Blog

Not Another One

In four days time Britain has yet another general election. Like many I’m sure, I’m sick and tired of vote after vote that seems to make very little difference. I’m sick and tired of referendums. Distilling complex issues into one yes or no question is not democratic especially in this day and age where politicians can lie without any consequence. There’s also no point in having them if the result is never carried out or commitments around “once in a generation” are then walked back within weeks.

I’m sick and tired of TV debates that achieve nothing and where politicians are not held to account. I’m sick and tired of leaders who can duck out of anything that looks challenging or could lead to a slip up.

However what annoys the most is the current crop of politicians in the UK. By far the worst in my lifetime, the state of the parties and their leaders gives me little choice in next weeks vote. We seem to be heading to voting for personalities rather than parties. All the parties are focussing on their leader and less on policy. They’ve always done that to a certain extent but this year more than ever. First past the post doesn’t help. We really need to move to some form of proportional representation to better balance the views across the country.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I won’t be voting Tory on Thursday, for much the same reasons that I won’t be spending the day kicking children and pensioners into traffic

Frankie Boyle

Frankie Boyle’s Election Countdown whilst funny makes for depressing reading but I agree wholeheartedly on his rule’s for voting Tory. Britain is broken right now. We shouldn’t need food banks. We need to fund education and health properly. Universal credit doesn’t work. We need to reverse the last 9 years. We need to hold current parties to account for their leadership. It still amazes me that the SNP get a free run in Scotland despite the mess of education and the NHS. I lie though – until independence is delivered they’ve pretty much got 50% of the vote. Like Trump, they could literally do anything and their supporters will still vote for them.

While I don’t like Corbyn and think he’s one of the worst leaders in decades I’ll be voting for Labour on Thursday. They are offering a radical alternative to todays ill’s and while I don’t agree with all their policies they better align with my moral compass than any other party.

Despite opinion polls I can only hope that tactical voting and the many campaigns online switching your vote will deliver, if not a Labour majority, a chance that they could lead a minority government. If not then Labour and Libdem’s need to hang their head in shame at this missed opportunity to work more smartly and seize power. Come the morning of Friday the 13th I can only hope we are in a better place. The fear is that there are more like this guy who will do whatever it takes to deliver Brexit and vote against a fairer society.

Weekly Digest for Sunday 1st December

Hard to believe it’s not just the last month of the year, but the last of this decade. Winter has set in Glasgow and the last couple of days have been really cold. If we do have a cold spell it will really impact the election which is now next week. One of our most important votes could be greatly influenced by the weather. Sigh.

Fact checkers

This election more than ever depends on fact checking services. Every party says they are right, the others are wrong and there facts and figures are correct. The tories rebranding their own twitter account during a leaders head to head was a new low. Quite rightly there was outrage and Twitter themselves gave them a yellow card. I was amazed at first but then they got away with it, talked themselves out of it and people generally shrugged their shoulders. Wow. Now Google have banned 8 conservative adverts. Our campaigning is getting dirtier.

Hate Speech and Fakes

One of the biggest distributors of “fake news” is Facebook. Unlike others they are refusing to police political adverts. Step forward Sacha Baron Cohen who delivered a withering speech this week on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s “bullshit” arguments against regulating his platform. It’s a half hour watch but its really worth your time. There’s something about comedians in the way they can deliver a message…no bullshit, no reason to not offend. Brilliant.

Annoying Noise

I find background noise at work so fecking annoying. Other’s, not so much. So I found this BBC article on background noise really interesting. I work in an open plan office and find some noises drive me up the wall. Thank goodness for AirPods. However the article breaks down the reasons why certain noises affect some more than others. I blame my introverted tendencies.

Getting Old

When do you become old? As I’m no closer to 50 than 40 (shudder) then this research says that old is over 70 and I’m in a limbo group…neither young nor middle aged. All I do know is that I’m feeling older and my pension seems a long way a way.

