? I often wonder if today’s Christians have ever read the Bible. My bet is, maybe a few Psalms, some books of the Old Testament, cause God is pretty pissed there and a pissed God is pretty rad. Maybe a couple of key New Testament verses. Not much else. Of course they’ve all had Sodom and Gomorrah drilled into their heads all their lives, so they hate gays more than anything on earth, homosexuality, the controversial and debatable alleged sin in Sodom thought of as the abominable sin. But do they ever stop to think about how many times Jesus mentioned homosexuality in his teachings? Zero. Never. Paul did. A couple of times.Paul was somewhat sex obsessed. Paul had issues, IMO. Jesus never brought it up. Also, how many times did Jesus condemn abortion, the other major Christian topic of hatred? Zero. None. Never mentioned it. It is mentioned in the Bible, I believe, although I’m willing to be wrong on that, but the Jews had/have an interesting take on things like that and things like the question of when does life begin. Republican Christians have been fighting for decades to get the courts to make it the law of the land that life begins at conception. But that’s not what Jews God’s chosen people, believe. And remember, they base ALL of their religious/moral/ethical beliefs on what is written in the Torah/Old Testament, etc. Jews believe life does not begin until a baby is actually born, has come out of its mother’s body and has taken its first breath on its own. With that first breath on its own, life has then begun for that baby. And not a moment before. Think about that. Jesus wasn’t a Christian. They didn’t exist at the time, obviously, and he didn’t come to earth to start a new religion anyway. Paul founded the Christian religion, based in large part on the teachings of Jesus. But Jesus had nothing to do with it himself. He was a practicing Jew. He worshiped in the synagogue on Shabbat. Thus, he would have shared this belief. For Jesus, life would have begun at birth, not conception. Therefore, abortion is acceptable to Jews. It always has been. I’m no religious historian, but I’m under the impression that this stance dates back centuries, possibly and probably pre-dating Jesus. If so, he would have known of this Jewish stance on abortion and since he never once mentioned it or certainly spoke out on it, it’s safe to assume he agreed with it and endorsed it. My point is that at a minimum, topics like helping the poor (the most frequent topic Jesus ever spoke about), taking care of the sick and the helpless, healing others, PAYING TAXES!, praying, faith, giving one’s wealth, riches, and possessions away to follow God, having the right priorities, forgiveness, peace, doing away with religious hypocrites (like current Republican Christians), and compassion were all infinitely more important to him and his teachings and followers than trendy conservative Christian hot topics like homosexuality and abortion, as well as many other current Christian topics that I don’t think represent Jesus or his teachings.

An aside. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear some quote or two coming from that absolute insane “Christian” leader, Pat Robertson. I think if there was ever a famous public figure claiming to represent God in current times who consistently just gets it WRONG every single damn time, it’s him. For decades, he has advocated conspiracy theories of all types, no matter how crazy. He has called for our country to assassinate another countries’ leaders. (Seriously??? WWJD? Does he really think Jesus would approve of that? If so, why? Where in the Bible did he get that idea?)  He has called for violence against abortion doctors, for overt sustained discrimination against gays, crying out for Christian backlash to the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing gay marriage. He constantly makes pronouncements like God is going to destroy America because we allow homosexuals to marry or God’s going to allow one country or another to attack or invade America as a way of punishing us for our love of gays or every time there’s a natural disaster, such as Katrina, Robertson’s on TV announcing it’s God’s judgement on America for one sin or another and oh yeah, this is great, every time there’s a mass shooting, he’s right there on TV doing God’s will, blaming it on America’s failing morals, how we don’t pray in schools anymore – – I can see Republican God getting so pissed off at no prayer in schools that he sends gunmen to schools across America for mass shootings to pay back the damn liberals running this country, even though it’s a Republican Congress, a conservative Supreme Court, a mostly Republican country in terms of Red states and governors, etc. Yeah, it’s the damn liberals in charge. You know, the same ones who can never pass common sense gun laws that might stop these sorts of things and save dozens of lives because powerful groups like the Christian Republican NRA and its politicians all over the country constantly block any law of any sort from ever passing that would ever help save lives and stop mass shootings. Cause Republican Christians know that Jesus would undoubtedly carry an AR15 with him if he were around today. One of his dozens of guns he would own. The fact that he was unarmed while alive and told his followers to put their weapons away when he was threatened apparently is meaningless to these people. Jesus was not a passivist. He would kick ass and take names!  — Anyway, Robertson. An example to America, at least the rest of us, of what today’s Republican Christians are and have become over the years — crazy, violent, hateful, intolerant, bigoted, spiteful, vindictive, mean spirited, and someone who shows no desire to follow Jesus’s teachings to care for the poor, to feed them, to heal them, to care for them, cause Obamacare is obviously of the devil himself since a black Democratic president came up with it, even though it was originally inspired by rich, white, religious Republican governor with great success. That doesn’t matter, because the president who made it a national program and law is a Democrat and, even worse, black. Therefore, it’s evil and must be repealed. Even though it pretty much does what Jesus called for us to do. That’s secondary. There are more important things at stake here. To Robertson and his ilk.

Anyway, Jesus did mention feeding and caring for the poor dozens and dozens of times though. And he did mention how hard it would be for rich people to get into heaven. Like practically impossible. Which makes me feel pretty good about Trump’s ultimate destination. And Robertson. And all other well off Christian Republicans. Cause although they’re convinced they know where they’re going when they die, I’ve got a pretty good idea they’ll end up surprised. Cause I don’t view them as Christians. And I don’t think God does either. In the end, it will be Jesus who will say, “Get away from me. I don’t know you.” New Testament, by the way. In case you’re a Christian. I assume you haven’t read that part of the Bible, since it’s not about getting rich or hating people or attacking our enemies or hurting as many people as we can. Yay Christians! Yay Republicans! Enjoy each other’s company. In hell.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

A Review of Fatal System Error

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 22, 2015

Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the InternetFatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the Internet by Joseph Menn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fatal System Error is an absolutely scary as shit, totally frightening book about today’s hackers and their ties to the Russian mob and how billions of US dollars in terms of identity theft and credit card fraud make their way to the Russian Mafia through this new breed of hacker. The author is a technology journalist who is a decent writer and the book could have been good, and at times, is, but it has some major flaws as well. First through, Menn, the author, traces the lives and paths of new cybercrime fighters in America and Britain, Barrett Lyon and Andy Crocker, as they develop ways to defend against hacker attacks and ultimately carry the battle to them. What they find out and how they did it is shocking.

