Friday Jun 19, 2009

OpenSolaris Bible Co-Authors Together

As I mentioned last week, my two co-authors of OpenSolaris Bible and I were at the CommunityOne conference in San Francisco earlier this month. What I didn't note in that post is that this was the first and only time we've all three been in the same place at the same time. Luckily Tirthankar Das was present to record this moment for posterity:

From left to right, Jerry Jelinek, Dave Miner, and me in front of the bookstore in the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Friday Jun 12, 2009

OpenSolaris Bible Makes Best-Seller List at JavaOne

According to this list, OpenSolaris Bible was the tenth best-selling book at the JavaOne bookstore, and the only book in the top ten not aimed at Java, Web, or Application developers. Although Dave, Jerry, and I didn’t get a whole lot of people for our book signing, I’d like to think that our presence, our various presentations, and the book giveaways at CommunityOne on Monday and Tuesday helped drive the book sales.

Thursday May 28, 2009

OpenSolaris Bible Book Signing at CommunityOne on Monday

It looks like Dave, Jerry, and I will be doing an OpenSolaris Bible book signing at CommunityOne on Monday from 3:30-4. Come by and take advantage of this rare opportunity to get signatures from all three of us simultaneously!

Also, here's one last plug for our presentations at CommunityOne. My “Developing On OpenSolaris” talk will be Monday morning at 10:50. Dave and Jerry will both be presenting that day as well. Then on Tuesday, Jerry and I will be part of a “Deploying OpenSolaris in Your Data Center” deep dive track. This track is completely free – you can register with the link below. See the full schedule here.

Finally, don't forget about the Cluster Summit on Sunday!

Tuesday May 05, 2009

OpenSolaris Bible on Google Book Search

Thanks to Jerry for pointing out that our book, OpenSolaris Bible, is now available on Google Book Search. You can't see every page, but Google let's you browse quite a bit. Check it out here.

Friday Feb 13, 2009

We’re Number 1,742!

As I think is common among authors, I’m somewhat obsessive about checking my books’ sales rankings on amazon. Since OpenSolaris Bible started shipping last week I’ve been tracking its ranking closely, and have been quite pleased with its sales. This week, the ranking stayed below 5000, with a peak around 1,742:

Additionally, OpenSolaris Bible has been the #1 best-selling book in both the Solaris and Unix categories all week, the latter of which is significant considering that the Unix category seems to include such popular topics as Linux and Perl. OpenSolaris Bible also hit #6 in the Networking category, as shown in the above screenshot. I think that these numbers are indicative not only of interest in our book, but of enthusiasm and excitement about OpenSolaris in general.

Tuesday Feb 10, 2009

Free Sample Chapters from OpenSolaris Bible

Although I didn’t mention it in my previous post, Chapter 1 of OpenSolaris Bible has been available for a while from the book website. And now I’m pleased to announce that Wiley and Sun have collaborated to provide free access to two more chapters! Check out Chapter 3 and Chapter 8, both available from opensolaris.com.

To put these chapters in context, you can look at the table of contents. As you can see, both Chapters 1 and 3 are in section I, "Introduction to OpenSolaris." As Dave points out, Chapter 1 is not really representative of the rest of the book, as that chapter is mostly a non-technical introduction to OpenSolaris, while the remaining 23 chapters focus on the OpenSolaris technology. Chapter 3 is a detailed overview of the OpenSolaris operating environment, including introductory information on the GNOME desktop, the bash shell, SMF, the Image Packaging System, networking, and more. Most of these topics are covered in more detail in later chapters, but this chapter, combined with Chapter 2, "Installing OpenSolaris" is a great "crash course" in OpenSolaris for the new user.

Chapter 8 is most representative of the book as a whole, as it’s a thorough examination of a single area of OpenSolaris, in this case ZFS. This chapter falls in Section III, which covers file systems, networking, and security.

These three chapters are just a small part of the full 1000 page OpenSolaris Bible, and we hope, of course, that you will consider purchasing the book. However, we also think these chapters are useful in their own right, and we encourage you to download them and use them as a tutorial or reference even if you don’t buy the book.

