Like SciFi and a good laugh?

14. January, 2011

Get both.


Pratchett: Unseen Academicals

9. August, 2010

Just finished the book. One of the amazing things about Pratchett is that he keeps getting better. Other authors eventually level out but Terry keeps on trying new things. This time it’s football and, how a friend of mine once said, a “dramödie” (from drama and Kömodie – comedy) revolving around Mr. Nutt. So like in “Nation”, the story has some depth and not only laughs. Well done.

Recommendation: Buy.


Avatar

28. April, 2010

I just shut down my PS3 after watching Avatar (Blue Ray disk). Technically, the film is great. The plants, nature, everything looks just amazing. As had been said before, the story is pretty obvious and I was disappointed that there were no surprises at all (except for Pandora’s wildlife).

For example, they should have switched bodies before the attack. When the madman crashes the container, the vaults should have been empty.

The next thing I was hoping for was a surprise attack against the base while all the air support is elsewhere, using some kind of trick to avoid the satellites.

The only reason that I can think of for such a shallow script is that the director didn’t want to drag any attention from the fantastic nature shots. The flight scenes are grand, the surroundings look incredible detailed and believable. If there is an animal, it’s not just some puppet; it moves, it flows, it breathes. This guy found much better words than I:

… about 30 minutes in to the film, you realize that the marketing has undersold the movie. In an era when every great moment of a film makes its way to a trailer, Avatar surprised me with an endless amount of unparalleled optical overload.

Recommendation: Must see. Twice.


Glasshouse

8. April, 2010

I just finished reading Glasshouse by Charles Stross.

The book was advertised as the next great thing and it was a nice read. Charles definitely did think a lot of things through like what you will be able to do when you can manipulate matter to the atomic level. As in “manipulate the mind.” We know drugs can change how your brain works but how about you can modify each and every molecule of your brain?

In these terms, the book is a good read. People can backup themselves and if you get killed, you can suddenly find yourself in an odd situation because you don’t knew what happened just that something must have gone wrong. As we software specialists say: Backup early and often.

Overall, I like the book and the presented ideas. Some things don’t seem to make sense but eventually, all puzzles are resolved (with the exception why Robin suddenly wakes up elsewhere; my guess is that he got killed after signing the contract but I’d have expected a message from the people running the experiment in this case which explains the situation to poor Robin).

There is just one glaring bug: The bad guys left a really powerful device in a place where the protagonist has pretty much unlimited, unsupervised access. I understand that high level surveillance wasn’t allowed by the rules of the game at this place but a simple switch which sends a signal “trapdoor is open” would have been more than enough. Of course, the story wouldn’t have worked anymore. Oh well. If you can ignore this, you’re in for some fresh SciFi ideas.

Also, Charles likes deus-ex-machina, so you’ll have several situations where the heroes are in a deadly trap and suddenly, you learn that they did plan for this situation and they get away. Acceptable once or twice but not that often.

Recommendation: Consider to buy.


R&C Future: A Crack In Time

16. November, 2009

Ah, I like those long game titles. Anyone remembering Leisure Suite Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards? I have a feeling that a title says something about a game. If they care about the title, they care about the game.

Anyway, it’s jump, run and shooting time. Shooting with anything you can imagine and sometimes with things that you couldn’t imagine before. There’s a burp gun, a rocket launcher called “Negotiator”, a robot sidekick called Mr. Zurkon (always complaining that it can’t shoot at the innocent). I like its remarks. “Mr. Zurkon doesn’t need no pesky nanotec to survive, Mr. Zurkon lives from fear.”

Game levels are as colorful and nice as ever. Especially the Great Clock looks awesome with it’s red and gold and reflections. Ratchet finally has some fur on his ears. The levels are also pretty short, there are tons of mini-games, you can go hunt for Zoni’s to upgrade your ship, or Gold Bolts or upgrades for your weapons. Old time fans of the series will find all the good stuff again, like weapons that get better as you use them, pixel precise jumping sequences, there is an arena, and funny comments by the ton. Game play is fluent. I wished more game companies would take care of my time like Insomniac does: While the game installs on the HD, you get to see a long into movie which sets the scene. Two thumbs up for that.

The new stuff is that you can actually fly around space a bit, shoot asteroids for fun (and some bolts), play the main story or idle in some side levels. There are levels for the die hard jump’n’run people and shooter levels. And when I say “die hard”, I mean it. I’m not that bad at R&C but I’ve had to use the skip option once. Some of Clank’s jump sequences in the Big Clock are insanely hard. I must’ve died a hundred times in there. The logic puzzles are usually more simple on the “jump” side but it takes some brainpower to run yourself four times through a level, timing the switching of buttons just right to get all your copied through. And in time. Luckily, you can skip a puzzle. 95% for that one. For 100%, there should have been a way to revisit a puzzle to try it again.

All in all, they kept the great stuff and added a couple of nice, new features. The individual levels are short but plenty, so you can save often or take a break, and won’t have to start all over again.

Recommendation: Buy.


Management Is The Art of Choosing What Not To Do

23. July, 2008

From Rands in Repose: “… management is the art of choosing what not to do …”

If you want to know more about management told in a way an engineer can understand, consider Rands’ book “Managing Humans“.


Lovin’ Linux? Dig This!

22. July, 2008

Want to make linux better? Ask the Linux Hater. If in doubt: He wouldn’t write 15 articles per month telling where Linux sucks if he didn’t care.