Lyon, a young California computer geek helped a friend’s company stop something called a DDOS attack (denial-of-service) in the early 2000s. This was fairly new and some hackers had figured out they could start using their computers and other people’s computers in what later became known as bots and botnets to flood a person or company’s single server with data requests, thus bringing it down and bringing it offline. They initially started doing this to offshore gambling sites, where there was majorly big money to be made, and they demanded “ransoms” of some $5,000, $10,000, $20,0000, and as time went by, as much as $200,000, payable in hours, or else these sites would be shut down on a big game day and these betting sites would lose many millions of dollars. One of these major gambling sites heard about what Lyon had done and hired him to quickly defeat a DDOS attack against its company, which Lyon did. The thing I don’t really understand, since this became Lyon’s thing and since the author made such a big deal about this for about half the book and made such a big deal about Lyon’s computer genius, is that it seems to me that Lyon merely obtained and later bought large server farms to build up bandwidth and capacity to defeat the DDOS attacks – and it worked. But that’s not genius! Anyone could figure that out! That’s just brute force defense. There’s no brilliant coding. There’s not even any brilliant networking. No virus traps, no Trojans, no sniffers, nothing. Just server farms. Okay, whatever. He started his own company, with the backing of a number of these gambling companies he was now working for, all offshore, and which he rather stupidly and naively didn’t realize were themselves criminals, er, US mobsters. So, he started his own business with mob money. At some point, he rats them out, loses his business, somehow survives, starts a new business, and discovers that the world of hacking has passed him by, as DDOS is a thing of the past and he has to catch up if he’s going to sell his security skills. Lyon at some point started tracking hackers though various networks, finding that many of them were Russian punks, just teens. As part of this investigation, he came into contact with an English policeman named Andy Crocker, who was doing the same sort of investigation, but on an official basis for his government. Simultaneously, though acting independently, the two began to move in on the “bad” guys, watching as they transitioned from basic hacking to DDOS ransom schemes, then to identify theft and credit card fraud, and finally to government-sponsored cyber attacks on other governments and multinational corporations.

Andy Crocker was a British policeman, former military, now working a national task force dedicated to eliminating Internet crime. As noted, he came across Lyon while researching these hackers who were also hitting British gambling companies. He traced them, like Lyon, to Russia and other Eastern European countries, such as Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Estonia. Like Lyon, he was able to trace the originators of some of these DDOS attacks to actual hackers and found out some of their true identities and locations. He actually traveled to Russia to begin a cooperative effort with the FSB and MVD to locate, arrest, and prosecute these Russian hackers. And although it took great effort and a hell of a long time, they got three of the prominent ones, all young kids who had done a hell of a lot of damage and were responsible for millions of dollars of theft and destruction. But they obviously weren’t the only ones, by far. There were thousands of others and these were low level hackers. They wanted to go after bigger ones. And to their dismay, they found they couldn’t. One they tried to get was the son of the province’s police chief and he was untouchable. The biggest, someone called King Arthur, who was allegedly making a million a day, was unknown and unreachable and was a god in the hacking world. They eventually found his country and he was also untouchable. Andy was told by everyone that no one could go after him. That no one could arrest him, sorry. Someone big was looking out for him. Crocker came to the conclusion that either the Russian mob and or, and more likely, the Russian government was using and protecting the big Russian hackers. It was depressing. In fact, after Crocker returned to England, the Russian prosecutor of these hackers who was so gung ho about prosecuting more Russian hackers was found murdered!

Another depressing thing was just how deeply into Russian society this world of hacking and cybercrime runs. Apparently, St. Petersburg is a monster crime haven. Apparently there’s a mob organization so big and so powerful and so feared that they brazenly run ads advertising their services and skills openly and offer a home to over 100 big league hackers, carders, virus makers, botnet owners, scammers, spammers, crackers, etc. It’s called the Russian Business Network (RBN), and although it’s theoretically merely a network provider, it’s widely thought to be a government-sponsored, mob controlled crime syndicate that is extremely violent, horrendously violent, and very dangerous. And there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. It’s completely protected. It seems that virtually everything seriously big, bad, and evil goes through the RBN. No one can penetrate it. It’s a god.

The book goes on to assert that the battle against hackers and cybercrime has essentially been lost. That those who argue that real-time, live use of credit cards is riskier than online use are insane and dead wrong (which is interesting, cause I just read a carding book by uberhacker and now-Wired editor Kevin Poulsen stating this very assertion the author’s denying). That over 30% of America’s credit card numbers, as well as Social Security card numbers and other forms of ID, are in the hands of the Russian mobsters. This book was written in 2010. I imagine if this was true then, it’s probably worse now. It’s depressing as hell. Still, the two times I’ve been victimized by credit card fraud and theft, it’s not been online; it’s been live use theft.

