3-ish Years ago

The new skin reveals the tragic truth, it’s been three years since I made a post on this site,¬†probably not a coincidence that this timeframe coincides with the birth of our youngest, the little time vampire, but maybe more to do with Facebook becoming the defacto notification/rant mechanism.

Looking back though, there’s some value in this old blog so maybe it’s time to resurrect it? Stay tuned (and don’t fall off your chair if you had a subscription to the RSS and this post suddenly pops up ūüėČ

The Tunnel

In 2007 the New South Wales government suddenly scrapped a plan to utilise the water in the disused underground train tunnels beneath Sydney’s St James Train Station.

In 2008, chasing rumours of a government coverup and urban legends surrounding the sudden backflip, investigative journalist Natasha Warner led a crew of four into the underground labyrinth.

They went down into the tunnels looking for a story ‚Äď until the story found them.

This is the film of their harrowing ordeal. With unprecedented access to the recently declassified tapes they shot in the claustrophobic subway tunnels, as well as a series of candid interviews with the survivors, we come face to face with the terrifying truth.

This never before seen footage takes us deep inside the tunnels bringing the darkness to life and capturing the raw fear that threatens to tear the crew apart, leaving each one of them fighting for their lives.

Sounds like another Blair Witch rip off, right? Wrong. Well, sort of.

The similarities with Blair Witch (or any “cam” movie from the last 10 years) end with framework of a “real” account of the experiences of real people in a horrible situation. The filmography in The Tunnel is more on par with Troll Hunter than Blair Witch although filthy, dark tunnels underneath Sydney bare no resemblance to¬†Norwegian¬†mountains and forests (and Trolls!) the camera work is similar in that it manages to not look like it was filmed by a 12 year old with a web cam. The plot reason for this is that most of the footage is taken by a professional news cameraman (and sound man) on a commercial camera so you don’t need to suspend your¬†disbelief¬†too much, don’t worry though, there is a hand held with night vision along for the ride too, for extra spooky glowing eyes effect.

So, yes it’s a “cam” movie but quality-wise a step above the usual, the frames below don’t really do it justice.

There’s more to this story than the movie itself. It’s no big surprise is that the whole thing was filmed on a shoe string budget, no-name actors, a couple of cameras and a ready made location aren’t going to cost a lot.

However, the interesting thing about The Tunnel is how it has been funded and distributed. It’s not a Radiohead-like pay-what-you-want scheme, nor is it a donation/kickstarter scheme. In what the producers are calling the 135k project they are funding the production of the movie by selling individual frames (in electronic form, not hard copy) at $1 each. You can buy one single frame, one second worth (25 frames) or whatever quantity you wish. A special bonus is that one lucky random frame purchaser will share in the total profits from the proceeds of DVD sales to the tune of 1%, that could amount to anything from 14c to a million dollars, who knows.

In addition to funding the movie this way they are also giving it away for free via BitTorrent. As I type there are about 8000 leachers and 1500 seeds but yesterday it was more like 20000 and 5000. I can’t find any info on how many actual downloads have been¬†completely¬†but I would think “quite a lot” is a good estimate.

There is a hard copy DVD of the movie available but these days even if I buy a DVD I end up ripping it and watching the ripped version via the HTPC and rarely watch¬†the¬†extras/special features. So I thought that rather than buy the “hard copy” DVD I would show my support for the movie and their innovative approach by buying some frames, shown below (no spoilers in there, unfortunately), if you look closely you will see that I own these frames, cool!

 

One thing I forgot to mention is that I utterly loved the movie, not only was I sucked in by the characters and the story (partially founded in fact) but it scared the living shit out of me. I should know better than to watch this type of movie after midnight in a quiet house with a long dark corridor to traverse between the screen and bed, I had to use my phones torch move to get through the pitch black corridor. That’s the sign of a great horror movie right there.

A few good (but mostly bad) movies

I’ve been trying to catch up on some movie watching lately, unfortunately my good:bad hit ratio is pretty abysmal…

Megapython vs Gateroid

I think we're alone now. There doesn't seem to be anyone around.

