Friday, January 11, 2013

Adam's Apple - Information Consumers from Eden to Ebay

It's said by some that sin came into the world when Adam succumbed to temptation and took a bite out of the apple, and like most things sinful, I'm guessing that until he did all the guilt trip hiding behind bushes and fig leaves once he realised he was tackle out in public, he though, "boy, does this taste good or what!". I'm also guessing that the munching did not stop at a single fruit, but rather many a 'om, nom, nom!' could be heard for much of the day as Adam chomped through a major banquet worth of deliciously sinful helpings of juicy knowledge laden edibles. He became the world's first information consumer; an addict for knowing more whether he needed to or not (not, being the case as far as the big G was concerned in this instance).
And humankind have been on the same track ever since. In this latter age of course we have come full circle and the information consumer 'apple' we bite into is the corporate giant of the same name, and indeed I, like Adam, have succumbed and am typing this on one of my many 'i' devices.
Of course Apple, like the whispering serpent, would very much like me to continue consuming too, and if I want to maintain my addiction to information I have a hard time resisting their insidious whispering to buy and upgrade to the latest and best iDevice. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to equate Apple with Satan here; they are not (subjective opinion) evil as such. More they are just extremely annoying as they have a fairly aggressive strategy to ensure you keep buying more and more hardware. To illustrate, I recently came to the end of my contract with Orange for my Windows Phone, which as I'm sure I have mentioned before, I really didn't take to much (it still seems absurd that the only phone OS that can't directly sync with Microsoft Outlook is the only one written by Microsoft), so was keen to take the opportunity to switch to a lower tariff, sell the Windows Phone and buy something else. And of course having previously invested in an iPad, I followed the same logic (even though it had turned out to be flawed in the Microsoft instance) and went for an iPhone for compatibility's sake. All was well and good until I did the same for my wife (her Nokia never really recovered from a dunk in the toilet) and accidentally bought the iPhone 3G instead of the 3GS. It hadn't occurred to me that there would be much difference and I guess I didn't do my research properly. Here is where I first came across the deliberate manifestation of that strategy, as the 3G will only support iOS up to 4.1.something, and Apple themselves will only support 4.3 and above. At first glance this is all normal and the same as the policy of most IT companies, but the point here is that Apple don't just drop support for the older OS and hence the older hardware, but positively make it harder for people to use the older technology. The developers for apps are given toolkits to test and the older OS modules are deliberately removed from these so that the applications cannot be created to be backwards compatible. Probably the first most obvious one of these was the Facebook app that would not run on the iPhone 3G. On more traditional computer systems it wouldn't be a problem as you can go get the older version of the application that does work on the older OS, but as iOS needs it apps to be loaded via the App Store online, then we just don't have access to the older versions and so slowly and surely the older iDevices will become more and more worthless.
Quite how worthless I will soon find out as ebay hosts my current listing for an iPhone 3G that is being 'sold due to upgrade' :)
And now that my wife and I both have shiny new (well slightly newer second hand actually) iPhones with access to the whole world of knowledge and information to gorge on.....what will we actually do with them? Well 99% of the time we'll look at cute pictures of fluffy animals doing strange things and post the words 'beer o'clock' every Friday. Adam, was it really worth the fall from grace?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

3D Was Jonny Woo ahead of his time?

