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Nerd Things by Brandon LeBlanc

Why Star Trek: Discovery is a missed opportunity

Star Trek: Discovery Logo

When I have written about Star Trek: Discovery, it has been with optimism and excitement to see Star Trek back on the small screen. That hasn’t changed. But back in August, we got a bit more information about the premise of Star Trek: Discovery — including that it’s set in the “Prime Timeline”.

So what does that mean, exactly? Well, its a missed opportunity I think. Let me explain.

The new Star Trek movies — including Star Trek Beyond — are all set in what is called the “Kelvin Timeline”. This timeline was created when Nero traveled back in time and attacked the U.S.S. Kelvin at the beginning of 2009’s Star Trek. It sort of “reset” Star Trek — or rebooted it. Everything that existed in Star Trek before 2009’s Star Trek such which includes all the previous TV shows and movies remain part of the “Prime Timeline”.

This new “Kelvin Timeline” was exciting because now Star Trek could be explored in different ways completely untethered by what’s canon and what’s not canon. Look at what they did in Star Trek Beyond for example. Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, who wrote the movie, had the freedom of coming up with a story that saw the Enterprise destroyed and crew stranded on a planet that that sits on the other side of an unexplored nebula.

LucasFilm went through the motion of resetting canon back in 2014. Star Wars had this huge “expanded universe” that was developed over the course of two decades after the original Star Wars trilogy which included stories about what happens with Luke, Leia, and Han after Return of the Jedi. In order to make room for the new trilogy of movies starting with the Force Awakens, LucasFilm didn’t want to be tied down to this expanded universe and wanted the freedom to go in whatever direction their new creative team wanted to go. Again — untethered by canon.

But there’s more to the story for Star Trek.

Star Wars has a single owner: LucasFilm. Star Trek had a single owner too (Paramount) up until 2005 when the rights to Star Trek were split due to the Viacom/CBS split. Paramount continues to own the rights to Star Trek movies, but CBS now owns the rights to Star Trek TV shows. This created a few problems. For example — CBS continues to market the original Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, etc. to consumers. Paramount, on the other hand, is marketing the new Star Trek movies — like Star Trek Beyond — to consumers. You end up having two entities marketing a bunch of Star Trek stuff to consumers. While Paramount was originally marketing 2009’s Star Trek movie, CBS was pushing a bunch of product for the original series. You got a bunch of product with Shatner’s Captain Kirk plastered all over and then product with Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk on it. As you can imagine, this just creates a ton of consumer confusion. But this is what happens when you’ve got business people wanting to milk a franchise for all the profit they can get out of it. Rumor has it, JJ Abrams wanted Bad Robot to have end-to-end control of Star Trek and was really concerned about this exact situation. However, when he couldn’t make things work so he just jumped ship over to LucasFilm and took on Star Wars. Bummer, right? (Well, not a bummer if you’re a Star Wars fan and loved The Force Awakens.)

By introducing a new Star Trek TV show, CBS and Paramount had an opportunity to work together and create a shared universe that could exist between this new TV show and the movies. The new Star Trek movies have already re-introduced Star Trek to a new generation. Instead, CBS and Paramount continue to push Star Trek independently of each other. The result is Star Trek: Discovery which is in the “Prime Timeline” and is another prequel before Kirk. A missed opportunity.

I still remain cautiously optimistic about Star Trek: Discovery and am excited to see the show. But I can’t help feel a bit bummed we’re not seeing further exploration of the “Kelvin Timeline” and all the new stuff introduced to us in the new movies.

Thoughts on the new U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-A

Even if you haven’t seen Star Trek Beyond yet, just by watching the trailers you would know that the Enterprise gets destroyed. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that the crew gets a new Enterprise at the end of the movie . This new “highly advanced” starship that was already under construction at Starbase Yorktown. Since the Enterprise gets destroyed, the decide the name this new starship the Enterprise NCC-1701-A. The new Enterprise was designed by Sean Hargreaves.

I was a huge fan of the previous Enterprise from the J.J. Abrams films which was designed by Ryan Church. The design of the Enterprise-A borrows a bit from Ryan Church’s design but aims to call back to the original Enterprise designed by Matt Jefferies. I am mostly a fan of Sean’s design except for one piece:

I am not a fan of the wait the nacelle pylons integrate into the engineering section near the back of the ship near the shuttlebay. It’s just too pointy and fat.

