On Technology and gadgets

Technology is weird. Or rather, people get weird when it comes to technology. I would say that people that are more in to technology (read: geeks) get even weirder.

I have a confession to make: I'm a Mac-user. In fact, I'm unashamed Apple-fanboy (not the fanatic kind, but still). It seems to me that Steve Jobs knows what I need before I know it myself. End-result is that I have spent quite a lot of money on Apple-hardware. I might take a picture of the retail-boxes (which I have kept, naturally) just to show the magnitude of my commitment.

I have no desire to "convert" other to the Mac, and I have no problem suggesting people buy a PC if that's the computer that serves them best. I use products made by Apple because they click with me.

Why am I telling you all that? Because all Mac-users are familiar with the "Mac vs. PC"-arguments. Usually what happens is that some PC-user starts whining "Why did you buy a Mac, when you could get an equivalent PC for less?!". Usually what follows is a list of specifications of a Mac, compared to similar specifications of a PC that costs less. And since the PC has similar "specs" while costing less, it means that the Mac is overpriced, right?

Is it just me, or is this totally wrong way of discussing these things? How many of us buy our cars (or whatever) by staring at it's specifications, and then determining how good or bad those cars are? Is Audi "overpriced", because Skoda with similar specs costs less? For some reason people are more than willing to pay premium in other products, but when it comes to computers, we should all race to the bottom for that "best deal". Paying premium for a premium-product is considered to be "dumb".

As the saying in Finland goes: poor people can't afford cheap things. Sure, I could get the computer with rock-bottom price. But I would end up with a computer that is less enjoyable to use. And I use my computers for several years. So I might save few euros, but I would get less enjoyment from the computer. The computer would feel cheap, it would have all kinds of strange glitches, it would have gaudy design... I don't know about you, but my enjoyment and happiness is worth something.

iPhone is the perfect example of all this. People who do not own an iPhone like to mention all the features some other phone has that iPhone lacks. Usually those features are totally useless thingies that look good on paper, but offer very little actual usefulness in the device. It's too bad that you can't list "better usability" in a list of paper-specs.

One common argument is that the camera on the iPhone sucks because it has less megapixels than some other cameraphone. Regardless of the fact that amount of megapixels has very little to do with the image-quality of the camera. Or how about removable battery? How many carry spare batteries around? I don't know anyone who does that. But since iPhone does not have that feature, we apparently desperately need it.

People seem to forget that features are a means to an end, not end of means. My Nokia E71 has a lot of features. But those features are so crappy that I don't use them. iPhone might have less raw features, but people actually use those features because they actually work. How many actually surfs the web with their phone? Yeah, iPhone-users seem to be the only ones who are doing that. In fact, I do most of my web-surfing with my iPod touch.

So what brought all this up? Well, we are routinely presented with new phones that are "iPhone-killers". Nokia N900 is one such phone. If I recall correctly, it costs a bit more than the iPhone, but not majorly so. But as far as price goes, they are in the same ballpark. And people are saying that it's better than the iPhone since it has more features (like megapixels....).

Yesterday I finally played around with one for 10 minutes. It feels pretty solid and good in your hand, but not as good and solid as an iPhone. The user-interface is not as obvious (the salesperson had to instruct me on how to do various things, whereas iPhone is obvious to everyone). The UI had some glitches, and animations were not smooth. And it doesn't have nowhere near as many apps as the iPhone has.

So what exactly am I saying here? What I'm saying is that N900 is no iPhone-killer. That fact occured to me the moment I picked it up on my hand, and it was confirmed when I used it. Sure, it might have all kinds of nifty features, but using it was not as enjoyable as using iPhone/iPod touch is. It's like they cut corners and settled for less here and there. And end-result is a phone that looks good (very good) on paper, but is still not as good as the iPhone in actual use.

Another "iPod-killer" is the Motorola Droid, an Android-phone. Again, a good phone on paper. But it seems that the battery-cover has a tendency to pop off. So users are resorting to taping the cover shut. And then they wave their taped-together phone and proclaim it to be an "iPhone-killer".... Dudes: not like this. Not like this....

Of course both N900 and Droid are probably very good phones on their own right. But that still doesn't mean that they are iPhone-killers. And the fact that every phone is compared to the iPhone is quite telling....

Like most things in life, computers and gizmos are more than sum of their parts. Apple understands this, others (including those who whine how "overpriced "Macs are) do not. They just throw together a device with certain features, and then assume that it can compete with the iPhone, or Mac, or iPod.... But that's not how things work. It's amazing how multi-billion dollar companies fail to understand this fact.

