Blaugust 2023 Wrap-Up – What I Learned

The last theme week for Blaugust is “Lessons Learned”. I can’t say I learned anything new, I’ve been blogging for a while, literally decades, and I’m already aware of well, all of that which comes along with it. As, kind of depressing as they are. But let’s pretend it’s all fresh and new.

Daily Updates

As much as I like the idea of updating daily, I am not cut out for it, not anymore. Maybe never, though this isn’t the first time I put effort into daily blogging. I like to think I have plenty of idea of things to write about, but I also don’t really have the time to write about all of them, and over time, I start to feel repetitive. Maybe a little repetition isn’t a bad thing. In theory, new people come to read the blog and most aren’t going to be reading through the archive.

I just kind of hate feeling repetitive. It doesn’t really matter though, with “lesson 2”.

No One Cares

They really don’t. I don’t really care that they don’t, really. I accepted years ago that I do this, write these dumb pointless posts, for my own outlet. I kind of hopped things would at least bump a little when I started posting daily, but it didn’t. That or WordPress stats are busted as fuck. The total views and visits for this month, are pretty much, to slightly lower, than the views and visits last month. Maybe a bit lower.

Last month, when I wasn’t posting daily and actively sharing some posts out into the world.

I really don’t care about how many people read this blog, but it’s kind of really disheartening. For the month, it’s around 100, people. Total. For the year it’s around 1500 so far. Let’s contrast this a bit, with something that’s not really a 1:1 comparison, but kind of in the same vein. I posted a short video from the Alanis Morissette show on TikTok a few days ago. Within 24 hours, it had essentially more views than my blog has gotten, all year.


It’s really really just like, you know, why bother?


Anyway, on that downer note, here are my posts from the month:

Honorable Mention to 10 syndicated movie posts from Letterboxd and 18 automated link digest posts.

I also did all of the little made-up achievements so that means “Going Platnum”.

Gmail’s Cloud Storage Problem

Google needs to re-separate its main and drive storage again. This isn’t a problem that affects me, not directly. I imagine it affects a lot of other people though, whether they realize it or not. I also worry that it’s entirely intentional on Google’s part, in order to sell more cloud space to users. I should add, I don’t have a problem with Google selling cloud storage. I don’t have a problem with people using Google as their chosen cloud whatever. Personally, I use Google as little as possible, they are essentially a spyware/adware company as far as I am concerned.

I do take issue with what they have done to their Cloud Storage. Back in 2020, Google ended it’s unlimited photo storage option. Anything you had up there previously could stay, but essentially, starting from the end, anything up to I want to say 15GB, was limited, unless you paid for more. Like I said, I don’t really care about Google wanting to make money on its photo storage, they kind of need some alternative income streams to hoovering up everyone’s private data and selling it to advertisers (no wait, I mean selling their monopolistic ad service to advertisers, they just keep the data in a way that’s easily split down to a micro granular level).

My problem is, that they still share this total limit across drive and Gmail. My problem is, that by default, Android phones push all your photos and videos up to Google Photos, and even if you turn this off, they constantly nag you to turn it back on unless you use an alternative Photos app. If you are someone who takes a lot of random photos and videos, like half the people in the world these days, this limited storage fills up quick.

This means they can, of course, nag you some more, to pay for an upgrade.

This also means, your Gmail, stops working.

I’m actually going to use my own kids for this example, and why this is so broken for “normal-ass non-technical people”. And no matter how often I advise them otherwise, they never seem to get it, like “normal-ass non-technical people.” (FWIW, my kids are all young adults over 20)

Partly my daughter’s solution was to just, make a second Gmail account. Which sort of works. But like recently, I wanted to set her up on a shared to-do list, primarily for groceries we need in the house. I sent an invite link to the email on her Microsoft account, which is her old Gmail address. But she never got it. Her Google account is full. It can’t receive any more emails, it’s been like this, probably for years now.

They see “your Gmail is full” and the first thought is, “I need to delete some emails.” This might work, briefly, assuming your phone doesn’t have a queue of photos and videos backed up waiting for space on the Cloud. The reality is, for like 99% of people, you could delete all your emails, and it still won’t clear up as much space as deleting one video off of Photos.

