Saturday, June 29, 2019

Number one thing I like about auto saves: not shouting profanities when the game crashes.

Number two thing I like about auto saves: when they're frequent enough that I don't shout profanities after the game crashes.

Because even if your name has Final Fantasy in it: you're probably going to crash on some players.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Damned temptations

Things that tempt me: the latest XPS 15.

At this point my desktop, Centauri, is old enough that if you buy any variant of Core i5 or i7 laptop: the crunch power will exceed it. Let's just say I've gotten Every, Last, Dollar out of my 3570K and I'm finding its limits as the years go on. I built the system back in 2012~2013 with the plan for it to retire around 2018. Officially it's re-issued expiration date is 2023 based on it being decrepit for my use case by then.

From a bit of poking around: I imagine between my desktop's CPU bottleneck and how old my GTX 780 actually is that such a laptop model GTX 1650 is probably powerful enough for my gaming needs. Close enough that I don't need to spend for a Thunderbolt eGPU dock for the old war horse until bottlenecks actually show up. That counterbalances the sales on the previous chipsets. Games like RE7 and FF15 kinda cause low level fractures in Centuari's Aging Kick Ass Factor.

Likewise there's a fairly viable jumping off point for the fifteen inchers. The heavier assed 15s maintain dual RAM slots and a full sized SATA bay. Where as the lighter 13s only have the M.2 and soldered RAM. Thus allowing me to reuse the Centauri's SATA SSD and its whopping 1 TB of game / video storage. Migrating to 32 GB of RAM is something I fear will happen within the next ~5 years based on my experiences on machines with 16, 12, 8, 4, 3, and 1 GB of RAM that I still use. Which means if I bought an XPS 13 the minimal capacity would be 16 GB.

So sadly the 15" models become far more attractive to me than the 13" models. Because I don't want another couple year and its crap device, if I'm paying that much again: I want a use until fall apart device.

That said, I don't really like the idea of a laptop that weighs almost 2 kg as much as I'd rather one weigh closer to 0.5 kg, but getting such performance in that light a package is at least a decade or two away for PCs >_<.

The concept of paying off such a war beast makes me groan. But on the other hand Centauri is already past her retirement age. And provided no pancaking: it would be a war beast that could both replace Centauri for the next ~5 years while deep sixing the choke point of the beater I use for work.

My Chromebook 3 cost me about $50, as a decent machine for my lab bench. But it is limited by the dinky CPU which leaves me groaning far to often as the machine struggles to keep up with my flow of terminals, emails, and tabs. So much so that I already delegate a lot to my my more powerful Android tablet, with its cracked screen. Which leads me towards using my development laptop, Stark as a bench box rather than kept safely on my desk. Because while Stark is about as old as Centauri, a a 3360M totally nukes the crap out of an N3060 any day.

Heavy lifting usually lands upon Centauri and Stark. The difference is the non compiling code all day tasks are both what Centauri does and where its weaknesses are growing. I imagine that Stark would remain the development system, and that Centauri would replace my file server, Cream; or end up donated to the office.

Ahh, so much to plan.
Steam Summer Sale - VN Titles and Markdowns

More than a few entries on this sale list warrant a gander for anyone interested in Visual Novels, or you may already own half of them :P.

A few lesser known ones worth mentioning:

  • One Small Fire At A Time
    • Short but well worth it.
    • This is currently the only entry on my VN list that ranked a 10/10.
  • The Letter
    • If you ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book than this is for you.
    • The post credits scene may disturb you far more than the horror story :P.
  • An Octave Higher
    • Set in the same world as One Small Fire At A Time.
    • Players of the former will appreciate a certain side character ;).
  • Ladykiller In A Bind
    • Highly abnormal and twisted sense.
    • Come for the story not the adult content 8-).
  • ACE Academy

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Whose bed is that anyway?

Very comfy doggos.

Solving the wrong problem?

