Missing the web

From a recent HackerNews discussion about search engines, some harsh truth about the big shift in the last two decades:

>It is only more recently that they seem to have given up.

They haven’t given up; the OP has a point. The “sites” you are hoping for Google to return _don’t exist_. Any website online right now that doesn’t exist to drive ad revenue is exceedingly rare. In 2001, there were way more websites that existed just for fun; any tom, dick and harry could open up note pad and get a website online. That doesn’t exist anymore.

It’s my opinion that those who complain about Google search results are frustrated that Google can no longer find a web that no longer exists

The little wallet that could …

Recently became _aware_, for a few moments, of the wallet in my pocket.

I used to have a big, thick one I carried around everywhere.

One day, I got sick of it and looked into card wallet instead.

I ended up getting this Alpine Swiss wallet — when I initially got it, I was worried it would fall apart, but it has lasted for nearly a decade now

Soylent emeralds is made of … dragons?

I said it but I didn’t do it, but here is one of those …. anomalies I mentioned earlier.

Spike is eating a “Soylent Emerald” snack.

Again, who is this for? It’s bizarre. But it exists.

(There are many more, I just haven’t taken a pic or sorted them or anything like that)

Anyway, this is from the sixth “Friendship is Magic” graphic novel I was reading with my daughter.

(Yes, I pre-ordered it 😐)

A time of transition

I’ve been at Confluent for a year and half now, and it was fun in many ways, but I’ve decided upon a change, and I’m joining Sigma Computing next week.

Another instance where I was looking for a different “local maxima” but ended up finding a global maxima instead.

Everyone wants different things at different points, but Sigma feels like a sweet spot for me right now.

It’s not too big and not too small, with a rapidly growing engineering team, there is a whole different bunch of tech to learn from scratch, an opportunity to work on an end-to-end full-stack product while also having significant infrastructure challenges.

I’ve learnt a lot from the folks I’ve worked with at Confluent, and I’m excited to begin the new year on a new adventure 🙂

Nostalgia corner: Urban Assault

Showing the floating Resistance Host Station, inhabited by SDU 7
Showing the floating Resistance Host Station, inhabited by SDU 7

Many games have come and gone, and I haven’t actually played anything for about five years now (!), and looking back, I can barely recall most of what I played.

Some names that do stand out though (I’m sure I’m missing atleast one or two big personal time-sinks here), are:

  • Wolfenstein
  • Quake
  • Urban Assault
  • Age of Empires (2)
  • Drake: Uncharted

I was surprised (or perhaps I shouldn’t have been) to find that I wasn’t alone in the specific nostalgia for this game.

Here is a bit of gameplay as an example, though as I looked at it, I found it a bit boring now.

I don’t think it was the mechanics of the game (unique though they felt at the time) that was attractive anyway, but rather (at the risk of being too autobiographically revealing here) the backstory to it.

Update 1: I was able to track down the “Intro movie“, which is … yes, quite un-watchable today — but for some context, this came out in 1999, one year after Dark City, and the year of The Matrix.

It isn’t just the usual post-apocalyptic landscape, with warring “factions” (which feels like elements of Starcraft-like Zerg/Protoss, Star Trek TNG Borg) — the player too is post-human, transformed into a “Synaptic Donor Unit” in order to “play”, giving up their humanity forever.

In return, they get cybernetic command over every deployed piece of military hardware, able to both direct them in the “usual RTS style”, but also enter a given vehicle for a “direct FPS style”.

(Obligatory Wikipedia link for more details on the plot and characters etc)

This isn’t very novel as a general metaphor for gaming — after all, every time you “direct units” in a strategy game, who are you, if not some abstract spirit that controls these people or animals or vehicles or whatever — but it was novel in being so explicit about it.

Within the story of the game, then, you as the player are already “physically dead”, and your outcomes are bleak too: either annihilation at the hands of the enemy, or a victory that preserves the human race (but … leads to you being decommissioned?)

Of course, this backstory is over in a few minutes and the rest of the game can be played and enjoyed in complete ignorance of it too.

Update 2: I found at least one example of fan fiction for it.

Update 3: I also found the text strings used in the game

One gem from it:

“Jan says some hackers are putting together a big war machine. It’s called Synaptic Donor Unit – SDU. Jan says I better lay low at the Arcades, or else Resistance is going to come looking for me.
Weird cookbook they’ve got going: Wire together the computers of the free world, add connectivity to all automated armament plants, then upload one human. Sounds like a dream I’ve been having.”