2012 Delivers Disaster Movie Goodness

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. That’s what the new movie 2012 promises and delivers. This is an incredible movie in both scale and vision. In the tradition of other Roland Emmerich films like The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day we get to see famous landmarks being destroyed while our hero narrowly escapes impossible situations.

The plot is simple. The Mayan’s were right and warned us. The story starts in the present and walks the audience through the next three years. Unlike The Day After Tomorrow, you cannot survive by hiding in the public library and burning a few books. The story is essentially a remake of the 1950’s sci-fi classic movie When Worlds Collide mixed in with Deep Impact. Unlike those two films the governments of the world choose to keep the impending disaster a secret until the end. The store deals with the difficulties in keeping such a big secret, both logistically and morally.

Woody Harrelson plays a radio conspiracy nut who’s figured out the mystery. He plays the character with conviction reminiscent of Randy Quaid’s character in Independence Day. Later in the film a character comments that the crazies with the sandwich boards had it right all along.

The movie is long, over 2½ hours long so plan with your bladder accordingly. The movie never rests. There are some slower parts at the beginning of the movie that establish the characters. We spend the movie following John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s characters. One is on the inside of the secret while one is outside.

The special effects in this movie are incredible. I’m not sure there’s anyway to describe them further. The destruction sequences are the reason to see this movie. Everything else is just filler. I recommend this movie on the big screen. I don’t think it would have the same impact on a tiny iPod screen.

Windows 7 and Buridan’s Ass

In philosophy there is a paradox called Buridan’s Ass named after the 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan. In this paradox there is an ass placed between two perfect stacks of hay. The ass is paralyzed without a way to choose one stack over the other and starves to death. This is obviously an extreme case but this happened in real life every day. People find themselves stuck between to nearly equal choices and end up paralyzed by the lack of decision. Microsoft has created the same thing in their customers with the sheer number of choices faced when trying to buy Windows 7.

Walt Mossburg has created a nice matrix showing upgrade options. This lets you see what your upgrade options are once you have decided what version of Windows you are going to buy. If you are a home user you can get the Home Premium version. If you need to connect to a domain, there is Professional. And there is Ultimate for those that need features not included in the first two editions. If you want to know what those differences are, I cannot help you.

The next decision is 32-bit or 64-bit. If your computer has a Core 2 Duo or similar processor then you can use either version. If you need to access more than 3GB of RAM then the decision gets easier because only the 64-bit version can do that. Shouldn’t everyone go with the 64-bit version? Sure, so long as you do not have old software that is incompatible with it. For me, the decision is paralyzing to the point that I have delayed buying Windows 7 in hopes that there will be more information available later before the beta version expires.

Apple released Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. There is only one desktop version. It installs and runs in 64-bit mode automatically based on your hardware and you do not need to have this decision. There is just one SKU that makes the $29 purchase a no-brainer.

I’m concerned about performance and compatibility of the 64-bit version knowing that this is the version I eventually want to be using. I need to use it in a dual-boot and virtual environment. One good news items is the fact that the product key for Windows 7 works for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. So if you had the media, you could install either edition.

Geocities Closing and What It Means for the Cloud

Way back in 1995 GeoCities realized that people would want to get their own content and post it on the web. The tools for doing this were almost non existent. In order to play in this realm you had to understand the technology of HTML and FTP. The folks at GeoCities realized two critical things: user-generated content is king and people care about location. GeoCities did a lot of things right. They also made a few critical mistakes. Not least of which was letting themselves get bought by Yahoo! but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The year is 1995 and you decided to bite the bullet and get a real Internet connect. No AOL or CompuServe for you. Just a modem and a copy of Mosaic and you are on your way. You look at the hundreds of web sites out there and you realize that you have something to say. If your lucky your ISP gave you a little web space. There’s also this new web site called GeoCities. You can log in and create a web page that people will be able to find. Because the tools were very primitive back them there wasn’t a lot of structure in how the web page was created. The results were not always esthetically pleasing.

Years before Aldus released a software package called PageMaker. Like its contemporary MacWrite II, it allowed users to use any of a large number of new Adobe Laser-quality font faces. Each font face could be made bigger, smaller, bold, or even italics. The result is that newsletters created about that time began to look like ransom notes with their mashup of font faces. Just because you have a hundred fonts does not mean you have to use them all in this flyer. The same thing happened to GeoCities. People could use every HTML tag so they did. Things got even worse when Internet Explorer hit the scene with Marquee and other made up, non-standard tags. Now your text could be ugly and scroll across the screen at the same time.

I think this stigma stayed with GeoCities and they never gained a reputation for quality. Their fate was sealed when at the height of the dot.com boom they were bought by Yahoo!. After the market crashed they had an opportunity that was never realized. Yahoo could have had a MySpace or Facebook years before the competition. Like other Yahoo properties they were left to rot.

