Peter F. Hamilton, China Mieville, and other readings: book update time

It appears I just can’t give up on Sci-Fi. Here is a list of the recent readings, with very brief notes.Peter F. Hamilton: The Night’s Dawn Trilogy. I think this trilogy exceeds 3000 pages, or something like that. I’ve managed to read it all, and if you want a really long sci-fi book, give your strength a challenge with this one. It is called space opera for a reason!

Hamilton likes to go into every potential outcome of a quite interesting event in this book, and to be honest, you can not easily guess the main story until it begins in an unexpected way. I am not happy about the ending though, so be warned, it won’t give you a very creative ending.

China Mieville: Perdido Street Station: Well, this one is the first book in a couple of years that I could not finish. I’m sorry, but there is way, way to much description in this book, so much that I got bored. Also, certain characters in the book are presented with attributes which later does not match with  their actions in the story.

Frederik Pohl: Heeche Rendevous: The final book of the Heeche saga. I’m not sure if I’ve written about this one, but I’m too lazy to open a new tab and search my own blog, so I’ll just say that this one is not as good as the previous two. Actually, the style of the books change significantly after the first book, but if you want to know more about the Heeche, you’d like to read this.

Ursula K. Le Guin: Left Hand of Darkness: I should have read this ages ago, but I’m glad I finally did it. It is good, but Le Guin does not write too much about technology even when she is writing sci-fi, so if you’re looking for a light weight sci-fi book, this is not what you want.

Terry Pratchett: Guards, guards! : Simply brilliant. Probably one of the best books I’ve read from Pratchett, and I’ll definitely read the other ones about the city watch.

Bill Bryson: Notes from a small Island: If you are an alien in UK like me, you have to read this! I’m still reading this one, but it is one of the funniest books I’ve read, and Bryson’s observations about UK is absolutely fantastic. He is likely to become a favourite author for me.

Dear Google, I am not my mother!

Yes, I know that you people at Google want to make sure that even my mom can easily use your products, and for your search engine, that is definitely a possibility. However, when it comes to browsers, Google Chrome is way, way too simplified for anyone who’d like to use it for daily work.I am  a developer, a PhD student and many other things, and most of my hats require me to use the web all day. I use tabs, I love tabs, I can’t understand how we used the web browsers without tabs (thanks to Opera, who did this first), but tabs have also evolved in time.For any slightly experienced user, the configuration of tab behaviour matters a lot. For some reason, Google people are not letting plugin developers (called extensions for Chrome by the way) to tap into that functionality.Just so you know, this hurts. This is the only thing that makes me remember that I am  more productive with Firefox. Please, for whatever reason you’re doing this, reconsider your approach.  Apple also makes things very simple for users, but one way or another, they manage to provide power along with simplicity, and when it comes to managing features, you can learn a thing or two from them.

What makes a sci-fi book great?

There is no single answer to this question. Actually the question is wrong, but I’ll go ahead and write an answer anyway. In fact, I want to write a couple of things as I think about the books I’ve read so far. These may help me pick my future books better, or who knows, you may want to send me suggestions?

Ok, rule number 1: dear writers, please, please, do not  go into pages and pages of descriptions to make the setting more plausible, or believable, or  whatever you call it. Don’t! Good books give that feeling without describing every little detail in the surroundings. When the main character is walking towards a key meeting, or a very dangerous encounter, the last thing I am interested in, is the history of the city/planet/road/town/whatever the character is in.

What was absolutely brilliant in William Gibson’s Neuromancer and the following two books of the trilogy was that, they made you imagine the surroundings without boring you to death at the wrong time in the story. I am seeing way too many sci fi books these days which take four times the amount of necessary pages than it is necessary to tell the main story.

I’m sorry, but if your creativity is not good enough to make “what is happening” interesting for the reader, “where it is happening” is not much of an interest to us, at least not to me. Inner struggles, thoughts, memories, all fine, just don’t fill pages with descriptions of the city please…

Wow: Google makes Window Builder Pro open source!

A while ago, Google acquired Instantiations, the makers of the fantastic UI development plugin for Eclipse. The plugin named Windows Builder Pro, allows you to develop user interfaces for your java and gwt projects, along with xwt support.

Google first made the tools available for free, then today I’ve received an e-mail that says that it will be open sourced in 2011. For a quite long time, the lack of a free (as in beer) UI designer in Eclipse was a big issue. The only serious option was the Matisse port under MyEclipse, but MyEclipse made me hate their distribution so much, I have simply given up on that option.

Now we do not only have access to a free UI plugin, but we can also take a look at the code. Personally, I’ve always been curious about how Instantiations made that great plugin tick, and finally I’ll be able to take a peek.

Thanks Google, this one is really appreciated.

It is 2010, and Microsoft is still not getting the web.

Dear Microsoft,

My university, University College London, had an agreement with you to move our e-mail addresses to I usually work with up to 30, or more tabs in my browser. Regardless of the browser, as of 2010, I can in no way, bother to find a particular tab, and I simply open a new one, if I’m in a hurry.

Your web page for e-mail management, does not let me open another tab, even in another browser instance of the same browser. It says: you already have this page open, go find it, and use that one.

Are you kidding me? How did your project/product manager explained this to you? Seriously. Is this your understanding of exploiting the advantages of web? Unless I’m missing something here, this is a very, very big mistake.

Regardless of my browser (which is a modern and widely used one), this is simply unacceptable.