Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (part 2)

Nov 07

If you haven’t read part 1, we highly suggest you check it out!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. Up next: “Star Trek: New Voyages.”

Star Trek: New Voyages

In our second installment we take a look at “Star Trek: New Voyages”, also known as “Star Trek: Phase II”. Like “Star Trek Continues” this show is also set in the Original series timeline of the Star Trek Franchise. “Star Trek: Phase II” was in fact the name of the never-aired sequel to the original series that Roddenberry wanted to produce. It featured the voyages of the Enterprise after her first 5-year mission during TOS. The show never got aired but some sets and character ideas were re-worked for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and some of the story ideas were used during the production of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. The fan show Star Trek Continues/Phase II, picks up at that point.

Number of episodes

First aired in 2004, Star Trek Phase II has so far produced 11 full episodes and a couple of shorter vignettes.

Stories

The show does start out as a little over-zealous fan-tribute show that tries to cram as much ‘trek’ into one episode as possible with about as much finesse as cramming tribbles into a Klingon’s underpants. During the first episodes the number of tributes and cameo’s are a little overwhelming. But as the show matures the stories get better and better. Two episodes “The Child” and “Kitumba” are actually based on the original un-produced scripts for the never aired Phase II series. “The Child” was eventually re-worked for the second season opener of TNG.

Acting

Star Trek: New Voyages has had several cast changes during its run. All the main characters (Spock, Kirk, Mccoy etc) are portrayed by at least different actors. The first actor to portray Kirk, James Cawly, gives us a solid idea of what would have happened if Kirk had been an Elvis fan. Brian Gross, depicting Kirk after episode 9 gives us a younger, more naïve version of Kirk. But what the “core cast” might lack in acting skills is made up by the guest stars. From Walter Koeing to George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney to Denise Crosby, the original Star Trek Giants come by to pay tribute and pitch in.

Sets and Visual Effects

As is the case with most fan-created shows (and most of the original Trek series), the production quality improves along the way. The sets and costumes are great, but what makes STNV stand out is the excellent CGI. The shots of the (partly refit) Enterprise are drop-dead gorgeous and stand out far beyond anything Paramount ever produced, even in the production of shows like “Star Trek: Voyager” or “Enterprise”.

Conclusion

A little rough around the edges, “New Voyages” sometimes borders on a cheezy fan show. But this is more then made up for by great stories and the all-star guest cast that pops by from time to time.

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Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (Part 1)

Nov 04

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. First up is “Star Trek Continues.”

Star Trek Continues

First Aired in 2013 this show is produced by a non-profit charity and takes you back to the good old days of The Original Series. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are all there, but just played by different actors.

Number of episodes

As of today, STC has 7 episodes under its belt and features some great guest stars. From Orion slave trader Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk) to Chris Doohan filling in his father’s shoes as engineer Montgomery Scott.

Stories

The pilot episode “Pilgrim of Eternity” where Apollo (seen in the TOS episode “Who Mourns for Adonais”) returns to the Enterprise is spot on! The show entertains you but also makes you think about humanity, society and all the big issues Gene Roddenberry held most dear.

Acting

The cast delivers great original performances but still manage to pay homage to the original cast. Actor Vic Mignogna has a subtle way to portray all our favorite “Shatner-isms” in his portrayal of Captain Kirk. Michelle Specht plays Elise McKennah, a character that wasn’t in the original series cast, portrays a ship counsellor that puts Troi to shame.

Sets

“Star Trek Continues” built their sets from the original blueprints of the TOS sets. Therefore everything looks just like it came straight out of TOS, but stuff doesn’t wobble when they walk around (at least not much).

Visual Effects

The special effects in the show are pretty good and they have continued to progress as the series moves along. However the show focuses more on storyline and dialogue then on flashy special effects.

Conclusion

Star Trek Continues is surely worth the watch if you are a fan of the original series. It will take a little bit of getting used to seeing your favorite characters portrayed by different actors, but they will grown on you .. fast.

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5 Ways to Geek-Out Your Work Atmosphere

Oct 25

Chances are pretty high that you are an office drone. Every day you lug your beloved laptop to the office where you happily clickety-clack your keys until quitting time. Chances are even higher that said office is a landscape office that you need to share with other office drones doing the exact same thing. This would not be a problem if there was not some sadistic trend to take away all the walls in said office and sprinkle the acoustic mayhem with people who insist on constantly shouting into their phones. You need something to drown out that audio-anarchy and it needs to be geeky.

