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Movie Marathon Markup – Seven Film Reviews

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6, 2011 by bbarrett

I spent the last week in the gorgeous south of France with my little sister. We spent the days basking around the various cafés, living off coffee, alcohol, pain au chocolat and crepes au chocolate (the French really know how to live). We spent the nights watching an eclectic mix of movies. I decided it might be worth cataloguing them. In no particular order:

  • The Room

    The unrivalled apex of the “its so bad its good” genre. I’m not usually a fan, but one cannot deny that this is a masterpiece! Perfect for watching with some friends and not a small amount of drink. I cannot really describe this movie, and I think any description could not do it justice. I will just say that this is one man’s honest attempt to write, direct and star in a movie which is just bad in almost every way. Bad acting, bad script, inconsistent plot, odd scenes and some just bizarre choices or oversights, such as massive continuity problems or the fact that all the picture frames in the scenes are filled with pictures of cutlery, presumably the stock photos they had when purchased. I don’t believe it would be possible to deliberately make a worse film.

    A quick warning however, the movie features no less than three sex scenes in the first 10 minutes (with another 2 during the rest of the movie, if memory serves). Power through this, for while it is certainly gratuitous, it is but another facet of the ridiculous nature of the film. The scenes come across as humorous rather than offensive, with hindsight. I really don’t think the film would be the same without them – which makes these thoroughly unnecessary sex scenes suddenly seem quite necessary… An odd thought.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop

    This movie was thoroughly enjoyable, even if the real star was actually an slightly mad French cameraman rather than the elusive English artist Banksy. I think this was the right choice though, the man’s obsession pours through the screen. His enthusiasm and strange personality make the movie what it is. Such a hilarious character. You get the feeling that Banksy thinks he is nuts, but still kind of loves him. As do we all, I suspect.

  • Shaolin Soccer

    A lovely surprise from Stephen Chow, I had always assumed this was a poor movie… but it defies every and any expectation. I loved its commitment; any time you think they’ve gone as far as they could go, it manages to go to 110%, or more. Also strangely touching, though this could be just because it doesn’t comply with the Hollywood expectations that are almost subconciously expected by us. Relentless.
  • Due Date

    A rather forgettable comedy featuring Zach Galifianakis playing roughtly the same character as “The Hangover”. Depressingly, I suspect this one is probably the biggest earner of all these films in the box office (with the possible exception of “Alice in Wonderland”, though comparing blockbuster income from two films separated almost 60 years is obviously difficult). Its funny, but very much predictable and by the book. It looks weak in comparison to these other titans.

  • Kung Fu Hustle

    Another head scratcher, yet still a gem, from Stephen Chow. I didn’t enjoy it quite the same way as Shaolin soccer (I feel this might be because I wasn’t prepared for the kind of shenanigans he would try pull the first time round – surprise is the essence of comedy), but still a really good watch. One of those rare films where you cannot really predict anything. Most of the commentary from Shaolin soccer applies.

  • Alice in Wonderland (original Disney animation)

    Such a delightful film. The only one I had seen before (as you, dear reader, have almost certainly have), but more than worth watching again if it has been a while. Puts the recent reworking to shame. Beautiful nonsense, with some stunning animation – in particular the scenes with the playing card army.

  • MegaMind

    Quite hilarious, certainly a lot better than I expected. I had assumed it wasn’t great because I hadn’t heard anyone talk about it, but I thought it was rather charming in its own way.
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ISPs enforcing copyright law, part deux.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2010 by bbarrett

Today,  IRMA lost a court case against UPC, which was aimed at putting UPC under similar pressure that Eircom apparently crumbled under. I believe this is an important victory for ISPs, who should not have to shoulder the cost for what their subscribers choose to do. I believe that copyright owners should pursue copyright infringement directly through the court system.

Eircom’s comment on the outcome:

A spokesperson for Eircom has said the internet service provider will be considering its position in light of today’s ruling.

