iOS wallet tickets can't succeed as they are

I just bought some tickets online for a local event in Barcelona. I purchased them from a specialized ticket selling site so I was expecting them to send me some tech-savvy ticket system that I could link with the iOS wallet app.

Instead, they just sent me the classic PDF with the tickets. I’ve always wondered why iOS tickets don’t seem to really catch on, they are extremely convenient for the user. With a small link I can have all my tickets in the same place and not forget about them. On the other hand, PDF files are easy to lose and forget about.

In a similar manner, the only company which fidelity card I’ve been able to set up into the Wallet app is IKEA’s. I’ve tried scanning other barcodes and looking for links into websites, apps, with no luck at all.

I decided to take a look at the process of generating a ticket from a developer perspective and turns out it’s way too complicated. The process involves certificates, an Apple Developer account, Mac OS development… yadda yadda.

This is perfectly fine for an airline company but what about medium-small businesses? Why would a smaller company bother at all? For something that should be just throwing a bunch of metadata into a JSON (which any monkey with a computer can do), you now suddenly need an (expensive) expert Apple developer, with an expensive computer, just so you can make the process slightly more convenient for your users.

It’s no wonder nobody cares about it and iOS’s wallet can’t succeed until Apple accepts this reality. I’m sure Apple wants something like “all tickets into Wallet must be certified and 100% trusted so nobody gets scammed” or something like that, but it entirely defeats its purpose if the process is so complicated nobody ends up using it.

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Stadia's death is a tragedy

As a gamer and tech enthusiast, the idea of cloud gaming is something that just makes sense, as a service just saving the cost of the device makes it worth it.

Having lots of devices in the same place could have benefits in terms of ecology. First, the on-demand nature of the service makes it reasonable to scale it as demand increases, instead of having millions of devices sitting unused in people’s living rooms. Lots of people buy devices that end up not using as much as they thought. Not having to build such devices on a first instance is a big benefit, in cloud gaming we just need as many as people are actually using. Having all those devices in the same place and managed by a single company, this company is able to dispose them properly when they inevitably become obsolete.

Having all the devices in the same place also means that the corporation is able to power the devices using renewable energy sources. Users only need to power their TVs and the big energy hit is absorved by the company, which adds up very quickly if we consider the amount of gamers in the world.

I’ve been toying around with every cloud gaming service I can during the last few years. Google owns, without doubt, the best cloud gaming technology out there. Of course, as everything Google does, their huge failure came from management despite their awesome tech. The service just didn’t make sense for most people and Google’s been unable to iterate or try different things. They also sufferend an incredibly unfair ammount of attention, which made everyone think the service sucked. Google has been unable to answer people’s fears on such a new technology.

One day after the service’s launch, some YouTube video obliterated public’s opinion about the service showing bad video quality and terrible latency. My experience is that Stadia worked almost flawlessly… in the appropiate context. The best way to enjoy it was with the Stadia controller and Chromecast Ultra, with a good internet connection. Most people didn’t try the service in this context and they formed their opinion around that flawed experience.

Google failed at making people give it another try. The controller, connected directly to the Stadia servers via WiFi, is really remarkable, and it’s going to be a while until we see some competitor do something similar. It really was an improvement in latency compared to other services like, say XCloud.

Unlike other services, I was able to turn on Stadia and forget that the game was “happening” out of my living room at all. XCloud is not quite there yet, at least for me (I live in Barcelona), although they did massive improvements over the last year.

I find it amusing how Stadia has been the center of the cloud gaming criticism while at the same time being the best service out there. I find it extremelly sad that they give up when their product was so good.

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I've been unfair with Assassin's Creed

I’ve been a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed games since the beggining. I loved exploring big city replicas, the plot, the life in their environments. But the last few games have supposed a change in the game’s philosophy: they moved to an RPG approach and completely ditched any hint of realism.

AC has never been a realistic game. Every game’s ending used to go crazy with gods and ancient civilations, but it’s never gone over a certain “threshold” of plausability. Yeah, there were crazy stuff but you didn’t feel like it was physically impossible for these things to have happened in the Renaissance Italy, it was just extremelly unlikely. On the newer games though, you have superpowers, ancient magic weapons with levels, huge unmissable anachronisms…

As someone who used to enjoy the first games, these changes are simply unbearable. In my opinion it’s been a huge mistake from Ubisoft to do this. It just doesn’t matter if the games are good or not, you are delivering something so different to the expectations that all your player base is going to feel weird about it. When I played Assassin’s Creed Origins I loved the environment but hated the weapons, the RPG grinding and the plot (which was pretty terrible to be honest, specially the ending).

