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  • Well, thank you for the opportunity to flog my own book. Um, sorry. I'll rephrase

  • that differently. Actually something that I was working on while I was here in

  • England two years ago was a book on Go, which was published shortly after I

  • returned. And most of the work, I would say almost entirely the entire part of the

  • work, was done by Alan Donovan, a colleague from Google. He's in New York now but he

  • in fact grew up in Salisbury. So Alan and I wrote this book on Go, which is in many

  • ways a very interesting, useful language. I would not call myself a Go expert at

  • all in spite of having worked on it in this sense. Alan is the true expert, but

  • worth doing. The other thing that I also did, in part because I was on sabbatical

  • for a year, was to update a book that I wrote maybe six seven years ago called

  • D is for Digital. It's a book for very non-technical people, people whose

  • interests and expertise is not in computing but in other things, but who would

  • like to understand how do these things work, how what does it mean to

  • write a program, what does it mean to use the web, how does the Internet work, what

  • kinds of risks are there to our privacy and security -- kinds of good things

  • like that. So I had written a book on that several you know at least five or

  • six, seven years ago like that. And it was getting a little dusty because things

  • change rapidly, and so I did a second edition of that. And the other thing I

  • had done, and probably because my colleague Dave Brailsford, the first book

  • self-published. He will I'm sure tell you that self publication is a recipe for

  • having things disappear without a trace. And so that the first edition did sort

  • of disappear without much trace. The second edition was published by

  • Princeton University Press, who also has an arrangement with Oxford University

  • Press, and so I'm hopeful that the book gets a lot more publicity. It's called

  • Understanding the Digital World, which is a much fancier title but okay. >> Sean: So that's

  • the updated version of D is for Digital. >> BWK: that's it. >> Sean: I'm actually intrigued to know because

  • we started Computerphile maybe four years ago. What has changed today? What sorts of things?

  • >> BWK: I think the most obvious one -- the first version was done I think in 2011. In 2013

  • Edward Snowden revealed something that people had suspected but not really

  • realized: just how extensively they are being spied on by various government

  • agencies like the NSA in the United States and GCHQ in England and

  • presumably similar ones everywhere in the world. And what Snowden did was to

  • make it crystal clear that there was an enormous amount of that stuff going on,

  • in spite of denials and in spite of legal restrictions in various countries

  • on how information could be collected and used. And so that was a big thing. I

  • think the other thing that sort of parallels it in some sense, another

  • change, is the continuing growth of commercial surveillance: how we are being

  • monitored continuously as we use the Internet and our phones and so on, by

  • companies like Google and Facebook and who knows who else. And the enormous

  • growth of the hidden advertising market there, the trackers that watch you when

  • you use your computers and when you use your phones. And then in some sense the

  • commercialization of criminal threats against you, that this is that people are

  • out to get your money and your identity in a way that was I think much less so.

  • It was more amateur six seven years ago than it is today. So all of these are

  • things that are I think substantially different, mostly in intensity. They're

  • much worse. Defenses are harder come by, although we do understand something

  • about that. So that was the bulk of the sorts of things that

  • changed in it. And then of course something was just trying to clean up

  • the places where I explained it poorly the first time around; let's see if we

  • could do better the second time around. You keep trying it until you get it

  • right. There are authors who claim that they write their stuff right the first

  • time and it never needs work. I don't think that applies to most people and

  • certainly does not apply to me. So even in the process of writing a book, you

  • work really really hard over and over and over

  • again on what you say. And then you get it out and you realize there's a

  • mistake, or you could have said that much better, or something has changed

  • underfoot, and so what you said is no longer accurate because the world has

  • changed around you. So you pile enough of those effects on in a field like

  • computing which is changing rapidly, and it means that books tend to date

  • relatively quickly. And so some parts -- you know binary numbers work the same

  • way today as they did when, I don't know, George Boole was at them. But the

  • explanations of those perhaps could be improved and the reasons why you should

  • care about them may have changed as well. So that's the genesis of the second

  • edition. >> Sean: When you come over here you don't fly, do you? I don't recall

  • the details of this but I'm interested what it's like spending days on the

  • ocean in this day and age, when you're so used to being connected. Can you tell me a little bit about that? >> BWK: Oh, yeah.

  • The genesis -- my wife does not like to fly at all and we are a stage where

  • fortunately we can take a relatively long period in the summer, so we have

  • three times now, we're in, you know, in the middle of the third time, have come to

  • England on the QM2, which fortunately sails from New York,

  • which is you know 50 miles from where we live and lands in Southampton, which is

  • perfectly fine. And so the trip takes seven days, and you're in the middle of

  • the Atlantic, and there isn't a lot to do out there, except the QM2 itself is a

  • very big floating -- not quite luxury but close to it -- hotel in some ways -- and they

  • try to entertain their guests, and they certainly feed their guests really well.

  • There's lots of good food continuously, and entertainment put on of

  • one sort or another, and they have a library and so on and so on. But the other

  • and really your question is: you're cut off from electronics and so on. And it

  • turns out to my surprise you're not, really. What they provide is satellite

  • internet. You have to pay for it but my wife and I have sailed enough now that

  • they give us a hundred and twenty minutes free over seven days. So you can

  • figure this is approximately twenty minutes a day of Internet

  • connectivity. And so I use that to check mail. And I've found that typically I only

  • use about half of it. I log in, check my mail in, you know, two three minutes,

  • maybe kill off one important thing if there is one, and then just turn it off

  • again. I don't miss it a bit. It works well for me because I don't use a fancy

  • mailer. I am using an old-fashioned text-only mailer, Alpine, and so the

  • fact that the latency is infinite doesn't matter. >> Sean: [laughter] >> BWK: Yes, right. So it turns out

  • that you can get along very nicely without connectivity for a week if you

  • have more or less arranged your affairs properly before you set off, and if you've

  • told people you know I'm not gonna respond to you. >> Sean: I'm guessing that you still work though, that you still work and it's just lack of connectivity. >> BWK: Yeah, right. You can still

  • do things. It's actually very nice for doing things like editing books or

  • something like that, where you have all the text on your own computer and

  • you can fiddle with it and then at the end, resync with the world when you

  • arrive. >> Sean: Fantastic. And what's next then, Brian? What's next for you? Will you stay in the UK for a while? >> BWK: Yeah, we'll be in the UK until the beginning

  • of August and then we go back on the QM2. So we're in staying in Lincoln at

  • this point, which is a town we hadn't spent enough time in in the past, and then

  • we're going off into Yorkshire for a while, and then into Northwest Wales, and

  • then down to Ilfracombe, and then down to Dartmouth, and back in Salisbury, and then

  • home. So kind of a week at a time. Oh, and there's an Oxford in there

  • somewhere as well, I forgot. >> Sean: So to us in the UK, that's quite a big journey but perhaps when you're from the States it feels not so far. >> BWK: In terms

  • of distances, distances in England are tiny; in terms of travel time, distances

  • in England are very long. It took me an hour and a half to get from Lincoln to

  • Nottingham this morning and I think the distance there is what, 30 or 40 miles?

  • So because the roads are narrower and there a lot of people on them. [Music] [Music]

Well, thank you for the opportunity to flog my own book. Um, sorry. I'll rephrase

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"Code" Books (Prof Brian Kernighan) - Computerphile

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/13
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