The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for May, 2009

When Presentation is Everything – Coraline Needs 3D!

Posted by Deliverator on 27th May 2009

I recently learned that Coraline was going to be released this month and I hoped for a true 3d release. Unfortunately, the only announced options were either conventional 2d or Anaglyphic 3D (those cheesy red/blue glasses that moviegoers rightfully consigned to history’s trash heap back in the 1950’s). I saw Coraline in 3D in a theater using the excellent RealD 3D projection system. I felt the presentation really added something to the experience and can’t imagine watching Coraline in anything other than true 3d. It may be a while till such an excellent 3d system as RealD becomes practical for home users with budgets less than several hundred thousand dollars, but there are plenty of excellent 3d home theater options available for under 5 grand.

Here is a listing of 3d projector options at stereo3d.com. The DepthQ series of projectors from Infocus for instance supports high framerates and can be found for as little as $2300 and uses commonly available active LCD shutter glasses to achieve its effect.

Samsung has a line of DLP based 3D capable HDTV sets that all support 3D via shutter glasses starting at as little as $1000.

There are numerous 3D LCD monitors (some even sold through big box retailers like Frys) capable of displaying true 3d video, some without even needing glasses.

I have a Headplay Personal Cinema Display, which is available for around $400, and can display 3d content from several different input sources.

In short, the technology for quality home 3d viewing is out there and available at modest cost. There are a ton of 3d movies coming out this year in theaters including Pixar’s UP and James Cameron’s much anticipated Avatar. 3D has already shown it can help make movies on the front end without increasing production costs greatly, but movies have lately made a large percentage of their revenues on the post theater DVD market and I doubt nearly as many people will want to purchase watered down 2d version of movies they first saw in 3d. While not a lot of home theaters are currently 3d equipped, the cost to do so is fairly minimal and the additional costs of releasing a frame sequential 3d DVD alongside the 2d and Anaglyphic releases are likely minimal as well. It costs the studios little to grow the market by releasing frame sequential titles and the only way they are ever going to solve this chicken and the egg problem is by doing so.

Posted in General, Media, Movies, Photography, Rants and Raves, Windows CE | No Comments »

Extreme Disappointment Regarding Nokia N900

Posted by Deliverator on 26th May 2009

Let me state first off that I’ve owned and been an active, everyday user of all three of Nokia’s Maemo-based Internet Tablets (Nokia 770, N800 and N810). A couple days ago, Mobilecrunch.com released substantial amounts of leaked info on the next generation Nokia N900. The basic information provided has since been verified by sources associated with Nokia on the Internet Tablet Talk forums who have proven spot on accurate through several past product release cycles.

MobileCrunch wouldn’t release photos it had of the device due to apparent watermarking, but asserted the following image as an accurate representation of the device.


Is this the Nokia N900???

CELLPASSION on the other hand had no compunction about releasing a photo of what it claims is the N900. The photo is low resolution, but basically matches MobileCrunch’s depiction.

Is this the Nokia N900?

The biggest shocker about the N900 is that it will in fact be a phone. Previous internet tablets had bluetooth connectivity for data connectivity through a phone and several VOIP platforms were supported officially and through 3rd party installable software, but this will be the first Nokia Internet Tablet with direct cellular connectivity. The device supports quad band GSM and 3 band 3g data. T-mobile was mentioned as a release partner and it is quite possible that this device will be provider locked and possibly subsidized, at least initially. If this device is truly T-mobile only and not independently purchasable unsubsidized and unlocked I will be extremely disappointed. I’ve purchased several Nokia phones due to them being one of the few sellers of high quality unlocked, carrier scourge free GSM phones.

