My problem with Shutter Island…

August 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

… is best explained with this quote from a review of another movie:

First it’s hard to connect with a movie when it tries so hard to ‘fool’ you or to keep you guessing; is this a dream, is it not, is it a dream within a dream? Who cares? Just commit to something and get on with it.

That said, I guess my issue is more to do with the film presenting the blindingly obvious twist (it’s all in his head) without actually saying it, and then proceeding to lead the audience down the garden path for the rest of the film until it says “STOP! Now, here’s the real answer.”

Here’s the kicker, though: the above quote is from a review of Inception by Michelle Alexandria, of Eclipse Magazine. And yet, I really loved Inception; couldn’t shut up about it, in fact. So I don’t know why I feel that the criticism applies so strongly here and not there, when they are quite similar movies – both dealing with shifting and unreliable realities, from the perspectives of troubled and traumatised narrators, and both coincidentally starring DiCaprio in the leading role. I really need to see Inception again, just to see if it holds up a second time round, and maybe so I can figure this paradox out.

WE NEED TO GO DEEPER!

Also, I couldn’t resist – from the same review:

The last 30 minutes was a complete mess, featuring three or four dreams all happening at once. I did think Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would make a pretty cool movie since one of the dreams was a blatant rip off of the game. I kept thinking, man I wish I was home playing some Spec Ops and not stuck here watching this movie. [My bold – ed.]

I’m glad I wasn’t the only person thinking this. Further, I think she’s right: the third layer (or as I like to call it, “The Snow Level”) is where I got bored, where it suddenly turns into a mindless action scene from a James Bond movie that drags on, and on, and on, and on, and– well, you get the gist.

As I said, I loved Inception, but I also think this review raises some interesting criticisms of the film.

Whiteboard girl “hoaxed” the Internet hard, apparently

August 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

A bit of reporting from the BBC about the whiteboard girl stunt which turned out to be fake.

As soon as I read this story I felt it missed the point. What’s important wasn’t whether the stunt was true or not; it was funny. Arguably, it was the news outlets that got duped, reporting this nonsense obviously without doing any kind of basic fact checking. The Internet? Was the Internet “duped”? The Internet doesn’t care. And amusingly, The Chive understood this. “Jenny” resurfaced Wednesday, infamous whiteboard in hand, with her last words:

Ultimately the article elucidates two points, both pretty unfortunate for mainstream journalism:

  1. Some mainstream media outlets, who actually have the resources and manpower to professionally cover all sorts of news stories, sometimes have worse journalistic standards than the average Internet blog run by a community of voluntary writers; and that
  2. The mainstream media, even the BBC, still don’t have a real understanding of the Internet or its culture.

(A big thank you to the reddit community; I’m glad I wasn’t alone in thinking this.)

BlackBerry Torch and Blackberry 6 OS

August 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Just coming off the previous post, RIM have announced their “next-gen” phone as well as an update to the Blackberry OS software. My reaction is this: indifference. RIM needed to really pull their finger out and deliver something at least on par or better than what’s currently available. They haven’t, and my gut feeling is that they’re never really going to. That 40% slice of your customers who’re thinking of switching over to Apple or Android next time they buy a phone? Say bye-bye to them, RIM, because they are so going to do that.

Here’s the new phone, the BlackBerry Torch. By all means, check out the technical specs and the video gallery to get a better idea of how it’ll work.

Now, from my point of view, putting a 624 Mhz CPU in your flagship phone at this point in 2010 is a bad joke. Simply put, it’s already obsolete tech, and this also goes for the low res 480×360 display. The rest, such as the wi-fi, the 5 MP camera, the memory, the fully functional browser, the 3G, etc., all seems fine – but, so what? RIM didn’t need “fine”; it needed “awesome”. This is not an awesome phone; it is not an exciting phone. The new Blackberry 6 OS looks to have a cool UI, seems easy to use and has the necessary features – but, again, so what? Nothing new to see here, folks. This is a very boring phone…

And it’s confused, too. I actually think the form factor looks quite sleek, but RIM really need to let go of that hardware keyboard. It’s old-fashioned now and slightly embarrassing, all told. It demonstrates a clear lack of  conviction in their design on their part; it looks like a device that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. I understand that the QWERTY hardware keyboard is kind-of a stalwart of the brand, but this was RIM’s “do or die” moment. You cannot afford to be that conservative in the mobile tech market; you just can’t.

