Musings On The Elder Scrolls VI

It’s official – The Elder Scrolls VI won’t be in my hands until several years have passed. Bethesda has confirmed that not only is it scheduled to be released after two new IPs they’re producing, but also that the game is not even in development yet. We know it’s coming; Todd Howard said that “Of course they will be a new Elder Scrolls”, but it seems that The Elder Scrolls VI is coming in the same way that winter was coming in Game of Thrones for the first 6 seasons (is that a spoiler? If so… sorry?) – in that it’ll happen, oh yeah it’ll happen, and when it does you’ll know about it! However, it’s going to be so far in the future that you’ll have likely forgotten it was going to be a thing until Bethesda announces it, which will likely be about 20 minutes before official release, knowing Bethesda.

By the time The Elder Scrolls VI is in my hands I’ll have finished University and probably (hopefully) I’ll have a job and will (maybe) have moved out of my parents’ house. My life will be completely different from how it is now (probably), and what’s more shocking, is that by the Bethesda development schedule, The Elder Scrolls VI will be released over 10 years after The Elder Scrolls V, quite a wait for us Elder Scrolls fans. Consider it – the original Bioshock came out 9 years ago, and think how long ago that was – I was 8, and I’ll be over 25 by the time The Elder Scrolls VI is something I can play for hours and days and moths forever. It better be worth the wait – that’s all I’m saying.

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Tamriel – in all its glory.

There has been much speculation over The Elder Scrolls VI, mainly focusing around where it’ll be set. Will it be Valenwood? Black Marsh? Hammerfell? Or perhaps all of Tamriel? I don’t personally like the idea of just creating a game that covers all of Tamriel; I like the focus on a particular area that we’ve had in the previous games. In The Elder Scrolls V, you really get to know Skyrim as an area and it’s people (those racist, bigoted Nords. They’re almost as bad as UKIP supporters). It was interesting to learn about the people of Skyrim and how they felt about the empire, which leads to the civil war which every player loves so much – I’ve come to calling it #Skexit. Yeah, I love Skyrim, and I’m hoping the ‘special edition’ will tide me over for a while. Although I’m fairly sure my modding can beat the graphical improvements any day of the week, but whatever – it’s an excuse to start a new character.

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Not sure how the special edition is going to top this…

All I really care about with the new Elder Scrolls is that Bethesda keeps it as open as every other Elder Scrolls before it. I spend about 40% of my time in Skyrim just sort of wandering about and doing, well, nothing. Doing nothing at all in Skyrim is more entertaining and fun to me than shooting people in Call of Duty or fighting through missions in GTA V; it’s indescribable – I don’t know why I enjoy it so much – I think it’s just relaxing. It’s like a sort of Zen. I also like how I can play nearly 200 hours of the game at the time of writing this and still be surprised at discovering new things in the world I hadn’t ever seen before and discovering new epic quest lines that I didn’t know about. There is so much to do in Skyrim, and if The Elder Scrolls VI has as much, then I’ll be satisfied with that.

I could go on about how great The Elder Scrolls is all day, and I might internally, but I’m sure you have other things to do. I’m not sure whether I should try to forget about The Elder Scrolls until the new one comes out, or just play Skyrim like crazy until then. I think the latter will do nicely.

Perhaps too much Star Wars?

I really liked The Force Awakens. Even though it’s a bit of a rip off of A New Hope; I think TFA was more of an introduction to the new characters than an intently plot-driven film, and the characters were very well developed I might even dare say that the new characters are far more interesting than those in the original or prequel trilogies. I’m looking forward to when the film is released on Blu-Ray on the 18th so I can watch it on a loop instead of actually doing real work. It gave me hope that this ‘sequel trilogy’ will actually be pretty good, which was contrary to how I felt about it all those years ago when Disney bought the rights – I was not feeling confident about it, but happily, I was wrong.

Now, because I was not paying attention, as I often do, I didn’t notice this other trilogy we are all being ‘treated’ to. I am referring to the Star Wars Anthology films, which include Rogue One, some sort of young Han Solo film and something else. I’m not specifically against any particular one of these films (except young Han Solo, and aggressively so), I’m more cautiously anxious about when these films are being released. As I’m sure you’re aware, the sequel trilogy is being released every two years, which is perfect; if it were once a year it would be over and done with too quickly, and every three years? I don’t have the patience for that, although I would prefer that to once a year. These anthology films are also being released once every two years – between the sequel films – with the first, Rouge One, coming this December. I’m not really happy about that. It feels like (if it’s even possible) too much Star Wars.

