Saturday, August 2, 2014

Just got back from watching GoG in 3D and here's my thoughts (the title kind of gives it away :D )

I will admit, prior to this week I had no interest at all in seeing GoG. I have no history (even passing) with the source material, so no desire there. After seeing the trailer and teaser stuff when they were released... I was torn on what the film was trying to be. The sequences shown didn't really leave me with any desire at all to find out more. The lead-in marketing was a complete DUD for me.

But this week after some people had seen it, spoke well of it, and even made comparisons to Avengers.. even saying topping Avengers. That peaked my interest. I think Avengers is an illustration of the peak of the modern super hero film. From the moving soundtrack, the scale, the pace, the visuals, the dabs of humor, the balance of comic suspension of belief... The Avengers does it all.. and does it well. That hero theme from the battle of NYC is just quintessential super hero stuff. It's the kind of blend of sound and staging that whenever you hear it.. it tickles you and you feel a bit superhero yourself. Like the Superman theme from the 80s films.. or those other inspiring John Williams soundtracks. It just inspires a feeling and click in your brain. So.. you think GoG has that? I'm interested.

First... do not let the fact you have zero idea what the premise of the film is, or who these characters or, etc distract you at all. You need ZERO background of anything Marvel to enjoy this film. In fact, you need more 80s pop knowledge than anything Marvel to get all the gags.

The movie does a great job of introducing you to the characters without boring you with flashbacks or spending time focusing on trying to beat into you 'hey, this is why this guy is here'. They do a respectable job of qualifying each character and their behaviors 'on the fly' without derailing the main track the film is heading down.

Some of the gags are a bit 'old game'.. like Groot's speech (Hodor!) but its not to the point of annoying.

Music
People had made comments about the soundtrack.. and how the music is almost a 6th character in the film. Bleh to that. Without giving away the film... the music played is often Pop tracks of significance to the main character. I love the story tie in here... but really didn't find the pop tracks all that stirring or core to the staging of the action. The lone exception to that is in the climatic battle when they face the bad guy.. and the track inclusion really plays to the comedy of the scene. That and in the credits the Jackson 5 song works out well. But the rest of the film? Meh... want a contemporary track to add punch to the film? Think at the end of the Matrix when Rage starts up.. that's powerful.

Outside the pop tracks... the film has a score that is very reminiscent of Avengers at times.. and it plays well. I think it sounds great.. I just think the 'music as a 6th character' kind of lines are way over blown.

Visuals
The visuals in the film are amazing. It's fun because some of the scenes feel like the classic huge matte paintings of classic sci-fi... yet others have the impossible realism that you only get with modern CGI. The film blends the effects, CGI, and settings perfectly. The only thing I found a bit distracting was Quinn's mask.. but it's minor thing. Overall I think the effects do exactly as they should.. advance the wow factor, make it all look real, all while not trying to be the lead character itself.

There are a few seconds of 'extra 3D to be 3D' but not too much and not overwhelming. The film looked great and I would probably feel a bit robbed without the 3D.

It doesn't matter what form you put Zoe Saldana in.. she looks amazing. It's not over the top like Black Widow in the Avengers.. but its near impossible to hide her sexy.

Characters
The characters (and famous names) in the film are vast and varied. I found most of them interesting and fun and while I'm no Academy critic... I found most of the acting transparent and did what I want it to do.. which is fade into believable. The only part where it gets a bit corny is in the "I have a plan" scene where the 5 characters discuss their plan (or lack of) of attack. Quinn's acting in there made me turn my nose a bit.

Plot/Pacing
Now where this movie excels IMO is the pace and action. It keeps you engaged and you feel like you are along for a hell of a ride. It slows a bit prior and after the climax.. but after the ride you've been on you almost need a breather! But it's not overload.. it's just nearly two hours of "I don't want to look away and miss something!". This is where I think some of the Avengers comparisons come in too.. the movie is PACKED with action sequences.. and unlike Captain America 2 which resorts to the 'lets move the camera around so much so you can't keep track of anything during fight shots' this film's action sequences are so much more enjoyable to watch.

I don't want to say much about the story except I bought in. It felt good, it didn't make me cringe, and it had sufficient twists that I didn't bore of anything. It does have some tear jerker moments. My 11yr old put it as... "it made you happy, sad, cry, and excited all at the same time!"

