Why didn't I blog over the weekend? New laptop identity crisis!

Forgive me reader for I have sinned, it has been four days since my last blog post.

In that post I declared the intent to at some point get a new laptop, well I have one now. It's the very same one that I intended to get in my last blog... or is it? Actually yes and no, because although it is exactly the make and model that I was writing about previously, it is not the same laptop.

First thing I noticed when setting it up was that it was not locating one of the drives. The SSD drive appeared to be missing. I went through several checks to see what the problem could be, and looked on various forums to see if this was normal and if it was hidden until something else gets activated or whatever.

The truth of the matter is that it actually doesn't have one.

It's the Acer Aspire model V3-772G-747a8G1TMakk. According to the specifications from various sources it does indeed have an ssd on board, however there's another designation for it... NX.M8SEG.025, which is basically one of a couple of dozen designations for what on the surface appears to be exactly the same laptop. This particular designation shows that it doesn't have the SSD.

The stores seem unaware of the differences, selling what they believe are just two versions, the V3-772G and the V3-772G-747a8G1TMakk.

My question is a simple one, if they have different versions that are VERY different, such as in that they lack one of the drives, surely it would be a hell of a lot more consumer-friendly of them to actually call each different laptop by a VERY different name.

There has been much debate in my household over the weekend as to whether I should return it as 'not as described' or keep it anyway because my other one is suffering somewhat and when all is said and done this is one hell of a machine (I am writing on it right now). I decided to keep it, and will be very soon contacting Acer regarding this issue to see what excuse they could possibly have for making 35 versions of the same named machine.

Anyway, that, and the general stuff life throws in my path, is why I haven't blogged for the past few days.

I may well be blogging an update to this at some point in the not too distant future, but for the time being I am busy loading software, transferring files, and attempting to catch up on the work I didn't have enough computer power to do before.

This has been a Mighty Joe Blog.

Thank you for reading.

Review: My Acer Aspire 5745PG. The Wolverine of laptops.

I had intended to try to blog every day, build a habit of it, but yesterday my laptop had other ideas.

It's quite a common thing that just when you have loads to be getting on with you suddenly find your tech' bailing out on you. This has happened quite a lot with my laptop, but hold on (insert screeching of tyres here), it's actually NOT the laptop's fault!

This laptop is now three years old, and I would hazard a guess that in the past three years I have made it do ten years worth of work. I am using it every day, often from around 6am to 11pm, so it's getting a lot more than usual usage, and the things I use it for are labour intensive.

A few details about the Aspire 5745PG.

It's very well built, for those interested in the specs' this one has an intel i3-350m processor, which is pretty good in general but not entirely up to the use I had in mind. Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit. NVIDEA GeForce 310m. 320GB drive, 4GB DDR3 memory. 15.6" HD LED LCD Touchscreen.

Beautiful little system at first, and was going very well until I got a message from Microsoft offering me a Windows 8 upgrade for £25. Checked it out, all genuine, so I figured Windows 8 is optimised for touchscreens, I have a touchscreen, hell yeah!

Hell no!

As we all know now, windows 8 sucks more than a porn star at an all-you-can-eat cock buffet. I had downloaded the spawn of Satan into what was a great little system. At first everything seemed fine, the operating system interface was a little strange, but I soon got used to it. Unfortunately the Aspire didn't, and started trying to cough-out Windows 8. Did I run a compatibility test before loading... Hell yeah! Did it come up fine... Hell yeah! Did the Aspire respond accordingly... Hell no! It started going tits-up rapidly. Screen freezes, data relocation, files I worked on mysteriously vanished. I ran every repair software I could think of but still it was as if my laptop had been in a serious accident and was just coming out of a coma.

I was ultimately left with one choice... Factory reset. Well whaddya know... It all came back from the dead just fine, but with Windows 7 again. There was I thinking that the upgrade was going to overwrite Windows 7, but instead I was back to almost normal. I say almost because the whole episode had left its mark on the poor little Aspire. It has never been quite right since, yet in spite of the trauma it still continues to work its little butt off on a daily basis.

This is why I refer to it as the 'Wolverine of Laptops', because it is damaged, yet carries on regardless. Not all is well though, because it does have a tendency to have bad days, and it's getting tired now. It's not just the whole Windows 8 episode which has affected it, I am also a heavy user. As stated I spend a lot of time on it, I write a lot and it soon became the machine I use most often for that. It's a very comfortable machine to use, the keyboard is closer to me than the one on my 17" Vaio, and basic laziness makes me write on this one rather than boot up the Vaio. I used to use the Vaio for watching DVDs on sometimes too, it's got a lot of screen real-estate and cinematic quality. The Aspire is a widescreen, so had the edge there where some films are concerned, it doesn't have the sound quality of the Vaio through the usual speakers, but stick headphones on it and yes, you have it just fine. The Aspire comes with the usual entertainment facilities, windows media player et cetera, and it also comes with a lot of touchscreen applications, amongst which is a touchscreen cinema mode. It's ok but I found something better. I bought a great program Cyberlink Power DVD 13, which basically transformed my system into a cinematic powerhouse. I can play any dvd and it'll upscale for optimum quality, it also... wait for it.... Converts 2D to 3D!