Whenever you see the phrase “SyFy Original Movie” alarms bells should be going off, that is if the title alone didn’t put you in the right frame of mind.

The title is a tautology for the plot, a bunch of mutant snakes and gators fight it out for dominance of the everglade and a bunch of stupid humans get in the way. Staring 80’s pop divas Tiffany (I think we’re alone now) and Debbie Gibson (Electric Youth) which in itself should be enough to attract anyone in their late 30’s to see it, assuming the title didn’t suck you in. Within the first five minutes I was ready to stop watching and find something more constructive to do with my time but then the self deference and 80’s references started to pop up and I realised that this was no ordinary low budget monster flick…I didn’t say it was a good low budget monster flick (it’s very bad) but at least it didn’t take itself seriously and wasn’t afraid to trade on the Debbie Gibson/Tiffany angle, for that alone it was worth watching.

Also, this horrible movie does have a couple of redeeming features, each of Tiffany’s boobs (not nude).

Is there any questions you would like to ask? Where's the exit?

Faster

I never really understood the term “Star Vehicle” when applied to movies but this pretty much provide the perfect definition.

Basic plot is that The Rock is in jail after his bank robbing crew was taken down by another crew who kill everyone including The Rock’s brother. When he gets out of prison he has already arranged a private eye to hand over the names and addresses of all those involved who he proceeds to kill one by one in progressively more boring ways. In the end he kills everyone except for the person responsible for the whole mess, the director of the movie! (actually, it’s Moon Bloodgood, she’s the one who told Billy Bob about the bank robbery). He just rides off in to the sunset oblivious that he left the main antagonist alive, lame.

I didn’t include spoiler warnings there because after ten minutes you will have worked out the entire plot yourself anyway.

Predictable and cliche ridden this piece of crap was clearly only created to give Dwayne Johnson something to do between gym sessions. How they got Tom Berenger and Bill Bob Thornton to participate is a question for the ages. Avoid.

The Human Centipede

OzOzOz, enough said.

Once seen this cannot be unseen, if you don’t want some seriously disturbing images burned in your psyche forever, do not watch this movie.

Feed Her!

Battle Los Angeles

The pick of the bunch. Calling this Independence Day on the ground is pretty accurate, imagine this movie as the depiction of what happens during Independence Day to a group of soliders stuck fighting the ground based aliens while Will Smith is busy shooting off sidewinders in the sky. However, the major criticism of Battle:LA is that it lacks the parody nature of ID and tried to be a little too much Black Hawk Down and not enough ID. I disagree, I liked it.

They're coming outta the walls. They're coming outta the goddamn walls. Let's book!

Gulliver’s Travels

Always bet on (Jack) Black (sorry Wesley Snipes). I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Jack Black but I won’t hate him and this was a fun movie which took some serious liberties with the original story, to great effect. Worth a watch.

Paranormal Activity 2

The original Paranormal Activity had me checking the dark corners of my house and while this sequel didn’t hold the same sway it was still worth watching. Guest appearances by the original cast while intertwining the stories was very well done. If you like the first movie you will most likely enjoy this one too.

From the IMDB Parents Guide, I’m not sure why I’m putting this here but I found it amusing that such a thing exists:

  • Two women are seen wearing bikinis in a pool. It’s very innocent and not sexual.
  • A woman says she would let a man “smash” her.
  • A woman is seen in a bath, but bubbles cover any nudity.
  • Two young teenagers have a go on a Ouiji Board and the male fakes it and spells “Pussy” and then says that the Demon wants pussy
  • Brief mild discussion about underage sex as a joke

It’s interesting to note that two simultaneous sequels were authorised to production, this one and another one Parnormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night, which I am yet to see.

NBN in Royalla, wishful thinking?

There has been a large telecommunications type truck parked on the street near our place for a few days now, with it is a small backhoe and a large roll of white piping (electrical conduit?). I haven’t gotten close enough to actually see what they’re doing and I’m tempted to just let the dream that they’re installing fiber for the NBN go on without reality coming in to play.

Anyway, I took a long distance picture and put it through my favourite filter.