So what kind of film is this?
Going in, being Marvel and knowing it's comic universe based I was expecting another super hero film like a Thor, Iron Man, etc. But walking out of the theater it really didn't feel like one. It actually felt more like a Science Fiction action film more than anything related to comic books. It feels closer to a Star Wars or Last Starfighter than it does an Iron Man or Superman film.

Not that the movie plays out like Star Wars in any sense.. but in terms of what kind of audience appeal.. I said "its like a supercharged star wars". Way more action, a lot more sci-fi, but not nerdy sci-fi, so it would still have broad appeal. The movie has violence, but it's mostly bloodless violence and while there is some anger/spiteful kind of actions at time, I don't think its anywhere near as bad as Captain America 2 and falls more in line with what you get from an X-Men or Iron Man film. I didn't have any problem at all with what my 11yr old saw. Some of the jokes are a tad pg-13, but nothing more than you might see on network TV these days. I hope people give this film a chance and don't pigeon hole it as a 'super hero film' and then not want to see it. It's not a Rambo.. it's not X-Men.. It's not Star Trek. Maybe the JJ Abrams Star Trek might be the closest parallel give the pace and action Star Trek packed.

Overal Grade?
I think this is a MUST SEE for anyone who enjoys any sort of action film and isn't only interested in dramas or romance films. It's memorable.. its fun.. its amazing to watch.. and it's just the kind of film that makes you ENJOY going to the movies. You don't second guess what you just paid to see it, you don't say "well I'll wait for the DVD...", it makes you think "when am I going to come and see this again?". It's good... no, it's great.

I'd give it 4.75 out of 5 stars. I hope people give it a chance.. it's a great fun movie.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Windows Backup Error 0x80070422

Trying to setup Windows Backup on a brand new install of Windows 7 Professional, I would encounter the error shown below:  "The specified network location cannot be used"  and details shows "This service cannot be started, either because it is disabled or because it has no enabled device associated with it. (0x80070422)


All the searches on the web kept pointing to authentication issues, or making sure all your Windows Services were running.  I was using a known good set of credentials on the remote machine.  I tried everything I could find, with no luck... until I stumbled upon the 'so obvious you missed it' answer.

All the weblinks talk about checking RPC service, Shadow copy stuff, etc... but they all failed to mention the most direct culprit - 'Windows Backup' which should be set to manual for proper operation.

You can get the error above if the Windows Backup windows service can not start.  In my case it was set to disabled.  Why is it set to disabled?  I think in my case the Samsung Magician SSD software disabled it as part of it's optimization for SSD disks.

So if you hit the wall - check the obvious first..  Windows Backup service

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Disney Customer Service? A case study in how Disney is losing its way

Disney is a company that built its reputation on quality and customer focus.  For years, Disney has been able to charge a premium for its products based on customer expectations of getting a premium product and premium service.  But of late, long time followers of Disney have been upset over what they have perceived as the declining quality of products offered, the declining service by the company, all while Disney continues to raise prices for what they offer.  In many aspects the company is leaning on their legacy, selling on image, while failing to live up to the standards that built the company.  For an example of this… follow along with my recent experience with the online Disney Store.

Background

The adventure starts with my Chase Disney Visa.  I had rewards dollars which I had transferred to a rewards card, but had forgotten to cash in during our last cruise.  Reward cards?  They are effectively rechargable gift cards you use to redeem your Chase Disney cash back rewards.  The catch is, the cards have an expiration date, and once rewards points are transferred to a card, they must be used before the card expires, or the points are lost.  My card was to expire at the end of Dec 2013.

I only had a little bit on the card.. $57 and change.  But who wants to throw away $50??  You can only use the cards at limited Disney locations – but one of those is the Disney Store, both retail and online.  A common method to avoid having your rewards dollars expiring, is to buy a Disney gift card with your rewards card because while the reward cards expire… Disney gift cards do not.

A purchase!  Store or online?

So, I’d buy a Disney Gift card from the Disney Store.  I have a retail location about 45min drive away, but I can also buy Gift Cards from the online store… so that’s easy.  I log onto the Disney Store website, and see Gift Cards even have free shipping!  Even better!  It’s Dec 30th, but that gives them two days to process the rewards card before I have a problem.  The gift cards are only available in $25 increments, and I have $57.xx on my card.  So I shop for something cheap on the site, and find they have a Cars die cast car on sale for $3.99.  Ok, not something I need, but it’s passable, and with shipping it will eat up my balance with just a slight overage. 

