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User Journal

Journal Journal: FizzBuzz in Swift

The following is my prepared answer for anyone who asks me this stupid fucking question in any interview in the future.

extension Int
{
  func modBool(modulus: Int) -> Bool
  {
  return (self % modulus).boolValue
  }
}
 
for x in 1...100
{
  print((x.modBool(3) ? "" : "Fuck ") +
    (x.modBool(5) ? "" : "You") +
    ((x.modBool(3) && x.modBool(5)) ? "\(x)" : ""))
}

-jcr

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why libressl is stupid 2

I really want to like libressl. But it pretends to be openssl badly. They refused a patch that would have mitigated this whole RAND_egd problem by simply returning that it doesn't work when someone tries to use it, which means that you commonly need a patch to use it at all. If it's not going to work like openssl, then it shouldn't occupy the same space in the filesystem.

User Journal

Journal Journal: OMFG GNOME3 is asstacular

This is not news to most people, but I just tried it for the first time on my first-ever normal Debian Wheezy install (I've always done minimal, netinst etc. and built it up from there for a purpose) and wow, GNOME3 is amazingly horrible. It makes Unity look usable. If that was the idea, mission accomplished, I guess.

User Journal

Journal Journal: What do I have to enable now? Fucking DICE. 5

Welp, I can use Slashdot in Chrome and not in Firefox, which implies that something I'm blocking in Firefox is preventing the new improved Slashdot from working. What new spyware bullshit do I have to enable to use Slashdot now? Thanks, DICE! You'll run this place the rest of the way into the ground any day now.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Keep burning those modpoints, punk 4

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6928647&cid=49008431
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6921395&cid=49008481
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6928395&cid=49008511
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6928647&cid=49008549
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6921395&cid=49008565

User Journal

Journal Journal: Yay, I made an idiot angry! 8

Then they modded down five of my comments in a row. Why doesn't the system catch this kind of obviously abusive moderation? Oh right, because this is slashdot, not someplace with competent employees.

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6897301&cid=48979217
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6897699&cid=48979955
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6898589&cid=48984949
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6904433&cid=48985865
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=6904445&cid=48986419

If moderation on slashdot were intelligently designed, this person's abusive moderation would have been autodetected and they would have been banned from moderation permanently.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Games of the Year 2014 (and some general musings/rants)

So that's 2014 nearly over - and I found it a pretty interesting year in gaming terms. The first half of the year was pretty slow for games, with the only titles of real note until the early summer being last-generation holdouts which had missed the boat on the PS4 and Xbox One. But things picked up once the summer arrived, with some extremely good titles in the second half of the year. For me, there were three big points of interest about gaming in 2014.

First, this was the year that AAA gaming got smart and indie gaming got dumb. Yeah, that's a pretty sweeping pair of statements (and I'm sure you can find plenty of exceptions), but I think the story more or less holds up. For quite a few years now, the complaint has been that AAA games were stale, formulaic and dumbed-down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I've never quite bought that story (not every AAA game is Call of Duty), but even if there was a touch of truth to it, 2014 is the year that it went away. We've seen a lot of innovative and risky AAA titles this year; games which seek to challenge as much as they do to please. At the same time, indie gaming really does seem to have fallen into a rut. The number of "retro style pseudo-8-bit roguelikes" on the Steam store is really starting to take the piss now; so many of these games are cut from the same template and trying to prove themselves different - in exactly the same way. There have also been some outright howlers, such as Gone Home and Depression Quest, which sought to "redefine our understanding of games" or whatever, but which those of us who aren't intellectually insecure hipsters can admit weren't actually very good. Oh, and then there was Gamergate. If there's one aspect of that whole sorry saga (from which nobody emerged well) that didn't get reported widely, it was that the whole shitstorm- in-a-teacup originated in the indie gaming scene and largely stayed there. Most AAA developers quite sensibly either said nothing or put out carefully worded statements distancing themselves from the whole thing (the only sensible thing to do).

Second, the next-gen consoles have yet to prove what they are actually for. I own a PS4, an Xbox One and a Wii-U but, to be quite honest, I'm still not 100% sure why. Don't get me wrong, the PS4 and Xb-One are nice enough machines and, as games consoles (but definitely not yet as media players) they are a big step up on their predecessors. But with almost all multi-platform games coming out on PC these days (and PC versions almost inevitably being technically superior), it's hard to justify buying an (often much more expensive) console version. Single-platform exclusives have become few and far between and some of those have underwhelmed. And then there's the Wii-U, which must now surely be dead in every meaningful sense of the word. Never a great console to begin with, its releases have slowed to a crawl of almost entirely single-style platform-exclusives (fine if you like said style, not so fine if you don't - and I don't). Bayonetta 2 is fun, sure, but one game cannot justify a platform's existence. I think I've done a much larger proportion of my gaming on PC in 2014 than in any year since 2001 (the year I first got a console and became a multi-platform gamer).

And third, the industry really needs to get serious about quality assurance for big releases. It's not unusual to have one or two big releases in any given year which are horribly buggy at launch - but in 2014 it has been far more than one or two major titles which have ranged from the "unpleasant to play" to the "downright unplayable" at launch. Some of the games in question have been patched and have gone on to be very good - but that doesn't justify unfinished products being pushed out the door. It can't be coincidence that many of these games came out in the pre-Christmas rush. Yet another sign that the annual death march to get games released in that holiday window does nobody (developers, publishers or customers) any favours at all.

