This is a technical book, packaged as a very readable tale of an IT Manager who is promoted to Vice President of IT Operations across his company. Whilst Bill runs a tight ship in his small department, the company as a whole has a poor culture for delivering software. Bill is ordered by the CEO to do whatever it takes to bring the Phoenix Project (an IT re-vamp vital to the company’s business) to completion.
Much of the technical content concerns the DevOps arena and touches on issue tracking and prioritisation as well as improving time to delivery. It’s a good read as well as making some well-argued technical points.
The first address in this year’s Appleton lecture was given by Dr Sarah Atkinson. She gave a historical view of “fake news” created by manipulation of media, starting with the Cottingley fairies. This set the scene for Dr Hao Li’s excellent presentation of his research into animation of people, initially through long-running processes for film effects, but latterly in real-time for Animoji on the iPhone X.
There are plenty of applications for the techniques, such as video conferencing, social media and even films. However, the common theme was that, as these technologies become mainstream, we should no longer assume that video evidence of a speaker saying something is actual real.
This book follows a similar formula to The Afghan, by the same author. There’s a terrorist threat to the western world- extremists brainwashed by a radical cleric are murdering prominent public figures. A former US marine (codenamed The Tracker) must track down the preacher (codenamed The Preacher) who only posts online – and eliminate him. The Tracker recruits a young, supremely talented hacker to help locate the source of the inflammatory material – he is codenamed Ariel (disappointingly, not The Hacker!)
The constraints put in place by politicians make The Tracker’s job harder – even having located The Preacher, he cannot order a drone strike because it is a built up area. So begins an elaborate plot to bring The Preacher out of his ‘fortress’ into a remote area, where he can be attacked. First, he is discredited in the eyes of his followers, by hacking his website and posting a fake message recanting his previous statements. Second, he is informed by a trusted friend (actually Ariel, aka The Hacker) that a local warlord has kidnapped a westerner and is prepared to sell – executing the man would re-instate his fearsome reputation. Having set the bait, the tracker must recruit a lethal army unit to seek and destroy The Preacher at his meeting with the warlord.
Having met up with family during our Lake District holiday, we went for a low-level walk around Buttermere. Although the drive from Keswick to Buttermere village over the Honister Pass can be hair-raising, it was worth it to enjoy an atmospheric walk around this popular lake.
The route around Buttermere is pretty clear, and is half of a walk outlined in the Pathfinder Guide. There is a more challenging walk starting from here, to include Red Pike, High Stile and Haystacks – terrific views from the tops. There are refreshments in several pubs in the village, we chose the Sykes Farm cafe, which was excellent.
The walk was booked at 4.5 miles and my phone recorded just 9 floors climbed.
It’s always a pleasure to find a Nelson DeMille in the charity bookshop, and this one was excellent. The main characters are Paul Brenner and Cynthia Sunhill, who are military investigators (the former for homicide, the latter for rape). Their back-story includes an affair in Zurich when they last met and the love/hate relationship resulting from that continues throughout the book.
There are many serious issues raised by this book (such as the role of women in the army and the cover-up of crime in order to avoid bringing the army into disrepute). The author gives Paul Brenner most of the narrative, though, and he is arguably not a character to investigate those bigger issues. His own concern is to find the guilty party and extricate himself and his career from the scene. As ever with books by DeMille, Brenner’s sense of humour and character have much in common with his regular hero, John Corey.