FEATURED REVIEW: The Martian by Andy Weir

Welcome to our Featured Reviews! In this series, we’ll be highlighting book reviews by the S&L audience. If you want to submit a review, please check out the guidelines here! -Veronica

Review by Dara Heaps

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The Martian starts with our protagonist, Mark Watney (a smart Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation to me) getting struck by shrapnel from a communication satellite as he and his crew mates evac on Mars, leaving Watney behind. This premise could be very dry with all of the technical details about oxygenators and CO2 scrubbers and water reclaimers but author Andy Weir  makes it interesting. Watney has such a great voice and he’s very funny, pulling the reader into the story and immediately making Watney sympathetic. 

Lucky for Watney, he is a botanist and mechanical engineer, making him well-suited to survive alone on another planet. He’s able to fix problems that arise (make water from rocket fuel, build things out of spare parts, repair his home) and grow some food from Earth soil mixed with Martian soil (yay potatoes! Boo human manure. Smelly business). To keep things interesting, (Mark is alone. Things would get boring if things didn’t go wrong) bad things sometimes happen. It’s fun to see how Mark figures out how to solve these problems with his limited resources.

The book also follows NASA personnel on Earth as they make plans to rescue Mark. We also spend some time with Mark’s crew mates aboard the Hermes. These characters aren’t as fleshed out as Watney is but that’s alright. After all, this is Mark’s story. The NASA folks have interesting interactions and plenty of disagreements about the right course of action. I enjoyed the Earth parts as much as Mark’s parts.

Not only is the plot to The Martian gripping but the writing is great as well. It’s descriptive but not overly technical without sacrificing the emotion. The research that went into this book shows. Everything that happens seems totally plausible. The technology is basically modern day with perhaps a few advanced pieces of hardware but nothing that’s space magic. I’m kind of floored that this is Weir’s first novel. It completely blew me away. Maybe in a few years, this will be turned into a movie. Gravity meets Moon!

Current Geek 11: Facebook on your Face

On Current Geek, we get into Office on your iPad, new 3d food is ready for you to eat, cartoon themes are back in, bionic atheletes unite, TMNT is back in theaters soon, 4DX movies are coming, Threes and 2048 are things to talk about, Facebook buys Oculus Rift, Oculus hacked, drones are in the news again, HTC One is happening, comments will die according to Fourcast, why people like us, and MORE!

DTNS 2201 – Dr. Zuckhattan

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comAndrew Mayne joins the show and we discuss Facebook’s plan to cover the world with Internet-bearing solar-powered drones and lasers. What could go wrong? Also, Len Peralta will attempt to illustrate this mess. You will not want to miss this.

MP3

Multiple versions (ogg, video etc.) from Archive.org.

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A special thanks to all our Patreon supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

If you enjoy the show, please consider supporting the show here at the low, low cost of a nickel a day on Patreon. Thank you!

Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

Thanks to our mods, Kylde, TomGehrke and scottierowland on the subreddit

Show Notes

Today’s guest:  Andrew Mayne and Len Peralta

Headlines

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a blog post announcing a new effort in conjunction with Internet.org to have Facebook’s Connectivity Lab work on a project to provide Internet connectivity worldwide from the air. Sparsely populated areas could be covered by satellites, both geosynchronous and low earth orbit varieties. Suburban areas could gain coverage from solar-powered automatic drones that can fly for months at a time. Facebook has acquired the 5-member company Ascenta who have worked on the Breitling Orbiter and Zephyr drone. They also employ former engineers from NASA as part of the effort. Oh and lasers. They connect all the satellites to each other with lasers. No sharks were reported to be involved.

Facebook also picked up a future employee once the acquisition of Oculus VR is done. TechCrunch reports Michael Abrash will leave his gig heading up VR at Valve to become Oculus’s Chief Scientist. Abrash said in his blog post that Facebok brings the resources and long-term commitment VR needs to solve the hard problems. You likely that today you used something Abrash coded since he has written for everything from Quake to Windows.

BlackBerry announced earnings Friday and Reuters reports that losses were smaller than feared. It was still a 64 percent drop in revenue. In an investor call, CEO John Chen gave a few hints on upcoming hardware. The Foxconn-made Z3 will come to Indonesia first in April, then the rest of the world. The Q20 with physical keyboard will be ready for Q1 2015. And the BlakcBerry 7 OS-powered Blackberry Bold will get another production run.

