I've often moaned about people being stuck in a mindset centred around stuff. I know people, as do you, who prefer to own music, films, and so on, on discs. To me that seems silly because the content is an experience and as such no longer tied to its delivery medium.

Essentially I'm more interested in the experience itself and how to best get access to it. I know that if I owned every episode of The Simpsons on DVD I would rarely watch more than a fraction of episodes, for example. The experience is watching them - not selecting an episode, finding the relevant disc, putting it in the player, watching, and then returning said disc to its case. That other stuff is hassle between me and the content. I don't like that.

The idea that the content has to be pinned down like a butterfly seems to be old world thinking. Possessions were important because we had so few.

Except that's not the world we live in any more. Large scale manufacturing has reduced the value of the tangible to virtually nothing. The value of a good meal hasn't changed though, has it?

Whereas back in the day there were cobblers these days shoes are cheap enough that repairing them is pretty much unheard of. Conversely having a few pints with friends is pretty much unchanged.

Experiences endure, possessions don't. Seems a bit counter intuitive, doesn't it? Ultimately we're just our combined experiences wrapped up in a fancy way to keep meat fresh.

The most brilliant scientist, the greatest philosophers, the dumbest blonde hottie, underneath this is all we are:

So an expensive watch is unsurprisingly not going to make you happy.

Furthermore it puzzles me that we're not putting more focus on an experience-based economy. Possessions, aside from being fleeting, aren't sustainable in the long run.

Some things are fine, of course, but mass manufactured junk is surely a story without a happy ending?

Interrogative -

30 May 2013

When I started sculpting miniatures for Fox Box I did so with a few specific items in mind but no real end goal. In adding a new faction to my range I've started to construct a narrative in my mind.

I saw some wonderful 40K Skaven conversions which really inspired me. I loved the idea of an insurgent force!

The thing being that guerillas and similar don't necessarily have uniforms or equipment - they just have a style. This means that all sorts of things could be done with the minis for them. In fact I really struggled to figure out where to even start!

Of course, if there's insurgents they need an enemy. I was already sculpting Orcs so it seems only sensible to build a force for them. After all - what's the point in having a model taking careful aim with an RPG-7 if there's no target for them to be zeroing in on?

I don't want to post photos of the vehicle just yet as it's still at the superstructure phase. Once I'm onto decorating it there'll be fun stuff to show!

I'll say this though - I've been watching a lot of Generation Kill.

At the start of the post I mentioned a new faction, didn't I? Goblins and Orcs are fairly similar in terms of sculpting work and I wanted to try something different. There's not enough female combatants in 28mm heroic, I feel. In Necromunda I've fielded Escher before but even then there weren't enough models for me. There's also the annoyance that currently there's really nothing in the way of multi-part female models.

I aim to change that. Heads are coming from Hasslefree, weapons from Anvil Industry, and the rest is on me. Powered armour and intricate accessories are a good challenge to expand my skills and so there's a lot of Maltese crosses and fleur-de-lises in my future.

Originally they were just going to be additional models but as time goes on I find myself drawn to the idea of building a story and possibly even rule set around these. The Orcs are trying to put down uprisings throughout their empire. The holy crusade on the other hand... Well, greenskin scum are a blight on the universe.

Hopefully it'll be fun!

I'm having a play around with my Linux partition. I like it. Well, mostly. Unity is still annoyingly slow and clunky but I get by.

Anyway, my webcam works with V4L. I actually chose it many years ago for that very reason.

It doesn't work in Skype. Why? Simple - I'm running 64-bit Ubuntu 13.04. Unsurprisingly that means that my libv4l is also 64-bit.

Skype is 32-bit. It can't  talk to 64-bit libv4l.

Solution:

  • 1. Install Skype
  • 2. Install 32-bit v4l:
    $ sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
    $ sudo apt-get install synaptic
    $ sudo synaptic
  • In Synaptic do a search for libv4l
  • Ensure that the i386 version is installed:
  • 3.Run Skype from the command line like this:
  • $ LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libv4l/v4l1compat.so skype

I don't know about you but my webcam then works just fine.

Now to figure out how to boost my damn mic levels...

Learn to use IPCop.

28 May 2013

Something that seems to come up a lot in the debate about pornography and children’s exposure to it is teaching them to think one thing or another.

There’s people who insist that sex and love cannot be differentiated (cue “Hovis” music – Antonin Dvorák's New World Symphony), there’s those who feel that pornography is wrong and should be made illegal, there’s those who feel it is fine with sufficient background education, and any number of other things.

One caller to Call You and Yours even stated that no woman would be involved in porn without some form of coercion. You’re kidding, right?

The thing that winds me up about all this is the social contract. I’m now twenty six. I still feel like a teenager in terms of my place in society. There’s no rite of passage for my generation. When do we count as adults?

I know that as a teenager I felt pretty similarly about the things I do today. Back then though I was a teenager and as such my views were irrelevant and dismissed by all. My question being – how long until we’re allowed to decide for ourselves what to think?

All these different groups arguing over how children and teenagers should be taught (or not taught) about pornography. When do they get some input? Why is this treated as a one-way process?

I mentioned the coercion caller because he is completely wrong. I’ve encountered plenty of women who are definitely not coerced into this sort of thing. For some people it is fun. Why do you think there’s so much amateur porn on the internet?

So what they’re trying to teach isn’t even necessarily right. Yet they’re supposed to be taught these things and accept them as fact. Are their IQs that low? I can understand a need to keep things simple for those without the capacity to grasp the more intricate nature of human relationships and sexuality. I can also understand how pornography can be harmful – I’m not trying to dispute that either. The issue here seems to lie more with how we treat sex in contemporary British society, particularly in reference to body image and relationships.

When do they get to ask questions and determine their own attitudes? It’s our job to raise them but they are not dogs who can talk. Not yet at least.

When reading an article on the BBC yesterday I was rather pleased to see a bit of rational thought sneaking its way into the discussion.

The report urges the Department for Education to ensure that all schools, including private schools, faith schools, colleges and academies, "deliver effective relationship and sex education".

