Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: Surrogates

Filed under: Fun,Movies,News and Current Events,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:13 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I know, I’m late with my review of this and I didn’t post anything at all on Monday.

What can I tell you? It’s just been that kind of week! I suppose that I should be grateful that I have my iPhone to so I can, uh, “phone this one in” via the WordPress beta app.
Anyway, I saw Surrogates this past Friday. I liked this movie a lot. Now, I doubt it will be lauded as a great movie, nor will it do fantastically well at the box office, but I liked this movie better than Gamer, which covers some of the same intellectual ground. Surrogates is an action flick, too, but not to the same degree and, more importantly to me, Surrogates focused more on the social implications of the technology and less on the tawdry, flashy sex.

Surrogates stars Bruce Willis as an FBI agent in a world where virtually everyone has a “surrogate”, or remote-controlled robot, with which they interact with the world. The idea behind that is that the surrogate can’t die or be permanently damaged the way a human, or “user”, can. The problem is someone has found a weapon that can send some kind of feedback signal through the surrogate that will killthe user. Willis’ character is called in to investigate just such a crime and what might be the first murder since the invention of surrogates. The bigger problem is that the murder victim is the son of the man who invented surrogates.
The chief suspect is a “meat bag”, as people without surrogates are known. And, he was apparently used by an anti-surrogate extremist group called the “Dreads”, who are led by a dreadlocked Ving Rhames. So, now, not only does Willis’ character have to solve the first murder since the invention of surrogates, but has to figure out who made this “impossible” weapon, how, and, most importantly of all, why.  Add to this the fact that Willis’ character isn’t overly fond of surrogates to begin with, since his wife is using it as a way to hide from him emotionally as she tries to forget that they had a child who died.

But, like I said, this is an action film, so there is plenty of action.  A car chase with a helicopter that ends poorly and results in Willis’ character not being able to use his surrogate.  Being forced into the real world has some strange effects on people not used to it, or so it would seem from the level of anxiety he displays.  And, who can blame them for wanting to be in their surrogates all the time?  The surrogates are perfect.  Perfect bodies, perfect faces and, all but Willis’ have perfect hair.  And, these things are virtually indestructable.  So, that’s why it’s so important that they find out who’s killing people through their surrogates.
Willis’ character does find out, incidentally, but that’s far from the end of the story.  You’ll have to see it to understand and I’m not going to ruin it.

One thing to know, though, is that the action isn’t quite as good as Gamer, but the nasty, shock-value-only sex is virtually not present.  Also, I think they explored some of the social relevance of the surrogate phenomina better than those same aspects were explored in Gamer.
Definitely worth seeing this movie, but if you’re not a fan of science-fiction, you’d better hit this in a matinee.  Still worth seeing, though.


Review: The Informant, Nine and Extract

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:35 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw a bunch of movies in the past two weeks.

I know I see a lot of movies, but, until I got behind on my reviews, I didn’t realize just how many!
So, these will be three short, quick reviews to help me catch up, also they’re being written on the WordPress iPhone app, which encourages brevity. I’ll review them in the order I saw them.

First up is Extract, which is a Mike Judge film. He’s the guy who did Office Space and if you liked that you’ll like this one, too. This time, the “hardluck hero” isn’t a front-line worker, but management. In fact, he’s the owner of a small factory that creates extracts, like almond extract and other flavorings. Now, this might not seem like a funny setup, but, trust me, it is. Judge manages to find the hilarity in an over-worked, under-sexed small-business owner, trapped in an unhappy marriage and disenchanted with his own creation, played by Jason Bateman. He struggles with all the problems attendant to an entreprenuerial business, but manages well enough. Until, that is, there’s a freak accident in the factory that partially emasculates one of his star employees. That alone wouldn’t be a problem, actually, but it draws the attention of a sexy grifter played by Mila Kunis. She conivces the “victim” to sue, setting off a chain of events that are not only tragic and hilarious, but also so incredibly believable that you never question how outrageous they are or the reactions to them.
Trust me when I tell you this will be a cult hit just like Office Space was. I laughed out loud so often my sides hurt by the end of the movie. Oh, and Gene Simmons as the ambulance-chasing, shyster lawyer is too funny for words! Watch for his ad in the background because when he does it in Spanish you’ll have a hard time controlling you bladder. Very funny film and, if it’s not too late, a must see.

