Magnificent Obsession

Magnificent Obsession is a classic movie of redemption. A playboy scion and med school drop out without a single redeeming characteristic despite his good looks gets into a boating accident after a bout of reckless racing. The medical equipment borrowed from a local doctor inadvertently backfires as the doctor suffers an attack while the equipment is being loaned. As a result the doctor’s young wife is widowed and also goes blind after trying to avoid the romantic overtures of said playboy.


I find it refreshing to watch classic movies every now and then. There’s no swearing, the acting is high-quality and there’s usually a clearly drawn line between good and evil. There’s always conflict and some kind of moral to the story. It usually adds a little flavor to the film that you can’t get from modern day productions.

Planet Terror

Planet Terror is a modern day remix of the typical zombie pic. Director Rodriguez takes a highly stylistic and studied approach to recreate the look and feel of an old B-movie. Unfortunately, the highlight of the film for me was the fake trailer to Machete that I watched again. It was so hilarious. A Mexican day laborer set up to carry out a hit on a Senator gets double-crossed. Only they don’t know he’s a bad ass federale coming for revenge. Apparently, this trailer was so good that it’s finally going to become a movie.

It’s OK, So You Develop Web Applications On Windows

Yongfook has a heart-warming post about how great it is to develop web apps on Windows and how you’d be foolish to use Windows.  As much as I’d like to join in on the gratuitous Windows bashing, I can only say that it’s not quite true unless you’re mainly a designer.  That’s not to say that the Mac doesn’t offer some compelling perks for web development.  However, tools don’t make a hacker.  

When I took my current job, one of the chief requirements was that I switch back to Windows for development as company policy doesn’t allow macs and probably never will.  While I don’t think I’d ever buy a Windows machine for personal use unless it’s to format the hard drive and install a UNIX distro, but being forced off of the mac was probably one of the best things to happen to me.

The real reason is because technically I don’t use Windows for development.  I stopped using Textmate altogether and started using VIM exclusively for coding which I do by sshing into the company test server via putty, launching or resuming GNU screen and developing everything server-side.  It’s the most distraction-free environment too because I don’t care to install any third-party crapware for the Windows platform and get to leave behind all my user settings on my home mac.  No growl notifications, no F12 dashboard diving, no photobooth picture whoring, and no iTunes library.

Take a look at a screenshot of my development environment:

window_putty

It’s really no different from the terminal I use on my mac.  The only thing missing is the opacity controls (and my do I dearly miss it).  Other than that I fake out Monaco fonts with Osaka.  Yet it’s a real Windows XP with all the default stuff.

I think the only handicap is for talented designers that benefit from the prettier interface and OS virtualization.  However, I will point out that this isn’t because macs are so great.  It’s because they finally moved to intel chips and OS X happens to be the only operating system not legally available as a standalone intallation combined with the fact that OS X piggy backs off of linux.

The really brilliant hackers I’ve come to know are both language agnostic and platform agnostic.  If anything they choose freedom in the form of linux.  However, I will say that the mac is an excellent gateway into hardcore development.  You get a nice development stack by default with all the common unix tools but the closer you go to the metal the less eye candy makes a difference to your productivity.

Web Developers Who Don’t Use Macs Are Freaking Idiots › Yongfook | Web Producer and Consultant based in Tokyo

Birds, Speech, or Beer: The Dilemma of Free Software

Should software be free as in birds? free as in beer? or free as in speech?  I don’t think anyone has the right answer aside from secretly straddling the gray zone between, "piracy is illegal" and "it should all be free".

Daniel Jalkut had an interesting post on the topic of free software.  It’s a major dilemma for independent software developers who solely depend on software sales for their income.  The mac community is famous for its support of third-party/indie developers.

It sucks to try eking out a living in this day and age of rampant piracy of music and videos.  I think there is a great psychological divide between paying for intangibles such as software.  When you think about it, it’s a bit absurd how people will jump through fire hoops just to skimp on a $5 piece of shareware while thinking nothing of spending $5 or so on a Big Mac with a side order of fries and a coke but would rather use a far inferior free version of software that they use everyday.

