Geoff Manaugh opens his story about spending six months following round a professional safecracker with an image that might have been hand-crafted to get my attention:

The house was gone, consumed by the November 2018 Woolsey Fire that left swaths of Los Angeles covered in ash and reduced whole neighborhoods to charcoaled ruins. Amidst the tangle of blackened debris that was once a house in the suburbs northwest of Los Angeles, only one identifiable feature stood intact. It was a high-security jewel safe, its metal case discolored by the recent flames, looming in the wreckage like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.[note]In the wake of my seeing Kubrick’s masterpiece when I was young – I didn’t see in on release, what with my only being 5 years old at the time, but I did see it in the cinema just a few years later during a 1970s re-release – that experience warped me to the point where to this day I’m totally a sucker for monolith imagery.[/note]

No mysterious alien structures show up in Manaugh’s story, but it’s interesting just how much demand there apparently is for a legal safecracker. Me, I’ve never owned a safe in my life and don’t have anything I’d want to keep in one if I did have access to one.[note]I did use a safe in a hotel room once, but that was more because the hotel insisted that any valuables (which in this case amounted more to confidential work-related documentation than stuff with any particular face value in cash terms) be stored in your room safe because they couldn’t otherwise be responsible for the safety of my property while I was staying in their room. Nowadays that sort of documentation is sitting on our server or, at worst, is on my laptop’s hard disk, locked up behind BitLocker. So as long as I can trust a combination of Microsoft’s competence to write software and my determination not to reveal my BitLocker PIN even under torture then I’ll be fine. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?[/note]

Discovering more Discovery

When Netflix started screening season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery to the rest of the world I was aware that CBS had produced a number of shorts in the same setting and featuring characters from the show under the title Short Treks, but the word was that no UK service had picked them up so we right-side-of-the-pond users would be destined to miss out, at least until someone put together a DVD release for the series.[note]People still do that, right?[/note] Driven by curiosity after I saw Discovery season 2’s latest episode The Sound Of Thunder which tied in heavily with one of the Short Treks stories, I went looking around the web and found that somewhere along the way, without any fanfare or publicity that I could see, Netflix [note]At least in the UK, so I assume that means everywhere Netflix carry Discovery.)[/note] do now have the four Short Treks on their site, slightly hidden away under the ‘Trailers and More’ menu option.[note]The specific site that pointed me to the fact that the Short Treks were available in the UK, GamesRadar makes a big deal of how they’re ‘hidden’ away on the Netflix site, but I reckon that’s a bit overly dramatic: they’re on the site, just not listed among the season 1 and 2 episodes in the way you might have hoped.[/note] I’m a little surprised that Netflix didn’t make any effort to let their audience know when they popped up, but I guess little stuff like this just slips between the cracks sometimes when you’re a global brand more focused on capturing an ever-higher higher percentage of users’ screen time than on catering to every show you offer’s cult following.[note] Alternatively, this was news that every other Trek fan in the UK has been aware of for weeks now and it’s a sign of how far away I am from the centre of things nowadays.[/note]

Having seen more of Commander Saru’s home world in The Brightest Star, one of the Short Treks, I do wonder how much the characters featured in the other shorts are going to factor into the remainder of season 2. Will Tilly find herself calling on her relationship with a newly-crowned queen from a distant planet at some point? Given the hints that the Red Angels are using time travel, will we get to see why the crew of the Discovery abandoned their ship for almost a thousand years (and, more to the point, will they return to the ship after some time-travelling adventure meet their newly-evolved ship’s AI? And then do some more time-travelling – this time taking their ship with them – to get back into their place in the timeline? Will their new hyper-advanced ship’s AI replace the Spore Drive as the USS Discovery‘s secret weapon in future seasons?) Will the crew of the Discovery run into Harcourt Fenton Mudd again? [note]Well Duh! Does anyone else see his character making at least one more appearance in Discovery season 2 before shifting over to the Section 31 spin-off? He’d fit right in, and perhaps it turns out that a few years from now Harry Mudd’s role in the distribution of those mortal enemies of the Klingon Empire, the Tribbles, will be part of a by-now-disavowed Section 31’s plot to drive their old enemies to distraction.[/note] The four shorts aren’t going to set the world on fire for exploring a wild new range of science-fictional ideas, but they form a nice little look at the wider Trek universe a few years before the Kirk-captaining-the-Enterprise era that we saw back in the 1960s.[note]Given how we’ve had to wait for so long in season 2 to actually see Spock, I’m a little surprised that one of the Short Treks wasn’t devoted to his story. I gather the actor was cast quite late in the day, so perhaps it was just a matter of there being no time to get him in to film one.[/note]

For what it’s worth, I reckon season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery is doing well at compensating for many of the issues fans had with the first season. Anson Mount is doing good work of filling in what sort of captain Christopher Pike was, to the point where it’ll be a real shame if they can’t find a way to have him return to the Enterprise yet occasionally find him and his crew backing up the USS Discovery occasionally in future seasons of Star Trek: Discovery. Whether he ends up providing backup for Captain Saru or Captain Burnham (or Captain Tilly, even) is way less important than that he’s still around occasionally to provide an injection of proper, old school Star Fleet values to the story.

Civilisational HTTP Error Codes

There’s no substitute for thinking ahead. Who can say when we might need these HTTP error codes for civilisational errors:

Civilisational HTTP Error Codes

To be truly useful, HTTP error codes need to take into account possible future issues. We therefore propose the 8xx range of codes for errors pertaining to the civilisation in which the server is operating. Inspired by Forks and pull requests encouraged!

  • 80x ‘Temporary’ failures (but I’d wait a while before re-requesting):
  • 801 BLACKOUT



We can but hope that one day there will be a need to deploy code 831.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

Comfort food for readers of a certain age

Readers a decade or so younger than me may not recognise this beloved trio, but trust me: my generation spent much of the 1970s regarding content like this as sufficient justification for the TV License Fee all by itself, if ever we gave that topic much thought. [note]Not that we were responsible for paying the licence fee – that was our parents’ job – but even though science fiction assured us that we were destined for a multi-channel TV future it would be years before we’d need double digits to count the TV stations available to us. We mostly got on with enjoying the three TV channels – now in colour, even! – that we had.[/note] The presence of the BBC was immensely reassuring, no matter that some of our friends, for some strange reason, owed their allegiance to Magpie.

Before the smartphone

Coming soon (with any luck) to a screen near you: General Magic, A Documentary Feature:

Judging by the trailer, John Sculley is not going to come out of this smelling of roses.

General Magic, the upcoming documentary, is a tale of how great vision and epic failure can change the world. The film features members of the original Mac team along with the creators of the iPhone, Android and eBay.

These designers, engineers and entrepreneurs saw the future decades before it happened. General Magic captures the spirit of those of us who dare to dream big and the life-changing consequences when we fail, fail again, fail better, and ultimately succeed.

I realise it’s not going to be showing up in my local multiplex: I’ll settle for it eventually turning up somewhere I can (legally) pay for it, download it and watch it.

[Via Cake, via Extenuating Circumstances]