Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Star Wars vs. Star Trek

This is it, folks; grudge match extraordinaire! Geeks, don your cosplay!

Now I know this has been done to death, so I'm going to take a slightly different track than most. There will be no debate as to whether the photon torpedoes from the good ol' NCC-1701-B could penetrate a Super Star Destroyer's shields, nor whether a light saber could block a phaser blast on full (even if the phaser was super charged by Data himself).

I know this picture isn't germane to the topic at hand; just let it go and enjoy the awesome.

I am herein concerned with which series is more inherently awesome. Some geek somewhere will always be able to come up with how the Millennium Falcon could pwn a Klingon Bird of Prey or whatever other thing you could imagine, because, at the end of the day, all this stuff is fictional so none of the arguments are ultimately refutable (though my arguments won't be refutable because they're correct, not because they're theoretical).

So, here are the categories from which we'll compare:
  • Vehicles
  • Weapons
  • Villains
  • Heroes
  • Aliens
For the sake of brevity, I'm taking the coolest in class from each universe to pit against each other (though there will be some subcategories). I know what you're thinking: "There is no coolness factor in Star Wars or Star Trek, you nerd!" Oh yeah? I have six words for you, Mr. Naysayer: Billy D Williams in a cape.

Like James Brown, but with less spousal abuse and more lasers.

Let's start the show!


  • Personal Craft
This category is basically comprised of vehicles used to carry  people (or otherwise) in small quantities and with non-military intent. Think your personal car; not an Abrahms tank. This is a pretty light class, as neither endeavor gives much credence to non-military craft (in a world with phasers and blasters, why not weaponise?).

Star Wars
This was a tough one for me. Luke's speeder in the OG Star Wars (we all know the original Trilogy was several parsecs cooler than the new one) is lame. Speeder bikes, while awesome, are military tech. Ditto the Millennium Falcon. Moving on to the new Trilogy, we have a bunch of cheesy cars in Episode II and Darth Maul's speeder, which reminds me of a very futuristic Hover Round.

Darth Maul holding up traffic.

Note: this is not the same image as above.

It looked like this round was about to be awarded to Star Trek by default, but then I thought back to my Sega Dreamcast days. What was one of the best racers for that platform? That's right! Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer! How could I forget podracers? So, without further ado, I bring you the entrant from the Star Wars universe:

Sebulba was so robbed by that little Jedi brat.

Sebulba's podracer. Part hovercraft, part alcohol burning 1969 SS Camaro with a 454 and wicked sidepipes, part slingshot; all awesome. So it doesn't fit any groceries and you have to steer with your feet. So what? I would roll in this to work even on a snow day.

Star Trek
Most of the personal transport type craft from the Star Trek universe come in the form of the shuttle craft (or, as I like to call them, "pre-coffins for red-shirted ensigns"). No matter how you try to gussy them up, they still look lame. I mean, like an early '90s Oldsmobile minivan lame.

Guess I'm not the first person to think that.
Seriously? It's like an X-Wing cockpit on skis.

Sorry, Trek; looks like you're no competition against the tuner's dream that is Sebulba's pod.

That is, until the last iteration (or, should I say, reinvention) of the Star Trek genre. The 2009 Star Trek movie was, more than any other, a bridge from the real world to the Nerdy McNerdathon realm of Trekkie faithful. It brought the cool back to the series in a way that both reminded us why we fell in love with it in the first place and managed to make it cutting edge entertainment to boot. Surely we can mine this piece for gems of awesome, can't we? In the words of Obama, yes we can! (Don't worry; no tax hikes will come with this post.)

For our real-world comparison to Sebulba's pod, we had the 1969 SS Camaro; passing that up is a tall order. How could that ever be topped? What can possibly compete with the rad that is a muscle car? What other vehicle can one grab that has more thrill, speed, and that rebellious whiff of danger? Tall order indeed.

But not that tall of an order.

Wheelies aren't illegal if they're done into opposing traffic.