I think the thing Apple has and those other companies lack is Steve Jobs. It has been said that Apple designs their products for Steve Jobs, and Steve Jobs alone. And Jobs is a ruthless perfectionist. And when Apple introduces a new product, it has been designed for Steve, but it just happens that millions of other people will also find useful.

How do other companies design products? They have comittees and focus-groups. They do market-surveys to come up with features users want. End-result is a product that looks, feels and behaves like a product that is designed by a committee, for a committee, and that's what is it.

The net has been filled with rumors that Apple will introduce a tablet-computer (like an oversized iPod touch or something) in the coming months. And they are releasing it because Steve wants such a device, not because marketdroids say that such device would sell well. I don't really see a need for that device, but I bet that when they introduce it, I will instantly realize that I absolutely need it. That there is a tablet-sized hole in my life, but I just don't know it yet.

Who watches The Watchmen?

I have a confession to make: long ago when I heard that they are making a movie about The Watchmen, one of the first questions that popped in my head was "Will Dr. Manhattan be naked?". The answer is: Yes he is.

In some ways that fact tells quite a lot about the movie. It would have been very easy for Zack Snyder to not show Dr. Manhattans man-meat onscreen. But he did. Why? Because they showed it in the graphic novel, and because it underlines his detachment from the humanity. Why should almost omnipotent creature care about humanity's customs and taboos? In other words: Snyder was not prepared to do the easy thing, he made no compromises. Not even in the face of the Armageddon. And considering that he decided to make a movie of a story that most people consider "unfilmable", that shouldn't come as a surprise.

I'm not going to go through the plot, since it's re-told in numerous places already. What I am going to do is to tell how well they succeeded in making this movie. I know that whether you have read the original graphic novel will influence the way you see this movie. When reading my comments you should remember that I have read the original story several times.

So, did they succeed? Yes they did. In fact, I would go as far and say that this is one of the best movies in recent years! The movie is as faithful to the book as you could wish for. Yes, they had to make some changes and they had to omit some sub-plots. But what is there is the things that are essential to the story.

If we compare this to "Lord of The Rings", another movie that was based on the book, we can see that the changes are a lot smaller. Unlike in LOTR, the storyline is basically intact, when we compare the book and the movie. The changes are in the details. Don't get me wrong, LOTR is an awesome movie. But at points it deviates quite far from the original story. this does not happen in The Watchmen.

It's apparent that Snyder handled the story with great love and care. It seems that he did not treat the original story as a vessel to earn money. Rather, he saw it as a story that deserves to be told in the big screen, and he went out of his way to do just that. And he succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

Some of the negative reviews of the movie complain that this is not a good movie, because Snyder decided to treat the graphic novel with such veneration, that the movie resembles the book too much (viewpoints, camerawork, etc.). And here I am, scratching my head thinking "is that a bad thing"? Sure, some might say that simply "copying" the original is easy. But it's not. Besides, if the original works, why should it be changed? For the sake of changing it?

This movie is full of music. Good music. Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan.... It feels like that at some point they decided that "why don't we only use good music in this movie, as opposed to crappy music?". The music they went with is perfect for this movie.

So, what about the acting? It's solid all around, but there's one performance that rises above others: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Watching him bring that sociopathic character to the screen reminded me of the powerful performance Heath Ledger did as The Joker in "The Dark Knight".

To continue with The Dark Knight... That was a great movie. But at times it felt overlong. The Watchmen is 10 minutes longer, but it didn't feel stretched at all. The story was so deep that it simply needed a lot of time to be told. In my opinion The Watchmen is better than The Dark Knight.

Being the geek that I am, it might come as a surprise that I do not have a huge flat-screen TV of blu-ray-player. I have told myself that I might get those when they release The Lord of The Rings on blu-ray, since that movie deserves a huge screen and lots of pixels. I will now add The Watchmen to that short list. Reason being that this movie is beautiful. It shows decay and bleakness, but it's still beautiful. No matter that are we talking about colours, camerawork, special effects... It's just superb.

And as an icing on the cake: is it just me or are the opening credits of The Watchmen some of the best in any movie, ever?

Seriously, this is a superb movie. It delivers on every level. I can't think of anything they could have done better.

Flashes of genius

If you are interested in qualioty webcomics, I would suggest that you click here. then you could proceed to read rest of the strips.

As I was reading those strips (in fact, I have been a reader for quite some time) I ran in to A Softer World. I read it, and liked what I saw. Then I reached this strip. It was that moment when I realised that it was handiwork of a superior intellect.

It's so.... comfy

I like comfort, warmth, softness and cozyness. So when I decorate (or rather, tell the Mrs. what I would like to have, and hope she agrees with me), those four words are my guiding light.

