Dancing with the Woz, Round 4.0

31-Mar-09 7:23 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Television; 1 comment.

Last night, Steve Wozniak appeared on Dancing with the Stars for his fourth performance. Since last week, I joined the official "Vote for Woz" Facebook group and was surprised to learn its members receive regular missives from the Woz himself. He really is as nice a guy as he seems: one lengthy message was asking his fans' forgiveness for not replying to each individual email he received. Apparently that is a typical practice for him, keeping him up until the wee hours of the morning, even when he needs to get up early for dance practice. He asked his fans to understand how the demands of the show may cause him to temporarily re-prioritize. I think we can afford you that one luxury, Woz.

Woz's last performance earned him and his partner the lowest scores the judges had given in three years — yet the popular vote brought him back for more. Declaring his intent to earn the fan's trust and prove the judges wrong, Woz vowed to work hard and surprise us all this week. Here is his resulting tango:

I thought Woz did a great job, but I was bit disappointed by the choreography: it seemed like his partner was doing all the sexy and challenging moves. As Carrie Ann said last week, has the novelty worn off? If you don't think so, then be sure to vote for Woz. Follow his progress on Twitter for more updates!

Dancing with the Woz, Round ///

24-Mar-09 9:50 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Television; 1 comment.

We've been watching Steve Wozniak on Dancing with the Stars here on Showbits, giving him more attention than we previously have to any other topic. It can't be helped — the man invented the Apple II computer, which set this blogger on a path that ultimately led to this very site. Having the opportunity to watch the industry's progenitor get fancy on the dance floor is an honor.

After debuting with a mediocre cha-cha, Woz returned last week and performed a more respectable quickstep, despite having a fractured foot. Last night, his third dance was compounded by a pulled hamstring that made an already challenging samba even more arduous. Here are the results of his third and potentially final performance:

I've already applauded Woz for his daring and demeanor, and I think the judges both were unnecessarily harsh and didn't take into account Woz's physical limitations. Nonetheless, based not on the scores but on the routine itself, even I have to admit this could be the end of Woz's dancing career.

But remember: it's all relative. To get this far, Woz has worked harder than most of us could, proving himself a better dancer than anyone I personally know. A regular dancer myself, I was once told: "As long as you're smiling, you're doing it right." I admire anyone who would willingly put himself through the physical and social trials Woz has and still come out grinning.

Dancing with the Woz, Round ][

17-Mar-09 11:19 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Television; 1 comment.

I blogged yesterday about Woz's Dancing with the Stars debut. Here's round two of his performance!

Could geekdom ask for a better representative?

Dancing with the Woz, Round 1

16-Mar-09 4:52 PM by
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As I've mentioned before, I don't watch Dancing with the Stars — yet the retrocomputing enthusiast in me has been eagerly awaiting the debut of this season and the star of the show, Steve Wozniak.

In my circle of cloistered friends, Steve "Woz" Wozniak is a household name. He invented the Apple II computer that revolutionized the personal computer industry and which many of us still use to this day. With games like Oregon Trail and accounting software such as VisiCalc, the Apple II put computers in more homes and offices than possibly any other computer.

Three decades later, Woz is getting his mainstream acknowledgement with an appearance on Dancing with the Stars. How brilliant of ABC to recognize that celebrity comes in more shapes and sizes than Hollywood allows! The season debuted last Monday, and Woz's performance and scores are captured below:

Though I agree that the actual choreography and performance may've been somewhat lackluster, I find Carrie Ann Inaba's observation the one worth keying in on: this was something new and fun for Woz, and he took advantage of it. Unlike the actors and athletes that often stock the Stars lineup, Woz's fame is not built on performance. For him to strut his stuff on the dance floor took a lot of work and courage. I'm not sure if that's worthy of the sort of promotion fans are encouraging — for better or worse, dance competitions are usually won by the person with the most talent, not who put the most effort in. But Woz has vowed to keep on dancing, despite a fractured foot, and I think his dedication to something so obviously outside his comfort zone is admirable. Take a look at his training, courtesy MacRumors:

The results of last week's round are to be announced tonight, at which time we'll learn if the show will continue to be Dancing with the Woz!

On the Road Again…

21-Jul-08 3:01 PM by
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As with this time last year, I'll be AFK for a few weeks as I enjoy a summer vacation in Missouri, then Washington and Missoula. I have some Showbits content queued for the next two weeks, so there will be something to read while I'm gone.

