Kevin C. Wong

August 2020

Apple Magic Mouse 2 (2015) [/]

I previously reviewed Magic Mouse 2 and my biggest complaint two years ago was Bluetooth flakiness. Actually I don't remember having any Bluetooth problems in the last year so that must have been solved.

On the plus side, the design means no dirt gets inside and the clicker works differently anyways so input has never been marred by dirt. Battery lasts a long time and you can quick charge in a few minutes to keep playing another hour. It's also small and fits my hand.

But it's time to get a traditional mouse. Two big problems:

I hate activating right mouse button because I'm always accidentally clicking it. Ctrl-click for right mouse works well most of the time except in games and apparently my company remote desktop client. The latter is now a big problem.

In VLC, which I use all the time, swipe up and down changes the volume so I'm always accidentally changing the volume. Strange since I don't have a problem accidentally doing vertical scroll in other apps. I guess VLC sensitivity is real high.

Oh wait, How to Use Mouse Gestures in VLC Media Player. Sure enough if I go to VLC preferences there is a Show All button which shows advanced settings. I totally thought that button did something different, though not sure what that would have been in my mind. Interface > Hotkey settings > Mouse wheel vertical axis control > Ignore. Mouse wheel horizontal axis control > Ignore (this jumped video forward and back which I also found annoying but accidentally did this less often).

Hmm, that didn't do anything. Oh, had to restart VLC. This is great!

So now can I fix my company's Secure Global Desktop Client settings? Nope. Found the user manual and does not have any way to configure that.

But I fixed the VLC annoyance and I think for now I can live with turning on secondary click when using SGDC. So I guess that upgrades Magic Mouse 2 from [-] to [/]. Still not the perfect mouse as I think the trackpad stuff is not as useful as the old Apple Mouse with small trackball that also functioned as right mouse button.

Spot Reviews 08/28/20

iOS Game - Pac-Man [/] Free to play. Has classic Pac-Man, My Mazes (different layouts), Tournaments, Adventure (a set of mazes to be completed in order). It looks retro (and great) and music/sounds are good. Pushes ad-watching for double rewards (but doesn't force ads). Unfortunately both swipe controls and joystick controls are not great and there is no game controller support.

The Gauntlet Podcast (2014) [/] A podcast about OSR and indie RPG games. Mostly discussion type with a lot of "what are you playing". I listened to about a dozen old episodes and half a dozen current episodes but did not find it interesting. It's a bit too rambly and I'm more into RPG news or reviews.

Movie - Lady Driver (2020) [+] Netflix movie. During summer teen Ellie Lansing (Grace Van Dien) works on her uncle Tim's (Sean Patrick Flanery) mechanic shop and discovers a love for dirt track racing. It's the type of nice family film you'd find on Disney Channel.

Movie - Last Christmas (2019) [+]

Last Christmas is a romantic comedy set in the UK and featuring Wham/George Michael songs. Kate (Emilia Clarke) had dreams of becoming a singer but is now stuck employed in retail, couch surfing and slowly losing friends, and partying and drinking her life away. Then she meets Tom (Henry Golding) who tells her to look up and slowly lifts her from her depression. But he has a secret that might ruin their relationship...

The first act is ok but the film picks up in the second act and has a good ending. Good acting and very holiday romance vibes (Kate works at a Santa shop, wearing an elf costume and selling Christmas tchotchkes year-round). A bit bittersweet at the end because it turns out this is about Kate's redemption arc more than a romance. I liked the film.

Mac Game Stores

App Store [/] The built-in App Store has a clean UI. Not that many games comparatively and Apple doesn't do sale events so knowing when something is on sale requires a third party web site like AppShopper (which is also good for knowing when your followed iOS apps go on sale). Very easy install and unlike Steam you don't have to keep the store client running to play games.

One good thing is that most Apple Arcade games work on Mac so if you have a subscription you get a good variety of games to play.

Epic Games [/] A relatively new store. They have two or three weekly free games and sometimes top tier games. Less Mac games, even games that have Mac versions in Steam don't have that version in Epic. Sales don't seem as good as Steam and I'm not so sure about their discoverability either.