The good:

-OMAP3430 500/600 Mhz processor will be amongst the fastest on market. The Palm Pre is the only other phone I know of at the moment using this fast of a processor.
-5 megapixel camera with dual LED flash and sliding lens cover. Can capture high resolution video and save in h.264 format.
-built in GPS and accelerometer. The GPS built into the n810 and N95 were absolutely terrible, with extremely long lock times and poor reception. Hopefully Nokia has learned from this and included a decent chipset from MTK or Sirf and the GPS isn’t just thrown in to fulfill another marketing bullet point.
-32 GB of flash with room for even more expansion via micro-sdhc
-256 MB of ram (up from 128 MB in the N810) with ability to set up to a 768 MB page file (up from 256 MB on N810). I had hoped for a little more headroom, especially since a lot of the added frameworks in Maemo 5 are going to eat up some of this working memory.
-This will be the first Linux based phone from a major manufacturer with nearly the full compliment of Linux libraries and frameworks built in. Maemo is now on its 5th major revision and is a mature, stable platform. With a huge complement of open source apps available plus the newly announced Ovi app store, this could be the best (for the consumer) combination of both open and commercial application development. The closed “apple knows best” nature of the Iphone and the crappy hardware thus far released for the android platform have made both unattractive to me. Finally a decent alternative.

The bad:

-The n810 had a 4.1″ 800*480 screen which was already at the limits of my squint abilities. With the N900, Nokia is making the screen .6″ smaller while keeping the resolution the same. While this makes the device a little more pocketable, it make it much less useable.
-Nokia has done away with the 4 way D-Pad entirely, several other hard buttons and apparently the stylus as well (although the last is somewhat uncertain at this point). The Maemo 5 interface has gone off the deep end towards oversized buttons, fonts and other UI elements. It is obvious that they want you to use your big fat greesy fingers for everything. I absolutely hate this for a wide variety of reasons. The ability to interact with programs in a variety of ways was a big selling point of the Maemo UI and device controls in previous versions. From what I have seen of Maemo 5, I am VERY doubtful that Nokia is going to be able to implement as fluid a user experience as the iPhone with an exclusively finger oriented Maemo UI. Nokia is doing a really good job of eliminating their strong points and trying to fight the iPhone on its own turf.
-Nokia has replaced the 4 row keyboard of the N810 with an inferior 3 row one which places a lot of common characters on second functions. I am seeing MASSIVE numbers of negative comments on this one. WTF were they thinking?
-No mention of Bluetooth functionality at all. Previous Nokia tablets could tether with a phone for connectivity, use of Bluetooth keyboards, headsets, etc. Have they eliminated this functionality in their phone inclusive tablet because with Linux as the basis it would be too easy to write a bluetooth tethering application to share out the device’s data plan?
-The N900 is reported to be somewhere in the vicinity of 185 grams. This is substantially heavier than either the Palm Pre or Iphone 3g which weigh in at ~130 grams or even the G1 Android phone which weighs in at ~160g. For all that weight, extra radios and processing power, the N900 has a fairly low battery capacity of ~1300mah. The G1 garnered a LOT of complaints about its poor battery life and I can’t imagine a similar debacle would be good for Nokia’s reputation or the future of such a device.
-A lot of similarities between this device and the N97 which is being released in a couple of weeks in the US. Having two such similar devices is likely going to undercut the market for both.

I really want a Maemo Linux based phone to succeed in the market, but find a lot of the design decisions apparent in the N900 to be actively repulsive. I can’t see this device being nearly as useful to me throughout the day as my current two pocket solution. The compromises in overall functionality of the N900 vs a two pocket solution are just too much. I know without needing to even set my paws on the device that the smaller screen size, bad keyboard, button and UI decisions are just too much of a deal breaker for me. Even in this economy, I would have gladly up-ended my wallet for a straight forward refresh of the N810 with more ram, storage, faster processor and integrated (carrier agnostic) cellular functions, but as it is, I just can’t see this device as proposed fitting into how I want to live my life.

I went ahead and ordered a new Mugen extended life N810 battery. I’ll try and get a few more years of use out of my N810 and if Nokia hasn’t impressed me by then, I will probably move to something like the Viliv S5 for my mobile internet needs.

