Tuesday, March 30, 2004

XP is Evil!

Gates: Hardware, Not Software, Will Be Free
Just a rant I posted. XP and it's stability issues have convinced me that it's time to do hard research into a full Linux desktop at work. Microsoft has to go from my desktop. I can't take the constant application crashes anymore.

Linux and Windows 2000 spoiled me. I'm used to stability damn it!

Friday, March 19, 2004

Wizard's Bane by Rick Cook

This is the first Baen Free Library review, which I promised in this post.

I wrote something of a very thumbnail review of "The Wiz Biz" in this BLOG entry and would like to go a little further here.

The First two books in Rick Cook's "Wizardry" series are Wizard's Bane and The Wizardry Compiled. They are currently in print in the omnibus book The Wiz Biz.

Suffice it to say, if you buy The Wiz Biz you have both the books I'm going to review here.

The third and fourth books in the series have also been made available in an omnibus.

Book 1: Wizard's BaneOmnibus 1: Wiz Biz
Book 2: Wizardry Compiled
Book 3: Wizardry CursedOmnibus 2: Cursed and Consulted
Book 4: Wizardry Consulted
Book 5: The Wizardry Quested

Wizard's Bane

Story Summary

The first book in the series introduces us to the principal characters. First there's Wiz Zumwalt himself, a California computer programmer who gets magically transported to a world where magic is real. He never intended to make the trip, and didn't have much say in the matter. Unfortunately for him, the wizard who brings him over is killed within a few seconds of his unwilling arrival.

Unable to safely send The Wiz back, Bal-Simba, head wizard for the "Good Guys" tasks a Hedge Witch named Moira with getting The Wiz to safety. In this case, safety is a region where magic just doesn't exist, a dead zone where he would, theoretically, be safe.

Moria isn't happy about this task, and blames the Wiz for the death of the Wizard who snatched him from his own world.

The romantic tension between them follows a standard "hate each other before falling in love" path. During their journey, The Wiz learns more about this new world, realizing that Magic operates in a manner similar to computer programming. While he learns, his body also changes, as the rigors of travel harden his muscles and allow him to grow acclimated to the discomfort of life in the wild.

Early on, he learns about the stalemate between the forces of good and evil, and how any powerful use of magic by either side resulted in swift attacks and bloodshed. It's this cold war that gets the Wizard who kidnaped The Wiz killed, and makes it impossible to send him back without the Wizard who weaves the spell getting himself killed in the process.

Eventually, things come to a head, and The Wiz has to use his newfound magical skills to rescue Moria from the clutches of the most powerful dark Wizard in the world.

What I thought

The overall story is somewhat predictable, but the twists and touches are a delight. I could have done without the Moonlighting esque feel to Wiz and Moria's early interactions. There are plenty of inside jokes that might take a few minutes of head scratching to get, but just about all of them are laugh out loud hilarious.

The general idea could have gone wrong in so many ways, and while the book lacks a certain polish compared to great works of literature, the writing is well above the average for paperback Sci Fi writing. The main characters are interesting and well described, even if the background characters are a bit cliche.

The book is also very irreverent, being as much a parody of the Fantasy genre as it is an example of it. The cliche based characters are done in such a way as to highlight the most entertaining points of the character.

Favorite Moment

After Moria has been kidnaped, The Wiz creates a spell that will search the entire world for her. Instead of a single, massive entity that scours the land over the course of years (The traditional method of doing such things), he has millions of smaller creatures wink in and out of existence all over the world. A search that any other wizard would need years to complete is done in a matter of minutes.

Classic computer science, but the thing I found most amusing was that the form The Wiz chose for this search spell is that of R2D2, and the great moment came when the familiar droid appeared in the inner chamber of the head villain, swirled it's head around, beeped and winked out of existence. Read the book for the fiend's humorous reaction.

Least Favorite Moment

The major work being parodied is of course, the Lord of the Rings, and this gets a bit tiring at times. Through most of the book, the parody is woven into the fabric of the story in such a way as to not be a distraction. there are, however, scenes where the parody is stretched in such a way as to break the suspension of disbelief. Most of these involve sequences clearly based on the Fellowship of the Ring's journey through the mines or Moria.

Overall Recommendation

This is a light hearted book that pokes fun at Fantasy writing and the people who love it. It's an excellent book for both fans and critics of Fantasy writing. Those who hate Fantasy will enjoy seeing it ripped to shreds, and those who love it will get a kick at a well done parody.

Besides, it's available for free. Who can beat that?

Reviews of books avaliable in the "Baen Free Library"

As the Internet grows, more and more authors are making their work available for free on the Internet. The general idea is that people will enjoy the free content enough to buy the book / CD / Movie / Whatever from the artist(s), thus allowing them to make a comfortable living.

Baen, a publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy books, has taken to putting many of it's offerings online for free. Many books are part of a longer series. Baen also offers e-books which can be purchased. For example, the first two volumes of Rick Cook's Wizardry series are available for free, while subsequent volumes can be purchased as either paperbacks or e-books.

I'd like to find out what people have thought about the other books available in the Baen Free Library. If you've read them online, in an e-book, dead tree or any other format, please post your thoughts and reviews.

