The internet killed…

There are certainly many things that the internet has supposedly killed… travel agents, real estate brokers, the music business and now the movie business.

But they weren’t really killed were they? People still travel and buy houses. The still make movies and create music. So it’s less of a killing of an industry and more of a changing.

Now, it’s newspapers crying foul and pointing most of their venom at Google this week. Screaming about all the visitors being lost to Google news, while at the same time ignoring all the visitors gained from Google searches.

What will be the next thing? I’m going to put my money on books. I have seen an increasing number of novels and non-fiction pieces in the (what used to be) dark corners of the internet than ever before.

Did everyone hear all the hubbub over the movie ‘Wolverine’ being leaked this week? Does anyone realize that an unfinished copy of the next book in the Twilight series was leaked online? Most people don’t and that’s why there hasn’t been as much of a furor over the leak.

But as newspapers fold, and even more people are driven online to read, as the Kindle and the Kindle iPhone app become more popular and people become even more comfortable reading online and on devices, they are going to realize that it’s just as easy to find books online for free as it is for movies and music.

I think publishers should accept this in advance and plan accordingly.

Wolverine leaked online

Showing up on all of the popular torrent sites this April Fool’s day was a file purporting to contain the unreleased ‘Wolverine’ movie. But unlike the fake torrents that constantly fill the search results of these sites, this release was no joke.

A near complete work print of the movie, although seemingly about 14-16 minutes shorter than the final film might be, was out in the open for any who wanted to download it. Not to be confused with a screener, which is a full copy of the movie with (usually) watermarks for tracking purposes, this was a work print. It is missing scenes, some special effects and even the complete score.

Being a work also seems to narrow down the “leaker” as someone with a direct connection to the movie. Not necessarily someone on the film itself, but possibly a friend or relative of someone involved. Of course, there is the possibility of outright theft as well.

Every news story about this, and about other movies in the past, all scream about how much money the studio will lose because the movie has been leaked online.

It’s very much like software pirating. I see illegal copies of Photoshop being used all over the internet. But Adobe isn’t really losing money. These people were never potential customers for them, they only download it because they can. There are free image editors that handle what most of these people use Photoshop for and similarly, I firmly believe that anyone who claims that they won’t go see the film because they downloaded it already had no intention of going to the movies to see it.

But, as usual, the movie studios are looking at this in the completely wrong way – trying to position themselves as a victim, instead of seeing an opportunity.

Can’t they see what’s right in front of them?

Most reports indicate that the movie was downloaded a few hundred thousand times. That’s a movie with missing scenes, incomplete music, incomplete special effects and poor video resolution, being illegally downloaded by a very small group of people – most people haven’t a clue as to what a ‘Torrent’ file is.

Instead of crying about the money that you are losing to a downloaded work print, cry about the money you are losing by not offering the movie as an easy to download HD version via the internet or On-Demand systems.

<sidebar rant>

I’m not saying that a movie doesn’t deserve its theatrical run – I go to the movies more than any person I know, or have met, but the amount of activity around this movie alone proves that people are hungry for an easier way to consume media. All the pieces are seemingly there. The internet speeds, home networking, TIVO’s, DVR’s and media centers built into computers and game systems.

We just need someone to put out the content.

</sidebar rant>

And if the last batch of ‘Star Wars’ movies proved anything, it’s that being leaked online and being bad won’t result in bad box office.

What happened? What does it mean? What do I think about it?

I heard Merlin Mann say this during his and John Gruber’s talk during SXSW 2009, and it seemed so right.

So many websites/blogs nowadays are just links to other content. God knows most of what I have published in the past has been just that. A random link to whatever is cool that day and a quick “Check this out!” under the link.

Why would someone want to come to my site, or any site for that matter, if that was the level of content they were getting?

People come to your site, because they want to hear your voice. And for probably the up-teenth time I am once again restarting my web writing with the idea that this time I’m focused on the content and the act of writing and not the page views, or Google ads.


In Roger Ebert’s latest ‘Why I’m so conservative’, Roger opines on what he considers to be critical to a movie going experience, and as I have in the past, I want to comment on one thing that he mentions in particular.


Yes, we have all seen the cell phone wielding moviegoer, seemingly waiting for that perfect moment of the movie to take a call, and consequently jolt everyone around them back to attention, allowing the veil of imagination and escape to slip away.

Or for the hardened moviegoer like myself, you find it difficult to immerse yourself in a movie, as you have become so aware of the people around you, you sit there almost expecting and waiting for someone to ruin the film.

