A window into the mind of a computer engineer
Winnipeg has lately been experiencing some ticketing of cyclists for performing rolling stops. As a cyclist (who luckily hasn’t experienced this ticket yet) I fully understand the reason why cyclists do their rolling stops: the preservation of momentum is key to efficiently riding a bike. Accelerating from a stop requires significantly more energy than speeding up from a rolling stop. (This is the case for motor vehicles too, and there are many other similarities that seem to be more pronounced when you have been cycling for a while, but I will save that rant for a later post)
Some have suggested that we introduce what is known as an Idaho Stop Law. The short version: cyclists treat stop signs as yields and do not have any right of way over other traffic.
The following video does a great example of explaining the Idaho Stop Law in more detail.
For any cyclists out there, or even those who are not cyclists but are appreciative of the low emissions of cycling, I encourage you to keep this idea in mind and support it as much as possible. Perhaps contact your MLA to get them on the same page as yourself.
So I have recently finished watching all four seasons of ReBoot and loved it just about as much as I did as a kid. I had never watched it all through in sequence like this, so it was very interesting to see how the quality of animation, plot, characters, and overall production of the show steadily improved. There were also a lot of references and parodies that I am sure I did not catch as a kid. I am going to quickly go through a few of the things that I picked up from this most recent run through the series.
One of the biggest changes I noticed across the series was the style of plot that each episode (or season) had. The first season was very much a single-episode story idea, much like the majority of kids’ shows. These first season episodes also seemed to be fairly slow paced. I suspect this was at least partly due to the fairly primitive animation technology of the time (ReBoot was the first ever computer animated television show, after all). The second season started off with a similar, single-episode story, but about half way through the season they started going for the more elaborate story arc concept, though you didn’t really notice it that much for a couple of episodes. The final 3 or 4 episodes of this season were very much an obvious story continuation, which I found made it easier to get into the story (90% of the time I will prefer TV shows that play out more like large, segmented movies).
ReBoot really felt like it had some solid momentum in the final episode of season two with (SPOILER ALERT) Bob being launched into the web, glitch being damaged (aside: I have always loved glitch and every time I have to name a piece of technology such as a computer or router I always want to call it “Glitch” but never feel that it is worthy of the name), Enzo being given some of the guardian protocol before Bob’s departure, and Megabyte and Hexadecimal joining forces to help fight the web creatures, only to turn on the Mainframers in an attempt to take command of the Principal Office. Going into season three, the production quality dramatically improved (this was the first season where the characters regularly had shadows, whereas previously they only did if the mood of the scene required it). I later discovered that ABC had canceled ReBoot for a few years after the second season, which explains this dramatic jump. There also seemed to be a real jump in the expected maturity of the audience as there were some references or suggestive material (ie. grown-up AndrAIa ) that never would have flown in the earlier seasons (the networks at least used to have quite strict rules imposed on ReBoot and the writers often rebelled by making jokes about the censorship).
This third season was definitely a continuing story line, but it was broken out into what felt like 4 mini seasons. I remember always feeling like I had missed a lot of episodes as a kid, but I think that was basically just due to the mini-season feel of season 3 and the tendency of the networks to air reruns of the first two seasons. Despite this broken up feeling, I think that season 3 was my favourite season. It developed the characters quite a bit and brought a more mature feel to the show. It just felt more like I was experiencing a progression in a story rather than a 20 min. show. I think that the majority of my most memorable ReBoot moments were in this season as well, things like traveling through the web in the modified Saucy Mare, Matrix and AndrAIa game hopping to new, strange systems (at least one of which seems to operate in an entirely different way from mainframe, which could be explained by different operating systems or even hardware architecture), and being reunited with web-Bob and his merge with Glitch to become Glitch-Bob.
Season 4 was written as two TV-movies, each four episodes long. These movies didn’t quite live up to the rest of the series, but they weren’t exactly terrible either. One of the things I think I liked the least was the fact that (SPOILER ALERT) Hex became a sprite and lost all her powers (and madness) except for her control over the nulls. She just turned into an annoying Bob-stalker for Dot to compete with. To top it all off, when she finally got her viral powers back, she sacrifices herself in order to save the entire web. Don’t get me wrong, having the virus sacrifice herself was a great plot idea, especially in combination with the revelation that Bob had been trying to make viruses good while at the Academy, but the mechanics of it (her code being spread too thin across the web to survive) was a bit of a stretch (no pun intended). Also, Hex was too cool to be completely removed from the show.
