My Nintendo, Again

When you gonna give to me, a gift to me
Is it just a matter of time, Nintendo?

Last year, I commented on how useless the then-recent My Nintendo Rewards scheme was. I said back then:

Quickly, I racked up enough of these new coins to buy the Zelda Picross game from the My Nintendo Rewards page, which was pretty good, and I looked forward to obtaining more free games like this.

But they never came. And they haven’t since. In fact, the situation has become even worse.

Since last year, the Nintendo Switch has come out. If you tie your Switch account to your My Nintendo account, you can accumulate Gold Coins with every Switch game purchase – even physical titles. You also now have more ways to “earn” Platinum Coins, if you play mobile titles like Mario Run or Fire Emblem Heroes (which I don’t, incidentally).

Sadly, there’s still nothing to buy with any of these coins. Some money off games that 1) I already have, and 2) are often still cheaper elsewhere. Today, I received an email from Nintendo telling me there were some new “Just For You” deals, presumably just for me. How kind! Looking at the offerings, I see I can get The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons for my 3DS at a discount. That would be great, only I already bought it on the eShop years ago on the very account already tied to my My Nintendo account. Not only that, but it was cheaper then than it is now even with the discount. In addition, I bloody completed it again just three days ago.

Furthermore, over the months, my “coins” – which I can’t spend, remember – have been expiring. I’ve lost over 6000 Platinum points so far. Sure, I could have spent them getting a copy of Picross e3 or e4 slightly cheaper but guess what? I already have them. Come the end of the month, another 500 Platinum Coins disappear, unspent, and in October my Gold coins start expiring too.

It’s a rubbish system, Nintendo. Why can’t you just give us some NES games for a few hundred coins? Or a generic “10% off the eShop” voucher? There’s no point offering me money off stuff I already have and literally can’t buy again even if I wanted to as you can only have one copy per account! Sort it out.

Windows 10 on an iMac and Steam Link Woes

Weakest Link

No technical help here, I’m afraid, just a rant.

Here is how using a Steam Link, connected to Steam on Windows 10 in Boot Camp on an iMac works: Badly.

In the past, a frequent occurrence is for the Steam Link on my TV downstairs to just disconnect from my iMac upstairs. I’ll go up to find out why. “Installing Windows Updates, 33% Completed”. And that’ll be it for the evening.

Also, random popups from Cortana (now disabled), the virus killer (now disabled), Windows itself (sadly not disabled) and so on draw focus from Steam Big Picture but of course, don’t show on the TV. I’ll go upstairs and find “Would you like to check out One Drive?” or something equally annoying has pulled me out of the game.

But last night’s episode took the biscuit. In fact, it took the entire box of biscuits then complained online about Just Eat not accepting orders for more biscuits.

I loaded Dangerous Golf (which, as an aside, is Excellent). After a few levels, the first scenario above took place. Even though I’d manually checked for Windows Updates before triggering Steam Link because I thought that might happen. After the updates, I logged into Windows again, fired up the Link, and played Dangerous Golf a bit more.

After some more levels, the screen froze. I pressed the Home button on my pad (a Xbox 360 wired one, if that matters) and nothing happened. As I sighed and stood up to investigate upstairs, a massive, screen-filling message appeared on the TV: “An error occurred [OK]”. Of course, I couldn’t click OK until I was at the computer.

In the time it took to get upstairs, another message had appeared over the top explaining the graphics driver had crashed, and Windows was now hilariously set to 640×480. I clicked OK, and the desktop flicked to another resolution and before the screen had a chance to redraw, the computer rebooted.

And rebooted.

And rebooted.

And rebooted.

Each time, it tried to install updates. Each time, it got to 87% complete before restarting. Each time, I got more and more annoyed.

Eventually, I had to repair Windows completely, which kept my settings but removed everything else. Or rather, moved it into a folder from which I could recover Steam games but the rest needed to be reinstalled. All this has taken a day.

I don’t know where the problem is – Steam, Steam Link, Windows, iMac hardware, or what and frankly I don’t care: It Should Just Work (And Not Break The Entire OS).

