Wednesday, January 31, 2024

2023 in Games

I am not a gamer, though I obviously had too much time on my hand.  The last time I played many games was on the PS2 with Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.

I also only have a Linux desktop, no console or Windows PC. Because of an upgraded graphics card and support in Steam and Heroic Game Launcher, a lot of the games nowadays are playable. Since I haven't played in 20 years, I also was able to play some older games, which easily run on limited hardware. 

I probably should say something about my setup: Fedora Linux, AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32 GB RAM, AMD Radeon RX 6600, 2560×1440 screen.

What I like most about games is the graphics, environment and story. I tend to play on the easiest mode to not get frustrated. 

I also gravitate towards open world games, so there is a lot to explore. Furthermore, I prefer stealth games, avoid lots of fighting and especially hate boss fights.

Stray gameplay screenshot
In 2022, I only played a bit of Stray, which already blew me away. I did get stuck at some point and finished it in 2023.  

There are basically two types of games in this list.
True open world games, where you can free roam, maybe do side quests or random stuff. Good examples are Red Dead Redemption II, Ghost Recon and the Assassin's Creed games. 
And games which have a straight story, with some open world elements, but they feel more like an interactive film than living in a world. The Uncharted and Tomb Raider series are in that camp.

RDR2 gameplay screenshot
The best game of all of these is Red Dead Redemption. The story, the world, and the attention to detail are very difficult to beat. This is also one of the games I come back to. Not to further complete the game, but to just live in the world and chill a bit. 

Ghost Recon Wildlands gameplay screenshot
The other game I still play is Ghost Recon Wildlands. It also has a very nice world, and you can just jump in and conquer some random base or do one of the side missions. The challenge for me is always to do it as stealthy as possible.

The following is a very short review of the games / series from my perspective. They are roughly in the order I played or finished them.  

I also have my Steam Year in Review 2023. Steam measures the times wrong because I often pause the game and leave it on, or it doesn't register when I leave a game. It is handy for getting additional information about the games.

By the way, I bought most of these games on sale for €10 or less.

I usually played the newest game or best reviewed game in a series first. This makes it confusing for you and for me. 

Grand Theft Auto V

The first game I went for because of my history with GTA SA. 

It did blow me away when I played it, but in retrospect it doesn't look that good. I also didn't like the focus on just driving and shooting random people. 

Switching between the main characters was interesting up to a point.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider gameplay screenshot
The original Tomb Raider game on the PS2 was quite fun, but this is so much better. I love the story line, the new Lara, and the atmosphere of the different locations. 

This is mostly a linear game, with a bit of action and some annoying boss levels. 

In retrospect, I should have played all three games in the series in order. They are very similar.

Batman Arkham City

The best reviewed game of the three Batman Arkham games, and I tend to agree. 

This one really made me feel like Batman, travelling along the roofs of the city, fighting with the bad guys, and using detective skill. It is an open world with a mostly linear story.


I started this in 2022, but got stuck on a hectic level. I mostly like the look and moving around as a cat. It is pretty linear, and there are some annoying stressful levels. 

Red Dead Redemption II

RDR2 gameplay screenshot
As I mentioned before, this is the best game of all the ones I played so far. It really has everything, a very emotional story, beautiful scenery and atmosphere, a massive open world, and many things and side quests to discover. And I don't even like cowboy stuff! 

The fantastic thing is the attention to detail. You can check out this playlist for a small subset. 

That's why I am still going back sometimes to just chill, hunt, or watch sunsets.

Uncharted Legacy Collection 

These are two games, both with a fun story. It is basically Tomb Raider with different protagonists. Good fun, pretty fast to play through.

Ghost Recon Wildlands 

With Tomb Raider and Uncharted, I got a bit of a taste of stealth. While I don't like the big action shoot-outs, the sneaking into a camp and taking people out one by one is quite fun.

Wildlands does this really well. The world is also massive and full of people, enemies, and civilians.  The story is not especially exciting, except for some twists towards the end.

It also looks pretty, there are wholly unique landscapes in different areas. You can adapt your approaches to your playing style and preferences.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint

This is the follow-up of Wildlands, and it just isn't that good. 

Firstly, you will have to buy a DLC to be able to play most of the game.  

And the world is just not as exciting. It plays in the near future, with many drones and magic weapons.  There are not many civilians, which makes the game feel empty.  

It is annoying because the graphics have improved and there were some improvements to the stealth functionality.  

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

Once you start looking for stealth games, you will end up with the Assassin's Creed series. 