It also notes emerging evidence that young people are dissatisfied with the sex education they are receiving and "increasingly" draw on pornography for education and information on sexual practices.

Sex and relationships are inherently linked, even if it’s only “This is just sex, we’re not having a relationship”.

I’m not surprised that young people are drawing on porn to learn about sex. The amount of things that exist form an extensive buffet. Sex education can’t really be expected to cover everything. What I would argue it should be doing is encouraging sensible attitudes. “Sensible” in this case means teaching them to read up on whatever they’re planning on doing. It does not mean “What’s wrong and what isn’t”. That isn’t anyone’s job – let them make up their own damn minds, they’re just as human as you or me.

Relationships are really the important thing. What do we currently learn from?

TV dramas, rom-coms, books, music, and sometimes from those around us (who of course learned from the aforementioned sources too). That seems healthy.

The problem here is of course that these mediums often rely on plot devices to drive the narrative. For example a couple won’t talk about an issue and conflict will be created – there we go, plot. In reality this is a terrible way to do things and open communication solves any number of problems.

I don’t know about you but I never took a class that explained how to form a relationship, how to set expectations, courting, and of course how to break up. I know at least one person who sorely could have done with that last one!

Perhaps this is going to have to be another in a long line of things to add to my eventual ideology tract. Put it on the list…

Today I nearly finished a document for release on tUGS. I say “nearly” because there’s a new feature we’re introducing in our document templates that needs a little more tweaking.

That new feature is a licensing box. Previously licensing details were given outside the document and unsurprisingly people didn’t abide by the license restrictions. Instead of moaning at people it makes more sense to change things to make compliance easier.

by-nc-saThe new box will contain some details of the license, Creative Commons’ little icon box, and a QR code that links to the license itself (to bridge the gap between printed media and the internet).

The thing that’s causing trouble at the moment is that most of this stuff is apparently beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. Personally I don’t really get what’s so difficult about this – we’re trying to ensure no one can get in trouble by sharing stuff we designed to be shared.

So, hmmm, how do we solve this?

Well I’m considering shooting a video of sorts to explain. There are already videos for this purpose but they tend to be too long and in depth. They’re also not specific to wargames.

Games Workshop used to have contributors to the Citadel Journal and the like sign away all rights to their work, for example. Given that Creative Commons didn’t really emerge until much later it’s not that surprising. These days things don’t have to be that way but then again things like the CJ are long gone.

Regardless of the magazines and journals being defunct the content hasn’t been rereleased and so a dwindling pool of second hand copies are all that exist, legally speaking.

The video will have to relate that and simply explain how CC licenses keep our content out there.

Personally one of my favourite things about it is that it allows remixes to be created. The Freebooter rules have allowed the creation of Outlaw MC rules so far and it looks like they’re going to be forked again to form a new boarboy mob. How cool is that?

Interface design matters.

How does the end-user interact with the product?

Through whatever system the designers/engineers put together. Something can have the fastest processor, the fanciest graphics card, an ocean of content, but ultimately the gatekeeper for appreciating the product is the interface.

This applies to phones, games consoles, calculators, cameras, and any number of other examples.

Back in February I mentioned a particular game mechanic in Saints Row 3; pressing a particular button combo allows quick entry into a vehicle rather than a protracted animation. The understanding being that the slow way doesn’t really add much to the player’s enjoyment.

Why is it that to access the two second timer feature on my digicam I have to navigate a menu EVERY TIME?

Similarly why is it that to there’s twelve million menu screens in the Pokémon games?

Here’s an article from 2008 that gives some background and opinion.

This isn’t supposed to just be criticism of Japanese interfaces but of them in general. The reason I bought an iPhone was simple – it did most of what my Nokia N70 (running Symbian Series 60) did but with a much cleaner interface.

Over time perhaps ergonomics and interface design will expand as people realise that they do in fact matter. Until then it would seem there’s a lot of work to be done in the field raising awareness.

Or you could just return the device, as suggested by someone I was debating the topic with. I’m sure a one person boycott will turn some heads at Sony and Microsoft.

It’s 2013 and apparently very little has changed since 2003 when it comes to webcams.

They’re still expensive.

They’ve still got the resolution of a stunted potato.

They’re still a mess of shiny packaging and mediocre performance.

I mean really – image resolution gets trotted out as if two megapixels are impressing anyone. My first digital camera had a CMOS sensor that could handle that, for gods’ sakes.

Then there’s the video capabilities. How hard can it be to mount some semi-decent optics, a CMOS sensor, and a hardware encoder? There’s no storage medium to worry about, no power supply issues, or size issues. It’s not like we’re trying to fit the electronics into a slim device that’ll fit into a tight pocket on a pair of emo jeans. Wait a moment – we can already do that? What do you mean we’ve been able to do that for the best part of a decade?

I’m shopping for a webcam because I’d like to be able to stream my sculpting sessions. These days something that has improved a tad is upload bandwidth. It’s still not great but at least we can manage a tad more than before.

Of course, sculpting isn’t webcam chatter – it’s close up and intricate. Autofocus is not our friend for this.

So of course the only webcam I can find that’ll do that for me is one made by Canyon and only sold in currencies I’ve never even heard of. Fantastic.

I guess I’ll check back in another five to ten years. Maybe then we’ll have something that actually fits the bill…

I’d write about Metro 2033 but honestly I don’t think I’ve quite played enough to comment. Instead I shall be rather pleased that I think I’ve finally figured out how to effectively and safely cook beans of various kinds.

Normally I buy them dry and soak them over night in a stock solution of some sort. It varies each time but is usually tasty. Once that’s done I cook the beans on the stove but that’s hard to do and requires constant supervision to prevent the dish boiling dry or burning.

Instead I used something I’ve had for quite some time but only really just started using – a Remoska.

Annoyingly the pan for it is scratched quite badly. An old flatmate thought it was some sort of pie dish and treated it very badly. Thankfully he had the courtesy to compensate me for the damage caused, but at least in general it works fairly well even if I will have to replace the pot much sooner than I’d like.

