Asimov’s Predictions for 2014 (from 1964)

Here is a video that shows Asimov knew a thing or two about predicting the future:

the predictions Asimov got right in 1964

The problem is the video only shows the predictions Asimov made at the 1964 World’s Fair. Even so, his predictions are 600% more impressive than any purported psychic who ever lived and not nearly as vague. For the full list of Asimov predictions, click here.

10 Things that suck about Marvel Unlimited’s Android app

UPDATE: The night after I posted this there was a storm that knocked out my power and Internet. Below I tell you that Marvel Unlimited’s Android app sucks because it limits you to six offline comics. That night I couldn’t access a single one. After my power and internet were restored I decided to go back to the app. Now I get an error that won’t even let me launch it. Like I say below, it’s a huge pain in the ass.

Marvel Unlimited really is the Netflix of Marvel comics. So far I’ve averaged more time per day using MU than I’ve ever used Netflix in a single day. Just to be clear (because there’s a lot of confusion about this), Marvel employs the term “Unlimited” the way cellular phone providers and cable services do—it’s just a marketing word now, all pillow talk. Some people think that, for ten dollars a month, you’re going to get all the new comics delivered directly to your tablet. You’re not. I’m not sure if you’ve looked at the price tag on a modern comic lately, but there’s no way Marvel is going to let you have all the stuff they release each week for a measly $60/year.

or WHAT goddamn it?!
This is where the comparison to Netflix makes the most sense: if you want brand new stuff you’re going to have to pay for it separately. With a few exceptions, I’m not the biggest fan of modern comics anyway. If you’re anything like me the service will pay for itself in as little as a day. I’m a guy who gets sick of things pretty quickly. Yet I’ve gotten hours of enjoyment from MU.

Don’t sign up just yet, however. The Android app for Marvel Unlimited is bad. And I mean really, really bad. If you’re used to reading comics on Comixology and CBreaders like ComicRack, you’re going to get frustrated quickly. Even if you haven’t been spoiled by the slickness of these standards you’re prone to toss your tablet at the window anyway. As usual, developers decided to focus on the Apple version while throwing Android’s together with little to no thought put into it.
I want to point out that the app, if the comments on Play are any indication, is actually improving. It apparently went from diarrhea to slightly solid turds, but hopefully the trend will continue. As it is, the MU app is the shittiest app I actually use. For all the downfalls, there just isn’t a legitimate deal anywhere else quite as good as Marvel Unlimited.
Things that suck about the Marvel Unlimited app:
1. Zoom sucks. They didn’t have zoom at all to begin with. When you spread your fingers on the screen you expect the interface to know that’s the position where you want to zoom. The MU app doesn’t know this. It always zooms to the center of the comic regardless of where your fingers are placed. Then you have to then drag your finger across the screen (always more than once) to find the rough location of what you were looking for in the first place. I’ve spent a lifetime training myself not to look at panels ahead of the one I’m on (a huge accomplishment for an impatient child, mind you) and this kind of defeats that training.
2. Resolution sucks. Once you zoom in to a detail you can’t quite make out, you’ll wonder why you tried to zoom at all. 
3. The MU app doesn’t care if your tablet’s rotation is locked, it’ll rotate all damn day until the cows come home. When I’m reading in bed, I do a lot of turning, which inevitably makes the app rotate the page. This normally wouldn’t be such a big deal if A) I could turn off the feature in the app’s settings and B) the view would return to portrait mode. See, once the app decides to go widescreen it ain’t going back. I used to have to back out of the app altogether, reload the comic, and flip through the pages again to find where I left off. That’s a major pain in the ass. I found that if you return the tablet to its upright position, go back a page and go forward again, the problem corrects itself. This “solution” is still a pain in the ass, just not as major. Which reminds me…
4. No bookmarks. If you leave the comic you’re reading for any reason, you had better leave the app running in the background. Otherwise it doesn’t give a shit about continuity and it’ll make you hunt for where you left off. That’s a major oversight in design.
5. Page turning isn’t as responsive as it should be. The only exception is when you accidentally turn the page. Then it seems as if it’s trying to set a world record.
6. Entire word balloons don’t load. So far, reloading the comic does not fix this issue. I assume this means MU isn’t just sending us simple JPEG scans, but two or more layers per each image. But if you think it’s easy reading a comic without a word balloon you’re crazy. Although it’s kind of neat to see the art unblocked, more than half the time that this happens you can’t read the black lettering because there isn’t any white there to contrast it. Good luck trying to figure out who’s saying what, too. I checked: I don’t have the same problem with disappearing balloons when I’m reading on the desktop. But imagine being on a long bus ride with no internet access and finding the six comics you chose for offline viewing are unreadable. Worse, those six comics are a tight run so you don’t want to read the next one in line until you can read the first one. Oh yeah, and…
7. The limit of six comics (again, “Unlimited” is just a buzz word these days) for offline reading was obviously implemented by someone who doesn’t use the service, never would use the service, and doesn’t give a shit about anyone who does. I can connect my tablet to the internet when I’m on the prowl in town, sure, but it’s a pain in the ass and I usually choose not to do it. But my job takes me out of town weekly and podunks aren’t exactly known for amazing cellular reception anyway.
8. Lack of settings. Going back to point 3, I really wanted to turn rotate off. No problem, I thought. I’ll just check the settings. Funny thing about that: there aren’t any.
9. The app really looks like something designed by an amateur. The online desktop version looks pretty shitty, too.
10. Smart panel view isn’t nearly as smart as Comixology.

