Saturday, June 28, 2008

What's So Terrible About Vista?

I've been using Window's Vista since December 2007. That's when I was compelled to buy a new laptop. I seriously considered buying a business class laptop with XP; however, I found such a good deal on an HP laptop that came bundled with a digital camera and printer that I bought it. Alas, that laptop came loaded with Vista. I could always retro-upgrade to XP, couldn't I?

There were a few hiccups at first. It took me awhile to get the hang of connecting it to wireless networks. As I recall, I had to download a patch to run Office 2003 and at first it wouldn't see the server on my office LAN although it would print and connect to the Internet. The biggest annoyance was a tendency to "hang up" when I shut it down while it was connected to my office network. I'd have to press the power button to shut it down. SP1 seems to have cured that. It still isn't perfectly networked, but that is due to my own ignorance of networking and the fact that I haven't called in help. I haven't had any problems in months though.

The specific version of Vista I'm using is Home Ultimate. The laptop's CPU is an AMD Turion running at 1.9 GHz and the laptop is equipped with 2 GB of RAM. It is equipped with an Nvidia MCP67M integrated graphics card. So we're not talking a high end super laptop here. Yet Vista seems to run fine. I can have multiple programs running and windows open without any problem. I can't remember ever getting a blue screen of death and if one program stops running it doesn't take all the others with it. It seems very stable. Restarts are rare. The user account control (UAC) pops up occasionally, but not inappropriately. That is, it appears when you ought to think about what you're doing and should make sure it is the right thing to do. Clicking the allow button is no big deal.

I usually find that people who are eager to tell me how "horrible" Vista is have never used it. One friend, who ought to be computer savvy, told me that he used it for a short time but "couldn't get anything to work with it" and "you can't use Office 2003 with it." He seemed shocked when I told him that I use Office 2003. I had to wonder if he even tried. I use a legal industry specific program (Amicus Attorney) from 2001 without any problem as well as other relatively obscure legal industry programs.

Ironically, as I was typing this one of those Mac/PC switcher ads came on. I watch them because I think they're funny not because they're true. In this one, a Vista PC therapy group is meeting and one of the PCs says, "We have to come to grips with the fact our operating system isn't working like it should." Hah, hah. I'm no expert but for me Vista seems to be working exactly like it should. What's so terrible about Vista?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Get Smart Is Laughable

I was hoping that the new "Get Smart" movie would be okay. I was prepared to be disappointed. But I wasn't. I was delightfully surprised. It was great. The movie is laugh out loud funny. For once, the best bits aren't all in the trailer leaving you with the feeling that you'd already seen all the funny parts. The audience even applauded at the end. A sure sign that everyone enjoyed it. I saw the first "Get Smart" movie and this is much better.

It is played straighter than the TV series. I'd say that one of the strengths of this movie is that it is based on the series without trying to recreate it. The movie can stand on its own. People get shot, knifed, and beat up and they bleed. The violence is more realistic and the stunts more harrowing. Homage is given to the series without going overboard. There are cameos by Bernie Koppel, the original Siegfried; the cone of silence; the telephone booth; Hymie, the robot agent; the red Sunbeam; the blue VW Karmann Ghia; the gold Opel; and the shoe phone. See, Smart Cars None of these touches seem out of place and are woven into the story. Bill Murray must be a fan of "Get Smart" because he has a cameo as the lonely Agent 13 who plays a Larabee like role. Larabee is in this movie, but he never shows up in a mailbox or a trash can. In fact, the movie Larabee is a jerk and doesn't seem to be a friend of Max.

The one thing I missed was the chemistry between Max and Agent 99. Unfortunately, they aren't a couple for most of the movie. They might as well have subtitled the movie "When Max Met 99." You might even classify this as a prequel. The movie provides Max's backstory. He's a first rate overly detailed analyst for CONTROL who is dying to be a field agent. When the movie begins, he and 99 haven't met yet although he's heard of her.

When I saw the trailers, I thought the casting was inspired and it is. Like every little boy in the '60s I had a thing for Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. She was everything a girlfriend ought to be pretty, witty, supportive, gorgeous .... Anne Hathaway wasn't even born yet so she's way too young for me. That's too bad because she has never looked better. She's hotter than ever as the svelte, coolly competent, kick butt 99. When she dons an Agent 99 wig for part of the movie, she could be Barbara Feldon's even better looking daughter. I thought she'd be perfect as 99 and she is.

Steve Carell doesn't look particularly like Don Adams but he does great job. He doesn't come off as someone who is trying to do a Don Adams impression even when he utters the trademark line "Missed it by that much." It isn't quite as funny when he does it. He lacks that wryly nasal Don Adams tone to his voice. His Maxwell Smart is actually very smart and perceptive and just a bit more competent than the TV Max, but not too competent. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson even does a good job as the hunky Agent 23. Alan Arkin is a great choice for The Chief. Terence Stamp is a much more menacing and evil Seigfried than Bernie Koppell ever was. There's very little funny about him. An enormous KAOS assassin bears an uncanny resemblance to Richard Kiel, who was Jaws in Moonraker and other Bond movies. He's apparently no relation though as he is professional wrestler Dilip Singh from India. James Caan plays a Bush-like U.S. president whose vice-president runs the show.

I really enjoyed this movie. Even my wife was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and the kids loved it. Speaking of children, a word for the wise --- this movie deserves its PG-13 rating. In addition to the violence, there are frequent uses of the "s word", sexual comedy (including some based on gay sex), one obscene hand gesture, and some nudity. I wouldn't take elementary age or younger children. But I do recommend that you see this movie. At the end, look for the misspelling of the word Cessna in the credits as they roll.

Tiger's Just Dumb!

No doubt about it --- Tiger Woods is the world's greatest golfer. His victory in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines proves it. But playing in this year's Open was just dumb! People are talking like Tiger did something brilliant by playing in the U.S. Open while injured. I disagree. He certainly doesn't need the money. He's got nothing to prove to anybody. He is well on his way to breaking every major record in golf. So why play hurt? Ego?

The smart thing to do would have been to follow his doctor's advice and stay home to recuperate. If he had, he might have finished the season. More importantly, he wouldn't be risking his health and a career ending injury. I have to believe that long-term his career is better off without multiple knee surgeries and silly risks like playing hurt.

Playing hurt proves Tiger has an amazing tolerance for pain, but it isn't smart and doesn't prove much else. I'd like to see him play for another 20 years so I hope he's learned something about pacing himself.