Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review of "Star Trek" [Warning: The entire plotline is revealed]

Well you asked for it, and so I was compelled to deliver.

Following my pre-review of Transformers:RotF, some of my biggest fans have strongly suggested I write a review of the new Star Trek film, the sole reason being that its script was also written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the same pair that have raped Transformers. Believe me their dirty fingerprints show in Star Trek as well.

Warning: There are plenty of spoilers here, so stop reading now if you want the story to be a surprise.

Here is the plotline, after we piece it back together linearly. In the future, a star goes supernova, threatening to destroy Romulus, home of the Romulans. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) tries to save the planet using Star Trek's latest deus ex machina "red matter", which apparently can create black holes out of nowhere with a single drop. The intent is to put a black hole where the star used to be, sucking back the star explosion. The only problem is, he arrives too late. He creates the black hole anyway, just as a Romulan mining ship returns from another part of the galaxy. It seems that he missed with where the black hole was supposed to be, and both get pulled into the it and spit into the past. Since this is accidental time travel they both arrive at different points in time.

The Romulan mining ship arrives first, and tries to capture a Starfleet ship to find Spock since they want revenge for his failure to save Romulus. When they find out that they are far in the past, they try to destroy the ship to keep their presence a secret. By this time, Kirk's father is in command of the ship, Kirk's mother is in labour with him, and the ship is being evacuated. Kirk's dad sacrifices himself so the evacuees (including his wife and newborn son, Kirk) can escape.

Jump 25 years later and we see the Original Cast of Star Trek as twentysomethings joining Starfleet. By this time Nimoy-Spock has come through the time warp and is captured by the Romulan mining ship.

The mining ship drills a hole to the center of Vulcan, and creates a black hole in its center, destroying it and killing all but a few thousand Vulcans. It then moves on to do the same to Earth and then every planet that is part of the Federation.

The rest of the movie is peppered with action sequences and lines from the Original Series, and ultimately ends with a large mass of red matter splashing on the mining ship and creating a black hole in it, destroying it (we think).

As a whole the movie was enjoyable, but I would have liked it more if it was not a reboot. They have wiped out almost every bit of Star Trek media ever created, except for the series Enterprise, which, as I understand, sucked so bad that it caused the need for a reboot to begin with.

There's a paradox in there so big, I can taste it.

Please note, that I am not assuming this. In fact, the characters practically break the fourth wall in an extended conversation to make it clear to the audience that we are dealing with the same Star Trek reality, but with a massively altered timeline (think of Back to the Future Part II's explanation of alternate timelines, this is EXACTLY the same thing). Many sources will incorrectly say this movie is an alternate reality, but Paramount is not going back to the old storylines, so it is an alternate timeline whose starting point is set so far into the past as to be practically irreversible.

That was a tremendous waste, given the incredible amount of time, money, love, and effort that has been put into Star Trek by fans and Paramount alike. All apparently caused by two lousy movies and a failed series. Considering The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager were essentially money spinners, so saying that rebooting the ENTIRE francise was heavy handed is really understating the matter.

Rebooting Batman did not have nearly the same impact. The Batman reboot only scrubbed the four movies, and left all canon material in tact.

Also destroying Vulcan was clearly the idea of Orci and Kurtzman, who have a history of shitting on the things fans hold beautiful and sacred. (Next up, KITT from Knight Rider is going to be a Le Car). I'm actually surprised Michael Bay was not associated with this movie at all!

A perfect example of this lack of respect for the source material is in the reference to Admiral Jonathan Archer, who would be 141 years old at the time. Orci justifies such a blunder as "...Admiral Archer is a reference to the Archer we all know and love, and yes he would be over 100, which is a likely life expectancy in a futuristic space faring race of humans." Now I know the Bones appeared in The Next Generation as being over 100 years old, but it seems to be implied that such life expectancy is not at all common and defiantly did not exist in Kirk's youth.

I think JJ Abrams had to use all of his powers to keep this movie recognizable as a Star Trek film.

If this was, instead, a prequel, I would have said the movie was excellent, but as with any Star Trek movie, I have technical squabbles with it.

Ignoring the actual mechanics of red matter, the movie plays pretty fast and free with creating a bunch of black holes while ignoring the massive, awesome power that they possess. This is primarily seen when the mining ship obsessively has to create a black hole at the center of each doomed planet.

For Christ's sake, this is a black hole! Accuracy is a moot point! A few thousand kilometers of distance are not going to make any difference! Just shoot the red matter drop at the surface and move on, the end result will still be the same. No need to waste hours of in-movie time just to dig a hole.

It's like swatting a fly with an atomic bomb; you don't actually have to squash the fly with it directly. Remember, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and black holes.

