Friday, 30 December 2011

Friday Flash Fiction - The Floating City

Back when it was built, about 300 years ago, the Shimizu Green Float City was a marvel. Like a lily pad on the ocean, big enough to house and support ten thousand people. These days, the population has exploded, and the machinery is wearing down. We were abandoned by our parent nation and cut adrift when their economic troubles prompted the politicians to stop the trade ships. They could live without our dwindling fish production quite easily, but we had to adapt quickly to an autonomous life. That self-contained autonomy was an illusion, though. We could feed ourselves well enough, but we had nothing with which to repair our physical structures.

Well, today is the big day. We return home. We dismantled what we could of the central spire and built ourselves a vast engine underwater. With power from wind, the Sun, deep ocean water and a little fish oil, we have been powering the great propeller and aiming ourselves at the homeland. It was long, slow and ridiculous, but today the outer edge will make landfall around sunset and our hungriest, most viscious warriors will stream out and take the land for ourselves.

I wait in anticipation, hidden under seaweed scraps along with thousands of fellow soldiers, waiting for the grinding, crunching sounds of landfall. The stink is horrible, and I can't see anything, not even the other soldiers near me, but I can hear them breathing. They sound anxious and excited, like me. They can't wait to storm the beach. No doubt they will see us coming - a floating city is hard to miss - but they will assume we are weak, and that will be their downfall.

Maybe we'll put the politicians out to sea, along with the rich ones who lived at the top of the tower, and see how they fare without the poor and expendable workers to support them. Or maybe we'll just destroy this floating relic once and for all, and demand a place on dry land to settle. Deep underwater, the engine thrums with a subsonic heartbeat, inching us closer to the shore, and our destiny.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Inspired by this floating city concept.
PPS - It's one of a few mega-projects on that page.

Optimistic programmers

The irony of programming is that it takes optimism to do it, but makes cynics of us all. You need to imagine that your program is going to work, and you have to keep hoping that the last bug is just around the corner, but the endless bug fixing treadmill will get you so down that you end up looking for a new job out of sheer desperation. At least their bugs are new and different, whereas the same old bugs keep showing up where you are. It's as if our industry feeds on optimism, draining it out of us and leaving us dessicated old cynics, but, at the same time, we manage to rekindle that optimism by isolating the cynicism to our old jobs and seeking new ones.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Compartmentalisation saves my industry.
PPS - And, possibly, many others.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Apathy online

Since the internet the problem is not getting published but getting noticed. The enemy online is not hate, but apathy. When people are free to ignore you, and you them, you either do more because they love it or do less because they don't care, not because they don't enjoy it enough.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or, sometimes, you just keep doing something because it's a habit.
PPS - Like me and this blog.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


If you have never watched the TV series Avatar, you really should. Not James Cameron's blue people movie, a totally unrelated elemental kung fu story. Yes, it's animated. Yes, it was made for kids. But it is also a world-encompassing kung fu epic where the martial arts are semi-magical. There's moral dilemmas, pitched battles, prison escapes, humour and romance, plus the whole thing is tightly plotted and fits together really well. If I could write anything half as good as this story, I'd be immensely proud of it. When I started watching, I thought it was just going to be a bit of fun, like any other cartoon, but it has actually become kind of a favourite for me. If you like action and kung fu, go and watch it now.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I haven't been this excited about epic kung fu battles since the original Matrix movie.
PPS - Unfortunately, James Cameron and M. Night Shyamalan have made it harder to search for.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Missing numbers

How would you find a missing number? I saw a woman under hypnosis suppress her knowledge of the number four. She counted "1, 2, 3, 5..." and therefore saw a total of eleven fingers. She said there were three wheels on a car. She couldn't even recognise the word "four". So the question is: how would you discover that this has been done to you? Mismatched counts such as the eleven fingers should be a clue, and when simple sums don't make any sense, you should start to wonder. But it's such a bizarre effect that you might never reach the conclusion that something so basic as a number has been erased from your brain.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think I would assume some kind of optical illusion.
PPS - Or else some other trick.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Wifi at work