But, the people that I find most interesting, and no, not in a good way, are the people who come to the theater to seemingly hang out. They aren’t really there to see the movie – it’s more like a place to go for the evening.

They chat, they sit for a while and then leave for a bit, they take a call, they go check out other theaters to see what their friends might be watching, they make multiple snack runs and have conversations as if they were sitting in a restaurant or their living room.

It’s an entire movie length production that makes you consider whether to ever even bother returning. Your only real hope in these situations is that you are sitting far enough away in a big theater that you don’t even notice them.

Or, as I have had to do, condense the majority of your movie watching to a Friday afternoon double feature, when the theater is, for the most part, completely empty.

I wish I was running my own theater.

The not so simple SQL Statements

Who would have thought that returning some records would become an all day ordeal. I guess if I had completely thought it through, I might have seen the roadblocks to come, but that’s not how the day went.

All I wanted to have was a drop down box that when the option was changed to a particular kind of equipment, it would bring back (through some AJAX-y goodness) the last 10 pieces of equipment in that category.

I was only working on the functionality of it at this point. The look and wording of it will change before it gets on the site.

After a few minutes I had it working. Not to difficult. Using AJAX to dynamically change the page on an ‘onChange’ event with the drop down box brought back the last 10 pieces of equipment.

It worked, but on closer examination I saw a problem. Since equipment in our database is uploaded in bulk, the last 10 machines are always from the same company, sometimes even 10 of the same model with slightly different specs. What I decided I really wanted was the last 10 machines from 10 different companies.

And THAT is harder than it sounds. For several reasons ‘Select DISTINCT’ can not be used and I hunted around the internet for a while and could find nothing that would help me they way I wanted. I was finally able to consult with our company’s sometimes hanging around .NET programmer (I hate .NET) and he recommended the ‘UNION’ function of SQL.

This sounded like a duct tape solution if I ever heard of one, but it does work.

This works by getting a list of the last 10 companies to update in the category you are working with. Then do a series of ‘Select TOP 1 *’ statements for each company that you then ‘UNION’ together to make the results look like one statement.

For example…

Select Top 1 {COL} from {TABLE} where company = {FIRST COMPANY} UNION Select Top 1 {COL} from {TABLE} where company = {SECOND COMPANY} UNION

And so on. You need to keep count of your UNIONS thought, because when you get to the 10th company, you don’t want to end your statement with ‘UNION’ because it will error out. So you pull out the good old

i = 0
i = i +1
While i < 10

We’ve all used some for of that code block no matter what language you are using to program, but it ended up not working here. It turns out that for some pieces of equipment, the items are so industry specific that there aren’t 10 different dealers. That means that the code errors out before the end of the SQL statement because there is nothing left to select.

So what needs to be done here is something along these lines….

SQL = ‘Select TOP 1 {COL} from {TABLE} where company = {RECORDSET.COMPANY}’

SQL = SQL & ‘Select TOP 1 {COL} from {TABLE} where company = {RECORDSET.COMPANY}’

What happens here is that the SQL Statement is fired and then it checks to see if there are anymore companies. If so, it adds the UNION tag and the next SQL Select. When there are no more companies to bring equipment back from, it ends the statement and there is no error.

Since RECORDSET.COMPANY should be the last 10 companies that updated, the Select statement won’t bring back more than 10 records before it gets to the end.

Of course, that couldn’t be the final problem. Apparently, there are a lot of apostrophe’s in the company names, so it took a few minutes to figure out how to get the REPLACE function to work in this situation, but that wasn’t that big of a deal.

Here is a link to the working version of my code.

When I get back to work, I will flesh this out with more accurate code descriptions

2008 == 1999

At least for me it does.

1999 was the year my company finally realized it needed to be on the web in some way. I had started to suggest the idea to them in 1996 and they put up a cursory contact information page in 1998, but it wasn’t until ‘99 that they decided to actually try and create a presence. 

I mean, who was I that they would listen to anyway. I was a graphic designer and had been here for less than a year, and the web was still so unknown to to most people and companies.

But ‘99 changed all that and we solicited bids from ‘Web Development Companies’. Companies that would handle all aspects of the design from graphics creation, HTML page building and any backend programming that needed to be done.

What we had decided we wanted was to put our newspaper online. We needed an editorial section that would hold that days stories and an archive, and a used equipment section that would consist of a search engine for the equipment and detail pages for each machine.

Well, we ended up with several bids that went from 13,000 all the way up to 100,000 and my company was not prepared for these numbers to say the least.

So I took my shot. I told them I could do it, and they actually believed me.

