I learned about difftastic today, which aims to show differences between files while being aware of the underlying programming language used in said files (if any).

Structured diff output with difftastic on a change in Mailhog
Structured diff output with difftastic on a change in Mailhog

It’s basically magic when it works!

I generally like the built-in diff in the JetBrains suite of IDEs. The one I use these days is GoLand, but I believe they all support adding an external diff tool. Since difftastic is a console app, here’s what I had to do on my Mac:

  1. brew install difftastic # install the tool
  2. Install ttab using their brew instructions. This allows GoLand to launch a new tab in iTerm and run the difft command there. Otherwise, using the External Diff Tool in Goland would appear to do absolutely nothing, as the output of the tool isn’t displayed natively.
  3. Configure the external diff tool using the instructions for GoLand.
    1. Program path: ttab
    2. Tool name: Difftastic (but can be anything you like)
    3. Argument pattern: -a iTerm2 difft %1 %2 %3
      1. The “-a iTerm2” is to ensure that iTerm is used instead of the default Terminal app.

Now you can click this little button in the standard GoLand diff view to open up the structural diff if needed:

Screenshot of GoLand's diff viewer with a highlight around the external diff tool button

Ideally the diff would be integrated into GoLand, but I don’t mind it being an extra click away, since difftastic doesn’t work reliably in many situations (particularly large additions or refactorings).

Landscape from Death Stranding

🌐 General

A somewhat slow week on personal projects and learning as more of my time has been dedicated to my full-time job, which is a frequent-enough occurrence that I probably won’t mention it here again.

📦 Death Stranding

Maybe it’s the cool overcast couple of days we’ve had here, which mirrors the game’s mood, but I’ve been really enjoying playing Death Stranding this week. I was initially repulsed by its nonsensical premise, convoluted plot, and terrible on-the-nose naming for everything and everyone. I’m really glad I gave it a shot after all, because this game’s got soul.

Walking across its lonely, grey landscapes gives me that same “wistful explorer” feeling that I got from the original Mass Effect UNC missions. It’s just you and the environment for extended periods of time—a meditative experience. It’s balanced really well with its tightly integrated multiplayer component, which brings other players’ creations into my world. It’s easy and free to provide positive acknowledgement of their contributions and to help each other complete missions or build structures. All this supports the theme of connection and cooperation, which despite the dystopian backdrop puts this game squarely into “optimistic scifi” category for me. It feels good to play it.

The game also has a lot of what I consider respect for the player:

  • Apart from the Save function being a bit buried, menus are quick to load and navigate. Everything you need to use quickly has shortcuts. Surprisingly many games get this wrong. I remember being annoyed with Witcher 3’s menu system, which was slow to load but had to be opened frequently even during combat.
  • Avoiding repetitive encounters. Since the main game loop is ferrying packages back and forth between points on the map, it could be frustrating to constantly be running into the same enemy encounters, but Death Stranding avoids this trap. Passing through a field of BTs seems to happen only on the initial approach to a mission waypoint. I remember completing a mission like that, then getting another mission to navigate back through the same area and bracing for the inevitable repeat of the same encounter, but feeling pleasantly surprised at its absence.
  • Inventory management can be fun for some, but there’s a button to just “do it for me”, which I appreciate.
  • Same with balancing while moving on foot. It’s a neat mechanic that could be rewarding to master, but sometimes I just don’t want to worry about it, and the game provides an easy way to do that (hold L2+R2).
  • Saving defaults for deliveries and photo mode settings.

… and many others. All these little touches make what could be a boring walking simulator an experience that stays interesting and rewarding. I’ve had a hard time putting this game down!

Death Stranding screenshot of a woodsy area.
Approaching Wind Farm in Death Stranding

✨ Server-Driven UIs

Did a little bit of reading about these, trying to understand why as an industry we’re seemingly reinventing HTML+CSS+JavaScript. Some resources I found useful:

There’re many SDUI frameworks out there already:

I suspect the big tech companies that built their in-house SDUIs will open source them eventually, or another open source framework will be released separately, and there will be a convergence of sorts. It seems like a generic-enough problem.

Overall, I feel that Apple and Google are at least partially responsible for the thin->thick->thin client swings. They had an opportunity early on to take existing Web formats and make them work for their mobile OSs, but they chose to build custom platforms instead. The trifurcation of UIs was unnecessary. My hope is that someone figures out how to take HTML+CSS+JS and convert that into native components on mobile, so we could converge again on technologies that aren’t owned by big corps.

💠 Misc

  • 🏃🏻‍♂️ Ran 17k this week. It’s my longest distance yet. Proud of myself for slowly working up to this number while staying injury-free (*knocks on wood*).
  • 📸 Found another use case for Syncthing: using the PS App on my phone to synchronize screenshots with my laptop for easy uploading into posts like this one.
  • ✉️ Messing around with WordPress plugins for sending these posts as emails. I haven’t really shared this site or these posts too broadly yet, but I suspect any family/friends interested in reading them won’t be familiar with RSS/Atom.

