Introducing Equinox (the sequel to Containment)


Equinox is available starting today.

My first novel, Containment, is no longer just Containment. It is now the first book in the “Children of Occam” series. And the second book, Equinox, launches today (not coincidentally, just before the spring equinox).

I took my time in writing a follow-up to Containment (publishing a second novel, Kingmaker, in the meantime) until I was confident that I knew what readers wanted to see in a sequel. Without giving anything away, this is what they will get:

  • A much broader perspective on the Containment universe. Equinox pulls away from V1 and thoroughly explores the different worlds introduced in the first book.
  • A continuation of the plot. Equinox picks up exactly where Containment leaves off. (Then goes far beyond.)
  • A little less technical detail. Although there is still plenty of new and exotic science and technology in Equinox, I spend a little less time describing how it works, and a lot more time inside the heads of characters.
  • Much more of everything. At 575 pages, Equinox is almost twice the length of Containment. The stories of all the characters from Containment are thoroughly explored, as are the lives of several new characters.

I really love Containment, and I wouldn’t have released a sequel that I wasn’t completely happy with. I put a huge amount of time and effort into Equinox, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed the writing.

The New MacBook’s Lack of Ports is Actually a Feature

new_macbooksNot being much of a tablet fan, I prefer to sit at the kitchen table or on the couch with a laptop. But both of my laptops—a 15″ MacBook Pro, and a 2015 Razer Blade—are so thoroughly connected to peripherals at this point (external monitors, speakers, USB audio interfaces, mechanical keyboards, an Oculus Rift, etc.) that I find I often don’t feel like going through the trouble of liberating them. But that wasn’t always the case. Before I got the Razer Blade, my personal machine was a MacBook Air, and I made it a point to almost never connect it to anything so that it was always ready to be taken anywhere I needed it.

The new MacBooks are obviously optimized for portability which, in my experience, is not all that compatible with a myriad of ports and cables. But a computer that encourages the use of wireless peripherals is a laptop that will almost always be within reach.

If you need to edit images, mix audio, encode video, play games, or compile a massive code base—and if you need to do so while in the field—then the new MacBook is obviously not for you (personally, I’d recommend a new 13″ MacBook Pro Retina). But if you already have either a desktop, or even a high-end laptop that you treat as a desktop, you might find an ultra-portable laptop that’s always ready to be opened, packed, or passed to a friend to be surprisingly practical.

I also think Apple occasionally creates products whose primary purpose is to force the future’s hand. I have one of the very first MacBook Pros with a Retina display, and at the time I got it back in 2012, I really didn’t think it was ready for widespread adoption. But three years later, I wouldn’t even consider buying a laptop without a high-density display—Mac or PC. Something tells me that in another three years, cables will be much less acceptable than they are today, and not without a sense of irony, we will look back on the new MacBook as one of the harbingers of a far more convenient paradigm of computing.

Nexus 6 Impressions


I’m intentionally avoiding the term “review” because there are already plenty of exhaustive analyses of the Nexus 6 out there (for my two favorites, see MKBHD and The Verge). Instead, I’m just going to cover a handful of elements — both good and bad — that really stood out for me as someone who has owned and actively used every single Nexus and iOS device to date.

Continue reading

Yes, the T-Mobile iPhone 6 from Apple Works on Verizon

iphone_6_on_verizonI’ll get right to the point: the T-Mobile iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) from Apple (not from a T-Mobile store) works fine on the Verizon network. Just eject the T-Mobile SIM that comes with it, insert your Verizon SIM, and boot. The T-Mobile iPhone from Apple appears to be entirely global, and fully carrier-unlocked, which makes it the best choice for those of us who like to buy phones outside of contracts.

I made this discovery after trying (and failing) for several weeks to buy a new iPhone 6 without a contract — something all parties involved make as difficult as possible. You can’t order a Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint version without a contract; you can’t reserve one online and go into a store to pick it up; Apple won’t sell you a SIM-less, carrier-unlocked iPhone for the first few months after launch; and stores like Best Buy charge you $100 over retail if you want to pay the unsubsidized price (at least the one near my house).

But I eventually gathered enough information (and certainly plenty of misinformation) from enough stores and online sources to feel fairly confident that the unsubsidized T-Mobile iPhone 6 was not only carrier unlocked, but that it would work perfectly fine on Verizon’s CDMA and LTE networks. So I decided to take a chance and order one online.

And it works. I now have an iPhone 6 on Verizon, and a 2014 Moto X on AT&T, which makes me far more connected than anyone possibly needs to be, but allows me to indulge my phone fetish to the greatest extent possible.

