All posts by ntbadmin

Get Smart

Get Smart is a 2008 American adventure and action comedy film which was directed by Peter Segal, written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember and produced by Leonard B. Stern, who is also the original series’ producer. The film is based on Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s 1960s spy parody television series of the same name.

The film stars Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin, and co-stars Terence Stamp, Terry Crews, David Koechner and James Caan. Bernie Kopell, who played Siegfried in the original series, also appeared in the film. The film centers on an analyst named Maxwell “Max” Smart (Carell) who dreams of becoming a real field agent and a better spy. The film was theatrically released on June 20, 2008 by Warner Bros. Pictures.

For a ‘comedy’ it’s not that funny. Carell’s playing it as a straight man just doesn’t work. The best part-laughs are the pratfalls and visual humour. Towards the end there is some decent action and stunts. Very Average (3/5).

Goat Staring

The Men Who Stare at Goats (film)

A 2009 British-American war parody comedy film directed by Grant Heslov. It is a fictionalized version of Jon Ronson’s 2004 book of an investigation into attempts by the U.S. military to employ psychic powers as a weapon. The film stars George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey, and was produced by Clooney’s and Heslov’s production company Smokehouse Pictures.

Based on the book by Jon Ronson.

Very strange film about a duo (Clooney & McGregor) who go on an Iraq war road trip. During the trip McGregor narrates, telling the story of the US army’s attempts to use psychic powers in warfare since the 1960’s. Very strange and a commentary on the weird things done in the military.
(3/5)

Lunar Chronicles

The Lunar Chronicles
by
Marissa Meyer

Lunar

#1 Cinder
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

#2 Scarlet
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

#3 Cress
Having risked everything to warn Cinder of Queen Levana’s evil plan, Cress has a slight problem. She’s been imprisoned on a satellite since childhood and has only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress a great hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

#4 Winter
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

A science fiction re-telling of the Cinderella story. The first three books are fun and full of adventure. Unfortunately the final book is over 200,000 words and just too long with too many characters and plot lines. Recommended, but be ready for a slog through the final book.

 

 

Hunting Kakapo

Due to the imminent danger of extinction of the kakapo a group was recently organized to hunt the South Island for kakapo.

Because of the lack of success on previous occasions it was decided that if a range of people from different occupations were used, their different approaches to the same problem would bring better results than before. Sadly this was not so, the reasons for this are as follows.

The mathematicians threw out everything that did not resemble a kakapo, and caught whatever was left.

Professors attempted to prove the existence of at least one kakapo, and left the detection and capture to their graduate students.

Computer programmers used the following algorithm :
1. Go to Invercargill
2. Work northward by traversing east and west
3. During each traverse
Catch each animal seen
Compare to a known kakapo
Stop when match is found
Experienced programmers placed a kakapo at Nelson to ensure that the algorithm would end. Assembly programmers hunted in their hands and knees.

Engineers caught all flightless birds at random, and stopping when one of them was within 15% of the estimated weight of a kakapo.

Economists don’t hunt kakapo, but believe that if paid enough, they will hunt themselves.

Statisticians hunt the fist bird they see n times an call it a kakapo.

Consultants don’t hunt kakapo, but can be hired by the hour to advise those who do.

Politicians don’t hunt kakapo, but will share the kakapo with the people who voted for them (except West Coasters).

Lawyers don’t hunt kakapo, they just argued about who owned the droppings.

Software lawyers claimed they owned all the kakapo in New Zealand based on the look and feel of one bird dropping.

Senior managers set hunting policies on the assumption that kakapo were just green kiwi’s.

Inspectors spent all their time looking for mistakes everyone else made when packing the landrovers.

Sales people spent the time selling kakapo to McDonalds as a kangaroo substitute.

Software salesmen caught rabbits, painted them green and sold them as desktop kakapo.

All the Aucklanders that went got lost.
No Kakapo were found.

Armageddon Part 2

The Nerd Degree
Strangely this was omitted from the printed timetable.
This time with Jeff Clark, Brendan Bennetts (MC) a guy from the 501st and a woman who’s name I didn’t hear. A few more people this time, and a better show.