The site has two kinds of Gift Cards, Gift cards and Personalized Gift Cards.  I just want a basic card, so I pick from their normal list of cards, and add the die cast car.  When paying with a rewards card, the site requires you to supply a normal credit card for overages or if the reward card does not go through.  Fine.. so I complete my order on the website.  I get an order confirmation in email about 30 seconds later. 

Note the time stamp… 10am PST on Dec 30th.  But there is an interesting footnote in the email..

Did you use a Gift Card?Only if the total of your purchase exceeded the amount on your Gift Card, will the balance be charged to your credit card. The new balance of your Gift Card may not be reflected immediately. Like a credit card, your Gift Card is not charged until your order has shipped.
Hrm, card is not charged until the order ships!  This is not anywhere in the order process on the website, but isn’t too uncommon.  But now it’s critical my order ships tomorrow.. else my reward card will be expired, they will charge my credit card for things I don’t really want.. and instead of being out $57 dollars, I’d be out $57+$59 = $116 dollars by having to put money out now ($50 I’d get back at some point in the future when the GC was used…).  Ok, but they have two days to process and ship my gift card… which is nothing but an electronic activation anyways.  So they should be able to pull that off.. Disney Store is not some mom and pop website.

First Contact

So the next morning I check my mail, worried now they won’t process my order in time and I’ll be screwed.  No mail… so I look up the contact number on the website to call and check on the status of my order.  I call them at 10:26 am eastern time on Dec 31 – the morning after my initial order. 

I speak to a nice sounding lady and explain my concern, worried about my rewards card not being charged before it expires.  The lady responds quickly that she has looked into this already as several people have called with similar concerns and assures me they will still charge the card even though it’s past the expiration and things will be fine.  Now, I get they will still charge the card ignoring the expiration date, but it’s not the Disney Store that decides if my card is still valid or not, that’s Chase.  So the fact Disney Store will ignore the expiration date really doesn't really me at all.  If Chase decides it’s expired, Disney Store will happily collect from me via my credit card.  Note, my Guest Relations Agent was oblivious to this distinction… and just wants me to think all is fine.

So, I turn to understanding when my order will ship, so I can focus on when my card will be charged.  She can not give any estimate of when it will ship, but informs me gift cards take 10 to 15 business days to ship!  WTF??  It’s a premade piece of plastic that fits in an envelope.  There is no such notice on the website when you order the gift card, and there was no such detail in my order email either.  So obviously with those kinds of expectations, the idea of my order shipping within 2 days is never going to happen so I tell her I want to cancel my order.  She says my order is being processed so she can’t cancel right here, but she will send a message to that department to have the order canceled.  I confirm to her I want the order canceled because she can not tell me it will ship before my card expires, she acknowledges and we wrap up the call.

Execute.. Plan B

Now it’s the last day my card is good, so I have to do something NOW, and Disney Store online obviously can’t get it done.  So I drive the long drive to the closest Disney Store, and buy basically the same two items.  The car isn’t onsale in the store, but no shipping, so the total actually was less than my card balance.  I pay with my rewards card with no problem, and head home.

Next day I check my email, and see an email from the Disney Store… odd.  The mail (#2) is a shipping notice.. they have shipped my die cast car.  Huh?  I canceled that order.. the time on the mail is 1:04pm eastern on Dec 31st.  2.5hrs after I had spoke to Guest Relations on the phone.  Well.. maybe it’s a mistake, so I pass it off and wait to see what happens next.

Unleash the non-service

Skip ahead to January 6th  Now I get yet another email from Disney Store (#3) dated Jan 6 at 11:03am… Congratulations, your Disney Gift Card has shipped!  WTF  Ok, obviously something is wrong here, so I forward the email to the Guest Relations (Disney fancy labeling for ‘customer service’) email for Disney Online Store with the following email dated Jan 6 at 12:17pm  (the shipping confirmation was part of the message including my contact, order #, etc)

“This order was canceled with guest services on Dec 31 by phone at 10:26am eastern time.  This order should never have shipped.  The order was primarily funded by a Disney rewards card that would not be charged until shipped, and guest services said it would take 10-15 business days to ship the gift card - so I instructed the agent to cancel the order - which she acknowledged she did.”

