Chad Perrin: SOB

27 April 2009

PPR: The Prestige

Filed under: Review — apotheon @ 01:55

Book Review from the Pocket Pistol: The Prestige by Christopher Priest (Roughly 350 Pages)

I loved the movie based on this book. A friend of mine gave me a copy of the novel later, and I really looked forward to reading it.

The old letters, journals, and discussed memories approach to telling the story is an artifice that tends to annoy the crap out of me. It takes a really good writer to manage to pull that off without either coming across as overwrought and pompous or just turning out to be a dull, plodding narrative with unnecessary and unrealistic in-character explanations. Oddly enough, the author managed to avoid both fates just barely well enough to keep the book interesting.

. . . but it also fell victim to both, to some extent at least.

The book and the movie diverge significantly toward the end, though, where the explanation of what’s actually going on with the Transported Man trick starts to become directly important to the progress of the story. Unfortunately, where the movie’s explanation for what’s going on behind the scenes is a little weird and might make suspension a little more difficult for some of us, but lends itself to an understanding of the characters that shocks the viewer and gives the tale real pathos, the book’s take on it just comes across as lame and poorly conceived.

The common wisdom is that the book is always better than the movie. When drastic changes are made to movies, they tend to end up being much worse than the original version of the story as presented in the books. In this case, though, the movie turned a frankly crappy ending and just plain dumb underlying concept into something interesting that lent itself to the construction of a gripping story.

The book was . . . decent, until the lengthy, stumbling climax and denouement, complete with its cheap theatrics in the last few pages. The end, and the explanation for what was going on, completely ruined the story, though.

I give it two bullets out of five, and I think I’m being generous.

When is the Year of the Linux Desktop?

Filed under: Geek — apotheon @ 10:47

It seems like every year is hailed as the Year of the Linux Desktop. It seems a little bit like that, because two or three “pundits” and probably a couple dozen or so advocates of Linux-based OSes say that “next year is the Year of the Linux Desktop!” These people point to minor signs that things are picking up, that awareness and acceptance are growing, and to the major advances (including dubious “advances” such as Ubuntu’s “do it our way so you don’t have to think” philosophy of OS design) made in recent years, and start imagining best-case scenarios where some kind of tipping point is reached and the growth of Linux-based OSes on the desktop becomes a self-reinforcing virtuous circle.

Year of the Linux Desktop

The “every year is the Year of the Linux Desktop” meme is more thoroughly propagated by the fact that every year half a dozen tech opinion writers talk about the deafening roar of people claiming next year is the Year of the Linux Desktop that, strangely enough, only they seem to hear directly. These are people who inflate two articles they’ve read into a report that everybody is predicting the Year of the Linux Desktop. Their reasons for doing so is, of course, because when they dispute that claim they’ll seem more controversial, and attract more attention, if their readers really believe they’re serving as a lone voice of sanity in a howling windstorm of overzealous predictive enthusiasm. It’s ironic, considering it seems like three times as many people are serving as the “lone voice” as are providing the overwhelming volume of craziness they oppose.

What’s even more ironic is the actual fact of the matter — that next year really is the Year of the Linux Desktop, every single year. It’s just not the Year of the Linux Desktop the way people think when they see those words in some tech opinion writer’s article. Linux-based desktop OSes have been improving their appeal for general users, their market penetration, and their visibility even amongst those who don’t use them, every single year. Linux is gaining ground steadily. It’s not doing so all at once, in a sudden cascade of migrations, but it’s making subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) inroads every single year.

Markets don’t generally move in sudden, revolutionary lurches. They move more gradually, especially in hidebound, corporate dominated markets like ours, where the most powerful centers of economic influence oppose such changes. The movements of markets seem to be accelerating over time, but comparing one year to the year preceding it still yields only an apparent slight increase in the speed of the market’s shift. Things are swinging more toward open source software with each passing year, and that movement is accelerating, but it’s doing so steadily. I don’t expect to see it suddenly break that pattern and turn into an overnight explosion of Linux popularity that topples empires and reverses drastic imbalances in market penetration in an instant.

When people say that the Year of the Linux Desktop will never come, they seem to imagine that the only way we can have a Year of the Linux Desktop is by suddenly trading 80% market domination by one vendor with 5% market share by Linux-based OSes, so that the vendor now has 5% market share and Linux-based OSes have 80%, all in the course of a few months. They completely ignore the fact that open source OSes are growing in market share steadily every year. As things progress, we could very well see open source OSes holding 80% of the market. Hell, before we get to that point along the current track, we might even see that currently market dominating vendor start selling support for an open source OS, itself.

I don’t think Linux-based OSes will ever own 80% of the desktop market, though. I think that other, competing open source OSes will start eating into its market share quickly enough that 80% dominance will be a practical impossibility. I rather suspect, in fact, that by the time Linux-based OSes have even 20% of the market, the value of certain other open source OSes will start to become inescapably clear, and they’ll start their own growth cycles comparable to that of Linux-based OSes now. With any luck, copyfree OSes will actually end up outnumbering copyleft OSes in mainstream desktop market share statistics by the time open source OSes achieve a simple majority in those statistics.

Of course, that’s ignoring the fact that open source OSes will actually have a simple majority long before the statistics reflect that fact, but that’s an argument for another day.

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License