Dell Inspiron 7460 Review

For the past few months, the feeling of lugging around a 15-inch mid 2012 MacBook Pro has been something literally painful, especially for my back. I’m living a pretty mobile lifestyle now, where I have to go from one place to another, giving workshops, participating on events or attend meetings. Doing that with a 3 kg laptop on my backpack, is like asking for trouble in the future. It has been an issue for at least a year now, therefore, I’m on the market for something lighter but doesn’t hinder me from doing my regular coding practices, which most of the time, involves graphical programming.

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Zen Device: My Personal Opinion on iOS 7 UI and UX

I’ve been using iDevices for 2 years, and after getting myself the iPad 2 at the end of last year and got myself an iPhone 5 as a birthday present half a year ago, those devices have been my main mobile devices. I must say that I’m content with how Apple designed its iOS User Interface as the embodiment of its whole User Experience. It’s fluid, intuitive and easy to grasp. It has no hidden room for power user and I can go setting up and enjoying the whole thing quickly. To be fair, I did amazed when I tried Windows Phone. Its different but bold visual style rapidly caught my eye. The same goes when I installed Google+ on my iPhone. Somehow, its whole simplicity felt modern and iOS’ native apps felt old. Maybe it’s time for a face-lift.

Then, along came iOS 7. Nicki Minaj style.

I was shocked. However, I reserved my judgment until I finished installing it in one of my device. So, two days ago I got it on my iPhone, took it for a full daily use and yes, I have plenty to say about it.

First of all, the form. The color and the shape. Yes, I’ve seen what I should expect, but actually seeing those bright icons actually wasn’t actually that bad at all. One thing for sure, the fact that my previous wallpaper, an Instagram photo, who fits iOS 6 style, looked entirely out of place now. A huge sign that Apple is slowly introducing the future color palette, so we can move slowly beyond the whole vintage Instagram style filter.

The first native app (since I expected Apple to redesign it) was Mail. Yes, at first I was confused thanks to its missing button, but few seconds of actually looking what’s on the screen, then I was good to go. And at this point, I must note the thin font and the bright color actually felt good. For the first time, the minimalist aesthetic of the iPhone’s physical form is married with the software’s equal design approach. You can say that Android or WP has done this before, but I’m talking about the perfect software and hardware unity.

The notable absence of button, or rather the increasing use of background-less button, is probably one of the things I applaud in iOS 7. I personally think that based on the technology we have now, buttons can be replaced by gestures as ways to talk to electronic devices. This of course, won’t happen overnight, but, by introducing less and less buttons, humans are trained to utilize it only where it’s meant to be. There are no buttons in Mail, only corresponding folder names and icons. But, there are buttons in the aptly named Command Center, which of course, are expected to contain ones. This is a clever decision to be honest and one that will push the whole game forward.

Mail in iOS 7

iOS 7 Command Center

iOS 7 Multitask

iOS 7 Notification Center

The Command Center itself is also a new feature in iOS 7. It’s one that I highly regard as a functional improvement for iOS. Android users have had this for a while now, but I wonder what took Apple so long to actually implement these shortcuts to critical items? Questions aside, the fact that I can swipe up from the bottom edge is a welcomed one. So now, I can easily change song while driving, quickly turn off wifi to save battery or use that flashlight. Quick and easy access to stuffs that I want in no time. Now add the fact that Notification Center is revamped to give users more information and it can be accessed like the old day. Add another fact that now folder can include infinite items. These all means that I don’t need multiple pages of home screen in my phone. With smart arrangement, I should be able to cramp the entire app in one page, and have access to Command Center, Notification Center and Spotlight search. All without having to do extra action of swipe left and adding one more mental block of “now, what should I do and where I put the app to do that?”

Finally, the multitasking is now more useful. I’ve been the type of user that cares about what apps are opened in preventing the quick loss of battery. Before, I just have to guess what was I opened an app for. But now, I can actually know what the hell did I do with an app thanks to iOS 7’s new multitasking function. It’s swipe up gesture to close program is also a nice semantic. Sort of saying, “go away” politely.

Is that it? No. I think, Apple is preparing themselves to launch something 3D. I still think that the whole 3D zoom to layers of apps is a bit weird. But, come think of it again, this is actually something way ahead. First, we have the minimalist interface on a minimalist device. Second, we have button-less, text-heavy interface which is more natural for human. Then, we have one screen that contains apps and information and just that one screen only. Last, we have layers of those apps available to be visited and on each visit, a zoom effect is introduced. This my friend, in my opinion, is a step closer to provide the experience of merging human and electronic device.

Sounds silly? Technophobia? Actually no. In fact, I really love this philosophy. For the first time, I thought that this is the way mobile device should mess with my perspective. Every time I check those tweets, this device takes me closer and closer to layers of virtual existence, thanks to its depth and zoom effect. And when I decided to leave it, the zoom effect actually forced me to say, “that’s it, welcome to the real world.” How rewarding is that? Apple realizes that mobile device is the personal gate to virtual world. And it would be appropriate that people with this device is given a bit reward for actually leaving this non-physical existence and back to the real world where they can do something real. Apple isn’t here for the flat design game, no. They are here to put that extra but of human in the world where technology and app wars seem to prevail over its users’ need to be appreciated as physical existence.

iOS 7 Notes

iOS 7 Reminder

iOS 7 Calendar

All good? Well in the aforementioned sense, yes. Sure, some of the visual aspects of iOS 7 is questionable from my perspective. For example, I don’t get the inconsistence of header between Mail, Reminder, Calendar and Notes. If Mail, Safari, App Store, Photos all got the same blue theme, why the others aren’t? The excessive use of white space still annoys me too, especially in Notes where things felt a little bit bland now. Plus, don’t get me started on why Camera got that odd gray and black icon, completely the opposite of the others? And why the Game Center icon?

