Conficker, GNOME, Firefly

En weer een week voorbij, dus weer tijd voor een weekoverzicht. This week saw some interesting developments, mostly around Conficker and GNOME, but we also had some browser news, Shuttleworth on Windows 7, and more details on the Palm Pre. This week’s My Take is about Firefly.

Week in Review

The biggest news this week was the Conficker worm, which infected those people who were too lazy to keep their machines up to date. Thanks to their laziness, we now have a huge botnet that could be used for a lot of naughty things. Still, the expected end-of-the-world predictions didn’t come true, and nothing much happened on April 1.

The other big thing this week was GNOME. We first had an article on the future of KDE and GNOME, asking ourselves which of the two has the evolutionary advantage. Not long after, the GNOME team released their plan for GNOME 3.0, which includes some pretty hefty interface changes for the GNOME platform.

On the browser side of things, we learned that according to some statistics, Firefox 3.0 is now more popular than Internet Explorer 7 in Europe. The statistics include some other cool little factoids, like per country statistics. Of course, they’re just statistics, but fun nonetheless.

The Palm Pre was also in the spotlight this week, with Palm demonstrating the device extensively using several third party applications. The demos showed a capable and fast device, and the applications were fast and responsive, despite initial fears about JS/HTML/CSS adding another abstraction layer to the device. The most impressive application was definitely the PalmOS emulator.

Mark Shuttleworth stated that he thought Windows 7 would be (yet another) opportunity for Linux to gain a decent foothold in the desktop market, but man of us were skeptical. Eugenia demonstrated another set of impressive videos from the “DV Rebels” movement, I wrote another instalment in the Common Usability Terms series, and we found out that BeOS was used in Dollhouse.

My Take: Firefly

Let’s do a quick rundown of the world of televised space-faring science fiction. Of course, we have Star Trek, which consists of a number of pretty disastrously bad television series and films, with only Deep Space 9 actually being any good, mostly because of its excellent Dominion War story arc (and Jadzia). The rest of the franchise is the same boring nonsensical rehash of one humanoid-alien culture after another. Bland.

Then there’s Battlestar Galactica. I’ve never seen the original series because I wasn’t born yet, but the new reimagined series that we talked about before is pretty much my favourite TV show of all time. It does everything right, and it’s a lesson to the rest of the world on how to write an engaging story with exciting action, superb character development, beautiful special effects, outstanding actors, top-notch camera work, and Cally.

Then there’s Star Trek’s bastard child, Babylon 5, which is a better Star Trek than Star Trek. The story is better, the characters are better, the political landscape is better, the ships are better, and the humour is infinitely better (Ivanova for president! Marcus for vice-president!). Too bad it didn’t look very good (budget limits, I’m sure), and had a very, very slow start.

That leaves us with just one show of recent years, that I actually never got to see. Apparently, it’s the televised version of Fiona Apple, since every geek I’ve ever met is full of praise about this show. I decided it was time for me to dive into the world of Firefly.

Firefly is a short-lived space-faring science fiction show by the same guy who did Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which I personally find a pretty disastrous piece of television. I didn’t have a lot of high hopes for Firefly, but it turned out I was wrong. It’s actually a pretty good series, despite some deficiencies. Let’s start with the good.


The ship itself. Serenity is a cosy ship, and it’s the first space ship in scifi I’d actually enjoy staying in. It feels like one of those cottages out in the mountains where you spend a weekend with friends – you can have your private space, but at the same time, you’re never alone.

Then there’s the atmosphere of it all. I absolutely detest the Star Trek vision of the future, where everything seems to be maintained by overaggressive OCD patients. As much as I’m all for keeping things tidy and clean, it makes the Star Trek universe wholly unbelievable. The future is not going to be a fairy dust trip while riding unicorns that fart pure powdered love – it’s going to be a dangerous hell hole. It’s no coincidence that my personal favourite scifi franchises are all dark, dangerous, and dirty (BSG and Alien). Firefly follows this same path.

Kaylee. No, seriously. The creators realised full well that in order to attract the geek demographic, you need a geek girl on your show. It’s not surprising that Cally became one of the most beloved characters of BSG, and Firefly therefore has its very own Cally (actually, it’s the other way around, of course). Give the average OSNews reader a geek girl and they’re all over it.

Then there’s the humour. Firefly is really good in this department, and it really helps in connecting with the characters. The humour doesn’t feel forced or artificial like it does on Star Trek – it’s natural, like on Babylon 5. I half expected Ivanova to show up in the cockpit every now and then.

There are also a few things wrong. The big issue for me is that it’s highly episodic, with barely any longer story arcs. This breaks flow, and hinders commitment. I want my TV shows (apart from comedy) to have long story arcs that evolve each episode, leading to a gigantic climax (BSG, DS9, Babylon 5). Firefly doesn’t seem to have that (note I’m only at episode 10).

And, of course, the big elephant in the room: the western theme that’s draped all over the show. I’m not into westerns, and sometimes I really have to bite my tongue to get through some of the cheesiness, but overall, it’s not that big of a deal. At least it’s fresh and original, and that’s something that’s usually sorely missing in the world of scifi.

Overall, it’s a good show. Too bad it got cancelled.


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