Three River Tech Review Home


Quick review of ratings: Five Stars: Means Must Have. Worth killing for. Four Stars: Very close to being worth killing for, but is somehow flawed, Three Stars: Take it or leave it. Professional, but without passion or feeling. Two Stars: Should only be read for free at Borders or Barnes and Noble. One Star: Not worth reading for free at Borders or Barnes and Noble.

 

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Jorn Barger's relentless and cruel criticism has forced me to put links to the magazines on my review pages. Keep in mind however that the stories I'm reviewing haven't necessarily been placed online yet. So you   will have to go to the store and buy the magazine.

You must be strong.

Wired Magazine

Forbes Magazine

Fortune Magazine

Business Week

The Sciences

Discover

Scientific American

Industry Standard

Business 2.0

Red Herring

Upside

MIT Technology Review

PC World

PC Magazine

Maximum PC

Fast Company

Popular Science

Popular Mechanics

Slashdot

Silicon Alley



 

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Business 2.0, September 1999

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Search for the most interesting hi-falutin, edge of trek, future shock stuff in this month’s Biz 2.0 and you'll find it buried in the back of the mag. True, their mission isn’t really to sell you science, but business trends. It’s just that when they do science writing it’s usually very very good.

Likewise this issue. Tops among their several features would have to be the story about how Georgia scientists are attempting to wire leech neurons onto a chip and get it to compute. They’ve had some initial success.

What’s thrilling about this is that it would be the first step toward getting computers to think more like a human being, which means it could recognize tendencies, have temper tantrums and even show emotion—whatever the emotional range of leech neurons happen to be. "More human than human" could traverse the screen into our everyday reality.

Or as William Ditto, head of Georgia Tech’s Applied Chaos Lab puts it:

"We’re hoping within five years to have a chip with living matter on it to solve specialty problems in ways that conventional computers can’t. These problems range from pattern recognition to simulating extremely complex real-world physical systems like economic and environmental models."

What this also means, and this isn’t in the story, and this is just something I believe: if you could turn organic matter into computer tools it would give computers something closer to emotions. When Hans Moravec argued in his latest book that you could synthesize human emotion, I never bought it. Emotion requires physical sensation and feelings that I believe would be hard to program. Organic parts would already understand feelings. It would lead to both smarter and more dangerous computers. Replicants and Terminators with recognizable emotional patterns would be a step closer to us all. One question: Organic matter isn't silicon. How do you keep leech neurons around longer than a day?

The Biz 2 Vision section also turns up a good story on chaos theory (the order of chaos, profiled so well in the film "Pi", which was even alluded to in the article.) will be employed in engineering applications in the future. Weather prediction or stock fluctuations—just like in "Pi"-- is something that would immediately benefit from a refinement of the science.

In that same vein there was also a feature on fractal (the science of unnatural geometry or how snowflakes or mountain ranges are designed) networks and how that might impact lessening net congestion within the next two years. I just wish they had gone more in depth on these topics.

The rest of the magazine featured a lot of their John Naisbitt-styled Megatrend storytelling, which I've never really gotten into. Namely, because it seems highly speculative and not very specific where the ramifications of those leech neurons are pretty clear…

 

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Upside September 1999

4.0 stars out of 5

A few months back when Upside ran that hideously sexist cover with the bare female torso on the cover I have to admit I kind of turned the magazine off. And the thing about it is that I read and enjoy the website, especially Daily Tish. It's just that the cover was kind of, well, dumb. I mean, it wasn't related to the usual suspects such as the business end of sex on the internet so to speak, but hot net companies. Then you were supposed to make the connection between the hot piece of a__ on the cover and, say, your hot shares of Cisco…Well I didn't.

September's letters section is replete with other folks who agree with me that the cover was shameful. Here's a few excerpts: "shocked to see such an offensive and tasteless picture" sez Marian Lim, or "Folks I can't tell you how dispiriting it is to work so hard for so many years to get respect, only to have a bunch of…male editors gleefully rub your nose in the fact that, after all, deep down, women are just pussy in this life and pussy is suitable for selling product." sez L.A. Grabow, who's female I presume.

Almost as bad as that cover in question is the fact that the editor defended the cover as some kind of celebration of sex and sexuality. His exact words: "Sex is actually a good thing--so there!" Hey, look Dave Bunnell, you made a bad call. Be a man and admit it.

Now, all that said, and in the tradition of forgiveness of sexual impropriety that is now associated with our Commander and Chief, the September issue of Upside was a great issue full of highlights and generally cool ideas. In fact, it was so good I'm going to consider Upside must reading from now on.

>First, there was everything you wanted to know about Linux but were afraid to ask. It includes a very long interview with Linux originator Linus Torvalds that approaches the classic Playboy for its depth and breadth. The only question that wasn't answered was why does the creator of Linux work, at least in part, for Microsoft co-owner Paul Allen, who owns Transmeta where Linus now works. But he is allowed to use Linux on the premises I guess. He also couldn't talk about what it is that Transmeta is trying to do. So I guess nobody still knows.

There were also a quartet of other stories about Linux, which involved a rundown on which companies were doing what with Linux, what their strategies are, what their investors are and so on. It's very level headed stuff. Feels a lot like those Red Herring reports. It's not a flat out endorsement of Linux and it you don't wind up thinking that Microsoft is down and out. Struck me as being fair and impartial.

>Speaking of the opponents of Microsoft , there was also an interesting profile and review of the book "The Plot To Get Bill Gates". I learned all kinds of interesting stuff about the World's Richest Man Bill Gates (Please don't have me killed).

One, he has real enemies. In fact, one of the prescient things about the book and this article is that it pinpointed Sun's CEO John McNealy as one of his biggest enemies. This was before Sun started giving away Star Office for free, literally. If it works, then it would take a huge chunk out of Microsoft Office, one of Redmond's most profitable products, not to mention overpriced.

You also got an interview with the author Gary Rivlin who tells me more stuff about Bill that I didn't know. Bill, according to Gary, was a bit of a cad before he got married and settled down. Then again, I'm a cad and I don't have any money. You couldn't imagine the torture I'd put women through if I had a billion dollars. You really couldn't.

Rivlin is tough on everybody and he certainly doesn't coddle Gates. Rivlin believes that he's not a self made guy but was born on Third Base so to speak. He also believes that Gates is not a great technologist but more of a ruthless businessmen. Hey, you be the judge.

>There were also many interesting smaller pieces and columns throughout. Ones that caught my eye were reviews about virtual reality development and Homer Hickham's sci fi novel about renewed exploration to the moon. What I didn't know is that its premise--nuclear fusion using seawater and a helium isotope found on the moon--is actually true. He criticized NASA's approach by saying "Right now NASA is acting like Amtrak, shuttling people in and out of orbit. but what it really ought to be is an exploratory outfit, creating new kinds of technology, then turning it over to commercial organizations and saying 'you make money out of it.'"

I have to admit I'm kind of curious why Homer doesn't just dump NASA and join the several private space ventures out there. One of Jeff Bezos interests is planetary exploration why not give him a call before his  Amazon stock falls through the floor, literally.