Posted in Misc

Creativity

I'm noticing a certain pattern in my desires lately—writing, playing D&D, small forays into creating some digital art, more programming—and they all end up being outlets for me to in some form be creative and well, actually create something. This realisation doesn't come as a complete surprise since these are all things I've wanted to be good at for a long time yet kind of always felt I wasn't good enough to do, a common dilemma it feels for aspiring artists, but it still feels a bit interesting and somewhat scary to potentially start thinking of myself as a "creative type"—whatever that means in the end.

It's also putting me face to face with my difficulties with, well difficulties and the failure that will inevitably rise from those and that one has to push past. I'm noticing a certain trend in myself of getting really excited about the concept of something, spending a small amount of time getting a very rough familiarity with that concept and then the surface level knowledge within an area—recent example being digital art—and after it gets difficult and I need to start actually practicing and refining my skill I kind of give up. I get the sense that anything for which I don't notice something of a natural talent for, I subconciously categorize as too difficult and give up on it without giving myself the time to actually learn the subject at hand. Maybe it's the age old thing of "everyone wants to know a foreign language/how to play an instrument/paint but nobody wants to learn how to do those things" at work, but at the same time in the realm of actual language learning I am doing somewhat well so obviously with the right conditions the capability and persistence from my part exists I just need to figure out how to channel it into other things.

In addition to this, also touching on the subject of motivation which I've discussed in other posts, I'm finding it a bit difficult at times to actually refine the concepts and ideas when it comes to things like D&D that I am already working on and are ongoing. Now I've mentioned it before that I have often felt that I was somewhat underprepared when going into our sessions and that had caused some level of anxiety for me going into those games, and though that anxiety has definitely lessened and I'm much more eager to get back to playing I still have the problem of having some very loose ideas where it is all going to go forward yet not really taking the time and doing the research necessary to actually feed those ideas until they are more solid as well as being able to present them properly.

Now in this instance there are of course a couple of caveats, namely that overpreparing can actually be somewhat harmful since in the medium in question telling the story is a group activity and if I try to prepare and solidify and predict too many things I might end up railroading the players to an unecessary degree which I don't think is fun—I want to have the opportunity to be very surprised during our sessions too—and secondly, from the presentation standpoint, I'm actually doing well and don't need the extra pressure and anxiety I'm causing myself, even if a desire to improve isn't a bad thing either.

This all also becomes painfully obvious to me with my dream to write a novel, where I got really excited about the start, the initial concept, the rough sketch, yet I haven't even managed to actually put a paragraph on (virtual) paper yet and actually started writing. I haven't even started fleshing out those concepts, coming up with the world, the story or the goals, all I have so far is the start of a story. Now, to be fair, that is the general approach I take to e.g. these blogposts, where I have some very rough idea of what I want to write about and then flesh it all out as I go along and don't look back, but I don't think this is a sensible approach for the more longer form writing that a novel would be, possibly still appropriate for a short story or the like. Though, perhaps, why actually not? Why can't I just start writing and discover the story myself as I go along, exploring the world I am creating while I am creating it? Editing is something very doable, if at a later date something doesn't fit it can be removed or adapted, and then if nothing else it served as inspiration for what was to come. Why am I expecting myself to basically write the whole story out before actually, well, writing it? I don't really need all of those tools that generally are there to make the writing process more efficient since I'm doing it really for nobody's benefit but my own, so the pace of it all doesn't matter in the least. I mean, I do hope to actually be done with it at some point, but that still a lot longer than even the slowest writing process I could conjure up would take for the task I have in mind.

So, I guess, even in this case, the thing keeping me from even getting started is the fear of not finishing it or it not being what I hope or dream it would be, either to me or others. Yet at the same time, if I keep so vehemently refusing to take those risks and actually working on things I want to see get done, none of those things will with certainty become what I want them to become, I'm not even giving my ideas the chance to flourish if I don't execute on them. Maybe writing all of this down, once more, is a step towards actually starting to realize more of my ideas?

Misc

Fun tools as a motivator

I stumbled upon a new Youtuber recently, Sara Dietschy and while watching one of her videos where she was going over one productivity tool or another she mentioned how the tool being more fun than the one she had previously used had positively affected her efficiacy in actually using that tool which ended up resonating with me quite well since I could look back at me switching over to Ghost from WordPress and notice myself actually being much more motivated to sit down and write something in the past few weeks than I have been in a long time.

Now, to be fair, this could just be coincidence and I seem to remember there being a similar effect when I originally switched over to WordPress but it's still something that makes a lot of sense to me especially as I'm rather curious about different tools and their application in the first place which is why I tend to do these experiments like testing different browsers or operating systems.

It has also gotten me thinking about how I could use this to overcome some of those motivation problems I've discussed previously especially since it feels like at the moment I actually do have several projects I'd like to get started on but during the rare times I actually sit down to work on them my interest in actually progressing fades really quickly at the slightest hurdle. I mean, looking at the kinds of problems I'm facing this kind of "hack" feels unlikely to actually have any long lasting effects but the mere act of actually getting started on and finishing several projects might be what ends up leading to the kind of self-improvement that will result in more lasting change so it feels like a worthwile avenue to at least explore a little bit—especially, as noted, in the light of the small success I've had with it in the moment in the realm of blogging.

The problem, then becomes, actually figuring out what my pain points when starting these different projects are and how I would go about solving those or making the tools I use to create these project more fun to use, yet looking at some of the problems I'm facing the tools really aren't a problem since I do already enjoy using them to a degree, it's more the challenges I'm facing or the projects I'm embarking on that are focused on bringing perhaps a more long term sort of gratification which I'm unused to working with.

A good example of this, is I have a website for watching movies together with friends that I've built and I want to do something of a refactoring in the code and add a few features—namely short clips as previews of the movie as well as customizing the video player a bit from the standard controls provided by browsers. Yet when I got started on doing this today and yesterday I could barely get started with the whole thing before I ended up frustrated I suppose at the seeming lack of progress along with the list of tasks still ahead of me even though I had a pretty clear vision of what to do. Maybe exactly that is the problem, that once I have the vision of what to do and how to do it, the project stops being exciting and just becomes a matter of actually implementing what I've already thought out and that just feels boring and not something I want to engage with, yet I know from experience that things are rarely as straightforward as they seem and there is almost always something lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce and actually present and interesting challenge to solve.

