Book review: At the Apple's Core by Denis O'Dell

31 August 2006

Book cover: At the Apple's CoreThe thing that fascinates me about tower blocks is that you have so many unrelated lives neatly stacked. Through each window, you'll see somebody with different friends, dreams, work, problems and achievements. As you glimpse these lives, from a passing train for example, you get just a tiny taste of the scale and richness of human existence.

Everybody has a unique story to tell. Even shared experiences like 9/11 and Live Aid affect people physically and emotionally in different ways. Sometimes a well-worn story can have some life injected into it by being reviewed from a new angle.

So we come to The Beatles, perhaps the most documented band in history. Their own autobiography extended to five DVDs and three double albums of out-takes. There is no shortage of unofficial accounts either.

The book 'At the Apple's Core' (first published 2002) reviews the Beatles experience from the point of view of Denis O'Dell, one of the directors of Apple and a producer of several of the Beatles films.

The making of films like Magical Mystery Tour and A Hard Day's Night naturally dominates the story, although there's also a lot about The Magic Christian (starring Ringo) and some aborted film projects. There are a few chatshow anecdotes, such as Paul buying a horse and the Beatles hiding their stash in film cans so they could be ordered from Abbey Road if needed. O'Dell comes across as a gentleman, unwilling to be too harsh to his former employers, but there are hints of how unreasonable they could be. Paul asks him to organise a wedding reception for Magic Alex at a few hours' notice, for example, so used to having things done that he is completely unaware of the work involved in doing them.

The book gives a few insights into how the Beatles lived. The rooftop concert is famous now, but O'Dell's take is partly that they were too afraid to hold the concert in public given the excesses of Beatlemania. Paul used to wear strikingly unfashionable clothes as a disguise so he could get about town without being mobbed too.

Much of this book's material is well known, particularly the Beatles' own story arc. There's not much fresh insight into the collapse of the Beatles or into their relationships with each other. But since this is written by someone who was actually there, it's a bit like spending a night in the pub with him reminiscing. With no disrespect intended towards O'Dell's talent, his was another relatively ordinary life touched by the Beatles. While none of us could have been in the band, many people could have been near them, and it's interesting to see what life might have been like if we had. This is not the most thorough Beatles book available, but by focusing on one man's experiences at Apple, it gives an interesting contribution to the Beatles library.

Labels: ,

Permanent link for this post | Blog Home | Website Home | Email feedback

Book review: Guitar Man by Will Hodgkinson

13 August 2006

Book cover: The Guitar ManPlenty of people have picked up a guitar and learned to strum a few chords. Will Hodgkinson for no good reason decided that he would go far beyond this, and learn to play guitar well enough to perform his own concert within six months. Guitar Man is his story.

Hodgkinson's day job is as a journalist, so we can't help wondering how much of his journey is engineered so he can write a book about it, particularly given the arbitrary nature of his goal (Why six months? Why now?). His research background shines through in the trivia about the social history of the guitar, but it felt at times like he was leaving too much out of the interviews he conducted with famous guitarists.

The best bits are when he manages to blag a guitar masterclass from the likes of Johnny Marr of The Smiths and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. While we can share in Will's excitement at meeting his heroes and his progress as a guitarist, the book fails to pass on any of these lessons. I would have appreciated a more technical appendix that explained the killer techniques he picked up.

It didn't matter that I didn't know most of the music he writes about. Anyone who's ever loved a song will relate to and enjoy reading about his adventure. It's strictly one for hardcore music fans, though. If you've never played an instrument and never read an issue of MOJO, this probably isn't one for you.

Labels: ,

Permanent link for this post | Blog Home | Website Home | Email feedback

AOL betrays user trust

08 August 2006

Changing ISP is like changing your bank. It's a real hassle. You have to tell everyone your email address has changed. You have to update all your banking and online shopping sites, so that you can be sure that those accounts remain secure. There will be many people who will regularly hop between ISPs, in the same way many people are rate-whores, flitting between credit cards. Most of us, though, settle down with an ISP and stick with it for a long time.