Finally, I can’t end this post without noting that OpenSolaris Bible has hit the shelves, so to speak. The amazon page says it’s in stock, and one of my co-authors spotted it at a local Barnes and Noble. That said, I still haven’t seen it myself, and am eagerly awaiting my complimentary copies.

Tuesday Jan 20, 2009

Announcing the OpenSolaris Bible

Last year, I wrote a bible. No, I didn’t change my name to Paul or Ezekial. I mean bible in the fourth definition sense of the word. My bible, on the topic of OpenSolaris, will be released next month under the appropriate enough title, OpenSolaris Bible. It’s available now for pre-order from any of the online booksellers.

If you’re interested in OpenSolaris, whether you’re a novice or an experienced user or admin, this book should have something for you. The only prerequisite is some experience with UNIX or Linux; and at close to 1000 pages, we’re able to cover both the basics and many advanced topics. The detailed table of contents (note: PDF link) and index (also PDF link) on the book web site give an idea of the topics and scope of the book.

I’ll have more to say about the contents of the book later, but in this post I’d like to write a little about how and why I wrote it. Four years ago, my first book, Professional C++, was released. I did the project somewhat on a whim, mostly because I was offered the opportunity. I knew I didn’t want to write full-time, but couldn’t turn down the opportunity to try my hand at it. And of course there was the lure of getting the chance to influence thousands of programmers to code the "right" (i.e. "my") way. However, after spending almost one year working every night and weekend on it, I was ready to focus on other things for a while.

Given that I’m still working full-time for Sun, have added a child to my family, and my wife is just starting her own business, why did I decide to again spend almost a year writing every night and weekend? As any author this side of John Grisham can attest, it’s certainly not for the money. Nor, if I’m being realistic about the market for C++ and OpenSolaris books, is it for the fame. However, there are a few reasons other than just seeing my words in print again.

First and foremost, I strongly believe that the OpenSolaris community needs this book. At the time we started writing there were no books available or, as far as we knew, even in the works, on OpenSolaris. In fact, OpenSolaris Bible will be the first English-language book on OpenSolaris. A good tutorial and reference book on OpenSolaris is imperative in order for the technology to gain hold and grow market share in the open source community.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why I wrote the book myself, especially since I’m not a core Solaris engineer directly involved in developing the OpenSolaris distribution. To be frank, one reason is simply that I enjoy taking opportunities that come my way.

More importantly, however, I work for Sun, am involved in the OpenSolaris community, and use OpenSolaris every day. I am quite familiar with the details and intricacies of OpenSolaris and knew that I would be comfortable writing the content of the book. As with Professional C++, I wrote the book that I would want to have as my tutorial and reference. Additionally, having written Professional C++, I had the contacts at Wiley, and knew that I was capable of writing a book of this magnitude.

That said, there was no way I could have written this book by myself. I had a great experience working with Scott on Professional C++, and at first wasn’t sure I could repeat it. However, I was extremely lucky to find two amazing co-authors: Jerry and Dave. They both have a rare combination of exceptional technical knowledge and the ability to explain it clearly in writing. (If you’ve spent much time around technical folks, you’ll know that second quality is in short supply). In particular, Jerry’s understanding of Zones, virtualization, file systems, and a host of other topics, and Dave’s knowledge about the OpenSolaris distribution, IPS, Networking, and pretty much everything else were invaluable. They wrote all the hard chapters, including some material that took significant research and testing.

And in addition to their technical abilities, Dave and Jerry were both a pleasure to work with. Although I don’t think we’ve all three ever been in the same place at the same time, we didn’t just each go off into a locked room and write our chapters. We had weekly phone conversations and innumerable email exchanges about all sorts of subjects from global chapter topics and ordering to detailed questions about a particular technical issue. Additionally, we each reviewed each other’s chapters in detail several times, and all kept our eyes out for OpenSolaris changes that would impact any of our material. I believe that this diligence shows, and that the resultant tome, in my obviously biased opinion, is a well-organized, comprehensive, and cohesive tutorial and reference on OpenSolaris.

