Sweet Slice of Life: Sarah Graley

It’s a bittersweet time to post this, but very sweet content in it, so I hope it’ll brighten your days, as all sARTSurdays aim to. This weekend was meant to be the MCM Comic Con weekend in London, but in the current situation, the ExCeL center where it was supposed to take place is still the NHS Nightingale, as far as I can tell. With the rescheduled July date also cancelled, we’re currently not sure when, or even if, we’ll be back to a convention. And in particular at this MCM we were planning to look out for Sarah and Stef (again), to grab the set of Our Super Adventure books.

At the last MCM (October 2019), we were just walking the floor when we saw a giant kitty showing clearly on top of the booths — cat people as we are, me and my wife ran straight towards it. We had at that point no idea what Sarah and Stef were — but the Pesto plushie was too cute not to pick up, so we bought it, and for the following day I had her mischievous glare staring out of my bag.

A little later we were queueing for my photoshoot turn with Simon Pegg and decided to take a look at the comic — and loved it! But content warning: if you’re the type of person who suffers being alone or lonely, it might be bad for your mood. I know that I wouldn’t have appreciated the comic nearly as much, if I hadn’t found it as a newlywed. But otherwise, it’s one of the sweetest and cutest online comic I’ve ever read — and positive, too! It’s not trying to make it sound like life is completely carefree, but it’s also making light fun of the harder moments of a relationship, and that made out outright laugh on the floor of the con.

Our plan for this MCM was to go and see them again, and pick up a book or two (or three) — we had a preference to pick it up directly from them, also to thank them for the many laugh we got from their comic — but given the situation, online ordering will do. And this weekend there’s an exclusive pin thrown in, which was supposed to be exclusive for the MCM. (Sigh, I did say bittersweet, right? Every time I type MCM I’m sighing.)

In addition to Our Super Adventure, which is posted on their website, Sarah’s Instagram and Facebook page, and probably a few more syndication websites, they stream their game sessions on Twitch, where this very Saturday they have been running an “Our Super Stream Con” from home. (Although by the time you read this post it’s probably mostly over, unfortunately).

So if you’re up for a sweet laugh, particularly while laying in bed with your significant other after an exhausting lockdown day, give a read to Sarah’s and Stef’s adventures. You won’t regret it.

Dear Amazon, please kill the ComiXology app

Dear Amazon, Dear Comixology,

Today, May the 4th, is Free Comic Book Day. I thought this was the right time to issue a plea to you: it’s due time you get rid of the ComiXology app, and ask your customers to just use an unified Kindle app to read their comic books.

I love comic books, and I found ComiXology an awesome service, with awesome selection and good prices. I have been a customer for many years, starting from when I just had bought an iPad for a job. For a while, I have signed up for their ComiXology Unlimited service, that for a monthly fee gave you access to an astounding amount of comics — particularly a lot of non-mainstream comics, a great way to discover some interesting independent authors.

When Amazon bought ComiXology, I was at the same time pleased and afraid — pleased because that could have (and did) boost ComiXology’s reach, afraid because there was always a significant overlap with the Kindle app, ecosystem and market. And it turned out that my fears were just as real, as I found out last year.

I don’t want to repeat the specifics here, the short version is that the ComiXology app has been broken for over a year now for any Android user that relies on microSD storage rather than the internal storage, such as mine. After multiple denial from ComiXology support, the blog post helped me get this to the attention of at least one engineer on the team, who actually sent me a reply nearly 11 months ago:

I followed up with our team and a few weeks ago we met about your report. We realized you are 100% correct, and we’re re-evaluating our decision RE adoptable storage. I don’t have news on when that answer is coming, but the topic is open internally and I want to thank you for your detailed emails and notes. Hopefully we can figure this out and get you back.

