Book review time: Homo Deus

Homo Deus: A Brief History of TomorrowHomo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been a very long time since my last book review. Heck, since I last wrote in this blog. But better get restarted.

This book was a Christmas gift, from one of my best friends. He strongly recommended it, as a very insightful read. Have to admit, it has been in my “to-read” pile of books for a while. And as it is a hard copy, it is harder to carry this brick on the train.

The style of Mr. Harari is superb. You can tell this man has written a lot of high quality text throughout his academic career (he holds a PhD from the University of Oxford). It is crisp and concise, and gets the point with perfect examples.

The main objective of the text is to start from the premise that humanity succeeded during the 20th century to overcome famine, war and plague (as a whole, and in the grand scheme of things).
Then the question arises: what comes ahead? Lots of ideas from Mr. Harari flow through the text.

He argues that algorithms, AI, machine learning, genomics, bio engineering will have a huge role to play on it. The examples for these scenarios are alright (I guess), but in my opinion a bit vague, and sometimes lack plausibility because lack of detail. Perhaps that is the engineering mind in me wanting more specifics. Probably too many hardcore science fiction for me!

Another negative point for me was that I am tired of hearing these “catchy” and trendy tech words in the CS/engineering circles, Silicon Valley, Twitter feeds, etc. It seems nowadays it is in everyones’ mouths, and it is a bit too much. I have my opinion on this subject, but that is for another post!

All in all, and despite the above, I do highly recommend this book to all people interested in history, humankind, philosophy and more. It delivers. And all the claims and quoted studies are heavily cited and quoted, so you are free to thread deeper in to the details!

View all my reviews

Advertisements

My new (custom built) PC: TheCube!

Ladies and folks! Finally the great moment arrived. After months of following Youtube channels, reading builds on PcPartPicker.com and daydreaming about it, the build materialized.

Basically, I decided to pull the trigger and get the build below [1]. Let me tell you off the bat that I payed around a 10-15% more for the parts (luxury tax of living in Switzerland).

Anyway, I could not be happier! Despite the difficulty in using a very small miniITX case, and it being my first build, everything ended up going smoothly. Heck, I’m even writing this post from the damn thing!!

My long lived 2013 13” Macbook Air went to my sister. Never really adapted to the Apple ecosystem, but it served well during my late university stage. Hope she will make great use of it.

[1] PCPartPicker part list

Book review time: American Gods

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman came to my attention many years ago through the excellent Sandman comic books. Since then, I read his Neverwhere novel, and although I consider myself a big fantasy/sci-fi reader, I wasn’t convinced. That booked lacked in my opinion a lot of the characters that made Mr. Gaiman’s Sandman excellent.

Luckily, there are second chances. And this one came through a discounted Amazon kindle edition. I had to fight a bit to get the book into my kobo reader (DRM protection, why?). In any case, after some fiddling, and probably doing some illegal stuff with my calibre copy, I was able to have (the legally purchased book) on my kobo!
And OMG did I read it fast. And enjoy it. Shadow, the main character, was a much Gaiman one. The story itself talks about gods, their meaning, mythology, religion, etc. And as every excellent genre book, arouse a lot of questions transferable to the “real” life (whatever that means) from the fantasical story. Another good example of such a case is in my opinion Foundation, by Asimov, where you can learn and think quite a bit about sociology from a fictional universe. Or Game of Thrones, where you can learn some about politics.

The best part of all? Neil Gaiman is British, and he completely captured the American spirit and culture. And one of the biggest struggles associated with the USA: immigration. And the fact that nobody is truly American, but descendant of European/African/Asian immigrants. This topic was, in my opinion, very well covered. And is also one that truly trascends time.

View all my reviews

Book review time: Start-up Nation

Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic MiracleStart-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this one pretty fast.
To be honest, I was (am?) a complete disaster when it comes to Middle East contemporary history, Israel included. All my previous knowledge comes from scouring through a couple of Wikipedia articles and watching Waltz with Bashir (if you haven’t seen that movie, shame on you!).