But that’s just my opinion. I’m looking forward to hearing yours!

Thursday Jul 19, 2007

Dissecting the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Covers

In further anticipation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the cover art on the various editions can give us some clues about the plot.

  • The US Version. This image, which spans both the front and back cover, seems to show Harry and Voldemort in a coliseum-like location with onlookers in the background. A few comments and questions:
    • Is the coliseum supposed to imply a gladiator-like battle?
    • The rubble in the front of the image seems to imply that there was a battle, but in the picture Harry and Voldemort don’t seem to be actively fighting. Why not?
    • Instead, Harry and Voldemort both appear to be facing something or someone not shown instead of each other. Harry appears to be reaching out for it. Is Voldemort reaching for it also, or holding his hands out to block it? Could it be Fawkes the phoenix or the sword of Gryffindor to which Harry is reaching out? Or is it someone?
    • Why are neither Harry nor Voldemort holding a wand?
    • Why are there curtains on either side of the image? Could they be the veil in the department of mysteries behind which Sirius fell when he died? Could Harry and Voldemort actually be behind the veil fighting each other?
    • Who are the onlookers? If Harry and Voldemort are really behind the veil, perhaps they are dead people like Sirius and Harry’s parents?
    • In summary, this image basically shows us that Harry and Voldemort will be face-to-face at some point in the book, which I think most of us have already guessed.
  • The UK Version. This cover contains four images.
    • The large front-cover image shows Harry, Ron, and Hermione plunging through some sort of treasure-chamber. A small creature on Harry's back appears to be holding a sword, while Harry looks like he is diving for something. Are they in Gringott’s? Is the creature a house-elf (Dobby perhaps) or a goblin? Is it holding Gryffindor’s sword? Are they looking for a horcrux?
    • The smaller image on the front shows a white antlered animal, perhaps a white stag, which is Harry’s patronus. Does this mean that Harry’s patronus will be important to the plot of this book?
    • The large back-cover image shows Hogwarts, possibly with smoke behind it. Does this mean that Harry will go to Hogwarts at some point in the book, even if he doesn’t attend his complete seventh year?
    • The small image on the back shows a snake inside a glass ball. Is the snake Nagini (Voldemort’s snake, and possibly one of his horcruxes?)
  • The UK Adult Version. This cover shows JK Rowling on the back, and what I think is Slytherin’s locket on the front. As we already knew the locket would be important, I don’t think this image sheds much light on the plot.

Rank Ordering the Harry Potter Books

Continuing the Harry Potter theme this week, here is my rank ordering of the first six books in the series from favorite to least favorite.

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In addition to conveying key information about Voldemort and the over-arching plot, this book held together well, with good pacing. I also enjoyed seeing Harry’s maturing relationship with Dumbledore and the clues as to how much Dumbledore cared about and trusted Harry.
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I liked this book also for its revelations about the over-arching plot and about James, Lupin, Sirius, and Wormtail, as well as its good pacing.
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This first book in the series is difficult to compare to some of the later ones as it feels so light in comparison (and I don’t just mean physically!) However, the introduction to the wizarding world is unbeatable.
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I think the climax of this book, where Voldemort regains his full body and Harry escapes, is excellent. However, the book itself is I think a bit too long and bogs down in places. I also didn’t really like the whole impersonation plot point that much.
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I haven’t re-read this one recently, but I remember feeling somewhat dissatisfied after reading it. I didn’t really like the whole chamber of secrets and diary plot, though after reading later books I can see better how they relate to the larger plot.
  6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. I felt that this book bogged down somewhat and didn’t really further the over-arching plot much. I finished the book feeling somewhat frustrated. But note that even as my least-favorite in the Harry Potter series, I’d rather read it than most other books around!

Where will Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows fall?

Monday Jul 16, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Predictions

In my previous post I listed some questions that I hope to find answered in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In this post, I’ll go a step further and make some predictions about the book. I’ve re-read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince between writing the previous post and this one, which has led me to think slightly differently about some of the questions I asked. Without further ado, here are the predictions.