For a very long time, wifi at work was a big no-no, simply because the IT admins considered it too insecure. Now suddenly it's quite common. What changed? My theory is that businesses started buying iPhone plans for their employees, which come with data allowances and excess usage charges. So when the data allowance runs out, it costs the business a lot. The best way to get around that, at least while employees are at the office, is to set up a wifi access point and direct the iPhone internet traffic through there, piggybacking it on the existing internet connection. Money and convenience overrides security yet again.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's usually how we get into trouble.
PPS - But in fact, it probably wasn't that secure before or after wifi.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Friday Flash Fiction - The Agents at the Door

The government agents at the door did not wear sunglasses or black suits. They did not threaten Mark with straight faces and veiled references to disappearing. They looked and acted more like plain-clothes detectives, but their badges said "DHS".

"That's CIA spook stuff", the woman had said with a slight smile and a dismissive wave of her hand. "We just need to ask you about the package you received on Tuesday."

The box had arrived on Mark's doorstep, and he had initially thought it was the eBay package he had been expecting. But when he opened it up and found four 1TB flash drives packed in foam cutouts in a rugged little case, he had been intrigued.

Contained on the drives was a virtual machine - a soft copy of an entire computer, operating system and all - and Mark had no idea where it had come from. He had just barely enough room to unpack the files and reassemble them, then his own computer had run the virtual one so slowly in simulation that he'd almost lost interest.
But he had left it running.

"You see," said the man, shifting in apparent discomfort, "what you have there is an AI. We don't know how the package got out, but now it's out and we can't get it back."

"That ... I guess ... what does that have to do with me?" asked Mark.

"Well, apparently," said the female agent, "it likes you."

"'Likes me'?"

"No accounting for taste" interjected the man, turning aside slightly. The woman shot him a dirty look, then turned back to Mark.

"Yes, it likes you. So we were sort of hoping you could ... ask it nicely to come back with us."

Mark sat silent, eyes moving between the two agents, trying to see if they were joking. Their faces kept displaying the same level of seriousness. His mother came in with a tray of coffee and biscuits, then wandered off elsewhere, but not quite out of earshot.

Eventually, Mark got up without a word and disappeared into his room for a while. He returned with his laptop open and running.

"She says she'll come along, but on one condition. I come too."

The man sputtered into his coffee, spilling a little down his blue shirt and tie. The woman raised an eyebrow. Mark added quickly, "She likes me."

The woman sighed, closed her eyes and shook her head, ever so slightly. "I guess you're coming with us, then."

Mark tried to hide his excitement, but he could tell from the agents' eyes that he wasn't fooling anyone, so he kept his mouth shut and followed them out the door to their van, waving goodbye to his mother on the way.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Better late than never.
PPS - This could probably use a little work, but right now I'm going to bed.

DRM and honest customers

There's an argument in favour of DRM that says, basically, it won't beat the crooks, but it keeps honest people honest. I think it was Cory Doctorow who said that keeping an honest person honest is a goal akin to keeping a tall person tall. But more than that, DRM often fails those honest people too, and what do they do when that happens? If the DRM gets in their way, either they stop being your customer or they stop being honest, breaking the DRM or finding a copy that's already broken.

So, to summarise, this argument says that DRM is imperfect, but it keeps the sheep in line. That's only when it works. When it fails, it keeps honest people out of the purchases they honestly made, and it makes crooks out of customers or, at best, makes non-customers out of customers.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Remember, kids, it's legal to rip your CDs, but not your DVDs.
PPS - And the DRM is just part of what stops you.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Grooming robots

If you had the right robots to do it, while you sleep they could keep your hair trimmed, your face (or legs) shaved, your fingernails and toenails clipped and all that other body maintenance stuff that currently takes up your waking time. The potential down side is that, if you wake up and see a robot hovering over you with a straight razor, you'll probably not get back to sleep.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And you'd want to be a heavy sleeper for this.
PPS - Or for the robots to be microscopic and unobtrusive.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Mediocre or amazing

