I recently finished playing Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition on the XBox One. It’s one of the best games I’ve played recently and certainly one of the best Tomb Raiders in the series. The game kept me on the edge, made me think, laugh, weep and go through the whole spectrum of emotions as I killed thugs and blew up half the island. One of the high points was the origin story of the dual pistols that I just knew was going to be a part of the game and indeed, it was. After I finished the game, my brother suggested another Square Enix title that seemed very interesting – Thief. I instantly bought the game, spending no time in downloading a digital copy. Big mistake.
Thief, unlike Tomb Raider:DE which is a Crystal Dynamics creation, is developed by Eidos Montreal and is a horrible, horrible game. The game starts off with no story line, pushing the gamer straight into game play. The controls are singular, leading me to believe that they wanted to make the game almost too simple. The Unreal Engine was a bad choice for the game, making it look extremely bad on my XBox One and meagre 720p TV. One of the worst decisions was to make all the cutscenes using the same engine, which translates to really ugly picturization. My friend pointed out that there seems to be a lag between the voice and the video. Nope, the Engine is so bad that it cannot be properly ascertained which character is speaking on-screen.
Some of the players actions seem to either be stolen from Tomb Raider DE or ported to it. In either case, TR:DE does things like shooting rope arrows to climb up great distances in a much better fashion. My brother, who’s still struggling with the game says that even after a few hours of playing, there’s no exciting storyline and instead you’re just leaping from one heist to another, that too in a control fashion, much unlike games like GTA. One more point of failure is the number of options you have to deal with enemies. You can run and hide or you can subdue them if they haven’t noticed you. But once you’ve been seen, the gameplay falls apart. You can try to dodge attacks, but the controls are flimsy and mostly, the dodge just doesn’t work. You can supposedly use flash bombs to divert attention and escape, but bringing any attention to yourself causes an instant failure in the mission.
One of the main differences between and the reason why Thief is suffering my wrath in the aftermath of playing TR:DE is that in the latter, if discovered, I could always get Lara to kill everyone in sight. In Thief, with the controls being ridiculous and the strict conditions of a stealth game (thou must not be discovered), most sequences end up as failures, making me have to repeat sequences often, which is very irritating.
Another strange and irritating thing, though I’m being nitpicky here, was the requirement of a Square Enix account when the game started. I was not given the option to skip the account process, but once I had entered my email ID, the game didn’t bother with my making an account or entering a password to sync things. It almost felt like Square Enix was only after my Email ID, which is disturbing on many levels.
Frankly, I’ve not played many stealth games, so I can’t be a judge of the genre, but Thief is an utter disappointment. The game was supposedly unveiled in 2009 and that’s where it belongs.
Final Verdict: Square Enix stole my money with Thief. Don’t let them steal yours. They’re very clumsy thieves.
Recently, AppFog sent out an email telling us that free accounts will be further restricted in what features and resources they are will receive. This felt like a major issue for me at that time, since I have Fever running on the service and I’ve dedicated close to 1 GB of RAM to the app.
When the changes finally made through, I realized that I was wrong. Upon monitoring my Fever installation during updates, I realized that it doesn’t use more than ~150 MB of RAM at a time. The only other thing is the database size, which is more than 300 MB for me, something which cannot be easily hosted anywhere else.
I ran some numbers and have found that the most basic paid plan from AppFog can allow for 8 Fever installs with 256 MB each but with the restriction of 200 MB of database storage per install for $2.5/mo. So, if you can find 7 other people who don’t have more than, say, 300 feeds in their Fever installation, AppFog would be the perfect place for you. It would also be a good way of giving back to the service that has supported free Fever installs for so long.
To everyone else, I must ask this – tell me about your Fever installs. How much are you paying? How much RAM and db are you using? Would you be open to sharing space with me (and possibly others) to reduce hosting costs?
I love Fever. It’s one of those services that are just the perfect fit, in this case for reading RSS feeds. I’m grateful to Shaun Inman for continuously working on this application, even though it seems that new installs are at an all time low and he’s busy with personal stuff. I am ready to pay for the hosting, but I figure that if we work together, we can reduce our costs greatly.
I got my hands on my brother’s awesome 15″ Macbook Pro and seeing the 500 GB hard disk, I decided to try installing Windows 8.1 on a small 50 GB partition.
After an evening wasted, I realized what the problem was. After scouring the Apple forums, I realized that I have to give Windows an unformatted 50 GB space to do with as it pleases, since any other format (NTFS included) was greek to the OS. So I did just that. Turns out, Windows split that space into 2 partitions – 1 49 GB disk with NTFS format and 1 200 MB disk with Mac OS Extended format.
