Movie of the Week: Star Trek Into Darkness

Four years ago Paramount Pictures successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise. J.J. Abrams‘s movie Star Trek raised the bar with more speed, action and drama than in any Star Trek film made before. Silke and I were therefore really looking forward to the sequel.

Star Trek Into Darkness tells the next chapter  of the adventures of the original Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk. After two devastating terror attacks on the Federation Kirk and the Enterprise are sent to hunt down the former Starfleet agent John Harrison, the man behind the attacks. During this manhunt the crew of the Enterprise is pulled into a dangerous conspiracy which could cost their lives and lead to a galactic war.

As its prequel Star Trek Into Darkness features action, drama and bits of comedy at a high pace. But there is still room for character development and good acting. I was particularly impressed with Benedict Cumberbatch who gives an excellent performance as John Harrison, the movie’s main antagonist. His character is ruthless, cunning and charismatic. Long term Star Trek fans will also like the homage to the original TV series and movies. Star Trek Into Darkness tells one of the original stories in a new and exciting way. The movie even re-enacts one of the most memorable scenes but with a new twist to it. All in all Star Trek Into Darkness is as brilliant as its predecessor and definitely worthwhile watching.

I really hope for another Star Trek movie with the new old crew, even if J.J. Abrams is busy with the new Star Wars movies.

Movie of the Week: Iron Man 3

The worlds vainest superhero is back!  returns to the screens as Tony Stark for the final part of the Iron Man movie trilogy.

In Iron Man 3 reality has finally caught up with Tony Stark. He is suffering from post traumatic stress after his near death experience in The Avengers which strains his relationship with Pepper Pots. In a moment of anger he challenges the The Mandarin, a terrorist that threatens the security of the United States of America. The Mandarin retaliates with a devastating attack on Tony’s villa that almost gets Pepper and Tony killed. Tony is left homeless, without his laboratory and with only one unfinished prototype of his Iron Man armour. He decides to go into hiding to prevent further attacks on those close to him, in particular Pepper. In his self-imposed exile Tony needs to overcome his fears and figure out a way to conquer his new arch enemy with very limited resources.

The third Iron Man movie is a bit darker than the first two. Just like the main character the story has lost a bit of the lightheartedness. But in return you get more suspense, a plot with interesting twists and even more action than before. Robert Downey Jr. is again at his best and delivers a very entertaining performance which ensures that things don’t get too serious. The special effects are brilliant as usual but still leave room for the human aspect of the story. The final showdown delivers the stunning final that the trilogy deserved.

If you like action, comedy and special effects in an entertaining format you don’t want to miss Iron Man 3.

Upgrading the hard disk in a PS3

After our old laptop died half a year ago I had an almost new 160GB Solid-State Drive going spare. And as my PlayStation 3’s 80GB hard disk was slowly filling up and more speed can never hurt I decided to swap its hard disk for the SSD. The whole process wasn’t difficult. Information on the necessary steps is available on the Internet but scattered. I’m writing a step by step guide in the hope that somebody else might find it useful.

  1. Required Hardware
    To upgrade the hard disk of a PS3 you need of course a new drive. Any 2.5″ SATA drive should work in theory. I’ve used an Intel Solid-State Drive from the 320 Series. You also need an external USB 2.0 hard disk to backup the data stored on your PS3. I strongly suspect that drives larger than 2TB won’t work but haven’t tested that. The drive needs to have a standard PC partition table with an MBR and a FAT32 file system with enough free space to hold a full backup of the PS3 plus 300MB for the firmware image.
    To perform the actual upgrade you will also need a Phillips screwdriver, a DualShock 3 controller and the USB cable to connect the controller to the console.
  2. Backing up your Trophies
    Even a full backup of a PS3 will not contain the Trophies that you earned by playing games. The only way to keep them is to link all accounts with trophies to a PlayStation Network account and synchronise the trophies before the hard disk upgrade.
  3. Backing up your data
    To create a backup you only need to connect the external hard disk and then select Settings / System Settings / Backup Utility / Back Up. The PS3 should list the external hard disk as a possible target. Simply select it and wait. It might take over an hour to create the back up depending on the amount of data currently stored on your PS3.
  4. Preparing a firmware image
    To complete the upgrade you will need a disk with the firmware for the PS3. You can download the firmware image from here. You will get a file called PS3UPDAT.PUP. The easiest way to install it is to copy it to the back up hard disk that you used in the previous step. The hard disk should already contain a folder PS3. Simply create a sub folder UPDATE in this folder and copy the firmware image into it. It is very important that the directory names and filenames are spelled in uppercase.
  5. Changing the hard disk
    Now you are ready to change to the hard disk. A very good description of this step can be found here.
  6. Installing the firmware
    When you first power on the PS3 with the new hard disk it will complain that it cannot read its hard disk. You now need to connect the DualShock 3 controller and the backup hard disk via USB cables. Afterwards follow the onscreen instructions for installing the firmware image (and not those for rebooting the console).
  7. Restoring the backup
    After formatting the hard disk and installing the firmware your PS3 will be back to factory defaults. It will ask you for network settings, a username and similar information. Don’t spend any time on providing that data because it will be overwritten anyway. Once you can log in simply go to Settings / System Settings / Backup Utility / Restore, select the USB hard disk as the source, pick the latest backup (if there are more than one) and let the PS3 restore the data. This might again take over on an hour.
  8. Restoring your trophies
    Your PS3 should now be fully configured again and know all the previously existing accounts. To get their trophies back simply synchronise their trophy collections with the PlayStation Network. This will restore all the trophy back to your PS3.
  9. Activate Games and Videos
    If you have bought games or videos online from the PSN Store you need to activate them via PlayStation Network / Account Management / System Activation / PS3 System now.

After you have gone through all of the above steps your PS3 should work as before, or possibly even faster if you replace the hard disk with an SSD. Mass Effect now starts in 47 instead of 59 seconds on my PS3. But you will of course only get performance improvements for games that are actually installed on the hard disk.

Taking comfort in the Unfairness of the Universe