The thing that really irritated me about this book, though, was that the author relied virtually exclusively on these two “experts” (one of whom I question is actually even a real expert) to write the book. Shouldn’t he have sought out sources from CERT, the much maligned (in this book) FBI, Secret Service, FBS (since he went there), big name hackers (go to the source), white hat hackers, other security professionals, etc.? Why rely on two people who may have had five years of varying degrees of success in the mid-2000s, neither of which I’ve ever heard of, and I’ve heard of many major security professionals, when there are so many sources to choose from? It seems short sighted and it seems like you’re limiting your book and your readers’ educations and experiences. I don’t like it. But that’s what he chose to do, so that’s what I have to live with. Still, I dislike it so much, and I dislike the fact that he focuses so damn much of the book on one figure who focuses almost exclusively on a hacking technique (DDOS) that went out of style even before the mid-2000s, that I’m knocking the book down from four stars max to three max. This could and should have been a much better and broader book and it wasn’t. I think the author did the reader a grave disservice. Not a great book with unusual sources, but slightly recommended if you want to wake up sweating in the middle of the night.

I found a number of interesting reviews, one of which impressed me so much, that I’m going to print it here without the author’s knowledge or permissions, but while giving him full credit and hoping he approves. I think he makes some excellent points about the book and they’re worth reading.

Joe White rated it did not like it · review of another edition
Shelves: on-shelf, techread

One star

Thank goodness for Goodreads reviews and bookswap. Reading the prior reviews I had low expectations for this book, and through swap I only wasted money on the postage.
The book can almost be divided into 3 segments. The author seems to only have interviewed two main participants against internet crime, and came away with an incomplete and incoherent understanding of any details of the problem. He almost attributes all the evil on the internet as having a denial of service as the source. Even during the second part of the book, which included the topic of identity theft, he was attributing most of the theft activity to DDoS. I think he just like to bring up the acronym.
Some of the problems I had with the book :

1. There were 90 pages attributed to crimes of US mafia figures, in which the dollar amounts of each occurrence were laboriously spelled out like a Bob Cratchet accountant listing personal losses and moaning about the inability of the FBI to pursue the Gumbas and delegate justice. Literary style could have been extended to a two-page spreadsheet report detailing the who, how, and how much figures. This segment of the book generated the feeling of watching a Godfather marathon movie session, and I felt really diverged from the intent of discussing internet crime in terms of how the internet is the enabling tool. I already suspected that mules carry money, people get killed, and identities are just handles to hide behind.

2. The swashbuckling crime fighting DDoS buster had a girlfriend to whom a few pages were wasted on. Since she was irrelevant to the overall topic, she could have been mentioned once for background, and not introduced as what might have become a significant character (but never did).

3. The mechanics of defeating a DDos attack were never detailed. The server farm set up in Phoenix had the bandwidth and number of servers to defeat an attack, but there were no details provided as to why it was specifically set up in Phoenix, what its components were, and how a direct attack defense was managed.

4. Because the author seemed obsessed with DDoS, he mentioned bots and botnets at least once on every 3rd page. He never described a bot to the laymen. He never made it clear whether a bot could consist of a virtual machine created for a purpose, or whether it had to be an independent 3rd party box belonging to an unsuspecting bystander. The author never fully explained the mechanics of a trojan horse implant, and didn’t clarify the difference between a virus and trojan horse. He also never explained what can be done at the individual user level to fend off trojans and viruses, except in a short subject dealing with phishing emails generated by spam during — DDoS attacks. He never clarified that DDoS isn’t necessary for phishing, and neither are bots.

5. Only once was it mentioned that one group switched to Macs because they seemed less susceptible to attack. He mentioned at least twice that you can’t sue Microsoft for providing a faulty OS combined with a poorly updated integrated browser, because purchasing a machine with Windows provides only a license to use the software and provides no firm sale transaction in which a person owns the software running on the hardware that they do own. He did mention the Microsoft monopoly on the OS, but failed to mention that Microsoft was prosecuted in conjunction with monopolistic powers only related to installation of a browser. It was never mentioned that Microsoft to this day controls hardware vendor access to Windows, and if the hardware companies dare install anything else but Windows or MS products, they will be heavily penalized in regard to being able to install Windows. If anyone says the Dell sells Linux, I must say that I’ve only ever been able to find minimal hardware boxes in the very basic desktop configuration, and in selecting one of those choices, there is a radio selection button for the OS that would full form advance to a Windows selection. Phone inquiries were even worse at the individual customer level. Only institutional server customers could purchase equipment with Linux pre-installed. Same story at all vendors except Lenovo, and then only through individual providers.

6. The author in the last 50 pages provides a conglomerated synopsis of headline events and trends regarding contemporary internet warfare across national borders. China is mentioned as a war opponent in cyberhacking, but it is never mentioned that China manufactures a significant volume of the circuitry used in electronics and could very easily, using the subversion techniques described by R.J. Pineiro, hide logic bombs and covert data skimmers within circuit boards and components. This could happen to Apple and all the phone manufacturers, so that their equipment could be subverted despite the installed software. Of course the title of the book was “the hunt for the internet crime lords”, so hardware subversion might have been beyond the scope.

7. Since the title was the “hunt for the New Crime Lords who are bringing down the internet”, some credit must be given to the author for remaining in the hunt venue, and not providing the extraneous technical details that readers might be led to expect by the book-cover blurb adulations such as “A fascinating high-tech whodunit”. The high tech here would be synonymous to an interstate highway providing speeders the ability to go faster.

8. The middle segment dealing with a physical legal pursuit presence in Russia, was in my opinion the redeeming revelation of the book. Life in Russia has never been painted as a Disneyland experience, but the adverse conditions both politically and physically presented here, really underscored the futility of pursuit of Soviet area bad guys in their home territory.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of The Fugitive Game

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 5, 2015

The Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin MitnickThe Fugitive Game: Online with Kevin Mitnick by Jonathan Littman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I realized as I was reading this that I had read this before — 20 years ago when it was first published. I had forgotten that, but it came back to me as I read it again. And I really enjoyed reading it again, even though so much about technology and the Internet has changed since then. Littman wrote so that the information still seems relevant all this time later.