In any case, a book with the catchy premise this one had really caught my attention. And it delivered. The facts were really well researched, and helped to throw some light on why a handful of circumstances have led Israel to be a start-up/venture capital/patents reference. I really wish my home country (Spain) could learn some lessons from the Israeli model.

The only point I don’t fully 100% agree is the need of a strong military/defense plan for a country to strive for innovation. The USA/USSR and their history prove me wrong once again, as does Israel. But I truly wish to believe that there is another way to foster R&D at gigantic steps, at a national level.
With what I do agree (and I know it might be controversial) is the need of a good down to Earth education before college. In Israel’s case, it is the IDF. In my case, it was elite basketball training during high-school, and the private high-school I attended. Those experiences, abilities learned, and networks developed have proven to be key in my adult life so far.

View all my reviews

The Kobo Aura H20

I am an avid reader. Or at least I claim to be one.
In any case, after the hiatus of college, where my reading dropped to worrying levels¹, I have been reading more and more. The train commute of ~30 minutes each way to and from work helps of course 🙂

So these were the reasons why last Christmas I was in the hunt for a new e-reader, in order to replace my very old Sony e-reader, which I received from my father as a gift when I started college, in 2009 (!). It is hard to remember the exact model, but it had no touchscreen nor backlit screen (PRS-300BC maybe?)

But enough nostalgia! I’m here to talk about my decision of buying the Kobo Aura H20, instead of an Amazon Kindle.


Some of the nice things I like about this device, which I consider are greater than the Amazon family of products:

  • It is water resistant!
    Not going to see me reading in the bathtub with a glass of red wine, but it adds a level of sturdiness to the device. Want to take it to the beach without worrying? Gotcha 😉
  • The screen is huge
    Specifically 6.8″ backlit. It is very comfortable to read, and very crispy and convenient to read at night. This might be personal, but I like this larger screen and that the menus allow for adjustment of letter size, line spacing, etc.
  • It has a Sudoku game built in!
    Not 100% sure if Kindles allow games, but I found it a nice touch for them to give you this installed. Might come in handy while waiting at airports.

And also some things I like, that both device families have:

  • Reading stats (yay!)
    This might be my geekiness coming out, but I love to be able to have my reading stats, and Kobo does well in this regard.
    Might work towards porting this to visualize it with a Python/Perl script. Would be nice if it could sync automagically my Goodreads bookshelves. Maybe a future post digging into these?
  • Battery and space
    This is of course the standard nowadays. And I like it. Just recently I went on a 2 week holiday through Paris and the East Coast of the USA, and never had to charge once. Just plain amazing.

Lastly, the biggest drawback that makes the Kobo a bit handicapped wrt the Kindle family:

  • The Kobo library:
    I mean it is not bad. It has many titles. But in this arena, Amazon is king. Period. And also, it is a pain in the arse to get a book from the Amazon store into your Kobo (you will have to fiddle with DRM etc. Calibre + some plugins might come in handy to achieve that).

¹ This seemed to be the normal behavior among my college peers. It is hard to concentrate after a long day of studying, and it is way easier to watch a TV series or listen to some music…

Some starting disclaimers

If you are interested in one (or more) of the following, please consider giving this blog a go:

  • Programming (there are always cool & nitty tricks to learn. Why not walk together this path? Besides, I make a living out of it 🙂 )
  • Science (majored in EE. I definitely had a hard time through my Electromagnetism undergrad courses, but that didn’t scare me off!).
  • Technology (startups, electric cars, drones, IoT, cryptocurrencies? I like!)
  • Book ranging from science fiction to philosophy (see my Goodreads profile if interested. Although I like it less since Amazon bought it, I still find it quite useful).
  • Hardware & productivity (ergonomic keyboards?).
  • Security & encryption (getting from 0 to hero, that’s what I need).
  • Politics (a learner in this matter. And affected by its outcome, so better be informed about it).

As a disclaimer, I will state that:

All the views and thoughts expressed in this blog are mine alone, and not those of my employer.
Reviewed products and software were purchased with my own money (unless stated otherwise), and nobody reviews these blog articles before I post them.
If I post any source code done by me here, take note that it will be under the MIT License. In short this means that you can do anything with my code, given proper attribution and without warranty.