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Spinning Down for Christmas: Part 1

So it's nearing Christmas and hopefully everyone is planning a little bit of personal downtime to spend with their loved ones and generally get away from the mad, bad world that is IT and especially storage. A time to reflect and a time to recharge but also a time to look forward but best of all it's a time for presents; giving and recieving…so if you've been working so hard that you've not had time to work out what you want for Christmas, I thought I'd give you some ideas .

Today it's the turn of the bookworms amongst you all, here's a few of the books I enjoyed this year and not a techie book amongst them.

Life: Keith Richards

A life lived as the world's most elegantly wasted man is a tale worth telling and that Keith manages to recall it in such detail is simply superhuman. His humanity, humour, brutal honesty and simple common-sense shine through. Yes, there's a lot drug taking but in between the episodes of madness; there's a reflection and a exposition of one of the great rock partnerships. Simply a great rock autobiography!

What Would Keith Richards Do: Jessica Pallington West

As an accompaniment to Life; this tongue-in-cheek 'self help' guide reminds me of the Tao of Pooh and the ilk. It's genuinely funny and often genuinely wise. For all those moments in life when one doesn't quite know what to do, turn to 'Keef' for the answers. He may steer you in a direction completely opposite to the one you think you should go but you'll have a hell of a journey.

The Finkler Question: Howard Jacobson

Not just the Booker prize winner this year but actually a damn funny book; who says that literature has to be serious? A reflection on middle age, male competition, friendship, identity and search for a tribe; darkly funny in the way that only the Jewish mind can be, this novel is full of sadness, cleverness and subtlety but mostly just funny.

The Quantum Thief: Hannu Rajaniemi

A debut novel which dumps you right into the middle of the action from the first page; there's no gentle easement and introduction into this unique imagining of the post-singularity universe. Allegedly rattled off in seven weeks, this reads like it; ideas fly out and there is almost a sense of the author trying to show how clever he is but bear with it and the book will reward you. He maybe showing how clever he is but he also trusts the reader to be equally clever, I will warn you, it is a novel which has divided the SF community, loved and hated in almost equal measure. I loved it and look forward to the next one.

Scoop: Evelyn Waugh

I've come to Evelyn Waugh rather late but this short book is almost Wodehousian in it's humour; a classic farsical mix-up leads to a rural gentleman who pens a pastoral and soporific column for a London paper called 'The Daily Beast' being sent off to report on a war in the fictional African Republic of Ishamelia. Based in the 1930s, some of it has dated somewhat and the casual racism is at times disturbing but it is a product of it's time and it should be read in that context. And much of the core reflection on the nature of reporting and newspapers still rings very true today.

The Flavour Thesaurus: Niki Segnit

A work of genius; what flavour pairings work? From the familiar to the completely bonkers; Segnit takes 99 basic flavours and has come up with 980 pairings which should work. This is not a cook book and assumes that you already have a certain level of competence in the kitchen; recipes are part of the general prose like Elizabeth David and like Elizabeth David it reveals a whole new set of flavours to be enjoyed. And the writing is superb; funny and without the pretension that many food writers tend towards; a book to be enjoyed in many ways.


Read Only

My name is Martin Glassborow and I am a gadget addict! 

My name is Martin Glassborow and I am a book addict!

So, my name is Martin Glassborow and I have a new Kindle!

I wasn't going to buy a new Kindle, I have a perfectly good iPad which makes a pretty good eReader and I also have an iRiver Story, which is an eReader. So why did I go and buy a new Kindle, I really don't need one!? I blame Ian Foster and the like! But now I've got one, I'm pretty happy I did!

I got the new Kindle v3 with WiFi+3G and it's a little slab of reading happiness! The E-ink screen is fantastic; much better than on my iRiver and the refreshes are quick enough that after a while you no longer notice the screen flash. Actually the size of the screen and the way text is formatted on it seems to suit the way my eyes scan and I read even quicker than normal, this may or may not be a good thing; I'm not sure! 

But it's not perfect and rather than focus on the great things, I'm going to list what enhancements and improvements I would like to see.

Library management sucks! Yes, there are categories but adding books to categories on the Kindle itself is painful and slow; the keyboard is absolutely horrible. The ability to manage your books and put them into categories needs to be driven from the 'Manage Your Kindle' page!! Once you've got more than 30 or 40 books in your library; you really want to be able to manage and categorise them on the website.

The keyboard is horrid! I cannot imagine doing very much annotation using it and hence I think this limits the use of Kindle by students. Personally I think some kind of touch-screen would be better but obviously this needs to be done without compromising the quality of the E-ink screen. 

It's great that you can have a number of Kindles attached to an account but this needs to be enhanced, certainly for families. My credit card is associated with my account and I really don't have a problem with my beloved wife buying books on my card; what's mine is hers and what's hers is her own and all that. However, do I really want to let my daughter lose with my card? I am not convinced but I would love her to have a Kindle and actually, it would be kind of nice for all the books to go into one big family library.

However, I would like to be able to restrict what she reads to a certain extent; I feel slightly uncomfortable with this idea as I had an adult library card at a very early age but even so, I would like to think that the librarian would have stopped me taking out books that were completely age inappropriate. At the very least, I would like to see what books she was checking out of our Kindle library.

