Archive for the 'movies' Category

What Sci Fi/Tech movies do to me

January 25, 2008

Maybe I believe that our current “relationships” with computers is too one sided (we put in the work – they get all of the glory).  Or , maybe I need to recognize how truly valuable my computer is.  If the later is true then i don’t think that movies like the Minority Report, Sunshine, any Star Wars or Star Trek or god forbid the Matrix – are for me.

Sure I know they are all designed for entertainment and yes I was truly entertained, but I was also given a belief.  A belief that we should expect more from our computers and they should “gasp” be more intelligent.

I used to be a software engineer so I know what it takes to make a computer sing and I truly respect the software developers of this world. (they made this blog post possible for goodness sake).

So my gripe is really not with them, I fully understand the limitations of the medium and the power of the tools they are given.  My real gripe is with the movie producers and the movie directors and those idea people in Hollywood who insist on making movies that demonstrate “almost there” technology.

Ever got tired of sitting at a computer tip typing away for 8 hours straight?  If you are a developer then I know that the answer is yes.  Sure you like solving problems. Sure the ability to make something out of nothing is intriguing and satisfying.  But – ever sit down and wonder what you could get done with a few of these applications:

Mind Job Runner – using your telepathic connection from your car you connect to your work computer and inform it that its time to do a disk defrag.  Or you use that same connection to your home computer to purchase the new Foo Fighters album and to send it to your cars embedded computer so you can listen to it on the way home.

Mundane Task Recognizer – ever installed (or reinstalled) a program on a machine 200 times?  If you are in IT you have.  Why not have a program which recognizes that you are doing a task for the ump-teen time and that since you probably haven’t done that differently in the 4 years since you started the mundane task it could be done with a script.

Computer: “I noticed that you have completed this task 12 billion times before – instead of doing it 12 billion and one times, would you like me to record this script for playback at a later date?” 

User: “Yes, computer that would be great (in a slightly sarcastic voice)”.

Collective Task Manager – since you do everything over the Internet why can’t a program recognize when you are planning a Snowboard trip and begin helping you complete your tasks

Computer: “From your emails to your wife I see that you are planning a trip up north for the week of the 25th.  Would you like me to scan deals and set up arrangements at the best mountain?”

User: “Why yes, and while you are at it, can you scan recent ratings posted on blogs, wikis and emails regarding the current conditions at my 8 favorite mountains to see which will be our best option?”

Computer: “Sure, would you also like for me to cross reference those with the latest predicted weather patterns to ensure which mountains have the bes probability of some fresh snow?”

User: “You know what that would be great – thanks computer (smiling profusely).”

Umm… yeah so you see – I have an issue with Sci-Fi/Tech movies.  They make we want so much.

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Am I really supposed to believe that U23D is all that?

January 16, 2008

I was struck today to participate in a banner ad while reading the news about Wozinak’s new endeavor (read more about this here) for the upcoming release of U23D. I will preface this with a note about how much I appreciate all that Bono does for the world and such (blah blah blah). I will also state that I have seen them in concert countless times all the way back to like forever ago.

I have followed their tours and the progression of media exploitation which I feel began after the launch of achtung baby and the ZooTv tour (correct me if I am wrong here). When they bombarded concert goers with messages and “extra sensory” images while they sang all the tunes that really got them where they are today.

I was there for the PopMart tour when the unveiled what I believe at the time was the world’s largest LCD screen. That “glowing” lemon that Bono and the Edge walked out of together was certainly an amazing site and I remember it clearly to this day.

Many bands have tried to mix media into their shows but I am not quite sure that any have invested the time, effort and quite frankly dollars into their shows like U2 has.

So part of me feels like the movie may actually be ‘… the best entertainment experience I’ve ever witnessed…’ as Alx Klive (from WorldTV) states.

And when Bono says that he wants “… to go somewhere magical…” I truly believe that he wants to make something amazing happen.

However, I can’t help but remember Rattle and Hum (and the countless other “concert” movies that I have seen). And I can’t help but think about the fact that they have not put out an album in over 3 years (yes How to dismantle an atomic bomb came out in nov of 2004!). And so I can’t help but think that some part of this is simply a money making scheme.

