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0wnz0red 206

Robotech_Master writes "Salon Magazine is running an interesting and thought-provoking short story/novella by Cory Doctorow, co-editor of the b0ing b0ing weblog. This story, 0wnz0red, features programmer/geek terms and references, Descartes, "trustworthy computing," and what happens when programmers gain the ability to hack their own autonomic functions. A really fun read...like Stephenson's works, it feels like it's aimed squarely at the geeks' demographic."
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0wnz0red

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  • pr0n (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:04AM (#4168953)
    on that boingboing webpage, the author says that "pr0n" is a synonym for "porn" due to common typing errors, i was under the impression that "pr0n" was used to hide your porn from sysops on multi user systems using find / -name *porn* or something like that.

    whos right, me or him ?
  • Stephenson meets Douglas Coupland, actually.

    "fourbucks muffin". Heh.
    • I thought it somewhat similar to Egan's "Blood Music" (which goes in a different direction), and very similar to Barnes's [sic] "Mother of Storms" (*). In the latter book, the protagonist's thought processes are enhanced, and he eventually discovers how to control exactly these autonomous processes.

      It's also a damn good book: Barnes either sucks or rocks. This book is in the latter category.

      All of Egan's work is highly recommended.
  • Well, I may just have a bum translation of Crime & Punishment...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:10AM (#4168970)
    Seriously. It would be a somewhat entertaining (but second-rate) cyberpunk short story if he hadn't been trying so hard to drop 'leet k-radspeak all over the place.
    Sorry Cory, you're 14/\/\3r than Jon Katz
  • "Interesting and thought provoking" Are these codewords also? This article certainly doesn't come close to falling under the literal definitions for either of these terms. "Boring and redundant" would be a more apt description. Somebody owes me 15 minutes added back to my life timer for suggesting this was a worthwhile read.
    • Even if one cares to find fault with the author's style, I think the issues raised in the story are certainly capable of provoking thought. If we take things farther and agree that some people might not enjoy the story, then I think you should give some credit and admit that others might.

      I can't stand Stephen King (don't much care for horror - period). But the reality is that even if King is generally considered a hack writer, he DOES have the occasional interesting thought.

      My .02 worth...
    • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:32AM (#4169037) Homepage Journal
      Somebody owes me 15 minutes added back to my life timer for suggesting this was a worthwhile read.

      Sorry, but the most credit I can give you on refund is five minutes. After that long, you should be smart enough to bail out on your own. So let's see, five minutes, um... carry the one... so I'll be seeing you at 4:33 PM next Thurs... oh! er, never mind. Wasn't 'sposed to say that. Have a nice day!

      -- G. Reaper, Esq.
    • Actually, I kind of enjoyed the story...don't read it as a story with the mindset that it is going to be the best thing on earth...it's an enjoyable read overall. Fairly well written and not too pandering to the techie lifestyle...it's not completely "hollywood-ized". I enjoyed it.
  • by Stephen VanDahm ( 88206 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:16AM (#4168984) Homepage
    "it feels like it's aimed squarely at the geeks' demographic"

    Nothing with word "demographic" in it could truly appeal to the geek demographic.

    Wait a minute....

    Steve
  • by tomzyk ( 158497 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:19AM (#4168993) Journal
    How dare you post a short story first thing in the morning. And a FRIDAY at that too! I might as well just go home now; I'm not getting anything worthwhile done at work today.
    • You need to take speed-reading classes. But as a personal favour, here's the Reader's Digest version of the story:

      Boy meets boy. Boys code code. Boy dies (supposedly) of AIDS. Boy gets depressed and gets cognitive documentation therapy. Boy comes back from the dead (mostly). Boy was cyB0rged by the Feds but ran away. Boys code body functions. Feds catch boys and 0wnz them. Boy turns Fed. Boy gets out and goes to Africa to spread some rad warez. The End.

  • You know. I skip through Salon a fair bit. Mainly because of all the links on /. to articles there. I catch most of the interesting stuff there before I see it here. Same goes for a stack of other oft-linked sites.

