Ubisoft is clearly not my favorite game company.

Ubisoft is launching a new ecosystem, whatever they mean by that, and to celebrate you can go out to their webpage and have them generate a summary of the time you’ve spent playing Ubisoft games since they started keeping detailed stats around 2015 or so. I’m guessing on that last bit as that’s when they start my review even though I know I’ve played Ubisoft games for several years prior to that.

Here’s mine.

This was interesting. If nothing else, it shows that I don’t tend to play Ubisoft games a whole lot. I mean, I have some impressive hours in here, but not when you consider this stretches back over five years. I’ve spent way more than 313 hours on just a single Call of Duty in a single year before.

For example: Advance Warfare – 432.2 hours, the original Black Ops – 469.3 hours, Black Ops II – 603.1 hours, Black Ops III – 838.2 hours, Ghosts – 762.4 hours, Infinite Warfare – 790.7 hours, Modern Warfare II – 704.5 hours, and one of the grand-daddies of time sinks, Modern Warfare 3 – 1,017.2 hours. Those are just the ones from Steam that I can easily look up. I’m sure I’ve put in similar amounts of time since they moved to BattleNet. Glancing at my combat record in Back Ops Cold War I’m already at 1 day, 5 hours, and 17 minutes for a game that’s been out a week.

So, yea, 313 hours over 5 years on multiple Ubisoft games isn’t as impressive as it sounds. You can also tell I don’t tend to do PVP in games like The Division what with my 0 rogue agents killed. I’m just not good at third-person shooter PVP. I was very surprised that none of the Far Cry games showed up in my review. I thought for sure I had played the last couple more than I had played The Division 1, but apparently not.

As for what the new Ubisoft ecosystem is, I think it’s just a new games launcher. I just realized I hadn’t reinstalled it since the last time I had to restage my system (again, shows you how much I play Ubisoft games) so I just did and… it looks more or less the same. Not sure what’s different about it. Still, it made for a mildly amusing video for the morning and a bit of reflection on how much time I waste playing Call of Duty.

I remember those early cable TV days.

Came across this meme on Facebook today and it made me a little ranty. It’s one of the big reasons I ended up cutting the cord years ago and switching to streaming only. It’s largely accurate except for Bravo.

Image may contain: text that says 'TV CHANNELS: THEN & NOW WHAT IT SHOWED THEN MTV Music videos WHAT IT SHOWS NOW TLC Trash reality shows that feature young, attractive people Medical shows and documentaries ANIMAL PLANET Trash reality shows that feature oddballs and grossouts Wildlife documentaries A&E Trash reality shows that feature doggies and kitties Historical biographies HISTORY Trash reality shows that feature murders and ghosts History documentaries BRAVO Trash reality shows that feature pawn shops Makeovers and weddings DISCOVERY Trash reality shows that feature gold diggers Nature programming WEATHER Weather Trash reality shows that feature gold-diggers Weather @MATTSURELEE'

I was a teenager in the 1980s when Cable TV started showing up everywhere. I can recall clearly hearing the news that it was coming to my hometown of Pontiac, MI and how excited everyone was for it. I can also remember the launch of several of these channels.

MTV was a channel I spent a lot of time on and is the major reason I can recognize musical groups from that era when I see pictures of them. Hours were spent watching videos and when we moved out to Orion Township in 1984, which didn’t have cable TV yet, my mother felt so bad that she bought a couple of MTV compilation VHS tapes to make up for it. I think I still have them around here someplace.

Some folks know that TLC stood for The Learning Channel and started off with a lot of educational programming and documentaries, but what a lot of them don’t know is that it’s one of the oldest cable channels. Founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as the Appalachian Community Service Network its focus was on education through TV and was distributed for free by NASA satellite. It was privatized in 1980 and became The Learning Channel and its main competitor was The Discovery Channel, which aired similar content. TLC was considered the better channel for shows about nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, and home improvement. So, of course, the folks behind The Discovery Channel ended up eventually buying them out and then slowly moved the content to the trash that it is today for the sake of ratings. Then in 2006 to 2008 they tried to shift their focus back to actual educational programming even using “The Learning Channel” in some promotions. That didn’t last long at all.

