Tech. Music. Games.

UK Election

Its shouldn’t need saying, but just in case: Don’t vote Tory, for fuck’s sake. Don’t trust me, just have a look at how piss-poorly they’re running this election campaign. Hubris, over-confidence and stupidity are not traits to be celebrated, much less voted for.


Super excited for Jeff and Giles today as Polybius gets released - available in all good PSN stores (PC version in-bound) - and also more than a little chuffed to have played a small part in the soundtrack. Mine’s probably the worst track of the bunch, so don’t let it put you off, there’s some properly good stuff in there, and all for the price of a coffee and donut.

And the Continuous Mix is dead good like, cos I did it ;D


Two months after shouting that Retro Needs To Fucking Die, I’ve forgotten all about that and backed the ZX Spectrum Next over on Kickstarter. Exactly the thing I was fucking moaning about happened, someone laser targeted my old age and wallet and made a fucking computer that looks vaguely like something I used to own, and I’ve gone and fucking bought it.

My excuse to self: “I’m going to do some programming on it”, which is the 40yo equivalent of telling my Mum that it’s “for my homework”.

But imagine, what if I did do some programming on it, and I managed to do a bit of a Lumo Demake for it? That’d be pretty fucking cool, wouldn’t it? So I’ve put it down as a company expense…


OpenSuse Tumbleweed Given the changes around Ubuntu, and the fact that I’m not a fan of Gnome Shell in the slightest, I figured it was time to have a look around for a new daily driver on my laptop. I’ve been on a Debian derivative since Crunchbang, and for the most part I’ve been sticking to LTS versions of them. There’re pluses and minuses with LTS installs: They’re stable, but they’re normally a bit of a faff to upgrade, and I’m bored of the yearly “reinstall all my apps” dance that comes with it. That’s not a show stopper, but when you’re waiting months for updated drivers, or fixes to apps, it starts to drag. I figure it’s time to go rolling…

I could go to Arch and be done with it, but I really don’t like downtime, and I REALLY can’t be arsed fixing things, especially if that means I’m sat at my computer but not coding on my own games. A bit of tinkering here and there, when I’m in the mood? OK, but day-to-day maintenance? Nah, my shit has to work. I’m old.

I’ve been eyeing-up OpenSuse Tumbleweed for the better part of a year. They make big claims about the stability of their rolling release, and I’m increasingly hearing good things about the way they’re run. So for the last two weeks I’ve been running Tumbleweed on my laptop as my daily driver. With KDE Plasma…

I’ve not used KDE since the KDE3 days, but wow, it’s lovely. Fast, tidy, well integrated, stable, and good looking even at HiDPI. I’m seriously falling in love with this desktop and I’ve only used it for a couple of weeks. All the K-Apps I’ve tried seem polished, and although a few are a bit basic, it looks like they’re all under strong, active development.

Philosophically I have leanings toward Qt anyway. After looking at GTK3 and Qt - with an eye to writing the tools for Neutrino in them - I’ve got a strong preference for the way Qt is engineered. It’s easier to grok, the code looks cleaner, and most of the tools just seem nicer. I think that shows from the quality of some of the bigger apps that are written using the toolkit.

We’ll see. Bear in mind I also backed HD-DVD because it was cheap, and fuck Sony, so you know. :D

Tumbleweed’s done a couple of snapshot updates over the last week. I’ve had more than 300 package updates, and - touches wood - no breakages. I’m on the latest kernal, I have the latest Mesa (fuck yeah!) and everything seems good.

There’s one little problem, though… As far as some commercial vendors are concerned, there is only Ubuntu, which means you’re going to get a .deb, or fuck all. I’ve managed to get around this a couple of times (Overgrive, Texture Packer) by using alien to convert the .deb to a .rpm, but Spotify? Absolutely fucked if I can get that to install.

Fortunately the bigger commercial apps that I use (Modo, Substance Painter, etc.) seem to expect people to be running RedHat, so they’re .rpm by default, but I can see that there’re going to be more things that cause me an issue over time. The fact that this is a problem AT ALL in 2017 is fucking mind-blowing to me, so here’s hoping that Flat Pack, or Snap Packages, finally put this package management shit to bed, once and for all.

That being said, Yast is as great as people say it is, by far the best package manager that I’ve run. With the Packman repos added, the amount of software I have by default is amazing.

So yeah, tentative two thumbs up for OpenSuse Tumbleweed. I will report back if I get any breakages.

Ubuntu drops Unity

It’s all over the news today, but Ubuntu has dropped Unity.

I have mixed feelings about this. For a start, I really want my phone to be a drop-in, “converged” device that I can plug into a monitor and get about my business with. It has to be the end game, or at least, everything being a thin client, will be. I really want a competitor to Android; Linux done right, so to speak.

