February 21, 2019

On the Move

A year and a half into owning a Playstation VR I bought a pair of Move controllers almost as suddenly as I bought the device itself. I have never felt very excited about movement-tracking controllers in general. With the main exception of the Wii - which tended to do meaningful stuff - I prefer my controls exact and, more importantly, without placement or space requirements. I found playing Moss slightly annoying at many points because I always needed to be sure the camera could properly track my controller, and although Astro bot does great and I had learned more about camera and personal placement by the time I started playing it, it remained a slight source of friction. Just the little bit of extra work.

Work and play

Well, playing comfortably with Move controllers is a whole extra level of work. I am somewhat in love with Beat saber, but to play even decently I need to create more room by sticking the camera about as far away and off to the side as its cable will let it, and even then the space is not perfect. Having a big empty cube as my entertainment room would be beneficial.

So I have great fun when I play, but it is enough extra work to get into a good gaming position that I think actively about it before I start a Move-based game.

Because of this, I also have not tried that many games. I have yet to try Doom for example, but I have a hard time imagining that I will prefer Move to the visceral fun of controller-based gunning.

Oh, I need to get Superhot VR as well. Thanks for reminding me.

Tethered was great fun to try using Moves. With a Dual shock controller, the game is played with you looking down at the wonderful world from fixed clouds. With Move controllers, you have two hands and can move your viewpoint freely. If it felt like looking at a moving model railway landscape before, the feeling just exploded when I was able to look as close as I wanted from any angle I wanted.

So that was cool. But I am not sure Tethered actually played any better. Perhaps I had not got the setup quite right, because it feels like an RTS with two independent controllers could be perfect. But with the brief time I put in, it felt fun but imprecise.

Beat saber rocks

Beat saber actually has moments of imprecision as well, times when I have to move to avoid obstacles or make wide swipes and notice tracking is lost momentarily. But when the setup is right, the game plays and feels so good it easily gets into "well, I never want to play this in any other way"-territory. It would be such a lesser experience with different controllers, or outside of VR for that matter. (This is even before considering the fact that the controllers appear as light sabers, and how they buzz and vibrate if you cross them.) It is cool to play, and when I find the space too small I wish to find a better space rather than stop and play something else.

Drift and improvements

Drifting in general feels like more of a thing than for the VR headset itself. There is also the extra setup of activating and grabbing the controllers to play. For some reason, the Playstation UI will not let me move between things using the Moves, so I always have a few moments where I need to juggle three controllers, and find some decent place to put down the Dual shock afterward.

On one hand, it bothers me to have games which place so much of a demand on the room in which it is played, especially when the great thing with VR is removing the room and creating another world in its place. On the other, I look forward to figuring out the best setup given my physical spaces and then seeing how good of an experience I can get.

Beat saber has already made it worth the investment as far as I am concerned. But if VR gaming has some number of steps to go before mainstream ease of use, I feel like VR gaming with Move-type controllers has at least two more.

February 10, 2019

Mini metro

I often start thinking about the terminal stations of public transportation. I start somewhere in the middle of the map, the twisted ball of colored lines which I may have come to know for a couple of days or years. Familiar names which evoke locations, activities, and, usually, lots of people.

But then the eyes inevitably start following some line, moving outward, eventually passing through zones and settling on the end of the line. What does it feel like to reach the outmost station of the London underground? What would my mindset be if I left Manhattan from Fulton street and emerged into daylight again at Far Rockaway? What is life like in Shenfield? Uxbridge?

(And where to the British find all their exotic place names?)

Turns out, the transportation does not even have to be real to get my mind going. I have been playing Mini metro for a few short sessions, and I can find myself thinking the exact same way when a new outlier station pops up on the map and I connect it to my little network. What is it like there? Is it a desolate overground station? A couple of well-worn platforms served by creaking escalators and a couple of tight-wound staircases? Are there fun coffee places and busy little shops, or are people surprised to find the lone vending machine actually vending?