Ah never mind. I, for one, think that Apple’s visual side of design isn’t always numero uno. Garage Band, iMovie, and the whole skeuomorphism in previous iOS. So actually, having what they have now in iOS 7 isn’t that bad. For I have forgiven them. They aren’t here for the visual game. They’re for the part where most companies failed to address, the human game. And that’s where they prevail once again.

All in all, I think this is another platform that sets Apple foot one step forward towards the next technological advancement. I just can’t wait to see what Apple will introduce next in iOS 8.

To humans.

PS: I can now understand Apple’s decision to include finger print detection in iPhone 5S. Imagine, using body part to turn on the device. Another added layer of human-device merged into one entity.

Integrating iPad to My Workflow

Couple of months ago I decided to splash my cash and bought and iPad 2. Of course, after much reading about how i can benefit from buying such gadget. And after approximately 3 months of using it, I can happily say that this has been one of my best purchase in recent years. So, in this blog post, instead of saying positives about iPad, I will rather focusing on how I integrate it into my workflow, both for office works and for occasional entertainment.

Work
Responsive design is all the rage these days. Though, I have mixed feeling about it, which I will cover in future writing, I can’t escape the fact that people will eventually access website in various devices. The iPad is one of them. Therefore, one major advantage of having it is I can test how the website that I’m working on looks on it. Not only that, responsive design should also imply how people interact with the website, thus, it’s vital for me to check the interaction as well, how people would press the link, how they would explore the site and so on. Yes, iPad helps in this department.

Not only for testing purpose, by using Textastic, I can have access to my FTP server and edit codes on that server as well. This is way more comfortable compared to having to carry my laptop everywhere. I even code one of my work from scratch on this very iPad. Of course, I still have to do the finishing touch on my laptop, but hey, this means I can do productive things on it. Plus, this article is also written on WordPress app. Good.

While on the design side of things, I also installed iMockup, Paper and Grafio Lite, so I can plan a website, sketch a design, make the wireframe and export it to my laptop for further development. Spunds traditional? Well, the best thing from this is I can do it as if I’m drawing on a paper. I don’t have a Wacom tablets, so for me, this has been the most analog way of designing in a digital space. By doing this, I can express myself even better. Can’t describe how much this has acceleratd my working speed.

Speaking about coding, I also bought some creative coding apps such as Codea and Scriptkit. Those apps allowed me to do rapid prototyping of interactive works/visual. Scriptkit aims more into general usage app, while Codea can be viewed as Processing alternative for iPad and I’m happy to have both.

So yeah, web design and development, creative coding, this gadget is way more productive than I thought.

Music
Okay, I’ll be honest with you. Part of the reason of why I bought this is because the variety of music production apps on it. I looked at a lot of top musical apps lists and up til now I often have to stop buying these apps or I’ll ended up moving my Gear Acquisition Syndrome on a different medium, haha. But, for now, I’m settled with having Korg Electribe and Novation Launchapd for making beats. I also have the Animoog, Novation Launchkey for playing with synths, and Propellerhead Figure for quick beat sketching. These are more than enough for now, as I can make music on the go or while waiting for my wife on different occasions.

Misc
Just to wrap this off, I also want to mention that surprisingly, the only social media app installed on my iPad are Twitter (no surprise) and Hojoki, which enables me to checkout my office’s Trello board and Bitbucket repository. It has been very helpful in making me monitor how the office is going. I also downloaded Goodnotes to view and write on PDF, perfect for client meeting and quotation reviewing. Yes, obviously I also have Google Drive and Dropbox for cloud sync and Attachments to help me export my email’s attachmentes to both of those cloud storages. Also, Haiku is very good for making striking presentations. I used it to make a presentation for a meeting recently and I could make a different style of presentations, different from what I usually achieve using PowerPoint or Keynote.

Game
OK, bonus. Here you go. Football Manager Handheld 2013, Dead Space, Score!, Temple Run 2 and Reversi.

So yeah, there you have it. I can happily say that this has been a productive gadget to have. It won’t replace my laptop/computer. Bt the fact that I can carry lighter weight while doing my work on it is very delightful.

Kinect for Children with Special Needs

There are times when something out of nowhere surprises you, positively, swiftly. For me, that was couple of days ago.

I was looking at this site’s stats when I noticed a spike in the site’s hit. The source was . Now I didn’t have any idea what this was, until I paid that site a visit.  Turned out, that site is a site that hosts information about using Kinect as a tool to teach pupils with special needs. It wasn’t just a plan or design, it has already been implemented in some schools in Wales and England. And my open sourced work, was there. Used as a tool to teach kids with autism. I cried.

You see, that work wasn’t intended to be used as a teaching tool, let alone for kids with special needs. I created that as my first Kinect-based work, used to get a basic understanding of what the sensor offers. I then made it open source, put the code in this website, just so people can play or pick something up from it. Turns out, people from a more noble purpose than just “marketing gimmick” or “engaging event” use it for something worth more to tell or gratifying for the bigger community.

Long story short, I then contacted Anthony Rhys, the mastermind behind . I asked about how is the Kinect utilized in teaching the pupils and what are their reaction. Here’s what he had to say:

The Kinect helps our pupils in a number of ways. It is mainly used, not for any specific maths or english targets but for what we call ‘engagement’- which means the pupils being alert and interested in what they are doing. Usually we use switches for cause and effect work or touch screens but with the Kinect programs the cause and effect aspect is so immediate and instant- and natural for the pupils, as all they have to do is move their bodies however they can to have an effect on the screen. Many of our pupils are learning basic child developmental targets- such as cause and effect and responding to their environment so this natural immediacy is important to us as it removes another barrier a lot of the time- i.e. no need to press a switch to have an effect- just move! We have been using the Kinect a lot with our physically disabled pupils- as it enables them to interact with their own environment on their own using whatever movement they have- legs, hands or arms etc. The only downside is they need good visual skills too as there are not a lot of musical programs out there yet for the Kinect. We also use it a lot with our low functioning autistic pupils- who have good physical movement but have massive sensory processing issues and large skill deficits- they are able to explore the effects their own bodies are having ‘live’ in front of them and it has aided their awareness of the outside world I think, and an awareness of themselves.

