Life imitates (science) fiction, yet again

Looking back at old science fiction stories, we can see the seeds of modern technology scattered throughout. One of the most well-known sources of this phenomenon is, of course, Star Trek. Whether it’s the “communicator” which culminated in the advent of the “flip-phone”, or the “PADD”, which pre-dated the Palm Pilot by nearly 10 years, and the now ubiquitous iPad by 23 years, we’ve been drawing real world inspiration from science fiction for nearly as long as there’s been science fiction.

Well, here we go again:

Samsung and startup VTouch are working on a deal that would allow the South Korean giant to incorporate gesture controls into its smart TVs in the future.  The purpose of adding gesture controls to smart TVs is to eliminate the need for remote controls so users can rely on using hand gestures to make the TV do what they want, like changing channels, adjusting the volume, getting more information about the show they are watching.

The basic framework has been in place at the consumer level for a few years now, with technology like Microsoft’s Kinect, the Leap Motion controller, etc. Now they’re looking at incorporating it into home automation.

Of course, Douglas Adams predicted this back in 1979:

For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive–you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program.

Zaphod waved a hand and the channel switched again.

Fortunately, we’ve gotten the technology to be a little more discerning than that. Your neighbors might be irritated if a badly timed sneeze were to open all  your windows, crank up your stereo, and start your robo-mower at 0300!

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[Source: Smart TVs may soon control your home, Silicon Angle article, retrieved 3/10/14]

Quickie movie review: Man of Steel

Good story, good pacing, good acting. Good movie!

The Kryptonian vs. Kryptonian fight scenes are very well done, and met my expectations of what that kind of fight would look like – bursts of super-speed, use of terrain as a weapon, and truly epic levels of property damage.

I think Henry Cavill did a good Superman, and will do well in the next film, too.

Directors should be fined (say, 5% of gross) for every instance of “shaky-cam” in a movie.

If your theater has older digital projectors that suffer from motion-blur issues, try to find a theater with better projectors (or one that still uses film, if you can) to see this movie in. Motion blur is very noticeable in this film, and not just in the action sequences. Sadly, my local theater has those issues.

Very good movie, IMHO. You should see it, if you haven’t already.

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This looks interesting

RWBY, a new series from the creators of Red vs. Blue.

If the embedding doesn’t work, follow the link. So far, there are two “teaser” videos available, Red and White.

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Honored American Veterans Afield fundraiser

Over at Walls of the City, Linoge is doing another fundraiser for a worthy cause, with some nice prizes. Go check it out!

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A Simple Review – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (3D)

Worth. Every. Penny.

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This is pretty cool

and probably expensive.

Definitely a head turner, though.

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STG33

New Phone Phun

Well, it finally happened – my contract upgrade became available on Monday, so I was able to get a new phone. And yes:

it is an Android.*

A Galaxy Nexus, to be exact. After the last year or so of waiting for independent developers to come out with custom ROMs for my LG Optimus S so I could get better versions of Android, I decided that I wanted either a Nexus device, or something that would be easy for the devs to build custom ROMs for quickly. I also wanted something that hopefully won’t be pushing the boundaries of usability for the last six months of my contract like the Optimus was (it was a good phone when it was released, and the fact that I it could run ICS well despite its age speaks well for the design, but it was released just before manufacturers started shoving multi-Gigabytes of memory into everything – it only had 140MB of internal memory, and only 127MB of that was available to the user – and I never did put more than a 2GB SD card in it, but apps have gotten bigger and bigger since then).

My final choice was between Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus (GNex) and their Galaxy SIII (S3). Both are fairly easy to root and flash ROMs to. My biggest reason for considering the S3 was that the Nexus doesn’t have an SD card slot, but I also wanted a clean (though not necessarily “pure”) Android Jellybean interface, and the S3’s TouchWiz overlay just didn’t impress me. On the other hand, the S3 is both popular enough and close enough to the Nexus hardware-wise that ROMs are easy to find (a pure Jellybean ROM for the S3 was available within just a few days of the source code being released, I believe, and I think a CyanogenMod 10 ROM for it was released not long after that), so fixing the TouchWiz issue wouldn’t really be a big deal. I did like the look and feel of the GNex better. In the end, I went with the GNex, both for look and feel, and more importantly because the price was significantly better. I figure with the GNex’s 32 GB of memory I should be okay even in another year and a half or so.
So, now that I’ve had for it a couple of days, what are my early impressions?

Pros:

  • Screen quality: Pretty good, as long as you turn of the automatic brightness control and set it to your liking. Otherwise, it seems to set it pretty low (probably to save battery life), which, since it’s an AMOLED screen, causes the colours to be off – whites look a bit yellowish, etc. I seem to get the best results at about 75% – 80% brightness. The oleophobic coating seems to perform as advertised as well, making it pretty easy to keep the screen clean.
  • Responsiveness: Quick and smooth, thanks to Project Butter. The S3, with its slightly higher-end hardware (quad-core vs. dual-core), might have been even better, but I’m quite happy with the GNex’s responsiveness.
  • Overall build: It seems pretty solid to me. More so than I felt with the S3.
  • Cameras: I haven’t really played with them much yet, but both the front and back camera seem pretty good. Again, the S3 apparently has higher-end cameras, but what the GNex has seems perfectly okay for my needs so far.
  • Software: It’s a Google Nexus device, so it will get updates pretty quickly. There’s going to be a little bit of a delay while Sprint adjusts the update for it’s network, but that’s unavoidable with any CDMA Nexus device due to some of the patents involved with CDMA, and I could probably flash a CyanogenMod ROM if I got impatient.
  • Size: I was a little uncertain about this. My old phone was just the right size for me to use one handed, and it fit in my pocket pretty well, so I was leery about getting a phone where the screen was as big as my entire old phone, but it actually works out okay. It’s not as thick as my old phone, which means the larger height and width don’t make a significant difference in my pocket. It’s a stretch to do some things one handed, but the larger screen is definitely worth it (to me, at least).
  • Google Now: I am loving it, so far. The voice search and how it handles results are wonderful. I think the cards will grow into a great resource. There are security and privacy concerns, but that’s a personal balancing act that each individual will have to do.

