This week’s lack of a Spider-Man post is brought to you by my now-dead solid state drive. After 6 years of heavy use, it finally gave up the ghost. Considering that it spent most of those 6 years with 220+ of its 250GB in use, I’d say the device performed admirably and died gracefully. In the end, I could still read from it, even though I couldn’t write to it. This prevented Windows from booting up, but it let me rescue my dataActually, I didn’t need much from the drive. I backed up my old /Users folder, but I haven’t needed to retrieve anything out of there yet..
I originally blamed this mess on Windows Update, since the machine died just a couple of minutes after installing an update. But I think the patch was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The machine was probably destined to die at some point that day. It was just a question of which program would attempt the final write that exhausted the drive.
I’ve since replaced the drive with a 500GB SSD and re-installed Windows. The machine is mostly back to normal now, but I’m still missing a few bits and pieces of software and working to get caught up on some of the other bits of writing I have to do.
I will say this new Windows 10 install feels very snappy. Either SSDs slow down as they reach the end of their useful lifespan, or Windows 10 still suffers from the long-running problem where a particular install will accumulate boot-time cruft that eventually erodes the system performance.
The Cloud-Based Future
A little over 20 years ago, I started seeing articles predicting the end of local software. Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison was always a big critic of physical media and frequently promised us a future in the cloudAlthough I don’t think it was called “the cloud” until recently.. I remember being really annoyed by an article by John Dvorak in PC Magazine in the mid 90s where he predicted that all of our software would be served over the web. At the time, that sounded preposterous. Why make all these super-fast computers and then run our software over the slow-ass web? Even with a T1 line to your house, there’s no way web-based stuff will be as fast as local.
But Dvorak’s prediction is slowly coming to pass. Google’s services now provide me with word processing, spreadsheets, and calendars. I even wrote my most recent book entirely in Google Docs. That’s 134k words written in an online app. Not bad. The app got to be a little sluggish near the end of the book, but it was still better than the bloated LibreOffice and MS WordGD launches quickly and runs smoothly, but staggers once the document gets to be large. The big word processors launch slowly, but once they get going they don’t have trouble with document size. In the vast majority of my use cases, the first is better..
I do word processing on the cloud. I sometimes stream music rather than playing local MP3s. I watch streaming video and I haven’t touched a DVD movie in months. I’m nowhere near the point where everything is on the cloud, but I’m closer now than I would have thought possible just 10 years ago.
Having said that, we’re still not living in the cloud. If anything, I depend on more local programs than ever.
They Say That Setting Up is Hard to Do
It’s been almost a week, and I’m still stopping about once a day to install things. For the curious:
- Google Chrome: I hear Microsoft Edge is actually not bad these days. But it’s still easier to stick with Chrome. If I WAS in the market to try a new browser, I seriously doubt Microsoft would be my first choice.
- My password manager: One thing nobody thought about when they dreamed of that far-away cloud-based future, is how we were going to handle all of those disparate logins.
- Gaming platforms: Steam, Epic, GoG, Origin, Twitch and Discord. Am I forgetting one? There are so many these days.
- Studio One: My music creation software. In the old days, I played videogames to take a break from coding. These days, I sort of play games for a living. So what am I supposed to do when it’s time to get away from the job and clear my head? Over the past five years, music has filled this role. I fire up my music-making DAW and noodle around when I need to force my brain to stop thinking about games.
- Paint Shop Pro 8: Yes, I’m still using an image processing program from 2003. Everything modern takes forever to launch and is packed with bloat I don’t need. I just need a tool to browse, crop, and scale screenshots. PSP8 is still my favorite tool for this, and its Windows XP era installer gives me techno-nostalgia.
- FileZilla: Once I’m done editing those images, I need to upload them to the website.
- WAMP: Short for Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP server. I run a local webserver so I can work on a test copy of this blog. That lets me muck about with styles and themes and plugins without subjecting visitors to all the incremental changes. WAMP is a bit fiddly and it always takes some time to get set up just right.
- Ventrilo: I use this to make the podcast.
- FooBar 2000: My MP3 player.
- Programming Stuff: Ugh. Visual Studio is good software, but it takes AGES to get my C++ coding tools all set up. Game development in C++ means using a terrifying snarl of cobbled-together libraries. Boost, SDL, OpenGL, and a dozen little helper libraries all need to be installed before I can do anything. Usually this means figuring out which versions are good and where to get them and how to install them and how to set them up to work together and arg I can’t stand it anymore why don’t I just download Unity? I don’t have time for coding right now so I haven’t gotten around to this one yet.
- Anti-installing: On top of installing all my apps, there’s the annoying task of uninstalling all the crap that Microsoft foists on usHi Cortana. Bye Cortana. and figuring out how to fix all the horrible default settings.
- But wait, there’s more! I can’t remember it now, but sometime in the next couple of days I’ll mouse over to where the icon should be and remember something I haven’t installed yet.
Maybe we’ll be doing stuff on the cloud in another 20 years, but for now it looks like we’re stuck installing things on our hard drives. And I’m okay with that.
EDIT: That didn’t take long. Two hours after writing this post I realized I needed Notepad++, which is what I use for editing technical text files like HTML and INI files.
EDIT: A few hours later, I need something to open RAR files.
EDIT: Oops. Don’tforget VLC media player because the built-in Windows player is horrendous.
EDIT, the next morning: I need Bandicam for video / screenshot capture.
 Actually, I didn’t need much from the drive. I backed up my old /Users folder, but I haven’t needed to retrieve anything out of there yet.
 Although I don’t think it was called “the cloud” until recently.
 GD launches quickly and runs smoothly, but staggers once the document gets to be large. The big word processors launch slowly, but once they get going they don’t have trouble with document size. In the vast majority of my use cases, the first is better.
 Hi Cortana. Bye Cortana.
Marvel's Civil War
Team Cap or Team Iron Man? More importantly, what basis would you use for making that decision?
Fixing Match 3
For one of the most popular casual games in existence, Match 3 is actually really broken. Until one developer fixed it.
Skylines of the Future
Cities: Skylines is bound to have a sequel sooner or later. Where can this series go next, and what changes would I like to see?
Quakecon 2011 Keynote Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.
id Software Coding Style
When the source code for Doom 3 was released, we got a look at some of the style conventions used by the developers. Here I analyze this style and explain what it all means.