my recent reads..

Zero Day Exploit

I picked out Rob Shein's Zero Day Exploit: Countdown to Darkness (Cyber-Fiction) at the library simply because it stuck out as an obvious "computer book" in the fiction section. I thought it had been mis-shelved and so it caught my eye.

I finished reading it because ... well, it is simply so bad as to have a kind of Ed Wood "B-movie" allure.

It is a pity, because the idea has promise: a fictionalised cyber-security thriller that can almost double as a vulnerability assessment and computer forensics text because of the detail it includes.

Unfortunately, the book would be better titled Zero Day FAIL!

In terms of the computer security technicalities, it is really light weight, making only cursory reference to just a few of the most routine security issues and tools, and describing a methodology that is far from leading practice. The author's main characters are meant to be save-the-world "white hat" geniuses, but they come across as bumbling script-kiddie amateurs. Stuck debugging a program because they mis-spelt "main"? Forgot there might be a firewall in place? Found a vulnerability on the first attempt by sending a stream of É, "because it is a character know to cause buffer overflows". Sheesh!

As a novel, I don't think I've ever read a book so in need of a good editor than this. Just about every aspect needs work or a complete re-write: character development; dialogue; story arc; climax and resolution.

And did I mention the plot? It goes from sublime to the ridiculous, and then just peters away..

Mind you, even well-known authors can fall into the "sublime to the ridiculous" plot trap. Take Eric Van Lustbader for example, writing Robert Ludlum's (TM) The Bourne Sanction. Whereas Ludlum was a true master at pulling together incredibly complex and outlandish plots while never for a moment losing the credulity of his audience, Van Lustbader always seems to miss the mark by a little. And as a reader, once you start questioning the realism of characters' behaviour and the uncanny role of coincidences, then the magic of the story is quickly extinguished and the author has lost you.

I mention The Bourne Sanction for one further reason: like Zero Day Exploit, it features terrorists attempting to distroy the petroleum distribution infrastructure of the US. And the one thing that Rob Shein should feel happy about is that his scenario for how this could be done is way more credible than what Van Lustbader cooked up for The Bourne Sanction (which made me think Van Lustbader was probably script-consulting on Speed 2 at the time)

So was Zero Day Exploit mis-shelved? You bet. They missed the bin by a mile!
read more and comment..

Hyperwords - fact-checking the web at a glance

Two things I find myself doing oh so frequently when on the net:

  1. Getting referred to wikipedia after googling

  2. Checking word spellings and definitions with one of the online dictionaries

With the Firefox add-on Hyperwords, both these activities just got incredibly easier. Just select text in your browser and you have instant access to the related wikipedia entry, check the dictionary and more (stock quote lookups etc).

Even better, the results pop-up in the browser so you are not left with a cascade of windows or tabs to get lost in.

It joins firebug as one of the top two "must-have" add-ons for my Firefox install!

Hat tip to blankanvas for putting me onto this..
read more and comment..

TDD and BDD is old school. Make the jump to HDD (Humour Driven Development)

SlashWeb just posted their list of the 25 Best Programmer Comics. I wonder ... seems like it could have been inspired by the stackoverflow question What’s your favorite "programmer" cartoon?.

xkcd's Proper User Policy apparently means Simon Says (sudo make me a sandwich) comes #1 in the SlashWeb list, versus the stackoverflow community voting xkcd's Little Bobby Tables to #1.

Conclusion? Either way, xkcd rocks.

But how's this for cool: xkcd's "antigravity with python" actually made it in as a patch to the python source code!

read more and comment..

Faster and Faster

'ere, guv. Got a new mota?

More at Andy J Gallagher. Great Brit-indie-pub-rock vibe. Now listening to his Crocodiles & Prostitutes EP...
read more and comment..