Programming language Python's 'existential threat' is app distribution: Is this the answer?

I kind of can't help but wonder if this is really about solving the wrong problem.

In dealing with the developer side of things: pip and venv really aren't that bad compared to some of the squirrelly means of distributing software the world has known. But much beyond 'type pip install xxx and cross your fingers', I wouldn't really call it a user oriented system. It works well enough for Python developers but is not catered to Joe Average User or twelve year olds who just want to blow stuff up.

To make things ease on end users of course: you have to solve the actual problem. Linux has a good rule about not breaking userspace--but userspace doesn't care about you! Personally I think that is the real pickle.

Over in NT land it's pretty simple. You build some shit and the system ABI is probably the same across a bunch of Windows versions if you're not too crazy, and most of the baggage is the problem of your install creation process. Whether that's some fancy tool or some rules in your Makefile. It's impressive when you load up a video game that's old as hell and it just works, despite being almost old enough to buy a beer. It wasn't made to be efficient: it evolved to become stable. It grew up in a world where people shipped binaries and pushing changes to users was costly.

Now by the time you have an actual Linux desktop distribution: all bets are pretty much off. A decent one will usually maintain a viable ABI for a major release number but that doesn't mean everything will be compatible forever, nor does it mean the binary dependencies you require will remain in xyz package repo for the next fifty years. Some of this lands on distributions and how they deal with package management to squeeze binaries into nixie norms of hierarchy. Some of this also lands on developers, who may or may not know what an ABI is from a hole in the ground because they're used to recompiling to APIs and configuring ten thousand build time knobs and don't care that changing something impacts binary compatibility between their library and the works of others.

There are reasons why things like AppImage and Flatpak exist. Many of these I think owe to the source centric nature of unix systems. Different communities have different norms of sharing and reuse.

When I began learning unix systems, I chose a source centric flavour that would let me learn how things worked under the hood. The kind where you waited three and a half days because a new version of KDE or GNOME landed and many a dependency in the food chain needed to be rebuilt. The kind where you learned to diagnose linker problems and grumble knowing that changes to library X meant recompiling half your environment if you wanted to be sure your applications didn't combust quietly in a corner just waiting for the day you actually needed to launch them again, or curse at some major framework linking to some piddly library that triggered same.

In the end my times with that system were dominated by two things: stability and compile times. But I didn't chose that in order to have an easy one click and done system. I had chosen it because I wanted to learn how computers worked and develop the means of figuring out why the fuck programs broke. Today if you use that flavour of unix, you can pretty much live a purely binary world that wasn't so easy when I was a padawan.

By contrast an acquaintance of mine back then, ironically a Python programmer, had chosen a more widely known distribution that focused on having the latest binaries available without having to compile all the things. One that's still quite popular about ~15 years later. Let's just say the usability of binary focused distributions has improved with time despite the warts that is binary distribution in *nix land. Or to summarize it thusly:

When it came time for a major version upgrade: I spent a few days compiling before getting back to work. He spent a few days cursing and then reformatted, lol.

Lifehacker: The Raspberry Pi 4's Most Interesting Quirks.

Sounds like everything I found bothersome has been improved, except for trying to do any kind of serious video playback without using omxplayer.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

An old favorite

My Android tablet is set to automatically rotate through my wall paper collection, selecting once at random. But this one doesn't typically pop up given that it's just one along many.

In addition to being an old favorite: this is also the image on my coffee cup at work.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Seen "Neon Genesis Evangelion" on Netflix yet?

Time to scratch this item on my bucket list.
MSPoweruser: Bill Gates calls losing the smartphone market to Android his “greatest mistake”.

In times equally long past I would have guessed it smart phones became a thing: they'd probably run something derived from Windows CE or be a tad Palmy. Meanwhile what I would have wanted back then would probably had looked something like PDAs from Sharp and Nokia.

