Charlie Harvey

January/February 2017 Reading

  • Pirate Utopia, by Bruce Sterling

    Pirate Utopia, cover image

    Bruce Sterling is "that other cyberpunk author". He is back to writing counterfactual alternative histories examining what may have been had things just happened to turn out slightly differently (cf. steampunk bible and Victorian romp The Difference Engine, cowritten with William Gibson) with what he calls a "dieselpunk" story of post World War One futurism. I found it heavier going than that book, it was by turns literary, a bit silly and even somewhat educational. As well as offbeat and disturbing.

    2017-02-19 by Charlie Harvey

  • Teach Yourself Go, by Charles Matthews

    cover image

    I first told myself that I should learn the Asian game Go back in the olden days of 2015, when humans could still beat artificial intelligence at the game and AlphaGo had yet to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world to beat many of the world’s top players using machine learning. In 2017, following Lee Sedol’s defeat and all the other controversy, I figured that I would have another try and so far things have been going OK. I am not completely horrific on a 9-line board. This is very much a beginners book and was perfect for a returning beginner like me. I may well be reading more books about go this year.

    2017-02-19 by Charlie Harvey

  • Mathematical games, abstract games, by Jo´┐Żo Pedro Neto and Jorge Nuno Silva

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    On the subject of board games, this is a gem of a book, giving the rules of a shitload of abstract strategic games that one might play (including go, as it happens). The book is split into 3 sections with an historical introduction. It covers games for two and three players as well as many variants of Nim. I was slightly disappointed that the mathematical coverage was not more extensive, but I suppose the short edition by Dover necessitated some editing and the priority was to cover as many games as possible rather than to focus on the mathematical side. Still a nice book to have around.

    2017-02-19 by Charlie Harvey

  • High performance images, by Colin Bendell, Tim Kadlec, Yoav Weiss, Guy Podjarny, Nick Doyle, Mike McCall

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    I don’t want to say too much about this book, as I am doing a proper review of it for FLOSSUK shortly and I have not actually finished reading it yet. What I can say is that it is a really comprehensive treatment of the subject presenting enough of the underlying image formats and theoretical basis of compression to give one a good intuition not only for the fact that things work but for why they work as well. Developers may be minded to just use tools like compressor.io or similar, but hackers will be fascinated to learn how image compression works.

    2017-02-19 by Charlie Harvey

  • The GCHQ puzzle book, by "The Babylon"

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    In many ways, GCHQ are the enemy of privacy activists like me. Much as their mass surveillance of the entire planet is horribly disturbing, it turns out that they do pretty entertaining (and sometimes mindbogglingly difficult) quizzes. Perhaps not as hard as my mate Graham’s Sunday quiz. But tougher than your average crossword. This is a collection was a Christmas pressie to myself, and I still haven't solved all the puzzles two months later, in February. Its pretty fun. Doesn't excuse the mass surveillance of the entire planet, of course. But still fun.

    2017-02-19 by Charlie Harvey

  • Scarlet and Black, by Stendahl

    Scarlet and Black cover image

    Stendahl's novel about the hypocrisy that drives post Napoleonic French society. It tells the story of an ambitious and naive young man, Julien Sorel. Born into a poor family, he makes his way through provincial French society, all the way hiding his idealistic republicanism as a way of furthering his career in a feudal world. The novel examines the consequences of a world where success and social approval are dependent on inauthenticity and playing a part that may be completely at odds with our innermost desires.

    2017-02-19 by Charlie Harvey


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