Of all the channels above, TLC is the one I’m most upset about because it in the early days I really enjoyed it. The HISTORY Channel falls into the same category. I struggled with history in school, but I enjoyed the hell out of the programming on The HISTORY Channel back when it actually had shows about history on it. Arts & Entertainment (A&E, natch) was also really good in the early days even if I didn’t watch it all that much because I have no artistic sensibility. BRAVO I didn’t watch much of because I recall it had a lot of operas and “serious theater” on it which didn’t have enough explosions to keep my ADHD addled attention. Not sure why the meme lists BRAVO as makeovers and weddings as that’s the crap it turned into before it went full reality TV programming.

The Discovery Channel was another early favorite because I was big into science stuff and so were they. My favorite program was out of Australia called “BEYOND 2000” which was all about the cool shit we’d be using in the future. I first heard about Dental Implants on that show and now they’re actually a thing here in the future. At the end of my time as a cable TV subscriber the only shows I could stand to watch on the channel was The MythBusters and occasionally How It’s Made.

The joke of the meme is the WEATHER channel, which covered the weather back then and still largely does so today, but it hasn’t escaped from the reality TV trend entirely. With shows like Fat Guys in the Woods and So You Think You Would Survive, they’ve got their toes in the water. Hell, not even the major cable news networks have managed to avoid the trend.

The promise of cable TV back in the day was that it had enough room for networks devoted to knowledge to exist alongside the standard TV fare and for a while it lived up to that promise. Alas, ratings mean money and when the first reality TV show showed you could get massive ratings for extraordinarily little expenditure the fate of these channels was sealed. Why show an informative documentary on how paper clips are made when you can air a show about the hardships of a family of little people and make four times the cash from it?

The same sort of thing happened to parts of the Internet. I first ventured onto the net before the World Wide Web was a thing, so it was a text-based experience. USENET News Groups were the main draw back then functioning much like web-based message forums of today or the Bulletin Board Systems we ran before the Internet was widely available. There were groups devoted to all sorts of topics and they put you in contact with knowledgeable people around the world. Alt.Sex was an amazing forum for getting information from experts about that topic right up until around 1996 when the boom in Internet Service Providers (ISPs) happened and suddenly the Internet became a lot more crowded. Groups like Alt.Sex went from being a place with useful info to nothing but porn ads almost overnight.

It’s almost like any form of educational thing gets ruined the minute you give it to the masses. Early cable TV was highly informative as was the early Internet. Once it reached the mass public both kinda soured. There are still areas of both that hold worthwhile content, but content aimed at the lowest common denominator reigns king and you must step around a lot of dog shit to get to it. It’s a shame. I miss those early days, but that’s probably me being a grumpy old man looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

Hey you kids! Get the fuck offa my lawn!

The original lyrics for “Deck the Halls.”

I realize we’re still a couple of months away from the season, but while browsing through memes recently I came across this one:

I recalled having heard something about this previously, but never got around to looking into it. As it turns out, that’s not the only drinking reference removed from the song. Here are the English lyrics as they appeared in in volume 2 of Welsh Melodies in 1862:

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Fill the meadcup, drain the barrel,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Troul the ancient Christmas carol,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

See the flowing bowl before us,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
While I sing of beauty’s treasure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

Fast away the old year passes,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Laughing, quaffing all together,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

The version most folks know today is from the December 1877 issue of the Pennsylvania School Journal.

