Avatar 2: Nukes from Space!

Admit it, you thought this too

So after everyone else on the planet has seen it I finally got around to seeing Avatar. What took me so long? Well there was that whole eye surgery thing that made me not want to goto movie theaters for a while. Then by the time I was in a state where I wasn’t constantly dropping drops in my eyes, or worried that the 3D would destroy my vision forever the movie was trapped in that limbo between the time between it’s in first run theaters and cheap theaters. So this week I spent a whopping $1 to see Avatar and $5 on a large soda and a large popcorn and settled down to watch the darn thing.

And you know what it was good and enjoyable. I liked watching it, it was fun, the visuals were stunning, the characters were interesting, and it told a pretty classic story. So all in all the movie was great. A+

But like a lot of other movies sometimes things just really glare out at you if you really start thinking about them. Like why not just drop bombs on the magical Yggdrasil stand-in tree from space? Does the future not have unmanned drones anymore? I mean they have unmanned blue people! Why not just use systems like the avatars to pilot a hordes of killer drones?! When that giant aboriginal horde is gathering, why not just dig in and plant land mines, etc. Maybe evac non-essential personnel off the rock first. That plan seems a lot more sound then, “Fly into the super-Bermuda triangle beneath the giant ambush rocks.” Why fly under the giant ambush rocks? Those things they were piloting are VTOLs! Fly over the bloody ambush rocks and /then/ descend. I’m pretty sure their vehicles with pressurized cockpits can fly higher than a bird can. Heck maybe just drop the bomb from that height to begin with! Why do the Navi’s arrows just bounce off their vehicles in one scene yet in a later at the climax of the film they punch through them like paper. For that matter why is anyone in the future making cockpit glass for military gunships out of glass weaker than today’s bullet-proof glass? And why in the hell wouldn’t the sequel be called, “Avatar 2: Nukes from Space”? You know that nine years later when the survivors get back to earth their response won’t be pretty.

Oh yeah, that’s assuming you ignore the fact that they have the only people dealing with the Navi under such little surveillance that they can so easily go off the reservation. Or why in the heck they can’t just dig a tunnel under the ground to the Unobtanium site and just mine it from there.* (I still can barely believe they really called it Unobtanium.) Nevermind that, there’s got to be other sites of the mineral somewhere on the planet that would be better to mine first before they start sinking their profits into a native extermination campaign.

Anyway, it’s a good movie. Just don’t think about it too hard. Let’s be honest, watching the “sky people” launch cruiser missiles and drones across Pandora for two hours would have been crazy boring.

*And let’s not get started on the fact that they show no scenes of Jake Sulley ever talking to the Navi about the Unobtanium, and if there is, you know, maybe someway they could get the really important space rocks the Navi don’t give a damn about in some way where everyone would be happy. I mean, I just assume magic space rocks came up sometime in montages or backstory, but who knows, maybe he never said a bloody thing.

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Western Digital Green Power: Why No One Else Uses “Idle 3”

Some of you may think I don’t have anything to blog about. Not so, quite the opposite. I have so much that I would like to blog about that I can’t decide what to write about. Where to start? Global Warming? Netbooks? Gaming? Portable Apps? Books? The list just doesn’t seem to shrink. So instead of all that great controversial stuff that you’re probably all waiting for, here’s a tech article about a problem with a device that I’ve had for months now and have only been able to fix. All because some shmuck at Western Digital decided that “Green Power” was an effing sweet slogan.

The year was 2008 (AKA Year Awesome compared to 2009 AKA Year Epic Fail) and it was February, and WD had made their RE2-GP drives. I decided to pick up a 1TB edition of the line. Because that was their newest 1TB drive, and who doesn’t just love being able to say they can store a Terabyte of data. Even though it’s not really a Terabyte because  hard drive makers sing themselves to sleep at night by singing 1 kb = 1000 bytes in stark contrast to the reality that 1kb = 1024 bytes, SI be damned. Anyway to top this off the GP in RE2-GP stands for “Green Power” which was WD’s way of saying the drives turn themselves off. A lot. They like to call this state “idle 3”. And that’s not such a bad idea. That means less wear on the drive, and all the bench marks said things worked well and it got good reviews.

