Reboots Rebooted!

I’ve mentioned this previously, but it never ceases to frustrate and annoy me how our Film and Television Studios insist on “rebooting” or re-imagining an existing film franchise. I am of course focussing my thoughts on the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, since that’s where my tastes lie.

Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Judge Dredd, Godzilla, Star Trek, Robocop, Flash Gordon, Total Recall, Conan, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, The Tomorrow People, V, Dune, – all of which have been rebooted or re imagined to varying degrees of success. Usually with a change in some or all of the principal cast, often with Cameo appearances from earlier incarnations, but most of the time with a re-imagining of the original storyline.

This frustrates me for two reasons. Firstly, as someone who is feeling distinctly middle aged, I usually grew up with the original incarnation of the film or TV programme, and seeing it re-written and produced afresh with new actors undermines the originals I feel.

I don’t mind so much where the storyline picks up later on, or where the original left off, or even before the original (eg Star Wars Eps 1-3). Finding a way to solve a cliffhanger from the last episode or incarnation is where some of the story lines come in to their own, and is not a foreign skill to Scriptwriters, or Storytellers.

However even then, the new storytellers have a dangerous tendency to step away from Canon, and play fast and loose with the old history because they think we won’t remember; Take Doctor Who for instance, which in the new post-Ecclestone era seems to have developed a tendency to ignore much of what went before. The Cybermen were originally from Mondas, and in the later series they re-originated from a parallel universe and were supposedly created by John Lumic from CyBus industries. While the two story lines weren’t totally incompatible, there was really no good reason why a new origin and back story was created.

My Second frustration is that there is no end of Fiction out there which is crying out for transition to Film or TV, which I wish the Screenwriters and Authors would turn their attention to. Some of the best TV in recent years has come from this route, and includes the acclaimed “Game of Thrones” – adapted from George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire“.

Here’s just a few of the candidates that come to mind:
– The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne & Todd McCaffrey
– The Magician series, by Raymond E. Feist
– The Assassin / Fool series’ by Robin Hobb
– The Honor Harrington series by David Webber
– The Troy Rising series by John Ringo
– The Kris Longknife series by Mike Shepherd
– The RAMA series by Arthur C. Clarke
– The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov

There are of course hundreds more. I understand of course that there is an implicit cost to obtaining rights to materials, and some authors may not be so keen to allow their content to be transitioned, based on the experiences of people like Ursula K. LeGuin with her Earthsea series, where she was exceedingly unhappy with the transition to screen.

Of course, not every attempt succeeds, and there are a number of critically acclaimed hits, and an equally extensive list of misses.

I’d point at a number of successes, including:
– The Colour of Magic / Going Postal / The Hogfather produced by Sky
Enders Game – the 2013/2014 film
Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, A Scanner Darkly; All based on novels by Philip K. Dick
- I am Legend, and  I Robot – adapted from books and starring Will Smith

Thor, Iron Man, The Avengers, Captain America, etc – The Marvel Machine is doing a great job of making the most of their intellectual property and transitioning one story after the other to the big (and the small!) screen.

Some of the also-ran’s include:

John Carter – the attempt to transition the “… of Mars” series by Edgar Rice Burrows didn’t wow audiences, although it was an entertaining enough film in it’s own right.
Oblivion – starring Tom Cruise, but based on a book by Joseph Kosinski, it didn’t really draw the crowds at the box office.
Battlefield Earth – based on a book by renowned Scientologist L. Ron Hubbard, this one had strong potential, but the links including the Star John Travolta to the Church of Scientology contributed to low popularity.
Red Planet – an all star cast including Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Terence Stamp wasn’t enough to drag this one up the charts.
Lost in Space – the remake starring Heather Graham, William Hurt, and Matt Le Blanc, failed to engage audiences, despite being an entertaining and well executed update.

Often these films fail because they don’t stick closely enough to the book to satisfy the die-hard fans.

Unfortunately the number of reboots far outweighs the number of original Films & Serials.

So this is a heartfelt plea, to the Film & Television industry. Please PLEASE PLEASE, enough with the Reboots and Remakes, how about putting some effort and time in to some original Scifi and Fantasy?

Do you agree?

My latest weird and whacky project!

You may know that I like to dabble a little with Digital Photography.

I happened across some information late last year which piqued my interest, and has prompted me to want to give it a try.

Apparently, if you squeeze some ink from the reservoir inside a conventional fluorescent highlighter pen in to some water, and then use the ink/water mix to feed cut flowers, the flower will draw up the fluorescent ink and it will accumulate within the flower itself, resulting in some interesting effects under an Ultraviolet light.  The video on the first linked page explains the process, and makes it look quite interesting!