Sure, there are a lot of audio-stations you can listen to and Spotify might be the first thing that comes to mind. But for a hardcore geek like you, it might be a little too distracting. So, aside from the fact that Spotify is just a bit too mainstream-jock-hipster for to your taste, you might like something with more ‘atmosphere’ to help you focus.

1: SomaFM – Mission Control

For this one you need to install Clementine. A great open-source cross platform audio player that comes with all the bells and whistles you might need. It plays your entire MP3 collection (should you still have one) but also ties into all the major audio streaming services. SomaFM (a streaming radio network) is one of them. Amongst some cool channels you will find the “Mission Control” channel. Yes, that Mission Control. Take some cool chill music and sprinkle in some great radio communications from NASA. Before you know it you’ll chill out while listening to some guy in the background (with the heaviest Texas accent you can imagine) telling an astronaut to “try hitting it with a hammer”.

2: Youarelistening.to

This one is a little bit more along the same line, but youarelistening.to picks some great chill songs from Soundcloud and lets YOU mix that up with police chatter from all over the planet. So hear perps get arrested in South Africa or hear the tale of the “drunk and disorderly male caucasian” that has just fallen through the roof of his parents’ home. If you want to go beyond weird, try the ‘numbers station’ option and try to break the secret code.

3: Space sounds on YouTube

Youtube is a great place to find the strangest music. Just search for “space mix” and you will be presented with some awesome ambient mixes that will keep you entertained for hours. There are some instrumental masterpieces out there that will chill you out for 2 or 3 hours at a time.

4: 24 hours of Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Since we are on the topic of ambient sounds, let’s take it a step further and listen to 12 hours of the Starship Enterprise’s warp engines, or the engine sound of a passing snowspeeder? CrysKnife offers up some great ambient background sounds you can listen to as you code away. Weird? Yes! A great way to push out the sounds of the sales guy who is trying to peddle his grandma to an Ethiopian cow herder? Definitely.

5: Roll your own with Ambient Mixer

We close off with a great site that will cater to those who have not found anything to their liking. Ambient Mixer lets you MIX your own ambient atmosphere by playing with the dials and sliders of different sound sources to build your very own unique environment. How about a slice of Hogwarts or Hacking in the rain? Just try out one of the many atmospheric loops until you find something to your liking.

So pause that mainstream mix on Spotify and break that “panflute classic” cd into 5 razor sharp pieces. Connect to your inner geek and zone out!

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Back to Basics

Oct 22

1 > 0

It’s the title of a very impressive YouTube video made by Gary Vaynerchuk in which he presents you with a verbal weapon of mass destruction against any form of procrastination whatsoever. In short it breaks down to “whatever you do, it’s better then doing nothing;” and “only by doing small things do you get to the big thing.”

It has been kind of my mantra in the last couple of months. In a time of my life where I’m trying to make heads or tails of the many simultaneous “program threads” that I seem to have running in my mind. Running my own company has drastically changed my life over the last two years. It has been both a successful outlet for my creativity (I give talks about IT to entrepreneurs, which are basically stand-up versions of podcasts with slides) and work full-time as a consultant with my main client. Aside from that there are various “side projects” running around with smaller clients that require my attention. The overall result? My creative energy has been scattered across many channels and the knightwise.com website has been pushed to the wayside a little.

But aside from you guys not getting your daily dose of geekery, I have also started to loose touch with the most important part of Knightwise.com: its community. That crazy bunch of geeks across the world that I can call my friends. And for that I am truly truly sorry. Because your friendships and your support are the one thing that make Knightwise.com worth doing. So this week (after some soul searching and a long talk with both kdmurray and our resident photog Konrad) I think it is time to pick up the geek gauntlet and get cracking.

Reset!

Whenever you think you are lost, just backtrack to the last waypoint that looks familiar. It’s a handy trick for not losing your way in the woods or in the 340th level of some Dungeons & Dragons game. I kinda got “lost” as a geek. Not really knowing what to do with my geeky energy any more. The blog has gone by the wayside and so have many of my geeky projects. Instead I have degenerated (yes !) into scrolling Facebook, watching TV shows and scrolling 9gag! My God, I’m almost mainstream!

One of the things that I have been listening to in the car (I do long drives to work again) have been episodes of the Daily Source Code. The ORIGINAL show that got me into podcasting way back in 2004. For those kids who are oblivious: It was a show hosted by former MTV VJ Adam Curry and marks the very beginning of what we call podcasting today. What it perfectly communicates is the raw energy that ensues when you give a geek a mic and let him talk to the world without any rules or regulations.