Trinity, one of the pupils, playing with Evil Twin

Trinity, one of the pupils, playing with Evil Twin

Evil Twin has been useful for two reasons, firstly there’s the mirroring effect of seeing themselves on the screen- some pupils seem to respond well to that aspect of the Kinect (others find it too overstimulating and prefer just abstract graphics). Then there is the mirrored graphic element (the evil twin), I think pupils find that intriguing- that the colour person moves the opposite way to them, and that it is them but not them too! We’ve not had lots of opportunities to use it yet, only a few sessions but hoping to build on this.

The other aspect that works is the body tracking element- it picks up the pupils really easily-formal skeletal tracking is not much good in our environment, especially for our wheelchair users, (no chance at all of the famous ‘Kinect pose!’). The best responsive programs at the moment either use the camera and movement, or whole body ‘blob’ type tracking linked to movement. It is a shame about the full screen element- as the larger and more noticeable the better!

Also closest point tracking programs seem to be not noticeable enough at the moment- the interactive graphical element has to be quite marked and immediate to ‘draw them in’ and when working with pupils with limited movement the closest point to the Kinect is not always the bit that they can move!!

Anyway, the more we use it the more we learn about the pupils interaction with it and how we can use it. It’s quite strange as there is no real precedent to this gestural based technology- so we’re not sure how the pupils are going to interact with it, or whether they are going to interact with it at all!

On the wiki on the evidence section is an essay I did on one teenagers interaction with the program that goes into some detail on his interaction with the system and the benefits he gained from it.

What is important in all this is developers like yourself, who have put things out on shareware so that we can use it- only two of the programs we use were meant for special needs pupils (and both are totally free!) all the other ones we’ve adopted- and all of them have either been free, or the creators have given us access to them for free so we can give them a try. What they often see as a bit of fun coding, or a client project used for a few days or a week to us is a very exciting tool to use with our pupils!

Evil Twin as seen on KinectSEN’s wiki page

Our school has also been fortunate to buy two eye gaze controlled computers which have been very, very useful with some of our pupils, and also an interactive floor projector which lets them roll around on the floor and make great things happen, and the iPads have been super too- all gesture based technology that is beginning to enable our pupils to do so much-as I often say, for me and you technology makes what we do in our everyday lives easier, for our pupils it makes impossible things possible.

Now that itself can be a single blog post. However, I just want to add some of my personal opinion, since this felt so special for me.

First of all, notice how powerful the Kinect is. I’ve argued how easy it has enabled me to build a Computer Vision based app, and now people has already iterate from it. Second, though Kinect was build for normal people, it’s also proven to be able to be used by people with physical disabilities. And it can detect them too, without that famous Kinect callibration pose. Third, Kinect is having the advantage of having fully functional and hackable drivers and SDKs, both closed and open source. This can only lead to good thing, as many developers can start making things, release it in the wild and might even be useful for someone else. Obviously this has been my case, but then again, “Evil Twin” was largely based on Dan Shiffman’s OpenKinect for Processing example. So, you can see the snowball rolling from there.

This experience has taught me about many things, most notably my position and responsibility to my surroundings. I think as somebody who can make things, I should give more often to the society, especially if it helps. So, if you’re interested in developing more app for education or even for kids with special needs, then don’t hesitate, contact me. I’d really love to help

Have a happy holiday everyone.

Review 5cm

Hari Minggu kemarin, istri saya mengajak menonton film ini, 5cm. Mungkin ini kesekian kalinya saya menonton film di bioskop tanpa tahu ceritanya apa. Agak enak buat saya, jadi saya tidak punya tendensi atau ekspektasi apa-apa terhadap sekumpulan visual yang akan saya saksikan. Bahkan saya tidak tahu pemerannya siapa saja, melihat posternya pun tidak. Yang saya tahu, film ini diadaptasi dari novel berjudul sama. Kebetulan, saya punya rekor buruk dalam membaca novel sampai habis. Namun faktanya hal itu tidak membuat saya sulit menikmati film-film seperti Lord of The Rings, The Ring, DaVinci Code, Angels & Demons atau bahkan Pintu Terlarang yang semua dibuat berdasarkan novel. Menurut saya, film yang diadaptasi dari novel, mustinya bisa berdiri sendiri, tanpa harus membuat calon penontonnya menyelesaikan bukunya. Idealnya malah si buku memberikan informasi yang lebih dalam ketimbang film, tapi tetap si film mampu dinikmati sebagai sebuah tontonan tersendiri yang memberikan pengalaman unik.

Singkat cerita, film ini mengisahkan 5 orang sahabat, Arial, Ian, Genta, Zafran dan Riani yang sudah berteman selama 10 tahun. Lucunya, mereka selalu berkumpul setiap akhir pekan, tanpa terlewatkan sekalipun. Mereka lalu memutuskan untuk “cuti” bertemu dulu selama 3 bulan dan merayakan pertemuan kembali mereka dengan cara yang spesial, mendaki Puncak Mahameru. Rencana ini sendiri dirancang oleh Genta dan dirahasiakan ke 4 teman lainnya. Ia hanya berpesan kalau mereka akan bertemu di Stasiun Senen tanggal 14 Agustus. Mereka bertemu di sana, Arial juga mengajak adiknya, Dinda, turut serta. Maka, dimulailah inti perjalanan mereka.

