Aug 9 2016

Killing Kabane

Adel Gabot

poster_kabaneri-01

5:47AM

I don’t get to watch as much anime as I should, and the ones I do watch I rapidly fall out of love with.

Among the few that I tried to catch was something called Berserk, but I quit watching it after this week’s episode, when the meandering, confusing storyline and ultraviolence became too much for me. The excessive violence of Japanese animation and its apparent popularity often puzzles me and constantly stretches my limits, and sometimes I can’t really take it, to be honest. Either it’s that, or the anime is excessively childish and silly. I often think it’s usually one or the other, with little in-between to speak of.

There is even a sub-genre in anime called tentacle porn, one of the worst examples of which is something called Urotsokidoji, a wild, confused, violent sex-oriented space opera whose DVD I bought out of curiosity years ago and was immediately appalled by. On the other end of the spectrum is the innocent and silly Squid Girl they show on cable. Rare are the more serious adult fare like Akira, or the Studio Ghibli films, which I love. Other examples of this are one-shot movies like the fantastic Tekkon Kinkreet or Paprika.

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But I recently came across something called Kabaneri of The Iron Fortress, a 12-episode limited series that I’m growing to admire and love as I watch it. I’m currently on the seventh episode and I’m hooked. It’s an interesting story, great animation, and just the right and proper amount of violence (if there’s such a thing) with none of the occasional and jarring anime silliness you find in these things.

Kabaneri of The Iron Fortress is sort of like combining Night of The Living Dead and Snowpiercer, in a steampunk alternate universe setting. In this anime, the world has been overtaken by ravenous zombies, or Kabane, and humans have been reduced to surviving in small, protected communities interconnected by train lines which transport people and resources between them. These communities—basically glorified “train stations”—are besieged by Kabane and are fighting a losing battle, but still retain a semblance of order and government.

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The two main “Kabaneri,” or mutant combos of human and Kabane (and as such have superhuman powers tempered by their need to occasionally drink blood in order to survive) are a mysterious young girl named Mumei and a steam smith-cum-inventor named Ikoma. These two have been bit and infected by Kabane, but somehow survived without completely turning into zombies, becoming the titular Kabaneri.

Together with the survivors of a station that was savagely attacked, they travel the countryside in one of the trains, fending off Kabane and trying to stay alive until they get to a safe haven led by the Shogun. Or something like that. Look, it’s really more complicated than that, as these anime often are, but I won’t go into specifics anymore. Suffice it to say that it’s an exciting ride.

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I like Kabaneri of The Iron Fortress because it’s a serious take on the zombie apocalypse, and it’s told in an interesting and adult manner. Also, it’s a limited series, which means it forgoes the regular meandering long-form anime is known for, since it has to have a beginning, middle and end with its 12 episodes. I also like the fact that the makers don’t arbitrarily dismiss its Western viewers, and thoughtfully include stylishly laid-out English translations for the opening credits.

I researched it online after watching a couple of shows and found that it’s been highly praised by critics, and named as one of the top must-see animes of 2016.

Seriously, you should watch it, if you have the time.

 

 


Jul 29 2016

I caved, Postscript

Adel Gabot

osx10116-update-download

6:42AM

I tried. I really tried.

But the macOS Sierra beta is still really screwed up.

Most of it’s pretty fine, although it’s more of the same old same old. A bit snappier in some areas, streamlined in others, and on the whole, great job, maintaining the boat.

But no matter what I did, its version of the App Store refused to update the Sierra beta to Version 2, which should be a better deal than Version 1.

I’ve been trying to download the newer version of the beta for two days now. Often, it won’t even register that I started the download—Version 2 and the Sierra Recovery Disk update, around a 1.2GB DL. The few times it did, the download mostly went through, but borked with just a few minutes to go before finishing, whereupon it would restart, and then ultimately hang. Many times over.

