The Sequence 🎮

Yesterday I decided to re-play a game I loved a few years ago called [The Sequence]. It is a puzzle game where you, essentially, build a machine with various component parts to move a ball (well, the game calls it a “binary cell”) from one part of the screen to another. It sounds simple, and it starts out fairly simple, but it becomes very challenging as you progress. It’s the sort of game a programmer, or anyone who enjoyed Human Resource Machine would enjoy.

Fez 🎮

I am delighted that I discovered a video game that is new to the Nintendo Switch, but not at all new to the world, called Fez. This is the game’s official blurb:

Gomez is a 2D creature living in a 2D world. Or is he? When the existence of a mysterious 3rd dimension is revealed to him, Gomez is sent out on a journey that will take him to the very end of time and space. Use your ability to navigate 3D structures from 4 distinct classic 2D perspectives.

It is a 2D puzzle platformer where your character can rotate the environment left or right 90 degrees at a time, but you always interact with the environment in two dimensions. Some of the puzzles are quite challenging, but I think that the most hidden secrets that you can get from solving the hardest puzzles are all optional to completing the game. It’s a charming game, and easily my favorite Switch game of this year so far.

The shooting likely lasted one or two minutes.

I am unsettled today by yet another mass shooting in my country. It seems like not a day goes by without a New York Times news alert about it. (I plan to turn those alerts off after I finish writing this.) This time, a gunman killed seven people, then himself. This detail about the story jumped out at me: “The shooting likely lasted one or two minutes.”

I think the news media covers mass shootings like they are exciting, like some kind of action movie where bad outcomes only happen to the extras, and the rest of us get to watch. But “one or two minutes” isn’t an action movie. It isn’t something exciting. It’s actually, really, really stupid. That such a thing is even possible, outside a war, is embarrassing and shameful to all of us. I wish it were more widely considered to be.

iPhone 13 mini could be the last ‘mini’ iPhone, says Kuo

Stephen Warwick reports in iMore:

Kuo says that next year Apple will drop the 5.4-inch model and run with two 6.1-inch models instead, one Pro, one regular.

This rumor is a prime reason I upgraded to the iPhone 12 mini early this year. I absolutely love the size and weight of it. It fits better in my hands and in my pockets than my iPhone 7 Plus ever did. However, the 12 mini’s small screen size makes it less compelling to read on, edit photos on, or watch videos on. These are all things I do pretty much every day without complaint, but if it were going to be my only portable device I would have bought one with a bigger screen.

I have no desire to go back to a larger phone, because the phone, for me, is one tool among many, rather than the center of my computing universe. It doesn’t have to be compelling, just useful. It doesn’t have to be used constantly, just when it makes the most sense to.

Some time from now, I think the smartphone, as a thing I carry around all the time, and as the default “Internet communication device,” is going to disappear and be replaced by something else: smart glasses maybe, or some kind of earpiece (when I am really old and need hearing aides).

My First NuGet Package

Last night, I published my first NuGet package: TodoTxt.Library. It is a code library meant to help develop todo.txt applications in .NET.

I wrote the code back in 2015, open-sourced it on GitHub, but otherwise left it alone because I had moved on to more macOS and iOS development by that time. This week, I upgraded the code base work on .NET 5, so that it is cross platform (rather than Windows-only, as was my original version), and figured out how to package it and upload it to NuGet, where it may have a shot at actually being used.

I filed my taxes and now I can spend my after-work time on more productive things again.

Microsoft announces Surface Laptop 4 with choice of Intel or AMD processors

Tom Warren’s article on The Verge caught my eye:

Microsoft is refreshing its Surface lineup with the Surface Laptop 4 today, which now offers the choice between AMD or Intel processors across both the 13.5- and 15-inch models. Both sizes will ship with Intel’s latest 11th Gen processors or AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series processors. Microsoft is shipping its Surface Laptop 4 on April 15th in the US, Canada, and Japan, starting at $999 for the AMD model and $1,299 for the Intel version — a $300 price gap between the pair.

If I was more of a Windows guy I would probably buy only Microsoft-brand laptops at this point. They don’t always have the best specs, but I like their designs a lot.