But maybe that's the other problem, I just want the thing to work and not actually have to do the work of getting there, especially if there are hidden roadblocks on the way, and maybe the solution to both of these problems is learning to internalize and remember the joy I have felt previously when finally solving those problems so that they go from being demotivators to being motivators in the long run.

What I am also noticing, writing all of this and thinking back at it, is another factor and that is time, namely the times that I have actually set aside a block of time in order to accomplish something are the times where I have been more successful in getting those things done as opposed to the times where I somewhat spontaneously get motivated to start doing something. So it might be that all I need is to actually unplug a bit so I don't have the fear of distraction running in the back of my mind and set aside times where I decide that this is the time I try to solve this problem.

Misc

Motivation

I'm recently noticing that now that I am no longer spending my days playing RPGs since I finished Pillars of Eternity and stopped playing Pathfinder, my general mood is somewhat more down that it was in the weeks prior. It feels like it's related to my, shall we say, revelation at the end of playing those games, namely that I am still somewhat in the search of purpose to my life and now that I'm done with playing those games those feelings of aimlessness are surfacing again.

All of this then unfortunately affects other things poorly, things that I want to get done but may not necessarily feel are core to myself. Examples of this being, my recent difficulties preparing "properly" for our D&D sessions, and while that all ended up going well I still constantly have the feeling that I should be doing more. It is to be fair probably only extra pressure that I am putting on myself completely unecessarily, but it is still something that I end up thinking about.

Another thing it affects at the moment is initiating or accepting invitations to participate in activites that I do enjoy, at the moment the example being mythic+ where I at the moment would have the opportunity to participate somewhat more often but find myself having to convice myself to accept the invitation even though I know that I enjoy the activity which is a somewhat frustrating feeling. I also ended up not participating in the raid tests on 6th and 7th, though to be fair on the 6th it was more down to the servers not being available at the start but on the 7th I just needed a break from people and consequently ended up participating in neither the raidtest nor the achievement run that were planned for the day.

In the middle of all of this, I'm also considering starting my own personal NaNoWriMo, since I'm not sure I want to wait that long nor am I sure that I actually want to do it quite as intensely as the real deal, so more of a personal writing sprint or goal than actually anything to do with that event but anyway. Yet two things are somewhat hindering this, primarily as noted the feeling of lack of motivation to actually get started, which I think is then amplified through a fear that I won't make it, especially if I were to try and follow the goals of the actual event which then ends up demoralizing me before I even get started, which to be fair probably is a bigger part of the whole lacking motivation thing, fear of failure. Maybe it's all even intertwined, in that my fear of failure leads to being fearful of caring about things which leads to not having many things which are important to me which leads to me not having a force driving me forwards? If that all is the case, what are my next steps towards working to rectify this problem and how do I intend to solve it? That I do not yet know, but I think coming closer to identifying it is the first step in being able to actually solve it.

Misc

Perspective

Having recently played Pillars of Eternity 2 and following that the first part as well, the story in those games has gotten me thinking a bit since it ended up speaking to me surprisingly strongly—probably partially because I was so engrossed in the games.

Now, I’ve been somewhat nihilistic for a long time, not really believing there is some great meaning to the universe and our place within it though that doesn’t mean there aren’t causes or values I hold important or even that I don’t feel that the world would be a better place if some of those values were universal (if maybe a bit boring).

But at the same time, it has left me without any sort of driving force in my own life, without a reason to do and achieve things which has meant I’ve been left just kind of floating around without purpose which does mean it is somewhat hard to motivate myself to participate in society as well as actually having dreams and goals. This, along with recent events in the world, has left me with a lot of thinking to do along with a search for that meaning to call my own. I expect this introspection will take some time, and I’m not sure I can say I’m looking forward to it though I think it will prove quite interesting and valuable to me going forward.

Misc

Headless WordPress

So it’s been about a year since I started using WordPress instead of Hugo to publish this blog, and it’s been quite a nice experience so far. I like the editing workflow, that I’m actually reminded to certain things like specifying tags and publish date when I do press the publish button, and that I can schedule posts so I can write when I feel like writing and still end up with a somewhat regular cadence of when the posts actually end up getting shown on the site.

The sligthly less rosy part of the whole thing has unfortunately been the performance, specifically the performance for anyone else than myself since the site gets hosted locally to me. Now there are some things I’ve already done to alleviate this, like using caching in WordPress so that the pages get rendered faster and using Cloudflare in front of the site as a CDN and cache to hopefully deliver the content from a location closer to the reader but it’s still quite slow because in the end speed of light is a thing and the caches don’t last forever. Also, only the assets and not the pages themselves ended up being cacheable with the free Cloudflare plan, so the main content of the site ended up being served rather slowly anyway.

Then, at some point, I remembered looking into Ghost, which is another publishing platform which remains more focused on just the publishing part than WordPress and while looking into it again I discovered a keyword which lead me on something of an adventure: headless CMS. What this specifically means is, that the CMS part is just there for managing the content and then provides an API which a frontend of your choosing can then use in order to render out the actual site—so a greater separation of duties in a sense. Classically in publishing systems, the CMS is responsible for both the whole content management part and the presentation part but this separation of the two means one can take a static site generator like Eleventy or Gridsome, query the API of the CMS for the actual content and still generate the site statically which allows it to be deployed more easily.

Since this site is mostly just me writing for the fun of it and the more interactive parts like comments haven’t really proved that used implementing this approach for the site was something I set about exploring, and what an exploration that was. It all ended up being somewhat more complicated than I expected, partially because the WordPress REST API isn’t necessarily set up for all the functions required for this sort of thing—ended up needing to install another plugin for authentication against the API so that things like site settings could be retrieved through it, normally only the session cookie based authentication is implemented—and another problem ended up being content management since I want to then also deploy the media I might embed in posts so that they don’t end up still being queried from the WordPress server and that use-case was surprisingly unsupported in many of the static site generators I looked at, not even through plugins. Now, of course, most of them support some form of filters or mapping or the like with which I could create this functionality myself without too much trouble, but I wanted something where someone else had (hopefully) figured out the edge-cases for me so that I didn’t have to go around thinking about file I/O and the like.

