Books

The following is my Technology reading log. If you find any of them interesting, I encourage you to read them.

  1. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography – Simon Singh never disappoints. Easily one of the best science writers. In this book, he gives a very thorough and entertaining history of encryption, secret communication(s) methods and the people responsible for advancing the field of cryptography. The last few chapters deal with modern issues relating to crypto and secure communications and is equally entertaining. Singh certainly helped me understand quantum cryptography in a much clearer and concise manner.
  2. The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage – This book is a rare mix. It has a little bit of all the necessary ingredients: computer geekery, technical accuracy, a master spy-hunter and a suspenseful story line to wrap it all up. It was written in 1989 by Astronomer Clifford Stoll and recounts a story where Stoll is hunting a nefarious computer hacker that broke into the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. I read this back in high school and It certainly had a positive influence on me. Highly recommended for security professionals — a lot to learn from Stoll’s mindset and approach to catching the intruder.
  3. Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software – Charles Petzold has done a fantastic job with this comprehensive technology book. If you are an engineer or a scientist, you are probably going to be disappointed with the content of this book. Why? Because it’s rudimentary. So why do I recommend it to everyone? It’s because you can learn a lot from Petzold about how to clearly communicate difficult to understand, scientific concepts — especially with the general populace. Being able to communicate engineering/science to anyone is an art in itself and that’s what Petzold excels at in this book. Anyway, this book is aimed at a small subset of the general population that’s interested in getting a deeper understanding about how computer technology works at it’s core. I recommend that everyone read it, even if you are not a geek.
  4. Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World – Bruce Schneier is easily my favorite person in computer security and cryptography. He is the Jesus of security. I have been following his blog since I was in high school and even had the pleasure of meeting him at Defcon 15. Why do I like him so much? Well, for starters, he’s f*$&%g brilliant. His objective analysis of security issues (from multiple vantage points) and his ability to communicate security concepts to the layman (i.e: policy makers) is inspiring. Not only that, his unflinching temperament has been undeniably consistent throughout the years — meaning, he has huge testicles when dealing with three letter government agencies. I wholeheartedly recommend all of his books, including: Beyond Fear & Liars and Outliers and of course Applied Cryptography. My personal favorite(s) are Secrets & Lies and Applied Cryptography
  5. Practical Lock Picking: A Physical Penetration Tester’s Training Guide – Deviant Ollam is a badass. I first saw him at Defcon 13 giving talk(s) about lock picking and breaking high security safes. If you are new to this field, lock picking can be super confusing and difficult to digest, but this gem by Ollam will hold your hand and guide you through a very fun and educational ride involving diamond picks and tension wrenches. Arguably the best book on lock picking.
  6. The Kevin Mitnick Trio: The Art of Deception, The Art of Intrusion & Ghost In the Wires – I have been following Kevin Mitnick since way before the days of Freedom Downtime. He’s certainly an entertaining character, but if you are familiar with his books (and his story) – you should know that Mitnick’s technical competency is subpar at best. Nevertheless, I still admire his approach to circumventing security and most importantly: his understanding of social dynamics in the context of security. If one is interested in learning more about social engineering, Mitnick’s books are a must read. Honorable mention(s): The Art of the Steal and Invisible Gorilla — these are also excellent companions for sharpening up those social engineering muscles.
  7. Social Engineering – The Art of Human Hacking: Christopher Hadnagy did a decent job with this one. In it, he gives a decent overview of a wide range of social engineering techniques alongside real world examples. I thought the book could have gone a bit more in-depth as opposed to focusing on casting a wider net and crafting the content for a bigger audience. Either way, it’s a decent book that’s worth reading. If you complement this book with Hadnagy’s excellent podcast on social engineering, you’d be ahead of most security professionals in the area of social engineering.
  8. The Art of SEO: SEO is a fast paced area of the web that is changing at light speed – so I am not sure if a 700+ page book is really necessary. This book is certainly very handy and useful in understanding the fundamental’s of SEO and unless you are a SEO professional, you can accomplish the same by reading SEO Secrets — it is considerably shorter and gives applicable tips and techniques that you can apply right away. If you have plenty of time with nothing to do, go ahead and read The Art of SEO.
  9. Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and CSS: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites – Fantastic introduction to PHP, MySQL, JavaScript and CSS. The author progressively introduces fundamental concepts to the reader in a very practical manner. I enjoyed how each language had it’s own section and toward the end of the book, the author started fusing all four sections into building something practical. As long as you slowly digest the content and actually follow along with the exercises, you should be fine.
  10. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think – I got a hold of this mainly because there were far too many people blabbering “Big Data! Big Data! It’s all about Big Data!” around me. The difference is that, the author(s) do a far better job articulating and giving a high level overview of why Big Data is important and how it’s going to be paradigm shifting. I found the example of using floor sensors to collect data from objects/people (note: couldn’t find the exact source from Tokyo, but this paper is related) and Apple being granted a patent for collecting blood oxygenation levels, heart rate and body temperature data from users wearing it’s white Apple earbuds to be particularly interesting. Overall, it’s a good read.
  11. High Performance Web Sites: Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers – Well written and concise. Steve Souders covers the most important Front-End Engineering tweaks that you can apply to make your website speedy and reliable. Certainly useful, especially if you are a web developer.
  12. Lean Analytics: Build a Better Startup Faster – Quite good. Instead of regurgitated startup lingo, actual examples are shown along with the proper metrics to measure. Very useful, for any creator on the internet.