I would like searches to have the ability to search not just the books currently on the Kindle but to search all books in my Kindle library. This I can see being extremely useful in the future. 
I want my Kindle to be waterproof, so that I can read it in the bath without fear! 

I would like to be able to choose the voice when I get the Kindle to read books to me; it would be nice if it could read fiction in my Grand-mother's voice sometimes or perhaps Shakespeare could be read in John Gielgud's voice or perhaps dear Larry's voice etc, etc…you get the picture.

And finally, a general industry observation….why are e-books so expensive? Surely the cost of publication is massively reduced and surely this should be reflected in the price? I can see no real reason for pretty much parity pricing with dead-tree volumes! 

Clusters, WNPoT and Great Blogs…

I was researching for a blog entry I was going to write about clustering, clustered file-systems and positing whether the future of x86 virtualisation was a Single System Image hypervisor allowing seamless automatic migration of virtual machines between hosts and whether we could see some kind of automated tiering for applications or whether just faking SSI with clever load-balancing/migration technologies might be good enough when I came across Greg Pfister's blog here

Greg wrote 'In Search of Clusters' which was pretty much the Bible when I was working in HPC and clustering; I don't know where my copy is any more unfortunately and I note that the publication date was in 1997; so it's probably a little bit out of date. But his blog is a great read and I can recommend it to anyone who is interested in virtualisation and Cloud; it'll fill the gap until he writes another book. 

And he points to another great blog written by Charlie Stross who has come up with the acronym 'WNPoT' which stands for Wonderful New Piece of Technology which I suspect is another way of saying 'Awesome Sauce'. 

p.s Yes, I suspect we will see some attempts at a SSI hypervisor; IBM have a statement of direction for z/VM leading down that route, so I expect some brave soul to try to do the same for x86. But for the time being, I think faking it with some good tools might be good enough. 

Paging: A New Blog

For anyone who is interested, I've started a new blog here. Much as I love the world of Storage, Virtualisation and technology in general; my real love is books and I read a fair bit. The new blog is basically my thoughts and reviews of the books I read, as I read them. You might find something of interest, you might not…it might give you a frightening insight into my warped mind. 

I've always thought you can tell a lot about people from the books they read…you might end up calling the authorities about me!

Books of the Year

Sometimes I think I am single-handely sustaining the publishing industry; we've moved house
once because we ran out of space for books and couldn't bare to get rid of any of them. These days, we're a little more disciplined and have actually been known to give books away. I think this year, I averaged a book every two days might even be slightly more than that.
After several years of absence, we made a return to Eastercon and my wife was over the moon to get the chance to have coffee with Neil Gaiman. My daughter was impressed to meet real writers such as Neil Gaiman and also people who make money drawing pictures.
Anyway, top books of the year are:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: Neil Gaiman re-imagines Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book and sets it in a disused graveyard full of ghosts who look him after the rest of his family are slaughtered by a
mysterious assassin. The hero is called Bod but that's not the reason I rate this so highly; Gaiman finally finds his feet as a children's author in this book but it's eminently readable as a 'adult'; he paints his hero so well and manages to make you believe that this is a boy growing up in a Graveyard.

His hero makes mistakes as we all do as we are growing up but his mistakes lead him through each stage of his development and you get the genuine sense of someone growing.

Neil's ability to write with clarity and craft letting the reader to do the heavy lifting of the imagining probably comes from his background in graphic novels where he lets his collaborators fill the white-space of the frame. If Harry Potter had been written by Neil Gaiman, the whole series would have been condensed into a single volume.
Anathem by Neal Stephenson: Neil Stephenson is not an easy writer; he used to be, novels like Snow Crash are a blast but he seems to delight in challenging the reader with every new set of books. The Baroque Cycle was dense and you needed to trust the author that there was a story worth telling and ultimately you were rewards. Anathem is even more challenging, a new language, a new world, full of complex ideas about maths, philosophy and although the ending is little bit of a let down I feel, it's a book well worth investing your time in.

And if you don't like it, it'll make a pretty good door stop!
The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill: A book about a 72 year-old coroner based in the communist Laos a year after the 1975 revolution probably doesn't sound too promising but this is a rattling good read if you like murder-mystery novels with a touch of the supernatural. Cotterill's witty and humourous writing style with an engaging and likable protagonist is marvellously refreshing, the story rattles along and the pages keep turning. 

Honourable mentions go to:
Blown to Bits: Your Life, Libery and Happiness After the Digital Explosion by Hal Abelson,
Ken Ledeen and Harry Lewis:
Everybody knows everything about you! A book about the sheer amount of information which has been gathered on all aspects of our lives. 
Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar: it's fantastic to have Martin Millar back writing again; he's a writer who deserves to be as well-known as Neil Gaiman and this book set deserves to be made into a film or a TV series. He takes the exploding werewolf genre, sets it in Britain, Camden and the Scottish Highlands; stirs in some subculture referencing much of his influences and his cultural loves, the result
is an exciting and different take on the werewolf story. Looking forward to the sequel.