Anyway – the heating element is at the top. This means that there can be a gap between the food and the pot. Stuff can burn to it, in theory, but it’s much less likely. So in go the beans in their stock solution. Give it a few hours and they’re deliciously soft. Wonderful.

The stock shouldn’t be poured away though! That’s siphoned off and used to cook the rice in. Much better than bland rice! Nom.

Add some cheese and pop it all in a wrap. Done!

Perhaps I’ll do a video of it at some point.

Whenever a discussion about eReaders comes up anywhere I seem to find people complaining about how they’ll miss “the smell of the paper” or some other such trivial foolishness.

You know what? I miss wearing wolf pelts. They’re warm, hard-wearing, and manly.

We don’t really do that any more though because it’s not practical in the modern world. There’s too many of us, they’re hard to clean, and storing them is difficult. Instead we have better housing that fits our modern lifestyles.

So why can’t we stop printing countless copies of whatever dross publishers are hoping will be bought by bored holidaymakers? Print runs are done on speculation after all, not demand.

Sell them as digital books – the margins are better and the marginal cost is minimal. For books that are better as random-access then offer print on demand. We’ve got the technology to do it, make it happen.

Is it really worth holding onto a shelf of old Stephen King books? Do we need these worthless ornaments? Wouldn’t we be happier with a bit less clutter and a bit more space?

No. Wait.

We’d miss the smell of the paper.

So, new Xbox. I watched the Giant Bomb crew’s stream and was underwhelmed.IMG_21052013_184037

Ryan Davis’ face…

This isn’t really about the new hardware though, it’s about the focus on TV. Putting aside the fact that many of the touted features are probably not going to work outside the US there’s this idea that TV is still relevant.

Glancing down from my skyscraper-sized high horse I can toss a condescending remark about it. In August 2007 I moved into a new flat and built a media centre PC containing four 500 GB hard drives. It could receive TV but that capability was used once in a blue moon.

These days I have a Raspberry Pi and a couple of hard drives. They do the same job for a fraction of the power consumption (and with hardware-based H.264 decoding).

I don’t use Netflix but I do on occasion use the BBC’s iPlayer. It’s my understanding that amongst my peers that this model of downloading/streaming is basically the only way TV content is consumed. By “peers” I mean people in my age range with sufficient intellect and patience to beat a baked potato in a battle of wits.

We don’t watch broadcast TV, we don’t pay for Sky, we don’t pay for cable. That ecosystem is expensive and demands our schedules and wants conform to it rather than the other way around. I saw a photo on Imgur the other day that sums up what the TV industry seems to have forgotten:

In the US there’s even a term for us – “cord cutters”. For me it’s not that I don’t want TV content it’s simply that it’s not legally available in the format I want. Until it is how am I supposed to pay?

Bringing this back around the Microsoft’s announcement (I seem to recall it was broadcast on some TV channel somewhere, how about that!) it seems to be drastically out of step with where things are going. Viewing an EPG, eh? I used one of those when I stayed in a hotel last year!

For all my snide remarks it’s ultimately just me expressing disappointment. Instead of trying to forge a new future Microsoft seem to be trying to give the past a fresh paintjob. TV, TV, TV:

2013-05-22 14.58.46There’s a TV in my living room and it sees a lot of use. That said if it was just a 32” monitor that’d work just as well because that’s all it’s used for. Well, I do still have a Freeview receiver.

See, it’s behind those two hard drives on the bottom shelf. On top of the Monopoly box – the PCI card.

I may put it in my main PC at some point simply because I own it. I doubt it’s worth selling so it might as well stick around in case I need a standard definition MPEG2 feed…

*sigh*

I’ve read about people roleplaying in video games and I could never quite grasp how one would manage that. The idea of wilfully suspending disbelief and pretending to be a character just doesn’t really work for my adult self. I’m not trying to pass negative judgement on the concept, it’s just not something I’m easily able to do any more.

The times this seems to appear mostly is in reviews. I remember a PC Gamer reviewer talking about killing people in Payday: The Heist. They were getting carried away and accidentally killing civilians. I rarely get caught up in any game, sadly.

In this sort of context “emergent narratives” usually get a mention – stories that end up coming out of freeform gameplay. Unfortunately I end up not being able to immerse myself in the environments fully because I have so few actions available as a player. For example in a GTA game there’s shooting controls, vehicle controls, and, well, that’s about it. Sometimes there’s a few more options but really that’s the only way one can relate to the world of the game.

One can pretend to do things but at what point does that just go into pure imagination? What’s the point in creating an interactive world if it only has marginally more depth than a movie?

This contrasts fiercely with tabletop wargames I play. Gorkamorka, Necromunda, Mordheim, etc. – these games provide much greater player agency. Stories emerge but there are tools to build them into the game’s established narrative. It’s a combination of game and tools seamlessly merged.

In fact, when I think about playing games as a child I remember my friends and me creating new rules and mechanics to mix things up. Games evolved as they were played, they weren’t just static rule sets with fixed levels of player agency.

So trying to play a game as an adult and not having even that level of control over the game world rather kills immersion for me. I don’t like it when a videogame tries to tell me I’m playing it wrong. I’m the one playing and I’m the one who ultimately defines what fun is to me. Lead me to try new things rather than telling me off for trying to look behind the curtain.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, socially I’m finding it much easier to connect with people these days.

Chris and I discussed this before the party properly kicked off and it seems we’re roughly on the same page – the barrier to entry of needing to be able to use Reddit weeds out a lot of people. By ensuring that a base level of intellect and nerdiness is present (which correlates with lots of other things to form common ground) we’ve ended up with a much better group than we would doing things the old fashioned way.

On a recent meetup thread I saw a comment that included this:

i'd maybe have to take a good few days to decide wether or not to tell my family, friends and co-workers that i attended an internet meet up, but regardless of that, i'll swing by!

[kyle2point]

I’m not sure how much of it is intended as a joke but it does seem to reflect the attitudes of a lot of people. I know one person (Hi Sky Light!) who I’ve known online since early 2005 who still seems frightened of meeting people from the internet. To me this is bizarre – hell, Trisdee flew 6000 miles and managed to find a few evenings to spend with us.

