green, parks, blue, april

Movie: Interstellar

Synopsis: No.

This movie has high ratings across the board from critics and moviegoers alike, on multiple movie review sites. However, I had a very hard time tracking down an actual reason for these ratings before going to see it. It all seemed a bit wishy-washy apart from the ranting over the accuracy of the space effects.

Which are good, don't get me wrong, but they'd be better employed in a space documentary. The wormhole in particular was rendered rather nicely, and the movie starts out looking like hard SF, or at least -ish. Although I don't think that much thought was given to the backstory - if farms are 99% automated and run via giant robot tractors and harvesters, why do billions of people suddenly have to become farmers?

Unfortunately, the hard science approach rapidly gets tossed out the window: the bollixed physics surrounding the time distortion on the first planet they visit are just bloody stupid. As are the ridiculous waves, and anything to do with the black hole horizon. Which can all be technically handwaved when we find out that it was possibly all built by future space-humans reaching back through time, but even so, dedicated scientist characters should have picked up that something was very wrong.

Thus bringing us to the point at which the main character falls through the event horizon and encounters an artificial method of communicating back through time - at which point the entire narrative collapses and any hint of dramatic tension vanishes completely, because there's time travel controlled by a future super-civilisation of humans who built this whole thing to make sure the main character succeeds. Not that the musical score realises this, because it's still trying to bellow your ears off every three seconds with HUGE DRAMATIC CHORDS.

Even the amusingly sarcastic robots - who are at least realistic enough not to have a character arc or emotions or talk amongst themselves vocally - are clunky in design compared to what a true bush robot could have been - although that's again handwaved as them being older designs from back when there was more government budget. I would have liked to see a more modern version, though, if only in the bright, clean, futuristic aftermath. At least they didn't follow robot character clichés and try to take over the mission, or take over the ship, or take over the world, or suddenly turn evil for no reason whatsoever.

Small mercies. But they're not enough to compensate for the token female scientist on the mission (the one who also doubles as the Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter) suddenly deciding that Love must be a higher-dimensional force of physics because she misses her boyfriend. Even the other characters are visibly trying to find a response which isn't "Did you just turn into a Hollywood cliché female stereotype?"

All in all, this movie is more facepalm than feature. Nice visuals here and there, yes, and they do actually remember that space is silent, but the characterisation swerves all over the road, the plot goes nowhere interesting, and it telegraphs its punches well in advance. Miss.
green, parks, blue, april

(no subject)

By now, everyone has seen the Screen Junkies' take on Frozen. I thought it might be interesting to extend one of their parody snippets:

Do you want some exposition?
Some information through a song?
Fast-forward through our years so fast
From first to last
And you can sing along!

We used to be much smaller
And happy too
Together, we'd never cry...

Do you want some exposition?
It explains our new position

(Now we're sad, Anna!)

And here's why...

Do you want some exposition?
Well here's a character display
I am vivacious and a extrovert
I cannot be inert
I have to run and play!

(Hang in there, folks.)

My sister's ruled by terror
Of her magic frost
She's hiding her life away...
(tick tock tick tock)

(Viewers? Please...)

Thank you for watching
We're nearly at the final scene
You said "Short intro," and I'm trying to
This is no lie, but truth
We can begin

So now you have the story
We'll start the film
And if you forget anew -

...Do you want some exposition?
green, parks, blue, april

Googlebait - resolving WiFi issues: "Received Deauthentication"

Just recently solved a WiFi issue and thought I should throw the solution out there for anyone having the same problem.

The problem: A D-Link DIR-655 WAP (hardware version A3) was continually disconnecting (or failing to allow to connect for several hours) a PC which used an Asus USB Wireless Network device. The relevant log entry on the wireless point was as follows:

Wireless system with MAC address {MACaddress here} disconnected for reason: Received Deauthentication

Other computers were having no problem with connecting to the wireless network, so I initially assumed the problem was with the PC or the USB hardware. Multiple months of research, troubleshooting and testing commenced, for little result.

