Sunday, July 27, 2008

X-Files and My Semi-Glorious Return

I'm back to blogging! I meant to write this post yesterday, but opted for Rock Band instead (sorry). I should be posting at least weekly, but I'll shoot for bi-weekly. I'm still getting adjusted to living in Seattle, and I am a bit homesick, but I am enjoying the scenery out here.

X-Files: I Want to Believe

Full disclosure: I can't remember the last episode of this show that I saw, but it was probably the only one I've seen. This show was on when I was pretty easily scared of stuff in general so I never got into it. I'm sure it was a good show, it just wasn't my cup of tea and now I'm on to bigger and better shows (Burn Notice is currently rocking my socks).

The movie revolves around one big missing persons mystery (an FBI agent) and a psychic, so given the psychic's involvement the FBI have called on Dana Scully to call in Fox Mulder, who requires her to help if he's going to help. They've basically been going on with their own lives (Mulder's being as a recluse) so this is kind of a major reunion for them. The more I think about the story though, the more I have problems with it. I walked out of the theater feeling no better or worse than when I walked in, and the movie seemed pretty good but not amazing.

Let me start out with my issues. They had a psychic helping them and they called in Mulder because they were stuck. Anyone see a problem with that? They have a psychic, which is hard for them to believe naturally, but why does this mean they need to call on Mulder? It seems like he's been estranged by the FBI, so I don't see why they require his help. Even if you're ok with that though, I just never believe the chemistry between Mulder and Scully. Their reunion in the movie seems to have been after a long time and yet they weren't very affected by it. Their love story progression seemed like an after thought they clumsily wove into the movie, which is strange because I had heard in an interview that the movie was supposed to center on them. I also hate that we never connect with the antagonists at all, and the motive involved isn't all that compelling.

I really don't want to believe anymore

I don't know if fans really loved this movie. It seemed to drag on a bit. There wasn't a whole lot of thrill moments or action, and I never really got pulled in. Granted, I had no investment in this series and only went to see this movie in the first place because a friend wanted to, but I figured that it would be good. It could be that I'm dealing with a hangover from The Dark Knight and any movie I see will pale in comparison, but I watched Ratatouille the other night and still managed to enjoy it.

I definitely wouldn't say that the movie is bad though. I think it could've explained things better and tightening itself up a bit on time, but it was still entertaining. I think you should rent it if you're at all intrigued by the series or murder mysteries. It's definitely nothing out of the ordinary though (if you really want a great murder mystery just go rent Mystic River), and there are certainly better movies out there right now (obviously The Dark Knight, but I loved Wall-E and I've seen good reviews for Mamma Mia and Step Brothers). I give this movie a C-, because I can tell that they were trying to reach out to fans rather than people's wallets, but I think that they've probably just run out of ideas. It probably would've benefited from not being released right in the middle of a competitive summer for films.

The Dark Knight's $300m Dash

I counted on Box Office Mojo that The Dark Knight had topped 23 of their charts including biggest opening weekend ever, biggest second weekend ever, and biggest opening day gross. The one everyone is focusing on now though is that it is the fastest movie to hit $300 million (it's already at $315 million domestically, but over $350 million worldwide) with a record of 10 days. The third Pirates of the Caribbean movie had the title before at 16 days, and now people are predicting that The Dark Knight may beat Titanic's $600 million record for biggest total gross. I think that it can probably pull it off since it is past halfway there in its 2nd weekend. By the way, how the Hell did that movie make so much money? It wasn't a bad movie, but I saw it once and never want to see it again because it was so heavy and depressing. Anyway, this movie deserves the massive amount of money they're making. It seriously is a good time to be a nerd when something this phenomenal comes out that literally must seem like to many people, including myself, that it's straight out of their childhood fantasies. (I wasn't that dark as a child, but darkness always intrigued me)

Up-marketing Vista

In case you haven't noticed, Windows Vista has been taking a beating as far as publicity goes ever since its released because it didn't deliver on several of the promises that was made of it early in its development (always a fatal mistake). It took Microsoft far too long, but they're finally gearing up some positive marketing for Vista. They tested the waters by showing a "new OS" to people called Mojave and seeing how they liked it. In the end, it turned out that Mojave was Vista with the "Vista" name stripped from it and people were pretty shocked because most (or all) of them had the impression that Vista sucked. I'm personally glad about this because I'm freaking tired of having to defend my computer: it's a great machine and Vista works very well on it. It is no worse than XP and I admit that it sucks that you need a good computer to run it but if you do then the extra features (including the massively re-vamped search functionality) are pretty cool. The only problem I've had is that my downloading can sometimes impact my computer's overall performance, but I don't think that's necessarily Vista.