Remember I mentioned the Wall Street Journal said its sources claimed Amazon was going to roll out a free ad-supported video streaming service. Well the Verge passed that along too as well as a flat denial from Amazon. In an email to Variety an Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts said “we have no plans to offer a free streaming-media service.” So you’re saying there’s…no chance. Got it.

The Ethernet Alliance issued a press release announcing the formation of the IEEEp802.3bs Task Force. Yep. dot three bs. I know. Hopefully they won’t live up to that name and WILL successfully develop the standard for 400 Gigabit Ethernet, because that’s their job. They won’t go alone however, as they have the support of the Ethernet Alliance 400Gb/s Subcommittee. Maybe IEEE can take a little naming convention lesson after all this is over. The inaugural meeting of the IEEE P802.3bs Task Force will take place the week of May 12, 2014 in Norfolk, Va. as part of the IEEE Joint Interim Meeting.

GigaOm reports Tesla Motors has started adding a triple-layer metal shield, made of titanium and aluminum, to the underbodies of its cars. The shield is meant to protect the battery from impacts from below. All cars made after March 6th will have the shield, cars made before March 6th can be retrofitted free of charge. Elon Musk posted to Medium to make the announcement and put up some rather nifty animated GIFs of underbody impacts.

The Next Web reports a group of Dutch users have made a parody of Google Maps, called Google Naps which lets users mark and describe a particularly restful places to catch a few Zs. The group posted a detailed explanation of how the site was a joke and please don’t sue us Google. You know. For lawyers.

TechCrunch reports Microsoft General Counsel and EVP – Legal & Corporate Affairs Brad Smith posted some more information about Microsoft’s conundrum when it needs to investigate email accounts that it also hosts as part of outlook.com’s service. Previously Microsoft explained it couldn’t get a warrant for these since it already had the right to look but that it would be super extra careful and almost never do it. Well they’ve changed their mind. Microsoft says they’ll now never do that. And will refer any potential similar situations directly to law enforcement. They’re even working with the Center for Democracy and Technology and The Electronic Frontier Foundation on future privacy issues. OK.

News From You

Draconos sent us the Ars Technica article about DARPA’s new program called Collaborative Operations in Denied Environments , yes CODE for short, which wants to make autonomous cooperative swarms of drones that share sensor data but still respond to the commands of a single human. Cooperative groups could be more flexible in heavily defended airspace while still giving a commander the ability to control all the units from a single console.

KAPT_Kipper posted the GeekWire article that Microsoft has confirmed they will bring Office to Android devices too. John Case, a Microsoft Office corporate vice president for marketing told GeekWire “Let me tell you conclusively: Yes, we are also building Android native applications for tablets for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.” They haven’t picked a date for release but they are committed to it.

And Berke80 who I believe is in Turkey pointed out the EFF post that says in addition to blocks on Twitter and now YouTube, Turkish ISPs appear to be blocking the Tor Project’s website. Tor is a way of obfuscating connection information and can get around IP address blocks among other things. The EFF is providing links to mirros of the Tor Project site where users can still get the Tor Browser bundle.

Discussion Section Links:  

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/03/facebook-to-provide-internet-connectivity-from-solar-powered-planes/

http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/27/facebook-joins-google-in-the-hunt-for-the-future/

http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1287644/facebook-buys-uk-based-drone-company-ascenta-beam-internet-sky

http://internet.org/press/announcing-the-connectivity-lab-at-facebook

https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101322049893211?stream_ref=10

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxX6r-xDgG4&feature=youtu.be

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2014/02/facebook-plans-conquer-world-slew-low-end-handsets/

Pick of the Day:  G.I. Joe Coffee Company

Tonx is great, but the G.I Joe Coffee Company is awesome for an entirely different reason. They are all fair trade, good quality coffee, but 20% of all proceeds go to support disabled veterans. I know you get tons of picks, but I figured I had to throw one in the mix since it is a cause near and dear to my heart (retired Army and 90% disabled myself). With Respect,  Scott Napier

Monday’s Guest:  Wil Harris

DTNS 2200 – Excel-ing on the iPad

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comPeter Wells joins us to chat about Microsoft office for iPad and the experience of back-to-back phone launch events from Samsung and HTC in Sydney.

MP3

Multiple versions (ogg, video etc.) from Archive.org.

Please SUBSCRIBE HERE.

A special thanks to all our Patreon supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

If you enjoy the show, please consider supporting the show here at the low, low cost of a nickel a day on Patreon. Thank you!

Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

Thanks to our mods, Kylde, TomGehrke and scottierowland on the subreddit

Show Notes

Today’s guest:  Peter Wells from Reckoner, Australia

Headlines

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella led a live presentation in San Francisco of Office for iPad. Versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint and upgraded version of OneNote hit the iOS app store after the presentation. Written natively for iOS, the apps mimic their desktop conuterparts in many ways, and are a significant improvement over the office for iPhone apps. Documents can only be accessed locally from OneDrive or SharePoint though. The apps are free for viewing docs, but you’ll need a paid Office 365 account if you want to edit. Office 365 Home Premium subscriptions cost $99 a year, but a $70 Personal program is coming this spring.

Hot on the heels of Twitter’s court victory in Turkey, The Next Web noticed WebRazzi’s report that YouTube is now blocked in Turkey through all ISPs. The Turkish telecoms authority TIB confirmed to Reuters that it has taken “administrative measure” against YouTube. Google declined requests from the Turkish government to remove a YouTube video that accuses the government of corruption.

ReCode reports Amazon has sent out invites to reporters from Peter Larsen, that say “Please Join Us for an update on our Video business.” The event is scheduled for next Wednesday, April 2, at 11 AM Eastern time in New York City. The invite features a couch and some popcorn, so it’s either the long-rumored Amazon set-top box, or a lecture about snacking.

The Next Web passes along Twitter’s announcement of photo tagging and multiple photos for its Android and iOS twitter apps. Users can tag up to 10 people in a photo, and tags won’t count against your character limit. This comes along with new privacy options about who can tag you. The other feature lets you share up to four photos in a collage s part of one post. Twitter also announced it’s partnering with Billboard magazine for a real-time chart of the most popular music on Twitter.

The Wall Street Journal reports Intel will indeed sink an investment into Cloudera. Intel and Cloudera have competed in selling versions of the big-data analysis software Hadoop. Intel will discontinue its Hadoop product and put its muscle behind Cloudera’s. Cloudera in return will work to make its Hadoop product work particularly well on Intel chips.

Peter pointed us to this Verge article about Google Play Music allowing songs to be uploaded through the browser. The feature is now available in the labs section of Play Music. You can also select a number of folders to monitor and upload whenever new songs are added. You can download through the browser, so it all means you should never have to touch Music Manager again.

Pocket-lint reports Samsung is getting into the burgeoning smart lightbulb race. The Samsung Smart Bulb uses Bluetooth, not WiFi like others, to connect to your smartphone or tablet. You can access up to 64 bulbs to turn them on or off and dim them. The bulbs are supposed to last 10 years.

News From You

spsheridan posted the Verge story that US President Barack Obama did indeed announce his proposal to reform the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata as expected. The NSA would no longer collect data, but submit requests to phone companies for individual phone numbers after getting approval for the request from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. While the President works with Congress to pass new legislation, the current system will continue for 90 days. Alternative proposals already exist in Congress and Verizon has responded requesting that phone companies not be required to keep records longer than normally needed for business purposes.

DorkOfNerk submitted the Ars Technica story about two Google Play apps that mine Litecoin and DogeCoin while running without alerting users of the apps to that fact. A researcher from Trend Micro’s Veo Zhang posted about the behavior in the apps Songs and Prized. Prized has disappeared from the app store. Google told Ars Technica they would not comment on the post.

And mattblackcube sent in the Verge article that surgeons at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh are ready to test a technique that puts patients in a state of “suspended animation,” giving surgeons enough time to operate on injuries that would otherwise be fatal.  All you need to do is drain the patient’s blood really fast and replace it with a saline solution inducing a state similar to hyopthermia that reduces a cells need for oxygen. The process will be tested on ten patients in cardiac arrest who do not respond to attempts to restart the heart. Surgeons will have about two-four hours to repair injuries before blood must be returned and the heart restarted.

Discussion Section Links:  Office for iPad

http://gigaom.com/2014/03/27/office-for-ipad-available-today/

http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/27/5553364/microsoft-office-for-ipad-features

http://www.engadget.com/2014/03/27/office-for-ipad-review/?ncid=rss_truncated

Pick of the Day:  http://everytimezone.com/

Friday’s Guests:  Andrew Mayne and Len Peralta

DTNS 2199 – Ready Facebook One

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comAndy Ihnatko joins to settle once and for all whether we will someday live in Facebook’s evil Ready Player One-like universe or Facebook’s evil Snow Crash-like universe. Because they bought Oculus.