In a couple of years’ time RIM’s BlackBerry may still exist, but they will merely be a footnote in the history of smartphones. In this market, fortune favours the bold, and the innovative.

Browser Warz: Smartphone and Desktop Edition

August 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

My hard-on for Google related news continues.

There have been a few articles recently about the staggering growth of Android’s market share in the smartphone arena. The BBC reported Android phone shipments increasing 886% compared to last year, while in the US alone Nielson reports that in the last six months Android market share has risen above the 23% held by Apple to 27%, thereby overtaking their most important competitor. However, it’s also worth stating, for the sake of balance, that Symbian overshadows both OSs in the worldwide market, claiming 43.5% of this lucrative pie, and then that’s followed by RIM, the Blackberry OS, trailing way behind at 18%, followed closely by Android at 17.1%, with Apple at 13.5%, and so on.

However, Google shouldn’t be celebrating just yet, says MG Siegler from TechCrunch, claiming that the handsets sales aren’t really that impressive considering how many phones now carry the OS and how many mobile carriers sell those phones – compared, that is, to the iPhone, which only has two models available on one mobile carrier. He concludes that the comparison is unfair, that it doesn’t take into account iPhone 4 sales, and that we should wait to see the iPhone on at least one other US mobile carrier before making any kind of real assertions.

Now, to be honest, it reads a bit like an Apple propaganda piece, especially when he states “most shocking thing about the news today that Android sales overtook iPhone sales for the first time last quarter is that it didn’t happen sooner”. However, he does raise a couple of good points – that iPhone 4 sales aren’t counted; and the iPhone’s limited availability. That’s all true, but unfortunately I think it points more to Apple’s straight-up unwillingness to make partnerships and instead rely on exclusivity agreements. I don’t think people need to be reminded about this, but this is a very similar path to the one they trod when Microsoft took the desktop OS market by storm, leaving Apple their very small, but pretty, niche.

Anyway, irrespective of the issues of comparing market share in the US, GfK reported a “staggering” 350% increase in handset contract sales in the UK, and that was over a three-month period between Q1 2010 to Q2 2010. This being the UK, the iPhone is out on all the major handsets, so MG Siegler’s criticism doesn’t really stand up to much over here. The fact is that all these stats point to a massive surge in the uptake of Android-based handsets and that this trend is likely to continue for a while yet. Frankly, whether it’s 886% or 350%, Google should feel very pleased with what they’ve accomplished, even though they’ve got a long way to go.

Onto a somewhat related topic, Gizmodo, among others, has reported that Microsoft quashed radical privacy features that it was planning to integrate with IE 8, and it was prevented from doing so because of internal company conflicts. The privacy settings in question would have blocked third-party trackers by default, essentially cutting off advertisers from the anonymous, personal information that would normally be disclosed in the background while users surfed the Web. For Microsoft, that’s a pretty big step towards giving users more control over what information they wish to disclose – which is why Brian McAndrews, senior VP at the company, previously a CEO of web advertising company aQuantive,  put the kaboose on the whole thing. Long story short, the IE dev team lost against him, and it resulted in one feature being dropped altogether and another that users would have to manually turn on every time they booted up the browser – in other words, making it absolutely bloody useless.

The reason I’m talking about this story is because people care about their privacy. Sure, they might eventually compromise on it – if, for instance, what is offered in return is substantial enough to warrant it – but it’s still an issue. The point is, Microsoft and Google, for all the money they can put into desktop browser development, are beholden to certain stakeholders who hold a massive interest in online advertising. For Microsoft, less so; but for Google, that just about counts everybody in the entire company.

Google’s Chrome OS has made impressive strides in the browser marketplace, currently holding a 7.1% share against Firefox at 22.9% and IE (all versions) at 60.7%. Pretty good considering how “young” it is, and I truly believe it has already surpassed the latest Firefox build in certain aspects. However, unlike Google, one thing the Mozilla Foundation doesn’t have to worry about is advertisers, which means they don’t have to design their browser with them in mind; and in fact, all they need to think about is the core user experience. This is the single greatest advantage Mozilla has over its rivals, and if they can compete in terms of offering more speed, functionality, better UI and integration with third-party plugins, then it will almost certainly keep them ahead of Google, if not Microsoft as well.

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