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Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway Paperback – 1 Jan 2009

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Paperback, 1 Jan 2009

Product details

  • Paperback: 249 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Books; 1st edition (1 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385419945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385419949
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 536,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

In his previous book, The Cuckoo's Egg, Clifford Stoll related the story of how, through the Internet, he uncovered a computer spy ring. In Silicon Snake Oil he deals with the myths and realities of the Internet, looking at the darker side of the information superhighway and attempting to reveal its hidden hazards. It illustrates how electronic data transfer can be slow, less reliable, and more expensive than communication by phone, fax, and even the postal service. Stoll also argues that discussion groups, lauded for providing access to information and diverse opinons, are in fact hotbeds of rumour, where conversations about issues frequently degenerate into the rude, offensive and tasteless, and where technical questions often elicit inaccurate answers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Through the Lens Darkly on 28 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
i got this book on the strength of the writing in "the cuckoo's egg", which i absolutely adored, and had a very hard time putting down during the two days in which i read it. "silicon snake oil" took me much longer to get through, for a few reasons. first of all, the writing is much less focused and the organisation not nearly as strong. secondly, much of the time it amounts to a rant, and one that has often not stood the test of time. many of his most vehement complaints about the internet, for example, have proven unfounded.
although i was disappointed, ultimately the book has something to say, whether you like his style or not. he raises some valid points, and even if you disagree with his rants, he makes you think. therefore i give it three stars. worthwhile, but not as good as his previous work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Brand VINE VOICE on 3 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Silicon Sake Oil is a book that should be so out of date that it is almost useless, and yet it is not. Seventeen years is such a long time in IT that any book of that age should be, if not completely wrong by now, so obsolete in its detail that it has no relevance to current IT.

So why is this book different? Well it's easier to consider how Clifford Stoll has been shown to be wrong. There are lots of technical details here that are obsolete or completely wrong. Criticising school use of computer networks because modem dial up charges are prohibitive is so out of date as to be not just wrong but meaningless and his suggestion that the internet would not be able to handle financial transactions is probably one of his more famously wrong predictions. Predictions like that are all to prone to rapidly become embarrassing though it is interesting that while he was totally wrong about the money side of the internet we still have exactly the same bandwidth and access problems that we had when we were all using 14k modems, it' just that the files have got bigger.

But to focus on the technology the book discusses is to miss what is probably a far more important point and that is the social effects of computers and while the technology problems may change or even be resolved the social effects haven't changed that much. Who cares you can send email to the other side of the planet when people don't talk to someone on the other side of the fence? Does it really matter that google can answer our questions if your library can't afford books? I want my library to buy books and magazines not a new router! What has more educational value Wikipedia going on about the rainforest or a school trip to the woods at the end of the road?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Edwards on 27 July 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Cliff's first book (the Cuckoo's Egg read many years ago) and so decided to buy Silicon Snake Oil for a leisurely read and to gauge his opinions some eight years after writing. As you read the book you feel that Clifford is suffering from some irritating complaint or ailment, he seems to be cross with the way the technology industry goes about its business. I guess the real point that comes over in the book is the industry's use of hype surrounding the Internet and PC-related technologies, promising much but delivering little. Now, some seven years on, the things promised by the industry visionaries in the mid-nineties are just arriving helped by the arrival of broadband and wireless technology. Reading the book in 2003, I'm disappointed how often Cliff went on-and-on about his low-speed modem connection to the net - perhaps this is where Clifford differs from the likes of Gates or Jobs - he can't see into the future. Sure there are some very valid comments made by Stoll about the impact of the net on things like education, but he fails time and again to see the opportunity afforded by the technology. As we progress through the book Cliff appears to calm down and his views mellow a little - perhaps the irritation cleared up?-)
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