We have only seen the Enterprise-A on screen very briefly. So its possible that the design could change by the time we see her on screen. But I look forward to seeing her in action!

Happy 50th Anniversary to Star Trek

Star Trek 50th Anniversary Pin

On this date in 1966 — Star Trek first aired on NBC and started a legacy that would grow into something awesome.

I missed out experiencing the initial rise of Star Trek in the 70’s after the original series was cancelled as I wasn’t born yet. However, I did live through Star Trek’s resurgence in the 80’s with the movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation. For many fans, Star Trek means “Kirk, Spock, and McCoy”. And there is no arguing against that. Those characters are the heart of Star Trek’s legacy. But for me, Star Trek means “Picard, Sisko, and Janeway” — and yes even “Archer”. My love of Star Trek didn’t begin with the original series. It began with Star Trek: The Next Generation and continued with all that followed.

I fell in love with the characters and storylines. I fell in love with all the fancy 24th century technology and science used in the stories. I loved the stories that put characters in tough situations that invoked thought and emotion. The stories that were thought provoking were the best episodes! Like when Picard was assimilated by the Borg and Riker was forced to use the deflector to try and destroy the Borg ship with him on it. They made us wait the entire summer to find out what happened! They wouldn’t kill Picard, would they? Like when Worf broke his back and the crew was confronted with having to chose between respecting Worf’s cultural beliefs and theirs when he proclaims he wants to go through ritual suicide. Like when Neelix and Tuvok were merged together into a new individual named Tuvix and Janeway had to make the call to split them back into individuals despite Tuvix’s protest. Did she make the right call? And of course who can forget when Sisko decided to try and bring the Romulans into the war with the Dominion and sought Garek’s help — which didn’t quite go the way he had planned. In many of these stories, the characters had to deal with repercussions and consequences of their actions. Many of the stories pushed intelligence to find solutions rather than simply pulling out a phaser.

While my love of Star Trek didn’t start with the original series — it wasn’t until I was older I realized that the subsequent shows that came after continued what the original series started by challenging us to think about the things happening in our world today and how we can be better. How can we improve ourselves? Star Trek inspires me to be better each and every day!

We have seen amazing adventures and stories over the last 50 years of Star Trek and I am so excited for what’s to come. Star Trek Beyond was one of the best Star Trek movies yet (in my opinion — I know some will completely disagree with me on this). And we’re getting a brand new Star Trek show called Star Trek: Discovery which arrives in January.

Live long and prosper. #LLAP50 #StarTrek50

My high school report on the future of Windows

Windows XP Professional

When I was a high school senior, I was in a special program called Students Recycling Used Technology (“StRUT”). We would take used PCs and repurpose them in our school in the labs and classrooms as well as get hands-on experience repairing and building PCs with various types of components. It was really fun! As part of the class — we had to do a technology report. And I recently discovered my report which was on the future of Windows. I got a kick out of the report so I thought I would share it out.

Yes, better emoji is coming to Windows 10

The Verge did a piece today that takes a closer look at Google’s new emoji coming to Android with the Android N update. The post pokes fun of Microsoft for lack of better emoji — specifically on the animals. But the article neglected to look at the new emoji coming to Windows 10 with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. These emoji made their debut for Windows Insiders in Build 14316 for PC and Build 14322 for Mobile. I thinks its only fair to compare one unreleased OS update with another — right? So I decided to help The Verge out and rounded up a bunch of the new cat emoji and the octopus emoji:

New Windows 10 Emoji

For a closer look at the new emoji coming with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update — check out this post over at Emojipedia!

My very first Kickstarter

Today I received my very first Kickstarter project: the reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphic Standards Manual. This manual is pretty awesome and perfect for design nerds. While I may not necessarily be a design nerd, I do love and appreciate design. I also love NASA and the history behind NASA. So when I discovered this Kickstarter project — I didn’t think twice about funding it to receive a copy of this manual. It felt like owning a piece of NASA history.

The manual itself gives you a look at the design used by NASA from 1975–1992 which includes NASA’s (in)famous “Worm” logo. This essentially served as the brand guidelines for NASA for a long time. For example — it goes into detail on what was the correct placement of the NASA logo on spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle.

My first experience with Kickstarter has been fantastic. I can’t wait to find other cool projects are out there to fund!

