Author Archives: omo

Files, Files, Files

Sometimes it feels like the world is a small place, and sometimes it feels like we live in different universes. Sometimes it might just mean that most people really don’t know what they’re even talking about.

It is good that you first read or skim the article linked in the tweet if you have not. It won’t make a lot of sense until you do. In short, it’s about how college professors are now unable to explain to freshmen students on how to open files, because a lot of younger folks never really had to learn it.

This is the kind of content that is perfect for trolling, personally, because some people feel strongly about tree-based filesystem designs, for reasons that has to do with a serious answer I’ll provide to why it’s even happening in the first place. But that’s like having emotional attachment to, say, a mesh based gutter guard versus a flow based gutter guard just because at some point you had to hire someone to put it up on your house. It makes sense if you are also a gutter technician or a home improvement pro of some kind, but random professors who are just trying to get spreadsheets opened?

So yes, I think it’s because software tools have changed over the decades, and middle and high school curriculums have also changed to keep up. Thus tossing the filesystem out. In my experience you learn this kind of “hard” UX experiences in school–along with QWERTY typing and using a spreadsheet. Blaming it on new tech advances is fine too, but that’s like complaining about Java garbage collection taking away programmers who are skilled in indexing memory manually. Not having to manually assign memory has its pros that translate to, well, now most things are done this way for various reasons.

It’s just to say some college professors are still running C on their grey matter and are now complaining about node.js running somewhere else. Do you, too, prefer to allocate memory manually? In short, this is the “we don’t care about punch cards anymore” argument.

There is another take. The file system tree and concept of files and folders, or that I may have 100s of icons on my desktop, are what forms the basis of etiquette, but they aren’t actual etiquette. You can complain about my work desk being a mess, but who cares if my Desktop folder has so many things in it? The whole notion of data and files in folders is, at some level, a thing in computer science and engineering, about an abstract concept on how to index data. How is this at all a concern about what people know? Are you suppose to be upset if people don’t analyze their tables in Oracle DB? No? Maybe you should join these boomers and ensure the fastest performance? LOL.

Which is just to say this is perfect trolling fodder–mostly white, out of touch old people complaining about kids for no reason? Sure, complain about how Apple and Google made us dumb. Because it’s at least something that boomers can do that we don’t have to worry about.

PS. This confluence of boomers realizing what has been happening to children is probably equally eloquently put by this series of insurance commercials. Same energy, basically.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

As the Marvel Comic Universe marches on like an unstoppable army across pop mediascape, box office charts, internet discussions, and global playing field made for Hollywood production, Asia is next. That stop is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Light spoilers ahead.

I don’t really know anything about the comic books related to Shang-Chi, but I am also thinking like, if you weren’t an African-American, can you really fully appreciate, say, Black Panther? I mean, you can enjoy it–it’s a fine movie and quite good, for most people. Same can be said of Shang-Chi.

But Shang-Chi is more than just Asian representation, it crystalizes a lot of East Asian-American “if Hollywood wasn’t a racist POS they would have made X more like Y” kind of thinking. For starters they did have someone who is Asian-American make the movie, and you can tell the difference between meaningful homage and just dropping bait. It’s the difference between General Tso’s Chicken and White Macha. (Who knew White Macha is such a great way to explain racism and racial appropriation?)

Which is also to say, I feel a bit torn in that ultimately Shang-Chi is also a Hollywood film. It’s squarely targeting Asian-Americans and I’m really curious how non-American Asians feels. Like, plenty of Chinese people would enjoy General Tso’s Chicken, especially when it’s done so well like most top-tier MCU flicks. But this isn’t Crazy Rich Asian, this is ultimately still a superheroes fantasy film that has to slot in a new origin and reoccurring cast like another rock on the infinity gauntlet. I’m concerned about authenticity, but it’s at least here in some measurable dosage. It isn’t performative, at least to people to can tell the fake stuff from the real stuff–which is unfortunately probably not a lot of white people, at least if you surf Metacritic or RT’s criticisms from pro critics.