Streaming Wars

Not video streaming…games. Google launched Stadia 2 weeks ago and Digital Foundry have a good summary of what works and doesn’t. I tried it over the last few days via a buddy code so it wasn’t in 4K and not via a controller but I was pleasantly surprised. I played Destiny 2 in 1080p in a browser on the Mac. It was quick to launch and also didn’t need any installs. The graphics felt soft compared to Xbox One X but I was playing a full screen 1080p feed on a 5k screen so of course it wouldn’t look as sharp. The big test was control lag….and it was hard to spot any even during a multiplayer game. Not perfect but I was impressed. Not enough for me to sign up and ditch the console but a good start from Google.

Giri/Haji

Not seen this talked about much but I’ve loved Giri/Haji on BBC 2. Great cast, inventive story and even some Manga on the BBC. All episodes on iPlayer and the last episode is broadcast next week. Well worth catching if you’ve missed it so far.

Lists

It’s the end of the decade so there are many best of lists doing the rounds. This post does a great job of pulling together all the best off’s as they are published although any best of movie list that doesn’t have Mad Max:Fury Road can be ignored 😉

Weekly Digest for Sunday 17th November

Turned 46 this past week. Shit’s getting real.

Glasgow University with Dumgoyne and the hills in the background. What a morning

The Daft Prince

What drove Prince Andrew to do that interview? Emily Maitlis skewered him with ease, his PR advisor has quit yet despite the obvious lies he stands by it. What a mess.

Too Easy

Really important reporting from the New York Times on the ease with which child abuse images can spread online. Encryption protects us as internet users but also makes it easier for those that want to avoid being caught. It’s a difficult balancing act and Facebook are doing more than others. Feels like legislation will eventually have to hold tech companies to account and force them to do more. The scarier part was how search engines can be used to find these images. Surely that can be dealt with?

Who was Kenyan man who fell into London garden?

Great reporting from Sky as they investigate the case of the man who fell from a plane in London earlier this year. We take so much for granted in our day to day life’s that don’t force us into desperate acts like this.

Gaming’s next step?

Heard of FaZe clan? For non gamers probably not until the recent story of a young UK guy getting a life ban from Fortnite for cheating. This article shows how clans are evolving into YouTube, lifestyle and merchandise. Seems bizarre to me but I’m now an old man so what do I know?

The Mandalorian

Disney+ launched this last week unless you are in the UK. Having acquired the first two episodes of The Mandalorian I watched an hour of TV that feels closest to the original Star Wars than anything else since Return of the Jedi. Stunning to look at, a soundtrack thats growing on me and a good mix of action, humour and drama. A streaming service off to a strong start despite the technical difficulties. Watch it before you get spoiled. I have spoken.

The Mandalorian

Glasgow Newsagents

The Guardian profiled Will Knights sketches of Glasgow newsagents. Lovely article and I’ve shopped in many of them – Barrett’s in Byres Road was a great magazine stockist back in the day, Tabak a great wee shop and Park Dairy was my local newsagent for 30 years except it was in Gray Street not Derby Street. Details. Sadly these wee newsagents are a dying breed. You can see a lot more sketches on Knights website. Stunning work.

I Am Railing

Who’d have thought it. Sir Rod Stewart is a model railway enthusiast and his setup is epic. The detail is superb and he’s been working on it for 23 years! The best bit was he called into the Jeremy Vine show live after the host questioned how much he had built himself. Love it.

Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade launched with iOS 13 and I’ve come to the end of my free trial month. It’s been much talked about…will it change mobile gaming? Will the quality of games encourage sign-ups? Is it just Apple trying to grab another slice of service revenue?

Sayonara Wild Hearts
100 Games

Apple Arcade promised 100 games at launch but like many products Apple launch now the details were opaque. On day one there were around 70 titles and after a couple of days they added another 3-4. Since then they’ve dropped around 5 new titles every week and on Friday 8th Nov they’ve hit 100. Impressive considering the variety of titles available.

Play Anywhere

While cloud saving meant an easy shared gaming experience on iPhone and iPad Pad, Arcade extends that to Apple TV and the Mac. For some games this works well and means you can continue that favourite game wherever you are.

However the platforms can offer really different experiences. iOS is driven by touch unlike the other two. There are games like Mini Motorways that while you can play them on the Mac or Apple TV just aren’t as good and that’s purely down to the interface. Conversely Sayonara Wild Hearts shines on the Apple TV when used with a controller while on iOS it feels a different game as the touch controls are lacking.