Matt, ComiXology Support, May 30, 2018

Unfortunately, months passed, and no changes were pushed to the app. The tablet got an Android OS update, ComiXology got updates every few months, but the app to this day has any way to store its content on microSD cards. The last contact I have from support is from last summer:

Our team has tracked down what’s going on and you are correct in your analysis. They are working on a solution, though we do not have an estimate for when you will be seeing it. We will keep on checking in on this and making sure things move along.

Erin, ComiXology Support, August 13th, 2018

This is not just a simple annoyance. There is a workaround, that involves using the microSD as so-called “portable storage”, and telling the app to store the comics on the SD card itself. But it has another side effect: you can’t then use the SD card to download Netflix content. The Netflix app cannot be moved to the card, either as adopted or portable storage – just like ComiXolgy – but it supports selecting an “adopted storage” microSD card for storage, and actually defaults to it. So you end up choosing between Netflix and ComiXology.

And here’s the kicker: the Kindle app, developed by a different branch of the same company, does this the right way.

And this brings me back to the topic of this post: the Kindle app is not stellr for reading comic books in my experience, ComiXology did a much better job at navigating panels. But that’s where it stops — Kindle has a better library handling, a better background download support, and clearly better support for modern Android OS. But I can’t read the content I already paid for in ComiXology on that.

I think the best value for the customers, for the people actually reading the comic books, would be if Amazon just stopped investing engineering into the ComiXology app at this point, which clearly appears understaffed and not making any forward progress anyway, and instead allowed reading of ComiXology content on Kindle apps. And maybe Kindle hardware — I would love reading my manga collection on a Kindle, even if I had to upgrade from my Paperwhite (but please, if you require me to do that, use USB-C for the next gen!)

Will you, Amazon?

Changing characters

Today a friend of mine came visiting me. We ended up playing a bit with PlayStation 3, in particular, we played Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which I got some time ago, pretty cheap too. I haven’t played much of it actually, it was cheap, it supports more than one player (which is nice when you play with friends) and I always was a Marvel fan.

Indeed, a few years ago I was a great Marvel fan myself, I read Spider-Man every two weeks (when it was released in Italy, that is), and I also bought more comics when there were crossovers. I stopped reading comics just because it became difficult to actually find them around here.

I also still watch the movies Marvel releases, I have quite a few DVDs of Marvel movies, although I disliked Spider-Man movies very much, I did like X-Men and Fantastic Four sagas, to the point I have Fantastic Four – Rise of the Silver Surfer and X-Men The Last Stand in Blu-Ray. I don’t want to “convert” the old movies just yet. They do cost and I don’t want to spend too much for stuff I have already.

The game was a bit of a “jump in the past” for me, as it was quite a bit of time since I last found myself “in” Marvel super-heroes. The nice thing is the fact that you can actually choose the costume you like more of the heroes, which is a very nice touch, as you can see many different attires they were depicted in.

I admit I haven’t followed much the stories in the recent years, especially I didn’t follow at all the “Ultimate” universe which is where the game is most likely taking place (otherwise why would it be called Ultimate Alliance?). But one thing I noticed: it’s impossible to think of Wolverine nowadays without thinking of Hugh Jackman, since X-Men was released. I think they did a great thing there, and Jackman is really the perfect Wolverine, at least to my eyes.

The one thing I’m waiting for at this point is the release of Iron Man in Blu-Ray. I remember the TV series and I very much loved that. For a long while I also read the comic books, but again, they were hard to find around here.

I’m sure I’d gladly resume reading them, the problem is that I hardly find time to read lately (I read a bit in the hospital, but not ever since), and I would find myself pretty much out of place if I ever try to read them again. There were huge changes every time I stopped and resumed reading Spider-Man alone, and that is far from being the most complex series in the Marvel Universe.

Okay sorry for this totally off-topic post, I had some old-time feeling that I needed to put off my chest. For those interested, I just finished setting up my MacBook Pro so that, if they hospitalise me, I’ll be able to play some games I didn’t play in the past years.

Stereotype or just common reality?