I even re-installed Sierra a couple of times, from scratch, on the off-chance it was just a one-off screwup. But no, it still refused to download, no matter what I did. On the remote chance that my original Sierra installer was the one that was screwed up, I re-downloaded it on El Capitan and installed that new one, and still it borked.

And there’s no other way to get the update outside of the Apple App Store, so I guess that’s that.

In addition, Menumeters, a tool I deem essential to my computing experience, also refused to install into Systems Preferences. And a couple of others, notably SizzlingKeys, a utility I use for my alternate mechanical IBM keyboard which I dearly love, also refused to load. Not to mention the many other (still) non-functional components of the new OS.

Dammit. But boy, am I glad I didn’t take the plunge and just install it over my current working system as I normally do! Aside from Siri on the desktop, there isn’t really that much new. Everything’s largely the same.

So I decided to fall back on my original plan: just wait for the official release this fall.

I dutifully reported the problems through the Feedback system Apple provided with the beta, then went back to El Capitan early this morning, used Disk Utility to erase the partition and take back the 100GB space I set aside on my hard drive, and restored my system to its old self.

No harm, right? At least I can say I tried.

 


Jul 28 2016

I caved

Adel Gabot

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7:32AM

Huh. I finally gave in. I caved.

I installed the macOS Sierra beta on my iMac.

I’ve been wanting to do that for weeks. I’ve been intrigued by all the hype about the changes they were going to implement, and most of all I wanted to try out Siri on the desktop. Siri on the desktop, man!

I didn’t go all in, like I normally do though.

Normally, I have implicit trust that Apple will do everything in their power to make things relatively trouble-free for their users that I just jump in and install their OS betas on my working, mission-critical system when they become available. But not this time. I’ve long been a staunch and loyal beta-tester for Apple, but this time I didn’t know.

When the year started I became very stingy and penny-pinching on my disk space, and have deleted and uninstalled every single piece of software I wasn’t really using. As such, I’ve trimmed down the load on my 1TB main drive from 700+ GB down to 350GB—almost half the old storage! I’ve also redistributed my data on three big external drives, to further slim down the main hard disk. (I can still relocate my iTunes and Photos libraries, but I’m not that far gone.)

Been living with this svelte drive since the beginning of the year, basking in the knowledge that I have so much extra space to play with if I wanted to. Thing was, I never really played with anything anymore. I’ve finally gotten to that stage where I don’t like to try anything new, and everything’s fine just the way it is.

I’ve whittled down my main drive to its bare essentials, without any real reason to. I got everything humming to such a strict, streamlined efficiency that I dared not tamper any more with it.

Which was why I was antsy to install a still-unproven OS beta on top of it. I guess I’ve gotten cautious and wary in my old age. Or maybe I simply just quit being foolhardy. I just couldn’t bring myself to install the macOS Sierra beta on my nice, working system.

So yesterday, I decided to partition a 100GB portion of the drive off, and install a bare-bones Sierra setup there. (Which, in hindsight, was something I should have done with my other older beta installs anyway.)

At first, I was thinking of doing a bare install of El Capitan 10.11.6, and then restoring my MacBook Pro‘s Time Machine backup to that, then upgrade to Sierra, so I could have a working installation complete with everything I needed to comfortably work. But then again I thought, what the hell. Install Sierra fresh from the ground up, then install the most basic software I needed to get by. Get rid of that retro baggage I’ve been carrying for years for once in my life.

So that’s what I did. Took me most of the late afternoon and evening, but I finally did it, and installed all the other software I couldn’t live without: Pages, WordPress, Twitter, Dropbox, Menumeters and all those other third-party apps I couldn’t imagine not having. I setup extra Spaces for the apps and got everything working the way I liked it. Came up to around 20GB for the full install plus the other software. Hey, I still had an 80GB buffer!

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Siri worked as well as could be expected (which wasn’t saying much). I got to shove up some of my essential data to iCloud, got a few nice improvements and additions to the notification window, some nice add-ons to Messages and had a few new usability tweaks, but in the end, it was largely the same as before.

