A flaw in the system

Hey, Starz Originals’ utterly mediocre gangsta drama Power is back! Bit of a surprise there because the first season wasn’t really anything to write home about, but I guess it’s still less a surprise than the return of The Last Ship.

Anyway, in episode 2 we can find a classic example of bad mockup UI design. Angela Valdez, everyone’s favorite AUSA slash gangsta whore, is using the DOJ’s system to look up stuff on her friends. Because she has been kicked out of the task force she’s trying to break into the system using her former boyfriend’s account. I doubt he’ll appreciate that.

(c) Starz

(c) Starz

She’s having a bit of trouble figuring out the password, but after a few tries, she manages to get in using the woefully unsafe “grace”, the name of Gregory’s dog. Oh dear.

At least she’s in the system now and is greeted by this rather odd looking screen:

(c) Starz

(c) Starz

As evident from the Windows Explorer icon at the bottom of the screen, the operating system used is likely Windows 7. However, there’s no Start button and nothing else, not even a task icon for the foreground application, which looks kind of strange.

The app itself has likely been thrown together in Visual Studio and is supposed to be a case database. A little quiz here: how would you query a federal case database?

By entering the …

a) case number
b) case name (e.g. “United States vs. Bad Guy”)
c) defendant’s name and date of birth
d) your own name

If you answered b) you are likely on the team responsible for this mess of a mockup, because that’s exactly what Angela does: she queries the database by entering “United States vs. Felipe Lobos”, as if there was no way there’s two or more cases with the exact same name. Admittedly, in this case the name’s rather unique – for example, whitepages.com lists only one Felipe Lobos – but how would that work for “United States vs. Peter Muller“? Since checking on the wrong man would be kind of pointless and could also turn rather unpleasant for the poor sod, a real database would require some kind of secondary identification to pinpoint that exact person or case.

The database also contains audio files, which is handy since Angela wants to listen to a certain recording in order to hopefully identify that “Ghost” guy. She opens the recording and suddenly, the screen is all zoomed in and the app window doesn’t even fit anymore. The top left input field is empty …

(c) Starz

(c) Starz

or is it? Suddenly, the text has reappeared in the input field.

(c) Starz

(c) Starz

Listening to the audio file jogs her memory: it’s Tommy! She quickly conducts a background check on him, which is done via the window aptly titled Background Check. Not that there’s any visible way to even reach that window, but maybe she used a keyboard shortcut, who knows. Odd design nevertheless.

She queries the database for “Thomas Patrick Egan”, which happens to be Tommy’s real name:

(c) Starz

(c) Starz

Again, it would be a really bad idea to check on the wrong person, but Angela isn’t to blame here as the database app doesn’t even allow filtering by anything else than the name – not even a date of birth or social security number! And to add insult to injury, there’s no way to enter the first, middle and last name separately – designing a database used by law enforcement to work like that would not just be incredibly inefficient, but also extraordinarily stupid and dangerous.

How to make a monster

TNT’s crime drame Murder in the First came back with a bang – actually, more like a few hundred bangs as two kids shot up a school bus with automatic weapons. While one of the shooters was arrested on the spot, the other one escaped with a huge array of weapons and a determination to “finish the game”. No, seriously, that’s what he said.

It wasn’t just at that point that I knew they’d blame it all on video games, horror movies and black metal. And I was right – they really pulled all the stops on this one in the first episode. But sometimes, things aren’t as they seem …

While the police is conducting a search of the escaped shooter’s home, they find plenty of incriminating “evidence”. First – the music (the image’s brightness and contrast have been altered so you can see it better):

(c) TNT

(c) TNT

So the shooter – like a ton of other people, I assume – was a fan of the band “In This Moment“, a quite mainstream Gothic Metal band from Los Angeles. Seriously? I’d have understood if they used some underground Black Metal outfit nobody ever heard of – but they opted to use a Billboard-storming combo with a big label contract. Their current tour is sponsored by the energy drink “Monster”, for crying out loud!

So the shooter liked mainstream music like everyone else. Does that make him dangerous? Probably not, but how about video games? Surely he must have played a lot of violent stuff in his time, right?