This is partly my point here, for anyone having this issue, at the bare minimum, get your videos off of Google Photos. Download them if you need to, but store them somewhere else. If you want to use Google for backups, feel free to pay for it, but if not, don’t start on the emails, or even the photos, start on the videos. Here’s a comparison from something recent to me, I went to that Alanis Morissette concert, and I took roughly 50 photos and 3 videos. Those three videos, take up the same amount of space as those 50 photos. around 200Mb for each set, photos, and videos. For comparison, the average email is kilobytes in size. Let’s be REALLY FUCKING GENEROUS and say each email is 100Kb in size, though it’s going to be closer to 10Kb or 1Kb. In 200Mb, you could fit 2,000 emails at 100Kb each.

The real solution is that Google needs to re-split the storage for emails. It used to be separated, which was fine when you could store unlimited photos. It’s a huge problem now that it’s not. too many people rely on email for important things, reminders, bills, keeping in touch with people, and accepting ToDo List invites.

It’s too important to get cut off because people don’t understand size relationships across file types, or how to use alternative storage solutions for large files. It’s essentially holding your email for ransom at the end of the day.

Second Life – The Hobby I Never Talk About

I talk about a lot of my hobbies, and I have a lot of them, mostly revolving around the digital realm. I have one hobby that I really never discuss, It’s been one of my longest-running interests too. That’s Second Life, the online virtual world. I sometimes abandon it for a while but I always come back to it eventually. I don’t think it’s technically the first, and it’s certainly not the only one, but it’s effectively the most “successful” virtual world. I think maybe, the most recent VR Chat is the only other one to actually have any sort of real staying power. Minecraft kind of counts too really.

The current term being tossed around for this is “Metaverse”. I think technically the current use of “Metaverse” is a bit different, it’s more, the melding of the virtual and real world. The weird thing is, if you lean too much into that concept, the metaverse is literally just, “the internet”. And it already does it better than anything with a 3D avatar-based world would ever do. The original use of the term Metaverse though predates Facebook’s coopting of the term and Ready Player One’s boring popularization of the concept.

The original vision of what a Metaverse is, was basically a 3D mirror of real life, but cool and fantastical. Originally from the 1992 novel Snow Crash, one of my favorite books, highly recommended. The book takes place in a dystopian cyberpunk future where corporations basically run everything in the real world. But people can escape to this virtual user-run environment called the Metaverse. Second Life is explicitly based on this concept, per the creators. In Snow Crash, the entire Metaverse is connected and exists on a sort of “virtual planet”. Most of the world exists in a centralized point near a highway that circumnavigates the world. Think, a digital version of the Las Vegas Strip.

My point here is more that, Zuckerberg and Facebook, did not invent the Metaverse. And while it’s the same basic idea, Ready Player One did not invent the concept of the Metaverse. Snow Crash is an infinitely better book than the series of nostalgia lists that is Ready Player One. Ready Player One is like the McDonald’s of Metaverse concepts and frankly, I kind of hate it.

The key with Snow Crash’s world was that, like Second Life, it was all user-created. People ran elaborate clubs and had fancy apartments all customized up to their needs. It was slick and cool and embodied the idea of a virtual utopia space. There was even an interesting concept around the idea of people who were hardcore into it having elaborate and detailed custom avatars while casual folks would use some sort of basic default, and super casual folks had essentially a static image crappy avatar. Which sort of translates well into how Second Life’s avatars work. Because there are some defaults offered by Linden Lab, but to really show off your own personality, it’s best to spend a bit on your own customizations, or even just, do it yourself, because you can edit your avatar’s shape and make your own clothing and hairs and skins and attachable body part alternatives if you’d like. You can be a giant wolfman or dragon if you want, you can be a techno samurai ninja, you can be a tiny cartoon cat, you can be a regular normal-looking cat. You can literally be, whatever you want, with enough skill, or for a bit of money to another user who has enough skill.

Thrax Jigsaw

It’s all part of what keeps me coming back. I am not even particularly social in world. I think mostly I like the idea of what it represents. And I like seeing everything people do and create in world. I think this is a lot of why it manages to succeed where a lot of other “Metaverse” attempts fail. It’s extremely open in it’s creation. There is a quote from someone I can’t remember that is something like, “Second Life is a creation tool with a chat engine strapped on.” I am pretty sure I butchered that but that’s the gist of it. It’s better to mention other games and virtual worlds maybe for comparison. Like Meta Horizons, the one pushed by Facebook. I admit, I have not used it, I don’t have a VR headset and frankly, it just doesn’t interest me much. From what I can tell, it’s a sterile money-driven platform. Do people even get places to build things in world? Can anyone create a plot of virtual space for others to visit? Can you just freely trade items and objects and clothing, or is it forced to go through a marketplace where Facebook can skim a cut?

