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Archive for May, 2009

Open Source Roundup: Inkscape Vs Illustrator

Inkscape is a totally free vector art program. It’s pretty robust, but like many open source apps, it feels a little more old-fashioned than Adobe Illustrator, it’s retail cousin. For instance, if you apply a gradient to a shape in Inkscape, you can’t move it; you have to put your gradient on a new shape, place that over the existing shape as you see fit and mask it. Throwback functionality like this will make newbies and users who depend on illustrator‘s simplicity groan, but with patience you can do everything you can do in illustrator in Inkscape.

…Except edit .Ai files. Yes, while Gimp can edit PSDs and OpenOffice can edit Microsoft’s native formats, you can’t switch content between Illustrator and Inkscape so easily. While this limitation may hurt inkscape’s commercial applications (only a little, since it can make .SVG files) it is no barrier to using this excellent free tool for home art projects.

7.5/10 (and it’ll go up as the program improves, I’d wager)

Categories: Technology Tags: , , ,

Terminator Salvation

May 24, 2009 1 comment

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I went into this one with low expectations. The director of Charlie’s Angels shooting a movie written by the writers of Catwoman? No thanks! Fortunately I was wrong. Dead wrong. Terminated wrong, even.

‘K, maybe not.

Terminator does not disappoint. The machines are gritty and convincing, the landscape one of deserts and blasted cities, and in true 80s sci-fi tradition, Skynet has built a glowing blue monolith big enough to see from space for its lair. Although the film does not quite mirror James Cameron’s hazy blue hellscapes from Terminator 1 and 2, it belongs to the same world, a world where awful machines try constantly to kill you for no reason. An excellent job is done making the terminators look flashy and new without betraying the industrial asthetic of the original films.

The cinematography is good too. The camera bobs around a lot, but not too much, and action scenes are immersive and well-framed. The effects shots are pretty well composited, thanks in part to a generous use of real models and props. The film does have an unhealthy dependency on closeups of people’s faces during conversations, to the point that whenever talking happens the screen is totally filled with the speakers’ faces. That’s okay- this ain’t a talkin’ movie, it’s a terminatin’ movie.

The human element is less successful than the machine element, but not in the way you might expect. Anton Yelchin’s performance as they young Kyle Reese is heartfelt and compelling, a big step up from his rather phoned-in part in Star Trek. Sam Worthington, a terminator who doesn’t know he’s a terminator and so uses his terminating skills for justice, is an exciting hero with lots of (wasted) potential. Michael Ironside is in there, and I’ll watch anything with Michael Ironside in it. Moon Bloodgood plays a pilot who… well, who is better than she was in Pathfinder. But she’s only been at this for three years, and I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

No, the weak link in this production is, amazingly enough, Christian Bale. I feel funny saying that because, you know, Batman, but there it is. Bale pressed director McG to expand his part, butted into the editing room daily, and judging from the press basically enfant terrible’d his way around the set start to finish- and it shows. What was meant to be the story of Marcus, the killer cyborg with a heart of gold, becomes all about Bale’s John Connor. Bale deadpans his way through meaningless bookend radio broadcasts that hurt the flow of the film, chews scenery like Shatner in any scene he’s allowed to join, and generally wrecks the pace of the film. A strong director (Nolan) who can keep Bale in line can extract a good film from him, but he obviously isn’t someone who can be trusted to go all auteur. His over-the-top performance brings the film down, and makes him seem like less of an actor than he really is.

My verdict: Terminator Salvation is a fun summer action film, well worth your seven bucks. It has action, adventure, a tiny modicum of drama, and a charming 80s feel that matches the original movies- but weak direction of a pushy star kind of drags it down.

Oh, and Arnold’s CG head looks way better than Patrick Stewart’s CG head inĀ  Wolverine. Just putting that out there.

8/10

…But how did Skynet know who Kyle Reese was before he went back in time?

Categories: Movies Tags: , , ,

Gunhed

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What is it with movies about giant robots always sucking?

Robot Jox sucked. Robot Wars (The sequel to Robot Jox!) sucked. Robot Holocaust sucked.

“But wait!” you say. “Gunhed is Japanese. The Japanese invented giant robots! And it’s a Toho movie! Toho are the undisputed master of movies about giant stuff!” You’d be mostly correct: Toho has all the pedigree to make a totally awesome giant robot movie. Here’s how they screwed up:

  • There aren’t any giant robots until the end
  • The giant Robots don’t do anything
  • The rest of the movie is really dull

The whole film is a vast sea of decisions meant to reduce entertainment. Every scene is accompanied by grating Casio music, except senes featuring a little girl named 11- who is mute. That’s right, every scene featuring this little girl is totally silent. The rest of the cast is whittled down, which you expect in a horror-action thriller, but which happens so fast here that we barely get to know them. Since the hero doesn’t meet Gunhed the big robot until near the end of the movie, and other giant robots don’t show up for Gunhed to fight until Gunhed is around to fight them, the main threat is a dude in a bug costume. Yeah, that’s right. Homeboy looks like Insector-Z with circuit boards glued to his eyes.

