Who Will Win Best Picture?

by on Feb.19, 2010, under life, thoughts

Well, it’s that time of year again!  That’s right, it’s Oscar season.  Since all the nominees were announced a little while ago, and we have 15 short days left until the Oscars, about now is the time when everyone makes their predictions and tries to tell us who is going to win each award.  Of course, we can’t know for certain who will actually win until the winners are announced, but… if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

So, while I don’t think of myself as much of a movie critic, and I haven’t even seen all 10 best picture nominees myself, I’m still going to attempt to throw my prediction for who will win best picture at the Oscars this year.  Last year, I went to AMC’s “Best Picture Showcase”, and was able to see all five best picture nominees.  This year, while AMC is running the event again, I won’t be able to attend.  So, I’m not sure I’ll ever get the chance to see all ten nominees, but I’m going to attempt to have an opinion about all the movies anyway.

Before I start, I should note that I am disappointed at the Oscars this year.  Having ten movies get nominated instead of the normal five does not “open the field”.  Instead, it just removes from the title of “best picture nominee”.  Even if a movie doesn’t win the award, it usually still gets bragging rights that it was one of the five best pictures of the year.  However, being in the top ten, while still impressive, is less of a title.  By attempting to give films more credit, they have actually removed the credit from the films that actually deserve it.

Anyway, the list of the ten nominations is as follows:
(continue reading…)

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Why Did Wave Die so Quickly?

by on Feb.15, 2010, under technology, thoughts

A while ago, I was super excited to finally get a Google Wave invite.  Today, I barely ever used the service.  I just open it every now and then to see if anything’s happened.  Generally, it hasn’t.  But… Google Wave had so much potential!  It was touted as a killer web application!  What happened?  Wave had so much momentum, but it seems to have crashed, and gone into one of those experiments that Google toyed around with, but no one really cares about anymore.

First off, let me say that whether Wave succeeds or not makes little difference for Google.  Google is a company with enough resources to work on a major product, even if that product is a failure.  Google wanted Wave to replace e-mail.  This is where the whole “Federated Wave Servers” idea came from.  In order for Wave to be the new standard, companies had to be able to run their own Wave servers — Google couldn’t control it.  Besides that, Google already controls a good chunk of the e-mail market with GMail, so this was mostly a fun experiment for them.

But, still, it seems like something that should have succeed… or, at least, lasted a good amount of time.  But, Wave has quickly lost momentum and died in everyone’s mind.  The problem is that Google stopped innovating, and the Wave server never became very popular.  I don’t believe there have been any feature additions to Wave since it launched, and I’m not sure there’s any good source other than Google Wave to get a Wave account.

Wave died because Google seems to have abandoned it.  They released a product, and they appeared to have stopped working on it.  Wave is something Google needed to not only push to corporations, but also continue innovating, and releasing new features, and this never happened.  Google was unable to explain to potential customers why they need Wave, and this is where it failed.  I think this is slightly unfortunate, but I’m not very surprised.  While e-mail is antiquated, it still works, and it’s going to take a lot of push in order to move away from it.  Google didn’t seem to have any major corporations backing Wave, which also contributed to the failure.

Who knows… maybe we’ll see Google attempt to revive Wave with some new features.  Maybe it will come back for a couple months… But Google will have to work really hard to get the momentum and excitement about Wave going again.

I do, by the way, have 12 Wave invites.  I suppose you can comment here or contact me if you want one.  That’s a dangerous statement to say on the Internet.  Although Wave has died, I have a feeling there are people who never got in on the game, and are still looking for invites, only to find a product that no one uses.

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How to Take Pictures at a Concert

by on Feb.13, 2010, under life, technology, thoughts

My University recently hosted Owl City for a concert here.  Tickets were $3, so I bought one and planned on going with a bunch of my friends.  At the concert, a bunch of people had cameras because they wanted to take pictures.  I’m honestly not very surprised at this.  Digital cameras have made it quite easy for anyone to document every mundane detail of their life.

I, obviously, am just bitter because I did NOT bring a camera.