The games really have all the ingredients of a game I would enjoy playing, but I’m not doing so because in that specific moment I wanted to play… an Assassin’s Creed.

So a couple days ago I decided to retake Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and give it an opportunity. But I also decided to completely ignore that I was playing an Assassin’s Creed, I’m going to pretend it’s a completely different thing with a completely different name. And surprise, I’m actually having lots of fun with it. The game is unnecessarily huge but as I said before, it has all the ingredients for a game that I would like. Also, I didn’t expect it to have ship battle mechanics like in Assassin’s Creed Pirates, which I loved; and the plot doesn’t suck, apparently (let’s see how it ends).

So really suprised and happy to be able to put aside my feelings and enjoy something for what it is. I’m definitely going to put some tens of hours in this game and who knows, maybe I give an opportunity to the newer Vikings game too. This said, I’m still excited about the announcement for the new AC game, which promises a return to its root. Even though I’m having fun with Odyssey there’s a little unfilled hole left by the AC saga in me.

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Not really liking Westworld's last season

Westworld’s 1st season is one of my favourite TV series ever. It just has everything: cowbows and sci-fi, robots, AI, an interesting villain. I found the sci-fi and plot fascinating and Anthony Hopkins is just the best FX ever.

2nd season was not as good as the first one to me but it was up to the task, even provides some closure for some of the characters and core parts of the plot. Worth revisiting some day. But the 3rd season went on with entirely different ideas. I kind of liked the sci-fi and some of the ideas behind its plot, worth thinking about, but the quality of the plot itself goes downhill with no brakes.

I’m not sure if they changed the screenwriters or what but had to force myself to finish the 3rd season. For the fourth one, I’m not even sure if I’ll finish it. I kind of want to know how everything ends but it’s starting to feel a bit painful. Definitely feels like the screenwriters themselves don’t quite know what to do with this series but HBO won’t give up on one of their most followed TV series.

Luckily, I still believe the 1st 2 seasons are worth watching while ignoring the existence of the next ones. So not everything is lost I guess.

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The company I used to work in is now working on a cheap imitation

In a company I used to work in, the project I was working on was cancelled and I was laid off. I was pretty disgusted about it because finishing the project was the one thing keeping me in the company, my experience there was basically terrible for a lot of reasons, some were on me and some were on them. Anyway, now it’s clear to me that leaving was the best thing that could happen to me, and the project was never going to be finished anyway.

I was suprised to find a LinkedIn post yesterday where some of my old coworkers were announcing a new project in the company. The project is a terrible knock-off of a very popular videogame.

To be clear, I’m not against taking insipiration from other games. Maybe you end up copying some mechanics, or aesthetics. It’s ok, you can’t be 100% original and this allows to explore different ideas over the same concept. But they seem to be getting away with copying absolutely everything. The mechanics are exactly the same, the aesthetics are exactly the same, and the name of the game is almost the same.

This year I’ve been thinking a lot about what to expect from the projects I work in. I decided I don’t want to be in games at all costs. I want to work on something worth working on. And if I can’t, at least I’ll make the most honest living possible.

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The best iOS 16 improvement

Apple fitness rings

A couple months ago I finally decided to buy an Apple Watch. It was quite a tough decision because I actually like watches. I like wearing them, I like how they look, I like having different watches and deciding which one I want to wear today.

The Apple Watch is the absolute opposite of that: it’s supposed to be the only watch we wear. You can feel in several ways that it’s not designed to be left on the drawer to just wear something different that way. Once you get used to all the features it offers you, it becomes a bit weird to wear a “stupid” watch and trying to quick glance at today’s weather, pay something, or see my activity.

I don’t mind that I will lose all those features whenever I’m not wearing my Apple Watc (I mean, there’s nothing that can be done about it). But there is a detail that I really really found like total bullshit and annoyed me: not wearing the Apple Watch will totally stop activity tracking for that day. So at the end of the day the Fitness application will show an empty ring and I will have failed my objectives (no matter if I actually walked around the entire city that day).

Makes sense that the data collected won’t be as detailed if it doesn’t come from the watch: I won’t have heartrate and oxygen measurements and steps/calories/etc. won’t be as exact.

But turns out that the iPhone alone (which is something you’re forced to own if you want to use an Apple watch) does count steps with or without the watch. You can perfectly see how much you walked in the Apple Health app, and it even collects some extra data like step length, but Apple Fitness will not recognize such data and pretends you did nothing that day.

