Jul 31, 2020

Archive Dive: DOS Slots

Welcome to Archive Dive, a feature I just made up where I talk about an interesting old game (or maybe other thing) I came across on the Internet Archive.

The first installment is about a game that's not very interesting per se, but I have several questions about its existence. It's Microbucks II: An Electronic Marvel. It's a slot machine for DOS computers circa 1989.

Microbucks 2 Title Screen
A five exclamation point title screen. Brace yourself for excitement

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Jul 29, 2020

It must be good, otherwise they wouldn't be trying to sell it

The  struggle for novelty in a world where everything is  being sold and re-sold to us ad nauseam means that marketing has become tautological - we see something being advertised, and we can only assume it's good because otherwise, we wouldn't be seeing the ad. A new feature must be good, otherwise they wouldn't be pointing it out. The ingredient they mention on the front of the box must be particularly good, otherwise it wouldn't be on the front of the box. That's the assumption, explicit for the sellers and implicit for the buyers.

My favorite example of this is when a brand of root beer started advertising itself a few years ago as containing "aged vanilla". Is aging vanilla good? Does it make it taste better? Why have we never seen a reference to aging vanilla before? How long is it aged? Is it longer or shorter than vanilla in other products?

Of course, as everyone knows (and as was the subject of a recent class-action lawsuit), it doesn't contain vanilla at all. But that doesn't matter. Purchase decisions are based on quick, subconscious value judgements; by the time we register how absurd it is, we've already decided to buy it.

We don't think we bought it because of the aged vanilla, we simply think that we haven't had root beer in awhile, and it'd be a nice treat. At every conscious level, people understand that marketing is all lies, which is why people think they're immune to advertising (and propaganda.) But the goal of advertising is to create an emotional connection on a subconscious level. Other types of food and drink we associate with high quality (and signifier of luxury) are described as "aged" — wine, whisky, expensive cheese and vinegar. This subconscious emotional reaction tricks us into thinking we want something we don't. Nobody on the planet would say they decided to buy this root beer because it said it had aged vanilla in it (unless they're trying to get money in a class-action lawsuit), but I bet the company's sales numbers went up.

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Happy happy birthday, we hope today is great

Now that "Happy Birthday" is public domain, future generations watching old movies and TV shows aren't going to understand the jokes about non-infringing birthday songs.

Or maybe current generations already don't understand them? I dunno, has anyone actually used the happy birthday song in media now that they're allowed to, or is the fact that they're now allowed to not interesting enough to justify it? Maybe filmmakers and TV writers are going to continue avoiding it just out if inertia, or because the song is just a cliché they want to avoid. Maybe unique birthday songs will be a normal part of the viewing experience for years to come.

I bet the genre that's gotten the most use out of the public domain-ing is found footage films; it's a good, free way to add verisimilitude to spooky old home movies of family gatherings we're supposedly watching. Filming children's birthday parties was like the #1 use of consumer video cameras, until everyone had a video camera in their pockets at all times and it's no longer novel. But still, for 20th century period pieces, I bet it's handy.

I don't think found footage films are super common anymore either, though, and I imagine it's too hokey to include in an actual proper cinematic movie film. Maybe it was better when the birthday song was off-limits, because it inspired people to think of creative ways around the restriction, or funny ways to subvert it.

Either way, big thanks to U.S. District Judge George King for at least giving us the option. He's a jolly good fellow, no one can deny that.

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Jul 28, 2020

Posts subject to editing

Just a heads-up for anyone actually reading this, all posts here will be subject to basically constant editing within 48 hours of being posted, and may disappear entirely, depending on how I feel after that. Most of the editing will be for grammar and syntax and trying to get my point across effectively, but I may sometimes correct something I misunderstood without calling attention to it. It happens, people get stuff wrong, and if I get something wrong in a major way that causes people harm, I'll own up to it — for small inaccuracies that don't really matter, I don't feel bad about stealth edits.

I tried to do something about this anxiety by making sort of an anti-blog over on yonder website with no datestamps, structure, or illusion of permanence; it's fine, but also, I like structure, and one of the functions of a journal is having a record of events in my life, and a nebulous morass of paragraphs isn't a good way to do that.