I wonder what will happen next. Personally I would like to see Eircom back out of their “trial” they agreed with IRMA, as soon as possible. They should be far more aggressive in future in fighting any such deals. In particular

It is interesting to wonder then why Eircom chose to make a deal with IRMA in the first place. Their legal team surely would have thought that going to court would not mean certain loss given the outcome of UPC’s case. I simply don’t understand this deal from a business perspective, they are angering customers (who will likely move to ISPs showing more spine) and they are losing money by having to process these alleged file sharers on IRMA’s behalf.

In my research for this post I tried visiting the Pirate Bay, which is currently blocked by Eircom (as per a court order). Again, interesting that the other ISPs managed to avoid this. From some Googling I found some references to an ongoing court case, but from what I could find it would appear that Eircom are the only Irish ISP currently blocking the pirate bay.

In what was likely a burecractical oversight, the “warning page” that access to thepiratebay sends you to from an Eircom account includes the following text:

eircom would like to reassure customers that:

  • eircom will not monitor customer’s activities at any stage, nor will it place any monitoring equipment or software on its network in order to facilitate this block.
  • eircom will not provide personal details or any information relating to customers to any third party, including the record companies.

This information is clearly out of date.

In any case, this situation worries me even more than the IRMA deal. Eircom is entitled to revoke service from customers who are violating the terms of their agreement. Perhaps there is some business case, such as advertising deals or some other reason why Eircom has chosen to act the sheep in that relationship. But the Pirate Bay blocking is not a private agreement between two parties, it is a court order.

However, the censorship of the Pirate Bay is nothing to do with that deal, it stems from a court order. Merely visiting the Pirate Bay website is not an act of copyright infringement, no more than glancing inside a car to see if the key was left in the ignition is car theft. They might be highly suspicious actions, but I don’t believe in punishing thought crime.

While the Pirate Bay might have relatively minuscule legal content and use, I believe that censoring all access to it is a dangerous precedent to set (despite not strictly being legal precedent). Censorship, in my opinion, a massive violation of the freedoms of adults in any nation. It should be reserved for the most special cases, and only where no other way can be found to deal with the problem. This grave tool should not be even available here, the recording industry has simply not exhausted other avenues of dealing with the problem, despite what they might say.

One need look to the kind of countries in which Internet censorship has become normal practise to see the danger of such a slippery slope. There are valuable sites that feature questionable content, Wikileaks would be a perfect example. I wouldn’t like to think that companies and organisations start thinking that they can apply for court orders to censor material through ISPs.

The recording industry is not special, if their content is being pirated then they should do what any other group would have to do, take the individuals involved to court.


Links & Glossary:

ISPs enforcing copyright law

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 by bbarrett

It has recently been announced that Eircom, Ireland’s largest ISP, will be processing IP addresses from suspected copyright infringing accounts and using the talked about “3 strikes” rule that will see copyright offenders warned, disconnected for a week and potentially disconnected from the internet for a year if the account persists in illegal file sharing. This action is being taken by IRMA, the Irish Recorded Music Association. The suspect IP addresses will be provided by a third party that apparently specialises in discovering the IP addresses of high volume peer to peer seeders.

This is a controversial measure. It is my belief that it is a step in the wrong direction, or perhaps multiple wrong directions. I am not opposed to IRMA taking steps against copyright infringers. This is their right, and they are free to excersize it. However, a number of things about the details of the approach worry me.

In particular, why aren’t infringers being brought to court? It is not for Eircom to punish persistent offenders – unless they choose to take action on usage terms violations. It would appear that IRMA and Eircom have created some kind of deal which cuts out the Irish judicial system from punishing crimes.

Cutting off Internet access is quite disproportionate response, in many ways. It is similar to turning off the electricity that is used to power the infringement. You will have houses with no clear account holder, such as in shared rental accomodation. It doesn’t make sense to cut off everyone for the actions of individuals. Collective punishment is a poor mockery of justice. Another problem is wireless leechers. While the first strike should hopefully motivate users to protect unsecured networks, this may not be enough. Technically savvy malicious users can often break into encypted wireless networks. Indeed, Eircom had a well publicised vulnerability in their default setup, it was possible to deduce the network key from the SSID. In any case, it is not inconceivable that neighbours might know enough about each other to break weak passwords through social engineering. Finally, I have heard that some peer to peer networks have taken to including spurious IP addresses in the torrents, to obfuscate attempts to track down offenders by adding noise to the signal.