I still remember the call from my boss over the weekend asking if I thought I would really be able to handle it and I said of course I could (Not mentioning that I had never built a page in my life), and he said that when I came in on Monday, I was no longer to work on the publication, and that my full time job was going to be creating the website. 

They did contract the cheapest of the companies to do some backend programming and with them we launched the site in early 2000, and it was probably the busiest, most stressful time of career to that point. But I loved it.

With the exception of one piece of VB Script that I still use, I had re-written all of the code myself within the next 2 or 3 years, and continually updated the look, changed and added features as needed and rolled out updates on a daily or weekly basis for the next 8 years.

But now its happening again. It’s time for us to move forward and re-build from the ground up, and I’m getting that feeling again. I stressed and REALLY busy. It’s time to add things to the site that I have never built before.

I have been asked to stop the incremental updates to the site. To be honest I have been asked to stop doing anything to the site, and now have a month and a half to deliver the look and basic functionality of a new website and 5 other web related products. Including new admin sections, newsletters, and a video library that can do everything that a service like Brightcove can do, but built in house by me.

And then I have another month or so after to make it all work.

It will still be an ASP/SQL site. I hate .NET and moving to PHP/MySQL isn’t in the cards. Although I do have a PHP version of the site that mirrors the functionality of the active site. I’m sure it’s because of my knowledge of ASP vs PHP, but I can’t get the PHP site to work as fast or as well as the ASP version.

It will of course try to be standards based, having tables only where necessary, and I will use this as an opportunity to add some AJAX-y goodness to the site where appropriate. 

And Flash, with the video comes a lot of Flash. We shall see how that goes, but it will be interesting and I’ll report on it here.

After 12 years of the same company, this could be exactly what the complacent designer needs to get in gear.

King Corn – SXSW Premiere

Been a while since I’ve actually seen this movie, so this review probably won’t do it justice, but this documentary tells the story of 2 people moving out to the midwest and buying there own acre of land to grow corn and follow it through the production process.

What we find out over the course of the movie is how bad corn actually is for you and most startling how it is used in the beef industry.

I would definitely recommend this movie, it changed my wife’s shopping habits completely, and encourage everyone to see it if you get the chance.

Suffering Man’s Charity – SXSW Premiere

This was an… extreme film to say the least. Graphic in its use of language and violence and extreme in its performances, this film was quite an experience.

The performances in this film, which basically amounted to a two person play, were way over the top while staying quite entertaining. Alan Cumming, in I believe his directorial debut, was able to pull a performance from David Boreanez, who previously seem to come from the George Clooney school of brooding acting, that I didn’t think possible. They way these two are able to run around the house expressing themselves the way they do really made this movie quite memorable for me.

Whether audiences will ever get to see this in a theater, I don’t know. But if there is ever an opportunity to see this film, seize it, you will enjoy it.

Diggers – SXSW Premiere

This is an enjoyable film. Lean, tight, not a lot of fluff. It has a direction and stays with it till the end.

A nice, dramatic turn for Paul Rudd, who I’m used to seeing in comedy, playing a soon to be out of work clam digger in 1970’s Long Island, as the larger corporations move in and take all of the jobs. As he and his sister deal with the death of their father, he and his friends have to deal with the reality of losing their jobs in the increasingly corporate world.

Strong performances across the board make this a great little actors movie. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it is destined to hit many theaters, so this will have to be a DVD movie for most people, but I would highly recommend it as it was one of the best movies at SXSW.

Knocked Up – SXSW Premiere

This will probably go down as the best movie appearing at SXSW this year, and the most popular.

The lines to get into this movie were unlike any of the other films I had seen for any film at the festival, including the opening night premiere of ‘The Lookout.’ And the movie does not disappoint in any way.

Seth Rogan plays Ben an out of work, internet wanna be loser living off of a fourteen thousand dollar settlement he received 10 years ago from a postal truck accident. Katherine Heigl plays Allison Scott, a recently promoted E Television personality, who on a night of celebrating and through a verbal misunderstanding gets pregnant after a sexual encounter with Seth Rogan. Hilarity ensues. And it actually does.

I haven’t decided if this was funnier than ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ or not, because it is so different in its tone. Still equally as vulgar of course, but different in a way that more people can relate to.

The supporting cast is great in this movie, especially Ben’s roommates and their thoughts on life. Equally as entertaining are Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as Allison’s sister and brother-in-law, with a tremendous highlight of the movie being a getaway trip to Vegas.

This is definitely a movie to see in the theater and I believe it will be released in June. I’ll probably have to see it again as in the old Paramount Theater the sound system couldn’t compete with the laughter in the audience.