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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

I finally watched Transformers 2, on IMAX. ^_^ Well, it’s not really a real IMAX, it’s kinda like a fake IMAX/IMAX lite. The screen was bigger than a regular theater screen, but far from the real IMAX screen. Anyway, here are my impression of the movie.

***WARNING*** Spoilers ahead.

The good stuff:
-Optimus’ fighting scenes are simply awesome. In the first movie, Optimus looked pretty weak for an Autobot leader, but on this movie, he kicks ass. One battle had him fighting 3 Decepticons all at once, including Megatron. He ripped some Decepticon heads/faces, literally, quite a few times.
-Soundwave is in the movie, complete with his familiar voice. Sure, he’s just a satellite and didn’t participate in any of the battles, but it’s still cool to hear his signature voice again.
-Optimus and Jetfire “super-linking” is also awesome, albeit only temporary. I didn’t expect this at all. Basically Jetfire sacrificed himself to combine with Optimus Prime, becoming a jet-pack/armor/big cannons. Powering up like this sounded more like something the Japanese would do, so I was completely surprised. Really awesome. Alas, the armors fell off at the end of the final battle, thus this is not a permanent feature.
-The first combiner appeared, Devastator. I always love the combiners in Transformers. Devastator is the first Decepticon combiner, and was featured in the movie. Sure, it’s nothing like the cartoon version at all, but at least they did it. The downside is they didn’t really show the individual smaller robots. It would’ve been more awesome if they have all the individual robots fighting first, and then combined mid-fight. Due to the more organic style the movie took, I thought they wouldn’t be able to do combiners. Glad they did it.
-Most movies use fictional characters. In Transformers 2, they actually use Obama as the US president.

Things along the way that I guessed wrong:
-When I was shopping at Target, they have Superion, an Autobot combiner, as a Transfomers 2 movie toy lineup. It’s a re-color of Superion from TF: Superlink, and did not match the organic style of the movie at all, but I was hoping he would show up. Alas, not the case. Only Devastator appeared.
-Although I did guess that Optimus is going to die, I thought he would be dead for good just like in the Transformers cartoon, thinking that they would bring Rodimus Prime in. But no, Optimus was revived.
-When Sam died, he met the ancient Primes. I thought Sam is going to be the actual Matrix of leadership himself, thus becoming a Transformers and combining with Optimus Prime, reviving him. Kinda like the Godmasters in TF: Masterforce where the Transformers have human partners. But no, he was revived and simply stab Optimus with the Matrix. Kinda wished he’s dead for good though (more of that on my rant).