Odyssey looks beautiful, it made me want to book a holiday in Greece. This might have been the biggest world I played in. I finished the story, and there were large parts I didn't even travel in. The story is fun, meeting historical people is interesting, there are quite a few of side quests, the big crowd fights work well, and stealth is relatively good.

The annoying things are the boss fights, some sea fights, and sometimes gaining experience points or materials is a bit of a grind.

Assassin's Creed Origins

Very similar to Odyssey, but playing in Ancient Egypt. The stealth mechanics are a bit better, and you don't have to rely on open fights so much.

Watchdogs Legion

When I watched some gameplay on YouTube, I found the constant overlay a bit annoying. It does start making sense once you play it. 

For me, the best thing was playing in London.  It is a compact London in the near future, but has some recognisable things. The story is OK. 

The special thing is that you can recruit anyone in London to your gang and then play as their character.

Batman Arkham Asylum 

I haven't finished this. It's OK.

Watchdogs 2

Because this plays in a version of San Francisco, it reminded me too much of GTA.

They make a lot of fun of nerds and hacker stereotypes, which works for me.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Same as the other one.

Tomb Raider

Same, same.

Assassin's Creed Mirage

Assassin's Creed Mirage Screenshot
The newest game in the series. This focuses much more on stealth. Whenever you get into a big fight, you will probably die. The world is much smaller, busier, and beautiful. 

This isn't on Steam. I used the Heroic Game Launcher to buy it. It works well, even on my hardware.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

I got this for free. I haven't finished it. Playing in a past London is fun, but even just after two missions it felt repetitive. 

Batman Arkham Knight

Too much bat-mobile. Not much fun.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Friday Links 24-02

Cheese on a plate

I am well impressed by the transparency of Atlassian on going distributed and Buffer about their salary report. Both a worth a read.


Overcoming toxic positivity with Susan David [Podcast] - toxic positivity is only a small part of this interesting conversation. 

ADRs and RFCs: Their Differences and Templates  - I think nowadays ADRs are more common, maybe not always useful. 

Zombie leadership: Dead ideas that still walk among us [Paper] - some bad ideas of leadership that are still around. 

Navigating ambiguity. - "In my experience, navigating deeply ambiguous problems is the rarest skill in engineers, and doing it well is a rarity."

Those five spare hours each week. - writing code in a leadership role? 

Layers of context. - many layers to consider when thinking about change.


Lessons learned: 1,000 days of distributed at Atlassian - many insights from Atlassian going distributed and how they want to improve in the future. A few good links to go deeper into the information and report. 

Don’t Sleep With Your Boss. - that title is very misleading, this is about remote work. 

Introducing our Open Salary System: Reflecting on a Decade of Transparent Salaries at Buffer - in-depth look into the salary system of Buffer. It is great how open they are with this. There is so much to learn from.


The Scary Thing About Automating Deploys  - "Fear of breaking production holds many teams back from automating their deployments, but understanding how deployment monitoring differs from normal monitoring opens the door to simple, effective tools."

Scaling Challenge Leaderboards for Millions of Athletes - Strava's approach. 

Parser IF disambiguation hassles - I like reading about these old text adventure systems. Zarf explains them well. 

Technical Debt is over-used - "Keeping the code in a healthy state is your job."

On the Evilness of Feature Branching - a whole series, and I don't agree with all of it.


A School Bought Solar Panels and Saved Enough to Give All Its Teachers Raises - it is basically free energy. 

Five examples of the UK’s crackdown on climate protesters - it is pretty remarkable what is happening in what should be a modern country. 

EU fossil fuel CO2 emissions hit 60-year low - still not enough. 

Cataluña roza la emergencia por sequía en más de 200 municipios [Spanish] - my village is on telly. Some areas are getting water delivered by trucks now. In February, we might end up with more restrictions. 

EU bans ‘misleading’ environmental claims that rely on offsetting - nice!


10 Years Car-Free (with Mrs. NJB) [Podcast] - once you are in the right environment, it just happens.

SUVs drive trend for new cars to grow 1cm wider in UK and EU every two years, says report - new cars a basically too big for current parking spaces. 

A Street-Specific Analysis of Level of Traffic Stress Trends in Strava Bicycle Ridership and its Implications for Low-Stress Bicycling Routes in Toronto - "We found that most bicycling occurred on a small fraction of the network, with just 10% of all roads and paths accounting for 75% of all bicycle kilometres travelled in 2022"

Random Cheese

French cheese under threat - the right fungus gone missing!

Solutions Journalism: Ending homelessness the Finnish way [Podcast] - The reporter talks to the people affected, which brings it closer than all the articles I read about the program.

