I am a big BIG fan of Bethesda's Elder Scrolls and I consider Morrowind one of the best games ever made (my top 2 are Morrowind and Doom in no particular order). I have put in only a few hours into Starfield (so far), and I have to say I like it less and less. Primarily my complaints lie with all the loading scenes that break the illusion of an immersive, seamless galaxy to explore. It feels like Skyrim with even more disconnected regions.

In Morrowind you could walk from the wilderness into a city with no observable loading, the only loading screens were upon fast-travel (which was not necessary) or going indoors. As you leveled up, you could learn levitate spells that let you fly over seemingly insurmountable mountain ranges or water breathing spells that let you explore underwater. You could learn water walking and even walk across the ocean from the mainland to the new island included in the Bloodmoon expansion, if you were patient enough and didn't want to fast-travel via ship.

Oblivion did away with some of the crazier things (like Levitation and Water Walking), and added loading screens as you move into cities and this trend sadly continued into Skyrim. And yet, I still loved those games and devoured them, spending hours. Something about the ability to look at the horizon and say "I'm going to walk to there" was very captivating.

In Starfield, you get loading screen after loading screen, moving from location to location, outdoor to indoor, in and out of spaceships, launching from the surface, grav-jumping, etc. I know this criticism is not incredibly insightful or novel; many folks have already complained loudly about this online and contrasted it against the illusion of seamlessness in No Man's Sky. I know I'm just adding to the din, but I can't help myself, my disappointment is as vast as the regions in Starfield are not.

There are no enormous planets floating in endless space. You're just an ant hopping from leaf to pretty leaf trying to cross a river. I expected so much more.

I will give it a few more hours, but sadly it's been a dud for me so far. Anybody have a recommendation for a modern open world game that knows how to maintain the illusion?

§1376 · January 18, 2024 · Entertainment, Games, Microsoft · 1 comment ·


Apropos of nothing, to the person who once said to me that the 1990s had no good music, I offer a list of 40 albums worth owning. This list has a good drubbing of obvious Alternative Rock and Brit Pop picks, but banks and dips into Shoe Gaze, Noise Pop, Trip Hop, and Electronica, which are more recent musical interests of mine. I own other albums from the nineties that are Canadian Rock-weighted (Tragically Hip, Tea Party, Odds):

  • Heaven or Las Vegas by The Cocteau Twins, 1990
  • Gala by Lush, 1990
  • Achtung Baby! by U2, 1991
  • Ten by Pearl Jam, 1991
  • Nevermind by Nirvana, 1991
  • Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, 1991
  • Blood Sugar Sex Magik by Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1991
  • Screamadelica by Primal Scream, 1991
  • Peng! by Stereolab, 1992
  • Lazer-Guided Melodies by Spiritualized, 1992
  • So Tonight That I Might See by Mazzy Star, 1993
  • Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins, 1993
  • Debut by Björk, 1993
  • G-Stoned by Kruder & Dorfmeister, 1993
  • Zooropa by U2, 1993
  • Dummy by Portishead, 1994
  • Superunknown by Soundgarden, 1994
  • Weezer by Weezer, 1994
  • Post by Björk, 1995
  • (What's the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis, 1995
  • Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins, 1995
  • The Bends by Radiohead, 1995
  • Exit Planet Dust by The Chemical Brothers, 1995
  • Electr-O-Pura by Yo La Tengo, 1995
  • Odelay by Beck, 1996
  • Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Stereolab, 1996
  • Among My Swan by Mazzy Star, 1996
  • Ok, Computer by Radiohead, 1997
  • Urban Hymns by The Verve, 1997
  • Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized, 1997
  • Homogenic by Björk, 1997
  • Opera by Tosca, 1997
  • I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One by Yo La Tengo, 1997
  • Northern Star by Groove Armada, 1998
  • Mezzanine by Massive Attack, 1998
  • Moon Safari by Air, 1998
  • Music Has the Right to Children by Boards of Canada, 1998
  • Glee by Bran Van 3000, 1998
  • Vertigo by Groove Armada, 1999
  • Surrender by The Chemical Brothers, 1999

That 1997 tho.

