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H.N.I.C Steps Down from Microsoft June 28, 2008

Posted by Einar Rowan in Microsoft.
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The head nerd in charge, William Henry Gates the 3rd, has officially stepped down from Microsoft on June 27th, 2008. He introduced us to personal computing, I can vividly remember the years spent working on a 486/DX NEC Windows 3.1 desktop using a 56Kbps USRobitics modem and AOL back in the early 1990’s. He introduced us to Direct X, allowing a generation of kids to vent our angst against virtual baddies on our Windows 95 boxes, popping off head shots with deadly precision, using the original Monster 3D 8mb dedicated graphics cards. Windows 98 really started the evolution to the next level of computing with the Quake 3D and Half -Life series of games, Windows 98 really felt different than 95, 95 felt more like 3.1 with a different graphical user theme. With the introduction of Windows 2000 we were blessed with wireless Internet, high speed USB ports, and better TCP/IP network functionality.

Bill Gates and Microsoft really hit it big with their next OS, Windows XP Professional. It has become the defacto standard for business machines and support for XP will continue well into 2014. Then all of a sudden Microsoft Vista is released and touted as the next big OS, and boy how they were wrong. Thanks to Vista, Apple’s market share in the Personal Computing market is steadily rising and XP is still in demand. Although I refuse to use Vista as my primary OS (Mac OS X has taken over this role for me) it not a terrible OS as some people say. New releases from the Linux community like Ubuntu, OS X Leopard, and the Netbooks are beginning to show the kinks in Microsoft’s armor.

I hope Bill Gates retirement does not mean the beginning of the end of Microsoft, just look at the history of Def Jam records after Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin left and maybe there is still hope. I hear from a lot of haters that Mac OS X is to simple but do we really want to use something as complicated as Vista? Microsoft better recognize that simplicity is in and bloatware is out, quality and design do attribute for something, and that nobody wants to have a Zune Phone.

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Custom Lego Chess Set September 20, 2008

Posted by Einar Rowan in Einar Rowan.
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My son has so many Lego pieces that I built a custom chess board the other day. It took two days to build and a couple more to complete the different figures. Was designed free hand without a plan or instructions, simply off the top of the head.
Enjoy the photos, tell me what you think. If your in Berlin and want to play chess send me a line as well.

Lego Chess

Lego Chess

Lego Chess Corner View

Lego Chess Corner View

Lego Chess - Black/Grate Side 1

Lego Chess – Black/Grate Side 1

Lego Chess - Black/Grate Back

Lego Chess – Black/Grate Side Back

Lego Chess - White/Flat Side Front

Lego Chess – White/Flat Side Front

Lego Chess - White/Flat Side Back

Lego Chess – White/Flat Side Back

The Incredible Hulk Review July 17, 2008

Posted by Einar Rowan in Movie Reviews.
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Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed the relaunch of the mean green fighting machine, The Incredible Hulk. Marvel is the new Carlco for the current generation, giving us a wealth of wonderful stories attached with real actors and reputable directors. Although it has it’s flaws it is no where near as boring as the original Hulk from Ang Lee and way more entertaining than the Superman Returns movie. Both of those movies failed because the directors forgot the reason we read comic books is because in comic books you can make the action and fight sequences as big and bold as you like. The Incredible Hulk should go third in line after Batman Begins and Iron Man as far successful, well made, entertaining superhero movies. I think it is fair to put this above the X-Men movies as well. As good as the X-Men movies are, we all recognize that Wolverine is the most interesting character and deserves his own treatment, which is currently in the works. That will be a movie to see, lets hope the makers of that movie have following the trend of current superhero movies that are winning the audiences and critics over.

The movie starts in Brazil five years after the first Hulk. Banner is working at a soda bottling factory, trying to stay under the radar and figure out a cure for the monster within, until an accident at the factory happens that forces Banner to go back on the run. With a platoon of US Army troops hot on his heels, plus a special weapon on loan from the British SAS, Banner leads them to the factory where he works. At the same time Banner is being chased by the Army he is also being chased by a group of disgruntled coworkers that are upset with Banner. This all comes to head in the factory and the coworkers start to rough up Banner while the Army watches in the distance. By now Banner has been punched in the gut, his heart beat is racing beyond the boiling point, and Hulkamania is about to start. This first battle between the Army and the Hulk was filmed like a horror movie, very dark and the Hulk hiding in the shadows, the silhouette of his massive form moving in the darkness. When you get to see his face for the first time it is a relief to see he does not look like Ang Lee.