The real test would be how Shang-Chi’s character and themes survive the collision with the MCU. If Captain American can, and to an extent, Black Panther can, will it happen for the rest of them? At this point I’m just glad the film is so succinctly pandering to Asian Americans that the CG kirins is both a superficial weeb kind of thing, and a reminder to myself that I don’t know my Chinese history and culture lore well enough to pick everything else out. Or perhaps, calling Shang-Chi out for the things it didn’t do is probably the right take. Like unable to go all the way with all those argument-ending Chinese proverbs, there were so many occasions for them. They went pretty far with the raw Mandarin, I was hoping for more to be honest–but I guess the cast has some limits LOL. That in itself is a reflection of Asian-Americans. I think the 3rd Q&A in this short video with the actress of Xialing nails an example of That Problem With Tokenism.

As for the actual film, it’s definitely my second favorite after Captain America, and at the same time it’s probably the one I would rep the most since of all the East Asian-ness. At the very least it didn’t copy some blatantly Asian thing. Making Black Panther just like Lion King lost some respect for me, but at times while watching Shang-Chi it felt like it tries to ring home those familial-friendly themes a tad too hard, in a Disney kind of way. Well, see above about Chinese proverbs. Which is just to say this is a billion light years better than the new Mulan. Maybe Disney princesses are toxic from an intersectionality POV? Just saying.

As far as the cast go, I dig that new face they found for Xialing, who is a Chinese actress who studied internationally but somehow made it, and got married to one of the action directors while making the movie. Shang-Chi is her first mainstream work. Simu is a good fit, and Awkwafina came off properly and she has just the right amount of spotlight on her to fit her outsized personality without taking away from the main story. I think in CRA she definitely was too big for her role, for example.

Speaking of too big, though, I think all the classic stars are too big. Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, and others are in their classic form. They overshadow Simu, but in a good way, kind of like you got superpower parents and relatives, so they should take more of the spotlight than the main guy, who’s going to inherit that and make it his own. The film gave Simu a bit of that towards the end–and it’s my favorite part of the movie. It’s both thematically appropriate and in parallel with the acting. The bigger question is if Simu Liu has acted enough to own that. I’m not sure he did, but time will tell once, again, when Shang-Chi collides with MCU Phase 4.

And yeah, I think the story is really why this isn’t my favorite MCU movie–Cap’n gets to fight Nazis. Shangchi and the gang get to stop Dad from being fooled by ghost voices trying to open the jail door? Seriously? That makes Lion King look good.

PS. This is all a great set up for that Indian subcontinental MCU bandwagon stop, whenever they get to it. You are Asians, but we know, it’s not the same.

Razer Barracuda X First Impression/Review

Long time no blog.

As with the other white-collar types during the Pandemic, I worked from home a lot–almost exclusively now. That’s great for my hour+ commute life, but I had to upgrade my home IT equipment to make things work well. I can probably get deeper into this at the end of this post.

But it’s in this backdrop that Razer drops their latest wireless gaming headset, which comes with this T-shaped USB-C dongle that works with Playstation, PC, Switch and your smartphone, most likely. I think that’s awesome, and I didn’t really try it out on the smartphone, for reasons I’ll explain, but that’s great on paper. For $99 MSRP that’s a nice set of reqs.

In addition, there’s a proper microphone on the stalk that even has L/R directionality. The padding on the ears are memory foam. It provides great passive audio isolation for a $100 headset arguably for gamers. Prior to the Barracuda X, I was using the Logitech G733, which is, uh, way too gamerZ for this old man who is using it to run, uh, raids, the dungeons are called “Quarterly business review” and “customer escalation bridge.” I mean, I do talk to my team every day, we are on vc often, just that we battle using Zoom, Slack, email, Jira, and, well you get the idea.

Razer Barracuda X‘s sound quality is significant better than the Logitech. The mic quality is also better. There’s more isolation. It purports a longer battery life, and is charged in the same way through a USB-C charging cable. Volume control, secondary button (which is mapped to the power button), and a mute button, plus volume, all on headset. The wireless range is on par with the G733. It’s about the same price. The T-shaped USB-C dongle also comes with a USB-C(f) to USB-A(m) cable for sanity’s sake if you have to plug that into a PC or a crowded laptop port.