I really shouldn’t have bothered.

I ran into some glitches right off, too:

  • some of the apps would jump their assigned Spaces and move around willy-nilly;
  • some of my external USB drives refused to get recognized unless I disconnect and reconnect them first;
  • my Apple ID refused to be recognized by the system until I’d rebooted a couple of times;
  • but most tellingly, the App Store refused to download the newer, second Sierra update and other related software, as if it was telling me not to bother and just wait for the official release.

I’m seriously thinking about it.

 

 

 

 


Jul 24 2016

Gimbal blues

Adel Gabot

gimbal phone closeup.jpg

10:47AM

In my line of work, I get to review a fair amount of gadgets.

One of my current jobs is as Tech Columnist for Explore Philippines, a modest travel magazine based in Sampaloc, and I review travel gear for them every few weeks or so.

Last Thursday they sent a handheld gimbal to the house for me to review.

A gimbal is sort of a mounting device, usually for cameras, which balances and stabilizes them for video shoots, so that the footage doesn’t turn out too squirrely and amateurish.

The magazine sent me the LanParte HHG-01 Handheld Gimbal for the GoPro action camera and smartphone, and of all the devices I’ve ever reviewed, I’ve taken a particular and peculiar liking to this one.

I don’t know why, but I love it.

It’s got three motors built into the thing, and it steadies and levels a camera in the same way I imagine a Steadicam would operate. They assume (correctly) that I have a smartphone to test it with, but they sent me a GoPro camera as well so I could try it with that.

I had a wonderful time testing the gimbal. I zoomed, jogged and walked in the yard shooting with the camera on the gimbal, walked around the house, and climbed up and down the stairs and generally made a loon of myself testing it out. And it was fun!

I imagined myself to be a director in Hollywood filming long tracking shots for a new blockbuster. The grip kept the camera level no matter what I did (well, within reason). I was amazed and fascinated by the technology, and kept shooting video until the batteries ran out.

I wrote my 1,200-word Control Panel review last night, and this morning I packed the gimbal and the GoPro for shipping back to the Explore office.

I wish I didn’t have to give it back. That happens sometimes, and I get to keep the gadget for myself. It’s happened with Technoodling, but not yet with Explore. Maybe because it’s a bit expensive at P16,000?

But here’s to hoping. No harm in that.


Jul 19 2016

A stranger show…

Adel Gabot

Stranger-Things-TV-show-on-Netflix-season-1-canceled-or-renewed-1-e1467336696904

5:24PM

I binge-watched Netflix’s new series Stranger Things yesterday (well, sorta; I watched six-and-a-half episodes yesterday, and finished off the rest of the eight-episode show when I got home this afternoon).

You normally can’t get me to sit down that long to binge-watch anything (check out how I’m doing with Game of Thrones—after two weeks, I’m still just on episode 3 of the first season), so this show must have something going for it. And it does. It takes the 80s cultural ethos of sci-fi/horror movies, TV and books and put them into a retro limited miniseries. If that ain’t charming, I don’t know what is.

You even get Spielberg’s E.T. cliche of kids on bikes being chased by bad guys. You have lovable children as heroes (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarrazo and Caleb McLaughlin), a mysterious girl with superpowers (Millie Bobby Brown), a missing member of the gang (Noah Schnapp), a desperate, worried mother (Winona Ryder), a helpful, gruff lawman (David Harbour), and a couple of wiser, older teenagers (Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton) to round out the cast. Plus a monster, albeit one that is attracted by blood and eats the kids and lives in an “upside-down” dimension. All set in the quaint and ancient 1980s, in the age Before Cellphones (BC).

Still and all, Stranger Things, directed by The Duffer Brothers, may have been intriguing and interesting while you’re in the thick of it, but in hindsight, it’s all old hat. It’s as if you took the good parts of all the movies and books of that era and crammed it all in one show. I mean really crammed them in. Along with all the cliches, too.

The less said about it, the better.

On to the next, Netflix!