Secondly, it doesn't seem that the destruction of Romulus was going to be prevented anyway. You see, if you are close enough to a supernova that it threatens your planet, then you are too close to a black hole at the same location. Maybe Romulus would have had more time to be evacuated and re-located but that's really about it.

Thirdly, a star doesn't just go nova. And one would assume that in a future where black holes can be created at will (and humans live to over 140 years old), the technology to monitor nearby stars for stability would exist and therefore warn of impending star explosions.

Finally, for a mining ship, the Romulan ship had some heavy firepower. Yet, for some strange reason, no famous Romulan cloaking technology (which by this time could also fire while cloaked). There may be some undisclosed explanation for this, perhaps they don't use cloaking technology in non-military crafts. This is really left up to the imagination.

Overall, one thumb up. It would have been two, but Orci and Kurtzman and this reboot obsession really left a foul taste in my mouth.

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pre-Review for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Hello Stream Crossers,

It's Soundwave again, I know it has been many weeks since my last posting, but I'm back with a pre-review of the new Transformers movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Between what I have read on Wikipedia, and the two trailers, I am not liking what I am seeing.

My main issue with this whole series is, as I stated before, it is being created by a group of people who have no love of the original series. Considering three short seasons in the 80's created such a bond with these characters that exists strongly to this day, I thought they could have paid a better homage to it.

Case in point. Roberto Orci was against the Dinobots stating "I couldn't see why a Transformer would feel the need to disguise himself in front of a bunch of lizards. Movie-wise, I mean." This is just more of his stupidity from the first movie. As any Transformers Fan knows, the Dinobots weren't designed for disguise. They were designed for battle, and are the strongest mele fighters the Autobots have. They were stupid in the cartoon, but all of the comic incarnations depicted them as an elite special ops team.

Anyhow, back to the movie's "plot". According to various sources, Sam (Spike) is going to college, but his girlfriend is not. Somehow in the last few years, Optimus Prime's shard of the AllSpark has become a few shards, one of which ends up in Sam's laundry. While inspecting it, Sam is blasted with energy that allows him to see Cybertronian symbols. It is not revealed if he can read the symbols, but he does begin obsessively carving them everywhere. It is eventually revealed that these Cybertronian symbols are found in Egyptian ruins. The Decepticons then pursue Sam (again!) to somehow get at the information in his head. Maybe they'll project a light through his head onto a screen, just like in Wild Wild West?

I seem to remember this scenario forming a major part of Smallville (the season with Christopher Reeve) with Kryptonian symbols forming part of Native American mythology, ancient Native ruins covered in these symbols, Clark learning to read the symbols from an energy blast from said symbols, and his heat vision seemingly going berzerk and burning Kryptonian symbols into his barn. Now I'm no English major, but I think this is called "plagerism". Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, I think DC and Warner Brothers want to have with you in the principal's office.

There are a whole wack of new Transformers in this movie, which I guess means that most will be dead before they have a chance to say anything. Although if they are a Decepticon, they may not actually say anything anyways.

Among the new transformers is a being called the Fallen, who was one of the original 13 Transformers. He first appeared in Dreamwave's 'War Within' series. Now Dreamwave didn't last long as a comic publisher, so if you don't remember seeing or hearing of the Fallen, you are not alone. Apparently, he was involved with Megatron becoming evil and the Decepticon insignia is supposedly based on his face.

They have introduced Soundwave and Ravage. I think Soundwave is a satellite, and is once again voiced by Frank Welker (oh hells yeah!) Hopefully they bring back the old monotone voice, but since Michael Bay is a retard who knows nothing of the original series, they probably won't. Ravage does actually look cool with the exception of having one eye.

Another blast from the past is Devastator, who is actually made up of Decepticons who transform into construction equipment. I'm not sure if they are actually called the Costructicons, but I'm sure they are not since Orci and Kurtzman are idiots. It doesn't matter anyway, because he looks UGLY. Kind of like a crippled ape that can't stand up. Nothing like the magnificent killing machine from the 80's.

Maybe I should be thankful the Dinobots are not in the film. That leaves five less beloved characters to be desecrated by Michael Bay.

So I am predicting another conceptual disaster, and am not planning on seeing the movie in the theater. Maybe I'll rent it later. I'm sure it's going to make gobs of money, followed closely by a third movie, so they don't need my money anyway.

So hopefully, I will be posting more frequently from now on. I'll be talking to you all real soon.

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"

Friday, March 27, 2009

Funniest Paper Clips Yet

Found this on my internet travels today. Funny how an innocent paper clip initially shaped as a bone, becomes a bone of a different sort when flipped over!

Want your own box to entertain your friends and embarrass co-workers? Look no further.

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

PSP: Pandora's Battery (Version 2)
How to load a custom firmware on your Sony PSP

Hello Stream Crossers!