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Don we now our gay apparel,
Troll the ancient Christmas carol,

See the blazing yule before us,
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Follow me in merry measure,
While I tell of Christmas treasure,

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Sing we joyous all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather,

Interestingly, the English translation above isn’t a literal one from the original Welsh. Additionally, the tune has been around a lot longer, predating Nos Galan, a traditional Welsh New Year’s Eve carol published in 1794 from which Deck the Halls borrows its melody. According to Wikipedia, the original lyrics in Welsh and English for Nos Galan are as follows:

O mor gynnes mynwes meinwen,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
O mor fwyn yw llwyn meillionen,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
O mor felus yw’r cusanau,
[instrumental flourish]
Gyda serch a mwynion eiriau
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
Oh! how soft my fair one’s bosom,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
Oh! how sweet the grove in blossom,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
Oh! how blessed are the blisses,
[instrumental flourish]
Words of love, and mutual kisses,
fal lal lal lal lal lal lal lal la.
Source: Wikipedia

I don’t have point to this other than I find it interesting how far back this song goes and how it’s changed over the years. I tend to double check memes that make factual claims like the one above and this one dropped me into a rabbit hole that seemed like it would make a good blog post.

We’ve come such a long way from ‘Pong’.

Such humble beginnings

I’m an O.G. gamer, having cut my teeth on Pong and Breakout and Space Invaders way back in the day. I can remember every major jump in graphics tech and how we thought things couldn’t possibly get any better than they were right then. I remember the brief period where it seemed Laserdisc based games were the future. I remember when CD-ROMs took over from cartridges offering up incredible — for the time — amounts of storage (Final Fantasy VII would not have been possible with cartridges). Then there was the arrival of true 3D rendering and how were they going to top that?

Crash Bandicoot.

I’ve been a Sony fan since the original PlayStation was released though I almost didn’t buy one. I moved on to gaming on computers after the console market crashed in 1985 and didn’t bother going back when Nintendo and Sega revived it a year or so later. The one exception was my purchase of a Panasonic 3DO in 1993 and that was only because ex-Amiga people were behind its development. Everyone was excited for Sony’s PlayStation arriving in America in 1995 and the word was that if you hadn’t preordered you weren’t going to be able to get one, but I didn’t bother. I happened to walk into the local Babbages the day it was released, and they had a stack of them on hand that weren’t already claimed. I bought one on a whim and have been a fan ever since.

Now the PS5 is looming on the horizon and I’m tingling with anticipation. There will be yet another improvement in graphics with its release, but the real jump in tech will be from its storage technology. The last two generations of consoles have included mechanical hard drives as their main form of storage which, much like CD-ROMs did, allowed for much more capacity as well as giving developers the ability to release updates and new content to a game. Large mechanical drives, though, are terribly slow which could make for long loading times between levels. You can alleviate some of that by putting a Solid-State Drive (SSD) in your console, but it’s not there by default so developers don’t take advantage of it.

Oh, you sexy beast!

The PS5 is including an SSD for the first time, but it’s not an ordinary SSD. It’s a variation on a newer form known as an NVMe drive which offer ridiculous transfer speeds because they bypass the normal drive bus and talk directly to the system bus. I have an NVMe drive in my gaming desktop and it is disgustingly fast. The one in the PS5 reportedly is custom designed to exceed a standard NVMe’s transfer speed and works in conjunction with a custom I/O chip to deliver uncompressed data to other system components at up to 5.5GB/sec. What that means is insanely fast load times and the ability to stream data into a game faster than ever before.

What can you do with that? One of the best examples is the upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart game:

Now it may not be immediately clear why the new custom NVMe drive in the PS5 is the most important part of the new system, so allow me to elaborate. The game has a portal mechanic like the PC game Portal in those orange things Ratchet is grappling through. No big deal, that sort of tech has been around for a while and we’ve seen stuff like it before. It’s a testament to the power of the PS5 that so much of the geometry is being rendered in the portals as you move through them, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before.

