Friday, February 02, 2007

Non-archaeology post F Anyone's I, for any Sci Fi fans out there, especially those with a certain affection for 2001: A Space Odyssey, there's a great HAL 9000 screensaver. Whoever made it combed through the film and recreated all/most of the graphics displayed on the computer screens throughout. It's very nicely done. In fact, using it prompted me to redesign some of my database interfaces with some of the look-and-feel of the 2001-type displays. In actual fact, much of that redesign resulted in much more readable data than the default supplied by Access. The fonts used were difficult to recreate -- I had to go out and locate free fonts online and find one that was close to what is in the movie.

I've heard tell that Kubrick was incredibly detail-oriented so the displays were probably analyzed to death to make sure they were realistically informative. The screen saver has some quirks. . . .it's got an imitation HAL voice at the beginning that can be a bit shocking if you're not ready for it (it's, eh, reasonably close to the original). It also cuts off any sound from the rest of the machine, so if you have music playing it will stop when the saver kicks in. But it's still very neat and really captures the ambiance of the film.

Anyone see the sequel, 2010? I didn't think it was that bad, though it was made in 1984 so it was really heavy on the US/Soviet Union conflict and threw in a bunch of political junk that it didn't really need to tell the story. The reason behind HAL's bizarre behavior didn't really make much sense either. Still, the effects were very good; I remember reading some people getting so queasy they had to leave the theater during the part where the Discovery was rotating and John Lithgow was going over to it. A bit of it was outdated in retrospect, too. They used aerobraking, which was supposedly new at the time, but they've been using it for unmanned probes for years now. The Europa stuff -- life arising there -- was based on ideas from the Voyager probes, though it would have to be well beneath the ice, not on the surface like in the film (but hey, they had to be able to see it).

FWIW, I've had this screen saver running for years and it's not done anything wonky (or malicious) to my systems.