Last week Friday, I saw The Informant, starring Matt Damon. Now, you might not expect that an action star like him could do comedy, but he really pulls it off.
Now, this movie is an entirely different kind of funny than Extract. It’s still funny, but as much in that over-the-top sort of way. It’s a dryer sort of comedy, almost British in where it gets its laughs. I doubt it will do as well as other comedies this season for that reason, but I found it very funny. Also, this movie is based on a book which is in turn based on actual events. In. nutshell, Damon stars as an exec at ADM, a corn conglomerate, who gets into a tight spot and does some lying to get out of it. The only problem is, those lies bring in the FBI who need to be distracted. So, in an effort to save his own skin, he rats out the company on a huge price-fixing scheme and ends up being an FBI under cover informant for almost three years. Of course, during that time he also embezzeled more than 9 million dollars and never seemed to tell anyone the while truth, not even his wife, not even himself.
Damon is clever and likeable, in a kind of nerdy way, as the obviously not quite right Mark Whitmore, who still thinks he can steal from the company, become the next president after the old management team is out, and inform for the government at the same time. The really funny thing is that he manages to pull it off for three years before things really start to unravel. And, this movie is more than just laughs. You see a guy under incredible stress trying to maintain his sanity, world-view and family image while betraying those very same things. Near the end, Damon has some truly poignant moments where the frayed edges of his assorted lives and realities begin to show through. I really liked this film, but I doubt most people would. I honestly don’t see it doing well in the theaters or in rental, but I really enjoyed the surprsing subtlties in this movie. Damon turns in a fantastic performance that I suspect will go largely unnoticed by the public. If you’re a Matt Damon fan, definitely rent this one.

The last film I saw last weekend was Nine. Nine is a pretty adult animation film. The story follows Nine, a magically created living puppet in a post-apocalyptic world. He wakes not knowing who he is or why he was made and not even having a voice. Nine quickly explores his world, however, and meets more of his kind, one of whom helps him find a voice, literally. When that other “person” is taken by some malevolent machine, Nine tries to convice his newly found brethren that they need to go and rescue their missing member. Much of the film is spent in that sort of activity, either convincing older “people” who are afraid of losing thei power to change, or off fighting technology that has no soul.
And, that is one of the major themes of this movie; fighting the soul-less technological world. In a sense, this movie is all about heart, but it’s also an action film of sorts. And it was animated. Actually, it was animated very well, so that’s a point in its favor.
I’d recommend this film for anyone who’s either a sci-fi fan or an animation fan, but it’s not for the kids. Way more grown up than that. But, even though I liked it quite a bit, I don’t think it’s everyone’s cup of tea.

So, to sum up, go see Extract quickly, rent The Informant, and see Nine if you love sci-fi or animation or both, otherwise just rent this one, too. But, for the record, I enjoyed all three films.

Oh, and just so you know, this was meant to be posted yesterday morning and would have been the fifth consecutive post written primarily with the WordPress iPhone app beta. Outside of a problem uploading pictures, the beta app is working very well.
More movies this weekend, so, more reviews coming, though, they may not all be via the iPhone.

Creating a Seamless Background

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Yeah, I’m lazy.

So, I’m not going to tell you how to create a seamless background in Photoshop, I’m going to let the fine folks over at TestFreaks teach you how to create a seamless background in Photoshop CS4.

Seriously, this is a very good tutorial for something that a lot of us would like to do, so go check it out.


No Free Lunch

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,PERL,Personal,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Ever wonder what I did before my blog devolved into what it is today?

Well, I uses write Perl code for fun. Yeah, that’s right, I used to code for fun. I mostly started with super geeky constructed language scripts and then moved on to other stuff. But, you know, I used to let people use them for free, just because it was fun and people seemed to really enjoy the scripts. Hey, there are a lot of geeky people out there! Anyway, it didn’t take long for these scripts, which used to reside at the Fantasist.net conlang page, to become very popular. It took even less time for them to become problematic for me and my series of webhosts. Well, they’ve finally become so much of a problem that I had to take them down this week.

Honestly, I can’t tell you how sad and angry and frustrated that makes me. I really wish I could keep offering them up, but people have abused them for too long and now they’ve caused me more trouble than they’re worth to me, so they’re gone for the forseesble future.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone."


Windows Domain Inventory Tool

Filed under: Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft,On The Road — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I lost one of my USB thumbdrives this weekend.

As cheap as they are, it’s not a big deal, really, except for the lost data. And one or two of the programs on it. In particular, the one that I was concerned about was the Mouse Tracks Windows Domain Report Manager tool.

One of the many things I’ve seen change over the years in the world of corporate computing is how portable and mobile and just plain fluid things have become. Now, I’m not complaining about that, not at all, but from my point of view, that kind of environment presents certain challenges. One of those is inventory of hardware, software and assorted configurations. In the event of a catastrophic disaster, it’s nice to be able to have a current list of hardware with what’s installed on it and how it’s all configured.

Now, there’s quite a market for computer inventory systems at every end of the market, but most of us don’t have a budget that allows for a project team from IBM, so we have to find some other solution. I started to try and work up a Perl solution, but, frankly, my Perl Fu is weak these days, so, I went looking for a cheap (ie. free) solution that was ready made. What I found was the Mouse Tracks Windows Domain Report Manager tool. It’s based on Windows Script Host, so it only works on Windows machines and, really, only finds devices that are part of your Windows Domain, but that’s all most of us have anyway and it is, after all, free. And, it was on that USB drive that I lost this weekend. So, yes, that means I carry an inventory tool in my pocket with me everywhere I go, just in case. Because, that’s just who I am.