GOG [+] One of my favorite stores built up their reputation by selling old games wrapped in DOSBox so you can play them on modern OSes. You can even play many old Windows games on Mac this way and they constantly keep the DOSBox layer updated for each game. Nowaways they also sell newer games (which don't have DOSBox so ironically less Mac versions than old games).

Steam [+] I guess overall my favorite game store. Huge selection, lots of sales, good discoverability, wishlists, and other features. The big drawback is most games require the Steam client to be running and it's not a lightweight client.

Humble Bundle [/] Honorable mention. Their store is basically a custom UI using the Steam store to deliver games. Less information than Steam store though so often I have to go to Steam to get more info like screen shots and reviews. But the Humble Bundles are cheap ways to buy game collections so that's the real nice.

Spot Reviews 08/21/20

Movie - Descendants 3 (2019) [/] In this sequel musical the original four descendants -- Mal (Dove Cameron), Evie (Sofia Carson), Carlos (Cameron Boyce) and Jay (Booboo Stewart) -- have to team up with the Descendants 2 villains -- Uma (China Anne McClain), Harry (Thomas Doherty) and Gil (Dylan Playfair) -- to stop Princess Audrey (Sarah Jeffery), former ex of King Ben (Mitchell Hope) who turns to evil in order to take over the kingdom and win Ben's love... It's a suitably entertaining movie.

Web Site - The Kings Herald (2020) [/] When Vox Media fired all their writers in California the members of Sactown Royalty formed their own web site. I'm not sure what hosting package they're using but the look is fairly professional and the writing is the same as before. It's a blog site so lots of small posts with shallow content and half of the appeal is the comments section. Anyway, this is a site I visit every one or three days to see what's going on.

Manton Reece blog [/] - Mac developer of and podcaster. Another NetNewsWire default feed. I don't find it all that interesting.

TV Show - Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet s1 (2019) [/]

Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet is an Apple TV+ half hour comedy set at a small software company, developers of the wildly successful Mythic Quest MMO, just as they are set to release their next expansion, Raven's Banquet. It's a character-based comedy with a bunch of quirky characters:

  • Ian Grimm (Rob McElhenney) - founder of the company and creative director, giant ego and he even has a major NPC in the game
  • Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao) - lead developer often toiling overtime work with little credit, she starts to realize that she's quite underappreciated
  • David Brittlesbee (David Hornsby) - executive producer, theoretically makes all the major decisions but is bullied by Ian and Poppy
  • Rachel (Ashly Burch) and Dana (Imani Hakim) - game testers working in their own separate testing room, they might each have a secret crush on the other
  • Brad Bakshi (Danny Pudi) - marketing and monetization, not amoral, just amoral when it comes to money
  • CW Longbottom (F Murray Abraham) - head writer, award winning alcoholic novelist on the decline
  • Jo (Jessie Ennis) - David's new assistant who gloms on to the alpha male of the company (usually Ian until David finally stands up for himself)

Office politics + game design + MMO issues. episodes are usually entertaining and sometimes funny, rarely cringy. There is even a bonus 10th episode shot during self-isolation which hit close to home. Overall not a bad show.

Discord [+]

Discord is a discussion group service. Anybody can create a Discord group and invite people (or make it a public group that anyone can join). A server will have channels grouped into sections. You can tier people so that channels are visible to certain tiers.

A channel is, like IRC, one continuous conversation. There is no threading. Messages can include pictures, video, files and emotes. Users can be notified about every message on a per channel or per server basis, or narrow it down to important messages (@here @everyone) or just to messages that tag you.

Admins can add bots to Discord for functionality. I've seen birthday bots (register your birthday then it'll announce it), music bots, dice rolling bots, etc. Sometimes there are too many bots but you can block them and block other users too for that matter.

I believe Discord was first created for gamers so they could do voice chat and coordination during games, especially games where a team has to cooperate. As such Discord retains fairly good voice chat functionality. You can set your own in and out sound levels and set other people's input level. Setting global in plus individual in levels is just good enough that you can level everyone's audio (for you personally not for everyone in the voice chat). Unfortunately there is no auto-leveling.

There is also video chat and streaming capabilities. I haven't used either.