It’s the purple portals he falls through that show the power of the new SSD drive. When he’s falling through those, he’s going from one game level to a completely different game level with a different art style and a whole new collection of assets. The game has to load all that in which is why there is about one and a half seconds where he’s drifting “between realities” before the second portal opens and drops him in the new world. The end of the demo does this five times in relatively quick succession and it’s almost seamless. Watch it again:

This will start at the purple portal sequence.

That’s damned impressive. I’d bet most folks wouldn’t even realize it’s doing so much work in such a short period of time. I’m trying to think of any other video game that has pulled this sort of thing off and I’m coming up empty. This also means things like Fast Travel in open world games should be so brief that there’s little to no time to put up game tips. I’m currently playing through Ghost of Tsushima which has one of the shorter Fast Travel features I’ve seen in an open world game. Especially compared to a title like Red Dead Redemption II which is almost glacial in comparison. I can’t wait to see how that feature will work on games on the PS5.

Above and beyond that, though, is just the shear amount of detailed stuff that’s happening onscreen during this demo. It really is dizzying at times to look at. The previous games in this series were no slouches in terms of on-screen action, but this is just so much… more. More stuff, more detail, more effects. I’m not a huge Ratchet & Clank fan, but I’ll be picking this one up.

Let’s do a stupid Facebook list thingy.

I’ve been meaning to post something for awhile now, but between working from home and the fast pace of news I’ve just not been able to compose my thoughts. So instead I’m doing one of those stupid “How Many X Things Have You X’ed” lists that make the rounds on Facebook. Only I’m doing it here so I’ve at least posted something. Feel free to play along in the comments.

Photo of old TV set.
Source: Rene Asmussen

You never realize how much/little TV you watch until you fill this out. Put a ✔ by the shows you have watched more than 10 episodes of. How about you?

1. Grey’s Anatomy:
2. Stranger Things: ✔
3. The Vampire Diaries:
4. The Walking Dead:
5. Fear The Walking Dead:
6. Dexter: 
7. American Horror Story:
8. Orange is the New Black:
9. A Million Little Things:
10. This is Us:
11. The Simpsons:  ✔
12. New Amsterdam:
13. Manifest:
14. How To Get Away With Murder:
15. Breaking Bad:
16. Sons of Anarchy:
17. Scandal:
18. Riverdale:
19. The Good Doctor:
20. House of Cards:
21. Once Upon a Time:
22. House: ✔
23. True Detective:
24. Dr. Pimple Popper:
25. Power:
26. Empire:
27. One Tree Hill: 
28. Supernatural:
29. Family Guy: ✔
30. Santa Clarita Diet:
31. Shameless:
32. Pretty Little Liars:
33. Secret Life of an American Teenager:
34. Bones:  ✔ *
35. Criminal Minds: 
36. The 100:
37. Chicago Fire:
38. Chicago Med:
39. The Resident:
40. Game of Thrones:
41. The Big Bang Theory: ✔
42. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
43. Lost:
44. The Sopranos:
45. NCIS: ✔ †
46. NCIS Los Angeles: 
47. NCIS New Orleans: 
48. Law & Order SVU: 
49. Gossip Girl: 
50. How I Met Your Mother:
51. Blue Bloods:
52. Two Broke Girls:
53. The Office:
54. Blacklist: 
55. Full House:
56. Fuller House:
57. Downton Abbey:
58. Hawaii Five-O:
59. Big Mouth:
60. Last Man Standing:
61. Six Feet Under:
62. Wentworth:
63. Friends:
64. That 70s Show:  ✔
65. Girlfriends Guide to Divorce:
66. Heartland:
67. All-American:
68. Greek:
69. Yellowstone:
70. Better Call Saul:
71. You:
72. Rescue Me:
73. Scrubs:
74. Community:
75. Letter kenney :
76. Kitchen nightmares :
77. The Masked singer:
78. Robot Chicken: ✔
79. Vikings:
80. Mind Hunters:
81. New Girl:
82. The Good Place: ✔
83. Black Mirror: ✔
83. Lucifer: ✔
84. Peaky Blinders:
85. iZombie:
86. Parks and Rec:
87. Brooklyn 99:
88. Handmaid’s Tale:
89. Modern Family:
90. Smallville:
91. Seinfeld:
92. Gilmore Girls: 
93. Charmed: ✔ *
94. Private Practice:
95. Lost Girl:
96.True Blood:
97. Roswell:
98. Haven: ✔
99. Mad Men:
100. Arrow:
* Not by choice, but because someone else was watching it and I couldn’t be bothered to find something else to do.
† This is the only one of the NCIS shows I could stand.