That's just one component for their response to Apple's smarmy Mac vs. PC ads. They're not going to do the same thing in reverse to attack Apple, but they're going to stop being such a sleepy giant and try a pro-Vista message. Some have seen the ads and are already excited about it, but they have not yet been made public. For the record: I don't hate Apple or Microsoft, but I do hate Apple taking advantage of its underdog status to continually take low-blows at Microsoft. Their ads are often unfair and prey on stereotypes, which bothers me. I'll admit that they're clever, but they've gone on far too long.

Open Xbox

One more quick piece of Microsoft news: they've decided to open up the 360 platform! That means that you don't have to be a big studio to write your own Xbox 360 game and put it out on Live. Not everyone will be allowed to put their game on Live, but the fact that they're encouraging this is just a massive step in the right direction. I wish that Sony would do the same. It's just going to breed more competition and produce higher quality of games that rely more on just flashy graphics and big budgets to attract attentions.

Yahoo! Music Store Folds

In another giant stab to DRM, Yahoo has closed up shop in the digital music game. They are the second DRM music service to go down this year (MSN was first), but the difference is that in a couple of months their key servers are going offline! What does that mean? The what DRM music often works is that they're locked by a key (in the case of subscription based services, these keys usually need to be renewed monthly) and you need these keys to be able to open these tracks. If you transfer them to another computer, this computer asks the server for the appropriate keys using your login information and it obliges, but in Yahoo's case you can't move your songs to another computer so if your computer dies then so does your music. Lame, huh? That's why you should use Amazon MP3: I still personally thing that it's the best digital music around and something like this would never happen to its customers. I wonder if enough people used the service for this to impact Yahoo's image? I kind of hope so, because it's a pretty raw deal (MSN's key servers will only be up until 2011, so they're not much better).

Comments and CS Concepts

I just wanted to briefly mention a couple of articles that I liked. The first one is concise and talks about why comments in code are appropriate and why. It's a great read, even if you do use comments in your code.

The other one is a list of the top 10 concepts that all software engineers should know. With the exception maybe of layering, I think that your success in the IT industry is doomed without an understanding of these ideas and a willingness to flesh them out throughout your career.

Streaming Torrents

EZTV, a huge group for trafficking torrents, has started putting up content that can be streamed using Swarmplayer, which streams content using bittorrent technology to distribute it. This is an excellent idea and I think could seriously revolutionize how we stream multimedia online, if it's harnessed in legal uses. This would really cut a lot of overhead out of putting things like TV shows online because a media company would no longer need to keep them on a centralized server and pay for the bandwidth to deliver it but rather could just seed a show well (i.e. have a few powerful machines dedicated to serving up the shows) and let everyone watching the show upload the show to others as they watch it. Couldn't someone compete with Hulu if they harnessed this technology? I imagine that you could put out HD-quality content with this sort of infrastructure. Only time will tell (assuming that this technology does get picked up by someone big).


I have a couple more articles that I want to talk about but they're just one-liners:

Legendary hacker Kevin Mitnick was part of a panel recently at a hacking convention and told some great stories (including a live prank). He's probably the father of social engineering attacks (tricking you into giving up sensitive information or making yourself vulnerable).

CNN has a pretty good article on how to prepare yourself for the transition to digital TV. If you're on cable or satellite, then you're ok. Otherwise, read that article.

Rock Band

I just wanted to conclude by proclaiming that Rock Band is an incredible video game. As expensive as my 80 GB PS3 was, I'm really glad I got it. I'm excited to start buying Blu-ray movies (especially Iron Man and The Dark Knight), Metal Gear Solid 4 is beautiful, the Playstation Network store is just how things should've been on the PS2, and Rock Band is by far one of the coolest games I've played.

I never thought I'd like it that much because I never got into Guitar Hero, but it's definitely worth checking out. The closest any game has come to replicating the kind of co-operative play you get from this game is probably Wii Sports, but this game tops that. You really do feel like you're part of a band because when you play hard song it's rewarding and you start patting each other on the back and stuff. Also impressives are the nuances: the presentation is flawless. They had my band name (Elton and the Fun King Band) on a tour bus, on CD album covers, and in neon in the World Tour mode! Plus, the load screens are customized with your band! Any musicians will really be impressed with this game (or non-musicians), because I think that it handles guitar a lot better, as well.

*deep breath* Ok, enough of that. I'm going to go read Salem's Lot for a bit. Have a great week, everyone!

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