back to article Your Computer Is On Fire, but it will take much more than this book to put it out

Seasoned industry watchers will welcome Your Computer Is on Fire as a thorough and unflinching debunking of Big Tech's outlandish self-mythologising. They might even hope that governments, business, and the media organisations who buy into the barrage of propaganda start to ask a few important questions. But there are limits to …

  1. 502 bad gateway

    Your computer exploded, imminent, maybe

    To be fair the solutions or even recommendations you were hoping for would probably require another book to detail properly.

  2. nautica Silver badge

    THE continuing "Big Lie"

    If there's one comment, in the article, which grabbed my attention and--hopefully--summarizes the entire book's revelations of the computing industry's continuing Big Lies, it is this:

    "...Of course, THE CLOUD IS NO SUCH THING. As Reg readers know, it is a computer somewhere else. It needs plastics, metals, energy, and people just like any other computer. But where they come from, their impact on the environment, is of little concern once hidden behind the cloud metaphor, he argues: "The metaphor of the Cloud allows the computer industry to conceal and externalize a whole host of problems, from energy costs to e-waste pollution. But the reality is the world is burning. The Cloud is a factory. Let us bring back to earth this deliberately ambiguous metaphor by grounding it in a larger history of technology, labor and the built environment – before it is too late."

    Same thing(s) apply to MANY of the plethora of artificial "subjects", such as "machine learning", "artificial intelligence", "quantum computing", and whatever other buzzwords du jour the "industry" can think up to try and keep the great unwashed (us) off-balance, and, of course, digging deeper into our wallets--they sincerely hope--to stave off this continual industry-generated FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

    This book may have its shortcomings, and may well deserve a new edition to correct some shortcomings, but it definitely deserves reading, along with well-thought-out and respectful comments to the author(s) regarding a possible update...

    1. Muscleguy

      Re: THE continuing "Big Lie"

      Exactly, until April this year I was on Universal Credit (spit!) so I had no choice about Missing Out. After a while this actually becomes quite liberating. I’m typing this on a mid2010 powerbook handed up from my Bioinformatician daughter. It requires the excellent gfxCardStatus to run without bluescreening but with it still runs just fine.

      I did buy a new phone a Moto G8 so nothing elaborate, on special at Argos. But only because the battery on my old one's (old Moto E) battery was fucked and I have my bus tickets on it (cheaper). It was an economic necessity.

      This beast is beginning to creak, software breaking type stuff, thinking about one last OS upgrade and saving my salary for a replacement at some time. Might look at reconditioned machines. I stopped being too proud in my time on US as well.

      BTW the meat in Aldi is fantastic, cheap but good. Try the steaks, I recommend them. If you’re on a budget their single origin coffee beans are pretty damn good. Two bright spots of being on a tight budget. I had fresh ground coffee each morning and an occasional steak lovingly and carefully cooked absolutely properly.

      1. nautica Silver badge

        Re: THE continuing "Big Lie"

        I'm a 'Yank', one of those 'Colonials', but I get the idea about 'Universal Credit'. And you're absolutely correct: sometimes, having to change one's strategy(ies) can be very liberating.

        Try this: I, for a very long time, have had no computers except 'refurbished' units which get very high 'customer reviews', from very high quality outfits (such as Amazon, e.g.), who will stand behind their offerings AND make their contractors do likewise. My current stable includes Lenovos T420, T420S, T430, and Acer Aspire. When I pointed out that my T430's battery (when received) was probably a relic of the last ice age, at only 30% capacity, max, I was sent a new one.

        And, yes--Aldi's is fantastic. They're here, even. Fancy that.

        To the topic at hand--

        Your Computer is on Fire is on Amazon, priced at $28.26, if you're interested--

        ISBN: 9780262539739

        I do plan on dropping a line to the authors after reading the book.

        1. cornetman Silver badge

          Re: THE continuing "Big Lie"

          Agreed. I got a second hand Lenovo T420 for my wife and gave it an SSD upgrade. Very solid piece of kit.

          Only downer was that the previous owner was a smoker. Had to take it apart and swill the CPU cooler in alcohol to disperse the smell.

      2. nautica Silver badge

        Re: THE continuing "Big Lie"

        This needed pointing out--

        "...I did buy a new phone a Moto G8 so nothing elaborate, on special at Argos. But only because the battery on my old one's (old Moto E) battery was fucked and I have my bus tickets on it (cheaper). It was an economic necessity."

        Another VERY big part of The Big Lie is that you have no need to be able to repair anything you own, even to the extent of "repairing" by a simple battery replacement. Kinda hard to do when everything is now glued shut as a part of the (very easy--read as very cheap) manufacturing process, right?