These are supposedly the sort of images that can be achieved…

… it looked fascinating to me, so I thought I’d give it a go.  I’m currently in the process of accumulating the necessary equipment to give it a go.

I’m waiting for:

  • UV Ink – I’ve elected not to try the dismantling of highlighter pens, but have instead ordered a couple of different coloured UV Inks, I figured that it’d be interesting to see if the different colours have any interesting effects.
  • Blacklight Torch – I purchased two types, a “torch” with a beam, and one of these tube style ones from Amazon.  I thought the beam might be a little too obvious or bright, as it’s a point illumination, so decided a more general illumination from the tube might achieve a better effect.
  • Light Box Cube – I needed one of these anyway for some product photos I needed earlier this year and had to prevail upon a family member to help, so I just purchased a cheap one with multiple backdrops

I’m currently waiting for the equipment to arrive, then I’ll start experimenting!  Results (if they’re any good!) will be posted on Flickr and linked here.

The 10 Commandments of Logic:

1.  Thou shall not attack the person’s character, but the argument.  (Ad hominiem).

2.  Thou shall not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack.  (Straw man fallacy).

3.  Thou shall not use small numbers to represent the whole.  (Hasty generalisation).

4.  Thou shall not argue thy position by assuming that one of it’s premises is true.  (Begging the question).

5.  Thou shall not claim that because something occured before, it must be the cause.  (Post Hoc / False cause).

6.  Thou shall not reduce the argument down to two possibilities (False dichotomy).

7.  Thou shall not argue that because of our ignorace, a claim must be true or false.  (Ad ignorantum).

8.  Thou shall not lay the burden of proof on to him that is questioning the claim.  (Burden of proof reversal).

9.  Thou shall not assume that “this” follows “that” when it has no logical connection.  (Non sequitur).

10. Thou shall not claim that because a premise is popular, therefore it must be true.  (Bandwagon fallacy).

I’ve spotted a trick….

This is something I really must keep an eye out for!

I’ve had something in my Amazon wishlist for a while now.  When I originally added it, it’s cost was about £90.  In the 2-3 months since, it’s price has consistently dropped as we approach the middle of the month, to a low of less than £50, and approaching the end of the month it’s increased again, (currently to a price of ~ £80).  None of this appears to be driven by stock quantities, it appears to be consistently “in stock”, and I’ve not seen it running low with “only X remaining” as yet.

I rather suspect that this is Amazon being a bit crafty, and reducing prices during the middle of the month, between paydays perhaps!  but putting them up again towards the end of the month to coincide with people’s spending habits.  If it’s not deliberate, then it’s an almighty coincidence!

I guess if it’s still cheaper than originally listed, there IS a saving to be made, but it’s not as good as the saving at the mid point of the month.  I’m definitely going to keep watching and check it out again, just to confirm my theory.

 

A little rant

I really REALLY need to get better at regularly adding some content to this site!  Not that it really matters, as there aren’t very many regular visitors anyway, but it’s a habit I need to get in to.

It’s been a while since my last rant, and today I have a rant of a slightly different kind to air.

I am getting heartily sick of the Media’s persistent and pervasive sensationalism of just about any news story.   It doesn’t seem to matter what it is, they seem to latch on to a story, screen an endless succession of talking heads each with their own thoughts and opinions on the news item, they come up with some over-hyped nickname for the event, and promptly seem to forget that there is ANYTHING else going on elsewhere in the world for several days as they tell us the same thing over and over, seeking out any new trifles of information and communicating this to us as the latest scandalous episode in the epic saga.

Think of “The Credit Crunch”, the “Triple Dip Recession”, the Pretorius shooting, the list goes on!

When are they going to realise that all we need is the news?  Sure, the fact that Blockbuster, Comet, Dreams, Jessops, 2e2, etc etc are the latest to go in to Administration is news, but all it needs is a 2-3 minute piece to camera perhaps with a short supporting video clip to tell us about it, we really don’t need the next 15-20 minutes of analysis, and “what does this mean”, particularly when it’s telling us what we already know!

I am firmly convinced that the Media is broadly at fault with prolonging the current economic climate.  Since every day they tell us how bad things are, remind us of how we don’t have any money, and the economy is faltering, this reinforces any conservative behaviour we may have and we automatically cut back on our spending to economise, which in turn prolongs the downturn, and gives the media another days’ headlines telling us more of the same.

