Ramblings & ephemera

Umberto Eco on books

From Umberto Eco’s “Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books” (Al-Ahram Weekly: 20—26 November 2003): Libraries, over the centuries, have been the most important way of keeping our collective wisdom. They were and still are a sort of universal brain where we can retrieve what we have forgotten and what we still do not […]

Reading the impenetrable too fast

From Lee Siegel, quoted in Juliet Lapidos’s “Overrated: Authors, critics, and editors on ‘great books’ that aren’t all that great” (Slate: 11 August 2011): It was like Herbert Marcuse’s advice to a despairing graduate student who said he had spent days on a sentence in Hegel and still couldn’t understand it: “You’re reading too fast,” […]

Clay Shirky on the changes to publishing & media

From Parul Sehgal’s “Here Comes Clay Shirky” (Publisher’s Weekly: 21 June 2010): PW: In April of this year, Wired‘s Kevin Kelly turned a Shirky quote—“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”—into “the Shirky Principle,” in deference to the simple, yet powerful observation. … Kelly explained, “The Shirky Principle declares […]

John Steinbeck on finishing a book

From Nathaniel Benchley’s interview of John Steinbeck in “The Art of Fiction No. 45” (The Paris Review: Fall 1969, No. 48): I truly do not care about a book once it is finished. Any money or fame that results has no connection in my feeling with the book. The book dies a real death for […]

Luther & Poe both complained about too many books

From Clay Shirky’s “Does The Internet Make You Smarter?” (The Wall Street Journal: 5 June 2010): In the history of print … complaints about distraction have been rampant; no less a beneficiary of the printing press than Martin Luther complained, “The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure of limit to […]

Linux Phrasebook in Russian

My book, Linux Phrasebook, which is still selling well & still just as useful today as when it came out in 2006 (& will be for another decade or two, given how consistent the Linux command line is), has been translated into Russian. You can find it at this Russian website, where I found out […]

David Foster Wallace on serious vs. commercial art

From David Wiley’s interview of David Foster Wallace, “Transcript of the David Foster Wallace Interview” (The Minnesota Daily: 27 February 1997): But Plato and John Stuart Mill both take books to talk about different types of pleasure. In my own personal life, I like really arty stuff a lot of the time. But there’s also […]

What Google’s book settlement means

Image via Wikipedia From Robert Darnton’s “Google & the Future of Books” (The New York Review of Books: 12 February 2009): As the Enlightenment faded in the early nineteenth century, professionalization set in. You can follow the process by comparing the Encyclopédie of Diderot, which organized knowledge into an organic whole dominated by the faculty […]

Outline for an Unpublished Linux Textbook

Back in 2004 or so, I was asked to write an outline for a college textbook that would be used in courses on Linux. I happily complied, producing the outline you can see on my website. The editor on the project loved the outline & showed it several professors to get their reactions, which were […]

4 sources of tension between science and religion

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): But if the direct conflict between scientific knowledge and specific religious beliefs has not been so important in itself, there are at least four sources of tension between science and religion that have been important. The first source of tension arises […]

My new book – Google Apps Deciphered – is out!

I’m really proud to announce that my 5th book is now out & available for purchase: Google Apps Deciphered: Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop. My other books include: Don’t Click on the Blue E!: Switching to Firefox Hacking Knoppix Linux Phrasebook Podcasting with Audacity: Creating a Podcast With Free Audio Software (I’ve […]

Bruce Schneier on wholesale, constant surveillance

From Stephen J. Dubner’s interview with Bruce Schneier in “Bruce Schneier Blazes Through Your Questions” (The New York Times: 4 December 2007): There’s a huge difference between nosy neighbors and cameras. Cameras are everywhere. Cameras are always on. Cameras have perfect memory. It’s not the surveillance we’ve been used to; it’s wholesale surveillance. I wrote […]

Luddites and e-books

From Clay Shirky’s “The Siren Song of Luddism” (Britannica Blog: 19 June 2007): …any technology that fixes a problem … threatens the people who profit from the previous inefficiency. However, Gorman omits mentioning the Luddite response: an attempt to halt the spread of mechanical looms which, though beneficial to the general populace, threatened the livelihoods […]

My new book – Linux Phrasebook – is out!

I’m really proud to announce that my 3rd book is now out & available for purchase: Linux Phrasebook. My first book – Don’t Click on the Blue E!: Switching to Firefox – was for general readers (really!) who wanted to learn how to move to and use the fantastic Firefox web browser. I included a […]

Ubuntu Hacks available now

The Ubuntu distribution simplifies Linux by providing a sensible collection of applications, an easy-to-use package manager, and lots of fine-tuning, which make it possibly the best Linux for desktops and laptops. Readers of both Linux Journal and TUX Magazine confirmed this by voting Ubuntu as the best Linux distribution in each publication’s 2005 Readers Choice […]

Library book returned 92 years late

From AP’s “Borrowed books returned to museum — 92 years later” (CNN: 6 November 2000): The Field Museum of Natural History recently returned 10 volumes to the American Museum of Natural History in New York — 92 years late. It seems a researcher from the New York museum took the books with him when he […]

Brin’s Transparent Society explained, briefly

From Technology Review‘s “Big Brother Logs On“: In his 1998 book The Transparent Society, which is well known in the privacy advocacy community, science fiction author and technology watcher David Brin argues that society inevitably will have to choose between two versions of ubiquitous surveillance: in one, only the rich and powerful use and control […]

A living story, tattooed on flesh

From The New York Times Magazine‘s “Skin Literature“: Most artists spend their careers trying to create something that will live forever. But the writer Shelley Jackson is creating a work of literature that is intentionally and indisputably mortal. Jackson is publishing her latest short story by recruiting 2,095 people, each of whom will have one […]

Still accessible after 1000 years

From BBC News: In fact, it turns out that images stored electronically just 15 years ago are already becoming difficult to access. The Domesday Project, a multimedia archive of British life in 1986 designed as a digital counterpart to the original Domesday Book compiled by monks in 1086, was stored on laser discs. The equipment […]

The innovation of the margin

From InfoWorld: In chapter 4 of Klaus Kaasgaard’s Software Design and Usability, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) alumnus Austin Henderson says that “one of the most brilliant inventions of the paper bureaucracy was the idea of the margin.” There was always space for unofficial data, which traveled with the official data, and everybody knew […]