This lead me to settle on Eleventy which allowed me to reach my goals with the least amount of fuss—which is kind of what it bills itself with as well, “Eleventy is a simpler static site generator”.

Once that decision was made it was a relatively simple task of configuring Eleventy to query the WordPress API in order to fetch the posts and then display them in a near identical manner to the current site, with the biggest differences being the lack of comments because the site is now static as well as removal of some of the shall we say bloat that WordPress as well as JetPack include. It’s all well-intentioned and I could remove it if I liked so this isn’t a criticism of WordPress by any means—and in the case of JetPack I even chose to include that—but it’s still nice to see the site in a somewhat leaner form than it was before.

Getting the category-pages working however, was a bit more of a struggle—mostly because I’m somewhat stubborn however (and also not that familiar with Eleventy)—because I didn’t want to end up retrieving the pages from the API twice so I needed to figure out some way of providing two different collections while only retrieving that data asynchronously once. In the end however, I just ended up retrieving the data twice since that seemed to be the way Eleventy preferred handling this usecase, and in the end it’s just text so it shouldn’t lead to all that big of a transfer anyway.

After that, I simply needed to find a plugin for WordPress that triggers a webhook when a new post gets published so that the hosting for the static site knows to rebuild, and the process is essentially complete. For this I settled on Notification since it seemed on the surface the cleanest and simplest implementation and it looked like it would likely remain supported in the future as well—always a concern when adding a new plugin.

All in all, the process wasn’t perhaps quite as straightforward as I would’ve wanted but still easy enough to get everything going after I stopped being stubborn and just used the systems that actually provided the features I wanted (Eleventy, specifically referring to the local image support) instead of considering developing plugins of my own. From what I can tell the site also feels quite a bit snappier even for me so that’s a big plus as well, hopefully it ends up serving any potential readers better as well! Regardless, it was a fun journey.

Misc

Writing regularly

It might be a bit late for a New Year’s promise, but having read a post recently of someone missing blogs and well me writing one, I’m considering trying a somewhat more regular writing cadence on here. I’m not still quite sure what that cadence might be, weekly sounds somewhat realistic, and I’m also not sure what that might do to my motivation to do so but it feels like an interesting proposition. Perhaps getting started with it could even prove to be its own motivator, seeing how good it feels when I get a decent amount of things written on here.

I also believe forming the habit of simply writing might prove useful, essentially improving my skill at committing to something since that is something I can at times have trouble with. It will also prove interesting having to more actively seek out topics to write about since that has generally been my biggest problem, which will require me to practice my creativity somewhat—that also being a skill I have not trained as much as I would perhaps like, at least in this context.

Making writing more deliberate also has another side-effect, namely training me to do it over a longer period of time and actually editing what I’ve written rather than as a “one-shot” as most of the previous posts here; me just sitting down and writing because I remember to and pressing publish at the and. The long pauses between posts lead to a mentality of “just get something out there”, which can of course happen again with a schedule if I haven’t prepared anything and that’s fine, but should be less likely to happen assuming I stick with it and actually prepare the posts in advance as is my intention at least. This more drawn-out method of writing will also allow me to think about and state my viewpoints more thoroughly on a subject since I don’t have such a stress to press the publish-button, which will hopefully lead to some longer-form content (or perhaps simply more edited content).

I am not making longer form content a hard requirement for myself though, since this remains an activity mostly driven by my desires rather than anything done for some external purpose. In that same vein, I am also hoping this more deliberate approach to the whole thing will allow me to satisfy that need on a more ongoing basis rather than merely sporadically when I remember to.

Misc

Linux

As is starting to become spring-tradition I feel, I gave switching to Linux as my primary operating system on my desktop another shot, and the results were slightly better than last time though still not quite enough to make the switch permanent. Honestly, the overall experience was rather impressive, the biggest problem is me still needing to shoehorn some Windows-things (games) into Linux, and aside from those I think I would’ve already made the switch.

As a change from last time, I tried the Liquorix kernel, which is the Linux kernel tuned to fit the interactive desktop use-case better and the difference was quite noticeable. This probably made the biggest difference in how everything felt this time around and it’s definitely something I could get used to. There was some funkiness however, as I had installed the Nvidia drivers first but once I installed the kernel I needed to install newer drivers and getting rid of those cleanly and the newer ones installed was a bit of a short pain which does also lead me to worry somewhat of the longterm stability of the system since I have had a bad experience with Arch and Nvidia drivers in the past where the kernel got updated to be newer than the drivers supported. The dangers of binary-blob drivers on Linux I suppose, which I was intending to counteract by using a more stable distro (Debian) but of course the Liquorix kernel releases follow the current kernel releases much more closely so that didn’t really end up being an advantage.

Gaming

As mentioned above, the biggest pain-point for me is still gaming, namely the Blizzard games. World of Warcraft is still my main jam at the moment, and while it isn’t impossible to get running on Linux and actually has a rather decent rating on Lutris, Battle.net was something of a pain for me to get running and then because it’s not just a game launcher but also a chat service, one that I quite heavily use, I want to have it constantly running which doesn’t always work that well and the integration into the desktop is lacking because Wine. Specifically, Battle.net has a tray icon that then gets shown to Linux as some sort of “legacy” format which isn’t supported by the newer versions of the major desktop environments (GNOME and KDE) which would mean I might need to use something more niche which I’m not that into at the moment though it might be interesting at some later point. The customisability of the interface is after all one of the strengths of Linux.

Another new pain-point was actually Epic Games Store, something I hadn’t used the last time I made this experiment but was now using primarily due to the free games they have been offering, which can contain some rather nice deals at times. This feels especially silly, since some of the games they offer—For the King as an example—do actually have a Linux version yet because I own the Epic Games Store version I can’t actually play it easily on Linux. From what I gather, Epic Games doesn’t have the best of reputations when it comes to Linux support in general, which also makes me somewhat wary of trying to run the store through Wine in case they decide to treat it as cheating or the like. The dangers of free stuff I suppose.