Would you rather be amazing at something mediocre or mediocre at something amazing? An incredible typist or a moderate book author? The world's best Etch-a-Sketch artist or a so-so painter? Personally, I think we should aim to develop skills in the amazing category. Homing in on one everyday skill like sock-folding and becoming extraordinarily good at it might impress a few people for a few seconds, but the payoff is too small. Speaking economically about your days on Earth, you should spend them doing things that are worthwhile, and if you want to amaze people, the better payoff comes from developing skills in fields that people already think are amazing.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Like secret ninja moves from the government.
PPS - Think about that in your new years' resolutions.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Book review: The Future of the Internet

The Future of the Internet - And How to Stop It, by Jonathan Zittrain

I have always been a bit disturbed by the trend to rely on distant servers for specific purpose software that could be written for the desktop computer instead. This book did a good job of explaining exactly why my discomfort is justified. Zittrain makes the argument that the internet is valuable because of its "generativity", but also that that very openness, plasticity and freedom that leads to its success also leads to malicious uses. Those malicious uses lead people to ask for more "secure" solutions, by which they mean less generative ones: locked-down PCs where nobody can install anything without a central authority approving it, exactly like the iPhone. So the very thing that leads to the internet's success indirectly leads to its downfall, too.

It can get a bit dry and detailed, but that's to be expected in this type of book.

The potential solutions are where things start to fall down, as always, and some of the proposed answers have a faint tinge of unintended consequences. If you attempt some things to fix the internet, they won't work, and other things will just subtly break the system or cause a redirection in the arms race. That's not to say that it can't be done, but to my mind the solutions didn't quite ring totally true. Also, although tethered appliances under the control of their suppliers still have a security problem. It's just that there's a different group in charge of what can and cannot run on them.

Still, I think this is a very valuable book, and well worth reading, if only to understand what makes the internet work and what makes it fail. If you care about people or technology and where they might push each other, this is the book for you.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I have always preferred writing desktop software rather than websites.
PPS - Even when they're highly functional and clever websites in really nifty languages.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Standby excluders

Standby excluders, those remote-control devices you can plug in to turn off your electronic devices instead of leaving them waiting for their own remote control signal, don't work. The trouble is that most modern electronics are pretty darn good at not using a lot of power on standby, and the remote control standby excluders themselves are in a kind of standby mode all the time, waiting for a remote control signal. So you're really just swapping one standby device for another and hoping that the new one is more efficient. And according to my own digital power meter, they're exactly as efficient as my TV and microwave when they're off.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There might be some devices where they work, though.
PPS - But for me, they don't save any power.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Friday Flash Fiction - Patience

When people think of vampires, they think Hollywood. Who can blame them? They think Ann Rice. They think Buffy. Some of them even think of Twilight. The truth is, we're more literally cold-blooded than that. We live in the darkness, below ground; sewers, storm water drainage, caves and basements. We're like snakes, nesting in one place, using little energy, waiting for the next kill to come by and then BAM! The energy lasts months, sometimes years. Meanwhile we hibernate in the dark, warm places. You think it's life and youth everlasting, but it's more like prolonged stasis and timelessness. In that waiting state, time seems to fly past like nothing gets in its way. You have no idea what it's like to watch, unblinking, for days on end. Patience is a virtue for you. For us, it's necessity. And then that moment of the kill, the seconds can stretch out to feel like years.

I've seen would-be slayers before. Headstrong young men trying to prove themselves. Bold teenage girls with home-carved stakes and gloves with crosses sewn onto the knuckles, as if either of those things would help. When you can move faster than sound, what chance does an ordinary human have? That was why the old man gave me pause. He didn't walk like the drunks that usually find their way into my drainpipe, and he didn't smell drunk either. He stopped at the entrance, muscles loose and ready. I waited. It's what I do.

When he made his move, my metabolism kicked into hyperdrive, and the world stood still. His right hand brought up a pistol crossbow and fired, but I had hours to move out of the way. Around then I started noticing something odd about his movements. They were quicker than I expected, and maybe they were even speeding up. His left hand was swinging around holding a tranquiliser syringe, and it was obviously going faster than it should. Before it arrived at my neck, I started seeing stars, my fingertips started to tingle and I got dizzy. I fell to the floor of the tunnel, face up, and just had time to see the second man standing over me, wearing the gas mask.