An IP address doesn’t map to an individual, which works for and against IRMA. The Irish Data Protection Comissioner challenged the court case that resulted in this action, and this challenge was quashed on the basis that an IP address isn’t personally identifiable information. It would appear to me then that some extra piece of evidence is therefore needed before action should be taken.

It would be interesting to know what, if any, financial agreement was reached between IRMA and Eircom. My own view is that the bill for any additional burden on the ISP should be entirely IRMA’s They may choose to recoup this by prosecuting the pirates if they wish. But through the courts, please.

A quote from IRMA’s director general:

The European Parliament has been talking about internet access as a basic human right. It absolutely is not.

I think this statement is misguided. My understanding is that the European Parliament are talking about making it a right. However, the right to a fair trial is certainly one, and this effort seems to attempt to undermine it somewhat. If they are confident of their case against Irish citizens, let them bring it to court. I intensely dislike this somewhat secretive agreement these two parties have reached.

Copyright is a complex issue at the moment. Personally, I believe that if someone creates something of value, either physical or not, they should have a right to protect their work. However, intellectual property laws are certainly artifical, and have no basis in natural law. As a society, we are agreeing to give the copyright holder a temporary monopoly over the work. If IRMA want this social contract to remain, they would do well to remember this. I would like to see some changes to current copyright law, particularly the length of time for which copyright is granted. If they push too hard, they might find quite an unequal force pushing back at them.

This is a pilot scheme. I am curious as to what the criteria for success are. Is it based purely on feedback from IRMA, or what can/will Eircom do if they start haemorrhaging customers? IRMA and similar bodies are not very popular at the moment, and Eircom are exposing themselves to significant negative press for this.

Ireland’s second largest ISP, “UPC”, are in a similar legal battle with IRMA. It will be interesting to see how that resolves, as would any challenge made by an accused infringer over this. I am not a lawyer, but I would be fascinated by any good links that would shed some more light on some of the issues I have talked about. I personally want it fought. Eircom have already blocked the pirate bay, which the other ISPs have refused to do. Are Eircom afraid of IRMA?

While I would, if anything, stand to benefit from a internet connection that wasn’t quite as congested with P2P downloads, I believe this is the wrong way to go about it. I am considering boycotting any IRMA related products, until they choose a more reasonable and fair approach. Maybe a small, unimportant individual action, but maybe if others choose to do the same.

BBC story on the announcment
RTE story on the announcement
Silicon Republic commentary

UFEC game

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 by bbarrett

I “finished” my game for UFEC. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks frantically crunching trying to get it someway reasonable, so even though I posted it a few days ago I’m only now getting around to writing about it.

I’ve mixed feelings about the situation.

Primarily, at the time I was quite annoyed at how poor the game turned out, it need a lot more balance and polish. There are some odd little bugs in there that I simply didn’t have time to track down or weren’t too important.

With the benefit of a little break though, I’m quite happy with it. It isn’t finished, and I will surely come back to it in the near future to take it the whole way, but it contains the essential ingredients that I was hoping to include.

Its reasonably fun to play and looks nice in motion, even if the graphics could do with quite a bit of tweaking.

I’ve learned a lot too, I had never really designed a game before, and it definitely shows. I left all the gameplay decisions until too late, being more of a programmer I concentrated on getting most of it built rather than prototyping the core aspects of the game. Though I am pleased with the code, not too overdesigned yet still in good shape despite the epic hack-a-thon trying to get it done.

The “levels” were all thrown together at the last minute. While I sketched them out before making them, they were in no way designed and were more of a show case of most of the stuff I had done, in no particular order. The rather weak “level editor” is possibly another cause of this, all it allows is the placement and deletion of obstacles, its quite hard to “tweak” levels because you cannot move the pieces of terrain around.

