Sponsored links

Valid XHTML 1.0!
Valid CSS!
Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: The Art of Intrusion : The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders & Deceivers
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Authors: Kevin D. Mitnick, William L. Simon
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Enlightening and Entertaining At The Same Time

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it as entertaining as I did enlightening. It boggles the mind sometimes to contemplate the tremendous brilliance that goes into these illegal deeds. Imagine how much could be accomplished if these geniuses would use their knowledge and skills for good.

Each of the stories in this book provides a look at a different sort of attack. They provide some insight into why the attackers did what they did, how they were able to accomplish it and what sort of damage was incurred. In some cases the story-teller was never actually detected or caught so the story is told anonymously to protect the attacker's identity.

Mitnick and Simon interlace some commentary within the stories where it seems warranted, but their main contribution is at the end of each story. The information provided in the Insights and Countermeasures section can help a network or security administrator put the story in context and determine proactive steps that might protect them from being victimized by a similar attack.

Whether for entertainment or education I recommend this book. I look forward to reading Mitnick's own personal hacking exploits once the gag order has expired.

Tony Bradley is a consultant and writer with a focus on network security, antivirus and incident response. He is the About.com Guide for Internet / Network Security (http://netsecurity.about.com), providing a broad range of information security tips, advice, reviews and information. Tony also contributes frequently to other industry publications. For a complete list of his freelance contributions you can visit Essential Computer Security (http://www.tonybradley.com).

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Microsoft Windows Scripting Self-Paced Learning Guide
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: Ed Wilson
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Another VBScript book that is Lacking

How many VBScript books have you picked up that completely skip explaining the Windows Script Host and VBScript environment? They immediately jump into having you write scripts without even explaining the scripting environment, something that is Crucial to learning VBScript. This is another of those books.

This book has no information on the WSH (Windows Script Host), objects or methods, when and why to use the various WSH objects and methods, and there is only haphazard information on syntax. You can't even find this information in the appendices.

The author takes you through writing VBScripts, almost from page one, and only gives the briefest of explanations of what you are doing. For example, in the second chapter of the book, you are presented with a multiline script that includes the following:

Set objWMIService=SetObject("winmgmts") _
& .ExecQuery _
("SELECT = FROM Win32_Process")

If you never worked with Windows Script Host or VBScript, would you have any idea what this is? Or why you are using it? The author gives a 2 sentence explanation, and then jumps right into something else.

If you are new to VBScript, and are looking for a book to teach you about VBScript and WSH, this book is not for you. If you are an experienced VBScript writer, you might find some tidbit of useful information in this book. This book, sadly, does not teach you VBScript, and would be of no real use to someone who already knows VBscript.

Don't buy it.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Paint Shop Pro 8 for Dummies
Publisher: For Dummies
Authors: David C. Kay, William Steinmetz, David C. Kay
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
This Dummy Found It Useful :)

Paint Shop Pro 8 For Dummies by David Kay helped this dummie a good bit :) . Being a "Newbie" to Paint Shop Pro 8 I was totally lost. This book starts with the basics such as downloading your pictures to the more complicated such as turning a photo into a painting. It has been a great help to me. The reason I am giving it 4 stars instead of 5 is that I have found it lacking in the one area I purchased it for and that is simple photo editing. Several tools and techniques are not explained in detail and/or not at all. But overall if you are a novice to Paint Shop Pro 8 as I was you will find it more than beneficial.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer
Publisher: Viking Adult
Authors: John Markoff
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
How LSD and Vietnam Helped Create the PC

Most histories of the personal computer begin with Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Apple in 1976, but while hanging out at SAIL in the mid 1970s, and at the First West Coast Computer Faire in 1977 I heard highly attenuated versions of the folklore that Markoff has only now, after nearly 30 years, run to ground. Conventional histories of the PC make passing reference to the MITS Altair (1974) before going on the talk about the Apple, the IBM PC (1981) and what followed. The more sophisticated would conspiratorially tell the story of how Steve Jobs "stole the idea" for the Macintosh from Xerox's fabled Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) as they were "fumbling the future", and nearly everyone knew that Bill Gates then stole the ideas from Apple.