Anyway, with that out of the way, on to my top 10 games of 2014 (excluding remakes, ports, expansions and DLCs), in descending order:

10) Bayonetta 2 - (Wii-U) - The only game on the Wii-U that I've actually liked this year. It's basically more of the same from the first game, but that's no bad thing at all. Stylish, fast-paced precision brawling, with a decent upgrade system and lots of optional stuff to do along the way. Could do without the irritating kid, though. Would be interesting to see what this would have looked like on more capable hardware, though as the game wouldn't have happened without Nintendo's cash, I guess we can't complain.

9) South Park - The Stick of Truth - - (PC, also 360 and PS3) I confess I hadn't realised that South Park was still airing. I used to love the show - about a decade ago - but fell out of the habit of watching it. So this was a pleasant surprise. A remarkably well-done semi-open-world RPG, whose humour is far more "hit" than "miss". Gave me possibly the only boss battle ever which I've had to pause because I was laughing too hard to play. It's short for an RPG, probably because the developers knew that their gameplay mechanics weren't deep enough to support a longer game, but nevertheless provides good value for money.

8) Danganronpa - Trigger Happy Havoc - - (Vita) I'm not normally the biggest fan of visual novels, but this strange game nevertheless kept me glued to the Vita's screen for longer than anything else bar Persona 4 has managed. It's not even quite a proper visual novel. You spend a lot of time walking around in 3d-exploration mode and some of the key conversations depend as much on rhythm game mechanics as on dialogue choices. There's nothing else really like it (other than its sequel, I guess, which I own but haven't played yet).

7) Far Cry 4 - (PC, also PS4, Xb-One, PS3 and 360) - Basically Far Cry 3 done a bit better in every respect. Intelligent open-world shooter which looks and feels right in so many respects. The over-the-top animal life makes for much hilarity. Plot strikes an interesting balance between "thoughtful", "uncomfortable" and "YAY EXPLOSIONS". Some have reported stuttering issues with the PC version, but I seem to have dodged them.

6) Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor - - (PC, also PS4 and Xb-One, with greatly diminished versions on PS3 and 360) - One of those risky, intelligent AAA games I was talking about above. A smart, well executed open-world game that takes on Assassin's Creed on its own turf and kicks its arse (having combat that isn't a painful chore helps immensely). Widely dismissed as a gimmick when first announced, the Nemesis System really is a game-changer, which does a fantastic job of putting a human (well, orcish) face onto procedural content. Also the game that convinced me to upgrade my graphics card - the visuals are seriously impressive if you have the hardware to do it justice.

5) Forza Horizon 2 - (Xb-One) - Goes a long way to restore the reputation of the Forza brand after the disappointing (though eventually patched to the point of bearability) Forza 5. Beautifully put together open-world driving game, which wisely pares back the dudebro trimmings of its predecessor in favour of a purer driving experience. I've slightly mixed feelings about the off-road races (which feel less polished than the on-road equivalents), but overall, this is pretty awesome.

4) Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns - (PS3, also 360 and PC soon) - Ok, this one is going to need a bit of explanation. See, Final Fantasy XIII was a pretty bad game. The gameplay was shallow and repetitive, the characters were thin and, after a promising start, the story wrote itself into a corner and ended up being resolved with a cheap and cheaty deus ex machina. Final Fantasy XIII-2 was somewhat better. The plot was still mostly incomprehensible and the characters were still shallow (though at least a bit more upbeat), but there was some semblance of gameplay this time. And then Lightning Returns comes along.

Lightning Returns is a very different beast to its predecessors; as much action/adventure game as RPG (Dark Souls features heavily in its inspirations), and with the entire game subject to a constantly-ticking countdown clock to the end of the world (and the game). If there's one big problem with Lightning Returns, it is that you really do need to have played both of its predecessors (the first of which is a chore). Other than that, I found this a really powerful game that left a strong impression on me. The characters suffer slightly from being imported from those predecessors, but they're only really there as foils for the plot and themes anyway.

Because what Lightning Returns really wants to do is provide an outside perspective and commentary on fundamentalist Christian salvation theology. This is the Book of Revelations with chocobos (or the Left Behind series for non-Christians), where Lightning (as a thinly-veiled Christ-figure, very much bringing not peace but the sword) returns to a dying world in its final days to lead souls to salvation, acting ostensibly in accordance with the will of an Abrahamic god who combines all the harshest elements of the Old and New Testament versions. It's very much the outside view and has some wild tonal inconsistencies - you can dress your Jesus-substitute up as a bikini-clad catgirl if you want - but it is smart and does work in a curiously powerful way. Not necessarily and easy or fun game to play (the ticking clock makes it intensely stressful), but definitely one of the most striking of the year.

3) Dragon Age: Inquisition - (PC, also PS4, PS3, Xb-One and 360) - Feels a bit risky putting a Bioware game that I haven't actually finished yet at number 3, after the clusterfuck that was the Mass Effect 3 ending, but I'm at around the 20 hour point and the game has already done enough to earn its spot. Effectively a grand apology for Dragon Age 2, this is a vast, deep and sprawling game. With its large wilderness areas and well-hidden sidequests, it feels somewhat like a hybrid of World of Warcraft with the original Baldur's Gate. Bioware definitely seem to be back on form.