Animation Panel
With Mike McFarland, William Salyers and Paul Eiding
Turned out to be voice over artists. Since I didn’t know any of their works, wasn’t that interesting.

Fear Factor Contest
Consisted of contestants eating revolting foods. Not that amusing.

Kamehameha Contest
Apparently a screaming contest devised by Mike McFarland. Won by a woman due in part to the good nature and sportsmanship of her male finalists. Weird.

Ice Cream Eating Challenge
As it states on the tin. Three groups of people ‘compete’ by eating ice cream. The final group without using their hands.

Richard Dean Anderson (again)
Better today than yesterday, he battled through the usual predictable questions.

Christopher Judge
This time on his own. Again not much to say.

David Nykl (who?)
Appeared in Stargate Atlantis (2026) and Fringe (2010).

and finally…
Cosplay Cup presentation to the winners.

Also
Purchased DVD of ‘The Wind Rises’ by Hayao Miyazaki.
A Japanese animated historical drama film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli. It was released by Toho on July 20, 2013 in Japan, and by Touchstone Pictures in North America on February 21, 2014. The Wind Rises is a fictionalized biopic of Jiro Horikoshi (1903–1982), designer of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft and its successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, used by the Empire of Japan during World War II. The film is adapted from Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, which was in turn loosely based on the 1937 short story The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori. It was the final film directed by Miyazaki before his retirement in September 2013. The Wind Rises was the highest-grossing Japanese film in Japan in 2013 and received critical acclaim. It won and was nominated for several awards, including nominations for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

 

Armageddon Part 1

Held in Horncastle Arena

The Nerd Degree
The guys had only 30 minutes on the main stage. Present were Jeff Clark, Henri Nellis, Andrew Todd, Brendan Bennetts (MC) and a Erin Harrington. They did what they could with the low turnout on the stage, despite a large crown in the main arena. Given the background noise and interruptions the did OK, thanks to a few vocal female audience members.

Supernatural panel
With Corin Nemec and Ruth Connell. I haven’t seen this show and the actors were unknown to me. They were entertaining enough with stories from the show. It soon transpired that both played characters that had been killed off in earlier seasons.

Stargate SG.
Back to NZ again was Christopher Judge. He appears to have been in all the series but was not very forthcoming with information, leaving the others to do most of the talking. Corin stayed on as he was in Stargate from 2002-2004. Richard Dean Anderson appeared apparently drunk and looking the worst for wear. In a tee shirt and short longs, it looked like he was on holiday at a beach. With a black cap on most of the time, he looked like an unknown old guy. It wasn’t until the hat came off that the silver buzz-cut made him recognizable. About half way through he got his stuff together and went into the audience to interact.

Marina Sirtis
By far the best of the day. At 60 she is still looking sexy and had a lot to say. With a small starter question she could tell stories about her career. She is very wicked, funny and has probably been doing the conference circuit since star trek ended. Worth the ticket price for both days.

 

10 Principles of a Good User Interface

by Joseph P Ferrari
Reprinted without permission
from STart Magazine Volume 4 No 1 (August 1989)

1. Be Consistent
Since a particular program will be only one of many that a consumer will use, the user interface should reflect the prevailing standards. Most software programs have operations common to each other – for example cut, copy and paste. When these options are always placed under the same drop down menu, for example EDIT the user can achieve productivity quickly without first struggling to learn the fundamentals.

Adhering to a common standard also helps to avoid user frustration. Assume for example that Control+X is commonly used for cut-and-paste functions; if a new program uses Control+X to exit without saving work, it will cause the user unnecessary hardship and frustration. If a user encounters enough of these frustrations he or she will eventually turn to an alternative.

2. Reduce the Workload

Operations should be achieved with a minimum of user activity. Too much “mousing around” means less time spent doing real work. For example, features that require a stream of menu operations and parameter settings to perform a single operation are clumsy.

