Face-to-face communication as a crutch

A lot of times people talk about how face-to-face communication is high bandwidth, but let’s just say that in a lot of cases, that face-to-face communication can be a crutch. You can just throw bandwidth at the problem as opposed to actually using the bandwidth you have efficiently.

A thought-provoking point from an interview with Joe Mastey on the FogBugz blog.

Wi-Fi Sense seems intrusive

Microsoft's Wi-Fi Sense appears a bit scary for anyone running a wi-fi network. Once a user has joined your network and not opted out of sharing it, the network and its access details are sent to Microsoft for use by everyone in that user's contact list:

For networks you choose to share access [to all your Outlook, Skype or Facebook contact list] to, the password is sent over an encrypted connection and stored in an encrypted file on a Microsoft server, and then sent over a secure connection to your contacts' phone if they use Wi-Fi Sense and they're in range of the Wi-Fi network you shared. Your contacts don't get to see your password, and you don't get to see theirs.

To opt-out of this, you either:

Am I over-reacting, or is this feature pretty odd? Even for users, it seems connecting to potentially hostile wi-fi networks automatically is a dangerous thing.

Patents vs. innovation

To me, it seems obvious that patents in my industry — software — are destructive. The Economist agrees, and makes some suggestions, in Time to fix patents.

Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the system has created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aim to block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab a share of the spoils. An early study found that newcomers to the semiconductor business had to buy licences from incumbents for as much as $200m. Patents should spur bursts of innovation; instead, they are used to lock in incumbents’ advantages.

Crank Arm Brewing Co., NC

We stopped off at Crank Arm Brewing (map) when in Raleigh, NC, last week. It's got some great beers; be sure to try the Unicycle if it's on.

We also went to the amazing The Pit -- just opposite Crank Arm -- for BBQ. I ate enough that I had difficulty sleeping (or I could blame jetlag, but, to be honest, it was really my greed).

Reward vs. Fun

Most modern games don’t ask the player to interpret the wry smile on another character’s face. The narratives are built on enjoyment and, as games are chiefly meant for recreation rather than as a test of emotional intelligence, there’s nothing wrong with that. Old-time RPGs did not adhere to that idea: back then, “fun” was what you made it and you were not guaranteed to have any.

Does it matter if people don’t finish games any more?

I found Pillars of Eternity to be a great game. Like Baldur's Gate, it's a game of people. And Gods, yes, but mostly people. I find stories have greater depth where they concern the interactions of people; Gods and demons allow for simple narratives -- God/Demon wants to take over the world and must be stopped! -- that are less satisfying.

Far more so than Baldur's Gate, Pillars of Eternity is a game of unclear moral choices: the characters driving quests in either direction have motives that are often identifiable with. Rather than being driven by obvious hero/villain semantics, your choices are driven more by things like one's own bent towards revolutionary firebrands or stable authority.

I ended up avoiding either of the completion paths of one of PoE's story line, as I couldn't decide which party to side with. It turned out even leaving the quest line incomplete led to a note in the end story about the results of the my leaving the status quo.

I'm currently playing Dragon Age: Origins. While it's undeniably a great game, its one-dimensional monsters and obvious villains felt like a step backwards from PoE. Reading parts of walkthroughs, there is subtlety residing in side quests but the main quest appears more morally straight-forward.

While clearly PoE is not difficult moral choice after difficult moral choice, I enjoyed a slightly deeper experience. It was as much reward as fun.