• Review: Project Hail Mary

    Review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (9780593395561)★★★★

    As a fan of The Martian, Project Hail Mary is right up my alley: a hero in a desperate situation relying on science and ingenuity to survive. But it’s in the characters and relationships where this book excels.

    (https://b-ark.ca/wIkCWK)

    Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

    Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

    All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

    His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

    And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

    Or does he?

    I’m a huge fan of the science fiction genre, but I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t without its flaws. I’ve been known to say that a lot of authors in the genre get a little too caught up in their big ideas and forget that characters, you know, matter! The result is there are no shortage of sci-fi books in my DNF graveyard; books with shallow, unchanging characters who exist to just move the plot along.

    I’ve not read a lot of books by Andy Weir–The Martian is the only other novel of his that I’ve tackled–but somehow Mr. Weir somehow manages to consistently escape this trap. While, in “Project Hail Mary”, science and the scientific method absolutely sit front-and-center, ultimately it’s the characters that truly shine through in this book. The result is a gripping, edge-of-your-seat story that has us cheering, hoping, and despairing as we’re shown what it truly means to be a hero.

    As an aside, I want to note that the main reason this review exists is because my wife went and publicly called me out in her review of the book! Though now I feel like I’m encouraging her to publicly shame me, given it clearly produced results…

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  • Debian on Framework

    I finally put together a post on getting Debian Bullseye running on my Framework laptop! Here I focus on building a newer kernel plus custom Debian packages for libfprint and fprintd.

    I recently received the fantastic first laptop from a new company called Framework, which is specializing in building extremely user-serviceable, repairable, upgradeable laptops (in fact, they recently received a rare 10 out of 10 from iFixit). I opted for the DIY unit, which among other things allowed me to bring my own operating system, and for me the OS of choice is unquestionably Debian Linux.

    Prior to receiving my Framework I’d been running Debian testing on a fifth generation Lenovo X1 Carbon. As is typically the case with Lenovo, the X1 worked extremely well with Linux. In fact, it worked far better than I’d ever expected of Linux on a laptop, which I’d come to assume was always an unreliable, janky affair.

    Framework has similarly embraced the Linux community but, given the cutting edge hardware they’ve included, I was expecting some rough spots while drivers and so forth matured. And while this has turned out to be somewhat true, the good news is it’s been quite easy to get past those issues, and I’m happy to report that Debian testing is now working extremely well on my Framework.

    In the rest of this write-up I cover the steps I took to get a fully functional Debian Bullseye installation running on my machine using the Gnome desktop environment (after which I did an in-place upgrade to Bookworm).

    Of course, if you’re looking for a slightly more turnkey solution, I strongly recommend trying out Ubuntu 21.04, which ships with a kernel that fully supports the Framework hardware. You’ll still need to take steps to get the fingerprint reader working, but at least you can avoid compiling a kernel.

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