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¶ my angry book review.
Normally, I am forgiving of the incorrect use of science in science fiction for the sake of plot. It's okay that half of the science in Star Trek is bullshit cause it helps make a really good story most of the time. But Neal Stephenson just annoys the hell out of me when he writes about computer stuff.

In Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash, there are a couple things that really pissed me off.

The first was the man's obsession with powers of two. Everything in his stupid little world was a power of two. Yes, binary is important in computer science, but if you really wanted something with an elegant mathematical grounding, you'd pick a number system of base e. And if you can't handle a non-integral radix, then just pick three cause it's still more efficient than two. The only reason computers operate in binary is cause all the physical components happen to be cheaper that way, not cause it's more efficient.

Second. So it's cool that Stephenson tries to explain lots of CS topics in layman's terms. But when you're explaining how a computer monitor works, don't describe a CRT when you're explaining how a friggin LCD works. LCDs do not have big radiation guns and phosphor particles. CRTs do. LCDs don't. grr.

Some of what he describes is well done, though, and grounded in some very cool, but relatively unknown science. van Eck phreaking (spy on a video display from a distance by picking up its electromagnetic emissions) definitely being the coolest. Except he does screw up and apply it to an LCD display, but that's forgivable, imo.

Related to van eck phreaking, and not mentioned at all by stephenson, is eavesdropping on a modem by observing the LED status indicators. I think that's pretty hot. Too bad it doesn't work on ethernet routers and switches.

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