    Where are all the new interesting sources of info, articles, stories etc... Surely there must be better material than this on a smaller site. Its no big deal to find a short story on Salon... find one on geocities!
    • ok.... it's easy, just go to geocities and type "short stories"

      http://www.geocities.com/glenkenner/index.html

    • Re:Off Topic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Obiwan Kenobi ( 32807 ) <evan@@@misterorange...com> on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:48AM (#4169086) Homepage
      Surely there must be better material than this on a smaller site. Its no big deal to find a short story on Salon

      Actually, it is a big deal. There has never been, AFAIK, an original sci-fi story posted on Salon (of course those cynical enough will say that some news stories must be...).

      Regardless of whether that statment is true, the point is that not only is this a really good story, with interesting characters, fresh situations, and nice twists, but that it also deals with Trusted Computing and the dreaded Palladium (Palladium in gibberish is Taliban, didn't ya know). How hardware in the future will be encrypted with keys and codes only unecrypted by those in control and power so they know exactly what you're doing all the time. This story takes that concept from the computer and applies to human beings. It's like 1984, only a bit more hip and filled with enough buzzwords so that geeks will get a nice, big smile every three paragraphs or so.

      The arc of the story is not the technology or the use of it in regards to its manipulation on the body. The arc is the two friends and how loyalties are shared, and how loyalties are disregarded for the sake of one's well being (or selfishness, if you'd rather). The circular and sometimes disconnected view of one man's life (Murray) and his spiral into depression and boredom after the loss of his junkie friend (Liam). How, when they are rejoined, those old friendly traits, both good and bad, are showing up again, just like old times. Sometimes you can change, but deep down most people are the same. How, when it comes down to it, just like in Orwell's opus 1984, people will look out for #1 before they would ever bother to keep their loyalties true.

      This is a great story that is mentioned because not only does it make a great point about the future of corporate-controlled computer content, but how in essence it deals with friendships, those fragile beasts that we all crave and have to put up with, just to have someone to attend LAN parties with.
      • No argument - didn't think the story was THAT interesting - but better than 99% of the other crap I've read this year.

        My point was more about the source. Salon is well read. How many other stories are out there that are as good / better that we aren't finding via /. which we should be?

        Your synopsis of the story is all well and good - but seriously, this is very 'mainstream geek' in my view. Where is the really interesting stuff!!!!
  • I truly find it awe inspiring that a computer literate person can speak so fluid with common lusers. I work as a Web Admin for www.moparcollection.com, and I get the most stupidest request from or Sales team and even from customer service over how to work the web. Perhaps if we would require a common computer literacy test before someone can get online, we could eliminate this mentality that "Computers are Bad, all they do is give me spam and steal my credit cards". Then again, with something like that you'd be sure the RIAA would write up the text for it, then the MPAA would sue them under the DMCA for copywrite infringement for the use of the work "Hackers"
    • Mopar Collection... godness... do you have poney line "Hemi" stickers for sale ?
    • I truly find it awe inspiring that a computer literate person can speak so fluid with common losers.

      okay. Perhaps if we would require a common computer literacy test before someone can get online, we could eliminate this mentality that "Computers are Bad, all they do is give me Spam and steal my credit cards"

      Or, maybe tests should be given to see how well 'computer literate' people can actually express themselves in English before being hired to jobs that require interaction. Just a thought.

      Then again, with something like that you'd be sure the RIAA would write up the text for it, then the MPAA would sue them under the DMCA for copywrite infringement for the use of the work "Hackers"

      Uh, yeah okay...
  • How so? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 )
    . A really fun read...like Stephenson's works

    In what way? Is there a load of "Look at me - see how cool a geek I am" type writing, or a really bad ending? Does it have a really improbable storyline with random events happening because he can't think of a way to add drama at a certain point? If not then it's nothing like Stephenson's works.
    • Whoa, I've never felt that way about any Stephenson book I've read, although I haven't read everything yet. Care to explain in more depth?
      • Here's an example: "The Diamond Age", one of my favorite NS books. It had a terrible ending. NS spent nearly the entire book everything up in intricate detail, then he threw it away with an ending that was something like 15 pages long. It was as if he had completely run out of energy/money/will/etc. and had to stop writing that instant. It was such a diservice to the rest of the book, which was pretty cool and rather interesting.
        • I still love the diamond age, and think the entire rest of the book completely makes up for it.