Or something like Fortnite and Roblox, which are kind of, super-gamified virtual worlds. Roblox is a bit better I think, but Fortnite has pretty limited options for creation, limited to placing objects on a gridded space. I have seen a lot of cleverly built things in Fortnite, but it’s not quite as robust. Also, everything exists in separate spaces. Second Life kind of does this with private regions, but the regions are connected. With a large enough draw distance you can see other nearby regions, even across the dead space ocean. It also has one thing I don’t think any other virtual world has, the Mainland.

The Mainland, which is increasingly expanding and connected, thanks to Linden Lab’s efforts and the addition of the Belisaria continents for better user homes. You can start at the upper edge of the Heterocera continent, and walk, fly, or travel in some sort of vehicle, and cross probably a thousand regions going down through Sansara, and Belisaria, and back up across to the eastern tip of Gaeta V. This doesn’t

It’s a very unique experience, and despite that it’s incredibly buggy at times, it works. It’s probably the largest world in any “game”. And it’s covered in user-generated content. Linden Lab has some “official” areas, maintained by the Moles, employees of LL who take care of the world, but for the most part, it’s all user-generated and created. It makes for a very, hodgepodge experience. It really leans into the idea that it’s a world where anyone can be or do what they want. This doesn’t even get into the thousands of user-owned private regions scattered around the space surrounding the mainland. There are a total of 27777 regions as of this writing, 9400 of them owned by Linden Lab (the Mainland). You could never see them all even if you tried. Actually, you definitely couldn’t because many are restricted access and private.

I have never owned a private region myself, though I have run some private regions on OpenSIM off and on (OpenSIM is an open-source, SL-compatible self-hosted clone). It’s much too expensive for me to afford, but I have owned land pretty consistently for a few years. The nice thing is that it’s easy to move. Want to live near a road? Want to live near an ocean? Want to live on a mountain, it’s very easy to sell or abandon your plot and move elsewhere. I like to change up what’s on my land as well. I’ve had a variety of different homes, a few different space stations up in the sky, a shop with a skatepark, a simple little public space park, and for a bit a little medieval castle. That’s just, all part of the beauty of this, is that I can build whatever I want. It doesn’t even have to be a functional place, it can just be some sort of crazy artsy build.

In the past, most building was done in-world with primitives, which are just, cubes that can be manipulated in a lot of ways (to make them not cubes.) These days most building is done outside of the world in 3D software like Blender, to make mesh 3D models. They look much much nicer and are way more efficient from a land impact perspective.

There is also scripting, which I’ve gotten fairly good at. Second Life has it’s own coding language called Linden Scripting Language that can be used to make stuff happen with hooks into most every aspect of the world that can be coded up and manipulated. I’ve scripted up fancy vendors, and little games, and manipulatable props with doors and lids, and a few utility HUDs that mostly deliver information to the user. There is quite a bit needed to get really good at manipulating the world and building, but there is no shortage of people willing to help.

Which is another thing I just love about the world. For the most part, everyone is very friendly. I mentioned, in general, I’m not the most sociable person, but I do occasionally socialize. I like to visit building classes at Builder’s Brewery, for example. I also have joined several help groups, so I can chime in and assist others when needed when I’m online. Everyone is also just, very open and accepting of everything and everyone. You rarely see real arguments about anything going on, unless someone is spamming or being rude.

Signs from SL20b, talking about the early version of the world.

All of this is just a pile of reasons why I think Second Life has managed to last for 20+ years now. All of these latest pushes into the Metaverse just feel very sterile and corporate.

Music Monday – One Take Edition

I am an absolute sucker for one-take media. Movies and music. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I do a series of one-take videos. I prefer it when the one-take is real, but sometimes well-hidden cuts are acceptable.

Dodie – Cool Girl

I just love this song and this video. I really enjoy this style of sort of, “raw dancing” where it’s a little messy and unstructured. I also like the sort of, symbolism of Dodie being slightly “off” from the other dancers, it fits with the themes of the lyrics and theme of the song. It seems intentional because she will be slightly off, then in perfect sync, then off again. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. The song itself is really good as well. It starts out so light then the thumpy beat comes in and it builds up nicely from there.