Eventually, I tracked the problem to the router's firmware. Updating it to v1.37NA using this link solved the issue. No disconnections, and establishing the initial link became nearly instantaneous.

I mention it here mostly because the "Received Deauthentication" error appears to have plagued D-Link routers for quite a few years, given the number of pages on the internet which talked about it and tried assorted resolutions (usually unsuccessfully).
green, parks, blue, april

Review: Robocop

Reading internet reviews of this movie before going to see it, I noted that they tended to fall into two categories. The more vitriolic ones were written by people who had seen the original, and had often been around when it originally came out. Then there were those written by people who hadn't seen the original and were reviewing the new movie on its own merits, and those reviews tended to have less bile but weren't overall very impressed.

After seeing the movie, I can say that they're both right.

Robocop-2014, taken apart from its status as a reboot, doesn't particularly stand out amongst recent releases. It very obviously borrows from movies such as Iron Man, plays quite a number of clichés dead straight, and is disappointingly sloppy about the aspects it chooses to emphasize.

As a reboot, there are a number of aspects which are updated, but they feel misassembled. The entire film feels more like an episode of a TV show than a blockbuster production.

Overall, there are some really great elements to the movie. The update of OCP's motivation for creating Robocop in the first place. The Chinese testing facility. Michael Keaton as a more modern, jeans-wearing, Jobs-type CEO - who isn't just a Steve clone, but is a standard corporate psychopath who wears that image deliberately, and wrings every drop of positive PR out of things like his prosthetics division.

However, there are so many Chekov's guns which are left on the wall. The guitar-player scene where strong emotion is linked to prosthetic malfunction. The whole dopamine issue. Half the movie being about Murphy being able to be overridden by his own combat software. Murphy's partner - is he supposed to contribute to the plot, or not? Murphy having a suicidal breakdown when confronted with how much of his original body remains (and it's a lot less than what the car bomb left him with), but then never mentioning anything about it again. The retention of one human hand - and we see that it's not his entire arm, it's just a floating hand. Why? It never becomes important, although there are many scenes where it could have been.

Then there are all the aspects of the original movie which are referenced, but nerfed hard. The original's guns are now (largely) tasers. Detroit looks like any other 21st-century US city, not the beaten-down urban wasteland presented in the 80s. The original Robocop's helmet, which required a power drill to remove the bolts sticking into his brain, is now a faceplate which can be flipped up and down at will, negating the original's point of the face-concealing, vision-altering visor being designed to be a permanent fixture - when it does come off in the original, what's underneath is not pretty or good PR. Sure, the new design makes sense from the perspective of the new hyper-PR-sensitive OCP, but the original message of loss-of-freedom is gone.

Or the confusing aspects. Robocop's bike is the only one of its kind we see - but there's no indication it was specifically built for him instead of for general motorcycle-cop duties. Sure, it's kept in its own little micro-garage instead of a police general garage, but is it a Robo-Bike or just a Detroit Police vehicle, maybe with heavier shock absorbers? If it was built for Robocop, wouldn't it make sense for it to be able to be remote-controlled, or have tasers of its own which could aim and shoot on the move, or have built-in knockout gas and/or smoke dispensers, or something?

Or the just plain dumb aspects. Robocop is a prototype, one-of-a-kind, still being tested and checked, and yet someone thinks it's a great idea to upload the entire city police database into his head ten minutes before his first public press conference, not knowing anything about what that might do. There's never even any indication that the corrupt CEO or anyone else particularly pushed for this, so it's not a case of executive meddling. It's just poor plotting.

Overall, it's a movie which could have been done a lot better, both as a standalone and as a reboot. As it stands, it's just messy.
green, parks, blue, april

Late revision

A multi-day internet outage got me going back to some earlier work, trying to wring a mammalian mode out of the multi-mode toy design I've had floating around for a while.