And why don’t I just use the Steam Link directly with OS X? Because:

  1. 80% of my Steam games are PC only
  2. Oh god have you even tried?

Rumours

The Rumour Mill

The problem with rumours, is that they end up as fact. People seem to forget that rumours are mere suggestions of something that may come to pass. Certainly, the rumour may turn out to be true, but until it is demonstrably true, it’s not true, and therefore false.

This may seem obvious, but it seems – in today’s post-fact world more than ever – that this has been forgotten.

As an example, let’s take the Nintendo Switch. Before anyone (outside of Nintendo and some of their partners, of course) had seen it, rumours abound with what the NX would be. It would have an oval screen and no buttons. It was Wii U compatible. It was a handheld. It played 3DS games. It was download only. It ran Android. It was made by Apple. It was more powerful than a PS4. It was less powerful than a PS4. It wasn’t hardware at all, it was actually just a software platform, like Steam. And so on.

Clearly some of these contradict others, some were more likely than others, and some come from more reputable sources than others. Like Schrödinger’s cat, however, until we knew for sure, we couldn’t possibly know.

Now, I’m not saying rumours are a bad thing. I enjoy the speculation and hype as much as anyone, and when something I think will happen, does, of course I get the warm glow from being right and smug. But it is important to remember not to get too caught up in the guesswork and lies that are mixed in with the half-truths and unverified facts.

Some people were genuinely disappointed that Nintendo didn’t provide what Nintendo said they were going to provide because of course: They didn’t say anything of the sort. Someone else said something and then through misunderstanding, trolling, or Chinese whispers the truth turned out to be nonsense.

Related to this are the currently circulating facts about that Mario game from the Switch reveal video. It’s a launch title. It’s like Mario 64 in level structure. It’s based on a Mushroom Kingdom version of Mexico. All that, from a few seconds of a game which actually might not exist at all. Yes, it is highly likely there’ll be a Mario title for the Switch. It’s reasonable to expect it might be available at launch. It’s certainly possible it is Mexican in theme. But none of this is actually true yet. “But of course it is!” you might say. “It was in the video! Why would Nintendo show it if it didn’t exist?!”.

Well, let me just leave you with this:

What a fantastic Zelda game that was for the Wii U, eh? Shown there, at E3 that time. Wow, the fun we had with that when it finally came out, right? Right?

No. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T EXIST. It was a demo for demo purposes only. There’s every chance that Mario, in the Switch video, could be equally vapourous. It’s not likely, but it has happened before. Rumours, see?


The featured image is by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT, is unmodified, and is used under this licence.

Holidays are Coming

No. No they are not.

A lot of people I know think it odd of me that I don’t like Christmas. Let me tell you why I don’t like Christmas.

This isn’t all in a bah, humbug type way. No, I didn’t have a terrible Christmas experience as a child. And no, I don’t dislike presents and fun and stuff. Not at all. I don’t hate the religious side of it, and I don’t hate the kitsch side of it.

What I actually hate is how other people do Christmas. I hate how it starts so early, requires so much planning and stress, and how adverts seem to start pushing it as a reason for selling pretty much anything.

I hate the representations of Christmas – stockings on the mantlepiece (it isn’t 1905 any more), snow (Christmas isn’t in February), and filling houses with red and green decorations and tinsel everywhere. I hate the terribly wasteful practise of sending cards to everyone. I hate that certain things, like sofa deliveries or redecorating or booking the cat in for its inoculations all have to be “before Christmas”, as if the world shuts down come Boxing Day and doesn’t reopen until the 2nd January – that just isn’t true any more.

I hate people complaining that some shops – how very dare they – choose to open on Christmas Day, as if everyone should give up their day to worship the son of a deity that isn’t even relevant to the majority of the population. When the real reason is they don’t like the suggestion their own day off might somehow be affected. Certainly, don’t force people to work on Christmas Day, but equally don’t tell them they can’t if they so want.

