The New Star Trek Movie: Did you happen to notice those two doohickeys on the console in front of Chekov and Sulu?

22 05 2009

Wow, did I like this movie. They did such a great job creating a great movie, and resetting the series to boot. One thing , though, made me laugh out loud.

I have noticed that through out the history of Star Trek, many mundane everyday sort of objects end up being used as props for their mildly futuristic looking designs. I was very happy to see that J.J. Abrams has continued with this tradition. You see, i work as a manager in a retail office supply store called… well lets just call the place Paperclips, anyway, at our cash registers are equipped with bar code scanners from a company called Symbol. Funny thing is, the bridge of the Starship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) is also equiped with the very same scanners!

Yep, here I am watching this (AWESOME!) movie when I get the first glimpse of the bridge, and right there in front of everything are two of these Symbol bar code scanners. I actually laughed out loud when I saw them. Check out the pictures below for yourself.

Click to enlarge

trek-trailer-bridge-detail copy

star_trek_10 copy


Here are the scanners at my work





Told you so!


My Frankenstein Telephone.

20 05 2009

I don’t know about you, but I have always hated my phone company. For the first 25 years of my life, there was no viable alternative to my ONE land line provider. Cell phones, at first, were prohibitively expensive and even now with better rates, the Cell phone service providers here in Canada gouge their customers for every penny they can squeeze from them. Now with recent passage of new legislation, more competition should soon change that… But I will believe that when I actually see it.

Well, tired of paying too much for landline telephone service, I decided to see what I could do to drastically reduce my monthly telephone bill. My eventual solution definitely isn’t graceful, but it’s cheap and it works.

My first attempt at a cheap, alternative solution to standard phone service was to purchase a device called the MagicJack. MagicJack is a device about a third the size of a deck of playing cards (and about the same shape), with a USB connection on one side and a standard telephone jack on the other. You plug the USB end into any PC running Windows XP (or later: I am running the release candidate for Windows 7) or a Mac running OS X, and a standard telephone into the other side. When you first plug in the MagicJack, you computer will tell you it found new hardware and will look for drivers. All you have to do is hit Yes or Continue when prompted, and MagicJack will pretty much take care of the rest. There will be a registration procedure (quick and painless) where you will get a choice as to which area code you would like to use for your new Magicjack phone service. There are a lot of choices, but unfortunately for me, they are all U.S. cities (I am in Canada). I picked an area code for Seattle Washington, and MagicJack provided me with a phone number to go with it. I could now receive calls from anywhere, and had unlimited calling anywhere in Canada of the U.S. for one year all for the initial investment of $59 Canadian (just a hair under $51 U.S. at the time of writing), with additional years of service cost $20 each. I tried it out was very impressed with the call quality. At times the call quality was better than my regular land line, and at worse it was only marginally worse. Averaging out the $59 investment out for the year meant I now had quality telephone service for about sixteen cents a day, or just under five dollars a month.

Great, I’m done – right? Not quite: remember the fact that I had to get a phone number that was in the U.S.? Well, that meant that if anyone wanted to call me, they would have to pay long distance charges, as they were dialing a Seattle number, despite the fact that we are both in the same city. This wasn’t good, so I had to look for a solution to that problem now. I did some searching on the ‘Net and found a company called DID Worldwide that provided a service called Direct Inward Dialing (DID). DID provided me with a local phone number that would forward to a VOIP (voice over internet protocol, or in other words talking over the internet) service for five dollars a month. That was great, except it wouldn’t work with my MagicJack, as it doesn’t work the same way as traditional VOIP services – it acts much more in the way of a traditional phone service. The solution came to me quickly: For quite a number of years, I have been using a program called Skype to chat with friends and family over the internet. It works great, and all calls between one computer and another using Skype are absolutely free. Skype also offers a paid service called Skype Out where they offer various plans that allow you to call land lines for very good rates. I have been using this service for a few years. I chose the cheapest plan, three dollars a month for unlimited calls in Canada and the U.S. As I said, I have had this plan for about two years now and love it as it is very convenient to be able to call using my PC or laptop anytime I have access to an internet connection and avoid using my cell phone minutes. Heck, I can even use Skype on my cell as there is a mobile application and I pay a flat fee for data, so I can avoid long distance charges. People, I must say this: Skype is good! 🙂

I remembered that Skype also offered call forwarding to any phone number in the area that I paid for outgoing calls to: Canada and the U.S. Well, my MagicJack number is in Seattle, and that is definitely in the U.S., and the phone number I paid for though Worldwide DID would work with Skype, all I had to do was configure the various services to point in the right direction, and I should have incoming and outgoing calls with unlimited calling anywhere in Canada or the U.S. with a local phone number, voicemail, call display, call forwarding and conference calling all for about ten dollars a month. This is a vast improvement over the thirty-nine dollars a month I was paying.

Well, after a week of using my Frankenphone I have to say this: IT WORKS!!! I am making and receiving calls like normal and paying a quarter of what I was paying before. I have call display, call waiting, call confrencing and more all for a measly ten dollars a month.

But even more importantly, I was able to tell the phone company to go screw themselves.

Play the classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game in your browser

2 05 2009

The kind folks across the pond at the BBC have been kind enough to bring us thehhgtg classic Infocom text adventure, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in a groovy and easy to use flash interface that you play right in your browser.

I first played this game on a friend’s Commodore 64, and later on my little brother’s Atari 600XL. I really enjoyed this game a lot.

If you are familiar with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy works by Douglas Adams, then I won’t go and describe the characters and scenarios other than it follows the line of the story, from Arthur Dent’s house being bulldozed and the destruction of the Earth to the moment they step out and onto the planet Magrathea. If you aren’t familiar with the works of Douglas Adams, then go buy the recordings of the original BBC radio play, the books (all five of the trilogy), find copies of the TV series on DVD… then play this game. Fans of Adams work, and fans of the classic text adventures should love this.

Play it here