Archive for February 10th, 2009

ComputerWorld: ‘What if Google decided YOU were malware?’

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Google screwed up massively this morning, identifying every page on the Internet as one that could “harm your computer.” Most users would click on a link, and instead of the page requested, received a big warning message. This went on for entire hour.

The company said that the problem was caused by “human error.”

Because the error essentially shut down Google for everyone in the entire world, the company fixed it immediately.

But what if Google made another error, and decided YOU were malware? What if the company, for whatever reason, came to the conclusion that you were a spammer, or a criminal, or somehow abused their rules? What if they simply invalidated your password to prevent you from using their many services?

Book Review: Sashenka, by Simon Montefiore

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

A book review submitted by a contributor:

Book Review: Sashenka, by Simon Montefiore

Sashenka, is the first novel by English historian Simon Sebag Montefiore (author of two acclaimed biographies of Josef Stalin). This reviewer picked it up on a whim at the library and read it quickly since I found I could not put it down. Set in 20th Century Russia, the novel charts the hopes and horrors of that history, revolving around the family of  Alexandra “Sashenka” Zeitlin who is the only daughter of a rich St Petersburg banker and merchant.

The novel is divided into three sections. In the first, set in 1916-17, we see the tottering decadence of the Tsarist regime in its final stages, the great contrasts of wealth and extreme poverty and its oppressive security force, the Okhrana. The second section is set in 1939, a world of unease where the slightest misstep can doom even the most loyal follower of Stalin. The final section brings us to 1994 as the Soviet archives open and old secrets are unearthed.

The quality of the writing is outstanding. Montefiore brings all three of his eras to life through the use of detail and beatiful prose. This is felt the most in the 1939 section which is a gut-wrenching emotional tale that drags you through that nightmare world. The 1994 section features the most addictively written account of searching for a mystery through old documents since Robert Harris’ Fatherland. The combination of these two sections is cathartic, in the original sense of the word as applied to the Ancient Greek tragedies.

I cannot more thoroughly recommend this book. It is a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in Russia and its past, but beyond that it should be read by anyone who has ever thought to complain about our pampered existence in the West. One of the pat refrains of the “peace” lobby during the Cold War was that surely “Russians love their children too.” After reading this, you will agree that they do – and understand that that alone was enough reason to destroy Communism.