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My self-hosted blogging woes continue..

It'd be an understatement to say that I'm not a big fan of Facebook. Facebook has been banning a lot of groups and accounts lately, seemingly algorithmically. That's kind of evil. I was seriously considering buying an Oculus headset until they started requiring that you sign in to it with your Facebook account; an utterly unnecessary step from a user point of view, only done so they can make more money and steal more of your information. Facebook sucks.

That got me thinking about how to completely distance myself from Facebook. I've still got a profile there that I regularly sign in to. Facebook is the only social network that a lot of my family and friends are on. There's just no alternative for chatting with groups of people that I know, because those people are only on Facebook, and so far this has stopped me from completely deleting my Facebook account. Today I thought I would finally remedy that, but before doing that I wanted to provide people with an alternative way to keep track of what I'm up to. My blog is where I would want to shift my activity to, but it currently does not allow people to comment, which is a big part of what makes a blog a blog, so that's really a must-have before I start pointing people to this site again.

There's two ways to add comments to a static blog: either you self-host the serverside part that stores the comments, or you use an online service like Disqus to do it for you. But don't use Disqus. The interface is utterly hideous and the free plan won't let you disable ads. Disqus also makes you jump through several unnecessary hoops to post anonymous comments, which was just clean and simple with native Wordpress. I would not recommend Disqus to anyone. Unfortunately none of the serverless alternatives offered a free plan for personal websites, so I'm out of luck there as well.

Then there's the self-hosted option. There's a few serverside packages that will deal with storing the comments for you if you don't mind spinning up a server. Some of them will even deal with span and email notifications. But for me this would mean 1. yet another piece of code that I have to maintain, and 2. cloud server resources that I have to pay for, especially if someone decides to do a spam attack on me. I have better things to do with my life than deal with that.

Sadly, this is the state of the internet right now. I want to get away from services I don't like, but the only way to do that is to invest time or money. It has never been harder than now to have a self-managed personal blog on the internet. Tim Berners-Lee's Solid project might be the best hope for a future internet, but I'm not holding my breath about it catching on any time soon. For now this blog will stay comment-less, and I will not delete my Facebook account yet..

Posted in Tech | Tagged , ,

No Man's Sky

I came very close to calling this post 'Why I hate No Man', continuing the trend I set last time with the Interstellar post. But let's not.

Freelancer is one of my absolute favorite games of all time. The free flying through space, the storyline, the super-detailed universe, I loved all of it. All I could wish for was that there was more. Once the storyline ended there wasn't that much left to do, really, except for getting the best possible ships and visiting all the systems. I really, really hoped that No Man's Sky would be the successor I was looking for. Sadly, it's not. At least, not yet.

I've been playing NMS quite heavily since it came out. Maxed out the ship, maxed out the multitool upgrades, maxed out the exosuit. Exploring new planets is a pretty neat gimmick in the beginning, but it quickly turns into a resource-finding grind. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed spending a few real-life days on a beautiful planet full of different kinds of animals while focusing on getting better ships, mining and getting new technology. I genuinely felt sad about leaving it, knowing I'd be heading to the center of the universe and would never see that planet again.

..but that feeling quickly turns into utter numbness once you realize that every single fucking planet is the same. Sure, the color scheme changes and your near-to-death-ness slider depletes a bit quicker on some planets compared to others, but funcionally they're the exact same. Animals are either ignorable or killable, buildings look the same everywhere and there's only a very limited set of 'gimmicks' (crashed ships, learning words, discovering technology) to run through before you're done. Mining resources could have been interesting, were it not that all the expensive resources cost roughly the same and all the cheap resources can be found everywhere, on every single planet, all the time, never more than a 2 minute walk away. It's the same for all the fucking alien outposts on every single planet. NMS tries to establish a lore in the form of the sentinels, the ever-present space police, which supposedly protect the planets from change, colonization, etc. by the 3 major races. Yet somehow the 3 major races establish bases by the buttload, once again on every single planet, once again always within a 2 minute walk. That stuff needs some serious attention by the developers, cause it makes no sense, not from a realism point of view, not from a lore point of view and not from a common sense point of view.