Posted in General, Linux, Operating Systems, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Terminator Salvation Suckage – Let Me Count The Ways

Posted by Deliverator on 22nd May 2009

I wish I could travel back in time like Kyle Reese, cause then I could travel back in time to 4 hours ago and prevent myself from paying $10 to see this dreck. I thought the series couldn’t get much worse after Terminator 3, but of course I was wrong.

Wrongness:

– Bryce Dallas Howard looked far too “made up” in virtually every scene. I’m sure battlefield doctors in the post apocalyptic wasteland of the future have a lot of time to arrange their hair, tweeze their eyebrows and apply lots of makeup. Even Moon Bloodgood, whose look in the film was comparatively natural looked far too fresh faced.

-Apparently, 40 foot tall robots that shake the earth with every step can none-the-less sneak up on a 7-11 gas station in the middle of nowhere without being seen or making a sound.

-Did we really need the 40 foot tall transforminator (as it has already been branded online) in the first place? Shoots motorcycles? Come on! I’ll take the slow unstoppable rumble of the skull crushing treads of the hunter killer tanks from the first movie to this transformer wannabee anyday.

– Really obvious product placement (i.e. long camera cuts of 7-11 gas station making sure the logo is nicely framed and focused). Oh, surprise of surprises Chrysler proves itself fiscally and morally bankrupt after using taxpayer money to do in movie advertising.

– Pointless, overblown chase scenes

– Moon Bloodgood’s character very gratuitously bares her torso to inspect a wound. She later snuggles up close to Marcus, but its okay as she is just doing it to “share his body heat.”

– Moon Bloodgood’s character lights a big bonfire yet Kyle Reese previously warned against going out at night as the hunter-seeker vehicles see in infra-red and humans are easily seen and make for easy prey at night.

– Excruciatingly bad dialog throughout such as when the Marcus character tells his passengers to “hold on” and then follows that up with another “hold on” as his next witty line. John Connor makes a bunch of speeches over the radio whose sole point seems to be to provide clip material for the trailer.

– Apparently Skynet, which operates a large array of giant radio dishes and communicates worldwide via radio with its robot minions just hasn’t been able to seem to find John Connors oh so secret large, obvious resistance airbase (from which he broadcasts his inspirational message via AM/FM radio) or a resistance submarine which coordinates the resistance via radio. Yet at the end of the film, Skynet blows the submarine out of the water by homing in on a radio signal.

– Skynet’s defenses have thus far proven impenetrable, and they even point that out a bunch of times in different ways, but a bunch of Vietnam era helicopters are able to swoop in at the end of the movie and rescue everyone.

– Skynet’s legion of radio controlled robots apparently need Apple-ish white computer displays and tactile interfaces to interact with door mechanisms and the like. John Connor can hack the weakly godlike entity that is skynet by plugging in one of his several EMP proof Sony computers (yet more product placement) and type the word “overide”

– Marcus has a chip in the back of his head to control him, but is able to casually reach in and grab it in full view of Skynet without Skynet even attempting to invoke it. Said chip is apparently external to his metal skull, but interfaced deeply into his nervous system. Seems an obvious design defect to me. Ripping it out doesn’t seem to leave Marcus any the worse for wear.

– Just how many times can John Connor be thrown into metal industrial equipment (leaving dents) and over railings by the unsurprising cameo CG reincarnation of Arnold without dying? How many ribs can a human being break? Part of the scariness of the Terminators was that they were chromed death. If they managed to catch up to you and get a hand on you, you were dead, period. John Connor going 10 rounds with one of the things just saps all the scariness out of the things.

– How many times can JC survive a helicopter crash in one movie? I lost count.

– Lots and lots of other wrongness. Too much for me to express. I’m going to go puke now.

I sure hope Terminator Salvation proves to be forgettable with time. If it is remembered for nothing else, it at least brought us the now infamous Christian Bale Rant.

