Babylon 5: The Lost Tales Cover ArtLast night we watched Babylon 5: The Lost Tales volume 1, Voices in the Dark. The direct-to-DVD movie is the first new Babylon 5 since the Legend of the Rangers TV movie/pilot 5 years ago, and the first to focus on characters from the original series since A Call to Arms set up Crusade back in 1999.

The movie has two distinct segments, the first focusing on Lochley, now a Colonel and still in charge of the space station, and the second focusing on Sheridan and the techno-mage Galen. Both segments take place during 2271, placing it 9 years after the main story, during what would have been the 5th season of Crusade if the series had lasted.

The result is mixed. Continue reading

Opera BrowserThere’s a saying about the elephant in the room that no one will talk about. Everyone knows it’s there, but by some unspoken rule no one will mention it. I’ve noticed that when web browsers are compared, there’s one thing Opera supporters tend to ignore or downplay: Opera’s business model.

Internet Explorer and Safari are bundled with their respective operating systems, and so they’re perceived as free. Firefox is free in both the gratis and libre senses of the word. Opera, however, is ad-supported by default and will disable the ads if you pay for it.

You can use Opera without paying money, but you’re still paying it in attention (a persistent chunk of space dedicated to advertising), so in comparison to the other three leading browsers, it’s perceived as being less free. Think of it in terms of television.

So the perception of cost looks like this:

  • IE, Safari, Firefox (commercial-free TV)
  • Ad-supported Opera (network TV)
  • Paid-for Opera (cable or satellite)

Most people really do prefer free without ads to free with ads or paid subscriptions. Why else is skipping commercials one of Tivo’s most popular features?

I’m certain this impacts marketshare, and it definitely impacts media coverage. Just look at CNET’s recent IE vs. the world review. Opera 8 gets high marks for features, but what’s the summary? “Despite a ton of great technology in Opera, few consumers will be likely to pay for the app. ” Whether you think the review is otherwise fair or not, the business model clearly lowered it several notches on the reviewer’s scale.

Next: Firefox’s blind spot.

Disclaimer: I’m a regular Firefox user these days, but I’ve also paid to register Opera since version 3.5 was current back in 1999. I used Opera as my main web browser on Windows back when Netscape 4 was aging and Mozilla hadn’t yet stabilized enough to replace it.

About a year ago, I posted recommendations for Girl Genius, Fables, and Halo and Sprocket. Now I’d like to recommend a few more.

[Cover of Planetary #20]Planetary, by Warren Ellis and John Cassiday. The premise of Planetary is “archaeologists of the impossible.” Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer are the field team for Planetary, an organization devoted to uncovering the secret history of their world. Each issue focuses on a different genre or archetype. There’s a Godzilla issue early on, there’s a Vertigo issue, one focuses on Hong Kong action films, and the latest is reminiscent of Rendezvous with Rama. Along the way, Planetary has uncovered a series of conspiracies — some positive, such as the Pulp Heroes of the 1930s, and others malicious, such as the mysterious Four (a twisted analogue of the Fantastic Four) who may be the most powerful people on the planet — if they’re still human. After a long absence, the series is now being published every two or three months. It’s expected to run around 25 issues, although it could take longer to wrap up the story. The first 18 issues and several specials are collected in four graphic novels. (Bimonthly/quarterly from DC/Wildstorm.)

[Cover of Fallen Angel collection #1]Fallen Angel, by Peter David, David Lopez and Fernando Blanco. The fictional Louisiana town of Bete Noire is a magnet for strangeness, ruled by the enigmatic Magistrate Juris during the day and protected by the equally enigmatic Fallen Angel by night. But nothing is as it seems. Is the Fallen Angel a heroine, or just a loose cannon? The main focus of the series is moral ambiguity and duality. Can you map “order” and “chaos” to “good” and “evil?” What happens when a force for good turns out to be sinister, or when someone once evil seems benign? Or when someone uses cruel methods to achieve a noble goal? The first few issues have been collected as a graphic novel. Suggested for mature readers – there’s usually violence and sometimes sex. (Monthly from DC Comics)

[Cover of Powers volume 2 #1]Powers, by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Avon Oeming. Bendis is known for his crime fiction, and that’s the focus of Powers. The book follows homicide detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim as they investigate the deaths of super-heroes. Up until recently, their world was one where super-heroes were the A-list celebrities everyone followed, and the Powers world is as full of lawsuits, grudges, politics and sex scandals as Hollywood. That was volume one. Things have changed: after a particularly powerful hero went mad and rained destruction across the globe, world leaders have declared all powers illegal. Volume two picked up last month with the city trapped in a gang war between super-villains — with no heroes in sight. The first series has been collected in six graphic novels, with one more yet to be published. Another mature readers title – there is sometimes very graphic violence and sex, despite the cartoony style. And if you’re at all sensitive, don’t read the letters column! (Monthly, previously from Image Comics and now at Marvel/Icon.)