Enter the motorcycle. It's all the speed, noise, acceleration, burnouts, and beauty you love about a car, but on steroids; and without those pesky bits of metal and airbags between you and the semis and such. Though not quite raised to Akira levels, Star Trek manages to kick it up a notch from our common, pedestrian Hayabusas.

The end all be all motorcycle.

OK, maybe there's some worthy competition for that title.

All futures include rad motorcycles; if they don't, they're not a future I want to live in. Star Trek's take on the soon to come is no exception (thankfully). There are two contenders for this category: Kirk's bike and the cop bike.

Kirk's bike is beautiful in its simplicity. It's the familiar rebel ride we all know and love, sans the wheels and suspension. Still has the tires, though, because why have a motorcycle with no wheelies and burnouts?

And I'm betting it's not a stupid Harley V-Twin, either.

Though I love the elegancy of its design, I can't quite get behind it as uber future tech. If this thing were real, I would indenture my children for it; but I don't think it's quite up to the task of taking on Sebulba's pod.

That leaves us with the cop hoverbike.

I'm pretty sure the android cop is model P0NCH-J0N

Super fast? Check. Totally dangerous? Check. Hyper maneuverable? Check. No room for kids? Check. Probably in the average Joe's budget in its time? Check. You have the right to remain awesome.


This is a tough call. Every time I try to pick Sebulba's pod, I see that sweet hoverbike tearing through a local mall in my imagination. Every time I try to pick the hoverbike, that oh-so-menacing growl/thunder from Sebulba's engine ignites my racing dreams. But there can be only one . . .

I have to go with the hoverbike. Staying with the true nature of the class, Sebulba's pod just doesn't cut it. I can get all the thrill, fun, and maybe even speed (with probably a lot more maneuverability) on the hoverbike as I can in Sebulba's pod, and it's practical as a personal transport device to boot. I can't see the podracer used anywhere but on the track and, while that seems fun, it's not horribly versatile. It would be like pitting a ZX-14R against an Indy car. The ninja will do almost everything the racer will, but you can actually use it every day. Plus, Indy cars don't wheelie very well.

Round 1: Star Trek

  • Main Vessel
This is the class that defines the series. The ship (or otherwise) you glance at and say, "now that's Star Trek/Wars!" While the entries from each genre might be vastly dissimilar, they are both quintessential.

Star Wars

Star Wars has such a vast litany of craft that define it. X-Wings, Star Destroyers, the freakin' Death Star. How could any one epitomise more than another? Who am I to say that an A-Wing is more "Star Wars" than a Tie Fighter?

Oh, wait, there is one that's more "Star Wars" than any other.

She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts.

It's a space muscle car/bachelor pad. With lasers. And it's the fastest ship in the fleet. And it has a Wookie.

Maybe Luke thought it was a piece of junk, but he's a whiney farm boy with a stupid haircut. And he sucks at lightsaber fighting.

Luke would have lasted about 1.4 seconds against this guy.

Yes, the Millennium Falcon. The ship that blasted and hyperdrove it's way into our hearts all those years ago. Despite the many "advances" in the Star Wars universe, there's no ship quite as evocative. Ugly yet elegant, ungainly yet smooth, circular yet hard edged. It defies our classifications, which made it all the more exotic. The Falcon, moreover, is unique in the world of sci-fi because it's so darned accessible. It's not full of high-tech gadgetry and strange, esoteric features (though it does have a pretty sweet chessboard); consequently, it made space travel seem almost accessible, too. You could see yourself at the helm of a ride like the Falcon, and that makes it all the more immersive. Add the fact that it's a space-pirate ship, and you have a course set straight for awesome.

Star Trek

No doubt about the definitive ship on this one. If you're not sure which it is, you've never seen an episode of Star Trek (well, maybe you saw some stupid one like Deep Space 9 or Babylon 5).

Who else is now hearing oooo-OOOOO-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-OOOOO in their head?

NCC to the 1701. The starship Enterprise. Hello, awesome.

Though I must say, the original design looks a bit, well . . . dated (I was going to say, "like a 3 year old pasted a plate and some popsicles to a flashlight," but I like the old girl, so I'll be nice). Let's get a more current version, shall we?