I hate use of the word Xmas. I know that the X means Christ, coming from the Greek word Christos, and it’s a simple substitution, but it seems now that it’s used to make it somehow less Christian. Even worse, is the Americanism that’s making inroads here – just referring to it as “The Holiday Season”.

Now, I realise that covers more than just Christmas, as other faiths have their own festivals and special days near to Christmas, but that isn’t how it is used: People say “The Holiday Season” as a direct replacement for “that time around Christmas”. And guess what? In the UK the Holiday Season is when most people go on holiday: the summer. “Coming this Holiday Season!”, what, August?

I sound hypocritical. I’m an atheist, yet complain when people don’t celebrate it in the correct religious contexts? Sort of, yes. Christmas is, for better or worse, no longer just a celebration for Christians, but it still is a celebration for Christians and is therefore Christmas. Others celebrate it too, maybe differently, or even not at all, but it is still Christmas. Not “the holidays”. Do you see? I don’t celebrate Eid, but it is still Eid.

But I hate the commercialism surrounding it. The three months of adverts. The way the entire TV is taken over by it. The Christmas music in shops. Mickey Sodding Bubbles on the radio every five minutes. THAT DAMN COCA-COLA ADVERT OH GOD I WOULD KILL TO HAVE THAT ERASED FROM HISTORY.

But I like the time spent with family. Giving presents. Not having to go to work for a week. The actual day itself is always enjoyable. I’m not Scrooge. I don’t hate Christmas. I just hate a lot of the nonsense surrounding it.

Google AMP: A Rant

The day Google did what that large bottomed lady failed to do.

Google AMP, or rather, the Google AMP Cache, is rolling out to users right now. It’s been in use for Google News searches for a little while, but now general Google searches are becoming infected by it, and there’s no way to turn it off.

The intention of the AMP project is noble enough: Make mobile pages work faster. On the webmaster side of the project, some work needs to be done in order to make mobile versions of their pages AMP compliant. For many folk, this is little more than triggering a plugin for their CMS, but for those who code sites a little closer to the metal, there are specific AMP HTML pages to create and check. You know how HTML5 and the likes of Bootstrap helped unify devices, so they only need a single page regardless of screen type or viewport size? Well, it seems AMP reverses that.

I don’t pretend to understand it all. But I don’t need to in order to find faults with Google AMP Cache. What this does, is (as the name implies) cache AMP pages. It rolls them up and spits them out quickly to your phone when you access them.

The Google AMP Cache is a proxy-based content delivery network for delivering all valid AMP documents. It fetches AMP HTML pages, caches them, and improves page performance automatically. When using the Google AMP Cache, the document, all JS files and all images load from the same origin that is using HTTP 2.0 for maximum efficiency.

(That’s from here)

Which would be good, only it isn’t. When you use Google on your mobile device to search now, AMP pages are preferred in the results list so generally appear at the top – even if the content is “better” on a non-AMP page. When you tap the link, you get Google’s cache of the page, and herein lie most of the issues.

It’s cached, so inherently isn’t necessarily the newest content. You also don’t get the correct link from the page – the URL bar shows a Google URL. For example, instead of:

https://pokemondb.net/pokedex/umbreon

you get

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/pokemondb.net/amp/pokedex/umbreon

If you then decide to pass this link on to someone not on a mobile device, then you end up passing on the AMP’d link instead, only it doesn’t work. Just copy and paste that second link into your desktop web browser URL bar and see. Not only do you not get taken to the page, you get sent to a page of search results for which the top match isn’t even the correct site 1:

google amp
In fact, at the time of writing for this example, NONE of the sites in ANY of the results are the correct one.

It’s even worse than that. Without hacking apart the AMP Cache URL, you can’t even find a link to the correct “real” page to pass on or save. The cached pages also tend to strip out certain content, such as adverts or input forms. This may be a bonus, or may be because of the ineptitude of the webmaster, but it doesn’t matter either way: Content is not served up correctly and that is a problem.

But things are worse still. Because the Google AMP Cache is, by their own definition, “a proxy-based content delivery network” it can be used to bypass web filters and restrictions. Page blocked by your school? Just access the AMP Cache version of it on your mobile device. In fact, you’ll bypass the filter automatically and inadvertently, potentially breaching an acceptable use policy.