(If I could be half as nice a person as him the world would be a better place!)

When I think about the group we have in Edinburgh at the moment and how positive it is I wonder why the internet has such a stigma for meeting people. “Weird” people who make me uncomfortable have cropped up a lot more through traditional channels in my experience. I’ve met a few oddballs, of course, but rarely the kind I find threatening and never as bad as the ones I’ve met in the street!

Chris is moving on with his life and seems to have really grown as a person over the last year or so. Interestingly it seems he, much like me, is closer to those he’s met online than those known through more common networks. We hang out together because we like each other, not because we happened to have worked together or what-have-you.

We’ve created an environment in which he has constructed a nurturing social support structure. I wish universities would do a better job of creating them but it seems the internet is still very new for most people.

Or maybe it’s just that socialising is always difficult for those of us who aren’t in the big bit of the bell curve!

My lovely hoarse

18 May 2013

Halloween-in-Glasgow

(That’s my knee in the photo)

When I was in uni I attended quite a few flat parties. It was the done thing.

That said I didn’t have much fun. Fairly crap alcohol was consumed, occasionally something was funny, but that’s about it. I didn’t make many friends and had little in common with people.

In the photo above you can see Chris, who I came to the party with. Other than that I know no one in the photo and didn’t have any real conversation with any of them. We had no common ground.

Amusingly across the hall there was another party. Sadly a hard drive crash claimed the photos from that one but it was fun. People there were a little older, late twenties, that sort of thing. Our party invaded theirs before being asked to leave, well, except me. I could have a conversation with those folks.

Thankfully those times have changed:

485625_10151615364723913_2069032434_n

(From left to right: Michael, Matthew, me, Julia)

I feel relaxed, people know me, the humour is hilariously dark, and alcohol isn’t the main focus.

The knowing me part is important – it’s more than just knowing my name. At university parties people might know my name or who I was but they didn’t really know me as a person. At the parties I’ve been to with /r/Edinburgh my eccentricities are understood and accepted to the point where I feel extremely relaxed.

Perhaps more conventional folk feel like that normally?

I’ve been watching Mad Men for quite some time. It interested me as my degree had quite a large focus on marketing and the historic setting was rather novel. Relatable stuff.

That said the recent seasons just feel like the show is losing its way. I don’t care about Don Draper infidelity. I don’t care about the staff at the company. There’s drama for drama’s sake.

The older episodes had the plucky underdog agency trying to compete with faceless big companies. There were accounts to win, brilliant campaigns to create, staff to teach.

These days there’s characters having children and buying houses. Wow, gee, inspiring. No need to rub in that my generation won’t be able to afford that level of luxury until we’re twice their age. There’s “aspirational” and then there’s salt in our wounds.

At other times I find myself confused as to what’s going on. In a recent episode Martin Luther King, Jr was shot. I’ve heard of him, I know he was very important, but beyond that I have no real world grounding for that knowledge. Perhaps Americans my age would understand but I really don’t.

The episode seems to pin a lot on characters reacting (or not reacting) to the incident. Okay… Why are people going home to be with their children?

What’s the issue? Are their little suburban homes in danger?

I’m not trying to make light of the tragedy, I simply don’t have any idea of what the implications of it were or why these middle class white people are so immediately affected by it. It happened over 18 years before I was even born – the politics of that time period are as familiar to me as those of the UK in 1920. I’ve no idea.

Also why were so many people crying about Marilyn Monroe’s death? Did people just care more then?

On many occasions I’ve been accused of being a perfectionist.

For those who truly know me this should be a fairly hilarious accusation.

I am a very lazy man. I work hard, certainly, but I don’t work harder than I need to. From my perspective that would be working against my own interests for no reward.

That said I also have standards. High ones, certainly, but not perfectionism-grade high.

The distinction here is an important one – I see that with considerably more work I could probably do better. It might not be perfection but it’d be the absolute best I could manage. I do not strive to reach that hypothetical peak for a simple reason – there’s no point. “Good enough” will suffice.

Of course, the thing to bear in mind is that “good enough” is defined as “good enough for me”. I doubt anyone normal would notice that I always finish in-line hyperlinks before the final bit of punctuation. To me the punctuation finishes the sentence and the link falls under “sentence contents” and should be filed as such.

Do I notice when other people do this? Yes and it impresses me.

So when I lay out a document I try to make sure it’s good enough to pass my personal standards of acceptability. The graphics will be 300 DPI at least, the text proof read, and things appropriately licensed.

Things could probably be more polished if I made a point of obsessing but it’d only be people much more detail-orientated than myself who would notice. Catering to people like me is niche enough.

The point being that I tend to finish things in a “It’ll do!” state rather than some hyper-polished state. Obsessing is unhealthy and I try not to do it. Any more.

It’s fairly rare for me to have something positive to say about Games Workshop. That isn’t to say that they don’t do some things right it’s simply that if there’s news it’s usually of the bad variety.

This isn’t really news, per se, but it’s content created by GW that shows me what they could do if they actually tried:

It’s a retrospective on different Land Raider and Rhino tank designs.

Fairly boring to plenty of people, I would imagine, but for those of us who used to be into GW stuff in the past and have come back to it, it’s fascinating.

For example, the original Rhino kit – I thought it came out in the early 90s or something. Nope! It dates back into the 80s!

So…?

Well GW tends to treat its history like a deformed child born a few hundred years ago. Hidden away and not spoken of. If questioned they become flustered and uncooperative.

Unsurprisingly most of us older gamers (and by “older” I simply mean people who are no longer teenagers) remember things from their past. Denying its existence just seems shady.

This video on the other hand is in reasonably good quality (720P), acknowledges the past, and links it to the present. It bridges the gap and makes things easy to digest.

I’d seen the plastic Land Raider kit in photos occasionally and behind Perspex at Warhammer World but that was about it. The idea that one could buy it exists in my mind but the reality of it is hard to picture. The fact that there were two in the original box though – bwhuuuu?!

Hearing Games Workshop talk about their past in a sensible and friendly way without sounding like some sort of shiny-suited used car salesman is refreshing.