Now, here’s the thing. Mac supports NTFS, no matter how reluctantly, but Windows has never cared to understand Mac OS Extended. Why then, it was formatting that small segment in that format, I know not.
The end result? Currently, I have Win 8.1 in a VM.
Update: God knows why, but I tried again, this time with a different ISO and a different approach. If there’s one thing that’s consistent about Microsoft, it’s their inconsistency. The process failed in a whole new way. I’m done with Bootcamp. VMware wins my money. Now and forever.
I looked over the class. Some were bored, some where mentally absent and a few of the front row people were busy taking notes. This had been a boring class, covering financial systems and economies. I’d been droning on myself, without realizing the effect I had on the class. So, I decided to step out of it.
That’s exactly what I did, I stepped out from behind the lectern and came near the edge of the student desks. The unprecedented activity sent waves across the class and attention rose by 45%. I spoke to the students directly, perhaps the first time since I started teaching the class, “Well students, I’ve been telling you about financial systems all this time, but there’s no better way to explore them than to have a full-scale example in front of us. So, here’s what we’re going to do.” A couple of pens quickly arose to take notes. “We’re going to have a discussion,” the pens went down just as quickly, “and we’re going to talk about a fictional world where cake is the currency.” A few puzzled looks here and there amused me, this was going to be a fun lecture.
“Well, let’s begin, what do you think the world would be like if cake was the currency?”
The class geek spoke first, uncertain of questioning my idea, “but ma’am, how can cake be a currency? It’s perishable!”
“Excellent question, how can something perishable be a currency?”
The one-timer’s hand was raised, so I let him speak. “Ma’am, you’d have to make cake that can last a long time. Maybe even plastic cake.” A couple of students laughed. The one-timer was a student who used his wit once in a while, but when he did, it was always a very good idea. Too bad that he didn’t use it all the time. Unlike cake, brain power is not a perishable.
“Well, let’s remember one thing,” I responded to no one in general, “cake is supposed to be cake, it’s supposed to be edible and tasty. You can’t have plastic cake just like you can’t use monopoly money to buy candy. But yes, you all are on the right track. Pretty soon, people would figure out preservatives to keep the cake longer and yet remain tasty.”
“But I’d just eat it all instead of using it to pay my rent.” Someone from the back had decided to join the conversation. After a few laughs, I answered that idea, “true, you’d try at first. But how much cake can you eat? See unlike money, which you can’t directly consume, cake is an edible commodity, but a rather heavy food, right?”
“And what about transportation?” a girl spoke out of turn, “you can’t lug all that cake around, so I guess you’d need cake banks.”
“Yes, you cannot take cake with you on travels. You cannot ship large amounts of cake without peril and wastage, so your currency would be subject to the laws of nature a lot more than traditional currencies.”
The class geek raised his hand and started speaking, lest someone else beat him to the idea, “and really, how can you have cake as a currency? It’s going to go bad so quickly. You can’t transport large quantities and there’s the risk that someone will just eat all your money!”
“All things true, but then, what is the effect of cake going bad quickly? How does that affect the economy?” I asked. The geek stared back at me without an answer. He’s not thought that far. Lucky for him, someone else answered, a girl sitting in the second row, “it would mean that transactions would be really fast. You cannot have any savings if your currency is going to go bad in a few days tops. You’d just keep buying stuff.”
“Excellent point! You’d have an economy where consumption is more important than savings. Banks would have no money to lend out to people! Now, what about the baking process itself? What about the ingredients?”
A boy in the back raised his hand and I let him speak, “Ma’am, the ingredients would be controlled completely by the government. The baking itself would be done by them and whenever you’d need to buy something, you’d have to go to the bank-bakery and get a new cake baked.”
“Excellent point! Governments love to control the flow and creation of money. So cake would become nothing less than a scarce commodity, which could only be baked by the government’s bakeries. Now, what about piracy?”
The previous boy’s girlfriend had her hand raised before I had finished my question, so I let her speak first. She said, “Well, ma’am, you’re not considering other things about the cake itself. There’s a variety of cakes out there. So many designs, so many flavors, so many ways to decorate them. Each cake would have to be evaluated based on those features and then it’s market value would be set.”
“An excellent point! You can’t just have bland cake. The government would try to standardize the cake, but there are always inconsistencies. Also, people have certain preferences in cake. In general, the government could enforce a vanilla cake with the government’s logos on it, but that would not prevent people from liking chocolate or red velvet cake. People would barter based on their personal preferences. Now, coming back to the question of piracy, does anyone here think that cakes can be pirated or forged?”
Someone from the middle rows answered, “Of course, people will try. But the government controls so much of the economy that they’ll also control the ingredients of the cake. It’d be very difficult for someone to procure the same ingredients.”