At 12:51pm, I get the following email (#4)
Dear Disney Guest, Thanks so much for your recent email. I certainly appreciate you taking the time to inform us of the difficulties you experienced when ordering through DisneyStore.com. This is not an example of the quality service we wish to provide and we hope that you find this to be an isolated incident. Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused. Upon reviewing your concern, I am delighted to inform you that a request to cancel this gift card was made however that was no guarantee. I have sent a request to deactivate the gift card and for a credit to be issued to you. Once the gift card has been deactivated you will receive your credit. Again I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We appreciate your business and hope you will visit DisneyStore.com again in the future. Sincerely,Charlena Have a Magical Day!
 The DisneyStore.com Team


Ok, so she acknowledges ‘this is not an example of the quality service with wish to provide…’  -  but then proceeds to tell me a request was made to cancel the gift card, ‘however that was no guarantee’  .  No guarantee?  I didn’t cancel the gift card, I canceled the whole order and the agent made no such disclaimers.

So I reply on Jan 7 at 11:20am
I didn't request to cancel the gift card - I requested to cancel my order period.  I had paid with a Disney rewards card as my primary payment method, and the agent could not confirm you would charge the card before it expired at the end of the month - so I said to cancel the order.  We had discussed the gift card because she said it would take 10-15 business days to ship ?!?!  My rewards card had to be used by Dec 31 and it was clear you would not ship the order in that timeframe so I said to cancel the order.  There was no discussion that this was a 'request' to cancel the order - or that it was 'not guaranteed'.  

Surely at this point, any company that is customer service focused would just correct the problem, and not argue over what their agent had done or not.  Customer doesn't want the order.. just fix it.  Oh, and on Jan 7, DisneyStore charges my credit card for $55.25  - so the worst possible situation is now happening.

Now they throw gas on the fire…  after my last email explaining how we got to this point, I get this reply (Mail #5) on Jan 7 at 3:27pm

Dear Disney Guest, We are delighted to have received your recent email and we appreciate your interest in DisneyStore.com. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions. We look forward to future opportunities to be of service to you. Sincerely, Nikki Have a Magical Day! The DisneyStore.com Team


Can anyone tell me how this message addresses ANYTHING??  Their patronizing boilerplate about service and ‘Magic’ is getting infuriating at this point as they do absolutely nothing to actually address the problem.  I almost send back a ‘WTF is this??’ email, but stop myself.. and send this email in reply at 12:01am on Jan 8

What in the world was this last reply?
You have charged my credit card $55.25 for an order I canceled and spoke with guest relations to cancel.  This past email made reference to the gift card only  - I canceled the entire order, and I want confirmation that my card is not charged and the $55.25 reversed.


Disney Store replies (Mail #6) on Jan 8 at 7:22am
We are delighted to have received your recent email and we appreciate your interest in DisneyStore.com. Upon review of your concern, I apologize for what has happened with your order. Regrettably, your order has already shipped on 12/31/13 and the gift card on 1/6/14. However, I have sent a intercept request over to both the shipping and gift card department to have these packages shipped back to the distribution center. However the request is not granted before the the order is delivered, simply deny the packages upon delivery for the return of them back to the distribution center. Upon return, a credit will be issued back to your account. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions. We look forward to future opportunities to be of service to you. Sincerely, Tomisha The DisneyStore.com Team


Ok, if we ignore the horrible grammar to start, mixing up past and present tense confusing it even more.. her offer to me is to decline the shipment.  Who here has UPS ask you before they leave a box on your doorstep?  Every email follows the same stupid boilerplate of apologizing but not actually doing anything to fix the problem.  So I have to reply again..  at this point I’m losing actual WORK time dealing with this crap.. so I reply quickly from my phone that morning Jan 8 at 9:59am

Hi, I can't deny shipment when ups leaves packages unattended.  Give me a return label and I'll send them back.


Yes, just give me a return shipping label, credit back the charges and all of this would go away.  Here’s the easy out for Disney… yet, how does the company who built an image based on customer service.. up to the point they had a full training program for OTHER companies to train them how to do customer service… how do they reply?

