June 2004 Archives



June 2, 2004

FileMaker Pro, Developer 7v2 update now available

FileMaker Inc. has released an update to its flagship application, FileMaker Pro, that brings the database creation tool to version 7v2. The free update includes changes to font smoothing, field validation, merge fields, import and more. The change also applies to FileMaker Developer, and you can download the updaters for both from the FileMaker Web site. Source: MacCentral

Starship Troopers 2 DVD Review

Starship Troopers has proved itself as a cult classic, holding its own since the release of the film in 1997. Many different ideas in one, Troopers was a parody of the government, a look at the horror of war, and a giant bug movie all in one. The sequel abandons almost everything that was well done by the first film and first-time director Phil Tippett knows it. Picking up five years after the initial battle, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation has a group of soldiers in dismay, surrounded by the "Bugs," a race of killer arachnids set on destroying mankind. Overwhelmed by the beasts, the band of soldiers retreat to an abandoned tower to try and stay alive long enough to be rescued. Little do they know that the real threat is actually amongst them. Starship Troopers 2 biggest problem is its budget. The sets are clouded by a thick fog, look cheap, and are all obviously on a sound stage. The actual bug effects are on par with the first film, but they only make an appearance a few times in the movie. The script gives the creatures and entirely new place to live which borrows the same idea created years ago by writers of Alien (with a hint of Species). Don't worry, I didn't spoil anything. You can see the "twist" coming very early on. No one will go into this movie wanting to see humans fighting humans. They want the Bugs. They won't get that here. Everything starts off promising enough with the great over the top video montages encouraging people to join the army that were so much fun in the original. For the first twenty minutes you get a ton of action too. The few battle scenes are great, almost exactly like the original except these are just shrouded in darkness. Then everything dies down to a snail pace. The Bugs are much weaker this time out, taking a few shots before they go down unlike the indestructible monsters of the first film. The guns have also changed to some sort of plasma rifle and no explanation is given. The gore effects are back in full force as is the gratuitous nudity. The real way to tell if a B-movie is good is to imagine it with a bigger budget. If the effects (or even the sets) were better here, it would make no difference. It's dull, boring, and just plain awful. It has no connection with the original, nor does it try to. The only highlights are the catchy theme song, a few of the performances, and outrageous gore effects. Even if youíre a die-hard fan of the original, you will find little of interest here. (* out of *****) Starship Troopers 2 is available only in widescreen, roughly 1.78:1 anamorphic. The film was shot using Sony High-Definition cameras. In theory, this one should look flawless. This is hardly the case. The opening moments exhibit so much grain, it looks like your trying to watch a local TV channel with a rabbit-ear antenna during a thunderstorm. Later scenes are only marginally better, still showcasing far too many video problems to make it worthwhile. Oddly, the ending scene, which takes place in broad daylight, is stunning with no problems at all. Sadly, it barely lasts 5 minutes. (**) Thankfully, the sound presentation picks everything up a notch, available in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0. The DTS track here is just stunning. It's loud, it will rattle your room, and the surround effects will likely scare you on a few occasions. There are even non-battle scenes that sound great with voices moving throughout the sound field. The standard 5.1 track lacks the major bass of the DTS selection, but every speaker will still get a workout. In all actuality, this one probably sounds better than the special edition 2-disc set of the original film. (****) As with any normal straight-to-video movie, this one doesn't have a lot of features but what's here is actually interesting. First up is a commentary track with Jon Davidson, Ed Numeier, and Phil Tippett himself. Tippett is very outspoken about how the studio handled the film. His lack of time and budget really seemed to set him off and you'll certainly hear about it during this feature. Ed Numeier still, even though it's just a bad B-movie, tries to make this one out to a stand-in for the Korean War. Sorry, but that just doesn't work here. Next is a half-hour featurette, presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, on the making of the movie. Even here, Tippett gets in a few words about how little time he had (26 days of shooting to be exact). The rest of the feature is general stuff with the actors praising each other and the staff. There are some small segments on the special effects as well. "Green screen to silver screen" is an oddly titled feature (the film was never in theaters for good reason) that looks at three of the special effect sequences from concept to completion. Eric Levin, the visual effects supervisor, narrates over the footage. Finally you can look at some still photos, view various trailers, and check out the PC video game with a DVD-ROM weblink. (***) This movie never should have been made. The meager budget (rumored to be around $6 million) is not enough for a movie like this. Even worse, you give a low budget movie like this to an excellent Academy Award winning special effects designer to direct (his first time ever behind the camera) and ruin his reputation in the process. If you simply have to see this one, check it out on cable where it premiered.

June 3, 2004

Network Associates is granted broad antispam patent

From The Laporte Report:
And yet another entry in the Annals of Greed... Paul Graham wrote his "Plan for Spam" advocating the use of Bayesian filters in August, 2002. In December, 2002, Network Associates applied for a broad-based patent on anti-spam technologies including, what a coincidence, Bayesian filters. The pathetic USPTO just approved that patent. No word yet on how NAI will apply their patent, but it could impact every spam program out there including numerous free open source programs like SpamBayes and Spam Assassin. Symantec and Postini also have patents on anti-spam techniques. Read the discussion on Slashdot.
What is the USPTO coming to? Patents are not patents any more. They are ideas. They are technologies. They are for phrases (You're Fired). Patents are not for inventions any more. I DON'T GET IT. I wonder how this will effect the products I use, SpamSieve and POPFile. I hope that Network Associates does not start suing/killing of the commercial, and more importantly the open source bayesian filtering softwares.

Microsoft wins patent for handheld computer click

This is what Neil was referring to (in a comment about the stupid Network Associates patent) WASHINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - Computer users with itchy trigger fingers take note: The next time you open a software program with two quick clicks on a handheld computer you may be engaging in a process patented by Microsoft Corp. (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people). The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on April 27 granted a patent for a "time based hardware button for application launch" in which a click of a button can start different programs if it is clicked once, twice or held down for several seconds... Source: Forbes.com After reading the patent it does not sound as glorified and horrible as Forbes/Every-Other-News-Site is making this out to be. Read it yourself. It is an innovative thing that I have never seen in the Palm or Pocket PC OS. Time will tell.

Selling Son's Beloved Play Station 2 For Punishment!

A special thanks to Matt Paprocki for this link. This is classic, this kid should be very happy his mother does not do anything else other then tan his hide! I think she should sell his games with it. She might have gotten that $177 back if she did. Be sure to read the entire auction. Here is a small snippet: Here is the story: This weekend my 13 year old son decided to be destructive, deceptive and disobedient. I had a bugle I was selling on Ebay and while I was out he decided to “play” with it. Sunday morning when the auction was to end, He picked up the bugle and asked me if I knew it was broken. He handed me the bugle which he had “played” with and both solder joints were broken and since it was out of alignment the slide is now stiff.   Lets back up one night. That was the tip of the iceberg. Saturday night I send my son & his friend to the skating rink like the rest of the parents. I was to pick him up from the skating rink after it ended. Well he went home, while I was not there with his friend and they invited someone I do not know to the house while WE were not there. I get home about 11:30 PM and find the house is wrecked. Beer was missing. Confronted son and friends about beer…Yes they had drank the beer.... It gets better, including a $120 bottle of Dom Perignon.

June 4, 2004

Remember personal info...

An email from Dave: After doing a little research, I think I have figured out why my personal info isn\'t being remembered when I tell it to. Looking at the cookie manager inside Mozilla I find that the cookie that your site sets for the remember personal info question has a path in it. The path is currently \"/archives/geek_speak/\" which is the last post I commented in. I verified this by going into that post again and seeing that it infact remembered my personal info, yet when I go to a different post, the personal info is lost. Thought you might want to know...
This is true, and thanks for the email. I found this out the other day thanks to a cool new blog I just added to my blogroll, The Tweezer's Edge v3. You can read about this cookie issue there. The bottom line is this: There is a javascript flaw in MT 3.0D, the functions do not set and retrieve the cookie correctly. Until 6A fix the problem, The Tweezer's Edge solution sounds tempting. Tempting until that thing called "College" and "Work" and "Freelance" come into play. I will get to fixing it though, I swear. On a related note, I need to add the new comment code. As Neil noted, and I noticed as well, the default templates on the MT site are not correct. You need to create a new blog and use those templates. This is made more difficult because of the snazzy code for the smileys and the markup buttons. That will get done too. Sometime.

Google's Gmail adds Safari to supported browsers

Beta testers for Google's upcoming Gmail service, which will offer 1GB of storage and leverage the company's search technology to organize e-mail, have been informed that Safari 1.2.1 is now on the list of compatible browsers. Gmail also currently supports Netscape 7.1 or higher, Mozilla 1.4 or higher and Mozilla Firefox 0.8 or higher on the Macintosh. Google can't say when the service will end Beta testing and become widely available, but the company does note that it hopes to add to Gmail's list of supported browsers "in the near future." Source: MacCentral It does indeed work in Safari. Yay, now I do not have to open Firefox to check my Gmail!

FridayQ: Escape

Friday Five is no longer around. And I hardly have time for these, but today I do. The FridayQ seems to be the hip thing to do now, so here we go: FQ1: What is your favorite way to escape from everyday life? Playing basketball on the outdoor courts across from the Harshman and Kriesher Quads on campus is always fun. I used to play in high school, and still think I can play. There is a Disc Golf course right next to my house, and thats always fun. My driving is horrible but my short game and putting are pretty good (quite ironic to real golf). But I am usually way too lazy to go out and play bball (although I think I might today, after I finish this). I usually just sit in front of the tube and veg out. I have way too many video games and not enough time to get through them all. Right now I am playing Onimusha 3 as well as making my way to the end of Morrowind, oh and I need to finish Knights of the Old Republic before KOTOR 2 comes out. FQ2: When was the last time you made an escape? Where did you go? Hmm, I haven't had the time to play basketball or even be lazy enough to sit on my ass and play video games. I have not played a video game over a month! I don't have the itch though. I am back to college, which is a good thing, and have been working on a number of clients' web sites, so I'm not jonesin' for a video game fix. God help me when I am though, it will probably be a weekend sitting on the couch getting nothing done! FQ3: If you could escape to anywhere on earth right now, where would that be? LA, to see the NBA Finals Game 1 on Sunday. I have not been to an NBA game in a while. I used to go the Cavs and Bulls playoff/finals games all the time. I have never been out of the country, well Canada but that doesn't really count. I would like to go on a vacation to get away from technology to the Carribean. Some day that might happen. FQ DARE: Post your passport photo (or your driver's license photo if you don't have a passport). Not gonna happen. I would have to take a photo or scan it. Too much time, I am too busy. I am going to play bball since we have decent weather today!

June 5, 2004

Tips for Writing Reviews

I am now writing book reviews for Blogcritics.org. In the last go round of review materials I plucked two books from the list. The first is Up Periscope Yellow: The Making of the Beatles Yellow Submarine and then Wicked Cool Shell Scripts. Ironically I just watched Yellow Submarine in my animation history class. This will be the first time I have ever reviewed a book. So I went googling for some info, and this is what I found. Some links, be them indirectly related, do have good information. Prewriting Questions for Book, Movie, or Play Reviews Steps for Writing a Good Book Review The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting It Write a Book Review With Rodman Philbrick Robert Wright ~ Tips on Book Reviews

Flight of the Navigator DVD Review

The years following the release of the classic Steven Spielberg movie E.T. brought on a flurry of cheap rip-offs, each one trying to cash in on the movie's popularity. One of those was the 1986 Disney film Flight of Navigator, directed by Randal Kleiser (Grease). This time travel family film brought in a meager $18 million at the box office. It deserved a lot more. 12-year old David Freeman (Joey Cramer) is all set for a great 1978 Fourth of July celebration when he falls down a ditch deep in a forest looking for his brother. When he wakes up, he's 8 years in the future and hasn't aged a day. He's lost, confused, and scared as his parents have not only moved, but of course aged. The authorities get a hold of NASA who soon take David to study him. At the same time, they find a flying saucer that seems to have a connection with the child. With the help of an intern (a young Sarah Jessica Parker), he escapes for a wild ride on the ship with the help of Max (Paul Reubens), a computerized robot eye. I'm not sure what to say about this movie. Anyone who seen it as a child loved it during the theatrical run back in 1986 and anyone who sees it today will have fun. This is a perfect family film with some great special effects, strong acting, and it's a wild ride throughout. The time travel aspects can be confusing to a child (I had no clue what was going on when I was younger), but they'll still have fun thanks to the spaceship, cute creatures, great music, and wisecracking robot. After you've shown the young ones E.T. for the first time, sit them down with this one next. (**** out of *****) Flight of the Navigator is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. I'm unsure if this is the proper aspect ratio as I've read from various sources that it was filmed as wide as 2.35:1 and some people even say it was cropped for theaters (highly unlikely). Regardless, this is the best the movie has ever looked, suffering from only excessive grain in some scenes (especially early on). Colors are perfect without any bleeding and black levels are solid. It's not reference material, but considering the age of the film, this is superb. (****) Listening to the film is quite a treat even though it's only presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround. The sound field is quite active, especially the soundtrack. Check out the music around the 47-minute mark for a nice showcase. Some of the sound effects make their way into the rears as well. The lack of any real bass is a disappointment, but this a great 2.0 mix and probably one of the better uses of the format I've heard. (***) Sadly, this disc is completely void of extras. The disc starts up with some full-screen previews for other Disney features, but that's it. Chapter stops are minimal. There isn't even a trailer for the feature. (*) If you have kids under the age of 10 in your house, this movie is an absolute must have. Actually, you should probably have it anyway. Completely underrated and almost forgotten, this movie has stood the test of time. Disney has done a great job with the presentation of the movie as well. It's a shame that it's devoid of features though.