If you were a GeoCities user before the bust you took part in the true wild west of the Internet. GeoCities sites were rampant with all manners of villainy and scum. GeoCities was often shown as an example of why people chose to stay in the walled garden of AOL years after that model was dead. You never knew what you would get when you clicked on a GeoCities link in your search engine results. It might be a tribute page for an 80s hair band or something worse.

GeoCities’ closing should serve as a warning to how we rely on the cloud. Anyone who did not get the warning now finds that their content is gone, never to be seen again at that URL anyway. After all we are just talking about electrons. Poof and their gone. Users should really take this warning to heart. Backing up the content on your web page is just as important as backing up the pictures on your hard drive. You should never rely on your ISP or web hosting company to store the only copy of something. If it does not exist in at least two places than it cannot really be said to exist.

Fortunately some of GeoCities lives on in the Wayback Machine. Google’s search results are already fading way into nothingness. The web pages of GeoCities are getting an Orwellian demise as if they never existed. Countless links around the Internet are broken. In some ways the Internet has no past. What you see is just a snapshot in time. At any moment a part of it could go dark never to be seen again. Content providers and even Facebook users should think about the implications of trusting their content to the cloud.

G.I. Joe Tries to Be Like Iron Man

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is based on the Hasbro’s dolls for boys. I don’t think I ever owned a G.I. Action figure. Friends of mine did. They were about a foot tall, had limbs you could move, and you put clothes on them. They had weapons and looked like Mattel’s Ken’s worst nightmare. In the post VietNam era it was an unusual toy. In the 80s action figures became smaller and more buff. There was a cartoon about G.I. Joe so kids could learn about all the different characters. I thought G.I. Joe was just one character but apparently he’s a whole team of soldiers. Twenty years later the kids who watched those cartoons now work in Hollywood.

The movie for me was a visual compilation of Iron Man and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I really liked Iron Man and look forward to its sequel. On the other hand I loathed The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Like the Mummy film it seemed to rely on special effects too much. I’m tired of the particle effect being used over and over again in movies — it’s time for a new trick. There was some attempt a humor but it was not sharp enough. There was an attempt at some backstory but it to seemed flat. The point of all that seemed to be to formulate some sort of character genesis but it never really succeeded. We don’t learn much about Dennis Quaid’s character who presumably formed the team.

The movie is very loud and qualifies as a fun popcorn movie but not much more. It is set up for a sequel but I would not expect one to be made. There is one redeeming scene in the movie and it is the Paris chase scene. The characters are still getting used to their Iron Man suits and are constantly falling over and running into things. At one point a character gets hit by a car. The car is totaled but the suit protects the character.

That fun sequence is not enough to carry the movie. There are ton’s of stars here but they each seem to be just showing up for a paycheck. Marlon Wayans is good in his character but they did not let him be smart or funny. He is constantly being shown up by Scarlett who later has a breakdown and has a change of heart for him.

I’m glad I didn’t spend money to see it in the theater. As a Netflix rental it was fun.

V Lacks the Drama and Suspense of the Original

I watched the new ABS TV series “V” off my DVR last night. I was surprised that the initial episode was only one hour long. The original miniseries was almost 3-1/2 hours crammed into two nights back in May 1983. I can still remember chatting with friends in school the next day. The original was a cautionary take about fascism. At the end of the first night a holocaust survivor was taking a spray paint can to a Visitor poster as a symbol of rebellion. It was a very powerful and dramatic moment. Ok, I may be over selling it a bit. It also had some really cheesy special effects. The point is that the new series covered in 40 minutes what the original dragged out over four hours. The new series introduced the visitors, told us they were reptiles, told us that there was a resistance all in a matter of minutes. The whole thing seemed really rushed. I’m hoping that the series improves in the three remaining episodes for the year.

We have many of the same characters from the original. John is now Anna and she seems kinda creepy. The TV reporter is not fooled for a minute and is now a willing participant in the coverup. We have a priest who has a moral dilemma about what to say to his flock about the visitors. Perhaps the first episode was necessary to lay down the fabric that we already recognize from the first series and we’ll start to see something new next week. I hope so. Otherwise this show is not going to be taking any more space on my DVR. I’m going to rent the original and its sequel from Netflix.

F-18 Museum Piece

I overheard a great story on the airport shuttle the other day. I was sharing the bus with some pilots and flight attendants for a regional carrier I do not normally use. The group was starting their day and it was obvious that the were familiar with each other. The group ranged in age from 20’s to 40’s. The pilot was not much older than I am. It was the pilot who was telling his story.

The pilot was on another trip to the east coast visiting a museum. In this museum was an F-18. Since he used to fly F-18’s it caught his eye and he went to investigate. The plane seemed very familiar. On further inspection, he realized that it was the exact plane that he had flown. This realization took him aback, to think that a plane he once flew was museum worthy.

The F-18 is still in service and will probably remain in service internationally for many years to come. The F-18 first flew in 1978 and has been in service since 1983. It’s longevity is based on its adaptability in many variations.

Today the F-18 serves as the showpiece for the Blue Angels.