Posts archived in IT

Reserved Seating at Greater Union Cinemas, Glendale

Reserved seating is, in my mind, meant for places where there’s either a need for people to sit in specific seats. Or where most, or all of the capacity of the place is being occupied. Think planes, coaches, or sports stadiums.

So, when I went to the local Greater Union Cinemas, I was surprised when I was asked where I wanted to sit when buying my ticket. Given I was already running 15 minutes late to the film (10 of that due to the slow process of actually waiting in line for the 6 people infront to get served), I just said “Wherever”, not knowing that they were actually serious about this seating business.

I got into the theatre, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, and sat at one of the first seats I could find. They wern’t great seats (off to the side) – but hey, Donkey, Shrek, and Fiona were already on screen. I did note that the cinema was 3/4 empty – and that there were plenty of seats infront, behind ,and beside me.

About another 10-ish minutes afterwards, I saw someone walk past me (given I was sitting in the second-from-the-end seat), and then walk back out.
A few moments later, theres a manager beside me “Sir, you’re sitting in someone elses seat”. I was a bit stunned/confused, given the large number of empty seats around me – and replied something like “Uhh, there’s an empty row infront and behind me”. But the Manager persisted “Sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to move”. Given I was missing the movie, I couldn’t be bothered arguing over it and got up and moved the next row down.

Heck, if the mother and daughter who wanted to sit there had been disabled in any way, or I was sitting in specially assigned seats, or I was just in the way of them getting to the rest of the group they were with, I wouldn’t have had any issue moving. But, no, there wasn’t any reason I could see – it was just a pedantic manager and (presumably) mother.

Windows Vista’s Scheduled Tasks & Windows Update
I really like Windows Vista. There’s a whole bunch of small things that add up to make it a real pleasure to use.

There are two things, however that do drive me up the wall.

The recommended option in Windows Update is for it to download and install items for you automatically. It’s a good idea too, after all – having most users be in charge of which critical updates get installed isn’t usually the best way to keep a PC secured and up-to-date.

The thing that really annoys the crap out of me, is that it will automatically reboot your computer, regardless of what you had open or what it was doing. So, if you were, say, downloading a large file, or processing a report – your computer reboots, and unless the software is designed to resume from it’s last point – you’ll have lost all that effort. This is especially annoying if you’re trying to download/process some data in an after-hours/off-peak timeperiod. Because Windows doesn’t return you to the point at which it rebooted (technically infeasable without security issues) – the software can’t resume from it’s last point.

The only work around I’ve found is to disable Windows Update from installing updates automatically.

Scheduled Tasks
Another thing that’s kinda cool about Windows Vista (and possibly XP too, however I never experienced it) – is that Schedule Tasks can wake the computer from a sleep, hibernate or even shutdown mode – as long as the computer still has power.

The most visible example of this is Windows Media Centre. It will wake the computer automatically to record TV Shows, which is good – however it also wakes the computer to update the TV guide. At 3am. Some people happen to have cases which in certain circumstances can vibrate, seting up a resonance in the desk which amplifies the sound of the vibrating case. So, everyone in the house, at 3am, knows the computer is downloading TV guides. Resulting in the power cord getting yanked out.

A more, err, sociable setting would be to wake it during the day, if the guide hadn’t been updated in the last 4 days or so.

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Sunshine

(Oops, forgot to post this one a while back, it’s been sitting in my Drafts for ages)

Whilst I was in Sydney last weekend a month or so ago, I went to see Sunshine (Official Site, IMDB, Trailer), with Mitch (my uncle). Unfortunately for us, about 20 minutes before the end of the film the projector broke down so I didn’t get to see the end (until the next night, anyway).

Sunshine has got a few fairly well known actors – Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), and Chris Evans (One of the Fantastic Four), plus local Rose Byrne. Who do a good job, despite the flaws written into the script (more on that later).

The premise of SUNSHINE,” explains producer Andrew Macdonald, “is that in 50 years from now the Sun is dying. It is no longer providing the energy and the light that mankind needs to survive on Earth. The entire global community pools its resources to send a mission into space to deliver a bomb to reignite the part of the Sun that is failing.  Our story concerns the eight astronauts and scientists who lead this mission.  On their journey towards the Sun the crew stumble upon the ship that was sent on the same mission seven years previously, the Icarus I, drifting in space.  From this point on things start to go very wrong and it’s about how the crew react under the enormous pressure of their endeavor to save mankind.