When I was in middle school I couldn’t stand my Arts teacher, she as the shrink-type teacher who tries to find a psychological answer to everything, even to my inability to draw a connection curve between two curves by hand without errors (hey, I can’t draw even today!). Once she dedicated an entire two hours lesson to stereotypes and why it’s bad to even consider them reality.

I’m still not convinced of most of her arguments, especially since what we learn to consider a stereotype, often it’s near enough to reality to be just as good. We have the perfect example by looking at developers: a good deal of them are the perfect instance of a «Geek» stereotype. A stereotype that evolves of course; while in the ‘70s and even in the ‘80s the Nerds and the Geeks were always fan of Star Trek (less often Star Wars), nowadays Anime are taking that place.

I’m not saying that every developer is a geek and that every geek watches anime, but there are enough of them to make the stereotype good enough to be considered the average geek. It might not be exactly politically correct, it might be offensive, but, well, it’s difficult to prove the contrary, or not?

Anyway, what have stereotypes to do with my blog? I don’t usually write about these things that are far from anything I work on… well, I was just going to say that I probably am quite a lot near the average geek nowadays. And sometimes, it’s funny to see how near even to the caricatures of a geek.

You can’t actually say to be a WebComic reader unless you read at least once MegaTokyo; I’ve been reading it again lately, and I found quite funny to read again this particular comic .

I find this funny because lately I’ve been a bit tortured with myself about an opportunity I don’t want to miss.. but that requires me to take an airplane, and I’m terrified by the whole concept of airplane; and I’m trying to watch Nodame Cantabile to see how the protagonist (who also suffer from this problem) will get over it. Pathetic, I know.

I wonder how much of MegaTokyo and other WebComics who makes satire out of geeks (some of which happens to be the authors of the comics themselves) is exaggeration and how much is actually truth we try not to admit on a daily basis, to avoid finding ourselves very pathetic.

And for those who will certainly tell me not to be afraid, that a lot of people takes planes every day, that they get less incidents on planes that on cars and trains, well, I can’t really give you a rational answer. My fear of flying is deriving from my acrophobia, it’s not rational, it’s not something I can control mentally, maybe I could have some time ago but I cannot anymore… if it was rational it wouldn’t have been a phobia now, would it? :)

Another webcomic… and nostalgia

Not nostalgia of Gentoo this time. Today, while reading my daily Irregular Webcomic strip, I seen the link for The Noob… I followed it mostly because I like to inspect new webcomics from time to time, it’s something that relaxes me.

Well, I since read all of it… I loved it, as I’m an ex-Ultima OnLine junkie. Yes, I had this horrid secret kept in me… well not much of a secret, as you can easily see that I was for a while a member of NoX-Wizard development team (where I met Luxor and Kheru .. hi guys, I know you still read my blog ;) ), and it’s easy to connect my current nick with the LordDGP that used to be the forum admin for Dragons.it, and Dragons’ Land.. and from that to GM Unicorn is an easy step.

I have to say that Ultima OnLine helped me a lot; Dragons’ Land was a family to me when I was a young nerd with no friends, Dragons.it was the first time I worked as a sysadmin (and a BOFH from time to time), and allowed me to start looking at Apache, MySQL, PHP and other stuff which now is daily bread to me.

I still got quite a few good friends that I met during those years (which are, for who’s curious, set about 7 years ago), and I have a lot of good memories… and it made me nostalgic, especially knowing that if it wasn’t for Dragons’ Land, I wouldn’t probably be here… in many ways.

When I started this blog entry, I was hoping to find some old fragment of memory from my backups, but unfortunately the most likely backup set carrying the data I need is compressed with xar (1.2) and the current version (1.4) doesn’t like to extract it. I’ll have to see if code for 1.2 is still around and if I can extract the data with that. Suits me well for trying an experimental new format rather than going with the old but gold tar.

This makes me wonder: do you guys usually try to consolidate backups? Taking very old backup CDs, copying all its content minus stuff like old programs you don’t need anymore, and then throwing away the old backup?