Making An Operating System Faster

The performance of computer hardware typically increases monotonically with time. Even if the same could be said of software, the rate at which software performance improves is usually very slow compared to that of hardware. In fact, many might opine that there is plenty of software whose performance has deteriorated consistently with time. Moreover, it is rather difficult to establish an objective performance metric for software as complex as an operating system: a "faster OS" is a very subjective, context dependent phrase... This document discusses ten things that Apple did (beyond initial/fundamental OS design and implementation) to improve Mac OS X's performance. Some of these are simply good ideas and obvious candidates for implementation; some are guidelines or tools for developers to help them create high-performance applications, while some are proactive attempts at extracting performance from strategically chosen quarters. Consider the following a sampling of such optimizations, in no particular order... Source: kernelthread.com This was a very good, albeit technical, read. It does a great job at explaining how some things work, such as prebinding. I had a general idea, but now I know more about it. There are a lot of code examples you can use in the Terminal.

Sizing Up the Browsers

When you're creating a Web page, size matters. There's limited space to work with, and page elements take up certain amounts of space. It's a land of constraints, and you've got to know the rules before you get started. Unfortunately, the browser makers have been naughty, so the rules aren't simple. Each Web browser has its own playing field with its own quirks. If we don't get to know every one of these playing fields, then our pages might very well look crappy in some browser. Source: Webmonkey Webmonkey has always had great stuff. I came across this article, that takes a look at the differences in all the major browsers (sans Safari for some reason) with regard to canvas size, text size, and form elements. They even provide Photoshop files showing the differences in canvas size. Very handy. (Although I had to unzip them in Windows, 10.3 did not like the zip files for some reason.)

E-Bay Horror Week

I've been on E-Bay for some time. My "About Me" page says I started sometime in 2001, but it's been much longer. I discovered the site in early '98 I believe but probably became serious enough about in '01. I've been on both ends of the deal countless times being a huge video game fanatic. That 3,500 game collection always seems to need one more new addition. Oh, and all those doubles I keep buying need to be sold as well. Of course, not everything can go smoothly. Sometimes bidders won't pay, I forget to pay (yeah, I did it once), and then other times absolutely EVERYTHING goes wrong. This is the saga of one month of my E-Bay dealings, easily the worst I've ever experienced. I will not use names or ID's since the stories tell themselves just fine without them. Besides, after how some of the deals have went, I very well may get sued for mentioning them. Idiot seller #1: I've been looking for a cheap baseball game for the PS One. I never liked the Triple Play series so I decide to go for Bases Loaded '96, the first baseball game on the console. I've always enjoyed the series since it's days on the NES all the way through to this final game in the series, this version here on the Playstation system. So, there is only one listed on E-bay. The opening bid is a meager $.50 and the game is complete with box and instructions. His shipping is on the high side, $4.50, but this is a "long box" Playsation game. These are bulkier and bigger so the cost is OK as far as I'm concerned. He also states that he will never combine shipping and that insurance is required on everything he sells. Ok, fine, he's a jerk as far as the combining shipping is concerned but I'm only buying one game. The auction ends at the starting bid price of $.50. I pay immediately through Paypal. After a few days, the game arrives....in a plain manila envelope with no additional packing material. It's a miracle it made it to my home unscathed. Even worse, he sends it "Media Mail" which cost him a meager $1.08 (or something close to this). Then, as if it this wasn't bad enough, he never insured it. He requires it, yet he doesn't provide the service. I E-mail him with all of my concerns. He is quick to reply with something like "all terms in auction are final. i pay people to package, tape, head to the post office and other things." Ok, this guy isn't an English major, but I can live with that. So, I whip up another E-mail demanding my insurance money ($1.05) back since it was uninsured. I also tell him that if he actually pays for people to drop a game into a plain manila envelope without any material, he has a very poor business model. Am I being picky? Sure. Note that for $4.50 he could have went to any US Postal Service location, get free, sturdy, Priority Mail boxes and slapped the game inside of that. It would have come much quicker and would have cost around the stated shipping price in the auction (and this is how I assumed it was coming). The E-mail comes back to me. He blocked my E-mail address. Well, I wasn't done complaining and this is no way to deal with a paying customer. I head over to E-Bay and use the "Ask seller a question" function. I add a note to my returned E-mail telling him how his customer service is and send it off. I also report him to E-Bay and request a refund from Paypal. He gives me a negative feedback the next day claiming I file false complaints against him. I of course return the favor. Also note I was not the only one to complain about his shipping practices or insurance. In fact, he has over 70 negatives on the same subject. Sadly, the complaints I filed through Paypal were denied, but I really didn't expect them to go through. I never received a response from E-Bay. Idiot #2: This guy only becomes an idiot towards the end. I purchase a Neo Geo AES cart called "Dunk Dream." It's a fairly valuable cart and I end up winning it for $50. He obviously did not know what he had since his description stated many erroneous facts about the game. It's probably why I got it so cheap. So the game comes well packed and costs very near to his asking price for shipping. I'm happy. Happy, that is, until the game entered my console. It's not actually Dunk Dream. The box says Dunk Dream, the cart has a sticker for Dunk Dream, but the actual insides of the cart have been switched. It plays Nam '75 (a much less desirable game) instead of the basketball game I so wanted. I've run into this problem before with some Genesis carts, but never on the Neo Geo. Now, I know it's not this guy's fault. He really had no idea what he had. I send him a very polite E-mail stating the situation and try my best to explain what exactly the problem is. He replies in a timely manner and says to send it back for a full refund. Great! I wrap it back up and slap a delivery confirmation sticker on it so I can track it. The game arrived at his location almost 2 weeks ago and I have not heard a word. I've sent him 2 E-mails and the only response I got was "I'll get the game tomorrow" and that was about a week and a half ago. For a $50+ refund, this is ridiculous. Idiot #3: Me. Yeah, me. I screwed up. I'm an E-Bay idiot. I win an Amiga CD game "Fightin' Spirit" from E-Bay for about $20. It's in the UK as most games for the console are. I pay, of course, immediately through Paypal. The game gets here within reasonable time. I tear open the packaging, pop it into the console, and start playing. Everything works great. I head over to the site and leave him positive feedback. Later in the day, I come to find out the game is a CD-R. A copy. A burned, illegal copy. I'm furious. I had never actually seen an Amiga CD game before so it didn't hit me immediately. I noticed the "CD-R" imprint on the inner ring of the disc. I send him an extremely nasty E-mail. I got taken on this one and wasn't going to stand for it. He E-mails me back in a few days with "All of that companies games are like that." Ok, yeah, sure they are. Well, to be perfectly honest, he was right. I did some research, and sure enough, he was telling the truth. I felt terrible but just couldn't bring myself to apologize. I didn't think I had a chance to make ammends and just let it go. Thankfully, he left me a positive and the deal went ok. I'm sure I'll get around to writing something to him, but I feel terrible right now (you should have seen the E-mail I sent). To my credit, his auction is extremely deceiving making it even harder to believe. You would think he would save himself the agony and state something about the games origins in the description. Also, his feedback was private and was only about 95% with 30 or so negatives. Idiot #4: I agree to sell an Atari Jaguar system for my friend. In return, I got a few new games to add to my collection. Fast forward to the final day of the auction. With just over an hour left to go, the current high bidder sends me an E-mail along the lines of "I've spent too much this week and can't pay. Can you cancel my bid?" Simply put, no, I won't cancel your bid. It's not my fault nor is it my responsibility to do this. Since he is new to E-bay (his feedback rating is a meager 2) I tell him to look under help and learn how to retract your bid. He replies quickly and says "Just sell it to the second high bidder." No, it doesn't work this way. I begin to get frustrated and replay to tell him that if he ends up being the high bidder, it is his responsibility to pay. Either cancel your bid or pay the price. His quick reply is "I can't cancel my bid. The auction only has one hour to go. It won't let me." Yeah, NOW it has a hour to go. It didn't twenty minutes ago when you started all of this. I E-mail him again and basically repeat what I said before. You have to pay; it's really that simple. I don't hear from him until auction end. He sends me a note saying that if shipping isn't $15-$20 (shipping would be determined based on location and weight of the package) he can pay, but only if I give him a total that night. It was 9:30 PM, I was tired, and I simply did not care at this point. I told him that I couldn't get a shipping quote without his address and was not about to do all of the work required that night. I would get everything together Monday and get back to him once I had his address. He quickly E-mailed me his address. I send him a shipping quote and have yet to hear from him yet in any form. So, that's a bad month for an E-Bayer. A REAL bad month. In fact, I'd say it was the worst month I've ever had on the site. Nearly every transaction went wrong in some way for me and the struggle has continued into the new month. Will it ever end? Probably not. There's too much stuff on E-Bay to pass up. These are of course nightmare transactions and there are millions of good ones everyday. I just happen to get all the nasty ones.

June 6, 2004

Ghostbusters DVD Review

As I write this, we are mere days away from the 20th anniversary of Ghostbusters, which premiered June 8th, 1984. It's spectacular opening weekend brought in $23 million dollars, solidifying it as one of the top comedies of all times. The DVD release was one of the early discs to really take advantage of the format, though the horrible menus ruin the experience. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) play scientists, kicked out of Columbia University since their "science" didn't sit well with school. Tossed out on the streets, they decide to become the "Ghostbusters." Overnight the group becomes a huge success and hires another member, Winston Zedmore (Ernie Hudson). Soon, the EPA orders a shut down of their entire system causing a disaster and the city to be overrun by an evil force. It's up to the group to save the city and defeat Gozer. This is a movie that you will enjoy more if you watch a few times. There is so much entertainment here that you'll likely miss most of it the first time around. This is a wild sci-fi movie, one that would likely inspire more recent films like "Men in Black." This mix will only work if the performances are strong. Here, they are just outstanding. Bill Murray leads most of the movie but the scene-stealer here is Rick Moranis, a close neighbor to Dana Barrett, played by the also excellent Sigourney Weaver. Moranis puts on a great show as the "keymaster," and the movies later segments are better because of it. The special effects, now at least, are hit or miss. The commentary track (more on that later) mentions a few shots that should have probably been cut, but for 1984, these are just amazing. In fact, they would go on to win an Academy Award along with another one for best song. If by some chance you have never seen it or it's been a while, now you have a reason to re-visit it. (**** out of *****) Ghostbusters is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. There is no pan and scan version available. This is a decent transfer with great color, solid black levels, and superb clarity. What knocks this one down a bit is some excessive grain and flickering. Almost every scene has something the resolution has trouble with and it really can get annoying at times. Still, the print has been cleaned up almost flawlessly with only minor instances of scratches and spots. It looks good, but it could certainly be better. (***) The re-mixed 5.1 sound is a nice touch, but a missed opportunity as well. There are plenty of opportunities for rear speaker usage but they never seem to kick in. A few sequences use them a little while, but rest assured your sound will almost always be coming out of the front speakers. The LFE channel is also used sparingly (check out the scene when their first power-up the proton packs in the elevator), but again, not as much as it should be. Regardless, voices are clear and understandable with soundtrack never sounding better. (***) This was one of the earliest discs to really pack on the special features, but the challenge is finding them. Sure the menu looks great with a rampaging Stay Puft Marshmallow man stomping along to the theme song, but it's completely disorganized and confusing. The same feature can be accessed from 3 different locations and just playing the movie will baffle those who are just now getting into the format. Anyway, here is what I THINK is a complete rundown of the features, but I very well may have missed something. The most obvious feature is the visual commentary, a great way to make a feature like this worthwhile. Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, and associate producer Bill Mudjk are super-imposed silhouettes, pointing things out (literally) about the film as they go. Think Mystery Science Theater without the jokes and you'll get the idea. They all have a blast talking about the movie and pointing out mistakes. You'll get some great stories from the set as well. If you don't want the three people blocking the botom portion of your screen, you can just listen to the commentary. Scanning the menu could possibly bring you to the deleted scenes. There are ten in total and are of varying quality, but all of them are widescreen. There is a great one with Murray and Aykroyd walking in Central Park as bums. Not sure how it would have fit in the movie, but it's hilarious nonetheless. If the commentary wasn't enough, you can turn on "Tricks and Trivia," a subtitle track that gives you various information on the scene youíre watching. Up next, if you can find it, is a promotional documentary from 1984. It runs about ten minutes and shows some short clips of behind the scenes action. It's mostly just Reitman and the actors talking about the movie though. Next is a 1999 documentary that runs about a minute longer than the previous one. Various cast and crew talk about how it came to be and reminisce about the times they had making the film. The longest documentary is on the special effects team. Nearly the entire crew was brought back together for what seems like a recent interview. They'll talk over archive footage and about how some of the shots were accomplished for about 15 minutes. After this, you can see some multi-angle shots of three key sequences. Finally, you can check out some still photos along with sketches and some other movie trailers. (****) If this movie is not in your DVD collection, it should be. Excluding the menu problem, this is a great disc with an even better movie on it. There are so many classic quotes to be had, each one worth revisiting. If it is in your collection, it's a great way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a classic.