Yes, it's true, and it does a decent job of it too. If you want to know what the original Star Wars is like in 3D I'm your man, if you want to know what The Dark Knight is like in 3D, or The Matrix, or well... You get the general idea.

So the Aspire is also my number one choice for watching DVDs. Shame it's not a Blu-Ray machine.

Do I get a decent 3D effect even though the monitor on the laptop isn't a 3D monitor, yep, very nice. However there is a sister machine to this one that has 3D, but it wasn't a touchscreen model so I chose this one. I made the right choice because if you use Power DVD 13 you don't need it to have a 3D screen capability. The machine has an HDMI outlet, so I attached a cable to it and to my 3DTV, sat back and marvelled at the quality. I usually play 3D blu-rays through my PS3, and they come out looking great, but the quality of a 2D dvd played as 3D through Power DVD 13 attached to the 3DTV is fairly much equal.

Now we know that I write and watch films. I also use the Aspire for something else, which is my daily work.

Art and design, we're talking pretty much the full Adobe suite here. I'm on the 'Creative Cloud' so I have access to a lot of 'graphics intense' programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Edge Animate and so on. I'm very much a beginner with most of those, and this machine has taken a pounding whilst I've been getting to grips with Photoshop in particular and creating websites with Adobe Muse.

Given that this machine isn't really designed to be a Graphic Designer's workhorse it's been surprisingly good. It has given me three years of pretty much excellent service in spite of it having the Windows 8 experience, picking up various viruses from dodgy software downloads and generally doing the job of nine computers (I say that because I used to have nine computers to do the individual jobs on).

A tip about touchscreens. I went for the touchscreen option because I thought opening Photoshop in that would give me similar capabilities to a Wacom touchscreen. It doesn't. yes you can open Photoshop, but the moment you try to use your fingertip to draw something the Photoshop frame moves around. That isn't a very good thing. You'd think really that there'd be an inbuilt ability to pin Photoshop to the desktop to stop it moving. Maybe there's a way but I haven't found it yet. That was disappointing. Another bad thing is that for some bizarre reason the touchscreen makes everything darker, and going into the settings and increasing the laptop's brightness to maximum as well as tweaking the other settings still doesn't give true colours. Not good for art and design at all. So I tend to do the basic donkey-work on the screen, but to tidy-up the images I attach to the TV and adjust the colours where necessary. Still I can't really say it's too far off the mark.

Nowadays the Aspire is suffering from fatigue. I am regularly having glitches here and there, a lot of that is because I have overloaded the poor little bugger and worked it to within an inch of its life, but it keeps doing a Wolverine on me and healing itself enough to fight on to the bitter end.

I've decided that it won't have a bitter end, it's going to have a new addition to the family.

Looking at another Acer, yes I know there are Apple machines, and various others, but to be honest the Aspire has been so good to me that I'd be happy to have another, and they do one which has a lot going for it. The ACER-Aspire-V3-772G has a 17.3" screen, enough memory 1TB Sata and a 60GB SSD, an i7 processor, and the NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 760M 8GB dedicated graphics capability to enable me to work on all of my projects without the fear that the laptop can't handle it or will grind to a halt when I work on huge pieces of art or 3D modelling/animation. I'll be using it for work, work and more work. I may watch a film on it at some point though ;) It's pretty much a 'gaming laptop' but I'm not much of a gamer. However, if it's fast enough for the most modern games to play flawlessly on it, then it'll handle whatever animations I want to do with it.

As for my Aspire 5745PG, it's going to get a clean-up. I'll be using it for writing on, surfing the net on and of course for watching DVDs on. It'll not retire completely, just take it easier for the remainder of its years with the dignity it deserves.

This has been a Mighty Joe Blog.

Thank you for reading.

Dirty Old Men? I don't think so!

Todays' blog is about Clare Ettinger. This girl attended a prom only to be treated like shit and kicked out because of a dress-code that she didn't actually violate. Here's the dress:

Looks normal doesn't it! Note that it is 'fingertip length', it's important ;)

You can read the story here:

I read this post and many of the comments which followed. To me there's something which doesn't make a whole lot of sense here, which is that the men on the balcony are held largely responsible. I wasn't there, so don't know the truth, but reading the story as presented I would say that if this was a court case against the men in question there'd be no tangible proof offered of misconduct on their behalf, just a supposition that middle aged men all lust after teenage girls.

It reads very much as if the girl in question attended the Prom adhering to the dress code, but Mrs. D argued the point, only to be shown beyond any doubt that the dress was well within the rules. There are those 'Jobsworths' with an axe to grind against the younger and prettier. They do not like being told that they are wrong, and will try to justify their own bias any way that they can.

At the time of writing this I am 49, and I look at the 17 year old girl in the picture and genuinely think that yes, she is pretty, but not worthy of lusting over. Real life isn't 'American Beauty' and not all men in their forties or whatever age lust after 17 year old blondes in sparkly dresses. It's a sad stereotype and one I'd love the see the back of. She is presenting herself as somewhat virginal but taking pains to point out just how much like a woman she is. It's a beautiful bit of self-promotion and I can't help but think that she'll milk it until it pays off.

