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Daemon

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

395

stoolpigeon writes "Have you ever been reading a book or watching a film and as the plot moves to involve some use of technology you begin to brace yourself, and the cringe as you are ripped out of the story by what is an obviously ignorant treatment of matters you know well? Do you find the idea of creating a "gui interface using visual basic" to see about tracking an ip address as more fit for a sitcom rather than crime drama? And if so, have you ever wondered what it would be like if one of us, a geek, wrote a techno-thriller? What if someone who grokked our culture and understood our tech wrote something? Would it be great, or would it just get bogged down in the techno babble?" Keep reading for the rest of JR's review.It is not necessary to wonder any longer. Database consultant, geek and now author Daniel Suarez has stepped up to the plate with his effort Daemon and he does not disappoint. This is a techno-thriller with a healthy dose of techno but absolutely zero let down on the thrill. The story gains momentum rapidly and then never lets up. I had a terrible time trying to put it down, eventually just giving up and plowing through in an all nighter. It was worth it.

The story of Daemon's beginnings has already been documented by Wired. Suarez had Daemon finished in 2004 but literary agents found it to be too long and complex. Rather than give up, Suarez pushed ahead on his own and took the self publishing route. The book slowly built up a following and began to be trumpeted by the likes of Feedburner's Rick Klau and Google's Matt Cutts. And sales of the book grew and now it is available via traditional publishing channels with a hard back release in January of 2009.

The book introduces us to Matthew Sobol, genius software engineer and creator of one of the world's most popular MMOs. Sobol is dead when the book begins, having succumbed to brain cancer. But it quickly becomes apparent that while Sobol has moved on out of this life, his code has lived on and his death has triggered events that rapidly take a life of their own. Sobol's code is working so some unknown end and murder is part of the program.

Suarez may push the envelope at times but his deft handling of current tech and the possibilities is at times frightening. There isn't really much here that isn't very possible right now. At no point will a child sit down at a terminal where the operating system is run by flying through a bunch of 3-d buildings surrounded by network traffic that looks like it is flying about. But there are young people, capable and knowledgeable of current tools and vulnerabilities. People who may not fit into society but who are willing to engage in activities that they believe will build a society of their own.

Of course this is fiction and there are some leaps. But the story is so skillfully woven that the reader is never jarred out of it by some glaring error or lapse in understanding. It's easy to slip into what is an incredibly energetic ride all the while thinking, "This could happen." In fact the only real issue I had with the plot was as I thought about the book after I had finished it. Things work out so well for Sobol's software, and that is the biggest stretch for me. I've worked for and with some extremely bright people, but none have ever engineered systems that could achieve such complex goals unattended. That aside, this is an amazing story.

This book really brought back to me the sense of joy I felt in the 80's when I first began to work with personal computers. It was that sense of infinite possibilities brought on by this new technology. I've grown a bit jaded to it all over the years since then. Daemon brought a lot of that rushing back.

And while all the tech aspects of this story are solid, they do not make the story itself. The whole crazy adventure is pushed along by solid characters. These are well written, very real human beings. They are fully fleshed out people with strengths and weaknesses spread out between protagonist and antagonist alike. There are no super heroes and really no super villains, though at times it comes close on both accounts. These characters are locked in an extraordinary series of events that are at times pulling them along and at others they are the ones pushing things forward. Dialogue is believable and well written. All of that is what ultimately makes this such a satisfying and fun read. The tech trappings are just the bonus payoff for the true geek that has been waiting for a story like this.

People who are on the outside, the non-techie types may find this book confusing and hard to understand. That relative that calls you and asks what happened to their toolbar in word that seems to have disappeared may not really get this book. But anyone who spends an appreciable time in our world on-line and plugged in may just find this to be the most entertaining book that they have read in a very long time.

You can purchase Daemon from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Nope. Never. (5, Funny)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610071)

have you ever wondered what it would be like if one of us, a geek, wrote a techno-thriller?

No, not even once. Not even after having read this review.

Re:Nope. Never. (5, Interesting)

kaiidth (104315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610319)

I thought it had already been done - Cryptonomicon is about as technically rich as any fiction could ever be without being marketable as a sleep aid. Not perfect, but it surely counts in the 'what if someone who grokked the culture and understood the tech wrote something' category.

Re:Nope. Never. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610633)

Besides, if you want Charles Stross, you know where to find him.

Sobol is dead when the book begins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610077)

I'm not dead yet.

Re:Sobol is dead when the book begins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610173)

I'm getting better!