Many of us love their models but despise their attitude. Sony are working to fix their broken corporate culture of arrogance, why aren’t GW doing the same?

We already have a reason to buy. That’s not the issue. The problem is all the reasons not to buy!

By the looks of things I can at last get out of Edinburgh. I've had a lovely time and met some wonderful people. I've also had a terrible time and met traitorous jackasses.

But for the most part it has been good. That said I'm sick of being tied down to one place for no good reason. I have friends here, sure, but some I can keep track of via the internet and others will hopefully welcome me wherever they land eventually, just as I would for them.

That's just the preamble, of course.

Moving flat is difficult, unsurprisingly.

Some of you don't know how much stuff I own, others don't grasp what most of it is.

I have costumes, and props, and cameras, and microphones, and models, and whiteboards, and so on.

What I don't have is a cohesive order to things and a convenient way of stashing them to allow for better manoeuvrability. I'd like to use lots of the things I own but it they've had to sit dormant due to my unstable living arrangements. It's hard to commit to a video podcast if I expect to move in the next two months.

I like developing new brands and intellectual properties. I can't really do that with short-term living arrangements.

With my old lady's help I feel like I can finally get things sorted out. Sell off things I don't need, scrap book mementos, repackage the things I do use. There's a lengthy to-do list but I think we can do it.

I really want a clean-ish slate, I guess. I don't wish to forget the past, just polish it up and archive it for when I'm older.

I've also got a lot of Gorkamorka to play before I leave!

When it comes to organising some aspects of our lives it’s hard to say whether there’s a way to be definitively “done”.

For example – I keep my socks in one drawer and boxers in another. The drawers are at the top of the dresser.

Is that the most efficient and sensible way to do things? Possibly, but it’s perfectly feasible that there might be a better way. Due to the range of different routines we all live in it’s very hard to find a definitive best practice. We can improve things with some thought but it’s fairly rare to find something that can’t be argued.

At this point I’d like to mention mark-up languages. I’ve talked about them earlier this year so I’m not going to waste time explain the basic concepts.

Digitally there can be this concept of arguable best practice for all sorts of things. I’ve got hard disks full of files I’d like to keep even though they’re of no real importance. The problem being that they’re in all sorts of different formats and file structures. With some work I can tidy them up but chances are I’ll need to redo that chore in another ten years or so.

That doesn’t sound too bad to some people but to me that seems like more needless hassle. I’d rather try to do things right this time if at all possible.

With some files that isn’t possible, obviously, but with others perhaps that is possible.

Much like when using a mark-up language one defines what the content is rather than how it should be formatted couldn’t one do the same for certain kinds of files?

For example – an unabridged audiobook can be split into chapters and have the actual text provided via ID3 tags or similar. Couple that with sufficient data such as author, reader, and so forth, and the file should then be “done”.

That is to say at that point the file structure or filename becomes irrelevant. A file system should be able to locate such files and keep their actual location in a database. It would have enough data to display things in whatever form a user might like.

iTunes does something like this if you let it. It’ll copy the files into its own file structure and after that one can sort by whatever in its window. It’s not a particularly good bit of software but it does at least illustrate the mark-up format, so to speak.

Similarly with photos as long as they have good EXIF tags with dates, faces tagged, and so forth, one should be able to view them by whatever one chooses.

The overriding idea being something I find Windows often takes from me – it’s my computer. I should get to choose how to use it. I’m thinking of when Windows Update tells the end uses “We’re going to go ahead and update now.” not “When’s a good time to install these updates?”

By having well-made files one should be able to run things in whatever way one likes. This would also allow for cross-referencing and other things and arguably create a more human-focused computing model.

Some people like to think in folders, certainly, but what about when people think chronologically? Or by subject?

I feel like we can fix this.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. What a game.

What about it? Uh...
Here!

Audio file

I made it using my new mixer and an SM58. I obviously don't have a license to use the background music. I wish I did but it's a compilation of GTA theme songs and fits the content, even if I did manage to always be one game away from the right tune!

That little problem will be fixed soon - I need to sort out a 1/4" jack for the mixer.

One more thing - I mention getting 94% in Vice City. I think this is my save file.

Last night I was listening to The News Quiz on Radio 4. It’s a spot of light comedy that resembles a quiz marginally less than QI does.

Anyway, most of the time it makes me laugh. This is the first time I’ve found myself shouting at the radio in agitated rage.

Link to the question (duration 3:10)fricomedy

(Here’s the full episode (mirror for when the BBC take the file down))

I can’t admit to listening to the entire question because after a while I just muted the damn thing. Bob Mills’ comments aggravated me no end.

I don’t know how much it was played up for comedy but I just find it maddening how so many people seem confused about 3D printing.

Do they think normal printers put words on the page by bloody magic?!

Ink + paper = print

Lots of “ink” on top of itself = 3D print

I’ve seen people on QI think it’s some sort of automated carving technique, others seem to think it’s 3D scanning of some description.

Dear gods. Layer by layer build up to create an object.

Doesn’t take a PhD to understand, surely?

Sandi Toksvig makes a joke about being able to print another. Ha ha ha! Hilarious – as if that was possible! Ho ho. Let’s all have a laugh about that.

Except of course it’s possible. The RepRap project is kinda awesome.

reprapGetting back to Bob Mills and the panel I really find myself baffled as to how anyone could possible be so slow-witted. It’s like watching the godsdamned Chuckle Brothers.

We can create accurate reproductions of 3D models. That’s it. We could do it before but now it’s much easier and cheaper.

That’s all.

It’s not hunting for theorised particles. It’s not a new form of fusion. It’s laminating multiple thin layers of stuff on top of other stuff according to a 3D model.

I’m no stranger to fighting with people on the internet. I’m a big personality with opinions and an ego. What did you think was going to happen?

I’m also pedantic about certain things. Notably needless apostrophes, “Legos”, and referring to the UK as “England”.

There’s other things that grind my gears too though – a fact which will leave you all in stunned silence, I’m sure.

