bjoreman.com

May 08, 2022

Nearly there, much at stake

Quake. The first first-person shooter completely in 3d. Released in 1996. How much of a different era was that? Enough that it was the very last game I got on floppy disks - 19 of them as I recall - each with a compressed part of the whole game on it. (I feel as if it was zipped, but I suppose it may have been RAR:ed, too.)

Quake felt special. Serious. Id software and John Carmack being special when it came to game engines was already a known concept, and the "completely 3d" thing felt meaningful. Everything felt solid, not even the flames of torches were 2d sprites. More mature people who purchased games got the CD with Nine-inch nails' ambient soundtrack to play with the levels, but even without music Quake had a dark, brooding mood all of its own. Spirit-like whispers, the groan of zombies, not to mention that metallic sound of bouncing grenades.

Fast-forward six hundred and forty FPS generations to 2022. There is a Switch in the house, and I realize - in a rapid series - that a remaster of Quake has been released, that it is very highly rated, and that the Switch is by far the most appealing machine in the house to try the game on.

A quick throw of money at the Nintendo e-shop and a somewhat longer wait for the download later (yes, there is such a thing as impatient playing of Mario kart), and I was ready to re-visit Quake.

Boom

Apart from being caught in a portable console, Quake was still extremely familiar territory. Sights and sounds came flooding back and felt as if they had never left. What I did not remember was just how fast things feel. You can set a lot of the pace yourself by how you get into and back out of encounters, but the action moves very fast and very smoothly.

This is the base upon which we built increasingly tall towers of complexity, much of it essentially meaningless.

Levels are more intricate than I recalled, weaving back through themselves in three dimensions in very nice ways. The shotgun somehow feels a bit wimpy, possibly because I do not yet close in enough when using it, but fragging enemies with grenades remains the joy it always has been and always will be.

Controls

Having played my share of console FPS, I expected controls to be a non-issue, if lacking the precision of a keyboard and mouse setup.

I played a few maps, and generally failed to get comfortable with the controls. I think my main problem was the acceleration when aiming, and that can be adjusted in settings, but it felt like there was a layer of frictionless ice between me and the pixel-precision I want and quite frankly need when aiming. Quake is not Quake without good aim.

Then I made The Discovery. Clearly the people who remasterd Quake knew their audience, even on the Switch.

I grabbed the Switch and its dock, headed down to the basement and the trusty work desk. The Switch connected to the monitor, and into those lovely, lovely USB ports on the side of the dock went my mechanical keyboard and honest to Cthulhu optical mouse. Elegant weapons, for less civilized times.

Yeees.

This is how Quake is meant to be played. Pixel-perfect aim, butter smooth, breakneck speed, zombie guts exploding all over the place. That experience has not aged a day.

But I should try to adjust the other controls as well, because it is a pretty cool feeling to snuggle up with Quake in bed as well.

April 14, 2022

Books I have read

Books and other literature I have read, in, somewhat uncertain, reverse chronological order. The list starts from the summer of 2008, and my main purpose with it is to be able to see what I have actually been reading. I do feel that I read many quite good books, but I never seem to be able to recall what I have recently read when asked for recommendations.

April 09, 2022

There is no question

Why do people put so much energy into publishing such good content in such bad places? Why bury your analysis of Russian tyre maintenance in a Twitter thread? Why can I only find somewhat essential information about my mechanical keyboard by finding the right Discord server and scrolling up however much is required, wading upstream in five simultaneous conversations?

People complain and wonder about such things, often combined with nostalgia for the web of Christmases past, where people put their well-formed thoughts on their own web sites, with proper links to other places and with RSS feeds available for those who wanted to aggregate their favourite sources themselves.

I can catch myself doing this, but my real question is why we complain or feel averse to all this.

Maintaining your own site is work. And, it usually costs money too, if you want to live that open, distributed web hipster life. I pay about a hundred Euros per year to some strange hosting company for the pleasure of hosting this website and my email. And yes, there are millions of other options. Better, closer, more modern, cheaper, and generally more hipster-approved.