Anyway, I was quite disappointed in how people used their digital cameras, and I now feel that it is my duty to educate the public on how to take pictures at a concert, or any other event that involves a stage and stage lighting.  I saw many people take a picture, then look at the result, disappointed.  Others will simply get home and realize that none of their pictures turned out very well.  Without going into much technical detail, I present to you… how to take pictures at a concert! (continue reading…)

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VERY Subtle Humor

by on Feb.10, 2010, under life, thoughts

My high school put on a production of Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” for its winter play, and I made the mecca back to my hometown to see the show.  I brought two of my friends from my college life with me, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the comedy.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance to see it.  Ever since the three of us saw it, however, we’ve been quoting it, and laughing, because we get the jokes and no one else does.

There’s been one joke in particular we’ve been quoting quite a bit.  Originally, we were quoting it because it didn’t really make sense to any of us, and we thought it was just kind of stupid.  In the play, only one character (Albert Einstein) actually laughs at the joke.  Perhaps, though, we though, we were just missing something.  Before I go any further, I should probably share the joke.  It goes like this:

A man goes into a bakery and says, “Can you mail a pie?”  The baker says, “Yeah, I think we could.”  Then the man says, “Well, could you bake me a pie in the shape of the letter E?”  And the baker says, “Yeah, I think we could do that.  Come back tomorrow, and we’ll have it for you.”  So the man comes back the next day, and the baker shows him the pie.  The man says, “You idiot!  That’s a big E.  I wanted a small e, a small e.”  So the baker says, “No problem, come back tomorrow, and I’ll see what I can do.”  So the man comes back the next day, and the baker shows him the pie.  The man says, “Perfect… it’s perfect.”  Then the baker says, “So where do you want me to send it?”  And the man says, “You know what… I think I’ll eat it here.”

By the silence on stage, it’s immediately clear that none of the characters understand the joke.  By the silence in the audience, it’s clear that none of them get it either.  Alright, there was some laughter… due to not thinking the joke was funny, and a humorous situation being created due to a non-funny joke being told.  I’ll even admit that at first, I didn’t get it.  In fact, I’m not even sure if it’s a joke that’s meant to be “got.”  But, there are some interpretations we can take that make the joke funny. (continue reading…)

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Apple Disappoints All

by on Jan.29, 2010, under technology, thoughts

Well, I wasn’t sure I was going to make a blog post about this, but I feel I have to.  As I’m sure you’re well aware, Apple announced on Wednesday a new product that they guaranteed would once again revolutionize computing.  It was the product people have been waiting for Apple to make, and Apple finally delivered.  What is this “magical” product?  It’s none other than Apple’s new tablet computer: the iPad.

But… if you’ve seen any of the press about the iPad, you might be confused by what I just wrote.  Almost every tech blog I know is bashing the iPad for being an all-around crappy product.  Considering myself a technology enthusiast, I can only say this: I agree.  Apple had the potential to dip into a market that no one’s really gotten quite right, and create a booming industry for themselves, like they did with the iPod.  It seems, however, that they’ve ruined their chance to do that.  So, where did Apple go wrong?  I’ll start with the obvious and most-touted answer, and I’ll try to work down to some more original points, but pretty much everything’s been covered already.  However, if you do really like the iPad, keep reading to the end of the article, and I’ll try to point out what Apple has done right. (continue reading…)

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Humans vs. Zombies: A Social Experience

by on Jan.27, 2010, under life, thoughts

Last semester, some students from my university worked with university officials to get a game of Humans vs. Zombies going.  After hearing about the game, I decided I wanted to join up to play the game.  It was going to be a two-day game: starting Friday at 5 PM, and ending Sunday at 5 PM, as a trial for the university.  Unfortunately, I was going to be off campus that weekend, so I wasn’t able to sign up.  However, as soon as I heard they were doing another round, I knew I had to do my best to be on campus for the game.

So, working with the university some more, these students organized a three day game: starting Thursday at 5 PM, and ending Sunday at 5 PM.  The students wanted to have a week-long game, but the university wanted to see how the game would work with people travelling between classes before they allowed that.  I got a Nerf gun for Christmas, and was eager for the game to get started.    I attended the necessary meeting to sign up for the game, and just had to wait until Thursday to start playing.