There were some nice surprises. My totally unoptimised Java code, running immediate mode OpenGL and using a native Java physics library that I believe defensively copies Vec2 instances when you read them performed admirably, at least on the two machines I tested it on. One was a laptop with a graphics card that didn’t support power of two textures, so I assumed the hardware wasn’t great.

Its fine to talk about Java coming close to native languages in theory, but its quite another thing to see it actually happening. I’d really like to try it out on a wider range of hardware to see how it performs. Maybe I would be disappointed though [smile]

Download link

Feel free to leave any feedback in the comments, or you could use the UFEC thread for the game.

Critters Game Update

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2010 by bbarrett

I only finished a bit this week, I ended up doing less than I had planned. If I am serious about finishing this in time for UFEC then I need to step up development a lot. I hope to get a good bit done this weekend.

What I did get done though was some code to allow me to play some sounds. I don’t actually have any sounds made for the game yet – I might put out a help wanted request for that. At the moment I just have a test application that use lwjgl’s OpenAL bindings to place a few sounds relative to the listener and play them. One of the sound loops and moves around, just to test that too.

I also added in some code for allowing the critters to grow and split (a bit like cells). This will be the proliferation aspect of UFEC. You will have points, which will be obtained at reasonably regular intervals between some of the tougher obstacles. You can spend these points on multiplying your critters, or evolving them to give them special abilities. It is the latter that I sorely need to get working, hopefully this weekend should see the first one or two evolved types. There are some serious bugs with the proliferation code where two critters can get locked together, or a critter spawns around terrain. I will probably have to put additional collision geometry on the critters to make it work right.

I enabled the code that allowed the critters to take damage. At the moment they simply have their alpha value set proportional to their health, I will change this to a quick red flash when they are injured, and maybe they will look a bit grey when their health is low. I might also relax the springs a little bit, which might help make the injured ones look a bit worse for wear. If you use the proliferation action on an injured critter, it will restore their health before fattening them up or splitting them.

Video of proliferation mechanic in action.

I also fixed quite a few bugs, nothing particularly hilarious though.

I will finish up by saying that I’m thinking of calling the game “Primordial Blues”.

Quick update

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 7, 2008 by bbarrett

I’ve been pushing off writing the update for some time, being both too busy to finish my implementation and plagued with issues with the code as it is right now. In an effort to move me forward, I will write a note that I hope will motivate me to action.

I am very close to completing a large re-organisation of the codebase. I think the only major outstanding bug is that my call stack is being corrupted somehow. From inspection of the code, a function should remove all its arguments and push its result, but somewhere (1 place in particular) this isn’t occuring. While debugging it, I decided that this might be a good opportunity to throw together a quick debugger for my new language, but currently only implemented at the Interpreter “byte code” level. It allows me to step through, and over code, to inspect variables and to examine the contents of the stack. This gives the advantage that I can skip large bodies of C++ which have nothing to do with the problem when it is a “high level” issue, rather than a bad pointer or something.

On the subject of bad pointers, I fixed a bug with my variable class. Apparently my assignment operator made the assumption that the old and new objects shared the same type. Obviously, some serious pointer corruption issues occur when calling delete on standard library objects throught the wrong type. I really can’t believe that I missed that.

Since I am finished working tomorrow, I should have more time to get this thing working. I have some ideas once I get to that stage to start doing some things in this langauge that aren’t in LISP (AFAIK, the poor language has how many illegitimate children?).

Nesting Quotes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 20, 2008 by bbarrett

Its been slow going, adding small bits here and there. I’m most of the way there, I just need to re-integrate the macro handling system back into the compiler. I have added a preprocessor that replaces the quoted literals like ‘X with the macro (quote X). This allows nested quoted literals to survive the parsing process, which didn’t happen before. Before, a quoted literal meant the parser entered a different mode whereby it only scanned lists, atoms, numbers and strings. This resulted in a long literal. While nested lists could be present, there was no way to tell if these nested lists were originally quoted. Continue reading