Science & Technology! Links #1

Here are a couple of interesting articles and videos about science and technology:

Enjoy!

What happened to “The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello”?

About 10 years ago “The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello”, an Australian animated short movie, was released on YouTube. The story was set into a steampunk work with flying ships and mechanical computers, which not only delighted the fans but critics alike. The movie was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA award, three sequels were promised, but alas they were never released. Today the official website is not working anymore and the short movie itself is only available in 480p on Youtube. Has anyone of you read what happened to the missing sequels? Is there anywhere a HD version of this film?

Please share your comments below.

Some thoughts on the Acer Aspire Switch 10 FHD

A while back I was looking for affordable Windows 8.1 tablets when I stumbled upon the Acer Aspire Switch 10 FHD. While I was pretty happy with my 10″ Android tablet there were numerous occasions when I really wished I had a Windows notebook. But on the other hand I wasn’t really interested in getting a full-blown notebook. But a 10″ Windows tablet with a proper keyboard seemed to be a perfect fit for me.

After doing some research I found out everything I ever wanted to know about the Aspire’s strengths and weaknesses. One of its strengths is definitely its 1920×1200 display which looks extremely sharp and has vibrant colors. Its biggest weakness is the detachable keyboard. While the keyboard itself is ok, the trackpad is definitely not that great. But since you can plugin a mouse or just use the touchscreen, this is luckily not that much of a problem after all.

Usually you pay about €430 for the 64 GB version, but I got one from Amazon Warehouse Deals for about €210. I just had to get it! Since then I have used it almost daily and several times I was impressed how well it ran. Of course you can’t play modern games on it, but some of the older games I got on GoG.com ran fine. The Aspire Switch 10 also runs the latest Microsoft Office without any issues. Full-HD videos are no problem as well. I played videos on Youtube, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. For the latter I used the Windows app, which is actually pretty nice. The tablet also has a micro-HDMI output which allows me to connect it to my TV.

One of the first things I tried when I got this tablet was Steam In-Home-Streaming. To my surprise it worked extremely well. Before I got the Aspire Switch I considered getting a Steamlink to be able to play games in my living room, but the tablet seems to be a viable alternative. So what do I use the tablet for? Basically I use it for everything I used my Android tablet for: Listening to music, browsing the web, watching movies on Youtube and Netflix, reading PDFs, listening to audiobooks, and some gaming. By the way, the quality of the speakers is pretty good for a tablet.

If you are now tempted to get one yourself, I have a few pieces of advice:

  1. Make sure you do some research. Perhaps there’s another device more suited for your needs. For me having a Full-HD display was very important, but you may be happy with a 1280×800 one.
  2. Get the 64 GB version. And even then you should considering getting a MicroSD card to add even more memory. Windows 8.1 takes up a lot of memory, and the Aspire Switch comes with a pre-installed version of Office 365, so there’s not that much space left for your programs and data.
  3. Get a nice case and perhaps a few accessories. Since the keyboard has only one USB slot (and there’s only one micro-USB slot on the tablet) you should consider a USB hub. I also recommend getting a micro-HDMI-to-HDMI cable if you want to connect the tablet to your TV. And an external HDD never hurts. 😉

Overall I didn’t regret buying the Acer Aspire Switch 10 FHD – not even for a second. It’s a pretty cool device for a good price (if you don’t pay full price, like me). If you have any questions, feel free to post them below!

Chronicle

Last week I was browsing Amazon for movies on BluRay when I stumbled upon “Chronicle“. The title didn’t ring a bell, but the cover looked kinda interesting, so I gave it a closer look. It turned out that I actually had seen the trailer a couple of years ago, but then forgot about the movie. Since I liked the premise of the movie, I put it into my shopping cart.

Chronicle is a movie about three teenagers who stumble upon some strange crystal which grants them telekinetic powers. As you can imagine things quickly spiral out of control. One of the three, a reclusive young man with an abusive father and a dying mother, starts to misuse his powers while the others try to keep him under control.

Chronicle is basically a superhero movie, but with a more realistic take on the subject. With power comes great responsibility, that may be true for Spiderman, but in real life power often leads to corruption. What really surprised me that I haven’t really heard or read much about Chronicle in the last years. The story is interesting, the characters are believable, and it’s a welcome change from the standard superhero fare. I guess that it’s probably not superhero-y enough for the comic fans and too weird fo the mainstream crowd, so it didn’t make a big impact. It’s not a great movie, but definitely a good one, and probably worth your time.

Kung Fury!

I am pretty sure that most of you have already watched this awesome short movie. But if you haven’t you should drop what you’re doing right now and WATCH IT NOW!

Kung Fury is a crowdfunded short movie inspired by the over-the-top action movies of the 1980s. It features a hilarious story, 1980s-style special effects, dinosaurs, Hitler, laughable one-liners and extreme violence. It’s the perfect movie to watch after a long work day!