But I can’t help looking at this news and thinking what a complete and utter waste of time the Unity desktop and Mir have been. Unity desktop has never been better than KDE or Gnome, and Mir was only ever going to dilute the miniscule focus on Linux graphics driver support that we have.

So yeah, sensible choice for a multitude of reasons, but just think about where we could have been now :(

Below Zero: 014

Spotify Playlists

I have a love hate relationship with Spotify. Don’t get me wrong, I love music, but I also love the hunt for it, the feel that you’ve uncovered some gems, and the ceremony around listening to them. For a long time Spotify didn’t even have half the music I listen to – some of us actually deviate from the big 5 labels for our jollies – so its catalogue has taken a long time to grow on me. 100 million shit songs is just a mountain of shit, not an opportunity to mine for gold. And then there’s the whole arse backward compensation to the artists issue…

But my biggest problem is that Spotify prefers to flatten the world of music into a series of dull-as-piss playlists. Order barely matters, the album is dead, the DJ mix is no more. Just piles and piles of songs, devoid of context until you shuffle them, or click through to find the album. iTunes started this trend and it’s balls, yet it can kinda work. I loved Rdo, with it’s tiny little music collection, for one reason; it’s auto-play system worked. It could offer me up a non-stop revolving selection of artists that I liked, and that had some sort of musical link to each other. I found loads of good music through that. And now I’m stuck with Spotify’s Discovery Playlist, which over the course of several months has spiralled itself to, well, fuck knows where, but certainly not somewhere I get excited to be.

So I thought I’d compound the problem and share some playlists. I’ve done a quick scan of the tracklists from a bunch of my DJ mixes and pushed them through Spotify’s API to see how many of the songs are there. Turns out to be roughly 50%, which is better than nothing.

For your background listening pleasure:

Retro Needs To Fucking Die

I’m in an especially grumpy mood over a recent kickstarter. So before I start, let me first say that I have nothing against this game, the developer, or any of the hard work he’s putting into it. I feel bad for pissing on someone’s parade, but it just happens to be an example of something I keep seeing of late, and it’s annoying the hell out of me.

What I’m grumpy about is the ever growing glut of books, games, and spin-off Spectrum hardware that’s designed to make the wallets of certain 40yo+ nerds just a little bit lighter.

“Aha! But you made a retro inspired game, you twat!”

Yes. Yes I did. And unashamedly so, but the key word is “inspired”. It’s not done with pixel art, it’s not running on an EPROM/FFPGA I ripped from my ZX80, or on a clone piece of HW I banged out of China, and it is - I hope - a game that actually moves a long forgotten genre forward. If only just a little bit. And it very much is NOT a remake of a 30 year old game. Nor was it funded by any 40 year old twats other than myself.

Lumo’s something new, which is more than I can say for a crusty spectrum knock-off with 1000 games on. Or a coffee table book of fucking “screenshots”.

I’m grumpy because the majority of the “retro” industry that’s growing up around a few companies is - and I can’t be the first to say this - shit. Properly shit. Poorly written. Craply made. For every masterpiece like Penn’s Seni book, we have 4 glossy rags of crap photos and stories I can remember from Your Spectrum.

Even worse, we now live in a time where owners of publishing companies - publishing companies that went tits btw - are now claiming some sort of fame and releasing books of “industry wisdom”, purely for having been in business 30 years ago.

Nah, this latest rush to kickstart Hyper Sentinel (a game that’s already had a failed kickstarter) just smells of rank opportunism.

I am disappoint. I am grumpy. And most especially, I am sick of people sniffing a quick buck. The industry in the 80s was unique and mad. If you want to celebrate it, there are better ways.

Below Zero: 013

Oompa Loompa

I watched the inauguration yesterday. Not something I’d normally bother with, but somehow it seemed important not to miss this one. The first thing that hit me was how much religious guff there is around the whole thing. No surprise, America’s founded on religion, but it grates to see the nation that sent a man to the moon pray to magical space fairies for strength and wisdom. Although, I guess if you’re gonna pray, the start of the Trump presidency is as good a time as any…

The second thing that hit me was how empty the bleachers and viewing areas were. Lol. Etc.

For some reason I’m beginning to feel that the US will be ok. There are a lot of very bright people there, and I have hope that they’ll become motivated once this clown gets going. In the long run, it could actually improve their democracy. A strong and motivated left could do a lot to safe guard the country from complete muppets taking it over in the future. The real question now is, how long will it take to remove Trump and his fascist regime, and how many people will suffer - or worse, die - while the white supremacist 1% are fucking everything up?