Things I have learned from Red and Green Mars

I know I’m 20 years too late on the bandwagon but even thought I have owned the trilogy since they were first published I only ever read the first (Red Mars) and about a quarter of the second (Blue Mars). Thanks to my Audible subscription I am now able to catch up and have made my way through Red and Green (at nearly 40 hours each!) over the last 2-3 months (an hour and a half in the car each day helps).

Red Mars was a breeze to listen to again, just the right balance action and science and human drama even though it often bordered on soap opera, but after about 2 hours of Green Mars I remembered why I stopped reading it in the first place. It’s been a real struggle to get through it and with just an hour and a half of listening to go I’m glad it’s nearly over and I’m hoping the story picks up in the final book. I have no clue if that will be the case, I have somehow avoided reading anything about Blue Mars since it was released so it will be a surprise no matter how bad/good it is.

Anyway, being two thirds of the way through the trilogy a few things really stick out about the books, things which Kim Stanley Robinson really got wrong or just seemed dumb, here are a few highlights:

  • In 100 years, old people (150+ years of age) will have A LOT of sex, even with the longevity treatment that’s just gross.
  • You will be able to recieve a paper fax through your mobile phone before the century is out, a paper fax!
  • As early as 2050 all recording of video material will be on magnetic tape.

I know it’s not unusual to get technology wrong in sci-fi books but this series is only 20 years old (Red Mars was first published in 1992) and even back then the compact disc was making well entrenched, as were mobile phones so these two faults stuck out to me as terrible extrapolations, I’m sure there are hundred more.

Bucky balls are still awesome.

The co-op conundrum

In multiplayer gaming there are really only two broad categories of gaming, versus or co-operative, at least for the purposes of this article.

When you play a multiplayer game versus other people, generally you can drop in, blow some noobs back to the stone age, check your kill:death ratio and your achievements then go back to whatever it was you were doing before the urge to distribute brain matter came over you.

In co-operative multiplayer you generally join a small group of friends to work you way through a campaign of some sort, be that slaying dragons or breaching a safe house full of terrorists.

Fable 2 had a co-op system which relied on finding a friend who didn’t want to actually play their own character while helping you complete your game with no reward for them, nobody like you that much buddy, big mistake Fable 2, fail. The co-op mode in Crackdown 2 also only progressed the game of the host, leaving the other players as nothing more than hired lacky’s who gained nothing from the experience, we could call this the Fable 2 co-op model, very broken, very wrong.

Saints Row 2 also included a co-op mode and while you could play through the campaign with a friend it was way too much fun to just surprise them with an RPG to the face, over and over and over. That never got old and unfortunately it severely impaired progress through the campaign.

Which brings me to Halo:Reach. A game which has nailed the co-op campaign like no other, while it doesn’t support drop in/out in the co-op campaign it does allow you to play through with a friend (or up to 3 friends) with your own customised character and allows you to bring in the items and character from your single player game in to the campaign and firefight (versus) modes. Almost a perfect co-op experience.

Which brings me to the co-op conundrum.

A game which doesn’t allow drop in/out, but does allow you to play through the campaign with friends where everyone gets credit for completing the campaign introduced a dynamic whereby you need everyone who started the campaign with you be available to play at the same time in order to progress.

Unfortunately, for me at least, your friends all have families, with kids or other commitments (or just other games they play, I hate you WoW) and it would seem that the chances of assembling four of you at the same place for any considerable period of time is approaching impossible in a logarithmic progression the more players you add to the mix.

Obviously, the chances of getting game time in a single player game is 100%, but as you add players, the chances that you are all available in a coherent block of time approaches zero, this dynamic works for as little as 4 players depending the age of the player.

For example, when you’re 15 years old and you’de done all your homework and you parents will let you play, you may be able to get 3 of your friends in to a game maybe 50% of the time, like so:

Single guys, around mid 20’s (or maybe any age) probably still living in there mothers basements have a much easier time of it.

35+, with a family, four player co-op? Forget about it.

I fit in to this last category of course and I know these numbers are scientifically proven by¬†empirical¬†evidence collected over the last 40 years, it’s real science, you can’t dispute my findings.

