Sun, Ubuntu, Jericho

The past week has actually seen a whole lot of interesting news items. We’ve seen financial figures from major software companies, Sun Microsystems was bought by Oracle, we found out about Windows XP Mode, Ubuntu 9.04 was released, and it was revealed that the judge in the Pirate Bay case was anything but impartial. This week’s My Take is about Jericho, the short-lived TV series.

Week in Review

The week kicked off with the surprising news that Oracle had bought Sun Microsystems for an amount of 7.4 billion USD. Many quickly wondered what this would mean for the various open source projects at Sun, most importantly the future of MySQL. We ran an item later that same day about some of these concerns.

We also focussed on ARM and netbooks this week. Jordan interviewed several people working at ARM about the subject, and later during the week we found out that a Chinese company will be the first to ship an ARM-powered Android netbook.

On the Windows 7 front, we also had lots of news. We found out that the Windows 7 release candidate had been leaked onto torrent websites, and when it will actually be released – April 30 for TechNet/MSDN people, May 5 for everyone else. We also took a look at Julie Larson-Green, one of the faces of Windows 7 and Office 2007. The biggest news, however, came at the end of the week with the revelation of Windows XP Mode, a virtualised copy of Windows XP for Windows 7 customers to run Windows XP applications within Windows 7.

Several companies also released financial details. Apple has been doing relatively well; even though Mac sales decreased slightly, the company increased its margins to cushion the blow. iPod and iPhone sales also did very well. Microsoft, on the other hand, saw its first year-over-year sales decline in like forever.

This week also saw the release of Ubuntu 9.04 and related distributions, which come with shorter boot times, a new notification system, and several other improvements. Reviews have been very positive.

In the middle of the week it was revealed that the judge who oversaw the Pirate Bay case was anything but impartial. It turns out he is a member of several pro-copyright groups, which obviously makes him a bad fit for this case. He himself doesn’t see a problem, but the lawyers on TPB’s side are aiming for a retrial.

My Take: Return to Jericho

More often than not, good television series get killed off way before their time has actually come. We all know the example of Firefly, which we discussed earlier, or something like Dead Like Me (one of my favourite all-time TV shows). Another example of a killer series that was just oozing with potential, but which sadly got cancelled too early is Jericho.

Jericho is the story of a small fictional town (5000 people) with the same name in Kansas. During the opening of the series, we meet a few of the main characters going about their business; quickly, however, we are introduced to the big premise of the show: the inhabitants of Jericho see a mushroom cloud on the horizon, in the direction of Denver. Not soon after, electricity is lost, communication is cut, and they’re on their own.

The series deals with the people of Jericho trying to find out what is going on. Since they lost all communications (internet, TV, radio), they have to rely on small bits and pieces of information. At first, they believe hope that only Denver got hit, but they soon realise that 23 cities all over America have been nuked – including Washington DC. They have no idea who or why.

Of course, this poses all sorts of problems for Jericho. The series not only deals with trying to find out what’s going on, but also with the struggle to survive. Jericho is really in the middle of nowhere, and they must rely on hard work and careful use of resources to survive. They have to deal with everything from lack of medicine and food shortage, to securing their town and surviving the harsh winter. To make matters worse, as the year goes by, they also take in a group of refugees, and they have to prepare for war with a neighbouring town who weren’t as lucky as Jericho when it comes to resources.

There’s a lot wrong with Jericho as a TV series, such as little details that make no sense and irregular pacing here and there. Some characters feel unreal (the Hawkins family in particular), and for some reason – maybe because of the way everything is filmed – it’s hard to get a good mental overview of the town and its layout.

Still, the series does one thing so abundantly right I easily forgive its shortcomings: immersion. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I myself have been born and raised in a small town similar to Jericho (slightly smaller, but also in the middle of nowhere), but the whole concept really sucks me in. The idea of a small town trying to survive without knowing what the hell is going on outside is extremely compelling. It’s also painful to see the America around Jericho – as well as Jericho itself – slowly deteriorate into lawlessness, darkness, and incredible cruelty.

Jericho does require a love for post-apocalyptic stories. If you love things like Battlestar Galactica and/or the Fallout universe, you’re going to love Jericho. I have always been a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic story, and Jericho is interesting in that it focusses on the events right after the apocalypse (like BSG), instead of most other stories that usually take place long after the apocalypse.

Sadly, Jericho got to see only one season*, a season with a massive cliffhanger that deserved so much more. The whole Jericho universe is just filled to the brim with untold stories – not only of Jericho itself, but also the rest of the United States. I hope the series will be revived sooner rather than later.

In any case, it certainly deserves your attention. The series gets better as the series moves forward, so if you’re a bit unhappy with the early episodes, be sure to stick to it later on.

* Yes, I know there is something that is supposed to be the second season, but I deny its existence. It’s a bastard child that does away with everything that made Jericho enjoyable. It takes the mystery away, the helplessness – everything. I am still puzzled as to why the actors decided to take part in this glorified work of fanfic crap. If I ever had the money, I’d buy the franchise, and start over, redoing season 1 as well to remove some of the Hawkins-related stuff.


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