Well, the setup is there, at least:

(c) TNT

(c) TNT

Doesn’t look so much different from my own gaming den, to be honest – except that I like my consoles tidy on a rack and not on the floor, but then I’m not a homicidal maniac either. What do we have there?

1. PS3
2. Xbox 360
3. two controllers for the Xbox 360 – does that mean he has friends?
4. Xbox 360 headset

Okay, so obviously a good part of his parents’ money went into his entertainment. But wait, there’s more:

(c) TNT

(c) TNT

A controller for an Xbox One! This guy sure has everything! But where are all the games? Surely he must own lots of them, likely ego shooters like … Call of Duty? Yep, that’s probably it, he used Call of Duty to train for his killing spree! And he cusses on voice chat! Right?

Well, the cops did find some games – a stack of Xbox One game boxes to be precise. For some reason, the game at the top of the stack doesn’t have a proper cover – it just says “GAME PLAY” and is obviously photocopied and taped onto the box – but for a few frames, you can see the second game:

mitf201-nba

Wait a second …

nba2k14xboneReally? Of all the games for the Xbox One, they chose NBA2K14, rated E for Everyone? This can’t be a mistake! Looks like the series developers didn’t really buy into the usual “video games + metal music = homicidal maniac” equation either …

Heartstopping

Oh golly, there’s a new show on Netflix, and one created by The Wachowskis to boot! Wait … aren’t The Wachowskis the guys sibilings who didn’t produce anything of relevance since The Matrix? Oh, this is going to be fun!

Sense8 is the name of the show and after watching the first four episodes, I’m not entirely sure where this journey will lead me. I’m also uncertain if this show actually goes anywhere or if it’s just pretentious bullshit. It’s not that I’m bored yet, but the setup – eight people around the world can “help” each other from afar by means of whatever magic – doesn’t really seem to leave much leeway for surprises. So far most of the show’s minutes have been – admittedly colorful and pretty – pictures and very little else.

Anyway, I just wanted to write something about Sense8, but since this is a blog about stuff, here’s something the continuity person should have noticed. It’s a common error as well, which just makes it worse.

One of the eight Sense8rs (or something) is in the hospital because reasons (not going to spoil anything yet because the show is extremely new). In the first shot, we can see the health monitor (a GE Healthcare DASH 4000 – seriously, Youtube has videos about anything), and all vital statistics are clearly visible. The red number says 72 which is likely the heart rate.

(c) Netflix

(c) Netflix

You can probably see where this is going … this is a later shot, and the heart rate monitor seems to have a problem – looks like either no sensor is attached or the patient is dead. Because its hard to see on a still image I made you an animation.

(c) Netflix

(c) Netflix

Seconds later, we are back at 72 beats per minute:

(c) Netflix

(c) Netflix

And that is what happens when you film out of sequence and your continuity person has their day off.

Child’s play

A new mystery drama series on ABC called The Whispers? This will either be ridiculously bad or … I don’t know, another LOST maybe? Given the mediocre acting and the predictable plot of the pilot episode, I’d say it’s more likely to be cancelled right out of the gate, but sign me up anyway!

So this show is about kids who have an imaginary friend called Drill who’s telling them to kill their parents (or mothers, at least). Lovely. But it’s really all fun and games as this beautiful picture … uh, depicts:

(c) ABC

(c) ABC

What the fuck are they grinning at like morons? Some silly Nintendo game maybe? It is a Wii U Pro controller, after all. The way he’s holding the thing looks like he’s never played a video game before – he can barely reach the triggers, let alone the buttons above them. So … Mario Kart, right?

(c) ABC

(c) ABC

Reality check, y’all: the kid’s training how to be a killing machine while granny is smiling like she’s in a really bad video game advertisement. He’s playing … wait, what is he playing? Looks like some kind of Halo game, but the HUD looks off and the gun is usually associated with Splinter Cell games. Even after some in-depth research I couldn’t make out which game this is supposed to be. Huh. Did they really decide to blow their FX budget on a few frames of a Halo clone?

Given how mediocre the rest of the episode was, I’d not be entirely surprised.