That was maybe three years ago. An eyeblink in my time. I woke up in a cage, on display in some dark pit, where people come to see the real, live vampire. They tried feeding me every day - vermin, of course. As much as they want the spectacle, the people don't want to see me drain a rabbit, a cat, a puppy ... or a human. I don't need nearly as much as that, so the rats just piled up. I could leave at any time, but I am waiting. I wait to see those two faces again, close enough to strike. I am patient. I can wait.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The plot-free first paragraph was all I had of this for a long time.
PPS - Hope you like it.

Slightly better credit card fraud protection

It seems to happen often that online services will get hacked, and then a lot of credit card numbers will be stolen. For the banks, it is cheaper and easier to chase up the fraud after the fact, but for us, their customers, it is a major pain. We need to monitor our online charges carefully, listen for news about hacks, remember which services have our credit card numbers and occasionally change our passwords, cancel our cards, order new ones and distribute the number again. We should have some silos and firewalls in place so that each breach doesn't leave us scrambling to stop up the leaks.

Obviously we should be using different passwords for every online service, but we should also be able to have different disposable credit card numbers for each service, too. That way, if one number gets stolen, the others don't need to change. Also, we can easily trace which service got hacked by which credit card number got falsely charged, even if that company doesn't own up or recognise that a breach has taken place. More public identification of hacked services should make it more likely that they will beef up their security, and the ability to cancel one credit card number without affecting the master account will make things better for consumers. Not perfect, but better.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There have been a couple of services offering disposable credit card numbers.
PPS - As far as I can tell, they all went out of business.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Technology in development

Something that is simultaneously cool and frustrating about upcoming tech reports is that they always seem to be just around the corner, but never here. For instance, I saw a great TED talk about transparent, cheap solar panels you can attach to your windows in order to generate the power you need, right here, using technology that would also allow low-power IR vision in the form of ordinary glasses. I hear about both of those things and think "Great! I want to do that to my house and my glasses right now! When can I have it?" and the answer is "Well, we don't know, we're kind of in the early stages of development, could be a few years, and even then it might not be blah blah blah". Disappointing. Even though this technology exists, I might never see it in actual use within my lifetime.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I prefer my technology news much further down the development road.
PPS - Otherwise I get excited about something I can never have.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The internet vs books

What is more exciting about the internet than books? Well, I'll bet the three things most people do online are watch videos, play games, and read. Videos and games are very old passtimes, and their appearance on the net is no surprise. It's just television and arcades in a new package. Then there's reading. People claim not to like reading, but then they spend a lot of time online reading emails, Facebook updates, Twitter and short-attention-span articles the size of sound bites. What is different about that form of reading as opposed to reading books? For some of it, there's the social factor - it came from my friends, so it has higher value to me. But most of it, I suspect, is the attention span issue. Too long, didn't read. What you're saying when you won't read long articles is that you are too distracted.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Personally, I'm a fan of both.
PPS - And I'm moving towards ebooks as my primary reading material.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Open source security software is better

Sometimes law enforcement groups will request that security software such as encryption tools be built with back doors that enable them to bypass the security with some kind of master password. Most people assume that this means everything mostly remains secure, but when necessary the police can bypass the security and catch the bad guys. The actual objection is that it means building in secret and deliberate weaknesses to the software, and that this vulnerability will eventually be exploited by the wrong people - the very criminals the police intend to catch with it.

Truly secure software is secure against every attempt to bypass it, because you can't know whether the attempt is legitimate or not. That's why good encryption software like TrueCrypt is distributed as open source. Anyone can look, anyone can build it, the FBI couldn't crack it when they had to because there is no back door, and anyone with the right know-how can look and verify that it has no back door.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The only encryption software I use directly is KeePass.
PPS - Though encryption is probably built into a few other programs I use, like my web browser.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Always-on screen sharing

One way to make a diverse set of computers feel more like a single environment would be always-on screen sharing. Say I have my home computer on while I'm at work, and they are both connected to a VPN service of some kind. Normally, while at work, I would be using the desktop there, but if I want to (in this scenario) I could activate a feature that zooms out and shows me both desktops at once. I can click on my home screen, which zooms in again to work on that remote machine, then zoom out and click back to my work machine. Add another machine to the mix, like my netbook, and the zoom-out adjusts to show that screen too. The borders between machines start to blur, and we would start to get a real-world idea of how people would use their computers if they had one environment spread across all their machines.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Security, of course, would be a big concern.
PPS - And this assumes "one user, many machines" rather than the common "one machine, many users".