I can hear the Earl Grey brewing from here (yes, I know there's no air to transmit the noise, and the Enterprise doesn't "brew" in the traditional sense; just work with me).

Hmmm. More modern and less hokey, yes, but a little too 90s hip. Like bellbottoms being replaced with Hammer Pants. Let's try that one more time.

Hello, gorgeous!

Now that's what I'm talking about! Let's take a gander at the bridge.

Now that's what I call style! It's like an intergalactic cruise liner with lasers and photon torpedoes.

And that really is the heart and soul of the Enterprise. It's the ultimate in space going raddery. It's more of a traveling city/battleship than just a spaceship. It's fast, self-sufficient, and packs enough gadgets to make any nerd pass gas uncontrollably.


No contest, here. Millennium Flacon.

"Wait, what?! You were just singing the praises of the Enterprise to the high heavens!"

Don't forget what kind of contest this is. The Enterprise is exactly what I'd choose to galavant around the galaxy in, but it doesn't have the coolness factor that is the Millennium Falcon (by the way, the first draft of Star Trek said, "to boldly galavant where no man has galavanted before"). Sure, the Enterprise has utility, luxury, and class; but it lacks that certain, I don't know . . . pirate ship with a Wookie quality.

Case closed.

Actually, come to think of it, I'd rather do my galavanting in the Millennium Falcon. It's like choosing an F-22 Raptor with fuzzy dice hanging from the canopy over an Aircraft Carrier.

Let's galavant!

Round 2: Star Wars

OK, this post is too long by half. We'll continue in another post (maybe several). Score so far:
Star Trek

Star Wars

It's a dead heat! I'd say the fans are waiting with baited breath, but they're really chortling uncontrollably because they're camping with the sniper rifle at their LAN party.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Viva el Google!

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of all things Google. Well, if it was a secret, it wouldn't be anymore because I just said it. I use Android as my primary operating system. I have a Cr48 Chromebook. I use and love Google+, GMail, Google Voice, YouTube, Blogger, Google Maps (including free navigation on my Droid), Google Music, and Google Talk. I even thought Wave had huge potential.

But I don't use Buzz. A guy's got to have standards.

Seriously, what's not to love about Google's services? I get the best email client, free. The best smartphone operating system, free. The best chat client, social media interface, blog interface, video sharing hub, visual voicemail and texting, online media storage . . . FREE! What's not to like?

There are a few out there who really, really don't like Google. Their mantra is, "Nothing's Free". It may seem like I'm getting all of these kick-butt services gratis, but, they claim, there' s a toll to be paid . . . IN BLOOD! OK, I made up that last part. Still, some argue that Google's "free" services are far from, and the cost is one to your personal security and internet enjoyability. Google, they argue, farms your personal data and uses it to sell you ads. Thus, Google is evil and should never be used. Sure, you get free stuff; but at what cost? AT WHAT COST?!

The people I've run across who hold this outlook are usually big fans of Microsoft (trust me; MS fanbois do exist) or Apple. Occasionally you get a Linux fan in there, but they don't really count (I kid, I kid!). Funny thing is, Microsoft and Apple do the same thing; they just charge you more while doing it. And deliver a substandard product (at least, as far as smartphones and browsers are concerned; full OSes are a different matter).

Let's get this straight: Google does have an incentive to get you to use their services (unless you opt out). If you use their services, Google will track anonymous data on you and use it to sell adspace. You'll also get targeted ads (again, if you don't opt out) on their services and others. So, the analytics that all companies collect from their user base in any case are also collected by Google from its users. The ads you were going to see anyway are targeted to your interests. That's the "catch". I'm serious; that's what people complain about. Microsoft, Apple, Firefox; they all do the same thing. Why single out Google? At least their products rock, and I couldn't care less if an ad is relevant to me or not. Why all the hate?

I'm not going to waste any more space on that aspect, but I thought I'd bring it up. If you don't like your usage statistics being anonymised, collected, and used, don't use Google services. Or Apple's. Or Microsoft's. Or visit things on teh intertubez.

That out of the way, on with the mushy gushing over Google!