I didn't want to leave the site in a precarious position while away, so once I'm back and available to smooth out any bugs, I'll be upgrading Showbits to WordPress 2.6 (that being the software that powers this blog). If, while I'm under the hood, there are any additional features you'd like to see implemented, please let me know!

In the meantime, I may be blogging on my journeys for my day job, so if your interests are not just cinematic but also retrocomputic, surf on over.

You Can't Have Iron Man Without IT

15-May-08 3:32 PM by
Filed under Films; 4 comments.

It's summer blockbuster season, which means it's time again for a dynamic duo team-up. No, not Batman & Robin — Angela Gunn and I have joined forces to review the technology in yet another explosive film. As we did last year with Live Free or Die Hard and The Bourne Ultimatum, we now turn to the IT in Iron Man.

As submitted to Angela, my initial review was rather lengthy and leaned more to the cinematic side, so to accommodate the IT angle called for by the publication venue, some content had to be cut. But Showbits is first and foremost about films, so I present to you that missing content, with ellipses used to indicate where in the final product it would've gone:

… we know that Stark's kryptonite and our own are one and the same.

Though Iron Man ostensibly shares the same world as his Marvel cohorts, the movie is not replete with clever cameos and geeky nods to his literary origins. Nonetheless, there's enough fine detail to reward those with even a passing knowledge of the Iron Man comic. There is a tease of Iron Man's sidekick, War Machine, that I honestly didn't know which way it would go. I was surprised to find myself holding my breath the potential of a surprise superhero. (Speaking of which, be sure to stay through the end of the credits for a bonus scene!)

There's little that Iron Man does badly, though perhaps it does some things less well than it could've. Gwyneth Paltrow's character of Pepper Potts has more depth than a Bond girl but still comes across as a bit weak — more a result of the scripting than the acting, I suspect. There's also plenty of borrowing from other genre films, including Marvel's own library. The villain's origin and appearance is similar to what we'll see next month in The Incredible Hulk; we've already seen the "bring the enemy into the atmosphere until his jets cool" trick in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; and the hero and villain having an unmasked showdown is a staple of the Spider-Man line.

But hey, you're not here because you're a comic book geek; you're here because you're an IT geek. (There's a difference?) What makes this hero super is the technology, and there's plenty of it …

… Parts in a diagram can be rotated, separated and dragged to the trash, or worn like a glove. Très cool.

The less traditional machines in his house are more like versatile pets. With natural English speech recognition, Stark easily commands them to adjust variables, record logs, and assemble parts, though some machines exhibit personality traits that make them as annoying as helpful. It may not be flawless artificial intelligence, but they won't be threatening us with global thermonuclear war anytime soon, either.

Stark also sports a digital butler …

Read the full review at Computerworld.com »

Hollywood Meets MIT

13-Feb-08 12:55 PM by
Filed under Films; 2 comments.

Tomorrow sees the release of Jumper, a movie about a young man (Hayden Christensen) who can instantly teleport to anywhere on the planet. He soon discovers this power puts him in the middle of two warring factions: people like him, known as Jumpers; and the Paladin organization, represented by Samuel L. Jackson, who believes Jumpers are a threat and must be destroyed.

Jackson must not have researched his quantum physics, as otherwise he'd know that teleportation inherently involves the act of destruction. It was one of many lessons recently learned at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when Christensen and Jumper director Doug Liman joined two MIT professors on a panel examining the science of teleportation. The presenters attempted to bridge not only fantasy and reality, but also the smart and the savvy. Though Christensen seemed out-of-place on such a cerebral panel, his presence drew a crowd to an evening of high-level science made fun and easy to understand.

Read the rest of this entry at Computerworld.com »

Do Androids Dream of Electric Apples?

14-Jan-08 12:00 PM by
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Targeting systems online.

Targeting systems online.

When David Szetela delivered his keynote speech at KansasFest 2007, he revealed a fact that is little-known to all but diehard geeks (which was, of course, exactly who he was addressing). It connected two of my favorite things: the Apple II computer and the Terminator movies.

In the Terminator films, the audience is often treated to the perspective of these cybernetic organisms sent from the future to change the past. This red-hued vision makes assessments and executes routines faster than the human eye can perceive — but if you watch a certain scene in the first movie frame-by-frame, you may spot some familiar algorithms.

Read the rest of this entry at Computerworld.com »