Persahabatan memang topik yang tiada habisnya digali untuk dijadikan bahan film. Topik ini bisa dibungkus dalam berbagai genre, sebagai upaya menarik simpati penonton ke para karakternya, sehingga emosi mereka bisa habis dimainkan oleh sang sutradara. Dan jeleknya, di titik inilah 5cm gagal. Sampai ke akhir film, terlihat tidak ada usaha yang jelas untuk membangun konflik atau setingkat di bawah itu, membuat para karakter-karakter, sebagai sebuah kesatuan persahabatan, menarik simpati penonton. Kelima karakter dibanguns secara komikal dan trivial, Ian adalah tokoh lucu yang menggemaskan, Zafran pujangga kapiran, Genta si serius, Riani, yah, cewek banget (sampai bingung harus mendeskripsikan apa, Arial si jantan yang takut cewek (serius? cuma ini karakternya?) dan Dinda yang lebih sulit lagi mendeskripsikannya. Untuk film dengan karakter utama sesedikit itu dengan penekanan ke persahabatan, seharusnya penggalian karakter bisa lebih dalam lagi. Dan itu baru masalah parsial.

Masalah sebenarnya, untuk 5 karakter yang diceritakan sudah bersahabat selama 10 tahun yang intens bertemu, kelima aktor gagal total merepresentasikan kedekatan mereka. Kaku, tidak ada kesan akrab dan yang ada malah saling malu. Dialog mereka juga patah-patah, minim sekali chemistry di antara mereka. Tokoh Ian dan Zafran mungkin bisa sedikit dibilang berhasil, tapi itu baru 2 dari 5. Ketika mereka berlima digabung dalam 1 frame, yang ada justru komunikasi datar. Coba bandingkan dengan film yang sekilas lebih dangkal, Napoleon Dynamite. Tonton film itu dan coba amati bagaimana ada chemistry, ada ikatan antara Pedro dan Napoleon. Meskipun keduanya diceritakan sebagai idiot yang baru saja kenal.

Kalau masalah se-fundamental itu gagal, maka tidak heran ketika film ini mencapai adegan klimaks, saya sangat tidak tersentuh. Pun ketika ada sedikit musibah yang menimpa salah satu dari mereka, sulit untuk terharu atau sedih, karena ya itu, tidak ada kedekatan emosional dengan para tokoh. Puncak dari semua kekacauan ini adalah ketika mereka meneriakkan dengan lantang pesan-pesan nasionalisme yang malah membuat saya makin mengernyitkan dahi. Sungguh? Apa hubungannya semua persahabatan ini dengan nasionalisme? Apa sih pesan dari film ini sebenarnya?

Kalau boleh disingkat, film ini murni berisi tempelan-tempelan yang inkoheren di sana sini. Tempelan karakter, tempelan latar belakang, tempelan puisi, tempelan line dialog yang “tweet-able”, tempelan komedi, hingga ke tempelan nasionalisme. Hell, bahkan audionya pun di beberapa adegan ditempel dengan tidak rapih. Cek adegan saat mereka berlima berkumpul di rumah Arial, itu audionya di-mix dengan sangat tidak rapih hingga ke tingkat mengganggu saya yang jarang memperhatikan detail. Mungkin satu-satunya tempelan yang berhasil ya tempelan visual pemandangan Semeru yang menakjubkan. Tapi kalau murni mau melihat itu ya lebih baik disajikan saja dalam bentuk dokumenter yang niat, ketimbang film tempelan seperti ini.

Kesimpulan: film drama yang datar. Sulit untuk mengapresiasi film seperti ini. Sedikit tertolong dengan visual indah, tapi itu tidak berarti banyak.

Ponten: 4/10.

Raspberry Pi Review

Raspberry Pi is all the rage as we speak and I can’t see why not. Here we have a cheap and small computer, perfectly suited for your next embedded system experiment. I remember how excited I was at the time it was publicly announced and still wasn’t available at that time. However, I didn’t know how I would use it to suit my needs in developing interactive installation (which still is pretty much how I supply myself with monetary income).
I still didn’t know until I got Raspberry Pi in my hands couple of weeks ago.

Before I go into the bloody details of Raspberry Pi, I want to introduce you to the current platforms available for my work. No matter what software or programming environment I use, the base platform is always boiled down to two extremes, one is a computer (any form, PC, MacBook, you name it) and the other one is a microcontroller (most of the time this means Arduino). With the computer, I can create advance graphics that interact with different kind of input, such as movement or sound, using sensor such as webcam, Kinect or microphone. The output however is constrained to either a big screen (I count projection as a screen too) or sound, via speaker. Whenever I want to create a more physical output via daily objects, I resort to Arduino to do the job. With it, I can create blinking lights or rotating objects using input from the computer. Having said that, I’ve relied with the combination of computer -> Arduino -> Output or arduino -> computer -> output for years now. Obviously, with that configuration a big space (and cost) is required, even for a project that could’ve been simpler. That’s where I thought RPi can kick in and be a part of.

Are you still with me? Good. Sorry for the long intro, because the rest of the article seems pointless without it.

So, long story short, I ordered Raspberry Pi via Ngooprek, an Indonesian based online electronic components distributor. I think is the only place to get RPi here in Indonesia, CMIIW. After I got it, I was amazed by the small size of it, I thought this was cool. However, it took me a while to supply myself with the required accessories needed to start with RPi. At the end of the day, I got myself an SD card, HDMI cable and a card reader. Enough to start playing with RPi, since I can use my LED TV for RPi’s video output via HDMI and I can use my Android phone charger as its power supply. All set.

First, I downloaded the Debian ISO for the OS. I chose Debian instead of the Raspbian since I thought that there will be more software available for Debian. Burn the ISO to my SD card in Windows using Win32ImageWriter application. Plug the card to RPi, connect the power supply and HDMI cable and voila, I have it all running with no hassle. Can’t remember the last time I had a Linux machine running in such small time, really. Tested couple of built in app inside the OS, everything run smoothly, I thought this is good for daily computing activity such as internet surfing. Hey, for 700 MHz and 256 RAM, I had smaller PC spec back in the day and I could play game and browse, so this didn’t really surprise me. Not the end of the story though as this isn’t why I bought RPi the first time. It’s for the programming and its galore.