Blogcritics: The Next Generation

Blogcritics.org (BC) is growing up. It has grown out of its previous web host, and unfortunately that host was none to kind to BC at the end, pulling the plug abruptly in the morning hours of June 2. Thanks to the help of the members suggestions, BC has a new home on a dedicated server even. You can read about the move here. Unfortunatly with a dedicated server comes higher costs. There is now a Paypal donate button the BC site. They also have some new BC merchandise you can buy: T-shirts, sweatshirts, mouse pads, and coffee mugs. This seems to be the price of being a successful review site. As a BC member I will be adding links for BC stuff and donating to BC here at Breaking Windows. Every little bit will help. Its great to see BC become more popular, Its the growing pains that suck. Breaking Windows has become more popular because of BC, and for that I am grateful.

Grand Theft Auto: Lego City

Having just made it back onto the streets of New Brick City after a long stretch inside, Jimmy Bricketti is sent to Lego City by his old boss, Sonny. But all does not go smoothly upon his arrival in the saturated, orthogonal metropolis of Lego City. GTA: Lego City is a parody of the Vice City trailer and is Brick Flick's first movie. Check it out, they have DivX and QT versions to view. Thanks to Matt for the linky.

June 8, 2004

Jobs intros AirPort Express; streams iTunes music

Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs on Monday aimed to further solidify his company's hold on the digital music market with the release of AirPort Express, a tiny mobile 802.11g-based wireless networking base station available in July for US$129 that comes equipped with a combination analog and digital audio connector. The announcement came at the "D: All Things Digital" conference in San Diego. AirPort Express will act as a portable 802.11g base station for traveling, but when used at home, will also connect consumers' home stereos with their iTunes Music Library. Source: MacCentral This is the reason I am an Apple user. One word: innovation. The technology in use here is not anything new, but this is a new innovative and unique way to use wireless technology. The low cost AirPort Extreme is $199 ($249 for the one with the antenna + modem). This AirPort Express costs $129 and the tech. specs say it supports 10 users. That in itself is a selling point. Add to that wireless USB printing, AirTunes, and the form factor (close to the AC brick that current iBook and PowerBook models come with) is just icing on the cake. Oh and you can use this as a repeater? Yea, you can use it as a repeater. Most good wireless repeaters are going to cost you about $100 anyway. I will pick this up for the AirTunes feature. I have been wanting to play my iTunes library on my stereo for a while now, and this is just the ticket. What a great product announcement, and we didn't have to wait until Macworld next month to hear about it.

ColorWare Paints iPod, iBook, PowerBook

It paints some pretty ugly looking PC desktops and laptops as well. I saw the iPods, iBook and PowerBook paint jobs on The Screen Savers. Yoshi seemed to like the paint jobs, all were very impressed. I also learned that my Alien Green AlienWare rig got its paint job thanks to ColorWare. I sent in my 2 iPods in to get painted. I got one painted Candy Apple Red, the other Dragon Green. Getting an iPod painted does not cost much, only $50 bucks. My reasons are more then aesthetics. Although having a red iPod is so much more unique then a white one. After painting the iPod there is a clear coat that is pretty scratch resistant, as the hosts of TSS keep telling us the clear coat has kept up over time. This is great, because I am getting tired of my iSkin. The iSkin is great, but it adds bulk and you cannot use the iPod Dock with the skin on. I will have photos when they return. Should I get my PowerBook painted? Sure it costs $400, but to have a blindingly bright yellow PowerBook? Thats priceless, right? Let me know, be sure a vote in my poll.

Microsoft appeals Eolas decision

Microsoft filed a brief, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn a $565 million patent infringement judgment. The 174-page document, filed June 3, attacks a U.S. District Court decision that said Microsoft violated a patent, owned by the University of California and its Eolas spinoff. The patent describes how a Web browser can run plug-in applications. Source: ZDNet Yet another step in this Eolas case. If you are not up to snuff on this, please see my previous posts. This Eolas thing is not small, and it is not just Microsoft that would/could be effected by this ruling.

Large Format Digital Scanning and Printing

The Large Format Digital Imaging Laboratory, located on the first floor of the Saddlemire Student Services Building, would like to assure the campus community that we are still very interested in supporting your needs for large-format scanning and printing on a long-term basis. Our laboratory’s capability cannot be matched on any university campus in the country. The Cruse high-resolution reprographic scanner has a capacity of 3' x 4'. The new CREO ultra high resolution scanner cannot be matched for slides and other archival work. We have a wide variety of large-format printers with printing capacity up to 72". The lab is able to print everything from simple posters and banners to Giclee fine art reproductions. As for media, we can print onto the widest possible variety of media types ranging from photo papers through aquarella fine art paper, art canvas, vinyls of all types and even textiles. We welcome you to visit us and explore the possibilities for using this equipment.
I got this today in the daily SPAM we get from Marketing & Communications. I did not know it was unmatched to any university campus in the country, I have my doubts about that. Either way, it is rather amazing the equipment they do have. The 3D printer is the most amazing thing they have. Some pretty spiffy stuff.

June 9, 2004

Multiple Power Outages at TCP Today

TCP.gifI got a call this morning in the middle of my Geology class from the TCP today. They have been having power outages and brown outs all morning. Air conditioning is off. Editorial cannot connect to the server. Layout/Production can connect, but cannot print. Deadline is 3 PM. Sounds like a blast! "We heard a couple cracks and then a pop" says two sales reps as I start looking at the "networking wall" (they do not have a networking closet). Those pops and cracks came when the power went out apparently. As far as I can tell nothing got zapped. Which is a small miracle as there is no UPS on the networking equipment. The file server has a small UPS that kept it up and running during outages, but the network backbone kept going down. By noon or so the outages stopped. I don't like to give away all my secrets, but to get everyone back on the network and printing again, I just powered off all networking and then turned it back on again after a minute. Just don't tell them that (No no, I explained this to the publisher). Nothing is getting backed up yet. They got a zip drive in to backup the paper daily, but do not have zip disks yet. I have learned over the years that when Quark (and many other apps) loose their network connection, files get corrupt and FUBAR'd really quick. I have seen this many times working at The BG News and Unigraphics. I have seen this in OS 9 a lot over the years. Luckily this did not happen today. And with no backups, I am really glad it didn't happen that way today! I am suggesting battery backup for their hubs and router. All they have is a basic surge protector right now. That is better then nothing, but it is insufficient. It was very hot today. Air conditioning was started back up as I left. It was getting rather warm in there.

Blue World InDesign Talk List

InDesign does the applying of styles very efficiently: Click on a style applies the style to a paragraph without removing local styling (ie bold, italic, etc) Option-Click on the style removes local styling without removing Character Styles. Shift-Option-Click on the style removes all local styling and Character Styles. I found this out today thanks to being on the Blue World InDesign list. This list is great. Since I am new to InDesign, and I am going to need to know how to use it to train the designers of The BG News, I need all the help I can get. On a related note, I am learning InDesign quickly. It is so much nicer to use then Quark. Now whenever I have to use Quark I just cringe (even more so then before).

June 10, 2004

Mystic River DVD Review

Who would have thought that Dirty Harry himself would go on to direct one of best character-driven murder mysteries of all time? I don't think anyone could have believed, it even just five years ago. But, with some of the most talented actors and a superb script, Clint Eastwood put it all together for one of the years best. Three childhood friends, Sean (Kevin Bacon), Dave (Tim Robbins), and Jimmy (Sean Penn), are split apart when a man acting as a police officer kidnaps one of their own. Years later, each have taken their own path. But, when Jimmy's daughter is brutally murdered, the three friends are all brought back together, each playing some role in the mystery. This is one of the most well written movies I've ever seen. Every little piece of information necessary to the film is brought out in conversation. This is a movie you need to listen to carefully to really understand the characters and their actions. All of this is helped by the stunning and believable performances by the entire cast. The film would go on to win two Academy Awards, one for Sean Penn, the other for Tim Robbins. Needless to say, they deserved it. Sean Penn especially brings out pure emotion in a few scenes that help make the entire movie seem more believable. As if all of this wasn't enough, along comes an ending that will sweep in from out of nowhere and completely blind side you. There are minimal clues giving through the two-hour running time, but if your really paying attention, you have a small opportunity to figure it out. The only real problem with the movie is that once you know the outcome, there is little reason to come back. The performances are certainly worth reviewing again, but sticking through it multiple times may prove difficult. Still, if there was anything holding you back from picking this one up at the video store, now you have no excuse. (**** out of *****) Mystic River is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. A separate pan & scan version is available separately if for some reason your interested. The colors here are muted on purpose so nothing here will stun you. The contrast it set quite high and in a few sequences it's almost blinding. Still, compression problems and grain are minimal if not completely absent for the majority of the film. (****) As a strictly dialogue driven movie, you really can't expect this one to rock your home theater even though 5.1 Surround is the only option. The few scenes where the rear surrounds are called on use them to perfection. Some of the words can be hard to hear (if not impossible) when the characters are speaking softly which led me to turn on the subtitles a few times to make sure I caught everything. Otherwise, everything comes through clear without any distortion. (***) There are two separate versions of this film available. One is a single disc edition with absolutely no features and 3-disc set that includes the soundtrack. I had every intention of reviewing the 3-disc, but I was unable to find a copy. Here is a list of features from the 3-disc set, unfortunately, from amazon.com: Commentary by actors Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon "Beneath the Surface" - featurette with cast and crew interviews "From Page to Screen" - making of the film featurette Selections from "The Charlie Rose Show" - full-length interviews with Clint Eastwood, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon Two trailers Complete CD soundtrack Widescreen anamorphic format The single disc edition doesn't even feature a trailer so if you need to have something extra with your films, avoid this one completely and go right for the special edition. (no stars) If the almost constant critical praise was not enough to force you into watching this film, then there is really very little left to say that hasn't been said elsewhere. This is a must-see movie and one that deserved every award it was given. Every single actor gives everything they have and this makes for one of the most gripping thrillers in some time.

Jazbox 3 adds InDesign, InCopy CS support

Harris & Baseview has announced that it will debut Jazbox 3.0 at the NEXPO newspaper technology trade show being held in Washington, DC June 19-22. The new version of the company's flagship content syndication system adds support for Adobe's InDesign and InCopy CS and features OnePlan, a tool for managing budgets and resources. In addition, version 3.0 brings Mac OS X compatibility to the Jazbox page design client, allowing page designers to work on Macs even when reporters and editors are using Windows computers. Harris & Baseview has not released pricing nor system requirements for the new application yet. Source: MacCentral I saw this in action at an Adobe - Baseview dog and pony show three months ago. At that time they would not even tell me they had an OS X version in the works, I wish they had because that could have changed my suggestion. This system is very nice. It lets multiple people have the same layout(s) open. It lets you jump text over multiple documents - something I really wish could be done. The database backend to this system looks really great. There is a reason they did not give MacCentral a price. You will not find prices on the Harris/Baseview site either. It is really expensive. But its also really worth it for those who need it. I was very impressed with the presentation, even if it was done on Windows. I did not understand why they did not have an OS X version (I asked at the show) since most newspapers are Mac based.

Mac OS X Spoken Interface Preview

The Mac OS X spoken interface provides an additional way to use your Macintosh computer that does not require using a mouse or seeing the screen. In addition to speaking the contents of documents, the spoken interface speaks a description of all the activities taking place on the computer, such as which applications are running, how many windows are open, and much more. You can also control your computer using only the keyboard. This preview release of the spoken interface provides you with an opportunity to explore this technology before it is built into the Mac OS X operating system. After installing the software, you'll be able to learn about and explore the features of the spoken interface before its general release. Please note that the software contained in this preview is not feature complete and some features may not work as expected. While Apple has worked hard to make this preview release reliable you should only install the spoken interface software on a Mac that is not critical to your work and regularly back up your important files and information.
When Apple first unveiled this in March I signed up for the preview release. I will install this on an iMac at work to see how this all works. Having more audible cues would be great, especially if I can add those cues to AppleScripts.

'ID ten T error' joke

A friend emailed this, so I just had to post... I was having trouble with my computer. So I called Harold the computer guy, to come over. Harold clicked a couple of buttons and solved the problem. He gave me a bill for a minimum service call. As he was walking away, I called after him, "So, what was wrong?" He replied, "It was an ID ten T error." I didn't want to appear stupid, but nonetheless inquired, "An, ID ten T error? What's that. in case I need to fix it again?" The computer guy grinned.... "Haven't you ever heard of an ID ten T error before?" "No," I replied. "Write it down," he said, "and I think you'll figure it out." So I wrote out .. I D 1 0 T

G4TechTV: What the Hell Happened?

I am ticked off. Rule # 1: Don't ruin a good web site full of valuable information. Rule # 2: Don't mess with a man's cable programming. And by the way, could they be more original with the name? G4TechTV. Sounds like MSNBC or something. The new G4TechTV web site does not like Safari at all. The layer that lets you get to the shows without having to go to the Shows page and scroll for ever and a day... That layer does not work in Safari. What the hell happened to The Screen Savers pointer, the URL thescreensavers.com used to take you strait to the TSS Show page. Hello, change the pointer! How the ********* hard is that? What the hell happened to the TSS show notes. Every day at the beginning of the show, they talk about 2 to 3 news stories that caught there eye. Where are the links in the show notes? Where the hell are the years of archives from TSS? They are keeping the techtv.com domain for email, why not just leave the web site up until the web team gets everything ported over to g4techtv.com? Is it just me or does this just seem like common sense? I understand it takes time to do things, but when its already there, its already there. Both Sarah Lane and Kevin Rose have had to resort to using their personal blogs to post their tweaks and tips! What is wrong with that? According to Kevin they are porting one proprietary system to what.... another proprietary system. I am hoping that within these proprietary systems lives some standards, like XML for example. We can only hope. At least G4 seems to know how to install and run a message board. Not that that is hard to accomplish. I haven't even started talking about the programming of G4TechTV yet. And I am not going to. The new station is horrid. I have never seen so many reruns in a two week time period then on this station, but G4 has always been like that. The "merger" - if you want to call it that, has ruined TechTV. I used to watch a few shows on TechTV. Now I just TIVO TSS and don't watch any of it. I play video games, I subscribe to video game magazines and web sites, but I don't need to see the same review about the same game three times in two weeks (it has happened on G4). The video game programming on G4 is a lot of fluff. I still watch X Play if I have the time. And they need to straiten out that web site. I refer a lot of answers to the knowledge found in the thousands of articles in the TechTV archive. Be sure to read the comments on this post over at Blogcritics.