Total side note, I am slightly enamored with the chest of drawers and nightstand in the opening bit. I have a collection of photos of furniture I have come across in this style because it seems weirdly prolific in the vintage furniture market for some reason.

Kiesza – Hideaway

I think this may be the first video I watched that turned me on to Kiesza’s music.

Something I find amusing about this whole video is that I am pretty sure that a lot fo the non-dancers, are just, people who were out and about. The dudes trying to go to their car. The person ho runs through he shot on the skateboard. One tell for this is how at the end, the Taxi almost gets caught in traffic and almost misses the cue. Also everyone seems to be having a good time, which I like.

OK Go – The One Moment

I could do an entire month’s worth of Music Monday posts on OK Go, instead, I’ll just sprinkle them in here and there. A lot of their videos are one-take videos or fake one-takes. This one is pretty amazing because it’s an extremely fast one take, that’s slowed down.

The behind-the-scenes for OK Go are almost always fascinating as well, or at least, the engineering part of my brain thinks they are. Like all the math that was needed to get the timing for this video down so it would work in the slowed-down version. I mean, I am sure there is some fudging going on, but it’s doing to be damn close.

My Computing Journey – Part 4 – Going Online

The next phase of my computing journey would have been in High School. I am pretty sure this machine was some kind of Pentium, I don’t know a lot of the details beyond that. Like I mentioned last week, some of the specific details get a bit hazy for a bit here, though the next round is decidedly not hazy again.

While the main computer was still technically the family computer, I ended up with one of the older machines in my room at one point as well. There are a few key defining moments of this era in my computing cycle. I got a bit more experience dealing with computer hardware. I bought a 2.5 GB drive for the family PC because I needed more space. Which would lead to some fun because Windows 95/98 didn’t support a drive larger than 2GB. I actually don’t remember if I partitioned it or if it just, had .5GB unused.

I also got a ZIP100 Drive sometime around this time as well. These were like disks, but “huge” at 100MB each. I spent my own money on both of these things. I guess it was sort of the start of my digital hoarding life. I had a lot of disposable income around this time because I started working at McDonald’s at 16. Aside from the $20 each paycheck or two to fill my gas tank, I spent the rest on whatever. Usually VHS movies, CDs, and VHS Anime tapes. Sometimes expensive computer hardware. I had 10 of those ZIP disks and they cost me $100.

The bigger moment of this era was going online.

It was all done with dial-up, so it tied up the phone line and was slow slow slow. My dad worked for the phone company so our internet was through Ameritech, or SBC, or whatever it was called at the time. I had other outlets though, that I could use on my bedroom PC. I remember three specifically. One was some sort of message board for IUPUI, the university, though I was not in college at the time. Another was this dial-in BBS system for the Illinois Education system. My friends and I would post there and use the chat system. It was at that time I learned that things are not always as anonymous as one might think when this dude came to me at school one day and told me to stop talking to his girlfriend over the system.

How did he know that “Bevis” was me?? The world may never know.

I also posted some stories there that are, sadly, lost to time and the ether of the internet.

Lastly was this MUD, or MUCK, I don’t know which it was. I know I could dial in, and it was this text based RPG thing. You could go around town, or go down in a dungeon deeper and deeper. I never really left the town, but I became extremely rich. I found a bug of sorts. I believe the process was something like…

  • Go to the inn.
  • Murder all of the sleeping player characters
  • Take and sell their possessions
  • Give the gold to an alt
  • Wait a day
  • All of the dead PCs would be revived
  • Wash, rinse repeat.

After I amassed enough wealth, I had enough money to buy the “fancy room” that had dragon guards. No one was going to be murdering ME in my sleep.

Aside rom these side escapades, there was the “real internet.” I spent a lot of time browsing all sorts of websites about video games and anime. Eventually, I started my own couple of pages on GeoCities as well. At the time using Microsoft Page, an early WYSIWYG editor.

I also downloaded videos and music, though they were hard to find at the time. There was no Spotify or even places to buy wave files at the time. For anything large, it meant starting it before bed, and letting it run for hours to download. There were special programs you could use to pause and resume large downloads.

It was all the start of something amazing and wonderful in this perfect digital world of the Internet.