Stuff I’ve seen and read recently: February 2020

As per last month, herewith a list of ‘stuff what I’ve read’ during February 2020.

This recent post from Adam Elkus about the trials and tribulations of running Linux in 2020 was nicely put together. I dabbled with installing Linux distributions from about as early as I had access to a PC and realised they could run more than one operating system. I distinctly remember learning the extremely hard way what formatting a hard drive meant, and spending ages on forums with names like ‘Linux newbies’ searching for and ultimately asking for help with installing a mouse driver or working out why my computer wouldn’t dual boot properly. I am no more eager to try Linux out than I was twenty years ago, but I still find it fascinating to read about from time to time.


This one from benjojo.co.uk describing how a fundamental part of ethernet connections work did the rounds recently. It fits into a weird pigeonhole of ‘fascinating insight into a topic I didn’t even know about before’, and provided good bedtime reading in much the same way as listening to an episode of In Our Time with specialists enthusiastically talking about something rather esoteric.


I spent a bit of time reading through this Ribbonfarm post on blogging and writing and stuff, and it’s been nice to see responses and reactions from others (including this from Warren Ellis) which chime with my own feelings: mostly that the specific examples discussed in the post aren’t perhaps the best, but that there is some truth to it.


Like Craig Mod in one of his recent email newsletters (they’re always a good read), I am also a tweet deleter. I just always feel like tweets should be ephemeral and time-limited and should just fade away after a given amount of time. For me, that’s about a month. And so I use a free service called Tweet Delete to handle this automagically for me.

Phil Gyford chimed in on this subject as well and feels similar. Like Phil, I find this an interesting thing to consider as I am also a bit of an archivist/hoarder at heart, but tweets just feel like something that should fade away. Not everyone feels this way, though, and some are beginning to treat Twitter like people used to treat blogging. Between both Craig and Phil, they make the extremely salient point of (in Phil’s words):

“Think of all the old bloggers lost to Twitter.”

Amen.

When I see multi-tweet threads which could add up to 500 words or more, I just wish the author had bothered to write a blog post instead. Thank goodness Twitter has added better threading functionality (and I quite often use it for 2-5 tweets), but anything more than that just seems like such a waste of words. Le sigh. (The above Ribbonfarm post also talks about Twitter threads if you’re hungry for more.)


Nice piece in the Guardian from Anna Hughes about cycling across France, a subject which is close to my heart having done a small slice of this last August and which left me very much wanting to do more of that sort of thing. It reads well, but felt like it had been edited for length, and I hoped to find a link to the full piece elsewhere as sometimes happens, but alas.


Harriet Thompson has begun a new project with an associated blog which aims to explore, amongst other things: “the influence of the electric telegraph on nineteenth-century literature and culture.”

Sign me up! That’s another RSS feed added to my feed reader.


This piece called ‘How blogs broke the web’ was an oddity – I don’t quite understand the M.O. of the website that posted it but it was a really nicely-written (and illustrated!) piece of nostalgia for blogging and the old web, a subject I am increasingly finding myself only too happy to wallow in.


Another bit of nostalgia/old web stuff here, this time from Ana, whose blog I recently found via the Indie Web/Homebrew Website Club…. portal? Website? Directory?

Anyway, Ana confesses to – in her words – overthinking my nostalgia (hi!) and it made for a nice read.

My teenage years weren’t amazing but it wasn’t all bad. And whenever I think about them I think about a couple of things only: discovering music and building fan sites. During these years I developed one of my core personality traits: I build websites. It was my only hobby. I would spend hours learning and experimenting without judgement.


The Guardian again, and an interesting piece on the subject of men losing and making friends in their thirties which, well, hi.

Ironically and/or charmingly, I came across this link via Jamie Adams’ weeknotes and we had just previously exchanged an email or two pretty much down to the fact that we are both men in that category who run blogs and whose email addresses are visible with an open-door policy on people saying hello.

Hello!


I found this post from Robin Rendle amusing, talking about the writing of Robert Macfarlane, a nature writer whose books I enjoy. Rendle wrote of Macfarlane’s Underland:

For the most part I enjoyed it, yet every so often I found myself wincing and bracing for impact because—out of absolutely nowhere—the writing slips into obnoxious rambling.

The quoted example in his post is actually a pretty good one and, although I enjoy Macfarlane’s writing immensely, I have definitely come across passages in his books where I mentally have to insert some sort of algebraic brackets or commas so that I can break down a lengthy paragraph. It’s obviously a fine line though, because I find myself highlighting a lot of (often lengthy) passages in Macfarlane’s work as they so often just work perfectly.


Finally, there is a soft spot in my heart for Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, a PlayStation game I was first introduced to at a family friend’s house and which seemed so much deeper and more fleshed-out than other platformers of the time. It just seemed so delightfully, well, odd, and I’ve always remembered it with fondness, occasionally replaying it for a short session just to make sure it still seems singularly strange even many years later.

Turns out, as this video interview with the game’s chief creative officer Lorne Lanning shows, there’s even more to Abe than meets the eye – and that’s saying something.

These ‘war stories’ interviews with the creators of significant games by Ars Technica are really well made, and I’ve found myself enjoying them even if the game in question isn’t one I know very well.