I'm also more inclined to suspect that Clare Ettinger probably had a little attitude in her voice when pointing out that Mrs. D was wrong. 'Yes Ma'am' can be said a number of ways, and it's easy to drop a heavy tone of arrogance into it. The very fact that she argued with one of the organizers is enough to get her kicked out, given that people in authority aren't keen on being told that they are wrong. This is after all about a 17 year old girl, and 'Christian' or not teenagers generally come with 'attitude' as standard.

The presentation of the story is so biased against the men on the balcony that I would suspect it was presented as a 'scare tactic' to make the girl more likely to dress down and conform in the future. Nobody has confirmed any of the men actually were involved in any misconduct or even had said anything specific about anyone. It was all conjecture as names are not being named here.

Mrs. D sounds like a real bitch and a bully who shouldn't be allowed to teach or supervise youngsters. If things went down as described, Clare should never have been booted out, and certainly her friends should have been refunded. I think they should all be adequately compensated for the ruination of what should have been a milestone event for them and receive a public apology from Mrs. D.

As for the men on the baalcony, let's hear what they have to say about it before they are publicly vilified.



Today I learned that Hans Ruedi Giger has died. He was 74, which these days is not considered particularly old, and he was still an active guy. He died after falling down the stairs at his family home.

For those of you who don't know who he is or why I am blogging about his death it's easy to explain.

H. R. Giger gave us this:

He designed aliens that gave generations a whole new set of nightmares and set the benchmark in creature design. He has been copied dozens of times over but never equalled or bettered. 'Giger's Alien' is no longer Alien, it is one of the most recognisable images in cinematic history and is still being used as the basis for a continuing series of films very much influenced by his character designs.

This is all I have to say in this blog as those of you who knew of him already know what an outstanding contribution he made to cinema, science fiction and horror. Those who were unaware of him now know better.

He will be missed.

R.I.P.    H.R.G.

Is it really Twilight Zone Day?

It's 'Twilight Zone Day' in America, and yet Google, who are usually on the ball with event days, have done nothing. Where is the Google Logo?

I would have loved to see what those bright sparks do with such a wealth of incredible imagery to play with. There's something sad about Twilight Zone not being on the same fandom fame level as any of the various incarnations of the Star Trek series, or even Dr Who. It's not as if it's an unknown or obscure show, if anything it's part of the everyday language, but it just doesn't seem to have the same following that the other cult shows have. To my way of thinking it is strangled by having something those other shows don't always have, which is a quality of writing way above standard.

My first journey into the Twilight Zone happened in the UK when I was in my early twenties. I'd arrived home from work around 11:30pm, this was back in the days before we had hundreds of digital channels of nothing worth watching. With my choice of three channels I flicked through looking for something to occupy my mind as I grabbed a bite to eat, and as I flicked onto BBC2 I caught the last few minutes of something the TV Guide called 'The Twilight Zone'. I did a double-take, as I expected it to be one of those late night discussion programmes, usually religious or political, neither of which I was wanting to see at that point. However, this was very different, it was what appeared to be a black and white movie with some guy in a diner discussing aliens. Now, needless to say, I was somewhat intrigued, and so watched what turned out to be the last few minutes of an episode called "Will the real Martian please stand up". I checked an old TV guide, this series had been on for weeks and I knew nothing about it. Just the last few minutes were good enough to that I made a vow to watch it the following week. I can't remember which episode it was the next week, all I know was that it was good enough to make me a regular viewer.

Decades later I have the entire black and white series on DVD. I dip into them every so often when I feel like a need a lesson on what it is like to be human.

There are more modern colour reboots of Twilight Zone which I won't go into here as they are somewhat hit and miss compared to the overall excellence of the original series.

The Original seasons of Twilight Zone are like an 'How to' guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy writing, it's all there. There are people I have spoken to who have the wrong idea about it, they see one episode and say things like 'I saw that one last night, I don't like sci-fi so I'll give it a miss'. I feel obliged to point out that it's not sci-fi, it's a fantasy theatre where one week you'll have the last man on Earth trying to cope with being all alone, the next week it'll be a Western tale about a Gunslinger with something of a special 'edge', and the week after that it'll be a ghost story about a haunted telephone.

It's the series that has inspired many Hollywood movies, 'Poltergeist' owes much to it, as does 'Real Steel', and has celebrities the likes of Robert Redford, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Duvall, William Shatner, Bill Bixby, George Takei, Hazel Court and most of the 'household names' in TV at the time among cast members. The diversity of the show is incredible, with stunning scripts from not only Rod Serling who wrote 92 episodes, but also from the writer of 'The Waltons' Earl Hamner. Other writers include some of the finest names in the sci-fi and fantasy fields such as Charles Beaumont and Richard Mathieson, there's even a story from Ray Bradbury 'I Sing the Body Electric'.

The entire thing is pedigree work from start to finish. Not every episode will grab you, and it is somewhat dated in light of technological overload that we have nowadays, but if you are a fan of excellent script writing and proficient acting this is one cult classic you don't want to be without.