Desktop applications have it tough.  People with the best chances of succeeding are those that build excellent products, first to market (or dominant share), good customer service and offer something unique.  That’s no different from any other business but third-party developers have to compete with open source projects and more importantly with large enterprises starting with the manufacturer of the operating system (and you know they always throw in a cartload of free apps as part of the system).

At the same time, little purchases of $15 – $40 apps eventually add up to quite a sum so the reluctance to pay is understandable.  The problem with perceived expensiveness of such shareware to me comes from the fact that there’s little to distinguish them from web apps, open source apps, or utilities bundled with the computer since we’re essentially looking at the same thing.  I think our brains are designed to mainly attach a sense of possession to physical objects or intellectual property of our own creation, rather than something like software.  The competition from web apps is also tricky because desktop apps don’t have the same advertising monetization options as web apps. 

As a Pukka owner I can see why Leo would want Pukka to be free.  It’s a small app, it uses a freely available web api to a very free site, many free alternatives (such as the Firefox extension I use away from macs) and is rarely the main focus of your daily activity (unless you’re a really hardcore del.icio.us user).  However, that doesn’t do justice to the effort put in by the developer in creating the app, support (he really does a great job answering customers), not to mention how much time you’ll save using it or adding value to del.icio.us itself.  I wouldn’t go anywhere near del.icio.us on the mac if it wasn’t for pukka.

At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself long and hard why you wouldn’t hesitate to drop $10 on a piece of software while you could easily spend that much on a daily basis for food and other stuff (including a lot of junk you don’t need).

Red Sweater Blog – It Should Be Free

Daddy Jobs Always Knows Best

I’m truly shocked that Apple would stoop to such tactics as trying to sneak Safari into a standard iTunes update.  It’s a disgrace to Apple’s treasured policy of allowing users complete freedom from hassle in installing only the software that they need.  I honestly don’t recall the last time that Apple pushed any updates on us in the last year for OS X or iPod Touch.  Unless you count 10.5.1 and 10.5.2 and those security updates, the QuickTime update, and iPhoto update.  On the iPod touch we only had minor updates like 1.1.3 and 1.1.4 that only wiped out all my third-party apps and turned a minority of iPhones into bricks.

What on earth would cause Apple to have such a lapse in judgement I wonder?  My blood boils to think that Apple would try in any way to degrade my remarkable user experience with the ever wonderful Windows XP which is a bastion of stability and just as well-behaved as any traditional Apple offering when it comes to deference to user wishes.

I can’t imagine ever having the need for their Safari browser when I can use the beautiful Internet Explorer or even the next best thing, Firefox.  I would manage my iPod with Windows Media Center if only I had the option.  I dream of the day when we can format our fancy iPods and install whatever Zunes are running on.  I would like to take this opportunity to plea to Mr. Jobs to stop pushing their inferior products onto the general populace and stick to their sole core competence which is the manufacture of music playing devices and selling music.

John’s Blog » Blog Archive » Apple Software Update

Google Phone in Japan?: Largest Japanese Cell Phone Carrier to Adopt Android OS

According to the latest reports, Japan’s largest cell phone carrier will be using  Google’s Android OS for mobile devices which is in turn based on WebKit of all things.

NTT DoCoMo Inc. will remove advanced functions and services from its cell phones’ operating software, such as the ability to connect to the Internet, enabling the nation’s handset manufacturers to simultaneously design low-function, low-price handsets for overseas markets and high-function, high-price handsets for domestic distribution based on the same software, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Saturday.

The decision came as several manufacturers have withdrawn from the saturated domestic cell phone market that currently offers little prospect of generating profits.

DoCoMo hopes the decision will help the handset manufacturers expand internationally, while also expecting it to contribute to its own overseas strategies.

According to the carrier, functions to be removed from operating software will include i-mode, Internet connection services, and FeliCa, an integrated circuit card service that enables handsets to be used for electronic payments.

The company plans to introduce Android, jointly developed with Google Inc. as the new operating software by 2010.