A Must Read for Computer and Fantasy Geeks

Rick Cook

The idea is simple, a computer programmer is thrust into a world where magic is real, and behaves a lot like a computer program.

The idea sounded like a bad D&D campaign when I first heard it, but on the recommendation of slashdot.org, I dropped my $6.50 for the paperback and gave it a shot.

I was very pleased with the results. While the development of things between the lead character and his love interest were predictable, the overall story was fun and well written. Full of interesting ideas, actual character development and plenty of Geek friendly jokes I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

I also liked the fact that the lead character didn't simply become an uber magician who couldn't be stopped. As a matter of fact, he needs quite a bit of help from more experienced minds, and in the end he makes his share of serious, even fatal mistakes.

I recommend the series, and thanks to the publisher www.baen.com making several titles available for free online, I can send around the link with impunity, so others can try the books for free.

I love the Internet. (Computers on the other hand, I could do without)

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Oh Good Grief


The county that was the site of the Scopes ``Monkey Trial'' over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday.

I have to say I'm glad this is only happening at the county level. I think I'd have a fit if it was an entire state that was trying to pull this stunt.

"Crimes against nature."

I can't wait to see the first trial. Hopefully, all they'd have to do is show a video of two male monkeys going at it to demonstrate that it's not a "Crime against nature."

It's things like this that erode my faith in the human race and it's ability to grow and mature. There will always be segments of the society that want to cling to old ideas. I hear the "Flat Earth" society is still quite active.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

My company has recently enabled the content filtering on a Sonicwall firewall, and we have been less than impressed.

It categorized my personal domain, www.matthewmiller.net as "Pornography" as well as the web-mail interface for said site. Because of the category it picked, our webmaster is unable to add the site to our white list. They've also blacklisted portions of our Financial CE sites as "Pornography."

This means I am no longer able to use the webmail interface for testing code that sends e-mail to clients.

I'm more than a little miffed at this turn of events, and very frustrated that Sonicwall.com does not seem to have any resources for reporting an improperly blocked URL.

I tried to look up some more details on this problem, and have found a few Sonicwall critical sites listed as "Adult/Mature" or "Pornography." It wouldn't be the first time I'd heard of a site being blocked by a filter because it was critical of that filter. I find myself wondering what else Sonicwall blocks, and what their criteria is for black listing sites.

My personal domain is not on any of the Real Time black holes, and I'm not aware of any content on the site that could be considered pornographic. There really isn't much I can do about it at this point. Our network admin has submitted a support request to Sonicwall, and we're waiting to hear back.

It's very frustrating to have been branded a certain way for my content, yet have no recourse for resolving the issue.

I'm asking everyone and anyone who has had their site unfairly blocked by Sonicwall's content filters to post here, telling the URL of their site and why they feel the site shouldn't be blocked.

EDIT: The following comments were posted to this entry on my old, defunct MT Blog:

2005-09-03 16:56:25
Panera bread is using this crap. Blocked Fark.com. It's idiotic. As well all know if you can't look at porn Fark lets you know.

2005-08-11 16:51:39
Big Dirty
It's completely irrelevant to anything, yet it was blocked as "pornography"

2004-07-13 23:21:59
Michael Droste
my site has also been blocked trumpetlessons.com! I also emailed sonicwall and have NOT received a response.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Friends don't let friends wank and drive

OK, this is just silly.

I've had friends who masturbated while driving. (All female, never met a guy who admitted to doing such a thing while driving.)

I've had friends who changed their cloths while driving.

I even had one friend who changed her kid's diaper while driving and talking on a cell phone.

I've eaten while driving, and talked on my cell phone wile driving (Generally using the hands free set.)

But watching a porno while behind the wheel???

That's just plain silly.

CNN.com - Driver pulled over for watching porn - Feb. 20, 2004

Driver pulled over for watching porn

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) --Andre Gainey found out the hard way that in the state of New York it's illegal to drive while watching porn.

Police said the 35-year old man from Clifton Park, New York, was watching a adult movie called "Chocolate Foam" on Tuesday night while driving his Mercedes Benz in the town of Schenectady when he was spotted by an officer at a stop light.

Police spokesman Pete Frizoni said detectives pulled Gainey over when they saw the movie playing on screens embedded in the car's headrests. When they confronted him, they saw another screen in the passenger-side visor was facing Gainey, allowing him to watch the movie while driving.

The case is thought to be the first of its kind in New York, said Joe Pichi, a spokesman for the for the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

"Our biggest problem is illegal cell phone use while driving," Pichi said. "Drivers should be driving."

This is just down the street from me!

It looks like I have yet another reason not to go anywhere near Saint E's when I'm in need of medical care.

Drunk surgeons. Not surgeons who get drunk on their own time, not ones who come in hung over, but ones that show up to work drunk.


TheBostonChannel.com - News - Doctor Suspended After Drinking Allegation

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

MS Kills Car

Crashed Computer Traps Thai Politician

This is a very good reason NOT to let your computer run Microsoft software. MS crashes, the whole car is reduced to a paperweight.

And of course this happened in a car that was bullet proofed for a pampered politician, so just smashing the window was out of the question.