Posted in Media, Movies, Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Compelling Hardware, Crappy Service

Posted by Deliverator on 20th May 2009

After 2 years and a couple hundred accidental falls to the floor, my Nokia 95 is on its last legs. It has been remarkably resistant to my abuse, but a recent fall killed the volume buttons. This hasn’t been a huge issue, as I use OggPlay for music playback and it controls volume via the 4 way hat, and in most other applications and during phone calls I can adjust the volume with my Jabra BT3030 headset. Unfortunately, another fall also seems to have caused damage to the power receptacle and the phone frequently locks up when I insert the charging adapter. Yet another fall broke a locking tab off the battery door and now the door is prone to falling open and spilling the battery out. My extended length Mugen battery now has a tiny dent in its side. Given the tendency for Lithium-Ion batteries to explode when damaged and the totality of other issues, I think it is high time for a new phone.

Some thoughts on possible replacements:

Palm Pre: There is a lot to like about the phone, but I am not big of CDMA devices (or rather Sprint’s increasingly abhorrent service plans) and the lack of a memory expansion slot is a deal breaker for me.

Iphone 3g: A lot of my original criticisms still hold for the second generation Iphone. ATT’s 3g service has oft been noted for being spotty in coverage and easily overwhelmed. There have been frequent complaints of hoards of Iphone users at conventions and other concentration points basically overwhelming ATT’s network. My biggest issue with the Iphone is its extremely closed nature and Apple frequently exercising its control over what applications can be used on the device and micromanagement of application features. The recent launch of the Slingplayer client without 3g support is one recent example. The inability to run applications as background tasks is a major deal breaker as well.

Nokia N97: Extremely high resolution screen, tons of memory built in plus micro SDHC slot, 5 megapixel camera, slideout qwerty keyboard and worldwide GSM support. Downsides = WOULD COST A FREAKING FORTUNE – $600-700! Nokia’s firmware support on US model phones has been extremely lacking compared to EU models. The US has simply not been a major consideration for Nokia.

Android Phone: I really like Google’s Android platform. It is much more open than Apple’s ecosystem. Unfortunately not many handsets are available yet and the ones that are cheap plastic PoS. I’ve had a fair amount of hands on time with the t-mobile G1 and did not come away impressed. It might pay to wait for a higher quality Android handset to be released.

Use my Nokia N810 Internet Tablet and VOIP: I would need to keep my Cradlepoint cellular to wifi router running all day for this to work, which would require a large external battery pack. My N810 also isn’t making it through the day on its end of life original battery. I could pick up a Mugen extended life battery for my N810. With an extended battery on the Cradlepoint and N810, this would be workable, but it would be two large jacket pocket solution to be sure. Novatel is making a much smaller wifi to EVDO router called the MiFI which will soon be available on both Sprint and Verizon. My guess is the firmware on these provider locked MiFi devices will be significantly inferior to the excellent provider neutral Cradlepoint firmware and the battery only lasts ~4 hours. The MiFi is impressively small and I can see a lot of people liking it for that fact alone. Unfortunately, the data plans on which it is available are more abhorrent than usual. Not only do these things have the typical crappy 5 GB cap, but they have now instituted a ridiculous 5 cents per MB overage charge. That is $51.2/GB which can add up quite quickly. I am sure they are quite proactive at notifying you when you approach that limit, too. Fall asleep with Slingplayer running and wake up to a $1000 phone bill. Sprint in particular seems to be offering less and less value with every passing year. Coupling exceedingly low GB caps with extortionate overage charges might net Sprint a one time cash hijacking, but will likely result in the loss of a customer to say nothing of the opportunity cost of the customer that won’t sign up in the first place. There are more than a few reasons why Sprint is hemorrhaging customers at rate that is measured in millions/year at a time where virtually all the other major players are increasing their customer base, but poor data plan terms, extremely poor customer service and limited handset selection are certainly high on the list.

I think there could be a huge upside to one of the major carriers overbuilding their networks for a change and actually offering superior service and fair terms of use instead of trying to back their customers into a corner and mugging them.