Since this is a movie I think everyone who likes these kinds of movies should go see I don’t want to give too much of the story away. If you’ve seen the trailers then you know that there are at least two other sequences, one that is done very well and shot in the daylight on a University campus, and another where the Hulk battles The Abomination. Speaking of which, one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed this movie is because Tim Roth is a very underrated actor and a better actor than Ed Norton. Since the movie makers rightfully assume we all know the background story of the Hulk, we are treated to a much healthier dose of story telling with the character arch of Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth. It was so bad-ass to see Roth play the tough military type because, to put it in the words of his character, you’re going to have a lot of professional tough guys pissing in their pants when the Hulk shows up again. We all know from the trailers that Blonsky become The Abomination and the best scene from this movie is when Blonsky battles the Hulk at the University campus. This is what really got my attention, because the SFX guys were confident that there creation could be filmed in daylight, not using the dark to hide imperfections.

The CGI is much better this time than the last. The Hulk gets to use weapons this time and uses them with deadly force. We don’t have to wait 40 minutes this time before we see the Hulk, we don’t have to sit through pages upon pages of exposition and character buildup. The Incredible Hulk moves at a quick pace and is only hampered in part by Liv Tyler. She is a wonderful actress but we are getting tired of her angelic, holier-than-thou, pure image. She needs to find a role that can give her a different tone, like a heroin addict or some flawed character. Here her only role is the damsel in distress and the ever loving girlfriend, plus the Generals daughter. I was almost reminded of the scene in King Kong with Naomi Watts when they are in the jungle on the rocks, when the Hulk rescues Tylers character from the scorched earth left by her father and bring her to to a mountain side in the pouring rain. I liked this scene because the director played with the colors and the Hulk almost appears grey, a direct homage to the original comic where the Hulk was painted grey.

Hancock Review July 9, 2008

Posted by Einar Rowan in Einar Rowan, Movie Reviews.
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*This contains spoilers so be warned if you have not seen it already.*

I am not sure what to make of Hancock. I brought my six year old son to see the movie and had a hard time figuring what the moral of the story is. Is Hancock a Superhero or a (bad) representation of how blacks are viewed in America. Did Will Smith not read the entire script before signing on the dotted line or has he lost touch with his roots, back when he traveled with Jazzy Jeff and was known as the Fresh Prince. It took me a few days to see beyond the special effects wizardry and witty banter between Smith and Jason Bateman, it took me a few days to realize something was terribly wrong with the film.

The movie starts out in typical fashion, introducing us to our lead character and the title of the movie. Speaking of the title, our Superhero is called almost as often by his name as he is called an asshole as well. But I guess Asshole Superhero would not have been a family friendly movie title. The beginning setup shows us who our superhero is, a quasi homeless black man that is begrudgingly woken up from a drunken stupor, by a young boy who brings to his attention a freeway police chase and  then calls him an asshole. Before Hancock can spring into action he has to reach for his bottle of alcohol and adjust his shades and to show that he doesn’t care about anything, Hancock implodes the bench he was sleeping on from the force of his takeoff.  Now the requisite Ludicris rap music starts as Hancock takes swigs from his bottle and flying like only a hungover drunk Superhero can, causing 8 million dollars worth of damage to the city as he apprehends the crazy Asians in the SUV, and then again being called an asshole by the perps before Hancock gets all grumpy about being called an asshole and sticks them and their SUV on top of a building.

Next we get to meet Hancocks Great White Savior, a man that is called the “Bono of PR” who is trying to save world through public relations and played in good form by Jason Bateman. Our Superhero saves him from a train as he is on his way home from a failed PR campaign pitch and Bateman saves Hancock from the growing crowd surrounding Hancock, because his method of stopping the train was not to their approval. Again he is called asshole numours times here and he again reassurtes his blackness by calling a woman a “bitch” but this time it is Hancock that is saved by his savior who wants to help Hancock repair his image by molding him into what the public expects from him. Hancock brings Bateman’s character home and we are introduced to his perfect wife and spunky son, which warms Hancocks cold heart and gives him a taste of being accepted by white America. Within a few minutes Hancock agrees to turn himself in on charges brought on by his last stunt, that caused 8 million dollars worth of damage. The reasoning behind his decision to turn himself in is the belief that people will like him and miss him and need him more than ever if he is locked up. This was the case with Mumia and Stanley Tookie as well, they were never set free but needed more than ever.

Now we are at the mid point of the film and at the moment when the police chief calls requesting Hancock’s assistance, just as Bateman’s character predicted.  Now we get to see Hancock’s transformation from black man that nobody likes to black man everyone likes, because he has changed his ways and conformed to the mainstream view that we all like black people when they are clean, freshly shaven, and polite. I am not making any of this up, this is what is being shown to us and labled as entertainment. Next we are introduced to a group of bank robbers and their leader with a Bad Guy Cliche #1437 “I’m evil and crazy” accent that Hancock mames and disfigures by removing his hand from his arm, after of course being called an asshold yet again.

