Ramblings of General Geekery

Sourcehut Welcomes Bitbucket Refugees

Earlier this week, Bitbucket announced its plan for killing Mercurial
by next year.

This doesn’t come as a shock to anybody who has been a Bitbucket/Mercurial user,
since Atlassian’s investment in Mercurial had been declining for the past few
years. So I think their reasons for taking this decision are a bit ironic in
addition to being shortsighted:

Building quality features requires intense focus, and supporting two version
control systems means splitting focus – doubling shipping time and technical
overhead. With Git being the more popularly used tool, Mercurial runs the risk
of overlooked issues as we scale.

According to a Stack Overflow Developer Survey, almost 90% of developers use
Git, while Mercurial is the least popular version control system with only
about 3% developer adoption. In fact, Mercurial usage on Bitbucket is steadily
declining, and the percentage of new Bitbucket users choosing Mercurial has
fallen to less than 1%.

My humble opinion is that:

  • 90% of developers answering the Stack Overflow survey is not 90% of

  • Building a project lifecycle management solution that is completely tied to
    a particular VCS (Git) means you totally ignore a whole demographic of
    developers. Git fans often consider people not using Git as “misguided” or
    “stuck in the old days”, but there are good reasons for using a variety of
    other VCSes. For instance, game studios have pretty good reasons to use
    Perforce or Plastic.

  • Putting all your eggs in the Git basket may not end well in the long run. If
    Git has been popular only for the past 10 years, having overthrown
    Subversion’s reign which lasted about the same time, what would prevent some
    other new hip VCS to take over in the next 10 years? There’s probably some
    good reason to write code faster now and rewrite later, but, well, see
    previous two points.

  • All those online services competely predicated on you using Git will
    definitely lengthen Git’s supremacy, but, regardless of whether Git is “good”
    or “bad”, I see this monopoly as negatively as, say, websites assuming an IE6
    browser back in the early 2000s, or assuming an Amazon/Twitter/Facebook
    account to log you in these days.

  • Isn’t it ironic that, in this age of decentralized version control, we’re
    centralizing our version control system? It’s even worse when you consider
    so many services not only assume you’re using Git, but also assume you’re
    using Github.

Anyway, enough of this nonsense. The most important thing is that if you’re part
of the few people (still?) using Mercurial, we’ve got you covered on
Sourcehut, with the mercurial hosting service. It’s still rough
around the edges (it’s just a couple of us in our spare time after all!) but
it’ll get better with time, and, hopefully, with your help. Drew went so far as
to write a repository import tool.

If you need some help or have some questions, you can ping me on the #srht IRC
channel, sourcehut mailing list, or via the usual means.

TIL “We’ve Only Just Begun” was originally a bank commercial written in a couple hours by Nichols and Williams (that’s Williams singing), until Richard Carpenter heard it and contacted Williams about it https://www.youtube.com

Ok I’m 41 and I now own a caulking gun. Am I a proper home-owner dad now?
(FYI I had no idea what a caulking gun was this morning)

It’s now official: I have “programming pants” and a “programming robe”.

The one thing that sucks about getting a new job is how utterly useless and stupid you feel in the first couple months. Thankfully this time I can do it from home with no pants — it helps dealing with the shame!

Transit System of the Year

A couple weeks ago, the APTA awarded the 2019 Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award to Vancouver’s Translink. Woohooo!

This was picked up, slightly incorrectly, as news that we have the best transit system in North America by a couple of local news outlets. While it’s mostly correct, I guess, it’s more accurately an award for Translink having, between 2016 and 2018, the best combination of ridership growth, operational efficiency, customer service, financial management, marketing, sustainability. In particular, ridership increased a lot during that period (although population also grew a lot so it’s unclear if the APTA was normalizing this figure before comparing with other cities or not). Of course, the news was not met very favourably by Vancouverites. To me this mostly shows that:

  1. Vancouverites are pretty entitled and don’t know when they have something good.
  2. Public transit infrastructure is pretty bad in the US in general so I don’t think there’s much competition coming from there from what I’ve experienced. My memories of the Montreal public transit are pretty good though, but, again, the award isn’t really about who’s “best” (what does that mean anyway?) but about who performed the best on specific metrics in the two years since 2016. Different things.