I have a few issues with the service itself, too. As seen in the picture near the top of this post, there are frequent bugs here and there. There are also gaps in series continuity that’ll leave you scratching your head. For instance, if you want to read Wolverine’s first appearance in Incredible Hulk #180, no problem. But if you want to read the conclusion in #181 then you’re shit out of luck ’cause it ain’t there.

But back to the tune I was singing when I began this post: I love the service. I’m reading stuff I never thought I’d get to read and sometimes stuff I never thought I wanted to read. Bugs and shitty apps aside, it is a wonderfully convenient service. In my mind, it’s easily worth the price. I read a lot more than ten dollars worth of stuff in the first night alone.

Lawnmower Man… from the imagination — ——- —- comes the story of a man

A /r/printsf user points out how terrible Lawnmower Man was by pointing out the following:

It was such a departure from the story that Stephen King demanded they remove his name from the abomination – but the studio had already shown trailers which said “From the imagination of Stephen King comes a tale…”

Rather than re-edit the trailers or record a new voiceover, they just muted the narration for the words “of Stephen King,” resulting in a weird pause. “From the imagination — comes a tale…” 

It was kind of awkward.

You’ll find some of the original trailers on YouTube, but here’s one that demonstrates the awkward pause:

Stephen King usually doesn’t seem too upset when Hollywood adapts his works into shitty movies. If he of all people asks you to remove his name from your adaptation you know you’ve created something so spectacularly shitty you deserve some kind of award—preferably the kind of award that makes a Razzie seem like an honor.
If you’re no stranger to high-concept ideas and you’ve never seen Lawnmower Man, you might be tempted to watch it. I won’t stop you even though it is very bad. Virtual reality was like the 90s version of flying cars and personal jet packs, although with products like Oculus Rift on the horizon it looks like we’re finally going to get it in a practical and functional way. Even so, Lawnmower Man is a time capsule, not containing history so much as an era’s naive idea of what the future would be. For that alone it’s worth watching with a group of wise-cracking friends and a ton of sugary snacks.
As a faithful reader of Flux Magazine in the 90’s, my friends and I were all convinced that, by the year 2000, we would all be jacked into the matrix, absorbing Lawnmower Man visuals directly into our brains. The boob- and comic-obsessed Flux (which seems to be a distant relative of today’s 4Chan) reviewed a pricey pair of stereoscopic goggles and suggested that its adolescent readers order a pair so their moms wouldn’t know they were watching The Playboy Channel. Not that the goggles could in anyway unscramble the channel’s DRM, but hey, it was wishful thinking that got us all dreaming about the future.
Virtual reality was a dead dream of mine for a very long time; at an Ultimate Electronics I got to try a pair of the goggles reviewed in Flux and found the experience too much like staring at a pair of screens, each about as big as a coin… because that’s exactly what the experience was. Now that the dream has been resurrected, something I never would have predicted would happen, I wonder if attempts at augmented reality (such as Google Glass) is today’s version of VR. I have to say I’m much more interested in the Oculus than I am Google Glass. For one, the existing prototypes are a lot cheaper and, honestly, a hell of a lot cooler. 