MP3

Multiple versions (ogg, video etc.) from Archive.org.

Please SUBSCRIBE HERE.

A special thanks to all our Patreon supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

If you enjoy the show, please consider supporting the show here at the low, low cost of a nickel a day on Patreon. Thank you!

Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

Thanks to our mods, Kylde, TomGehrke and scottierowland on the subreddit

Show Notes

Today’s guest:  Andy Ihnatko, technology columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times

Headlines

All of the Internet, but I saw it first on TechCrunch, reported yesterday that Facebook announced plans to buy Oculus Vr, the makers of the Rift virtual reality headset for $400 million in cash, 23.1 million Facebook stock shares and a $300 million earnout, for a grand total current valuation of around $2 billion also expressed as two Instagrams or 1/10 of a WhatsApp. The Internet is pleased, outraged, confused but mostly outraged. That is also known as being the Internet. As if speaking on behalf of the Internet, Markus Persson, aka Notch of Minecraft posted on Twitter that he had canceled his deal with Oculus because “Facebook creeps me out.” Also Facebook denies the New York Times report that it plans to redesign the Rift and brand it with a Facebook logo.

Hurriyet Daily News out of Turkey reports the Turkish government will abide by an Ankara court ruling staying the decision to block Twitter in the country. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told reporters the government may not like the decision but they will carry it out, although they may take up to 30 days to do so. The court stated in its ruling that the ban of the entire website was contrary to the Turkish Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights, as it restricted the freedom of expression and communication.

ZDNet reports Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies voted in favor of the Marco Civil da Internet which has provisions for net neutrality, privacy rights and protection for ISPs against liability for offensive content published by their customers. A controversial provision to require data on Brazilians to be stored in Brazil was dropped before passage. The bill will need to clear the Senate before it is sanctioned by president Dilma Rousseff.

Engadget reports ZTE just launched the Nubia X6 handset/tablet with 6.44-inch 1080p screen. It also carries a snapdrgon 7801 chip, 3GB of RAM, up to 128GB of storage and a 4,250 mAh battery. Both front and back cameras are 13-megapixels. It’s up for pre-order in China at $HK 5,010. (US$640).

News From You

LifeDownloaded submitted the TechCrunch story on CandyCrush maker King’s initial public offering of stock. King sold the shares at $22.50 each raising $326 million on a valuation of $7 billion. The stock began trading at $20.50 a share Wednesday morning dropped to $19.58 midafternoon and ended the day at [$19.25]

habichuelcondulce pointed us to the SB Nation Lookit story about the folks at the dogecoin subreddit raising $55,000 to sponsor Josh Wise’s N0.98 car in NASCAR races. Hopefuly the car will get wrapped in Shiba Inu meme-ness in time for the Aaron’s 499 at Talledega May 4. A design competition has begun to determine the look of the logo on the car.

MikePKennedy posted the story from Engadget that NASA has stitched together more than 2 million infrared pictures taken in the past decade by the Spitzer Space telescope to create the clearest infrared panorama of our galaxy ever made. The photos from the Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (GLIMPSE360) show 3 percent of the sky but more than half of all stars in the Milky Way. You can pan through the photo online, or if you have loads of free hard drive space, download the full resolution raw images.

LifeDownloaded submitted the TechCrunch story on CandyCrush maker King’s initial public offering of stock. King sold the shares at $22.50 each raising $326 million on a valuation of $7 billion. The stock began trading at $20.50 a share Wednesday morning dropped to $19.58 midafternoon and ended the day at [$19.31]

Discussion Section Links:  Pick of the Day:  Fock-u-lus Rift?

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/03/welcome-to-the-vr-social-what-to-expect-from-oculus-in-the-facebook-era/

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/03/minecraft-dev-halts-talks-with-oculus-following-facebook-acquisition/

http://www.cnet.com/news/zuckerberg-facebook-only-spends-big-on-rare-companies/#ftag=CAD590a51e

http://recode.net/2014/03/25/under-facebook-oculus-will-still-focus-on-games-for-now/

http://www.cnet.com/news/what-does-the-facebook-oculus-deal-mean-for-kickstarter/#ftag=CAD590a51e

http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/25/5547946/welcome-to-planet-facebook

http://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-oculus-deal-a-downpayment-on-gaming-and-everything-beyond/#ftag=CAD590a51e

Thursday’s Guest:  Peter Wells