I am back today to revisit the subject of updating your PSP to run custom firmware. The original instructions needed to be done in Windows only, and required really old custom firmwares to run. This version copies all the software to the PSP and runs it there, so any Operating System can be used. Also, the updated software runs on firmware 3.xx and newer, no need to install 1.50 kernels!

First we will review a bit of information, history, and terminology regarding PSP Firmware Flashing.

First off, a PSP with Official Firmware cannot be flashed, simply because software must be run on the PSP that a) makes the memory stick bootable, and b) modifies the battery's serial number (more on this later). Thus you always need a PSP with custom firmware to start the modification process. Somewhat like Agent Smith in The Matrix.

The primary leader in this work it a programmer named Dark Alex, aka DAX. I am not sure where he is located, but I know for sure he is from a Spanish speaking country.

The first generation of PSP's were the 1000 model, depending on where you live, the last digit will not be a 0, but another number. Similarly, the next two generations were OFFICIALLY named PSP 2000 and PSP 3000.

The PSP 2000 was improved in terms of its energy efficiency, and was significantly thinner and lighter than its predacessor, the PSP 1000. It was marketed as the "PSP SLIM" in some countries, "PSP LITE" in others. Thus, gamers began referring to the first generation as the "PSP PHAT" (pronounced FAT).

So far, the PSP 3000 does not have any cool nicknames.

All official games and software for the PSP have a special "signature" code in them to verify that the game is permitted to be executed. The very first model of the PSP 1000 was released with firmware 1.50 (also referred to as the 1.50 kernel). This had a flaw in it that allowed ANY software to be executed on the PSP. SONY quickly issued a fix for this. Certain games also carried the same flaws. Some programmers were able to extract the 1.50 kernel and use it in their modification procedures.

Pandora's Battery? JigKick? WTF? When you mess up the internal software in the PSP to the point that it no longer turns on (called BRICKING) you usually have to send it back to SONY for repairs. SONY has special battery modules that will cause the PSP to boot off a special memory stick and reprogram the PSP.

A "Pandora's Battery" or "JigKick" is a battery whose serial number has been changed to 0xffffffff and works the same as the official SONY repair batteries. A "Magic Memory Stick" (aka MMS) is a memory stick made bootable by a piece of software called Despertar Del Cementerio, which is Spanish for "wake from the cemetary" as it can restore a bricked PSP without sending it to SONY for repair.


Thus far, ALL PSP 1000 models can have their firmwares upgraded. ALL PSP 1000 models can make a Pandora's Battery. This is optimal however, since the SLIM batteries are thinner than the originals, and only work in PSP SLIMs (they don't make electrical contact in PHAT PSPs). An original battery will work in all PSP's (the thinner models need a special cover to hold it in place, however).

MOST PSP 2000 models can have their firmwares upgraded. The last version with the TA-088 motherboards are NOT hackable, sorry. NONE of the PSP 2000 models can make a Pandora's Battery.

NONE of the PSP 3000 models are hackable, thus they cannot make a Pandora's Battery.

Now let's get started. I will be making reference to the 'root' or 'root directory' of the memory stick. This is the top level of the memory stick's file system. The first time you double click on it's icon, you are brought to the root of the memory stick.

To perform this, you need the following files. Please note the filename may be strang when you save it, depending on what the sources saved it as originally. You can rename the downloaded files to help you keep track of what is what.

Step 1: Backup your memory stick, get the firmwares

Charge your battery until it is 100%. You cannot run out of power during the process of writing the firmware.

Copy everything you want to keep on you memory stick to your hard drive as we will be formatting the card during this tutorial to make it bootable.

Download all the software to your computer.

Download all the firmwares to your computer. Extract them one by one and rename them as 150.PBP, 340.PBP, 380.PBP, 410.PBP and 500.PBP. Make an extra of 150.PBP and rename it as UPDATE.PBP

Step 2: Format Your Memory Stick

Using any PSP go to Settings > System Settings > Format Memory Stick

This will erase all data, and create fresh folders for you to use.

Step 3: Copy the Needed Software to the Memory Stick

Put your memory stick and fully charged battery in to the SOURCE PSP. Connect the PSP to the computer via USB so it appears as a drive.

Use WinRAR to open the Pandora Installer archive and extract the entire folder "pan3xx" to the PSP\GAME folder on the Memory Stick.

Use WinRAR to open the Despertar del Cementerio archive and extract the entire folder "dc8" to the PSP\GAME folder on the Memory Stick.

Use WinRAR to open the Custom Firmware 5.00 M33-6 archive and extract the entire folder "UPDATE" to the PSP\GAME folder on the Memory Stick

Copy UPDATE.PBP, 150.PBP, 340.PBP, 380.PBP, 410.PBP and 500.PBP to the root of the Memory Stick.

