Sunday, January 18, 2015

12 Monkeys: TV vs. Movie

SyFy's new series, 12 Monkeys, premiered this week, and they made the second episode available through Video-On-Demand. It's apparent, very quickly, that the showrunners decided to make several things quite different from the movie on which it was based. Not that it's hurt the series any, though some things do change the tone.

I loved the film, and have found the series to be good so far. I just wanted to make some notes about things I've noticed to be different thus far.

  • In the film, there was a certain amount of ambiguouty that allowed for the characters and the audience to wonder if James Cole really was a time traveller, or if he was insane, until at least halfway through the movie. The series very quickly established that James Cole he had to be a time traveller.
  • In the film, the timeline is static--Cole could not make any changes to prevent the plague that nearly wiped out the human race, he was sent back to collect a sample of the original, pure virus, before it mutated; it's hoped that this would allow the survivors to go back to living on the surface of the earth. In the TV series, the timeline is fluid. While certain things seem to be preordained, it's been shown clearly that Cole can do things that would affect the future outcome, so his mission to the past is to stop the outbreak from happening.
  • The virus was still very much active in the film's future from which Cole came from. Anyone going above ground needed to wear a protective suit, and had to go through decontamination going back below the surface. Cole and his friend walked on the surface without need of any protection in the TV series.
  • In the film, Cole had constant flashbacks (dreams) of something he saw as a child, before the plague happened. This element appears to be missing in the series.
  • For very obvious reasons, the film's "primary past" is 1996, while the "primary past" of the TV series is 2015.
  • In the film, time travelling seemed to have some effect on a person's psyche, which was one of the reasons why Cole was chosen--it was implied that he could endure the process better than his predecessors. It also made it easier for him to doubt his own sanity. Thus far in the series, time travelling does not seem to have had any adverse effects on him. Cole was chosen not because of his perceived/tested abilities, but because his name was mentioned in a recovered recording made by Dr. Railly, which supposedly pinpointed the cause of the plague.
  • In the film, the Army of the Twelve Monkeys was thought to have caused the plague since before Cole was chosen to go back in time. In the series, it went unnoticed until a person in the past (Leland Goines) mentioned it.
  • It's implied in the film that there were others who had been sent back in time before Cole, and there were certainly others after him. It's not yet know if there were or will be others in the series.
  • In the film, no one saw Cole vanish before their eyes, lending credence to the possibility that he might not be a time traveller. In the series, Dr. Railly regularly sees him vanish before her eyes.
  • Dr. Railly was a psychiatrist in the film, and a virologist in the TV series.
  • In the film, Dr. Railly treated Cole as a patient when he was initially sent to the wrong year. In the TV series, he goes to find her intentionally.
  • Dr. Railly's name was Kathryn, and Cassandra in the TV series. The change was most likely an homage to the Cassandra Complex, which Kathryn talked about in the film.
  • Leland Goines' child was Jeffrey in the film. In the series, it's Jennifer.
  • Jeffrey was the leader of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys in the film. In the TV series, it appears that she was a victim of it.
  • It remains to be seen if the red herring in the film will be a red herring in the series, as well.
There are a few other differences that I think are too minor to mention, or perhaps a bit too spoiler-ish. And I'm sure there will be more as the series goes on.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Philips Hue - Initial Thoughts

Last weekend, I bought a Philips Hue starter kit, which currently retails for roughly $200. Philips Hue has been out for about two years, and is one of the easier "smart lighting" solutions currently available--It gives you the ability to turn on your lights, change their color/brightness through your smart phone, tablet, or computer, as well as set up automation.

The starter kit comes with a Hue bridge (used to control up to 50 Hue bulbs wirelessly through ZigBee) and three Hue bulbs.

After using the system for a few days, and having researched some of my questions online beforehand, my initial thoughts? Great system, lots of potential. Still lacks simplicity and more functionality, not to mention needing to be more affordable, for the general population to be able to use it.

Its biggest problem? The light switch. To make full use of Hue's "smart" capabilities, you basically need to keep all the lights on all the time--if they're physically switched off, the bridge can't talk to the bulbs to turn them on. There are ways around this, such as the Hue Tap, but it's expensive if you want to get one for each room, and so far I have not found a good motion-sensor solution (which would be good if Philips can offer up an easy, working solution, instead of trying to create our own workarounds). Now, you could just use the light switch as if they're normal bulbs, and things will work like regular warm-light bulbs, but none of the scheduled/automated functionality will work.

That brings us to the automated functionality...


Geofencing is the ability to turn off your lights when your smart phone moves out of the designated area, and on when it moves back within range. It does this by using your phone's cell signals, and comparing the geolocation with your predesignated "home" location.

By choosing one of your "scenes," you can designate which of your bulbs should be turned on, to what color, and at what light intensity. There's also an option to use your selected geofencing scene "Only after sunset."

Unfortunately, what I've found is that the "Only after sunset" setting does not work. Regardless of when I get home, geofencing turns on my lights--I've been back at 11:00AM, at 4:55PM (right before sunset for the day), and after sunset. The lights always turn on.

Though not a big deal, as I can always turn them back off if it's still too bright outside, it would be nice if the given functionality in the official app actually works.

The "off" function works fine. No complaints.

Please note that geofencing is meant to be used for leaving (or returning to) your home, not for individual rooms.

If This, Then That (IFTTT)

Outside of the official app, one of the biggest things that can be used is IFTTT. And one of the most recommended settings is to use this to turn on (at least one of) your lights at sunset.

IFTTT will connect to, using your local forecast to obtain the sunset time, and turn on the lights of your choosing. Sounds great, right?

Well, not exactly. IFTTT will only poll for the trigger conditions every 15 minutes, and unfortunately, the connection actions do not allow you to choose X number of minutes before/after sunset/sunrise.
In my apartment, where not a lot of light comes through around dusk, I would actually prefer for the lights to come on at least 30 minutes before sunset. However, since I can't choose such settings, the lights end up turning on automatically much later than I would prefer.
Certainly, if I were home, I could do this manually, but the idea is to make it automatic so that it seems like I'm always home. And it could be argued that, as IFTTT is not created by Philips, it's not really a shortcoming of the Philips Hue system, but couldn't Philips include this a one of the default available functionality in its app? There are probably other third-party apps that can achieve this better (such as Hue Pro or Tasker, both of which are pay apps), but at the entry level price of at least $100 (for the Hue Lux starter kit), consumers shouldn't need to pay more to achieve the more basic "smart" functions.

Overall, I do think Philips Hue is a very good system, and I love the added functionality it brings, as well as lower energy use compared to the CFL bulbs I was using before. And while Philips has certainly made improvments to the system over the course of two years, there are still a few more touches that are needed to make it really useful. Hopefully Philips will update their software to bring these functionality in sooner, rather than later.