my recent reads..

Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters; From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima
Power Sources and Supplies: World Class Designs
Red Storm Rising
Locked On
Analog Circuits Cookbook
The Teeth Of The Tiger
Sharpe's Gold
Without Remorse
Practical Oscillator Handbook
Red Rabbit

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Final Solution

Uncommon Sense: Out of the box thinking for an in the box world

Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense is an interesting collection of opinion pieces taken from his blog through to around 2004. While you can read much of the material (and catch later articles) in his blog archives, the book does enhance the content will a liberal scattering of charts and also some additional commentary.

Some of the topics are evergreen, such as the failures of the education system, and the gap that often exists between the actual and the perceived in conventional wisdom. Some are specific to a point in time, like his pre-occupation with the 3G bandwidth auction debacle.

Certainly worth grabbing a copy for a thought provoking read, and ample encouragement to add his blog to my reader for continued entertainment.

Cochrane also has a nice practice of introducing many of his articles with a related quote. One of my favourites is from Douglas Adams:
Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work properly yet.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Looking down your tailpipe from level 56

The RSAF Black Knights got the nod to perform at this years National Day celebrations, which means aerobatics between the buildings in the CBD. Yeehaw!

Now, I've been in Singapore long enough to know that NDP celebration preparations are taken seriously, and you never have less than 4 practices of anything (including fireworks, to everyone's great enjoyment).

So with about two months to go, its seems the RSAF have started daily practice flying around the city. From my desk on level 56, I get a stunning view of the F-16s fly by at arms reach and then get thrown into a 180 degree climb. Stunning.

Looking forward to the next two months of this. Oh, and NDP itself;-)

Monday, June 16, 2008

bookjetty - a great new site to track, share, buy and borrow books

I've fallen in love with bookjetty, a great new site for books by Herryanto Siatono.

Although this blog is officially dedicated to prata (and always will be!), you can tell I use it to keep a diary of the books I'm reading. I probably always will, but I do try out all the "book tracking" sites, facebook apps and so on that I come across.

None have really jiggled my worm until I discovered bookjetty.

The killer feature for me is the great library integration on the site. It helps answer all the usual questions I have whenever I hear about a new book..

  • Have I already got it or read it before?

  • Does one of my friends have it? Maybe I can borrow it..

  • Can I get it from the local library?

  • Can I buy it online?

  • (oh, and if the last two steps fail, I may actually visit a real bookstore!)

The library catalogue checks work a treat - right within your booklist. I used this feature yesterday as I knew I would be heading to the library. Within 5 minutes on bookjetty I had added a few books I'd been interested in reading and found out that 3 of them were available and on the shelf at my local library. An hour later, I had them checked out.

The bookjetty developer(s?) have done a great job of integrating the libraries, especially considering that most are still running archaic web 0.1 systems which are not very mashup friendly. I've posted before about a kludge to do library lookups from an amazon page, but it never works very reliably because of the dumb library catalogue it needs to talk to, so I can appreciate some of the challenges they may have had.

And here's an example of how the library checks appear...

If you are into books, I heartily recommend you go and register at bookjetty and check it out!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


..or "how to (try) and make the new economy work like the old one"

I recently borrowed John Hagel III and Arther G. Armstrong's Net Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities from a colleague for a quick read.

It was published in 1997 by McKinsey & Company, and I must say it kinda shows. The book suffers from a myopic pre-occupation with the dual assumptions that:

  • organisations must race to establish virtual communities: the spoils will go to the fast and the bold
  • the aim is to profit from transactions conducted by the community while also garnering peerless customer loyalty

Ah, the golden days of the internet bubble! This is an interesting read if for no other reason than to see how far we have come; how much has been learnt, and how much we have yet to learn.

As I studied the authors' recipe for profitable community-building I found myself challenging the principle that success requires an imposition of control by an organisation: the company studies the market, decides what community should be built, writes a business case for it, and appoints the expert team to design, build, launch, and market the community.

This is an astonishing proposition given the book's initial premise:
The rise of virtual communities .. has set in motion an unprecedented shift in power from vendors of goods and services to the customers who buy them.

"Over my dead body!" I can hear the voices echoing from the boardroom - undoubtedly the prime audience for this book, which I think could reasonably be subtitled "how to (try) and make the new economy work like the old one".

The idea of a "community" that is both external to the organisation while remaining under its control permeates the book, and is perhaps the primary misconception that has taken the past 10 years to rethink and recognise for the oxymoron that it is.

This is closely related to the fundamental yet unspoken assumption of a hard boundary between the corporation and the customer/community. In parts of the book that consider the use of communities within the corporation, the emphasis is very much on within the corporation, or at most, between business partners.

My comments have been a little disparaging, and it is perhaps unfair to find fault in failing to predict the future accurately. It does mean that this book is now little more than a historical curiosity.

However, the book I would be very interested to read is a "10th anniversary rewrite". For my money, I'd say that's Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (any other recommendations? I'm keen to hear..)

For now, I think I'll let Geek and Poke have the last word...

Geek and Poke

The Physics of Large Objects

Sunday, June 01, 2008

I haz audible! / Dune

As a long time TWiT listener, and a fan of audiobooks, I've long been tantalised by one of the TWiT network's biggest sponsors - audible.

To my chagrin, last I checked - admittedly a long time ago - I was unable to subscribe to audible because I live in Singapore. Undoubtedly due to pre-Copernican copyright issues.

After chatting with a colleague from the US the other day who was raving about audible, I thought I'd try again.

Success! I am over the moon to now be a totally addicted audible member (it seems 99% of titles are available for purchase to me - just a few that are restricted due to copyright).

With my free credit (for signing up as a TWiT listener) I bought the unabridged adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune. The production by Audio Renaissance is truly wonderful. The selected use of character actors, and subtle atmospheric music and sound effects really bring the story to life, keeping you enthralled for the full 21 hours.

It is many years since I last read and re-read Dune, and it was great to rediscover the book in audio. Still the SF classic I remember, and now I have it sitting in my audible library for another listen in the not too distant future.