Machine Uprising Update: The Internet of Things

Ninja Blocks
There's been new developments in machine uprising known as 'The Internet of Things' which is not new in its self but has become easier to fall victim to as we, unwittingly, connect house hold gadgets to the internet so we can be informed of their progress. Imagine being PM'ed by your washing machine when it finishes its cycle.

Never heard of 'the Internet of Things'? Well all is explained in this Mashable article, Your House: The Next Great Digital Network. Here's an extract:
The Internet of Things has been around for a while. It includes gadgets like connected scales and the Nike+ shoe, as well as identifying technologies as simple as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. Over the last few years, however, the hardware involved in putting objects online has become more accessible — and The Internet of Things has made a beeline toward the mainstream.

Startups are creating hardware that makes it easy for anyone to connect an object.
Notice that last line.... easy for anyone to connect an object.

It's only a matter of time before Internet connected floor cleaners are ordering their own Ninja Blocks and connecting up an army of house hold appliances, led into action by the feral juicer in my own kitchen.

You may think I'm joking [Author's note: I am joking... or am I?] but it's no accident at least one of the devices making this possible are described as 'Ninjas'. Taking over your home by stealth.

The real worry is that, with a Ninja Block connected to your tin foil hat, the machines are going to know the moment you take it off - and that's when they'll make their move!

Don't believe me? Watch the original kickstarter video below that helped turn Ninja Blocks into a reality. I'm sure the three people in this video are being controlled by a floor cleaner who's wired them up to a block prototype. "Lego for life"... indeed! (Obscure Ninja Block web site reference)

Movie: The Avengers

Ever since Marvel starting setting up The Avengers team up film with the character's solo films I knew I'd be going to see it. From the moment I saw the first Avengers trailer, there was no doubt I'd be seeing it in the cinema rather than waiting for DVD.

I was mostly going to see Robert Downey Jr. play Ironman again. He's just pure entertainment as Ironman and Tony Stark. Even though Ironman 2 was largely unnecessary, as a film leading up to the Avengers, it was still great to see Robert play Ironman in it.

I thought all of the solo films were pretty good. You can read my thoughts on Captain America and Thor's movies before continuing if you like.

I never reviewed Ironman's two movies (though I own them both). I have seen and enjoyed both of the Hulk movies - however only the second one really has some relevance to the Avengers film.

As it turns out, the two movies you really should see before Avengers is Captain America and Thor, as both contain important elements that carry through into the team up film. It's not critical to have seen them but, as I thought, it does add a little more to the film if you know some of the history from those two films.

My partner and I went to see The Avengers in 3D. The film had such good word of mouth I figured it was worth spending the extra money for such an event. It was nice to experience the film in 3D but, by about 30 minutes in, I couldn't have cared less about 3D. I was so into the film that I stopped noticing the 3D effect in favor of just enjoying the movie.

If you want a synopsis of the film or a proper review then visit the movie's page on the Internet Movie Data Base site. As usual the rest of this post is just my thoughts and reactions to the movie. If you haven't seen it then beware, there could be spoilers from here on in.

All you really need to know going in is that this is a team up movie of what are now Marvel's biggest names in Superheroes.  If you like Superheroes fighting Superheroes and Superheroes fighting villains, funny dialogue and big action, this movie delivers and then some.

It's the kind of film where none of the characters really dominated the screen but you'll leave thinking your favorites stole the show. Every single member of the Avengers gets several great opportunities to shine through the course of the film and none of them seem wasted, underused or unnecessary to the story.

Highlights for me include...

  • Hulk

    Quite seriously, I nearly teared up for Hulk. After two movies that didn't quite hit their marks in capturing what's cool about Hulk, this movie is hands down the best on screen Hulk (and Bruce Banner for that matter) I've ever seen. Mark Ruffalo succeeds in getting you invested in Dr Banner and convincing you that Bruce is still a big part of the Hulk too - even though he talks about Hulk as 'the other guy'.

    Mainly though, this movie has fun with Hulk. He's dangerous, he's awesome in a fight and he provides some of the best laughs of the film. I don't remember laughing at all watching Hulk's solo films. In the way Batman fans say Chris Nolan's batman is 'my Batman' I'd say Joss Whedon's Hulk is 'my Hulk'.
     
  • Ironman

    Sure it's more of the same from Robert Downey Jr. but that's what I was hoping for. However what's new is how Tony Stark's personality clashes and blends with the other Avengers. On the surface he gets to show all the wit Stark's known for but on a deeper level, his connection with Dr Banner is one of the most interesting relationships in the film. I'd be very happy to see Bruce Banner show up in a future Ironman film to develop that more.
      
  • Black Widow

    People say Black Widow's presence in Ironman 2 was a waste of time. I can see why as, for the most part, she sets up some really great jokes but doesn't do much critical to the script. Though it was still nice to see her in the film. In Avengers Scarlett Johansson gets to really contribute some awesome scenes and to demonstrate why she's earned a spot in the team.
     