Sega Battles with EA Sports

Sports games are what truly drive this industry. Whether or not you like them, they put food on the table for the developers to create other games in various genres. Well, Sega has dropped a bombshell that very well may change the way you buy sports games from now on. For a measly $20 (http://www.gamespot.com/xbox/sports/espnnflfootball2005/news_6100283.html), you can purchase this years edition of ESPN Football 2K5 (yep, the 2K is back). That's right, twenty bucks. What's EA doing to counter? Releasing a $60 "Collectors Edition" of this years Madden NFL (http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/sports/maddennfl2005/news_6099841.html). Of course, this is far from a foolproof plan for Sega and Visual Concepts. To be perfectly honest, an established sports franchise that simply upgrades the roster each year should never cost more than $20 in my opinion. Someway, EA and many other companies have gotten away with it for years. Now everything changes. Sega's franchise is superb in everyway, eclipsing Madden on multiple levels. Does it actually play better? Most people probably have no idea. Why? Their brand loyal. Anything else is sheer blasphemy. Now they have a chance to own both, play through them completely, and give each their own fair shot. A brand new NFL football game for $20 is a first for the industry. There is a very good chance that many gamers will save themselves $30 (or even $40) and head on over to Sega's court leaving EA behind them. The game has not been completely overhauled since the previous year, but the entirely new graphics engine will likely blow people away. This is all it usually what it takes to draw the mainstream crowd in. Then again, seeing a brand new $20 football game on the shelves could send the exact opposite signal to people. Is the game that bad that they have to sell it for such a low price just to move it? There is a large group of people out there who only buy a game or two a year and they need to be sure there good ones. An unfamiliar franchise is a risk even at a low price point. The financial side is scary as well. I'm sure the profit margin here is minimal. Should the game still sell poorly, this could very well be the end of the series. When you can't move a product for such a low price, what's the point of trying again? Development costs are likely much lower on a game like this since the groundwork has been set, but the licensing costs are astronomical. This is a huge risk for the company. The series has been getting hammered, so much so that the game no longer appears on the Gamecube. This is a brilliant marketing idea but is could come back to haunt them. Rest assured that I'd be one to plunk down $20 when the game finally hits store shelves and I haven't bought a new football, baseball, hockey, or basketball game since the launch of the Playstation 2. Sega may very well have just changed the entire industry for us all and it's one of the best changes in a long time.

New Power Mac G5 models include "System Migration" feature

MacFixIt has learned that the just-announced updated Power Mac G5 models are the first to include Apple's new "System Migration" feature. Apple's website states: "Apple simplicity lets you add a Power Mac G5 to your creative studio without days of downtime configuring a new system. The new Mac OS X setup assistant helps you effortlessly move user accounts, system preferences, documents and applications from an old Mac to a new Power Mac G5 -- and the transfer is FireWire fast." Source: MacFixIt This makes me feel better about my next Mac, wether it be another PowerBook or a G5 PowerMac. Cool Feature. Thanks to Rob for the link.

June 11, 2004

'Silhouette' iPod ads receive top honors

The Magazine Publishers of America have awarded TBWA/Chiat/Day the US$100,000 Grand Prize Kelly Award for its work on Apple's iPod "Silhouette" ad campaign that shows people dancing with iPods in front of vibrant background colors, as noted by iPodlounge. "It demonstrated to people that you don't have to spend a lot of time talking about features to get people to make a human connection with your product," said Mike Hughes, president of The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., and a Kelly judge. "Also, one of the core values for Apple is design. To reinforce that without ever talking about it, just by art direction, is an incredibly smart and effective device." The Kelly Awards are given to ad campaigns that "demonstrate creativity and effectiveness." Source: MacMinute

Body Snatchers (1993) DVD Review

Is there a more classic sci-fi tale than "Invasion of the Body Snatchers?" Ok, maybe there are a few, but it still remains one of the more well known stories over 60 years later. The original story has been reworked into film three times, this version here simply titled "Body Snatchers." Though far from a true classic, the movie provides a few great horror moments that make it a worthwhile ride. Steve Malone (Terry Kinney) moves his family to a southern military base to work as an EPA consultant. His daughter Marti (Gabrielle Anwar), second wife Carol (Meg Tilly), and step son Andy (Reilly Murphy) all take diffrently to the move. However, little Andy knows something isn't right only a fw days after arriving. Eventually, everyone becomes aware of the situation but it may already to be too late. The entire base has been taken over and only a few remain. It's a race to escape from the base with anyone who may be left and hopefully put an end to the alien takeover. Little time is spent here with the explanation for the aliens. Everyone going into this movie knows exactly what is going on and knows it's only a matter of time. There is even less time spent on the usual "Are you one of them?" dialouge that could quickly turn nauseating. This is a briskly paced horror movie (only 87 minutes) that gets right to the point. There are plenty of gore effects and gratouitous nudity that is to be expected as well. This one adds in some truly horrifying moments as well. Meg Tilly has a great part as the stepmother-turned-alien and puts on a trully chilling performance. The final sequence in the helicopter is a surprising twist as well. The special effects are decent for a low-budget production and the direction by Abel Ferrara is great. A few sub-plots about toxic waste go absolutely nowhere, but the always enjoyable R. Lee Ermey makes up for it in a small role. There is nothing here that will will blow you away, but it's an enjoyable way to spend an evening for the horror fan. (*** out of *****) The film is presented in either full screen pan & scan or widescreen (roughly 2.35:1) on opposite sides of the disc. This is a fair presentation of the film, soaked in a bright red tint for the opening half hour. The transfer holds this all together with no bleeding of any kind. Grain is apparent throughout the film and numerous scratches get annoying in a few sequences. Still, there are some great scenes that show off stunning clarity, but the grain still hampers the overall transfer. (***) The disc offers only one sound option, standard Dolby Surround. Surprisingly, this is a fairly active mix with some decent ambient effects and nice left-to-right stereo usage. It's not completely immersive as there are plenty of missed opportunities and a complete lack of bass, but this is a nice mix for an older film. (***) Warner has included no extras on the disc. Nope, not even a trailer. (no stars) While this is not a film that will go down as a classic, it's a fair update to the classic original that fans will most likely enjoy. This could have turned out a lot worse but with a short running time, it keeps the pace moving non-stop. The disc leaves much to be desired but it is highly unlikely that this will ever get a full special edition treatment. If your a fan of the film, this will likely be the best way to go for some time.

ESPN's fumbled ‘Playmakers' now on DVD

If you tune in to ESPN for even 15 minutes, you're almost sure to see a commercial for the DVD collection of “Playmakers.” “The show everyone's talking about,” we're told in the commercial. Yes, but ESPN won't say what people are saying. They're talking about the decision by the all-sports network to voluntarily cancel “Playmakers” after one season, despite terrific ratings and strong reviews from critics, including this one. Source: The Kansas City Star I just ordered this not-so-cheap DVD set. This is a worthy keepsake though, since we will never see it again, so it is worth it to me. What a shame. Do you really think the NFL would have cut its contract with ESPN to shreds? I guess a solid demographic and loyal audience doesn't matter to EOE. I also found a solid yet rather conservative (consider the source) review over at ESPN's Page 3.

June 13, 2004

Ode to the Cartridge

The end of an era is upon us. Within the next few months, the final cartridge based home video game will find its way into dedicated gamers homes. Samurai Shodown V Special will be released on the Neo Geo home console to the most die-hard group of gamers left. The cart's cost is astronomical, but considering its place in history, it all seems worthwhile. It all started with the Fairchild Channel F, the first ever cartridge-based console to hit the market (The Odyssey had carts a few years prior, but each one was, technically, its own hardware). It was revolutionary for the time but failed miserably when the Atari 2600 began one of the most dominant reigns in the history of the industry. Well, that and the fact that the games were just plain awful. All of us who grew up fighting with are large toaster NES consoles (as they are called amongst the classic gaming community) will surely have "fond" memories of blowing into the carts, slamming them, inserting them ever so carefully, or cleaning them constantly just to get a chance to play the latest Mario Bros. game. It was an unforgettable part of video game life back then. Kids today have no idea what they missed out on. Carts had no load times. The game was instantaneous as soon as the start button was pressed. They have withstood years of punishment and you'll find very few that are completely dead. Their battery back-up and flash memory eliminated the need for memory cards. They were completely different from everything on the market. Now, CD's and DVD's are indistinguishable from any video game. Every system had a different style of cart, each of them equally as recognizable as the systems own. We had some classic designs and gimmicks, whether it is the well known gold Zelda cart or the various colored carts of the 16-bit era (also continuing onto the N64 with games like Doom). Scanning a shelf of cart just screams "video game collector." A stack of CD's just doesn't seem like a true video game collection. Die-hard collectors spend hours organizing their carts to maximize shelf space. Now all gamers have to do is head over to an electronic store and buy a rack specially made for whatever may be thrown at it. What's the fun in that? In ten years, where will all of the current generation games be? Most likely in a dumpster, but not because of quality. After working at a video store for four years, trust me when I say it only takes a matter of time before that game comes back defective due to scratches. Sometimes it can only take one rental period before the disc is useless. Carts are special. Even if you little brother Huey drooled on it, rest assured it would work the next day. This is really the end for most collectors. Many have vowed never to collect for CD based systems. Though I'm not one of them, their point is well made. CD's/DVD's just don't seem like a real video game. Many more believe that the CD-ROM format marked the turning point in the industry towards the mainstream. Sure we have the Game Boy Advance, but the days of plugging a cart into that console connected to the TV are all over after this. Let us all bow our heads in respect for this classic format.

Youngest Possible Black Hole Spotted Near Birth

Startled astronomers peered through an apparent crack in the expanding bubble from an exploded star to glimpse what may be the youngest black hole ever detected. It is the closest researchers have come to witnessing the birth of a black hole, from the explosion two decades ago to the recent emergence of a dense object amid the chaotic scene. The object may be a neutron star instead of a black hole, however. Scientists hope to figure that out with continuing observations, they said Thursday Source: Space.com

Are PDAs Simply Finished?

After Sony's sudden plan to discontinue the Clie and pull out of the American PDA market, many industry observers have increased their speculation about the demise of the PDA, in general. The Japanese electronics giant was defeated in the American market by increased competition and an industry-wide decline in PDA sales. Sony said that it would continue to market its PDAs in Japan where there is less competition. So, where does this leave the U.S. PDA market? Palm, with its Zire line of PDAs, is an example of a company which is still offering a PDA in great demand. Source: News Factor.com I do not think PDA's are 'finished' though. You can keep a PDA longer then a computer, they do not loose their value as quickly. It will be a few years before my T3 needs replacing. It is more then fast enough to open PDF and Word files, not to mention its a pretty mean mobile gaming system. The market in the US is getting saturated though, that is for sure. I was gonna post about this when Sony made their announcement, but I did not want to sound like a Palm fanboy. PalmOne sells because they are cheap and they have very well designed hardware. Sony - on the other hand - has very exotic designed hardware that is very pricey and has nothing over what PalmOne offers. Maybe that is why Sony pulled out of the US PDA market. Every time I bought a new PDA I looked at buying a Sony. I ended up buying a Palm every single time. Sony is Sony, they are going to be expensive. I don't want to pay $600 for a top of the line PDA, Palm's top of the line (the Tungsten T3 and C) are $400. Thats a big difference in price, and no difference in features. You do the math.