Bryan Fuller named showrunner for new Star Trek series

Star Trek 50th Anniversary

In case you missed it, CBS announced plans back in November for a brand new Star Trek TV series which will make its debut January 2017. And today, it was announced that Bryan Fuller will be co-creator and executive producer of this new CBS Star Trek series — essentially the showrunner. Bryan launched his career writing episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. He has gone one to many high-profile projects in recent years including creating the show Pushing Daisies and serving as executive producer and writer on NBC’s Hannibal and also the first season of Heroes. Admittedly, I haven’t gotten into these new shows Bryan has been working on but I’ve had friends talk about these shows and how much they have liked them. I think Bryan is the perfect person to bring a new Star Trek TV series to our screens. Here is a quote from Bryan from today’s announcement:

“My very first experience of Star Trek is my oldest brother turning off all the lights in the house and flying his model of a D7 Class Klingon Battle Cruiser through the darkened halls. Before seeing a frame of the television series, the Star Trek universe lit my imagination on fire. It is without exaggeration a dream come true to be crafting a brand new iteration of Star Trek with fellow franchise alum Alex Kurtzman and boldly going where no Star Trek series has gone before.”

He’s a fan of Star Trek and has clearly proven he can write really good stories. I am hoping he brings back some of the modern day allegory in stories that made Star Trek compelling and thought provoking. Star Trek hasn’t always been about epic starship battles. For example, Star Trek really put an emphasis in the “science” in “science fiction” by addressing some scientific theories in storylines.

I encourage all Star Trek fans to give Bryan your support as he brings this new Star Trek TV series to life. Let’s give Bryan a chance to bring something to the table before offering up nerdy fanboy criticisms.

Now the big question is what direction will Bryan go with the new Star Trek TV series?

Will it take place in the same universe as the new Star Trek movies (fans call this the “JJ-verse” )— creating this shared cinematic universe for Star Trek like what Marvel is doing?

Will Bryan jump ahead and reboot The Next Generation in the same universe as the new Star Trek movies? A reimagining of TNG could be pretty fantastic. Try to think about how a modernized and updated Enterprise-D would look? Because the new movie universe reboots the Star Trek timeline — Bryan would have tons of freedom going in and making twists to TNG storylines. Things could turn out way different for the TNG characters.

He could also stay in the current era seen in the new Star Trek movies and tell the tale of another starship. Remember, there are other constitution class starships in Starfleet. Could be neat to follow the adventures of another crew in a constitution class starship. Could pave the way for some of the Enterprise crew to show up in the show.

Or he could completely go in a different direction, creating an entirely new universe and unhinged by any canon what-so-ever.

I personally would like the show to revolve around the crew of (a) Enterprise in some form. The Enterprise has always been a key character in Star Trek and seeing her return to TV would be awesome.

But we’re getting a new Star Trek TV series in less than a year from now which, as a Star Trek fan, excites the hell out of me! This year Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary as well. And new Star Trek movie Star Trek Beyond comes out later this year too. 2016 is going to be a very interesting and fun year for Star Trek.

October’s Loot Crate

I’ve been a Loot Crate subscriber for a few months now. If you’re not familiar with what it is — this is how Loot Crates describes their service:

Loot Crate delivers the best in geek + gaming gear. From collectibles, apparel, tech gadgets, art, and other epic gear, it’s like Comic-Con in a box!

And they partner with great brands like Funko, QMx, Marvel. DC Comics, and more on the goodies inside these monthly “crates” you subscribe to. And a lot of these items are exclusives or limited edition items. Each month features a different themed crate. If you are a geek and/or a gamer — I highly recommend checking Loot Crate out. They deliver all kinds of awesomeness every month.

October 2015 Loot Crate

The theme for this month’s crate was Time Travel. And this is what came in my crate:

  • Exclusive Back to the Future Dr. Emmett Brown Funko Pop! Vinyl Figure.
  • Exclusive Back to the Future Part II 1:5 Scale Replica Hoverboard from QMx.
  • Exclusive Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver Spork.
  • Exclusive Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure T-Shirt.

This has to be one of the best crates yet!

Oh and each crate comes with a little button that represents the crate’s theme.

October 2015 Loot Crate Button

So nerds, geeks, and gamers reading this right now — give Loot Crate a look. Maybe get a crate for 1 month and see how you like it. Or do a 3-month subscription.

Thoughts on Instagram

I’ve been wanting to talk about my use of Instagram for a while. This post isn’t meant as a rant against Instagram nor do I have any negative feelings toward Instagram. I totally get why people use it. This is mostly about how it doesn’t fit with my own online behavior and why.

