Saturday, September 26, 2009

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Sam Raimi director this horror film about a lady loan officer that gets cursed by a gypsy for denying her a mortgage payment extension.

The special effects were really good as was Raimi directorial style. The plot wasn't terribly original. The execution was done very well.

It's out on DVD and Bluray now. I recommend the rental.

Pandorum (2009)

Dead Space, the video game, meets Space Madness, an episode of Ren and Stimpy.

A crew member of a space exploration vessel awakes from extended cryo sleep to an apparently empty ship. Another crew member wakes up, and they find that the ship is in trouble - the reactor is about to blow. Soon after, they find out that the ship isn't as empty as he first thought...

As the protagonist makes his way to the reactor, we find out more about the ship, its mission, destination, and the origin of the monsters. At times, I thought the plot was going into the horror/fantasy realm; but it surprisingly remained hard-scifi (for the most part, anyway.)

It's not a perfect movie or one that I would give an enthusiastic recommendation for; but I did enjoy it a lot. If you love sci-fi movies, I think you'll be quite pleased with it.

Surrogate (2009)

A detective comes across a case where someone destroyed robot surrogates and killed their operators in the process. He ends up uncovering a larger mystery.

It's a scifi action film about a detective solving a murder mystery. It reminded me of I Robot a little. I liked it.

It's not a great movie, but it is pretty good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How I fixed my DLP TV

A year after the warranty expired, lots of little dots started appearing in my Samsung DLP TV. I did some research and found it would be around $500 to have it repaired. I also found I could repair myself for around $150. That seemed worth risk. Here is how I did it. Click the pictures to and toolsI started with the following supplies left to right in the photo above:
  1. Latex gloves  -  So as not to get finger oil on any of the sensitive parts – lens or dlp chip.  Also, they provide some insulation against electric shock.
  2. High quality heat sink paste – the (probable) reason the dots appeared in the first place was that the heat sink wasn’t properly melded to the chip, and it got too hot.
  3. Needle Nose pliers
  4. Replacement DLP Chip from  My TV is the HLT5675S, and this is the part that fit my model.
  5. Screw Driver
  6. Disassembly instructions from the “Disassembly Reassembly.pdf” document found here.

back of tv exposedI started by removing the back panel.  The whole thing comes off including the lamp cover area.  tray almost outThis metal tray holds the “light engine”.  To the left is the power supply.  I had to remove a screw from it to move it up and out of the way to let the tray slide out.  Now is a good time to put the gloves on.tray out shroud offThe tray is out and I’ve removed the shroud that encloses the lens.  The bulb is on the right behind that fan.  Just to the left of the bulb assembly is the color wheel housing.  The DLP chip is behind that heat sink.  Be careful not to touch the lens.heat sink tape WTHUse the needle nose pliers to lift one end of the metal band holding the sink.  The band should come off easily.  The heat sink will probably take a bit of a twist and pull to come off.   Look what samsung put on the heat sink – tape!  That’s the worst. 

When I put the heat sink back on, I scraped all the tape off first.  I cleansed it with rubbing alcohol to get all the gunk off.  Then I applied some thermal compound to it. shield offThe heat sink is off, and there are just a few screws to remove the metal shroud.  There are four screws around where the heat sink is – those have to come out to get the circuit board out.  Do not ever turn the yellow/green screws in the picture below (in the above picture they have white half circles around them.)  Those are alignment screws, and it is very hard to re-align the TV once it’s screwed up.board separatedThis is the circuit board taken off and leaning forward.  You can see where the light is projected through that hole onto the chip.specksClick the picture to enlarge so that you can see the dead pixels clearly.  When the chip is at rest, the normal pixels are in the black position.  The dead ones are permanently stuck in the white position.socketIt just takes a little prying to get the chip out.  I didn’t worry too much about bending the pens because the chip is kaput anyway.

There’s only one way for the new chip to go into the socket.  Re-assembly pretty much goes the same way but in reverse.

I didn’t go into great detail because the pdf I linked to above does that pretty well.  The components in my TV were only a little different than the pictures in the manual – so I made this post for other people with TVs like mine.