Today, be it for better or worse: Android is insanely successful. It is to mobile what Windows is to PC in just about every sense of the word. Except it grew up with underpinnings built around Linux and Java rather than DOS and C. It also has had the benefit of hindsight: as those creating it came from a world populated by Windows and Unix based systems.

Microsoft is doing pretty well today. Hell they've even made some nice software and services. But they are dead as the platform for mobile. Want to use Microsoft things on the go? Your phone runs probably Android. If not well it sure won't be running a Microsoft operating system!

For about the last five years or so, I've kind of wondered if in about another thirty years: will Android eventually overtake Windows. Much as Microsoft pretty much became the gold standard as Unix vendors fiddled and burned.

One thing is for sure: the Linux kernel ain't disappearing anytime soon 😜.
When dreaming of being lead down a shaft by Kurtwood Smith and into an extreme Xenomorph infestation with a bunch of hapless pulse rifle totting goons in jumpsuits, always remember to bring Ripley's flamethrower--and extra tanks of flame sauce for when things go south. Bringing a few marines with M56 Smart Guns wouldn't hurt either but my dream didn't include any such support :'(

I find this somewhat curious since most times my dreams are filled with xenomorphs: usually my experience takes on the role of running around in the USCM's ol' M3 armour and assorted armaments. Or just myself. Like that one knife fight with an Alien Queen many years ago. But dreams are weird.

It's probably appropriate though that the flamethrower design was closer to the '92 action figure I had as a kid than the M240 Incinerator Unit we see in the second film Ellen Ripley's action figure featured a rather more dedicated approach to flamethrower action.

But in any case: I say roast them all.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hey I’m watching Good Omens - Season 1 (4K UHD). Check it out now on Prime Video!

Never read any of Prachett's or Gaiman's books but this is so brilliant that maybe it's time to stop living under a rock.

There's really so much to enjoy about this story. An angel and a demon who are pretty much best friends since creation; the four horsemen of the apocalypse on their motorcycles and the rather dedicated delivery guy; the antichrist, his cute hellhound, and his human friends; an oracle witch and witch Hunter and their descendants; and GOD who works in mysterious ways but never says anything unless you're listening to the narrator.

Really, it's good stuff.
Chrome Unboxed: Google Assistant Could Arrive On All Chromebooks In Late Summer.

For the most part I've been done with Google Assistant, and lax in using such tools. But I wouldn't mind seeing them in more places as an option.

My relationship with voice tools tend to take two forms: pressing the microphone button on my phone and sighing at Google's failures to handle my reminders and pressing the microphone button on my remote and asking Alexa to launch something I want to resume watching on Fire TV.

It's nice to have options even if most of the options have failings.

Even my desktop is able to use Alexa and Cortana without much effort; Google Assistant not so much. But of course none really do that much that I find useful in that machine.

Ars Technica: A tale of two cities: Why ransomware will just get worse.

Personally I think it a bad precedent to pay such a random. The odds of such things happening probably go up when they turn out to be profitable rather than purely gloat factors.

However I do understand that not everyone goes into writing a disaster recovery plan starting off with the statement, "Oh fuck!, My computer just exploded!" as the baseline. I can just imagine how peachy most town and county networks would fair..... like a flaming car on a roller coaster track: descending into a pit of kerosene.

NextShark: Japanese Artists Turn Countries Into Anime Samurai Characters for 2020 Olympics.

I can't help but wish someone would take this and turn it into a short manga action series or a rather comedic anime. I'd actually enjoy that more than the Olympics, lol

Reflections on my road to becoming a computer nerd

Generally I would say there were about four things that really got me into computers.

  1. Information access.
  2. Word processing.
  3. Video games.
  4. Community

Growing up in an environment where your choice was the family encyclopedias and dictionary: both about as old as me; or waiting a week or two for a trip to the library to actually happen. I was somewhat fortunate in the sense I could checkout books and learn about how nuclear power or jet engines function, and not be worried what people think. Today, I'm not quite sure I'd wanna see the alarmed glares kids might get today at the stuff I read back then but I guess there aren't that many librarians left either.