          Now back to the ending:

          No, I didn't "get" the ending. I thought the drummers were mad cool (organic computing... and remember kids, organic means poop!) it was cute everyone had their own quest, the drummers were sacrificing that one chick (I didn't get why or what the "information overload" sacrifice meant) then they saved her, and then...... ?

          So if any critical readers out there want to give an interpretation, I'm all ears!

        • > "The Diamond Age", one of my favorite NS books. It had a terrible ending. NS spent nearly the entire book everything up in intricate detail, then he threw it away with an ending that was something like 15 pages long. It was as if he had completely run out of energy/money/will/etc. and had to stop writing that instant. It was such a diservice to the rest of the book, which was pretty cool and rather interesting.

          For Neal Stephenson, that's a long ending.

          Try Snow Crash, which (while also a wonderful read) ends as if he was thinking "Holy shit! I've got one page of paper left! Gotta wrap this up now!"

    • Yeah, I just don't get the Stephenson fascination. Everyone said Snow Crash was such a great book, so I read it. I will never read another Stephenson book again. Ever. That was the WORST ending to a decent setup ever. I just couldn't believe what I was reading. It's like he totally gave up on even attempting a reasonable conclusion.

      • Amen to that. Snow Crash was, like a lot of SciFi, a bunch of tech concepts wrapped around a narrative that'd earn most high school creative writing students an F.

        I fell for the popular buzz surrounding Neuromancer, too, and I found it so dull I couldn't even finish it.

        • Comparing these two books is a little like comparing _Stagecoach_ with _Blazing Saddles_. Both movies are Westerns, after a fashion, but one came at the beginning of the genre and was a movie which everyone took seriously and emulated for years; the other came at the end of the genre and ensured that nobody could take Westerns entirely seriously again.

          I prefer _Neuromancer_ to _Snow Crash_. Gibson, to my mind, exhibits a real flair for creating memorable images. Armitage wordlessly breaking his wine glass, Case knocking down the wasp's nest, Case's meetings with Wintermute in various personae. He also occasionally manages a beautiful economy of language (e.g. when Case shoots the image of Julius, "he was right about the blood." Or his finding the picture of Corto: "the eyes were Armitage's.") Compare Gibson's spare prose with Stephenson's exhausting, aggressively illiterate style in _Snow Crash_.

          hyacinthus.
        • I found neuromancer to be a beautiful zen koan... (but kind of inline with Rush's hemispheres!)
          Case is just that- a shell of a person denying the flesh for the mind.
          And the wintermute-nueromancer connection is the seperate spheres of humanity coming together- best exemplified by the cryptic things it/they say at the end.

          Whereas I think I read shockwave rider (not sure of the title, but it had a techie hero, a manage-a-trois love scene, using eels to splice nerves, etc) and it also had the zen unity angle going for it, but it SUCKED.

          just my two bits.
      • All of his endings suck. You just have to be prepared for it.

      • Heh. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by autopr0n ( 534291 )
        The ending to snowcrash did suck, and so did the ending to Cryptonomicon.

        Sthephenson's work is really more about the trip then the destination. You should really read Cryptonomicon though, don't be put off by Snow Crash (which I enjoyed reading, personaly). Cryptonomicon can't really even be called Sci-fi, and it's a very enjoyable, fun, read.

        • Everyone said Snow Crash was such a great book, so I read it. I will never read another Stephenson book again

          reply to above comment :

          You should really read Cryptonomicon though

          my comment - i suggest you don't take the replier's advice - i felt exactly the same way you did after grimacing my way through the very long-winded, masturbationary text that is cryptonomicon - i.e. i never wanted to go near stephenson's writing again

          and by the way, the copy of cryptonomicon I read (which i borrowed from the library) had this fake cut pages effect to it which i've seen in some other american editions - what's up with this? looks like book fetishism to me

    • It's "like stephenson's work" as in "I like stephensons work," and "I like this" and "I have a complete lack of understanding of liturature with which I could construct a statement about this work"

  • THANK YOU (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sirinek ( 41507 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:28AM (#4169025) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to thank the submitter of the story for calling it a "weblog" instead of some lame-ass made-up-for-the-sake-of-making-a-name-up name like a "blog" or a "wiki". :)

    I'm sure I'm not alone in my praise :)

    siri
    • Re:THANK YOU (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A wiki is not a weblog. A weblog is usually just a long list of rantings, while a wiki is a site that can (Usually) be edited by the users.