Re:Sobol is dead when the book begins (2, Funny)

ErrataMatrix (774950) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610905)

Your not fooling anyone

Just two words (4, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610133)

Andromeda Strain [wikipedia.org] oh... two more words, "insomnia cure"

Re:Just two words (-1, Offtopic)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610159)

Never forget, computers are wonderful tools, but for most subjects students learn at that point in their lives (middle/high school in the US), computers aren't necessary. [zoy.org] Think about the primary subjects - Math, Science, and Literature/Writing - where do you see the benefits in using computers? Obviously for English classes, having access to computers to type papers is handy, but it's hardly necessary. Computers can be used in math to help illustrate concepts, but you don't want the students using computers to do their work, otherwise they won't know how to do it without them. And much of science is math - again, not something you want students using computers for.

=Smidge=

Re:Just two words (2, Insightful)

oroborous (800136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610643)

Andromeda Strain wasn't written by a geek! It was written by a cheeky medical doctor who (like all clinicians) thinks he knows science, but really just knows how to read abstracts. No way a true geek would create Jeff Goldblum's horrifically bad mathematician character in Jurassic Park!

Re:Just two words (4, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610663)

Well, Andromeda Strain was for a less TV-indulged generation. ;-)

But seriously, there's lots of good tech written by people who know their stuff. In some cases, they're even popular.

Authors include:

  • Michael Crichton
  • Neal Stephenson
  • Vernor Vinge

Also, there's some good movies out there when it comes to technical realism. My favorite is a science fiction film by the name of Primer. It was shot on a $7000 budget, and is the only movie I know of that literally requires a giant Gant chart to figure out.

Re:Just two words (3, Insightful)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610713)

Neal Stephenson, sure.

Vernor Vinge, absolutely.

MICHAEL CRICHTON?? Are you kidding?

Re:Just two words (4, Interesting)

rho (6063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610843)

Primer was a heck of a good movie. It probably could have been tweaked just a bit so you wouldn't need the voiceover to make sense of everything, but all in all it was brilliant for such a low-budget movie.

Compare it to, for example, The Butterfly Effect. It cost millions in special effects, but it sucked ass.

Re:Just two words (1)

kungfugleek (1314949) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610665)

two more words: "upload virus".

CSI NY (4, Informative)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610193)

Do you find the idea of creating a "gui interface using visual basic" to see about tracking an ip address as more fit for a sitcom rather than crime drama?

In case you were wondering, that happened in CSI NY recently. Truly cringe-worthy.

Re:CSI NY (2, Insightful)

dedazo (737510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610233)

My guess is that's why it was mentioned.

The video was recently removed from YouTube due to a DMCA takedown request, IIRC. I'm sure there are copies out there.

Re:CSI NY (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610305)

My guess is that's why it was mentioned.

I assume so. I just thought it was odd that the poster danced around exactly which show did it ("crime drama").

Re:CSI NY (3, Funny)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610579)

I was more disappointed in Chuck though... When he went to a conference and setup a network for them... Uttering, "OK, I've set you up with a 10 Base-T Ethernet."

I cried. BuyMoria would've declared war on him had that been the case. Dude was my hero... Thing is, it happens all the freaking time. The Chuck producers need a geek editor... Not even really that... Just someone who knows enough about Geek Squad level tech...

Re:CSI NY (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610801)

Well, remember though, in the Chuck Alternate Universe, Atari is still a going concern which was up until recently run by a Japanese military satellite scientist and "has more PhDs than Microsoft."

When I see things like this, my brain just says, "Don't worry about it, here's some music. Yvonne will be back on soon. Oh, see, there she is in a skirt."

Besides, every so often they do something fun like, "Do we have any Rush CDs?" "No need my friend, I have them all on my Zune." "Really? You have a Zune." "Naah, just kidding, I'll get my iPod."

That makes it all worth it... not to mention doing an entire episode about Missile Command, sketchy history and current events aside....

Hey, I still like Tron... even though it hurts my brain to pretend any part of it is plausible it's worth it to watch David Warner chew scenery... end of line.

Re:CSI NY (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610951)

I linked to a clip of it on youtube when I submitted the review. But it sounds like the clip has been pulled and so the editor must have pulled the link.

Re:CSI NY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610755)

At the risk of putting the clip in danger of another takedown:

http://www.digyourowngrave.comSLASHcsi-new-york-visual-basic/

Obfuscated for obfuscatory purposes.

In case it gets taken down, you're lazy, or you don't trust URL's posted by Anonymous Cowards, the exchange is as follows.

(Reading a giant flat panel screen showing a browser, on a site entitled, "ny 24/7 News Blog"):

"For weeks I've been following the Cabbie Killer murders with a certain morbid fascination."

"This is being posted in real time!"

"I'll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic; see if I can track an IP address."

I'd identify the characters, but I don't watch the show so I have no idea who they are.

Re:CSI NY (4, Insightful)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610291)

What bothers me is when movies like the Dark Knight, with gigantic budgets do things like lift a fingerprint from a bullet hole in the wall or use everyone's cell phone as a radar device. That movie is so great but it is also really cringe-worthy when the entire plot relies and revolves around these.