DoCoMo phones to get simpler OS

 

It’s great to see Japan’s largest cell phone carrier wake up to reality but unfortunately this move comes more than a decade late.  The move will supposedly open the market for Japanese cell phone manufacturers to approach a more global audience.  Of course, manufacturers already have wider access to global markets since Japanese cell networks went 2.5G using CDMA/WCDMA technology.

Yet, the Japanese cell phone market remains an anomaly and obstacle to cell phone manufacturers reaching a global market as seen by Sony Ericsson’s recent review of their relationship with DoCoMo.  Right now Japan has three dominant cell phone carriers, DoCoMo (a spin off of the former national telecom NTT) and AU (a private sector joint venture) and SoftBank (which went from a Japanese company to Vodafone back to Japanese).  Manufacturers are more or less tied to the cell phone companies they supply phones to.  The carriers dictate the specifications and more or less control the model supplied.  So, in many cases manufacturers have to differentiate cell phone models per carrier.  These contractual obligations as well as Japan’s communication specifications isolated Japanese manufacturers from a global market while keeping global manufacturers from reaching a Japanese audience.

As any casual observer will note, Japanese cell phones are more advanced and feature rich than your typical smart phone found abroad (not to mention more styles).  Technology such as i-mode pioneered cell phone web-browsing before it reached critical mass abroad.  The fact that Japan shied away from cross-carrier SMS compatibility also propelled Japan’s widespread adoption of cell email as the dominant form of text messaging too.  Even with the advent of the iPhone, I think it will be a long time before you can watch TV on your phone or get 3G-level bandwidth on it.

However, I honestly don’t see Android really gaining any real ground even if DoCoMo was to give it a full push.  The handset market is really cut throat for the typical manufacturer with low margins and lots of restrictions.  The move to linux is welcome and understandable but how many companies can add the touch and flair to it like Apple did with the iPhone.  Plus, the iPhone is more or less a complete OS X system optimised for mobile devices.  There’s a certain degree of feature parity between OS X and it’s little cousin.  As phones gain more disk space and processing while reducing size, the Android might be too limited for future needs.

The other thing is that Google really doesn’t have a major, practical stake in this.  It doesn’t affect the bottom line like search so I don’t see them committing major resources unless they’re looking to buy a cell phone carrier ala SoftBank of Japan.  I just don’t see the point of adopting Android or for handset manufacturers to team up with competition to lower the barrier of entry into an already crowded and lacklustre field while committing precious engineering resources to bring third party code up to par with what they developed with their own resources.

I’ve got my fingers crossed.

My iPod Touch Wishes

I really love my iPod touch. I feel like I’m getting a bit bored with the watch a movie on a train bit and kind of have the yearning to read a good book but then by Friday I’m a zombie and watching a movie is about all I’m good for. If and when the iPhone comes to Japan I just might get one because wi-fi is scarce.


Anyways, I have some wishes for the iPod touch that would arguably make it a better experience for all.


Wireless iTunes Syncing


One of the reasons the iPod Touch is so over-priced is the built-in wifi. This is great because it’ll seamlessly connect to any wifi available. With the MacBook Air they take it further and lost the DVD drive. So with everything in “the air” as their marketing people put it, why not put everything about the Touch in the air as well? I usually have my iPod Touch plugged into a wall charger by my bedside. I keep it close to check the email and what not. It’s one of the things I love about it.


Still, when I need to refresh the music and movies on the iPod, I need to go over to my MacBook and physically plug it in to get my latest stuff synchronized. This sucks because the wireless is right there. It’s like that dude you always see on the commuter train. You see each other and recognize each other but don’t talk to each other. For two strangers, that’s acceptable but these guys are supposed to be family members of one big, happy mac family. Save me the trouble of plugging this thing in.


A Better Dock


These devices have been around a while and have gone through some revolutionary changes as witnessed by the Touch. Yet one thing hasn’t changed since these things stopped using firewires, the docking scheme. One thing that mobile phones do a nice job of is the dock. They make it easy to just drop that thing into the slot and yank it right out. That little dock protuberance looks really breakable and hard to slide it right. I’m always afraid that one of these days I’ll break the damn thing off when I put it in. My phone on the other hand I can put in it’s dock in the middle of the night when I’m drunk and still get it aligned right.