During the game's development we were promised a lot of things that did not make it into the final game, but that doesn't matter that much to me as long as the game we end up with is fun to play, or at least has potential to be turned into something better by way of patches. I'm a bit dubious about NMS in this respect. The procedural universe is pretty awesome, but the devs seem to have spent a lot of time on just the procedural bits of it and completely forgot about the gameplay. NMS also seems to have been dumbed down severely (for PS4 users perhaps?). I absolutely hate the way the ships fly. You can't crash into anything, you can't fly at a specific altitude over a planet, it's just a bloody elevator. Ground floor, sky floor, space floor. If you try to point your ship at something that might pose the slighttest risk of a crash, the game takes over for you and prevents it. So much for feeling free in your own ship. It doesn't help either that all of the (beautiful procedurally-generated) ships handle exactly the same. Space pirate attacks are always exactly the same. Trading ships always warp in exactly the same and do exactly nothing (compare that to Freelancer where they were always moving from one place to the other and you could hail them and they'd tell you where they came from, what they were transporting and where they were going). So much of the game is just unfinished, unpolished or uninteresting. It frustrates me because it could have been so much more. Seriously, procedural generation is a great backdrop for a storyline, but the storyline is paper-thin. Where are the characters? Where are the factions? Freelancer was a million times better in that respect. But I bet it's a lot easier to turn NMS into Freelancer than it is to turn Freelancer into NMS.

Three things can happen to No Man's Sky in the future: 1. the devs are so stressed out from their (amazing!) effort to release a fantastically complex game that they call it quits and move on to the next adventure. I would absolutely not blame them for this. 2. The devs keep simplifying the game even more to appeal to the mass audience and keep adding features that no one wants. I'd say this is likely, but I would like to see 3. the devs, finally released from the stress of releasing a massively-hyped game, feel free again to focus on what they originally wanted the game to be. I bet this would require massive changes, and the longer they wait with this the more it will piss off the fanbase of the current game. But screw that. The game could be a lot better. I hope they take up the challenge.

 

Posted in Games | Tagged ,

I suck at camping

I get the feeling that I'm not feeling what I'm supposed to be feeling. More on that later.

As said in my previous post, I could stop anywhere, so I did. I didn't quite make it all the way to the southernmost point of the peninsula, I'm still about 25km's away from it. I commenced my 'usual' strategy of starting to look for a place to set up my tent around 16:00. It took me over 20 minutes to even find a place that would remotely be worth considering for a place to stay for the night. This is doubly annoying for me because this place is the opposite of what I thought it would be. When I went cycling to the southernmost point of the Shikoku island there was one (narrow) road, to the left of it the ocean, and to the right of it a mountain. No place to sleep anywhere. This road though, is wide, and has a bloody McDonalds and KFC and a huge shopping center next to a fairly large town! How can I get in the camping mood when it's like that?!

Anyway, I finally ventured into a weird street that eventually dead-ended at a luxury hotel. I turned around and on that some road going back I encountered an old man at the side of the road, unloading timber from one of his cars to one of his other cars(?!). I asked him if he knew of a good place to camp or put up a tent in the area, and he told me there was no such thing, but I could stay here. Right here, where he was unloading his stuff, at a small 'parking' area at the side of the road. He also told me that putting up a tent is too much trouble and I could stay in one of his abandoned cars that he had parked there. This place by the way is really small, maybe 10 meters long by 2 meters wide. Several cars were parked there, including a huge truck filled with wood and covered with dust and twigs and rocks, as the area was next to a cliff, and most of the cars looked like they hadn't been moved for at least 10 years. I thanked the guy for his kindness and told him I might be back later.

I went back to the national road, intending to cycle further, but not even 500 meters ahead there was a long tunnel and another uphill climb. At this point it was already getting dark so I decided to cycle back to see if I could find a better place to stay. I chose to follow a road near to the ocean and ended up at an awesome beach. Exploring the area for a suitable place to camp meant that I had to pass a horde of middle school girls who were playing at the stairs leading to the beach. As I passed them I got the usual 'HARRO!!!' that all Japanese children say to foreigners. I answered in Japanese: "I can understand Japanese, you know", which got me a lot of giggles.

The place I found near the beach was perfect. It was hidden from view, located under a bridge, with a beautiful view of the beach and cliffs in the distance. All I had to do was wait for the sun to set and people to disappear, and I could set up my tent. I then got on my bicycle to find a restaurant for dinner, cycled 500 meters, found a business hotel, checked in, and that's where I am now. This ends my 'I suck at camping' tale. Because of the horrible uphill in the morning and the long anti-sun afternoon break I only managed to do 80km today.

