iPad PADD application: disappointing

Ever since it was released, the iPad has been compared to Star Trek’s PADD – the “personal access display device” used since the original series.  The official iPad PADD app (from CBS Interactive) brings the PADD-iPad loop full circle by turning an iPad into a PADD simulator (US$5 in the App Store).

The interface of the app mimics the LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System) interface that was used in The Next Generation.  This is well done, with appropriate sound effects, Majel Barrett‘s voice, and good-looking graphics.  The only complaint I have here is that the app doesn’t rotate to portrait (which PADDs in TNG certainly did). Note that while it looks authentic, this is mostly cosmetic – tapping an image of a cast member will take you to the cast index page, not the page specific to that character, for example, and many areas you would expect to be ‘hot’ do nothing at all.

The app provides access to the information available on StarTrek.com (aliens, locations, technology, and an episode guide).  This is the most disappointing aspect of the app —one of the reasons that I purchased it was that I hoped it would be a useful reference source for answering [tag]star-trek[/tag] questions; unfortunately the information available is extremely limited and superficial.  If the app was an interface to Memory Alpha or Wikipedia, it would contain a wealth of information, in an attractive interface (and would be much closer to the actual PADD).  Although Memory Alpha’s content is only available under a non-commerical license (non-commerical and Star Trek merchandising are rather like matter/antimatter), I think Wikipedia’s content could have been included (supplementing the official StarTrek.com content) and would have significantly increased the amount of information available.

Personally, I would have preferred if the links went beyond Star Trek information, and if this was a LCARS interface to a true encyclopedia (Wikipedia would suffice).  There are plenty of other Wikipedia browsers, but this one would hold a certain fan appeal.  I doubt I would use it for most Wikipedia searches, but it would appropriately set the mood when doing Star Trek research.

The app description does say “The official Star Trek PADD app database does not contain all information within the Star Trek Universe.  We will continue to update the database as information becomes available”.  I’m hoping that they do mean the whole universe here (and not simply whatever is available on StarTrek.com), and I’m hopeful (but skeptical) that there will be regular updates that significantly increase the amount of content available.

I’m keeping the app installed on one of my iPads for now, but I suspect that I’ll rarely use it, and when I next purge unused apps, it’s likely to go.  If you’re only interested in the cosmetic appeal, or if the shallow information available at StarTrek.com is all you’re interested in, then it might be worth $5 to you.

Elvis Has Left the Building

Renovation logoWith the Closing Ceremonies complete at 4 PM today, Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention has officially drawn to a close. Technically, this was the shortest Worldcon ever, since chair Patty Wells forgot to gavel the con open at the Opening Ceremonies on Wednesday. So officially, we have not actually been at Worldcon, but just an amazing five day simulation. It’s the kind of thing that SF&F fans take completely in stride. Patty gaveled the con open and shut at the Closing Ceremonies. I’ve gotta say, it’s been an awfully well-done simulation; my feet hurt.

Chicon 7 siteNow, it’s onward to Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, in Chicago, to be held August 30 through September 3, 2012. We met with the Convention Chair of Chicon, and perhaps Stack Exchange will have a presence there. Watch this space.

We were able to reach many science fiction authors, artists, and fans, and we gave away a lot of Stack swag. Your tip for the day: writers and musicians (who do a lot of autographing) think the Stack Exchange retractable Sharpies are awesome.

Though Renovation is over, we still have stories from Reno to file. Over the next few days, we’ll be posting an interview with a SF&F podcaster (just as soon as we get home and edit the audio); writing a post talking about some of the panels we attended; and probably one or two more.

The Hugo Awards: Live Coverage

The con ends tomorrow, but the key event happens tonight in the Tuscany Ballroom at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino: the presentation of the Hugo Awards. If you’re not with us here in Reno, you’ll be able to follow along in two ways:

Renovation will be providing a live video stream via UStream. That’s scheduled to start just before 8 PM PDT.

There will also be text coverage via CoverItLive, also beginning a few minutes before 8 PM PDT. You’ll be able to find that coverage on the Hugo Awards site.

More details about the Hugo Awards ceremony and the live coverage at the Renovation 2011 Hugo Ceremony page. If you need a refresher on the nominees, that’s also on the Renovation site.

We’re not going to reveal all of our votes, but just for fun, here’s how we voted in two categories:

Best Novel:

Dori: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
Tom: The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Dori: Toy Story 3

Tom: Inception

Let’s see who picked correctly!

Late-breaking news: here’s the complete list of winners.

Costumes Everywhere

Who doesn’t like to dress up? OK, probably most of the folks who hang out over on Server Fault. But here at Worldcon, it seems like you see people wearing costumes all the time. The Masquerade (a huge event, held earlier tonight) is devoted to extravagant and innovative costuming, in individual and group concepts. Sadly, we missed the Masquerade, though we’ll link to photos as we find them.

An attraction of Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions are “hall costumes,” many of which are simply stunning. Surprisingly, we’ve seen only a few Klingons; perhaps they’re going out of style. And we fully expected to see more than a few Na’vi, but haven’t seen any (our guess: all that blue paint gets pretty messy; it’s just not that practical). The biggest contingent here seems to be the steampunk crowd—one of the costume vendors, Damsel in this Dress, snarkily claims that steampunk is what happens when Goths discover brown.

We’ve seen dozens of cool costumes (all of which have made us regret our decision to rely on our iPhone 4s; while they have a decent camera, our Canons would have been better).

Three examples:

Waiting for the shuttle bus to the convention center today, we struck up a conversation with this woman who made a beautiful headdress from leather and then painted it with exacting detail and subtlety.

Painted leather headdress at Renovation

In the hall outside one of the convention parties, another leather creation—this time a jerkin—nicely detailed and painted.

Painted leather jerkin at Renovation

But our favorite hall costume so far was worn by this woman dressed as the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Just like the… er… real TARDIS, the light on her head pulsed when she chose to transport away, and it even made the TARDIS sound! Truly a delightful costume. You can’t see it in this picture, but her dress even included the door handles and the sign on the front of the police box.

Woman dressed as a TARDIS at Renovation

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