The worst bit of all? You can’t turn it off. There’s no switch in your browser or your Google account settings. You can block access to google.com/amp (or .co.uk/amp, or other country specific variations), but that stops search from working properly. You can ask webmasters to disable AMP support, but there are so many using it now that isn’t going to happen. I do wonder if many webmasters were hoodwinked into this: They saw the benefits of AMP, so embraced it, and now Google have screwed them over by forcing the cache and breaking their content. How does advert revenue work now for those people, if the adverts are cached? Clickthroughs and hits? Did webmasters realise this was the endgame, because when I looked into AMP a while back for WordPress I certainly didn’t. Is there a legal issue with Google AMP Cache essentially cloning your content and serving it up from their server? It’s a mess.

And what if you do manage to convince a webmaster to turn it off? What happens then? This: 404s everywhere. That’s Google’s answer.

The situation now is that mobile search, via Google, is effectively broken just so we can get a page on the screen a few milliseconds faster. This is not progress.

Notes:

  1. Note that it’s Google who redirected to this search – I didn’t stupidly just put the URL in the search box!

The Nintendo Switch

I hear hot takes are the done thing these days.

This week, Nintendo finally unveiled the console that until Thursday was known as the Nintendo NX: The Nintendo Switch. It’s a car crash.

nintendo switch
The Nintendo Switch. JUST LOOK AT IT. Urgh.

I hate everything about it. The tiny little controllers. The way it seems to be aimed at millennial hipsters. The way it doesn’t fix the issue of too many controller types that the Wii and Wii U suffered from. The stupid little kick stand for when you need a tiny console to play on an aeroplane. Having a screen when most of the time you won’t need a screen. The new Nintendo logo. The way it sort of replaces both the Wii U and the 3DS without actually doing so.

It is all utter nonsense. Nintendo have lost the plot. Although they did provide us all with this:

nintendo switch
Lip biting confirmed.

The system is absolutely not what I want from a Nintendo console, but that does present a question: what do I want from a Nintendo console?

The answer? I don’t know.

I do know what I want from Nintendo games – that’s easy: fun, happy blue skies games without swearing that my family will also enjoy, but in terms of hardware I have no idea. Maybe this tablet with detachable controllers will be excellent, or maybe being able to use two tiny pads with a tiny screen in two player will end up being a killer feature. I can’t see it right now, but Nintendo have a habit of knowing what works.

It may not have been commercially successful, but the Wii U is a great console. The 3DS may not have matched the sales of the DS, but it’s a fantastic little machine. The Wii sold well but was derided for the slew of crap it put out and the “waggle” in titles, but there were some incredible games for it.

Ultimately, it would seem that although I don’t know what I want from Nintendo hardware, Nintendo do, and in the end it’s the games that matter. And the games will be outstanding, because they’re Nintendo games.

And for that, I’m in for a Nintendo Switch. All the way in:

nintendo switch

Where have all the Wasabi Peanuts gone?

Wasabi? A yellow insect with a sting.

Not that long ago, I had a craving for some wasabi peanuts. Either the coated type or the dusted type, I wasn’t that fussed, but my local shops didn’t have any. This was disappointing, but it set me off looking for them with a keenness.

After trying many shops, it became clear that they had gone. They used to be there, I remember buying them, but now they are not. Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury’s – nothing. I even asked in Holland and Barrett, who told me they had literally just discontinued them and I was the second person to ask that week.

Even Graze, who I used to use a lot 1, no longer have any wasabi peanut products. There has to be some sort of conspiracy. Yutaka, who make them, point to a number of companies who supposedly stock their product, but guess what? They don’t.

Of course, you can still buy some, of a different brand, on Amazon, but the high street is devoid. Wasabi peas are still easy to come by, but they’re not the same. Wasabi rice crackers aren’t too hard to find either, and Holland and Barrett had a range of other wasabi covered pulses and stuff, all of which are nice but aren’t wasabi peanuts.