Yes, an intervention is probably not far off.

A Watch Enthusiast’s Review of the Samsung Gear Live with Android Wear


Update (12/10/2014): I’ve tried several more Android Wear devices, and both the hardware and the software is getting better. Android Wear has fixed some of the issues I complain about below, and the LG G Watch R and Sony Smartwatch 3 are actually pretty decent devices. (Most people like the Moto 360, but I think a round display should really be round.) All smart watches are still a very long way from being actual watches (as opposed to devices strapped to your wrist), but I’m glad to see how quickly the industry is iterating.

Most of the reviews I’ve seen of the new Android Wear smartwatches have been from device early adopters as opposed to true watch enthusiasts, so I figured I’d provide the perspective of someone who is decidedly both. I’ve always been a gadget fanatic (I keep the latest iPhone and best Android devices on me at all times—as of today, that’s the 5s and the HTC One M8), and as the founder of Watch Report (which I started in 2005, and finally sold last year), I’ve owned and/or reviewed hundreds of watches from Casio to Rolex. Additionally, over the years, I’ve kept a very close eye on the category of smartwatches from MSN Spot watches like the Tissot Hight-T (the best of its long-extinct class), to the Abacus Wrist PDA (never remotely practical, but undeniably fun), to more modern interpretations like the Pebble.

Continue reading

Another Attempt at Tablets


I’ve owned a lot of tablets. I’ve had iPads and Android devices, tablets with seven and ten inch screens, and devices with WiFi and LTE radios. I’ve probably had at least a dozen different tablets spanning almost every possible configuration, but there’s one thing all of them had in common: none of them were able to hold my interest.

No matter how hard I try—and how much I love the idea of tablets—I just don’t have any use for them. I put up with the limitations of my phone because it’s always with me and always connected, and I put up with the bulk of my laptop because it’s powerful enough for just about everything I need a computer to do. But tablets, for me, sit in this awkward space in-between where they’re too limited to be all that useful (at least for the things I do most often) and too big to be easily portable.

Refusing to give up, however, I’ve developed a new theory: maybe I’m simply not using tablets correctly. If I find them too big to replace my phone, that means I’m not trying to use them for anything beyond what my phone can already do. And if I find them too limited to replace my laptop, that means I’m trying to do things that are better left to a fully capable computer. Perhaps what I should be doing are only those things that a tablet can do better than any other device.

To test my theory, I bought a brand new iPad Air, but rather than resorting it with an image from one of my many former iPads, I’m only going to install apps that are better on tablets than on any other device. That means no email, no calendar, no office applications, and no social networking. No Evernote, no weather apps, no navigation, and no restaurant finders. Basically, anything that I can do more conveniently on my phone or more fluidly on my laptop, I simply won’t even attempt on my new tablet.

In an attempt to make my iPad more useful, I’m going to intentionally limit it.

Admittedly, this approach probably won’t leave as many applications as I’d like. Even four years after the launch of the iPad, I think we’re still a long ways away from really figuring out and implementing the best multi-touch surface experiences. But I’ll start with apps for drawing, watching video, and reading (books, magazines, and news), and maybe a game or two. Maybe I’ll try Garage Band, or another music synthesis application. I’ll probably give a lot of different apps a try, but the moment I start feeling more frustrated by the limitations of the device than empowered by its unique capabilities, I’ll uninstall it and move on.

Let me know if you have ideas for apps I should try. It should be very interesting to see, after a month or two, which are left.

An Underappreciated Factor in the Decline of PC Sales: Solid-state Drives

hard_drive_backupAs soon as I started using SSDs, I suspected they would eventually have an impact on PC sales. I expressed as much in an email to the Daily Tech News Podcast which elicited a good discussion. If you’d rather just read the message, here you go:

While catching up on episodes, your recent discussion of the continued decline of PC sales brought to mind a theory of mine: I think one of the reasons PC sales might be declining are SSDs.

It used to be that when computers started to feel old, people would open up their weekly Best Buy insert, go over to, or start lamenting the expense of Macs. But what is it that makes computers feel old? Usually CPU contention, excessive swapping due to lack of RAM, and the aging of mechanical hard drives.

CPUs are plenty fast now, obscene amounts of RAM are cheap, and mechanical disks are being replaced with SSDs that don’t have most of the mechanical disadvantages of magnetic storage platters. In fact, you can take almost any computer built within the last five to seven years, and as long as it either has an SSD, or you put an SSD in it, it’s still a very usable machine. (Several of my old laptops are still in service thanks to fewer moving parts.)

