The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Posts tagged with rant

Happy New Year!

Happy new year and other such holiday things to the 3 people who read my blog!

I was in San-Francisco for new year’s eve and it was quite lovely.

Golden Gate

Apart from the sake of posting something new, this post is also to show off how PieCrust’s admin panel can now upload page assets (in this case, that would be the picture above… check the URL, it’s hosted right here). This feature will be part of the impending 2.0 release, but you can get it by pulling the latest from BitBucket or GitHub as usual.

Cheers!


Overtime at Frostbite Cinematics

These past couple days most of the video games development community was set on fire by some pretty bad article written by some pretty famous guy on some pretty high traffic website. I’m not going to comment on it – other people like Rami Ismail did that very well already. Interestingly enough, it revived the old debate about “passion” and “crunch”, and we’ve seen a fair number of interesting articles about it as a result. This is not one of those articles either.

Frostbite plaque

What this is is just a simple look at what’s going in my team, Frostbite Cinematics, which I think is interesting because Frostbite is in a fairly unique position in the industry, and that translates to a fairly different approach to overtime.

Spoiler alert: there’s pretty much none.

Read more...

Design For South Paws

Sarah Baird talks about what us left-handed people have put up with all our lives, and all the way back through history:

Day in and day out, though, the biggest hurdle faced by lefties isn’t discrimination — it’s mundane, basic functioning. Almost all facets of society, from ink pens to urban design, are crafted and structured to support, abet and cater to the right-handed majority. For lefties, functioning means a constant, conscious consideration of how they can reverse or modify their natural behavior in order to most effectively move around in the world.

The funny thing is that most of the time, I’m not even thinking about it. I’ll be, say, getting hot air blowing all over me from holding the vacuum-cleaner “the wrong way”, and not really realize that this wouldn’t happen if I was right-handed. It’s just like living in a world that’s slightly less well-designed.

Generally speaking, I’ve probably encountered less hurdles growing up in France than most North-American lefties: spiral notebooks were not used a lot (we had properly bound notebooks) and student chair/tablet combinations were pretty much inexistent.

The last time I really felt the pain of being part of a market minority was when I was shopping for a new computer mouse. Being a palm gripper, I ideally need a so-called “ergonomic” mouse. But those mice are only ever manufactured for right-handed people. The only left-handed ergonomic mouse that I’ve been able to find is the Razer Death-Adder Left-Handed Edition. Many people dislike Razer for their annoying configuration software but I figured I still needed to vote with my money. And, you know, I needed a mouse.

Death-Adder

As expected, the configuration software is annoying, but the mouse is really nice.


Fucking pick one

Paul Stamatiou has been getting a lot of attention about his article “Android Is Better”. And beyond the obvious flamebait (which seems to be working quite well), he makes a couple of points that I agree with:

  • Most people probably use more Google services (for good or bad) than Apple services, and will find the Android experience better integrated if they tried it.
  • Notifications on Android are a million times more useful and productive than on iOS.
  • It’s a lot easier to customize your phone to your specific workflows.
  • The back button and intents make it a lot easier to work between apps.

These are actually the main points that made me switch to Android a couple years ago, along with a bigger screen.

Some points however I disagree:

  • Google Now is not “magical”. It’s downright creepy and makes your device slow.
  • I don’t find Android’s UI inherently better or more elegant than iOS’, or vice-versa. I’m used to both either way.
  • You still find a lot more polished and refined apps on iOS, which is not to say they are more useful or functional, as people often mix up the two (if anything, Android’s ugly apps actually do more things). But since I’m not an app-whore – I must have only a dozen non-stock apps on my phone and they’re almost all cross-platform – I frankly don’t care. The only app I miss is Sparrow, but that bird is flying away.

Marco Arment has written a nice commentary on the story, where he first criticizes Stamatiou’s use of absolute statements (emphasis his):

Paul’s headline is his thesis, conclusion, and call to action: Android is better, and everyone should try it and will likely convert like he did. But after reading the article, I’m more convinced than ever that the best mobile platform for me is currently iOS.

That sentence contains two huge qualifiers: the best mobile platform for me is currently iOS. I’ve learned to write and think with a broader view, since it’s less insular and more accurately reflects reality. (The world is a big place.)

While reading Paul’s article, I was often struck by how differently he and I use the same technology.

His article exudes a narrow tech-world view by having no such qualifiers.

That’s fine, and as a guy who has always chosen his tech (hardware and software) based on specific needs, and not on generic opinions and reviews, I can’t agree more. I often say that if I ask a question like “what is the best X?”, and someone answers “it’s Y!” without even asking for more details about my situation first, I’m probably not going to listen to that person, quietly labeling him as fanboy or short-sighted in my mental notebook.