Over saturation of films (where a lot of a particular franchise is released over a short period) is one of my chief complaints about the Marvel films. I find them repetitive and I’m not such a fan of the style of film or the writing, but could get over that. However, I really can’t get over the sheer amount of Marvel films that have come out in the past five years. 10 films! In five years! All of them basically the same film. It may not seem like that many, but to me, that’s quite a lot of what is basically one superhero film template slightly rewritten with different characters. I’d be fine with it if they slowed down a bit and put them out over time, but that’s not how Disney does things. All of these highly packed release dates started happening after Marvel was bought by Disney. Before then, Marvel had made two films: The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man, both in 2008 and then they made nothing in 2009. Notably, I quite liked the first Iron Man – just sayin’ (although I also quite liked Guardians of the Galaxy, which was after Disney, so that doesn’t really mean anything). I think Disney’s plan with Star Wars is to do the same thing. I’m not down with that at all. Marvel’s over saturation has ruined superhero films for me, it has made them feel generic and bland, and I don’t want the same to happen with Star Wars.

I’m quite interested in Rouge One; I think it has the potential to be a good prequel, but I would rather we were seeing films like this after the sequels were over and done with, instead of rushing them all out at once, and I would rather not see one new Star Wars film a year because I’m concerned that I’m not going to be so interested in Star Wars by the time Episode 9 comes out. If Disney has taught us anything, they will not stop there. We are not just getting 6 new films (including TFA) we are getting as many as are profitable, as many as they can make before people aren’t interested anymore, as many as then can before they have completely milked the franchise dry, which is a prospect that does not excite me in the slightest. Especially if the kind of ideas we are getting for the ‘Anthology’ films are of the same caliber as ‘young Han Solo’. The laziest idea for a film I’ve heard in a long time. I can imagine the meeting they had to decide that one was not very long and involved throwing around generic ideas for films and occasionally saying, “yeah, the fanboys will love that one, and we’ll make a whole sack of money!” Maybe it’ll all be good, maybe I’m very wrong and I should stop writing about things I clearly know nothing about. I’d like to be wrong; that would be great, but I just don’t think I am.

Again, I’d be fine with all of this if they’d just slow down with it. If we get all these new Star Wars films (perhaps change the young Han Solo one) over the next 11 years, I think I’d be very happy with it. Well, not “very happy”, but at least reasonably satisfied with the plan and maybe even cautiously optimistic. I think it’d even be better for Disney in the long run; they could keep the franchise feeling fresh and alive, and therefore make even more money because people would not feel so overwhelmed with the sheer bulk of new Star Wars films. You can’t just throw them at us, you need to ease into it first before you flood us with new Star Wars content. This is the most condensed  chunk of Star Wars films ever – the original trilogy and the prequels all had a couple years between releases, giving people the chance to get excited about the new films.

I could go on, and I considered doing that, but this needs to have some structure to it rather than having this post collapse in on itself and becoming a horrible mess of worried and irritated speculation. Am I saying I will not watch the next new Star Wars films? No, I’m not saying that at all, I will definitely see every single one of the new films, but I am worried that Star Wars may dry up and become stale if released in such a condensed and hurried schedule.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m overthinking this and everything will be fine, all these films will be the greatest ever and I should relax a bit more. Or, maybe I’m super accurate and we’ll all be very sad. In the end, does it matter? My worries aren’t changing anything, and so perhaps I should just accept it. I just can’t do that. I’m worried, and I think Disney should rethink their entire business model just to satisfy my concerns.

I can’t think of a good end to this. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to say about that. Go and do something else now.

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We All Know First Generation Devices Suck

My friends, we are teetering on the dawn of a new wave of exciting and exhilarating technology. We’ve all (and I mean all!) been talking about it for years: Virtual Reality. Many have said that VR will change the way we use computers, and will, therefore, change the way we live our lives. And we are all part of the generation who were there before and during this fundamental change to existence. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? It sounds like you should absolutely go out right now and order every headset on the market and wear them all at once. But hold back, comrades! Take a deep breath and a moment to think about it. We all know and have always known, that first gen sucks.

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The time – that’s a novelty.

Consider Apple’s recent new products. In particular, the Watch and the MacBook. These are two devices which have confused and befuddled many minds, while others have simply bought the devices thinking about how cool and innovative they are. On the one hand, you have a smart watch. That’s fair, isn’t it? Smart watches are in right now. People seem to want them, and if it’s Apple, of course, the watch they make would cost the arm you would be wearing it on. But many (including myself at any opportunity that arises) have commented that there really isn’t much you can actually do with an Apple watch that your phone can’t already do a much better job at anyway. You have the notification feature, but that’s about it for actually useful functions – oh, and I hear it can also tell the time, which is a nice feature. And that’s not to mention all the issues with the hardware, like the almost useless battery life and the many other simply irritating design choices of the OS.