Streaming

Also, I never got started on streaming and getting that to work, multiple audio devices as a problem from last time.

Another more minor niggle is streaming. It really is rather minor, since I kind of know exactly how I want it all set up and what I need to do to get there, just the way there is somewhat annoying.

Basically, the big problem is that my audio setup in Windows is actually rather complicated, with four different (virtual) audio devices so that I can cleanly separate game, music, voice and desktop sounds and then only pipe some of those through to the stream. The different audio devices also more easily allow me to adjust the different audio levels for me and the stream, for example my game and music audio is rather quiet because I want to hear what’s going on in voice but as that isn’t piped to the stream most of the time I can actually turn those up a bit for them so that it isn’t all so quiet and they can enjoy the music. The game sounds are also more important to me than to the stream, so being able to adjust those separately is quite nice.

Now, all of this is rather trivially possible with Pulseaudio, which does support creating virtual audio sinks without any extra software installation as is required on Windows (though I guess what’s core and what’s not is somewhat more loosely defined on Linux than Windows, since it’s dependant on the distribution), however I want all of this to automatically be the case from the moment I log in so that I don’t have to keep readjusting my software to use the correct sinks and did unfortunately not find a good way to do this. Some sort of login script would be the obvious example but I didn’t really want to take the time to program something like that.

Then there is the case of the bots. Namely, chatbots. While a lot of the popular ones are cloud-based these days, which one would think would mean that running on Linux wouldn’t be a problem, the song request part often requires a Windows application in order to provide the currently playing song to the streaming software in the form of a simple text file. Since these seem to be mostly Electron-applications, I don’t really see the reasoning behind this other than the developers not considering Linux a big enough market in order to make the effort which does make it all a bit more of a pain for me. There are also more “pure” cloud variants like StreamElements which do have a mechanism of providing the song title through a web browser interface but unfortunately the last time I used it the song request functionality was somewhat flawed, skipping some songs completely and not doing a particularly good job of shuffling the songs.

Now I have been wanting to write my own bot for the song requests because all of them feel a bit janky in one way or the other anyway which would alleviate these concerns and allow me to use the others just for moderation, however as I haven’t done that yet it’s something of a blocker at the moment.

Finally, one major problem from last time that I didn’t end up running into this time but could rear its head again, some versions of OBS oddly enough did not include hardware acceleration (on Nvidia cards at least) for the encoding which for a single PC streaming setup like mine was a complete non-starter. This seemed to primarily depend on the distribution and not OBS itself, with some strangeness like Ubuntu 18.04 at the time having hardware acceleration but 19.04 did not. I believe at the time the flatpak also lacked hardware acceleration which if it was still the case would have been a blocker this time around as well since using an outdated version of OBS since new features tend to be rather significant in something so relatively recent as live game streaming.

Minor things

Beyond those two main problems, there were a few more minor things that I would need to figure out were I to decide on a more permanent switch but that don’t really impede my day-to-day too much. Namely:

  • OneNote
  • Development environment
  • Hardware acceleration in Firefox

OneNote

I’ve recently re-discovered OneNote for notetaking, and so far it’s actually been rather nice to use for the small amounts of notetaking that I do. It seems to sync pretty snappily between devices, has performant enough clients for the operating systems I use regularly at the moment, and mostly just gets out of the way of me writing something short that needs remembering. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there isn’t a version available for Linux, outside of potentially a web-based one, which would mean I need a replacement. At the same time, my notetaking needs at the moment are rather light, so this shouldn’t pose too much trouble but still it is something that will need consideration if I make the switch in the future.

Development environment

This one is rather easy, it’s just mostly a matter of remembering everything that’s necessary. Currently use a fair bit of web development stuff, so Node, webpack and the like, and all of that probably even runs better on Linux than it does on Windows. Similarily, I do some Go develoment, and that is probably also more intuitive to use on Linux than Windows so no problem there, and my current editor of choice, Visual Studio Code, is also available. The biggest hurdle if one can call it that would just be getting everything set up the way I like it so that the threshold to get something done when I want to is as low as possible.

Firefox hardware acceleration

So this is just one of those things that yes, it’s solvable, yes, it’s not too much work, but quite honestly it should just be standard at this point and not something I need to go hunting for how to get working properly. I get that it’s probably a hard problem to get working for the generic case and with all the open and closed source drivers, but the unecessary CPU load just shouldn’t be there when I’m watching videos or doing other browsing on more graphically intensive websites. It’s a minor thing because I know it’s fixable just didn’t get to the point of looking up exactly how, but it annoys me that it’s a thing I need to fix in the first place.

Conclusion

In the end, this time (as well) ended up being a failure, but it did give me new hope once again that some day in the not too distant future this will be an option that I can reasonably choose, since the roadblocks are becoming fewer each time and the only really big remaining one is gaming which seems to be getting better each year on Linux with more support from publishers. Even there I also have pretty big hopes concerning the future since Blizzard has already supported Mac gaming for so long it seems reasonable that they would in turn also support Linux in the not too distant future. And if even if they don’t, at some point I’m probably going to have played their games enough and find others that I want to play, so maybe that’ll be a good opportunity to narrow my search and focus on ones that have Linux as a supported platform.

The general state of the desktop and seeing how good it has gotten also makes me think that there are some other systems in the house that can be converted since they don’t have some of the requirements I do, so at the very least the knowledge gained from the experiment will prove very useful to me and here’s hoping next time around everything’s far enough along that it doesn’t just stay an experiment!

Misc

Edge

I have a tendency to want to change things up once in a while, with everything from doing small tweaks to design, regularly changing transmog ingame, and with software for some reason it seems to mostly manifest with me trying out new browsers or giving Linux yet another shot as my main operating system.

One of these recent changeups was trying out the new Edge that has been floating around for a bit since I kept hearing quite a lot of good things about it though to be fair mainly in r/sysadmin so the criteria there are quite different to the ones I have when picking a browser for myself as opposed to a organisation choosing one for their own use.

Edge Chromium is really, and my god if you search my history you’ll laugh, but it’s really damn good. Maybe the best thing Microsoft has done since whatever the last good thing I can’t think of.