Friday, 9 December 2011

Friday Flash Fiction - The Unreality Bomb

Gerry didn't know how the bomb worked. He'd heard some of the egghead technobabble, but all he needed to know was where to drop it from his plane. He checked his altimeter, speed and bearing again. Still on course. He cast a nervous look back towards the bomb in the hold. The thing gave him the creeps, to be honest. They'd called it a "Heisenbomb" or something. It was supposed to erase part of reality by collapsing a quantum something into a singular whatsit. Might as well have called it a voodoo bomb for all the sense it made to Gerry.

He saw the city lights spread out below him - Rocvale. The whole city was the target, but the bomb needed to be dropped in the centre. The radars hadn't spotted him, and probably wouldn't, and he'd be gone before they could do anything about it anyway. His plane was the latest and greatest in stealth and speed.

Flying over the centre of the city, Gerry's finger hovered for a second over the bomb release switch. He felt like, maybe, he couldn't do this. Then some other part of his brain stepped up and said "Don't worry, I got this", and his finger flipped the switch.

The bomb tumbled for a second or two before its fins stabilised its downwards course. It began to make a high-pitched whistling tone as its speed increased. People in the streets heard the bomb approaching, pointed and shouted, ran for cover. Some cursed their government for starting this awful war before running to their shelters and shutting the doors.

Gerry watched the bomb fall, but when it hit, there was no flash of light, no thunderclap, no mushroom cloud, no crater in the ground. Rocvale just stopped being there. There was a green field where there used to be ... something ...

Gerry shook his head to clear it. What was he doing again? He automatically checked his altimeter, speed and bearing, then his flight plan. He was ... on a test flight for the new stealth plane? Yes, that was it. He turned the prescribed circle and headed back to base. On the radio, the control tower seemed to have had a similar memory lapse about the same time as Gerry. Weird coincidence.

Gerry kept feeling somewhere in the back of his mind that there was something he'd forgotten. Not something he hadn't done, but something he had done, then forgotten about, but he could never quite put his finger on it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - How would you know if this had ever happened?
PPS - It might leave behind some weird conspiracy theories, at best.

Location location location

With GPS, the problem of location and mapping would appear to be solved, but the more I think about it, the more difficult it seems to be. Depending on how accurate you need to be, and how much geographical movement there is in a region, finding where X marks the spot could be very difficult indeed. A place that looks the same from the ground may have moved on the globe because of continental drift, landslides, earthquakes, floods and any number of things. So how can you be sure, when you stand on one spot on the Earth that this is the same spot you stood a year ago? The factor of time plus the habit of matter to decay means any given location measurement really needs to be accompanied by a timestamp and a confidence level.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And it seems so simple.
PPS - Must have a lot of smarts behind it.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Large email attachments

I think we need the ability to send very large files to be built into the email protocol. It doesn't have to be directly as an attachment, but it does need to be seamless and familiar. Our email programs can send the file another way and sort of pretend it's an attachment, and nobody will have to think about it again.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - These days, the email definition of a "large" attachment is pretty limiting.
PPS - Hence the need for a new way of sending attachments.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Cross-site social network desktop software

I would like one desktop program that manages my social network profiles through one interface. I don't want another website for this. The precedent is Pidgin that manages three different chat protocols for me: MSN, Google Talk and Facebook chat, or Thunderbird that can access my work email (Exchange) or GMail. So what I want is a program that accesses Facebook and Google+, representing their common features in a standard way so that it doesn't matter whether a particular friend is on Facebook or Google+, and I don't have to check both to get all my updates. In a few years, more people will be fed up with Facebook and they may have moved onto something else, so this kind of standardisation is going to become more necessary as time goes on. I'm not holding my breath expecting standard cross-platform protocols for social networking sites, so this would be the next best thing.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is a big advantage of general-purpose computers.
PPS - And open programming interfaces for websites.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Flying is supposed to be amazing