So yeah, sorry if stuff changes, I'm not doing a journalism here, self-editing is hard, and I'm going to give myself permission to screw up.

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Valve's "remote play together" isn't what they're promising

Action games in which two players are physically interacting in real time over a network connection will never feel good to play without "rollback netcode", the implementation of which adds a large amount of extra testing and development time. I don't pretend to understand how it works. Okay, I sort of understand how it works. I don't pretend to know how difficult it is to implement and test. I imagine, based on how few games use it, that it's quite an ordeal. I just know that if something uses GGPO or... well, are there any other alternatives these days? If it uses GGPO, it's playable, and if it doesn't, it ain't. Don't make a game online if there's going to be input lag.

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I'm going to stop saying "blog"

It's a bad internet word that doesn't need to exist. Diary or journal is just fine. Or just "log". The "b" is for "weB", and you don't need to specify that it's a log on the web, because where else are you going to put a log? Of course it's on the web. Everything is on the web, especially Spiderman.

I will now post this image of Journalism Jonah Jameson demanding pictures of Spiderman, simply because I can. Look how easy it is! What luxury! Thanks, blo— er, thanks, online diary publishing website!

"Hello? Do you have photographs of the 'webbed slinger', perchance?"

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How do I do blog

So because I'm the only one writing for this blog, it's silly to specify that each post is written by me. But it also feels silly for the permalink to be just my local time when I wrote the post (or does it auto-adjust for timezones? I figure it must, why else would it be a variable and not just a bit of text that gets added?)

Because it feels like drawing undue attention to the time at which I wrote the post; then again, if I write multiple posts on the same day (as I'm doing now) the time posted is the only way to really differentiate them? I guess? Even though each one has a unique URL generated from the month and the title of the post, so the permalink isn't related to the time at which the post was written. But I don't know what other text should go there.

I also don't know what the title and url of the blog should be. "Naju 20XX" is a phrase that doesn't really mean anything to other people, but a lot of great web journals are phrases that don't mean anything. Maybe it can be something that evokes meaning, like "Slate Star Codex". Whatever reason the author had for choosing that name, it's now irreversibly tied to that style of writing. The once meaningless name has taken on the meaning of "the kind of writing on this blog". It's a neat trick. I hope I can pull it off. I think if I want to do that, I'll have to develop a style, and maybe some themes. This is like an early 2000s webcomic where the first several dozen strips are the author writing about how they're trying to think of ideas for the webcomic, but that's okay. I'm playing:

We have this idea that work is for adults, play is for kids. As we grow up, we turn everything into a goal-directed activity. We play a sport to win, or to stay healthy. We draw to create something beautiful. We cook to make food. We climb an obstacle to get to the other side. We read a book to finish it. We watch a movie in the evening to relax, and then are confused when we can't. Capitalism brainwashes you into thinking that you've grown out of playing. It wants you to think that you can't possibly enjoy an activity for its own sake anymore, so you need an "incentive"
Don't fall for it, and play as often as you can.


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I'm not even tweaking any of the normal blogger themes

I'm stubbornly trying to stick with the "classic" blogger theme from like 2004

Almost all information about this theme format is lost to the ether but here I am trying to patch it up with duct tape

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Did I spend so much time tweaking the layout of this blog I'm not going to use

Jul 21, 2020

I miss the simplicty

Of just logging into a website and making a blog post

And just clicking a button when I want to make something bold or italics

Or change the font size


Adding images is also super easy, too. Automatic resizing and thumbnailing!

I like it. If blogspot had an easier way to integrate file uploads, I might consider using it as my main CMS. Don't even bother changing the theme or anything, just go. The basic classic theme is fine. I don't need anything else. Maybe I'll change some colors around.

I guess I could just use drop box for all my non-image filehosting. It's a pain, but not necessarily more of a pain than uploading it to my webhost with FTP, and I'm already paying for dropbox. I'd lose the flexibility to make custom HTML layouts, but would I care? Maybe not