Monday, March 29, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Since I was unable to post last week I stuffed in a few articles from the week before last. So if a couple of the things seem old, that's because they are. You can scroll through them if you're past them, but I marked them because I still wanted to talk about them. Even though CTIA was last week, I'd like to kick things off with a bit of a nice digression...

Hot Tub Time Machine Review

I haven't reviewed a movie in a while because I haven't seen a movie on/before opening weekend in quite a while. Today I did spend my afternoon cooking and subsequently watching Hot Tub Time Machine. I walked into this movie knowing nothing other than what was in the trailers and commercials, which never really enticed me. The movie looked like it would just be bad rather than hilariously bad, but my friends wanted to go and I wasn't actually opposed to see it and make fun of it if nothing else. To my great surprise, this film actually worked.

I don't think I have to say anything about the plot that the title doesn't tell you already. It's three guy friends and the nephew of one of them who go to a run down ski resort for a weekend and end their first night in a hot tub that turns out to also be a time machine. Up to this point in the movie, I was a bit worried because there were only a couple of decent jokes and and a few lame ones, but I'm glad it wasn't long into the movie until they got in that hot tub. To put it concisely, the casting for this movie was absolutely perfect. I don't know if any other cast could've possible pulled this off. It's almost like these parts were written for these guys. I'll admit that at times I was little thrown off by John Cusack's character because it didn't seem like John Cusack, but other than that the dialogue worked. Rob Corddry definitely stole the show. I hope this movie ends up really igniting a good career in comedy movies for him because it shows that he can really nail the delivery.

The movie ends in a rather predictable way and you can see a lot of the lessons to be learned and such coming a mile away. It's a pretty formulaic comedy. Still, the movie never takes itself too seriously and I think that's what's important. It doesn't try to tug at your heart strings because it's not that kind of comedy - it accepts that it's a down and dirty comedy and holds its chin high in the face of some jokes that you have to just shake your head at. The delivery of the dialogue in this film overall makes it hilarious and makes up for shortcomings in plot and other areas. Though it's probably a C movie, I easily give it a B+ purely for how much I enjoyed the ride. If you can get past a couple of gross jokes and a couple of really raunchy jokes, I highly recommend that you go check this movie out. Go see it in a theater for the experience of laughing it out with a lot of strangers. It's worth it.

HTC Supersonic

If you don't think that's extremely sexy, then you're not as dorky as me. Don't worry, you'll get there. It takes practice. Anyway, that is the HTC Supersonic, which is being marketed in America as the HTC EVO 4G. It got a lot of buzz last week as being the Android phone to have, like the Droid has been up til now (you can argue for the Nexus One but let's face it, few people who aren't tech savvy are buying their cell phone from Google sight unseen). This phone may have the best specs I've ever seen on a smartphone - the internals of this thing are truly a work of art. Keep in mind that for all the speed of the iPhone 3GS, it's actually not super beefed up on hardware like the EVO 4G is. I'm almost positive this phone is more powerful than the computer we had in my household about 11 years ago, and we only bought computers that were pretty advanced since my brother and I are such huge nerds. Aside from a 1GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM, it has an 8 MP camera (that's probably going a little far on the MPs there) capable of 720p video, HDMI out, and may be the first CDMA phone to support simultaneous voice and data.

The videos of this thing are really impressive. It looks to have pretty advanced camera controls and it looks like it's very capable of processing HD video, which is quite a feat in and of itself. Supporting 4G not only means having the hardware to process 4G signal, but having the processing bandwidth to handle the added network bandwidth, and it looks like they're hoping this phone can do that.

Of course, not everyone is as impressed with 4G as I am. In the context of the HTC EVO 4G and my own personal experiences with 4G, I'm referring only to the Sprint 4G network, by the way. There are several other protocols vying to be the de facto 4G protocol and that article rightfully is frustrated with this. Additionally, power consumption may be an issue for 4G. My knowledge of the underlying technology is limited but it could definitely kill its usefulness in cell phones if it ends up being much worse than for 3G signal. Still, I don't think 4G is dead in the water. 3G clearly has its limits and we're not too far off from a point where we need a wireless data network that scales better for our increased data consumption rates.

If you want to see more phones from CTIA, PC Mag has a great round up of the most prominent devices that were shown off. I don't have time to talk about all of them, but I found the Docomo phone with the removable keyboard to be the most curious. Didn't we learn from the days of the stylus pen that easily removable parts are also easily losable?