The system is distributed. For example you can only chat with another user if both of you subscribe to a common server. Likewise you can use one servers' emotes on another server but those emotes are not generally available to people on the other server.

Discord uses a dedicated Desktop or mobile client but also has a web client interface.

Discord is free. They have a $10 per month/$100 per year Nitro subscription which gives you a selection of commercial games to play and allows you to boost two servers. Boosted servers have more features. Still, Nitro is rather pricey for what you get.

I mostly use Discord for Twitch since every channel has its own Discord server. My brother set up a Discord for our group which we use mostly for voice chat during DDO games. We have a general channel, a channel for extra Steam keys, and a channel to post video clips.

Overall it's an impressive service and a good alternative to web-only services.

Spot Reviews 08/14/20

MIchael Tsai blog [/] Michael is a macOS developer and this is one of the default NetNewsWire feeds. Each blog is about a topic and compiles info from other sources with links and excerpts. I guess this makes it a bit repetitive when you have a bunch of other feeds since Michael rarely comments himself so the only value-add is the compilation in one page.

Movie - Lez Bomb (2018) [/] Lauren (Jenna Laurenzo) comes home for Thanksgiving intending to come out of the closet to her parents and introduce her girlfriend Hailey (Caitlin Mehner) but mom and dad mistake long-time roommate Austin (Brandon Micheal Hall) as her new beau... It's a bit frustrating at times even if the story does a good job of preventing Lauren from blurting out the truth and basically ending all the drama in the first act. With Steve Guttenberg, Bruce Dern, Kevin Pollak and Cloris Leachman.

iOS Game - Bloons Adventure Time TD (2018) [/] Free to play path-based tower defense game based on Adventure Time cartoon show. Place your Adventure Time heroes, shoot the oncoming balloons, use the money to level up. Lots of voice acting and Adventure Time story and humor.

Movie - Birds of Prey (2020) [+]

Birds of Prey is a DC Films action film starring Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Breaking up with the Joker puts Quinn in a funk until she declares her breakup in spectacular fashion. But now that she's no longer invulnerable everybody is out to arrest her or wreck vengeance, including Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and Black Mask (Ewan McGregor).

Meanwhile young Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) manages to steal (and swallow) a diamond that Black Mask desperately wants. With killers after her it's up to former lounge singer now Black Mask's personal driver Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who is tipping off Montoya in order to keep Cain safe.

Another plot line is the mysterious Crossbow Killer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) murdering mobsters all over town. Turns out it's Helena Bertinelli, who calls herself Huntress. She's mostly on her own storyline until the big meetup scene when she show up to murder Black Mask's main henchman Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina)...

Harley Quinn provides narration and although I think she's mostly truthful she tends to skip back when she remembers a plot line she forgot. And of course it's humorous when she describes a scene and we see how it's actually playing out. In general this is a fairly comedic film, more so than Suicide Squad but less so than Deadpool.

Action is pretty good. Quinn especially shows off her gymnastic fighting skills and gets to wield a big mallet while wearing roller skates on a rotating carnival ride. She also has another cool scene assaulting a police station with a shotgun that shoots beanies and glitter-dust balls.

Overall was quite a good film. Good action, funny story, and Harley Quinn is a great character.

Tabletop Simulator

Tabletop Simulator [/] This is a physics-based simulator for tabletop games, whether board games or miniatures or RPGs. It supports dice, cards, maps and figures. You can stack cards and tokens, fling dice and other objects, rotate and flip cards. Graphics are fairly good.

We've been playing Gloomhaven and after a couple of sessions there are pros and cons. The module has scripts to automate some things but it seems like scripts are a bit limited: you have to set up objects in certain places for the script to work and if the flow is different then a script fails for various reasons. But on the positive side you can skip the scripts and do things manually which allows you to cheat (which I do when I'm "GMing" a board game).

But because it's a physical object simulator the controls are clunky. ASWD to pan around, arrow keys to change viewing angle, click and drag to move objects, click and Q/E to rotate, click and F to flip, etc. Compared to physically playing a board game (and the comparison is inevitable because this is a physical world simulator) it's slow and sometimes frustrating. Also compare to a dedicated app which would be an idealized board and pieces without the table and physics engine; easier to use and probably better graphics.

