Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Barking up the wrong tree

Does the NSA have any business routinely collecting and searching call records (not the calls themselves) across America? On balance, I find that the national-security case is strong and the legal justifications convincing. That said, this seems to be one of those topics about which -- apropos the recent narrow bipartisan vote in the House not to stop the program -- reasonable people can differ.

If only the public and our pols paid half as much attention, showed half as much outrage, and took half as much action re (a) massive security vulnerabilities and (b) other privacy violations that are clearly illegal. 

Are you familiar with the SIM (subscriber identity module) card in your mobile phone? Well, CNet reports that "SIM card flaw said to allow hijacking of millions of phones: Vulnerability in the security key that protects the card could allow eavesdropping on phone conversations, fraudulent purchases, or impersonation of the handset's owner, a security researcher warns." This vulnerability may endanger up to 750 million mobile phones -- and their users.

Do you use credit cards? Then (courtesy of Yahoo! News), note that "Russian hackers got 160 million bank card numbers, but that wasn't worst part." Some key paraemeters:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Impossible Futures

(Last updated September 6, 2013)

Remember when 2001 was the wondrous future? Remember all the super-neat technology you once expected we'd have by now? Personal jet packs, robot servants, and the like? Not just the stuff in Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines, but the ideas that made the old science fiction so much fun.

cover by Duncan Eagleson
And with your help, it still can. See the Kickstarter campaign for the anthology Impossible Futures -- the excellent cover for which is nearby.

(Update: this project was funded. Read on for more ...)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Whither publishing?

I surely don't know. I doubt that anyone does -- however diligently they try. The publishing industry's future is, shall we say, murky. (I reviewed some of the complexities back in March as "Publishing (black and) blues.")

As a working author, I need to care. You may not. But if you happen to share my interest in the topic, herewith some virtual tea leaves to read ...

Amid the few nano-percent of effort the media didn't recently expend on the Martin/Zimmerman trial was this story (this particular article from Reuters): "Apple colluded on e-book prices, judge finds." After Apple's publishing partners settled out of court, Apple itself has been found guilty of collusion to reduce Amazon's (at the time) 90% share of the ebook market. Apple has promised to appeal. Stay tuned.

Thousands of folk like me, meanwhile, took a legal beating as, at the appellate court level, "Authors lose class status in Google digital books case." (That article was likewise from Reuters, via Yahoo! News.) Bye-bye to the lower-court ruling that "it would be unfair to force authors to sue individually given the 'sweeping and undiscriminating nature of Google's unauthorized copying.' " The legal battle now moves, attorneys for the Authors Guild say,  to whether Google's indiscriminate scanning (so far, of 20 million books!) falls within "fair use" doctrine. Again, stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A wild and crazy planet

One of the joys of SF is the opportunity to Think Big. Earth, as large as it is, pales in comparison with, say, a Dyson Sphere or a Nivenesque Ringworld. But within the limits of today's technology, we humans (some of us, anyway), continue to Think Big ...

As illustrated by this CNN article: Sky trains, super bridges: 8 of the world's most spectacular infrastructure projects. Whether or not you're impressed by every one of these projects, I defy you not to be taken with the 1000-ton tunnel-boring machine being used to extend the Tube system in London.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fate of Worlds: the MM PB

Today marks the mass-market paperback re-release of Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld. It's the explosive conclusion to the Ringworld series and the Fleet of Worlds series of epic SF adventures. With this edition finally available, all five books in the series are available in mass-market format. 

(And if you're an ebook aficionado? There's still news. In anticipation of the paperback re-release, the Kindle price just dropped. The ebook in other formats will surely follow suit.)

Check it out on Amazon
What, specifically, is Fate about? I'm glad you asked! It's interstellar conflict among five intelligent species (if you're an aficionado of Known Space: humans, Kzinti, Trinocs, Puppeteers, and Gw'oth) and an AI. It's the answer to countless questions across the Ringworld series. It settles, quite literally, the fate of worlds.