I'm a project manager, software developer, Apple evangelist and geek from South Africa. I'm passionate about web and mobile application development, usability, productivity, physics, astronomy, science fiction and fantasy.
When the Lord of the Rings movies were released a few years ago I'd hoped that it would spawn a wave of adult-oriented fantasy movies. Sadly, most of the fantasy movies that came out since then (Harry Potter, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Golden Compass, Eragon, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.) were weak adaptations catering for younger viewers.
Additionally, Red Eagle Entertainment is planning to release a line of stand-alone Wheel of Time games for all major videogame platforms, as well as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game encompassing the themes, characters and world of the Wheel of Time novels.
I'd previously heard great things about Neal Stephenson, and the first of his books I tried was Anathem.
After reading this book I can say with confidence that Neal Stephenson has earned his place amongst the ranks of my favourite science fiction authors!
Anathem plays out on the world of Arbre, where thousands of years prior to the events in the novel mathematicians, scientists and philosophers (collectively knows as "avout") were cloistered away in monastic concents, stripped of all possessions except the Bolt and the Sphere, and tasked with the role of nurturing all knowledge whilst safeguarding it from the vagaries of the irrational saecular world.
Once every 10, 100, or 1000 years the Concents' decade-, centennial-, or millennial gates open during the ceremony of Apert, allowing the avout to receive visitors and see how the world outside their walls has changed.
The second Neal Stephenson book I read, Snow Crash didn't fail to impress after Anathem.
Snow Crash plays out in a not-too-distant future where super-inflation has ruined the world economy, the United States of America exists as a patchwork of corporate-franchise city-states, the Mafia controls pizza delivery, and the Internet is virtualized as the "Metaverse", an online world where hackers rule.
When Hiro Protagonist, a hacker, samurai swordsman, and pizza delivery driver, witnesses his best friend frying his brain on a new designer drug called Snow Crash, he sets out to track down its origin.
Fans of The Big Bang Theory might have seen the episode where Sheldon and Rajesh try to decide whether to watch Saturn 3 or Deep Space Nine by playing "Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock" ("The Lizard-Spock Expansion", season 2, episode 8).
Samuel Kass and Karen Bryla originally invented this modification of the popular Rock-Paper-Scissors game in 1998 to lower the perceived probability of 75-80% of games played between friends ending in ties.
While the rules for the original "Rock-Paper-Scissors" game are:
Scissors cuts Paper
Paper covers Rock
Rock crushes Scissors
... the rules for the improved "Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock" version are:
With 35% of all mobile phone users worldwide being active text messaging users (as of 2003), it is the most widely used mobile data service on the planet (according to Wikipedia).
When a text message is sent, it travels wirelessly from a mobile handset to the closest available cellphone tower. From there it's transferred via wired connections to the destination tower, then transmitted wirelessly from the destination tower to another mobile handset. Text messages (being only 160 characters in length) are so small that the costs associated with the use of the radio spectrum as well as the wired connections should be infinitesimal.
Additionally, text messages don't use a dedicated channel while being transmitted to cellphone towers. Instead, they piggyback on the "control channel", a range that's reserved for initiating phone calls and other handset-to-tower and tower-to-handset communication (the use of this channel is why text messages have a length limit: 160 characters is the maximum size of a "control message").
This channel is always open and always active between handsets and towers; when mobile devices send text messages they're simply slotted into any openings available.
Thanks to the work done by Simon Jansen, Snore, and Mike Edwards from July 1997 to April 2008, it's possible to watch Star Wars: Episode IV in all it's ASCII glory from any command line that supports telnet.
To watch Star Wars in ASCII, open a new Terminal window and enter the following command:
After a few seconds a connection to the blinkenlights.nl server will be established and the text-based movie will start streaming.