We get email #7 on Jan 8 at 11:28am
Thanks so much for your recent email concerning order # 1239227244. Upon reviewing your order, I see that resolution is already underway per an earlier email conversation. An internal email has been sent to the appropriate department to request the gift card be deactivated. Item # 461724786524 has shipped. Regrettably, the request to cancel your order was no guarantee as your order was in the processing stage at the time you called in to cancel. For this reason, we will not be able to issue a return label for this item; if delivered you may return this item to a local Disney Store. If there is no local store in your area, you will be responsible for shipping this item back to us in order to receive a full credit. Please let us know if you have any additional questions. We appreciate your business and look forward to your next visit to DisneyStore.com. Have a Magical Day! Sincerely,LaShundra
 The DisneyStore.com Team


Same patronizing boilerplate?  Check
Same lame ‘Magical Day’ references?  Check
Lack of accepting the original agent’s mistake?  Check
Lack of offering to correct the issue without penalizing the customer?  Check
Continuing to make the problem MINE to solve?  Check!
Failure to recognize a simple cheap fix to correct the situation?  CHECK!
Complete customer service failure?  Batting .1000!

So their offer, return the item to a store..  of course I’m intelligent enough to know doing so they would not refund the shipping, so I’d be driving to return a $3.99 item!  So, way to go Disney… instead of just writing off $9… or just issuing a return label so you get your $4 car back, you yet AGAIN tell the customer to take an action that doesn’t actually solve the customer’s complete problem

Disney non-service

Here we see the complete breakdown that illustrates how Disney has lost the principles that made it great.  Instead of providing great customer support, we get empty boilerplate messages that don’t offer to extend ANY effort to fix the customer’s problem.  We mislead the customer with half truths, and instead of focusing on turning a bad customer situation into a good one.. we pass the buck and instead turn the customer away.

A quick recap.. for a simple UPS pre-paid label, Disney could have fixed the entire problem.  Instead, Disney in its penny pinching way, refuses to spend a few bucks and in turn blows a far more expensive opportunity and turns a customer sour.  Congrats Disney, by saving a buck you lost yourself far more. 

This exchange epitomizes the false front that Disney is evolving to.  Relying on empty words like ‘magical’, failing to spend a buck to save ten, and burdening the customer, Disney makes money short term by relying on fake images while throwing away their future.  They use labels and terms to give a false image they are customer focused, with terms like ‘guest relations’… but it’s all fake.

So we end with my fed up reply to ‘guest relations’ on Jan 8 at 1:23pm
It's complete garbage that the blame is put on me because
1) You could not process an order in 24hrs, nor give any estimate of when it would be processed  (the whole reason to cancel the order in the first place - your inability to process an order in a timely fashion was going to cause my rewards card to be invalid)2) Your agent gives WRONG information over the phone3) It takes multiple contacts to correct 'cancel order' means the order.. not one item4) You waste my time with emails saying nothing at all5) It's absurd that an order requested to be canceled on the 31st... STILL ships on the 6th.  Blame my timing all you want, but given 4 business days you can't figure out how to cancel an order?6) I could drive two hours to return the $3 toy car, but they wouldn't refund my $4.95 shipping

Congratulations... over $8 you've lost a customer for life.  That's a magical day!


Now, it should be pretty clear they’ve just totally pissed me off… last chance Disney.. make the save!  Instead, we get Disney email #8 at 9:38pm

Thank you for your recent email and your candid feedback. We appreciate the fact that you took the time to convey your thoughts to us and truly value everyone’s perspective. Your feedback will be forwarded on to management for review. The Walt Disney Company prides itself in providing quality entertainment and merchandise for all and we will continue to make every effort towards achieving that goal. We look forward to future opportunities to meet or exceed your expectations. The DisneyStore.com Team

Yup… yet ANOTHER email not doing anything to actually improve the situation.  So as I type this on Jan 12th.. 4 days later.  Still have the $55.25 charge on my credit card and nothing from Disney.

Yes, that is your legendary Disney customer service in 2014!  Show your #disneyside !

Thursday, September 5, 2013

MANDATORY_IE_MISSING with Adtran Atlas 800

We were turning up a new PRI service with our old trusty Atlas Adtran 800 and while we could make outbound calls, we could not make incoming calls.  Odd.. because outbound is normally the harder one to get configurations to align!