I’ve ended up buying chilli coated peanuts instead. They’re hot (at least, some of them are – the Sainsbury’s birds eye chilli peanuts are, the H&B ones less so), but again, they’re not wasabi. I’ll have to just get some online, but chances are, by the time they arrive, I’ll have gone off the idea. Or I’ll order too many and be sick of them. Or worse, I’ll hate them and never want to eat them ever again.

Notes:

  1. On a related note, what the hell happened to razzcherries? They’ve vanished too!

Some Comments About This Week’s Apple iPhone Event

This wouldn’t have happened on Steve’s watch.

It is somewhat fitting that Nintendo made an appearance at an Apple iPhone announcement. Not because they’re similar companies, or are both in competition with Sony and Microsoft, or because I’m a fan of both. No, it’s because 11 years ago Nintendo made the same mistake Apple revealed they’d made this week.

Yes, I’m talking about the announcement that the new iPhone 7 won’t have a 3.5mm headphone socket.

GBA SP adapter
Remember these?

When Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance SP, it was lauded by many – including me – as a great improvement over the original Game Boy Advance. A lit screen, a clamshell design, and a rechargeable battery built in. Bafflingly, however, the power socket did double duty – you charged and powered the GBA SP with it of course, but as the SP didn’t have a headphone socket, you used the power socket via an adapter to plug your headphones in. A decision Nintendo didn’t repeat with the DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, 3DS, 3DS XL, 2DS, New 3DS or New 3DS XL. With good reason: it was bloody stupid.

And here is Apple doing the same thing. You can’t charge your phone and listen to music/games/podcasts/whatever you happen to be using it for at the same time. Why would you want to do that? Because smartphone batteries are rubbish, and with apps like Pokémon Go draining then ever so quickly, being able to charge (even if on the go with a battery pack like I do) is a must. In fact, I regularly walk listening to podcasts, playing Pokémon Go, powering my phone at the same time – with an iPhone 7, I can’t do that. In fact, I can’t even use normal headphones without charging it at the same time, unless I use an adapter to allow them to plug into the now all-purpose Lightning socket.

“Oh!” you cry, “But you can! You can use wireless Bluetooth headphones!”. No, no I can’t. Have you ever used them? The quality is poor unless you pay hundreds of pounds. They desync themselves. There’s interference. Worst of all – they need power, and so need charging themselves!

And have you seen those that Apple are peddling for ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY POUNDS? They look like Pat Butcher’s earrings, need charging (and only last 5 hours on a charge), and are going to fall out and get lost so easily. They’re an option not even worth consideration.

Apple Airpods
No. Just no.

The lack of headphone jack was pretty much guaranteed to happen, given the leaks and rumours in the last few months. Less certain were the size and specs, and sadly there’s disappointment there too.

Not with the specs, though. The power of the device is great, and increased on-board storage (iOS devices never seem to have enough) is welcome. Improved cameras are nice too. No, the problem is that the iPhone 7, just like the iPhone 6, it just too damn big. I find my 5S a bit on the large side, to be honest, and a 6 is impossible to use with one hand. A 6 Plus (and therefore the 7 Plus) is basically a tablet in comparison.

I was relieved last year when they announced the iPhone SE, as it’s the same as the 5S in dimensions, but around as powerful as the (then) new 6S. OK, it didn’t have force touch or a couple of other new features, but it meant there was still going to be an iPhone for me when it was time to upgrade or replace.

But is that still the case? Nothing about a new SE was mentioned this week. No SE sized phone with mostly 7 innards revealed. Of course, it may still happen, but I don’t think the SE sold especially well so it may not. Even if it does, will it ditch the headphone socket too?

I’m not going to be looking for a new phone for a while yet anyway. My 5S has a year or two still in it (dependant on Apple’s usual built-in obsolescence trigger once iOS 10 is installed, naturally), so my fingers are crossed for something I can accept before then.

As for Nintendo springing an iOS based touch screen Mario auto-runner on us all… well. I think a part of me died, unsurprising as the Apple event was more like a eulogy than the excited announcement of a new child.