Also copy 500.PBP to the PSP\GAME\UPDATE folder.

Now disconnect the PSP from your computer.

Step 4: Create a Magic Memory Stick

If you are using a custom theme, you need to change it back to the default theme before proceeding.

On the PSP, under GAMES > MEMEORY STICK, run "Despertar del Cementerio v8". This will copy files to the Memory Stick to make it bootable for re-flashing your PSP. A long extraction process will follow.

The final step asks you to select a button to be used to boot to DC8, press and hold the DOWN direction button. (any direction is ok, I used DOWN, so the instructions will use that. If you used a different direction button, substitute it in when I say DOWN).

Once complete it will bring you back to the main screen.

You now have what is known as a "Magic Memory Stick".

Step 5: Create Padora's Battery

Remember, if your SOURCE PSP is a PSP Slim and the TARGET PSP is a Phat PSP, put the Phat PSP battery in before doing this step. Why? It will work with both batteries but the Slim battery only fits properly into a PSP Slim, it simply will not make proper electrical contact in a PSP Phat. Thus, Step 8 will not work.

The Phat PSP battery will make proper electrical contact in both kinds of devices.

If both the SOURCE and TARGET PSP's are Slim, then you are OK.

Under GAMES > MEMEORY STICK, run Pandora Installer.

Press X on the Welcome Screen to go to the Main Menu.

On the Main Menu, move the selection arrow down to "Battery options..." and press X.

This will let you create a Pandora's Battery from a normal battery, or create a normal battery from a Pandora's Battery.

First go to "dump battery serial to file" and press X to back up your original serial number. Follow the on screen instructions if there are any.

Now go to "make battery Pandora" and press X, follow the on screen instructions if there are any.

Now go to "back to mainmenu...." and press X, then "Quit" on the Main Menu and press X.

You now have what is known as a "JigKick Battery".

Step 6: Flash to the Custom Firmware.

Fully power down the TARGET PSP and disconnect the AC power if it is attached.

Now remove the battery and Memory Stick from the TARGET PSP.

Now remove the Pandora's Battery and Magic Memory Stick from the TARGET PSP.

Put the "Magic Memory Stick" into the TARGET PSP first, before the battery.

Now press and hold the DOWN direction button and put the Pandora's Battery into the TARGET PSP. The unit will turn on automatically, go into service mode, and boot from the Memory Stick (that is why the Memory Stick had to go in first).

You will now be presented with seven options. Highlight "Install 5.00 M33" and press X.

The install process will take up to 10 minutes (thus the battery must be FULLY charged). Put the TARGET PSP down and let it run through. It will either restart on its own or prompt you to press a key to reboot it or shutdown. Press X to reboot.

Congratulations, you have firmware 5.00 M33-4! One more step to go!

Step 7: Upgrade to 5.00 M33-6

After the unit restarts, go to GAMES > MEMORY STICK.

Run the "PSP Update ver 5.00". Some text will display. Press X to continue.

More text will appear, and you will be returned to the main PSP screen.

When it is complete, CONGRATULATIONS!!! You now have a fully modified PSP running custom firmware.

Step 8: Switch the battery back to normal

If you have other batteries, and wish to keep this in Pandora Mode, then skip this step.

Otherwise power down the PSP, remove the Pandora's Battery and connect the A/C Adaptor and plug it in.

Now power on the PSP. When it is fully started, put the Pandora's Battery back in. Since the PSP if fully on, it won't go into Service Mode.

Go to GAMES > MEMEORY STICK, and run Pandora Installer and go back to "Battery options...". If you backed up your battery in Step 5, select "set battery serial from file" and press X. This will rewrite the original serial number to the battery.

If you did not back up the serial, select "make battery normal" and press the X button to write a generic serial number instead.

Now your battery will function as normal.

Step 9: Prepare to play copied games

Keep the Memory Stick (and Pandora's Battery, if you didn't switch it back) in a safe place if you intend to unlock more PSP's otherwise go to SETTINGS > SYSTEM SETTINGS > FORMAT MEMORY STICK. Then copy your backed up files from Step 1 back onto the card.

Press SELECT. An on screen menu will appear. Highlight "UMD ISO MODE" and press the right direction key until "M33 driver" appears. Then highlight "EXIT" and press "X".

Copied PSP games have an *.iso or *.cso file name. Simply create an ISO folder in the root of the Memory Stick and save the games there.

They will appear under GAMES > MEMORY STICK
If the system can't see any games in the ISO directory, copy the entire contents of the Memory Stick to a temporary folder and format the Memory Stick, then copy your stuff back to the Memory Stick again.

Well that's it. Its alot of work, but is definately worth every minute.

Until next time, keep on having fun!

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"