What these finding do tell us is that as an Angry Old Bastard gamer the most you can hope for in a game like Halo:Reach is to be able to game with one buddy, add more in to the mix and you’re just asking for a world of hurt and frustration. Of course, there will be exceptions and by changing the variables (for instance adding drop in/out to a co-op game, like Diablo 3) and the chance of achieving gaming nirvana are increased.

So, if you’re old and stupid and still manage to co-ordinate both thumbs at the same time through all the arthritis pain grab a copy of Halo:Reach and sign up one of your friends, pick wisely, in fact, maybe you should pick your single friends as your co-op partner. I didn’t chart that¬†possibility, shit. Maybe next time.

HPI Nitro Monster King

Get in the waaaaaay back machine and come with me, 20 years ago, Rose Cottage Inn on the Monaro highway, the second Sunday of every month.

Tamiya Frog

Here you would find me and dad setting up a rickety old cards table and crappy fold up chairs, pulling a car battery out of the boot of the car connecting some wires to it then to another smaller battery. I would then be carefully removing a small 1:10 scale buggy from the boot, in the early days a Tamiya Frog then later a Tamiya Hornet and a Tamiya Hotshot. Checking the battery level of the stick (then later, wheel) radio control unit, chatting with friends, selling my home made battery eliminators, eating terrible half cooked hotdogs from the Inn and finally putting my charged car on the starting line, ready to race.

Hornet

I was pretty good too, in the early days due to the quick reflexes, some driving tips from dad  and enthusiasm of youth and in the later days to sponsorship I managed to secure from a hobby shop (Zanter Hobbies, Google has failed me in finding any trecent trace of them except for this) my car and I were competitive and I still have a box of trophies in the shed to prove it. Unfortunately, despite the sponsorship, skill and enthusiasm the hobby got away from me as more and more adults and their full time jobs and full time salaries joined in, spending more and more money on much more expensive cars than I could afford put me out of competition, the hobby had ceased to be fun and turned in to a business.

Hotshot

Since then I haven’t really kept up with RC technology but have¬†occasionally¬†gone to watch the weekend races hosted by CORMCC Club in Canberrra and casually look at hobby shops to see what sort of cars people were racing/driving these days and it wasn’t hard to tell that the trend which began when I stopped racing has continued and grown since then.

From my little research on local forums and the CORMCC site the racing scene is just as big as it was back in my day, we would regularly get 20-30 racers out on an average day and by the looks of the results page on the CORMCC site they get about the same. The main difference being that back when I was racing there was only really one class of car available, 2WD or 4WD electric 1:10 scale. These days the classes seem split between 1:8 electric, 1:8 Nitro, Buggies and Truggies, and then there is a whole different set of racers for on-road electric, nitro or drift. As far as I can tell Nitro Buggies are the most popular format and a little more research reveals that the average budget for a race competitive buggy would be close to $2000! ….and I thought it was expensive back when I was making my own electronics and buying drive shafts from guys cutting them on a lathe in their garage….crikey!

Just before Fathers Day a friend sent me a link to some cheap RC¬†helicopter¬†a friend of his has bought from RC Hobbies, and while I wasn’t terribly interested in the helicopter I ended up browsing around the site and found this RTR (Ready to Roll) HPI Nitro Monster King, the perfect fathers days present.

I figured for $200 I’d get a fully assembled nitro monster truck ready to drive out of the box, this includes the engine, radio unit and almost everything else you need to get driving, little did I know it needed an additional $150 worth of batteries, fuel, glow plug ignitor, charger and other accessories but it was still a good way to get back in to the hobby, so I figured.

Here’s the beast in the flesh, after going through the quite extensive run-in procedure I am yet to complete the engine tuning process but these are well documented so hopefully I’ll have it fully tuned and ready to belt around the back paddock in no time.

HPI Nitro Monster King

The next stage in the master plan is to get on the ride-on and mow out a track in grass, then carve out a track in the dirt complete with jumps and other monster truck appropriate obstacles (not alpacas).

In the back of my mind buying this truck was mostly to see if driving was still fun (it is!) and if Alex would like it (he does!) with the ultimate aim being that I would eventually be able to buy a competitive buggy (electric or nitro, I’m undecided) and go racing again, giving us something to do together much like my dad and me did all those years ago.