And since I want to keep the party going, here's an extension of this list into the first half of the 2000's, 20 more albums too good to leave off:

  • Since I Left You by The Avalanches, 2000
  • Felt Mountain by Goldfrapp, 2000
  • Kid A by Radiohead, 2000
  • And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out by Yo La Tengo, 2000
  • Simple Things by Zero 7, 2001
  • Amnesiac by Radiohead, 2001
  • Comfort Eagle by Cake, 2001
  • Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub) by Groove Armada, 2001
  • Charango by Morcheeba, 2002
  • Machine Says Yes by FC Kahuna, 2002
  • Lost Horizons by Lemon Jelly, 2002
  • Details by Frou Frou, 2002
  • Elephant by The White Stripes, 2003
  • Black Cherry by Goldfrapp, 2003
  • Talkie Walkie by Air, 2004
  • When It Falls by Zero 7, 2004
  • Lemon Jelly.ky by Lemon Jelly, 2004
  • The Campfire Headphase by Boards of Canada, 2005
  • Haughty Melodic by Mike Doughty, 2005
  • The Cosmic Game by Thievery Corporation, 2005

I guess it's kind of easy to look back twenty years into the past and peer at "the best of" with the rosy hue of critical acclaim and record sales, but man, do I enjoy the music. Please drop me notes on what I've missed or what I should pick up from the next twenty years!

§1286 · January 3, 2024 · Entertainment, Music · (No comments) ·

JavaScript logo

Back when I first wrote my unzip implementation in pure JS using Web Workers (code here), JavaScript runtimes were a very new thing (NodeJS had been released less than a year before). Ok, I had played with C++ bindings to the V8 JS engine for a hobby video game engine I had been writing, but that was it for me when it came to "JavaScript outside of the browser".

Well over a decade later and JavaScript/Typescript runtimes are all the rage in this continuously fractious software world. Even so, it hadn't really ever occurred to me that the unzip/unrar/untar implementations in BitJS might be useful in NodeJS or other runtimes (Deno, Bun) until someone opened a bug.

Anyway, the way unzip/unrar worked was pretty straightforward: The host code passes bytes into the unzip/unrar implementation via a postMessage() call, the implementation does some bits and bobs as a WebWorker (aka not on the UI thread), crawling through bytes of the archive and emitting interesting events that the host code listens for (like "here's a file I extracted").

sequenceDiagram participant Host participant Worker box Worker JavaScript Context participant WorkerGlobalScope participant unrar.js end Host->>Worker: postMessage<br/>(rar bytes) Worker-->>WorkerGlobalScope: WorkerGlobalScope->>unrar.js: onmessage<br/>(rar bytes) Note right of unrar.js: unrar<br/>the thing unrar.js->>WorkerGlobalScope: postMessage<br/>(an extracted file) WorkerGlobalScope-->>Worker: Worker->>Host: onmessage<br/>(an extracted file) unrar.js->>WorkerGlobalScope: postMessage<br/>(2nd extracted file) WorkerGlobalScope-->>Worker: Worker->>Host: onmessage<br/>(2nd extracted file)

Unfortunately, Node still has not adopted Web Workers (though eventually they may); they even have their own different thing called Worker Threads - confusing. Anyway, it left me wondering how I should approach supporting Node... until I learned about MessageChannel / MessagePort, which are now supported nearly universally (as of Node 15).

