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What if..

Quite the thought experiment from John Gruber today:

A question I’ve pondered these last few post-election weeks: What would have happened if Mark Zuckerberg were all-in on Trump? What if instead of flagging and tamping down on Trump’s utterly false but profoundly destructive “election fraud” anti-democratic power grab, Facebook had done the opposite and pushed the narrative Trump wants? What if Trump owned Facebook? What if Zuckerberg ran for president, lost, and pursued a similar “turn your supporters against democracy” strategy?

Daring Fireball

How would that play out? Probably best not to think about it.

His post is in response to an article posted in The Atlantic earlier this month: ‘Facebook is a Doomsday Machine’, which is a great, but not one to read just before bed.

Merry Christmas

Good evening, from Plague Island.

Europe has decided that we are persona non grata, and thousands of lorries are holed up in a Kent airfield, waiting to cross the border. I imagine that there are a lot of lorry drivers that badly need the toilet.

Britain is on the brink of crisis. It’s a word that has lost all meaning, but it’s still true. COVID-19 roams the island unchecked. The tiered system of local restrictions has failed, primarily because we don’t have a useful test and trace system, and ’restrictions’ peppered with holes large enough to drive a lorry through. There is not a single metric that says we are doing a good job. In fact, we are doing a terrible job.

So, it defies common sense for the PM announces that people can mingle at Christmas for five days – as well as the statutory guidance. Chris Witty, with a face that said ‘this is fucking mental’, stressed that it would be unwise to get together unnecessarily. What we have to do, essentially, is complete a risk assessment. Because we’ve shown that we’re good at that up to now? What the hell are they thinking?

The Christmas super-spreading event has reluctantly been reduced to a single day, because, I assume, the country will rise up in rebellion if they can’t share a turkey dinner. That’s fine by me, but it’s time to give up the laissez-faire approach; otherwise, disaster looms in January.

Christmas seems to get larger every year – peeking over the horizon from October and climaxing on December 25th. Not so much this year. We are relaxed. The usual frantic rush never appeared. For me, a smaller Christmas will be a time to enjoy the little things – boxes of Quality Street, mince pies and a series of terrible Christmas films.

Enjoy yours, whatever you are doing. Try not to kill your grandma. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Merry Christmas

The greatest gift

I really couldn’t have got through 2020 without books. They’ve taken me to places that I couldn’t have visited, helped me to know people who I will never meet, and opened my mind to different perspectives – so this quote from Om Malik resonates:

More than any other medium, books have defined life. They have helped me imagine. They have helped me escape. And they have educated me and shown me a better version of myself. 

Om Malik – Our sadness is really selfishness

I am a reader by luck. I don’t recall my parents reading to me when I was young, nor do I remember being surrounded by books. My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses. One of the many ways that this frustrates your childhood is an exclusion from the school assembly, so while my peers gathered in the hall, singing hymns or doing whatever else you do in a school assembly in the 1980s – I would sit in the small library and, with lack of anything else to do (and because we didn’t have the luxury of pocket entertainment devices back then), I would pluck books from the shelves and read to pass the time.

Books have carried me through the most challenging times of my life. I enjoyed reading to my children when they were younger, and both of them have picked up a love of stories. It’s the greatest gift I have given them.

A shot of happiness

I don’t know who any of these people are, but this video sure did cheer me up this morning.

Highlights

Often, when reading on my Kindle, I’ll highlight passages that catch my attention as I go through.

I’m now adding these highlights to my bookshelf page. You can see the first example here. I think they look quite nice.

Rocket Launch as Seen from the Space Station

This is the launch of a Russian Soyuz-FG from Kazakhstan, back in November 2018. It’s nice to have a reminder that we are capable of really special things.

Testing GeForce NOW

Geforce NOW is a cloud streaming service from graphics card giant NVidia. It allows you to play your own games (via Steam / EA etc) on one of their powerful cloud GPUs, and is painted as an affordable way to play games that would otherwise require a powerful gaming PC. Theoretically, it allows you to play on any device that can handle a high-resolution video stream.

Performance

The only ‘gaming’ machines in our house are a PS4 and a couple of Nintendo Switches. Our PCs are work or development machines, and none of them particularly well-specced – but we don’t play games on them, so that’s fine. I have never played a AAA title on a high-end gaming PC before.

I subscribed to GeForce NOW with low expectations, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well it is all working. Connecting to my games was straightforward, and I can play at high settings with no noticeable latency. I’ve put 6 or 7 hours on it so far, and with the exception of the improved graphics I genuinely can’t tell that I’m not actually playing on my local machine.

For a service like this, your connection speed is a potential bottleneck. I’ve got a 200meg line coming in, and everything is connected by ethernet or 5G wireless. I didn’t expect that my network connection would cause me any problems, and it didn’t.

It’s once in a blue moon that there is a game that I really want to play. Is it worth me shelling out £400 on a PS5, or a similar amount up-speccing my PC for that? GeForce NOW works out at £60 a year, which is incredibly good value. For people that have a good internet connection, this seems like a really good alternative.

Issues

I have had issues getting on to the service at peak times. Reddit suggests that this is a recent issue, ostensibly because everyone wants to play Cyberpunk 2077. But when you want to play a game, you just want to play – not wait half and hour for a slot. It’s not a big deal to me. More dedicated gamers might feel differently.

This is a big fat lie

Alternatives

There are some alternatives that are worth a mention if you are thinking of giving cloud gaming a go:

Google Stadia

Stadia is free if you are happy to play at 1080p, and works on pretty much any internet connected device you own; or you can pay £8.99 a month for 4K HDR gameplay, surround sound and a couple of free games a month. The downside is that you have to buy your games from Stadia, and they are tied to the service – they aren’t yours to keep.

Shadow PC

Shadow PC is the service that looks most interesting to me. They’ll rent you exclusive use of a powerful gaming PC in a data center, which you can use to stream the games you already own – or do anything else that you could do with a full PC. It’s more expensive, and they’re sold out until the middle of next year.

Jed Bartlet and his Jacket

I’m still plodding my way through The West Wing. It continues to be very good, though one of the weird things about watching a long-running series over a short period of time is that the cast ages super quickly.

One thing that keeps catching my eye is the unusual way that President Bartlet puts on his jacket. I am not the only person to have noticed this.

It’s not an affectation. Martin Sheen’s left arm was damaged when he was born, making it three inches shorter than the right one.