/u/Just_Curious_Dude

Still, it made me curious enough to give it a try and I it did end up being a rather positive experience overall. I enjoy the look and feel of the browser, more so than Chrome, and it does have some interesting features standard like the collections. It finally being available on more platforms than only Windows meant that I could actually give it an honest try since my browsing tends to be a mix of desktop, both Windows and Mac as well as mobile and I like keeping things synced between those so that I can pick up wherever I left on regardless of device.

That, however is where I started running into some problems. The browser is still in a somewhat early state, and while core functionality is definitely there—it’s based on Chromium after all—some features like syncing are not there making things somewhat difficult for me and overall the browser a bit hard to recommend. It did however help me identify a problem with a website I was developing because it was lacking an API that was available in Firefox so that was nice.

The lack of syncing cut my testing somewhat shorter than I had planned so I’m seriously reconsidering revisiting the browser sometime in the future when things are a bit more stable, and for the moment I’m also using it as kind of a “distraction free writing browser” for the blog since I have a tendency of having a lot of tabs open and it allows me to focus on just the writing. Opening a new Firefox-window in a new desktop would go just as easily but hey. To be fair, there was also the matter of the privacy concerns as well as the overall health of the web.

“Microsoft Edge has more privacy-invading telemetry than other browsers”
Impressive given that the competition is Google.

/u/Hero_of_Shadows

Regarding the former, while I think it is an important consideration I am at the same time for now stuck using Windows as my primary operating system so a lot of that telemetry is probably already available to Microsoft meaning I’m not overly concerned about increased exposure there but it was still a consideration in ending the experiment and does mean I’m a bit more hesitant to recommend the browser in general. It does also mean that if I were to succeed in changing over to Linux at some point in the future, I would still end up bringing that baggage with me (though I believe there is as of yet no Linux-version of the browser available, so that would be a pain-point as well).

As for the latter, I’ve been poking at web development for a long time and still remember having to do special-case things for Internet Explorer which makes me somewhat worried about the current trend of Chromium-based browsers gaining such dominance since a monoculture is bad for the overall health of the web since it gives too much control over the future of it essentially to a singe entity—Google—and the only real competition, with history repeating itself, is Firefox. This means that I am very reluctant to change browsers permanently even if I do get curious about what’s out there at times.

Misc

Design

Looking back at my recent thinking about fonts as well as my general desire to poke and prod at the design of this site is making me realise that design overall something that I’m rather interested in. I mean, this is something that I’ve known to some degree before and I do already lurk on places like r/web_design so it feels somewhat obvious, but it is interesting to note how interested I actually am in making this experience and that of other projects as good as I personally can.

At the same time, I don’t really think I could do work as a designer, the idea of taking someone else’s wants and vision and turning that into a ready and useable product seems a foreign concept to me and not really something I would like to spend my days doing.

This desire to constantly iterate on the design of my personal projects was actually something of an early stumbling block when starting to test out WordPress, since I was quite used to the quick iteration cycle afforded by static site generators: since you have all the source locally and can consequently edit and then re-generate the site locally it was really easy to iterate on the design. With a CMS like WordPress in contrast, if I wanted to experiment with the design I had to set up a staging version of the site in order to do that; this problem is solved now though there is still some funkiness going on with how my staging and live environment are linked occasionally causing problems when testing things out.

At the same time, I do have experience of refining the designs of others, the current design of this website being a prime example. It’s based off of an old fansite kit provided by Blizzard, just updated a bit and brought up to a bit more modern standards with responsive elements added so that it works decently on mobile devices as well. There are some parts of it that I’m not quite sure about still, like the seemingly somewhat low contrast on the article pages themselves as well as some of the link colours, but overall it has served me well in the past year or so. So maybe working with design wouldn’t be that hopeless of a proposition after all, especially since it wouldn’t necessarily be implementing someone else’s vision but creating my own of how to use something.

Design is also overall a very interesting field, especially since it does not just compass how things look but how they work and how they are to use, these two last elements getting a lot more attention recently than they have in the past at least as far as the web is concerned. Simultaneously, there is also a lot of pretty designs going on that have poor usability and it always makes me want to improve those things and make them nicer to use; it’s also one of the main problems I tend to have when dabbling in other MMOs outside of World of Warcraft, the UI gets in the way. Honestly, one of the things I like the most about WoW, is being able to customise the UI so freely and bring the information that is important to me to the fore while blending the rest out. This also always makes it so difficult for me to understand when people hate on addons in WoW and think they are somehow cheating, all they are doing is displaying the information provided by the game in a more sensible manner—well, most of the time, and when that isn’t the case steps are generally taken to remedy that. It just seems silly to hate on a feature that is there to make the game better for the players.

Circling back to my initial point, I think I need to start poking a bit more on the site again to fix those small annoyances I have with it—hopefully with the side-effect of making it more readable in the process.

Misc

Grunt work

Looking back at my activities in recent times I find myself reaffirming my conclusion that I’m very bad at grunt work, the menial things that belong to jobs and tasks that are simply doing something, usually repetitive, that simply need to get done. The most recent example of this being when I was poking around with fonts, once I had concluded that I probably couldn’t achieve what I want and needed to start looking at potential alternatives that while still modern would at least provided the correct feel I kind of just stopped or at least progressed in fits and starts, letting myself get distracted by the smallest things so that I didn’t need to just keep doing the somewhat boring and manual task of merely scrolling through different font samples and looking for something that caught my eye.

It’s also something that features somewhat heavily in my writing about World of Warcraft I notice, any time I need to do the ancillary tasks related to getting my character ready for the primary content I want to do I tend to get frustrated and not remain overly motivated to continue to do so. I feel this approach in something that is primarily there for entertainment makes more sense than with other pursuits, but it could still be a useful skill to take with from there as it could prove quite important elsewhere.

I currently have a few of programming projects I have been meaning to start on for a while, and while I have quite a clear idea on where to go with them and almost exactly what to do I just can’t seem to get started. It feels like it’s the same problem in this case, I like the challenge of thinking something through but once it comes to the “easier” part of actually implementing it my will to do so starts to falter. I’m not sure what exactly can be done about this, and I tend to have bursts of motivation where these things go easier, but it feels like it’s something I’m currently struggling with more than perhaps is usual for me.

