Rogue One Review

(Spoilers ahead, stop reading if you haven’t seen the movie.)

I think Rogue One is half of an unexpectedly great movie.

The first half, with all the planet-hopping, introduction of characters with absolutely no attention to backstory or sense (I didn’t understand Forrest Whittaker’s character motivation at all), and corny rah-rah-rebellion speechifying, is a muddled, confusing mess.

But the second half of the movie, once they assault the beach planet with the shield, suddenly becomes a great war movie. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t “The Longest Day” or “Bridge Over The River Kwai” or “The Guns of Navarone” or “The Battle of Midway” or “Tora, Tora, Tora” in space, but that’s what we got.

Better yet, the battle sequences (both on the ground and in space) were effectively planned and executed, the action was swift and breathtaking, and yet it was easy to follow what was happening — unlike the action in any Michael Bay movie, or the unaffecting and unmemorable CGI chaos that was the climax of The Avengers.
Yet for all the grand sweep and scale of the battle sequences, they felt like they had real stakes and personal pathos. The most surprising thing for a big budget tentpole franchise movie was that it had an actual ending, and all the characters actually die in compelling and affecting ways. That’s something I’ve never seen in any Marvel Cinematic Universe film — no one can really die, because we know they have to live so that they can star in their own franchise films, and of course we know they have to get back together for the Avengers Secret Civil Wars Multiverse Crisis event.

So yes, I loved the war movie half of Rogue One. Then I saw the last 10 minutes, in which Darth Vader sheds 30 years of marketing to make him cute and cuddly, and uses his Force powers to just decimate a bunch of Rebel soldiers and show us exactly why a Sith Lord should be feared and dreaded. And Rogue One takes us right to the beginning of Episode IV, compete with CGI Leia. That was deeply satisfying. It was good stuff, almost enough to make me forget how bad the first half was.

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Bye-bye, Comcast

Dear Comcast,

Here’s why I am leaving you.

Last Saturday, I started moving from old house to new house. I called Comcast customer service to schedule a transfer of service from old house to new house. I was given a time window of 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. By 5:30 pm on Saturday, after waiting at my new house since 3:00 pm, your local technician/installer had not showed. I called Comcast: “Oh, sorry, he’s a little delayed but will be there shortly.”

Long story short, technician never showed up on Saturday. Called Comcast again: “Oh, sorry, someone from Dispatch will contact you by 7:00 pm to reschedule.”

Nobody from Comcast called me to reschedule. I had to call Comcast early Sunday to reschedule. Spoke to nice rep named Joanne: “Oh, sorry, but we don’t do installs on Sunday. Soonest would be Monday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.”

Me: “No can do, I’ll be at work. My wife can be home by around 3:30 pm.

Joanne: “Okay, I’ll put in a note that even though the time window is 1:00 to 5:00 pm, the tech should come around after 3:30 pm.”

Me: “Thanks.”

Monday, my phone rings at 1:30 pm: “Hello, this Comcast, the technician is at your house waiting for you.”

Me (incredulous): “But I specifically told Comcast yesterday that no one can be at my house until 3:30 pm.”

Rep from local Comcast installer: “Dunno.”

Me: “Fine, I’ll leave work just to meet the tech at my house.”

Local installer: “Okay, the tech says that he will wait for you.”

Me, driving like a madman to meet the tech at my house. Get there, nobody is there. Me, calling local installer’s office: “Your tech isn’t here waiting for me.”

Local installer: “Oh, he just went to get some lunch, he’ll be back in 20-30 minutes.”

Me: “So…you call me, tell me the tech is at my house two hours earlier than he was supposed to be there, I leave work just to meet the tech at my house, whereupon I find that he’s just left my house to grab some lunch.”

Me, furious: “Please write this down in your notes so that Comcast can read them. Comcast, I am done with you. You have screwed up this supposedly simple installation at every step of the way, in every way imaginable. I will have nothing more to do with you. Today, I cancel my Comcast account forever.”

Me, now calling AT&T U-Verse.

And that’s why I’m leaving you, Comcast.

Unhappily yours,
Martin

Jolicloud Alpha 2c on EeePC 700

jolicloud desktop
jolicloud desktop

Jolicloud OS for Netbooks (currently in private alpha) invitation arrived two weeks after I signed up for it.

I was amazed at how well it supports my Asus EeePC 700 out of the box. Normally when I install an alternative OS on my EeePC, I have to tweak the OS extensively post-install to force it to recognize my wireless card, to support onscreen brightness and volume indicators, processor throttling, etc. Jolicloud, however, supports all these things on the EeePC 700 directly after installation; especially impressive considering Jolicloud supports many other Netbooks aside from the EeePC.