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Since when did THIS become sexier than my T420?

On the other hand, you have the MacBook. Oh, the things people have said about this device. It’s a fairly stupid device if you want to do anything serious. It’s basically a Chromebook; there’s not much yo can do with it that hasn’t got anything to do with the internet. Featuring only two ports – the headphone/microphone combo and the USB type c connector – you can be sure that you are going to have a fun time with your bank account when it comes to the time you need to connect any new type of connector to the laptop, especially as Apple are the only people out there who’ll sell you what you want (as far as I know without actually checking that). And we all know Apple – they only need to stick an Apple logo on a white IEC and it bumps the price up to 150%. I baffles me that anyone at all has bought this laptop, when there are so many other much better, MUCH cheaper laptops which will give you the same (likely far better) functionalities, practically equal portability and more power – and I’ve taken quite an open mind towards Apple of late, I’ve accepted and tried to understand where they’re coming from. This still confuses me.

You see, these two devices are first generation devices. And we all know first generation devices suck. The Apple watch right now is more of a dev-kit than a truly useful product. It exists because it needs to for Apple to get anywhere in terms of wearable technology. They both need developers to start finding fun things to do with this device, and they need a ton of user feedback about it so, in about a year, they can release the Watch 2 – featuring actual features, and genuinely useful applications.
“But, Henry!” you blurt out in a confused, outraged and aggressive white hot rage, furious that I’ve missed a vital point in my argument. “The MacBook 2015 is not the first MacBook! It is the latest in a long line of laptops that but Apple on the map! How can you say that this is merely a dev-kit device? Explain your reasoning or leave us and never post about technology again!” A little over the top and unnecessary, but I do intend to explain. Apple is doing the same thing with the 2015 MacBook as the Watch, however, they are testing only one feature – the USB type c port. This is a port which has excited and tantalized anyone who cares about connectors (which is not a large proportion of the general public), and Apple want to know what they can do with it, and the possibilities they can get out of it. They created a real world product that relies on it – if they’d put full sized ports on it, people would have just used them, and Apple have a habit of removing choices from users for the sake of ‘progress’. They want people to give their opinion about a laptop which uses this quite heavily before their make their move on using it and how heavily on their other computers. So yes, if you’ve bought a MacBook or a Watch, you’re a lab rat – nothing more. If you’d waited until they released the second version, you’d have gotten a far superior device at a cheaper price or at least the same price you paid for the first one.

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Yes – this curve is really helping me get into this episode of Bake Off.

Another real world example to consider would be 4K, or Ultra High Definition if you’re a marketing junkie (I hate you). 4K has been around for quite the number of years now and is only just becoming vaguely affordable for those who have lots of money to splash. But from what I’ve seen, it’s still not really worth it. The importance of resolution in a display has been far exaggerated – colour representation and bit rate are much more important if you’re looking for a good quality image. We need 4K Blu-Ray before you’ll get anything decent out of 4K, as there’s no streaming service that offers 4K streams at a higher bit rate than HD Blu-Ray. If you really care about image quality, you’ll want to get the 4K Blu Rays. And by the time that happens, 4K panels will be even cheaper and better. We’re even getting set for the coming affordability of OLED, which blows current screens out of the water in terms of colour contrast. My point is that while a shiny new 4K panel may be better than your basically new HD screen, it’s still early days, and until we get some decent 4K content, it’s not gonna be worth it.

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That would give you a neck ache after a few minutes.

This all applies, I think, to VR. We’ve all heard about these new VR headsets and some of us have even tried them out. But there’s one thing I can’t shake: give it five years, and I’ll bet a substantial sum that we’ll all be remarking that the original Vive and the Oculus Rift were terrible – like the way you think about the first iPhone. Currently, the pixel density is nowhere near high enough to play any game that is not designed specifically for VR, and that’s going to be a lot of the games you’re gonna be playing on it, considering how few good VR games there actually are. Steam will have a theater mode for playing non-VR games, but I can’t honestly see the point; I might as well just play my game on my normal screen. I can get a fairly lovely screen for less than either headset, and I’d rather play on that. Make no mistake, VR will follow the same trends that everything else does, the next few generations will get progressively cheaper and much better in probably every way.