Tears of Steel is a fantastic short film that gives Hollywood a run for its money

When Spielberg and Lucas warn us about an inevitable implosion of Hollywood, it’s kind of hard to imagine a world in which Tom Hanks’ latest project won’t release in theaters only. Then you see an independent film like the one above that manages to do what a $250 million dollar picture does. I’m sure I’m not the only one who enjoys this film more than Man of Steel.
Consider the costs of guerrilla filmmaking these days: you can get a decent DSLR that records at 1080p and 24 frames per second for around $800, including a wide angle lens that replicates the look of film better than a prosumer camcorder that cost more than twice as much only a few years ago. Adobe After Effects (in which you composite your special effects) is surprisingly simple to use and can be had for under a thousand bucks. Need a flying saucer? Model it in Blender, which is 100% free and a lot more powerful than the CGI programs Hollywood used in the beginning. After that, a decent movie can be made on sweat equity alone just as long as you’re good at educating yourself… and who isn’t in the Google era?
So how cheap is all this going to be in ten years? Twenty? How much will a 4k resolution camera be in a decade if it isn’t standard in our phones? I have a feeling the next generation of kids will be making high school movies entirely in mobile apps and devices. When your neighbor’s kid—someone you actually know in person as opposed to an inaccessible celebrity—releases his latest homage to Leone, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to see it. Granted, there will always be professionals in the industry, but I can’t even remember the last time I paid to see Tom Cruise on the big screen.
There are a lot of analysts who will tell you Hollywood isn’t going to implode anytime soon. I, too, think Spielberg and Lucas may be jumping the gun a little, but its days are certainly numbered. We’ve been hearing a lot about rising ticket prices, the annoying television commercials that play before the movie you paid money for, and the insanely high turnover for executives in Hollywood. Movie theaters have responded by ripping out the clunky old seats we all remember from our childhood and replacing them with leather, electronic reclining chairs. Does new furniture really make anyone want to go see a movie? 
I kind of prefer the old days before multiplexes, when armrests didn’t raise and the film was actually film. (Not long ago I got duped into paying for a DVD projected at the drive-in.) When movies are projected at 48 frames per second, which makes them look more like a soap opera than an actual film, you can see where the theaters are going wrong: they think we want an experience more like the one we get at home. We don’t. Unfortunately for them, it looks like more and more people don’t want the traditional experience either. I do want that traditional experience, but everyday it gets easier to replicate at home where the popcorn tastes a hell of a lot better, no kids are allowed, and if I catch you texting I’m not going to be polite about it.
Soon, the only place the traditional theater experience will exist is in homes. It’s incredibly sad to see it go—I love movies and the fact they haven’t changed all that much in over a hundred years—but you have to admit change is pretty exciting.

Scientific American points out that many liberals can be anti-science, too

Scientific American has the article.

From the article:

….progressive liberals tend to be antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem, anti–fossil fuels because of global warming, antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems, and anti–wind power because of avian fatalities. The underlying current is “everything natural is good” and “everything unnatural is bad.”

One comment points out what I thought was a worthy distinction: maybe the right are more likely to be anti-science while the left tend towards anti-technology.