Re:CSI NY (5, Funny)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610673)

Your complaining about the lack of attention to detail in technology, in a movie that features a guy dressed in a bulletproof bat costume, that has all sorts of great devices that can do darn near anything? Is the batmobile correct? What about the bat-wing?

Re:CSI NY (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610741)

Techno-nonsense in shows has made me cringe more than once. There was an episode of Burn Notice where something was to be covertly X-rayed in the trunk of a car. Energized by a stun-gun, the radiation source was an electron gun broken off of a television picture tube (c.r.t.).
Nevermind that not under vacuum that would be no more than a few arcing pieces of metal.

Now if they pulled a shunt-regulator tube out of an old set from a thrift store...

Re:CSI NY (2)

Skrynkelberg (910137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610851)

The previous Batman movie was much worse. SPOILER ALERT!!!















A microwave device with enough energy to instantly boil all water in the vicinity - but spares humans? Give me a break. That ending ruined a perfectly good action flick.

Re:CSI NY (4, Interesting)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610927)

See, I give movies like Dark Knight a pass when they do things like that, simply because everything else is so surrealistic and overblown that having the 'tech' portion the same way really isn't that inconsistant.

You don't walk away from a Batman movie (either the new 'reboot' ones, the old 'reboot' ones that Tim Burton started, or even the old Adam West ones) thinking "Oh yeah, that totally could have happened in real life."

On the other hand, while Jurassic Park was also definatly not 'real', a good portion of the story was dedicated to the idea "maybe this could actually happen, maybe", so having a completely bogus computer scene was completely out of place. Lets not even get into things like "Hacking the Gibson" in movies like Hackers that had actual (although abortive) attempts at authenticity but completely failed the moment those moments were over.

Re:CSI NY (3, Insightful)

sketerpot (454020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610293)

See, this is part of why Veronica Mars is such a great show. The tech is unobtrusively right. The hacking is less Hollywood and more "open up a guy's laptop when he's out of the room and copy some of his files onto your flash drive".

Re:CSI NY (1)

BenjiTheGreat98 (707903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610543)

It makes me cringe watching something like Smallville that pulls so much crap as far as hacking goes. It didn't used to be that way but now if someone needs something they walk into a room with a 'wireless device' that pulls information off of the servers automatically. Or wirelessly copies hard drives in matters of seconds. Or so many plots that involve Cloe hacking the NSA/local police/DHS mainframes in a matter of seconds to get that vital piece of information.

Thank God this is the last season. It needed to be off the air about 3 years ago...

Re:CSI NY (4, Funny)

sorak (246725) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610693)

It makes me cringe watching something like Smallville that pulls so much crap as far as hacking goes. It didn't used to be that way but now if someone needs something they walk into a room with a 'wireless device' that pulls information off of the servers automatically. Or wirelessly copies hard drives in matters of seconds. Or so many plots that involve Cloe hacking the NSA/local police/DHS mainframes in a matter of seconds to get that vital piece of information.

I thought it was unrealistic the way the guy could fly, and how bullets would bounce off his chest.

Re:CSI NY (1)

BenjiTheGreat98 (707903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610815)

Well, yes, I suppose there is that too :)

Re:CSI NY (2, Interesting)

atraintocry (1183485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610841)

I don't deal with flying men on a daily basis, so something so unbelievable is not likely to pull me out of the story. It's not so much the "that's not possible" but the "they got it horribly wrong".

But you already knew that, since you were just being facetious.

Re:CSI NY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610433)

Linky (youtube [youtube.com] pulled it, bastards):

Mirror [digyourowngrave.com]

Mirror [stupidshiz.com]

Re:CSI NY (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610495)

This is just begging for someone to make a working version.. but maybe in tcl/tk... One button that says in bold letters, "TRACK IP". Then grab the output of a traceroute or tracert then beep and boop every single character as the output is played back to the screen.

11th Hour (1)

sombragris (246383) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610565)

In Eleventh Hour, the main character needed a T3 connection to perform online search on a patent. And the girl offered him to go to her dorm where she had Wi-Fi, "in case you need more privacy"... ouch.

Re:11th Hour (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610825)

Didn't you know that "want to use my Wi-Fi" is the 21st century equivalent of "want to see my etchings"?

Re:11th Hour (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610907)

I played the Eleventh Hour [wikipedia.org] . Wifi wasn't even invented back then.

Re:CSI NY (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610645)

"gui interface using visual basic"

In case you were wondering, that happened in CSI NY recently. Truly cringe-worthy.

I've considered the entire CSI franchise to be cringe-worthy right from the outset.

Re:CSI NY (4, Funny)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610973)

Some of my college friends decided to make a CSI drinking game where you'd simply drink whenever they used or referred to a technology that didn't actually exist, or simply got their science wrong.