      Wiki's can be very, very, useful, when you're dealing with open source development and more than two or three people.
    • As someone who's 'website' evolved into an interactive weblog, I happily await the day when the term 'blog' falls into the same pit of disused linguistics as 'cyber', 'breaker, breaker, good buddy' and 'where's the beef'.
      As for 'Wiki', the very word gives me the heebie-jeebies and makes me wonder if I should give up computers completely.

      (As for your sig, I'd say the only reason to use Netscape 7.x instead of Mozilla is if you're still hanging onto those shares of NSCP, just in case...)

      Cheers,
      Jim
      • I happily await the day when the term 'blog' falls into the same pit of disused linguistics as 'cyber', 'breaker, breaker, good buddy' and 'where's the beef'.

        I totally hear you. These phrases are just played out. You know what I mean, Vern?
      • As someone who's 'website' evolved into an interactive weblog, I happily await the day when the term 'blog' falls into the same pit of disused linguistics as 'cyber', 'breaker, breaker, good buddy' and 'where's the beef'.

        I dunno, it might be hear to say. 'Blogs seem to have a lot of support in the online youth culture, and that culture is really fond of shortcuts...on instant msg'ing, a lot of them speak a form of baby-L33T. Fewer numbers, more like artist-formerly-known-as song titles.
        • It's due to the whole real-time communications, such as IRC and instant messengers. When a lot of them started using those systems, their typing speed isn't that fast, thus they love shortcuts. Also, before mobile phones got predictive typing, typing a message took an age (It still does, but a much smaller age, like the Roman age compared with an ice age), thus shortcuts were appreciated there too.

          Why on earth they still insist on using it in things like e-mail and weblogs, where typing 100 words or so shouldn't take particually long compared to thinking of what exactly to write, I will never know.

          And don't get me started on their piss poor grammar. "You are" becomes "you're", not "your". "Your" is a word, "you're" is a contraction.
    • Re:THANK YOU (Score:3, Informative)

      by DeathBunny ( 24311 )
      I'd like to thank the submitter of the story for calling it a "weblog" instead of some lame-ass made-up-for-the-sake-of-making-a-name-up name like a "blog" or a "wiki". :)

      Actually, wiki isn't a made up word. "Wiki wiki" means quick in hawaiian.

    • As the submitter of the story, you're welcome. I think it's silly to abbreviate "weblog" to "blog" for the sake of saving just two letters (or one if you use an apostrophe the way it was originally coined: "'blog"). Besides, "blog" reminds me of the sound someone makes while throwing up.
  • Well, duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:32AM (#4169033) Journal
    ...like Stephenson's works, it feels like it's aimed squarely at the geeks' demographic.

    Maybe this is a different type of "slashdot effect." Where a content publisher puts up articles knowing they will get linked from slashdot.

    Just for CmdrTaco, I would like to differentiate this type by calling it the "slashdot affect."
    • Slashdot affect (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Interrobang ( 245315 )
      Except that judging from the writing around here, most Slashdotters wouldn't know the difference...

      Affect and effect are two different words, people.

      But seriously, on topic, I really liked that Doctorow story. The beginning was definitely a bit klunky by my standards, but by the middle it started to pick up quite a bit. The self-conscious (or didn't you guys catch that part?) references to '1337-speak' (the written language with no spoken form!) were rather amusing.

      It's nice to see someone play with language, and it's nice to see someone who apparently knows a little bit of something (instead of a whole lot of nothing) about computers writing speculative fiction, for a change. Or don't you guys get a little bit annoyed about totally impossible (instead of wildly improbable) computers (and/or technology) in speculative fiction?