This week we found out you also need a good connection. We were all getting disconnected so I think it was on the problem was on the host's end (you connect to TTS instance on host's machine and I think host sends all the graphic assets to clients). One person with an older computer had lots of lag issues (TTS seems rather graphics intensive; maybe there are graphics settings you can change to lower GPU usage). We were using Discord for voice chat and that kept working fine.

Creating your own module seems like a lot of work. You can buy modules for $5 to $20, or free, which is not bad. Worse for RPGs since you need to buy supplements separately (if you want to use the computer aids like character tracker and so forth).

Overall I'm unsure about TTS. On the plus side it's generic so you can play lots of different games. On the minus side it's generic so the gaming experience is always going to be subpar.

Spot Reviews 08/07/20

Movie - Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) [/] This is a reboot sequel to Terminator 2. Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back in time (to present day Mexico) to save Dani (Natalia Reyes), who in the future will lead the human resistance against the AI-controlled robots that rule future Earth. They are both saved by Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) who has been on a mission of vengeance, killing Terminators after her son was murdered 15 years ago... The film harkens back to the 80's action movie spectacles with a lot of practical effects. An entertaining film but kind same old same old for the franchise.

Florida's Natural Orange Juice (Some Pulp) [+] I've been drinking too much orange juice the last few weeks but it's so good. This one has a good amount of pulp (there is a most pulp version but I haven't seen it at my local Safeway). Good taste or maybe I'm used to it.

Tropicana Orange Juice (Homestyle) [/] This is the some pulp version which I find is almost no pulp. And even though it's still 100% orange juice it tastes a little less flavorful than Florida's Natural. On the back label it says oranges from USA and Brazil. I don't appreciate that they have so many versions of orange juice as if product development had too much time on their hands.

TV Show - The Mandalorian s1 (2019) [/]

The Mandalorian is a space western set in the Star Wars universe some years after Return of the Jedi. Season one is eight 25- to 45-minute episodes. A lone Mandalorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) gets a high-paying off-the-books mission which turns out is bringing a Baby Yoda back for experimentation. But the Mandalorian becomes attached to Baby Yoda, betrays his contract and spends the rest of the season hiding and trying to find a way defeat the Client (Werner Herzog) who is determined to acquire Baby Yoda.

It's a lot of live action and fairly good special effects (though if you pay attention you can see the quality upgrade from spending $40m for 2 hours of television versus $275m for The Rise of Skywalker). There is that problem of making a Mandalorian in heavy armor look like a bad-ass close quarters fighter, which does not quite work here.

But aside from those things the episodes are pretty good and mostly self-contained. There is a variety of locations and characters. There is a stop at Mos Eisley for an episode. There is a Spaghetti Western feel at times. It's a good series but not compelling and not as good as the hype.

Twitch VOD Downloaders

There are two downloaders I use:

4K Video Downloader - Adware or $15. This is my primary. You can choose which resolution to download (or even just audio). It does one download request so you often get to complete a download even if the vod is replaced mid-download (e.g. with a DMCA muted version). But other times the replacement vod confuses 4kVD and it keeps restarting the download indefinitely so you have to keep watch so it doesn't suck up all your bandwidth. The app is regularly updated as video sites change their pages (it's basically scraping the target page looking for download links) though sometimes it can take a week or two before an update is pushed out.

ViDL for Mac - free. This packages some open source tools and adds a simple UI. It downloads the best quality version it finds. It uses multiple threads so if the vod is replaced mid-download you end up with a corrupted file. One key feature is it supports login pages. Some Twitch channels only subscribers can view vods. ViDL can show the login page and you login as if on a web browser then ViDL has a one-month token it reuses.

So for vods I really want:

1. Wait for stream to finish
2. A few minutes after end use 4K Video Downloader to get vod (or ViDL for sub-only vods.
3. If 4K Video Downloader fails, cancel and try one more time.
4. If 4k Video Downloader still fails use ViDL.

Rarely a streamer deletes a vod right after stream ends. If you're afraid of that use 4K Video Downloader to start the download before stream ends. You won't get the whole stream but download should leave you with a viewable file.

I've also used JDownloader 2 which is open source but too many options. It seems to be like ViDL with more controls.