So, if you were to ask if I’m buying a VR headset, my answer is no. I’m not going to get any form of VR headset until they inevitably get way better; there aren’t the games, nor the sufficient hardware to both drive the experience for an affordable price, but also provide a decent experience when compared to what I believe will be possible in just a few years. The current VR is like Apple’s MacBook and Watch, more a proof of concept at the moment – we’re going to see nothing but tech demos in VR for the next couple of years until VR gets popular enough to be worthwhile, which ain’t happening until the price of both a competent computer and the headset itself become affordable. So, until there is a game out there that I really want to play but can’t because I don’t have the required VR headset, I’m not interested. That won’t be for a while; as we all know, the first generation sucks.

Microsoft, This Is How You Can Make The Windows Store Relevant

If you are one of the enlightened 11.85% who have ascended into the higher place known as Windows 10, you may – and probably have – at least opened the Windows store. This is a place where you can download new ‘modern’ apps, which are compatible with touch screen as well as, to varying degrees of success, mouse and keyboard. These apps are generally pretty okay; most of them suck, but some of them – like Netflix – are actually alright. Not great – alright.

However, for most the Windows Store is completely irrelevant. They have no reason at all to go to the store and download anything. Yes, you can also download things like music, films and TV shows, but many people already have a library of this stuff with some one else, like Amazon or iTunes, and the Windows store is no better at providing these things than anyone else. The apps you find in the Windows Store are pretty much only designed for tablet use, and if you are one of the few – like me – who own a Windows tablet, you’ll agree that most of these apps are a bit crap. But I think that Microsoft is missing out on a gold mine of great apps which could make the Windows Store amazing and even the best thing about Windows 10.

If you’ve read my about page, you’ll know that I’m a student at the University of Hull. I’m in my first year so recently I went back home for first time (as it was Christmas, you see). While I was there I still wanted to play my enormous library of PC games, but I don’t have a PC with any form of OS on it at home any more. What was I to do, but use Linux! I used Ubuntu, which is the most popular of the Linux distributions. If you are on Windows and are wondering what gaming is like on Linux: it’s awful – don’t bother. The best thing about Ubuntu is the inclusion of the Software Centre. It’s Ubuntu’s version of Windows Store, except it’s been around for much longer and is infinitely more useful, and I’m in love with it.

In the Ubuntu Software Centre, you can download almost any application. VLC, Audacity, Firefox, Chrome, Steam, MonoDevelop, almost any app (provided there is a Linux version) you can think of. What’s better, when you’ve said you want to download the app, it installs it for you with no dialogue boxes or anything – it just does it in the background and doesn’t make a big deal over it. When there’s an update out, it installs the update in the background without needing to bother you about it. How many times have you opened a video file in Windows and had VLC popup but ask you to install an update first, you click cancel knowing full-well that it’ll ask you every time you open a video file until you let it. In Ubuntu this doesn’t happen; the Software Centre is more of a software manager than a software store, it looks after your software, it installs and uninstalls it at your command, it’s amazing.

So, Microsoft, this is my suggestion: do that. Make the Windows Store like the Ubuntu Software Centre. I’m not saying it would be easy, but I am saying it would make the Windows Store far more relevant to people who either are a bit incompetent with Windows or people who want an easier way of installing their software. Think of the many advantages! Microsoft could screen software installations, check for viruses, bloatware, spyware, prevent the software from doing nasty things to the computer, keep it all up to date. It would be incredible. I would love it, we would all love it. I know that it is possible as well, because of Ninite. Ninite is basically what I just described. I use it whenever I need to install Windows from scratch; it installs the software you want, without any pop-ups and stops the installations from installing anything unexpected. Just think, Microsoft, how amazing it would be. I’d use it.

A few words of warning, Microsoft, if by some miracle someone important is reading this (HA – it’ll never happen! I can dream, though), if you do decide that this would actually be amazing (which it would), don’t take anything away from the users! I hope you’ve learned by now that people hate it when you take something away from them. People should still have the option to install software the traditional way, and they should still be able to change where the software is installed. I know some weird people who choose not to install their software on the C drive, which is mental if you ask me. People should also be able to decide not to update, although you seem to have disagreed with that point in the recent past. This should be a system which anyone could use, but it should also have some advanced features to make it useful. It would take time to get going, but as long as you get the bigger applications on there, we’ll all be happy.

Think of it: the world where applications are managed properly, like in Ubuntu. Microsoft, stop what you’re doing, and do this; I garuntee it’ll make everyone love you again.

