Movie of the Week: Ender’s Game

When I was looking for a book to read a while ago Silke offered me her copy of Ender’s Shadow. Unfortunately she couldn’t find her copy of Ender’s Game, the first novel in the series. As a result I never read any of these books despite her recommendation. But when I saw the first trailer for the film adaptation I remembered the title and decided to watch the movie.

In the year 2086 a strike force of an alien insectoid race called the Formics attack Earth and kill millions of humans. Only when the desperate kamikaze attack of a single commander destroys one of the enemies carrier ships the invading force is somehow stopped. Ever since humanity almost lost this war they are preparing for a final confrontation with the Formics. To gain an advantage over the enemy humanity has started a program to find a new brilliant commander who will lead their forces. As children can process information much faster and more natural than adults young teenagers are trained as soldiers in a merciless regime designed to find the smartest leader among them. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is one of these child soldiers. His tactical skills are amazing, because he can sense how to break an enemy to avoid all futures confrontations. But Ender is greatly troubled by his own abilities because in the process of understanding an enemy he always develops sympathy for them. When Earth’s military forces are approaching the home world of the Formics Ender’s superiors have to decide whether Ender is the commander that they are looking for who can save humanity from this threat once and for all.

Ender’s Game is a well made Science Fiction movie with excellent special effects and an interesting story. At the same time Ender’s struggle with his own daemons adds a human aspect. I definitely enjoyed watching it and will try to get my hands on the book.

Movie of the Week: Pacific Rim

As a kid I loved movies with giant monsters, in particular films with Godzilla. My favourite among those movies was Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, which featured a fight between giant monsters and a giant robot. After seeing the first trailer for Pacific Rim I was hoping for a modern version of these monster movies with up-to-date special effects.

In Pacific Rim humanity is under attack by giant sea monsters, known as Kaiju. Every time one of them emerges from the Pacific Ocean it causes massive loss of life and destruction when it reaches populated areas. As conventional weapons like tanks and fighter planes don’t prove very effective against the Kaiju humanity builds giant robots, called Jägers, to defend itself. This plan proves effective for several years until the increased frequency and size of the Kaijus slowly wear down the Jäger forces. When it is clear that humanity is losing the war the commander of the pilots of the Jägers pulls together the remaining working robots and the surviving pilots to launch one final assault. His plan is to close the portal at the bottom the Pacific Ocean through which the Kaiju get to Earth. But it is a desperate plan which has been attempted before and has always failed.

Pacific Rim is exactly what I was hoping for: a lot action and excellent special effects. The Kaiju are fast and maneuverable and look nothing like the rubber monsters of the past. In between the action there is still room for the human aspects of the story: a washed-up Jäger pilot who gets a second chance, mad scientists which try to unravel the mysteries of the enemy and a rookie pilot who wants to prove herself and avenge the death of her family. Fortunately the story is told without the military pathos that you often find in apocalyptic movies.

If you like action movies you probably want to watch this movies, if you like giant monster movies you must watch it. I definitely got what I was hoping for. 🙂

Finally Faster Internet

Two years ago I complained that British Telecom haven’t upgraded the exchange that our house is connected to for over five years. Unsurprisingly BT  still haven’t upgraded the exchange during the last two years. Recently however TalkTalk another major British telecommunication provider connected the local exchange to their broadband network. This didn’t immediately help us because we wouldn’t want to use their residential service as TalkTalk offer neither static IPv4 addresses nor IPv6.

But fortunately AAISP have recently started to sell their Internet service over TalkTalk ADSL connections. As a first step AAISP moved all their customers that were like us still stuck with BT 20CN (British Telecom’s old ATM based broadband network) ADSL1 connections to TalkTalk ADSL2+ connections for free. The migration of our broadband connection went off without a hitch. After a downtime of about 15 minutes my Internet connection was almost twice as fast as before.

Unfortunately however it turned out that our Cisco router doesn’t support ADSL2+ very well. It was able to establish a connection to the exchange fine but dropped it about once every half hour followed by a downtime of several minutes. In the end I had no choice and bought an external ADSL modem. Considering that I can use neither the Cisco’s WiFi  (no IPv6 support, only 802.11g) nor its ADSL interface I’m seriously considering to replace the router. A NetBSD machine could move packets between ethernet interface just fine, would have a more flexible and powerful firewall and wouldn’t require a support contract to download software updates. The Cisco 870 product line is also end of life which makes me wonder how much longer my old router will be supported.

Last Wednesday our Internet connection was updated again on my request. It is now operating in Annex M mode which more than doubled our upload bandwidth. But there were again technical problems at the beginning. Our new modem wouldn’t establish a connection to the exchange before we reconfigured it from Multimode (automatic detection) to ADSL2+ annex M.

Altogether I’m very happy with the update: a lot more bandwidth for the same amount of money. 🙂

Taking comfort in the Unfairness of the Universe