Jolicloud is built upon Ubuntu Linux, and as you can see from the image above, its interface resembles Ubuntu Netbook Remix. However, the installed size is smaller than a default Ubuntu installation, taking up just 2.5 gigs of my EeePC’s 4GB SSD. Jolicloud is a stripped-down Ubuntu install, de-emphasizing local applications and skewing heavily toward web-based apps that live in the cloud. So, for instance, Open Office isn’t installed by default; sure, you’re free to install it afterward from Jolicloud, but you can also just as easily choose Zoho or Google Docs. Jolicloud treats local and cloud-based apps equally, blurring any distinction between them. The message seemsto be that with Jolicloud, it really doesn’t matter where your apps reside; what matters is what you can do with them.

I’ve tried many different OSes on my EeePC: the default Xandros Linux (very poor), EeeXubuntu (a custom version 0f Ubuntu 7.10, hasn’t been updated in a while), Eeebuntu (very nice EeePC-specific version of Ubuntu, constantly updated) and CrunchEee (an EeePC-centric version of CrunchBang Linux, a lightweight Ubuntu variant using the Openbox window manager). My previous longtime favorite has been CrunchBang for its simplicity and economy, although the learning curve is rather steep for the average user. Jolicloud beats them all, in my opinion. Even as an alpha release, it is a more complete and seamless experience than anything else I’ve ever run on my EeePC.

Netbooks pre-installed with Linux reportedly suffer four times higher return rates than Windows XP. Jolicloud has the potential to reverse that trend because of some key innovations. First, it makes browsing for, adding, and removing apps drop-dead easy, thanks to the Jolicloud “My Applications.” This is a big ease-of-use improvement over Ubuntu’s Synaptic Package Manager, which can be a barrier to non-technical users.

Second, Jolicloud integrates very nicely and easily with the social web. It’s the first Netbook OS that rivals my iPhone in casual easy browsing of Facebook or posting Twitter status updates.

Third, it just works, as I explained earlier with its out-of-box support for all of my EeePC’s esoteric hardware and features. It runs all web apps full-screen in Prism, a simple browser without the normal browser interface.

Overall, Jolicloud is impressively polished for an alpha release. I can’t wait for future releases.

Transformers VS. Webkinz, Interrupts Anna Nicole Smith Coverage on TMZ

The following is an experiment based on this idea. Also, if you like MadLibs then you’ll probably get a kick out of it.

I was walking, talking on my iPhone, when I suddenly saw a Transformer getting hot and heavy with a Webkinz. I immediately took a picture of the scene with my iPhone and posted it to my MySpace and Facebook pages. I wasn’t alone; TMZ had apparently taken a break from its all-Anna Nicole Smith, all-the-time coverage to cover the event for the Club Penguin opening gala. After about a minute, I tuned out and flipped my iPhone over to YouTube to catch the latest Heroes spoilers.

The Play

I’m trying to write a play about the meaning of life, but the meaning keeps changing on me, and I can never seem to finish it.

 

Characters drift in and out without warning, and sometimes events happen for no apparent reason. At times it seems absurd, while at other times events seem to happen for some higher purpose.

 

It started strong, showed promise in the middle, but I seem to be struggling toward the ending. I don’t think it will end today.

 

At least, I hope not.

Life With Eee PC, Day Five: Settling In

Today I watched Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 1 episode 8 over my lunch break on the Eee PC, courtesy of hulu.com.The Eee PC is integrating into my daily life, which I consider a good thing, a sign that it can grow into a proper tool rather than just the latest gadget in a never-ending parade of gadgets.

Speaking of gadgets, my co-worker just told me that since he’s got an iPhone, he no longer has any use for his Palm Tungsten, and is willing to give the whole kit to me for nothing. Hey, I’ll pay that price anytime! One can never have too many gadgets, am I right?

I’ve got Flock 1.1 beta installed under EeeXubuntu, and I have to say that it is much improved over v. 1.0 on the Eee PC. The previous veresion felt too cramped on the 7-inch display. The new Flock feels normaal and natural. In fact, I’m using its blog editor to make this entry right now. Good stuff.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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Life With My Eee PC, Day Four: Stabilization

Day Four was all about expanding current capabilities, becoming more familiar, and tweaking EeeXubuntu for better operation and compatibiity.

Expanding capabilities: because I followed these instructions to enable Direct Rendering, I was able to download and install Google Earth, which runs amazingly well on this tiny laptop. Also today, my application for membership into the hulu private beta was approved, and during my lunch break I verified that I can watch hulu shows under EeeXubuntu.

Becoming more familiar came as a natural by-product of all the tweaking I’ve been doing, courtesy of this page. Major tweaks I’ve done include installing the LittleFox add-on for Firefox to maximize available browser real estate — on a 7-inch screen, every little bit counts! I’ve also tweaked the system to greatly minimize writes to the internal SSD.

For a longtime Mac user like me, the Eee PC isn’t just a different choice of computer, it’s a radical change in my entire life (since so much of my life revolves around computers). It means exploring and using new tools. It’s quite an adventure into the unknown.