June 14, 2004

ARTC 400 - History of Animation

This was a 3 week, 1 credit hr. class. It was 6 to 9 PM three days a week. We watched animations from all over the world, and all throughout the history of animation. Everything from stop motion to scratching on film to claymation to cel animation to anime to computer animation.
As a side note, we watched Yellow Submarine in class. I just got the book Up Periscope Yellow, written by the producer of Yellow Submarine, Al Brodax. I am reviewing it for the book's publisher and Blogcritics.org. Fun little coincidence. I am 1/3 through the book and will have a review when I am finished.
We had two small writing assignments to do in the class, one of them you can see here, the other I guess Bonnie didn't put online. Most probably because she simply does not have the time. We also had a small cel animation to make. A metamorphoses from organic to mechanical objects. Every person in the class had to draw either organic or mechanical (we chose these subjects the first day of class). We then swapped our object with someone else. This way everyone was morphing their object into someone else's. I drew a pocket knife. I had to morph this into a branch with leaves and flowers. Here is the finished animation. It is a QuickTime. I do not have time to make a poster image, and put in all the code, so if WMP or RM hijacks it, then thats because they like to. Just click the thumbnail. I also reversed it so you can see the effect as if I were animating from the branch to the knife. More or less only because iMovie has this nifty "Reverse Animation" feature. The QT is 324 KB, but please be kind to the bandwidth bill, and download it only once.
morph_thumb.gif
This was done on 4x6 postcard stock. 75 frames at 15 fps is 5 seconds on amination! I am very happy how it turned out. At some point in time in the near future I will have the entire metamorphoses online for your viewing pleasure. There were 14 people in the class, and most did the least 75 frames and not the max 150 frames, so 70 seconds or so is the length of the entire thing, plus titles and credits. Thanks to my free FreePlay music (because I am a .Mac member) I even contributed a music track. I hope to have the full metamorphoses online soon as well. This class was great. I wish it was a full 6 week summer class. Heck I wish this class was offered during the semester. They offer a History of Design class during semester. They need a History of Animation class semester long as well. There were so many animations we did not get to simply because we did not have the time. This was the first cel animation I have done and it is pretty cool. Just time consuming! If I think of any other morph type anims to do, maybe I will give another one a try. So should I go back to animation - my first field of study, before I wished to web and multimedia? Ahhh... Fond memories of Alias|Wavefrom PowerAnimator 8.7 and the arid switch to Maya 1.0. Yea, that was fun. Safice it to say I made it through Maya 3.0 and a bit of fun with MEL scripting before I just got burnt out with 3D animation. OK, that trip down memory lane was sponsored by Dr. Pepper/ Red Bull (scientific 50/50 mix) because I have been up for 26 hrs. strait. CIAO

June 15, 2004

Treasure Planet DVD Review

Treasure Planet was an ambitious project for Disney. The cost was astronomical, but it shows through on screen. The odd mix of traditional hand drawn animation and computer generated imagery is hit or miss but it certainly has a look all its own. Sadly, the movie was the biggest flop in the history of the long standing studio making a meager $32 million back from a budget close to $200 million. This is probably the reason the DVD was released only in single-disc form as opposed to this and a separate 2-disc limited edition like most of their new films. Treasure Planet retells the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale of Treasure Island with a futuristic sci-fi twist. Rebellious teenager Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) stumbles upon a map leading to a planet that is loaded with buried treasure. Along with Doctor Delbert Doppler (David Pierce), he sets off on a ship to find the legendary planet, unaware that some of the crewmembers are not on board just for the flight. The new spin put on this classic is certainly imaginative and the characters are lively, but the entire experience is just dull. It almost seems like the film is just going through the paces without any real effort. Sure the animation is strong (superb even), but all the action just seems contrived and forced. In fact, there is very little here that separates this one from a standard Saturday morning cartoon (only this is 90 minutes). But, as mentioned before, the animation here is just stunning. The mix of CG and classic hand drawn animation works through most of the film. There are a few moments where it doesn't seem quite right, but you might be surprised to learn how some of the CG was used. The budget was certainly put to good use. Sadly, this is just about the only thing the film has going for it. This is a standard cartoon that will likely please some of the younger kids, but as far as a family film goes, this one completely misses the mark. (** out of *****) Treasure Planet is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen. Kudos to Disney for including liner notes as to why this is the best way to watch the film. Of course, they also say to use the zoom feature to eliminate the "black bars," but at least they tried something to show people the superiority of the format. This is a direct digital transfer, something the company has been doing for sometime. This is a miraculous transfer thanks to this process that completely eliminates film grain. Some of the brighter reds and blues exhibit some compression problems, but this is only apparent a few times. It's not quite as sharp as say, A Bug's Life, but this is still one of the best looking animated films on the market today. (****) Immersing you into the film's world is a great 5.1 Dolby Surround mix, assaulting the viewer from every angle. Numerous scenes contain ambient sounds in the rears while the characters move around the front sound field. Action scenes are stunning; a few of them reference quality. The bass is occasionally weaker than it should be, but this is a minor complaint. (*****) The disc isn't the packed extravaganza you would expect from such an expensive film, but a few features are interesting. Oddly, the menus here are just awful, with the same features scattered across different segments of the disc multiple times. The special features menu is split into four sections: Space Adventure, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, and commentary. First up is the unique commentary that not only features a few of the producers and directors talking about the film, but cuts away to various features so you can learn even more. When the clip is done, you'll go right back to the film where you left off. Once you select this, you will have to watch all the features. You can't choose which you want to watch. Three deleted scenes are included and feature not only an alternate ending, but a new opening as well. These three scenes are in various stages of completion and are introduced by the directors. There are 5 different small featurettes that cover various stages of the production, none of them much longer than 5 minutes. Disney's Animation Magic is a 14-minute feature hosted by Roy Disney that looks at the process the studio goes through to create a feature like this. There is some great information here and it is worth a look. Next is a 12-minute look at pirates, from the myths to the facts. Finally is an adventure game that takes place on a tour of the RLS Legacy, the main ship in the film and a music video. (***) This will likely be the final time Disney tries this combination of CG and hand drawn animation so it's a shame the movie wasn't better. It is truly a unique look and as a DVD enthusiast, this one is probably worth a look, but the movie itself is hard to recommend. The special features are hardly up to par either, though worth a look if you rent the disc. Otherwise, this one is for the younger set only.

FTC won't create do-not-spam list

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will not immediately start a national do-not-e-mail list, despite a law passed last year that calls for the agency to develop a plan for such a list. A do-not-e-mail list would likely be used by spammers to send consumers more unwanted commercial e-mail, FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said Tuesday. The FTC, in a report to Congress, instead advocated that ISPs (Internet service providers) continue to work on domain-level e-mail sender authentication, technologies that would require e-mail to come from the domain it says it's from. Source: MacCentral I am glad people like Michael Powell (FCC Chairman) have put serious thought into this. I am glad to see that there will be no do-not-spam list. I hope there never is.

iTunes Music Store comes to UK, France, Germany

Apple on Tuesday opened for business its iTunes Music Store to customers in the UK, France and Germany. Apple said that a European Union version of the store is coming this October. Music is priced at €0.99 or £0.79 per track. The iTunes Music Store launches in the UK, France and Germany with more than 700,000 songs in its catalog, with songs from popular commercial artists represented by the five major music companies as well as dozens of independent record labels. Source: MacCentral Its about time everyone shook hands on this deal. Let the dominating begin in the UK, France, and Germany. Yes, Apple got out of the gate a little late on this. But I have no doubt, whatsoever, that the iTMS will be as big a driving force oversees as it is here. I bet it will have the same type of dominance there as it does here in the US. Isn't this the Apple mantra though? Apple has always put quality above everything else, even if it means not being the first to Windows or the first to a Europe launch. I wonder how many iPods were sold to Windows users since that launch? Apple doesn't make money off the iTMS. They make money because they will now be selling more iPods in the UK, France, and Germany. Right on cue, Neil has a great first look at the new internationally flavored iTMS. Where is iTMS Canada? I wouldn't start blaming Apple again (as they were notoriously berated for not launching the Europe stores earlier). I am going to take a guess the Canada launch has something to do with the Canadian Recording Industry. You folks up north will get the iTMS sometime soon. Things just need to fall into place - I am glad to see they finally did in Europe.

June 16, 2004

Web newspaper registration stirs debate

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Imagine if a trip to the corner newsstand required handing over your name, address, age, and income to the cashier before you could pick up the daily newspaper. That's close to the experience of many online readers, who must complete registration forms with various kinds of personal data before seeing their virtual newspaper... Source: CNN.com I cannot stand news sites that require you to login. I feel pretty lame for not knowing about BugMeNot.com (thanks Jake). I have been flat out boycotting those bleeping sites. Now I at least can try this site. One of the online campus publishing companies that tried their darndest to court us, College Publisher, requires you to login on all their partner sites. Those are college newspapers folks. That is just lame. Only a slightly bit more lame then the commercial sites that require you to login. I am not upset about the privacy. I have said this before and I will say it again. If you are smart enough to open a web browser, you just gave up your online privacy. The problem is that the demographic data that these sites gather are going after it all wrong. I don't even want to put in what zip code I live in when I go to a site (I think WSJ does that). That business model, the one of gathering demographic data is all off. Its the Web. Excuse my language but use the damn web statistics package that is running on your server to figure out where in the world I live. There is just no excuse! Why does a news site need to know my email address? So they can (a) SPAM me or (b) give/sell my address to someone else that will SPAM me. I do not care how they state it, they either do A or B. Why do they need to know my name, age, etc? I am glad you asked, let me explain. It was the stupid idea of some bean counter, or the boss of some bean counter at the newspaper who thinks that he can count his Web site visitors like his paper reading subscribers. The Web is not print, and people need to wake up and realize that. I cannot think of one reason why requiring me to login to a news site is worth the aggravation and alienation of someone who has chosen to come to your web site. I just go somewhere else. Simple as that.

Movable Type 3 Licensing, Take 2

You can read all about it at the Six Apart blog, or see the email below that I received yesterday. It is great they gave us a little bit of a heads up this time. They should have done that last time. While a lot of these changes, some major, some minor, look to a bit like crowd control, I think this new licensing will make a lot of people happy. I think this is great news for blogs with many many authors. I don't know that this will bring anyone back who was put off by the original licensing debacle for MT 3, but this will surely make those folks who waited to make their decisions, or those sitting on the fence happy campers. If people complain after these drastic changes to SixAparts licensing does not shut people up, then some people just need slapped. Remember, 6A is in this game to make money folks. Its great that I now have an unlimited license. I think that is a nice gesture. The weblog restriction lift from the $70 Personal license is also nice as well. They also changed the Commercial license to only restrict by number of users, that is great as well. I payed $4.95 for my personal license, because I donated in the past. Now I have an unlimited personal license because I was an early bird on MT 3. Not bad for software that is worth every penny of its $99.95 price tag. Many questions were answered here, a number of gray areas were brought back into the black and white. This announcement from 6A was very needed. Hopefully this will mend some wounds. Had this version of the licensing for MT 3.0 been the one announced in May people still would have bitched and moaned. It might not have been as loud, but it would have nonetheless existed. That is just how people are. They want everything for free. Good Job Six Apart for this revision, and clarification!
You're receiving this message because our records show that you recently purchased Movable Type 3.0 under our personal paid license that allows you to have up to 5 authors and 5 weblogs. Since the launch of Movable Type 3.0 developer's edition we have been listening to feedback from many of our users. We have heard requests for simpler and more flexible licenses and later today we will be updating our website to reflect changes that we believe answer most of these requests. Because you were an early adopter of Movable Type 3.0, we wanted you to be one of the first to know about these changes and how they will affect you as a customer. As a paid licensee these changes directly affect you. To thank you for supporting us early in the release of Movable Type 3.0 your license has been upgraded to an unlimited user and weblog license (normally priced at $99.95) at no cost to you. Since we've already upgraded your license in our system, you don't need to do anything for the license to take effect. We hope you enjoy the added freedom this license offers you. Our new personal use licenses are designed to be easier to understand and to provide more flexibility. New Personal Licenses: * Limited Free Edition: Unsupported with a limit of 1 author and 3 weblogs - No change * Personal Edition ($69.95): 5 authors and unlimited weblogs - This license was previously limited to 5 weblogs * Unlimited Personal Edition ($99.95): Unlimited authors and unlimited weblogs - We previously did not have a personal license that allowed for unlimited users and weblogs The Unlimited Personal Edition was created in response to the concerns of many Movable Type users who felt that limited weblogs and authors of the previous licenses just didn't meet their needs. After listening to their feedback we can't help but agree and have created this offer with them in mind. As before, personal licenses remain for non-commercial use only and are not for educational institutions, not-for-profits (501.3c, houses of worship and other properly registered organizations), or revenue producing uses other than incidental revenue (mainly ad revenue) created on your blog. You can not offer to host weblogs for users other than family, friends and associates. The personal edition's permissions for incidental revenue do allow you to use services like Google AdSense, Amazon Associates or a PayPal tip jar on your site, as long as those are not the main purpose of your web site. We've also improved our business licenses and have made our educational and not-for-profit licensing viewable on our website. As we hinted above, there is a new free not-for-profit license. If you are using Movable Type in a not-for-profit organization that has one or fewer paid employees and you do not want support you can use the free version within that organization for an unlimited number of users and blogs or you can get a supported license for $39. Once the site goes live later today you will be able to see these and more changes for yourself. Once again, thanks so much for supporting Six Apart and for your continued use of Movable Type. The developer's release of 3.0 has been a great success and we expect to see great add-ons coming from that community. We also have some great stuff in store for future releases of the product. (Remember, all point upgrades 3.x are free to appropriately licensed users.) Be sure to check out movabletype.org for more information about the license changes as well as updated FAQs and product information pages.

Game companies sue over game-copying software

Atari Inc., Electronic Arts Inc., and Vivendi Universal Games Inc. have sued 321 Studios LLC, the developer of a software utility that can be used to copy video games, for allegedly violating the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said on Tuesday. The three game companies, all members of the ESA, claimed that 321 Studios' Games X Copy software is illegal because it allegedly violates a DMCA provision that bans software that circumvents copy-protection technology used in game software, the ESA said in a statement. The suit against 321 Studios, which seeks a ban on the manufacture and distribution of Games X Copy, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, it said... Source: MacCentral As if having the MPAA after you isn't enough, now 321 Studios has the video game industry after them. They better be glad they did not write software that lets you make copes of music CDs, or god forbid VHS tapes. The video game industry is using the DMCA on this one. Why? Because they can and the DMCA has been used in many other cases. The DMCA is becoming a crutch, it really is. There is one major problem here. The DMCA totally undermines fair use. It severely limits the writes of law abiding citizens. That being said I agree with most of the DMCA, but by no means think it is a great law. Now I know that 321 Studios software is not being used for law abiding means by everyone. But to be able to make a backup copy of a CD or DVD for when your kid stomps on it or whatnot is a valid reason. I mean this stuff is not getting any cheaper. You should have bought DVD X Copy and Games X Copy when you had the chance, they have great user interfaces. I think you can still purchase Games X Copy. There are alternatives out there. DVDBackup, DVD2one, DVD Shrink, Alcohol 120% - just to name a few of the more popular ones. No one is going after them. But they are not a software company that can loose their shirts. If I buy something I should be able to make a backup copy. Didn't software agreements used to/still say you may make a backup copy of it? What if my $25 DVD or $50 game gets scratched. What if the government is yet again taking away my rights? Yet again we are all guilty until proven innocent. Or am I the only one who feels this way?

