Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Geek factor +10

I've always enjoyed the original Star Trek episodes. The cheesy special effects, William Shatner's overacting and kissing of alien life forms, and the predictable deaths of no-name ensigns who go down to the planet with the main characters is simply fun to watch.

Last night I went to see the theatrical release of the original two-part TV episode, "The Menagerie" from 1966. This episode has the famous Captain Pike, original Captain of the Enterprise, who through a "space accident" was relegated to sitting in a rolling box only able to communicate by blinking a light once for "yes" and twice for "no." Portions of this episode have been spoofed by various TV shows and cartoons.

Everything had been digitally remastered from the original film, new visual effects had been added and the famous Star Trek theme had even been newly recorded using the original score sheets.

There was a nice short documentary at the beginning, hosted by Eugene Roddenberry, Gene Roddenberry's son, that showed the remastering, cleanup and production process. The newly digitized film was remarkably clear and the new visual effects were noticeable (spacecraft, planets and stars) but not distracting. Actually the new effects contributed to the suspension of disbelief since the appearance was what viewers have come to expect in science fiction and it wasn't so obvious this was made in the 1960s.

The showing was done in high definition, but was in the original TV format of 4:3, so no extra widescreen real estate. It appeared that the theater projected it directly from a computer, as evidenced by the Windows task bar, including the "Start" button in the lower left corner, appearing below the movie screen after the end credits rolled and the lights were raised.

The entire first season will be released this month on HD-DVD/DVD combo discs and the second season will be out in 2008, all remastered in the same way this theatrical release was.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Online storage solution that's easy and inexpensive

Quick quiz -- would you rather pay $200+ for an external hard drive and backup software or $0.15 per GB-month of storage used and $20 for a front-end backup application?

Hmmm... not quite as snappy as I'd initially envisioned, but it should get the point across that online file backup can now be a reasonable solution, particularly because that external hard drive is just as vulnerable to wear-and-tear, floods, fire and destruction as the PC you are backing up with it. Same goes for CD and DVD ROMs.

Sometimes I stray from my gaming-related newsfeeds and find something applicable to the realm of work. I've been meaning to find a way to backup my work documents and ran across a recent post (hit ctrl-f and search for "Amazon S3" to skip to the heading) on 43folders that spurred me to try an online solution.

The front-end application is called JungleDisk. It costs $20 after the free 30-day trial and provides an easy-to-use interface for Amazon's S3 web service, which is what actually stores the data. JungleDisk makes an otherwise consumer-unfriendly service meant for developers accessible and useful for everyday backup.

JungleDisk provides secure SSL connections to S3 as well as the option to separately encrypt documents before they are sent. Windows, Mac and Linux versions are available, as well as the source code. Since JungleDisk is merely the front-end to your S3 account, you can also run JungleDisk on any computer with Internet access and you'll have your files.

The S3 service provides off-site, decentralized, redundant and unlimited data storage.

Setting up JungleDisk was pretty easy. No configuration was required beyond the default settings other than telling it which directory I wanted to backup. The "disk" it creates shows up in your "My Network Places" folder on Windows. If you use Windows XP or Vista you can map the "disk" to a local drive letter. For the S3 account, you can either add it as a web service to your existing Amazon account or create a separate Amazon and corresponding S3 account.

As a test I backed up one of my entire directories of work docs, which was 17.3 MB of various Word, WordPerfect, Adobe and OpenDocument files. It took 2 to 3 minutes to upload everything and there were no problems. I was able to check my S3 account activity immediately and it showed I would be billed a whopping $0.04 on December 1 for the storage and transfer.

JungleDisk can automatically backup particular files or directories about as frequently as anyone could want. I'm going to give this a try for awhile and see how it goes. I certainly feel better now that important documents are safely backed up.

Possible clan names - inspired by todolistblog

This post immediately reminded me of my brainstorming session to come up with a clan name in Halo 2 for my group of buddies. I dug up my notes from back in 2004, saved no doubt because of some brilliant naming nuggets which I will now reveal to the world:We ended up going with Lemming Army. Incidentally, my buddy Shawn and I extended the exalted lineage of "Lemming Army" by using it as our team name when we captured third place in the Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory tournament at PAX 2005.

The funniest ones to me have either the word "biscuit" or "ferret" in them.