I was really mad of realising this after some days of using the Watch. The fitness app becomes almost useless for me with that limitation. I don’t want to think about when I weared my watch or not, and feels so unmotivating to find my rings empty after a good day of walking 20,000+ steps.

Luckyly, now I find out that this is something that iOS 16 fixes. Now the fitness app doesn’t actually require a watch at all, so in theory if I leave my watch at home tomorrow I should be able to fill my rings just fine. Not that I will thank Apple for implementing something that I think is absolutely essential, but at least I’m glad they realised about this issue and fixed it.

I haven’t had a chance to try this yet but will most certainly do so this week.

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Someone bought me a coffee

A few years ago I was tinkering with Ko-Fi, a platform allowing tips for content creators (similar to Patreon) and decided to add a link on this site, with the idea of writing here more often.

Obviously the idea was abandoned quickly, and the link just got left forgotten. I was really surprised this week to get an e-mail from Ko-Fi notificating I had received a tip.

Even if I believe myself capable of writing something that could be worth tipping for, there does not existing anything like that in this blog. I mean, there does not exist anything at all (almost). So I was really surprised.

Turns out a couple months ago I did a really basic Pull Request on the repository of an Apple project (some Unity3D plugin exposing Apple’s APIs) and it got approved. So now I appear as a repository contributor (yes, I’m officially an Apple codebase contributor, yay) and someone saw it and thought I had some kind of contact with Apple.

This person needs help with his project and thought sending me a 3€ tip would get my attention. And boy was he right, he immediately had 100% of my attention. I find it funny how with a small amount of money we can really shine over the thousands of weirdos who are trying to get our attention every day. To be clear, I don’t care at all about 3€ but nothing says “this is actually important for me” like someone going through the trouble of finding my personal blog, the link to my Ko-Fi account and sending me a message through a tip. This guy went through several steps for this.

I was very sad to not be able to help him at all. I even offered him to return him his money but he didn’t want to.

All this kinda remided me that I have a blog. I still believe this would be best way to express myself. At least much better than the incresingly toxic Twitter. But there are certain expectations linked to it that make it so much easier to throw stuff on Twitter. Blogs are harder, they require to think and write carefully.

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Visual studio code on an iPad

I recently got a pretty cheap second-hand 12.9 inch iPad Pro. I was already a fan of how the iPad is slowly gaining terrain to the PC, but wanted to go next-level and decided to try the Magic Keyboard for it. The keyboard is obscenely expensive, but it includes a trackpad and practically converts it into a laptop.

Working with this setup is surprisingly smooth and fast, I honestly believe this is more than enough for 85% of the population without very specific professional use-cases. We are definitely closer to the post-pc era we were dreaming of a decade ago, even though most people is not aware of this. I think Apple would be smart to try and lose money on keyboards with trackpad for a couple years if that makes the public aware of how powerful this option is. Not their style though.

Sadly, as a game developer I’m definitely in the last 15% of people who needs more than this so this is going to be my secondary device.

This said, I was happy to find out that visual studio code for web is working 100% on safari for iPad. I’m even forgetting what I’m writng this with. So suddenly this opens a world of possibilities for the iPad: this setup can be interesting for web frontend developers or basically anyone who can realistically run code from the browser.

This is still far from what a professional developer is comfortable with (multiple screens, tinkering with the filesystem, etc etc.) but I can’t help but wonder where Apple might be going for with the iPad in the next few years.

BTW, this is even better for writing blog posts than ghdev on a desktop browser.

GH dev screenshot

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Whales actually increase krill population

One recent finding that shows how much we still got to learn about ecosystems and relationship between species: the decline in whales population (due to us hunting them) caused a decline in krill population as well, triggering a butterfly effect in all the ecosystem.

Since although every whale eats literally several tons of krill every day, they also provide the fertilizer for phytoplancton, which feeds the whole ecosystem, including krill.

Turns out whales have a very special role, which I guess it was already easy to imagine before, but it’s bigger than what scientists believed until these findings were made. They now describe whales (in a bit dramatic yet easy to understand way) as “mobile processing plants”. Given the size of those things maybe not so dramatic.

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Pressing dot (.) on a GitHub repo opens an in-browser editor

This literally rescued this blog. GitHub Pages and Jekyll are awesome but the process of writing a new post can be a bit tedious.

Pressing dot (.) while in a GitHub repo main page is basically the same as changing the “.com” in the github url for a “.dev”. It opens an in-broser editor based on Visual Studio Code, which happens to be a really good editor, and allows you to quickly make changes.

In combination with GitHub Pages and an extension for markdown preview it’s the perfect tool for updating a blog.

