Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The New Star Trek Film

The new Star trek Film I took my two eldest kids to see the new Star Trek film directed by J.J. Abrams. It’s simply called “Star Trek”. As it was certified 13+ I didn’t take my 12 year old with even though he is a great Star Trek fan.

As I understand from my kids, Star Trek is not very well known amongst the current generation is Israel. Consequently when we sat down in the theatre hall we were three amongst an audience of about 9 persons, all of them English Speakers, all of them religious except one couple. This made for a rather cosy and cleeky atmosphere.

Now the reason the film received a 13+ cert rating is because of one short scene where the young Kirk is in bed with a green skinned girl in a bikini. Her flatmate walks in and undresses to her underwear. Kirk is discovered and thrown out the flat. This whole seen adds absolutely nothing to the plot or character development. It is there simply to titillate and is completely unnecessary. How foolish of the directors to include this scene and thereby exclude a whole new generation of young Trekkie fans. That aside, we found the film very entertaining and enjoyable.

There were lots of in jokes such as Doctor McCoy’s, “Jim, I’m a doctor not a…” and Chekov’s Russian accent. We get to find out why Kirk calls McCoy “Bones” and how the transition is made from the uniforms of Star Trek Enterprise to those worn in Star Trek “The Original Series”. The story was not the greatest as far as depth is concerned but its non stop action, great script and fantastic special effects made it one of the best Star Trek movies ever made.

I enjoyed the fact that Leonard Nimoy appears in the film but how the young Kirk gets to meet him simply stretches plausibility beyond breaking point. A slight fault in the script I thought. I thought that with the exception of James T. Kirk, the cast of Star Trek characters was very well chosen. Spock, Sulu and McCoy were spot on. The young Uhura didn’t look anything like the original actress but she played the character role very well nonetheless.

In my opinion, the only let down was the actor chosen to play Kirk. For me he just wasn’t it. The actor had not caught the personality or the body language of Kirk, even bearing in mind that he was supposed to be a young man in his twenties. It made it all the more obvious due to the fact that the other characters were so well cast. Perhaps the problem was that William Shatner looks so Jewish whereas Chris Pine who playes the young Kirk is without doubt lacking any Semitic features at all. Kirk’s “to boldly go where no man has gone before” and his sense of moral outrage at things came from his Jewishness I believe. This new Kirk looked and behaved like James Dean in the film “Rebel Without a Cause”. No, that’s not Kirk, even a young Kirk

The new cast sat at their stations on the bridge of the Enterprise and there was a “rightness” about them, all except Kirk who never looked convincing, sitting there in the captain’s chair. I’d give the film 8/10. It loses 1 point for the underwear scene and another for the new Kirk. Go see it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Should you upgrade to Windows 7?

Windows 7 Release Candidate is here. I have a Windows 7 Ultimate DVD which I got from some friends at Microsoft and will beli neder, get round to installing this on my HP Intel Centrino laptop on Friday morning. All the reviews I’ve read on Windows 7 so far have been very positive.

Last week I spent a day at Microsoft in Ra’anana getting my hands dirty on IIS 7.0 and ARR new load balancing clusters and I noticed that everything there was already running Windows 7. I never upgraded my XP machines to VISTA and here’s why. Microsoft has a history of revamping their apps every two years or so. These are not just upgrades to existing apps. The menu options are different. It won’t run data from previous versions etc etc. For example, I’ve been using Office 2003 for a while now. When I installed Office 2007 on a new machine it took me 10 minutes to find the Print option!

Upgrading Visual Studio 2003 to Visual Studio 2005 was very painful. The problems I had rewriting applications to run on .Net 2.0! Then, last year Microsoft brought out Visual Studio 2008. With trepidation I installed it on my XP workstation. To my pleasant surprise, it converted old .Net 1.1 and .Net 2.0 applications to .Net 3.5 automatically with no problems. The interface looked and behaved like VS 2005. In fact, you would not have noticed that it wasn’t VS2005 had it not been for the flash screen upon startup. At last, Microsoft are beginning to realise that people don’t want revolutions every two years but real upgrades and improvements to existing apps that they already enjoy using and have gotten used to.

That’s why VISTA was a flop! It’s slow and clumsy. It demands too much memory. Things that were a doddle to do in XP take you three times as long while you click through all the “Are you sure” and permission pop-up windows. Options have been moved to illogical places. It’s incompatible with your favourite video card / printer / scanner etc. I won’t go on…

Initial impressions are that Windows 7 is a worthy successor to good old trusty Windows XP. I have been told however to stay away from the 32 bit version and only install the 64 bit version. I don’t know yet how this will affect any old 32 bit applications but in theory Microsoft say that the intelligent 32 bit emulator ought to mean that it should still run on Windows 7. We shall see.

If you wish to know if your existing PC will run Windows 7 then download this tool.

After installation, it runs for about 10 minutes and then gives you a nice compatibility report. I can tell you that my IBM workstation at work failed the VISTA compatibility test when I ran that two years ago. However the Windows 7 test came back with all green ticks! It’s looking good. The screen card, sound card, printer, everything passed! I did get some application warnings though. I'll keep you all updated.

*** UPDATE ***

I ran the Windows 7 upgrade Advisor on my HP nx8220 laptop and it failed on the driver for the Intel Pro Wireless 2200bg device. I spent 2 hours trying to find a driver for this device but so far have been unsuccsessful. The Intel site said that the driver was no longer available!!! I left a few posts on various forum sites to see if anybody else knows where to get a driver for this device. Obviously I cannot install Windows 7 on my laptop if I can't use my Wireless network device.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Plastic Go-Carts and windmills on Shabbos

Over the past few weeks more and more kids in my area have started playing with these plastic go-carts on Shabbos. We live in a religious neighbourhood which is supposed to be free of cars on Shabbos (that’s another blog post perhaps). The community is on a hill that begins at the top with buildings and a single road that go all the way down to the bottom. The kids have just caught on to the fact that the road is perfect for go-carts.

A month ago there were two kids on go-carts on Shabbos. Today there are 8 or so kids. Who knows next month? The kids play on these things from morning until evening. They don’t seem to realise and the parents don’t seem to care that these contraptions make a noise like a motorbike with a broken exhaust as they roar down the road, echoing from every hill. The kids speed down the hill, pick the go-cart up and walk back up to the top. Then off they go again.

Our Shabbos afternoon shloof has all but disappeared with these roaring monsters racing past our bedroom window every few seconds. I’m sure that there is a halachic issue here as well? Chaza”l banned bicycles but not kid’s tricycles. There is a machlokes regarding scooters (korkinets) but none of these things make much noise. Unlike these go-carts!

See Orach Chaim 252:5 where the Rama writes that preferably a Jew should not allow his windmill - or any other noisy machine - to be operated on Shabbos because of zilzul Shabbos, degradation of the Shabbos. I’d prefer a windmill to these go-carts any Shabbos!