The movie is pretty good as far as SciFi goes. It took a turn, which I wasn’t expecting (but I won’t give it away) and turns into more of a thriller, set in space. 

When ABC’s At The Movies reviewed the movie, Margaret Pomeranz had a discussion with the director Danny Boyle, who said words to the effect that Sci-Fi Fans are very demanding, and expect a lot from movies & TV Shows.  

So, I thought it was pretty ironic that they screwed up a few of the more major things:

  1. They had gravity throughout the ship, perpendicular to that of the direction of the sun (despite their proximity to the Sun)
  2. There was no apparent gravity whilst in vacuum, but the moment air is returned (even when there’s no power to the ship) – so did the gravity.
  3. Apparently people freeze solid within moments of being placed in vacuum, in the shadow of the sun.

Those three completely broke my suspension of disbelief. I can believe they had gravity generators of some sort – but they wouldn’t operate without power.  There’s another thing about gravity that struck me as kinda strange at the very end of the movie too – but I won’t reveal that, either.

All in all – it’s a decent flick, if you’re either not conscious of the physics involved (even on a basic level), or just don’t care that much about the (lack of) reality behind it.  Go check it out.

(Two rants in one day!)

I’d heard about this movie – Thank You For Smoking. It got great reviews, family members loved it – so, I ordered it from a well-known, legitimate Australian retailer.

Today, I get it in the mail – and decide to watch it.  The first thing I’m presented with is this intro about how it’s a bad thing to download movies. What the…?

…and you can’t skip it. So you have to watch the entire damn thing. Every time you put it in the drive too.

Then, a friendly little “Don’t copy this DVD” message.

Then, if that wern’t bad enough – I get “Coming Soon” crap. WTF? Did I by mistake get a rental DVD? Nope - this is a genuine retail DVD.  Hey, I can skip it, c’mon – bring on the movie already!

Oh, wait – not yet. Another promo.

Finally – the Menu!

 

Look, Fox, I paid for this movie. I didn’t steal it from a shop, nor did I download it from the ‘net.

Look, see?  Now stop treating me like I’m a thief.  

*grumble*

Gizmodo isasking you to Boycott the RIAA for the whole of March. That means no buying music (CDs, or DRM’ed content I assume) from the major labels: Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal, and Sony BMG.

I’d like to extend that internationally to the RIAA’s equivilents in other countries. For example, ARIA in Australia.

Instead, support labels like Intertia-Music who sell high quality non-DRMed music on a competitive (read: identical or cheaper) price-scale to CDs.
As for price – they’re identical to the iTunes Australia store – AUD$1.69 per track, and whole albums for less usually.

I was listening to the first backstage.bbc.co.uk podcast* today, they talk about Digital Rights Management, and it’s related subjects – specifically as it applies to the BBC’s situation as a public broadcaster in the UK and the changing methods of media consumption.  

There’s a wide range of viewpoints expressed, and it’s really a good listen. They don’t go into a lot of technical detail, but there is a lot of discussion of a very broad range of really new technologies – so you might need to have a web browser handy.

There’s two things I got out of this:
First of all, I’d really love to work for the BBC’s R&D Labs (either that, or Google). Michael Sparks (I think) mentions a number of very cool sounding things that they’ve been.. err… researching and developing, and it sounds like it could be a fantastic opportunity to put all those crazy ideas I’ve had to the test.

Secondly, the podcast reveals that there’s a very complex legal environment around digital distribution of BBC content, particularly as it relates to access control and things like that.

An example is given where The BBC tried to find just one piece of work in the massive BBC archives which they owned all the rights to.  It turns out that they had to actually examine the contracts and manner of employment for all the people involved in the production of that one musical recording – not just the musicians, but the conductor, sound engineers, editors, etc.

There is also discussion about how external content-creators are reluctant, or unwilling to set a specific price for online distribution in many cases.

Miles Metcalfe makes this wonderful comment towards the end (~49:29):

“What content creators are arguing – and I think it’s not a very nice thing to argue – and what they’re saying is: Look, our customers are bastards, they’re thieving monkeys, and we don’t like them. We want them to buy the stuff, and we won’t trust them not to be anything else.”

I think it fairly well sums up what the various media companies’ attitudes in regards to DVDs, Games and Music.

* Folks, you need a shorter name – y’know: “BBC Backstage Podcast”.