Now, the bad, the annoyances, the ugly, the sucky parts, aka my rant about the movie:
-Humans, humans everywhere. I mean God, even Megatron only had very minimal screen time. Forget about Ironhide, Ratchet, etc. Even Bumblebee didn’t get that much screen time. Most of the scenes are about the humans. The amount of screen time spent on the humans are a lot more than the first movie. I mean come on, this is supposed to be a Transformers movie, a movie about robots. None of main human characters are even dead (only the cannon fodders were).
-Too much un-needed scenes. The scenes about Sam going to college are a complete waste of screen time. Too much unnecessary scenes (he’s getting ready to go to college, leaving the house, the parents, going to college, his mom got high, going to college party, etc). Yeah, there are few funny scenes, but all of them are hardly related to the actual plot. Instead of this, they should show more scenes about the Autobots hunting down Decepticons, or put more background about Starscream building up his army. Something more about the Transformers, not about a teenager getting anxiety attacks.
-Too many un-needed characters. First, Leo Spitz, a conspiracy theorist geek. His character is pretty much a comic relief, who is hardly even funny. His character is completely unnecessary. In fact, I could imagine the movie without his character at all, and it’s still going to be the same. Then there are the 2 stupid Autobots, Mudflap and Skids, that are supposed to be another comic-relief, but served nothing other than 2 un-needed annoyances. Next, Sam’s parents. It’s not like they are not needed, but they have too many un-needed screen time. They have more screen time than any of the the Autobots. Again, without them, the movie would’ve not changed that much. Next, Alice, a Decepticon Pretender. She’s basically a Decepticon transforming into a human. Wait, what? Another un-needed character, which are shown mostly in those un-needed college scenes, and also a plot hole. If the Transformers can transform into a human, then why don’t they all do that? Why bother with vehicles if they can simply blend in looking like humans? I thought I was watching Terminator 3. (Note that the Pretenders are actually featured in Transformers: Masterforce, but that’s a Japanese only series)
-Too-many un-funny stereotype jokes. There are so many of these that sometimes the movie felt really unbearable. Sam’s over-protective mom, Sam’s “anxiety” attacks, the college weed, Sam’s sexual awkwardness with Alice, Mudflap and Skid’s banters, Jetfire’s “old-man” behaviors and farting, all scenes about Leo, the soldier encounter at the border (New York? I don’t get it), etc.
-When Jazz died in the first movie, the Autobots are clearly saddened by it. When Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots died, it’s like nobody really cared except Sam. None of the Autobots (Ironhide, Ratchet, Sideswipe) seemed to be bothered. I mean I would expect Ratchet to at least tried his hardest to revive/fix Optimus, but no, nothing.
-Sam Witwicky didn’t die. Yeah, I really wish they killed this character. When Sam died, I was rejoicing. Finally! I was so happy that I can finally watch a Transformers movie without a story about some teenage angst issues. But no, suddenly he revived. What a waste. Hopefully they killed him in the 3rd movie.
-Too many obvious scenes selling Megan Fox. Yeah, Megan Fox is hot, but come on, please be a little bit more discreet about it. First scene, she was painting a small logo on her bike, wearing a super short shorts, and bending down. Yeah, right. the last quarter of the movie were the worst. They have a frantic battle scene between the military, Autobots, and Decepticons firing at each other, but then when Megan Fox was running, it’s in slow mo. Not only once, but a few times. Megan Fox fell on the sand, slow-mo. Megan Fox doing something, slow-mo. I mean WTF? It’s like Michael Bay gave up on the movie and simply using Megan Fox and bouncing tits to sell the movie.
-Simply not enough bots. Sure, Optimus did some superb fighting scenes, but other than those, none of the other Autobots do much. Ironhide, Ratchet, and Sideswipe have only a brief of screen time, and they’re supposed to be the main Autobots. I barely saw Arcee. The Decepticons had better share, but still hardly enough screen time compared to the humans. I saw the annoying Leo a lot more than Megatron.

Transformers 2 is an eye popping CGI/explosion action fest. Although it’s an okay movie, as a Trasformers movie, it’s still disappointing. They could’ve done a lot more about the Transformers. Hopefully they would do better for the 3rd movie. I can’t see any more reason to have Sam Witwicky character, other than to keep Megan Fox and use her as the movie’s sex symbol.

What I want to see on the next movie: More combiners, Omega Supreme, Unicron, Fortress Maximus, more super-linking/power-up modes, and less/no humans. Oh well, they probably could’ve just had Megan Fox taking off her clothes as the 3rd movie and call it a day, and it will still sell.

 

First Impression of the Genius Bar

So, if you’re following my twitter, you know that my iMac’s hard-drive is dead, and it’s actually an opportunity to experience of going to the Genius bar at a local Apple store. Couple points that I would like to make:
1. Make a reservation online. Don’t think that you can just walk into an Apple store and get help right away, especially for tech support. While I was waiting for my turn, I saw a couple of people being told to make a reservation for another day.

2. Do your homework. Just like any tech support situation, things can go faster/smoother if you do your homework. In my case, I already did my own diagnostics to confirm that the hard-drive in my iMac is truly dead. At the genius bar, the genius tried to do his own diagnostic by booting from his external hard-drive, which didn’t work anyway. If I didn’t tell him what I did, we would probably have spent more time trying to diagnose the problem. Also, write down your Mac’s serial number and/or Apple care number. It would help the genius since Apple put the serial number of the iMac on the bottom of the stand(!).

3. Speaking of time, just because you have a reservation, don’t expect that you’ll be helped right at the appointed time. It seems that there are only a few geniuses in the store, and depending on how long they are working on each customer’s case, things could be pretty backed up. I had to wait for a bit over my appointed time because the genius wasn’t done with the customer in front of me.