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Anime is Weird – Sword Art Online is Great

I used to be one of those people. I used to avoid anime. I would scroll through Netflix, see an anime title, and instantly reject it. Why? Because anime is weird. People told me to try it, they told me that it’s really good when you get used to it. This only leads me to judge those people harshly. “They’re weird, ” I thought to myself, “They can no longer be my friend” I decided. Over the past three days, my mind has been opened; anime is really weird, and yet it is also amazing.

The first I heard of Sword Art Online when my brother mentioned it to me a few years ago. He said the name in passing and my response was thus:
“Sounds like a video game.”
“Yes, it’s supposed to” he replied.
I forgot about this until earlier in 2015 when the exact same thing happened, this time in a shop. I later found it on Netflix and added it to my list. It was only a few days ago that I decided to take the plunge. I watched one episode and my reaction was to tweet the following.

https://twitter.com/sammysquirrel12/status/688148658873737216

And it is. I stand firmly behind this tweet. I watched all 25 episodes of Sword Art Online and you know what? Anime is weird – but sometimes it’s great. And it is greater than it is weird if that makes sense.

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Yes – this is indeed an anime.

Sword Art Online is about a video game – an MMO in the year 2022 called Sword Art Online, hilariously enough. What’s exciting about this video game it that it is the first to use a new VR technology called ‘Nerve Gear’ which straps on to your head, and it’s basically like Avatar except better in every way. Your mind is transferred to this virtual world where you fight monsters and hang out with other players in a fantasy world. It’s amazing and everyone logs in on the launch day since it’s the first of its kind. Things go well until the players notice that there is no way to leave; the logout button is missing. They learn that if someone removes the Nerve Gear helmet in the real world, they’ll die. They also learn that if they die in the game, they die in real life. It’s Matrix rules without the convenient telephone situation or any other way of leaving. The only way they can leave is if the boss on the 100th level of this big old tower has been defeated (which means they have to beat the bosses of all the other 99 floors as well). So that kind of sucks and people get upset about it.

We follow the story of Kirito. Kirito is special in this world; he was a beta tester, which gives him a distinct advantage; there were only 200 beta testers (it’s worth clarifying here that the players could log out during the beta test). He’s also MLG pro-MVP god – like seriously, he’s so OP most of the time that’s it’s sort of ridiculous. There’s one point where about four other players attack him at the same time and his reaction is to tank it; his HP is so high at that point that, even with all four players attacking at the same time, he couldn’t be harmed. Kirito meets a girl named Asuna. Asuna is mysterious and at first, they don’t get along, but after time, they grow to love each other in an entirely predictable manner. I’ve no problems with this because it’s not that important – what is important is that they are head over heels for each other and damn well pleased about it. The plot then follows. I won’t spoil it for you, go watch it for yourself. Their love is cheesy, yet somehow it’s not cringy. I genuinely cared about their relationship because it’s not over the top, it’s almost subtle and you could call it realistic, depending on your expectations. I cared so deeply by the end for these two; any harm that came to either of them felt like it was harming me too. Okay – maybe not that extreme, but them sticking together felt, for some reason, really important to me.

It’s not all love and games in Sword Art Online, there are the other people as well, and more than that, the world of Sword Art Online is incredibly detailed – it almost feels real. The story is about this world and the people who live in it, and the writing really brings the world and its people to life. I mentioned that Kirito was a beta tester earlier. Well, that causes some friction early in the story and also throughout. You see, some people reckon that beta testers have an unfair advantage – a six-month unfair advantage to be precise. Worse, these beta testers, with their advanced knowledge about the game, generally decided not help new players out when the crisis began and just play solo, collecting all the good items before anyone else could get them. This, you’ll agree, is not very sporting and you could describe this kind of behaviour as cheating. Shocking – I know. These people are labelled ‘beaters’ – a combination of beta tester and cheater. I’m not sure what’s wrong with calling someone a cheater but whatever floats your boat. Beaters are not well liked in this world and some people say some right nasty things to them. Those things hurt. Beaters are discriminated against and treated with a certain level of suspicion. Because Kirito is a beater some choose not listen to him when he tells them something important – a move which seems really stupid considering that he probably knows what he’s talking about. It’s this kind of real world discrimination, brought into a fantasy world, which makes the people seem like people. A proper society emerges, with all sorts of social issues, there is a big army which keeps the peace between people, there are lawbreakers who steal from others and murders who murder each other, there’s common racism, there’re shops, there’s true complexity in the world.

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Drama.