They had to quit half way through the first episode for health reasons.

Re:CSI NY (3, Insightful)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610723)

Do you find the idea of creating a "gui interface using visual basic" to see about tracking an ip address as more fit for a sitcom rather than crime drama?

In case you were wondering, that happened in CSI NY recently. Truly cringe-worthy.

I thoguht CSI NY was a sitcom.

Re:CSI NY (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610937)

Nothing beats the CSI image processing, unless it was the video manipulation to see what was behind the chap in 'Enemy of the State'.

Re:CSI NY (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610963)

If you think the grasp of technology in CSI is cringe-worthy, check out their grasp on the law and rights. The basic attitude of the show is that the accused is always guilty, and police work is all about getting the evidence to convict, not to find out the truth. If anyone on that show is ever released due to insufficient evidence, it's an injustice of unimaginable magnitude. Fundamental rights like Due Process are portrayed as the enemy of justice.

I don't care about science or tech gaffes so much. But the whole show is pro-law enforcement propaganda, and that's just unwatchable.

Why people watch movies.. (4, Insightful)

perlhacker14 (1056902) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610203)

People watch movies for entertainment, or for thrills - not for technological enlightenment. Tech in movies has a role meant to captivate the layperson - to keep them hooked; it is of no consequence whether it is acurate - it SOUNDS cool, and thus grips the viewer. In real life, it is similar to a high school wanna-be-nerd spewing out long and convoluted words to impress some peon... It seems to work.
For the enlightened on /.: please tell me that you are capable of sitting down and enjoying a film without nitpicking - if it bothers you, then IGNORE it.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610445)

please tell me that you are capable of sitting down and enjoying a film without nitpicking - if it bothers you, then IGNORE it.

So you spend the first part of your post explaining what's wrong with what he wrote, and then you finish with that. But of course it's not nitpicking when you do it - you're simply setting things right.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (4, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610467)

For the enlightened on /.: please tell me that you are capable of sitting down and enjoying a film without nitpicking - if it bothers you, then IGNORE it.

Honestly, it depends on how much of it there is. One or two pieces of techno-babble, particularly if they're in service to the plot, fine. Someone mentioned the cell phone sonar setup in Dark Knight; there's an example of something that makes basically no sense, but it was fun and it helped move the story along, so what the hell. But when it's done over and over again (e.g. Star Trek's fictional subatomic particle of the week) or when real science and/or technology would work for the plot just as well, it gets more difficult to ignore. "Willing suspension of disbelief" is not the same as "believe six impossible things before breakfast."

I'm a veteran, who served as both an infantryman and a medic; I've also been a software engineer, and am now a scientist (specifically bioinformatics.) So between the all the bad military stuff, bad medicine, bad tech stuff, and bad science in movies and TV, I end up cringing at gratuitous bullshit a lot. Pretty much any "exotic" field like the above that you put in your story, there's a good bet that someone in your audience -- a fair portion of your audience, actually -- is going to catch the really dumb mistakes and bitch about them. Also being an occasional SF writer, I try to consult with people who have some experience in the field whenever I'm writing about something too far outside my expertise. Most people are happy to talk about what they know, and getting a couple of small details right instead of drastically wrong can greatly improve the story for those in the know, without losing the general audience.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (4, Insightful)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610635)

I don't really care about tech errors. The Hollywood 'nerd' character annoys me much more.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610795)

Oh, that bugs the hell out of me too. It's really the same kind of error: the people making the movie or TV show just don't know anything about X, so they just grab a convenient stereotype for X, whether X is a person, a type of technology, a profession, or even a whole society. Techies, scientists, medical personnel, and soldiers get this treatment a lot, and those are the ones I pick up on, but I'd guess that a lot of other types of people get it too, and react similarly. Cops and lawyers are obvious examples -- and for American movies and TV, pretty much anyone from any country that isn't the US, not to mention Americans from any part of the country that isn't New York or LA.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610479)

Yes, but the problem is some people refuse to suspend their disbelief when watching some video, causing them to believe in stuff that shouldn't be happening in the real world. 24 is a famous example; we all know that torture does not work in real life, but the effectiveness of torture on the show has convinced a surprising amount of people in real life that it does...

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610511)

Yeah, but there's also this phenomenon called suspension of disbelief. It's what makes works of fiction believable. For instance, I can't stand Transformers, not for the robot characters, but for the completely unbelievable stunts and stretches of the laws of physics that the human characters went through, especially towards the end of the movie. For me, suspension of disbelief stopped about halfway through that movie, while other radically-different movies worked great, such as The Matrix. I would consider Total Recall to be a better movie than Transformers, and that's not saying much about Total Recall.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610515)

It all boils down to what an average sitcom/movie viewer wants - and after a hard day at work, asking for him/her to digest a picture of how things really are results in the viewer changing the channel in search of some mind numbing soothing action. We do not want truth, we want fantasy and escapism, which explains why we want to see technology on screen as IP adresses taking half the monitors space, and every action a character takes on the computer give off some cool sound effect. The true picture is true picture, but this is not what people want on average.

