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review 2018-11-30 16:58
LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media
LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media - P.W. Singer,Emerson Brooking

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

A very interesting, though worrying study about the influence of social media in areas that we don’t necessarily consider ‘social’, such as the political world, or even as warfare. The past few years especially (but not only) have led to quite important changes in how people use internet in general and social media in particular, with the advent of giants such as Facebook, and other easy access platforms like Twitter.

As much as I stand for a ‘free’ Internet (I’m a child of the 90s, after all, and my first experiences of the web have forever influenced my views of it, for better and for worse), the authors make up for valid points when it comes to listing abuses and excesses. The use of internet as a tool for war is not new, as evidenced by the examples of the Zapatistas in 1994, or the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011; but the latter quickly turned sour, as some governments, quick to respond, turned the same weapons of freedom into tools of control and oppression. These are the same tools and the same internet we know, but with a much different outcome.

The 2016 US elections are, of course, one of the other examples in this book, one that shows how social media, through sock-puppet accounts, can be used to influence people. The hopeful part in me keeps thinking that ‘people can’t be so stupid’, but the realistic part does acknowledge that, here too, the authors make very valid points. The rational seldom becomes viral, and what gets shared time and again is all the provoking matter (not in a good meaning of this word), the one that calls to base emotions and quick response (again, not in a good way). I kept remembering what I try to practice: “if tempted to post a scathing comment on internet, stop and wait to see if you still want to do that later” (usually, the answer is ‘no’). And so we should also be careful of how we react to what we see on social networks.

Conclusion: 4.5 stars. Kind of alarmist in parts, but in a cold-headed way, one that could have a chance of making people think and reflect on online behaviours, and perhaps, just perhaps, remain cold-headed in the future as well
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url 2018-10-30 03:12
Wireless Remote Control Power Switch

If you’re sick of flipping switches all over your house just to turn the lights on or you find yourself so lazy that one of your irritations is that the Home Theatre in the bedroom requires that you actually get up out of bed to turn it on. In that case, getting a set of remote control power switches may be the perfect solution

 

Remote control power switch gives you the comfort of switching on and off your appliances without taking the pain of walking to the switch. For example, like you have a remote control for your air conditioner, you can easily switch it on, off or change the temperature remotely. This often gives you the joy of using a much technologically advanced system than the primitive one.

 

However, wireless remote control power switch have been argued over, especially for the credibility of their safety. There have been questions on the need of having a wireless remote control power switch. But with the advancement in the technology, these switches are becoming a household name and comfort. The new switches which are coming up have been tried and tested for performance in the most unearthly conditions also and have been proved feasible. The new age switches are very safe, reliable and also perform fairly well. Many of the brands are even offering a warrantee in order to prove their point.

 

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review 2018-08-25 21:02
Coding Projects in Python
Coding Projects in Python - DK Publishing

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]

Actually, I finished reading this book quite a while ago, as a quick read, and was planning on going through it a second time at a different pace in order to fully use it—namely, to teach myself Python. I thought (and I still think I was right) that I’d then be able to review it properly. Unfortunately, between work and studying for both network certifications and uni, I don’t really have enough time to add programming to my timetable, so this will have to wait.

I made it to 25% of the book, in terms of following its teachings. From what I’ve experienced here, while I wouldn’t recommend it to younger children, it looks to me like it’d be an appropriate place to start for kids around 10-12. And older kids as well, of course. Or even adults. Because we’re ‘adults’ doesn’t mean that the colourful pictures will magically alter our ability to follow instructions to develop programs in Python.

The lessons were easy to understand and to put in practice. There were a few typos, but since I had an advanced copy, hopefully they’re gone from the printed version. (I could find my way around them, it was a matter of logics, but I’m not sure if a child would? Or maybe they would, who knows! Also, it’s good training in debugging, and this is never a waste.)

I wish I could give a deeper review. Maybe at a later time, once I can pick it up again.

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review 2018-08-23 21:01
Physics and Computer Science for Laymen: "The Emperor's New Mind" by Roger Penrose
The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Popular Science) - Martin Gardner,Roger Penrose


Penrose certainly has a generous idea of his readers' mathematical ability. It's a kind of running joke among Penrose-fans: he always starts his books by saying you'll find it tough going if you haven't got a 12th Year (in Portugal)/GCSE (in the UK) in math, but that he'll explain it as he goes if you haven't. Twenty pages later you're on Gödel and conformable geometry. He doesn't do it deliberately; he really does believe his books are popular science. How can you not love him? I purchased an on-line kindle edition of this book back last year via Amazon and it was more about bringing myself up to date (I read it for the first time in 1991 when the book came out), although such things are never truly current due to Theories being debated and tested for very many years within Scientific Realms. Roger Penrose's books are as stated often inclusive of more mathematical devises than many books aimed at more laymen realms, so I often regard them as perhaps Bridging that gap between Solid Science Headaches and Laymen 'I read an article and am a common law know-all expert'.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-07-30 19:58
21 Lessons for the 21st Century
21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I read Harari’s two other books (“Sapiens” and “Homo Deus”), and quite liked them, so when this one was available, I couldn’t help but request it. It did turn out to be an interesting read as well, dealing with current problems that we just can’t ignore: global warming, terrorism, the rise of harmful ideologies, etc. It’s definitely not seen through rose-tinted glasses, and it’s a good thing, for it’s time people in general wake up and—to paraphrase one of the many things I tend to agree with here—stop voting with their feet. (Between the USA and Brexit Country, let’s be honest: obviously too many of us don’t use their brains when they vote.)

I especially liked the part about the narratives humans in general tend to construct (nationalism and religions, for instance, being built on such narratives)—possibly because it’s a kind of point of view I’ve been holding myself as well, and because (as usual, it seems), the “narratives of sacrifice” hit regular people the most. Another favourite of mine is the part played by algorithms and “Big Data”, for in itself, I find this kind of evolution both fascinating and scary: in the future, will we really let algorithms decide most aspects of our lives, and isn’t it already happening? (But then, aren’t we also constructs whose functioning is based on biological algorithms anyway? Hmm. So many questions.)

I don’t necessarily agree with everything in this book, and to be fair, there was too much matter to cram everything in one volume, so some of it felt a little hurried and too superficial. I’ll nevertheless recommend it as an introduction to the topics it deals with, because it’s a good eye-opener, and it invites to a lot of introspection, questioning and thinking, which is not a bad thing.

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