In this instance I’ve been arguing with someone on Reddit over this:

“What my mother wrote on my sister’s underwear…”

Thus far I’ve had someone spew patronising aggression at me for not understanding their point of view. I’m not actively trolling them – that’s not really something I do. Playful teasing, sure, but actively winding someone up?

That’s a real dick move.

These days people rarely properly wind me up, although one friend did a few months back. Given that he knows what my temper can be like it seemed odd – if you know the nest is full of hornets why would you slap it?

Back to the point!

I rather like a good argument from time to time. A bit of verbal fencing and mental swordplay (quiet at the back…) keeps my brain feeling fresh.

Unsurprisingly in these kinds of arguments someone usually questions my intelligence. I know I’m intelligent, that’s not something I need their approval for. I don’t think I’m the smartest man who ever lived, of course, but most of the adults I grew up around had at least a bachelor’s degree at the very least. Even now I have one of my own I’m only up to the first rung of the ladder. PhDs were pretty common.

As a result it wasn’t really until university I could find people to have casual conversation with on my level except online.

Being intelligent is usually more of a curse, I find. Getting a bit fighty over something does rather refresh the old brain pan though.

Serves ‘em right for being wrong, doesn’t it?

At my parents’ place in Wales there’s all sorts of pretty mugs for tea and coffee. None of them are particularly large or ostentatious. Mostly they’re fairly tasteful little drinking vessels.

Well, except this one (no, not Jenny):Kenny MugIt seems fairly tacky, I know, but I love it.

It was given to me by a friend during my time at CCB. His name is Brennan and it was a gift towards the end of the last millennia. South Park was still quite new and merchandise for it was everywhere. He said he’d give me a mug and a keyring. I don’t recall what my half of the deal was but I can’t imagine that I reneged on it.

I still have the keyring although it’s not in use at the moment. The mug gets used whenever I come home though. I’m not even sure why. Brennan and I were never massively close although we did spend plenty of classes together. As we became surly teenagers we drifted apart a little but the interactions I’ve had with him on Facebook have been very positive.

I was delighted to hear that he’s finally getting to become a pilot. It took a while but I think he’s well into his training now. Much like my friend Laurence who recently became a doctor I am pleased for him but not envious. Neither of those things are for me. I’m passionate about all sorts of things and sometimes get to do some of them. I’m glad that some old friends have managed to arrange things in their own lives to do the same.

That said I still don’t quite know why I’m so fond of the mug. It’s not because it represents something massively important. It’s a solid mug and holds a nice amount. Its imagery is kinda dumb but it’s probably my first bit of commercial tat of this kind.

The only other mugs I own are either custom painted ones or ones I’ve procured (*cough*) from Caffè Nero. Oh and one from Ikea with its own saucer. This is the only branded mug I’ve ever legitimately owned.; Past me didn’t keep the box, as far as I can recall.

They come up on eBay from time to time it would seem but other than that they’re out of production from what I can tell. Hell, this was back when Kenny was killed off nearly every episode.

It did always annoy me that it doesn’t say “Oh my god – they killed Kenny!”

Perhaps the line on the mug is uttered at some point. I’ve never heard it. Admittedly I haven’t an encyclopaedic knowledge of that show like I do for others such as The Simpsons. I’m working on it!

There’s a corner in Carmarthen that used to have a Millets selling camping and outdoor supplies. It was a nice place but it really doesn’t surprise me that it closed.

Now there’s a Caffè Nero there doing roaring trade. The location is ideal for such a place.

That said it does make me wonder why it’s a Caffè Nero and not some local place. I can see why such a move might be tricky for a local firm, of course, but it seems odd that there isn’t some sort of loan scheme or tax credit setup that would make financing such a thing easier.

Headlines usually focus on the number of jobs created but that’s not really how it works in terms of the flow of money, is it?

Staff will be paid, obviously, but the profits won’t be reinvested locally, will they?

If it was a local firm the furthest the money would go is into the hands of local business people. Essentially there’d be less waste.

It’s not exactly high level economics, I know, but it seems to be overlooked so often.

Who is getting rich from this?

Follow the money. There’s nothing wrong with someone making a bit of dosh from their enterprises but if they’re not spending much of it locally then how does the local economy get replenished? It’s not like there’s much primary or secondary industry to fall back on any more.

“bacon”

That was for my old lady. Hi!

The other day I was thinking about how specific time doesn’t really matter much before a certain age. I recall understanding time but creating a little schedule and printing it out. It was garish and ugly but the times were left blank because during school I had no idea of the specific times. There weren’t many clocks on the walls when I think about it, actually.

What amazed me was the fact that I was able to recover a corrupted version of this.

The file is dated November 22nd 1995. This may be accurate, or not, it’s hard to say given that the source is a somewhat broken floppy disk!GRID.BMP - 22_11_1995 By that date I would have been nearly nine. That sounds about right and the reference to 1996 and 1997 seems the right region too. Admittedly I remember using this thing when I was a little younger than that but that whole period is a bit of a blur.

Timings didn’t really start to matter until I got to CCB and had classes in different places around a campus. During my time at St. Michaels in Llanelli there were a few classes held in other places around the school but we were generally herded for things like that.

I recently learned that CCB will be opening a new section of the school for 7 – 11 year olds. This leaves me wondering whether it was the school or the age that created this clockless daytime blur from my past.

Yeah it’s not a strong post today. I’ll see myself out.

While I’ve been down in Wales I’ve been trying to tie up a few loose ends. Suppressed weapons aside this mostly involves hunting down old floppy disks and cassette tapes.

Thankfully the cassette tapes in question aren’t of the computer variety. Strictly speaking I’m probably not too young to have encountered them but in reality I didn’t learn of that usage for the medium until I was a teenager reading Micromart. I’d still read it these days but at something like £2 per issue weekly it rather adds up!

These cassettes are something I grew up with. My mother did read to me as a child. In fact I have some very fond memories of her doing so – especially reading The Bear Nobody Wanted whilst on a train to London. I get the feeling that she too enjoyed that as she has three copies of the book on a shelf to give to other children!

That said we did a lot of travelling. Audiobooks saw a lot of use through an old, purple portable cassette player. I can’t imagine they were cheap but most of them still work. In fact for the most part the cassettes have out-lived the technology to play them!