Now, after the game is over, I have this to say: I can’t wait for the week-long game which is planned for some time in April.  Humans vs. Zombies is not only a great excuse to run around campus with a Nerf gun, shooting people for the fun of it, but also a great way to be social and meet new people.  The teamwork and strategy involved is amazing, and I definitely met some great people I would have otherwise never said hi to.  Needless to say, I’ve been disappointed to find out that some college campuses refuse to allow the game to happen. (continue reading…)

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A Brief Overview of 3D Technologies

by on Jan.15, 2010, under life, thoughts

Last semester, I was informed of a class at my university called “Virtual Reality Programming”, and I took immediate interest in it.  My university has a visbox 3D projection room in our engineering building, and I’ve been interested in that room ever since I found out about it.  After seeing Avatar, I became even more interested in that class, and in how 3D projection works.

I’m not going to try and say 3D projection is simple.  Quite frankly, it requires precise timing, and the technology behind it is amazing.  However, I’ll try to explain everything as simply as possible, so the information can be accessed by all.  Let’s start out with old school: those red and blue glasses. (continue reading…)

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Why You MUST See Avatar

by on Jan.09, 2010, under life, thoughts

By the time of this writing, I have seen Avatar three times: twice in IMAX, and once in RealD 3D.  The first time was for the midnight premier in IMAX.  Then, I decided I wanted to see it again, so got a bunch of people to go see it in IMAX.  The third time, a couple people I knew were going, and I wanted to see the movie a third time.  I’m contemplating going to see it a fourth time.

Now, after reading this article and seeing the movie, you may feel the movie isn’t good enough to see it three or four times, and that’s fine.  But if you go see the movie and think it was bad, then I think you’re just looking for something to complain about, so you found something.  The only people I’ve heard of not liking this movie are comments I’ve read online.  Every person I actually know that saw it thought it was a fantastic movie.

But, really… Why should you go see Avatar?

1. The plot line

This is the complaint I see most often, so I’m going to address it before anything else.  I’m also fairly certain that this complaint comes mostly from people who haven’t seen the movie.  I’m not going to argue that the plot isn’t cliché, because… well, it really is.  But, that’s a terrible reason to not see a movie.  First off, if the only complaint you can find about a movie is that the plot line/story has been done before, then I’d say it’s a pretty damn good movie. Overall, the basic plot line has little to do with whether a movie is good or not.  Let’s face it: almost all movies have a clichéd basic plot line.  The reason you like a movie is how the plot line plays out: character development, how the end is reached, tests that characters have to go through, etc.  Most people would rather see a story they already know because it’s less confusing, and less to follow.  You know what’s going on, you just have to sit there and go along for the ride. (continue reading…)

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Suspend vs. Hibernate

by on Oct.13, 2009, under thoughts

Two often unused options on computers are the suspend and hibernate options. When used in the correct situations, these can be extremely useful. However, one first must understand what each each does, and their uses.  This can help you save time, battery life, and a bit of effort on your part.  So… let’s get this started.

First, let’s discuss what suspend and hibernate each do, specifically, with relationship to your computer.  We’ll start with suspend, because hibernation is built on top of the idea of suspending the computer.  When you suspend your computer (this is sometimes referred to as “sleep mode”), the computer disconnects from any networks, tells everything to pause, and removes power from everything except RAM.  So, you put your computer into a state where the memory of what was going on in every program is still present, but the computer is, essentially, off.  However, because RAM still needs to be powered, there is a little power drain, even when your computer is suspended.  Of course, this is almost negligible.  Let’s say you have a laptop whose battery would last 2.5 hours when its on and doing things.   In suspend mode, the same battery could probably last a couple days (Note: this is purely my estimation).

Suspend is quite useful and laptop users use it all the time.  The default for most operating systems is to suspend when it’s not connected to a power source, and the lid is closed.  This means your hard-drive will stop spinning, your fans will turn off, and you will be able to move your laptop around, and put it in closed places without damaging anything.  When you need to use it again, simply open it up, press the power button, and the computer will be ready to use almost instantly.  Obviously better than shutting down.