As you can see, there’s a lot of “popular” television that I largely ignore. Add in shows like Happy! and Doctor Who and then my count would go up. Most of my TV viewing these days consists of movies I missed in the theaters and YouTube channels I’ve subscribed to. After cutting the cord, YouTube has scratched my channel flipping itch by having dozens of different short videos I can go through on all sorts of topics. And, unlike the text that starts this trivial exercise, I’m actually quite aware of how little TV I watch.

How about you? How many shows do you keep track of regularly?

That trailer for the “Cats” movie is… unnerving.

What unholy hellspawn gave birth to this abomination?

Seriously, who the hell saw the final result from the CGI tests and said, “This! This is what we want! Something that looks like a mad scientist’s fever dream of human/cat hybrids gone horribly wrong.”

To be fair, I’m not a fan of the Broadway musical of the same name. I’m familiar with the songs because people I know and love really like the musical and own the soundtracks and have played them many times over the years in my presence, but all I’ve seen of the stage play is the clips they use in the advertisements when it’s in town. I thought the play’s costumes were a little funky, but they worked.

This? This lands solidly in the uncanny valley which is weird because those are real humans prancing about that look like someone forcibly inserted an animatronic tail in their assholes while injecting them with the world’s worst hair growth formula. They look vaguely cat-ish with realistic ears, but they have human eyes and teeth. And I thought the CGI hedgehog in the upcoming Sonic movie looked disturbing. This takes it to a whole other level. The oddest part is that they somehow seem even more naked than if they were actually naked.

I suppose if you’re a fan of the Broadway show this will do nothing to dissuade you from seeing the movie, but at the same time this does nothing to lure non-fans into the theater.

What has been seen cannot be unseen so my only relief was to share my pain.

CBS News coverage of the Apollo 11 launch in 1969.

Fifty years ago on July 16th, 1969 American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins took flight to the moon in a Saturn V rocket. I was just under two years old at the time so I don’t have any recollection of this historic event.

Fortunately for me, CBS News did a live stream of four and a half hours of coverage of the event — including the commercials aired at the time — and that live stream is still available to watch on YouTube. Or you can watch it right here:

Courtesy of CBS News YouTube Channel.

I have to admit that I find this interesting not just for the historic event itself, but for the slice of America that it preserves. Between the commercials, which are surprisingly calm and dulcet compared to many commercials today, and the newscast it really puts into perspective how much has changed in 50 years. Some of it good and some of it bad. What’s also amazing is just how much of an emotional experience it still is to watch the launch even after 50 years of routine space flight with the shuttles and the space stations.

You may not want to sit through the full four and a half hours, but it’s worth watching at least some of this video. Especially if, like me, you aren’t old enough to remember it first hand. It really is incredible that we pulled this off using onboard computers with way less computing power than what your phone you carry around with you is capable of.

New study shows dubstep disrupts mosquito mating habits as well as annoying your parents.

A study on mosquito feeding and mating habits published in the journal Acta Tropica says that the bitey little bastards have a hard time eating and/or fucking when exposed to the song “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” by Skrillex. Apparently the low-frequency sounds common in dubstep not only drive your parents up the wall, but cause havoc with the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.

For the experiment, researchers created a “music-on” and “music-off” environment in which they studied the Aedes aegypti and came to some conclusions.