Better Space Management


One thing I hate about juggling a mere 16GB of freespace is how if you set the iPod to sync “all unseen movies” and you exceed capacity, all syncing comes to a halt. Of course, my work around is to create a special smart playing list of up to 14GB of unseen movies but that’s really an un-necessary hack, same with music or pictures. The default scheme doesn’t allow you to set maximum sizes to sync within. It seems absurd that we’re given limited capacity yet the syncing by default is “all or nothing”.


I wonder what the next generation holds for the iPod Touch. Hopefully, they wont try to sell us upgrades every step of the way. I also hope that they will work out a more liberal arrangement for installing third-party apps and give open source developers a better way to contribute than charging them $99 for entrance.

Next

I basically saw Next because Steve said it was good. And it was. A bit shocking to read that it didn’t do too good in the box office. I think this one is more of a DVD type movie. Cage is a man that can see 2 minutes into his future. You might not think that’s much but you could guess the next hand at black jack or see if someone’s about to kill you. As Steve says, “Think of it as the computer Deep Blue living inside a person.” He can simulate all the possibilities ahead of him and choose but of course, the long-term consequences are rarely evident.


Maybe I’ve been spending way too much time struggling with “if, else” statements in my coding drone job but I found this movie entertaining just for that. You’d never think seeing the future would mean much for action but Cage can dodge bullets like Jet Li thanks to this ability.


I’ve been seeing a bunch of these films with memory and unusual abilities lately such as “50 First Dates”, “Ground Hog Day”, and “Jumper”. Maybe it’s my subconscious plea to escape the drudgery of my daily life but these films give me an escape not only watching film makers turn these interesting premises into viable stories but also contemplating notions of time, space and memory. One thing is obvious, I’d probably make a good Hollywood executive as long as I green-lighted projects I didn’t like.

Jumper was Kinda Flat

Jumper had a lot of promise but it was definitely one of those films where if you’ve seen the commercial, you pretty much saw the film, only you get to see all the cutting floor material in between that make it much less entertaining. The first five minutes was probably the most fun. The very first jump where the lead character Rice (the younger version) falls into an icy lake and jumps or teleports himself from drowning into a public library.


From there it more or less goes down hill. Jamie Bell really shines as Griffin, another jumper who notices Hayden “jumping” right inside a London bar. Griffin is a lone wolf punk who’s out on a mission to kill the “paladins”, a band of religious fanatics that have been killing jumpers since medieval times.


There are really several problems with this movie. The first is the lack of a coherent plot. Jumpers can jump anywhere so naturally the movie jumps all over. It’s cool at first but sort of wears off. Some of the sequences really stand out but it’s hard to make them stand out when there isn’t much of a story to hold it together. The other problem is Hayden’s wooden acting. He has the charisma of a wall. It sucks that he was also a last minute replacement. Leaving Max Thierot, who plays the nominally younger version, would have worked much better.


That’s the thing about this movie, all the elements are more or less in place but it just didn’t “happen”. I found Jamie Bell’s appearances really the only saving grace. That and Rachel Bilson did a nice job in the eye candy role, although I can’t imagine how a blondish adorable girl who dreams of foreign lands turns into an emo barmaid who never went to college.


The movie is essentially one long introduction to yet another franchise. I guess I’ll forever be looking for the next thing to come out of Doug Liman that captures the excitement of Bourne Identity or Mr. and Mrs. Smith. This movie could have easily melded the thrilling “me against the world” aspects with a little more comedy. Whatever.

Groundhog Day (film)

Groundhog Day asks the question, what if your were trapped in today?  Bill Murray plays one serious jerk of a weatherman that really doesn’t have any friends.  He visits a small town with camera crew to cover the Ground Hog day festivities only to find that he’s trapped to relive the very same day over and over again.  He does everything from robbing banks, to seducing local women and even suicide in desperation to survive his boredom.  He even fails repeatedly to seduce his new producer.

It’s a lovely and funny film that entertains you while giving you food for thought on how to make the best out of any given day.  Of course, putting this in practice is a whole other story but I’m sure a lot of us have daydreamed about the possibility of doing over a period in our lives.