Of course you can pair a controller with iOS and with 13 now supporting Xbox and PS4 gamepads Apple are finally taking gaming + controllers seriously, but you are more likely to pair a pad on the Apple TV and Mac.

Value

Apple Arcade costs £4.99 a month. £60 a year. One full priced digital title on Xbox or PS4 costs £60 so do you get value for money? Yes. Will I have the same opinion in 6 months time? Not so sure.

Today’s mobile games are full of in-app purchases, adverts or a grind of some sort to get more coins to unlock some special move or worse multiple in-app currencies to unlock various things. I’m looking at you Mario Kart which is so unlike a Nintendo game it hurts. Apple Arcade games guarantee no in-app purchasing. No adverts. No grinding either – just a clean experience which is far from what we see in mobile gaming today.

Value would also be questionable if Arcade was all full of the one type of game but the initial launch is packed with a variety of genres and each type has one or two hits in their category. There’s no doubt there’s a few stinkers in there. Sonic Racing is surprisingly poor and there’s a couple of other games that have been written with microtransations in mind and had them quickly stripped for Arcade.

Guildlings on Apple Arcade

The main challenge around value is how many titles keep coming to Apple Arcade? How long do existing titles stay in Arcade? Arcade’s value would diminish if Mini Motorways or Grindstone which have a lot of repeatability disappeared from the service after 9 months. While thats an unknown we are seeing great new titles like Guildlings appear more than 6 weeks after Arcade launched so I’ve a good feeling that we’ll see more enjoyable titles into the new year.

One other aspect of value is to the developers. There’s not been much said on how developers are rewarded for titles in the Arcade store. Does it depend on number of downloads? Number of plays? Paid up front? Hopefully the first developers and studios making games for Arcade are being rewarded by Apple – they’ve certainly got the money to ensure developers get what’s due but the App Store shows it’s often a race to the bottom.

The Games

All the above doesn’t matter a jot if there aren’t games worth playing. Some of my favourites so far:

  • What the Golf – You think you are getting a golf game set in weird places, instead you are getting a more anarchic version of golf that’s so much fun. Love this.
  • Assemble with Care – A short but beautiful game in which you fix objects. Reminds me of The Reassembler with James May.
  • Grindstone – First class puzzle game. Simple at first but the more you play the more complex it gets where you have to apply more strategy to get through the round. First Apple Arcade title to get an Edge 9.
  • Super Impossible Road – I loved Impossible Road and this is a deeper version of the original that first came out on the PS4 a few years ago. It’s now on iOS and it’s very good. Has a career more and multiplayer too so a lot more depth.
  • Mini Motorways – Follow up to Mini Metro swapping trains for cars. It’s got a bit more complexity and while good, I’m not enjoying it as much as Mini Metro.
  • Where Cards Fall – It’s a puzzle game but relaxing at the same time. You play a character looking back on his life so far and it does make you think about events in your life too.
  • Guildlings – Only just out but a really enjoyable RPG/puzzle game. Seemingly short again but this is Chapter One so more planned in the future.
What the Golf

There are so many that I’ve yet to try out of the 100, but also worth a shout are Sayonara Wild Hearts and Frogger in Toy Town. Frogger was previewed at an earlier Apple event and looked a bit rough but the gameplay gets quite tricky at times and the graphics are really well done.

Should you subscribe?

For me Apple Arcade is well worth the £4.99 a month it currently costs. Should there be a dearth of new titles or favourites disappear then I might have second thoughts but so far it delivers a great gaming experience thats free of adverts, in app purchases and the grinds that have killed much of the good in mobile games.

There’s a definite focus on smaller more unique games compared to AAA titles seen elsewhere but it also introduces, for me anyway, games that I might not have bought had they appeared in the normal App Store especially if the developers were forced to cram in adverts or IAP’s. I’m looking forward to seeing what other titles land over the coming months and whether Apple can keep up this strong start. The games so far have been a nice contrast to what we usually see on the App Store or on the major consoles. Well played Apple.

Weekly Digest for Sunday 3rd November

As if politics wasn’t bonkers enough it’s election time again in the UK. This will achieve nothing methinks but the next 6 weeks will be interesting. I don’t think we’ve seen as many potential new faces in Parliament in years…I just hope there aren’t any Brexit Party faces.