The book is, of course, about the world’s most famous hacker, Kevin Mitnick, and about the government’s insane obsession to catch him and bring him to their form of “justice” back in the mid-90s when he was a fugitive. Littman interviewed tons of people for this book and spent over 50 hours interviewing Mitnick himself, so I take Littman’s word over anyone else’s aside from Mitnick’s himself in his own autobiography of a couple of years ago (which was excellent), particularly those of John Markoff and Tsutomu Shimomura, the author/New York Times reporter and the NSA spook and super security expert/hacker who “helped” the FBI track and catch Mitnick.

The book details Mitnick’s unhappy childhood, his beginnings in ham radio and then computing and phone phreaking, his growth in social engineering and his troubles with the law as a teenager. It started early. And hacking became an obsession. However, Mitnick was an “old school” hacker. He didn’t do it for money or profit. He did it for the challenge and for information. He liked breaking into systems and finding out information and he liked breaking into phone systems. As a young adult, he was once again caught and sentenced to a fairly short term in prison, but he was put in solitary for eight months and it scarred him, permanently. He was allowed outside for one hour a day — with murderers. He wasn’t allowed access to computers, of course, or even to telephones, as the prosecutor had convinced the judge he could start World War Three by using the phone to launch our nuclear missiles, as insane as that sounds, and the judge bought it. When he got out of prison, he tried to get a legitimate job, but his probation officer would call these companies and tell them Mitnick couldn’t be allowed near money or anything secure, so he couldn’t get work. He grew even more bitter. He and his hacker best friend Lewis DePayne started doing some black stuff again.

Meanwhile, much to my initial confusion, Littman’s book actually pretty much starts off with the story of a different hacker, Eric Heinz, aka Agent Steal. Aka quite a few names actually. And one who is actually an FBI informant. And one who sets up Mitnick for a sting which the FBI will use to arrest Kevin again so they can put him away for a good, long time. Why? Don’t know. He had already done his time. He was doing no real harm. He was trying to live a decent life. So the FBI was trying to screw him over from day one. Nice. Great government watching over us. Mitnick and his buddy caught on, however, and started tapping the phones of the FBI agents watching them. Kevin was working for a detective agency at the time and found out its lines were tapped, as well as his father’s, so he knew what was going on. At some point, though, Heinz started screwing the FBI by doing some black hat hacking and when they went to arrest him, he went on the run, so their informant was a bust. Littman actually interviewed him over the phone a number of times.

Around this time, Kevin’s probation was about to run out. However, literally as that was about to happen, he screwed up and was almost arrested and he fled. All of a sudden, he was a fugitive on the run. And so it really began. Mitnick disappeared, although he apparently later went to Seattle because he narrowly escaped arrest there some time later. He and Littman got in touch through Lewis and the telephone calls began. Littman paints a fairly sympathetic picture of Mitnick, although not always. For instance, he wasn’t thrilled when he discovered that Kevin was reading his email on The Well, an ISP I used to use at the same time. When Littman told The Well’s tech support staff that a hacker had root access on their system, they said it was impossible, their system was impregnable, and they wouldn’t believe him. But Kevin had hacked their system and was not only reading email, but dumping huge files on their system, stolen source code he had hacked from corporations such as Motorola, Qualcomm, perhaps DEC, and ultimately over 21,000 credit card numbers he stole from Netcom, another ISP. Ultimately, the FBI would accuse him of stealing credit card numbers from computers all over the country, which wasn’t true, but they never accused him of actually USING any, as he never did, so he never gained anything monetarily from them. Furthermore, with all of his hacks of source code and programs, they claimed he stole $80,000,000 worth of stuff. But he never sold any of this source code, never profited from it in any way, never deleted the original source code from the companies he made COPIES from, never actually hurt them. So the FBI was clearly out to screw him. And when they ultimately got him, he was facing over 200 years in prison.

Meanwhile, the self described Kevin Mitnick “expert,” John Markoff, a New York Times reporter who had written a book on hackers a few years before, about a third of which featured Mitnick, was busy writing front page articles on Mitnick and the dangers he presented to the world. He wrote old allegations and myths that Mitnick had hacked into NORAD, inspiring the movie Wargames with Matthew Broderick, that he had hacked into numerous secure sites that endangered the safety of our country, that he was stealing phone companies’ software worth billions, etc. Markoff hadn’t even talked to Mitnick. Littman had. A lot. Markoff and Littman knew each other as journalists. They even had lunch together a few times. Littman never told him he was in contact with Mitnick, even as Markoff stated that he wanted to catch Mitnick himself. Littman was a little shocked by that.

So Kevin was on the run all over the country and kept calling Littman. Meanwhile, on Christmas day in 1995, I believe, Tsutomu Shimomura, a quietly well known NSA “spook” and super security expert had his personal computer broken into and everything in his computer stolen, which included a number of custom built “tools” which would enable someone to basically break the damn Internet and also cell phone code that would enable anyone to eavesdrop and trace calls without a warrant, among many other things. It made huge news and within hours, Markhoff reported it on the front page of the New York Times. At the same time, Mitnick called Littman, gleefully giving him a detailed account of how the hack attack took place, what happened, what was stolen, what happened to it, etc. Obviously, Littman was left to conclude that Mitnick did it, and everyone else concluded the same thing, based on Markoff’s article. Shimomura was mega-pissed and vowed to catch the person responsible as a matter of honor and immediately set about doing so. With Markoff at his side. Which was odd. What was an NSA spook and a journalist doing going about pursuing a federal fugitive with or without the FBI’s help? Were they deputized? No. Nonetheless, they flew to San Francisco, where the US Attorney and FBI agent in charge essentially put Shimomura in charge of things. He brought his own equipment with him and using it, as well as, perhaps, the equipment of the cell phone companies and the FBI, he was able to determine that Mitnick was in Raleigh NC, so he flew there immediately and joined a Sprint technician with scanning equipment. Where they were joined by an unidentified Markoff. And a couple of FBI agents. The Sprint guy and Shimomura located Mitnick’s apartment in 30 minutes. They then returned with Markoff holding the equipment for another look. A journalist playing the active role of law enforcement. Littman pulls no punches in how he views this. And when the FBI finds out about this, they lose it. Shimomura tries to throw his weight around, but they dump Markoff. Nonetheless, Shimomura still has enough weight to accompany the FBI to Mitnick’s apartment the next day to arrest him. As Mitnick is being handcuffed, he tells Shimomura that he respects his skills and Shimomura just stares at him.