I spend most of my computing time using Windows for work. I try to forget that I have a Lenovo laptop by putting it behind a giant monitor and using an external keyboard and trackball to operate it. Lenovo laptops are good, I guess, as long as I don’t have to touch them. I don’t like their keyboards (both in terms of layout and feel) or the pointing devices (the trackpad is too small, and I’m done with using the trackpoint/eraserhead thing). The Surface Laptops keyboards and trackpads have always seemed a lot more sensible to me in how they are designed.

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

I’m assuming that somebody’s job, every day, is to wake up in the morning and ask Siri “When is the next Apple Event?” I’m glad I didn’t try to change careers back in 2009 or 2011 (when I thought of it) and get into tech journalism.

I spent some time tonight working on my tax filing, and some time learning how to create and publish NuGet packages. I want to package up one of my .NET libraries soon. I think it will be a fun, short project—unlike filing my taxes!

I never would have predicted that in 2021 I would be using a text-mode file manager from the 1990s, a command-line based to-do list program, and, at least sometimes (by choice!), the Vim text editor.

Tonight I published a huge update to the website for my first iOS app: SwiftoDo. What was once a one page site with a very outdated template is now a Hugo-based site full of information. There is a lot more that I could add, it is now so much better than my old site I had to publish it.

I have been up way too late for the past three nights, because I am working on a website. I bet a lot of micro-bloggers can relate. 😀

James Hoffman’s AeroPress video

Last year when I was looking for something soothing to watch on YouTube, I came across James Hoffmann’s many videos about coffee, coffee machines, coffee products, and so on. I have watched a ton of them, mostly because I like his voice and demeanor. His latest video is about the AeroPress, which I have used for many, many years. I actually learned something new from it: People use the funnel, which is meant to help put your coffee grounds into the press without making a mess, to brew coffee into cups with mouths too small for the bottom of the AeroPress. I have to try that! He also states in the video that the AeroPress is easy to make good coffee from, but is difficult to master. I actually put very little effort into my AeroPress use—far less than I used to when I first starting using it. I have found that my AeroPress brewing technique, no matter how sloppy or lazy, doesn’t seem to affect my coffee all that much. It prefer not stressing about it anymore.

Linux on the M1 Mac Mini

The Linux kernel is gaining Apple M1 support. I have been wondering if, years from now, I can move my M1 Mac Mini to a home app-server role, running Linux, when it gets too old for Xcode and stops getting macOS updates. I have a Celeron based PC doing that for me now, but it runs hot and can be noisy, too. If a machine can run Linux, it extends its lifespan considerably for me.

Relearning how to type without arrow keys

Yesterday I turned off the tap layer on my Anne Pro 2 keyboard which is basically only for using Fn, Fn2. right-Ctrl, and right Swift keys as arrow keys. (The keyboard does not have dedicated arrow keys.)

I did this because I think the tap layer causes me a lot of problems, like the cursor moving up a line when I just meant to press the Shift key for its normal function. I also think it may be contributing to double keypresses somehow, but it could also be that I am still not used to the Khial Box White switches, which have a different actuation point than the Cherry MX Blues I usually type on.

Now, I am trying to get used to typing Fn + WASD for arrow keys. It’s not too bad, but it makes some keyboard shortcuts in Visual Studio Code, like “expand selection” (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Right Arrow, which is nowFn+D) almost impossible to pull off. I even started looking into switching to Vim or a Vim-mode plugin for Visual Studio Code, so I didn’t have to use arrow keys at all. I gave up Vim pretty quickly, though. I know enough Vim to exit it (ha!) and edit config files, and that’s more than enough usage for me right now.

All in all, my typing has been more accurate since turning off the tap layer, but I have also had to think about how to use the arrow keys each time I use Fn+WASD, especially if there are other modifier keys involved. I have found myself using the mouse a lot more for text selection and navigation than I am used to, which is reminding me of how I used a Macintosh at school when I was a kid.

I both wish that I could give up coffee and that I could drink twelve cups of it a day. 🤷‍♂️

My (first) failed attempt to flash QMK on my mechanical keyboard

I wasted an hour last night trying to install QMK firmware on my work computer’s mechanical keyboard, a Durgod Taurus K320. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love that it has the best build quality, rigidity, stabilization, keycaps, and typing feel and sound of any of the many (many!) keyboards I have owned over the years. I hate that its software is buggy: so buggy that sometimes the keyboard hangs and I have to unplug it to fix it; so buggy that I have to plug it in directly to my laptop rather than through a USB hub; so buggy that that I cannot program its layers the way I want to.