Autumn in Perthshire is hard to beat

30 Year Timelapse

I do love a good timelapse. Capturing 1000’s of images and assembling into a short video, or speeding up some normal speed video, is something I like to do. I often spot more this way than I would do on a normal video. However Joe DiGiovanna is going above and beyond by capturing a timelapse over 30 years. A unique idea that I hope he achieves…and I live to see!

DSLR vs iPhone

As phones have become more camera than phone the gap between “proper camera’s” and phones have narrowed. As this tour of Scotland shows it can be really hard to tell an iPhone picture now. Partly it’s down to lens improvement but it’s also the smarts that a phone add’s to a picture. In most cases multiple shots with various settings are captured when you click the shutter button capturing an image that better reflects what your eye can see. Compare that to a proper camera which will capture one image, will need to have various dials and settings changed to optimise the image and it’s no wonder the gap is disappearing. 

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ launched this past Friday. A small number of shows are available and there have been mixed reviews so far. Wired have a great write up on For All Mankind which is one of the shows launching this week. While this is the only show I have a slight interest in, it’s not enough for me to try even the free trial. I think the problem for Apple is that the shows don’t have any “must see” appeal for me. There is so much good content on at the moment that the last thing I, or anyone, needs is another streaming station. Apple have smartly given anyone buying a new device a free year of streaming. I’ll maybe give it a try next year when there’s something worth watching.

For Fracks Sake

Late Friday, just days after agreeing an election, the tories ban fracking in the UK. What bollocks. The Scottish government have long kicked fracking into touch which has drawn scorn from the tories in Scotland. Wonder what they will say now? I’m also convinced that some polling data has shown that the tories are sensitive to losing seats over this…and I’ve no doubt that if they do stay in power there will be some new piece of data or evidence to allow fracking to commence. Never trust a politician, especially Tory ones.

Some Assembly Required

Richard Parry has an amazing set of images showing the assembly of some well known tech products over the ages. This Verge interview shows how Parry puts the images together. I was convinced these were illustrations but they are photographs – stunning. The full series can be seen on Parry’s Instagram site.

Dreamcast assembly – photo by Richard Parry

Make Your Own Emoji

Ever wonder how to make your own official Emoji? Here’s a story of how Jay Peters spent two years submitting proposals for new emoji which were approved and are now available. Yawning face is one of my new emoji fav’s.

Meet Memo

Love this story on Memo. Hard work, never giving up. If only more of us could follow those rules.

Weekly Digest for Sunday 20th October

Autumn has finally hit Glasgow. Colder mornings, shorter days but some glorious colour out there. Autumn into winter is probably my favourite season so looking forward to getting out some more with the camera and drone.

Autumn has come to Glasgow.

This is also the first of my digest posts in a long time. I’ve missed doing them but I had become jaded with them, and I think part of the reason is I’d automated much of the posting and it turned into another task on the list. I missed the crafting, curation and writing each week. Instead it was an iOS shortcut plus adding a couple of lines to get the post pushed out.

So trying something a bit different with the return of these posts. Less linkage and a bit more hand cranked and aiming but not forcing myself into doing it every week. So with that, on to the links.

INEOS 1:59 Challenge

Chris mentioned this a few days before saying he’d be watching Eliud Kipchoge hopefully break the 2 hour barrier for a marathon. I’d no real intention of watching live but in retrospect, I’m so glad I did. It wasn’t just seeing Kipchoge meet his goal but the sheer joy of his fellow athletes as they realised that he’d done it. These aren’t any old athletes either – they are all world class athletes from 1500m upwards and seeing that kind of emotion from them is so rare. I don’t mind admitting to shedding a little joyful tear after he crossed the line.

Kipchoge breaks the 2 hour barrier for a marathon

Of course there’s controversy. It wasn’t a race, he had pace setters, he was protected throughout and he was wearing shoes that a few athletes have now raised concerns about. No matter…for me this is up there with Bannister and other athletic feats over the years. If you are interested in finding out more about the challenge this short documentary series is worth spending an hour on.