      Also, another question: Considering all the geek holy wars, can geeks truly be said to have a demographic?
  • Not my cup of tea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Meat Blaster ( 578650 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:32AM (#4169039)
    This story would probably appeal to the same sort of folks who read Wired religiously but never actually get into the Internet or computers in any meaningful way. I don't mean to knock his work, it's just that it's written more like a blog entry than a novella.

    He's probably aiming at writing it in the style of the former for accessibility, but I prefer paragraphs you can sit and think about after having read them for a fuller effect as with Brian Herbert's Dune or Issac Asimov's Foundation (think about what they could have accomplished had they lived to see -- and write about -- the Internet!)

    • Umm... that should be Frank Herbert.
      • Frank Herbert authored the actual Dune series.

        And Brian Herbert wrote the add-ons for the Dune series like House Atreides, Corrino, Harkonnen and I think is presently writing the Butlerian Jihad.

        I wonder if the parent poster has really read Herbert's Dune, or just looked up on the web after hearing about it here on Slashdot. It's kinda hard to forget that name you know :-)

        Ofcourse, comparison with Dune and Foundation is not quite right because they are the wrong category - they're full fledged novels running into series of (uncompleted?) books, while this is just a short story.

        But yes, it could have been thought provoking, like the way The Star or Nightfall One were, even though they were just short stories.
  • Hey, be careful about those headlines, i bet suddenly a couple of thousands geeks thought that slashdot had been cracked again. :-) .. better submit the story before anyone else does!

  • Erk (Score:3, Funny)

    by zapfie ( 560589 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @08:40AM (#4169061)
    What are you doing? You can't post an article that actually requires people to read it before they respond.. it's against the Slashdot Code of Ethics! Next you'll expect us not to pull comments out of our asses.. yeah, right.
    • You can't post an article that actually requires people to read it before they respond..

      No such thing. There's a couple of dozzen responses here so far, and as far as I can tell about 3 people have actually read the story.

      -
  • Poor writing. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hobophile ( 602318 )
    Maybe it's just my dislike of l33t-speak in general, but I think this story is atrocious. No, really. Take this example from the second page:

    As he aimed his remote at it and initiated the cryptographic handshake -- i.e., unlocked the doors -- he spotted the guy leaning against the car.

    Come on! "Cryptographic handshake" as a metaphor for unlocking a car door? Here's a quick writing lesson: if your metaphor is so abstruse that you have to explain it immediately thereafter, you should just cut it.

    The writer is clearly enthralled by his own cleverness and understanding of computer lingo past the point where he could be expected to construct a narrative that normal people might enjoy.

    Consider the paragraph on the first page where he mentions that the protagonist loses commit privileges on CVS. I know what CVS is, but that's beside the point. I shouldn't have to, because CVS doesn't relate to the story at all! The story is filled with little things like that, things that conspire to make it inaccessible to the average reader for no discernible reason, unless that reason is to heighten its appeal to the (presumed) minority of those interested in computers who give a damn about keeping the average user out of their party.

    It's like the whole thing was written by someone who goes around calling everyone uninvolved in the computer industry "sheeple" or "lusers" and automatically assumes that they don't get it, for various definitions of "it", just because their existence doesn't revolve around a microprocessor.

    Personally I think the use of l33t-speak is symptomatic of such a juvenile mentality, and should have been a major red flag. If this guy is one of SF's bright young stars, give me the old luminaries any day of the week.

    • Actually, he's not only into science fiction, and his other books are of very high quality, The Book of Daniel [amazon.com] being one of my favorites, and Ragtime [amazon.com] one of the critics. I never knew he was even computer literate in the first place and I think he should be applauded for his bold, very uncharacteristic, use of terms such as "CSV" and "cryptographic handshake."

      Wait, we're talking about the Doctorow, right?

      Right?
      • LOL. That's a funny post. Too bad most people won't get it.

        But that *would* be interesting -- Doctorow -- the real Doctorow -- writing cyberpunk. And it would probably be quite good!
    • Re:Poor writing. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @11:46AM (#4170180)
      > Consider the paragraph on the first page where he mentions that the protagonist loses commit privileges on CVS.