Ironically, the movie that concerned the issue of real life versus fantasy, truth versus illusion - The Matrix trilogy - had at least one scene that gave the true picture of what technology we ACTUALLY use - it was one where Trinity used a Unix command line terminal to access and disable parts of city power grid.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610625)

I think that most of the comments around here seem to indicate that us tech folks are perfectly capable of ignoring the really bad use of technology in shows and movies. Hence the term "cringe" - you cringe at the use of the tech but you still watch.

There's times, though, when it's just plain aweful and it CAN wreck the story. Like the Batman movie that for some reason everyone's drooling about - the cell phone radar thing? Ohh, c'mon. I know the story is fiction but it's supposed to be grounded in reality and that's just too much. They could have easily just used something else that actually COULD exist and it wouldn't have made the whole thing so cheezy.

It's not nitpicking. Nitpicking is saying "Ohh that movie was awful because you could see a difference in the shadow between cuts." However, saying "ohh that show is horrible because they lifted all of their incriminating data off of a hard drive platter that has been melted down with an incinerator; they put it into a machine which spits out fully viable data that is modeled in 3D space with names like "DELETED VIDEO FILE OF ME KILLING AMY."

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610923)

There's times, though, when it's just plain aweful and it CAN wreck the story. Like the Batman movie that for some reason everyone's drooling about - the cell phone radar thing? Ohh, c'mon. I know the story is fiction but it's supposed to be grounded in reality and that's just too much. They could have easily just used something else that actually COULD exist and it wouldn't have made the whole thing so cheezy.

See, the cell-phone gimmick didn't diminish my enjoyment of the movie at all. A guy had half (exactly half) of his face burned off, FFS! But the cell phone made the "whole thing cheezy"!?

So a movie tramples some minutia that a minority of people happen to know more than average about, and suddenly they are convinced that the world gives a crap about how fake it is?

Perhaps it is the movies fault for not being immersive enough to rip you away from your tedious nit-picking. So be it, but I feel sorry for you because there was plenty to like.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610735)

People watch movies for entertainment, or for thrills - not for technological enlightenment.

Yes, absolutely! However, it's possible to be accurate without being dogmatic, while being entertaining as well. It's rare and a breath of fresh air when it happens.

There's nothing wrong with dramatic license. I don't think anyone who plays World of Warcraft, for example, watched the South Park episode about it and thought, "that's my life!" ... at least, I hope not. Then again, it was mostly spot-on and had clearly been written by someone who played the game. Hyperbole and simplification are one thing. Showing something on the screen that makes no sense to someone who knows what you're talking about (fly-by Unix in Jurasic Park) is just ignorance for ignorance's sake.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610775)

For the enlightened on /.: please tell me that you are capable of sitting down and enjoying a film without nitpicking

Depending on the type of film and the extent of the flaw, sometimes I can't. I don't mind utterly outrageous premises as long as they're part of the story. In a cartoon, I'll accept that someone is blown apart by dynamite, and then appears in the very next scene. If it were to happen in CSI, I'd quickly stop watching.

I want a world to at least be internally consistent, so I can tell what's going on. If real-world technology is a significant plot point, and then magically does things it is utterly incapable of doing, I can't enjoy it because I have no anchor to the story. The next scene could literally show a computer program that solves the entire crisis. A deus ex machina like that can ruin a story.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610783)

Tech in movies has a role meant to captivate the layperson - to keep them hooked; it is of no consequence whether it is acurate - it SOUNDS cool, and thus grips the viewer.

Everything, tech or otherwise, in movies, TVs, most novels, and most other entertainment products has that purpose, but getting stuff blatantly and laughably wrong can break people's suspension of disbelief. For different people that happens at different points, but when it happens, it can ruin the views enjoyment of the product.

So, its pretty likely that many /. readers might prefer entertainment products where the tech isn't blatantly wrong.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (2, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610803)

The suspension of disbelief is completely jarred when you run into technology that just doesn't work. With "The Matrix" and similar movies, they make the world so radically different that the suspension of disbelief is an all or nothing: you either believe in the world or you don't, and you have to leave your assumptions at the door. With things set in the modern world, they're trying to use your pre-existing knowledge. In the case of most movies, they mess it up badly, which is jarring to someone who knows the field. It's the same with other professions, only their not featured in movies nearly as often.

That being said, there are still some very good movies that also botch the tech, but those movies don't make the technology the center of the movie. Die Hard was one such movie for me, although there are quite a few others. I believe the criticism is valid.