June 17, 2004

TechTV Fans Mad as Hell

Looking for a recipe for dissension? Comcast has it. Take two cable networks designed for technology enthusiasts with very different bents -- newbie G4 for young gamers and veteran TechTV for computer geeks of all ages -- and merge them. Fire the staff of TechTV, the network you bought, and be sure to drop the show that has some of the most fervent fans and a host with a cult following. For good measure, take the network's widely linked archives offline for weeks... Ken Edwards, a 26-year-old database specialist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has been watching since ZDTV launched. He claims to own every current game console but only watched one show on the old G4. He tracks some of the backlash to the cancellation of Call for Help and the uncertainty over Laporte's future. Edwards and others are bemused but pleased that Laporte's show has been picked up by G4techTV Canada and may eventually reach the United States through syndication...
Source: WIRED News I was interviewed for this article on Tuesday. Not only that but my rant referenced in the article was linked! I had a great phone conversation with Staci Kramer and found out just how many other folks out there are really ticked. Its pretty cool being quoted in the same article as David Pogue! Thank you WIRED, and welcome new readers! The stats don't lie! It now looks like Candy Apple Red is winning out in my current poll. I would have had this up in the AM but I have been very busy at work lately. Both Jake and Neil beat me even. But thats what happens when you are going back to college, managing a newspaper network and doing freelance web design, the blog sometimes waits till the last minute before I go to bed. I'll live with that, I am passing my classes, and everything is going great right now :)

June 18, 2004

Firefox 0.9 Huge Speed Boost in OS X

Firefox 0.9 is out. Thats all that really needs said. Might I inject my major beef about 0.8 that is totally fixed in 0.9 - startup time has been reduced! The Windows version of 0.9 is nice, but the OS X version is a much bigger step forward. Also the new Aqua skin is a nice touch to 0.9. Download it now!

Red Dead Revolver X-Box Review

Those who lived through the 16-bit era will likely remember a game by Konami called "Sunset Riders." This superb 2-D shooter was set in the Wild West with a tongue-in-cheek style that brought back memories of spaghetti westerns. Though from a completely different company, Red Dead Revolver from Rockstar actually has a lot in common with Konami's old-school classic, just with a new-school, 3-D twist. The game puts players in control of Red; a child turned bounty hunter after the murder of his parents. He wanders around the west, taking jobs to wipe out criminals for money, all the while trying to extract revenge from those who made the mistake of killing his family. You'll meet some allies along the way and occasionally control a few of them, but the main focus of the game is on Red. This 3rd person action-shooter does almost everything right. Originally developed by Capcom but dropped for financial reasons, Rockstar picked it up and released it to the public. Each of the stages are usually confined to a small town (basically an arena), though a few will let you flex your platforming muscles. Enemies will relentlessly attack from every angle and your keen reflexes are the only things that will keep you alive. Thankfully, the camera is rarely out of place and will hardly ever be a problem for players. Red will be able to purchase other weapons between stages to add to his arsenal, though only a few can be carried into the actual gameplay segments. Every weapon has various attributes and they can all be upgraded as well. In a few stages, you may find various turrets to fire from and ride horseback a few times as well. Shooting is a bit tough to get used to, mostly thanks to the clunky control system. To draw your weapon, it is necessary to hold down the left trigger while moving and aiming with both analog sticks while firing with the right trigger. It's very hard to get used to and even more complicated when switching weapons. This can be done either with a tap of the white button or d-pad. Jumping, melee attacks, and reloading are all mapped to the face buttons as well. There is a lot to do and it will take some time to master. Should the action get too heavy, you have the ability to enter into "dead eye" mode which is an improvised bullet-time. Once you have clicked in the right analog stick, the entire game slows down while you aim at various points on the enemy's body. Press the fire button and you fire off a rapid array of bullets to all the marked points. This is a very fast way to dispatch the bandits but you only have a limited amount of dead eye to use. Running and gunning is not the only aspect of the game. Good 'ol fashioned duels have been included as well. These keen tests of wits and nerves are certainly fun. You'll unlock more of these segments as the game goes on and these can be played like mini-games from the main menu. You can also purchase journal entries that will give you more characters and weapons in the multi-player mode. Speaking of multi-player, the three modes are all worthy for 4-players, though if you want to go on X-Box Live, you will be certainly disappointed. It is not supported. You can challenge another player in a quick-draw duel, fight to collect the required bounty cash, and a timed death match to see who can simply accumulate the most money. There are also two card games you may find strangely addictive. This game is also available on the PS2 and it shows. It seems like nothing has been done to make the game stand out on the X-Box other than progressive scan support. Textures are blurry, character models break up at the seams, and color is limited (though this is for effect). The blood is a nice touch, but it just doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the package. The cinemas are real nice and made to seem like old, beat-up film footage complete with scratches. The loading screens are impressive as well, but the overall package is severely lacking. Voice work here is also disappointing, especially early on. However, the near-perfect soundtrack makes up for everything. A mix of 70's style music and classic cowboy themes, it's a perfect fit for this somewhat campy western shooter. Gunfire is clear with a nice "boom" and the dying characters spout off some great quotes before finally dropping. Those with 5.1 surround support will get an even better experience since they can pick out their opponents just by listening. The game does suffer from a stack of technical problems as well. The AI is downright dumb as times (especially a few of the bosses), which will lower the challenge level significantly. A few levels, specifically the train robbery, have enemies that literally just fly into the air when attempting to jump onto the speeding cars from horseback. You'll never see them again. The game will also be seen as repetitive to many people as well. The few stages that mix things up hardly help the redundancy of the shooting stages. Red Dead Revolver is a perfect flashback to simpler era in the game industry. Sure it's in 3-D and the controls are a bit more complicated, but the game certainly owes a lot to the action shooters of the past. Anyone who grew up on games like Contra or the above mentioned Sunset Riders will certainly have a blast here throughout the entire game. Those people who have never played these games will still have fun as well. This is, at the very least, an absolute rental if not an outright purchase.

June 19, 2004

Dormant GMail Accounts

Dormant accounts are email accounts that have not been logged into for an extended period. If the account owner doesn't log in for nine months, Google will delete all messages in the account, close the account, and recycle the username. Other free web-based email providers delete dormant accounts after as few as 30 days. Please note that if you have a dormant account that is deleted, Google cannot guarantee that you will be able to use your previous username again once it has been recycled. Source: GMail Help Center I like the nine months limit. That is a lot more generous then Hotmail or Yahoo! I no longer have a Yahoo! email account because I was dormant for too long. I found the time limit out after the fact. Bastards. I guess you live and learn. Now I look for the dormant user time limit up front.

June 21, 2004

Worlds Largest Ball of Paint

Imagine an ordinary baseball...Now imagine that same baseball with over 18,135 coats of paint on it.  Getting the picture? Good, because that's exactly what my wife, Glenda and I have done for the past 27 years. Now that ordinary baseball that once weighed less than one pound now weighs in right around 1,300 pounds! Lame I know, but what else is the great midwest have to show for itself? Link from Matt, thanks.

Apple offers 'iPod your BMW' details

Owners of select BMW automobiles can now have their Apple iPods integrated directly into their vehicle's audio systems thanks to a new interface developed by Apple and BMW. The iPod can be controlled directly from your BMW's audio system and multi-function steering wheel through the use of an integrated adapter that's installed into the vehicle's glovebox. It's available for model year 2002, 2003 and 2004 BMW3 Series; Z4 Roadster; X3 and X5 SAV; and MINI models. The interface cable is not available on vehicles with navigation system, CD changer, DSP cassette player or satellite radio. Source: MacCentral I just saw the commercial for the first time. Pretty slick. Nice commercial. I think I will stick with my Belkin Auto Kit and Belkin Cassette Adapter, its a little cheaper then a new BMW. Thanks to Max for the link. Also see: iPodYourBMW.com iPod Your BMW Press Release

June 22, 2004

Vietnamese man grows locks 6.2 metres long

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) - A Vietnamese man who hasn't been to a barber in 31 years is vying to get in the Guinness Book of Records for having the longest hair, the state-controlled news media reported Monday.

Tran Van Hay's hair is 6.2 metres long, the newspaper Thanh Nien (Young People) reports.

Source: Yahoo! News

Thanks to Matt for the link. You have gotta see the photo of this guy, that is insane. How you could go that long without washing your hair is beyond me. That is just sick!

Apple Remote Desktop 2 adds 50 features

Apple Computer Inc. announced on Monday Apple Remote Desktop 2, its software solution to assist Mac system administrators and computer managers with asset management, software distribution and help desk support. According to Apple, the new release features "dramatic improvements" in performance as well as 50 new features to help manage Macs running Mac OS X... "This is the product you need if you're responsible for managing a group of Macintosh systems," Tom Goguen, Apple's director for Server and Storage Software Product Marketing, told MacCentral. "We are building tools to make it much more cost effective for people to deploy our systems in their environment."... Source: MacCentral I can't wait to use this new version of Apple Remote Desktop (ARD). I used Apple Network Assistant (ANAT) for years under OS 9 and was very happy Apple decided to bring it to OS X as ARD. The new features sound great! Especially the remote shell scripts. ARD is one of those applications that makes my life a little easier at Student Publications.

What The Font.com

Ever wanted to have a font just like the one used by certain publications, corporations, or ad campaigns? Well now you can, using the WhatTheFont font recognition system. Upload a scanned image of the font and we'll show you the closest matches in our database!
I was asking about a type face, and was directed to this site. It did the job, very well I might add. Back when I used Mac OS 9 I used an app called Font Expert. The "new" version of Font Expert has come out and it still does not have OS X support. So screw them, I will just use WhatTheFont.com.

Diagrams detail Apple's new liquid cooling system

Last week Apple Computer, Inc. introduced its most powerful Power Mac model to date, which sports two 2.5GHz G5 processors and a nifty liquid cooling system (LCS). Curiosity surrounding the new LCS is running high as Apple officials have recently reiterated warnings that other G5 products from the company remain a long-shot due to G5 heat issues. Aiding some of the curiosity, sources have recently provided AppleInsider with side and rear-view diagrams of the new Apple LCS, which detail some of its many components. Source: AppleInsider Since Apple Legal has not had AppleInsider take these images down yet, I would say its a good bet they will be there to stay. This site has 2 diagrams that depict the new cooling system in the dual 2.5 Ghz G5.

ASCII Table.com

I was looking for the HTML number codes to display them as an example on a web page without having to put spaces in-between them. Doing a google search came up with this site as the first result. Although what I am looking for has nothing to do with the ACSII table, the site does have two great pages for reference. One is the images on the home page, the other is the larger chart on the "HTML Codes" page. The site is framed (grrr) or I would link directly to that page. Example: @ = @

