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Netflix is Blockbuster from 2012

April 22, 2022

Blockbuster sign “Distressed Blockbuster Video Sign” by trebomb1

I joined Netflix when it was Blockbuster in your mailbox, and it did exactly what it advertised: it allowed me to rent any movie available on DVD regardless of publisher.

As Netflix pivoted to streaming, I was excited at the prospect of being able to watch any movie ever made. I was convinced movie makers would cash in on the long tail of their obscure catalog that sat unplayed, because they would cheaply make a couple bucks off each movie. But the opposite happened: movie owners withdrew their catalogs from Netflix and into their own silos, and I found myself finding fewer and fewer movies on the platform. It got to the point where I didn’t bother searching any more, because odds were, the movie wouldn’t be available.

Yes, Netflix countered this trend by financing their own shows—some are very good and successful! But the idea that Netflix failed to fulfill their mission to bring every movie available on a single platform somehow seems…more salient to a long-time customer like me.

I suppose newcomers to the platform won’t have the same nostalgia that I do, and will accept Netflix as yet another self-producing streaming platform. Who knows? All I know is that I wanted Netflix to be 2005 Blockbuster in my browser, but now all I have is the one from 2012.

  1. “Distressed Blockbuster Video Sign” by trebomb, licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Man Who Harmed Every Living Organism On Earth…Twice

March 9, 2022

Thomas Midgley Jr. photo - National Academy of Sciences - Fair Use

Have you heard Thomas Midgley Jr.? He was an inventor born in 1889 and has the distinction of being one of the few humans on earth who has managed to harm virtually every living organism on the planet, not just once, but twice.

Thomas Midgley Jr. was a prolific inventor who managed to collect 100 patents during his life. But one of his most important invention caused irreparable harm to billions of humans, and has infected almost every cell on earth:

He invented leaded gasoline.

Read more…

Configuring Forza Horizon 5 (Steam) to work with Sim Racing Studio

January 13, 2022

Forza Horizon 5 banner image

If you have a motion rig, you might have bought Forza Horizon 5 from Steam, expecting to use the game with Sim Racing Studio to drive the rig. You might soon discover that SRS’s instructions do not work.

For FH5 to work with SRS, the game has to send telemetry data via UDP packets to SRS, which listens for those packets. SRS’s instructions tells users to send packets to the localhost loopback address (127.0.0.1), but the Steam edition of FH5 is blocked (by Steam?) from doing this, so telemetry packets don’t make it to SRS.

Here is a solution:

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COVID-19: The New Normal

December 21, 2021

Someone asked me recently when things will return to normal after COVID, and I only had to think for a bit before replying, “never”.

And the core reason, I suspect, is that our species is simply incapable of rising to the occasion at this point in history. First, our default systemic reaction to a looming disaster appears to be—by design—to protect the rich and powerful and sacrifice the weak and poor. While the rich get their shopping delivered, the poor are forced to choose between risking their life and not paying their rent.

Second, a large portion of the global population has fallen victim to disinformation, and will not vaccinate themselves no matter what. So far I have seen no effective outreach program to change their minds.

Third, even when people do want to get vaccinated, the cost and logistical barriers are high, to protect the profit interests of pharmas. The actual cost to vaccinate the world is $50b, according to OECD—7% of the US military budget—but we won’t cross the companies to do it.

We are now caught in the usual détente that arises whenever a common disaster threatens the wellbeing of the masses: A standoff between the wealthy and the poor, exacerbated by agents of disinfo, with the rich basically daring the government to do anything beyond protecting only them.

And I predict, governments (surely in the US, likely in other nations) will once again concede to moneyed interests, and sacrifice the masses in exchange for the minimum set of actions that keep the troubles just outside the gated properties of their wealthy patrons.

The best way to end COVID is obvious: vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible; give people money so they can afford to stay home; ban unnecessary contact worldwide until the disease is virtually eradicated; then isolate any new cases as they appear. But as a species, I don’t think we have it in us to do this.

And so we will live with COVID forever, always battling flare-ups, always overrunning our hospitals, always shaking our heads when we read about the next variant, and always locking down when things get bad. As long as the wealthy think their lifestyles can be made immune from the dirty poor’s disease, we will not solve this problem. And since the wealthy know only to demand protection at the expense of the poor, we won’t.

This is the new normal.

Embracing Remote Work

December 18, 2021

I wonder how long it would take for major corporations to learn to cut their losses and give up on the idea of a mass return to the office, especially for software workers who can obviously code from home, as evidenced by *gestures at the past two years*

One thing I hope the pandemic has taught us is to appreciate how utterly wasteful some of the things are that we used to do; how much time we squander each day risking collisions on roads just so that we can do the same thing we would have done at home.

Do I miss meeting coworkers in person? Yes. Do I miss the chance collaboration and tangential conversations we have at lunchtime? Yes. Do I have to be located mere yards away from them for eight hours a day while I wrestle neurons and stare at a computer screen? No.

One thing I cherish during work-from-home is low-overhead flexibility. I can take a 30 minute break and do something fun with my kid. I can walk around my neighborhood or take a short drive for leisure (imagine that). I can (gasp!) take a nap when I’m exhausted.

But most of all, I love the ability to manage interruptions, the number one nemesis of a software engineer. Context switching is incredibly expensive, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the ability to socialize when I want, and shut out the world when I need to.

Certainly, not everything about work from home is good, but not all of it is bad. Throwing it all away in the name of “normalcy” is not wisdom. We grow by learning to take the best parts of our experiences, and synthesizing them to improve our lives.

I sense an inflection point approaching. Major corporations are adopting the flexibility of working remotely as a competitive benefit. There will perhaps be a critical mass where this arrangement is expected by new hires, especially senior engineers.

I look forward to it.