2) Wolfenstein: The New Order - (PC, also PS4, PS3, Xb-One and 360) - After the really disappointing reboot a few years ago, I had low expectations for this. Fortunately, it defied them and is one of my favorite games of the year. Very much a traditional (and intelligent) shooter, with non-linear maps, no regenerating health or two-weapon limits and actual tactical decisions to make, this is a fantastic antidote to years of bland, generic spunkgargleweewee. The plot is also much better than I'd expected - don't expect Schindler's List so much as Inglorious Bastards - and manages to go some uncomfortable places without ever feeling either po-faced or crass.

1) Alien: Isolation - (PC, also PS4, PS3, XB-One and 360) - Despite many other very good games this year, this was the only real candidate for my top pick. For many years, mainstream survival horror games have become more and more action focussed; Resident Evil became a shooter series, Dead Space was always a shooter series to begin with and only the low-budget indie sector was producing actually scary games (and having to do so on a shoestring). Isolation takes smart survival horror, in which the player is a perpetually frightened and disempowered entity, and throws a huge budget at it, with spectacular results. This isn't a game that's been designed to go down the easy route to audience-pleasing; it's brutally difficult, requires constant thought and planning ahead and viciously punishes almost every "normal" fps behaviour. It's also, largely thanks to the amazing AI powering the alien (as well as the visual designs which emphasise the alien's sheer physical power and horror) an intensely scary game. Just as South Park was the first game I've ever had to pause because I was laughing too hard to play, so Alien: Isolation is the first game I've ever had to take a 30 minute break from because I was too scared to press on. And to top it all off, rather than putting together a simple 6 hour campaign and being content to run quickly through a bag of tricks without outstaying its welcome, the game actually includes a massive and well-plotted 15-ish hour campaign, which can be extended further through Metroidvania-style exploration. Astounding stuff.

And now, in alphabetical order, the games I liked this year but which, for one reason or another, don't make the cut for the top 10:

Akiba's Trip - Undead and Undressed - (PS4, also PS3 and Vita) - Oh dear, the game that puts the "guilty" in "guilty pleasure". Technically, it's a complete mess; areas can be run across in just a few seconds, with interminable loading screens between them, the graphics would just about have passed muster in a PS2 launch title and the less said about the animation the better. I did triy the PS3 version, but it's unplayable due to NPC pop-in issues that make fighting quest NPCs a nightmare and framerates that drop to low single figures during combat. The PS4 version remedies these issues, though not some of the lesser ones (and is still butt-ugly). Get past those, however - and past the fact that this is a game about pulling peoples' clothes off in public and the game becomes curiously likeable. Its rendition of Tokyo's Akiba district is painstakingly detailed and feels like a real labour of love, the dialogue can be hilarious in places (thanks in part to a fantastic English translation) and even the combat system is deeper than it first appears.

Among the Sleep - (PC) In a generally poor year for indie gaming, this stood out as one of the few bright spots for me. Short but well-put together psychological horror game, with a unique perspective-character. Charming and scary in equal measures.

Atelier Escha and Logy - (PS3) - This series is basically a big JRPG comfort blanket; cute, upbeat, slightly grindy, never too taxing. The latest installment neither disappoints nor pushes the envelope particularly. Its anime adaptation was better than expected to boot.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - (PC, also PS4, PS3, XB-One and 360) - This year's crop of spunkgargleweewee is one of the better vintages. That said, after Ghosts, even a blank screen would have been an improvement. Still, Advanced Warfare benefits from having some fairly snazzy technology under the hood, as well as a focus on faster-paced free-flowing gunplay, at the expense of the cover-based mechanics that usually dominate the series. The story is a pile of arse on a stick as usual, but is at least less offensive than some other installments in the series.

Civilisation: Beyond Earth - (PC) Atmospheric (though ultimately perhaps slightly short-lived) "sequel" to Civilisation V. Makes an enjoyable change of pace from its predecessor, though the mechanics start to get a bit thin rather faster than I would have liked.

Dark Souls 2 - (PC, also 360 and PS3, PS4 and XB-One coming next year) - Ooooh, so conflicted. Almost put this in the "disappointing category". It's not a patch on the first Dark Souls. For the most part, it is content to be a simple (and slightly flat) retread of its predecessor. Where it does depart from the older formula, for example through its health penatly on death, all of its changes are for the worst. In addition, the best content is locked away in paid DLCs, which is a pretty shitty practice. On the other hand, it is still miles better than most other games.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls - (PC, also PS4, PS3, XB-One and 360) - I played Diablo 3 at launch (in the rare intervals where I could connect to battle.net) and really didn't like it. I did a playthrough of the campaign and then stopped. Coming back to the game for its expansion, I was gobsmacked by just how much it has been improved since then. The loot system works now. There is an actual end-game now. A totally different, and much better experience. Plus the expansion content is good as well.

Divinity: Original Sin - (PC) - I'm still not all that far into this, because to be honest, I find it a bit intimidating. Still, it's an amazingly well put together traditional RPG, in the mould of Ultima VII and the original Baldur's Gate. More games like this would be no bad thing.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD - (PS3 and Vita, PS4 coming next year) - Remastered version of one of my favorite installments in the Final Fantasy series, plus the generally- underrated Final Fantasy X-2. Not much more to say about it, really.

Goat Simulator - (PC) - Because who doesn't want to be a goat and run around messing shit up?