Special thanks to the people that contributed to avsforum in this thread.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Katka giggling at 4 months

My youngest daughter is a much happier baby than my oldest. She rarely cries, and when she does, she "ramps up" so you have time to fix it before it turns to a holler.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

I wasn't going to watch this based on the title. Out of curiosity, I checked out the imdb profile, and saw that it was likened to Sean of the Dead. I liked Sean a lot; so I checked out LVK.

Although it wasn't as good as Sean, it was a fun goofy movie. I was surprised by the quality of the FX and acting. It wasn't the B movie I was expecting.

I'm not sure I would say it was the same kind of movie as Sean of the Dead. I guess they are both British horror-comedies. But LVK was a lot less horror and a lot more comedy.

There's more than a few funny jokes. It's definitely worth a rent.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Moon Over Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon, AZ

I took this on the way back home from vegas. I traveled along a road that stretched across northern Arizona, southern Utah, and northern New Mexico. There were incredible views the whole way.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fry Thief

But you have plenty of delicious vegetables

Taken today at the Au Park shopping mall in Bratislava.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wolverine (2009)

This movie received a lot of negative reviews.  They are not unjustified.  Unless you really like comic book character or super hero movies, I'd say give this one a pass.

Here is what is wrong with it.  The special FX are not super.  There are points where the graphics look painted on.  In one scene, wolverine is examining his claws by moving them around in front of his face, and the CG claws don't track with his hand.  Things like this can take you completely out of the movie as you think about how bad it looks.  

The plot is not super either.  It's full of holes and a bit dull.

The acting was good, though.   And the movie was full of action.  If you're going to see it, see it on a big screen for the thrill ride.

Star Trek (2009)

This is arguably the 2nd best Star Trek movie (2nd to Wrath of Khan.)  I think it's one of the best scifi movies ever.  Whether you're a Star Trek fan or not, I think you'll enjoy it.

If you are a Star Trek fan, there is plenty to like.  In particular, Dr McCoy was great.  There are other great injokes and plot points that are put there just for you.

Due to a time travel paradox, this is a different Star Trek than the original series.   The characters are very similar; but not the same.  And the universe has been irrevocably changed in ways that will give future movies new plot points to follow. 

I'm looking forward to future movies with this same crew.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

close up at the flamingo

This is from Vegas too.  We were hanging out at the atrium in the Flamingo.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Flamingo in Vegas

chillin in the gazebo

The Flamingo has a garden in the middle of the complex with fish ponds and pink flamingos. We spent an afternoon there exploring.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I built a Home Theater PC last weekend

I bought an Antec Fusion 430 mini atx enclosure, 2 x 2GB RAM sticks, a motherboard with integrated Nvidia 9400 video processor, and an intel Celeron CPU. I had a spare hard drive, DVD drive, and power supply to put inside. I was worried about the noise, but it's actually quite quiet. I think this is mostly because of the way the antec case is designed.

I went with intel because the best mini atx motherboard I could find was nvidia 8600. It was just a few dollars more to go with intel. I wanted an Nvidia based video card because of Nvidia's excellent drivers and video acceleration.

I put Vista and XMBC on it, and I was very disappointed with the video performance. I had read that nvidia drivers will offload video rendering from the CPU. My CPU was spiked while playing anything encoded with x264. I dug around and learned that you must purchase a video player to take advantage of acceleration on windows. XBMC was not going to work.

This left me with two apparent choices - buy the nvidia software and use it's unsuitable-for-tv interface or return my intel celeron ($40) and exchange it for a dual core ($120).

I was chatting with an XBMC project manager about this, and he informed me that nvidia had just released drivers for linux that would accerelate video rendering the way I want, and that XMBC Linux has a branch that takes advantage of it. This is a bit more trouble than the windows route; but it's free and it's exactly what I want - hardware accelerated XBMC.

So, I made an Ubuntu 8.10 CD, and installed it onto my HTPC in a dual boot configuration. Next I downloaded and installed Nvidia latest linux drivers. This was probably the easiest part. You download a bin file and run it. It unpacks itself and sets up the drivers for you. I was a little worried about installing something that wasn't in a repository; but from what I've read, you can get around any problems Ubuntu upgrade's cause by re running the Nvidia installation file.

Ubuntu's desktop has fancy features that you can enable once the driver is installed and working properly. I found a package called Emerald that makes windows transparent like on Vista.

