Based on the raving reviews

Based on the raving reviews of a few friends, I signed up for Netflix today. Unlimited DVD rentals, keep up to 3 as long as you like, mail them back in their pre-addressed and postaged containers, and they have almost every DVD made, for $19.95/mo. So for the price of buying one DVD per month, I can instead rent and see everything I ever wanted to. Kay and I spent about an hour off and on trying to think of every movie we missed in the past few years. The Netflix interface isn’t perfect, so having a second window open to the IMDB helped us pick. We now have over 30 movies in our queue, with Timecode, Cradle Will Rock, and Run Lola Run in the mail and on the way (3 movies I wanted to catch, but missed over the last year or so). Many of the things on our list are foreign and indie films we can never remember to look for, or have a hard time finding.

I can already tell this is going to be an awesome service.

Blogger is scorching fast for

Blogger is scorching fast for me now, and I couldn’t be happier about the success of the server fund. I learned more about networking features in Windows 2000 than I wanted to know, but with the new server “farm” (2 servers is hardly a farm) in place, we’ll be able to plop in servers as needed. I also learned that when you ask your users and friends to chip in, the results can be astounding.

Once again, the future for Blogger is a bright one.

During the new years in

During the new years in Idaho, I relaxed by consuming media. I read two books and watched a handful of movies, the following are short reviews of each.

Books
Survivor – I read Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club before the movie came out, and was impressed by the originality and the dark humor. I remember many people saying Fight Club (the movie and/or book) was troubling, but I felt Survivor affected me much more. In the first part of the book, the narrator is pretty much a Tyler Durden type. The second part satirizes the road to fame, and the last bit deals with death. Overall, I liked it even more than Fight Club, but came away with a feeling of despair about death.

Don’t Make Me Think – I heard good things about this book, but was skeptical after reading other books and websites on usability. I hated Jakob’s book. It was overpriced and filled with hard rules of how to design according to Jakob, with little talk of intended audience, and very little data to support his bold claims. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug was refreshing in comparison. I highly recommend it to anyone building sites that isn’t strictly in the IA (information architecture) area (I could see IAs thinking the book covers beginner stuff), and especially to designers wanting to build sites anyone can use. Krug presents reasons for certain layouts and some basic style guidelines, and most of it is backed by empirical evidence of past sites and usability tests. He also presents a range of solutions for several common elements of page design. Instead of saying “all instances of X need to look like Y” he explains how users would interact with different options, and how they can range from being obvious to being obscure to users. It’s a short book, and the author states why, so anyone can get through it in just a few hours. Even though I’ve been designing for a long time and thinking about all the issues raised in the book, I still came away with quite a few useful tips and ways to think about layouts.

DVDs
Galaxy Quest – making fun of star trek is still quite funny.

Ronin – watched only for enjoying the car chases on the surround sound system, I forgot how badly the spy-thriller storyline fell flat.

Toy Story 2 – 3D rendering and animation has come so far. Funnier than the first movie and with plenty of eye candy to look at.

The Conversation – supposedly a classic, it just felt slow, aimless, and altogether pointless. If it were done today, the film’s 113 minutes could probably fit within a half hour. Nice to see early 70’s San Francisco though.

Rushmore – still one of the funniest movies of the 90’s for me.

Wallace and Gromit – great claymation, though I forgot to bring the remote so we were stuck with Grand Day Out, probably Nick Park’s weakest outing.

The Player – I’ve always loved this one. Watching it this time, I was taken with the camera work. There were some great long shots (going several minutes without a cut), and interesting use of variable focus/perspective shots.

Usual Suspects – great writing and acting, I’m still amazed this one cost only about six million to make. It looks so much better.