Online however made a very different set of information available than the bookstores and library could offer me. Two websites especially: the Gundam Project and the Mecha & Anime HQ. While MAHQ is still around the former went defunct before my family switched from dial up to broadbanned. As my interests exploded I found that increasingly the Internet was the way to gather information. You could go to the used bookstore and get books on Star Trek and Star Wars. You couldn't find so much related to Mobile Suit Gundam and Macross. Hell the nearest source of anime was probably drive two hours to a Suncoast, and that usually made it both very rare and expensive for our income level.

Likewise as my interests exploded: I generally faced two problems. One is the inefficiency of handwriting all your nerdy documents. Second was how painful corrections were with a typewriter when your spelling is less than 110% of perfection. I don't think I have even touched one since the 6th grade but correction tape integrated into a typewriter is still among my definitions of wasted time and misery. When I gave the computer a shot at these matters, what those older than I dubbed word processing; my fate was rather sealed. Because between the rapid access to information and the ease of editing text I came to spend inordinate amounts of time in front of a computers.

Once we made the transition into the Pentium 4 era: we finally had a computer worth while for gaming. Well, at least for games that didn't come on and run from floppy diskette. Early in my childhood we had both a Tandy 1000 and a NES, so I've been exposed to video games in one form or another longer than I have been able to read my native language. But most of our computers in between weren't worth much for games, which generally got dumped on consoles.

The rise of multiplayer gaming pretty much created and defined my social connections outside the meatspace, and that largely remained the only link until I began getting into unix systems and learning programming as a teenager.

Strangely today: video games are still a major point for my computer use. It was around 2007 or so where I hit the point that FreeBSD could replace my XP machines, except for the damned Direct3D gaming pickle. At this point I don't think I would even have built my desktop if it wasn't for Steam. My next PC will probably be a laptop and an eGPU rather than a tower.

But that's really where things intersected with other people.

I was quite active in a few gaming circles, and as my knowledge of computers grew so did my participation in circles built around those topics. Many years later: I still have friends that I met through those circles. Well into my early twenties, I was still very active in various forums and news groups related to my interests. As time has gone on most people have generally moved in the direction of services like Facebook and the late G+, and thus so had I. Today that largely takes the form of Diaspora and the Pluspora pod.

As I reflect upon the road that lead me here: I do wonder whether that is a good or a bad trend. But I think it really owes to two facts. A lot of the social things we do with the Internet are like scraps of paper: detritus and transient. Things like G+ made the ease of integrating people a lot higher than when you had to manage many memberships and connect to dozens of systems but it never changed the fact that most of our output is pretty much digital scraps. These aren't communities that will last longer than national governments and treasures in a museum: rather the things we post are closer to asking what some Tom, Dick, or Harry had for lunch in the 19th century. It's all transient at the backbone but we enjoy it while we can.

On the flipside the warehouse of old data on my cold storage drive is rather easier to deal with than stacks of old handwritten and typeset papers. And more than a few of the places I've gone have allowed me quite a bit of ease in backing things up, hehe.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Neowin: User concept re-imagines File Explorer with Fluent Design.

I'd actually like to see something like that. Generally I've come to appreciate the new age UIs that pop up in W10, mostly because I've already suffered their design evolution from mobile platforms. Much as I did various desktop horrors from Unix and Microsoft systems.

Windows 10's file explorer largely keeping the status quo left me with mixed feelings. But the fact remains of you end up suffering a GUI file manager: Microsoft's is the gold standard to curse at.

So far I generally find myself in a middle ground of sorts.

Diaspora* makes for a social environment that works pretty well, although I think a touch behind what G+ became. But to be fair most of the things I miss about G+, other than the people, were things that took time for the platform to develop.

Where I find myself most frustrated tends to be the software.