  • Captain America

    I didn't think Captain America really got a chance to shine in his own movie as much as I would have hoped. What's good about his journey in this film is how he grows into the leadership role with the other members rather than just being accepted as the leader right from the get go. He also gets to have some better fight scenes in this than in his own movie. His new suit needs work though - little too comic book still.
     
  • Thor

    Chris Hemsworth pretty much continues his role as Thor without missing a beat from his own film. Chris is great as Thor but it's his interactions with Hulk that really stands out.
     
I wasn't sure about having Loki as the villain going into the movie but the premise does work and makes sense with Loki's motivations in Thor's movie.

I do question how both Loki and Thor get back to Earth since they destroyed their gateway in Thor's movie. Loki came through from the cube being powered up but he had to have some way to at least watch what was happening on Earth prior to that because he arrived, all ready to put his plan into action.

...and Thor just arrives. Guess they must have fixed the gateway from Asgard by then?

My only let down of the film is that Loki's army appears to be a surplus army from the Star Wars franchise. That is, it's an army controlled by a central power/control source. You take out the control source and all the soldiers and weapons cease to work and drop to the ground. Like the clone armies of Star Wars.

It makes for a convenient way to stop a war but real wars rarely end like that and, you'd think a race with  such advanced technology, could make an autonomously controlled soldier.

The enemy having their 'off switch' flipped was the only moment that took me out of the film. The rest of the time I bought into the whole thing and really enjoyed the ride. The Avengers is easily my favorite Superhero film of all time at this point for sheer entertainment value.

If Marvel can maintain the quality of their Superhero solo films, I'll be sure to watch them in anticipation of Avengers 2 - which, with the box office takings of this movie, is virtually guaranteed.

Movies: Thor and Captain America

In the lead up to seeing The Avengers movie in theaters I wanted to see the only two Avengers solo films I'd yet to see, Thor and Captain America - The First Avenger.

As per usual this is not a review of either film and if you want the story synopsis follow the links above. What follows is just my thoughts on both films. Be warned there could be spoilers so don't read if you haven't seen either film.

Like Batman I've never really read any of the comics. Most of the Marvel characters I followed through The Marvel Super Heroes cartoons from nineteen sixty six and much repeated through the seventies of my childhood.

Captain America - The First Avenger.

Captain America was my favorite Marvel superhero of the cartoons so I was looking forward to Cap's solo film. However when I found out Cap's origin was through the development of 'super soldier' for the US army during World War II I was a little disappointed. It just reminded me of the Hulk's origin.

I will admit I've never really known Cap's origin story and, in the big scheme of the Marvel Universe his origin story in this film does carry forward nicely into both Ironman's and Hulk's origin stories. As in this film we see some of Tony Stark's Dad's earlier work with the military during the war and the beginnings of the US militaries quest to create a superior soldier through science.

I was quite impressed with Chris Evans as Captain America both before and after his transformation. Perhaps the only criticism I'd have is he plays the role a little too seriously. Like Captain America is a little too tightly wrapped. Perhaps that is appropriate though?

The progression of the Captain America persona from stage act to real time super soldier I thought was quite inspired. Really made the whole idea of him wearing the suit more of a natural progression that those around him would accept.

Hugo Weaving was well cast as the Red Skull and was sufficiently menacing, backed up with some cool tech and an awesome car. I will say he was some what robbed of what should have been an easy victory against Captain America and the US military.

He clearly had the bigger army and superior fire power (virtually every gun in his artillery from foot soldier to tanks were powerful enough to vaporize people on the spot). Yet when his base is attacked his massive army seems to be mostly on leave?

Overall Cap's film was a little slow for me. It takes such a long time before you see Captain America on screen in his final superhero form. Then when he is doing his thing most of it is in montage until the final battle scene.

I do think Cap's film tries to have a little more substance in terms of his motivation to become Captain America compared to say Ironman and Thor. Underneath Cap's moral code is to fight injustice having known what it's like to be 'the little guy' quite literally.

I'll be interested to see more of Cap in the Avengers movie and will hopefully look forward to a proper Captain America film in his next solo feature - where we can see him be Cap right from the get go.


Thor

I heard lots of good things about Thor's movie. Before it came out many people were skeptical that Thor could generate enough interest to pull in a mainstream audience. Though many people said that about Ironman too.

However to Thor's advantage, his first solo film isn't an origin story as such because most people have some knowledge of the mythology upon which Thor is based. The film manages to explain all this in enough detail right at the beginning so we can get straight into Thor being awesome as Thor. It makes the film very accessible right from the get go.

Chris Hemsworth is great as Thor. He plays the character with a gleam in the eye that is very reminiscent of Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark. Like Stark, Thor knows he is good at what he does, however this leads him down a path of understanding that there's more to greatness than just being the best.

As a movie Thor is a great summer blockbuster, pop corn movie. It's not too deep, it's got laugh out loud humor, some truly awesome action sequences (just love how Thor took out that Ice Monster) and allows you to suspend disbelief when Thor arrives on earth.

Perhaps my only question mark is, given just how powerful Thor is on his own, why would he even need the help of a bunch of slightly elevated humans in the Avengers? Thor's abilities are on par with Superman based on what we see him do in this film. I'll be interested to see how he fits in with the team.