But it doesn’t end there. Mitnick is eventually flown from North Carolina to California after being jailed there for far too long and after Markoff’s articles have made Shimomura a superstar. And surprise, surprise, Markoff and Shimomura sign a $750,000 book deal for a book on their tale of tracking down and capturing Mitnick. Then they sign a movie deal based on the book for a whole lot more money. It’s truly disgusting. Mitnick hires a good attorney, but the US Attorney hates this man and sets out to screw Kevin by indicting his buddy, Lewis. Mitnick’s attorney already represents him and can’t then represent Kevin too, so Kevin is left without a lawyer and the public defender says they have no one to take his case. He’s truly screwed and looking at 200 years in prison. But something happens. Magazines and newspapers start looking at and questioning Markoff and Shimomura’s roles in this event. It seems suspicious. For everything that happened in this case, Markhoff was prepared with a front page story within several hours, like he had written them ahead of when they actually occurred. Almost like Mitnick was entrapped by Shimomura on the Christmas day attack. And then there was the rumor circulating that an elite Israli hacker had actually been the one behind the attack on Shimomura’s computer and that, moreover, it wasn’t the first time his computer had been penetrated and that, moreover, a number of people had his files and programs. Kevin was just one of them. So was Kevin set up by the government and Markoff/Shimomura? They certainly appear to have used unauthorized wiretaps, illegal hacking actions, illegal hacking/phreaking tools and actions for which Shimomura had had to get immunity to display to Congress two years before, but which was still illegal, etc. There were a lot of irregularities with this case. And of the 24+ indictments, not too many made sense. There weren’t many that were absolute and provable. In fact, the only one that seemed solid was his probation violation. That’s it. He never actually broke anything. He never used anything. He never made any money. He never really did anything evil, unless you think tapping FBI agents’ lines who are tracking you is evil or reading the occasional illicit email. Really, this deserves 200 years?

The book ends before Mitnick is sentenced. The good thing is the book is old, so you can find out that Mitnick only had to serve five years in prison and is out and reformed and has his own security company now and seems to be doing well, so more power to him. Meanwhile, Shimomura lost his fame almost as soon as the media started questioning his actual role in things and Markoff’s legitimacy took a hit too. And they lost their movie deal. Boo hoo. Frankly, I think they were vindictive assholes, plotting to take down the world’s most famous hacker for no other reason than pure fame and profit on their part. I think they were mega-dicks. I’m pretty sure Markoff is still around. I don’t know what became of Shimomura. I assume he’s still at it, but if so, I hope he’s keeping a low profile and isn’t doing what he very obviously was doing then — illegal hacking and phreaking — for the feds. Fascinating book, even after all these years. Definitely recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of From Counterculture to Cyberculture

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 10, 2015

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital UtopianismFrom Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism by Fred Turner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was a massive disappointment. I had been wanting to read it for so long and had really been looking forward to it. I had heard about the Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Review and their respective influences for years, and I had been on The WELL for over a decade myself (sch@well.com) and thought it was the best BBS ever devised, and of course Wired Magazine was awesome, so I knew this book had to be cool as hell. Boy, was I wrong. I actually almost finished it, almost made it 300 pages through before giving up in disgust. I don’t know how you could take such a COOL topic or topics such as Stewart Brand, 60s/70s counterculture, the invention and growth of the Internet, the importance of the Whole Earth Catalog, the influence of The WELL, the influence of Wired, the growth of the New Economy, and so much more, and make it SO DAMN BORING!!! God, this book sucks. It reads like a bad doctoral dissertation, which I guess should come as little surprise since Turner got his PhD at UC San Diego and taught or teaches at Stanford. He’s writing to his academic cronies and I guess he’s writing to impress them, but it’s definitely not for laymen, because he takes a chronology of events, times, places, people, things, happenings, big ideas, etc, et al, and bores you to tears while also beating you over the head with redundancy until you want to bash your head into a concrete wall. This is frankly one of the worst written books I’ve ever had the misfortune to read and I have no doubt that if ANY other decent writer out there had undertaken to write a book about similar topics, they could have written an engaging, enlightening, entertaining and cool book that would have captured most readers’ attentions. Instead, this garbage kills any interest I’ve ever had in the subject and I’m almost embarrassed now to have been on such a cool and influential BBS as The WELL after Turner has turned his destructive powers of total boredom on it. I’m giving the book two stars instead of one because the topic is good, but the book is not. Most definitely not recommended. I can’t stress that enough.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of The Transvection Machine

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 5, 2015

The Transvection MachineThe Transvection Machine by Edward D. Hoch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh no! Vander Defoe, the inventor of the new transvection machine that’s going to save humanity, has been murdered! At least that’s how it appears. He goes to the hospital to have his appendix removed and the mechanical surgeon causes blood to start spurting out at the first incision and the human nurse helping out can’t save him. Since Vander is one of the president’s cabinet members (of extraterrestrial defense?), it’s important to get to the bottom of things. So the CIB is called in. The CIB stands for Computer Investigation Bureau, and their director is Carl Crader. His younger sidekick is Earl Jazine. They head from NYC to DC to meet with the president and be briefed by his assistant, Maarten Tromp. There are possible paths they could follow, but where to start? Crader decides to return to New York to look for a criminal who has escaped a prison on Venus named Euler Frost. He was in prison for murder and had been hooked up with a revolutionary group of people dedicated to eradicating the world of the computers and machines that have taken over society. He sends Earl to investigate Vander’s wife, Gretel, and his ex-parter — and one of her lovers — Hubert Ganger. Turns out they had talked about killing Vander just that day, only they don’t tell Earl that. They deny all knowledge. That path is taken away. Earl goes to interview the nurse, thinking she had to have been the murderer since everyone knows machines can’t murder, can’t make mistakes, can’t screw up. She denies everything, says everything went by the book. He interviews her doctor supervisor who stands up for her and the hospital, again saying it couldn’t have been the machine. What now?