The symptom was found by using the ISDN tracing of the Adtran - using ISDN L2 Formatted messaging set to INFO level

Watching a call, we saw the normal setup message followed by a facility message.. to which the Adtran replied back with a MANDATORY_IE_MISSING error

===================================================
Recd = Sapi:00  C/R:C Tei:00
       Ctl:INFO     Ns:2   Nr:2
       Prot:08  CRL:2  CRV:1844
       M - 62 FACILITY
        IE - 1C FACILITY            Len=29
          9F 8B 01 00 A1 17 02 01 74 02 01 00 80 0F 44
 75 6d 6d 79 56 61 6c 75 65
===================================================
Sent = Sapi:00  C/R:R Tei:00
       Ctl:INFO     Ns:2   Nr:3
       Prot:08  CRL:2  CRV:9844
       M - 7D STATUS
        IE - 08 CAUSE               Len=3
             80 Location:U
             E0 Cause:MANDATORY_IE_MISSING
             20 Diagnostic:
        IE - 14 CALL STATE          Len=1
          09
===================================================

In the mean time, the call had already gone to ALERTING, but the remote switch hangs up with 

===================================================
Recd = Sapi:00  C/R:C Tei:00
       Ctl:INFO     Ns:3   Nr:3
       Prot:08  CRL:2  CRV:1844
       M - 45 DISCONNECT
        IE - 08 CAUSE               Len=2
             82 Location:LN
             EF Cause:PROTOCOL_ERROR
===================================================

The facility message is actually a Caller ID Name message.  This seems to confuse the Adtran 800, so it sends the IE missing message, to which in turn the remote switch then kills the call.

CallerID Name differs from just regular CallerID in that the info is sent as this facility message after the setup message.

We proved caller ID was the culprit by blocking caller ID on the test call (just dialing *67 as a prefix) and there was no facility message and the Adtran handled the call just fine!

The permanent fix is to change the provisioning on our circuit to present Calling ID digits only, no name.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: The Men who would be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks

I just finished the book The Men who would be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks

Amazon Link to Book

The book chronicles the story behind the three moguls that form Dreamworks the film studio. This book should be of interest to Disney fans, as you should know one of the three founders of Dreamworks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, was a former Disney exec who had a extremely high profile split with Eisner.. who before that.. was queued up to be #2 at Disney.

The story of Dreamworks can't be told without talking about the Jeffrey/Eisner conflict.. but the book doesn't go into as much detail as the book Disney War does on the topic. But the book does go into more detail into Jeffrey's role and impact in Disney Animation than Disney War does.

The book chronicles the happenings leading to the forming of SKG, their growing pains, their breakouts, and their failures. The book largely focuses on Katzenberg and Spielberg.. animation and live action.. respectively.

The book is a recent publishing (2010) so it does go till quite recent which is nice. It pretty much goes through Dreamwork Animation's IPO, and the eventual sell-off of Dreamworks.

What I found pretty enlightening from the book is all the insight into the dealings that happen to arrange these movie deals. The book also gets into some actor drama, but focuses more on the politics and inter-personal drama between the principles, and key execs.. especially the execs from Amblin Entertainment (Spielberg's production company).

Also interesting for Disney fans is seeing how the early days of now critical people.. like Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm) intertwined with Spielberg and Dreamworks. The players, the hollywood stories, and the insight into Hollywood, and especially animation make this a great read for Disney fans.

I think the book is a interesting read.. and is a great balance of biography/history/storytelling. I think Disney War adds far too many 'dramatizations' that lead the reader to believe this is a word for word retelling... which isn't really true for all the passages. The author comes clean about in the material at the end of the book.. but only after tainting the accuracy of the material I think. In this book, the author Nicole Laporte avoids that trap and uses less dialogue back and forth, and uses more quotes and narrations. The author also adds a chapter by chapter insight into how the material covered in the chapter was constructed/sourced.

For Disney fans, I think it helps if you've read Disney War before this book to get more background on Jeffrey.. but overall I found the book a great read and certainly worth my time and money. Check it out...