      So to a nontechnical audience, it sounds like "modulate the shield harmonics" on Star Trek. Big deal, that's par for the course in SF.

      What was important about the story, IMHO, was the way he made it very clear (to a technical or a nontechnical audience alike) what DRM, Palladium, the "Fritz chip" and "Trustworthy" computing were all about. In that vein, it's on a par with "The Right To Read".

      I've recommended this story to nontechnical folks who want both a good cyber-yarn, and a good explanation of what kinds of laws Hollywood's buying from Congress.

    • Re:Poor writing. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by metlin ( 258108 )
      I agree. This seems more to be an attempt at "acting cool" than any serious science fiction writing.

      He's taken standard ideas from the geek community and has jumbled them up in a story. Disney's in league with the **AAs, let them be one of the evil badasses. Sun One + Java gives us JavaOne. And ofcourse, the Big Brother is a badass, so there you go. Plus some 3l337 h4x0r speak, cryptographic terms and ideas of an Orvellian nightmare thrown in. Everything you'd think the average cs-geek would like?

      Wrong!

      Some aspects of the story are nice, like trust (not only in computing, in life too) and the way companies of tomorrow may try to control the way media dissemination AND their employees work, the burnout of coders and how the safest havens of tomorrow might be the living hells of today. But otherwise, it mostly sounded like lame speak to me.

      Good science fiction (the guy can't even say it's sci-fi, he calls it just fiction at b0ing-b0ing) would just inherently impress the readers without trying to go on great lengths to explain some lame ass terms or go into longwinded exaggeration of how somethings are today (whether vapourware will work out?).

      Take Arthur C Clarke's The Star or EM Forsters The machine stops [uiuc.edu], or David Zindell's Shanidar. You don't need to put in any effort for it to strike you as good work. You can just feel it.

      This is poor writing, bad content and an attempt at /l4m3r h4x0r attitude - LART!/ If this guy is one of the best of tomorrow's sci-fi, God save sci-fi.

      He does not even come close.
      • Sun One + Java gives us JavaOne

        JavaOne [sun.com] gives us JavaOne.
    • Consider the paragraph on the first page where he mentions that the protagonist loses commit privileges on CVS. I know what CVS is, but that's beside the point. I shouldn't have to, because CVS doesn't relate to the story at all!

      You know what CVS means, I know what CVS means. If everyone knows what CVS means, then there is no reason not to use it. I don't see how its use could detract from your enjoyment of the story if it doesn't go over you head, other then to make yourself feel smarter then the author for finding flaws in his work.

      Also, it does have meaning in the story, it showes that they wouldn't let him make changes to the code directly. Even people who don't know what CVS means spesificaly might pick that up.
    • I think the point of all the lingo and technical details, like CVS and "cryptographic handshake" was to give the main character a voice and show us how he thinks. He thinks "0wn0red" and "fourbucks." And technical details are important to him, because he is an engineer. He wants to know how the key fob remote opens his door and so he thinks of it that way, instead of just "the clicker" or something like that. I'm a user, not a programmer, so I don't know what CVS is, but it didn't bother me, I assume it is a system for letting many people work on a project and combine their parts without overwriting each others work. I took it to mean he was doing things the "right" way as a matter of course, same as when he was documenting his code as he wrote it. Thats just the way his mind works. The 133t stuff may have been a little over-the-top, but it is forgivable.
      • I don't know what it is, but a lot of people seem to have this problem of assuming every narrator is omniscient, and calling errors or slang that creep into it "bad writing." The same thing gets Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan novels criticized...because people don't realize it's third-person viewpoint narration, which combines the character-based perspective of first-person with the out-of-bodyism of third-person. We get a window on how the character thinks, and why he does the things he does, and how he instinctively reacts, without the conceit that somehow this person is telling us everything with eiditic recollection of every single word everyone said.
  • Crap (Score:1, Redundant)

    by countach ( 534280 )
    I'm as geeky as the next guy, but I'm not going to read some crap just because I understand the lingo. I read the first page and it sounds like a story going nowhere fast. Ludlum, now there's an author worth reading, just wish I had more time to get into it.
  • bah... (Score:2, Insightful)

    ...this stuff about using an inordinate amount of term-dropping in your text is old, and moreso, it makes for a boring read.