Cons:

  • This phone is slippery. I was really, really making an effort at being careful with it for the first couple of hours, and then I got fed up and bought a gel case so I would have something with some grip to it. Pulling it out of my pocket before that was challenging. Seriously, Samsung, put some of that “soft-touch” rubberlike coating on the back for the next one, would you? Holding the GNex without a case is like trying to hold on to a wet ice cube.
  • Screen colour: As I noted above, while it’s a nice, sharp image, unless the brightness is turned up the colours are off, especially whites or brighter colours. The problem being that this affects the battery life. AMOLED is a trade-off in mobile devices, with different pros and cons than the more standard LCDs.

Neutral or Uncertain:

  • Battery life: I’m not sure how the battery life will stack up, yet. I’ve read that some people have issues and some don’t, and my usage so far hasn’t been my typical usage, because I’ve had to reload all my apps and fine tune my settings. I’ve also been prowling the Play Store for new apps or apps I had wanted but couldn’t fit on my old phone without deleting something else, first. Additionally, I didn’t realize it, but when I rooted it (so I could use Titanium Backup to restore my apps and keep future backups), it reset the network mode to CDMA/LTE from the CDMA only mode they set it to at the store (Sprint doesn’t have LTE in my area, yet). LTE mode is apparently one of the biggest power drains on this phone, because it uses a separate processor. Without LTE coverage, that’s a pointless power drain.
  • Signal strength: Another thing some people seem to have had an issue with. I’m not really noticing any difference from my old phone.
  • Call quality: Seems okay, but I haven’t made enough calls to really tell yet if it’s any better or worse than my old phone, or if it’s the same.

That’s about all I can think of, for now! I’m certainly enjoying having enough memory to load (or even update!) apps without having to delete something else.

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* Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Gun show report

I met Dad at the gun show Saturday, and we did the usual wandering around and chatting, but it was productive, too. He brought me the Mauser I posted about yesterday, and also brought a gun to sell, a reproduction S&W Schofield revolver in .45 Long Colt. That met with immediate success, and sold at the very first table right by the doors. In fact, we didn’t even get to start approaching the tables before the dealer called out “Are you looking to sell that?” A little haggling later, and Dad was $X richer (X being only $25 below his initial asking price) and the dealer was one reproduction Schofield richer. He also had a custom holster to sell, but that didn’t pan out.

The show wasn’t packed, but it was busy. The ammunition dealers looked like they planned to sell a lot, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them still sold out before the weekend was over (this is the first time I’ve noticed several people walking out with one or more cases of ammunition). I noticed a few more “evil black rifles” than usual, too. There were lots of pistols, of course, but nothing that tempted me to immediately trade in my Taurus (which is something I was looking for, though not aggressively – though I did have the box in the car).

If I’d had $1K to spare, I probably would have walked out with an AR-15 of some sort (and I don’t even really care for that style, but every time they start talking about “assault weapon” bans, I get this urge to buy one, because FSCK YOU). If I’d had $800 to spare, I probably would have walked out with a Chiappa Rhino (or maybe a bare-bones AR). Sadly, I didn’t even have $1 to spare, so I walked out with nothing. But it was still fun!

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Sunday Gun Pr0n!

Well, I said I was expecting a new toy, so here it is!

Click to embiggenate.

That is a “sporterized” m98 Mauser, in the original 8mm Mauser chambering (a.k.a., 7.92x57mm Mauser). This was a gift from Dad, and it’s the rifle I learned to hunt with when I was a kid.

The original 3 position safety has been replaced with a Buehler-style 2 position safety (similar to this one), and the bolt handle was bent down and slightly back from the original horizontally straight configuration. Dad is “pretty sure” that it’s been glass bedded. The trigger has been customized and is very nice, with no slack and a sharp break. You can see in these pictures that the bluing has been worn in some places from use.

The stock has a nice looking grain, and two “racing stripes” with a sort of lightning bolt motif at the front and at the base of the grip. The rear sight is fully adjustable and the front sight is nice and thin, with a gold coloured “bead” for better visibility.

This has always been my favourite rifle. Now I just need to get some stripper clips for it! (And more ammo. Always more ammo!)

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I soooo want one of these!

Greetings Mechwarrior. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur…

Wait. That’s not right. Oh, I see, wrong continuity.

Still, it looks like we’ll have BattleMechs before we have Mobile Infantry powered armor. Right now it’s just being sold as a rich man’s toy instead of as a military weapon, but really, how long do you think it will take? The fact that it’s being sold commercially means that it’s light-years ahead of any powered armor I’m aware of. And how much work do you think it would take to replace those BB gun Gatlings with a real gun, or add a quality targeting system? Sensors should be fairly easy, too, although tying them into the HUD would be the hardest part. Rough terrain capability might require hardware changes to the legs, but pretty much all the technology needed for that already exists and should be pretty easy to integrate. Actually, the legs make me think of a Tachikoma more than a BattleMech, but the overall design is a bit more anthropomorphic and BattleMech-like.

It even uses an X-box Kinect as part of the controls.

I don’t care how impractical it is. I want one (or two).

There are some cool videos at the manufacturer’s website.

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[Source: Yahoo! Games article, retrieved 7/31/12]

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