I could go on. And I would if I could make it interesting. There’s so much that I want to write about – the people, the world, the story, the way the game makes sense and is generally really well thought out and so on. Honestly, it’s fantastic. I do however want to talk about anime in general and not just stick to how great Sword Art Online is. Anime is weird. Most of the time I’ve no issue with its weirdness. It really adds to the experience when something so predictably anime happens. It’s an inexplicable mix of cheesy and deadly serious, and a heap of melodrama mixed with genuine drama. It sounds like it can’t work, but it’s amazing. Just look at the opening credits for God’s sake!

The confusing translations also add to it. I’ve read those lyrics many times and I still don’t know what it’s on about. I have no issue with that. I think it’s great and can only amplify my enjoyment. Anime is anime. It’s weird, and I can’t even explain why. All I know is that there were several moments where my reaction was “yup, this is an anime.” Sometimes things happen which are so typically anime that I can’t help but feel exasperated. Women are all attractive people – far more than the men (although this may be just my heterosexual male viewpoint), and I don’t really know how I feel about it. They spend half their time being over emotional, and the other half being genuinely strong characters. I can’t think of a single woman in SAO who wasn’t up for a fight. The women are strong and feel necessary, so I don’t think I have an issue with them. Anime is weird. I can only explain why by showing you this (with the mildest of spoilers):

Sword Art Online is brilliant. Go watch it. I finished it yesterday and since then I’ve felt a familiar sense of emptiness I always get when something great ends. I got it with the Witcher 3, and I got it (not quite as much) from this. It’s an emotional ride which left me feeling warm and happy, but also sad that it was over. Yes, I know there is a series 2, but I don’t want to watch it in case it’s not as good. It doesn’t feel like something which should have a sequel or a potential film for that matter. I may try watching the next series, but I’m not interested in disappointment. Anime is weird – but most of the time, it’s great.

2015: A Review

It is a common thing for me when the year is about up I like to consider what has actually happened this year, and I discover that a lot more has happened than I give credit for. It’s times like these where I see the worth in keeping a diary, so I have a straight-forward list of things I did. I could look in my calendar, but I’m fairly sure Google deletes events after they’ve happened in order to save space, and I don’t want to take the time to check. So I suppose if I want to think about everything that has happened in the past year I should start with the mot obvious stuff and move on to the specifics. What happened this year? What would I give it out of ten?

I’ll start by thinking about deeply impersonal things. GTA for PC was supposed to be released in January and then was delayed, for the third time, until April – which is quite a delay – and the port still weren’t great if you ask me, and still isn’t. It’s playable, though, and I had quite a bit of fun playing it for a while, but my time with it was limited by the wondrous Witcher 3, released a month later in May.

I had no real expectations for this game – I played the Witcher 2 in January and quite enjoyed it – so I was pleasantly surprised when the Witcher 3 turned out to be literally the best game I’ve played in forever. Don’t underestimate, the Witcher 3 is stunningly good and I love it and will love it forever until something better comes along and I forget about it. In any case – the Witcher 3 is definitely the best game I’ve played for a very long time and by far my game of the year. It certainly makes up for the disgusting mess that was Batman: Arkham Knight (and I’m not referring to the PC port). Not a terrible game but a terrible disappointment. I have a post about it, read that.

It’s slightly strange to me that at the beginning of this year, we were all using Windows 8. Yes, all of us. I don’t care what you were using, I was using Windows 8 and so, therefore, everyone was. I never really had a problem with Windows 8, I’ve always felt that other people’s complaints were people either being stupid or pedantic. Most of the people I argued with about it seem to have been struggling with issues that could easily be sorted out if they applied their brain a little bit. I never understood why some people were using the metro Internet explorer app in desktop mode, and then complaining that Windows 8 is bad because Internet explorer is bad. That’s stupid and makes be frustrated. I’m getting frustrated just thinking about it. Anyway, I liked Windows 8 – once you get used to it it’s absolutely fine and quite easy to use, easier than 7 in some cases.

Anyway, in  late July of this year, Windows 10 was released and we all marveled at its brilliance. I like Windows 10, and I’m looking forward to promised future improvements. I sort of wish that some of these improvements were included in the initial release – particularly a Windows 8 style OneDrive system. OneDrive for Windows 10 is utter twaddle.

Windows 10 is also a landmark in that it’s the last of the versions of Windows to be released in this way. Microsoft is being terribly modern about Windows now, and telling us that if you have Windows 10 on your computer, it will be upgraded forever for free. Your computer will just update itself with new features and stuff without your notice. I wouldn’t worry too much about it; it’s not going to be things you’ll actively use most likely.