I wish Marco would talk to his online buddies about this, actually. For example, MG Siegler, once wrote:

I don’t know about you, but when I read my favorite technology writers, I want an opinion. Is the iPhone 4S the best smartphone, or is it the Galaxy Nexus? I need to buy one, I can’t buy both. Topolsky never gives us that. Instead, he pussyfoots around it. One is great at some things, the other is great at others. Barf.

Fucking pick one. I bet that even now he won’t.

Maybe he just doesn’t read reviews like I do. I just want a reliable opinion of what a product does well, and what it doesn’t. And then I’m going to decide which one is the best, based on what I need. But apparently, Siegler wants somebody to tell him which one is the best.

And then there’s John Gruber. I’m pretty happy with my Nexus 7, myself, but apparently “most people […] agree it was a turd”. In comparison, his first-generation iPad “works just as well as the day [he] bought it”. But oh, wait:

Update: A lot of pushback from readers on my claim above, arguing that their first-gen iPads have been rendered slow and unstable by iOS 5 (the last OS to support the hardware). My son uses mine for iBooks, watching movies, and playing games. Mileage clearly varies with other apps. (And yes, the App Store app in particular is a bit crashy.)

So yeah, mileage clearly varies on the iPad, but not the Nexus 7. And funny enough, my iPhone 3G was also rendered slow and unstable by iOS 4, the last OS to support the hardware. If I was paranoid, I would think Apple likes to leave users with a broken device to force them to upgrade, but hey, your mileage may vary, maybe your iPhone 3G is doing great.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that everybody’s got different requirements, budgets and usage patterns. One thing that often gets overlooked by Apple fans, for instance, is that in some countries (like here in Canada) you can’t get an iPhone unless you spend a minimum of $40-ish/month on a data plan. If you want a cheaper plan like me (I use a 500Mb plan which lets me do everything I want except streaming music/video), you have no choice but to go with another OS.

As far as I’m concerned, my iPad and my Nexus 7 get along fine in my backpack, and they must know I love them just the same – just for different things.


The Death of Google Reader

After the infamous announcement that Google was shutting down Google Reader, there was a lot of debates around the use of online services, especially free ones, and whether we can trust a company to keep such services up indefinitely.

Of course, nothing can last “indefinitely”, and probably nothing will last until you die. You have to expect that Gmail, Facebook, iTunes, Amazon Kindle and any other service you’re currently using won’t last for more than, say, 20 years (and that’s being generous). You need to plan accordingly.

Marco Arment sums this up on his blog:

Always have one foot out the door. Be ready to go.

This isn’t cynical or pessimistic: it’s realistic, pragmatic, and responsible.

That’s what I’ve always tried to do. I choose programs, services and products that don’t take my data away from me. It makes it easier to switch to something else if I need/want to, and it future-proofs what I spend money on.

But that’s where it gets interesting, because Google Reader was pretty open to begin with. Google may have become this data hoarding and privacy raping monster over the years, but one thing they always had going for them was the Data Liberation initiative. With it, you effectively always had one foot out the door. You could, at any moment, download a list of all your subscriptions in an open, standardized format, along with a collection of all your stars, comments, and shares. You may be disrupted for a while because you would need to adapt to a new feed reader, but you could switch, just like you can switch text editors or operating systems.

What’s wrong with the Google Reader situtation has nothing to do with your data, or with using a free service (although that is an important subject too). What happened is that Google Reader became a lot more than a free online feed reader. It became a single choke point for virtually every feed reader or news aggregator in the world. Google is of course to blame for making it a collateral damage of their social-wannabe delusions, but we are equally to blame for letting all those programs like Flipboard, Pulse or NetNewsWire rely on a single service that was never really intended to be used that way. It’s understandable it ended up this way, because relying on Google Reader meant easier adoption for new users and not having to worry about complex problems like data storage, metadata syncing, and interoperability… but it doesn’t make it the right decision either. We are to blame because we were constantly asking for Google Reader support. It became a feature you couldn’t ship without.

The death of Google reader is not about losing a product we love – it’s about breaking an entire eco-system of products and workflows.

Hopefully, we’ll recover and things will be better, but it does bring up another debate: the one about how we rely so much on other single choke points like Twitter and Facebook. Ideally, everything should be federated, like email, but I tried looking at distributed alternatives, and they’re just not working well enough. If the links you share and photos you post are of any value to you, I’d suggest you start looking at data harvesting solutions. I know I am.