So in the end, it continues to be pretty simple. The MessageChannel becomes the abstraction through which messages are passed, the host code owns one MessagePort, the unzip implementation owns the other, and the implementation no longer assumes it lives in a WebWorker (oh and thanks Dynamic Imports!).

sequenceDiagram participant Host Code participant Port1 box Any JavaScript Context (could be a Web Worker) participant Port2 participant unrar.js end Host Code->>Port1: postMessage(rar bytes) Port1-->>Port2: (MessageChannel) Port2->>unrar.js: onmessage(rar bytes) Note right of unrar.js: unrar<br/>the thing unrar.js->>Port2: postMessage(an extracted file) Port2-->>Port1: (MessageChannel) Port1->>Host Code: onmessage(an extracted file) unrar.js->>Port2: postMessage(2nd extracted file) Port2-->>Port1: (MessageChannel) Port1->>Host Code: onmessage(2nd extracted file)

This allows environments that support Web Workers to keep their Web Worker implementation and the NodeJS version to have the implementation in its main thread. If someone wants to make it more performant using Node's Worker Threads send pull requests!

It seems like all JS libraries that do intensive computations (like training ML models or mining teh bitcoinz) and then emit a series of events, should probably think of MessageChannel as the means of communication with the host software going forward so that the implementation can be ported to more environments. What? WebAssembly? ... oh shhhh!

This little weekend hack also let me write some decent automated unit tests for BitJS decompression, so hurrah for that too!

§1357 · December 27, 2023 · Uncategorized · (No comments) ·


Oh, remember that time six years ago when I said one day soon we'll be able to use ES Modules everywhere, even inside Web Workers and Service Workers? Well that day is next week when the last browser ships support for ES Modules in Workers - finally!

Yes, I know that ES Modules are terrible, actually - but the fact is that they are the future of JavaScript / TypeScript / Node / Deno development so we all might as well accept it. I actually think they're great. I've been using them for hobby projects forever - though I rarely use transpilers, bundlers, etc.


Sure, it will be some time before CommonJS modules are resigned to the ash heap of history, until then https://esm.sh/#docs can help... but I for one welcome our Isomorphic JavaScript overlords.

§1350 · May 31, 2023 · JavaScript, Software, Technology, Web · (No comments) ·

Roll the dice

I'll try to keep this one short - it's not exactly tech-related, but it kinda is. A tiny story about a tiny story that you might enjoy, in three parts.

Part One

I got into some speculative short story reading during the pandemic and Ray Bradbury was one author I got into. I think it started with some of my comic book research from the 1950s. Now I won't go as far as Rachel Bloom on ol' Ray, but the man definitely knew how to spin a yarn. In terms of sheer volume of interesting ideas, he beats out Isaac Asimov for me big time.

Anyway, in 1950 Ray Bradbury wrote this great short story called "The Veldt". It's only 13 pages and, rather than read a synopsis about the story, I think you should read it. Here's a free copy I found, though I noticed some typos. G'wan read it, I'll wait.

Back? I thought it was great, what about you? I think it's got a lot to say about how tech has invaded our lives, de-sensitized us from each other, maybe other things that are way over my head. And it holds up today - nice and dark.

Part Two

Ever hear of deadmau5? He's an electronic music artist from my homeland. Not sure if you're into progressive house or the techno scene, but the guy has earned a lot of awards for his work. Anyway, he wrote a song called The Veldt in 2012 (the year Ray Bradbury died). Here you should watch the video:

Rolling Stone thought it was one of the 50 best songs of 2012. My musical wheelhouse is more the 1990s and early aughts, but I really love the tune.

Part Three

And how did this come to be? Apparently deadmau5 created the music in a "22-hour live streaming session" back in March 2012. Crazy, but what's even crazier is that one day later, deadmau5 discovered that a fan named Chris James had posted vocals for the track. He was ready to shred the guy on his live stream but instead this happened:

So yeah, that music video you watched, the song that officially landed on the album, the one that Rolling Stone thought so highly of, is the combination of deadmau5 and Chris James' vocals weaved together over the course of 48 hours.

In some way, I find this a satisfying balance to Ray's meditations on technology... Anyway, I'm off to play in Africa!

§1343 · May 17, 2023 · Entertainment, Music, Technology · (No comments) ·