# My small cameo in “Building Open Source Hardware”

Building Open Source Hardware, by Alicia Gibb, is now available! I received my copy tonight and just by flipping through it I can tell it is an impressive collaborative effort that captures the zeitgeist of the OSHW movement. There are over 16 contributing authors who share their expertise in areas such as wearables, licensing, design, manufacturing, materials, and documentation. I’ll post a proper review once I’ve completed reading it.

I’m also proud to announce that a very small contribution of mine made it into this book. I wrote a brief essay of OSHW Security Do’s and Don’ts which unabashedly occupies Appendix B. There are no shocking revelations — just some good common sense practices.

If you are involved in any way with OSHW, you should like this book. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

# My book, BeagleBone for Secret Agents, is now available

My book, BeagleBone for Secret Agents, is now available. The title is slightly misleading as you need not be a secret agent to enjoy this book. 😉 There are five self-contained projects involving electronics, cryptography, and various software packages but I wanted to write a book that was more than just a collection of projects. In BBfSa, I tried to motivate the social and individual importance of using software like Tor, GPG, and OTR. While the projects are cool, IMHO, I’m hoping that readers will appreciate the need for and difficulty of developing privacy enhancing technologies.

I picked projects that were explicitly more detailed than one could describe in a blog post. Most of them combine hardware and software and I would describe the projects as challenging, but attainable. If you decide to buy it hopefully you not only enjoy it, but learn something as well.

The book is available as a DRM free eBook and as a bound collection of printed dead-trees. I’ve stopped reading with eBooks readers, but there are just over 100 references, most with URLs, and I can appreciate the convenience of using one. You can visit my BBfSa page to see its availability or buy it direct from Packt Publishing.

Thanks to the many people at Packt who helped with the direction, editing, and layout. I was lucky to have very talented reviewers. Lastly, thank you Nate for writing an incredibly insightful forward and to SparkFun, without whom the projects in this book would not have been possible.

# Banned Books Week 2014

My initial reaction to Banned Books Week, which is this week, was “oh, this when we remember how we used to ban books back in the 50s.” I went to the Banned Books Week website and found a pamphlet that shows the banned or challenged books, in 2013! Looking over the list, I’m incredulous that books like the Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, and Diary of Anne Frank, which a Northville, Michigan middle school try to ban, are still routinely challenged.

# My top eBooks picks from Packt

Packt Publishing is offering a buy one, get one free deal on eBooks until March 26th. What I like about Packt is that they have some very niche books, like a book on Gnucash! I was curious about what other books they had and I made a list of my favorites below.

# BeagleBone

Packt has three books on the BeagleBone listed below. They all look a good source for BeagleBone project ideas if you are looking for a next project.

# Security / Networking

• CISSP in 21 Days: During breaks in my graduate program1, when I haven’t had a test for a while, I sometimes feel the urge to take a test and this one is usually on the list.

• Traffic Analysis with Tshark How-to: Wireshark rocks; Tshark is wireshark on the command line, which rocks more.

# Functional Programming

Packt seems to have a number of books on Clojure2 and the following looked interesting:

# Misc

1. Only one class left!

2. I actually searched “lisp”, but I’ll take Clojure.
3. I can never remember the `find` syntax. I do use zsh’s `echo **/*.pattern` a lot.
4. Leslie Lamport, the main developer behind $\LaTeX$, has been recently awarded the ACM Turing Award

# Kafka is hilarious says DFW and I

I was elated to find Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace (DFW) on my library’s staff pick shelf.  I’ve been meaning to read it so I quickly snatched the book.  The opening essay on the Adult Video News awards[1], is absolutely hysterical. My favorite line:

A suspicion that we’d had all week but decided was unverifiable is now instantly verified when one of yr. corresps. gets accidentally shoved against a starlet and is jabbed in the side by her breasts and it hurts.[2]

The third essay in the collection, “Some remarks on Kafka’s funniness from which probably not enough has been removed”, laments that “it is next to impossible to get [American college undergraduates] to see that Kafka is funny.”  His example is “A Little Fable:”

“Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day.  At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”

“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up.[3]

Kafka captures the absurdness of modern life and presents it in a very chilling way.  I think most people find his delivery style unnerving and uncomfortable.  But in works like The Castle, he perfectly captures the individual helplessness caused by bureaucratic paradox.  It is his subtlety that makes it great and that is where the humor lies.  He’s like a Douglas Adams[4], but just not as in-your-face.

In this sense, I disagree with Joseph Epstein’s Is Kafka Overrated?.  He concludes with, “great writers are impressed by the mysteries of life; poor Franz Kafka was crushed by them.”  While he may have been crushed, his stories force readers to consider uncomfortable truths.  When we stress about whether to check-in at work, despite being ill and most likely virally contagious, we are having a Metamorphosis moment.  When Glenn Greenwald’s partner was held at Heathrow airport for nine hourshe was re-living The Trial.  The irony of The Castle[5] was not lost on me when I was involuntarily recalled to Afghanistan, only to be sent home because my job had been canceled months ago.  Kafka provides comic relief for the modern life, especially one where governments are increasingly infringing on our privacy.[6]  When you take your shoes off at the airport gate, knowing that this ceremony is delusional, but you choose not to engage your rational being and acquiesce, Kafka is enjoying the schadenfreude.

# Thoughts on Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

Bleeding Edge is filled with 9/11 conspiracy theories, eccentric characters, and a wild alternative universe called the “Deep Web.”  It is very Pynchon; the only difference is that this universe is found through computers and not through hallucinogens like some of his other books.

This was the most comprehensible Pynchon book to me.  Probably because I was alive during 2001, I’ve lived in Manhattan, I am familiar with the techno-jargon, and I’ve at least heard of the exuberant tales of tech boom.  For those that are worrying that Pynchon is becoming more accessible, fear not as Jonathan Lethem writes in his review:

Thomas Pynchon is 76, and his refusal to develop a late style is practically infuriating.  The man’s wildly consistent: the only reason Bleeding Edge couldn’t have been published in 1973 is that the Internet, the Giuliani/Disney version of Times Square and the war on terror hadn’t come along yet.  This book, and Inherent Vice, make jubilant pendants on his mammoth enterprise, neon signposts to themes he took no trouble to hide in the first place.

But in the deep web of this book, lurks a darker message.  Bleeding Edge could not have been released at a more appropriate time.  At its core there is a struggle between those who want to get lost on the Internet and those who want to find them.

# Les Earnest is my new favorite person

I just finished What the Dormouse said, which is a great history of the 60s and computing.  Especially if you are interested in how LSD influenced modern computing.  I learned a great deal about LSD and LSD parties from this book; a history of the sixties is incomplete otherwise (or so I’m told).

Significant attention is given to Doug Engelbart and comparisons to others in the Bay area, like Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) led by John McCarthy).  This is where Les Earnest worked.