Problem is it seems those benchmarks were treating this thing like any other drive that doesn’t go into idle3 if it’s left alone over 30 seconds. Once the drive starts up, the drive works great. But when the drive is in idle 3 it takes it a second for it to wake up. How long you ask? Long enough for Windows to decide your new drive has a bad block, that’s how long. Forums and product review pages alike were littered with people RMAing these drives because of bad blocks, meanwhile those people were being shouted down by others who didn’t have any problems. The difference between these groups was just how the drive was used. Those with problems were using the drives in a way that the drive would go into idle 3 mode and then give them the errors when they tried to access them.

So when WD finally released a firmware update that keeps their drive from going into idle 3 mode every two seconds do they make an announcement? No, they quietly release an update, bury it on their site, and then include a readme which says things like the following

Some utilities, OS’s, and applications, such as some implementations of Linux, for example, are not optimized for low power storage devices and can cause our drives to wake up at a higher rate than normal.

The number of systems using such applications and utilities is limited and customers can resolve this symptom by optimizing their systems to not wake up the drives unnecessarily every 10-30 seconds or so, thereby gaining substantial power savings and eliminating superfluous activity.

Yeah I guess if you consider the Event Viewer a limited use application then sure, I suppose the issue did affect limited users, as everyone else was too dumb to realize those program errors they were getting were caused by Windows saying “@#$% it” every time it had to wait for the drive to come out of idle 3 and just spat out an error instead of waiting. Needless to say once I installed this firmware all of those bad block errors that occurred only when the drive first attempted to perform a task after being idle, like say when booting up, all magically went away after installing this firmware.  So much for “Green Power”, huh? Guess next time WD wants to unveil some new drive technology they should make sure it works with any operating system on the planet before trying to sell it.

Also, because of this I had to dredge out one of my floppy disks and make a boot disk just to upgrade this firmware. That just annoys me. Those floppy disks are for super-secret emergencies, darnit!

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SecuROM is the Devil

Did they use 1984 as their guide to slogan writing?

Contrary to what some of my readers may be thinking, the above is not an opinion, but actually a fact. A fact that bears repeating. There is in fact a hell, and SecuROM, the prince of lies, lords over all of its many honeycombed layers.

Ok, perhaps that is just a teeny tiny bit of exaggeration, but it’s not too far off the mark. You see all of the various bits and pieces of undocumented software that things like SecuROM and Starforce and things such as Gameguard have installed into my various computers have caused more problems and crashed more software and caused me to format and reinstall my machines more than anything else. Think about that. That’s more than viruses, adware, and spyware. That’s a lot of problems for a “legitimate” business.

I’m just so sick and tired of having my expensive high-priced machine being dicked around with by a company that is scamming game companies by promising protection against piracy, a promise that is as much of a boondoggle as timeshares (Which they don’t call timeshares anymore because we’ve all learned it’s a scam.) How many studies have to come out that show it’s not piracy but bootlegging, something the copy protection cannot stop, that are the cause of loss of sales?

Brad Wardell from Stardock put the whole issue together better than I will here, so I’m not going to go into deep analysis here. What I am going to do is relate one of my recent experiences with SecuROM.

Blood Bowl is a game I enjoy. A lot. I bought it direct from Cyanide because I wanted them to get the most money they could from my purchase. Blood Bowl, I found out after purchasing, uses SecuROM. Makes me wish I waited for Steam’s version, but who knows maybe that has some similar DRM  on it too. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

So I installed it on my PC, and shortly after my PC crashes and I have to format and reinstall. Blood Bowl only allows 3 activations. But I’m not too worried because, hey, SecuROM says that I didn’t lose my activation because it is the same PC. I mean, yeah SecuROM is the devil, but devils are lawful evil right? So according to SecuROM I have two activations left. So then I install Blood Bowl on my laptop. No problems, and this means I should have one activation left. So I go to install it on my netbook and BAM!,  failed to activate. What? I only have two copies of the game installed! Where’s did my third activation go?

