Weekend Reads

I’ve been watching the Handmaid’s Tale with rapt attention – and the Guardian drops some hints of what it would like to see next season and what made this season work so well and it’s spot on with many of it’s observations but doesn’t give anywhere near enough credit to the cast (and, in particular, it’s leading lady) that manages to make this the most depressing but gripping tale I’ve seen on screen for some time. Game of Thrones is the only other show I watch that tries to explore “every day horror” (although Game of Throne’s era and fantasy elements may make the horrors of war seem like fantastical fiction, most of the horror of the show is, in fact, human decisions and the impact of war)- the rest of my TV I deliberately stick to is far happier, lighter stuff (Glow, You, Me, Her and Fargo are all on my playlist at the moment and are all excellent watches).

If you want something longer to watch – the answer is almost certainly not the Emjoi movie. The good news is that even although the movie itself sounds appalling, the reviews are immensely entertaining. It sounds like the Big Sick, instead, is the movie to watch. Unfortunately I’m traveling so will be away from the big screen for some time- hopefully I’ll catch this when it comes out on DVD.

For gaming, Sonic the Hedgehog is compared to… Lorde’s Green Light – and is spot on. Sonic is a classic game idea that sounds like it just shouldn’t work and yet, in a weird way, it just does. With reviews of Pyre coming in, I wonder if this article hints at the bigger problem with songs and games like this – how to subvert expectations and “the science” of good design and still rope players in – I’m intrigued to try Pyre all the more now.

On the geeky side, Secplicity has a breakdown of some Python code for managing your Watchguard firewalls (although they touch on the topic of severless I’ve mentioned before, there isn’t much in there (although the link to this intro to the topic is great)).

Tracking Jeff Bezo’s wealth graphically is interesting although it’s just as interesting to see the trajectory of Zuckerberg- although it’ll be interesting to see who’s legacy lasts the longest and has the greatest positive impact on the world in the long run. My Echo doesn’t get a lot of use these days except as a talking clock and light switch, but the idea and potential for these devices to me remains intriguing (I’ve started writing an Echo app and suspect (whilst it certainly won’t by my app!) there is potential for a killer app in this market space that will drive already OK sales for this field into the stratosphere).

Talking of audio gadgets, people are lamenting the demise of the traditional iPod  – I always coveted a hard-drive based iPod with Click Wheel but never got one – although I did succumb to the “smart watch like” model and a Touch (won in a competition)- although neither of these models were great and were crushed by the single purpose device that is the modern smartphone- I’m none to surprised these products are gone now, but it’s interesting to think how they helped open up the market for smart phones.

The card techniques demonstrated in this video of Franco Pascali are awesome- take 4 minutes out to watch cards move in ways you wouldn’t expect and listen to a emotional walk through of what “passion” and learning sounds like – it may sound like an advert at times (and the production method certainly lean in to this) but it’s still a neat video.

On the politics side – David Pell (you’ll see a big source of my daily reads) is spot on about the things we can learn in difficult times – namely, who we are and what we care about.

 

 

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Tuesday reads

I found reading this piece on a gun crime victim’s family depressing but enlightening – and reminded me how fortunate I am to live in a country where guns are exceedingly rare. Contrast this with the struggles of a “Boy who loves too much” makes you realise it’s a complex world with so many moving parts that understanding the human mind only ever looks less possible over time which, in my mind, feels strange.

On the subject of the mind, the BBC has found a way to put me off doing DIY (even more) – studies reveal that outsourcing jobs you don’t enjoy brings more reward for your money than simply buying something nice. I think, deep down, I knew this already, but chose to do things I don’t enjoy as I see it as character building (hardship builds us up, outsourcing allows skills to lapse).

I wouldn’t normally comment on a “review” style piece, but the Verge has compared the MacBook and MacBook Pro (Entry level) and succeeded in saying what pretty much everyone thinks about laptops these days- as long as you don’t got cheap, you can probably get an OK laptop- but look for a GREAT laptop and it’s hard to find something that balances a power user’s needs (I know I struggled hunting for a laptop and accepted a lot of compromises in hte model I eventually went with).

 

Finally, what can I say about the VR whiskey experience – except I’d gladly give that a go…

Monday reads

Game developers talk about bugs over at EuroGamer – a decent piece but I’m sure a field with a lot more potential and insight (I’d hope most of the remarks about code being a point of pride are common sense, but I guess they may not be to all people)- I wonder if in 100 year’s time we’ll see students taught of the great code and software revolution like we do literature today and explore some of the kludgy fixes and beautiful examples just as we do the works of Shakespeare.

The BBC’s news item on Bitcoin is solid but perhaps overly dramatic in identifying the “fall” of bitcoin – I imagine debates held in bank vaults in the early days of modern finances were often much fiercer than this one – I hope to look back at this link in a few years time and wonder what all the fuss was about.