Suspend is really most useful for laptop users.  Imagine you have to travel a short distance with your laptop, but want to keep all your word documents, web browser windows, etc. open.  Simply suspend the laptop, carry it wherever, open and press the power button, and it’s ready to use again.

Let’s contrast this to hibernation.  When you put your computer into hibernation, it follows all the steps for suspending, but takes one additional step: it writes the RAM to the hard-drive.  This means it is able to power down everything, including RAM, and really turn off.  The downside to this, vs. suspend, is that it will take some time to boot back up again.  Ideally, this will be shorter than the time to power up from completely shut down, but longer than the time to resume from a suspended state.

Hibernation is useful to laptop users, but also has some more meaning to desktop users.  Let’s first look at the use for a desktop user.  Instead of shutting down your computer every night, you could simply put it into hibernation mode.  This will still save power, but will allow your computer to boot up quickly when you need it.  You could use suspension for the same reason, but this will still draw some power, and hibernation, ideally, won’t take too much longer than suspension.

For laptop users, we can look at a different scenario.  Let’s say you’re packing your laptop away in a bag for a couple hours.  Maybe for a long car drive, or a plane ride, etc.  Hibernation would be more ideal than suspension in this case, because it will save a lot of battery life, and prevent the danger of any electric field interference with RAM (as rare as that may be).  Because all your data is written to the hard-drive, there is no fear of RAM failing.  Additionally, hibernation uses no battery life, so a laptop could be in hibernation for a long time without the worry of be battery dying.

Finally, there is a more advanced use for hibernation.  Lets say you boot both Linux and Windows, in separate partitions.  The boot-loader will show up when the computer wakes from hibernation, so one can switch between Linux and Windows while hibernating.  This is awesome.  You could boot into Windows, do some work with Windows-specific applications, hibernate, boot into Linux, do some work, hibernate (or shut down), boot again, and come back to Windows right where you left off.  This may seem a strange situation, but it can often come up in real life.

So, now that you know what suspend and hibernate are, feel free to use them instead of shutting your laptop down all the time.  It can save the time of having to boot up from a cold start, while using minimal power.  Running low on battery, but don’t want to lose work?  Hibernate, find a power source, and boot back up when you’re plugged in.

But, remember, it’s still good to shut computers down every now and then.  They like their rest.

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Re: Re: Zune or iPod Touch?

by on Aug.07, 2009, under thoughts

Brian (@jotkeybrian) has responded to my post, and I have a couple comments after reading his response… This seems like a good place to do it!

Actually, Microsoft has been pretty cool lately with formats.  Take a look at the Xbox 360, before you could only play wmv, wma, mp3, and wav.  Now you can play xvid, divx, wmv, mp4 (h.264/mpeg), mp3, and mp4/m4a (unprotected aac).

That’s very interesting, actually!  I don’t own a 360 personally, so this is the kind of thing I’m not personally aware of.  I made some assumptions for the sake of my argument.  That’s good to hear, and you’re right, it sounds like Microsoft’s being pretty good about this.  I’ll talk more about Microsoft codecs vs. Apple codecs later.

You also have to realize no-one-uses FLAC from Microsoft’s perspective.

And why is this?  Because nothing supports it!  Why would I use FLAC instead of WMA lossless if nothing I want to play my media files on supports FLAC?

Now Apple on the other hand… They are fucking bastards, they don’t support SHIT. No divx, no xvid – the only formats/codecs they really support are AAC and mp3 for audio and H.264 for video.

You’re absolutely right.  After going over my post again, and thinking about it more, Microsoft is much better with codecs and library organization for letting you keep your music.  Media players that support Microsoft’s “Plays for Sure” often support quite a few codecs.  (Note: I don’t have Windows running currently, so I can’t double-check this!)  When you import music into Media Player, it can move it to the My Music folder, and keep it organized, or leave it where it is.  Apple on the other hand… supports very few codecs on its media players.  When you import music into iTunes, it can move it to My Music/iTunes Library/iTunes Music, and keep it organized there (a strange path for people who want their music files), or leave it where it is. (continue reading…)

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