So my decision now – should I go see it in a standard 3D theater or go to an IMAX 3D (or both??)

Updated [2/10/2008] – I finally saw U23D. Tried to go last weekend but arriving right when the show starts is a sure way to guarantee that you don’t get in. It is sold out.  (So buy tickets before you go especially if you drive for a half an hour to get there).

Overall experience – awesome!

Definitely recommend the show for any U2 fans. It will bring you to the concert experience in a way that you have not been before. The 3D effects were overshadowed (in mind) by the mind blowing clarity and the up close and personal feel that I had. At some points I felt like if they held the camera still long enough, I would have been able to tell you what type of picks the Edge had hanging on his mic stands. At one point, I could almost make out the words on the bottom of the microphone as Bono sang.

In addition, you really truly felt like you were in the crowd (so realistic that when someone in the actual theater got up and walked in front of me one row down – I would not have thought otherwise – had it not been for the shadow of their popcorn box and soda). There was one scene where the camera panned out from the stage and it appeared like the crowd of people in the General Admissions sections were a tidal wave, bouncing up and down in sections of unity. I got chills.

Ok so the things that I didn’t like (and there was only one from the movie itself). Very soap-box-ish. All of the songs they played were the usual propaganda songs but, that’s U2 and the songs rock so I was not disappointed. My other issues came with the theater itself. (Maybe this is the movie too but I am not sure) I didn’t think that it was loud enough. I wanted to be rocked. Like I was at a concert. Especially, since I saw the IMAX version – I certainly expected more – like heart thumping more. Also, the theater had assigned seating (What!?!). Yeah, like I was at a show – except they did not give you a choice. I sat in the fourth row – and if you have ever been to an IMAX theater you know that 4th row is not as good as it would be at the show itself. I will say this – it made me want to go and see it again just to get the experience a little more comfortably.

And maybe the last thing would be – I was expecting a bit of a monologue from Bono and the gang before the movie. Since this is supposed to be ground breaking (and besides the fact that Hannah Montana almost beat them too it) I would say it was definitely ground breaking, maybe a few words from the group as to what motivated them to do this – or how they did. Like how the hell did National Geographic get involved (Camera’s maybe)???

Either way I was truly satisfied and find it hard to believe that other groups with high energy shows won’t follow suit. It is a very enjoyable way to watch your favorite group sing up close and personal.

Was it all that?

Yes indeed. Kudos to U2 for bringing me an experience I won’t forget.

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Will “the writer’s” strike kill network television

November 26, 2007

Sometimes innovation is introduced by accident. On other occasions innovation has been purchased. We sometimes see innovative ideas spread through grass roots efforts and on some occasions, we see innovation because of unique opportunistic changes.

Take this writers strike. Many of us are still baffled by the fact that all three major networks and all 1 billion (seems like it anyways) other networks are so radically affected by one group of people. I know that this strike represents the power of unions (the AFLCIO is one of our customers so I know all about unions) and I am all about unions. However, I am not so sure that a strike by this powerful union and the early demise of the 2007 prime time television season is such a good idea.

One of the items that the writers guild is complaining about is that they do not receive fair compensation from the sale of DVD’s and the revenue sharing for shows that are aired over the Internet.

I have spent some quality time with Joost recently (4 days off with friends and family that you have not seen in a while – a long with some late night quality time with friends) and I have to say that I am impressed.  The idea is not all that innovative except that the content is offered exclusively over the Internet.  Essentially, they have “channels” where you can find different content.  They have content ranges from comedy to sports and almost everything else in between.  I am not sure exactly how many channels by they claim to have over 15,000 episodes.  Now granted some of these “episodes” are one minute long and it can be difficult to find quality episodes that last more than 10 minutes but here are a few things me and my family enjoyed over the weekend:

  • 3 full length Snowboard movies
  • several 20 minute extreme sports shows from “MuchMusic” – a content provider for mainstream television
  • Season one episodes of the original Transformers (Mikull – you have to see it)
  • Videos of all the latest songs from MTV and other stations
  • David Letterman’s top 10 lists (great for last call)