One of my favorite episodes (and the very first where the name “Knightwise” is mentioned in a podcast) is where Adam pops on a lapel mike and leisurely takes us on a drive to the local mall to have a coffee and check his emails. Back in the day this was called ‘a sound-seeing tour’. Today’s podcasts are mostly scripted, have a steady ‘form factor’ and sound more like satellite radio than satellite radio, but back in those days it was different.

The most important lesson that I learned from re-listening to those old shows is that the most boring, dull and mundane things might be the most fascinating to share. One of the reasons I haven’t blogged for a while is because I thought I had nothing to share. Turns out there are things that i’m working on (as small as they may seem) that might be of some importance to the listeners. Hopping back to 1>0: ANY content is better then NO content at all.

Blog Reset.

So I’m gonna turn back the clock a little to 2004 (and before) and try to share simple geeky things with you that happen in my life. The fact I got a new monitor, a little app I found to listen to audiobooks in the car, a link to a nice Star Trek fan series on YouTube and so forth. Some of it might be utterly uninteresting to you, so you can just skip it. At least its better then total radio silence. But hey… one IS greater then zero.

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The Samsung Galaxy S7, The simcard-enabled-submarine.

Mar 11

You’ve got seven vices and seven virtues, you also have seven dwarfs and seven riders of the apocalypse. You also have a movie called “Seven” where they cut off Gwyneth Paltrow’s head and ship it via Fedex, but that is beside the point. What is important to remember that there are also seven siblings in Samsungs Galaxy family. We got our greedy hands on one of the few models in circulation and decided to tell you all about it.

A picture of the Samsung Galaxy S7

Look and feel
The S7 is a lot like Iron Man. Where the 1950’s versions of Iron Man looked bulky and edgy, the modern implementation of Iron Man is slick and smooth. Same goes for the S7. Although its the same size as its predecessor the S6, the rounded edges of the S7 make it feel just a little better to hold on to. The raised mounting of the rear camera in the S6 is gone which turns the back of the phone into a solid, unbroken slate of black. Close your eyes and roll the phone around in your hands and it will be hard for you to distinguish it from its greatest competitor, the iPhone 6.

Some things are just same-same
Aside from the size, the screen specs have not changed either compared to the S6, but with a beautiful Amoled screen with such a high resolution, why would it? The screen is packed so tight you cant distinguish the individual pixels and the colors are vibrant. Thanks to the Amoled technology black is black and you can even read the screen in bright sunlight.

Same but no same
Samsung has upped the specs on the cpu and the onboard ram (we won’t bore you with the technical details, suffice to say the phone is fast and snappy). The biggest change however is the fact that the micro SD card slot has returned. You can once again slide your little Micro SD card into your S7 to upgrade the storage capacity. Although slightly slower to respond opposed to the onboard storage, the micro SD card gives you the chance to store music, movies and more without worrying that you will ‘fill up your phone’. Because Samsung did not implement one of the latest Android features into its OS, it  not possible to install apps on the micro sd card.

We are talking about the first submarine equipped with a simcard.

Just drop it in the toilet
Every week we hold a silent vigil for those moments where a loud splashing sound emerges from toilets all over the world. No, we aren’t referring to the proliferation of successful bowel movements, instead we point towards all those incidents where phones end up in the toilet. That one place where modern day technology touches that one earthly element that signals doom for many: Water.
The S7 is waterproof. When we say waterproof we aren’t talking about a couple of drops of water. We are talking about the first submarine equipped with a simcard. The S7 can stand over 20 minutes of underwatertime, more then enough for those slow to react to fish their baby out of the john when they accidentally dropped it in. We tried it (not the toilet test, just plain water) and it works indeed. The phone knows when it has been submerged and refuses to charge via the USB port until all components have dried up. Pretty impressive.

VR
The S7 is also compatible with Samsungs gear VR, its Occulus-powered virtual reality headset. Slide the phone in and sito presto you are emerged in a VR world where you can play games, watch Netflix or literally walk around in a 360 degree movie. That is until your phone gets too hot or your battery dies out. (See our review of the Gear Vr for more info on this.)

Conclusion
We give the S7 an 8/10 because its a decent phone. It’s not cheap but you do get a lot of bang for your buck. The VR technology that Samsung loves to pimp is interesting but still in its infant phase.

Links: Want to know more ? We found this excellent (Dutch) video review of the S7

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