Next I had to check out the source code for a special branch of the xbmc project and build it. I think the hardest part about this was getting all the dependencies installed. There's a list of them on the XBMC site, put they don't match the versions/names in the ubuntu repository exactly. Actually building XBMC took a while because of my slow celeron. Installing was a breeze. And it worked perfectly once it was done.

Audio worked fine, except getting audio out of HDMI. I found a helpful guide that stepped me through the process of enabling this feature. Basically, it went through disabling pulse audio, installing the latest alsa drivers, and enabling ESound. Then I could set the output using alsa mixer.

I launched XBMC and loaded a 1080p x264 video. It played beautifully. Running "top" told me the CPU usuage was at 7% which is exactly right if the video card is doing all the work.

The negatives are that whenever Ubuntu decides to upgrade the linux kernel, ( not very often ) I'll have a bit of work to do afterword: re-install nvidia drivers, re-build xbmc. Also, the antec remote doesn't work with linux (UPDATE: I got it to work; but what a PIA. Post about it forthcoming.)

Here are some links if you're interested in doing the same thing:
Parts List
HDMI audio and Ubuntu
Nvidia drivers for linux
XBMC instructions <- follow the build from source install and use the vdpau branch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Glyphs at Valley Of Fire State Park

taking closeups of the glyphs

I ran into another photographer in the valley and had lunch with her and her husband. He was an IT Director or something from california, and they were on a month long holiday. It looked like they were on a camping trip.

I ran into 3 other photographers on a Tuesday morning. Must be a popular place for picture takers.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Valley of Fire

The same morning I went off-roading at Nellis Dunes, I drove out the this state park. The rocks are a stunning hue of red-orange. And many of them have native american petroglyphs (which are carved as opposed to painted like a pictograph).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Midnight Meat Train

It's a very gory horror film with more than a few recognizable actors.  I rented it because it's based on a short story by Clive Barker.  I know anything that guy writes is going to be a trip.

And it is a trip.   I don't have much to complain about.  The movie was horror through and through with an interesting twist in the end.  It also left me thinking about it when it was over (if you watch it, look for the name of the last train station.)

They did some wild things with the cinematography.  Stuff I haven't seen in a movie before.  I came away with some very disturbing images - and not just because of the graphics, but because of the horror of the circumstance.  It's not "torture porn"; it's way better than that.

It's not the greatest movie ever made; but it's definitely worth the rent even just too see the special fx.

(note: the unrated version has a cartoonish amount of blood. Japanese director, go figure.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wheelin @ Nellis Dunes

Offroad at Nellis Dunes

During the week in Vegas, I went out one morning to drive on the hills at the Nellis Dunes recreation area. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rambo (2008)

I was sceptical going in.  The fourth movie in a series is seldom good.  But I have to say, it didn't disappoint.  If you liked the other Rambo movies, you'll like this one too.  Probably a lot.

Also, it's the goriest war movie I've ever seen.  Gorier than Saving Private Ryan.  But it's done in a way that looks excessive instead of realistic.  Which is to say, it's quite spectacular.  It looks real.  If you're squeamish, you may want to give this one a pass.  You'll be hiding your eyes through half of it.

It's a great final chapter to the John Rambo story.

Dagmar and Misha on Fremont St

We "experienced" Fremont Street in Las Vegas.  My mother-in-law, Dagmar, is happy to hold Misha anytime.

The flash fill is from the on-camera flash, and I have the exposure set to manual to make sure the ambient light from the background comes through.  The lens I have mounted is very slow.  I couldn't get the focus I wanted, so I applied some tricks in my favorite photo editor.  The foreground is isolated, and a blur gradient is applied to the background to simulate a fast lens.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lions at Play

Lions At Play

While in vegas we stopped at the MGM Grande to view the lions. It's a pretty cool exhibit. It has a glass tunnel that you can walk through to get a full view of the lions. The standing lion is trying to entice the other into playing.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo, TX

Cadillac Ranch

I'm always keeping an eye out for interesting textures.  The paint on these half burried cars definitely counts.  The flash is being held by my brother-in-law and triggered remotely.  I would have like to spent more time here; but it was impossibly cold.  You can't tell because the crazy kids aren't wearing jackets.