(Warning! Boring rant starts here)

I'm getting used to this lifestyle, so I'm finding more time to think along the way. One thing that pops up in my mind several times a day, usually during a tough uphill section, is: "Why the hell am I doing this?". I swear a lot in my mind on the uphill sections. This is just a mild example.  My original purpose, conjured up while in the warm confines of my cozy little room in front of my big lcd screen, was to decide whether or not to stay in Japan or go back to Holland. I had hoped that, by pushing myself to my limits, I would get some interesting new perspective on life, and the 'right' decision would magically become clear. This is (perhaps obvious to an observer) absolutely not true. First of all, no matter how I try to see it, this trip is not a challenge. It's certainly a heavy physical effort, but I am doing nothing new. I am going to places that I know how to handle, talking to people in a language that I understand, doing things that I've already done several times before. There is no mysterious new thing for me in this trip, 99% of it I know beforehand. My other reasoning was that this trip would give me some time to think over my situation, carefully consider every option I have and then decide what to do. This is also bullshit. Due to the physical exertion every day from 6AM to 5PM I am dead at the end of the day, and I don't even want to think. This is getting easier the past few days (hence this blogpost), but still, my mind is preoccupied with daily life all the time. I always have something to do: break down the tent, pack my bags, cycle up a hill, look for a sleeping place, set up the tent again, find a place to eat, make dinner myself, etc. etc. Not a single free moment to think, except for those days that I find a business hotel or youth hostel, because in that case I save some energy by not having to put up my tent, inflate my sleeping mat, roll out my sleeping bag, prepare my warm sleeping clothes, etc. etc.

In other words: double fail! 1.  This trip is not the challenge I had hoped for. 2. This trip does not provide me with a new unique perspective on my situation nor enough time to think about why I went on this trip in the first place. Now that I know this, I am becoming less motivated to continue. I'm not sure any more what I'm supposed to be doing every day. On the one hand I want to enjoy the scenery and the sights and take my time, but the uncertainty of the weather and the uncertainty of finding a place to stay every night are making this difficult. On the other hand I want to cycle as fast as I can to the finish line so I can end this trip and do something else instead. I haven't had a really bad day yet, where I wasn't able to find a place to stay. Maybe I should aim for a day like that, it might make things interesting again.

Anyway, I'm too stubborn to give up something I've already started, so I'm definitely seeing this through to the end, even if the end is meaningless. Tomorrow is supposed to be rain again, unfortunately. Perhaps the weather is bringing me down, perhaps it's the fact that everything is so much more... normal? difficult? gloomy? than I expected it to be. I remember the first trip I did with Kamil, cycling from Nagasaki to Kagoshima and then taking the ferry to a random island near Okinawa that turned out to become our favorite place. The weather was great all the time except for one day, and we always got lucky in finding a place to stay. We always ended near on onsen, river, or ocean, but always with a beautiful view, onsen or restaurant nearby. Oh well, I should stop ranting, have to get up early tomorrow. Cycling in the rain again...

Posted in Spirit of Japan , Thoughts | Tagged ,

Stupid

(Thank you all for your positive reactions to my news! I'll post an update about the trip soon :) )

Perhaps you have heard of the greatest unsolved problem in all of history. It is of course the problem of iTunes not being able to create playlist folders on an iPod when manually managing music. I've reported on this issue before, and I'm sad to see that there's no sign of any solution from Apple yet, proving to me once more that Apple is evil and disgusting and we should all stop buying their overpriced products, even though their products are stylish and great and even though I actually like some of them.

Anyway, back to the stupid playlist issue. I came across this thread which offered a (rather nasty) solution to the problem:

1 - Sync with itunes 2 - Make the folders in iTunes, make as many as you can, with playlists inside (not shure if the playlists need to contain tracks, in my case there were tracks inside the playlists) 3 - Turn on 'Manualy manage music' (I did it on another computer) 4 - Hope it will work for you

Now I have ~ 300 folders, I CANNOT create new ones but I can move them, rename them, etc. It's a completely different experience. I hate having 1000 albums visible in the program which I use only for managing my iPod content. I use foobar for listening (it can play every possible music format including apple lossless)

(Note also how the Chris person in that thread is completely indoctrinated by Apple, almost unable to believe that there are actually people who don't want to do things the Apple way. Kudos to the original poster for the excellent (and very subtly sarcastic) way of handling the situation.)

Yes, it's a caveman solution, but it's still way better than Apple's solution, because they don't have any. Note that you'll have to sync with iTunes first before this will work, so you will lose all of your music if you don't have it on your PC any more. This is no problem for all of us sitting at home at our main PC, but if you're traveling and don't have access to your main collection then this might slightly piss you off. You didn't think about that, did you, Apple?

Posted in Tech | Tagged , , ,