It all made sense to me, which is why when it was released, I bought it the day of and went right at it for almost a week. Turns out, this product just didn’t quite cut it, for these reasons:

  1. The memory foam doesn’t dissipate heat well, and my ears get warm after an hour. That’s not going to cut it especially in the summer months.
  2. My head is on the large side, and the fit is a little tight. The G733 uses an elastic band to basically double-support the top of my head (think AKG), while the Razer looks a bit like my Sony WH1000X-MK4. I’m happy with the Sony (in fact I flew transpacific with them all the time no issues, back when that was a thing qq). It’s just that the Sony headphones are notably bigger than the Razer, and actually is meaningfully “over ear” where as the Razer is more “on ear.” Without those comforts the heat and pressure become a notable factor in short order.
  3. The microphone stalk has a cover that is symmetric (like a grape), it is also symmetric once you cover up the mic part with the cover. Which means people may not hear you properly if you didn’t orient the stalk correctly given it is a stereo mic. It’s all black and symmetric, so you wouldn’t be able to tell if the mic is oriented correctly unless you 1) figure it out by touch or 2) remove the cover. This got me on a work call, which basically soured me on this headset completely, even if I now know why and can address it. The funny thing is for people without stereo output on their headsets, they’ll hear you fine. Imagine that confusion while raiding. No thank you.

Overall, this is a great pair of headphones and I probably would be able to put up with these pitfalls, but they’re showstoppers versus what’s on the market now. I don’t think there are better wireless PC/gamer headphones than these on spec, however, especially given the $99 starting price. It’s surely going to get discounted, and these would make pretty good work headphones too.

If Razer makes a v2 that address those 3 problems, they have a winner. Actually all they need to do is make a more directionally visible mic stalk that captures the audio correctly (maybe they can also do a software cue), and make these bigger. For now, back to Amazon they go.

PS. Just as a matter of spilling it out, I basically converted my everyday workstation for work purposes. I put a VM on it to do the VPN stuff. I hooked up part of it with OneDrive for work. I drive my apps mostly via old copies of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and a Chrome window doing everything else (like email and stuff I don’t run local). Since I already run 3 monitors, this makes working easier than I had on hand in the office. For audio, at first I ran with my Blue Yeti with a pair of headphones as monitor, and I would run the Zoom audio into the Yeti. This probably sounds great, but I had to be talking into the mic and it’s tiring for long calls, plus the Yeti picks up all the background sounds. I also tried my previous go-tos, like that Fiio bluetooth dongle I used with my wired earphones back when I get to travel more. I also used my WF-1000m3s. Those all worked, but the mic quality were lacking. The BT transmission is not great either, so the range isn’t good enough–not even so I can sneak into the bathroom. That’s when I went to the G733, about a couple months before the holidays in 2020. In short, the G733 fixed all the issues, even if it is not a great headset either, especially in terms of quality. For video, I had this kind-of-old Logitech C920, which worked perfectly fine. I also did not have a shortage of laptop and laptop-likes that had front-facing cams. Only thing that I wish would work better was the action cam I got, which couldn’t quite just work like a webcam straight and required finagling.

Calling to arms for the Attention-driven Tech Industry

With the Incident on the Capitol, the rooster is coming home to roost: It is very likely that US Federal legislation will go on to address some major links in the process that lead to a fascist liar and the party that enabled the behavior, driving a crowd and breaching the legislature building on January 6th, 2021. The link we all are familiar with is Facebook.

But the way laws work, it doesn’t make sense to sue FB or make a law that applies to only FB. After all the whole of the attention-driven economy is partly at fault, including the media. Maybe individual sites could be targeted if they cross over the customary Free Speech lines (all the public sites those protests organized on are probably going to get deplatformed if they resist taking down the content related to the event on 1/6). This means every site will have to bear the brunt of FB’s “negative externalities.” In other words, a powerful tool for humanity is going to get hammered due to one bad actor.

The exact same has already been happening for some time: Facial recognition. Clearview AI is well known in the Machine VIsion industry as unscrupulous shits where profit comes first before anything, being the only major player that enables law enforcement (and others) to do the same things the CCP does to the Uighurs. Thankfully US local law enforcement, as we know, are clumsy bad actors, lacking the technological sophistication and ruthless purpose that emboldens the Chinese government. But in 2020, these human rights abuses of facial recognition has basically started the banning of such uses by local US governments. Amazon is also a big-time no-no here, making one of the most commonly deployed product (Ring doorbells/cameras) tied to unconsented law enforcement use, after making similar mistakes letting any law enforcement at their big data sets.