4. Waiting can be awkward in an Apple store (I assume it depends on the store). The one I went into doesn’t really have a set “counter/line” like a traditional B&M store (except for the line for the iPhone 3GS). When I arrived, naturally I went to the genius bar. Then one of the guys said to check in on the counter, which is just a small table in the middle with 2 iMacs and a girl with orange T-shirt. Good thing one of the guys obviously saw I was confused, asked my for my name, and quickly went to one the iMacs on that table and “checked” me in. Then It’s a waiting time. There was not a set “waiting” area. I was standing like a doofus, then I just sit down on an empty chair near the “bar.” I’m guessing Apple wants to make the experience more casual, but at the same time it could be confusing without proper signs/directions.

5. Somebody need to clarify/make a guide for the color-coded T-shirts of the Apple store employees. There are employees in cyan, orange, and dark-blue T-shirts. At first I thought the cyan are the geniuses, but I think they’re sales. Orange is probably concierge? The gal that is checking people in wears orange T-shirt. The geniuses are in dark-blue.

One big point that I want to make, is how GLAD I am that I bought Apple care (Apple’s extended warranty) for my iMac. I bought my iMac in May 2008. Guess what, the hard-drive failed on June 2009, 1 month after the default warranty would’ve ended. Without Apple care, it would’be been $100 just for the diagnostic. Now, if this is a regular tower PC, I wouldn’t worry about extended warranties. In fact, I replace broken hard-drives pretty often on my other PCs. They’re regular PCs so it’s easy to just buy a hard-drive, open up the case, and replace it. However on the iMac, it’s a different story. I looked at tech websites, and to get to the hard-drive in an iMac, you would have to dismantle the whole thing, remove the glass display AND the LCD. That’s too hardcore for me.

Another great thing about Apple is the presence of the Apple stores. If it’s an HP/Dell PC, and it needs something fixed that I couldn’t do myself, I would’ve to call a tech support in India, setup a shipment, ship the computer, wait for days/weeks (excluding ship time), etc etc. Or, HP/Dell would send a spare part and I would’ve to do the repairing myself. Or go to Bestbuy’s Geek squad and spent a fortune. Compare that to setting up an appointment with the Genius online, coming in on a weekend to a local store, and being told that things will be fixed in a couple days. It’s definitely a much better experience. The only downside is if there are no Apple stores around your area.

So, there you go, my first experience with Apple’s Genius bar. We’ll see how long it would take for Apple to fix my iMac. The genius said it’s a day or two. Hopefully my iMac is well taken care of.

Note to self: consider SSD when buying a new computer.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2009 in apple, apple care, bar, genius, hard-drive, iMac

 

iMac going back into its box :'(

iMac going back into its box 😥

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Dead iMac :'(


Dead iMac 😥, originally uploaded by patashinka.

The hard-drive in my iMac went toast. 😦

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

2G iPod Touch Bluetooth

3.0 firmware unlocks the Bluetooth capability of the 2G Touch. I tried pairing it with a Sony Bluetooth dongle, and it works fine for the most part. Pairing works, albeit a bit slow vs a cellphone. The Sony Bluetooth dongle has playback controls. Play, pause, and volume controls work, but next/prev track controls do not. The mic on the Bluetooth dongle is not recognized by the Touch nor apps like Skype. 😦 oh well. Turning on wifi while streaming audio via Bluetooth caused audio dropouts and weird slowdowns. Other than that, it’s a nice perk but not terribly useful.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2009 in 3.0, audio, bluetooth, ipod touch

 

iPod Touch 3.0 firmware

I decided to cough up yet another $10 to update the firmware of my iPod Touch to 3.0. This trend of Apple charging money for firmware updates for the iPod Touch is truly annoying. I mean come on, they are going to sell Snow Leopard, an OS upgrade, for only $29, yet $10 for a firmware update for an iPod? I have yet to see other companies charging money for firmware updates. Even Sony gives free firmware updates for the PSP and PS3.