For serious, though, I didn't come here to share my love for all things Goog. I came here to spread my love for all things Goog. There are some great, new, Google services that need to have participants in order for them to be successful. The two I'm going to cover today are Google Music and Google+ (Wave is gone, so I'll just pour one out for the best collaboration site that money could buy, and that happened to be free).

People should have this if for nothing other than a cloud backup suite for their music. You can store up to 20,000 songs, any quality, for free. You can then access those songs from your Android phone, any computer, or even your iPhone via a web app. You can make playlists, stream, download; whatever you like. If it were just that, everyone ought to be onboard.

But it's not. The real potential with Google Music, in my mind, is for indie artists. Right now, all you need to be a selling artist on Google Music is an account; one time fee of $25, and you get 70% of the sale price for any track or album you sell ( You can set your price (even free), set your preview time (90 seconds, full song, etc.), and you might even get featured by Google on their front page for the music store.

This will basically do what YouTube did for a lot of people: kill the middleman. Well, not literally. OK, maybe if the middleman is pushed out of work and ends up starving on the streets, but I kind of doubt that. What musician wouldn't want the opportunity for a large distribution network where they could call all of the shots?

None of this means much, though, if the distribution network isn't that big. So support your local artist; get on Google Music. If for nothing other than cloud backup, it's a great piece of software. Listening to your music anywhere with an internet connexion is just ketchup on the fries.

This is my real reason for writing, today: Google+. Imagine Facebook, but now pretend it doesn't suck. You've just imagined Google+. I'll now try to convince you to get on Google+, since a social network is nothing without active participants.

We'll start with Circles. Circles is Google+'s method of sharing. On the Facebook (it's more fun to say it like an old fart), things revolve around people's "walls". If you want to share something, you simply post it to your wall. Now the whole world can see that you had tuna fish for lunch and try to care about it. If you want to tell someone that you had a good time at dinner, you go to their wall and post, "dood teh dinnar was sick! lol" Everyone can now see that you both had dinner. It's not a bad system, but it's just a little, how to put this . . . narcissistic.

Circles is a new way to share. You actually share with people you know in relevant ways instead of simply shouting things to the world. Facebook has, since the release of Google+, tried to integrate this feature; but it's not an underlying philosophy like it is with Google+. You have no wall in Google+, just a stream of things you've shared with others or things others have shared with you. There is no message box; if you want to share with just one person, only choose that one person when you make a post.

"But how do I tell the world what's going on with me right now? My life is really important and I need everyone to know exactly what's going on at any given moment because people really give a crap." You can still feed your narcissism if need be; simply make a post and share it with Public, which means the whole world. If you want to say happy birthday to someone but you absolutely need everyone else you know to know that you wished them a happy birthday, simply share with your circles (or Extended circles, or Public) and tag the person you're well wishing in the post. That way no one has to miss out on your overwhelming magnanimity.

The beauty of Google+, though, is that it lets you interact like a normal person would in normal society. You can wish a happy birthday just to the person who has a birthday. You can message a group of people you're going to a movie with later to coordinate. You can have separate circles for your friends, family, acquaintances, and others; and you can share things with one or more of them. You can create a circle for your nerdy friends so only people who want to hear about the latest lore discrepancy in the new Star Wars game will hear about it.

But wait, there's more! If you act now, you'll also get unlimited storage for photos (great cloud backup; you can download photos from it, too) with sharing/commenting ability, the best chat client out there, full YouTube integration, the ability to group video chat (with video sharing in the chat, too, if you like), the ability to share songs via Google Music, and much more!

How much would you pay for this entire package? $300 a year? $500 a year? No! It's absolutely free!

Gushing aside, I really would like to see Google+ become the dominant social media hub. It's just so much more natural than Facebook, and you feel so much more in control. Sharing is more intuitive and real, connexions are more meaningful, and the interface just kicks so much more booty; from photo albums to chatting.

So, give it a whirl; and tell 'em Skipper sent ya! How? Oh, just make a post and share it with Public. No one will care, but that will make you feel more at home if you're a Facebook junkie; you know, just saying things to no one in particular for no real reason at all.