Having said that, I tried to test how will I develop in RPi by installing two of my favorite programming IDE for developing interactive installation, Pure Data and Processing. I counted C++ library such as openFrameworks or Cinder out because it took me a while to compile them in my MacBook, can’t imagine how long it will take me to do so in RPi. Installing Pure Data was easy breezy. It’s there on the Debian repo (see, choosing Debian wasn’t a bad idea), so some routine apt-get did the job. Opened Pure Data and surprisingly it feels pretty light. Weird, because it’s quite slow on my MacBook. Did some patching and it feels acceptable. Haven’t made any complex patches though. Anyway, patching is the name of programming in Pure Data, since you basically patch together lines from different boxes in order to create something.

What’s tricky was actually getting the sound to work. Pure Data is bread and butter a sound generator, so it’s pointless having it installed in a platform that can’t play sound. Theoretically, RPi can play sound via its headphone jack output or from its HDMI port, which will then be played back on the TV. The thing is, the output from the headphone port is nowhere near acceptable. I had horrible noises coming out when playing the Pure Data test sound patch. That’s even better than the HDMI counterpart who couldn’t play any sound at all. I’ve investigated ways to make this work in an acceptable way but so far I’ve failed. I suspect I have to do either configuring RPi and my TV to play sound via HDMI, or get a USB soundcard for the same purpose. Both way, I’m still intrigued and I’ll keep you guys updated.

On the other hand, installing Processing involved a bit of more work. Processing runs on top of Java, so obviously I need to install Java VM some way or another. I used OpenJDK 6 because I read that it was supported in ARM, the RPI’s processor. I then removed Processing’s built in Java library and linked OpenJDK to replace it. Voila, I had Processing running. Though, in the beginning Processing displayed a message saying that it didn’t like the Java VM I have. That’s the only peculiar thing happens, but Processing runs like normal anyway. What’s abnormal is the speed of it. Processing feels pretty heavy and slow during start up and preparing to run sketches. The memory indicator shows a full utilization of it and it took me like 2-3 minutes between pressing the play button and having the sketch running. Certainly with this condition it’s not efficient to have yourself doing code-test-code-test routine. As it will take some time to compile the program. I guess I have to go old school and code everything properly so I don’t have to run the sketch frequently. This is The Pi running simple Processing sketch, rectangle moving, nothing fancy.

However, it’s not all bad news. I realized that the RPi can be used as a more powerful and rich-featured Arduino. A small research in the internet provides me with many information to utilize RPi’s GPIO pins similar to Arduino’s input/output pins. Some companies like Adafruit and Element14 even produce their own RPi accessories to ease electronic prototyping and development using this board. Even better news is the fact that RPi has its own Ethernet port and capability to use WiFi so you can have Arduino+Ethernet/WiFi shield capability (even more) with half or even third of the price of that combination.

Having said that, I can see RPi being used in many more use case, either as a nostalgic standalone computer that requires not much processing power (no pun intended) or, as a more powerful version of Arduino. I just have to make peace with myself that for the time being, this board isn’t suitable to make a full-fledged DIY VJ box that I dreamed of in the first place. Maybe I should change my visual style for this tiny machine.

Review Film: The Raid

Ada satu momen yang jarang sekali gw alami ketika gw menonton film: ketika gw memasang ekspektasi yang tinggi terhadap sebuah film, dan ternyata ekspektasi itu terpenuhi. Sejujurnya gw ingin sekali bersikap netral sebelum menonton film ini, namun apa daya, ketika gw membuka Twitter, ada saja yang memberitahu bahwa film ini mendapat rating 95% di Rotten Tomatoes, atau masuk 30 besar IMDB, atau disebut-sebut sebagai film action terbaik dalam beberapa tahun belakangan. Otomatis, gw berharap bahwa film yang akan gw tonton bersama-sama teman-teman gw ini adalah film Indonesia yang memang bagus. Kalau malas baca review ini sampai habis, saya akan bilang, ekspektasi saya terpenuhi.

Dari sisi cerita, film ini memang super sederhana. Sekelompok pasukan khusus polisi, menyerbu apartemen yang dikuasai gembong penjahat bernama Tama untuk menangkap dan mengusir dia dari apartemen itu. Tentu saja konflik tidak terhindarkan, baku hantam terjadi di dalam gedung hingga akhirnya sang gembong tertangkap. Ada konflik-konflik lain yang tidak ingin saya kemukakan di sini, tapi intinya cukup demikian. Namun si sutradara rupanya berhasil membungkus cerita yang sedemikian dengan kemasan yang penuh, amat penuh, dengan aksi keras tanpa tedeng aling-aling.

Kalau anda menyangka ini hanya sebuah film action normal ala Hollywood, anda akan kecewa. Awalnya memang ada baku tembak, namun, film ini seolah-olah ingin mengatakan “saatnya film betul-betul dimulai” saat para polisi kehabisan peluru dan pertarungan mulai dilakukan dengan tangan kosong, pisau atau baton. Kalau di film Hollywood mungkin ketika peluru habis, para polisi mulai panik dan teriak “we’re running out of bullets, what should we do?” Lain halnya di sini. Para polisi justru santai, bersikap wajar dan terus melaju. Jantan.

Saya ingin mendedikasikan paragraf ini untuk menekankan betapa pertarungan tangan kosong adalah inti film ini. Kalau anda rindu dengan film action bela diri seperti film Hong Kong era 80-90an atau film Van Damme, pasti anda akan puas. Tercatat, setengah babak kedua film ini, memang diisi dengan pertarungan tangan kosong antara si jagoan, Rama, dengan para penjahat yang menghuni apartemen itu. Menurut saya, pertarungan ini justru membuat film ini nampak benar-benar nyata. Dengan setting film di Indonesia, hal ini adalah sesuatu yang sangat masuk akal. Di negara di mana senjata api tidak diperdagangkan secara bebas, tentu saja menjadi logis kalau sekumpulan penjhat menyimpan golok atau pisau di apartemennya, ketimbang sebuah shotgun atau handgun.