Halo - The Master Chief Collection - (XB-One) - Another one I'm conflicted on. Historically, I don't much like the Halo series. In fact, I hold it directly responsible for some appalling tropes that ruined fpses for the better part of a decade (2 weapon limits, regenerating health, checkpoint-only saves). However, there's no denying that this is an interesting package and a well presented slice of gaming history. I gather it has some issues with its online modes, but the chances of me playing a Halo game online are only slightly higher than those of me playing a Call of Duty online (ie. practically non-existant).

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F Second - (PS3, also Vita) - Highly polished, immensely difficult but surprisingly deep rhythm game. Probably represents the state of the art within its genre outside of the arcades at the moment. To be honest, it's kinda worth playing just for the fact they use Ievan Polkka for the tutorial song.

Hyperdimension Neptunia: Rebirth - (Vita) Possibly the worst game released for the PS3 gets totally remade into a... fairly good Vita RPG. Seriously, the improvement is shocking. It does help that the TV series actually got me to like the characters.

Infamous: Second Son - (PS4) - I might be going a bit soft on this - there's no denying it had some serious flaws. It was also, however, something passable to play on the PS4 during what has, frankly, been a slow year for the console as far as I'm concerned (most of its best games also being on PC).

Lords of the Fallen - (PC, also PS4 and XB-One) - A fairly mechanical attempt at making a Dark Souls contender, which slightly misses the whole point in a number of ways and falls short of both Dark Souls and its (inferior) sequel. It is still, however, a decent and generously-sized game, which goes some interesting places with its visuals. Wins a secondary award for "most irritating use of AlienFX lighting" this year, after making my study look briefly like an 80s themed discotheque.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare - (XB-One, also PC and PS4) - I don't often play online shooters these days, but this one is curiously relaxing to play. Cute, cheerful and charming, with some surprisingly robust mechanics underpinning it.

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit - (Vita) - The best Strip Cooking-Battle Rhythm Game I've played this year.

Sunset Overdrive - (PS4) - Self-consciously silly open-world action game. In some ways, quite run of the mill, but with Insomniac at the helm, it was always going to contain some ludicrous weapons to make the gunplay stupidly enjoyable. Delivers on that front and made me chuckle once or twice as well.

Tales from the Borderlands - (PC) - A cautious recommendation, as only the first episode is available so far. However, said episode appears to nail the tone and feel of the Borderlands universe pretty much perfectly - better, in fact, than 2k Australia's "Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel" (see below).

Theatrhythm: Curtain Call - (3DS) - Definitive version of the rather-spiffy Final Fantasy music game. It's like the previous version but better. Not much else to say, really. Amusingly, when I bought this in Game (the UK's largest specialist games-retailer), a staff member called security on me and accused me of sticking a false discount sticker on the box. Happily, security had the sense to check some of the other boxes. But... Customer Service Ho!

The Banner Saga - (PC) - The other indie bright-spot of the year. Wonderfully atmospheric (and occasionally punishingly hard) norse themed game. Gets a bit grindy in the later stages and I must object to the name. Everybody knows that "saga" refers to candy-matching games, not to vikings and giants and shit.

The Last of Us (Remastered) - (PS4) - I didn't like the PS3 version. In fact, I found it nigh on unplayable, due to its catastrophic levels of input lag. The PS4 version almost entirely fixes that and maintains the framerate at a silky 60fps, meaning that I could finally enjoy the game as it was intended. And yes, it's very good. I still don't quite find it the masterpiece that some people seemed to, but I did really enjoy this version.

Valkyria Chronicles - (PC) - Thank GOD this got a PC release. Of all the games of the PS3 generation that need to be preserved for posterity, this ranks top of the list. It's probably the best game ever released on the PS3 and now it's available on PC. And the port is actually pretty decent as well!

Xenonauts - (PC) - I played this through early access, but it had its 1.0 release this year. It's basically a rebuild of the original X-Com on modern technology. It improves the UI and adds higher resolution graphics and a few small pieces of streamlining, but at heart, it is the old X-Com, warts and all. Interesting counterpoint to the (excellent) Firaxis re-imagining.

And now the disappointments; the games which were either poor, or which might have been quite good but nevertheless fell far short of expectations:

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel - (PC, also PS3 and 360) - Sits alongside Dark Souls 2 in the camp of "disappointing follow-ups to my previous games of the year", eccept this one is worse.. Basically feels like an expansion pack for Borderlands 2. Except it's full price. And some of the level design is really, really bad. And the new NPCs don't particularly shine. And none of the new playable characters seem to be adding all that much. And it's buggy as hell.

Destiny - (PS4, also XB-One, PS3 and 360) - The supposed saviour of console gaming turns out to be... a flat, dull and soulless fps/rpg hybrid, which does a really bad job of incorporating basic MMO mechanics. At heart, the game is basically an always-online version of Borderlands 2 - only with less humour, worse area and mission design and weaker gunplay.

Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection - (Vita) - We finally get an idol game in the West, but it turns out that its game mechanics are so pared back that it's basically little more than a visual novel. Disappointing - I had curiously high hopes for this one. Can we have a Western release for IM@S2 now please?

Mario Kart 8 - (Wii-U) - Slightly better than Mario Kart Wii, which I hated, but doesn't solve the problem of having just too many racers and too many weapons on the track at the same time. Driving and skill once again take a back-seat to the slot-machine rolls on weapons.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment - (Vita) - The immensely popular and sometimes-entertaining anime series gets turned into a fairly sloppy by-the-numbers action RPG. Could have been so much better, but crippled by a lack of ambition around its gameplay and plot.

