Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coraline in 3D

I went to see the latest movie based on a Neil Gaiman book, Coraline, this past weekend. It was in 3D! And not at all like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets throwing popcorn at you, either, it was really 3D! This was a really cool use stop-animation and old camera techniques to really bring the audience into the movie, without any of the silly gimmicks like throwing ... well, popcorn at you.  I did find I had to sit very still when the movie first started, to avoid getting queasy at the perceived motion.  After the intro, though, the motion seemed to slow down - avoiding the problem that the latest Bond film had for me, so I could actually focus and look at what was going on. The protaganist was a smart young woman, played by Dakota Fanning, that was so reminiscient of my niece. :-)

The fact that this was done with real object, vs computer animation, brought a certain quaint realism to the characters, endearing them to all of us.  I can't imagine all the knitting work that must've gone on!

I am a huge Gaiman fan, and while I haven't read this particular book, the story definitely had his traditional mark of slightly creepy, intriguing and delightful on it.

To truly appreciate this film, you do need to go see it in the theaters in 3D. I'm sure that's why they filmed it this way (and why we saw so many previews for more movies coming in 3D). It's a good way to get butts in the seats instead of people waiting to see the film on DVD.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shoreline Amphitheater saves seats for residents

I went this Sunday to the Shoreline Amphitheater to buy tickets for an upcoming Coldplay concert, as I hate paying the "convenience" fees to the online ticket retailer. I like to go to the box office on Sundays, because Shoreline waives their own convenience fee, too.  There's no way to get out of the stupid parking fee (charged per ticket, regardless of if you drive to the amphitheater or not). All the same, I said "Two tickets for Coldplay" and the attendant said "Only lawn left". Fine. Then I heard a man at the next window telling the customer that they may as well set up his Mountain View Residency card while he was there.  That triggered an old memory of when Shoreline used to do presale for residents, a program I thought had expired, since it is no longer mentioned on their website.  When I asked my cashier about it, she said, yes, Shoreline still does that & presale is for every show - two days in advance of regular sale at the box office or online. Thinking it was too late to do anything about the Coldplay show that had already been on sale for two weeks, while I was there I might as well set up my residency for the next concert. With just my driver's license and car registration, she did it right then & there, then informed me that there were still some reserved seats left for Mountain View residents.

I guess these were the leftovers from the presale that had not yet sold! She told me that they continue to hold them for residents until the show date gets closer. Very cool!  Of course, I don't actually have the tickets, as they have implemented a new procedure to prevent scalping where they only give you a voucher instead of tickets.  I'll need to pick them up day of show, which is a nuisance, but as I dislike scalpers, I guess it's worth it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Psychology of a con

One of the biggest security weak spots in all systems is the user.  Yes, there are many complicated processes for attacking networks and cracking password files, but why bother with that when you can simply ask an inside user for their network credentials?  I'm just getting caught up on email so have just read Bruce Schneier's December cryptogram which highlighted a great article by Paul J Zak called How To Run a Con. While this article is specific to traditional con men and their marks, this same logic can be applied to how easy it is to social engineer data out of so many users. We want to trust people, and most of all, we want to be trusted, too. Interesting reading!