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Category: Media

Harbebrained Battletech

So two days ago Harebrained Schemes’ Battletech came out. Harebrained Schemes is an Indie Game Dev Studio from Seattle, previously known for the very successful Shadowrun Games.

I found time to play the intro and the first few chapters in the campaign, and the game is exceptionally nice. It feels like one of those over designed simulation games, where you can minmax the player characters and their gear to the limit, but the computer is taking over the task of all the bookkeeping, so the paperwork is not going to pull you down.


Things you cannot say on Facebook, SQL Edition

EDIT: This is now fixed. Facebook worked on the bug report and fixed the problem within 72 hours, including rollout.

Where I work, I am using an instance of Facebook at Work to communicate with colleagues. That is basically a grey-styled instance of Facebook which is supposed to run a forked codebase on isolated servers.

Today, it would not let me write the following SQL in Chat, in Facebook notes or comments:

Other versions of the error message complain about it being Spam, or mention the string as being problematic.

Why is that?


Fertig gelesen: The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation

Frank O’Brien explains an outstanding piece of engineering: The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was the computer that controlled the thrusters and navigation on the Apollo Command Module, and a second instance, on the Lunar Module.

It’s a 32kg box with core memory and core rope ROM, a 16 bit discrete CPU (15 data bits and parity) running at 1 MHz effective, and some very special hardware behind its I/O ports. Memory was 2k words of writeable core memory, and some 36k of ROM.

The processor architecture is stackless, which complicates many things, and despite being designed in 1966, already has multiplication and division machine instructions. Addresses are effectively 12 bit, so sophisticated bank switching to extend the address space is needed, writeable and read-only memory are banked separately. Some interesting interaction with interrupt processing and bank switching exists.

There exists a very basic multitasking system, which at the same time is made simpler and more complicated by the stackless architecture. On top of the multitasking executive sits the interpreter, a virtual machine that was much more comfortable than the actual hardware and had a stack and index-registers, as well as trigonometric math functions. Navigational code ran on the interpreter, basic hardware control (thrusters, sextant, inertial control system and anything timer related) ran on the executive.

The book gives a guided tour into a hardware design over fifty years old, which itself was already foreshadowing and in some way surpassing the more modern integrated chip CPUs of seventies home computers. It also demonstrates a number of creative and interesting ideas of how to achieve remarkable things with very little hardware.

The Apollo Guidance Computer: Architecture and Operation
Frank O’Brien
EUR 30.71 (purchased as Kindle edition, no longer available as eBook)

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Fertig gelesen: How to Make a Zombie

Frank Swain takes us on a tour of the myths, stories and historic reports of the undead corpse throughout the history of humanity. Referencing sources and quoting people, he shows us the various aspects of the mindless physical body shuffling around after the soul departed, and how that as a theme has been following us around throughout our history.

The first chapter deals with the “original” haitian zombies, later chapter take us to victorian experimentation with corpses of the executed, soviet experiments and many other encounters between humans and the living undead.

How to Make a Zombie
Frank Swain
EUR 11.66 (Kindle)

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Fertig gelesen: The Zombie Survival Guide

Max Brooks, author of World War Z, delivers a straight on, zero tongue in cheek, nitty-gritty survival guide for the coming Zombie Apocalypse.

The book delivers exactly what is promised in the table of contents: The Solanum Virus and how it works and does not work, Weapons and Combat Techniques that work, defending your home, public spaces or other places, how to organise a breakout or run, useful equipment to have or to loot, and then fighting back and finally containing the outbreak. The book concludes with a list of documented outbreaks in the past, and their handling.

The book is written completely straight and is full of useful advice for fighting a Zombie Apocalypse or containing an outbreak, but also a useful source book for roleplaying and storytelling games.

The Zombie Survival Guide
Max Brooks
EUR 4.99 (Kindle)


Fertig gelesen: The Collapsing Empire

»The mutineers would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for the collapse of the Flow.

There is, of course, a legal, standard way within the guilds for a crew to mutiny, a protocol that has lasted for centuries. A senior crew member, preferably the executive officer/first mate, but possibly the chief engineer, chief technician, chief physician or, in genuinely bizarre circumstances, the owner’s representative, would offer the ship’s imperial adjunct a formal Bill of Grievances Pursuant to a Mutiny, consistent with guild protocol. The imperial adjunct would confer with the ship’s chief chaplain, calling for witnesses and testimony if required, and the two would, in no later than a month, either offer up with a Finding for Mutiny, or issue a Denial of Mutiny. […]
Obviously no one was going to do any of that.«

The glorious Empire of the Interdependency is completely constructed: Its worlds, or rather mostly space habitats circling uninhabitable planets, cannot live alone by design: each requires some thing or the other from another world of the Interdependency. All are bound together by the ‘Flow’, extradimensional rivers connecting star systems Diaspora style. Its religion promotes values that guarantee stability and peace. Its component social structures, the great houses, are carefully balanced for stability and longevity.

The Interdependency stagnates.

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Fertig gelesen: All Systems Red

»I COULD HAVE BECOME a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites.« This is how »All Systems Red« begins.

The protagonist in this book is a robot mercenary android, or Murderbot, as it refers to itself. In a universe of corporations and contracts, Expeditions and Exploration teams are taking these company supplied machines with the for their own safety, and for compliance reasons.


Fertig gelesen: River of Teeth

»In the early twentieth century, the Congress of our great nation debated a glorious plan to resolve the meat shortage in America. The idea was this: import hippos and raise them in Louisiana’s bayous. The hippos would eat the ruinously invasive water hyacinth; the American people would eat the hippos; everyone would go home happy. Well, except the hippo’s. They’d go home eaten.«

This plan, on which Congress did not follow through in our timeline, is the premise and the setting for Sarah Gailey’s alternate universe story “River of Teeth”.

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Fertig gelesen: Children of Time

The people of Earth are on the verge of transcendence: They almost managed to create mind uploads, they are on the verge of creating true synthetic AI, they have been traveling to remote stars and are beginning to terraform worlds, on which they will seed Earth lifeforms and uplift them.

All this progress, though, draws the ire of militant terrorists from the “Non Ultra Nature” radicals, which culminates into the sabotage of Brin 2 lab while seeding a terraformed world, and at the same time the complete destruction of humanity and its in-system colonies back home.

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Fertig gelesen: Sourdough

Lori Clary is a software engineer and silicon valley geek, programming embedded systems and robot arms at General Dexterity for a living. She’s living the silicon valley lifestyle – basically coding all day, collapsing in her hole of a non-appartment, and not having contact with real people at all.

With one exception: She’s ordering dinner from a delivery service that is run by two mysterious brothers, who make a mean spicy soup and crusty bread.

The brothers have to leave, due to visa issues, but they leave her with the sourdough culture. She’s learning to feed it, and to bake it, and soon she does not know what do with all the bread. Turns out people love her bread, and she needs to mass-produce it. Good thing that she’s working for a robot arm factory… Soon she’s joining a geeky underground farmers market with a techno-gothic flair.

Robin Sloan is the author of Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, und Sloan manages to keep the writing style and the “Silcon Valley Geeks meet the real world” feel, transplanting it successfully into a new story.

Robin Sloan
EUR 5.49 (Kindle)