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Movie review: Astroturf Wars

Movie review: Astroturf Wars

The great thing about social media is that they allow a very small number of people to create a potentially very large movement: those overlapping social circles give even just one or two people a surprising amount of leverage. Which is how two guys in a pub in Merseyside managed to launch a worldwide demonstration of the ineffectiveness of homeopathic remedies.

published February 11, 2011 by

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Book review: Texture

Book review: Texture

If we're drowning in email and past the point of keeping up with everyone we've reconnected with on Facebook, why are we flocking to Twitter? If we can't settle down to work because instant messages keep popping up on top of the document, why are we adding to the load by uploading videos to YouTube and answering questions on Quora?

published January 31, 2011 by

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Book review: The Master Switch

Book review: The Master Switch

There is a mythology about the internet, going back to its earliest days, that says it cannot be controlled. As evidence to support this idea, adherents point to a long line of rebellions, from the renegade propagation of the alt Usenet hierarchy — after the newsgroup creator gods refused to allow groups for discussing sex and drugs — to peer-to-peer file-sharing and Wikileaks.

published January 24, 2011 by

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Book review: Cooking for Geeks

Book review: Cooking for Geeks

Cooking and geekery should go together like strawberries and cream or bacon and chocolate. A recipe is just an algorithm, but few cookbooks do the equivalent of defining standards and functions — like telling you why you don't want to over-mix pancakes (cross-linked strands of glutenin and gliadin from the flour will make the pancakes chewy), or what temperature a hot frying pan should actually be (154 degrees C for the Maillard reaction, 180 degrees for caramelisation and browsing).

published January 4, 2011 by

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Book review: Law and the Internet

Book review: Law and the Internet

WikiLeaks, network neutrality, internet service provider liability for copyright infringement...at the moment, the headlines are full of the kinds of cyberspace issues that geeks have been debating for years.

published December 8, 2010 by

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Book review: The Silent State

Book review: The Silent State

The thing about immigrants is, they don't get the joke. Heather Brooke arrived in the UK fresh from a career in the American South as an investigative journalist covering murders and other nasty stuff.

published November 11, 2010 by

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Facebook: the film and the books

Facebook: the film and the books

"You're going to be successful and rich," Erica (Mara Rooney), the departing girlfriend of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), tells him after a conversation of escalating intensity and social dysfunction at the beginning of The Social Network, which is based on Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires. "But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a tech geek.

published October 19, 2010 by

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Hackers - 25th Anniversary Edition

Hackers - 25th Anniversary Edition

Twenty-five years ago the term 'hacker' didn't mean a cybercriminal, and the few who used it meant it as high praise. When Hackers first came out in 1984, Steven Levy was documenting how thirty years of brilliant and eccentric geeks (who were more interested in bending technology to their will than in building businesses, or even in what computers can actually do) had somehow produced a personal computer revolution that was about to sweep into every home.

published September 7, 2010 by

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Book review: Logicomix

Book review: Logicomix

My junior high school maths teacher, Nancy Rosenberg, often talked about her desire to illustrate basic principles of geometry via animated cartoons. She thought explaining points, lines, and angles would be more direct and intuitive if you could just show, for example, a line approaching, intersecting and then retreating from a circle.

published August 25, 2010 by

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Book review: Wild West 2.0

Book review: Wild West 2.0

In the early to mid 1990s it was fashionable to compare the unformed, open spaces of the internet to the 19th century American West: the 'electronic frontier'. Tabloid journalists liked to call the internet lawless and uncontrolled; pioneers preferred to call it uncontrollable.

published June 30, 2010 by

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Book review: Fatal System Error

Book review: Fatal System Error

It's almost humorous to remember now how terrified everyone seemed to be in the early 1990s of the mostly harmless 'dark-side hackers' of the era. The most famous of these was undoubtedly Kevin Mitnick, whose 1995 capture formed the basis of no less than three books.

published May 24, 2010 by

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