The amusing thing is, since I tend to like reading and learning things, I think I already am aware of the tools that could be useful in combating something like this yet for some reason I don’t seem to be implementing them. It’s a strange feeling, knowing exactly what and how to get something done yet at the same time being unable to do so.

Misc

Fonts

I stumbled upon a discussion about “90s fonts” on HN recently and since this blog has a bit of a retro theme going on as well I was quite interested and decided to do some further digging. In order to test this on my site I disabled ClearType—the brand name if you will of Microsofts font antialiasing—and set the font used to Arial and wow, that felt like pretty much the perfect combination. It had the same blocky look seen in the screenshots of the article and it just kind of felt like it fit perfectly in here.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no sane way of achieving this. If it were available, font-smooth feels like the only reasonable way to get the correct look but not only is it very much non-standard, the Firefox variant of it is only enabled on OS X making it not really fit for purpose.

Now the approach the original article ended up with was creating a new font which mimicked the rendering of that font on older versions of Windows, and while this looked quite good to me there were some problems identified in the discussion which made me feel that wouldn’t be an appropriate approach for this site. Also, from what I could tell, they didn’t make their font-files available, so that also put a bit of a damper on that thought—to be fair, I didn’t look at the source, maybe there was a simple note there with a license.

Someone mentions bitmap fonts being usable, but I didn’t really find anything to support this statement and rather more comments stating the opposite as well as the original article.

Idea #2: Importing bitmap font files
We couldn’t make vector fonts look pixelated, but could we get around this by importing authentic 90s bitmap font files instead? We had a Windows 98 disk image with all of the system fonts including MS Serif: a riff on Times New Roman in the bitmap .FON format dating back to Windows 1.x. Unfortunately, we quickly found out that CSS @font-face doesn’t work with .FON files, and none of the web-based font conversion tools that we could find would convert them to the vector formats that are usable with @font-face.

Convincing-looking 90s fonts in modern browsers

And even if they were useable there would be problems with scaling since bitmap fonts have one “native” size and anything else will not look all that good.

With all of this at hand, I concluded that there was no way for me to achieve this look in a way that would also be technically satisfying to myself so I then ended up spending some time hunting for other fonts which might satisfy my itch for a more retro look without necessarily being as authentic as this. I did find a style I find quite satisfying but in the end decided it’s probably better to leave well enough alone for now (there was also the slight matter of it being Mozilla’s core typeface, which made it feel somewhat wrong to use it). As far as I can tell the current fonts provide quite decent legibility and while they might not be retro still have a quite pleasant air about them making them nice to read.

Misc

100

It seems I’ve now hit 100 posts on this here blog, which considering the date on my first post doesn’t seem like a whole lot—the first post being dated 2015-09-01—though it is still something of a milestone. The last couple of years beginning sometime in Legion have seen a somewhat higher level of activity from me than the Warlords’ days, though I still seem to keep something of a rather relaxed pace which seems understandable since I mostly write for my own enjoyment rather than to reach any specific audience or make money.

Looking back at some of some of my older posts, the blog also serves as a nice platform for myself to think through some of the things happening in my (gaming) life which enables me to put a better perspective on things, it’s also kind of nice to be able to go back and look at how I though of certain situations at the time and then be able to reflect on how that has changed.

A perfect example of this is looking back at my switch to the Horde which I was even at the time somewhat miffed about but I think actually took better back then than now. Having played my Hunter somewhat recently has really brought back how much I actually miss being a Night Elf as strange as that may sound and the recent disappintment with no upcoming cross faction play in Shadowlands kind of made that feeling worse recently while at the time I was taking a more optimistic stance to the whole thing. Maybe the eventual introduction of more customization along with Forsaken heritage armour sometime down the line will lessen that feeling somewhat but for now it is one of my major annoyances with the game at the moment.

But I guess all of this is just a very long way of saying: an arbitrary milestone has been reached, it has been nice so far, and hopefully I’ll end up hitting the next milestone a bit sooner than this time around!

Misc

Recovery

So as noted a while back I was in the hospital and have been in recovery a good while which has lead to me not talking as much about some of the recent interesting events—namely, PTR and BlizzCon—as I would have otherwise liked.

Recovery however, has been going well and I’m slowly starting to feel like I’m in somewhat good condition again and maybe I can slowly start gaming more again.

BlizzCon

So BlizzCon this year kind of went like expected, we got a lot of new announcements and they all looked quite interesting though the apology at the start did end up feeling a bit hollow since there was no action taken alongside that apology.

Seeing more story content for Overwatch is nice, having recently actually taken the time to read some of the comics the story and the world does seem really interesting so in a way it’s something of a pity that there hasn’t been more story in-game that we could explore.

Diablo 4 seems nice, though while that is a franchise I enjoy it’s not one I’m overly invested in, getting more story to play like with Overwatch will be nice but I’m in no real hurry to get to play it.

StarCraft ended up being ignored a bit it felt like, with not much new content on the horizon though that is somewhat understandable but still a pity since StarCraft was one of my favourite games growing up though I never got into the competitive side of it.

As for the “main dish” for me at least, World of Warcraft, the announcements left me rather disappointed. There was really one primary thing that I had wanted from this expansion, and that was being able to play Night Elf again and that unfortunately got definitely denied in the Q&A they held at the end. This kind of extends to my fear with the new Covenant system, there are some really nice cosmetic effects tied into choosing a covenant however there is also player power gated behind that choice meaning I might again be “forced” to make a choice I don’t really want to make.

As for the rest of the mechanics, Blizzard seemed quite clear in pointing out that most of the systems were in very early stages with them even being unsure how loot would work and 8.3 with the corrupted gear being one of the deciding factors there which means it feels a bit early to comment on all of that, though so far aside from the concern voiced in the last paragraph regarding the covenants the systems do seem a lot better than the ones in Battle for Azeroth with the tower having the potential to be as interesting as Mythic+ was in Legion which would be nice though I am slightly skeptical of the rogue-lite nature of it since that type of game hasn’t really been my jam so far.