Very recently, someone figured out how to run QMK firmware on it, which could resolve the stability and customizability problems I have with the board. Unfortunately, I was not able to figure out how to flash the firmware to the keyboard. The main problem I faced was that the keyboard was not recognized by the QMK Toolkit software (on Windows) even after I put the keyboard into bootloader mode, and even after I started messing with the bootloader firmware using Zadig.

After lots of tries, I couldn’t figure out. I think I dodged a bullet, though, because I’m not sure QMK can control the RGB backlighting, which, on this keyboard, is necessary to see the key legends. Fortunately, despite me trying to mess with it, my keyboard still works as well as it did before. It’s not perfect, and I really would like to create a more robust Fn (function key) layer, but I will live with it for now.

🎵 I’m listening to Gaslighter by The Chicks again today. It is one of my favorite albums of 2020. Everything is great about it, from the catchy choruses to the close harmonies to the clean production. My favorite part of it is the songwriting, which is fueled with righteous anger and makes for compelling country-pop music.

Today I discovered that there is an open-source community creating a modern GUI file manager for Windows. It’s called Files and it is OK and seems to be heading in the right direction. It is a shame that Microsoft essentially abandoned feature development for their file explorer many years ago.

We are getting ready to go to the zoo today. It will be our first post-pandemic outing as a family that isn’t to a local park. I’m looking forward to it, and think it will be safe for us because we will be outside pretty much the entire time.

Today I made the mistake to look up someone I knew while I was in high school. I was reading an article about illegal drugs, and thought about a high school friend’s younger brother who ran into some drug problems about 20 years ago. Sadly, I discovered that he died last year. I can only conjecture, but it seems, based on what else happened to him over the past few years, that drug problems led to his premature death. Learning about what happened to him made me very sad.

Apple Arcade just got a huge update of new games, including some mobile classics

As reported by Andrew Webster in The Verge:

Apple’s gaming subscription service just got a massive influx of new titles. The headliner is Fantasian — the latest release from the creator of Final Fantasy — which is joined by other titles like new versions of NBA 2K and The Oregon Trail, and World of Demons from PlatinumGames. As part of the update, the service is getting two new categories of games: Apple calls them “Timeless Classics” and “App Store Greats.”

I literally just canceled my (second) Apple Arcade free trial twelve hours before this announcement. I just can’t seem to get into Apple Arcade at all. For the most part, the reason is that I find my iPhone 12 mini to be too small to be a compelling gaming device. Secondarily, I don’t want to get into a complex, involved game on my iPhone or iPad. I prefer my mobile games to be simple things that can be jumped into and out of, more like the “Timeless Classics” that Apple is now adding to Apple Arcade. It’s too bad for Apple Arcade that I already own almost all of those games.

Fully vaccinated people may travel, CDC says

As reported by Lena H. Sun and Lori Aratani in The Washington Post:

Federal health officials gave the green light Friday for fully vaccinated people to resume travel as an estimated 100 million Americans have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and evidence mounts of the shots’ effectiveness.

That’s good news, but it doesn’t make me want to go out and travel by plane or train anytime soon.

I am fully vaccinated, but my kids are not (because, of course, there is no approved vaccine for children yet), and that dramatically limits my desire to travel, eat in indoor restaurants, or do any indoor activities in public unless they are absolutely necessary. I understand that it is probably quite safe for me to do some of these activities (provided I wear a mask, etc.), but it seems to me that doing so would still be (even more) uncomfortable and unpleasant (than it was before).

My wife and I have been talking every day about what is OK or not OK for us to do now that we are vaccinated. Despite both being vaccinated, we are still not comfortable dining in restaurants or staying in hotels (don’t even talk about flying!), but we have realized that we are way behind our friends and acquaintances in terms of risk taking. We remain concerned about our children being explored to the virus, and about the rising and “extremely high” (per The New York Times) COVID-19 risk level our county is currently at. It just doesn’t make sense for us to change our behavior that much yet—at least not until the local COVID infection numbers go down quite a bit, which won’t happen until after a lot more people get vaccinated.

⚾️ For the first time in over a year I have a baseball game on in the background as I work. I hope to get by the with MLB “free game of the day” offering this year, rather than paying to subscribe to the season package. There was no free game for the season opener yesterday, though, so I’m watching a spring training game.

Today I was very happy to find a command line todo.txt app that works on Windows.