Ultimately this is about externalities. I think it needs to be extremely clear, if you are doing a large-scale deployment of any new business and tech, to examine externalities. Think of it as risk assessment. It’s one thing to break fast, it’s another to break so fast that you never recover from it. It’s a third thing, unfortunately, that you break it so nobody else can ever touch it again. If the wrong legislation comes down, these technology sectors are dead ends.

It’s really important for big tech companies to be careful and not fuck it up for the rest of humanity. It’s not about starting Civil War 2, it’s about not starting the next Chernobyl (for nuclear power). It’s about not throwing the baby of advanced AI, out, with the bathwater of negative externalities that unethical actors like FB or Amazon is generating.

Sony WH-1000XM4

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my Sony WH-1000X, the OG wireless bluetooth cans with badass sound cancelling–the one that didn’t use SBC! I went from mark 1 (technically they’re just not mark anything, but I’ll call them XM1 to keep it simple) to XM4, so there are actually some big differences. Most of them are probably already there if you got the mark 3s.

For one, I went from a refurb pair to a new pair. My 1000X was $180 refurb back in 2017 holiday season. It’s 3 years later and I went up to about $275 for these. I think that is a stretch, not because the sale was not big enough for me, but because I haven’t had a regular commute to work since March. If I had my usual workday commute, $300 for a three-year investment is well worth it, because these cans are just great all around.

Since I’m comparing the XM4 with the original, it is probably easier to just say what remained the same between the two, and what didn’t.

SAME SAME:

  • Sound signature: still a tad thick overall versus neutral, is what I’d call it.
  • LDAC and AAC support
  • Basically the same form and form factor, with small changes.
  • Still comes with a carry case with the same fold style and shape
  • Still comes with a 3.5mm jack for wired use
  • Same kind of ear pads
  • Still fits my large-ish head comfortably, if on the snug side
  • Still comes in black (I got the black one, but there’s also a silver XM4)
  • Freakishly good ANC
  • Touch control on right can, buttons on left can (only 2 buttons now on XM4)
  • Mic still not great (XM4 is better though)

Differences:

  • XM4 has nearly double the battery life
  • There’s an app. Since XM2 there was an app but the XM4 stuff is pretty wild. It’s the same app for the WF-1000 line (I also own a pair of WF-1000XM3).
  • Seamless pairing thanks to Android advances (not that it was particularly an issue before, just much easier now). Also smooth onboarding that’s more or less automatic.
  • More…bass in the XM4. By a good amount.
  • XM4 is lighter and less rigid than XM1, which addresses the stress tension failure they had in the OG.
  • Multi-point support–it’s barely working but it does work. Only caveat is it only supports SBC/AAC when you enable this feature, up to 2 devices max. Honestly AAC is fine for me, but sometimes I still prefer LDAC with the high resolution stuff.
  • The case is a bit lighter but also a bit flimsier. XM1 case is quite rigid and took a lot of beating (I beat on it a lot, on that note). XM1 case is also a tiny bit more circular and thus a tad bigger. It also didn’t have the little hole in the divider inside to stow the airplane adapter, 3.5mm cable, and possibly your charger cable.
  • Oh, USB-C on these, so I probably will just ditch the charger cable in the case. My XM1 was literally one of the last two things I carry that still used micro-USB. That said I am likely still to carry a micro-USB cable around even when I go to 0 micro-usb items just because I have some packrat tendencies. [The other micro-USB thing is a BT audio dongle/DAC.]
  • I think the USB-C port on the XM4 actually has data, where as it’s just power on the XM1, correct me if I’m wrong here.
  • The XM4 also is $50 more on MSRP, but this is the kind of thing you would never buy MSRP, so not a big deal. I got mine for $278 plus tax minus some credit card promo. Not bad for newish hardware on a Black Friday sale, as the XM4 came out in August 2020.
  • XM4 sound is more delicate than XM1, but I think this is just a general improvement on Sony’s part.

Overall I think once the ‘rona stay-at-home vibe is over I will be working these hard. I find these headphones teetering more and more towards “need” than “want” over time, even if obviously I don’t need them. It’s just such a nice luxury. Also my XM1 is heading towards physical breakdown due to the headband stress fracture issue. It’s not beyond repair, that said, so maybe they’ll make as great backup or a hand-me-down.