Public Test Realm Raid Testing

The PTR has also been out for a while and we’ve gotten to test every single boss I think, some of them even on mythic—and some of them on mythic when they weren’t supposed to be available on mythic; due to some bug on the PTR, for the first Wrathion and Ma’ut testing we were thrown into mythic instead of heroic which while a fun experience was more buggy than the PTR is usually leading to not very useful testing on our part.

As for the rest of our tests, they have gone decently well and given us a rather good feel for the bosses—except N’zoth, that fight was too buggy for us to do any real testing—which is always nice to have in preparation of the actual content. However the tuning has as usual been completely out of whack, so if we actually want to get any practice on the later phases we’ll need to focus on the tests that come shortly before release.

Still, so far the raid seems rather fun with some bosses even bringing in some rather fresh mechanics—looking at you, Prophet Skitra—which is nice to see and others bringing back very annoying mechanics, namely the Void Miasma at Drest’agath—healing people when line of sight is a major issue never really felt fun, and was one of the more annoying parts in the Queen Azshara encounter so I’m not overly thrilled to see it will probably play a major role again.

Overall though, I’m hopeful when it comes to the raid even with the Discipline nerfs coming out on the PTR and look forward to progessing it after a nice holiday break.

Misc

Hospital

So I spent the last almost two weeks in hospital, got into the ward Monday last week with the surgery scheduled for Tuesday and they deemed me fit enough to come home yesterday. It was an interesting experience, especially as someone who has generally not had many problems with her health, to spend such a significant time in hospital, completely bound to the bed for the first several day even, not being allowed to get up or move too much due to that potentially damaging the wound that was healing after the surgery. The healing is naturally still onoing, but I’m afforded a lot more movement now though sitting is still taboo.

It’s also interesting to notice that the things I expected to be problematic were really the minor things, like boredom or pain, and the much more mundane things ended up being the real problem. Case in point, as I wasn’t allowed to leave bed until Monday—almost a week after the surgery—I ended up being put on a liquid diet in order to spare my bowels a bit of work and pain. This unfortunately did not quite go as planned, and I spent the weekend with a very stuck stomach and even now though I’ve been eating solid food for the best part of a week my stomach is still catching up a bit. It all seems rather obvious in hindsight, but this was definitely not something I expected to be dealing with during my stay there.

Another kind of related point, eating when you can’t sit is actually really annoying, even more so in hospital where though you do have an adjustable bed it is made to be ergonomic and doesn’t allow you to contort your back in such a way as to allow your throat to go somewhat straight down while still not putting too much pressure on ones nether regions so as for it to count as sitting—basically putting more pressure on one’s behind than one’s back is bad. This was especially rough with certain types of food like rye bread that have a tendency to be rather rough and as a consequence were somewhat difficult to eat. One learns ways to work around this and as noted it does get much easier at home where one can assume a less ergonomic but more manageable position but still it was one of those things one doesn’t really appreciate before experiencing it.

Overall though, my hospital stay was an overwhelmingly positive experience: the staff was awesome with a great sense of humor, it was interesting hearing the stories and experiences of other people in my room who seemed to come from almost all over the country, it actually felt surprisingly freeing basically being absolved of all responsibility for one’s being with only the single-minded task of resting and getting better. Due to the flurry of activity, time also went by surprisingly quickly and there was rarely a moment where I really felt bored. So while I can’t really recommend that you try to get hospitalized, I do feel I can say that it can actually turn out to be a surprisingly positive experience overall.

Misc

WordPress

This blog currently runs on Hugo but I’ve taken to poking around with WordPress a bit since while Hugo does its job admirably for me and I don’t really mind the write post, commit to git, push to server workflow I have going on with it there are some things that do annoy me, namely the lack of comments, having to manually enter the time and date of a post and not being able to automatically publish in the future—now that last point, I am aware it would be possible through some sort of webhook but I’m just not interested in setting that up at the moment and it seems like something that would be somewhat janky and unexact.

WordPress of course isn’t perfect either, since it requires something other than pure static hosting and will probably require more optimization from a performance point of view but I think having comments—yes, I know about solutions like Disqus but I don’t want the comments being hosted by a third party in a way that I can’t easily export to other places—as well as some other neat things enabled by the site not being completely static such as pingbacks might be worth the extra hassle of figuring out the hosting. I also think the slightly more visual editing flow might not be all bad though I’m very used to the the Markdown based editing available in Hugo but there are times where having something visual is nice, for example when doing something I don’t do as often like adding an image to the post, it’s nice being able to just add it through a visual interface instead of poking around for the proper syntax or snippet to do that.

It would however also mean being a bit more diligent with my backups or potentially getting some sort of managed hosting solution which I don’t really want to throw the extra money on at the moment, since with my current git based workflow my posts are most of the time on at least three different computers: my desktop, my laptop as well as the git server. This means I’m fairly safe from most hardware failures as well as natural catastrophes since the data is stored in a very distributed fashion, but if I start hosting WordPress which I would probably host myself the posts would as a rule only reside on a single central server—sure, they might be cached by a CDN for a short time but that’s not really a backup solution.

There is also a not insignificant amount of extra “junk” that WordPress adds to the site, in the form of some JavaScript for emojis as well as some CSS to support them and since that’s somthing I don’t really need it annoys me a bit to have it there.

Lastly, there is also the matter of getting my posts ported over to WordPress from Hugo. Importers in the other direction are easy enough to find, since static site generators are all the rage around techier bloggers these days but something that would cleanly import a Hugo blog into WordPress doesn’t seem to exist. It seems the best solution for me since I don’t have that many posts—only around 70—is to import them through the RSS importer and this has worked fairly well after I modified it a bit, there was only a single post I needed to manually fix. However, this isn’t a perfect solution since the internal links in my posts seem to be static which means if I end up changing domains which I’m considering going through those links would lead to a redirect. I’m also in general not a huge fan of internal links being static references instead of relative ones, since that means changes to the domain means a lot of editing of posts which is unecessary. Though thinking about it, I think I could probably fix that with some SQL, even now after the posts have been imported, hmm… Or maybe I’ll just modify the importer again and reimport, might be the easier solution. Or possibly the extra redirect doesn’t matter that much since I want to keep the old domain redirecting anyway in order to not contribute to link rot.