Super Smash Brothers - (Wii-U, also 3DS) - Takes away the story mode (by far my favorite part of Brawl) and crams too many characters onto the screen at a single time. Brawl was my favorite first-party game on the Wii. This, on the other hand, is just disappointing.

The Evil Within - (PC, also PS4 and XB-One) - Given its pedigree, this should have been much better. The opening level is promising, but the game quickly becomes "just another slightly dark action game". Had the horrible misfortune to launch almost simultaneous with Alien: Isolation.

And now for the obligatory bad games. Just two this year, thankfully - from very different ends of the commercial spectrum:

Gone Home - (PC) - I'm not going to try and argue it isn't a game. Rather, I'm just going to state that it's a very, very bad game. Walk around an empty house uncovering tedious domestic drama. Get undergraduate-level identity politics rammed down your throat. The entirely irrelevant and unnecessary survival horror trappings kept me hoping that maybe Pyramid Head was about to jump out and start cutting shit up, or that maybe the alien would drop down from the ceiling and do the whole face bitey thing. Even that zombie shark from the first Resident Evil would have done nicely. But no, it's just a very, very dull walking simulator. It's not big, it's not clever, it's just annoying. Please go away.

Watch;Dogs - (PC, also PS4, PS3, XB-One and 360) - A total mess of a game. Barely playable through the thick layer of technical glitches and bugs (I gather Assassin's Creed Unity was the same, but I'm not spending money on that). Even when it does work, it hardly seems worth it. The plot is nonsensical and it has the least interesting open world ever created. The sad thing is, there are one or two moments during the actual story missions when you can see glimpses of a better game, buried deep and struggling to get out. A smaller, more linear mission based game, with development resources diverted onto resolving technical issues and getting the whole thing to actually make sense, might have been pretty good. As it is, this is just a catastrophe.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Three years after Steve died... 1

I don't think I've written this down anywhere before, so here's my story about the first time I had a face-to-face conversation with Steve Jobs.

I was working for Richard Kerris in Apple Worldwide Developer Relations, on a group called the SWAT team. I was the Cocoa expert on that team, and I had colleagues who had expertise in UNIX internals, Windows development, and the Metrowerks tools.

Our role was to help third-party developers bring their products to Mac OS X, whether they were coming from Windows, Solaris, Mac OS 9, etc. We would look over their code, and consult with them on how to go about porting and/or rewriting their products for the new platform.

I went to Fred Anderson's retirement party which was held at Cafe Macs in Building four of the Infinite Loop campus. I saw Steve there, and I went over to introduce myself. I said "Hi Steve, I'm John Randolph. You may or may not recognize my name, but I used to flame you from time to time before I worked here." He asked me "Why did you stop?" I told him "Well, I work here now, and I respect the chain of command."

At the time we had this conversation, there was a big fight going on between the foot-dragging laggards who wanted to keep using the old Mac Toolbox API (which had been cleaned up considerably and put into a framework we called "Carbon"), and those of us who wanted to get everyone using the NeXTStep-derived "Cocoa" frameworks,

At the previous WWDC, Steve had started the keynote with a bit of theater: a coffin had risen up through a trap door on the stage, in the midst of a cloud of dry ice fog. Steve had opened the coffin to show a big Mac OS 9 box, and he praised OS 9 in a eulogy, to make the point that Apple developers should consider it dead and gone.

So getting back to our conversation.. I told Steve what I was doing on Richard's team, and I said "I know that you can't do this politically, but I wish you could have another coffin on the stage at the next WWDC...." and he said: "With Carbon in it?"

He was grinning. At that point, I realized that I could quit worrying about where Apple's development environment was heading. Steve knew what we needed to do, and in the years that followed, Apple has kept the best of NeXT's technology, and let go of what we didn't need.

We miss you Steve, but we're doing fine. Thanks for the things you made happen.

-jcr

User Journal

Journal Journal: CthulhuCoin! 2

So this is a thing. It inspired me to write this:

Day 1: A "git clone git@github.com:thegreatoldone/offerings.git", "make -f makefile/unix" and I'm off generating Cthulhu Offerings cryptocoins!

Day 2: I managed to find a couple optimizations. It's almost as if the code is speaking to me! Also, switched to clang 5.1 and got an extra 8% performance boost with the LLVM toolchain. Awesome!

Day 4: My cryptocurrency generation is going quite well! I'm hoping to have enough to pay my tuition at Miskatonic University by the fall term.

Day 9: A quiet scraping noise seems to be coming from one of my hard drives. I should maybe have sprung for SSDs to save my coins.

Day 12: I awoke with a fever in the night, and the scraping noise has transformed into a frightful howling. Though the console monitor is off, strange non-Euclidean symbols reveal themselves from time to time on the screen. What it means I cannot say.

Day 17: My fever has broken, but I can no longer tolerate the sound from my compute cluster. I have pried the cover off to diagnose the problem, and the drive array is not in there. There is only a horrific eldritch non-emptiness that sears my very soul.

Day 22: Turning, turning, falling falling, Oh! How you speak! It is so...