“True,” I replied, “difficult, not impossible. Then you’d hear about cake crime, where criminals and the mafia would go about stealing flour so that they can fake cake.”
“But then,” someone chipped in, “the government would set a single design for the cakes and make that a standard. If a cake has that design, it’s a legal tender, otherwise not.”
“Absolutely! The government would definitely try to do that. They would also try to make the cake secure by adding a secret toxic ingredient, which would evaporate during the baking process if bakes in the right conditions. Of course, this would be met with some resistance, since the government is not perfect at baking cake and they’d screw up the process a couple of times.”
“So, essentially,” said one of the boys in the back, “there could be a scenario where the government finds a counterfeiter and makes them eat their own cake to see if the person gets diarrhea or not.”
The class laughed a bit before settling down and I asked my next question. “Has anyone else got anything to say about cake as a currency?”
The rich boy of the class answered, “frankly, I wouldn’t be caught lugging cake around, I’ll just get one of my servants to do it for me.”
“But what if your servant isn’t there with you? You’d not be able to buy anything anywhere,” I interjected.
“Not really,” he replied, “All the usual places I go to know me well. They know that I can easily afford what they have on sale. So they’d let me buy it and pay later.”
“That means they’d be giving you cake credit?”
Someone else answered, “Yes, that makes sense. Just like in real life, I get credit as a means of knowing if I can pay off a loan, in the cake world, I’d be able to prove that I can procure that much cake at a later date. Cake credit would work, specially if people don’t want their cake right now but at the end of the month.”
“Excellent! Now, two more things – what about the rich folk? Right now the people who own mines or oil fields, essentially natural resources, are the ones who quickly get rich. Whenever they need money, they simply sell off a bit of their property, or lease it, and they get money in return. What about the cake economy? Who’d get rich quick?”
“Well, the government has to procure goods from somewhere,” someone on the first bench chipped in, “they’ll just go to the farmers and ask for their crops. That way, those people will have more to barter for than, say, a software engineer, who has very little to do with the production of cake.”
“Wonderful! Now, one last thing – What do you all think about the type of cake? Would you want every type of cake everywhere or would countries decide on National flavors and stick with those?”
The class unanimously declared that they’d want every type of cake everywhere.
“Well, if you guys are allowed, cake would become an international currency and be valued the same everywhere. But that’s not how the real world works, right? There might be some countries that produce more cocoa than others, so they’d hold chocolate cakes to a lesser value than, say, banana pound cake.”
A few murmurs went through the class. I continued to wrap up, “it’ been an interesting discussion so far. I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have. There’s no better way to understand economics than to pick up a somewhat real model. Now, let’s quickly review the actual financial terms and ideas that we’ve studied here.” I spent the next ten minutes summarizing some of the terms the class had just talked about and I noticed that they were more attentive than before.
“Class, it’s been a wonderful lecture and I love the participation that you’ve given today. I will be adding today’s participation points to your final grade. If there are still people who haven’t contributed, you should do so now.”
Before I could even finish my sentence, a hand shot up from the absolute back of the class. The gamer girl, Trisha, had suddenly woken up to the prospect of her classmates getting a few more grade points than her.
“Well Trisha, get up and tell us what you have to say.”
Trisha got up slowly and kept staring at me for a few seconds. I had noticed that she’d been tapping away throughout the lecture and realized that she’d probably not heard any of it. Just to help her out, I reiterated the question, “Trisha, we’ve been talking about how the world would be if we used cakes as a currency and have cake credit. Do you have anything to say about the cake economy?”
Without even blinking, she replied, “The cake? The cake is a lie.”
The class roared with laughter as I finished the lecture, knowing full well that now, they knew everything there was to know about finance.
I have often observed that Indian movies have a habit of skipping over various aspects of a character’s development in a rush to tell the entire story in the allotted time. Story telling is a noble pursuit, in that the audience is nowadays impatient and quick to judge. It takes a lot of combined work by everyone involved, from the script writer to the editor, to release a product that is worthy of people’s time and money. Consequently, if the end product is a confused, winding tale, it is a failure of every single person involved in the storytelling process.
Note: Spoilers Ahead. I encourage you to read them before you go waste your money on the movie.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s recent movie ‘Ram Leela’ has failed me in this aspect. The movie has been called everything from an Epic to a piece of beautiful cinema, and it is all of that. The story is fantastic and the sets were something straight out of Saawariya. But the characters left something lacking. Here are my main complaints -
1. When did they fall in love? This is the first questions my friends asked as we exited the movie. A Holi scene with the firing of a gun does not constitute the beginning of a love affair. The Storyteller (since Bhansali is the Writer, Director, Producer, Songwriter and Editor of this movie, I’m going to call him the overarching Storyteller and place the entirety of the blame on him) seems to believe in love at first sight in a world that is increasingly practical. This does not fly. The characters do not seem to have ever had any interaction before that scene and yet, they do not waste a moment in falling in love.