3.5 out of 5

Book Review: Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution

So I just finished the book titled DroidMaker - George Lucas and the Digital Revolution and I thought I'd share my thoughts
Amazon link to book

The book is prefaced around George Lucas and his eventual efforts into digital to support his film habits :) The book starts with introducing George's early days, including his time in film school, and then his tutalage under Francis Ford Coppola. This section gives great insight into the 'anti-establishment' attitude Lucas is known for, as well as his insistence on owning his works.

One of the best aspects of the book is, as people are introduced, footnotes give you their film credits right on that page. A large part of the book is seeing and following just how critical people's paths cross and merge at various times to create some of iconic films and companies that we came to love.

Significant for Disney buffs is, the Pixar founders, and most centrally in the book, Ed Catmull, are deeply wound through this book. George picks Ed and Alvy to basically be the founders of the digital computing efforts in Lucasfilm.

The book is a fascinating look into Ed Catmull and the teams he helped organized as they moved from the challenges of simple computer images, to the aspirations of film quality CGI, and ultimately into the vision of a full CGI feature film.

This book is not really heavy on ILM.. (tho there is a lot of talk about it leading up to Star Wars. including some ILM history).. this book is mostly about Lucas and the computer division.. and how that division's people came together, their impacts, the challenges they tackled, and their progression as Lucasfilm expanded and then contracted.

Disney gets a few cross-overs in the book.. but this is more about the guys at Lucas, and ultimately Pixar. The lack of detail about the CAPS projection is one of the disappointments for me from the book. The other is, the book I think does a poor job benchmarking the computer division's progress against what else was out there at the time. We go from talking about how they struggled with technology to even see their images due to memory constraints, all while largely ignoring the shipping products of the time like video games. They do talk about Atari quite extensively in the book, but the timelines and 'progress' in the industry outside of the computer division isn't linked up quite well I think. This is particularly troublesome in the sections talking about digital audio.

Where the book excels is enlightenment into Lucas, and how/why he started these divisions and how they eventually morphed into what became Pixar. It also goes heavy into the film editing aspects, which was one of the driving motivations behind Lucas' investment into technology. The book also gives great insight into contrasting Lucas and Coppola's efforts in these spaces.

The book was a fascinating read and I feel like I gained a ton of knowledge from reading it. I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in computer animation, CGI, Pixar, or just the technology revolution that computers brought to Hollywood.

4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Git Extensions failing to connect to remotes with ssh due to FATAL ERROR: Network error: Connection timed out

Recently our git repo switched to ssh only - which was easy enough to deal with with git.  But I was having trouble getting Git Extensions to talk to the remote repo.  Each time I tried to do a push or pull I would get an error


"c:\Program Files (x86)\Git\bin\git.exe" pull --progress "origin"
FATAL ERROR: Network error: Connection timed out
fatal: Could not read from remote repository.

Please make sure you have the correct access rights
and the repository exists.
Done

First check the obvious - you have the URL to the repo correct, and there are no firewalls blocking you.  Easy test.. use putty and open a ssh session to the hostname.  If you get prompted for login info - you're good.

Second, you must confirm your ssh keys and authentication are working correctly.  You can confirm this with putty and setting the session to login with username 'git' and use your ssh key (Under SSH->Auth in putty).  When Git Extensions is configured to use Putty for ssh, if you load the ssh key in the 'Manage Remotes' page, it will load the Putty Agent for you automatically as required for Git Extensions to work.

I was able to test all of that.. yet Git Extensions would not work.  The tip was that when I used the 'test connection' button in Git Extensions Manage Remotes.. I saw it used the plinkexecutable to test the connection.  So I ran plink directly and found if I did 'plink -T git@hostname' - the connection failed.  Eventually I tried the various parameters for plink, and found if I forced the connection to use -ssh  it worked.  But why did it not work in Git Extensions?

The conclusion is that even tho Git Extensions uses a local binary of plink for it's uses - plink will still rely on the putty session defaults defined in the user's windows profile.  In my case, for other work, I had configured Putty's default session to use telnet and not ssh (which is the default).  This in turn caused plink to NOT default to ssh - breaking Git Extensions which doesn't (as of 2.44) force plink to use ssh.

Solution - open Putty, set radio button to ssh for protocol, select 'default session' and click Save.  Now plink will use ssh by default and Git Extensions will work again!