Palm Survival Guide

In the wake of the news of yet another exciting Android handset, Palm is clearly getting left in the dust. It really is sad because I love my Pre. It has some shortcomings, but I'm so used to it now that I'd honestly prefer to stay on it than switch gears to Android because it's still an enjoyable user experience overall. At this point though, it's hard to see Palm coming out of this without another webOS device. With another iPhone speculated to be coming out this summer (the timeline just fits, not sure if anything was leaked to suggest what a new iPhone would have), Palm almost has to come out with another phone this summer to survive another year, and Palm is a fighter so I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled it off. Hopefully, they're learning from the Pre and announcing their next device closer to its release date instead of 6 months in advance.

There are other lessons to be learned though and Engadget put together a handy survival guide for Palm. Ultimately, Palm had a great platform and a hotly anticipated device and just executed things all wrong. It was almost amateurish when you look back on it - surprising for a company that invented what a smartphone should truly be back in 2004 with the Treo 650. The biggest mistake they made was with their marketing campaign. I'm not sure if it's too late to fix this or not, but none of their ads gives you any indication of how simple and intuitive the UI is, or all the great apps available on it now. I saw an ad at the gym the other day that cut more to that, but they essentially need to reboot their marketing. Of course, they also had several timing problems including the release date, when the SDK was available, and the gap between launching on Sprint and launching on Verizon, which should've happened way before the Droid instead of in the wake of Droid's strong marketing campaign. The only gripe I disagree with is cutting the Pixi. I actually know a few people with a Pixi who really love it. The Centro was not a silly device and neither is the Pixi: it's a nice lightweight smartphone for people who only need a couple of of core smartphone features and like the candy bar form factor.

I'm really impressed by what some developers have been able to do with webOS, including the traditional port of Duke Nukem. So while a lot of people have already counted Palm out, my heart is still rooting for them. As Pre Central has shown on numerous occasions, there's a pretty strong community of users and developers who really like webOS and don't want to see it die.

Windows Phone 7 Will Be Locked Down

This is kind of old news now, but it's important enough that it bears repeating in case you already did hear about it: Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Apple and fostering an app store for Windows Phone 7 that is controlled and moderated by Microsoft. What's interesting about their business model here is that they're 2 years late to the party. They basically want to right the wrongs of Apple, and I just don't know if it's going to work. They're going to charge $100 a year for developers to be in their "Marketplace" and they will have set guidelines for what is allowed in and what isn't. I can see the argument that they want to maintain a nice clean platform like Apple has, but it's too late to launch a mobile platform that isn't open, in my opinion. Any developers paying an annual fee to use a platform is going to give their money to Apple. Of course, the big guys (like EA) will pay, but not the little guys, in my opinion.

There is some good news though: Netflix was prototyped for Windows Phone 7. All you need is a device with HDMI out and some popcorn and you have a mobile party.

8 Layers of Security

I have two quick pieces of hacking news for you. The first thing is that a Russian hacker has been accused of manipulating the price of several Nasdaq stocks using several hacked Scottrade accounts. I'm not quite clear on the details, but definitely one of the more interesting evils of this age of electronic stock trading.

The other piece of news is that a Frenchman was arrested by French police for breaking into several Twitter and Google accounts, include tat of the official Obama twitter feed. He got into the accounts with a technique that is more popular nowadays: using the "forgot password" prompt and correctly guessing the answer to the security question. Though he didn't profit from it, the act of hacking a database is a two-year jail sentence in France.

Aside from picking a good security question though for your online accounts, you should also build up these 8 layers of security for your computer and data. I agree with all the tips and would even suggest adding an additional, more human-based, layer of Firefox extensions like WOT and NoScript that kill the entry point for a lot of attacks triggered from clicking a wrong link.


Ok, this post has gone on long enough and I'm now pretty exhausted. Time for the lightning round.

Google has integrated Flickr and Picasa photos in Google Maps Street View.

As a response to the recession, Verizon is pausing its FiOS expansion. Their delivery of fiber to the home has really put a damper on a lot of cable companies and this may actually improve the balance sheets of folks like Comcast that no longer have to compete with Verizon in more and more markets.

I was impressed by this list of YouTube tips and hacks, like how to download videos and linking to the middle of videos. It's a really comprehensive list that probably covers everything you've ever wanted with YouTube.

If I'm not mistaken, Samsung is the first company to officially launch a series of 3-D television sets with release dates and pricing (which start at $2,599 for a 46-inch panel). Of course, the jury is still out on the viability of 3-D taking off in the home.

These are some great Firefox add-ons for saving money, and here's one more add-on for good measure to kill those pesky memory leaks.

Have a great Holy Week, everyone!

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