Some time ago I told the Mrs. that I would like to get a... what do you call them, pedestal lamp? Anyway, I wanted to get one of those for our living-room, so that if you want to sit on the couch and read something, you don't have to turn on those bright ceiling-lights, rather, you just turn on that one light and read.

Last weekend we went shopping, and we found the perfect lamp for our living-room (no pics as of yet, maybe later). It consists of four dimmable 40w halogen lamps. It's covered with yellowish flax-cloth, so the light has a warm tone to it. And since you can dim it, you can easily adjust the amount of light. It's quite narrow, so it fits perfectly between the wall and our couch. It singlehandledly turned our living-room from "OK" to paradise on Earth.

Well, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea.

While it was the Mrs. that actually found the lamp at the store, the decision to buy it was a joint one. And since this was my idea to begin with, I can take at least some of the credit!

I'm actually starting so see the time when our living-room is "done". The area around the TV still needs work, but that needs to wait untill we get a new television (which isn't quite yet).

Thanks, but I'll pass

I get nervous when I see quotes in places where the shouldn't be any quotes. Like menu. Apparently tomorrow we will be having spinach "pancakes" at the company cafeteria.

It's like if you go to a restaurant, and the dish includes red wine sauce, potatoes, seasons vegetables and "meat"...

The ultimate guy-movie

Many moons ago I commented that "300" is "100% guy-movie". Well, it might or might not be. But last weekend I realized that there IS an undisputed, ultimate guy-movie in the world:

That's right, "Predator"! A classic Schwarzenegger-movie from 1987!

Seriously, this movie has it all. Funny one-liners, great action (too much to link to), memorable scenes, it's oozing with macho-bullshit and it has a bad-guy who is cool and memorable .

It's cast consists of two U.S. Governors (Arnold "The Governator" Schwarzenegger and Jesse "The Governing Body" Ventura), three other muscle-men (Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham, which means that the total muscle-mass in this movie exceeds the weight of average family-sedan), two funny-men (Richard Chavez and Shane Black), great soundtrack including the original score by Alan Silvestri as well as the use of "Long Tall Sally" by Little Richard.

Oh, there is one woman in the cast. Half the time she's being dragged through the jungle with her hands tied, the other half she's being scared.

Everything in this movie has been refined to perfection. Sure, some might complain about the acting, or the details in the script, or some other artsy things like that. But who cares? We are talking about awesomeness here, and awesomeness transcends trivialities like that.

By definition, any man who considers himself to be a manly man, must place this movie in his personal top 10 list. And anyone who considers himself to be a normal man, needs to place this movie in top 20.

No, I have never met a woman who likes this movie.

the enternal battle....

...against stupidity goes on. And it does not look good. No matter how many facts and studies you bring to the table, some people refuse to believe.


Where are they?

One of the welcomed visitors in the bird-feeders across Finland every winter is this 'lil buddy. But they are not without mystery. While they are quite common during winter, I have never, EVER seen one during the summer. No, they don't migrate away during summer, apparently they are still with us. I have been told that during the summer they spend their time deep in forests, and they only come near human habitat in winter, since food is scarce then, and all decent humans feed birds during the winter (right??).

While that theory seems sound, I have never seen one in the forest during summertime. It's like they vanish in to thin air.

Not really related, but... We have one (at least one) of these living in a thuja in our garden. Apparently several generations of magpies have been living there, and I can't blame them: they have chosen an excellent location for their nest. It's cozy and well-protected.

Mrs. is occasionally annoyed by the magpie, since it has at least once made a mess with freshly washed laundry that was left drying in the balcony, but I have used my executive veto: the bird is not to be harmed in any shape or form.

On Christmas

Finnish Christmas is somewhat different than Christmas observed in USA and most other countries. For starters, packages are not handed out on Christmas Day, but on Christmas Eve. Reason for that is probably due to the fact that Santa lives in Finland, so he delivers our presents first, but I'm sure you all knew that already.

There's also another piece of Finnish Christmas that is not sadly that much observed anymore. That is the "Nuuttipukki", which is like the evil twin of Santa Claus (Joulupukki). Nuuttipukki used to visit households on January 13th. As opposed to being a jolly old man, Nuuttipukki was/is a scary-looking old man with horns, who sings/performs in exchange of offerings (often alcohol).

No, I'm not making this up.

I wish we still had these old traditions. I guess the problem here is that Nuuttipukki is not really marketable idea that could be turned in to a commercial venture.


Happy new year everybody! Call me crazy, but I have always liked odd years more than even years, so here's to hoping that 2009 will be even better than 2008 was (global economic meltdown permitting....).

I tried to take pictures of fireworks for the first time, and the attached pics is one of the results. The location was not ideal (those damn trees), but it's not too shabby in the end.