Re:Why people watch movies.. (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#26611005)

I can enjoy a film without nitpicking. For example, I can enjoy a film with terrible special effects if it has a good story. However, I'd enjoy it much more if it excelled with both the story and the effects.

It's the same with technological themes. I can overlook errors, but if a film goes to the effort to get things right, it's a better experience. And considering how easy it would be to find a technical consultant to tweak a script, it's frustrating when they don't bother.

Slashvertisement (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610237)

What a nice slashvertisement. Where do I apply to get my fiction mentioned here too?

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610573)

Where do I apply to get my fiction mentioned here too?

Write a novel. Get it published. Then see if someone on /. wants to review it.

Let us know how that works out.

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610753)

Optionally:

1) Pay someone to write a review
2) Pay someone to submit said review to /.
3) Pay someone at Slashdot to post said post about said review
4) ???
5) Profit!

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610983)

Sure, but I don't see any reason to assume that's what happened here. The simplest explanation is that the person who submitted the story really liked the book, and wanted to tell people about it.

Mainly, I was just snarking at the AC who probably has no idea how much work it is to write a novel and get it published. Reviews are nice, but getting the damned thing out there in the first place is the most important and difficult part by far.

Re:Slashvertisement (1)

Skrynkelberg (910137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610913)

Begin with learning to discern between advertisements and reviews.

Movies (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610257)

Most of time the ignorance is easy to look past and you can just enjoy the movie. I never really had a problem with it in most cases.

Two Notable Exceptions:

Wild Wild West - Will Smith, Kevin Kline

Battle Field Earth - Travolta

Those two movies took so much license with technology it reminded me of SpongeBob Squarepants and Bikini Bottom.

Re:Movies (5, Funny)

TripleDeb (1240154) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610883)

Your problem with Battlefield Earth was the technology?? That's like complaining that the horn's broken on a car with no wheels.

Re:Movies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610887)

Battlefield: Earth made perfect sense! Everyone knows that jet fighters require so little maintenance that they'll work perfectly even if you leave them lying around for three thousand years.

It's a well known fact that after a nuclear war, the only things left will be cockroaches, fully-functional Harriers, and lawyers.

Of course, the cockroaches are an urban legend. I seem to recall reading fairly recently that they have a surprisingly low radiation tolerance. And of course, they're tropical and can't survive a nuclear winter.

So, just the lawyers and jets.

Re:Movies (4, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610891)

Most of time the ignorance is easy to look past and you can just enjoy the movie. I never really had a problem with it in most cases.

Two Notable Exceptions:

Wild Wild West - Will Smith, Kevin Kline

Battle Field Earth - Travolta

Those two movies took so much license with technology it reminded me of SpongeBob Squarepants and Bikini Bottom.

SpongeBob was infinitely better than either of those movies.

Re:Movies (3, Funny)

kaiidth (104315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610971)

I think Travolta would be deeply upset if you suggested that Battle Field Earth misrepresented 'the Tech'.

The kind authored by LRH, that is.

Generous Author (5, Interesting)

pdragon04 (801577) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610297)

Friend of mine got a copy of this book roughly a year ago back when he wrote/published it under his pseudonym (Leinad Zeraus) and let me borrow it on the condition I'd send a review back to them. I did so very enthusiastically, thanking him for a great novel!

About a month ago I finally got a response back directly from the author thanking me for supporting his early work. He asked for my address so he could send me a thank you. Last friday I received a package that contained signed copies of both the original and now mass market hard cover! :)

Live Free or Die Hard anyone? (1)

Spice Consumer (1367497) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610311)

I'll normally not a big stickler on tech details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willing_suspension_of_disbelief [wikipedia.org] Mine is pretty high. But Live Free or Die Hard actually made cringe. I'll never forget when buddy went to track an IP and it returned a 169.x.x.x. Then ImmaMac instantly knew to head over to Jersey to see Kevin Smith. Not to mention the other glaring plot device: All of the interwebs were down! LOL

No good ideas come to mind.... (2, Interesting)

panoptical2 (1344319) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610327)

Have you not seen the crap that was The Net? [imdb.com] This movie is about a computer hacker/code tester whose life gets hijacked by other hackers. It was dumb and probably one of the worst thrillers I've ever seen. The closest movie that was interesting while at the same time technological-ish would have to be Primer [imdb.com] . Check this out if you want more details. It's not exactly as much technological as it is paradoxical, but it seems to get at the techno-thriller genre (somewhat).

Re:No good ideas come to mind.... (2, Interesting)

invisiblerhino (1224028) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610545)

Primer is brilliant, but it does have its technobabble moments (as close as I can remember it):

"Come on, what's the variable you can always change, in mechanics, in the Feynman diagrams without changing anything?"

"Time."

(putting pedant hat on)

While this is accurate (most classical, and for that matter quantum theories are invariant under time reversal), this isn't true for weak interactions or thermodynamics, for example. Also, it struck me at the time as something real people, real physicists wouldn't say. They would just say "it's gone backward in time".

