Assassins Creed Unity review (2020)

Unity arrived a year after the well-received AC IV: Black Flag, and was the first Assassins Creed game to be written specifically for the PS4 and Xbox One generation. Ubisoft really tried to push their technology, with some groundbreaking indoor/outdoor lighting transitions, and insane numbers of NPC’s on the screen. Back in 2014 when the game launched, reviews were lukewarm. There was a lot of talk of visual glitches and bugs, with characters suffering from distracting texture pop-in, and the player sometimes getting so completely stuck on a piece of the world that the game had to be restarted. I didn’t buy the game at the time, although at some point years later I saw it being (almost) given away for £0.99 and grabbed an Xbox One copy. Shamefully, I played it once for about 30 minutes and completely forgot about it, but I remember being quite impressed and wondering if the reviews were a bit harsh.

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My Gmail to Outlook migration ends in failure

My current theory with apps and services is that Microsoft is shaping up into an appealing neutral zone between Apple’s walled garden of deteriorating software quality, and Google’s endless data slurping.

I’ve been a Gmail customer for something close to 20 years. It was groundbreaking at launch thanks to the unique proposition of almost-limitless storage, back when others were offering miserly amounts like 5Mb. But we all know that Google is data-mining our mailboxes to fuel their advertising system, and I don’t like that in a personal messaging system like email.

What finally persuaded me to try a move to Outlook.com is the premium experience that comes with my Office 365 subscription. Not only does this provide a terabyte of mail storage, but the web interface is completely ad-free. The web interface is also superb – it’s beautifully designed and blazing fast.

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macOS Catalina and the rumoured ARM transition

macOS Catalina has attracted quite a bit of negative sentiment from Mac users. New releases of macOS have had issues before, but we still install them because we love new features, and are confident that bugs will be fixed by an update. This time though, Catalina struggles to make up for launch issues because there’s hardly anything new to get excited about. Instead of features, it delivers some disruptive changes:

  • A new (and questionable) security model, with the sort of popup notifications that Windows Vista was infamous for (and was ironically, mocked by Apple).
  • Dropping 32-bit compatibility – not a problem for me personally because my web development stack is all fully 64-bit. But it prevents some users from updating if they rely on old apps, and large game libraries could be severely impacted.
  • File system – the OS and data partitions are now separated out, which makes sense, but the various tricks that stick it back together only go so far – and things can get confusing inside the Terminal.
  • iTunes replaced by three new Catalyst apps – despite people banging the drum for years that iTunes was bloated and needed breaking up, I find this to be a backwards step. The new apps are dull, soulless affairs, and the local library sync to my iPhone now doesn’t work fully.

On top of this, there are numerous small bugs. Out there on the internet, there are reports of Finder issues, with slow folder updates after basic file operations. When I log back into my MacBook Pro 16 running Catalina, the display brightness jumps up to 100% and True Tone colour correction takes minutes to kick in. Three updates later, these bugs are still there.

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Reliving the Windows Phone early adopter experience

I was an early adopter of Windows Phone. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My iPhone 3G had been ruined by an iOS 4 update that it was barely capable of running. To be fair to Apple, they did eventually optimise their slightly overweight OS for the 3G model with a point release (iOS 4.2?). But it was too late for me, I’d been seduced by Live Tiles and the super-smooth minimalist UI of Windows Phone. I bought a HTC HD7 running Windows Phone 7.

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On the Facebook/Trump internal memo published by The Verge

https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/7/21055348/facebook-trump-election-2020-leaked-memo-bosworth

Lot’s of food for thought on this, and I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but there’s one standout paragraph towards the end:

The focus on filter bubbles causes people to miss the real disaster which is polarization. What happens when you see [26%] more content from people you don’t agree with? Does it help you empathize with them as everyone has been suggesting? Nope. It makes you dislike them even more. This is also easy to prove with a thought experiment: whatever your political leaning, think of a publication from the other side that you despise. When you read an article from that outlet, perhaps shared by an uncle or nephew, does it make you rethink your values? Or does it make you retreat further into the conviction of your own correctness? If you answered the former, congratulations you are a better person than I am. Every time I read something from Breitbart I get 10% more liberal.

Bam. This idea of filter bubbles distorting our thinking is flawed – the problem is we harden our viewpoint when we are presented with content we don’t want to see.

Man builds legendary engine from scratch

My all-time favourite car is the Toyota Supra 3.0 Mk IV Twin Turbo from the early 1990’s. To my eyes the car still looks fantastic today, and the engine is stuff of legend. The Toyota 2JZ engine comes from the factory at about 320bhp (European spec), but is massively over engineered and can be tuned 500-600bhp without any significant changes. With a bigger budget, 1000bhp is possible.

I’ve just found this video of a guy building a 2JZ engine from scratch and it’s a masterpiece – he makes it look as easy as building Lego

From Russia With Love retrospective review

From Russia With Love poster

Bond was off to a great start with Dr.No, so it was soon time to deliver the next chapter in the story. Making a successful sequel is no easy task – musicians often struggle with their second ‘sophomore’ album and the same goes for filmmaking. Think of the number of sequels you’ve seen that are well-made and entertaining, but lack depth because they’re no longer telling us an origin story. In the superhero genre, nearly every sequel chooses the “things get difficult for superhero” story, because there isn’t really any other option. The first film tells us how the character starts out and usually goes out on a massive high, so the only real choice is for things to get worse before they get better.

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Dr. No retrospective review

To reinforce how old Dr. No is, it was released only a year after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, and the Boeing 707 (their first passenger jet) seen at the start of the film had only been in service for 3 years. The legendary Aston Martin DB5 featured in later films didn’t go into production for another two years.

Despite it’s age, new viewers shouldn’t worry about getting a sub-par or bare-bones Bond film. It has almost all of the ingredients that made the rest of the series so popular. Bond takes his orders from M, and then flirts with Moneypenney on his way out of the office. There’s international filming locations, car chases, fights, and a complex and evil super-villain with an elaborate lair. Ursula Andress makes a strong case for being the best Bond girl of all time. The scene where she emerges from the sea in a white bikini is cinematic legend, still winning awards over 40 years later

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