If you want to watch last weeks Patriots game or the MLS championship you may not be in luck but the model represents an interesting shift in entertainment.  Much like YouTube but only better quality.  My Joost watching was done on a 27 inch Westinghouse HD LCD TV and at full screen it had no problems.  The shows are “interrupted” with a very small advertisement (about 1/64th of the screen) in the bottom hand corner of the screen.  And since the user can be targeted (hello targeted ads again) the advertisements can be sold for more, they can be more relevant (no more feminine product ads during my viewing time).
Remember when you were a kid (if you grew up in the 70’s and 80’s) and all you had was 4 channels?  You still watched it. I think that this new medium (the Internet – he he) is really in it’s infantile stages. There are new “tools” popping up every day.  I just looked at the new product from Adobe called the Adobe Media Player.  Although the name and interface are lame and the content is lammer, it did have streaming HD and it was very quick – not so good at full screen but pretty good.

Now I can’t say for sure that I will be using Joost every day but I can say that at a time when there will be sparse new content on the old school media (good bye TV) I can say that I will be looking elsewhere for my entertainment.  The Writer’s Guild better be sure that I don’t find something very interesting or they may have walked themselves right of a job.

Blockbuster’s Total Access is better than NetFlix

December 30, 2006

The only thing that I can say negative about the new Blockbuster “Total Access” program (besides, what took you so long) is that the “New Releases” section seems to have a bug in it.  I would think that a movie like “Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Mans Chest” would appear in the New Releases, however it does not, instead you have to search for it.  I would include “Jackass 2”, “The Davinci Code” and “World Trade Center” on that list as well.  All available but you need to search for them, they don’t appear in the “New Releases” section which seems odd.  Since this was the worst thing I could find so far (and it’s not really that bad) I figured I would get it out of the way.  Now on to the goodies:

With both services, you have the ability to sign up for a plan (I chose the 2 movies out at a time for 14.99 a month).  I order the movies, receive them in 2 business days (1 for processing and 1 for the actual mailing) which is the same as NetFlix (Currently NetFlix offers a wider selection of plans):

Plan Rentals/month Price/month* Free Trial Length
4 DVDs at-a-time Unlimited! $23.99 2 week
Free Trial!
3 DVDs at-a-time

Most Popular!

Unlimited! $17.99 2 week
Free Trial!
2 DVDs at-a-time Unlimited! $14.99 2 week
Free Trial!
1 DVD at-a-time Unlimited! $9.99 2 week
Free Trial!
1 DVD at-a-time Limit 2 per
month
$4.99 2 week
Free Trial!

VS.

3 DVD’s at a time  == $17.99

2 DVD’s at a time == $14.99

1 DVD at a time   == $ 9.99

The prices are comparable (exactly the same) except NetFlix offers the super plan (4 DVD’s) and the weak plan (1 DVD a month – 2 total DVD’s in a 30 day period).  Both services offer you fast delivery (I am sure that Blockbuster does the same type of priority switching that NetFlix has been accused of).  Both offer you free shipping and an online queue management system.  While NetFlix offers 5K more movies (70K vs. 65K) I think that Blockbuster’s offer is better and heres why:

Blockbuster has one thing that NetFlix doesn’t have – 1000’s of stores with 1000’s of movies on the shelves.  During NetFlix’s launch to stardom, many said that this is what separated NetFlix from Blockbuster – and they were right.  Only now I think it makes Blockbusters approach better.

With the Total Access plan, you can return your DVD’s at the store.  When you drop off your DVD (in the mailing package) at the store, you can pick up another DVD.  In addition, Blockbuster will return your movie for you and the Online portion of Blockbuster will send you your next movie in the queue.  Genius!  So what this really turns out to is two key features (that I have been quietly waiting for):

1.) The ability to get a movie quickly for those times you have unexpected guests (We have 2 boys who have sleepovers and visitors and getting a video quickly is a necessity).