Printed media are as much at fault as TV and Radio news, although personally I am finding that Radio news is more useful and interesting these days, as about 5 minutes at the start of each hour is more than adequate to tell me what’s going on, and seems to be far more to the point and relevant, particularly to events that have happened since the last bulletin.

I suppose filling our TV screens with hour after hour of news saves the Media companies from having to plan and schedule more new and innovative programme content, (this is another of my frustrations, more on this another day!).

 

Rant over.  For now.

 

 

UK.plc on the brink of something wonderful?

Raspberry_Pi_Logo.svg

Being myself a product of the British Educational System, and having followed a fairly conventional path in to my current career, I have long felt a substantial frustration with the direction of our current higher educational system.

I am of course talking primarily about the prevalence of “Hairdressing”, “Media Studies”, “Photography”, and “Tying your Shoelaces” courses which seem to be so popular with the modern youth.  Coupled with this has been a somewhat backwards attitude towards Computing and IT qualifications, or “ICT”.  Thinking back to when I graduated some 15 plus years ago now, some of the available  courses were somewhat out-of-touch with the marketplace, teaching obsolete programming languages (COBOL) and disciplines such as JSP which the real world had left behind.  For the first two years after graduation, I sept unlearning, or more specifically relearning what I actually needed to have a real career in Computing and IT, but to be fair, despite teaching  obsolete topics, the courses had equipped me with the basic approach and knowledge I needed to apply to any language or discipline that I required.  Indeed it would be foolish to assume that I would be programming in COBOL or PASCAL for the remainder of my programming days, knowing how the market was going to evolve in unknown directions.

The Technology sector is the industry in which I work, so I have a huge vested interest in caring about the direction it takes.  For me it is the future, it is replacing many of the White collar types of work our Parents could or would have done in their lifetimes, and it has the potential to become  the new  wealth creating sector of the economy, since it’s evident we just cannot compete in Manufacturing, and have exhausted most of our Raw Materials already.   In my estimation this makes it so vitally important for our economy, even for those that have no interest in working within that sector.

For me then, the Educational System has let the Technology sector down badly for the last ten years or more.   Many people don’t seem to have much of a clue about the difference between Computing and IT, or “Information Technology” to give it it’s full title.   For me, IT is about using the modern tools available to do a job.  It’s not specifically about that £500 PC or £1000 laptop sitting in front of you, but it’s you being able to use that piece of equipment to help you complete a task of some sort;  in the same way Screwdrivers, Paintbrushes, Spanners, and Shorthand might have been to support other professions.

If we are honest, in recent years this has translated in to needing to be able to use a Mouse and Keyboard, to navigate Windows, MS Office, and yes, even to know how to use popular Office suites such as MS Office, or perhaps using a Tablet or Smartphone.   It is absolutely vital that this particular facet remains current and aligned to market trends.   The downside of this in the last 5 years or so has meant knowing the Microsoft Product suite, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, and Word specifically.   Of course in order to do all of that, you don’t need to understand much about how a computer works, or why it does what it does;  No knowledge is needed of Binary, of Electronics, although a high level knowledge of Computer components would probably be useful.   All of these skills will be handy for just about any student of any discipline these days.  In much the same way as English and Maths are part of a standard curriculum, so I believe Information Technology should also be included as standard, and probably in the first 2-3 years of Secondary Education (I believe they call it Years 7-9 these days!).    I know “Graduates” of a Higher level Computer Programming course that think programming is using Visual Basic for Applications within Access or Excel, when in my estimation this is “just” a tool (and admittedly a fairly sophisticated skill to possess) to do a job which ought to be a product of the Information Techology arena.

Contrast this with a Computing course, or more correctly titled a course in Computer Architecture or Computer Programming, which clearly would require a much lower level of detail around how computers work, and why they do what they do;  Perhaps a missing element in Networking could be folded in to the Architecture section?   In any case, out of this fundamental knowledge of Computer Architecture grows a necessary understanding of Operating System concepts, which in turn grows in to API’s and programming languages that may or may not be platform specific.

I have recruited and interviewed staff several times during my career to date, and each time I’ve found it necessary to explore just what content the Computing courses a candidate has on his CV actually contained, and from that establish whether the basic level of required knowledge is there.  In the Networks space, it’s quite astounding to see how few people in IT actually have a grasp of how the Internet works, and how applications could be exploited over the Network if not written properly.

So, enough moaning, Why are we on the brink of something wonderful?

Two reasons…. Firstly a Slice of Pi.