But the truth of those half-heard folktales from my youth is that nearly every concept in the personal computer predates all of this, in a delightfully picaresque tale that starts in the late 1950s and weaves together computers, LSD, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the Vietnam War and dozens of characters.

John Markoff, veteran technology reporter for the New York Times, is the first to comprehensively tell this story in his new book What The Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. Markoff, best known for Cyberpunk and Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Kevin Mitnick, explodes the conventional notion that the PC replaced the mini-computer in the same way that the mini-computer replaced the mainframe -- by a sort of evolutionary selection within the computer business, by persistently investigating the roots of the PC its unsung pioneers, its user interface, and the culture of open-source software in the San Francisco drug and anti-war culture of the late 1950s and 1960s.

Markoff has painstakingly researched the men (and a few women) who populated the cutting edge of the computer revolution in 1960s San Francisco, capturing an oral history of the PC never before recorded. Central to "Dormouse" is the story of Doug Engelbart, the "tragic hero" of computing, and the man who invented -- and demonstrated -- virtually every aspect of modern computing as much as a decade before the PC. Engelbart presided over the ground-breaking 1968 demo of his Augment concept, which included multiple overlapping windows, the original mouse, a screen cursor, video conferencing, hyperlinks and cut-and-paste -- virtually every aspect of the modern PC user interface three decades later. Yet the combination of Engelbart's ego and his poor management skills doomed the project, and his best team members leaked over to Xerox PARC, where they worked on the equally doomed "Alto" workstation, source of Steve Job's inspiration.

In parallel to this central story are those of the Stanford AI Lab (SAIL), the Free University, the People's Computer Company, and the Homebrew Computer Club, all located within a few files of the center of the San Francisco peninsula. SAIL, in its first incarnation under John McCarthy and Les Earnest, may have been the first place where computers (or the powerful access to a time-sharing server) really were "personal", and was almost certainly the birthplace of the first true computer game, SpaceWar. It was the locus of naked hot-tub parties, a porn video, and not a little bit of LSD (taken both as serious experimentation and recreationally) that fueled a cast of characters dodging the Vietnam war at Stanford and at the ARPA-funded Stanford Research Institute and creating a counter-culture. Virtually everyone linked to the genesis of the PC spent some time at SAIL, including Alan Kay, who conceived the first notebook computer, who appears first at SAIL before running into Englebart and his enrapturing demo of Augment, leading him to PARC and eventually Apple.

"Dormouse" is peppered with odd juxtapositions and combinations of characters including Fred Moore, the anti-war activist and single father who knit the community together with a pile of special punch cards and a knitting needle and helped create the People's Computer Company and the Homebrew Computer Club. Another, Steve Dompier, was widely accused -- falsely, Markoff convincingly reports -- of being the source for the infamous distribution of Gates' early Altair BASIC. (Was this the eThrough the whole story Stewart Brand -- of Whole Earth Catalog fame -- pops up "Zelig-like" at nearly every turn. The list goes on: Larry Tesler, Ken Kesey, Joan Baez, Ted Nelson, Lee Felsenstein, Bill English, Janis Joplin, and Bill Gates.

If the book has a problem, this is it. Markoff neither presents a first-person oral history nor is he able to tease a single central narrative thread out of this creative soup. He tells several interwoven stories, but there is so large a cast of characters that one must be a dedicated reader (or have a previous knowledge of some of the events described) to keep everything straight. Without a single narrative, the book returns several times to the start of a timeline, retracing it from another perspective, and after a while you feel the need for a map.

Markoff's own "Takedown" shows that with a clear narrative arc he is a wonderful writer, and while the complexity of the tale make keep away casual readers, Markoff does the entire technology industry a great service by capturing these tales while most of the primary sources are still alive. The central story of Doug Engelbart deserves a book of its own -- a better book than the nearly unreadable Bootstrapping by Thierry Bardini -- and one can hope that Markoff revisits the trove of original material he located for this story to write that book.

"Dormouse" is an essential "prequel" to Michael Hiltzik's excellent Dealers of Lightning, the definitive work (so far) on Xerox PARC, and belongs on every bookshelf that includes Katie Hafner's Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet.

For anyone who thinks they know anything, or wants to know anything, about the real roots of the PC revolution and the pioneers who never got famous, this book is required reading.