So choosing the right ISP is important. You would expect people to study the privacy policy, and terms and conditions to work out what kind of junk messages they will have to endure, what they'll be allowed to do, and how much it will cost. If they don't, then they can't complain later. If they do, then they know what they're buying and it's part of the contract between supplier and customer. But what if the privacy policy turns out to be lies?

The blogosphere is up in arms over AOL. It released the search history [link broken] of over 500,000 of its users. It replaced screennames with unique numbers, but that's not enough to completely conceal everyone's identity. Some people have searched for themselves, their friends or local amenities. Some of the more exciteable blogs are suggesting there is evidence of criminal intent in the searches, which goes to show how dangerous this data is. People leap to conclusions.

AOL apparently released the data as a contribution to the research community. Maybe they didn't study it closely enough or realise the privacy implications. You could argue that releasing the data was a foolish mistake. Yes, they're stupid, but at least they didn't mean harm.

Well, here is where it gets evil. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that they betrayed the contract they agreed with their users. Their own privacy policy says that 'information about the searches you perform through the AOL Network and how you use the results of those searches' is part of a user's 'network information'. That information, the policy adds, will only be disclosed as set out in the privacy policy. There's the usual stuff about law enforcement, managing their own network and any disclosure you've consented to. But there's nothing about releasing the entire data set into the public domain for research purposes.

AOL has pulled the data set now, but it's widely available online. The company could recover from making the mistake of releasing the data, provided it apologised [link no longer available] often and sincerely enough. Recoveries like that happen in business all the time. I don't think it will be able to recover so quickly from the breach of its own privacy policy. How can AOL ever expect customers and prospects to trust it again?

Related links:

Labels: ,

Permanent link for this post | Blog Home | Website Home | Email feedback

Dip into the blog archive

June 2005 | September 2005 | January 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | May 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 | July 2017 | August 2017 | October 2017 | November 2017 | January 2018 | February 2018 | August 2018 | October 2018 | November 2018 | December 2018 | January 2019 | March 2019 | June 2019 | August 2019 | September 2019 | October 2019 | January 2020 | February 2020 | March 2020 | April 2020 | May 2020 | June 2020 | September 2020 | October 2020 | December 2020 | January 2021 | February 2021 | May 2021 | June 2021 | October 2021 | November 2021 | December 2021 | January 2022 | February 2022 | March 2022 | May 2022 | July 2022 | August 2022 | September 2022 | December 2022 | March 2023 | April 2023 | May 2023 | June 2023 | October 2023 | November 2023 | January 2024 | February 2024 | May 2024 | Top of this page | RSS


© Sean McManus. All rights reserved.

Visit for free chapters from Sean's coding books (including Mission Python, Scratch Programming in Easy Steps and Coder Academy) and more!

Discover my latest books

100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel

100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel

Power up your Microsoft Excel skills with this powerful pocket-sized book of tips that will save you time and help you learn more from your spreadsheets.

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Scratch Programming IES

This book, now fully updated for Scratch 3, will take you from the basics of the Scratch language into the depths of its more advanced features. A great way to start programming.

Mission Python book

Mission Python

Code a space adventure game in this Python programming book published by No Starch Press.

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps book

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Discover how to make 3D games, create mazes, build a drum machine, make a game with cartoon animals and more!

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Set up your Raspberry Pi, then learn how to use the Linux command line, Scratch, Python, Sonic Pi, Minecraft and electronics projects with it.



In this entertaining techno-thriller, Sean McManus takes a slice through the music industry: from the boardroom to the stage; from the studio to the record fair.

Walking astronaut from Mission Python book Top | Search | Help | Privacy | Access Keys | Contact me
Home | Newsletter | Blog | Copywriting Services | Books | Free book chapters | Articles | Music | Photos | Games | Shop | About