Still, this is unbelievable nitpicking. Primer was wonderful and thoughtprovoking, and I hope Daemon is if and when I read it.

The Net (or how much it sucked, technically) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610585)

I think you missed the point about that flick (yes, the tech talk is mostly babelspeak nonsense, and at times I wanted to throw up when script writers take liberties with technical details) but I think it was more about the general over reliant and blind trust placed on computers than anything else.

FINUX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610343)

> have you ever wondered what it would be like if one of us, a geek, wrote a techno-thriller?

If you had read any of the stuff that's been written, you wouldn't have to "wonder" rhetorically. I for one thought Stephenson did a decent job in his treatment of the operating system FINUX in Cryptonomicon, and I'm sure there are other examples.

Some other examples (4, Informative)

tamyrlin (51) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610425)

There is already some other fiction written by authors with in-depth knowledge of computers.

* In Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson computers and computer hackers are portrayed pretty accurately.

* Atrocity Archive by Charles Stross is obviously written by someone who knows computers and most of all sysadms very well. Although I really hope that he doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to using computers to summon demons from the fractal dimensions... :)

Re:Some other examples (2, Informative)

chemguru (104422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610641)

Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford Stoll

Re:Some other examples (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610789)

One of the parts I liked in Cryptominicon was where he described how software used to minimize bandwidth during teleconferencing could be modified in short order to rig a laptop to take a picture every time somebody stepped in front of it. That moment told me that he truly understood software.

Re:Some other examples (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610987)

Also some movies.

* Firewall (2006) [wikipedia.org] - technology is portrayed pretty accurately and down-to-earth; focus is on plot.

You should write more. Your posts are very informative.

Sobol? (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610431)

Encyclopedia Brown would have sorted this all out in a lot fewer pages.

(Am I the only one who has this namespace collision?)

Re:Sobol? (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610581)

Holy crap thanks for making me remember those books I read as a kid!!!

Man I have to hunt down some copies...

I wonder.... (1)

xymog (59935) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610435)

You ever wonder what it would be like to ask rhetorical questions that no one answered? I'm just sayin'.

Re:I wonder.... (1)

galvanash (631838) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610609)

No. Sorry, did I ruin it for you?

Often but not. (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610453)

Generally I find it funny, even enjoyable when a movie flat out gets it wrong. The only occasions where I've felt like throwing my drink at the screen are when the movie almost gets it right and then at the last second screws the whole thing up. Thankfully this almost never happened.

Available for the Kindle on Amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610455)

Just downloaded it, now I have to work so I can't read it

To Answer The Question: +1, Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610525)

NO. I do not watch television because it does more damage than any other drug [wikipedia.org] .

Yours In Socialism,
Kilgore Trout

"That relative" (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610531)

From TFBR: "
People who are on the outside, the non-techie types may find this book confusing and hard to understand. That relative that calls you and asks what happened to their toolbar in word that seems to have disappeared may not really get this book."

Don't worry, they're busy reading "The Da Vinci Code."

As long as there's a real movie as well (1)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610557)

I've never understood why it's done that way in movies, are they trying to dumb down things so the masses understand? Cause they still don't, it goes right over their head anyway.

I can understand some: the character is hacking into another computer, so masses can all understand the screen has to have in bright red flashing letters 'Hacking into another computer ... complete!' but couldn't even non-techies read between the lines and derive he hacked into another computer from the scene. Other movie genres don't have to spell everything out.

Re:As long as there's a real movie as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610881)

It's so it's not boring.

Imagine if Crash Override hacking into the Gibson were displayed realistically to the masses:

You'd have Johnny Lee Miller sitting at a computer with some Fritos and Mt. Dew typing into a green-on-black terminal with random text scrolling by.

About as interesting as watching paint grow. Or you could watch some (for the time) really awesome CGI.

I'll pass (3, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610559)

What if someone who grokked our culture and understood our tech wrote something?

We'd be so bored we'd finally forgive Swordfish for the blowjob hacking scene? Part of the reason why we consume escapist entertainment is because real life is boring. Do we want to imagine the pretty heroine all made up in perfect makeup and lounging about her luxury flat in lace teddies or do we want the reality where she's wearing her comfy fluffy bathrobe that hides everything, bunny slippers, has a towel around her wet hair and has her face covered with some cosmetic mask cream?

Ok, having said that, I still cringe at bad tech scenes. "The Cylons can hack any computer that's networked, even if there's not a wireless access point anywhere on the battlestar! Just the act of running a cable from one primitive computer to another will give them a way in!" Or "Hey, this is Unix! I know this!" Or when someone is using the internet and they're instructed to bang away at random on the keyboard when they'd really be mousing around in an undramatic fashion while reading what's on the screen.