The last act of this film is where reality and conventional wisdom leave the theater. Throughout the film we see Bateman’s wife, played by Charlize Theron, doing the conventional how wife routine, being the perfect soccer mom. There is a big secret and that is she is actually a Superhero as well. From here on out the movie writers over explain the whole act and and put way to much exposition and information that we could have done with out. But being a Superhero is only the tip of the iceberg.

You see, she is not only a Superhero as well, but also Hancocks wife, his white wife that he is not allowed to be near because he will lose his powers and die. The same goes for her, whereas she was more than happy to live a secret life as a housewife, her husband none the wiser to her abilities. Hancock and his estranged white wife duke it out in front of rising tornado’s, beating each other up for no apparent reason except for Hancock wanting to tell Bateman’s character the truth about his wife and his wife not wanting Hancock to say anything. This is all a mute point because of course when the battle ends, the smoke clears and the sfx renderings are complete they just happen to be right in front of building where Hancocks white savior just failed another spirited PR campaign, and thus he sees his wife in her true form, scrapping it out with Hancock.

This leads to a confusing finale in a hospital when the film turns into any other Superhero movie. Hancock is injured while thwarting a robbery, shot in the gut and rushed to the hospital. His white wife appears only to remind him that she is his weakness and being near her makes him vulnerable and not immortal. But before she can leave so he can heal, the Evil Bank Robber leader returns with a new posse. After a confusing and rather disappointing fight with the baddies as the fire sprinklers are running, we see Hancock almost defeated. He has been shot multiple times and struggling to reach the Evil leader and just before Hancock gets one in the dome, his Great White Savior saves the day and shoots the Evil leader in the back.

The last scene shows Hancock in present day, watching over the city all cleanly shaved and polite, even using a bluetooth headset. Hancock has moved into Uncle Tom’s cabin, has become a servant to society and must stay away from his white wife.  There are twists in movies and then there is this, thinly vield racist views of how we perceive blacks in America. Segregation is over but racism is still rampant and maybe worse some would argue. I feel bad paying to watch this move and wish I could get my money back, I do not want to be contributing to this racist American Hollywood machine.

The Will Smith I once appriciated is now making jokes about the plight of his people to earn repect and equality not because they are different but becuase we are all people. Mr. Smith, you are a citizen of Earth as well, I think you should have paid more attention to what the movie makers where crafting around you and less about having another blockbuster that smells like a large pile of doo doo. Or, at least had them cast Halle Berry as your Amazon Queen and make it more of a love story along the lines of Superman and Lois Lane.

Unlocked IPhone Review June 30, 2008

Posted by Einar Rowan in IPhone, Reviews.
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2 comments

The IPhone is one of the most edelstahl pieces of schmuck I have had the pleasure to own. The build quality is second to none, it feels very compact like everything is tightly packed inside and not a waste of air. As a side note, most of the programs and methods in this review can also apply to the Apple IPod Touch.

There are many sites that detail how to unlock a IPhone, some methods are more simple than complicated. I used the simple ZIPhone method that required a simple program download, setting my IPhone to recovery mode (hold power and home button for 25 seconds), running ZIPhone and selecting the all-in-one step of Unlock, Jailbreak & Activate (For the ITouch just Jailbreak, which puts the installer app on the home screen). Once this process completes, in less than 5 minutes, the only step left is to insert your SIM card and unlock the SIM using your cell provider SIM Pin.

I got a EPlus Base DE contract so I can used my IPhone in Germany, T-Mobile being the regular provider in Germany. You cant even buy a IPhone without a T-Mobile contract in Germany, unlike the states where you can walk into a Apple store and buy one without a contract, like I did before I came to Berlin.

About Screen w/BASE DE SIM

The call quality is not the best on the IPhone, sometimes it can be hard to hear the other end of the conversation but overall it works as a phone. Signal reception seems to be very good, even underground on the Subway I get proper signal. I do not use a Bluetooth headset with my IPhone, nor do I walk around with a bluetooth earpiece in my ear constantly like as if I am trying out for the Secret Service. I can be lazy but not lazy enough that I cant raise my phone to my ear.

For my IPhone phone keypad I replaced the original keypad with the Buuf2 Keypad. This is a nice looking keypad that gives the IPhone a natural holistic feel. Even when I am not using the Buuf2 SB theme it is a great keypad replacement and is easily uninstalled with the Installer app.

Buuf2 Custom Dialer

Safari for the IPhone is fast, much faster than my PSP browser. It does have a 8 open page limitation, you can only have up to 8 open at one time. I wonder if anyone will release a hack to remedy this, however it is not a deal killer. For Safari I can recommend using Eye TV and Remote Buddy.