Basic underlying shape:

This one actually came together last, as it took some time to find a set of joint positions which would allow the tip of the tail to lie neatly against the slope of the upper back. I've also tweaked the position of the dual guns slung under the chest, pointing them more up and backwards like exhaust pipes, and slid the neck and upper back area forward. Interestingly, the entire upper surface here (head plus the upper 'spine' running along the back) can slide forward and back a little bit, so the design could be fiddled with a little in that respect. No tail, but sabertooths didn't tend to have very long tails from what I recall.

One thing I like about this version is that there's nearly no color from other modes on it - only the purple stripes on the sides of the upper back from the jet mode's rear bridge.


Here you can see some of the tail options I played with. The tail is really too thick for a feline, though - it puts me more in mind of a scorpion or squirrel.

Overall, it's not the worst big-cat mode I've seen robot toys turn into (although I might have to reach back to the original Sky Lynx to make that comparison). The feet are painfully wrong, though, looking more like baboon hands than cat paws. (The joints are in all the wrong places to easily fix this, too.) The legs are kind of spindly, and the head is very small. The front shoulders are probably too far apart, and the rear legs are missing an upper segment for true catlike articulation.

This is, theoretically, the last altmode for this design, and the second-last actual mode. As a result, I'm starting to run into problems with only having a limited amount of space to put joints into, and this mode is kind of weak as a result. People know what proportions cats are supposed to have, and this mode falls down an awful lot in that department.

Fun fact - right up until this redesign, the tail seen here was being used as the rear legs - pretty unsuccessfully, I might add. I mostly changed it so I could have four similar-looking feet, and because with the older design, it fell into the problem that a lot of simpler animal altmodes did in the Beast Wars line, which was making the four animal legs into the four robot limbs by having the transformation effectively be "Stand robot up. Swap heads." I always considered those to be lazy engineering, unless there was also a significant amount of changes to the limb shapes, lengths, and torso connection points.

Some transformation notes - the head flips out from the jet bridge in a very similar manner to Quickswitch's. However, in order to make better use of space, this design does not have a separate robot head - the cat head actually turns into the robot head in a slightly more complex version of how Snapdragon's head is a dinosaur head or robot head from different angles. However, my version will have a little bit of actual transformation involved, as transforming heads are sorely under-represented in commercial toys, with the possible sole exception of Perfect Effect's 'Warden'. Even the original Cerebros didn't exactly have a terribly interesting transformation.
green, parks, blue, april


There are few things as satisfying as eating an entire kilo of roast beef.

It's not just the rare opportunity to be a glutton for a meal, it's that the aftermath of eating a huge chunk of roast feels like I'm zeroing out a bunch of minor chemical deficiencies on top of loading up on protein. I'll spend a couple of days feeling like I've had a tune-up and everything is running smoothly.

Maybe I just spend most of my life slightly under-beefed...


Ug. Feels like my brain's been grilled over a low heat for the past couple of months. Just want to sleep.

On the plus side, figured out something which could be a light at the end of the tunnel. On the minus side, it really needs a contact in the recruiting industry (current or former) to make it work, and I have the networking skills of a rock. Fiddlesticks.

Also, figured out how to automatically clean a surface out from under anything it's holding up, without needing to move the items. Kinda nifty. The design is slightly overkill for merely cleaning, but it'd be pretty cool to be able to press a button and have every surface in a house clean itself (including walls, ceilings, floors, and built-in storage) with extreme prejudice on a schedule. The only real problem is that it wouldn't (currently) extend to soft surfaces, furniture, appliances etc. On the plus side, it could clean things like kitchen and bathroom surfaces even if items were stacked on them, without needing to move said items.

Well, to an extent. There are issues with curved surfaces and where two surfaces meet convexly. I figure it'd be best employed for floors, walls, ceilings, and things like countertops, shelving, and storage areas. Even if most non-wall vertical surfaces weren't covered, it'd still be a huge advantage to be able to have the wall behind the fridge (and the floor under it) clean itself once a week. Not to mention that the self-cleaning areas would also effectively repair themselves. Fresh paint, no cracks or gouges, that kinda thing. Cobwebs might take a few cycles to get rid of, though.