Library hallway with several stacks on each side

Let’s try this.

I want to set a clear intention. I’ll write these for myself, expecting no one else to read them, knowing full well that someone might. What I want to get out of these:

  • Slow down time. I tend to fall into these routines, especially around middle of summer and winter when the outdoors feels downright hostile. Other times it’s when work is particularly stressful. Either way I get caught up in it and time seems to fly by. I don’t like that feeling.
  • Leave a trace for myself. I don’t have a great memory, and unless an event has been documented either visually (e.g. through photos) or in writing, it fades quickly.
  • Clarify. I definitely write to think. Even if I end up deleting or not posting, I’m hoping this practice will help sort things out in my head.
  • Practice writing. I don’t intend for these posts to be even remotely polished, but I do want to write clearly, in general. This here can serve as a scratchpad to try things.
  • Connect with others. Maybe. I don’t know how I feel about this yet, but perhaps these can fit a space between social media, which I quit, and conversations.

I’ve learned that putting pressure on myself never works, so I’m treating these as an experiment. I’m gonna let myself miss weeks or write very little, change the format, write in short form or poorly, and just generally do a terrible job. I also may decide to take these posts down or quit altogether. This is for me, not the reader.

I was inspired by Jamie Tanna’s week notes. I like how he keeps it simple, which I’m sure helps to make it a habit. Let’s see how it goes for me.

🌐 General

A bit of a transition period both professionally and personally. Letting go of my past self is both scary and liberating. The fear is always that I’ll slip back into old roles and habits.

🔃 Syncthing

This one’s more from the week prior, but I spent a bit of time setting up Syncthing between my laptop, phone, and NAS. I’ve discovered it some years back, but couldn’t really find a use case for it at the time. Now I have two:

  1. Some personal docs that I’d like to be able to access on the go, but also keep available on my laptop, while holding the source of truth on the NAS. These are things like insurance docs, vaccination records, etc.
  2. Screenshots that I take either on the laptop or phone. On the former, the Desktop folder is shared, which makes every screenshot automatically sync to the phone. This is convenient when needing to grab some info in a rush out the door. I’ve got Google Photos automatically syncing photos from the phone, so the reverse sync case is already covered.

One thing I’m missing is a way to notify me when there’re syncing issues, especially on the NAS. I changed some permissions there while doing something else and only realized that this broke syncing hours later when I opened Syncthing’s UI. I only did that because I had just installed it, so was curious how it’s running, but this isn’t something I’d want to remember to do regularly.

🏃🏻‍♂️ Fitness

I’ve accepted that if I want to retain—never mind improve—my running level I’m going to have to go early in the morning. It sounds pretty obvious when I write it out, but just in the past couple of months alone I’ve missed many opportunities to run outdoors because I woke up too late or simply wanted to get my workday started as early as possible, thinking “oh, I’ll just go later”. After 8am the temperatures rise really quickly and stay high late into the night, so practically the optimal window for a run is between 6-8am. It’s too dark before 6 and too hot after 8. I need some time after waking up to settle my stomach, which shrinks the window further.

Now, while I still aim for that sweet spot I will be going when it’s “too hot” and compensate by not pushing as hard or doing shorter distances. I did my longest run yet today (16.5k), starting at 10am. It was slow, and I stopped a few times in a shady spot, but it felt better than just not going altogether. Thankfully, fall is coming, which will allow for more flexibility.

🎮 Video games at the library

Who woulda thunk? I was pleased to discover that my local library allows borrowing (recent!) games for the Switch and PS5 for a week at a time. This is perfect! I’ve been wanting to try out several games that I’m not certain I’ll like, so paying any amount for them, even if used, feels like too much. Current list:

  • Monster Hunter: Rise. ❎ Only one I played so far. Too much like Breath of the Wild, which I didn’t enjoy.
  • Spirit of the North
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Death Stranding

Other than that I bought and played through Signs of the Sojourner. For a game where all you do is talk it stressed me way out. It does a good job driving home the message that people grow apart, and that you can’t expect to see eye to eye if you lose touch for a long time. I explored way too far way too early and tried to talk to everyone, which meant that half way through the game I couldn’t match any cards with anyone anywhere! That in turn resulted in (probably) the worst possible outcome at the end. While it was frustrating I’ll probably give it another shot when I feel in a less rejection-sensitive space.

💠 Misc

  • Learning
    • Reading up on Server-Driven UIs. The tech pendulum swings back and forth, but every time the situation is not quite the same as the last. Conditions change gradually until a shift occurs. I’m curious how we got here.
  • Reading
    • The galaxy, and the ground within. I would read anything Becky Chambers writes. It’s the kind of sci-fi I wish we had in abundance. The starting point is respectful mutuality rather than psychopathic individualism. It shows that you can have an interesting story without domination, ambition, and abuse moving it forward.
  • Watched
    • First two episodes of The Sandman. Digging it so far.