Links and Notes - May 7th 2021

A short hike

A few days ago, I decided I wanted to pick up another indie game. I was looking for something that fit the bill of "delightful". A quick browsing of the catalog later, I settled on "A short hike". For some reason I'd heard about this game when I was browsing items on the Nintendo Switch. But I just didn't feel like purchasing it. And now, I did. On the PC. And it. Is. Glorious. On the surface, it's a game where you, the main character, is waiting for a message (or a call?) on your phone but you are at a park in the great outdoors and there's no signal. Except, at the top of the mountain. And you need to take a hike (roll credits) to the peak to get your signal. On the way you meet various characters, have fascinating conversations and do the occasional favour, or engage in an occasional competition in exchange for stuffs.

As a narrative, it's lovely game which seem to, at the beginning at least, serve as a reminder of how wonderful disconnecting can be. I started the game with the mission of getting to the peak, but I feel quite content to explore the island purely for the sake of exploring and meeting characters. And I think that's what makes this game so delightful. It somehow manages to balance the tasks that would normally be considered a grind with the act of exploring the island in a way that makes the tasks just happen as you explore the island. It doesn't distract from the exploration. That doesn't mean that there's no challenge either. But the challenge lies in exploring. The further you explore, the more you get a chance to complete. Add to that the fact that the exploration almost never requires back tracking, i.e., going back and forth over the same areas to complete a task, and the game just stays delightful.

If you haven't played "A short hike", do consider giving it a chance. It's a delight to play in 20-30 minute sessions at a time.

More cross platform tools

After peeking into the tech stack of Obsidian yesterday, I found myself falling down a rabbit hole of cross platform tools. This wouldn't be the first time either. In this case, there was a very specific category that I was looking into: Electron alternatives. Basically, systems that can contain an app developed with HTML and JS, maybe even an existing web app, and deliver it across platforms. In the process, I discovered two alternatives that behave very similarly but have very different goals and are in two different stages entirely.

Tauri. And Photino.

Both of these have a very similar approach where they aim to deliver small binaries and much more memory efficient apps by leveraging the system web view instead of bundling an entire chromium instance to render the app. This approach is smart, but it comes with a gotcha. Each operating system's web view engine is different which means you could potentially run into differences in rendering from OS to OS.

Tauri, is very far along in its development. It's still moving towards feature parity with Electron, but it could be used to deliver a production ready-ish app tomorrow. It's primary focus is on footprint, performance, and security.

Photino in contrast, is still very much in its early days. Its focus goes beyond just building apps with Web UI's though. According to the website, "Photino enables developers to use fast, natively compiled languages like C#, C++, Java and more.". I could be wrong, but I believe that is a differentiator from both Tauri and Electron.

The one thing that both of these projects have in common though is a lack of documentation. If I had to pick one to take a look at, I'd probably stick to Tauri for now while keeping an eye out on Photino. And, if I manage to complete my Mail organizer, I'd love to try embedding it inside of a Tauri instance. A true excuse to try out some new tech.

Melissa remains the best thing to have happened to Masterchef Australia

Masterchef Australia is back with season 13. Although the show is 14 episodes in already, I'm just starting to catch up on it and from the first episode itself, I am EXCITED! I am also very grateful that the 3 judges were eased into the show with last year's format which was a departure from the normal. Instead of fresh home cooks, season 12 of Masterchef brought together hopefuls from past seasons to give them another chance at snagging the trophy. Why was that good for the judges?

Last year's Masterchef was a new beginning for the show. The three judges who'd been there forever, George, Matt, and Gary, had left and we had 3 new judges: Jock, Melissa, and Andy. The expectations on them were massive. Faults aside, George, Matt, and Gary were the leading force behind building up Masterchef Australia into the best edition of the Masterchef franchise. Chalk it up to their kindness and joy over food vs hype over drama.

And the 3 judges did not disappoint last year. It all seemed a little stiff at the start and maybe even a bit over the top, but everything about them was eventually so so good. Melissa and Andy who seemed weak at first each developed their own personas. Andy became known for his almost childish joy for good food and was razor sharp in giving hope filled advice to contestants who were struggling. Melissa brought an empathetic presence that the show was desperately missing. She also added a dimension to the judging thanks to her Asian heritage. It felt like a whole new category of contestants and food was finally being "seen".

Put all of this together, and in Season 12, we had people who had already run the Masterchef gauntlet and knew the system being judged by people who needed to develop their identities for the show. If both sides of the equation had been new, I imagine it would have been a much more challenging "breaking in". Jock mentioned this relationship dynamic in the first episode too and I obviously agree with him.

And that experience showed when in the first episode, a competitor tried to cook something they normally don't and their attempt flopped. Melissa pointed out that the competitor was trying to be someone he wasn't but the man just cut her off and said "I disagree". His point was that he was showing his side of himself that he aspires to be. Frankly speaking, I thought that dismissal of Melissa was rude. But Melissa is better than me. She was quick to take back control of this moment and urged the competitor to hear them and understand that to get into the competition they want to see contestants as they are. Make it in, and the competition and mentorship provides the opportunity to allow contestants to grow into the person they want to be. The whole exchange could have been a dramatic blow up. But the way Melissa approached it was with a firm but helpful hand. Didn't put him down. Told him exactly what he needed to hear without it being forceful. The contestant was given the opportunity to understand what was needed on his own. What Melissa did was a masterclass in giving constructive criticism.

Honestly, she's the best thing that has happened to this show and I love to see it.

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Posted on May 07 2021 by Adnan Issadeen