But what is the transvection machine, you ask? It’s a device that transports anything and anyone from one place to another, whether it’s in a room, different cities, or possibly even different planets. Vander is the only one who knows how it works and he’s proven it works by transvecting a monkey from Boston to another city and by transvecting a Chinese girl from the US to India. The government is seriously interested in his machine, because if it can be proven to transport people between planets safely, then they can populate Venus and beat the Russo-Chinese at it, the country that is dominating Venusian populating. But there’s a dark secret behind the transvection machine.

Crader is concerned about Frost, because apparently he escaped from Venus last week and could have made it back to earth in time to kill Vander. Turns out Frost is back. The author gives us the story from everyone’s vantage point throughout the novel, which is interesting, but at times a little irritating as well. And he does try to kill Vander, but his plot is foiled when one of his assistants appears and saves him from his unsuspecting death. A CIB researcher has found out that the revolutionary group Frost was a part of has actually grown during the time he was on Venus and is headquartered on a small Pacific island known for tourism. Crader decides to go there to look for Frost. On the way, he meets a minister and they strike up a friendship. The minister decides to stay on the island with him, so they can have a good time together. And that is his undoing. The minister is none other than the leader of HAND, this group, and he kidnaps Crader, but only to have him return to the president to relay a message to him, that Gloria Chang has gone over to their side. Crader does this and the message is meaningless to the president. But things are starting to make sense to Crader. And also to Earl. He sees the nurse creeping along the street by the new White House, seemingly hoping not to be found, and witnesses her meeting someone in a parking garage. The man she meets is the doctor. Earl confronts him and the doctor attacks him and escapes. Sometime later, the nurse re-enters the operating room to look at the machine, which couldn’t have done it, and is murdered. By whom? The machine again? Earl is at the hospital looking for her and encounters the doctor, who he confronts again. The doctor pleads innocence. Just then, Earl looks up and sees Vander’s ex-parter in hospital scrubs and takes off after him. Meanwhile, HAND is planning to destroy the computers at the Federal Medical Center, to spark a revolution against computers and technology everywhere. And Crader has had plenty of time to think about HAND’s motivations and has doubts about computers himself now.

And that’s all of the plot you’ll get from me! If you want to know who murdered Vander, if HAND succeeds in blowing up the Federal Medical Center, if a revolution is started, what happens to Frost, what happens to Crader, etc., you’ll have to get the book and read it yourself. It’s a very short book. I read it in a day. It’s an easy read too. The science is hogwash, but if you can get beyond that, it’s an enjoyable story. And Vander’s wife, soon to be ex, is a drug addled nympho, who’s pretty funny. My only real complaint about the book is that the author is SO anti-computer, SO anti-machine, SO anti-technology, that he beats it into your damn head virtually every damn page! It gets old very fast. Talk about beating a dead horse. And this is sci fi!!! I understand, however, that the author is actually a mystery writer, so maybe he was anti-technology. This was published many years ago. Who knows? It’s just damned annoying. Still, as a lightweight, escapist read, it’s fun. Somewhat recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Fumbling the Future

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 8, 2015

Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal ComputerFumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer by Douglas K. Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this is an excellent overview of how Xerox created the first personal computer in 1973 and then did absolutely nothing with it, due to unbelievable incompetence, thus losing out on the biggest market share any company has probably ever seen and billions of dollars. It supplements Dealers of Lightning, which is an excellent book on Xerox PARC, the research facility behind the creation of the computer, and gives a behind the scenes look from the top level down of the company as a whole. Thus, I think the two books go well together, hand in hand. By 1973, PARC had created a system they called EARS (Ethernet, Alto, Research character generator, Scanned laser output). So, they invented ethernet, the PC (the Alto), the mouse, and the laser printer. They also produced the first bit mapped images on the first GUI displays, some of the first and easiest programming languages, the first easy to use text editor, and a host of other things. And all Xerox management did was pretend they didn’t exist. Cause Xerox Sold Copiers!!! What the hell were computers anyway? They were just glorified word processors for secretaries. (Wouldn’t that have given them enough business to start producing them?) By the time 1980 rolled around, it became clear that other companies were eating them for lunch and their market share had plummeted, and IBM was rumored to be investing in their own PC, so Xerox finally got serious. With the Star. Created by a group that was separate from PARC, Xerox’s embarrassment. When the Star was released, it cost about $12,000 and needed a $30,000 printer and God knows what else. And it wouldn’t run anyone else’s software. Meanwhile all of these little Japanese companies were creating cheap PCs with standardized parts that could run anyone’s software and use anyone’s parts. The Star was a disaster. Xerox was never the same. I seriously hope the morons at the top learned their lesson. Finally, I noticed this book was published in 1999, although first published in 1988 by iUniverse, which is a self publishing company. I have no idea why these authors self published. In my opinion, this book is good enough for a traditional publisher to have snapped up and published. Maybe they were just impatient, I don’t know. Regardless, it was a good book and certainly recommended for anyone interested in learning about the interesting history behind the first personal computer.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Review of Hatching Twitter