I have been sharing photos on Instagram off and on for about 2 years now. Over those 2 years, I’ve struggled to figure out exactly where Instagram fits in with the rest of the social media services I use. I primarily use Twitter and Facebook. I sometimes want to share a photo to Twitter and not Facebook, or to just Facebook, or to both. Instagram of course allows you to pick where you want to share whatever photo you are posting. But Instagram is its own thing too — just like Twitter and Facebook. You post a photo to Instagram, people can “heart” a photo they like and leave a comment on a photo you post. But if you share that photo to Twitter or Facebook, you get separate “likes” and responses to that photo in addition to the ones on Instagram. For me, I realized I was managing engagement on photos I’m posting to Instagram in multiple places. I have some people leaving comments on a Instagram photo on Facebook or replying to me on Twitter, and then some people commenting on Instagram.

For me, I realized I was managing engagement on photos I’m posting to Instagram in multiple places.

Unlike others who are heavy users of Instagram, I don’t have a big audience there. The audiences I talk to online are on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, this is more public where I can engage with lots and lots of other nerds and geeks like me. Facebook for me tends to be more private and personal — with a lot of engagement happening with family and super close friends. If I want to show off some new nerdy thing I have added to my collection, I’d most likely share that to Twitter. If I want to share some cute photo of my puppy, I’d share that most likely to Facebook. (Sometimes I’d share the same photo to both.) So I essentially share photos I post to Instagram to one of these to get the photo in front of people I want to see it. So why wouldn’t I just publish photos directly to Twitter or Facebook depending on who I want to see the photo?

So why wouldn’t I just publish photos directly to Twitter or Facebook depending on who I want to see the photo?

The other issue for me is how Instagram makes photos look. I know a lot of people love the “old-school” feel with Instagram’s filters and squared look. Originally, Instagram locked you in to sharing squared photos but now they support showing photos in portrait and landscape orientation. But when I share my photos, I want my photos to look as great as possible. When I share photos directly to Twitter — they look great. When I share photos directly to Facebook — they also look great.

Speaking of Twitter, when I share an Instagram photo on Twitter — the photo doesn’t even show up natively in their timeline forcing people to click through to Instagram to actually view the photo. This is what it looks like when I share a Instagram photo to Twitter:

This is what it looks like when I natively post a photo directly to Twitter instead of using Instagram:

If you want folks to see something and having have to jump through hoops (clicking someplace else) just to see it isn’t a great experience.

So in thinking about this some more, I’ve decided I won’t use Instagram to share photos to Twitter. Photos I want seen by my Twitter followers I will just post them to Twitter. However, I’ll still use Instagram to share photos to Facebook. This leads me into some feedback I have for Instagram. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, I would love the see some synergy between how Instagram exists with Facebook. Why can’t Instagram’s comments use Facebook’s commenting platform? Why can’t the “hearts” on Instagram photos be the same as “likes” on that same photo on Facebook? Why do I have to manage these two independently of each other? I’ve had this argument with several die-hard Instagrammers who completely disagree with my suggestions but I find it weird they are so separate. Those die-hards like having their little Instagram community separate. This, to me, doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts on Instagram. How do you use Instagram and handle posting photos to Instagram and sharing them to other places?

RSS readers

John Gruber on RSS readers:

“RSS readers exploded in popularity a decade ago, and Dan is right that their use has died down dramatically. But I think “RSS is dead” is the new “email is dead”. And I know from my server stats that an awful lot of people still read Daring Fireball in an RSS reader — many of them using NetNewsWire. For me, as a news junkie, an RSS reader is something to get worked up about.”

I completely agree (emphasis in bold above mine). I’m a news junkie as well and my RSS reader is extremely important to me. When I see someone doing something interesting with RSS — I do get worked up about it. Right now, I bounce between two RSS readers: Digg Reader and Feedly (I use the app Nextgen Reader on all my Windows devices to access my feeds). I really like Digg Reader’s integration with Twitter for their “Digg Deeper” feature which brings up popular articles people I’m following on Twitter are tweeting about. My RSS reader is as important to me as Outlook is for email. I am constantly reading up on new articles that come through all day long. I also use Flipboard to read up on news too but I tend to be someone who likes the way RSS readers treat RSS feeds you are subscribed to like email — with most recent articles that get published coming through by newest post first, etc. I triage through my RSS feeds like I do email.