August 9th, 2002

The Thursday Morning "It's Been A While" Review: Sea Without A Shore

Sean Russell's "Moontide and Magic Rise" is really a big book, split into two parts, the second of which is Sea Without A Shore. It's a slow read, though not because it's a bad book - instead it's its very complexity that leaves you spending time thinking about what you've just read.

In a country that feels like early 19th century Britain, the magic has finally gone away. Deliberately locked away by the mages of old, its power has little or no effect on the world. Instead, the age of reason, of empiricists, has arrived. The Iron Bridge is ready to be inaugaurated, and the industrial revolution is just around the corner. But there are still traces of magic in the world, among them the herb regis, which has unnaturally extented the life of the King. Plot and counterplot ensue, as a small group attempts to recover the lost knowledge of the mages, and to let wil magic loose in the world once more. As part of this plot they have sent the youg empricist Tristram Flattery to the far isles of Varua to bring back more regis - though really they intend him to be the distant focus of a poweful ritual. But the blood of mages flows in Flattery's veins and he may not be the easy touch the conspirators have expected. On the island of Varua and in a ruined abbey back home the magic starts to escape...

The home story feels like a regency romance with the twists and turns back home, like the voyage of the Beagle meets the mutiny on the Bounty on the other side of the ocean. Russell's attention to detail is on a par with Patrick O'Brian, and the the characters feel at home in his dense prose. Much happens, some inconsequent, some vitally important, and it is up to us, the readers, to find our own way through the layers of plit and counterplot. Characters switch sides, and may not be just who and what they appear. In the end Russell has left us with a fascinating and complex read, that ends not the way we'd expect...
  • Current Music
    BBC Radio 4 - BBC National DAB

Fun with Windows networking...

marypcb and I have a fairly typical geek house, with far too many computers. However, in order to reduce the number of wires trailing around the house, we've only put a wired network into one room. The rest of the house has to use wireless access.

In order to review some TV software and tools, Mary has been loaned a media PC full of TV tuners and video capture cards. It's a nice box that looks like it's come from an overclockers' convention, all shiny metal and perspex. Unfortunately it needs to be tested down in the lounge, and it needs to be connected to the network in order to access some of the features in the digital video recorder software. But (and it's a big but) it doesn't have an ethernet card, and we don't have a PCI wireless card (or for that matter a piece of 10baseT that would run from the office to the lounge).

So how could we get it on line?

Luckily we had a brainwave. Using an old laplink parallel port cable, we were able to connect the desktop PC to a wireless laptop. That would allow us to at least transfer files to and from the network. A bit of further investigation revealed that the Windows XP version of the built in direct cable connection could actually be configured to act as a remote access server and client, passing IP packets from the desktop PC to the wireless network, using the laptop as the server. We tried to get a browser running, but it took a couple of pings to the house gateway box before packets started flowing.

And there it was, online and connected to the registration site and the TV guide. Phew. An interesting challenge and a working solution. And one that came out of the box. I'm pretty sure it would be possible to do similar in UNIX-based OSes by setting up a PPP daemon on the wireless box, and running a serial cable between the two systems. That, however, is something to try out another day.
  • Current Music
    The hum of a failing fan on a 24-port switch

Strange visions of modern London.

A burly demolition man wearing even bigger boots, dancing in the spray of a hose as one of his mates washed down the road outside the demolition site, while the passing commuters looked on and smiled.
  • Current Music
    The annoying fan... still...