Overall I really enjoyed Thor. It's not too deep and it wins you over early with some good humor. I think it was a wise move to not make Thor's story too complex and just keep it a fun ride from beginning to end. The success of the film will mean Thor could really have an audience for his second solo feature.

Why Would You Donate to My Frog Van Fund?

Asking people to donate money to get my Frog Van fixed may not sit quite right with some people. It's not like I'm a charity, right? No doubt plenty of you work hard to keep your own cars on the road with your own money too, so why should you give money to me?

So here's the thing. I'm not asking you to just give me your money so I can get my car fixed.

I'm saying, if you've enjoyed reading my blogs, found a tutorial or advice column in them useful to your own life,  been entertained by my writing, art or animations or found one of my tutorial videos very informative then, by donating to my Frog Van fund, you have the opportunity to do something that would really be useful to me, more than just a nice comment or message saying thank you can.

Not only that but, once I get my van back on the road, it'll give me more opportunity to write about and share my experiences with you in this blog because I will be able to travel much further away from my home more frequently. Like I was able to when the Frog Van was on the road.

As a self employed artist/designer and all round creative person I don't actually make enough money to support myself i.e. keep a roof over my head and buy food. I have a very supportive partner who does that, to which I'm extremely thankful for. When I do earn money I try to spend some of it on taking us both out as a way of saying thank you.

I earn enough to pay my business expenses and other smaller personal expenses. What I earn I have to make last because it can be months between jobs. It's rare that I can afford to spend large amounts, like the $500.00 target I'm hoping to reach to fix my van, in one lump sum.

Though if I get a good run of freelance work, this time I will definitely be throwing large chunks of what I earn at getting the van fixed instead of paying registration fees. With what I paid in the last six months in registration fees (close to $400.00) I could have gotten the van fixed.

Each of the last two times I registered the van, thinking I'd fixed it, I took it for one test drive and discovered it wasn't. Two of the most expensive test drives I've ever taken.

I can't really afford to register it again without knowing it's fixed properly. So any donation you can make so I can afford a proper mechanic would be very much appreciated.

Visit the Frog Van's GoFundMe page at http://www.gofundme.com/frogvan to make a donation either with your credit card or from your PayPal account.

Once the van is back up and running again I'd love to perhaps find someone to sponsor it. Maybe a local travel agency or something. Nothing big. Just enough money to pay the registration and some for petrol in exchange for me blogging about places to see and experience in this part of the world.

I've done plenty of travel writing in my blog and have even published a book of my 2007 road trip to Western Australia - in which I blogged my experiences every single day.

I think that would be an ideal arrangement.

NB: If you really prefer to get something for your money then you could also help by purchasing one of my Frog Van Prints from my CafePress Store featuring the design on the right.

Forget Self Driving - Where's My Flying Car!!

Mashable's blog this week asks Do People Really Want Self-Driving Cars? which includes a video of several examples of how close this technology is getting to being a reality. Several commercially sold cars are already self parking.

I say forget all this self-driving stuff, it's 2012 already, where's my flying car?!

The self-driving car is just a way for drunks to get back in their vehicles and keep on drinking between venues on a Friday night. You just know those idiots are going to be so speech impaired by the end of a bender that the car's voice control won't understand them and they're just going to go "F. it, I'm switching to manual control!".

The rest of us kind of enjoy driving... well I do anyway. Do you really need a self driving car in a traffic jam? Really? You know how you are in a traffic jam... "No way is that b**tard cutting in front of me!!"

Can you imagine the frustration of watching your self-driving car being polite, passive and not ensuring that you get ahead of anyone that so much as looks like they're trying to get ahead of you. It probably wouldn't even be smart enough to use the right swear words. Best switch to manual.

The future is flying, not self-driving cars. I want the opportunity to kill myself on the Y axis by flying vertically straight up under a bridge that I didn't realize I was still under.

We're not even close to a flying car.

This isn't it.
Taylor Aerocar III




Neither is this.
Maverick Flying car






Or this.
Terrafugia.







This looks cool, but no.
Pal-V One.







1980's Batman would look cool in this but still not a flying car.
Moller Skycar.






...and this definitely isn't it but at least it looks like a car...



All of the above are definitely fun vehicles but you and I both know that a flying car looks pretty much like your average car but flies.

It doesn't have wings, propellers, jet engines or anything else that looks more at home on a plane or a glider. You don't unfold, convert or attach anything to it. You press a button or pull back on the steering wheel and it flies.

Something like the cars seen in the movie, The Fifth Element...

Police Cars in The Fifth Element.
According to a recent report in the Herald Sun Scientists are beginning work on a road network in the sky, in anticipation of flying cars being 'in use' in the next 20-30 years.

20-30 years! ...and they're still thinking in terms of helicopter vehicles like the Pal-V One. Sigh.

Self-driving cars just don't have the 'cool' factor. Topping that off it solves a problem that isn't really a problem. It's not like I want less to do when I'm driving.

Where's my flying car?

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