Eye TV has a neat feature called “Eye TV Sharing” that enables access to recorded programs on the IPhone or ITouch. What this means is that when I am at home I can watch all my recorded shows on the IPhone, as long as my computer that has Eye TV installed is running and connected to the network. So far this only works when I am on the same network as my computer but still, it is nice being able to sit on the patio and watch TV without with a TV or Computer. Stream quality is excellent, it displays a very high resolution picture and the player it uses is the built in Quicktime codec.
Here is a screen-shot the Eye TV Sharing program selection, displaying my recorded EM 2008 game:

Eye TV Sharing Web Interface

Next up for Safari is the Remote Buddy program. This is a great remote access program for the IPhone, enabling you to control your computer with the IPhone, view the webcam on your computer, even play ITunes music off the computer. The program in not free but is worth trying out for it’s 30 day trial period. I use this program mainly as my remote baby sitter. When my kids watch a movie on the computer I can bring up this site on my IPhone and watch the kids through the webcam, like a virtual remote nannycam. I can be in the next room or out in the patio and have can see what the kids are doing. It does not play sound, only video but you can take a snapshot of the video.

Remote Buddy AJAX Interface

Some great Installer Apps I use and find very helpful are Summerboard, MxTube, Geopedia, Snapture, Poof!, IAwake, and Screenshot. Each of these programs add to the overall functionality and customization of the IPhone. Let start with Summerboard. Summerboard allows you to download themes and really gives your IPhone the look and feel of something special and different.

Buuf2 Summerboard Theme

MxTube is one of the coolest programs because it allows downloading of YouTube videos. You save these locally on the IPhone and then watch them at your leisure. You will want to use this program with either the auto-off function turned off or using a program like Insomia or IAwake that allows the Wifi to stay on when the phone goes into sleep mode. I prefer to do turn off the auto-off when download multiple videos, being able to watch the download speed is to a geek like a gear-head tracking quarter mile times. I use the download progress sometime for a bandwidth test, however the download speed also depends on the server at the other end but none the less fun to observe.

MxTube Application Download Status

Geopedia is fun if you are a fan of Wikipedia. This application uses your wireless signal to locate your position on this Earth and displays point of interest around you and then gives you the ability to go to the Wikipedia article, view it on a map, see Flickr pictures and related articles.

Geopedia Locate Me POI Interface

The IPhone has a 2-Megapixel camera built-in and a very basic picture taking program. It allows you to only take a single photo or view your picture roll. I replaced it with Snapture, a very robust free camera program. I like the fact that it will take 3 pictures in a row automatically, allows digital zooming, and color correction. It also has a Photos button that brings you to your photo album. Very easy to use and much better than the default program.

Snapture Main Screen

Poof! for IPhone hides application icons from showing up in your home screen. This useful with programs like Snapture, you can hide the default Camera and Photos icons so you dont have redundancy and useless programs taking up space.

Poof! Application Hiding

IAwake allows the IPhone to keep the Wifi powered when the phone goes to sleep. This comes in handy when downloading something that takes a long time but you dont want to drain your battery by turning off the auto-off feature. One thing I noticed when using this program is that the back of the IPhone gets hotter than normal, I think it’s becuase the wireless power is at full steam.

IPhone Screenshot 1.2.1 is what I used to make all the screen-shots for this post. It is very simple and allows you to email screenshots stored on the IPhone. Oddly enough, when you open the program you cant actually take a screen-shot of the program itself. You can modify the location of the saved screenshots, set the file type, set the capture button location and other settings.

Conclusion:
The IPhone makes every other smartphone seem old and obsolete. The IPhone is to the cell community like Firefox is the internet. The IPhone is fast like Firefox and all other Windows Mobile devices are slow like IE. The IPhone is a chic device and I get my fair share of jealous glances from onlookers and on the flip side, I sneer in technological dominance when watching people using a stylus to tap on a Windows Mobile device. I am blow away with the picture and video quality, it is like a mini PSP screen. I am not impressed when people try and convince me they are satisfied with their little fuzzy Palm Treo video quality. I am also not impressed with version two of the IPhone, I want the metal backing, I want the added weight and bulk, I do want Bluetooth audio, Wireless-N, front-facing cameras. All of which are not present on the new IPhone. 8gb of storage may seem like not enough but this is not the do-all, have-all mp3 player, it is a temporary place to store what you want to listen to now, what you want to view now. It is a “right here, right now” device, think of something and the IPhone should be able to.

The IPhone is the cell phone that has evolutionized the industry, lets hope other manufactures take notice and learn a lesson. The Palm Treo had the potential but neither the intuition nor vision to give us more, even with the thousands of 3rd-party apps available. Windows Mobile devices are handicapped again by Microsoft inability to make anything simple, WM6 has lots of functions but who knows how to use them.The IPhone is the new benchmark for all other phones, it is oozes intuition and style.