2.) You can have more than 2 videos out at a time.  With Total Access, I can return my 2 DVD’s to the store, get 2 new DVD’s, and then in two days I have 2 more.

And you also receive a free in store Movie or Video Game rental a month.  One thing that NetFlix doesn’t offer is video game rentals.  This is a kicker.  So, if you have a bit of gamer in you (or you just have to see what the fuss is about) you can rent a game a month and have it out for a week.

To be honest, I have just started using my service so this is a bit new, but I think that my relationship with Blockbuster has just gotten a whole lot better.

So you thought You Tube was built by the people?

September 21, 2006

While I could not find anything in the “About Us” or “Blog” sections of the YouTube website explicitly denying the US Government the right to uploading propaganda videos, I would say that in general this is possibly a bit off the path from YouTubes goals. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against Anti-Drug videos targeted towards children. And to be honest it’s a bit genius for them to post them here. But isn’t this a bit hypocritical? Or at least a bit of a slap in the face?

So our government can build multi billion dollar software products to track every one of our emails sent over the Internet. And they can force publicly traded companies to divulge private search information (our private search information). And now they can post on YouTube???

Isn’t YouTube _our_ playground? Its like when your mom barged into your room when you had the door shot (and locked). That’s your space man. What’s next? A George Bush page on MySpace? Geez, give us some room to grow.

Steve Irwin did (not?) want his death televised

September 20, 2006

Ok, so this is just weird but I guess when you are a superstar animal “tamer” you have to sit down and wonder: “When I die it could very well be during the taping of one my shows. I mean I did wrestle a 6 foot alligator the other day and last week that poisonous snake was a bit close to my larynx”.

According to a comment posted on “TechAddress” by a fellow in Australia, Steve Irwin did _not_ want his death televised. After a bit of review I found that he did indeed state that the camera should keep rolling and that his death on film would “…be the ultimate for me”. [wikipedia]

My number one rule is to keep that camera rolling. Even if it’s shaky or slightly out of focus, I don’t give a rip. Even if a big old alligator is chewing me up I want to go down and go, ‘Crikey!’ just before I die. That would be the ultimate for me.

So who has the rights to that film clip? If this was Steve’s true ambitions would he have put in place some legally binding contract with Discovery Communications and BBC Worldwide to force them to publicising his death (assuming that it happened during the filming of an episode)? I am sure this must be public record somewhere.

Who stands to benefit from the publicising of the event?
So on a more morbid note (and possibly what is holding up the process to deliver the tapes) is what domain should this tape fall under? Is it public domain and should it just become free property for all to see (probably not). Is a network like Animal Planet brash enough to televise this as an “Event”. Wouldn’t advertising during this event be equal (if not surpass) that of the Super Bowl?

What if there was some copyright protection placed on the file and it was “quietly” delivered over the web without much traditional media hoopla. It could then be “low key” enough to not draw attention to the network, but by forcing the viewing of the event through their website they could stand to benefit monetarily. Proceeds could go to benefit Steve’s favorite wildlife fund (I am sure his kids are set for life).

Do you really know what multiplayer games are about?

March 10, 2006

Ok, this will definately be funny if you have ever (or known someone that has) engaged in TOO Much mulitplayer.  Let me start this by saying that I have (not played to much, but knew someone that did … seriously).  I used to work for this ISP in the town that I grew up (props out to Netsense.net) and back when the Internet first started (at least for me in ’96), we had the fastest connection to the Internet (duh…we worked at an ISP) and so after work and sometimes during work (with our boss non the less) we would set up a Quake server and frag the hell out of each other.  We hired this designer guy who was wicked into these games.  He even paid like $75 a month for a cable modem before anyone else knew what cable modems were so that he could play Quake.  He even had a clan and created a clan page where they could display all of their major frags and winnings.  As a side note, he was so good that I think he coined the term ‘strife’ as a way of moving quickly and efficiently in Quake.  Anyways, I have since lost touch with this guy but I can guarantee that he and the others at NetSense would certainly appreciate this site.

http://www.purepwnage.com/

enjoy.