Day 26: vvvvvvvvvvvmggggngl;l;;m122222

NO CARRIER

User Journal

Journal Journal: The tragedy of brain-dead apparatchiki entrusted with the care of children. 6

Earlier today, I read an account of a little girl getting a severe sunburn while on a school field trip, because of an unconscionable policy prohibiting children from possessing sunscreen while at school or on school activities. I looked up the name of the spokesman who had the nerve to try to defend this policy to the press, and wrote her the following e-mail:

Miss Chancellor, you and the pinheads you serve in the Northeast Indecent School District are a tragic example of the kind of abject incompetence that pervades American public schools in the past several decades.

I would urge you to resign and pursue employment in the janitorial services industry, but youâ(TM)re obviously too goddamned stupid to be trusted with cleaning supplies.

-jcr

Well, it would appear that Miss Chancellor was offended by my criticism, and she replied thusly:

Your comments do not warrant an intelligent response. Clearly - you do not have all the facts.

Now, it's rather unusual for an apparatchik in a shitstorm to bother to respond to any of the angry e-mails they get, so naturally I have replied:

On Jun 6, 2014, at 10:26 AM, Chancellor, Aubrey wrote:

>Your comments do not warrant an intelligent response.

Since youâ(TM)re entirely incapable of an intelligent response, that just works out fine and dandy now, doesnâ(TM)t it?

>Clearly - you do not have all the facts.

The fact is that when you screw up like this, the thing to do is apologize and promise the parents, the child, and the rest of the community that it will never happen again. You donâ(TM)t double down on your idiotic policy of depriving children of sunscreen.

When children are entrusted to you by their parents, your paramount duty is to ensure their safety and well being. it is NOT to sacrifice their welfare to your psychotic need for obedience.

-jcr

More on this as it develops. Start the popcorn.

User Journal

Journal Journal: 2+ port router+asterisk server? 14

I need a new system on which to run asterisk, bonus points if I don't have to configure it from scratch. I'd like to spend less than $200 (ideally I'd pick up something used if necessary for $100) but I have storage devices available, whether CF, SD, USB, or what have you. It can have wireless, but it doesn't have to because I have a routerboard for that. I have found my pogoplugs to be unreliable at best.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Throwing in the towel on Facebook. 7

Last post to FB:

In the time since I created this Facebook account in 2006, I found a bunch of old friends, met many new ones, wasted a whole lot of time, had some arguments that never would have happened in real life, and been frequently annoyed by the business decisions FB has made.

This post will be my last. I will delete this account 48 hours from now. Those of you who want to keep in touch can reach me as always at jcr@mac.com, which I've had for at least a decade.

All's well that ends. I wish you all peace, love and happiness.

It feels like leaving high school. There are people there that I will always care about, some that I love, some that I barely know, some that I have no idea how I met in the first place or why they're in my FB friends list.

A very smart friend of mine is working on changing social media from a site and a vendor that sells the users' info to advertisers, into a protocol that would operate on a peer-to-peer basis, with strong security to ensure that what we write goes to those we wish, and no one else. I hope he succeeds, and I look forward to making a fair bit of cash shorting FB when the writing appears on the wall.

  I will thank my friends who worked on FB, and every user there who ever shared a heartwarming, interesting, inspiring, or even outrageous bit of information that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Congrats to all the FB millionaires and worker bees, I wish them all the best.

I'll still be NSResponder here on /., on StackOverflow and Twitter. The internet is still a lot bigger than Facebook, and I'll see you all around.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Reflections on the last generation's console games

We're now at the point, I think, where the Playstation 4 and Xbox One have ceased to be "next generation" consoles and become "current generation". Their predecessors aren't quite ready for retirement yet; the PS3, in particular, has a fairly impressive line-up of releases over the next few months, running all the way to Persona 5 early next year. But those late releases (and we did see a similar long-tail for the PS2 last time around) are outliers now; a by-product of the risk aversion which, following the terrible launches of the PS Vita and Wii-U, saw much of the industry assume that the PS4 and XB1 would fail even before their launches. With both consoles selling at an unprecedented rate, the focus of the industry will inevitably switch towards them.

And about time too. The previous console generation was the longest on record. If you take the longest possible metric - the launch of the Xbox 360 (Nov 2005) to the launch of the PS4 and XB1 (Nov 2013) - it was 8 years. Even if you say that the previous generation only really began properly with the launch of the PS3 (Nov 2006) it was 7 years.

But this isn't a post about the state of the console business. Rather, it's a reflection on some of the more curious aspects of the games lineup of the last-gen consoles. More specifically, it's a reflection on two particular aspects of those games; the newcomers that came out of nowhere and the no-shows.

Some of the major console gaming franchises behaved more or less as you would expect them to during the last generation. Stalwart series such as Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Mario, Zelda, Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil and God of War all put out major new installments in accordance with their developers' normal timescales (perhaps ever so slightly slower, reflecting the increasing development times needed for games). But a curiously large proportion of the biggest franchises in console gaming right now hadn't even been heard of (outside, perhaps, of the odd preview event) when the Xbox 360 first launched. The other curious category are those franchises which felt like major fixtures of the industry during the previous generation, which inexplicably failed to show up at all for the PS3, 360 or Wii.