Gender Gap

The gender gap has been news for years and while progress has been made it’s still “a thing”. This report in the HBR breaks the data down into 6 pretty jaw dropping charts. Progress is stagnating especially in the last couple of years. One of the biggest gaps is in politics. Western Europe is leading the way thanks to smaller countries like Iceland, Nordic countries and Ireland. The real kicker is that it will be 108 years for women to see parity with men across the globe. To think I heard a colleague dismiss the gender gap as nonsense only a few weeks ago. Sigh.

Modern Science

I read this shaking my head for the most of it – Meet the wounded veteran who got a penis transplant. Not in disgust or annoyance but at the wonders of todays medical science and the impact it can have on people. Great read, probably my favourite this week.

Best Wildlife Photographs of 2019

National Geographic Have announced their best wildlife photographs of 2019. The images are stunning although my favourites isn’t the winner but the photo of 5000 penguins trying to keep warm.

Huddle

Just Delete Me

More and more people are looking to leave services like Facebook and Twitter but finding it a bit tricky. Step forward Just Delete Me. The site allows you to search for the service you want to quit and will link you to the relevant page to start your deletion. Biggest shock were some of the difficult services, looking at you Adobe, but also the ones marked as impossible. A good list of services to avoid.

Analogue Pocket

Game emulation has never been more popular. Once it was an underground scene but now thanks to Nintendo and Sony it’s a legitimate revenue stream. It’s also a big digital market on consoles thanks to remakes or just a great way to remember the glory days of Space Harrier or F-Zero. Analogue Pocket is an upcoming handheld console that not only lets you play Gameboy or Gameboy Advance cartridges but also Game Gear and Atari Lynx plus others.

Analogue Pocket – gorgeous

It’s out in 2020 for $199 and I really want one. Plus a Playdate.

Succession

My favourite show of the year was Succession. Season 2 finished on Monday and if you’ve watched it you’ll love this article at the NYT where the writer Jesse Armstrong discusses the finale. Only read once you’ve watched it as there are spoilers. The worst thing about the finale was realising it’s a year before the next series.

Need vs Want

It’s September. It’s Autumn. It’s Apple release time. Not only do we get OS update’s across the ecosystem and this year Apple really are spoiling us with multiple iOS updates in September alone (bugs!) but we get the annual launch of new iPhones.

This years updates focus on the camera and extra battery life. I’m not triggered by the three camera’s as some were but there’s no denying the bump is getting…large. However visiting the Apple Store yesterday the design certainly camouflage’s the bump better than I expected from the pictures. I also love the smoky glass on the back compared to previous years.

The camera’s though are special. The new ultra-wide is a really nice addition to the iPhone. The clarity and tones from testing in the store today were impressive. Didn’t try the video but the embed below from Andy To is so good. For a more detailed review of the camera, Austin Mann’s write up is well worth spending time on.

One other tiny change is a slightly thicker case alongside a drop of 3D Touch but coupled with a redesigned battery gives a 4 or 5 hour increase in life if you go for a Pro model. Compelling changes…and don’t forget that new Pro colour. More speed, better screen, what’s there not to like?

Love the midnight green

Well…the price for one. My iPhone X is 2 years old and was by far the most expensive phone purchase I’d made. I said at the time I’d be moving to at least a 2 year upgrade cycle so now’s the time to move to a new phone.

But the X is still doing well. Fast, good battery life and the design hasn’t really moved on since the X. Looks exactly the same from the front and sides.

So I want a new iPhone.

I don’t need a new iPhone.

And at £1200, I’ll be giving the iPhone 11 Pro a miss this year.

Need vs want.

In the past I’d upgrade yearly and enjoy those incremental, sometimes large incremental, improvements especially in years 1-5. Now the changes are smaller and not enough to see me change yearly, even every other year. I’m also surprised that both Glasgow Apple stores still have stock of the Pro models three days after launch. Mmmmm.

Need vs want.

Still very tempted…but the credit card will stay locked away for another year.

Monthly Digest?

Life
Still not sure what to do with these posts, so here’s a bumper one that has a few weeks worth of links.

Media
Leave No Trace – loved this, one of best films I’ve watched in a while
BlacKKKlansman – great story but found the film didn’t know what it was in places
First Man – well made and great acting
Widows – good film, fell a little towards the end

Links