Re:I'll pass (2, Insightful)

Leafheart (1120885) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610857)

We'd be so bored we'd finally forgive Swordfish for the blowjob hacking scene?

What? that was the only good part of the whole movie. With that "method" of creating worms, you will nitpick with a fairly gratuitous and at the same time awesome blowjob? I pray for your soul.

Re:Hey, this is Unix! I know this! (2, Funny)

tamyrlin (51) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610993)

I also groaned when hearing the comment "Hey, this is Unix! I know this!" in jurassic park. However, it turns out that Hollywood gets the last laugh on this one as this is actually a real file manager for IRIX: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fsn [wikipedia.org]

Although it would certainly have been more impressive if she managed to hack the computer by booting it single user and using the command line...

the cuckoo's egg (1)

Yaur (1069446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610627)

I think that the cuckoo's egg would fall into the category of a techno-thriller written by someone who understands the tech... and it was a pretty awesome book.

Re:the cuckoo's egg (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610705)

Unfortunately, there are not enough Russian hackers breaking into our systems that we can all become crime drama writers. (:-)

Hot Chicks Too Distracting (1)

Dodder (1410959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610677)

Really? I've always been waaay to distracted by the ridiculousness of an impossibly hot ninja chick doing it to notice the technology errors.

Re:Hot Chicks Too Distracting (1)

Dodder (1410959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610797)

Sorry for misspelling "too". My impossibly hot, ninja chick, systems analyst, security expert, co-worker just walked by my cube.

oh, one of those (1)

the_wesman (106427) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610703)

Do you find the idea of creating a "gui interface using visual basic" to see about tracking an ip address as more fit for a sitcom rather than crime drama?

(in thick "chicago guy" accent)

oh you must mean one a dem dere Graphical User Interface interfaces - i heard a dem

Am I the only one here (1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610709)

Am I the only one here who has read the Stealing the network series? Very real tech and good stories to go with that.

Review or Advert? (-1, Flamebait)

Wubby (56755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610743)

I thought the "Books" section was for reviews. This "review" seems cut and pasted from some marketing copy. Either that, or has a hard-on for the author.

Or a sci-fi thriller (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610773)

http://www.zincland.com/menoetius/ [zincland.com]

For example, this book has a chapter where version control plays a key part (and there's an online version or dead tree version).

We'll need to hack all IPs simultaneously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610811)

Our webs are down, sir. We can't log in!

Which webs?

All of them.

They've penetrated our code walls. They're stealing the Internet!

We'll need to hack all IPs simultaneously.

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/07/16/

reality check (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26610817)

And if so, have you ever wondered what it would be like if one of us, a geek, wrote a techno-thriller?

Endless whinning from some spotty herbert who dare not leave the basement at his mum's house?

I for one can hardly wait.

Zoom, Enhance (4, Funny)

0prime (792333) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610847)

zoom, enhance, zoom, enhance, zoom, enhance

Yes, now we can read the name on that credit card of the guy 50 yards in the background of the picture taken with a cellphone camera.

The lack of tech understanding in popular culture. (1, Interesting)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26610977)

The lack of writers everywhere, not just Hollywood (although the problem is acute there) - leads to a morass of bad fiction. Contemporary or even sci-fci. Who out there in Slashdot-dom could not tell when the spirit of Roddenberry and what TOS was trying to achieve left with his death, and the Paramount hacks took over?

It happened in TNG, and you could start to tell when the stories became character driven, and it became a soap opera in space. Will Deanna Troi hook up with Riker? Who the fuck cares?

Later, especially in Voyager (I admit, I stopped watching after DS9, and only saw a few episodes) really just became Buck Rogers in space. Action Adventure stories with daring escapes. Tech became an afterthought, and the goals that Roddenberry had of illustrating larger human condition themes? All lost to the ticking time bomb stories and who was learning a personal life lesson.

If Bond films are interested in going back to the basics, since they have ditched Q - then it would behoove them to start putting serious tech into those films. No more satellites controlled from a GUI laptop interface. And all over, Internet culture is pushing aside mainstream tv culture. The effects that tv had upon the Baby Boomers was profound, and studied by sociologists to death. Gen X (less so) and Gen Y and Busters will seriously be affected by the interactive nature of the net and how it works. No longer will we be happy being portrayed by Seth Green. We will want realistic portrayals of the reality of the world we live in. So far, outside of the South Park episode that mocked World of Warcraft (hilarious, yes) I haven't seen WoW or Guild Wars or any MMO mentioned in a popular feature film, or even YouTube used as a plot device, Twitter or even a realistic depiction of GPS technology. That will all change. The Bourne films started it, with grabbing a SIM card from a airport vendor and using it to dodge the CIA - we will see more savvy use of tech tips and tricks in the years to come used cogently by the screenwriters.
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