The new entrants

Assassin's Creed - There have, to date, been six major installments in the Assassin's Creed series, plus a couple of handheld spin-offs and home-console ports of those console spin-offs. The sixth installment, as well as being released for the last-gen consoles (and PC, of course) was also a launch-window title for the PS4 and XB1. There is probably no franchise that has been milked more relentlessly over the course of the last console generation than this one. But it's easy to forget that this was a franchise that was born on that generation and which had a difficult genesis. An early-cycle game for the PS3 (Nov 2007), the original Assassin's Creed was an odd, awkward stealth game, noted at the time chiefly for its repetitive side-missions and finger-sprainingly awkward controls. It was only with the second game (November 2009), marketed more heavily and with the emphasis shifted towards open-world exploration, that the series gained a genuinely mainstream profile. Since then, the games have come at a rate of around one per year.

Dead Rising - Less prolific than Assassin's Creed in terms of main games, but nevertheless a franchise which, counting spin-offs and major DLC packs, has seen a large number of installments. The series has a curious on-off flirtation with Microsoft exclusivity. The first game, launching mid-2006, was a very early-cycle 360 exclusive. Its vast hordes of zombies served as a useful technological showcase for the new console's capabilities. The second game shed its exclusivity, releasing for PC, PS3 and 360. The third main installment in the series is an XB1 launch exclusive where - quel surprise - its vast hordes of zombies serve as a useful technological showcase for the new console's capabilities. Most people I know who've played this series have a love/hate relationship with it. They love the concept and the slightly surreal sense of humour, but hate many of the gameplay conventions (particularly the save-restrictions and the brutally unforgiving difficulty curve and time-limits).

Dead Space - Now here's a series that tends to divide opinion. It has seen three main installments over the last console generation (each releasing on PC, PS3 and 360), a lightgun rail-shooter for the Wii-U and PS3 (where it remains one of the few things worth buying a PS Move for) and a couple of dreadful downloadable puzzle games. The first game was criticised for being less horror-oriented than advertised and being at heart an action game. The second game was criticised for being less horror-oriented than advertised and being at heart an action game. The third game was criticised for being less horror-oriented than the first two installments and being at heart an action game. If you sense a pattern there, it's because the series has never really been what a lot of people wanted it to be, but memories of the older installments tend to mellow over time. The third game was also hamstrung by a pointless pay-to-win controversy (the microtransactions weren't even vaguely necessary to play the game, but put a lot of people off regardless) and allegedly suffered disappointing sales. The future of the series is uncertain at present (unlike most of the others I'm listing under this category).

Gears of War - An iconic Microsoft exclusive, every bit as linked to their platforms as Halo. This went through four major installments over the course of the last generation (though many people, self included, apparently skipped the final one - a prequel generally felt to be unnecessary). The original game, launched in November 2007, around a year after the launch of the 360, was graphically jaw-dropping compared to other console games available at the time. It's also easy to forget now just how many gameplay conventions that dominate modern shooters were pioneered by Gears of War. The cover mechanic - far more sophisciated than anything that has come before it - and the use of a single generic "action" button for many commands - have both inspired a generation of rip-offs (some of which, in fairness, have been quite good - such as Binary Domain). Some people object to the series's hypermasculine aesthetic, but I've always suspected a strong touch of parody to it.

Hyperdimension Neptunia - Oh I have such a love/hate relationship with this series. The first game, a mid-cycle PS3 exclusive launching in 2010, deserves to be counted as among the worst games of its generation. Pushing graphics that would have disgraced a PS1 game on at framerates that were generally in the single-figures and possessed of a fundamentally broken battle system, a non-existent plot and humour that failed to work on every level, it was utterly terrible. Inexplicably, it got a sequel. And the sequel was a bit better. And then it got another sequel, which was significantly better. And then it got an anime-spinoff, which was genuinely amusing and actually pretty good in a braindead sort of way. And then it started getting hand-held spinoffs and remakes. And, for some reason, I keep buying them. And horribly, with the exception of the first game, I actually quite enjoy them. Yeah...

Mass Effect - Originally a 360 exclusive, this was one of the most exciting early-cycle titles. A swashbuckling sci-fi adventure from Bioware, based on their own IP, it was always inevitable that sequels would follow. A confident, ethically nuanced second game boded well. But then the third game happened. With its combination of clunky exposition, magical deus ex machinas and probably the worst ending ever written, it did a lot of harm to the franchise's reputation. A fourth game is apparently in development, but details are sparse.

Modern Warfare - Ok, ok, Call of Duty as a franchise predates this console generation. The inexplicably popular PC original (a dumbed down version of Medal of Honour) dates from 2003 and the second game in the series was a 360 launch-title in 2005. However, the Call of Duty we are burdened with today, which has had more installments than should exist in a sane world essentially traces its origins to 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Now Call of Duty 4 was an excellent game. Early modern-era-setting shooters had either been ludicrous cartoony affairs (Soldier of Fortune) or dry, dusty technical jobs (SWAT, anything Tom Clancy branded). Call of Duty 4, by contrast, was slickly produced, fast paced and had a plot which managed to walk a careful line between the requirements of taste and excitement. That it had some of the cleanest, sharpest shooter mechanics around also didn't hurt. Almost immediately, the series began to descent into accidental self-parody with its sequels and inspired a staggering number of hateful spunkgargleweewee rip-offs (the rebooted Medal of Honour series possibly the worst offenders). I had hoped that Spec Ops: The Line, an excellent and thoughtful deconstruction of the genre might kill it off, but sadly that hasn't happened. There are some signs that the cow might have been over-milked - last year's Call of Duty: Ghosts - had generally poor reviews and managed only staggering - rather than stupendous - sales. But this is one series that's not going anywhere soon. As much as we might like it to.

