Category Archives: tech

Why hard copy rules

I mean, look at that Marvel app (just look at it). I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was — and is — huge, and vital. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It’s part of a multigenerational tradition in my family — my mom’s father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).

via Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either) – Boing Boing.

There will never be an iPod for a book.  I do want a technology that allows me to read pdfs and other free stuff off the web while curled up on the couch.  But actually replacing books is out of the question.

Again, it worked with music because music always required a machine.  Books are not machines so the pros of using a machine are marginal.

And I never wanted an iPad either.  Honestly, these people make amazing desktops and laptops and need to find a way to brag about it every once in a while.  This flashy stuff seems distracting.

A neat story mined with patches of chloroform

In my review of the comic book, I forgot to mention how weird it was to get “thought bubbles” of text bubbling from Buffy’s head.

You virtually never had that in the TV show. Maybe one episode started with Buffy reading Jack London as a voice-over narration to events, but that was the exception. And you never had anything like Veronica Mars’ tough talking High School PI narrations (which I greatly miss, if anyone cares).

This is another way, in which, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Volume 1: The Long Way Home fails to really be “season eight” of the cancelled TV show.  Using thought bubbles is a sea change in how the story of the slayer gets told.  In the show there was dialog and there was the guess one could make from facial expressions in video.  And that was all.

Which brings me to One Thing Or Your Mother.  It is a genuinely entertaining story for any fan of the TV show, especially since it takes place back in Season Two and even adds a connection between the mayer and Principle Snyder.  I enjoyed it.

But my enjoyment was hampered by billions of paragraphs or successions of paragraphs which, yes I am not ashamed of puning,  painstakingly described every single detail of what the characters were thinking and feeling.  You never infer anything in the story.  It is almost a tract against empricism.  Or an ad absurdum argument that works in its favor.

I’m sure the author, Kirsten Beyer, is a talented writer. She demonstrated her skill in many ways.  No doubt she was writing according to her instructions.  But I found those constraints really irritating.

Buffy Season 8, episodes 1-5

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Volume 1: The Long Way Home

What can I say about this?

One of the unique things about the TV show was that it made the writers famous. Part of that was the fact that it came into its own at just the right time to be one of th first shows to really take advantage of DVD with all the interview extras. But it still reflected the quality work of the writers themselves.

And the great writing continues. The comic book does not disappoint in the writing, nor in the quality of the story.

But it is insufficient.

No one just cares about the story when it comes to drama. It is fine when someone wants to make a movie or TV show based on a comic. That can work. But the opposite?

The actors matter.

Who goes to see a school play without any relationship at all to the actors? TV is different. Sure. But after a few successful seasons it is simply human nature to care about the craft of the people pretending to be the people in the story. You can make fun of fanboyism (and fangirlism–fanpersonism) all you want. But the only alternative would require that we all be uncaring apathetic sociopaths. We care about our performers. If that can be true for a single play, then the emotional intensity is exponentially greater in the case of a multi-season TV show. It can reach stupid heights precisely because of the power involved. You can’t watch someone at their work over an extended period of time and not care about them.

So, seeing a TV show transformed into a comic book really doesn’t satisfy. In fact, the better the story the writers give you, the more you feel sorry for the actors and actresses because they have been left out.  Why wasn’t Nick Brendon ever allowed to play a cool Sergeant Fury character?  It just seems unfair.

But the story seems pretty good.  It lets you know by the second page that all that stuff about Buffy and “the Immortal” was never true.  And, while it begins with a definite story arc, it also has stories (or at least one out of five, in this case) that is a standalone.

The situation is that Buffy is now the head of a huge underground organization of fellow slayers (after season 7 there is no longer one chosen one).  They have money and communications and technology like never before.  But the new situation attracts new enemies (as well as old who collude with the new).

(I’m half tempted to try to find who to ask to get the book deal that bridges from the end of season 7 to this episode.  The story begs for a prequel.)

It looks like it will be interesting.  Without giving anything away, the major issues seems to be power and paranoia.  Buffy has now unleashed a new order in the world, naively thinking this just means more help fighting demons, vampires, and other monsters.  But others understand that a new order is always a threat to the old order.

Usual caveats.  The level of morality is roughly that of Friends (or just about anything else on Television right now).  The magic is a lot more problematic than that of Harry Potter.

I’m not posting this so much to really take sides as to revel in the irony.

For, truly, the irony is deep enough to swim in.

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[link to video]

And, if you haven’t seen it already, don’t forget to read about the “blue box” industry that met a need in the AT&T monopoly era of 1971 on the Berkeley College Campus and provided investment capital to start Apple.

An ocean of irony!


One More:

At the D Conference in May, 2006, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, explaining why Apple would not get into the handset business, famously denounced wireless carriers as “orifices” that choked the flow on choice and innovation. Yesterday, Apple completed its conversion into an orifice.

Steve Jobs is gifted, but I think he is going to make himself as hated as Apple is loved.  Given the importance of image to Apple’s prosperity, this will be a really bad thing, if one only wants to look at the economic consequences.