572. Why Is There So Much Fraud in Academia? & 573. Can Academic Fraud Be Stopped? [Podcast] - cool deep dive into the problem and chat with some people involved. 

Improving my Emacs experience with completion - I have to confess that my Emacs completion is still messed up. I haven't even gone into customizing it.

New Thing [Comic] - "week changing event"

Labscam - funny prank - the video is on YouTube

Revisiting Zurich’s 90s techno scene – in pictures - I miss the 90s :-) 

Shelf-absorbed: eight ways to arrange your bookshelves – and what they say about you - I am in the "tiny shelf and a Kindle" camp.

Cassette players for analogue audio lovers as we explore tapes’ slow and steady revival - nice to see some cool classic decks in the article. They will be costly. 

The tyranny of the algorithm: why every coffee shop looks the same - everything will look the same in the future.

I’ve been playing around with making EPUBs look more like print - that's pretty cool and should be built into PDF/EPUB readers.

Friday Links Disclaimer
Inclusion of links does not imply that I agree with the content of linked articles or podcasts. I am just interested in all kinds of perspectives. If you follow the link posts over time, you might notice common themes, though.
More about the links in a separate post: About Friday Links.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Friday Links 24-01

Flyer: Metalheadz presents The Blue Note Sunday Session
New year, new links! 

It has been fairly quiet on the blogs and podcasts recently, and I am focusing on some books at the moment. 

For some fun, have a look at the Jungle & Tetris posts in the random section.


Productivity Measurement as a Tradeoff - good view from Kent Beck. 

Questionable Advice: “My boss says we don’t need any engineering managers. Is he right?” - I hope not! It's a good summary of the purpose of managers.

My Diverse Hiring Playbook - improving your hiring pipeline for DEI.

the goal-setting conundrum - why it is hard, and what you can do about it. 

Predictability. - you want predictability, and you should also be predictable. Work is exciting enough.

More Harm Than Good: The Truth About Performance Reviews - this article triggered plenty of useful conversations. I think most of them are indeed bad.


Evolution of Developer Productivity at Square - Part One - I like the high-level strategy: CI, platform, tools, reliability & tests.

systemd through the eyes of a musl distribution maintainer - I used to hate systemd, now I quite like it. As the author, I am not so sure about the other things.

Smuggling email inside of email - that is a pretty silly bug to have, and a not so great response overall.

The case for containers on Lambda (with benchmarks) - I didn't realise you could use containers for Lambda, and it seems they are pretty performant too. 

BASIC was not just a programming language - BASIC was my first language/IDE, and I am thankful that computers used to directly boot into a programming language prompt.


Ministers prioritised driving in England partly due to conspiracy theories - great. 

The Global Bike Bus Movement - Barcelona was a later adopter.

Many Torontonians are parking their cars in favour of bikes. Here's why - it's more social, more healthy, makes nicer cities, …

Random Jungle

Jungle - easy mistake to make … 30 years later.

Vim Adventures - this is a fun way to learn. I wonder if the final level is :q.

Notes on Emacs Org mode - by now, I am a pretty addicted to org-roam.

"Fine for off-the-cuff sequencer basslines, otherwise you have to plan what you're going to do before even switching it on": Here's what the reviews said when the dance-music-defining Roland TB-303 was released in 1981 - only, 10000 produced?

After 34 Years, Someone Finally Beat Tetris [YouTube] - amazing and good behind the scene look at why it is possible to "beat" Tetris. 

Ideal monitor rotation for programmers - funny.

Friday Links Disclaimer
Inclusion of links does not imply that I agree with the content of linked articles or podcasts. I am just interested in all kinds of perspectives. If you follow the link posts over time, you might notice common themes, though.
More about the links in a separate post: About Friday Links.

Monday, January 08, 2024

#12in23 and Advent of Code 2023

Last year I did have too much time on my hand, and while I spent a lot of time chilling, I did miss using my brain at least a little.

So I worked on these two challenges.

Excercism #12in23 Screenshot
Exercism #12in23 

I am a big fan of exercism, which is a site with exercises to learn all kinds of programming languages. The quality of the tracks varies a lot, nonetheless the most popular ones are very useful. There is also a mentoring element, which I haven't used myself. 

You can either solve the tasks in an editor on the website, or use a small CLI tool to download the task and submit solutions. It is all straightforward to use and fast. 

Every year they also have some kind of challenge. In 2023, it was to learn 12 languages in the year called #12in23. You have to solve five exercises for each language to complete it. 

I just did the bare minimum for some languages I already know and some I wanted to have a look at. 