Of course there are many reasons for the fate of the PC (more of our disposable income going to phones and tablets, increasing use of web applications, lack of innovation in the PC space, etc.), but I think one contributing factor is that SSDs are keeping computers from feeling “old” as quickly as they used to.

What do you think? Solid theory?

(Hard drive icon courtesy of Joe Harrison.)

Kingmaker Optioned

kingmaker_150x225I’m happy to announce that Kingmaker has been optioned by Mark Canton, the producer of 300 (and the upcoming sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire). The agreement was recently announced in Variety, and essentially means that Canton is actively putting together a team (writer, director, etc.) to turn Kingmaker into a film.

I personally think Kingmaker would make an excellent movie (or mini series), and I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Two Short Stories Published

After I published my first novel, Containment, rather than going dark for an entire year while I wrote the next one (which turned out to be Kingmaker), I decided to write several short stories first. The problem was that getting short stories published is extremely difficult — even when you already have a publisher.

Fortunately Amazon realized that digital distribution removes a lot of the barriers associated with publishing shorter works, and consequently created a new publishing imprint called StoryFront exclusively for short fiction. I’m very pleased that two of my stories — Brainbox and Farmer One — were part of the initial launch, and that Amazon was kind enough to mention my work in their press release. So if you like very big ideas in relatively small packages, give them a try and let me know what you think.



How I Spent My Sabbatical

I recently took a two-month break from engineering management at Adobe Systems. We’re currently spending a lot of money on education (graduate and private schools), and my wife and I are going to Comic-Con in New York for all three days next month (let me know if you’re going to be there), so I definitely had more time on my hands than money. With a fairly limited budget, here’s how I spent my sabbatical:

  • Launched a novel. My latest novel, Kingmaker, launched last month so I spent some of my time promoting it.
  • Sold two short stories. I sold two stories of mine (Farmer One and Brainbox), and therefore have been doing a fair amount of editing. I can’t release the details on where/how they will be published yet, but I’ll post links as soon as I can.
  • Worked on the sequel to Containment. When Containment was published, I agreed to write a sequel, however my publisher was kind and indulgent enough to let me write another novel in-between (Kingmaker). With the new book released, it was time to get serious about continuing the Containment story.
  • Sold a website. In 2005, I started a blog called Watch Report, though for the last few years, between working and writing, I just haven’t had time to maintain it. I figured it was time to pass it along, so I sold the site to a great group who I think is really going to bring it back to life. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on it, and probably even continue to contribute from time to time.
  • Spent a lot of time with my new motorcycle. Just before my sabbatical, I bought a brand new 2013 BMW R 1200 GS. I put about a thousand miles on it during my time off (rode to Chincoteague Island and did Skyline Drive), spent a lot of time adding accessories, recorded a video review using Google Glass, and spent a day at the BMW Performance Driving School in South Carolina. I’ve had several bikes before this one, but this is by far my favorite.
  • Spent a weekend with my wife in the artsy and hippyish town of Shepherdstown, WV. If you ever go, have lunch at the Blue Moon Cafe, dinner at Press Room, and skip the Bavarian Inn.
  • Spent a lot of time with my kids. In addition to building a close-circuit telephone system, I completely reorganized their rooms, set up new laptops for each of them, and we spent a lot of time playing games, working on school projects, and just hanging out.
  • Played video games. I’m a huge video game fan (video games are a pretty prominent theme in Kingmaker), but I don’t have much time to play them anymore. I finally played through Halo 4 (nothing new, but still fun if you’re a Halo fan), and I’m about halfway through The Last of Us (probably one of the best games I’ve ever played). Now that I’ve gotten back into gaming, I don’t think I’m going to be able to put it aside again — especially with the new version of GTA out.
  • Set up Plex Media Server. I have 5TB NAS (the very impressive Synology DiskStation DS213+), and I finally set up a media server to make watching and listening to content on all my devices simple. Streaming media services should really be looking toward solutions like Plex for inspiration.
  • Got the flu from a flu vaccination. Not the full-blown flu, but I was completely useless for a day and a half. I think next year, I’ll take my chances.

I also did plenty of ordinary things like spent time at the gym, read a couple of books (mostly good), saw some movies (mostly bad), and fixed a few things around the house (which I generally hate doing, but couldn’t ignore any longer). I’m sorry that my time off has come to an end, but I’m fortunate enough to have a job I really enjoy, and I’m actually looking forward to getting back to work.