Well if you haven’t guessed what the problem is I’ll illuminate it for you. SecuROM’s support FAQ is a pack of lies. My first install, the one before the format and reinstall, devoured my first activation and sent it to the farthest reaches of time and space, never to be seen from again despite what the FAQ says. The software will gleefully steal your activations whenever it feels like it and give nothing back in return. The FAQ topic is there to fool consumers into thinking SecuROM isn’t going to bend them over a table and screw them, because if they did they’d avoid anything with SecuROM on it like the plague it is.

But should this be any sort of surprise from a piece of software whose slogan is “Get MAXIMUM Control”. I mean great fishes and little gods. Get MAXIMUM control? What kind of a slogan is that? Only sick people want MAXIMUM control over other people. Also, if this were my slogan, I wouldn’t put it on the internet. I mean if you’re going to go through all the trouble to lie to people about your software you shouldn’t undo the whole damn thing by leaving your fascist slogan out there for everyone to see.

It just all reminds me why I don’t buy things from Sony, the owners of SecuROM, in general. I own one Sony product in out of all the many electronics I own. And I don’t even like that. Every time I’ve bought from Sony I’ve found that LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and Altec Lansing have made superior products for less. Oh, and the DRM, lock you in, you use only our stuff philosophy bleeds over into everything they make. (IE: Don’t buy their ebook reader ever) And in the realm of DRM, all Sony and SecuROM have manged to do is make me a lifetime customer of Stardock, and a lesser extent Valve. Both great companies on their own, but SecuROM and Starforce have made what should be standard business practices of decency and customer service and selling a product that isn’t design to self-destruct into a major virtue.

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Eureka has More Red Shirts than a JCPenny

The Eureka Deathrow -er Cast.

The Eureka Death Row-er cast.

Eureka has got to be one of my favorite shows on TV. It’s not a crappy law show, it’s not another law and order rip off, and it’s not another boring medical drama. It’s something different, and it has a nice light-hearted tone to it with plenty of interesting character development going on between the episodes, but something’s been bothering me for a while now. For being a mostly comedic and light hearted show people sure do die a lot in that show. I mean they don’t get through a single episode without killing off some random guy, and usually they average about 3-5. And the people that are dying in the show aren’t just these joe-schmoe enlisted guys like some other shows, no these are supposed to scientists who are so amazingly good at what they do they need to be moved to a top-secret Andy Griffith copy town so they can do their super-secret science stuff. And yet it seems they can barely manage to not melt themselves with projects they themselves are uberexperts about. I mean do you think Bill Gates is in deadly peril each day of melting his brain with his super-ultra-alpha copy of Windows 8? But yet the good super scientists of Eureka spend each day proving Darwin correct by melting themselves with super abraxo, drinking cups of magical drowning water, and erasing themselves from existence on a regular basis. What in the world is up with that?

And do you know what makes it so annoying? None of these super geniuses is capable of noticing things like, “Hey the magical super-expanding water is coming out of the dead people, so it’s related!” without the Andy Griffith Sherif, Jack Carter, to point out the bloody obvious to them. Apparently when you become a super genius you lose important survival skills, like not running with scissors, not lighting yourself on fire, and not repeating things you see on TV with “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME” written on it. It’s so bad that one episode they build a robot to replace Jack and the robot is completely unable to compute just how dumb the things these people would try are and needs Jack to walk him through the tide of scientists trying to blow up the earth for shits and giggles. Maybe they think the earth’s core is filled with candy or something like some kind 0f dirty pinata.

Now don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy this show. But the show’s writers are really asking me to swallow a lot of stupid stuff to make the show’s concept work. And I’m ok with that if the ride’s great. And the Eureka ride is great, I just wish they wouldn’t keep super-size my helping of fried disbelief each week.

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