The ones I know and used recently: PHP, Ruby, Python, JavaScript, Go and Bash. No surprises here, except that you still tend to forget basic stuff over time. 

Some I haven't used in ages: C and C++. C++ especially seems to be a moving target. 

And some I haven't used professionally or just touched before: Elixir, TypeScript, Kotlin, and Emacs Lisp.
I like Elixir, and I decided to continue learning it. Some design decisions don't make a lot of sense to me at the moment. This might be my OOP brain.
TypeScript seems nice if you have to do front-end stuff.
I can't really see the point of Kotlin, it is pleasant, though.
Emacs Lisp … I think I keep on just copying and pasting other peoples code for my Emacs config. 

I didn't work on getting any of the challenge badges. Furthermore, I wasn't really that much into it.

Advent of Code 2023 screenshot
Advent of Code 2023

This year was the first time I gave it a go. I solved most of the puzzles using Ruby. 

Every day you get a challenge on the Advent of Code site and once you solve it, you get a harder version. 

In most cases, you can brute force the first challenge, but not the second one. 

I made it until day 11, solving both challenges and stopped doing it on day 13, due to travel, and never picked it up again.

I think the best thing about this is the amount of learning you do if you do it in some kind of community (Reddit, Slack, employer, …). People have different approaches, use different languages, and different goals. 

People who do this every year have an advantage, as there are some standard solutions you can keep in your toolbox. 

I am not sure if I will do it again. I don't know how this would work with having a full-time job at the same time. But I still would recommend it to everybody to at least give it a try.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

2023 in Books

Book covers from books in this post
My year in books (according to Goodreads). 8443 pages read in 26 books.

I mostly binged on thrillers and series I am already following. 
Just one non-fiction!

I am currently reading  / being stuck in these: 


Mark Dawson

I just continue reading his multiple series. 
  • Sandstorm (Charlie Cooper Thrillers #1) - a new series in the Group Fifteen universe. It is a short book and quite entertaining. 
  • The Red Room (Atticus Priest #3) 
  • Pistolero (Beatrix Rose #5)
  • Uppercut  (John Milton #22)
  • The Chameleon (Charlie Cooper Thrillers)

Viveca Stern

A new series by Viveca. I confess, I only read them because of the cosy setting in Sweden. It is more "Nordic cosy", than "Nordic noir".

William Gibson 

I read this after watching the TV series. I tried when it first came out, but couldn't get into it. The series definitely helped, and now I love it. 

Becky Chambers 

After reading Legends & Lattes last year, I was looking for more cosy books and these were recommended. It was a bit weird and deep, but nice.

The follow is another cosy book. This time a truck stop in space. 

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within 

 S.A. Cosby

All the Sinners Bleed - a recommendation by a book podcast. Very well written and quite gritty. The focus was very much on the racial conflicts in the US. 

Tom Clancy

I gave up on the second one. The heroes are just unbelievable, the universe doesn't make any sense. The gun and military worshipping is annoying. And don't get me started on the UK and the royal family in the "Patriot Games".  

My suggestion: stick to the film adaptions. (The "Without Remorse" film is pretty bad too, though).

John le Carré

His writing is great and I love the characters. I just can't get into the period it is playing it. And not a lot happens throughout most of the books, and then something happens quickly, short and mostly depressing.  I am not sure, I am going to try more from him.

David McCloskey 

I really like this series. It feels very realistic and gritty. I can't wait for the next instalment. I also follow the author on Instagram, which leads to more book discoveries. 

Michael Connelly

You can't go wrong with the Bosch universe. 

Resurrection Walk (The Lincoln Lawyer #7) - so much better than the TV series. 

Travis Baldree

Bookshops & Bonedust (Legends & Lattes #0) - prequel for Legends & Latte, possibly even better. More cosy reading.

I.S. Berry

The Peacock and the Sparrow: A Novel - this might have been the best book I have read this year. It is another spy thriller, that starts so slow that I nearly gave up on it. Over the book, the speed increases exponential to bring everything together into a crash landing.


Just one comic sneaked into this list. It is a bit of an on/off romance story. 

Batman/Catwoman by Tom King and others.


I can't believe that I read only one non-fiction book this year.

Simplifying Coaching: How to Have More Transformational Conversations by Doing Less 

This is probably more focused on professional coaches. I still took away many useful titbits that will help me approach coaching in my job in the future. 


Only one, too. This is more useful for future planning. I am still waiting for the app for the book, which should make it easier to keep the checklist of climbs.

100 Greatest Cycling Climbs of Spain: A guide to the famous cycling mountains of mainland Spain plus Mallorca and the Canary Islands

Some other book lists I enjoyed