I suppose now is a good time to move on to me. What happened to me this year? That’s the question you’ve all been desperate to ask. I am of course the most interesting person in the world and all who know of me must be desperate to find out my every move. This year I passed my A-Levels and was accepted into University where I started working on a degree in software engineering. I’ve now gotten through the first semester with none of my student loan left, but that’s fine. I won an award in Photography from the ESRC, that was nice. And the most exciting development was this. This blog. I started this blog this year. It’s been somewhat successful. I’ve found it helpful to put some of my thoughts in some sort of a structured way. I’ve also found that I’m not so good at getting around to writing a post regularly when I’ve got other stuff going on, like university and whatever. Next year I’ll make a conscious effort to write more, an effort which will last at least a few weeks. I give it until half way through February.

What would I give this year out of ten? I’ll give it a solid seven. It’s been a pretty good year – back to the future happened, Star Wars was a thing and The Witcher 3 also occurred. That makes a positive year for me. Room for improvement, though. Let’s see what 2016 has for us.

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Why I’ve Switched From Windows Phone to Android

Two years ago at this time, I was given the choice of a new phone. I was excited; it would be the first proper smartphone I’d ever owned. True, I had had a smartphone before – a Samsung Galaxy Ace. Possibly the worst thing in the world. It was super slow and almost useless as a smartphone. It wasn’t a good introduction to Android for me. I’d been handed a Windows phone by a friend of mine, being told that Windows Phone was actually a pretty good operating system. After a couple hours of use, I completely agreed. The thing that blew me away was the speed. The phone he was demoing this on wasn’t a pricey phone, it was fairly budget. I must stress this – Windows Phone is snappy as hell, it’s really very impressive and nice to use. The UI is cool, funky and impressively simple – I’ve never gotten lost on my Windows phone. So when my Father asked me what phone I wanted, I replied “Any Windows Phone.”

The phone we settled on was the Nokia Lumia 820 (this was before Microsoft bought Nokia). This is on the cheaper side of the Lumia spectrum but packed with nice features and not-too-shabby specs either. It’s got a 5″ screen and an 8mp camera. Okay, so that’s not great – but you need to remember that this was two years ago and this wasn’t an expensive phone.

The most impressive thing about this phone is the screen; the colours are bright, accurate and vivid. I love looking at this screen and I love using this phone. The OS is snappy, quick and easy to use, and is bursting with features I still wish were in Android. The phone, in true Nokia style, feel indestructible. I’ve thrown it around in my time, and it’s barely scratched. I could beat someone to death and then call the police with the same phone. This is not an exaggeration.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been given a new choice. My two-year contract was up time for a new phone. Time to make the choice: stick with Windows or go Android. At first, the choice was simple for me, I was going Windows. But my internal voices, multiplied by time, wore down my confidence. Also, my brother has some ungodly power to convince me to do things. I asked myself whether I was really prepared to spend another two years on windows. I eventually decided that I was not. I went with Android.

Why then? I was so positive about it. I raved to my friends about how much I liked my phone and how everyone should use Windows because it is the best phone OS out there. I actually convinced one of them to get one, and he seems pretty happy with it. How can someone so enamored with Windows peel off and fall into the net of Android so simply? Well, I’ll tell you, Windows is almost there. It’s almost at the point where I could honestly say that it’s the best. It is, in fact, irritating close – there are just a few things which need to be fixed in Windows for it to be great. But Microsoft isn’t getting the point.

Let’s start with the little things, because the little things are the biggest problem.

I’ve recently started my first year at University, so I’ve never had this problem before now, but now it’s there it’s the worst thing in the world (besides the Samsung Galaxy Ace). The WiFi network on my campus has a login system. That means I have to enter a username and password to get online. Most operating systems would be like, “No problem, Henry, I’ll just save this in my settings and you won’t have to worry at all about connecting. You won’t even notice it happening.” Windows desktop does this, Android does this, iOS (I assume) does this. Windows Phone says, “I can remember one thing – your username or your password, take your pick”. Why? Why is this an issue? When the Windows Phone team implemented the WiFi feature, why did they design it like that? Why should I have to enter my password every time I go near the network? What’s worse is it beeps at me every half an hour until I enter it, or tell it I don’t want to. Oh, and if the WiFi drops for a second, I have to enter my password again.