        [coming next? Manufacturers will try to convince us to "rent" everything]

        God only knows how much damage this has done to the environment, and to the consumers' pocketbooks.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: THE continuing "Big Lie"

      "keep the great unwashed (us) off-balance, and, of course, digging deeper into our wallets"

      You seem to be implying (or maybe you aren't) that it's some sort of organised conspiracy by "big industry". The reality IMHO is simply MBA-types and Marketroids trying to come up with the "next big thing" to demonstrate how their identical product is "better" than the competitors identical product.

      The canonical example being soap powder that "washes whiter then white", or "blue white", or "whitest ever" while the product itself barely changes.

  3. cornetman Silver badge

    I must admit that there were some aspects of the treatment to be rather shallow, and it put me off getting a copy of the book.

    Perhaps I should read the source material rather than judging it purely on the review.

    One thing that did stick out to me was the premise on "Cloud". IIR the whole idea of cloud computing as at least envisioned by Amazon when they started renting out their computing resources was to fully utilise their hardware, rather than letting it waste energy and capability while idle. Now, although many people have views on Amazon as a company, that is a "green" idea at its core. Make no mistake, there are massive efficiencies to garnered when providing computing at scale.

    The confusion that I think here is that the technology opens up the possibility of harnessing massive computing resources for projects that would otherwise be impractical. In that situation, I do agree that it is possible that we engage in guilt-free processing and that is something that we should think a little bit about.

    But we should be guarded in swinging right to the other extreme. I see reports about the excesses of power required to drive the large data centres that the likes of Google and Microsoft own as though that was in of itself problematic whilst also failing to understand that they are providing services to millions or billions of people. We should be very cautious of making contextless judgements.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      OTOH I'd make no such concessions to cryptocurrency "mining".

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Detailed diagnosis of tech industry delusion falls short of prescribing a cure"

    Not necessarily to be held against it. Zeroth law of problem solving: in order to solve a problem you've got to know there is one. 1st law of problem solving: In order to solve a problem you've got to know what it is.

    1. cornetman Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I've also heard this stated as "a problem well defined is a problem 90% solved".

    2. a_yank_lurker

      Agreed, before you solve a problem you have to what it is. The solution then may be easy, difficult, or somewhere in between.

  5. a_yank_lurker

    Not Read Yet

    The review indicates the authors are pointing out the various lies, myths, frauds, etc. the computer industry and propagandists inflict on itself and, worse, the public. Lies and myths the keep the 'unwashed' at bay and not asking probing questions that expose the bullshit. I will be buying the book.

    1. NetBlackOps

      Re: Not Read Yet

      Just got, not yet read, but having lived this industry at all levels for fifty years, I get the feeling I'm going to be nodding rather a lot.

    2. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Not Read Yet

      Mar Hicks previous book is also very readable for any youngsters out there (under 50!) and contains many fascinating (and tragic) insights for us old folks (>60). The picture of Ann Moffatt from 1966 also appears in it, with toddler.

  6. Blackjack Silver badge

    The solution is the same one that is applied to each "new thing" regulation and rules.

    Implementation however is half the battle.

  7. RLWatkins

    This is hilarious.

    Been writing software for fifty years, getting paid for it for about 45; I don't see a single flaw in this narrative. Needless to say, I'll be reading this one. Always did enjoy a freewheeling and humorous account of current history.

    BTW, 'AI would be the "most profound technology" that humanity will ever develop' is a great prediction for the far future, about on par with predictions of reversing ageing, or of tapping vacuum potential for free energy. How very prescient. [yawn]

  8. CatWithChainsaw

    Writing from February 2023

    I got this book about halfway through January, when the ChatGPT crazy really started to take off.

    Right now, we've got fears of society-ending deepfake proliferation, endless columns about chatbots taking jobs, Bing/Sydney trying to marry a journalist, lazy people trying to publish ChatGPT+Midjourney books on Amazon, etc etc.

    So far I think the most prescient thing about this book is its acknowledgement that computers entrench hierarchies. We're being peddled dreams of a world where we barely have to work, if at all; we can create our own movies on demand, and live in the metaverse, free of material suffering. Yet for all our technological advancements, we are overworked and increasingly subjected to economic precarity in a world that continues to burn. Who truly believes the corporations powering these advances in AI would *let us* live lives of leisure, free of work or suffering, and certainly not leashed to corporate beneficence?

    The future is a boot on a human face - forever. Or at least until the lights go out for the last time.

    (Icon because book title)

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