Mosquitos in the music-on environment were less likely to feed on the provided host and were less likely to reproduce than mosquitos in the music-off environment. Researchers believe that these findings can be used to help develop more ways to control Aedes-carried diseases.

SCIENTIFIC STUDY FINDS “SCARY MONSTERS AND NICE SPRITES” BY SKRILLEX STOPS MOSQUITOS FROM HAVING SEX – EDM.com

I can’t begin to imagine why this would bother mosquitoes, your mom.

So the next time your parents try to tell you to turn that shit down, just explain how you’re protecting yourself from yellow fever mosquitos and ask them if they’d rather you got sick and died.

April 1st is dangerous for the credulous on the Internet

It’s that day again. The day of pranks and mischief where everyone tries to pull one over on you. Tech companies in particular really seem to enjoy this day and go to extra lengths to put forth almost believable fake products.

Companies like nVidia and their new R.O.N. AI Personal Assistant for Gamers:

I could totally use one of these for the RageConverter™ technology alone. The Troll Destroyer would also be nice.

Then there’s Newegg with their announcement of their entry into hardware production with their first CPU for gamers that continues the current trend of putting RGB lighting on everything. The Newegg iBrite RGB CPU:

It’s not clear how you’re supposed to see the RGB lights once you put a heatsink on it, but the specs of this processor more than make up for it: Cores: 100 — Threads: 200 — DDR5 RAM support: Sure, probably — Base clock: 1.4 PHz — Overclock capable, but doing so might create a small black hole inside your CPU (and void your warranty).

ThinkGeek goes all out for April 1st with a number of fake products that are often things people would really want. So much so that in the past they’ve actually turned some of them into real things you can buy. This year they’re “offering” up the Burned Bread Toaster by Banksy for the low low price of $1,370,000.00, the Flame Jam Hoop for all your Boomshakalaka needs, the Captain Marvel Universal Pager for a mere 1¢ (with $9.99/month 2-year service contract), the Roomby: Kirby Robot Vacuum that’ll suck your carpets clean, the Marvel Thor Mighty Mjolnir Mailbox because your mail is worthy, a Motion-Controlled Mimic Package to stop those porch pirates, the NERF Nuke to end all those NERF gun wars once and for all, the Power Wheels Desert Drifters so your kids can live out their Mad Max dreams, and — my personal favorite — the Bean Bag Onesie for all you lazy millennials out there.

Logitech has given in to demands to rename Wireless Mice to a more appropriate mammal considering that they lack “tails.” Announce they will now be called Hamsters:

Google is excited to introduce their newest product: Google Tulip! Decoding the language of flowers has been a decades-long challenge. But that changes today. Thanks to great advancements in artificial intelligence, Google Assistant on phones and Google Home is now able to understand tulips, allowing translation between Tulipish and dozens of human languages.

If you want to try for yourself, set your Google Assistant on your phone or smart speaker to the English language and say “Talk to Tulip Translator”. Yes, they went through the trouble to add this to the Google AI. I tried it. It works. This is some serious above and beyond for the sake of a joke.

Gotta admit, the amount of work some of these companies put into their pranks is impressive and I do look forward to this each year. However, I can imagine that for some folks the day is a nightmare.

French people try to say difficult English words.

I have become quite the fan of YouTube videos over the past couple of years. At this very moment I am subscribed to over 302 different channels and, ever since we cut the cord, flipping through YouTube videos after dinner has replaced flipping through channels on Cable TV. There’s a lot of good content out there and when watched through the YouTube app on our Roku the commercials are few and infrequent. One of my favorites is The Try Channel where Irish folks try foods and drinks from other parts of the world. As a result, YouTube sometimes recommends other similar videos.

Like this one where French folks attempt to say difficult English words:

To be fair, I often have a hard time with that last word. Thankfully, I don’t have occasion to use it very often. This goes all the way back to 2017 because sometimes YouTube takes awhile to get around to recommending some things.