Whatever the case, there is still a decent amount of work that needs to be done if I want to go through with this change—which I think I still do even after all the many negatives and seemingly few positives pointed out here. While I have adapted the theme I use in Hugo for WordPress I still haven’t added some of the extra features I want to make use of like comments so that’s something that needs to happen. I guess there’s nothing else to do now than to get working on that.

Misc

Redesign

So while I was watching a stream today and following the discussion on the Classic beta I remembered something: Blizzard used to provide fansite kits to the community in case you wanted to make a fansite for World of Warcraft. This lead to me wondering if they still do that and unfortunately I could find no sign of these kits on the official website, however I did find a couple of the old kits—namely the original one I had played around with and one for Wrath of the Lich King—from a third party fansite amusingly enough.

Now I have been considering changing the design of the blog for a while and although I do like more simple and elegant designs there was something charming about the idea of using one of these old fansite kits as the basis of that redesign especially since the blog has mostly World of Warcraft content so the theme still feels appropriate.

I decided to base the redesign on the Wrath of the Lich King fansite kit, since that one had more of a template for a website—the original one was extremely bare bones, only a header image with some links in the left column and content in the right column. With the Wrath kit however, it ended up being more of a case of bringing the code into the modern era where responsive design is a given as well as some other slight modifications to the details.

For example, I decided to keep the fonts I already had on the site since they do give a slightly cleaner look to the whole thing as well as not using the original header image—it was weirdly cropped and relied on some borders in the styling to complete the look. Instead I launched the game and took an updated screenshot of the map and used that instead. The new image is also bigger which makes it look better when the site scales up. Another small change was actually separating the two side iron borders so that they are two separate images, since they would have otherwise been at a fixed width from each other. I also cleaned up some small noise left at the outer edges, probably as a result from some background image that had been captured with the bars. I also slightly modified the gradient on the post title in post listings, it was an image but is now made through CSS. This allows me to use a bigger font on the post titles if I want to since it means that the gradient will scale with the size instead of being a fixed size. I did end up scaling the post titles in listings up slightly, since the original size was actually smaller than what I normally use for the size of the content. It would have felt a bit strange to have the titles be smaller than the content even if they are well separated through the red background.

The article pages stayed mostly the same from a content perspective, of course the scaffolding changed but the content font and such is the same as earlier. It still feels significantly different of course and I am rather happy with how it turned out.

The final change was getting rid of the footer since with the content being so clearly delineated in comparison to the old design where the header and footer clearly marked the boundaries of the content. This made the footer feel less necessary than before. And honestly, another reason was that I wasn’t quite sure how I would separate the footer from the content since while there was a horizontal border in the fansite kit similar to the vertical ones on the sides, it was sligthly bulkier and it did not feel like it properly fit in there since there were no joining pieces for the different borders. Maybe it would have looked fine but I personally was not happy with the result—though I am still considering, having nothing at the end of posts feels a bit empty.

All in all I am very happy with how the site came out and finally getting to do something a bit different. The earlier clean look was very nice but also in some way a bit boring and while I know it is possible to get it to feel a bit more interesting I do not know how to do that personally—and since this blog is a one woman show, me not knowing how to improve something kind of prevents that from being an option. Still, it was interesting to see with how little effort is was possible to convert an admittedly simple outdated template into something that reasonably well follows modern web standards and practices.

I might get back to tinkering with it tomorrow or at some other point, for now I just wanted to get it all out there. Now for some well deserved rest after a hard day’s work on this as well as some nice Uu’nat progress—should probably write a new post on that if I remember, we’ve seen phase three several times and have had some quite good tries as well though nothing close to a kill.

Misc

Modem died

So my modem died on Monday which was a bit of a downer since it died too late to get it fixed the same day. It was kind of sudden, it was working fine and then suddenly connectivity problems and after a restart it was just completely broken. This put a bit of a damper on my ability to do mythic+ since I only had my mobile internet available and that proved very unreliable especially later into the evening—was working decently early on with just one disconnect in a couple of hours. Only did a couple of lower keys to help some friends get geared due to that, those went fine considering the circumstances.

Luckily on Tuesday I was able to get a replacement, though it did take a few hours of back and forth due to me not having the necessary documentation and later finding out that I could actually get a free replacement if I brought my old modem in which I naturally didn’t have with me since I had thought I’d just be buying a new one. So by now everything is working again which is nice, though I am slightly disappointed in the capablities of the new modem and might end up having a router behind it again and just using it as a “dumb” modem instead of the modem/router combo it is which feels unfortunate since it in theory should be able to do the things I want, it’s just the UI that’s too locked down.

Beyond that though, last week went pretty nicely with regards to mythic+ and we got some decent keys in though nothing spectacular—to be fair, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular with those affixes, the pulls need to really sit for things to run well with fortified and teeming. And this week also started really nicely, with us almost clearing everything in one day even though we had buyers present—Argus ended up living still which surprised me since we had more than an hour time when going in so there must have been something going really wrong or maybe just many small mistakes. But as said overall the raid went really well, which is amusing since as said we had a buyer there, even two in the beginning. I guess that got people to play more properly and not expect them to be carried themselves.

It was really nice to see people raiding “properly” again.

Misc

Summertime Sadness

So last weekend we—along with most of Europe I believe—changed to summer time. Now while this is a change that would seem minor for me since I don’t have that many things in my life that are dependant on being somewhere at a specific time, it still has somehow managed to make me feel a bit more tired than before and caused me to sleep longer as a consequence—which feels slightly ironic, since I believe one of the purported benefits of summer time is that one has more daylight hours available. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll end up adapting soon enough, though the transition period is always annoying.

There is an ongoing effort to abolish summer time in the European Union which would be nice, but I think it will be a while until that goes through if at all. From what I remember the reception has been rather lukewarm so far, with no one opposing the change but not really giving it any direct support either which I find rather disappointing. Hopefully something ends up coming out of it before next year, so we don’t have to suffer through the change too many more times but knowing politics it’ll probably take longer than that.

Misc