So, really, dear readers, you’re benefiting from my loss, since I had to go find it again this week and, therefore, was thinking about it when it came time to post.


Fandango iPhone App

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Fun,Movies,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I love this app.

No, seriously, this free app highlights all that I truly love about my iPhone. It checks to see where I am then finds movies and theaters near me. It shows me what’s playing, when it’s playing and where. And, if I’m not sure where the theater is, it even links to maps to get me from where I am to the theater of my choice.

Oh, and did I mention the app is free? Yeah, sure, Fandnago would love for you to set up an account with them to buy tickets, but you don’t have to do that for the app to work. How cool is that?

But, wait, as Ron Popiel would say, there’s more!
Because, if you’re not sure what film you want to see, there are ratings from critics and other Fandango users to help you decide. And, if that’s still not enough, there are previews. Yes that’s right, actual previews you can watch on your iPhone!
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that watching movie previews on a tiny phone screen would be terrible, but, Saturday night after church, at least five people crowded around my iPhone to watch movie previews and were so drawn in not one made a sound while the 9 trailer played. No joke. All adults, too, over the age of 21.

In fact, I love this app so much that I’ve been thinking about getting a Fandango account. Which, of course, is why they offered this app for free, I’m sure.
But, you know what? It’s totally working.


Talk Like A Pirate Day

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Oh, surely, you’ve heard of this, right? If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve certainly seen me talk about this before, but, today, I typed this update on my iPhone, in the barbershop, waiting for my haircut.

Now THAT is the power of the Internet!


Damn, It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:46 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Yes, that’s a reference to Office Space.

Well, if you’ve ever thought about giving up corporate life and escaping the drudgery of paperwork by becoming a gangster, you’d better hurry.  Apparently, the yakuza have started giving entrance exams.  Yes, that’s right, the Japanese mob have started giving written entrance exams.  Or at least, the biggest of them, the Yamaguchi-gumi, have started offering written tests on “being a knowledgeable gangster”.  I know it sounds like something out of anime, or a dystopian Terry Gilliam movie, but, in fact, it’s real.

So, now, no one is free from a rigorous application process, even the mob.
One can only hope it’s a trend that makes it over here, too.  Maybe we’ll finally get a better class of crook again.


WordPress iPhone App Beta Test

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I found out Friday that I got accepted into the WordPress iPhone app beta test group.

As you might imagine, a geek like me was so excited that I just about plotzed right there. Or, at least you would if you were a regular reader. I’ve been a huge fan of WordPress since I started using it back during the big Moveable Type license debacle. And, frankly, I’ve been hooked on the iPhone since almost the first moment I started using it. So, naturally, when I saw that there was an iPhone app that would let me blog no matter where I was, as long as I could get a cell signal. Combine that with the Flickr app and, well, I think I may well have found the perfect phone for me.

When I saw that the people who created the iPhone app were looking for beta testers, well, I jumped on that like white on rice. When I got the news I was accepted… Well, I already mentioned how excited I was. As soon as I could, I tried to install it. I had a little trouble getting it set right to install onto my phone, but once I did, it’s been working fine. Now, I did have a small problem when it tried to connect to my blogs where I had no signal or wifi, but, I suspect that the problem had more to do with my impatience than with a programming issue. What’s more, I haven’t had a problem since. Of course, I’ve only used the app when I’ve had a good connection since then, too, so that may have something to do with it.
I have to admit, the tiny, virtual keyboard on the iPhone is far from the ideal tool for a long post, but it certianly seems to get the job done. Also, the auto-correct feature actually seems to work in my favor. Of course, that does say
something quite terrible about my spelling or typing or something, doesn’t it?

Oh, and, in case you were wondering, this entire post was, in fact, written entirely on my iPhone with that WordPress beta app that I’m so happy to be testing.
How cool is that?

So, if you have an iPhone and use WordPress, either on a self-hosted blog or on WordPress.com, I highly recommend getting this app. When they upgrade the current version to the one I’m using, you’ll love it.
Trust me.


Time Travel T-Shirt

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:07 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I’d imagine this might come in handy.

So, remember last week how I was talking about time-travel?  Wow, how many blogs do you read that can say that?  Anyway, I mentioned a time-travel cheat sheet, but I think this is better.  How many times have we seen a time traveller go back in time and show off something fancy, like, say a lighter or a flashlight, and suddenly be the local wizard?  Now, imagine you had the aforementioned cheat sheet, in the form of a t-shirt.  Yeah, that’s what the Time Traveller Essentials T-Shirt is all about.  Also?  Pretty funny and cool.

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