When it comes to audio cassettes the only way to get data from them is linearly. With the exception of high speed dubbing data can only be retrieved in real time. Unsurprisingly this is a load of hassle.

Previously I’ve ripped tapes using a cassette deck and a 3.5mm mini-jack to mini-jack cable. This wasn’t too tricky but it took careful supervision and level balancing the whole time. Ugh.

More recently my mother bought herself an Ion Tape Express USB cassette conversion system. The software it uses is fairly wobbly but does the job for the most part. If it had a setting for audio books we’d all be better off but it seems to work reasonably well regardless.

The thing being even with specific equipment it’s not that quick a job and has to be done in real time. As a result the audiobooks one finds online tend to be things that are easily ripped from CDs. I’ve done it myself and it’s relatively easy to do.

What this means is that there’s a whole wodge of content left to decay on old tapes. It’s still good content but it’s just too much hassle for most people to bother with.

Personally I love listening to Astrid Lindgren reading Emil i Lönneberga. With her Sweden nationalised grandmothering. Some of these are available as CDs or downloads (legal or otherwise) but others are simply too obscure. Also, I suppose, I already own the tapes, why pay for a new license?

It’ll also make a nice gift for my Swedish-speaking niece. I’ve not decided whether she should receive the tapes themselves or not. I’d have to find out what kind of tech they have at her place!

My favourite little treasure from all of this has to be Holiday ‘66. Whilst in theory at the time I could have seen who it was by (Trevor Neal and Simon Hickson) I wouldn’t have been able to make the definitive connection between the names and their act. They used to perform as Trevor and Simon on BBC Saturday Morning children’s television:

…the duo were instructed simply to be clean and funny but not to worry about specifically tailoring their material to children.

I loved their humour and it’s no big surprise that the bizarre meta-humour found in Holiday ‘66 is from the same guys. It makes me smile though.

I’ve said and done a lot of things. I’d like to have done more.

What I’ve come to worry about in recent years is that my stories may seem too implausible to be believed. I’m not a compulsive liar, hell, I generally feel terrible if I lie about the slightest thing. It feels so dishonourable.

In fact I usually say exactly what I mean. Often the tone of voice is what people hear and ignore the words. I don’t consider that lying because if they’d actually listened they would know what I meant.

I remember reading on Reddit someone criticising someone else for their tall tales. They’d scoured the person’s post history and created a synopsis of everything he’d claimed to have done. I didn’t care enough to determine who was in the right but it did get me wondering what one might determine from reading up on me and what I claim to have done.

Recently I was writing about how I’ve stayed over night in The Tower. That is to say this place:

I stayed in a house built into the outer wall near the gate in the top right corner. I think I still have my visitor’s pass but it doesn’t seem to be in my wallet. Hmph. Perhaps it’s in a drawer up North somewhere. We were given this though which I’m told cannot be bought in any gift shop (Hence the “The Body of Yeoman Warders” marking).

The other reason I’ve been thinking about this is because I’ve talked about a lot of things from my past with Jenny. Sometimes little trivial things of no real interest to anyone except me (I’ve no idea how she manages to be so patient). In digging through my old files I’ve been delighted to discover that some things that I thought stood no chance of ever surviving all these years… uh… have!

More on that tomorrow.

*chuckles*

“Moron”

Something my university tried and failed to teach me was how to manage my time when it comes to written assignments. Prior to that my school tried and failed to do the same.

In fact the only time I can think of where I didn’t end up procrastinating horribly was in JDB’s English classes. We’d be assigned the work on one day and have two to three days to finish them. On the one hand it was rather harsh but on the other they got done immediately rather than dragging on for weeks on end.

My university time had many diversions to avoid thinking about looming deadlines. Most of the time I’d end up doing the work in the final 24 hours or so anyway. Here’s one such occasion:

2180704102_9feccdd24d_z

One of only a handful of occasions I can recall using my university library for studying. I probably shouldn’t be proud of that.

Needless to say I passed without any real difficulty. It was not close. No, really – in one module I didn’t even do one of the mandatory courseworks and I still passed. I think I even skipped the exam on the basis that I hadn’t done the written assessment!

Mostly if I was in the library it was between classes to socialise with Nicoletta as she hammered away on her dissertation. The timetable for that was rather formidable. I don’t mean that it was unforgiving (it may have been, it wasn’t really my concern) but simply that extensive thought had been put into time management.

My dissertation was done mostly in the final month in one big push. Could it have been better? In all honesty, I doubt it. I would have had to be a different person in a different place in my life for it to be much better. Sadly I missed a merit pass for it by about half a percent (or was it 1.5%?) either way it was close enough that I’m not too bothered.

The point being that even on the biggest bit of work of my university career there wasn’t all that much in the way of time management and project planning. There were no real milestones or anything like that.

On the other hand these days I don’t have to work on things like that. I still need to manage my time but I’ve learned to do that through my own efforts. Could I be better? Absolutely. Have I ever been this good before? No.

The reason my school and university failed to teach me this skill seems fairly obvious to me both then and in retrospect: personal stake.

The tasks assigned to me were exercises. If they didn’t get done, so what?

Would the world be any better or worse off? The tasks were busywork done solely to teach me a lesson; something they almost entirely failed to do.

What did teach me was having a project I had a personal stake in and a deadline I cared about. Would that have been such a hard thing to do at university?

A module has a fixed time period, teach us about milestones and make them relevant. Say for example some sort of event management or similar. Things have to happen in a certain order and by certain points or it all falls apart. Sink or swim time, guys!

Without real consequence I find it very difficult to take a project seriously when it comes to time management. This doesn’t mean “you’ll fail the assessment”. That’s a personal consequence for me to deal with. What I want is for what I’m doing to matter. For example if I don’t work things out the license will expire and we’ll be unable to release what we’ve worked on.