You see: most of my time on such things is centered around my Android tablet. Dandelion is about as much as any Diaspora client could be but I find the performance lacking, as a consequence of it being forced to function as a web based app instead of a native client.

Such that I am almost better off going back to keeping my journal on a blogger platform and automating sharing posts to Pluspora, where there is more social life. This my recent experiments doing RSS -> D*.

But of course that leaves another open loop. Before moving to G+, I had used Blogger. Before that I used Live Journal. But in the years since moving from Blogger to Google Plus not much as changed. Rather Blogger has mostly remained fixed in time and others like WordPress have marched on. Creating a sort of software want redux.

Difference is that it is easier to pull a journal migration or write a custom bot bridge than it is to pull a better Diaspora client out of my wazoo.
While lunch is rather late at least my experiment in making an RSS -> Diaspora bot is going well.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Sad thought: when I start thinking it'd be handy for my Fire TV box Gen 1 retired and was replaced with a Fire TV 4K stick Gen 1 just for the HEVC support.

The Fire TV box Gen 3 I use in the living room generally does its job well. The older Gen 1 I use in the bedroom also does pretty well and still gets the occasional updates other than Android version) just fine.

Typically I normalize my video rips into H.264/AVC video. Making the audio carry an AAC-LE stereo track and passing through surround; and sometimes adding AC-3 because of surround sound constraints on the platform. Because if you can't play H.264 and AAC at this point: you should just go home or be recycled.

Lacking H.265/HEAC is a more understandable at this time. But currently the only devices I really use that lack hardware decoders for that are my Gen 1 Fire TV from 2014 and my Kepler era GPU from 2013. Anything else ain't getting used for video anything anyhow.

A quick little test using Noucome; episode one, chapter one.

The baseline is about 4.18 GB per episode at around 18~20 Mbit input reported by VLC's stats. Drop the DTS master audio for the regular DTS, and you arrive at about 3.8 GB per episode. The amount of bits is also a bit excessive when you consider the show has a stereo audio :P. Feeding it through my usual HandBrake settings the video gets taken down to about 5 Mbit/s which is plenty for a 1080p source in that codec.

Encoding a few tests, creating AAC and AC3 at 160 Kbit/s both take about equally long as just passing through the regular DTS. Because the video codec is really where the ~5 min gets spent in x264. Using my old desktop's 2.1 logitech speakers I can't telly any difference. The file deltas are about 60M for AAC/AC3 versus 90M for DTS passthrough. Not enough to care about that much.

Using my usual HandBrake settings for H.265 HEVC, which aims to achieve comparable quality to my H.264 AVC configuration, my old ass desktop's encoding time for the short clip virtually doubled but the size drops from about 60M to 35M.

And then there's the given case when the per-episode file sizes are only about 4 GB, they're small enough that I don't really need to give a flying hoop. The 3 TB drive for that part of my media server is only about 43% full, and by the time it is filled up I'll probably be able to get an 8 or 12 TB drive for the same price point as when I bought my 3 TB. Which in turn cost about as much as the 1 TB drive it had replaced, lol.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Test 2

Using a different client app that sucks less.

Also want to see how the formatting comes through my RSS feed and into the post bots conversion.

Here's a link to Captain's Log Supplemental as it stood before G+.

Some bold, italic, underline, and strike through formatting.

  • Bullet
  • List


  1. Numbered
  2. List


A block quote.

And a little

Horizontal bar for good measure.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Quick test post #1 for my feed bot.

RSS updates

For quite a while now my RSS feed configuration was like this:

    G+ -> -> Feedburner

Since G+ is no longer, I have updated my feedburner back to pointing at the normal Blogger feed. Although I doubt anyone really still monitors that feed, if it makes your aggregator angry, I do apologize :P.

I expect that my Feedburner settings have been about the same since Google Plus and the pluss turner-arounder were young, or at least as far back as my journal's migration to G+.