Archive for May 25th, 2009

Battery expectations

Some people are whining online that their smartphone doesn’t last for more than 1-2 days without recharging, while their 5 year old phone could last over 5-6 days before need any recharging. This is a fallacy. The new phones have better battery life than the older ones.

Consider this: Phones like a Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Symbian, etc. come with many media and internet-heavy applications. It’s now customary to check for email, to check Twitter, to check the internet-updated Weather app, to check stocks, sync between the phone and various online accounts many times a day, to check some RSS or web pages, to use Y! or Google maps. And on the side, play some music, quickly visit youtube, and maybe even watch a small TV episode while waiting on the bus.

All these things are features that you couldn’t do 5 years ago. At least not in a way that would be pleasurable. 5 years ago, you would check your voicemail, your SMS messages, and just do voice. And that was about it. No wonder you could do over 5 days in battery life.

What changed is HOW we use these phones. We now use these phones as mini-laptops. And yet, we expect them to have the same battery life as they had when they were dumb bricks. I am sorry to say that battery technology doesn’t move as fast as software tech does!

And then there’s the other thing. On platforms that allow background apps, the third party application designers only care about their little app and not the whole device. As long as they can invoke a network ping or connection when you are not looking to sync something, they are happy. Very seldom these app developers think what would happen if there are 5 (or 10) background apps installed and doing their own thing whenever they damn want. The user will see a big drop in battery life, and will place the fault at the phone manufacturer instead.

In conclusion, be objective when you are damning a manufacturer of bad battery life. Maybe there’s something you can do to better the experience (short of inventing a new kind of battery altogether).

Regarding the new Star Trek

So we finally watched the new Star Trek movie (on a digital screen). It was extremely entertaining, the CGI were perfect, the subtle references to all things Trek were very nice. The new Spock was fantastic too. The new Star Trek movie was not about the normal social commentary stuff found on many Star Trek episodes, but for a franchise reboot, it needed the action and visual awesomeness to attract the young generation. I am willing to give Abrams the benefit of the doubt this one time.

Where I do find myself in disagreement with JJ Abrams’ vision is in the alternative timeline route he took. To make a franchise or show believable, it should not have prop errors, it has to be consistent, and it has to be true to its timeline. Without these, you lose in believability (like “Lost” lost points this season too). Sure, there have been many alternative timeline and mirror universe episodes over the years on the various Star Trek incarnations, but well, I never liked any of them. Especially when it comes to such an important movie that’s supposed to re-launch Star Trek.

Let me be clear: altering the timeline to have Spock and Uhura together, Kirk & Spock’s father and mother respectively dying, and Pike becoming an admiral is one thing. But destroying a whole planet, Vulcan no less, is a whole another thing. Vulcan is a constant in the Star Trek universe, it’s inspirational. Removing it from the new Star Trek is like removing Yoda from Star Wars. It doesn’t work. At least not for us older Trekkies, who have spent 30+ years in that universe. The destruction of Romulus was equally unneeded.

I don’t believe at all that JJ Abrams needed this alternative timeline thing to tell his story. He could have fit a similarly impressive story within the realm of the existing timeline. Undoing 45 years of Star Trek history was just disrespectful of the franchise and the fans.

Pay attention: I wouldn’t mind at all if he had rebooted the Star Trek franchise completely. Meaning, rebooting it in the same way Moore did for Battlestar Galactica, which he “re-imagined” it. This way, we the fans, would know that the director is going clean slate and he re-starts the franchise from the beginning. Re-designing and re-architecting the whole Trek universe! And that would be fine. That would be honest. But not doing exactly that, is like toying with everybody feelings and expectations. Believe it or not Mr Abrams, we, the older Trekkies, are not dead yet.

To me, it felt like someone taking my left-over pizza, removing my toppings, adding new ones, and re-heating it, instead of simply either re-heating it as is, or redoing the pizza from scratch (including a new dough). Therefore, I felt that this movie was a cheat.

The sad part is that Paramount will continue having my money for the upcoming Star Trek movies, because as I said above, that was some good sci-fi. And it was a good Star Trek in its absolute value. But it wasn’t the Star Trek I wanted. Star Trek is much more than a 2-hour movie. It’s a universe with a grand history. You either delete the history and re-write it from scratch (if you have the chops), or you play within it. But you don’t mess with it like a child messes up his vegetables during dinner. You don’t do dat.

Two more blog posts by others, saying the same thing as I do here.