While on the topic of viruses, my next biggest complaint might have to be with Megabyte. In the second movie, he returns to Mainframe disguised as the original Bob. After being launched into the web, he was corrupted and gained Trojan powers. Their explanation for his survival in the web was a bit contrived. Supposedly, when he crushed Glitch, he absorbed a small amount of guardian code. They even managed to pull some footage from season two into a VidWindow to replay in slow motion so that they could witness it happen! In my opinion, if you have to go back to something that has already happened in a story and tweak it to make the new story work, you aren’t doing things right. My other complaint about web Megabyte is his new look. It almost looked like he drank a glass of acid and then the animators took the blur tool to the rest of his body. A newly formatted Megabyte could have had so much more potential to be cool.
I mentioned earlier that there were a bunch of references hidden throughout ReBoot. This post has already grown quite lengthy, so I won’t go on too much about these, but there were a few pop culture and tech references which I think I will briefly mention. First, while the Mainframers are battling again the virals in season 3, Dot is referred to as “Command Dot Com”. Doing a quick search on “the Google”, command.com is the command line program from DOS and WIN9x. I’m not much a fan of MS, but I am a fan of CLIs as they offer a lot of flexibility and power, both things suitable for the new Dot.
A lot of the sayings that everyone uses have tech references in them. Enzo’s sayings are quite good examples of these. “Dot never lets me input anything fun”, “I heard you royally kicked his bitmap”, “I should have copied and pasted the truth from the start”, and the classic “alphanumeric”. This last one is a prime example of why I have not much faith in the new owners of ReBoot: the comic book available from www.reboot.com (you need a free account to read it, but the account signup for reboot.com didn’t work for me, so I had to sign up through the affiliate site) has Enzo saying “beta-numeric” in an attempt to one-up the old catch phrase, but it shows a complete lack of knowledge of the history of the show and reason they did things the way they did. Alphanumeric isn’t just a random mashup of words. It literally is a subset of computer characters that strictly contains only numbers and letters (i.e. no symbols and such). The alpha doesn’t come from the greek alphabet but is an abreviation for the word alphabet. I can concede that alphanumeric has little to no meaning when used as a descriptor in the show, but beta-numeric is just silly and has no basis in anything.
Anyway, I think that this post is probably long enough for now. As I hear more about the new content coming out, I may post another update, but for now, these are my thoughts. Feel free to post your feelings in the comments below and I will try to post replies as much as possible.
When I was young I remember watching a great show by the name of ReBoot. I’m not sure if it was ever that popular, especially since it was a Canadian show, but it was ground breaking as it was the first ever computer animated television series. The show revolves around a group of “Sprites” living in a place they call “Mainframe”. The main character, Bob, has come to Mainframe to protect the people from the viruses amongst them and help them in their constant struggle to defeat the “User” in the various games that fall onto the city out of the sky. The show is rife with computer references to everything from binary to servers, the net and firewalls. While cleaning out my workspace at home, I stumbled across every episode of ReBoot which I happened to have on DVD (I gathered these after a friend and I convinced our high school band director that we should play the theme on our New York music tour, but I never got around to watching them). I have decided that it is a good plan to watch it all again through new eyes as a computer engineer instead of the eyes of an 8 year old. This should prove to be a highly nostalgic, humorous, and informative experience.
Note: in quickly skimming the Wikipedia article for the show, I noticed that there has been a new trilogy of films announced! I am definitely looking forward to those.
So I have once again stumbled upon a video I have found to be interesting. I don’t intend on this blog turning into a video sharing/review site, but this one is really cool in both quality of finished product as well as in concept.
I recommend watching this one at full resolution (available on the original YouTube page). I am a bit of a pixel addict in general, but this is one that truly benefits from the extra resolution.
For anyone who has ever been frustrated with using a mouse and keyboard to try and do any kind of 3D modeling or has just been blown away by computer user interfaces in movies such as Minority Report or Iron Man will be drooling over this thing. It reminds me a lot of Google Sketchup, actually, and if holograms ever do become practical, I can see this sucker actually coming to fruition for people that actually do 3D modeling and product design professionally. Since I don’t do either, I’m hoping I’ll be one of the ones lucky enough to actually make it so that I can use it for “testing” (read: spending way too much time building stuff like it is my own personal full size LEGO world). Until then, I guess I’ll just watch this video while I play with Google Sketchup.