  13. Data Mining for Dummies – My first “for Dummies” book. Fairly elementary, but I still found some sections to be useful. The first half of the book is excruciatingly verbose in true ‘dummies’ fashion, but honestly, if one is interested in the most important nuggets, time and energy should be focused on Chapter 15 and on. That’s where the meat of data mining gets explained: decision trees, neural networks and clustering. Overall, not bad at all.
  14. Python for Data Analysis – Excellent overview of most of the important data analysis techniques using python libraries NumPy and Pandas. I decided to get this out of sheer curiosity really. Being able to clean, merge, reshape, analyze and visualize large amounts of data is a very useful skill to have, especially with the whole ‘exponential increase in data’ happening all around us. Those involved in scientific research should definitely own this book.
  15. Google: How Google Works – Arguably one of the most prolific technology companies of our time. I always wondered how the Google culture shapes new employees into world class experimentalists that break both business and technology paradigms by landslides. This book is written by none other than Eric Schmidt and contains a wealth of information about how Google is run from the ground up. It will likely be one of the most counterintuitive technology/business books you will ever read.
  16. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution – Plenty of economic examples about how the Maker Movement’s (i.e: 3D Printing etc.) potential/upcoming disruption will affect the way we interact online. Anderson is a clear writer and it’s always a pleasure to read his work. This book is quite complimentary to his older The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Both books are underpinned by economic analysis and contains engaging discussion about the effects of the democratization of technology in a mass scale.  I recommend that you read both.
  17. Contagious: Why Things Catch – Deconstructs the elements that make up a successful viral marketing effort. Berger’s six principles are an excellent checklist for anyone attempting to spread their message far and wide on the web. Surprisingly well researched, useful and contains excellent historical examples.
  18. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel does not fuck around. Part business, Part philosophy and part technology. High caliber discourse on startups and the future.
  19. Steve Jobs – Wow! What a fantastic biography. I have read other Isaacson biographies, but this one might be my favorite. Regardless of all the flaws possessed by Jobs, at the end of the day, he was responsible for revolutionizing multiple industries and he did it all on his own terms. Jobs is also a great testament of ones ability to induce technological change without having a traditional background in engineering. If you are a geek, it is a must that you read this book.
  20. Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet – While lost in our mundane daily activities, rarely do we pause to reflect and marvel at the incredible technological advancements that has hitherto taken place. I am incredibly fortunate that I am able to experience the evolution of the Internet first hand. While this book lifts the curtains up and glimpses into the inner workings of the Internet, ultimately, it is merely a humbling reflection of the progress we have made as a species.
  21. Superintelligence – Bostrom contemplates about a lot of important questions relating to the implications of an emerging superintelligent entity as a result of rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI). The best metaphor is to think of humans and gorillas. Despite our close lineage, due to differences in our brains and intelligence, the fate of the entire species of gorillas lie in our hands. Now imagine if our new superintelligent AI entity being responsible for humanities fate (i.e: we are the new gorillas) and ironically enough: we are responsible for its creation. Pretty scary shit, but anyone involved or interested in AI needs to read this book immediately.
  22. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State – I always find it interesting how there are greater numbers of software engineers who don’t operate under the philosophy of having a free internet. You would think that having the correct philosophy is at least somewhat important considering that you are architecting software that will be used by the masses. Snowden was a high school dropout, but having the correct philosophy gave him enough conviction to act on his beliefs, regardless of the consequences. Whether you agree with his actions or not, I find such mindset to be admirable. This book is an account of the full story of the Snowden Leaks from the perspective of journalist Glenn Greenwald. I couldn’t put it down, it was excellent.
  23. Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture – All about the early stages of how the video game DOOM came into existence, which incidentally is my favorite video game (and I don’t play games). The story chronicles Romero and Carmack’s relationship and how they were both instrumental in producing one of the most iconic games in history. Quite the excellent read.
  24. The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood – long book, but interesting nevertheless.
  25. The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story – Arguably one of the most entertaining Silicon Valley startup stories ever written. Then again, I’ve never been bored with a Michael Lewis book (Liar’s Poker is also excellent). The main subject of this book is Jim Clark of Netscape and Silicon Graphics and his antics are nothing short of entertaining.
  26. Javascript & JQuery: Interactive Front-end Web Development – very well laid out book. I bought it for reference purposes and it’s been worth the investment.
  27. Linked: The New Science of Networks – I found the examples relating to scale free networks andpercolation theory to be interesting. What was even more interesting was the use of Gaëtan Dugas (patient zero) and the ILOVEYOU virus as case studies for highlighting the vital importance of nodes in a network.
  28. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You – Personalized search results are a well known by product of most technology companies. Google, Facebook etc. all takes advantage of heavy personalization to deliver a highly customized user experience to the end user. But, what happens when the point of personalization ends up backfiring? That’s the subject of this interesting book. For example, each (personalized) service you use essentially creates a tiny echo chamber based on your personal interests. Now, you may not be interested in topics such as poverty or politics but what if those are the exact topics that needs to be discussed? The Filter Bubble is just that — it filters out information based on your tastes and creates a bubble around you. I found the story of Yuri Nosenko to be particularly interesting. Recommended reading.

If you have any recommendation(s), please let me know.

  1. Thanks for the recommendations D. Some quality holiday reading here and as a relative newbie to cryptography and internet security I am sure it will open my eyes a little wider and help connect the dots to see where this 21st technology train is heading and which stop I am currently standing on.

    Cheers mate and happy holidays from down under!

    Reply

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