There are still a couple details that could be easier, like drag-drop uploading images to a post, but I bet we soon will see extensions allowing these kind of things.

GH dev screenshot

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Tu móvil no escucha el micrófono

Me he cruzado con este artículo, “What if performance advertising is just an analytics scam”, que contiene algunas ideas interesantes.

En resumen: si tienes un negocio, pagar publicidad en las redes sociales es completamente inútil porque estas plataformas muestran la publicidad a gente que ya iba a comprar de todos modos. Y pone el ejemplo de AirBnB que tras recortar $550M en publicidad, debido a la pandemia, no ha visto reducido su número de visitas.

Entre otras explicaciones contiene una colección de enlaces que me viene muy bien para mostrar algo que vengo explicando a mi familia y amigos desde hace tiempo: los smartphones no nos escuchan a través del micrófono.

Es fácil pensar eso cuando justo después de una conversación vemos un anuncio relacionado con ésta, hoy en día parece socialmente aceptado como un hecho que las grandes compañías nos escuchan, pero lo cierto es que eso es una barbaridad. Esta diferencia de opinión es muy notable cuando pasamos del “conocimiento llano” a medios y personajes especializados en tecnología, que saben bastante mejor de lo que hablan.

Sencillamente, el micrófono y la cámara son dos “tabús” que ninguna empresa tocará jamás porque el escándalo sería monumental (mayor que Cambridge Analytica o los Facebook Files). No sale a cuenta el riesgo, pero es que además no les hace ninguna falta. No van a averiguar nada escuchándote que no sepan ya.

Ahí van algunas de las cosas que las compañías pueden saber sin ninguna necesidad de tocar tu micrófono:

  • Pueden saber si una mujer está embarazada (antes que ella): link. Esto es especialmente útil porque está estudiado que durante un embarazo se consolidan las marcas y productos que usarás durante los próximos 10 años: link y otro link y un libro muy interesante sobre estos temas.
  • Pueden saber qué restaurante visitarás cuando llegas a una ciudad por primera vez: link
  • Pueden encontrar a familiares genéticos que no sabías que existían: link

Y esto es solo una muestra diminuta de lo que pueden averiguar con las migajas de la información que toman con tu consentimiento.

Siguiendo esta idea y mi argumento: si las compañías pueden predecir que una mujer está embarazada antes de que ella lo sepa, entonces pueden predecir básicamente cualquier cosa. Incluida la conversación que acabas de tener con tu familia.

Las grandes tech no escuchan tu micrófono, es bastante peor.

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Twitter and negativity

I created this blog on 2018 but haven’t quite used it since. Many years ago I used to write a lot on my personal blog, but since I discovered Twitter, this social network has become my choice when I wanted to express myself.

But as we are all probably starting to realise: Twitter is an incredibly toxic network. For several years I was really active there and its aura of negativity was slowly taking a hit on my mood.

I don’t mean it in a technophobic sense. The problem of Twitter is actually the result of putting everybody’s opinions in the same place. It doesn’t matter what happens, be it bad or good: there will always be someone who will have something really bad to say about it, and that will be much more impactful on our perception than any other positive thing out there. Of course many other people, probably with good intentions, will have another really negative thing to say about the first negative thing, creating an absurd chain of thoughts that is extremely unlikely to end calm and thoughtfully.

At first I thought it was about politics, so I decided to remove all my twitter posts and start by scratch ignoring all the political discussion that is going on there. But of course that only softened the problem a little bit: the discussions about videogame consoles, or tech devices, anything I could be interested in is, for many, a great excuse to have an argument, usually involving insults and rage.

So the problem here is not Twitter: it’s in our nature. Even if we have no intention of arguing, we subconsciously feel attacked by negative views of a topic and feel the need to respond equally. Reading something that goes beyound our tolerance is just a matter of time, and it will trigger our need to respond.

Twitter is a giant amplifier of negative ideas. Add here the general infantilisation that our society seems to be suffering (a whole world whining whenever something does not go as we want to), and the ill-intended trolls and bots, and you have the perfect bomb for your mood.

I may be wrong, but I do not think that there is anything Twitter can do about it. Complicated blocking systems, bot detection, shadow banning users, it doesn’t matter. Anybody who uses Twitter regularly is inevitably going to end up really angry at some point and depressed after weeks, months or years of focusing only on negative stuff.

So this is why, after some weeks reducing the time I spend there, I think I am finally dropping Twitter. I might connect once or twice a week, but I will mostly stay out, and try to recover this blog as a more peaceful way to express myself.

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