The Verge’s deep dive into SoundCloud’s current dark era is also a great read. I’m not a massive music fan, but SoundCloud previously stood out to me as a source of great music, especially mixes, and now it seems like they’re a music graveyard – and not too surprising given the direction they’ve gone – it’s really hard to see where any of the swings they took were aimed at in this piece and it’s hard to see how they blew their early start quite so badly.

Weekend reads

My favourite read of the weekend is the Verge’s item on Biohacking – when I first read about people adding magnets and chips to their bodies I was fascinated but was totally unconvinced this was the future (since the external application of such functions would work probably just as well) and it turns out I was probably right- obsolesce and lack of traction makes this tech less and less appealing. With that said, if someone could offer me magnetic rings, non-permanent patches, and clothing which accepted tech and offered extensions to the feedback systems around me (I remember and would love to try a vibrate strip on the back that nudged you in the right direction for navigation) I would love to give it a go- otherwise tech moves too quick for such systems to be my cup of tea.

On the gaming side, a few people have linked to the Dirty Gamification article that lays out the “horrors” of a perfect feedback circle in games. I still hold out hope that such loops can be used for good, but I’ll be honest and say I bounce right off games like this so wonder if I’ve got some immunity (no doubt from playing other games earlier in my life!) so am not sure that even if used for good it would truly benefit me.

Away from reads (and decorating!), I tried out Gigantic and found it… generic. The concept feels very much like Battleborn before it, a hybrid of DOTA and a traditional shooter with some nice moments in terms of the back and forth between the guardians (effectively all your attacks are a build up for a big boss fight) but there really wasn’t much to hold my attention and after a match or two I already found myself asking why I’d play this over any other game. Perhaps with friends it could be a fun romp, but on it’s own it’s hard to pick out any reason why this would succeed where others have failed.

Friday Reads

It feels like only earlier in the week (it was) that I lamented the lack of nonviolent verbs and then comes a review with a game with no violence at all – and it gets a good review over at RPS – Yonder. Equally, it’s nice to see people exploring sports games in Kickmen – a field that I feel is still under explored in gaming (imagine tweaking all the physics and individual rules for traditional sports on the fly (just like kids often find themselves doing)). If nothing else, the recent explosion of indie games and ease of entry into game creation has opened up the chances for titles like these getting some interest.

Perhaps rife for traditional game play, Have Gun Will Travel takes an interesting look at (in my mind at the very least) some extreme “prepping” – only a matter of time before the videogame adaptation hits your stores…

I’m a big fan of Cory Doctorow books, so the Verge’s interview made me particularly happy (since I didn’t realise he had a new book out – that’ll teach me to sign up to newsletters for such things!). I always enjoy his universes and, whilst his writing style is perhaps a bit light, his concepts are always rock solid so I’m looking forward to his latest.

Tuesday Reads

For years the specialist press has talked about security issues but now we’re really seeing the impact thanks to Petya. The lessons learned from this are hopefully ones everyone already knows (patching) but I still see people who are apathetic around this topic – it’s not rocket science people, accept that patches are a fact of life and plan for them, not hope you don’t get caught out.

Rock Paper Shotgun totally stole one of my ideas (I’ll let them off with it) with Curated Stores: I think there’s a great opportunity for some custom front ends with specialisms in Steam but I also think there are challenges with any such approach (discover-ability and making them sustainable (e.g. pay the bills)).

Monday reads

Dead Cell’s weapon conversation over at Gamasutra is a good piece even if the type of game is a big turn off to me (difficulty levels are not my friend unless they have various shades of easy!). So many weapon choices (my FPS childhood taught me that one weapon per number key is probably optimum) and yet… The number of words gamers (and game designers) have available for use in combat is truly fascinating, and juxtaposes nicely with words for… the countryside over at the Guardian (old, but good) and makes me wonder what a game that used these words, and not the countless words the human world has built to describe pointy sticks and ammunition throwing things would look like (if it is, indeed, possible). It’s not dig at Dead Cell (which looks beautifiul and, by all accounts, looks like a great game with a lot of love behind it) but I find it interesting none-the-less to think of the effort put into the gaming dictionary and why the word list from gaming manuals would probably make for an awful corpus of text (should game manuals be the only text left after the end of the world/found by aliens trying to understand our culture).

On the technology front, I was intrigued by the idea of a “Smell Dectector” (concern that summer sun is getting the best of me is a regular feeling!) – and speaking of smelly, the news of SnapChat’s fight with Facebook continues: and reminds me that Facebook’s behavior is still pretty poor for a company that pushes heavily on it’s morale agenda (I expected more from a social network than traditional technology companies, but that’s probably just me being naive). Via LinkedIn, I came across a good piece exploring the challenges of the changing industry and the need for us to start thinking “post capitalism” and I can’t disagree that we need to build better foundations for the future rather than just carrying on relentlessly forward (there’s no need to stop progress, but it should be done with awareness at the same time). At least one tech news piece I read this morning had some positive progress – there’s some really nice features in the latest test editions of Windows Server.

Finally, the “how did this get past the editors” award goes to PC Gamers’ article on DNS servers – it’s worrying when the comments seem better structured and more technically accurate than the article itself.