As I mentioned on Facebook the other day, I had the great misfortune to watch 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' and decided that it was one of those moments when you realise it's 91 minutes of your life you can never get back.
However the experience did leave me musing a little on the latest fad for 3D cinema which seems like it might be here to stay unlike the several previous attempts in the decades gone by - for some reason 'The Creature From The Black Lagoon' and 'Jaws 3D' never converted the world to thinking that 3D was the new talkies. This outing for the technology seems to be lasting with TV channels (or channel at the moment) and home equipment making it much more accessible.
Unfortunately I just don't like it for a variety of reasons. Firstly, things looks unrealistic in 3D, as the way it's portrayed on the screen is not how the eye sees in reality. There's just too much in focus! Look up from this screen for a moment and at the nearest wall - the wall will be in focus as you look at it and the computer screen will be out of focus. Look back at the screen and that will come into focus and the wall will be out of focus. This doesn't happen on a movie however. Every level is in focus, so what you end up with is a sense of 'layers' rather than a continual depth. The director can never focus and de-focus individual objects on screen to reproduce 'real' viewing as he can't know which bit of the screen you'll be looking at at any time. So 3D actually ends up producing just 'cool looking' special effects rather than something realistic.
That then, plus the crappy glasses you have to wear, are my problems with the technology, but my bigger gripe with 3D is with what the movie makers do with it. 'Journey 2' was a good example of these issues (well it had to be good for something). Now it has to be said I wasn't watching the 3D version of this film, but this in part serves to illustrate one of my points. It was very obvious the 'bits' of the movie where the 3D effect was supposed to 'wow' you and hopefully they were far more successful than it's predecessor (Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, which used the red and green cardboard glasses on the DVD and in which sadly the best bit of 3D was a dripping tap), but there was no other substance to the movie. It seemed like the entire plot and action was just engineered around setting up cool 3D sequences. And that's just lazy - 3D should try to enhance a movie, not be the sole purpose of the movie.
In 2D of course all these effects didn't just not work, but the way they are filmed make the scene look just a bit 'odd' - generally everything goes into slow motion and there's random objects floating in the screen that just look out of place. I remember Jonny Woo always overdosed his movies with slow motion, and the standing joke was that at normal speed you'd only get a movie half the length of anyone else's. We have the same here; Journey 2 is only 91 minutes to start with, so once you have taken the slow motion out you've probably only got an an hour or so left - no wonder the plot seemed a tad light.
The other problem with this use of slow motion, is you just get very, very bored with it. Sometimes slow motion enhances things, as Attenborough's recent Africa documentary showed with a battle between two giraffes, which just looks like an almost playful scuffle at full speed, but in slow motion you can see the ripples of force the impacts of head butting causes, and get a better idea of the serious nature of the fight. However, when every time there's a special effect the movie goes into slow motion then you just end up groaning whenever it's kicks in.
Lastly, as I say, 3D should enhance rather than detract, and this should include respect for previous formats. Much as Dolby digital and DTS sound systems made a huge difference to the surround and the 'oomph' of a movie's soundtrack (I'll always remember the thrumming in the chest of the sound of the pod race in Star Wars Ep. 1, even if it was the only impressive thing about that movie). To watch the movie on a regular TV will not make it sound worse than had the DTS technology not been used in the first place - it sounds better if you have DTS, but sounds no worse if you don't. 3D on the other hand, does make a movie look worse if you can only see the film in 2D, so for me I am still clinging on to that hope that I am wrong, and that this current fad will after all be as short lived as the attempts at 3D in the 50's and 70's. it's probably an eternal cry to Hollywood, but can the movie makers concentrate a bit more on making good movies first, and then tinker with the toys if you have time please?

Friday, January 04, 2013

iBlog? The shape of things to come?

Have found finally the iPad app for Blogging so perhaps this might rejuvenate this blog page as I haven't posted on here for a while now.
The sad truth is that Facebook these days seems to take care of the short musings you have and want to share and with the advent of smart phones and tablet computing, those sort of dedicated social media sites (and their associated 'i' apps) make the kind of longer more thoughtful posts that if typical of a blog site, seem just too much effort when you can sit in the pub with pint and post how happy you are that you have a pint in the pub, with such ease.
I tend now to use an iPad in preference to the laptop for most things 'social' or browser or media related these days so until I found this app for blog posting the thought of faffing about with signing on to google blogger via safari was just too much effort. but now you never know.
So, watch this space to see if it's just technology that's blocked the blogs, or if it really is that I'm just too darn lazy. :)