Instead of more mobile phones, why not an iVidcam?

maxheadroom.jpgRemember Max Headroom?–a show I am not ashamed to call awesome, the first (only?) cyberpunk show we ever got on TV.

Well, I’m not thinking of AI comedy.  I’m thinking of the news show.  Remember?  The protagonist was a journalist who lugged around his own camera and it gave immediate feed.  He was also connected to an operator who was online giving him information (like maps, etc).

Right now, the model for mobile handhelds is to make a great phone and electronic organizer and attach it to a third rate camera?  But why not make a video recorder that can connect to both mobile services and wi-fi (and WiMAX whenit is deployed) so that people can instantly stream video to the web?  Then ad a phone capacity (which, if it could use wi-fi through skype.  Put a small web cam at the other end so you could do head shot commentary without (like in the show) turning the whole thing around and pointing it at yourself.

I don’t know why I’m blogging about this.  I just think that when you think about the tiny size of laptops and phones and the way video cameras have shrunk that it should be possible to make something really sleek and powerful-a video camera you could use for all sorts of purposes.

The business model and dealing with the deviant customer

  1. Promise unlimited service.
  2. Expect users to operate within undisclosed limits
  3. Feel free to call those customers who violate your limits bad names and terminate the promised service.

I remember hearing rumors that Netflix was “holding” the movies of users who were returning them too fast. They were expecting the average user to hang on to them longer.

But at least Netflix didn’t call them “hogs” and discontinue their service.

I can’t believe the story actually used the animal reference in the subtitle as if it was an objective claim.

Some AT&T customers use disproportionately high amounts of Internet capacity, “but we figure that’s why they buy the service,” said Michael Coe, a spokesman for the company.

I’m glad my provider talks sense.

The Silicon Valley Insider made a great point:

Comcast’s long-term problem: Internet usage is only going to grow. Media companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in streaming video projects like Hulu and Joost, which use a ton of bandwidth. An update to Adobe’s ubiquitous Flash software means that companies like ABC will be able to stream shows like Lost in hi-def to Internet users — which can eat up 4 gigs of bandwidth in a matter of hours. A lot of that video will be distributed over Comcast’s pipes. And the only way for Comcast to differentiate between legitimate file transfers like watching The Office on and illegitimate transfers like downloading The Office from BitTorrent would be to monitor the content its subscribers are downloading — a scary concept. This could get nasty.

Hopefully, instead of nastiness, we’ll get objective allowances and the means to know how close we are to our limits. Businesses need to stop putting the word “unlimited” in their advertisements.

Web Widget Wednesday: 30 boxes

I’ve mentioned 30boxes before. Google’s calendar is quite functional, I’m sure, but 30boxes has some unique features and, besides, I can’t allow the secret agents of Google to know everything about me that easily.

What you get with 30boxes is

  • a text-entry feature that allows you to quickly set a date and reminder without using your mouse to click and point.
  • A great many social networking features (though I don’t use these)
  • A reminder system that can use email or text messaging on your phone.
  • a virtual desktop with your important links.
  • Automatic weather forecasts for your days.
  • Automatic google map links to your destinations.
  • a task list.

The task list is what kept me from making 30boxes my homepage was the rather mediocre tasklist (or so I thought). But I’ve figured out that the tag system can make it much better. The task list I used had contexts (“work,” “home,” “yard” etc) and projects. All I had to do was start using tags for these to classifications.

30boxes You really ought to give it a spin.

Oops.  I just realized I’m fifteen minutes late.

TechDirt: Ridley Scott the rioting tailor raging against the sewing machine?

It strikes me as odd that this could come from the guy who gave us Blade Runner:

Famed director Ridley Scott has apparently stated that watching films on mobile phones and computers is killing cinema. Unfortunately, it seems that he has it backwards. He’s blaming the wrong thing when he says things like: “We try to do films which are in support of cinema, in a large room with good sound and a big picture. But we’re fighting technology.” As we’ve pointed out time and time again, people want to go out to the theater, but they want the experience to be enjoyable. They don’t want to be treated as if they’re criminals. So, the problem isn’t that people can watch movies on gadgets like mobile phones and computers — but that the theater industry has done its best to drive people away from actually wanting to go to the theaters.

Read the whole entry with comments at the TechDirt blog: “Ridley Scott Warns That Gadgets Are Ruining The Movies

Another issue: this is a “world is flat” sort of triumph. If I had my wishes, every movie I see would be in the theatre. But do the math: I have four children. Watching a movie together takes a lot of money. I can rarely afford this place. So the people who can afford it, go to the theatre, and the rest of us use the falling costs of digital technology to compensate for what we can not afford.

By the way, movies started out cheap. That’s why people all got used to them. In fact, I think they were even more affordable during the Jimmy Carter stagflation era, though I’ve done no research to back that up. Theaters are increasingly out of reach for families with children. So they stay home and make do.