2. Why is the second half bereft of Ram’s emotions? The first half of the movie seems fairly balanced, with each character’s perspective being explored. Suddenly, in the second half, the focus shifts on Leela’s actions (not thoughts, the director forgot inner-monologue) and completely ignores Ram’s actions. The reasons for Ram’s apparent indifference towards Leela, his unwillingness to call or contact her even after he is declared Don and has his mobile phone with him, his new-found hatred towards Leela’s family are all unwarranted and unexplained. The Storyteller could have easily forsaken a song here or there to allow for such story arcs to be explored. Instead, while making what is obviously an Art film, Bhansali chose to walk the confusing middle path of raunchy numbers and long cinematic scenes which left someone like me, who goes to watch a movie for its story and not its cinematography, in total anguish.
3. Why is Leela not angry at Ram in the second half and then suddenly all rage? Leela, upon discovering Ram’s apparent disloyalty, doesn’t show a speck of anger, instead sends her sister-in-law to pass along a message to Ram, leading to a rape scene that though beautifully shot, makes no sense at that point. I do acknowledge that such scenarios happen, where, in India, a woman of one family is raped as revenge for some act against a woman of the other family. This, it seems, is a reality that the Storyteller successfully captured. But the story does not naturally flow towards this. Specially because when Leela suddenly becomes Don, she unveils anger which has suddenly appeared out of nowhere. By the way, the actions leading to her becoming Don were fantastic, but the next point will show you that they were not at all well executed.
4. The ‘Nagada Sang Dol’ song has one Leela too many. Baa despises Ram and wants to end him. Thus, the song and dance sequence as a time to accomplish an execution is excellent. Except that Baa would not allow Leela to even step in front of Ram in this sequence, let alone allow her to dance in the assembly, knowing full well that Leela still harbors positive emotions towards Ram. Everything else about that sequence makes perfect sense, but Leela’s presence there literally destroyed it for me.
5. The ending sequence makes little to no sense. No, I do not mean what happened in the end. I’ve not read Romeo & Juliet but I know that the fate of the two stories can be no better than that of Soni Mehiwal. The fact of the matter is that the absolutely last scene was useless and stretched well beyond the requirement. The point where Baa fires the gun should have been the end all. The bodies could have been discovered by the sister-in-law upon her joyous arrival. But instead, the Storyteller went all mushy on us by adding romantic dialogue over dialogue, taking away the essence and brevity of the scene with every word.
That’s all I remember from the movie and will add my complaints as I remember them. At first I thought that maybe in the US there was a shorter print of the movie based on people’s taste for shorter movie times. But that is not the case. The Storyteller was exceptionally incapable of executing such an interesting story because of the pitfalls of commercial cinema and blindly assuming that people enjoy a half-baked story. I am not asking for Twilight-styled inner monologues, but the least I hope from Indian Storytellers is that they will consider the full development of a character while they go about writing, directing and editing the stories that they present to us.
Samsung is talking about 800,000 shipped Smartwatch units. Yeah, whatever. No one’s buying them, no one’s talking about them. At least not in my part of the Internet. Here’s the thing. People call Samsung an Apple competitor. Really? Android fans jump to the HTC One now. The Fitbit Force looks more like a smartwatch than the Samsung Smartgear.
I saw “The Italian Job” yesterday. Samsung is the Steve to Apple’s Charlie in the movie. Samsung barely has enough imagination to last it a few years before stealing someone else’s idea.
When you’re trying to break into a new market, an important part of that process is innovation. The ‘thing’ Samsung is dangling in front of us looks like something Casio put out in the 90s. When Tesla came out with an electric car (which is essentially what it is), did they say, let’s make another boring iteration of an electric car that drones like a bee and doesn’t go over 60 mph? No. When Nest made a thermostat, did they make it look like every other thermostat in the market. Not at all.
Why does it seem so hard to innovate? Why does it seem like Samsung cannot look at a device and dream up something different? Maybe because Corporations don’t dream.
come to me slowly
and stand besides me
like a friend
for I will have lived fully
by the time you come.
stand in attention
like an enemy
and let us fight
till the end of eternity
before you take my soul.
do not creep up suddenly
and take me with
a treacherous knife in my back
like a wretched, unwary man.
fight me like an enemy
or greet me as a friend
but be not a stranger
when you take me in the end.