Angry Robot

MacBook Pro Hard Drive Odyssey

I took my computer apart this weekend.


Having filled my 160gig internal, and with a new camera on the way, and realizing that 500gig 2.5” drives were now here and quite affordable, I had ordered a replacement hard drive, with the intention of paying a technician to install it. I had read the guide and it involved many steps, specialist screwdrivers, and a great number of differently-shaped screws. However, as Computer Systems Centre never called me back, and routinely put me on hold for 5 minute intervals, I decided to go it alone.

A trip to Canadian Tire later, I had all the nerd screwdrivers I needed, and was ready to start. This Macworld article had invaluable advice: print the instructions and then tape the screws to the pictures that indicate their provenance. Without this, I would have a frankenstinian monster on my lap right now, but with it, the procedure was long and repetitive, but not hellish at all. Although it gets scary when you crack open the top case (it actually goes ‘crack’), and see your computer’s guts just lying there.

So it worked, and my free space is now a cavernous 300+ gigs, plus I feel like I really upgraded my nerd cred a whole lot. Fucking A.



Prototype is hells fun. That’s pretty much all you need to know. It’s got what we might charitably call a ‘traditional’ video game plot, with a genetic experiment gone awry, and a super-powered, amnesiac protagonist, and a viral infection turning Manhattan into a playground of zombies and soldiers. However, the plot provides all the motivation we need for some super-insane power-fantasy abilities, like growing massive claws out of your hands, running up buildings and leaping over them, and shape shifting. It feels a lot like Crackdown, with even crazier powers, but with less sense of humour.

The ‘consume’ mechanic is particularly interesting. In order to assume someone’s appearance, you basically eat them, but you also get a brief, impressionistic montage of their mind, revealing plot details. Sometimes this is part of the main plot, but you can also leap around looking for other plot items to consume. That’s pretty much all I do in there now – narrativized leaping. I find it pretty irresistible.

GH1 in Effect

Just got the Panasonic GH1 in. I had pre-ordered at adorama in the US, and at Vistek here in Toronto, and due to a lucky turn, Vistek came through much earlier than I had feared. I know from scouring the forums that many are being told they won’t get their cameras until July.

I’ve only barely used it, but I’m already thrilled. Perhaps much of the thrill would be common to any camera in this price range / category; many entry level DSLRs, as I understand it, would have equivalent picture quality and features. But it’s all new to me – my recent cameras are an ancient film SLR, a crappy five-year-old point & shoot, and the iPhone. I’ve taken good pictures with all of them, but never with the ease I experienced since this new baby came.

Perhaps the most unsettling thing is how frickin’ smart the camera is. The autofocus is fast, and shows you what it’s focusing on. The metering seemed always on point. And more than once we noticed it doing crazy-ass face detection. Apparently it predicts motion too? How long until it becomes self-aware, if it isn’t already?

I’m just scratching the surface of video recording, which of course is the reason I bought this camera. It’s harder to get sorted than it needs to be. If you’re going for a film look thing the right settings are crucial, which would be 1080p (“full HD”) and a shutter rate of 1/50. That means you’re recording in the rather nasty codec AVCHD, which causes workflow problems because Final Cut can’t edit that natively. Getting real 24p also requires deinterlacing the shots after that. To make matters worse, the AVCHD footage can break up and create compression mud on fast pans and tilts.

That said the 720 60p works well, and also presents the opportunity to shoot slow motion. And all in all, for the crazy small amount of money this thing costs, you have an HD, 24p camera with a sensor only a hair smaller than a RED camera.

There’s Pride on the weekend, and then I’m off the next week, with the intention of shooting me some (film? AVCHD? MTS files?), so I’ll have at least some test footage to show before too long.

(follow the stills along on flickr)

Rap-Blogging Doesn't Have to Make You Cringe

Interesting post from Anil Dash comparing blogging to hip hop, in terms of the futility of finding the ‘first’ to practise the form. It includes this video:

which includes a screengrab of my old site Bloggus Caesari. Whaddup, Caesar!

A Year of the iPhone

After a few months the thrills wore off, and the iPhone became the less thrilling but still awesome item of massive convenience. I used it to get online when I was in my edit bay, which until recently was an internet no-no zone. Or, you might be happy to do an IMDb search while in a bar, settling an argument. Everywhere-you-go email notification is another mundane lifesaver.

Eventually you notice things wrong. Copy & paste, no wireless sync, no multitasking, slow browsing. Bad battery life. But to bring them up feels like complaining that the alignment in your solid gold car is slightly off.

Ultimately you get used to massive change. Change that stays still isn’t change any more. The iPhone has become part of me, another set of solutions to problems that might come up. I don’t notice now when I whip out tweetie while waiting in line for a coffee, or upload photos I just took, or whatever. But also in no way would I go back to my pre-iPhone life if I could avoid it.

