Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Time Foreclosed

(Last updated August 31, 2016)

As a working author, I've followed -- with more than a little interest! -- various publishing experiments and emerging sales channels. One of those experiments is the freestanding novella. What had been an impractical story length has become, in the era of ebooks and print-on-demand, eminently doable.

And so: on to my experiment and breaking news ...

A Time Foreclosed, newly released, republishes -- under a new and improved title -- my recent time-travel novella "Time Out." (It originally appeared in Analog, January/February 2013 issue.)

Or as the publisher puts it:

Monday, June 17, 2013

¿Que passa? (Maybe all of us)

What's happening? Lots! (It'll even, if you bear with me, explain that atrocious bilingual/pidgin-lingual pun.)

With the NSA's insatiable data hoovering at the top of the news, herewith a skeptical look at the perils of Big Data. From Technology Review, see "The Dictatorship of Data: Robert McNamara epitomizes the hyper-rational executive led astray by numbers." A key passage:
The use, abuse, and misuse of data by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War is a troubling lesson about the limitations of information as the world hurls toward the big-data era. The underlying data can be of poor quality. It can be biased. It can be misanalyzed or used misleadingly. And even more damning, data can fail to capture what it purports to quantify.

We are more susceptible than we may think to the “dictatorship of data”—that is, to letting the data govern us in ways that may do as much harm as good. The threat is that we will let ourselves be mindlessly bound by the output of our analyses even when we have reasonable grounds for suspecting that something is amiss. Education seems on the skids? Push standardized tests to measure performance and penalize teachers or schools. Want to prevent terrorism? Create layers of watch lists and no-fly lists in order to police the skies. Want to lose weight? Buy an app to count every calorie but eschew actual exercise.
That's not to say I'm unalterably opposed to Big Data or to dot-connecting searches for national-security threats. I'm not. I worry, however, about algorithm not sufficiently balanced with judgment. I worry about data used (and misused) for purposes other than why they were first collected.

And in a bit of good news (reported by BBC News, among many others), "FBI and Microsoft take down $500m-theft botnet Citadel." Why good? Because:
The Citadel network had remotely installed a keylogging program on about five million machines to steal data ...
The cybercriminals behind Citadel cashed in by using login and password details for online bank accounts stolen from compromised computers.

This method was used to steal cash from a huge number of banks including American Express, Bank of America, PayPal, HSBC, Royal Bank of Canada and Wells Fargo.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An open letter to (a few) ebook shoppers

It happens all too often ... an online shopper looks at an ebook at Amazon or bn.com or ... and disagrees with the vendor's price. That's fair.

And proceeds to give that book a one-star review, "justified" with a rant about greed and/or the evils of ebook pricing. That's often quite unfair, and that bit of venting claims the author as collateral damage.

First, the background: opinions differ on ebook pricing. Some shoppers feel that ebooks should be far cheaper than any physical book because an ebook can be replicated for free. Authors, editors, cover artists, distributors, and publishers expect to earn something for their contributions to a book -- and that requires a nonzero price on books, even ebooks. (Especially ebooks, as that format claims more and more of the book market.) Ebook reader vendors, meanwhile, sometimes use ebook content as a loss leader. The device vendor's short-term motivation is to lure/lock customers into a particular content ecosystem.

Publishers and etailers have long tussled over these issues. Even as I type, a major antitrust suit about ebook pricing is at trial between Apple and the Department of Justice -- the big publishing houses having settled out of court.

Do I know the "right" price for an ebook? No (other than nonzero, in the belief readers want authors to continue writing). Do I know how the tussle among publishers, etailers, and the DoJ will come out? Again, no. 

Here's what I do know ...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Catching up

My virtual clippings folder is again bulging, and if I add one more article, it might just explode. (Cue Monty Python.)

So: a few items of likely interest to SF and Nonsense readers ...

Extension cord extra
From the Department of Digitally Enabled Snoops: here's yet another company's good graces upon which you (*) are asked to rely. From Fortune, see "Tesla's Elon Musk Reminds Media His Cars Can Spy On Them."

(*) If you own -- or would aspire to own -- a Tesla electric sports car.

You're diligent about malware defenses and regular updates on your computers and router, even your tablet and phone -- and you're still at risk. From PC World, see "Researchers find new point-of-sale malware called BlackPOS."