Posted in General, Portable Computing/Gadgets, Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Boys and their toys

Posted by Deliverator on 19th May 2009

My dad and uncle bought a rather large fishing boat recently. It is a Bayliner Trophy and is a bunch of feet long. It barely fits in the driveway. They are currently overhauling it and getting it ready for ocean fishing. I am helping them install a GPS / Fishfinder from Lowrance. I will probably be invited on a Halibut fishing trip in the near future for my troubles, which I consider a somewhat dubious reward given that I am prone to seasickness.

l hope my dad enjoys his new hobby-horse long-term. My own proclivities run towards items which are small and easily disposed of when I tire of them. It is not without reason that there is a phrase stating that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it.

Posted in General | No Comments »

Siff Schedule 2009

Posted by Deliverator on 8th May 2009

I got to the SIFF box office today and got my tickets for SIFF 2009. I will be seeing a record (for me) 23 movies as part of SIFF. I will probably also see the new Terminator movie right before my festival starts, making for one movie packed month. I am posting my schedule below for the benefit of any of my friends who would like to join me for films. You can find a synopsis and sometimes a trailer for each of the films and can purchase tickets online, at one of the festival box offices or at the theater on the day of screening. Additionally, I have a couple free tickets available for The Yes Men Fix the World, We Live in Public, Moon and Final Arrangements, so get in touch with me if you want one of the freebies.

My Siff Schedule 2009

Posted in General, Media, Movies | 1 Comment »

Keeping the public informed on Swine Flu

Posted by Deliverator on 8th May 2009

King County has a website to help the public track the spread of the swine flu virus in the county and provide prevention and care information. Unfortunately, it appears that someone editing the webpage transposed some recent figures in a way which downplays the number of cases in the county. I’ve seen the daily numbers cited in secondary media, so listing the proper numbers is important. Here is the message I sent them:

As of 8:22pm on May 8th your Swine Flu information page at:
http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/preparedness/pandemicflu/swineflu.aspx

lists 10 cases as confirmed and 56 probable. This appears to be the inverse of your detailed report at:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/preparedness/pandemicflu/%7e/media/health/publichealth/documents/pandemicflu/H1N1Cases090508.ashx

which reports 56 confirmed and 10 probable. The later seems to be the correct number based on the rising number of test confirmed cases listed on your page on prior days.

Posted in Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Evercase E0528i Small Form Factor Case

Posted by Deliverator on 6th May 2009

I shifted my Mini-ITX Intel D945GCLF2 Dual Core Atmo 333 motherboard into a new case yesterday. I’ve had a hard time finding a small form factor case for this board, as a lot of such cases have inadequate power supplies for the task. I made note of this in a prior post. The smallest case I could previously find locally to work with this dual core board was easily twice as large as the Travla C138 case which I had used with a succession of Via Mini-ITX boards. I like to keep the core of my workstation area at hands reach for the sake of efficiency and simultaneously keep as much bench space free of clutter as a workspace for projects. Having an overly large case for this secondary desktop was failing on both fronts.

I was in Computerstop yesterday and they now stock a tiny Mini-ITX case for $67 with a power supply which will power this board. Impressively, the power supply is sufficient to power a middle of the range Core 2. The case is made by a company called Evercase and is similar to model #e0258i. The case is similar in volume to the lilliputian Travla C138 although somewhat squatter with a larger footprint. I actually prefer this, as it provides enough of a footprint to place my LCD stand on top of it. The case comes with 4 front panel USB connectors and an audio panel. Like the Travla, you have to use a laptop optical drive and 2.5″ hard drive. My only problem with this case is that the faceplate is a bit tight around the optical drive bezel and wasn’t letting it open without assistance. I trimmed a little bit of plastic off the optical drive’s tray bezel using a file, but am still having trouble getting it to open reliably under its own power. I will try trimming a little more off to see if that provides adequate clearance. If you are building out a system around this case, I would recommend purchasing a slot loading optical drive to avoid this problem.

Posted in General, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »