Archive for the 'Software' Category

Apr 07 2017

Thimbleweed Park

Published by under Games

Thimbleweed Park concept image.

[Thimbleweed Park. Agents Ray and Reyes and a pixelating body.]

The creators of the legendary Monkey Island adventure games are back and decided to give us a new game that lives up to the memories that my generation has about these old games: Thimbleweed Park.

In Thimbleweed Park you play five characters that have nothing in common but that at the same time are connected in ways they don’t know anything about. Even though the game begins as a murder mistery and with two Mulder & Sculley-like FBI agents that are supposed to solve a murder, the game game comes with all the weirdness and humor that you’d expect from a Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick game. Thimbleweed Park is a fun ride and it lives up to the expectations that someone who grew up with LucasArts games involuntarily has. If LucasArts games were still around and would still be making adventure games, Thimbleweed Park would carry their brand label. But even without any nostalgia, the game easily stands on its own and delivers great adventure game entertainment.

A note to the younger generation: No, it’s not a 3D game, no, it does not have action sequences and the graphics are intentionally pixelated the way they are — if you play through the game, you will find that there even is a logical reason for the pixelated graphics embedded in the story itself. It’s not just about selling a nostalgic experience to old farts like myself, it’s actually a deliberate design choice to underline certain points of the story.

It took me roughly twenty hours to play through the adventure, so at EUR 19,99, that’s about a buck per hour of game play — which is an excellent value and worth every single cent. Although there is an Xbox One version of the game, I bought it for the PC on GOG, because I simply cannot imagine playing a point & click adventure with a controller instead of a mouse. The hardware requirements are extremely modest, and even my eight years old Dell XPS M1530 Core2Duo machine could easily handle it. So my guesstimate is that Thimbleweed Park will run on almost any machine out there that’s still working. Android and iOS versions will come later, and I think I will buy a copy for Android just to support the developers in the hope that they will make another game like this soon.

Just visit www.thimbleweedpark.com for purchase links, more background info and even an interesting developer blog.

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Apr 06 2017

Canonical ends the development of the Unity desktop

Published by under Thoughts,Ubuntu Linux

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, Ubuntu Linux and its Unity desktop, announced today that Canonical will stop the further development of the Unity desktop and that the next LTS release of Ubuntu for the desktop will ship with GNOME instead.

There a lot of “we told you so” posts on the web about this already, and a lot of folks voice their believe that missing apps and games are the reason why Linux never gained much popularity as a desktop OS.

I now think that there never was much chance for the Linux desktop to succeed to begin with — and that the problem is not as simple as missing games and apps.

Just as my favorite example, after more than 25 years, the Linux community still has not even solved the “problem” of sound, meaning there are many, many sound servers and sound subsystems on Linux, but none of them work properly or are remotely user friendly. I have Xubuntu machines at home which are mostly used for watching videos and web surfing, and it’s mind blowing ridiculous that I have to change the playback device for each application individually – and that I can only do so when the application is running and playing back audio.

Big failures in crucial everyday sub-systems like this are the technical reasons why no Linux distribution ever stood a chance on the desktop – what regular user wants to put up with this crap when macOS and Windows work properly out of the box and come pre-installed on their computers?

Now look at the efforts that Valve has put into persuading/convincing game developers to port their games to Linux/SteamOS. The amount of games for Linux is constantly growing, yes – but the market share of Linux on Steam is not, it’s still negligible.

Things would only get brighter for Linux on the desktop if Microsoft and Adobe started porting their big desktop suites to “the Linux desktop” — which won’t happen before that desktop gains market share beyond a rounding error, because the cost for these ports are economically prohibitive. Microsoft have ported their Office suite to Android, iOS and macOS — which are all “hostile” platforms — so it’s safe to assume that they would also port Office to the Linux desktop if there were such a thing appearing on the market share radar. But it’s not. And what exactly would this “Linux desktop” even be?

Ubuntu is the only distribution that had enough success to even be noticed by the broader public. But since everybody in Linux land has to cook their own soup or follow some weird, business hostile “free software” ideology, too many people refused to join Canonical’s efforts and in some cases even decided to undermine or actively work against those efforts. Well, congratulations — now everybody can say to Canonical “we told you so” — and suffer the consequences nonetheless. Unless you find another guy willing to pump millions into such an unrealistic, big idea, Canonical’s withdrawal from Unity effectively signals the end of “the Linux desktop”, because now it’s really up to uncoordinated volunteers, hobbyists and students to develop a desktop for the masses. And I think we all know where this will lead: Nowhere, and nowhere fast.

Canonical might keep a desktop version of Ubuntu around for simple marketing reasons — but after this announcement, the company won’t put much effort into it anymore.

The desktop itself – regardless of the platform – has become irrelevant with the rise of the Internet. Linux was born on the Internet and quickly became one of the biggest engines powering the back-ends of the Internet.

Software development first moved to the web so that users and businesses could become independent from the desktop platform (or rather: become independent from the Microsoft platform), and then development moved on to focus on mobile platforms, and now the Internet of voice-controlled things is already knocking on the door.

This leads to a very simple realization: Every investment into a Linux desktop is wasted — it’s all about the Android or iOS gadgets, Alexa, Cortana and Siri and their respective server back-ends (aka “cloud”), which run on Linux or Windows servers.

Just look at Apple and their undeniable lack of interest in macOS and the Mac itself. The only reason why Apple keeps Macs and macOS around is Xcode — they need some development machines to write software for their mobile devices. The moment iOS becomes self-hosting (read: can run Xcode natively), they will drop the Mac product line and the rest of the industry will quickly follow their example. The desktop is dead, people now carry the Internet in their pockets or literally talk to it: “Alexa, … ”

Mark Shuttleworth understood all of this a long time ago — and this is why he launched the Unity project and wanted the dream of “convergence” to become a reality. Just watch an episode of the TV show “The Expanse” and look at how everybody in that show use their mobile gadgets: This is exactly where the journey is going.

Microsoft got that memo, too — as usual a bit later, but they definitely got it. They started the development of the Metro interface, because they, too, understood that down the road our interactions with the computer will significantly be different from what we’re doing today, and that mobile devices and desktops will eventually converge.

The only parties on the market who refuse to understand this are Apple – who are trapped in their corporate prison and won’t ever do anything that could hurt their iPhone sales – and the rest of the Linux community that always let their ideologies get in the way of progress and keep fighting a battle that was already lost and over more than 25 years ago, ignoring all the big changes that have happened in the meantime.

 

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