My thoughts on the Wii U

Throughout the day Sunday, I kept watching reviews of the Wii U and decided to go on the hunt sometime around nightfall. Two hours and several stores later, I found one in a Sears. They informed me had I gotten there any earlier, I wouldn’t have gotten it. Apparently they screwed up a shipment or something. So, lucky me, I bought the deluxe model for $479 including tax. 
What puzzled me was the lack of an ethernet port (I would have liked a dedicated optical port for audio as well, but I understand most people wouldn’t need it). The exclusion was fine for Wii as it wasn’t really geared around online multiplayer games, but isn’t the Wii U supposed to feature “hardcore” games that could really benefit from a hardwired internet connection? And I’ve got a router that’s literally two feet away from my Wii U so it’s a shame I can’t plug it in. Anyway, my assumption Wii U would get more involved with online play was apparently wrong. So far, most of my games only offer local multiplayer and the online features are typically social networking options.
My next complaint is understandable, but it still sucks. It’s the day-one patch that takes an hour to download. If you bought one of these for your kids on Christmas, you should probably wait until the little bastards are in school and secretly set the system up early so they won’t chew your ears off while they wait for it to update on Christmas morning. You don’t need to update if you only plan on playing disc games, but to do anything else (including accessing a disc game’s online features) you will have to update. Not only that, but every single game I’ve tried requires an individual update, which can take ten to thirty minutes.

Lastly, I just want to say something about the graphics. No, graphics aren’t everything, but it’s nice to have the option for good graphics for the Call of Duties and the Assassin Creeds. And when you play AC3, you’re probably going to be pretty disappointed by the limited draw distances (objects pop in and out of view) and the way shadows and hair take on a strobe effect. It’s really hard to believe this is a next-gen system just by looking at it.

So Nintendo shouldn’t be your choice for FPS games and AAA action titles. If that’s all you’re into, wait for Microsoft and Sony to release their next consoles (or, better yet, just beef up your home computer). But if you’re looking for something different the Wii U might be for you. Although the system feels more like a toy than a gaming unit, it’s a fun throwback for those of us who grew up playing games with friends on the same TV.

The things that I liked:
1. The gamepad
It looks big and bulky and uncomfortable, but the second you pick it up, you’ll wonder how they crammed so many electronics into such a lightweight device. It fits in your hands nicely and the touchscreen works like a charm despite the lack of multi-touch controls. It’s just as cool as the Wiimote was in 2006, but mostly because it didn’t end up making the entire unit $600+.
2. The gamepad’s functions
Maybe I should have included this in the heading above, but what I didn’t expect was the option to pair the gamepad with your television. That’s right: last gen brought us the era where we didn’t need to get off the couch to turn the system on and this gen brings us the era we don’t even need a remote for the TV. It sounds insignificant, but I love it. 
3. Internet browsing
Ever tried browsing the net on a PS3? Don’t. It sucks. It sucked on the Wii, too. In fact, every other TV web surfing experience has sucked for me. Now, the Wii U browser isn’t nearly as good as browsing on a computer, but it’s a lot better than its competition. My favorite feature about the built-in browser is the ability to “close the curtains” on the TV while you continue to browse on the gamepad’s screen. This means if you have a roomful of people, you can close the curtains and input any passwords or sensitive user information in private. 

Pwned by the Owner: a hilarious account of a computer thief’s public humiliation

You probably shouldn’t steal computers, but if you do, don’t steal a hacker’s computer. Despite being roughly as funny as any Chris Rock act, Dr. Andrew “Zoz” Brooks (who earned his PhD at MIT) reminds us that our computer security is only as strong as our weakest oversights. What kind of guy steals computers? The kind of guy who can’t even spell his own name right on his Facebook page, that’s who. 

The bluetooth keyboard that fits in your pocket

AUGUST 2015 UPDATE: Inexplicably, this post has been getting a lot of views lately, but it’s pretty old. I thought I’d point this similar keyboard out. (That’s not an affiliate link, by the way. I make no money directly off of this blog.) The linked keyboard is, at the time of this writing, $35 and it’s got good user reviews. If anyone cares about the original post, here it is:

I love it.

the Jorno pocketable keyboard
One of the things I like about writing all my documents in Google Drive is the fact that when I go to bed, I don’t have to get back up and go to my computer when I think of something to add to a story. I just grab my phone and touch the Drive shortcut on my home screen. It takes maybe two more clicks to find the last document I was working on. The only thing that sucks, however, is typing on a virtual keyboard.
If you take advantage of Jorno’s Kickstarter project, you can get one for $79. After that, it’ll retail for about $119.