Chronicles of Riddick X-Box Review

Very few games come out of nowhere and absolutely stun the gaming industry. In this age of commercial hype and the internet, it's even more uncommon. Then you have the Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, one of those games that blindsided everybody with immense graphical prowess and unique non-run-and-gun gameplay. It's not perfect, but it is certainly turned out better than anyone could have imagined. Players take control of Richard Riddick, voiced by Vin Diesel. His goal is obvious from the title: Escape the triple-maximum security prison anyway possible. However, this is not just an ordinary jail. You're actually allowed to roam throughout the yards, talking to various inmates. You'll be able to take on various side quests by talking to the right people. Step out of line and either a guard or the security system will gun you down. This is why stealth is so important. Fairly early in the game, Riddick will earn his famous "eye-shine" ability from Pitch Black, the movie that first introduced the character. Once this is done, turning off (or shooting) the lights will prove to be no problem for the anti-hero. A simple click of the right analog stick allows you to see everything clearly. However, should a light be turned on, prepare to be blinded. Ducking down in the dark makes you virtually invisible to guards and should you play everything right, this will allow you to "stealth kill." You can snap the guard's neck, stab him in the throat, or perform various other grisly killings once you're in position. You can even drop down on top of the guards and take them out. Should the kill fail or you get caught, it is extremely hard to survive a straight on battle against an assault rifle, so finding another place to hide is almost a necessity. Of course, you can always turn the enemies weapons against them with a tap of the left trigger. The first-person view that makes up most of the game will switch into 3rd person when climbing ladders, when you need to lift yourself up onto boxes, and to shimmy across some pipes. This makes climbing ladders so easy and controllable it is actually revolutionary. You'll never fall down a ladder simply because you thought you were holding on. More FPS games need to do this or find a way to make it easier. You'll actually spend a good part of this roughly 10-hour romp without a gun. You'll be forced to look for shivs, screwdrivers, pipes, and other makeshift weapons to survive. Of course, you can almost always avoid confrontations if you're stealthy enough. Should you get stuck and be forced to fight, the excellent first-person fighting engine is better than most stand-alone fighting games. Using a combination of the right trigger and left analog stick, you can perform various bloody combos with either a weapon or just your fists. Better be sure that no one else is around to hear the fight, as guards are quick to respond. Human guards are of course not the only enemy you'll come across. All the cameras in the prison are equipped with heavy firepower and once into the pit early on in the game, you'll be stuck fending off a race of disgusting little people who explode when shot. Guards are also equipped with heavily armored mini-mechs that can only be taken down when their weak spot is found. Late in the game you'll be up against another set of creatures along with guards, but revealing their identity would be spoiling some of the fun. Chronicles is an immersive experience, made so much better by the little touches. There is no display to tell you how much ammo you have (that is always seen on the gun itself) and your life bar only appears when it is affected. Guards and inmates carry on conversations and listening carefully will reveal some very funny stuff. Vin Diesel lends his own static acting to the game along with Ron Pearlman and rapper Xzibit. Language here is coarse and is definitely not for the younger set. The games new graphical engine employs "normal mapping," a way to dress low-polygon models in highly detailed textures to make them look better than a character with a high polygon count. This keeps the framerate high and the game running smoothly. The lighting here is fantastic, though there are times when it really is too dark. The surroundings look utterly amazing, easily on par with the hyped Doom 3 which comes out later this year. However, some of the graphics are way off the mark. The game hardly uses any anti-aliasing and some rooms look like their running on the PS-One. Everything gets blurry and jagged and some of the character models have trouble staying together. The realtime cinemas are the worst of the package. They end up being a blurry mess of pixels and hardly fit with the rest of the game. Some of this will not be noticeable unless your playing the game on a HDTV in progressive scan that really shows the lower resolutions used. Other people may not have a problem with this. To make up for some of the graphical mishaps is the sound. As mentioned before, the voice acting is just superb. The soundtrack only kicks in when the action does giving the action scenes a boost of adrenaline. Gunfire is spectacular, especially in full 5.1 surround. You'll hear bullets ricochet off walls and enemies yelling from all angles. When you're in stealth mode and a guard is close, your heart will begin to beat and become louder the closer he gets. This really increases the tension during these moments. This is one of the best sound presentations on the market today. The game does suffer from a few major problems that may turn off some people. The most obvious is a complete lack of any multi-player modes. Though the game is X-Box Live aware, don't make any plans of joining the community in Riddick deathmacthes. This obviously cuts down on the replay value considerably and the only real reason to go back is to pick up packs of cigarettes, which unlock various features. These can be obtained by completing side missions or simply looking around in odd places. The save system is also a bit ridiculous and will frustrate some people when they figure it out the first time. The game is auto-saved at 36 various checkpoints throughout the game. Though "saving" may appear at the top of the screen, this is only saving a spot for you to return to should you die. Moving into a new checkpoint is the only way to save the game. You'll usually know when this happens as a cinema leads the way into the new section. Some of these areas are quite large so this can get irritating. Overall, this is a wholly unique shooter with great production values and immersive story. This is easily one of the best movie licensed titles in a long time and will likely be the best one of this console generation. Any fan of first-person shooters needs to play this game and if you enjoy games like Splinter Cell for their stealth gameplay, this is also a must-play. The lack of any real replay value is obviously going to make or break your decision on a purchase though.

June 23, 2004

GMail Invite Givaway

I have 6 GMail invites to give away. If you want one, send me an email. ken [at] meancode [dot] com UPDATE 6: I have 0 more invites to give away! When I get more I will let you know. For those who wanted to know, I have given away 28 GMail accounts so far. Some people have asked me how they can repay me for giving them a GMail account. First, enjoy it, GMail is a really nice system. Second, you could always refer people to read my blog, that always makes me happy. UPDATE 7: I have 0 more invites to give away! Please stop emailing me asking for one. I am not keeping your name and email for when I get more invites. Nor am I going to take the names and emails from the comments. When I get more invites (If I get more) I will post about them, and THEN it will be first come first serve. You can grovel all you want though, that never hurt anyone. :) Thanks.

Look closely at the picture

The receipt, specifically.

Thanks to Matt for the linkie.

One Year FREE sub to PC Magazine

You can only get the digital version (I.e. Zino) but still it is a year fo' free. The offer is apparently a hot one and the print subs are all gone. You can thank McAdee for the offer and Kevin Rose at TSS for the link. Thanks! On a side note, I love Zino! It is really nice. I don't understand why, but it runs a lot better on my PowerBook then it does on my PC desktop, even thought my PC is much more powerful. Its just sluggish in Windows. Zino is a great application. It is so nice being able to click on links that so many computer magazines print these days. Zino has not by any means stopped me from reading print magazines. You still need a magazine for sittin' on the can. I now read Zino versions of Macworld, Popular Science, and now PC Magazine. Funny thing is, I have print subs to these mags as well. It is just nice to have both. Sometimes I want to read it on my laptop, sometimes I don't.

AOL worker arrested in spam scheme

Jason Smathers is charged with stealing his employer's subscriber list and selling it. NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A software engineer at America Online was arrested Wednesday and charged with stealing AOL's subscriber list and selling it to someone sending spam e-mail, federal prosecutors in New York said... Source: CNN Money I don't think a fine of $250,000 is enough, and I doubt these two idiots will see anywhere near 5 years in prison.

June 27, 2004

The Playstation 3 and Junk

The next generation of consoles will soon be upon gamers across the country. The Playstation 3, X-Box Next, and the obvious Nintendo console will soon be playing all the latest games to happy children everywhere. This new set of systems also brings with it something new: Junk. As seen here, there are rumors floating that the PS3 will cost $500, if not more, at launch. Why? Junk. Now, gaming systems have always had extra accessories. In fact, consoles have tried to be computers and computers have tried to be consoles (did anyone actually use their Commodore 64 for anything except games?). Most of the early consoles either announced accessories like keyboards or released them to the market. Even the NES had a rumored keyboard attachment in the works. I'm not sure about everyone else, but when I buy a game system, I want it to play (gasp!) games. Yes, video games. I know, it's an absurd assumption, but I feel it had to made. *end sarcasm* If I want a Tivo system, I'll buy one. It is an absurd notion that gamers have no choice but to plunk down an insane amount of money simply because Sony thinks it's what gamers want. I have no problem if they choose to make the attachment a $200 extra, but I have no use for this item right out of the box. It's even begun invading the portable market. The PSP will have (although optional) a GPS attachment. Yeah, GPS on a glorified Game Boy. I just figured out what GPS was about 3 weeks ago. Granted, it is optional, but I'd be willing to bet that there is something extra inside the console that is costing me money to make that attachment work. Now consoles are moving into a new generation. These accessories will not be an optional attachment, but forced onto the consumer. Some of these ideas will be good (the hard drive on the X-Box is a godsend) but unless they have some purpose to enhance the gaming experience, there is no use for them. Now, where is my PS2 horizontal stand?

Mario Golf Advance Tour Game Boy Advance Review

Mario Golf is a wholly underrated sports series. Given life by the Nintendo 64 and later the Game Boy Color, the game managed to draw a cult following and many believe the GBC rendition was more playable. Now Mario Golf has been updated on the Gamecube and Game Boy Advance. Though the Gamecube version has the obvious graphical punch, the gameplay on the portable is arguably more engrossing thanks to a minor RPG mode and tons of extras.

Continue reading "Mario Golf Advance Tour Game Boy Advance Review" »

June 28, 2004

Wonderful WWDC 2004 News

The best news of the day was not all the new features announced in 10.4 "Tiger" and 10.4 "Tiger" Server, it was not the announcement of the 30" HD Cinema Display, but it was the announcement of Maya Unlimited. Its not to say that all the Apple news is not important and cool, its just that having Maya Unlimited will make a heck of a lot more people happy then a new version of the OS, or a new display. Go Alias! Its great to have Maya Unlimited coming to the Mac soon!

Summer Classes Going Well

It has been a long two weeks, a very long two weeks. I survived the last week of Geology 100, created a video for DIgital Video Production, and have started a piece of artwork for Digital Painting, all in a two week period. *sigh*

I had some take home homework to finish, a paper to write (I got a 95%) and take a final exam (I got a 78%) all for Geology 100. I passed Geology 100 with a final grade of 82.85% !!!

I cannot explain in mere words how happy I am, and what kind of weight has been lifted off of my back, so to speak. I can't remember if I have ever got a 83% on an academic class, much less a general education requirement class. Geology 100 was one of those classes I failed in the past, one of the reasons I dropped off the face of academia 3 years ago.

Now the cat is out of the bag, I can actually pass these classes and get better then a D in them. Next up is History 151: World Civilizations, yet another class I have received an F in years ago.

This history class is going to be a lot of work! Not only do I have the text book to read, but I have another book to read, "The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason." You can read the reviews at Amazon, it has mixed reviews, but most are positive.

This book is thick, and by that I mean "thick." I need to write a review of this book, it is worth 25% of our grade. So I have a lot of reading to do. It sounds like an interesting book, that always helps, but like I said, its a thick read, not an easy read.

So this explains my lack of updates to my blog as of late, and for that matter pertains to the near future as well. But I wanted to write about my great news about my Geology class. If it was not for these art classes I would be going insane. More about the art classes later.

Predator 2 DVD Review

It's amazing how some movies become popular. In the case of Predator 2, it all came down to a brief glimpse of the title creature's trophy room. In it, sci-fi fans will see the skull of the "Alien" creature hoisted up as a prize. This single brief scene started off a comic, multiple video games, and a soon-to-be-released feature film. Hopefully this new film can resurrect the Predator franchise from the hole it dug itself into with this film. Predator 2 picks up in 1997 Los Angeles during a brutal gang war. Jamaican drug lords have overrun the city and the police are hopeless. In the center of the action is Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) who tries to dig deeper into the investigation when one of his partners is slaughtered ruthlessly. Instead, the government takes over the proceedings but a resilient Harrigan pushes on to discover that the gangs are not the only killers in town. Predator 2 is littered with problems. First up is the simply awful acting from nearly everyone on the cast. Bill Paxton is especially disappointing and Danny Glover not only puts on a poor performance, but the aging star is difficult to swallow as a fast paced action star. As if things aren't bad enough, Morton Downey Jr. gets a role and anyone who remembers him will certainly know why he doesn't fit in. There is very little explanation for the Predator's existence. It simply seems to be. A brief segment explains what it can accomplish, but this minor moment is a disappointment. The creature design by Stan Winston is admirable as are most of the special effects (for their age), but the cheap looking dreadlocks on the creature seem to be included only so they can wrap around the creature's face when he quickly turns around (which happens a lot). However, almost all of the disappointment comes from the potential this film had. Seeing the bounty hunting alien reek havoc in downtown L.A. is, in theory, a creature-feature fan's dream. The movie keeps the monster hidden for most of the film, a stupid move for a sequel when the vast majority of the audience knows what it looks like. The only real saving graces are some nice (if sometimes illogical) gore effects and a great sequence on a subway train. (** out of *****) Surprisingly, Predator 2 has received a wonderful audio and visual treatment from Fox. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, this is a crisp, clean print, especially the daytime sequences that can easily rival a HDTV broadcast. Scratches are almost completely absent and the black levels are solid throughout. Some grain will creep its way into the transfer, but everything is acceptable considering the age of the film. (****) Likewise, the newly remixed 5.1 Surround track is great. Though the film pre-dates the advent of the format, this mix is quite aggressive at times, especially the Alan Silvestri soundtrack. Though lacking any major punch in the LFE channel, rest assured the rest of the speakers in your set-up will get a workout. (****) Surprisingly, two featurettes have been included on the disc, though they are flat an uninteresting. The first featurette runs for 5:42 and is a basic promotional look at the actor's characters and some very brief behind the scenes footage. The second feature, "Creating the Ultimate Predator," runs at a brisk 3:41 and looks at a few of the creatures weapons and even recycles some of the clips from the first feature. The theatrical trailer has been included, though it is oddly in 2.35:1 widescreen, lopping off part of the print. (**) Predator 2 is simply a disappointment on every level. Had any of the actors put in a worthwhile performance, this might have been a tolerable film. As it is, this is one better left to the die-hard fans who are likely frothing at the mouth waiting for the upcoming entry into this series.

Downgrading Time Warner Cable

G4 + TechTV does not equal a good cable TV station, we have gone over this fact many times, in many places. I am also not using my DVR as much as I used too. This is because Meancode Media business has picked up, and I am going back to school. So I am downgrading all of it. I am getting rid of all the tiers, the DVR and even getting rid of the digital cable. What is left is channels 2 through 77 which leaves me with what is important - ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic. :) I also get CNN, TNT, Comedy Central, USA, A&E, History Channel, Discovery, etc, etc. Not to mention ABC, NBC, and CBS. All I watch are the ESPN channels though. I do not have to buy any super duper tier to get ESPN either, nice. I am saving $9 by not having digital cable (and since I am giving up all the movie channels I had, digital cable is not doing anything but putting a pretty GUI on the TV to select stations). In all I am saving $79 a month! Since I had the movie channels I was getting a deal on Road Runner, so the price of internet went up $5. I will now be paying $46 and some change. That is a heck of a lot lighter bill to pay each month. And since I am going back to school, and not working as much, I really don't need to be throwing my money away like that. This is all fine and good to think about, but to actually get to a human being at Time Warner, then explain to them what you do not want any more, that is another thing all together. Going from Digital Cable to a DVR box? Sure thing, right away sir. You want TechTV? Let me flip a switch and now you can watch that. But now I want to get rid of all this crap. Getting to the option to talk to a human being when calling Time Warner Cable is hard enough, but they make you select the category you fall into. Think "To talk to a human being to change your service please press 99." That was after 6 other menus. They do not have 'change' in their vernacular. They want me to take my DVR into the office on Main Street. I am then informed to check my bill from when they put in my DVR, they charged me $15 to bring it to me, when I could have avoided that charge by just taking my digital box to the Main Street office and swapping that for the DVR. Brilliant. This guy kept going on and on about what I needed to do, that they could not take off the movie channels et. al. until I took the DVR to the Main Street office. Total bull shit. After a fair bit of bitching this guy sends me to this very helpful woman in customer service, the place I needed to be in the first place. A technician will be out Wednesday to take care of everything. The way they treat their customers does not sunrise me one bit. It should. Because it is sad that I am not surprised. Customer Service all over the spectrum should not treat everyone like they are dumber then dirt. It makes the customer irritated when they are being talked to like they are dumb. For one I am a geek, and I used to work at a TV repair shop, I know how to connect and disconnect cable. It does not take a lot of effort to tell over the phone if you are talking to a novice or not. I do this all the time dealing with phone based tech. support myself. If I can deduce this stuff, the person on the other end can do the same thing. It is very simple - you explain more if you need to. That being said the second person I talked to was very helpful, polite, and conversational while she was making all the needed changes to my account that were needed to drop a ton of tiers and movie packages and deals and switching this and that around. So for that, I happy to be a Time Warner customer. As of Wednesday I will be getting high speed cable internet and basic cable TV for $46 a month. That makes me happy. Since G4TechTV and The Screen Savers have gone south so much in the last few months, I am not going to miss them at all. That show was such high quality. It is a shame what happened to TSS.