Then, the next Monday of game time rolls around, and my mind is pulled back to the exciting decisions of how to spend the new allotment of trains, cars, tunnels or lines. Mini metro is a wonderful little puzzler. I look forward to letting my mind wander and wonder a lot more as I unlock all the cities.

January 23, 2019

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.

January 23, 2019

Hub bothers

For a while, I hoped it was the cable. But now, I think I have landed back on the same thing everyone affected already seems to know: there are way too few good USB-C hubs and docks out there. Perhaps the standards are too complicated, the bandwidths too narrow. But I suspect people are perhaps just too optimistic, putting all the things in a hub which should work fine in theory, leaving it up to users to discover the true limitations.

My most common problem is with any type of USB-C (or thunderbolt) to HDMI adapter which also provides any other port. Straight USB-C to HDMI adapters have been rock solid for me, but the ones I have tried with more ports all land on the same problem much too often: the computer will wake up, other connected devices will work as usual, but the screen will not light up.

The computer will know the screen is there, it will show up in display settings, and all windows will stay in place. I can drag the cursor out into the space and so on, just not see it. Power cycling the hub will usually get things back in order, an activity which feels somewhat counter to the idea of using a hub to need to plug and unplug fewer things.

Things might get worse under heavier load as well. I have used the same hub at home for … a good while (a year?) now, and while it had the above problem it was at least pretty rare. But a little while ago, I noticed the monitor looked fuzzier than usual. Turns out it sometimes ends up detected as being capable of less than its native resolution, and again power cycling seems to be the solution.

A week ago, I threw an otherwise well-behaved USB ethernet adapter into the mix, and this has clearly made everything worse. Now I can get all kinds of mixes of problems, like ethernet but no monitor, ethernet and lower resolution monitor, or neither plus the USB ports on the ethernet adapter being well and truly dead too.

Yes, adapters plugging into adapters. I have become that person, one piece at a time.

Negotiation problems?

I read somewhere at some point that USB hubs need to negotiate or otherwise advertise their abilities to computers, and that this process can end up with different results depending on when a device is or is not connected. I wonder if this is my issue, that a bunch of things suddenly appear to the computer and something along the chain fails to sort everything out.

I wish for a command I could send straight over the USB bus using terminal or something to shock things into order.

Oh well.

Is there a magic incantation I could do?

Is there a problem to be solved by throwing money at it?

And (the question anything touched by USB-C keeps asking itself) why is all this not simply a solved problem in 2019?

(Disconnected the Macbook and sat down in the sofa to type this. Man, this screen looks sharp!)

January 06, 2019

Inbox zeroes

Christmas was really good. New year's eve was great.

It took, more or less, all of the past week to recover. I feel a lot more prepared to start this coming week than the one just wrapping up. The todo lists are somewhat back in sync, running projects are starting to feel like they are moving again. That spirit of starting a bit fresh is in the air, drifting between the bits and bytes of everyday life.

I think I have managed to start the year checking Facebook somewhat less often as well, which is all good. My reflexive rotation right now is Twitter, Instagram and Discord. Uh, and Slack of course, but enough goes on there that it bleeds out of reflexve checking and more into the flow of going about my day. Especially at work. But I am better at not checking Slack as well, I turned off notifications and badges a while ago and can come back to an unexpected number of unreads which completely fails to stress me.

I think I am at or near inbox zero. For email, I am definitely there. There are tons of read messages hanging around in my mail inboxes, but the mental weight is zero. Nothing is lost, nothing is anxiously being waited for, and nothing needs to be sorted into neat piles.

The feeling of starting fresh is greatly helped by work moving into a new office just before Christmas. Desks have been set up and most boxes unpacked, so there is both a sense of being settled in enough to be comfortable, and that sense of everything being just slightly up in the air, new and exciting. People mix differently, and until inevitable annoyances are discovered it is just fun to find out how that changes dynamics and information flows. I have not yet felt the need to lock myself away in a conference room or home office, so thumbs up for that as well.

(We also have roughly a million places to go for lunch within walking distance, so give a shout if you happen to be in central Gothenburg around lunch time.)

Writing music: Shadow spirits, vol. 1.