Taking Chance

Via Blackfive comes news of an HBO special that might be worth seeing.

This is based on Marine Lieutenant Colonel Strobl’s true story originally related to us by Blackfive of escorting the remains of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps home for burial. It’s a great story, and I really hope HBO honors the story and the people involved by not turning it into some sort of leftist propaganda machine they’re so fond of. If, however, it turns out to be as good as hoped, this will be on my DVD shelf.

Holiday Potpourri

So, posting has been nonexistant rather than light the last couple weeks. Sorry for that. Work has been keeping me busy, and I’ve been doing a bit more to get caught up around here – not to mention the holidays busyness. In addition to that, politics has just been depressing lately, as have local sports, so I haven’t felt much like writing on said topics, which left me without obvious source material. That said, I’m back to give a quick update on what’s going on in the world of me.

The Cardinals have lost 4 of their last 5 games and now look like a team that doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs. I’m hoping they come back and prove me wrong tomorrow against Seattle, but I’m not holding my breath. If we don’t shape up, it will be a quick first round exit for the boys in red. The Suns lost on Christmas day to the Spurs on a heartbreaking buzzer beater three, and the Celtics have now lost two in a row to break their 19 game winning streak. So color me annoyed.

I also got Mass Effect for Christmas from my brother, but am reluctant to install it due to the draconian DRM scheme put in place by EA. I am not sure whether to look for a crack of some sort, or just install it into a virtual environment, but I’ll certainly update with results of whatever I decide to do there. I also got an iPod (yeah, I know) which will be the subject of its own post later.

I finally saw The Dark Knight – and while I don’t feel it quite lived up to the earth-shattering hype that it was given by my friends and the online reviews, it was a masterful movie. Ledger truly did give a brilliant performance, in that I didn’t even recognize him as the actor in nearly any scene. I felt that Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of Harvey Dent was also genius, perhaps on par with Ledger’s Joker in the method of portrayal, although obviously not given quite as much screen time or opportunity in the script. But I really felt that Eckhart was Dent, and being so convinced is the mark of great acting. With that in mind I think the character and portrayal of Batman by Christian Bale was outshone by the masterful acting of Ledger, Eckhart and the ever-brilliant Gary Oldman (as James Gordon). The movie was less dark than was expected as well, which made it easier for me to recommend to my parents and more squeamish friends. While it’s certainly deserving of the PG-13 rating,  the violence was done in such a way that it was mostly kept off screen, and is thus easier to take. It’s a movie I can absolutely recommend, and strongly suggest viewing twice – it was much better the second time, for me.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash. The man was a genius. I’ve also been actually enjoying some Christmas music this year, which I normally don’t. I suppose that’s a good thing.

Christmas was a small, informal event in which my family got together, watched basketball, talked about life and God and the meaning of Christmas, and ate delicious foods. Exactly as it should be.

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful Christmas. Now go drink some egg nog or something.

Netflix, OSS, and me

So after much prodding from friends, I signed up for Netflix. It wasn’t the great turnaround on the DVD delivery, or the excellent customer service that drove me over; it was the rave reviews of their “Watch Instantly” movie streaming service. For $8.99 a month, you get unlimited hours of movies streamed, plus 1 DVD out at a time. Sounded like a deal, plus, 2 week free trial – how can you go wrong?

I logged in, selected a movie, and hit play. And that’s when things went all wrong.

It required Internet Explorer. As you all should know by now, I’m a Linux guy, deep down. Reluctantly I switched over to Windows to give it a shot, but IE wasn’t enough – no sir, it wanted Windows Media Player 11 and the latest version of Windows Genuine Advantage. Seeing as I regard both these “services” as little more than particularly invasive spyware, I decided it wasn’t really worth my time and hit the big red “cancel my account” link in the My Account page. It asked a lot of questions about the streaming service, and I answered honestly and as fully as I could. It also said to call if I had questions or comments, so I did. The guy was nice and understood what I said, said he would note it. (As an aside, while on the phones, I hate people like me.)

It’s really irritating that people do that. Netflix are not the only ones, either – Yahoo’s Launch music service did this for years. There’s really absolutely no (good) reason to use WMP/Windows-only formats over, say, Ogg Theora. Who really needs DRM? DRM is useless, every form of it that gets developed gets broken almost immediately. You don’t have to break your product with proprietary obfuscation tactics and secret rootkits to make it successful – in fact, people backlash against you for it. Hasn’t the market proven this already, time and time again? I mean, who knew that a lot of people don’t like being screwed? Look at Launch – when was the last time someone was telling you about that service? Yet we see universally friendly platforms like Last.fm and Pandora (my personal favorite) exploding onto the scene.

Netflix, Theora is a better container, open source, and universally supported. That means it’s also cheaper since you don’t have to license anything from anyone.  And the really nerdy crowd – the ones that are really likely to be on Linux – and the really trendy crowd – the ones that like to use Macs – are both going to have problems using this new, nerdy, trendy tech as long as you stick with this software model. So! Open your eyes and hearts to the joys of open source software, people. Microsoft is old and busted, OSS is the new hotness. Can ya dig it?