  • Fawkes the Phoenix will adopt Harry. Now that Dumbledore, the previous owner of Fawkes, is dead (and yes, I believe he is truly dead and won’t return like Gandalf), I think there’s a good chance Harry could end up with a Phoenix as an animal companion.
  • Harry will kill Voldemort after finding and destroying the four remaining horcruxes. After re-reading the ending of Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, in which Dumbledore explains the prophecy, I don’t think there’s a chance that it could now refer to Neville.
  • Harry’s scar will disappear. The scar was the connection to Voldemort, so at the time of Voldemort’s death it will vanish.
  • Severus Snape will sacrifice himself to save Harry. After re-reading the Half-Blood Prince, I believe that Dumbledore was wrong that Snape was on his side. The fact that Dumbledore was somewhat incorrect about the Horcrux in the cave (he didn’t know it had been removed already) serves to underscore his fallibility, thus lending credence to the theory that he was also wrong about Snape. That said, I think that Snape, unlike Voldemort, has the capacity to love, and truly feels guilty about Lily Potter’s murder (though perhaps not James’). Therefore, he will redeem himself in the end by helping Harry.
  • Draco will help Harry in some way. By the end of the Half-Blood Prince Harry feels sorry for Draco, with his previous dislike of Draco pushed out of the way by his overwhelming hatred of Snape. Although they’re unlikely to become friends, I think (or maybe hope) that Draco will come to realize Voldemort’s fundamental evilness and will help Harry in his quest to defeat him.
  • Hagrid will die. Harry has now lost his parents, his godfather (Sirius Black), and his mentor and father-figure (Dumbledore). Hagrid’s the adult remaining alive to whom Harry is closest, so following the pattern, he may lose his life in the final book.
  • Percy Weasley will make up with his family. I can’t believe that, when push comes to shove, a member of the Weasley family won’t come through in the end.
  • We’ll discover that Harry is related to Godric Gryffindor. This connection would be parallel to Voldemort’s descent from Salazar Slytherin. There have been hints, such as Harry’s use of Godric’s sword in The Chamber of Secrets, and the name, Godric’s Hollow, where Harry’s parents died.
  • Neville will use his herbology skills to help Harry defeat Voldemort.
  • Petunia will help Harry in some way. This help will include more than just allowing Harry back into her house one last time.
  • We’ll learn more about Dumbledore and his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald. Maybe also about Dumbledore’s brother Ableforth.
  • We’ll learn more about James and Lily Potter. I realize this is a bit vague, but there’s got to be more to the fact that Harry has his mom’s eyes.
  • The house-elves, or at least Dobby, will help Harry, rewarding him and Hermione for their kindness toward them.
  • Wormtail will repay his life-debt to Harry.

Reading through the predictions, I can see that I’m pretty optimistic about the outcome: Both Snape and Draco redeem themselves, none of the kids die, and Voldemort is defeated. Let’s see if J.K. Rowling agrees!

Thursday Jul 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Top-Ten Questions

In anticipation of the imminent release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, here are the top ten questions for which I hope to find answers or resolution in the final book.

  1. Whose side is Snape on? Is he truly a follower of Voldemort, really a loyal member of the Order of the Pheonix, just out for himself, conflicted, or playing both sides? I believe that whatever loyalties he currently has or has had in the past, he will redeem himself in the end, possibly by saving Harry’s life and in the process sacrificing himself.
  2. Why did Dumbledore trust Snape? While related to the first question, this point was emphasized so much in the last book that I think it will be important in this one.
  3. What will Draco do? He proved in the climax to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that he wasn’t in his heart on the side of Voldemort. Will he redeem himself, as Dumbledore no doubt hoped?
  4. How will Wormtail repay his life-debt to Harry? Recall that Harry spared his life in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This debt has not yet been repaid.
  5. What is the meaning of Dumbledore’s "gleam of triumph"? Recall that this look occurred when Dumbledore discovered that Harry’s blood was used to resurrect Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  6. How will the prophecy be resolved? It states in part that, "…either must die at the hand of the other…" I think that Voldemort will be killed in the final book, but I’m not convinced that Harry will be the one to do it. Although not likely, I do think there’s a small chance the prophecy actually refers to Neville instead. Which brings me to…
  7. What will be Neville’s role? I think Neville will have a significant role to play in the final book – it will be interesting to see what it is.
  8. Who is R.A.B.? He claimed to have stolen one of the horcruxes. Speculation is that it’s Sirius’ brother.
  9. More information about Lily and the night of her murder? It seems like there are still some things we don’t know about that fateful night.
  10. Is there any more to Aunt Petunia? I suspect there are still a few things we don’t know about her.