Raspberry Pi Logo

The Raspberry Pi is a fantastic concept which has been long missing in the marketplace.  It is a simple, and cheap (not just cost effective) solution for providing Computing Power and technology.   It literally costs about $30 to produce, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation does not aim to turn a profit, so this is loosely the price to you as an end user.  In exchange you don’t get a finished product nicely cased with lots of glossy instruction manuals;  Instead you get a completed PCB slightly larger than a credit card, but probably smaller than the smartphone in your pocket, with a Media Card Reader slot, a couple of USB ports and a Network interface, and an HDMI Out so you can plug it in to a modern TV to use, and not much else!    No PSU, no Keyboard/Mouse, and no Operating System is provided;  instead you have to use another PC to write the Open Source OS on to a Media Card, and then plugging a USB keyboard & mouse in and away you go!

Currently most of the available OS’es are Linux based, but I expect this will change over time.  The Pi uses an ARM processor based on a Broadcom System-on-a-Chip, and has a limiting 256Mb of RAM, but again this costs $30  (or ~ £30 for us Brits).

What an amazing Catalyst for learning the Pi could be!  Providing cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere!  It’s aimed at the Educational sector, and it fits in so well with my vision of a Computing course it’s astounding.  It could be used to learn Web programming!  Several of the currently available OS distros can support a LAMP (Linux, Apache, Mysql, & PHP) stack, and of course it facilitates a clear understanding of the system architecture and indeed it’s limitations play to this as well, having to write code that performs well and within the capabilities of the Smart Card based Storage and 256Mb of RAM.

Other options are of course there too, with C and Pascal compilers, Basic compilers/interpreters, and so many possibilities it’s incredible.  The Pi doesn’t lack for processing power either, it’s capable of outputting an HD picture to a TV and decoding video at 720P resolution on your HDTV, or even playing Quake.

So, if you are a parent with a curious youngster, I strongly suggest you think about investing in one!  It’s not going to replace your family PC, at least not yet, but what better way for both you and your children to learn together about Computers?  And it doesn’t stop there either;  Schools adopting the Pi in to the curriculum could develop Craft Design Technology (or whatever they call it these days!) sessions around making cases for the Pi, and so much more!

The second reason dovetails neatly in to the Slice of Pi.  If Pi helps shape the Computing aspect of Technology Educational needs, then the Governments’ brave decision to effectively scrap the current ICT curriculum in January this year, and to invite dialogue with the Technology Industry on developing a replacement has kindly facilitated the other missing part of my vision.

The so called “Microsoft GCSE” has the potential to deliver Students with real skills in modern technology solutions out to the workforce in a few years time.  If at 16 or 18 a student had the ability to write applications for a modern Windows PC using Visual Studio, or to interface with and control a SmartPhone, or even produce Apps for that SmartPhone, then the system has done it’s job, and will be producing worthy candidates once more.

I know that other vendor entities including Cisco have been engaged in discussion over the future curriculum too, (see here), perversely the Government has even been criticised for perhaps listening too closely to the vendors, but at the end of the day it’s Vendors like Cisco, Microsoft, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation that are going to be leading the market in all sorts of directions over the next 5-10 years, so why should we not pay close heed to their needs?

If all of this happens as I sincerely hope it will, UK.plc has the potential in years to come to retake the worldwide lead in the Technology market, and to turn out some of the most supremely and more importantly usefully qualified students which will go on to lead our economy who knows where!  This is something which we’ve been fighting to do for years now in the face of strong competition from Asia and the Pacific.

This is all my own opinion and perspective, and of course it’s possible I’ve got it all wrong, and my Vision is naught but ideas in my head.  I sincerely hope not, but all the same it makes me feel like we’re on the brink of a whole new journey now, so let’s make the most of it together, and see where it takes us!

(I am currently in a waiting list to get my own Raspberry Pi).

April Already?

This evening while faffing about with Websites and things, I realised that it’s April already, and that I’ve not updated this site with any new content Since January!

I really must make more of a conscious effort to update my witterings here, even if they are seldom read by anyone other than myself!

So… what’s new?  Probably not much!

  • I’ve driven nearly 18,000 miles in my (no longer quite so new) car in the last 9 months!
  • I’m getting to know the road between Home and Chichester extremely well indeed!  (for Work!)
  • I’m still working too hard!
  • I’m still just as much of a geek as ever!

I think this year is going to see some interesting changes for me in a number of areas.  I expect that in January next year, I’ll look back on this post and think – Yes, I was right!   Watch this space!

So I’ve refreshed this site with a new theme!  I expect I’ll be buggering about with it for a while!

I’ve helped my cousin and her man launch a new Website for their business.  Why not pay a visit to www.heathmorgan.co.uk and have a gander?

Now I really MUST make sure that I find some new content to put on this website more often!