“A nearly impenetrable thicket of geekitude…”


Book reviews, and other articles related to books.

Just My Type

Santa was good to me this year, and brought me a copy of Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, by Simon Garfield.

If you’ve ever had a copy of the Letraset Catalogue on your shelf, or know what (rather than who) Arnold Böcklin is and can recognise it in the street, you’d enjoy reading this. If you can instantly tell Helvetica and Arial based only on their respective lower-case ‘a’s, it might be a bit simplistic for you.

A word to the wise: skip the chapter on Eric Gill’s personal habits. No Wikipedia link for that one.


"Security Engineering" available for download

Skinflints of the world rejoice; Ross Anderson’s textbook Security Engineering is now available for free download:

My book on Security Engineering is now available online for free download here.

I have two main reasons. First, I want to reach the widest possible audience, especially among poor students. Second, I am a pragmatic libertarian on free culture and free software issues; …

I’d been discussing this with my publishers for a while. They have been persuaded by the experience of authors like David MacKay, who found that putting his excellent book on coding theory online actually helped its sales. …

(Via Light Blue Touchpaper.)

Barnett in Second Life

crowd overviewBarnett answering questionsclose-up with heckling

On Wednesday I attended Thomas P.M. Barnett’s appearance in the virtual world Second Life.

Images: an overview of the gathering crowd; Dr. Barnett answering my question about the ICC; close-up with mild heckling. Click on the images for larger versions.

Summary: a significant event; a brave experiment; a qualified success; lessons can be learned.

Virtual Barnett

Thomas P.M. Barnett is a man with a vision of a better world, and clear ideas about how to get there from here. I don’t necessarily agree with (or even understand) everything in his brief (e.g., audio at IT Conversations) or his book The Pentagon’s New Map, but if he gave a lecture in my home town I’d pay good money to go and see him.

I’m therefore delighted to see that he is planning to give a lecture later this month in my other, virtual home town of Second Life.

I’ll be interested to see how well Dr. Barnett’s hurricane presentation style translates into the virtual environment; it looks from Hamlet Linden’s coverage as if there will be some streaming video for at least the visuals. I’m also curious to see how he handles being heckled by space aliens and tiny purple warthogs, but perhaps everyone will be on their best behaviour.


While listening to Halley Suitt’s interview with Werner Vogels, now CTO of Amazon, I was interested that her first question was: what was the first thing you bought on Amazon?

His answer was pretty interesting: three copies of The Windows NT Device Driver Book.

My answer to the same question is rather more prosaic: one copy of Outlook Annoyances. I suppose desperation must have been setting in.

Designing With Web Standards, by Jeffrey Zeldman

Review of Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards.

Summary: disappointingly light on the “how”, refreshingly heavy on the “why”.

Order of the Phoenix: Unanswered Questions

Please sit down.
I am going to tell you everything.
   — Albus Dumbledore, to Harry Potter

Well, Dumbledore may have finally come clean and answered all of Harry’s questions, but from a technical perspective I feel J. K. Rowling still has some explaining to do. Here are some areas she might consider addressing in the next volume.

Programming Jakarta Struts, by Chuck Cavaness

A review of Programming Jakarta Struts, by Chuck Cavaness (O’Reilly), with some side comments on Struts itself.

Summary: covers the ground, but it’s heavy going to begin with.

Essential Blogging, by Powers et al.

Review of Essential Blogging, by Doctorow, Dornfest, Johnston, Powers (ed.), Trott and Trott.

Summary: good introduction to blogging systems, particularly if you’re trying to decide which system is right for you. You’re unlikely to need to read it twice.

Kil'n People, by David Brin

Review of David Brin’s “future thriller”, Kil’n People.

Summary: provocative and funny; a keeper.