You can reduce the user’s workload by building intelligence into the application. For example, in a work processing program, the spell checking function should not require the user to enter the dictionary path each time it is used. The program should have been set up intelligently so that each time the spell checker is used, the program doesn’t request the same information.

3. Reduce the Skill Required

Making your program accessible to the largest number of users is inextricably linked to the degree of skill a user needs to operate ot productively. The first are to consider is the user’s learning process. In many cases. the user faces multiple problems when learning to use a new application.

The user must come to terms with how the program’s functions are represented in computer actions. For example, many of the basic functions in a paint program are represented as a palette of icons representing graphic tools; in the user’s mind, the toolbox metaphor reinforces the idea that in order to apply a function , it must first be selected.

The user may be unfamiliar with the application in any form, computerized or conventional., and thus faces the task of understanding it’s concepts while at the same time using the software to perform some specific function. In the learning stages, the use of common metaphors for operations, such as the file drawer or open trash can icon on the desktop, can provide considerable reinforcement and help the user achieve a deeper understanding of the application.

One of the most important and effective means of reducing the skill required is to provide the user with visual choices. Let the user select from a panel of options by pointing and clicking and eliminate the need to memorize the available options.

4. Communicate

Keeping the user informed at all times is a vital component of sustaining or increasing productivity. There are three simple rules that should be followed :

(A) During long operations, provide continuous or regular progress reports. However, the time when you need to communicate the most information wit the greatest accuracy is during operations that have gone wrong. When an error occurs, you want to help the user recover from that error and restore normal operations.

(B) Present the available options in a clear and concise manner, leave no room for ambiguity. A an example, the user has selected the Quit option and the following alert message is displayed:

Do you want to quit ?
Continue ! Abandon

Does “Continue” mean to continue with the application or continue with the quit proceedings ? What about “Abandon” ? Leave no room for interpretation. Keep messages simple and explicit.

(C) Provide immediate feedback, both by acknowledging the users actions (in the case of selecting an icon, the standard feature is to hilight the icon) and by letting the user know whether or not the operation can be started.

5 Make What you see what you get

In a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) environment the user always has a good estimation of the final form of the document and doesn’t need to constantly invoke a preview mode. A WYSIWYG environment usually shields the user from unnecessary information. If text is in bold, it should show on the screen in bold rather than display a scheme of codes.

6. Allow for User-Configurable Preferences
Since a program or environment must cope with varying degrees of user proficiency, the product must accommodate the novice as well as the expert and be able to mold various program characteristics to the users preferences or level of expertise.

7. Provide a Stable Environment

Providing a stable environment will keep the user in a familiar atmosphere that makes learning easier. This does not mean that a dynamic menu bar cannot be employed successfully, such as in a multi-application environment where there are clear distinctions between aspects of the program, as in an integrated word processor, spreadsheet or database program. The changes would then assist the user by alerting him or her that the program is entering one of the other fundamental modes.

Graying out the unavailable options in drop-down menus or dialog boxes is also effective for maintaining a stable environment while limiting options.

8. Forgive the users Errors
An extensive undo function adds significantly to the users confidence to experiment and make changes. If the user does something that can’t be un-dine, an alert message should warn the user that the changes are irreversible.

9. Provide Keyboard Equivalents
Drop down menus are an excellent means of introducing the user to an application, but eventually the user will become proficient in specific areas of the program. At this point keyboard equivalents help the users productivity rise even more. Keyboard equivalents can also be used as shortcuts to commands that normally would require several menu selections.

10 Maintain Aesthetic Integrity
Screen layout design should not be designed to dazzle or impress the user. The guiding motive should be honest to the principle of effective communications. Simplicity is the key to clarity.

Another principle to observe is to avoid overloading the user with too much data in a screen layout. You don’t want to fill every pixel on the screen. If the pertinent data cannot fit comfortably in one screen panel the divide it logically and use as many screens as required.

Summary
One main reason that the Macintosh has become a second standard in corporate America is its user interface – and the fact that most of the software developers have adopted the interface to a significant extent. ST software developers will need to do the same to increase it’s future chances.