Edit: and, of course – I hit Publish in Live Writer, instead of Save Draft. 

I meant to add a bit more on how the BBC is setting an excellent example which our (Australia’s) own ABC would be well advised to emulate.  That discussion however, quickly leads to the sad state of broadband in Australia…  (Not so much speed and reach/coverage, so much as data costs). Which I’ll leave right alone (for now).

See: Top Gear, The Chaser.

Next? “We go into a muslim area in Iraq and say how much we love roast pork!”

 

Go watch the video – very cool!

DEMO.com D’FUSION® – Total Immersion

Remember that TV Show, KITT? Well, PvP have finally revealed the truth. Yes, KITT is a Cylon.

Battlestar Galactica rocks, oh, and btw – someone needs to hook me up with, err, this issue.  And… Which chick? Grace Park (Sharon/Eight), Tricia Helfer (Six), or Lucy Lawless (D’Anna Biers/Three)

One of my favorite TV Shows is set to get an RPG in 2007. Apparently it’ll be “using the same game system as the best-selling and award-winning Serenity Role Playing Game“. 

If it hasn’t clicked yet, they mean an old-school Role Playing Game.

I guess I’ll have to wait for the open-source project “Beyond the Red Line” to get going, though that’ll be a space sim, rather than an RPG.

This probably comes as no suprise to you at all, but I’m a Sci-Fi fan.

Really, the entire genre is something that I really enjoy. From the classics from Isaac Asimov and George Orwell, through William Gibson (his cyber-punk/bridge-series is great) and Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon is my all-time favorite book). 

A few years back, someone (I forget who) directed me to a little site called “Sennadar” – which hosted a ramshackle web forum (which has since been upgraded), where a fellow by the name of James Galloway would release his stories.  I’m not talking about short stories here – I’m talking large novel-length stories.  The kind you’d expect from a professional author. It’s not just one, either. James is now writing the last book in a series of eight full-length books.

James’s stories have steadily been getting better and better, and his latest work in progress (outside of the Sennadar universe) is called “Subjugation“. If you’ve got some time, and can read books on a PC Screen, I suggest you check it out.  Sure, it could use the work of an editor or an english teacher - but for someone who only recieves messages of encouragement and thanks as payment – it’s fantastic.

In the TV/Film space, I havn’t had much exposure to the real “classics” (call it leading a sheltered life, if you will). When I was younger I used to obsessively rent out Star Trek TNG, DS9 and Voyager episodes. At one point, two neighbours were also just as obsessed (Hi Cath, Drew, Matt) – so I used to spend hours watching these videos. 

More recently I’ve enjoyed the Stargate series (both Atlantis and the original SG1). 
I still really love my Firefly - tragicly cut down in it’s prime by the evil Fox network – but I’ve taken to Battlestar Galactica with somewhat of a passion.

If you’re watching a TV series, as it airs – you’re slowed down to getting one episode per week.  For some reason, networks like to “shake things up a bit” and put several week long breaks in the middle of all the good shows. This is because of the way the US TV Season goes – they run the good stuff during the “Fall/Winter and early spring” – and this puts Christmas in the middle of the season. 

This brings me to my core theme tonight – Cliffhangers. For some reason, TV Shows put cliffhangers on the end of their seasons, and the mid-season breaks.  This means that for several months of the year, you’re left with a feeling like you’re missing something (yeah, the conclusion – smartass). A perfect example of this, from Battlestar Galactica would be Season 2 – Resurrection Ship, Part I  and Season 3 – The Eye of Jupiter

For me, I spend most of the last episode of a season (if not every damn week) looking at the “Time Left” counter going “please oh please oh please don’t stop yet”. Followed inevitably by the “Oh no, not yet you bastards!”.

Going back to the Subjugation story I mentioned above, for a moment. As James writes a chapter, he releases it on the forums. Sometimes it can be a week between chapters, but more often it’s a month or two, depending upon study, work and life demands.  I’ve noticed this same behavior has been happening more and more with me, as it does with the really good sci-fi.  James can be downright bastardly (such as with the latest chapter of Subjugation), and he’s getting better at leaving his audience clammoring for the next chapter to be finished.

All in all – I just wish I had a time machine (or some way to extract the entire finished TV show/book from the writer/author)

 

(PS: If you’re wondering why the sudden slack-off in posting rate over the last few days – it’s nothing major. I’m just trying to figure out how to write about something that happened the other day.)