That said, having lived in a half dozen cities in France and Canada, I can tell you that:

  1. Buses always suck. There’s just no way around it. At least, some North American cities (like Vancouver) have HOV lanes that make the buses slightly less unreliable than in Europe (where they often make it up by having more of them). The only significantly bad thing about Translink buses is that Vancouverites just don’t know how to move to the back of the fucking bus. If you’re not feeling uncomfortable, then there’s still room!
  2. Automated subway trains are awesome, and not a lot of cities have this. My hometown of Lille (in northern France) actually had one of the first ever automated system of its kind, so I’m pretty happy to find a similar system here in Vancouver. It comes with a lot of advantages that many locals seem to forget after 2 days.
  3. If you think public transit is dirty and smells bad here, you should visit Paris. Let’s talk about people peeing in trashcans, puking on the ground, or masturbating in public.
  4. It didn’t use to be very crowded when we first moved here 12 years ago, but the population and ridership growth are showing now. That said, if people wanted appropriate infrastructure investment to catch up, maybe they shouldn’t have voted “no” in the transit tax referendum 2 years ago.

So overall, frankly, I don’t care who’s best or not, I just care about having decent public transit where I live. Nothing’s ever perfect but at least I’m seeing continued investment and improvements, and I hope that continues. Maybe we should celebrate that every now and then.

I’m considering getting some gaming mat. Anybody got recommendations between Quiver mats, Tabletop Companion, and Big Viking mats?

Some Comments on the Ennie Award Winners

Gen Con 2019 is over and the Ennie Award winners have been announced!

My first thought while going through the list is that the venerable Masks of Nyarlathotep has still got it. The new edition grabbed the Best Adventure award, probably thanks to Chaosium not only further expanding the text but also adding high quality art and fixing some of the most egregious problems with the gender and ethnicity of NPCs. Plus, the HPLHS got 2 Masks-related awards, one for their prop set (which, sadly, I got only after my group ended the campaign…) and one for their radio show, which is a lot of fun to listen to.

Call of Cthulhu in general was well represented with a bunch of other awards for the new Terror Australis edition, the excellent Starter Set, and the new Cthulhu Invictus guide.

Some “Call of Cthulhu-adjacent” things also won a few spots, with The Fall of DELTA GREEN nicely grabbing the Best Setting award, and other awards going to the Miskatonic University Restricted Collection board game, Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for 5E, Seth Skorkowsky’s YouTube channel (I only started recently but I like it so far), and the ever entertaining and informative Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast.

Finally, Chaosium grabbed a few other non-Cthulhu-related wins with the gorgeous RuneQuest slipcase winning Best Interior Art and, again, overall Best Publisher award (this time gold!).

So yeah, Chaosium and Call of Cthulhu did quite well this year… Eric Tenkar was asking over in his tavern why that is, but if you look at the past two years of Ennie awards, they had also been doing quite well back then too. That said, I think there’s a few factors at play:

  1. The fairly recent 7th edition line is chugging along nicely, and is very well done overall. On a personal level, it’s actually the first time I’m genuinely interested in running CoC with the vanilla rules, instead of using something else like GURPS.
  2. The rise of podcasts and actual plays came with a fairly high portion dedicated (or adjacent) to horror roleplaying in general and CoC in particular, including past Ennie nominees and winners.
  3. With Pathfinder and D&D 5e being smashing successes, the explosion of actual play podcasts and videos, and pop culture pushing RPGs back in the zeitgest, it seems like the hobby grew a lot in the past decade… and surely, by now, a good chunk of these new gamers must be looking for new/different stuff to play. CoC is a frequently recommended thing to try to anybody asking if there’s anything else after D&D.

There were a few surprises for me:

  • The Invisible Sun Black Box not winning the Best Production Values award. I mean, have you seen this thing? It’s the most fucking impressive thing on my bookshelves, but I guess very few people own it given the high price point, hence the lack of votes, maybe.
  • The RuneQuest slipcase not being even nominated for Best Cover Art, and The Fall of DELTA GREEN not being nominated for Best Layout and Design. Such a shame.

The point of the Ennies is also partly about discovering some new cool stuff:

  • Mothership: I hadn’t heard about this one before but hey, if “sci-fi horror RPG” wasn’t enough, you got me at “dangerous derelict spacecrafts”.
  • Forbidden Lands: I had been wondering about getting that one since it’s bound to be as gorgeous as the Tales from the Loop books, and I like dark fantasy. I guess it’s next on my shopping list!
  • Kids on Bikes: I already had the PDF but hadn’t read much of it. It’s now next on the reading list.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and KULT: Divinity Lost: I hadn’t thought or heard of Warhammer or KULT for a long time, so I was surprised to see them coming back with new editions. Nice!

That’s it! Now if only I could some day make it to Gen Con…