You know what? Flying should be amazing, but it's really unpleasant. The air is stale and dry because it's cheaper to recycle it than purge and refresh mid-flight, and it can make you sick. The seats are cramped and so bad for you that they need to advertise special exercises to prevent them from killing you. The first solution we have for that is not better seats but airline anti-death seated yoga. We absolutely should be amazed at the prospect of flight, but I don't think the entirety of the problem is our jaded natures. Our worst seats at home are better than airline seats. If we were able to bring our own, we probably would. Doesn't that mean something has gone wrong?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It certainly seems that way.
PPS - Most of it is probably because we're racing to the bottom to provide the cheapest flights.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Web installers are bad

There's a trend to distribute some software in a "web installer" that is basically a very small program that downloads the latest version of the real installer so that it's always up to date. It's an admirable goal, but it can be very inconvenient when you have no internet connection, or a very limited one. These unreliable network issues are becoming more prominent in my mind because of the problems we have with our office network (tends to drop large downloads every 2MB or so) and our connection to a remote office (an even worse setup). If we can't pre-download things and transfer them in a way that is tolerant of severe network difficulties, then it just doesn't get done, and web installers take that choice directly out of our hands.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The only thing they're good for is quick initial transfers.
PPS - But you still have to wait for the rest of the download anyway.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Friday Flash Fiction - Pointless War Machines

The third war left the wasteland devoid of life, but it was by no means inactive. By now it was filled with fifth generation junk war bots, the offspring of repaired micro-tanks, mine-layers and automated gun turrets that once patrolled the area. The little war machines destroyed each other while the repair bots fixed broken ones, reprogrammed captured enemy bots or built new ones from scraps. They charged and retreated, burrowed and flew, hurled each other through the air and pinned each other to the ground to deliver dramatic killing blows. The region held no strategic value any more, and no country could spare the resources to clear it, so the robots continued fighting their solar-powered obsolete war.

Another repair-bot released a half-blind mobile turret that tottered off on three unsteady legs. It turned its head left and right, trying to get a clear picture through its camera lens, already smeared with mud and grease. It spots something cresting a nearby hill and leans forward as if to see better. In that moment of hesitation, the micro-tank siezes the advantage, flails its electro-whip and disables the newborn turret with a jolt of electricity. The repair-bot waits until the micro-tank trundles off elsewhere, then creeps out of hiding to drag the mobile turret back by the leg, through the churned and burned earth, and fix it once again, to fight its pointless part in an endless war.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Just a sad little image idea that came to me.
PPS - Do you think they would ever stop?

App stores

There are only two things keeping the app store model afloat: curation and lock-in. Curation in the broad sense that people know where to go for apps for their platform, and it is a consistent, unified user experience, whether the apps are free or paid. Apps themselves aren't going anywhere, because there are some things apps can do that the alternative, websites, can't do. You need apps, and you need a place to get them.

But the thing is, curation can come from anywhere, and if someone else does a better job, customers will use it that alternative. That's assuming you can set up an alternative app store, which is the lock-in part. But even if you can't set up an alternative, you can always set up better recommendations, categorisation, searching and reviews with links to the official app store. Even if using your version is harder than the real one, that price of inconvenience might be worth paying.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is part of why Apple makes it impossible to set up an alternative app store.
PPS - It keeps them in control by force.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

NaNoWriMo wrap-up

So, my first NaNoWriMo is at an end. Technically, I did not win. At the close, my novel weighed in at just over 47000 words unfinished, which is nothing to scoff at, but not quite the completed standard required. I intend to finish it by Friday, just two days late. After that, it needs a lot of editing, and probably a lot of rewriting too, and will probably not be over 50000 words when it's ready for preview.

All told, I've had a really good time doing this. Writing on the train has been an interesting experience, but in future years I will need to do more than that if I want to finish within November. Next year I will use my lunch breaks, too. I've learned that, when I'm going strong, I can write as much as 1200 words in 30 minutes, and when it's a hard slog I'm more likely to end up with 800 words, as long as I remain focused.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't know if I said yet, but I used my Friday Flash Fiction piece Planet Scavengers as a starting point.
PPS - I have ideas for next year and the year after, too.