Untuk sebuah film yang mungkin hanya berisi 30 menit dialog, dan difokuskan secara efisien di aspek aksinya, perkelahian juga menjadi sebuah senjata yang bisa diandalkan untuk membuat film mengalir. Pertarungan intens yang dilakukan para aktor yang memang menguasai bela diri dan di-koreografi-kan dengan mantap berhasil membuat film hidup dan tidak sedikitpun membosankan. Berbeda dengan film umum yang mengandalkan dialog verbal antar tokoh, para tokoh The Raid justru berdialog melalui pukulan, tendangan, kuncian ataupun bantingan. Melalui paket aksi-aksi fisik nan keras inilah para penonton secara implisit diajak untuk mengenal para tokoh lebih dekat. Tidak heran kalau saya justru menaruh simpati pada tokoh penjahat Mad Dog, yang meskipun kejam dan handal luar biasa, kekalahannya tidak membuat saya berteriak “mati lu!” seperti ketika Bolo Yeung kalah di Blood Sport. Justru tepuk tangan simpati lah yang keluar dari badan saya ketika Mad Dog dikalahkan oleh pasangan Rama dan Andi, kakaknya.

Dengan jumlah pertarungan yang sangat banyak, memang akan menjadi sangat tricky untuk mengatur tempo dan dinamisme film. Untuk itu saya mengacungkan jempol yang sangat banyak kepada sang sutradara yang berhasil mengatur tempo setiap pertarungan dan mengatur jeda antar pertarungan, sehingga penonton diberi kesempatan untuk bernapas dan mengapresiasi pertarungan yang baru saja usai. Tak hanya itu, hiighlight setiap pertarungan, seperti ketika Rama membunuh salah satu geng Papua dengan menarik kepalanya dan menjatuhkannya tepat di patahan pintu, atau ketika Mad Dog mematahkan leher Jaka, tereksekusi dengan indah dan penekanan yang tepat.

Film ini juga berisi momen-momen kecil yang bisa mencuri perhatian saya. Geng Papua yang disebutkan sebelumnya nampak sungguh berkarakter, lengkap dengan logat Timurnya. Atau ketika Mad Dog memulai pertarungan melawan Jaka dengan meletakkan pistolnya sambil berkata “kalau begini sih nggak ada gregetnya”, lalu, menaikkan kedua tangan kosongnya ke atas seraya mengucapkan “ini baru ada gregetnya”, yang menurut saya benar-benar pesan literal kalau film ini lebih jantan dari sekedar film action adu tembak biasa. Pun dengan fakta bahwa sekelompok pasukan khusus ini tidak membawa bahan peledak. Satu-satunya ledakan terjadi ketika kulkas berisi gas ditembak. Detail-detail kecil ini yang membuat film benar-benar hidup dan nyata di mata saya. Sehingga saya tidak kesulitan untuk berempati dengan para tokoh-tokohnya.

Kalau ada kekurangan, mungkin adanya justru di artikulasi para aktor ketika mengucapkan dialog dengan cepat. Entah dikarenakan sang sutradara bukan native Bahasa speaker, sehingga hal-hal seperti itu jadi luput, atau karena hal lain. Yang jelas, cukup mengganggu ketika saya ingin mendengar dialognya. Tapi, masa bodoh, yang penting tinjunya bung!

Singkat kata, mulai kemarin, saya punya satuan baru pengukuran kerasnya sebuah film action. Satuan itu saya namakan The Raid. Rambo 4 itu kira-kira 3/4 The Raid (banyak darah, tapi masih pake senjata). Blood Sport: 1/2 The Raid (terlalu banyak dialog). Ninja Assassin:3/5 The Raid (masih pakai pedang, masih ada kisah cinta konyol). Yang pasti, saya akan menonton film ini lagi. Saya masih ingin mengupas lapisan demi lapisan seni film ini yang disajikan melalui adu jotos para pemerannya.

Masterpiece sinema Indonesia. Film action terbaik yang pernah saya lihat. Salah satu (jika bukan) film yang terbaik di tahun ini.

Quick Recap: My Own Japanese Film Week

I was spending the last 7 days watching an array of hand-picked Japanese film with genres varied from gore to comedy. As a huge fan of Japanese cinema, this was a nice way to refresh my body and mind after a heavy semester. Plus, watching movie has always been a way for me to tick the creative thinking part of my brain.

Anyway, here are the 7 films that I ended up watching. Warning: most of them are rated MA, so please, do not watch them with your kids. I’ve warned you.

1. Naked Blood (1996)

What a way to kicked off the movie week. This gore/horror film involved seemingly random elements such as cyberpunk, emancipation, psychedelica and philosophy of life then packed them in such madness by employing body as a metaphor. At first this film looked like the normal run-of-the-mill gore film with blood splatters everywhere. However, further examination along with the progress of the story proved to be the exact opposite. The story is deep, with complex metaphors here and there. Me and my friends still discussed the film days after we saw it. Mark of a masterpiece. Easily excels as the pinnacle of all gore films I’ve ever seen.

Rating: 9/10.

Memorable scene: Lots! From the girl who eats her own body part (not gonna go into details here) to the psychedelic-cyberpunk-love scene. But for me the turning point was when the dead father returned to the womb of her wife. That’s deep!

2. Guinea Pig 5: Mermaid in A Manhole (1988)

Now we watched this straight after we finished Naked Blood. It proven to be costly, as this film was nowhere near Naked Blood. The story revolved around a crazy painter who painted a mermaid and ended up butchered her. If that wasn’t weird enough, the mermaid herself was sick, and ordered the painter to cut her where she felt the pain. Guess what was coming out from that cut? Oil paintings, with colors. For me that was the only interesting point of the film. How somebody actually perceived pain as something colorful. In the end, the film served a twist in the plot, asking me the question “who’s the mad man?”