I also highly recommend the music video to the song “True Survivor” performed by David Hasselhoff.

My favorite Skyrim mods

Recently I started playing The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim again. If you’re playing on a PC, half of the fun is modding the game to suit your preferences. This time I decided to keep things pretty close to the original game, but added a couple of mods to make things prettier. Below you’ll find a couple of screenshots made in the game and a list of mods I used. You can find all mods in the Steam Workshop.

The mods I used are:

If you have any questions, please post them in the comment section below!

The end of democracy

This post originally appeared on my old blog stargazer.wordpress.com. It’s about 2 years old but still has some relevancy, I think.

The events of the last years have convinced me that we are living in post-democratic times. For most of my life I believed in democracy, freedom, human rights, and now I feel that all these ideals are slowly thrown down the drain by the people we elected into power.

Democracy comes from the greek words for “rule of the people”. In a democracy the sovereign are actually its citizens. But since it’s unpractical to give everyone a vote in every decision we usually practice a system where we elect people to do the decision making for us. And herein lies a part of the problem. It’s much easier to influence a few hundred policy makers than to influence whole nations. And usually it’s wholly sufficient to influence the people in the government which are even fewer. Nowadays major politicians are more in touch with lobbyists than with the people who elected them in the first place. In several cases laws have actually been written by lobbyist group and not in the ministries by the people who we elected to do the job. Just look at international copyright law and you’ll clearly see what I mean. These laws are made for corporations and not the people.

This is something which has been going on for a while now. It has become more and more obvious to me in the late nineties when the social democrat Gerhard Schröder became chancellor. Up to this day I am member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and I am still a stout believer of the original idea of social democracy, but I have got the impression many years ago that these ideals are usually sacrificed to stay in (or get back into) power or to get personal benefits.

When back in the late nineties the social democrats and the green party came to power in Germany, I had high hopes, but years later I now realize what damage has been caused back then. The reforms called Agenda 2010 might have had a positive effect on the competitiveness of the German economy, but it furthered the gap between the rich and the poor. During the Schröder administration the financial sector had been heavily deregulated and the situation of the unemployed have been worsened. These decision damaged the SPD in the eyes of its voters severely and the party has been struggling in elections ever since.

If you look closer at the policies made in Germany during the last 20 years you’ll notice that while governments changed, the policies made are eerily similar. Sure, there are some fields where the German major parties disagree, but in most important questions their election programs are pretty close if not identical. And in the end they all listen more closely to lobbyists than to the people, so what party you elect every four years doesn’t really make such a big difference.

A watershed moment for the Western world was surely September 11, 2001. The last remaining superpower, the United States of America, which has felt invincible ever since the end of the Cold War, suddenly felt vulnerable again. This was also the moment when politicians and the secret agencies saw their chance to implement all the laws they always wanted to. In the name of the war against terrorism many liberties of the Western World including free speech and due process have been undermined. Surveillance of the public has reached unprecedented levels, “enemy combatants” have been tortured and kept in military prisons. We all  just started to understand what has been lost during these 12 years. The recent unveiling of projects like PRISM or Tempora by Edward Snowden show that secret agencies all of the Western world have been monitoring the internet in an extent never thought possible. Privacy, one of the big achievements of modern Western society, is basically nonexistent. Especially journalists, internet and civil right activists are deeply disturbed by this, while the majority of the population doesn’t seem to realize the scope of these programs.

Politicians do their best to tell the people that everything was done within the law and to protect our security. But I have my doubts that’s the case. And why are governments and government agencies so keen on monitoring the communication of their own citizens or the citizens of allied countries? What are they afraid of? And are we still the sovereign if our communication over phone and internet is constantly monitored and stored for later analysis? I’ve come to the conclusion that Western democracies are democracies by name only. Our governments act as if they are not our elected representatives but as if they are the sovereign, not us. We are treated as mere subjects, which need to be controlled and if necessary detained for as long as it’s deemed necessary without a trial or due process. We are living in a post-democratic world. And in recent years, especially since the recent financial crisis in Europe, I’ve read that people have publicly spoken out against democracy, deeming it too slow to react to such crises. Democracy is not perfect – no system of government is – but in my opinion it’s still the best guarantee for human rights, freedom, and liberty. But we are in the process of squandering all that in order to please our corporate masters and to feel a little bit more secure.

Welcome To Planet Stargazer!

Wow! Another blog! Yay! Hooray!

A couple of days back I noticed that my hosting package included another free domain, so I thought about what I could do with it. The domain name was quickly found: planetstargazer.com! It fits into the theme started with Stargazer’s World and it wasn’t registered yet.

So what can you expect on these pages? Planet Stargazer will be my personal blog which covers everything which is of interest to me – from computer games to politics. If you’re more interested in what I have to say about pen & paper rolesplaying games, check out Stargazer’s World. But if you stay here, enjoy the ride!