June 30, 2004

The use of "CE" and "BCE" to identify dates

CE stands for "Common Era." It is a new term that is experiencing increased usage and is eventually expected to replace AD... BCE stands for "Before the common era." It is expected to replace BC, which means "Before Christ..." Source: religioustolerance.org I had to go googling because my history book uses B.C.E and B.C. all over the place. I have never seen this, of course the last time I looked at a history book was my senior year of high school. I figured BCE = BC and thus CE had to equal AD, but I am so used to BC and AD for dates that I have to make a conscious effort when I see 40,000 B.C.E, for example. or 1200 C.E. If I read 1200 AD, it would be instantaneous, and I could move on in the reading and know exactly what time I was reading about. My mind gets hard wired for things like that. Thats just the way our mind works. Just like, for example, I was taught in school that you put 2 spaces after a period (that ended a sentence). Then all of a sudden it became one space. I have gotten used to this new syntax, but for a while I had to concisely think about it every time I typed a paper in college. Further Readings: Why space-space is a no-no

Blazing Saddles 30th Anniversary DVD Review

Mel Brooks is a comic genius and that is an undisputable fact. This fact is made even stronger by Blazing Saddles, the 6th all-time greatest comedy according to the AFI. Granted it just wasn't Mel Brooks, but his ability to get past the hand of the censors was the key to this films success then and it still is today. This 30th Anniversary DVD preserves this absolute classic in brilliant form and tosses in some unique extras as well. The small town of Rock Ridge is in trouble. Seems that quicksand has prevented a railroad to be built as planned and the only way the project can continue is straight through the quite western town. The citizens will obviously not be happy with their town being demolished so the "assistant to the governor" Heddy...err...Hedley Lamaar (Harvey Korman), gets an idea to send in a new sheriff that will drive the citizens away. Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) earns the trust of the not-so accepting town and develops a plan to turn the tide on the rather unintelligent town-destroyers. Blazing Saddles is a film that doesn't limit itself to the Wild West. No, Saddles takes off into the Warner Brothers lot across various sets, a food court, and finally to a theater which is premiering the film. Simply put, the movie is too much of a classic to contain itself to its source material. It's a wacky, crazy, incoherent, and downright stupid film for nearly the entire running time. This is exactly why the movie is still a classic to this day. The entire cast is perfect, including Mel Brooks in various roles himself. Cleavon Little is flawless as the only real intelligent person in town and Gene Wilder is unforgettable as the Waco Kid. Even Alex Karris, a NFL player, is priceless as the hulking Mongol. Of course, not giving credit to Madeline Kahn as Lillie Von Setup in an Academy Award nominated performance would be a crime. People have blasted the film as racist and disgusting, but calling the film either of these misnomers is completely missing the point. Yes, certain words are spoken that make it seem racially motivated, but if you actually take the time to think about it, the film is actually a parody of racism and its idiocy. Should you not view the film for this reason, you are truly missing one of the greatest American comedies of all time and Mel Brooks' finest achievement. Now excuse me while I get some schnitzengruben . (***** out *****) Blazing Saddles has been restored for this anniversary and compared to the previous edition of the film on DVD, this new release is a small miracle. Though a few sequences have some minor film grain and small scratches are still noticeable, this new 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is the best this film could possibly look. The colors have been brought out to almost obscene levels and digging deep for compression problems will prove useless. Even the nighttime sequences hold together with solid black levels and barely any grain. (****) The new 5.1 surround mix was certainly something fans of the film were looking forward to when this disc was announced. Sadly, the campfire sequence that had so much potential never utilizes the format as it should. Neither does the rest of the film. There is some minor usage of the positional audio in the front speakers, but only the soundtrack makes its way into the rears occasionally. Regardless of the action sequences, the new mix brings with it crystal clear dialogue and your bound to hear something new that you have never heard before no matter how many times you have seen it. (***) To celebrate the occasion, Warner has supplied us with a fine special edition with some nice extras. Mel Brooks gives us a commentary track, but this is the same one that was included on the original release. He'll spout off some facts that even die-hard followers may not know, but it only lasts for about a hour. Next are some deleted and alternate scenes which feature some of the edited TV sequences which are used to pad the running time since so much of the film is cut when shown on network TV. In total, the scenes run for about ten minutes. Next up is a decent documentary entitled "Back in the Saddle," which interviews some of the surviving cast members. The focus is mostly on Brooks and the writers, but Gene Wilder and Harvey Korman get some time as well. The documentary is padded with nearly all of the deleted scenes mentioned above and some of the comments are redundant after you listen to the commentary, but it's great to see some of the stars of this classic today. Madeline Kahn gets a short segment from the show "Intimate Portrait" that runs four minutes and it talks a bit about her classic performance. Warner wasn't done yet and dug real deep for the TV pilot of "Black Bart," a proposed spin-off from the film after its success. Starring a young Louis Gosett Jr. as Bart, it featured various little known actors trying to replicate the characters from the film. Without the ability to let it all out due to the standards of cable TV, this is 25 minutes best spent elsewhere. Still, credit must be given for not only including this oddity but finding it in remarkable condition. There are times when this looks better than the film itself. Lastly, you can view the films original trailer. (****) Should you own the original release of this film on DVD, this is a more than worthy upgrade. The bland, dry print of old is ancient history and the extra features alone are worth the bargain basement price most stores are selling it for. Kudos for Warner for their fine job not only on the restoration of the video, but giving the movie a nice special edition that is worthy enough for any true fans DVD collection.

Gorgo DVD Review

Eugene Lourie is probably best known for his 1953 monster-on-the-loose epic "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," and epic of not only the genre, but 1950 movies as well. Eugene was brought back to the genre with Gorgo, an outstanding Technicolor epic that stands as one of the best giant monster movies ever made. Sadly, every DVD version is pitiful in quality, but if you're going to get in on the format, this VCI version is the way to go. A volcanic explosion releases a 60+ foot beast that captures the eye of a few circus owners who immediately put it on display. It's a huge success of course and its owners couldn't be much happier. Sadly for them, mom also broke out from that explosion and would prefer to take back custody on her kin. This begins a rampage of epic proportions as mom tramples London searching desperately for her property. Gorgo is an undeniable classic. The old "guy in a suit" may draw laughs from those accustomed to the even more obvious CGI, but no one can discount the superb miniature work here. Numerous landmarks are toppled in the final rampage, all crumbling realistically under mamma Gorgo's huge hands. The movie does have a few odd subplots that go absolutely nowhere and the child actor is beyond annoying, but you're going to watch this movie for one reason. In that, it's largely successful. (**** out of *****) Gorgo is presented in widescreen for the first time ever on home video. This is the most abysmal non-public domain disc I've ever seen. The print is so dark that actors are completely obscured by the lack of light, large chunks of compression artifacts never seem to disappear, scratches can't be counted, and the film grain is the worst I've ever encountered in a color film. This movie should look a lot better than it does and it's about time it gets restored. (* ) Likewise, the sound is equally horrific. Gorgo's memorable roar is lost in a muffled mess of screams and buildings crumbling. There is a layer of static over the entire presentation that sounds like your listening to the movie on a 45 year old radio broadcast. This is hardly how Dolby Digital Mono should be used, and I'd be surprised if it was. This has VHS quality written all over it. (*) Surprisingly, VCI did include an interesting look at Gorgo through a 10-minute documentary. It's entirely narrated, but covers Lourie's career and goes over his start with the "The Beast." There is more information here in a measly 10 minutes on the production than has ever been available before. There is a nice picture gallery with various posters and still shots and of course the usual trailer. The menus get special mention with a CG Gorgo towering over a buildings with the various segments featured on them. Getting anywhere takes about 15 seconds thanks to the included animation when switching menus, but these can be fast-forwarded. (***) Be warned that there are countless other discs on the market featuring Gorgo. Most have it double billed with another movie that has been in public domain for years. As far as I know, Gorgo is not public domain and should not be on these bargain basement discs. Avoid those and get this release. It may not be much better, but the few extras put it a step above.

Miracle DVD Review

Disney has really made a stand with their sports films. Remember the Titans was a huge hit for the studio, not to mention a great sports movie. Miracle continues the trend of superior sports films from the studio, packing in some amazing photography and a Kurt Russell performance that tops anything he's ever done before. Miracle recounts the classic story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. Assembled from various colleges and minor league teams, Herb Brooks (Russell) molds the team to utter perfection, pushing them to their absolute limits. Up against them is a Soviet team considered to be unbeatable. The young United States team pulls everything together for one final deciding game against their rivals, which would take them to the gold medal game. It's incredible to think that none of the actual players in this movie are actors. All of them were tested as hockey players first and it absolutely shows during the action sequences. It doesn't even affect the story segments either. All of these unknowns do a simply amazing job even though the focus is on Russell, whom as I said before, is just perfect as Herb Brooks. Of course, this is far from a perfect movie. The sports clichÈ's are here in full force. Team dissension, training vignettes, the ignored sports wife, constant attention to the clock during games, and the coach who baffles others by his practice sessions. The other issue is the obvious outcome, which means no matter how great the tension or build up is, you know what's going to happen. However, this one is saved by the greatest sports movie photography ever, using angles that would be simply impossible just a few years ago. The documentary feel used throughout is a great touch as well. Also, all the clichÈ's used over the years in this genre probably come from this true story anyway. It's all forgivable and becomes a great experience that the entire family will enjoy. (**** out of *****) Miracle is available in separate 2.35:1 widescreen and full screen editions. Both discs contain the same features. Picture quality here is occasionally shaky, but the hockey sequences are some of the best looking moments on the format. Grain is an issue throughout, especially in darker scenes. There's a brief moment with Kurt Russell on a bus that is just ghastly. But, much like the movie, the actual hockey sequences save it. (****) Sound options include English and French 5.1 surround. This is a dry track for the most part, but (guess what?) is saved by the hockey scenes. Players skate from speaker to speaker, all through the sound field. The puck is passed about, always in the proper speaker. Oddly, the crowd is absent from the rears for the most part, a real missed opportunity. Also, no matter how hard someone gets hit; the bass is extremely limited, making this track severely disappointing. (***) This 2-disc set is pretty packed, though the "4 hours of special features" on the back of the case is a stretch. Disc one houses an audio commentary from director Gavin O'Connor, editor John Gilroy, and photography director Daniel Stoloff. Also on disc 1 is an 18 minute standard making of feature which aired on the Disney Channel. There is some footage from the actual game tossed in, but the rest is filled with the actors praising each other in the usual manner. Disc 2 starts with some great outtakes, running about 5 minutes. Oddly, there are some scenes here that are not actually in the film, but no other deleted scenes are present on the disc. Next up is "From Hockey to Hollywood," a nearly half hour look at how the players/actors were sorted through from the hundreds that tried out for the 20 separate roles on the team. There is an ESPN Roundtable segment that runs about 40 minutes. It features 3 of the real players from the team along with Kurt Russell discussing the movie and the events that inspired it. Coming in next is a 10-minute look at the sound. This one is actually quite interesting as no foley artists were used. Everything was recorded on the ice. Ironically and sadly, there is nothing here on the superb soundtrack. Finally there is a 21-minute segment introduced by the director which features the real Herb Brooks discussing his real life experience to the crew. Its video quality is abysmal, but the director gives an explanation. There is certainly some great stuff here, but the menus are really lacking. It's just one screen with generic text while a clip from the movie plays in the back. Definitely could use some improvement here. However, it's great to see some credit given to the actual people who inspired the story unlike some recent discs like Radio and League of Their Own that obviously didn't think it was necessary. (****) Miracle is a great sports movie and will undoubtedly go down as one of the best of all time. Rarely is so much effort put into filming the actual sports sequences and it all pays off here. Some of the generic clichÈ's will likely turn some people off, but there is still plenty of entertainment value here. If you're worried about the kids, don't worry. The PG rating is really a bit much. If your kid has ever seen a hockey game, you'll have nothing to worry about here. "Rough Sports Action" is hardly a reason for a PG rating. Note: There is an excellent disc that goes right along with this set from HBO entitled "Do You Believe in Miracles?" It's a 60-minute doc that gets the real players and coaches POV's. If you love the movie, you need this separate disc.



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