Rating: 6/10

Memorable scene: The ending. No blood, no disgusting scene, only one big question.

3. Tokyo Zombie (2005)

After a day full of blood, we decided to started the next day with something light and cheerful. We chose Tokyo Zombie and boy we did not disappointed. The movie was quirky and funny in its own way. I imagined this movie as a hybrid between Napoleon Dynamite (which is my personal favorite) and zombies. No, I’m not gonna refer Shaun of the Dead or Fido here, as this movie was quite different from those two. There was a sense of drama here only to be layered by scenes of wackiness wonderfully acted by the main actors. Again, a plot twist was showed in the end of the film, which just added more comedy to the film. Not to mention the movie showcased some nice visual style. This movie should be on the list of any zombie movie lover.

Rating: 8/10

Memorable scene: every scenes with the guys from the electrical company. Only quick snippets here and there, but those were funny.

4. Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985)

As the second film of the Guinea Pig series, this one didn’t surprise me with its crude, raw and snuff-y feel. I thought the 5th one was sick, well this one was way more morbid, as it basically showed a maniac brutally mutilated his victim and that was it. The only addition was he somehow connected that vicious action with his own interpretation of art. The film then closed with a dark poem spoken in an equally terrifying tone by the maniac. I always thought that art shouldn’t be beautiful and this film served as a prime example of that opinion. Boldly. Just how far would you go with your art?

Rating: 7/10

Memorable scene: When the maniac gave a tour on his collection while reading his own hell poem. Even more terrifying than watching the blood splattered.

5. Versus (2000)

Now this one is a bit different. It was more of a gangster fight, again, with zombies appeared here and there. This movie did a magnificent job of combining the aforementioned elements with others, such as a back and forth storyline and even some black comedy. The storyline was simple, but the director managed to cleverly layered that simplicity with twists here and there. Even though halfway through the movie turned into your normal action movie, the journey to that point was something rewarding. One thing that shined from this movie was the expertly used camera works. Some good angles, with a quick move and long shot added tensions to otherwise flat fighting scenes. Obviously, this is a cult movie.

Rating: 8/10

Memorable scene: The final battle between the main protagonist and the main antagonist. Some cool fighting scene there. Plus, I think it was the only time where there was a fair fight throughout the film.

6. Crazy Lips (2000)

Let me started by stating that this is the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen. The plot and genre changed every 15-20 minutes. What started as a perfect platform of a post-Ring J-horror movie turned into something indescribable. Let me ask you one question: what kind of movie combined scenes of: headless ghosts, necrophilia rape, Bollywood singing, FBI agents, communication through live TV news programme, Godzilla-sized monster all in one film? Second question, how can you describe that film? The only solution for me was to sit down, relax and enjoy the film. Nuff said. This is madness at its finest. It was even hard for me to tell if this was a joke or not. One thing for sure, genre bending was not even the perfect word to describe it. CVLT! I’ll watch this over and over again.

Rating: 9/10

Memorable scene: where should I start? Everything was memorable. Hmm, gotta go with that scene where the reporters were murdered, but still, they insisted on reporting the crime scene. Satire at its best.

7. Sex and Fury (1970)

This one was a magnificent film to begin with. It was beautifully shot with heaps of great angle and melodramatic scenes. No matter how much violent in this one, it somehow managed to leave that impression of romance and poetry. The fighting scene was amazing, even by today’s standard. The story was linear but was beautifully and patiently told. The plot twist didn’t work for me as I already guessed it, but that didn’t stop me to enjoy the film from start to end. Too bad, apart from the main character, the other casts act didn’t convince me at all. But then again, I thought that this film was made solely for her. And I wouldn’t mind. A true peak of ’70s Japan exploitation film.

Rating: 8/10

Memorable scene: that nude fighting scene at the beginning of the film. That one was so original that nobody, even until now, has the bravery to ripped that scene off.

Review Konser Deftones : Jakarta, 8 Februari 2011

Kapan terakhir kali Anda melihat sebuah konser yang bagus ditutup dengan ratusan (atau mungkin ribuan?) kepala berteriak “suck, suck suck suck” bersamaan? Mungkin tidak pernah. Namun itulah ironisnya konser Deftones tadi malam, ironis dalam konteks yang positif.

Konser yang dilangsungkan tadi malam (Selasa, 8 Febrari 2011) di Tennis Indoor Senayan ini memang berlangsung sangat baik. Deftones sebagai sebuah kesatuan berhasil menghajar penonton yang datang dengan lagu-lagu dari keenam albumnya. Setlist mereka sangat menarik,. Lagu-lagu dimainkan berdasarkan kronologis rilisnya album-album mereka, seolah ingin mengajak penonton menyaksikan pertumbuhan Deftones sebagai sebuah band yang sudah berdiri belasan tahun ini. Menarik, karena lagu-lagu Deftones di era awal, sungguh mentah dan agresif dengan porsi distorsi dan groove dan teriakan Chino Moreno (album Adrenaline (1995) dan Around the Fur (1997)) yang dominan. Namun, pada perkembangannya pelan-pelan mereka memberikan porsi yang lebih banyak kepada unsur-unsur meditatif, dreamy dan sound-sound eksperimental, tentu saja tanpa melupakan identitas mereka sebagai band metal. Hasil eksperimen ini tentu saja bisa dilihat di 4 album selanjutnya, White Pony (2000), Deftones (2003), Saturday Night Wrist (2006) dan Diamond Eyes (2010).