    The use of advanc3d codewords in his writing just barely covers up the pretty thin plot,
    and most importantly it doesn't build up atmosphere, which should be the primary use of this trick.
    Gibson used it with success in most of his books (although, at Mona Lisa Overdrive, it did start to bore me) because he had Th3 F33l for it.
  • ...I may read it if there was a downloadable version (other than AvantGo). But the combination of the bad comments here, my trudge through the first few paragraphs and the lack of an easy way to get it onto my Zaurus so I can read it on the toilet means I'll probably give the full thing a miss.
    I'm not convinced that it's aimed at the 'geek demographic' either, whatever that is ;)
  • Cringe-worthy (Score:2, Insightful)

    I found this story very cringe-worthy.

    Every couple of lines it reminded me of similar self-indulgent crap I have written myself.

    I can see that it is nearly good, but there are too many ideas (as is common in first works, dunno if this is...), the tech-speak sticks out a mile and the particular set of tech-speak chosen makes it look like the author just read the jargon file.

    No non-pretentious person uses that much core stuff from the jargon file in everyday speech. Maybe you'd already be using some of it before you read the jargon file, and maybe you'd adopt some more you liked from it, but this stinks of wholesale adoption of a new lingo.

    Sorry for being a bit incomprehensible, I am tired and just had to fill in a job application form from hell.

    graspee

  • ...what happens when programmers gain
    the ability to hack their own autonomic functions

    What happens when I open slashdot
    and I don't know what the hell
    you are talking about?

    • What happens when I open slashdot
      and I don't know what the hell
      you are talking about?

      No, no, no! Always
      five-seven-five, and never
      nine-five-six. Baka!

  • Charles Stross does this sort of thing so much better.

    Online samples of his fiction [antipope.org]

    I especially recommend "A Colder War", although it's not geek-specific.

    Note that he's collaborating with Doctorow now, too.

  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @09:30AM (#4169289) Journal
    for you are conductive and can support 110 volts.
  • Isn't this a tad self-referential?

    Posting a positive "news story" about a geek-code short story written by a blogger.

    That's as bad as /. pimping a book by Taco or jonkatz.
  • It reminded me vaguely of a story by Theodore R. Cogswell with Theodore L Thomas called Early Bird. The similarities were along the line of the evolutionary enhancements that Liam and Murray received, though the method of obtaining them was quite different.
    I've always been a sucker for "people obtain near human perfection through cool technology then do neat things" types of stories - Isn't that sort of the plot of most anime? (Either that, or the main character is a mysterious stranger who begins the movie with incredible abilities - I'm thinkin' "Ninja Scroll", "M.D. Geist", etc.)

    Anyway, I enjoyed it, it wasn't William Gibson, but it was worth the read and then some.

    My 2 cents, anyway.
    • Actually I was GLAD it wasn't William Gibson, which allowed me to enjoy it for what it was. (20 minutes worth of reading instead of 2 hours)
  • Since I bothered reading to the end of the story, I have to both agree and disagree with the comments posted. The first couple of pages were remarkably cringe-worthy, dropping as many '1337' terms in as possible, but once it got into the meat of the story, things picked up a bit.

    It certianly isn't a masterpiece, but the concepts raised in it are interesting and there's a fairly good plug for anti-palladium issues, in terms that the layman could work through.

    The characterisation isn't the best and throughout there is the edge of wanting to be accepted as part of the tech crowd, at the expense of the ordinary reader, but these can be overlooked with an open mind. If you let you mind create and fill out the characters and situtations, it's not a bad read for fifteen minutes.

    Ultimately, if you don't like the way it's going don't read it, but a bit of perseverance will see you through to the good bit. If only the author had realised that most readers won't do that and had made the story a little more engaging from the start.