Anyway, aside form the rant, here are a quick impression of the 3.0 firmware installed on a 2G Touch.
-The download size of the firmware is a hefty 257.8MB.
-Installing and upgrading the firmware on my 2G Touch went without any issues. It seems pretty quick too, quicker than I expected.
-Couple new options in iTunes for the Touch. First is the option to encrypt the backup (iTunes will ask for a password). 2nd is the option to sync notes (not sure if this had existed before or not).

Now on the 2G iPod Touch itself:
-A lot of the features have been previewed twice by Apple, on the sneak peek in March, and on WWDC 09.
-Calculator seems to load faster
-There’s an option to turn on Bluetooth in the Settings. Yup, Bluetooth on the 2G Touch is unlocked with the 3.0 firmware. Have not played with it though.
-Shake to shuffle. It is a gimmick on the 4G nano, and imo still a gimmick.
-In Settings, there’s an option to manage your iTunes account.
-Autofill for Safari. Could be a security/privacy concern for some. I leave it off.
-Spotlight search: Quite amazing. You can set on what it will search in Settings. You can set to invoke Spotlight with double click of the Home button.
-Speaking of search, almost all of the built-in app like Music, Video, Contacts, Mail, etc have Search on the top if you scroll up through the top of the list.
-Voice Memos. Voice recording, obviously the 2G Touch would need an external mic as it doesn’t have a built-in one. I use the Apple in-ear bud with mic, and it works fine. You can also trim the recording afterwards. Other than that, pretty basic. I expect more 3rd parties will make good external mics for the Touch/iPhone.
-Maps have some GUI changes. Nothing significant, but seems a bit prettier with some new dots and icons.
-Now you can log-in to your Youtube/google account in the Youtube app. The app will list your fav videos, and you can rate & put comments on videos.
-Stocks got quite a bit of facelift. It will show a larger graph on landscape. It also list some news related to the particular stock.
-Copy-n-Paste. Well, it works, across apps too (tried copy-n-pasting from Safari to Notes). The Shake to undo is pretty neat. A lot of people are making fun of Apple’s cut-n-paste, yet I don’t really see a lot of devices implement copy-n-paste across apps nor undo.
-When you invoke the iPod controls on the stand-by screen, it will show the track title, album, and artist.
-Chinese character input. Now you can use your finger to write down a Chinese character. Not that great though as a finger is not as thin as a stylus. The iPod will try to guess what you’re writing, and it seems to work okay. I don’t think it will be efficient though compared to stylus-based input.
-Now you can pay audio podcasts at double the speed or half the speed. Useful for lectures I guess.
-Still no shuffle-by-album feature. 😡 Lame, just lame, considering this feature have existed on the regular iPods and nanos forever, and the fact that Apple is touting the iPhone/Touch as “the best iPod.”
-Movies are now available on the iTunes store. Dunno how useful this will be though as it would take forever downloading movies on the device, even via wifi. Then there’s the capacity issue.
-TONS of language options and keyboards. This is quite amazing actually. I have not seen an electronic device being localized extensively into so many languages in 1 firmware.

In the end, is it worth $10 for 2G Touch users? I’m afraid I have to say yes, as the 3.0 firmware will unlock Bluetooth on the 2G Touch. 1G Touch, however, don’t have Bluetooth nor mic support for voice recording, so the value of the 3.0 firmware is not that great. Thing is, sooner or later I can see that most apps in the app store would require the 3.0 firmware.

I still think for Apple charging money for firmware updates is lame. You don’t see this behavior with any other companies. The lack of shuffle-by-album feature is also super lame, considering this is a standard feature on regular iPods. Some of the features like cut-n-paste are way overdue. The 3.0 firmware is the natural progression of the iPhone/Touch platform. While companies like Sony are still confused on what they’re selling, Apple is definitely turning into the definitive portable media player maker. With the iPhone 3GS getting better camera and video recording, we’ll see if those feature will trickle down to the iPod Touch.

I will post more impression on the Bluetooth feature later.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2009 in 3.0, 3GS, apple, firmware, iPhone, ipod touch, itunes, youtube

 

test posting from twhirl to everything. =)

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2009 in Uncategorized