Archives For December 2016

alien-covenant-1280

I saw the original “Alien” when it was released in 1979. Not knowing what to expect, I went in with an open mind and was greatly pleased with what I saw. I’d been prepped, as it were, by the original “Star Wars” of 1977, and I expected a good, if somewhat flawed, science fiction movie. I came away from “Alien” feeling in the same great mood I’d felt after watching “Star Wars.” It wasn’t until 1986, a good seven years later, before I got to watch “Aliens.” But it was very much worth the wait. If anything the second movie proved even better than the first. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1987, winning two. Sigourney Weaver (then, now, and forever so incredibly beautiful) was nominated for a Best Actress, although she didn’t win it (Marlene Matlin won for “Children of a Lesser God”). Such an incredibly good start to the Alien franchise.

That was the last Alien franchise movie I watched until “Prometheus.” I’d watch the trailers for the successive Alien movies after “Aliens”, finding little in them to convince me to spend my hard-earned cash to watch the complete film. All I ever saw in the trailers were variations on the first two films. Along the way I made the mistake of watching “Alien vs Predator.” After that cinematic debacle I made sure to stay away from all the other movies in that particular franchise mashup. Then “Prometheus” came along in 2012, far enough away in time from the “Alien vs Predator” release that I broke down and gave “Prometheus” a shot. That was a big mistake on my part I came to regret almost instantly.

“Prometheus” is a crude horror movie, steeped in pseudo-intellectualism about the creation of life on Earth, in which every character behaved in the most moronic and self-destructive way imaginable. They all deserved to die, in their own horrific manner. I felt absolutely no sympathy for any of the characters. The only emotion I felt was a deep disappointment in that the character Elizabeth Shaw survived, along with the android David’s head.

On Christmas Day they released the trailer to the second movie in this franchise reboot, “Alien: Covenant.” Everything a pre-pubescent male could ever want in a schlock-filled horror movie is there in this two-minute trailer: an alien bursting out of a human, a screaming blood covered female (with knife), two naked humans making love in a shower scene with an alien slashing them into a bloody mess (stealing death-because-of-sex from “Friday the 13th”), an exploding flaming spaceship, a face-hugger, mindless screaming while running through the dark, etc, etc, etc. It’s a rote movie, with minor variations from the many prior releases, which were themselves just as rote after the very first two in the original franchise series. There’s not a damn thing that’s truly new except for the planet. Who the hell cares about the Engineers? Who really cares who created the xenomorph/neomorph? Does that really add anything important to the overall story telling? Not really. It is, instead, an opportunity to churn out yet another tiresome Alien related movie, another cynical money-making exercise.

I watched the trailer because I had managed to nurture just a glimmer of hope that things might actually be better this time around. The trailer effectively slashed that hope into a bloody mess.

raspian pixel

December 21, 2016

2016-12-21-135723_1824x984_scrot

Just a quick entry about Raspian Pixel, the latest Debian-based distribution for the Raspberry Pi. In this entry, I have it running off of a 32GB microSDHC card, a Sandisk Ultra Extreme with an 80MB write speed, plugged into the Raspberry Pi 3. The Pixel desktop is something of a minor wonder, a reasonable graphical desktop that isn’t glacially slow. This entry is being written on the Pixel desktop within Chromium “Version 51.0.2704.91 Built on Ubuntu 14.04, running on Raspbian 8.0” according to the about screen. I’ve been dabbling with some of the more current distributions lately, specifically Raspbian and Fedora 25 for ARM.

Raspbian Pixel is a nice, clean, reasonably fast distribution for the Raspberry Pi 3. My only real complaint is that Raspbian, like Arch Linux ARM and Fedora 25, is still compiled for 32-bit ARM, not 64-bit. Other than that I can’t really complain. If anything, I have high praise for Pixel, especially its inclusion of Chromium/Chrome. Everything on the web I’ve attempted to view on Chromium renders as well as a regular Chrome on Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu. It handles multiple tabs, although with the limited memory on the RPi 3 I make sure to have as absolutely few open as possible.

I won’t be able to do anything of significance until after Christmas. But with a decent version of Raspbian on one of my RPi boxen, I now have a reference installation that will allow me to check to see if any of my more esoteric projects failures are due to me or the fact that Arch Linux doesn’t fully support what I’m trying to do.

Unfortunately, Fedora 25 has taken the place of the older versions of Raspian as the slowest, least usable distribution you can install on the Raspberry Pi 3. “Glacial” doesn’t even begin to describe how slow it is. After 30 frustrating minutes of dealing with “did it crash or is it just that slow,” I installed Raspbian Pixel over the top of it and moved on. I’ll admit Fedora looks pretty, but that’s no reason to keep it around. Ugly but highly functional will always beat pretty but slow as molasses in a New England winter. If you’re reading this and trying to make a decision, take my advice, and install Raspbian Pixel. Don’t even waste bandwidth and diskspace on Fedora 25 for ARM.