January 11th, 2014

detcon-1-2014

DETCON 1 Hotel

Book Rooms Now

Detcon 1 has opened up the Detcon 1 Hotel Reservations page, right on schedule.

Detcon 1 starts on Thursday, July 17 and ends Sunday, July 20. Accommodations are at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. Standard rooms are $118/night -- View Rooms are $138/night -- plus taxes.

Our rooms are booked. If you haven't registered for Detcon 1, the NASFiC held in Detroit MI 17-20 July 2014, registration is now $65. More details at the Detcon 1 website.

Dr. Phil
aki-ross

1.0.0

Early Adopters

Mrs. Dr. Phil got a Gen 1 Amazon Kindle Fire when they first shipped. I was in Atlanta dealing with Wendy's death, and Mrs. Dr. Phil had been considering some sort tablet, in part to evaluate mobile ways students might use to access sources. And Facebook. (grin)

Lately she'd run into a problem where it wouldn't charge with either of our Kindle chargers, but it would when connected to the speaker dock. Now it unreliably charges on the speaker dock.

Turns out this is a known problem with the Kindle Fire. A couple of years plugging and unplugging the mini- or micro-USB connector eventually causes the soldered connections to flex and break or become intermittent. And/or have the connector get loose from the circuit board. Early on, Amazon replaced broken Kindle Fires. Now there's directions on the web. Opening up the unit allows one to resolder the connector, then use epoxy or a glue gun to make the connector flex less. But not for me, the klutz.

Alas, the kindly repair techs at Computers and More in Holland don't work on phones or tablets. They recommended two possibilities. Batteries Plus, practically next door, replaces Kindle Fire batteries, but that's all they do. Second choice was Genius in Grandville.

I knew there was a cellphone/tablet repair place in Grandville on 28th Street, but that's not Genius, which has six locations including one near Rivertown Crossings Mall -- about where the first Joe Chicago's Pizza was located. Turns out we'd heard about this operation, founded by three GVSU students. Alas, while their website specifically mentions Kindle Fire repairs -- including charging ports -- it doesn't give hours. Would be nice to get the unit to them on Sunday. They claim typical 2-3 hour turnarounds.

Stay tuned.

Her [R]
Star Holland 8 Theatre #1 1:15pm 2x$6.50

The first clever thing they did in this movie is Joaquin Phoenix's mustache. Laugh if you must, but he has a lip scar birthmark that was prominently highlighted in closeups in Quills and Gladiator -- by hiding this, we aren't spending the movie saying Oh that's Joaquin Phoenix.

It's a world of beautiful (and empty) high rises, ironic tech jobs (laser printed Handwritten Letters), and armies of pleasant people talking and gesturing not to other people, but their phones. Her is about a clever new operating system/AI interface that promises to learn from you and be your friend. Theodore barely has any friends and yet can't quite bear to sign his divorce papers from Rooney Mara. On the basis of one street ad, he buys the new OS and installs it -- Samantha -- what could possibly go wrong?

They keep on saying OS, just like Microsoft used to call Windows an OS when it was just a program you ran on top of DOS. Siri is a program on the iPhone, iOS is the operating system.

There is a great sadness in watching these people, lightly interacting with it others, then coming alive with their new OS friends. But the tech looks great. Sure his phone is small, but there's a limit to how small it can be and still be holdable. And things like the big safety pin on his shirt pocket just appear without explanation, a sudden flaw in the clean and pressed look of fashion here, but you can instantly grok what it's for.

It might sound like I don't like these people, that this is a dystopian future bereft of real humanity. But these aren't my people. Neither was the cast of Friends. Or even The Big Bang Theory. There's a million lonely stories in the naked city... and this is just one of them. The documentary maker doesn't know what to document. The video game programmer creates a terrible video game. In a way it's fun because all this tech is wasted, just as it is today. What a surprise -- a movie about the future is holding up a mirror to our age.

You can tell this is the future. The tech is beautiful, rather than the catch-all mismatched generic gray, beige, silver and black of today. And voice recognition is batting a perfect 100.000%. Ear pieces never seem to chafe and never fall out. And there's never, well hardly ever, a loss of signal.

In the end this is a story of bandwidth -- the difference between human speed and machine speed. It's a story of love and sex-but-not-love and friendship and barely-acquainted-but-not-really-friends. There's a web service for people who can't sleep -- we saw that in Logan's Run, but with transporters. (grin) It's a story of broken connections -- Theodore doesn't get Olivia Wilde either, but she still has such pretty eyes.

Los Angeles is vaguely mentioned as the setting, but they use the all new glitz of ultramodern Shanghai to provide some of the full-size vibe of the future. And if you have ANY concept of privacy and intellectual property rights, you'll cringe at the book. Shades of Jubal's assistants in Stranger in a Strange Land.

The Academy Awards are going to have to bridge the gap to the 21st century. Animation, CGI and voice work, to say nothing of representations of non-human characters are robbing Andy Serkis and now Scarlett Johansson of recognition of their contributions. Or a supporting nom for a character in a video game in a movie.

The film earns its R-rating by language, brief nudity and some uncomfortable scenes that must have made the ratings board uncomfortable. Surprise, though, one of the MOVIE'S most effective scenes is a blank screen. Just goes to show you that the ratings system, well intentioned though it may be, is full of horseshit.

Mrs. Dr. Phil pointed out that she enjoyed it and thought it very thought provoking, but is unlikely to ever see it again. I think I would see it sooner than that. Like Titanic or Blade Runner or Until The End Of The World, real thought has gone into the tech and backgrounds and people in the backgrounds. Lots of shiny, but lots of public spaces with light wear. This is a universe that is lived in, even if the life seems a little vapid.

Oh, and how soon before we see a Scarlett Johansson hack for Siri's voice? (double-trouble-grin)

Highly Recommended -- Once

Trailers: Robocop -- early pre-film feelings are this is an unnecessary remake. But it's got Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson. We'll see. Endless Love -- girl is studaholic, therefore she must go after some sort of bad boy to rebel against her (rich?) parents. Labor Day -- Kate Winslet, need I say more? Oh all right. Escaped criminal terrorized young family. Or does he? More complicated than that. Winter's Tale -- a thief, a mysterious girl in a house he's robbing that's supposed to be empty. Russell Crowe as some sort of gang boss. Time confusion and amnesia. The Edge of Tomorrow -- the All You Need Is Kill movie with Tom Cruise and the fighting suits we should have seen in Starship Troopers. The Monuments Men -- killer cast with Matt Damon, Bill Murray, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, the computer guy from 2010, John Goodman versus the Nazi Art Thieves. Sure, we've seen this before in a superb B&W movie The Train about train No. 40,044. But with this cast? Will see.

Also a pirate series, Black Sails?, coming on a premium cable channel? Starz? Oh, from Michael Bay -- expect explosions.

Dr. Phil