Thursday Jul 05, 2007

Recent Reads

In this holiday week in the US, here's a list of the fiction I've read in the past couple months.


  • Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman -- Typical Hillerman; a good quick read.

  • Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood -- I usually like Margaret Atwood's work, but this collection of short stories didn't do much for me.

  • Summerland by Michael Chabon -- My first exposure to Chabon's novels. This fantasy story was interesting, but didn't grab me the same way as other fantasy books I've read. I'll withold judgement on Chabon until I've tried some of his other novels ("The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" is up next).

  • Oblivion by David Foster Wallace -- David Foster Wallace is certainly unique. His writing is quite dense, and for the first time in quite a while I found myself needing to look up vocabularly words in a dictionary while reading fiction. Of the eight stories in the book, I enjoyed about three of them. I'd like to try one of his novels at some point, but maybe not immediately.

  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech -- this novel for kids was quite well-written and enjoyable.

  • The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason -- I wasn't impressed with this best-seller. The concept was interesting, but the characters didn't strike me as believable or well-developed.

  • The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow -- It took about 100 pages to get into, but after that the story carried me along.

  • Next by Michael Crichton -- (in progress)

Thursday May 31, 2007

Everything is Illuminated

I read and enjoyed Jonathan Safran Foer’s second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, last year, and have been looking forward to his first novel, Everything is Illuminated. I finally picked it up from the library and read it. I was quite impressed. Foer managed to write a book that is simultaneously humorous, poignant, disturbing, and uplifting.

Everything is Illuminated is not a straightforward novel. The present-day action describes a fictional Jonathan Safran Foer’s quest to find the Ukrainian woman whom he believes saved his Jewish grandfather from the Nazis. These sections are narrated by Alex, Jonathan’s young Ukrainian gentile "guide." Along on the trip is Alex’s grandfather, who is dealing with issues from his own personal history. Interspersed are Alex’s letters to Jonathan after Jonathan has arrived home, and sections from Jonathan’s “book”, a fictional account of Jonathan’s ancestors in the Trachimbrod shtetl in the Ukraine.

The book is, in some ways, a holocaust story. There are two scenes in particular of startling Nazi brutality. But in other ways it’s more generally about love, friendship, history, and families. In my opinion, the main character was not Jonathan, but Alex, who in the process of guiding Jonathan and writing to him afterword, grows from a timid boy living a fantasy life to a confident man with a deeper understanding of his own family history.

I found the literary devices in the book quite clever, particularly the letters from Alex to Jonathan. I enjoyed most these letters and Alex’s narrations. Alex’s English and way of writing lends particular humor to these sections. For example:


Dear Jonathan,

I hanker for this letter to be good. Like you know, I am not first rate with English. In Russian my ideas are asserted abnormally well, but my second tongue is not so premium. I undertaked to input the things you counseled me to, and I fatigued the thesaurus you presented me, as you counseled me to, when my words appeared too petite, or not befitting. If you are not happy with what I have performed, I command you to return it back to me. I will persevere to toil on it until you are appeased.


I sometimes found myself impatient to get back to the "present" while reading Jonathan’s stories about his ancestors in Trachimbrod. However, the slightly fantastical and over-the-top happenings in these stories provided a contrast with the real world of Jonathan and Alex – at least until the stories reached the time of the holocaust, when they became both fantastical and realistic simultaneously. And they are integral to the book’s theme that "everything is illuminated" through history, specifically the history of ones ancestors, even if that history has to be fabricated.

About

Nick Solter is a software engineer and author living in Colorado.

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