Another small problem, which some would regard as being quite a large problem, is the complete and utter lack of a proper multitasking function. Windows does have a vague form of multitasking, which stores any open apps in memory until it is manually closed by the user. It doesn’t give those apps and CPU time unless it is being looked at and on the screen. This is great for if you’re trying to squeeze the battery for all it’s got but awful for productivity. The result is a multitasking system which is very slow because it has to resume operations of the running app when you switch to it. If you don’t know what that means, it means that when you switch to another app in multitasking, you have to wait a few seconds for it to remember what you were doing. Other OS’s actually run the app in the background. They may give priority to the app you are currently using, but the other apps you have open are actually open and talking to the phone. The whole experience isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but it is bloody annoying at times – especially when you aren’t in a patient mood.

The biggest problem which people always jump to when they are asked about Windows Phone is the apps. Or, put more accurately, the lack of apps. Most of the essential apps are currently available for windows phone, but that’s only because Microsoft is sensible. Facebook and Twitter are absolutely essential, and when neither company expressed interest in making apps for windows phone, Microsoft got permission to do it themselves. The apps Microsoft make are okay. They clearly aren’t as good as the official ones and are constantly behind. This is because Facebook and Twitter have dedicated teams working on their apps, while Microsoft doesn’t, and they have to keep up with the updates of the official apps. This is, I think, a fundamental problem with the development of Windows Phone, but more on that later. I’ve always told people that Windows Phone is for the individual who doesn’t really use apps, or doesn’t consider apps as an important part of their lifestyle. I think this is true, but this individual would have to go from not using most of the apps their phone has to offer, to someone who has locked them self out of the availability to those apps.

Microsoft is trying their best to combat the ‘app-gap’ by using the ‘universal app platform’ what they came up with. Microsoft noticed that a lot more people use apps on their desktop PC than then number of Windows Phones out there. They had the quite good idea of giving the developers the ability to, in one fell swoop, make an app for desktop Windows and Windows Phone. They make one app which works on desktops, phones, Xbox, and tablets. I think this is something which could very well work. It all depends on how much windows store apps on the desktop take off. I don’t ever use them and never have – but that’s just me.

They also are working on some converter-me-bob machine, which developers can feed their Android app into, and get a Windows app back. This is actually a pretty good idea, and may solve a lot of problems, depending on how well it works.

I have a theory about why it is that Windows Phone feels half finished. It has the same problem that Linux has. It’s not popular. People who use it love it, but that’s only about 2.5% of people who have phones. Most developers can’t be bothered or don’t think it’s sensible to spend the money on developing apps which will reach such a small number of people. If real money is involved, you ain’t gonna get that back from Windows Phone. What it needs is more users, users want more apps in the store to go to Windows phone, developers won’t make apps for a platform with do few users. And the cycle goes on and on. What can Microsoft do? They’re trying to make windows phone as attractive as possible for developers. It’s entirely free to get your apps on Windows Phone, which makes it attractive to young and hobbyist developers who don’t want to spend money on their apps. But this results in a load of low-quality apps. It’s not a good situation at the moment. And it’s not gonna get better until Windows Phone has more users – and we’ve already been through the problems with that.

Windows Phone currently has a market share of around 2.5%. That’s barely anyone – it’s only a little better than Blackberry. BLACKBERRY. I’m surprised they even still exist and that person actually buys from them! As far as I’m concerned, Windows Phone only still exists because Microsoft has some plan for it. Satya Nadella has said that Windows Phone isn’t dead yet. To me, this meant that Windows 10 for Phones is gonna fix everything. Windows 10 will save everything and make the OS the savior we’ve all wanted.

Windows 10 for phones is almost out, so I’ve downloaded the beta to see if this is the case. Microsoft has made some very big improvements – to the UI. The one thing I had almost no problems with. Of all the things that needed work, the UI was not one of them. Obviously, add a few things, like the new wallpaper thing, but please focus on the other glaring problems! Windows Phone has some big and small problems at the core, a lot of under-the-hood issues which need fixing. Microsoft seems to have fixed nearly none of them. This is very disappointing. Perhaps they will fix these things in later updates, I believe this is the plan. But I don’t think I can wait for an undisclosed amount of time for these problems to maybe be fixed.

So, why am I switching to Android? I’m taking a break from Windows. I want to use a complete OS until Windows is at a point where I feel like it is complete and works perfectly – as well and effectively as its competitors. I can see windows phone following two paths, depending on what Microsoft do next: It will either have a massive cash and resource injection and get the attention it needs to become what Microsoft supposedly want it to become, or it will fizzle and die over the next few years. In its current state, I’d be surprised if it’s still around by 2019. Then again – I’m very surprised that BlackBerry still exists. At least Windows Phone isn’t as bad as the Samsung Galaxy Ace because that is literally the worst thing in the world (I’m gunning for an inside joke, here).