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 3, 2015

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and BetrayalHatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve never read about such a group of immature, whiny, backstabbing losers in my life! To think that some reviewers consider them brilliant is really pretty funny. They were mediocre thinkers with mediocre talent who couldn’t cut it in real places, like Xerox PARC or Google, so they wind up at a start up, broke and desperate. The one who has had success, Ev, is good for the seed money. He at least founded Blogger, so he actually had done something, which was sold to Google for millions, making him successful. The other three Twitter founders — Noah, Jack, and Biz — were pretty much losers. They founded a company called Odeo that was going to take podcasting by storm, but were beaten to the punch by Apple. Jack and Noah drunkenly came up with the idea for Twitter one night, as an idea to escape loneliness. Noah came up with the name. And so it began. Ev stayed in the background, Biz handled publicity, Noah was the CEO and Jack was in charge of Engineering. I believe, if my memory serves me. This didn’t last long. They had a board with capital invested and soon there was rumbling, with Ev doing his fair share of the rumbling. And so Noah was forced out. Jack was brought on as CEO and Ev as chairman. Biz did what he did best. In a little while, Twitter starts taking off, slowly, very slowly at first, but surely. Jack didn’t want hash tags, but they emerged and they were brilliant. However, it became clear to everyone that Jack couldn’t run a company. They were losing money left and right, weren’t making a dime, everyone was on edge, and Ev and the board had had it up to here. So more backstabbing. And Jack was out the door. To plot his revenge. Ev took over as CEO. After all, he had successfully run Blogger, so why not this? Sounded good. Twitter had bought another company a little while before this happened and Jack had asked their main engineer to become director of ops at Twitter, a position this man didn’t feel he was qualified for. After Jack was gone, the board asked him for a briefing. He told them, in a state of disbelief, that there was no backup to the system. That if the system crashed, Twitter was gone. And that Twitter was held together with string and wires to begin with. Not good news. They got to work fixing that. Jack had been in way over his head. [Let me interject here. It’s clear that the author HATES Jack in this book, and has a serious man crush on Ev, so you have to take everything written about them with a grain of salt.] Okay. Twitter has grown to millions and millions of users. Hosting many millions of tweets daily. Ev has helped people like Oprah tweet her first tweet live on TV. But Jack has been plotting with one of the board members, who — and this is never clearly explained — loves Jack dearly, to get Jack back into the company. I could go on and on, but long story short, Ev is backstabbed by Jack and the board, is shoved out the door, Jack comes back as head honcho, Biz quits, we never hear from Noah again, and Twitter continues on, in spite of total incompetence and arrogance. Good book to read, disgusting people to read about. Cautiously recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

A Review of Dealers of Lightning

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 3, 2015

Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer AgeDealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael A. Hiltzik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve heard of Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) for years now and of its importance, but this book really drove home just what a critical place PARC was for the development of the personal computer. It was an excellent, excellent book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Back in the mid-60s, Xerox decided they wanted to compete with IBM and AT&T by developing their own research labs in the hopes of winning prestige and a possible Nobel or two, just like Bell Labs did. They set PARC up with a virtually unlimited budget and told the director he could hire whomever he wanted. Pake, the director, had heard of one Bob Taylor, formerly of ARPA, the precursor of the Internet, and hired him to head his computer lab. Taylor instilled a fierce commitment in his employees, but had a very adversarial management style and made a lot of enemies around the company. Another key hire was Alan Kay, a programmer with a dream of creating laptops and one day tablets (30 years before they ever came out) which would be so easy to program, kids could do it. Soon PARC had the best and the brightest from Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Utah, etc. They came from all over, from the best computer science programs. And there were no deadlines and nothing to produce – it was like a giant think tank where you could just follow your dreams to see where they’d lead with unlimited funding. For the most part.

By the late 60s, one of the programmers had produced a mouse, ancient by our current standards, but radical by theirs. Also, they were producing GUI operating systems for point and click possibilities. By the mid to late 70s, the inventers had invented a graphical user interface, an operating system, overlapping windows, a text editor (word processor), a programming language, software, Ethernet for networking, a mouse, display, keyboard, audio, and a laser printer, which would be the only thing Xerox would go on to make money with. And that’s the crux of the situation. Xerox didn’t know what it had. Xerox did nothing with PARC. PARC embarrassed Xerox. The wizards at corporate were so far behind the times that change of that enormity just unnerved them too much to act, so they didn’t. In fact, they got rid of the R&D people who had created PARC, brought in new managers to run PARC, got rid of Bob Taylor (who had gotten too big for his britches), prompting a ton of resignations from his team members, and lost a lot of people who went on to form companies like 3Com, Adobe, SGI, and others. Xerox could have OWNED computing and they blew it! They literally could have been Microsoft, IBM, and Apple rolled into one and they blew it. The author tries to shield them from this criticism. He tries to say that as a copier company, they weren’t equipped to sell computers. Well, why invest in researching them, then? He tried to say you’d have to retrain 100,000 salesmen. Well, do it. Piss poor excuses, in my opinion. Xerox has no excuse for blowing things the way they did.

One last thing. I really enjoyed the chapter on the visit by Steve Jobs. Of course, it’s a famous story about how Jobs visited PARC, saw what they had, ripped them off, put everything in the Mac, and made a killing. Part of which is true. However, with his first visit, he was given just a main demo given anyone who would visit. Apparently he wasn’t impressed and he had the ear of the Xerox CEO, who was investing in Apple, so PARC got a call telling them to show Apple everything. Jobs and his crew went back again and this time got more, but not everything. Somehow Jobs knew this, and before Jobs was out of the building, the Xerox CEO was on the phone to PARC telling them to show them everything. This elicited a great deal of stress and agony in some Xerox employees, who thought they were giving away the store. (They were.) So Jobs went back and apparently went nuts when he saw the GUI interface, and his engineers also appreciated the mouse and networking, etc, et al. And so the Mac was born.