So, much like Robot Holocaust, what is billed as a robot action film is really a “dude runs around a factory being chased by guys in bad costumes” movie. There’s no character development or chemistry at all.

Gunhed itself is kind of a letdown. Designed well, the Gunhed puppet just doesn’t move convincingly. It turns into a tank (of course) at which point it becomes slightly more believable since it’s just driving around. The gunhed scenes are basically just it rolling around shooting sparks and cartoon lasers at a big robot scorpion. The big robot scorpion is also limited to rolling. It’s pretty dull, and considering the mechanical articulation the Robocop films achieved with the same technology as this film, pretty inexcusable.

So, Gunhed is a dull, lifeless hunk of plastic. I mean that both in terms of the DVD of the film, and the robot itself. The characters are similarly unlikable, and you won’t miss them when they die, which most of them do.

2/10

Categories: Movies Tags: , , ,

Stargate

I have never been a sci-fi type of girl, but I have to admit, Stargate is by far one of the best shows ever made. 10 seasons just wasn’t long enough. (WARNING: SPOILERS)

After watching Farscape on and off with my husband, I was a little concerned Stargate would not be good, boy was I mistaken! The plot of the show was great, there was comedy, tragedy, adventure, and the characters are the type you never forget. O’Neil was by far the most awesome captain anyone could ask for on a mission, and Sam and Daniel were priceless. Add Tilk to the bunch and you have the best team ever!

I was very disappointed when O’Neil had to leave the show. I was so worried it just wouldn’t be good any more, and although no one could fill his shoes, Cameron Mitchell did a great job! Ben Browder was excellent on this show! Even Claudia Black grew on me after a while.

Two things I wish would have happened during the show…O’Neil and Sam would have talked about their feelings for each other earlier and Daniel and Vahla would have really ended up together (not just in the time ship they were stuck in)

My least favorite episode was the 200th episode. I know it was supposed to be goofy, that is probably why I didn’t care for it. My favorite episode, well all the others!

Over all, wonderful show! I would recommend anyone watch this show from beginning to end. Oh, and I am secretly in love with Daniel. There was just something about his nerdiness that got to me, what can I say, I have a thing for guys that wear glasses and get excited about other wise boring things!

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Galaxis

It’s a tried and true formula for science fiction success: create an exciting sci-fi universe, show us some teasey glimpses of it, then send the characters to Earth before you run out of money. If the alien warrior heroes befriend some scrappy Earthlings when they arrive, so be it. Time Guardian did this, Spaced Invaders did it, and even the Masters of the Universe movie featured Dolph Lundgren’s He-Man befriending a not-yet-scary-thin (and consequentially much prettier) Courtney Cox at prom somewhere in the Midwest. And let’s not forget Jesse Ventura’s Abraxis, the movie Lifetime would have made if it were staffed by Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin.

Galaxis (not to be confused with Galaxina, a z-budget space western about a sexy robot who fails at stealing Barbarella’s thunder) tells a similar tale. Brigitte Nielson plays Ladera, a space gladiator who subscribes to the wear-bikinis-to-battle school of movie logic. Ladera is looking for a magic crystal, which she must find before Richard Moll does. And guess where she looks?

Squirted out in the woeful middle of the hateful 90s, Galaxis is a cheap pastiche of better movies that came before. There’s a scene where bad guys rampage through a police station Terminator style, there’s a steel-girder showdown that looks stolen from Darkman, and the whole “evil wizard jacks up the innocent for magic crystals” angle has been done to death, most notably in the underappreciated Dark Crystal. It goes without saying that Galaxis achieves its ripoffery with a budget that would disappoint Sam Raimi (who happens to be in the film). The result is rather like watching cosplayers act out a better film, and not succeeding very well.

I will be the first to admit that I like bad movies. I have personally watched Jean-Claude Van Damme’s stunt double kick a terminally ill Raul Julia into a wall in Street Fighter over 7 times. I watched Category 7 and liked it so much that I nearly cried when my fiance wouldn’t let me buy Category 6. Heck, I actually bought Magic Sword under the mistaken belief that it was The Sword and the Sorcerer. But believe this battle-hardened fan of cinema crap, there is nothing worthwhile about Galaxis. It’s dull, ineffectual, and lacks the infectious charm that has saved so many awful movies.