Joseph Ferrari was the director of Software Development for Atari Canada. After that he directed software development for Atari Corp. US, where his efforts were focused on developing the Mega/Laser printer combination as a desktop publishing workstation. He is now back in Toronto where his new company, Personal Productions Ltd, develops interactive multimedia productions. Joseph says that because the general public tends to be intimidated by computers, user interface design is the number one priority for acceptance in the multimedia market.

Sit on it

Where do you sit ?

(the following observations based on attending too many lectures)

Ever wonder why a lecture room, auditorium or any place of gathering only seats a small proportion of the total allocated ?

This is because of the different types of people that inhabit such environments. First you have the quick thinking and smart (OK, anyone like me) individual. These turn up on time and head straight for the middle of the row, they wait and observe the other participants arriving.

Next comes the slower ones. They will need to choose a row and enter from one end, carefully deciding how close to sit to the clever buggers who got there first.

Some will rush up and take a seat next to those already sitting. If they are mildly annoying they will say hello and then stare vacantly ahead for the remaining time until the event commences. If they want to be really annoying they will inquire about the weather, why others are present and may even expose their uninformed views on the subject matter for the evening. They may chatter until the commencement of proceedings. Such people are rarely invited back.

Now here come some more, but this time they may not like those already seated. They will choose a seat some distance from those seated, perhaps four to five away. And for extra protection a bag (or whatever they have) will be placed between them and the idiot further along the row. But they have to be careful not to sit too far to the end, as they may encounter the worst individuals of all.

The most common spacing will be with one seat between people. This is throwback to childhood when schoolchildren were instructed to stand at least one arms length apart. A measurement of the distances between people will confirm that some practices persist into adulthood.

Now the worst of all, the person who sits at the end of the row. This obnoxious individual is obviously unaware of problems they cause to others. Everyone else has to squeeze pass them to get to a seat somewhere in the middle. If you are trying to pass, be sure to carry a bag or case and gently smack them in the face as you pass.

Now everyone has arrived and seating is complete. But here comes the speaker/lecturer. Some of these may attempt to break the seating formation. “OK, everyone. Don’t sit at the back. Come on down, there are plenty of seats at the front. Come on now, I won’t bite. I just want us to all get cosy today”. Under no circumstances should you move. People have already spent good time and effort in acquiring their seats. They are not going to move. So just cross your arms, lean back in your chair and give them a look of “Buggered if I’m going to move”. Eventually any efforts to get you to move will be unsuccessful. You can stay where you are.

So now we have it, a few in the middle, the idiots on the end some more scattered in the remaining seats. This formation can be seen in as a graphical representation of the bell shaped curve of intelligence. The intelligent ones in the middle, with those of lesser intelligence on the extremity of each row. And everyone wondering “Why did I come here ?”.

So, Where Do You Sit ?

NB 28/11/2003

Macbeth

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Ross Gumbley
Featuring Mark Hadlow and Lara Macgregor

Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedy tells the story of Macbeth, the brave general who, returning victorious from battle, witnesses a prophecy from three witches that he will one day become King.

Driven by his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth, the idea of being king grows into an all-consuming desire for power. After murdering the King, Macbeth takes the throne, dispatching all that get in his way. But the witches have another prophecy, one that will end Macbeth’s treacherous rise to power, one that will play out to its bitter and bloody end.

A sharp warning of the infectious and corrosive lure of power, Shakespeare’s Macbeth still reigns supreme after 400 years. To see it onstage is to see our own society played out before us, set in a world we can all relate to.

Review:
This suffers from the same thing all the Shakespeare I have seen. Due to the actors slavishly adhering to the old style prose and delivery, it’s often difficult to determine what’s going on. In fact halfway through the first act it all rumbled over me and became boring. By the time I got used to the language in the second half, it was drawing to a rather predictable close. It’s the ‘John Carter’ film problem. All the themes seem old and derivative because they are seen so often. But this is actually the origin of a lot of the plots we see in modern storytelling. (2/5)