Resistance - The original Resistance: Fall of Man was a PS3 launch title and was, for a long time, the only thing worth playing on the system. A strange but wonderful game, combining a somber tone and setting with some of the most inventive weapon and enemy designs ever seen in a shooter. Its sequel took a more cautious approach, borrowing hateful 2-weapon limits and regeneration health from Halo. The third installment, however, went back to its roots and remains, to my mind, the best console shooter of the last generation. After a poorly-received Vita port, the future of the series is unclear. Sadly, it never seems to have had the same kind of traction as the Killzone series, despite Killzone being far duller to play and having a loathesome setting and chatacters.

Souls - By which I mean Demon's Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. When Demon's Souls launched in 2009, it attracted very little notice (a belated US release and a very belated European release didn't help). An odd - and extremely difficult - dark third person action RPG, it was well outside the spectrum of what people expected to see coming out of Japan. However, it got a cult following and managed to get a sequel. And somehow that sequel managed to get some proper marketing behind it - and went on to become one of the best games - and most unexpected successes - of its generation, inspiring another sequel in the process.

Uncharted - Launching in late 2007, the first Uncharted game was an early-cycle PS3 exclusive, arriving at a time when the platform was desperately starved for games. Inspired by Tomb Raider, it combined combat with environmental puzzles and exploration. While the original game was a fairly low-key release, the marketing machine swung into overdrive for its sequels. These abandoned much of the exploration and problem-solving gameplay of the original, becoming pretty-but-shallow corridor-shooters. A spinoff for the Vita Launch brought the series back in a more thoughtful direction. The jury is still out on which direction future installments might take.

The Nearly But Not Quites - For all the successful new mega-franchises that came out of the last generation, there were also a few clear attempts to launch new brands that never quite worked out. In some cases, this was due to insufficient quality (such as The Force Unleashed, which crashed and burned after its second game, taking quality Star Wars game development with it). In other cases, however, genuinely exciting games never managed the sales they deserved and promising franchises died stillborn. Bulletstorm and Vanquish both deserved sequels they never got. Perhaps the biggest crime was Sega's treatment of Valkyria Chronicles. The original - a mid-cycle PS3 exclusive, remains, for my money, the best game of its console generation. However, it had no marketing push and when it managed only "ok" sales, Sega shunted its sequels onto the PSP - a platform which was, by that time, dead outside of Japan. Indeed, "death by handheld" has been a consistent feature of Japanese gaming over the course of the last generation, which brings me neatly onto...

The No-Shows

Kingdom Hearts - Kingdom Hearts 2 was one of the last really big releases for the PS2. Launching in the window when the PS3 hype-machine was already activated, it nevertheless managed strong sales. Putting out what were probably the finest graphics ever seen on the PS2 and with finely honed action-RPG gameplay (no Zelda game has ever held a candle to Kingdom Hearts 2) it felt like a confident installment in a strong and growing franchise. A franchise which has - since then - been entirely unrepresented on the home consoles until a couple of HD-remakes came out last year. There have been handheld games. Oh, there have been so many handheld games. But they've not moved the series's main plot forward at all (instead, they've just further complicated its already ludicrous backstory) and none of them have been a patch on the ambition or quality of Kingdom Hearts 2. There is talk, now, of Kingdom Hearts 3 being in the early stages of development - but our only clue as to a release date is "2016 at the earliest, probably later.

Shin Megami Tensei - This is a series which is, in effect, an umbrella under which a number of other series sit. In the PS2 days, those all co-existed on the same platform. For the most part, they were niche-titles, but then Persona 3, a late-cycle PS2 game, found genuine mainstream success with its blend of dungeon crawling and relationship building. Persona 4, an ultra-late-cycle game that was arguably the last release for the PS2 actually worth playing, managed to better its predecessor. The future for the series looked bright on the home consoles. But since then, nothing but handheld titles - mostly for the DS, indeed - as Atlus took fright at PS3 development costs and ran screaming to a handheld comfort zone. A very solid remake of Persona 4 remains arguably the best reason to own a Vita (a much under-appreciated platform), but it's still just a remake. Persona 5 is, of course, now announced and will be coming out next year - for the PS3. Atlus therefore look set to avoid a complete no-show on that generation - but only by arriving after everybody else had already moved on.

Starfox - You'd have thought that the Wiimote's IR-pointer and motion sensing would have made it a good fit for Starfox's rail-shooting action. Nintendo, for whatever reason, seems to disagree. In fairness, they also abused this franchise horribly on the Gamecube, where of its two installments, one was a shitty third-person platformer and the other was a shitty third-person platformer with a couple of great but blink-and-you-miss-them rail-shooter levels.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - The original game, during its window as an Xbox exclusive (a PC release eventually followed) was instrumental in building the Xbox's credibility and Microsoft's marketshare. This is the game I bought my Xbox to play - and I wasn't alone. A reasonably good (if buggy) sequel followed and further installments felt, at the start of the generation, almost inevitable. Since then, of course, Bioware moved on to work on its own IP (Mass Effect and Dragon Age) and then went down a disastrous Rabbit Hole with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Now, you could argue that The Old Republic is, despite being a MMORPG, KOTOR3. However, it's a PC exclusive and hence doesn't count for these purposes. With Star Wars game development now in the hands of EA, a high quality new KOTOR now feels a remote prospect; expect more microtransaction laden mobile games instead.

Work is the crab grass in the lawn of life. -- Schulz

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