The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker


Posted By on February 22, 2009

I recently finished the podiobook of Singularity.

The story, overall, is very good. I like the science and political intrigue aspects of it, and while someone with more physics than I would likely find fault with the science, it worked for me. This is likely the result of him actually talking with physicists about the subject of the book and, if I remember correctly, having several professors at MIT read the draft manuscript and comment on it. I do wish, however, that he had not fallen into the same traps as so many authors regarding such mundane things as computers and firearms – especially since Mr. DeSmedt’s biography reveals him to have been a “computer programmer and system designer” at some point in his career. Specifically:
  • Firearms:
    1. Reference is made to “the smell of cordite”. Cordite is obsolete and is no longer used in modern ammunition.
    2. Glocks don’t go click on an empty chamber. When empty, the slide will lock back. So, Marianna would know she was empty.
  • Computers:
    1. The hacker Mycroft talks about how good his worm is in that it doesn’t do naughty things like delete files and get itself noticed – it just phones home every 10 minutes seeing if it is needed. Guess what? That’s supicious!. If you’re a secret government agency, I’d hope that your border firewalls check outgoing connections and look for things like that.
    2. The worm also installs a telnet server, as evidenced by the target’s desktop showing up on Mycroft’s screen. Yeah, except telnet doesn’t work that way, nor is it encrypted. SSH would have been a much better choice here.
    3. (This is probably a more general question about literature) Why do all of these reclusive hackers not have any guns? I mean, if I lived in the hills of North Carolina, one of my pasttimes would likely be shooting things. This is the same issue as when Bruce Willis and the Mac guy land on Kevin Smith’s front yard in Die Hard 4 – dude has a generator and a ham radio, but no guns? WTF?
Those criticisms aside, as I said, I actually did like the book – enough so that I named my netbook Mycroft, following my tradition of naming computers after hackers in literature, as well as donating some money through podiobooks (I look at it as “I would have bought the book, and want to support the author, but don’t feel the need to buy a book I’ve already listened to on the iPod”) and subscribed to Doctor Jack’s Soapbox Seminars, a collection of physics related talks from the real life counterpart of the character in Mr. DeSmedt’s book. I also notice that Mr. DeSmedt lives in PA. If you happen to be a wargamer, and happen to be attending Cold Wars this year, and happen to read this blog entry, drop me an email (email address is in my user info) – I usually bring enough beer to share.


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