Aksi panggung mereka tadi malam juga atraktif, memaksa penonton yang ada untuk ikut melompat dan head banging. Chino Moreno sebagai frontman tak henti-hentinya melompat, berlari-lari di atas panggung. Kalaupun berhenti, karena lagunya memang pelan dan dia sedang bermain gitar. Ada insiden kecil saat memainkan gitar di lagu “Beauty School”, somehow Chino salah memainkan nada, fals, dia berhenti sebentar, coba lagi, salah lagi, coba lagi, baru benar. Dasar frontman kharismatik, penonton tetap apresiatif, dan usai lagu itu dimainkan, ia dengan humble berkata “I’m sorry” dan penonton tetap bertepuk tangan. Range, tenaga dan stamina vokalnya juga patut diacungi jempol. Dari mulai nyanyian halus, sampai ke scream, semua dieksekusi dengan sempurna. Scream-nya pun juga bervariasi, dari mulai tipis berfrekuensi tinggi, hingga ke teriakan full power menghentak. Vokal yang biasa terdengar di albumnya, berhasil ditampilkan langsung dengan dinamis. Ini berlangsung hingga akhir konser, sebuah stamina yang luar biasa. Interaksinya dengan penonton juga berjalan baik. Mulai dari sapaan standar seperti “hello Jakarta”, gesture badannya yang seolah berkata ke penonton “let’s do this”, hingga ke usahanya menarik simpati dengan sesuatu yang berbau lokal. Kalau frontman lain mungkin berusaha berbicara dengan Bahasa Indonesia, Chino memilih cara yang berbeda, memuji Bir Bintang. Ia berkata “this is local beer, Bintang, and it’s good”. Berhasil. Penonton yang sudah mendewa-dewakan dia pun terpikat.

Bassist Sergio Vega (yang masih menggantikan Chi Cheng yang sedang dalam masa pemulihan pasca kecelakaan fatal) juga tak kalah atraktif, melompat-lompat, bergoyang, dan lari ke stand mic setiap kali part backing vocal-nya muncul. Drummer Abe Cunningham tampil flawless. Ketukan drum-nya hyper nge-groove, dan sound kick drum-nya bisa meruntuhkan tembok, no bullshit here, awesome sound from an absolutely awesome drummer. Sementara si gitaris, Stephen Carpenter, berdiri diam saja dengan badan besarnya, serta rambut gondrong terurai dan jenggot lebat sambil mengeluarkan distorsi-distorsi berat dari gitar 7 dan 8 senarnya. Sejujurnya, dengan pose ini, Stephen nampak lebih seperti pemimpin spiritual dibandingkan gitaris metal. Frank Delgado yang berperan sebagai DJ, berhasil menjalankan tugas yang cukup subtil. Alih-alih memainkan turntable dengan teknik scratching tradisional, ia justru mengeluarkan suara-suara aneh, soundscape menerawang dengan perangkatnya plus sebuah sampler. Ia juga memanipulasi vokal Chino on the fly, fitur yang tidak ada di rekaman Deftones. Lucunya, seolah-olah ingin menekankan sejarah Deftones, bahwa ia baru bergabung dengan Deftones sejak album White Pony, ia juga tidak selalu muncul di semua lagu pada konser tadi malam. Jadinya, ketika ia muncul, otak saya langsung bereaksi, “wah pasti akan ada sesuatu yang unik di sini” dan benar saja.

Kalau menyimak semua album Deftones, rasanya cukup valid jika mengatakan kekuatan sound mereka ada di sinergi suara frekuensi rendah dari kick-drum dan bass. Groove yang dihasilkan juga berhasil menjadi kekuatan utama untuk mengikat dan menggiring pemirsa. Hebatnya, kekuatan ini berhasil direproduksi di penampilan tadi malam, dan lebih maksimal. Sound keseluruhan didominasi bunyi bass dan drum yang berhasil menghentakkan dada saya. Bebunyian itu diperkuat ketika Stephen Carpenter memainkan gitarnya (oh, lebih dahsyat ketika yang dimainkan adalah gitar 8 senar-nya). Distorsi beratnya, bercampur dengan sempurna dengan 2 instrumen lainnya, sempurna. Ini menjadi fondasi yang kokoh bagi Chino untuk menyuarakan vokalnya serta permainan gitarnya yang memang cenderung berfrekuensi tinggi. Klop, tidak ada tabrakan frekuensi yang bisa melemahkan sound keseluruhan. Bagusnya lagi, berkat dominasi suara frekuesi rendah, usai konser, telinga saya tidak pengang seperti seusai menonton konser-konser lain. Rupanya konfigurasi sound seperti ini memberikan efek ramah bagi para pendengar.

Deftones sudah menemani saya dalam berbagai tahap kehidupan. Sejak dikenalkan oleh teman ketika saya SMP melalui media kaset rekaman sendiri, hingga ke masa SMA, S1, kerja dan S2 sekarang. Playlist andalan di iPod saya adalah semua album Deftones di-shuffle. Diamond Eyes dan Rocket Skates adalah 2 video klip yang paling sering saya putar ketika sedang meng-edit film saya. Singkat kata, Deftones selama ini sudah menjadi inspirasi saya terutama dalam bermusik. Semua pengalaman estetis tadi berhasil dibawa ke titik klimaks oleh konser tadi malam. Sebagai seorang fans, saya puas.

Terima kasih Deftones.

NB: kenapa penonton berteriak Suck? Ya. Suck adalah lirik di lagu 7 Words, lagu terakhir tadi malam.

Setlist:
1. Birthmark
2. Engine No. 9
3. Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
4. My Own Summer (Shove It)
5. Lhabia
6. Around the Fur
7. Digital Bath
8. Knife Party
9. Hexagram
10. Minerva
11. Bloody Cape
12. Diamond Eyes
13. CMND/CTRL
14. Royal
15. Sextape
16. Rocket Skates
17. You’ve Seen the Butcher
18. Beauty School
19. Hole in the Earth
20. Kimdracula
21. Change (In the House of Flies)
22. Passenger
Encore
23. Root
24. 7 Words