    Goblin
  • The rights management/Descarte bit that culminates in
    "'Yeah?' Liam said. 'Who's God, then?" "Crypto,' Murray said."
    is pretty amusing.
  • Man, that was a shitty story. I mean, that's high-school level stuff. In a college-level writing course, that would rate about a C.

    So, Jon Katz is writing fiction under a nom de plume now?

  • in regular slashdot tradition I must nitpick

    ok, here comes spoilers so if you give a rats ass, yadayadayada

    Ok so he takes the shit to somalia. did he forget that when you are "infected" you have to eat 5 cheeseburgers and a box of krispykremes every fucking day? part of the reason life sucks in somalia is the lack of food and malnutrition.

    sure he can cure them, but where is he going to find the amount of food to make it work? he didn't bring it with him, since all he has is a laptop.
    • "Until further notice", he was on a 5-cheeseburger a day diet. It was a configured parameter of his metabolism. I'd wager to say he probably tweaked it to his liking once he started getting into the code.

      You're definitely right about the food supply problem in somalia. The biological 'upgrades' expected in the story wouldn't do much good there, since people can't get the food to feed their metabolism. He might be able to cure AIDS, but that still doesn't help him open a McDonald's franchise there!
    • Are you sure that he didn't plan to just eat a few of the Somalians each day?

      He could just program himself to have them all taste like ice cream!

      Vincit que se vincit.
  • William C. Calvin's Synchronized [williamcalvin.com] and its sequel Unlisted [williamcalvin.com] are great reading. Kate Medici's phone firewall isn't as dangerous as YT's dentata, but damn if it doesn't look handy after all. (Perhaps a combination of the two would be good. When you get a telemarketer on the line, just press the button...)

    Calvin is generally pretty realistic about computer security and crypto -- one-time pads actually run out of bits, and nobody hax0rs an entire network by clicking on a pi symbol in the corner of a web page. Better still, the plot's entertaining, and Our Heroine is a BOFH. Fun stuff, and well worth putting on your handheld for those boring meetings.
  • Its old news but an okay read. A little Promethean though.
  • by ymgve ( 457563 ) on Friday August 30, 2002 @03:37PM (#4172364) Homepage
    ...but it was a damn good read, and the Fritz chip might become reality. Though, one thing the story didn't bring up that I had in my head all the time was that this would open for the absolutely best way to break any copy protection:

    The piece talks about how the Fritz chip ran at Ring minus one. From the first mentioning of hacking wetware, I saw one thing; your own body runs at Ring minus TWO. So, if you actually could directly interface with your body, you could extract any information that at some time entered your body. Which means that no matter how secure and complicated the media corporations' deliverance to your eyeballs/ears is, the moment it enters your brain, it's yours. I imagined that somebody would 'hack' their brain into feeding out exactly what they received through their senses - movie in, perfectly copyable rip out.
    The only way the media corporations would be able to evade THIS would be to check that the person in front of the video screen doesn't have any biological modifications - and there's no way there will be an effective, non-invasive procedure of doing that.

    Now, this might be quite some years into the future, but it illustrates that no matter how deeply the media corps entrench their copy prevention systems, there's always the analog hole. And until we can hack our brains, we still have the excellent circumvention techniques known as 'pointing a video camera at the screen' and 'placing a microphone in front of the speaker'.

    The sooner RIAA/MPAA realize this, the sooner they can give up trying to lock down everyting and instead try to give the masses what they want instead..
  • OK, from these posts it's obvious that there's a lot of geek cred to be had by hating everything, but let me just say I enjoyed this story. It was legitimate sci-fi: it told a good story set in a recognizable world that explored the consequences of one "what-if" question. In this case, 'what if human physiology could be "hacked" with a computer?'. That's an interesting question.

    I also don't get why people are disparaging it for the leetspeak and acronym-dropping ("CVS" et al.). That's the nomenclature for the world he's describing. It would have been more weird if he had decided *not* to use such terms. Plus, I loved all of the twisted slang of familiar terms: "Fourbucks muffin", "Lo-Cal", "Shallow Alto"...great!

    Then again, what do I know, I liked Stephenson's books too.

"I think trash is the most important manifestation of culture we have in my lifetime." - Johnny Legend

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