That’s not to say I have to have an iPhone. I’m happy now that the Pre and Android seem to be giving Apple a run for its money, or at least promise to some time in the future. But what these are is post-iPhone devices, things made with an attempt to approach the feature set and polish of Cap’n Touchy here. I don’t think any of us wants to go back to pre-iPhone devices, stone daggers next to the Colt .45s we have now. Like the Treo with Windows Mobile. (shudder.)

From that perspective, iPhone OS 3.0, which I just installed, feels underwhelming at first. It is essentially a bunch of small fixes – search, copy & paste, landscape keyboard, YouTube account support, etc. etc. Browsing is sped up. These are all welcome. (Can’t say I give a shit about MMS.) I’d love to upgrade to the new phone to get the compass and video and voice control, but ultimately I may hold off for now. These additions are cool, but not $200 cool, and aren’t that big next to the huge changes I’ve already experienced this past year.

The jist of it is that the networked computer ultimately meant that us nerds got big brain upgrades, but only when near our computers. With devices like the iPhone, we get to bring our big outboard brains around wherever we go. I’m still thankful for that.

I think the most significant announcement from Apple last week was not OS 3.0, not the new iPhone, but rather the $99 price on the old model, the one sitting in front of me here. That means more people will get this thing in their hands, and perhaps experience the brain-enbiggening power I’ve gotten so used to now.

Front Mission Evolved

Front Mission: Evolved is coming to North American consoles. Although Front Mission is a strategy RPG franchise, this is a third-person action game. However, it’s giant robots, and the developers promise a hybrid of Front Mission, Call of Duty 4 and Chromehounds. Could it be the elusive Citizen Kane of giant robot games that we here at AR eternally await? Maybe. Hell yeah maybe.

Oh man, I forgot to make a wanzer joke.

After Last Season Update: It's Real

Vindicated! I was actually having my doubts as to the authenticity of this film (see previous post), after I seemed like the one naive idiot who didn’t think some arch ironist like Gondry or Jonze was ingeniously behind it. However, here’s a review at twitch. “The film is not a put-on. After Last Season is, however, so genuinely and startlingly bad that a movie cult will undoubtedly form around it.”

Other highlights:


After Last Season

I’m really thrilled by After Last Season. The trailer is something else:

It’s tempting to believe it’s an exquisitely constructed hoax, isn’t it? After reading this MetaFilter thread, though – especially this and this – you’ll be convinced it’s real. Real, and more awesome than a sack of robot pegasi. Just for font nerds alone it’s a comedy explosion. If you like fonts, unrelated clips of mundane dialogue and overlit white rooms, you’re in for a nirvanic thrill ride.

Anyway, it’s opening “regular-wide” tomorrow, so if you live in Lancaster, CA, North Aurora, IL, Rochester, NY or Austin, TX, please go see this. I hear they have printers in the basement you can use. (via the Space blog)

E3 In Tha House

Everyone’s favourite games conference aka press release orgy is here! The most concise way to catch up on E3 press conference porn is to read three posts from Offworld:

Sony and MS are both trying to catch up to the Wii’s motion-sensing Wiimote, and MS’ Project Natal seems most interesting, as it’s a controller-free system, relying entirely on cameras to sense your body position and even recognize faces. That said, until practical questions can be answered (how much? how many games will support it?), it’s best to consider it as a rhetorical salvo in the PR wars and not an actual, tangible thing. Sony and MS both trumpeted their lists of exclusive games, most vague and ages from shipping. Some of them no doubt will be good, but neither could get through their presentations without showcasing some cross-platform games as well.

Nintendo, meanwhile, renewed its license to print money. No, they tried to make nice with the hardcore by announcing a truckload of Mario games.

A few things caught my eye. On the Microsoft side, more details of Halo 3 ODST are welcome (sounds like The Killing with space marines), and I’m happy that Bungie is doing another game in Halo Reach, but I was kinda hoping they’d give the Halo thing a rest for a while and try something new. Alan Wake looked cool, and I really hope Natal works and doesn’t cost a mint, but judging from MS’ track record, that’s unlikely. How much for that 160 gig hard drive again….?!

Sony’s PSP Go! was of course no surprise. But it looks slick, and it sounds like Sony is doing all the right things (woo developers, improve media experience, ditch UMD) to keep the PSP alive. And boy are there a lot of games coming for it, including a new Metal Gear, Assassin’s Creed, and Little Big Planet. But I’m of two minds about Sony. They’re currently fighting two losing battles and I wonder if they shouldn’t just cut their losses on the PSP and concentrate on overtaking MS for 2nd place in the living room. They’ve got so many first party developers tied up with PSP projects, it’s hard to see the logic. I was also really hoping for a price cut on the PS3. Why, why, why, are they not doing that. It’s insanity. I say that selfishly, because I’m looking to get one of the damned things, but it also seems crazy that Sony is sitting in third place with a console almost twice as costly as the competition, and not slashing their price.