But you know what? Switching from something which has been working predictably for something like twenty years(!) is also work.

For example, I am tied to a classic computer if I want to actually publish something on my site. I can not do it from a phone or Ipad. Why not? Because that takes work, work I do not feel excited enough about to undertake in my spare time. I prefer to spend that time writing, and publish when I do have access to a classic computer (even though this alone is driving my wish for a new laptop so that I can be less restricted in where I need to be to post).

The amount of work I have chosen to take on happens to suit my general values and knowledge of technology. I too enjoy thoughtful longer texts which can be easily found and linked, and think we would be better off with more of that rather than floods of short opinions. But why would people in general want to put the time and effort I do into setting up their own websites?

That makes no sense at all, not when you can type into a box and have your thoughts join the same streams as everyone else you know and follow right away. No configuration, no payments.

"Yes, but …" all the thought leaders go, bursting into pitches about a more open, free, and distributed web. Pitches, all of which require so much more effort from everyone involved.

We should be happy so many people are putting their thoughts out there in any form. Someone is always building a simpler way for everyone to publish on top of the latest shiny. But can you ever make that simpler and cheaper than the free services already out there? If you managed to build it, would there be any notable improvement for the general user?

It probably sounds like I am feeling down on the state of the world in general, but somewhat to my own surprise that is not the case. Many people are thinking along these lines, and I feel like exciting things can come out of it.

Plus, it is somehow fun to be down on people being down on other people for using the big services of the day.

March 15, 2022

The end of an era

Putin's pointless war on Ukraine brings with it many unnecessary horrors, evils and angers. So much waste of every possible kind.

It also brings with it a big, hope-inducing display of unity among most of the rest of the world and, on a more personal level, a rather major shift in world view:

For my whole life, the thought of Russian military power has brought up images of unstoppable waves of tanks advancing across the whole horizon. An inhuman, endless force.

In a few short weeks, decades of parades and numbers melted away to reveal problems on every single level, including the touching realization that much (?) of that force does not want to fight a meaningless war against a neighbor.

For the first time in my life, Russia no longer feels like a super power. Putin can not get whatever he wants by decree and directing his military toward it. The Russian bear has no … paws?

The world is built by people no smarter than you are.

Things can change.

Hopefully for the better, once all is said and done.

But let us hope and work to make the path there as easy as possible.

February 16, 2022

Keyboard doubts

But … do I like it?

I am still trying to make up my mind about my Corne keyboard. It could be the switches. It could be the staggered layout. It could be that I have made my keymap just slightly too clever. Whatever the reason, I am not completely happy with what I have. I feel … a bit slow.

For a few weeks, I have assumed that this feeling was mainly because I actually was slow, but my speed in typing tests has actually started to improve again, so it is not all actual slowness. But I do not feel as … smooth, perhaps, or effortless. Typing correctly takes more mental energy than I would like. I still think more practise will improve things, but I am thinking about other possible factors.

One possible factor is the switches. The relatively quiet Bobas do have a nice feel to them, but they also feel a bit … rough? Pressing them feels some amount of non-smooth, and despite their measured resistance being much the same as other switches I like, I am left with the feeling that each keypress takes just a bit more work than it should.

The layout is another suspect, perhaps moving the shift keys was that one step too far in complexity? It is a bit insidious, since it has a great deal of effect in day-to-day typing, but does not come up at all in the typing tests I do.

The stagger, finally, is probably not to blame either, but I do still think regularly about it and wonder how it affects me. In truth, the real effect is most likely the aesthetical longing I feel when I glance over at the perfectly straight lines of the KBD4X, but I do feel as if my fingers play more than they should around the edges of the keys, as if I am cheating with my hand positions by feeling the edges instead.

I think what I will do next is update the KBD4X with my latest layout tweaks and see how it all feels there. Perhaps that darn thing is still too well-built compared to my other boards? Perhaps the clicky switches in it are the perfect ones for me? I did a bit of typing on it the other day and was amused to find that my layout has once again evolved enough that I feel lost going back to an older revision.

There is still much to find out.

And more typing training to do.