Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

Star Trek [Zero]

I spent two hours on a wonderfully sunny Saturday afternoon to see Star Trek and it was worth every minute/penny. Color me impressed. If you're familiar with the series then you'll probably see several characters you know, just in a younger form:

If you haven't seen the series though then fear not because that's definitely not a pre-requisite. Other than saying that this movie is a pre-quel to the popular old school iteration of the series, there's not much I can say that without spoiling the really fun plot. Having only seen a few episodes of the original series though, I walked out not only pretty impressed and satisfied but I actually wanted to look up old episodes (which are available legally online at Hulu and and others) because it got me really interested in the show's storyline. From talking to my friend who was a fan of the series, I'm not sure how well the plot fits in with the series that succeeds it, but I have a theory that I can't share without spoiling the movie. Anyway, there were several nods to the series to give fans that giddy nerdgasm that you can only get from being in the know on the series.

Every aspect of this movie was really enjoyable. They all came together to make a genuinely fun movie experience. I think almost every actor fit their role very well - especially newcomer Chris Pine as James T Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Sylar) as Spock. By the way, don't look at the IMDB cast list because it has a few spoilers. The plot had a few minor issues, but I didn't find any of them to be dealbreakers. The script was strong, but had a few minor issues (mainly a couple of scenes I didn't think needed to be in there) that I didn't think were very noticeable. Even though it was more than 2 hours long it really didn't feel that long and there was an ample amount of welcome comic relief sprinkled throughout the film. Oh, and the visuals were tasteful and well done. You have to expect a lot of CG in a movie like this, and that's probably the only real downside to the movie. If you're one of those purists who hates seeing CG, then you'll definitely take issue with this.

I highly recommend running to your nearest theater to see this one. I'm actually probably going to pre-order it on Blu-ray, in fact, so that I can watch it again. It's one of those movies where I can't recall all the scenes because there were so many great scenes and they were quite dense. I'd say it's a solid A movie and appropriate for the whole family. There was almost no nudity and no bad language, although the plot may be too complex for some kids.

The Kindle DX

There was a lot of criticism for the Kindle when it came out (both times) for being a bad experience for reading magazines and newspapers, but the DX changes all that. It's a large format (9.7" screen) electronic reader that's really ideal for magazines, newspapers, and textbooks. Additionally, it can show PDFs without having to convert it to the Kindle format, which is because the Kindle 2 screen is simply too small to display PDFs natively without being irritating to browse.

PC World has a great walkthrough of the device showing you everything you could want to know about it. They note that it's still a great travel companion, the navigation joystick is better than before, it has an accelerometer to easily change orientation, and it includes enhanced notation features for textbooks. You can see a lot more about it at its product page (the video tour is pretty neat), but be forewarned that it's not going to be out until later this summer so all you can do is reserve your place in line. It's also pricier at over $400, but I think it has enough features to entice book lovers to give it a shot.

More Microsoft Layoffs

Microsoft promised more layoffs this year and they have, unfortunately, arrived. Approximately 3,000 employees were laid off, but from talking to someone who was laid off in January it sounds like the severance packages are pretty generous and I think many were bright enough to find work elsewhere before their severance runs out. Also, some layoffs are getting re-hired in different parts of the company, and this may be the last of Microsoft's layoffs for the foreseeable future (at least they hope so).

The work on Windows 7 continues though and Gizmodo has a cool little article that's kind of an FAQ for Release Candidate 1 (RC1). It explains things like that it'll work on your computer comfortably through March of next year, the upgrade path is really easy from Vista or the beta, and that the bugs right now seem to be pretty trivial.

ATM and Botnet Scandals

In last week's security news I have two small-time scandals.

The first has probably been going around through people's inboxes (which I think is a bad way to spread security tips, to be honest): having your bank account stolen at an ATM machine. You can see a video here of how a hidden camera over the number pad and an attachment on the card reader can record not only your account number but your PIN. It doesn't appear to be in more than a few places (on the west coast, at that, I believe), but with the Internet spreading an idea like this far and wide, I wouldn't be surprised if it starting popping up in random locations sooner than later so please be on the lookout for it (even at your usual ATM).

Some researchers at UC Santa Barbara hijacked a botnet for 10 days earlier this year to see just how bad they are, and the results were definitely grim. In a single hour the botnet was able to collect 56,000 passwords. Since these passwords were often used at multiple sites, the original hackers were able to steal much more sensitive information from these users, and all via pretty simple crackers designed to break weak passwords. It kind of just shows a common theme in my posts: people have to be responsible when they use their computer online, especially when it comes to their finances. Please, at the least, pick strong passwords and try to rotate them (i.e. change them) at least a couple of times a year.

Quick Stories

I actually don't have much to say about these last stories, but they're still noteworthy:

The MPAA is so backwards that they think teachers should videotape showings of films used for educational purposes rather than rip the DVDs for fair use purposes. Wow. To put together a video explaining how to do this is even worse (almost a slap in the face to teachers).

Trent Reznor made a pretty frustrated post about the Apple iPhone app store and its rejection of an update to the Nine Inch Nails application that allowed you to stream a song that had profanity in it (which you could actually buy through iTunes). I just really liked how straightforward and sensible his arguments were (concise, too).

Vic Gundrota recently left his position at Microsoft as General Manager of Platform Evangelism in promoting their APIs to become Vice President of Engineering at Google. There's a short interview video that's become popular in which he explains that his young daugther's knee-jerk reaction to consult his phone when he didn't know something sparked in him the realization that the personal computer was dying and smartphones were the future. I thought it was a cool epiphany and while I think that personal computers still have a long life ahead of them I agree that smartphones have become more and more pivotal in our everyday lives.

Aleptu has a roundup of some really tricked out keyboards. I'd really like to try the keyless ergonomic keyboard - it sounds pretty interesting (but radical).

Hopefully, data recovery will never be an issue for you. Just in case though, you'll probably want to pay attention to this roundup from Lifehacker of the five best free data recovery applications.

I hope everyone has a great week! If you live in Seattle: sorry, it looks like our week is going to have a pretty rainy start, but we can hope for a beautiful weekend (it looks like it'll be a definitely possibility, and just in time for the cheese festival at Pike Place).

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