Now that I’m one of those adults with a full time job and a full time income I can go back and have my revenge on the hobby which cast me aside all those years ago, finally, MU HA HA HA *cough* *cough*.

Search Keyword Madness

I make a post like this every now and then because I’m fascinated by how people find this site completely by random chance or typing is crazy search terms, luckily my curiosity is easily sated by StatPress and Google Analytics.

After being back online for only a week it seems that the popular keywords are already suitably nutty but that’s just as much a reflection of the eclectic range of topics I post about as the insanity of the internet. Here’s the top few, for example with the posts they arrived at linked:

So there you have it. It seems like a fair proportion of these come in search of images, so it’s lucky I’m diligent with my alt tags (actually, I’m not).

Of course, this junk is only of interest to me so posting it is pointless other than to give people searching for these terms one more place to land.

The number of spammy comments has reduced considerably (from 10 a day, to none) since I turn on CAPTCHA on the comments page so that was an easy fix, although I do kinda miss the creative ways these spammers were disguising their garbage as actual comments, for example:

Hi! Is it OK if I go a bit off topic? I’m trying to read your page on my Macbook but it doesn’t display properly, do you have any suggestions? Thanks! Roderick

You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren?¬Įt afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

very informative site

They look like real comments mostly, until you take a look at the website or email address used by the bot, they look so scary only a true idiot would click on them.

I do get the odd genuine comment from someone who’s stumbled upon the site and that’s nice. So, if you’re reading this now because you found this site looking for fallout wallpaper, hints on charging your iPod without iTunes or alpaca porn, feel free to leave me a comment, sorry about the CAPTCHA¬†but it’s a necessary evil.

Sync or Swim

This post is about how I have manage to avoid paying full price for most of the iPhone apps I have installed.

Sure, there are some which I have paid full price for and they have been worth every cent (Camera+ -currently unavailable- springs immediately to mind, as does eWallet and SprintGPS) but some apps are good value at $1.19, and even better value at $0 (most aren’t even worth $0 but that’s the topic of another post entirely).

The thing is that quite often iPhone app developers will drop their price for a special promotion, or set the price to FREE for a random 24 hours period to create some buzz, sometimes because they have another app coming out soon and want to raise awareness and sometimes just because they’re batshit insane and like living on two minute noodles and expired beer.

Anyway, it’s not rocket surgery but what I do avoid paying developers for their hard work isn’t completely obvious either, so here’s the deal:

The easy way

As the name would suggest FADD offer one paid app for free every day, most of the apps are only free for one day but some persist for several days and the FAAD app keeps track of them for you.

See, I told you it wasn’t rock science. I used to use an app called AppSniper but it became increasingly unstable and unreliable so I removed it and now prefer to use the method below.

The slightly less easy way

  • Sign up for a Google Reader account
  • Use google reader to subscribe to the appshopper.com rss feed at http://appshopper.com/feed/?mode=featured
  • Check the feed on your iphone using the google app or via your browser on the dekstop, as per the image to the right it clearly shows apps which have dropped in price and even notifies you of new ones as they are released.

The other great feature of Appshopper is that when you view the app page in their site it shows you a price history of the app so you can see when the sneaky developer increased the price from FREE to $5.99 then to FREE again within the space of two days. These are the ones you usually know to avoid because they’re permanently free for a reason (not all free apps are shit, but it’s a generalisation I stand by).

You’ll be drowning in free apps before you have time to say “Chris, you’re a certified genius!”

One Caveat: I have noticed a disturbing trend of once paid apps going free but integrating either micro-transactions or iAds in to their normal flow.Tower Madness is one example. This once $2.99 tower defence app has gone free but now seems to offer upgrades to weapons or new maps, for a price. While I understand the developers need to feed their families I much prefer they do so by offering a product which people will actually want to pay for without using dirty tricks.

So there you have it, enjoy your free apps and remember if you like an app you happen to get for free make sure you support the developer in the future, the good ones deserve your money and encouragement  and who knows, maybe one day the signal to noise ratio in the app store will favour the apps worth paying for rather than 698 fart apps.

yes, 698 fart apps