Monday, July 20, 2009

We Choose the Moon - What a Wonderful Way to Relive History

Reposted from my personal Home Page.

When Apollo 11 launched its lunar module to make the first landing on the moon back in 1969, I had just had a newlywed tiff with my husband and had stalked outside to cool off. We were visiting his grandparents and his grandmother called to me and urged me to come back inside to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Being young and hot-headed I stubbornly refused. I have regretted it ever since.

Now, today, 40 years after that historic touchdown, I got to relive the moment thanks to a wonderful website called "We Choose the Moon" that virtually recreated the experience. A new friend I met on the web just a couple of weeks ago happened to send me the link and I checked it out earlier but was several days away from the actual landing. Today, I'd been in town all day running errands and had just sat down and picked up the paper and saw a short blurb on the front page about how 40 years ago today at 1:17 p.m. PDT, the lunar module had landed on the moon. I asked my husband (yes, the same one!) what time it was and it was 1:15 p.m. so I raced back into my office, navigated to the website and downloaded the graphics just in time to see the lunar module kick up the dust of the moon's surface and descend to Tranquility Base. How thrilling!! At last - I feel I really witnessed it live!

The website designers had live streaming audio of the simulated broadcast from mission control and it made it feel so real! I loved how the virtual landing was timed to coincide with the actual event at the same real time pace. Looking forward to the virtual event just as I had the real event truly heightened my anticipation. What a wonderful way to relive history!

This website is chuck full of videos, photos, and audio clips from the actual experience as well as offering widgets to track the mission on your computer, etc. As I have only marginal DSL service at 1.5 mbps, I had problems with the volume of data transfer that has to occur between the website and my workstation and kept losing my connection. But at least I saw the actual landing and listened to about 15 minutes of post-landing transmissions before I started experiencing data overload. I would love to have the opportunity to relive other historical events in this way. Can you imagine how exciting it would be to witness one of Julius Caesar's triumphs or the crowning of Thutmosis III recreated at a date corresponding to the same date in history and paced in real time?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Big Brother Tactics Give Amazon A Black Eye

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price. - More: NY Times

I find the above incident hardly surprising. Recently I was notified by Roku that my new player now had the ability to obtain video-on-demand movies from Amazon. I went up to Amazon to activate my player for this service only to discover (by reading the service agreement's fine print) that Amazon, even though they were charging $14.99 to buy a downloadable movie - a price almost as high as a new release DVD - they advised that you download the movie and watch it as soon as possible because they did not guarantee that the film you purchase would be available for future viewing if the studio that released the film should decide to no longer offer it in downloadable format. The only thing surprising about the Kindle incident was that Amazon actually refunded the purchase price. I assumed that Amazon, by making such a disclaimer in their VOD agreement, was negating any liability for such an act and was not obligated to issue any refunds.

Anyway, needless to say, although I activated my Roku player for Amazon VOD services, I have never purchased a movie in that format. As for renting a movie from Amazon, I think Netflix is far more economical, even if you have to wait a bit for a disc and I can choose from hundreds of instantly available titles on my Roku device for free in the meantime.