This is easier to do without on a shorter time scale but giving me six weeks to do an essay I could do in a few hours seems like wasting everyone’s time. I’m not going to use that time well, I’ve got better things to be doing, like anything. No, really, the time I spent playing Super Mario Galaxy is of more value to me than the time I spent researching journals. They former was incredibly rewarding – it was a whimsical and positive experience that proved to me that the Mario series still has a great deal to offer the world. It also provided useful data to compare and contrast with the open world nature of Super Mario 64 – handy for thinking about game design and the many, many related areas to it.

Oh yeah, research done into “academic” journals. It’s business – I created a game called Waffle Hunt to deal with it:

  1. Print out a copy of the article
  2. Grab a biro or marker
  3. Read a sentence and cross out all the words that contribute nothing to understanding.
  4. See how few words are actually needed to make the point.

It’s business. For all the pretence of scientific integrity it’s at best a bit of psychology and statistics. World shattering.

The point I’m meandering around is that the little information I gleamed from them was rarely anything new. Mostly I knew what I was correct and then hunted down a few references to support my point. I think it’s supposed to be the other way around but the only study I found that was of any interest was this one:

The Peter Principle Revisited: a Computational Study
-Garofalo, Pluchino, and Rapisarda

Here’s another article on it that’s a little less in depth.

I think of myself as a content creator.

Yup.

Is that really accurate at the moment though? Well, yes and no.

On the one hand I used to create a lot more content during university working on the Napier Subculture Podcast. It wasn’t exactly a great show but at times there was a real sense of progress. Furthermore episodes would be a finished product, filmed, edited, and released as a variety of formats.

Before that I created a PSP magazine called Portable Life. Before that I did a bit of drawing and built models. I also designed a car game called Turrbulence with the help of a then friend. I should dig up those rules sometime…

When I think of it that way the amount I create now hasn’t declined, it’s just not quite as high as it was at its peak. I sculpt miniatures, I write blog entries daily, I create rules for Gorkamorka (and DTP the documents), and sometimes I paint models too.

I suppose in my mind if I’m not releasing a polished, packaged product, I’m not really creating content. Finishing some Gorkamorka rules is fun but the real sense of accomplishment doesn’t really arrive until I’ve finished sorting out the text boxes and art assets in Scribus. Having a shiny 300 DPI PDF of the rules to upload somewhere is very satisfying. Putting the same rules on a little HTML page somewhere just feels like half-arsing the job some how.

The reason I feel this way is possibly because I don’t like the idea of not contributing positively to the world. I don’t earn masses of cash and as such can’t influence things through investment but I’m not content passively consuming.

I do miss AV work though and today something arrived from Gumtree. I got it for a pittance and hopefully that’s not a bad sign. It’s a Belkin TuneStudio and should allow me to finally do some good quality audio work.2013-05-03 15.33.15

Audio podcasting doesn’t take much but personally I am not okay with low quality audio if I can possibly avoid it. There’s a podcast I’ve been on a few times that I don’t really want to name simply because the few times I’ve listened to it my reaction hasn’t even been disappointment. It has been shock.

I was shocked that anyone would record something with audio that bad and consider it good enough to release and put their names on. If it was me it wouldn’t have made it into the editing stage. One look at the file and it’d be “Nope, sorry chaps, it sounds like we’re recording from inside a rusty washing machine under a disused pier.”

Also this should mean that my in-game voice coms audio will be nice and crisp. So, yes, yay for that too.

New things are fun. That said new isn’t always better. I think sane humans agree on this.

Novelty isn’t necessarily a new thing though it can simply be an old thing experienced in a new way.

For example I experienced music differently and much more intensely when playing Guitar Hero. It engaged other parts of my brain at the same time making it a more complete experience. That was cool.

When it comes to game design it’s always a bit of a fight to determine whether it’s better to try to be novel or nuanced. Nuance in this case means a refined game mechanic that can through subtle variation change the game state significantly.

For example, in a strategy game the basic infantry unit might take two seconds to build. Additional nuance can be provided by creating mechanics that allow that time to be brought down for a price. That price might be skill or defending a point, or any number of other things. That provides both reward and incentive but more than that it allows for a different play style. If it takes one second to produce infantry units then a swarm of soldiers is possible. Such a large number isn’t going to deal with combat in the same way as a force half its size now is it?

Novelty would be unlocking a new unit. Ra2_chrono_ivanFun initially but over time it’s becomes just another tool in the drawer. Its scarcity may help it retain some novelty but it’s never going to be the same as the first time one unlocks the Chrono Ivan, is it?

Necromunda and Gorkamorka use virtually identical rule sets yet the fact that Gorkamorka primarily uses Orks who are not subject to pinning (and are a smidge tougher than squishy humans) drastically changes the role shooting has in the game. In Necromunda hitting a model but not wounding them would force them to take cover. Various factions in Gorkamorka are still affected by this rule but the core greenskins, Orks, are not. As a result shooting isn’t of the same tactical value at all changing the fundamental gameplay of the game itself.

Just a bit of food for thought really. Tasty nuance.

I notice I have a tag for “Cthulhu” on this blog. Clicking it links to, uh, five posts. Five posts out of over three hundred.

Useful.

On the other hand there’s countless posts on business and the UK economy. Are they tagged?

No.

In tagging a post one could either tag before writing or afterwards. Before means the post has to be mostly done in one’s mind before it has even been written. That’s not really how I roll, unsurprisingly. Each post is me discovering where I’m going with a particular topic, well, no, there’s probably a few exceptions but on the whole that’s the general idea.

Alternatively one can tag things after they’re written. No problem, I hear you cry, dear lonely reader. Well, think about how tagging works – one thinks about the post and attempts to attach relevant key words. How relevant does a word have to be to get assigned to it?

Furthermore how related does the post need to be to warrant the creation of an entirely new keyword?

It’s generally more hassle than I think it’s worth to create a new tag, essentially. That said, what if one were to write some sort of text parsing program that would analyse what was written and its relevance to various subjects and automatically tag things?

Tagtron (as I have named this hypothetical bot) would allow extensive tag clouds providing much better navigation for visitors. Is there much point though? Google will probably provide a link to whichever post is most relevant to a passing visitor’s query and regular readers would read regardless.

Hmmm. Perhaps this idea needs more of a point.