It’s just bad.

2/10

Categories: Movies Tags: , , ,

Dell mini 9 shipping problems

May 14, 2009 1 comment

If you have recently ordered a Dell mini 9 or vostro from Dell and have had problems with numerous shipping delays then you are probably as ticked off as I am right now. If not, then to give you a quick rundown of the issues, basically Dell has had a LARGE amount of people who recently ordered a Dell mini 9 and Dell vostro due to a sale and the fact that you can turn it into a hackintosh really easily. I have always had problems with Dell but recently my newest purchase from them tops them all.

They have told everyone of us that there are delays with shipping, back orders on parts, and some have been straight up lied to or even yelled at. I have compiled a list of users on the http://mydellmini.com forums with the help of another forum member. If you have had similar issues (even if you have your mini now), please click on http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=rYO12hU0wxL_E5YRStnnSGg and add yourself to the list to get a running toll of how many have gotten screwed by this problem. I know delays are a given sometimes, but from a company as big as Dell to straight out lie to their consumers and make them wait on a laptop that costs anywhere from 200-500 is absolutely absurd. Why doesn’t any of the other mini laptops have this issue?

Some people who have ordered AFTER others have gotten their laptop sooner, some have had to wait since February (3 months from the time of this article), and most have been given 2, 3, or even 4 different deadlines that stretch out to July. This is a major problem and has got to stop.

For more info and discussion, please join us at the following forums:

http://www.mydellmini.com/forum/dell-mini-9-discussion/7447-vostro-a90-shipping-times.html

http://www.mydellmini.com/forum/dell-mini-9-discussion/108-how-long-did-take-your-dell-arrive.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Rock Band 2 drum pad repair

May 12, 2009 1 comment

If you are like me when it comes to playing the drums on Rockband, then you are probably hitting them too hard. I love playing the drums on RB and I get really into it. Sometimes maybe a bit too much. In doing so, the green rubber pad came off of my drum set.

At first I just slid it back on and it would work for a couple of songs, but it would eventually fall out again. FAIL. I needed to find a way to fix the pad without going insane and I didn’t want to RMA my set since I’m an inpatient bastard. I decided to use rubber cement on the pad to stick it in place. So far it has held up pretty good. The following are detailed instructions on what I did to fix my loose/broken drum pad.

Materials Required:

– mini phillips screwdriver
– rubber cement
– dashing good looks and charm

Step 1: The obvious

The first step is the most obvious and is mainly for a precaution, turn off the unit. In case you’ve never had to replace your batteries and your unit came from the factory switched on, the switch is located on the bottom of the pads. You’ll also want to remove the pads from the stand to make this repair easier.


Step 2: Take off the pad

In order to get the outer plastic rim off, you will need to take off the entire pad of the broken drum pad. You can do this by simply placing your fingers underneath the plastic rim and pulling up in each location of the rubber pegs below the drum pad. Be careful not to rip it off as I have heard of people permanently cracking their set.


Step 3: Unscrew the outer rim

Use the mini phillips to unscrew all of the tiny machine screws holding the plastic outer rim in place. This is so we can lay the pad down after we glue it and apply a decent amount of pressure. Be sure not to lose any of the screws as you will need them when we put the rim back on. (Do I really need to be telling you this?)


Step 4: Apply the rubber cement

Grab a used towel and place it down onto the floor. Place the top rubber pad upside down onto the towel and start to apply the rubber cement to the cloth/velcro tracks that circle the pad. Also apply the same amount of rubber cement to the pad attached to the drum set, running along the same tracks. Make sure you do this quickly and neatly as you will want to apply the two pads together as soon as you can to start the drying process.


Step 5: Apply pressure and let dry

Now that you have the two pieces glued together with the rubber cement, apply pressure to the pads. I set the pad upside down in order to apply the most pressure. You should let this dry for a good 30 minutes to 1 hour if you are using the standard elmers/ross office rubber cement.


Step 6: Reconstruct the drum pads

Now that you are confident that the rubber cement has dried, flip the pad right side up and begin screwing the machine screws back into the outer rim with the mini phillips. Once you have the outer rim on, press the pad gently to the drum set until you have popped the rubber pegs back into the holes. Be careful not to bend/crimp the sensor wire when placing the pad back together.

Step 7: Rock On!

You should now have a fully functional RB drum set again. This may not be a permanent fix, but it should last a lot longer than just sliding the pads in. There are several other how tos, mods, and replacements for the drums out on the internets that you can find, which I may end up doing myself. But for now…

ROCK ON!!!

Categories: Uncategorized