This book isn’t perfect. There are a ton of people to keep up with. It gets hard. Sometimes the book gets a little boring. But all in all, if you’re into computers and into the development of the personal computer, the story of how the first one was built before Steve Wozniak came along and claimed to do it is pretty awesome and the story of Xerox PARC is pretty awe inspiring. Definitely recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Dogfight

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 3, 2015

Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a RevolutionDogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Rarely has a book incensed me the way this one has. First of all, let me announce that I am an iPhone lover and Android hater. No need to take pot shots at me. Just the facts. If you don’t like it, read something else. Anyway, I thought this book was going to be a reasonably objective look into the war between Apple and Google on smart phones and tablets. Boy, was I wrong. The author lets us know right away where he stands. He starts by mocking Apple and Steve Jobs as they get set to introduce the iPhone to the public, making them look like total dunces and then pulling one over on the public’s eyes with a brilliant demo. Then, poor Google. They loved the iPhone. They loved Apple. So imagine how hurt they were when Jobs and Apple got wind of their development of the Android and didn’t appreciate it, of how badly their feelings were hurt. They even went for walks with Jobs assuring him that they weren’t going to go ahead with Android — only to do it. And this was somehow justified by the author. The author also went out of his way to explain that Apple has never sued Google, just the phone and tablet manufacturers. Okay. Nonetheless, Apple has the patents and it’s winning. This is a hatchet job disguised as journalism and it pisses me off. It also pisses me off that I spent good money on this damn book thinking I was getting one thing when in fact I was getting something else. If I wanted to read something by a Google cheerleader, I would have bought something else. So too, if I had wanted to read of a Jobs smear job on Google, I would have bought that — but I didn’t. I wanted something balanced. This was not. So I didn’t finish it. I made it to the seventh chapter before giving up. I’m trying to get my blood pressure down now. I can’t believe what a crock this book is. What a Google lover this author is. How open software trumps closed systems every time, which isn’t necessarily the case — look at the facts. Of all of the books I’ve not recommended, this comes in at the top of my list. Most definitely not recommended!

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of What The Dormouse Said

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 21, 2015

What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer IndustryWhat the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a fascinating history of personal computing in America, most specifically in Northern California, most especially in the Stanford region. I swear, I had no idea that Stanford played such a strategic role in the development of the personal computer.

The book attempts to tie together nerdie engineers with counterculture LSD druggies with free love types with antiwar activists with students with hackers and the mix is considerably hard to pull off, even for a writer as accomplished as Markoff. In fact, I would say that he fails at it. Still, he tries, yes, he does. He tries a chronological approach to things and soon we have computer science engineers dropping acid in what will become Silicon Valley, leading to who knows what kinds of creativity. But Markoff really concentrates this book on two or three people: Doug Engelbart and his Augmented Human Intelligence Research Center at SRI (Stanford Research Institute) and John McCarthy’s SAIL (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory). Another important figure is Stewart Brand, author of the Whole Earth Catalog. Finally, there was programmer extraordinaire, Alan Kay.

Engelbart had a vision and he pulled in people to create his vision. He envisioned a computer — this was the 1960s — that would augment how people thought and what they did. McCarthy also envisioned a computerized world, albeit a slightly different one. Brand envisioned a computer for every person, while Kay envisioned small computers — laptops of today — that were so easy to use, that small children could be taught to use them. And these men all pulled it off!

Engelbart plays such a large role in the book, that it’s nearly all about him, and I think that does the book a bit of a disservice. Nonetheless, it’s he who creates the mouse to use with a display and keyboard in the late ’60s. He was funded largely by ARPA and was critical in the development of the ARPAnet, the precursor to the Internet.

At some point, the book shifts to Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Reserch Center), the infamous Xerox research facility that had the most brilliant geniuses of the twentieth century under one roof and who literally did invent the personal computer as we know it to be. This was before Steve Wozniak and his famous claim that he invented the personal computer. Under Bob Taylor At PARC, Kay and the others who had shifted over there invented a graphical user interface, an operating system, a text editor (word processor), programming language, software, Ethernet for networking, a mouse, display, keyboard, audio, and a laser printer, which would be the only thing Xerox would go on to make money with. Xerox was so stupid, they never realized what they had in hand and they could have owned the world, but they didn’t. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Markoff weaves various stories of people like Fred Moore throughout the book, attempting to capture the counterculture spirit, but it seemed a little lost on me. Most of the techies weren’t overly political. Most avoided Vietnam by working in a research facility that did weapons research (SRI). Most dropped acid at some point, but very few seemed to make that a lifestyle choice. I thought it was an interesting book, as the topic is personally interesting to me, but it wasn’t the most cohesively written book and I would have expected a little more from a writer of Markoff’s stature. Still, four solid stars and recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
Cafe Book Bean

Talk Books. Drink Coffee.

Simple Living Over 50

Defining Life's Changes

The Book Review Directory

Over 150 Book Reviewer Bloggers Listed

more than just a country boi

The Strange Happenings of a submissive Daddi's boi

A.D. Martin

writing - novels - film - television - video games - other stuff

In My Words

Life in my own words, my thoughts, my daily happenings, whatever....

Ravings of a Madman

(and other assorted things)

Crumpled Paper Cranes

Fumbling by Leisure, Singing to Cake

My Blog News And Blues Reviews

WHATEVER YOU'RE LOOKING FOR

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.

Piece of Mind

Everything in my blog is sprinkled with wizard dust.

Kiss My Glass Boston

Wine, cocktails, whatever.

My Preconceived Life

trying to add another person to the planet

Drunken Dragon Reviews

A Fantasy Blog Gone Horribly Wrong.

Lynette Noni

Embrace The Wonder

Chapter TK

Question Everything

Megan Has OCD

About Mental Health, Daily Struggles, and Whatever Else Pops in My Head