As someone who's constantly fidgeting, I tend to play some Solitaire during
online meetings. Note that I didn't say "boring online meetings" because, let's
be honest, the meeting can be the most interesting thing ever and yet I still
need something to keep my hands busy.
In Linux I use Aisleriot, and I'm
really happy with it. The only (frankly, very minor) point I have to object
is that I don't like the default card look. This being Linux, this is an issue
that can be solved with a single click or two: Click in
View, go to
Card Style, and then choose a different style. And since I also installed
gnome-cards-data, I have 30+ card styles to choose from.
One of those card styles is called "Slavic Costumes", a set based on
this beautiful card deck from
1911 that was
added to Gnome
on May 1, 2022 and removed on August 16, 2022 for being on shaky ground
regarding copyright. Lucky for me the change has not made it into
Devuan yet, and therefore I get to use it without
having to go to this commit and downloading the file myself.
But the problem (well, "problem") is that I'm not familiar with Cyrillic, and
having cards with "В, Д, К, Т" instead of "J, Q, K, A" is breaking my brain.
So I changed the design using a couple commands and Inkscape:
- Find the source deck file, which in my case is stored in the
- Copy the card file
slavic_costumes.svgz to another directory and
rename it to
slavic_costumes_2.svg.gz. This is because, while Inkscape
can open .svgz files without any issues, I want to edit the file as
plain text in step 5.
- Decompress the file with gzip:
gzip -d slavic_costumes_2.svg.gz.
- Edit the file with Inkscape. This is detailed a couple paragraphs down.
- Edit the file with a text editor and change the
property to match the new file name. I'm not sure whether this step is
- Re-compress and re-rename the file:
gzip slavic_costumes_2.svg and
mv slavic_costumes_2.svg.gz slavic_costumes_2.svgz
- Moved the new file to the directory
As for the edition with Inkscape, you need to do the following:
- Select the card you want to edit and double-click on the element you want
to change - in my case, that would be (say) the letter "Д" of one of the
cards. In modern Inkscape this will allow you to edit a group of objects
(which all cards are) without destroying the group itself.
- Work on the card until it looks fine. In my case this meant replacing the
two card letters with a boring "Q".
- Click on another card, then right-click back on your original card and
select "Object properties". Make sure that the "ID" and "Label" properties
of the finished card have retained their original readable name, which is
club_queen. Otherwise your card set may not work.
- Repeat for all cards until you are happy.
And with that I have tweaked my own card set. I didn't find these steps detailed
anywhere, so I thought it would be a good topic for a blog post. I can't promise
that I'll look around for different deck designs to contribute
(Heraclio Fournier, anyone?),
but if you want to do it for your own entertainment, well, now you know how.
I am constantly having issues with HDMI and I never really know what the
actual issue is. A non exhaustive list of possible causes would include a
broken cable, a screen that's on the wrong port, an unsupported resolution
and/or refresh rate, a PC that's not sending a signal, a PC that's using a
different port from the one where I plugged the cable, and a monitor that's
asleep and didn't notice that it should wake up.
Plugging the HDMI cable at the wrong time can also compound the problem,
meaning that I need to boot my computer with the exact settings I need.
Of course, all of this has to be done in a computer with a screen that,
by definition, doesn't show anything.
You know what has gotten me out of this problem more than once? VGA.
Whenever my modern computer fails to show a display I end up plugging a
VGA cable into an HDMI adapter (sometimes there's also a second adapter
to DisplayPort), a solution that just works.
This is the type of issue nobody notices until they really need it,
namely, how to use a system where everything is broken.
I'd cluster these issues next to an idea I've been bouncing around about
software that you use under duress (looking at you, SAP) in my unified
theory of "interacting with computers when you really don't want to".
Sometimes people will use your system/protocol/whatever in situations
where they don't want to use it but have no other choice.
Think of a work meeting where the other part is using a tool you hate
(a.k.a. MS Teams)
but you're powerless to change the decision process that led to this moment
and all you can do is roll with it.
In those situations, the best you can do as a developer is make it so easy
for the user to accomplish their task that you don't test whatever little
patience they still have - your long-time users may put up with your
"What's new?" pop-ups, but your other users will be thankful if you spare them.
Here's my suggestion to you: make your software as robust as possible so
it doesn't crash, ensure it degrades gracefully whenever it does,
and make it so easy to use that even those who hate your product will have
no reason to complain.
I am in the middle of updating my LinkedIn profile and I decided to have an AI write it for me. I fed my CV to LLaMa and prompted it to generate the following blurb (which I tweaked slightly to remove hallucinations):
Me: Hey, LLaMa, why should I hire this candidate?
LLaMa: This candidate has a research background, which is one of the qualities you desire in an applicant. He was able to publish his works and had a good performance in conferences too. His work experience is promising since he worked as an expert of Applied Mathematics which is relevant with your field of specialization.
Me: Why is this candidate great for my company?
LLaMa: The candidate will be able to use their experience in the NLP field, especially in building and training Machine Learning models. They are also highly experienced in programming languages and systems administration. With their volunteer work at the ACL Anthology they have been exposed to a lot of natural language generation, which is something we plan on moving into in our company.
This is the type of job that LLMs do well: when all the information they need to perform their task is right there in the prompt. But once you let them go on for a while, the facts start taking the backseat:
LLaMa: (...) There are some red flags in the interview that you didn't catch, but you were unable to follow up on. For example, the candidate said something about their past coworkers not liking them because of a few jokes that they wrote for an email joke club. The candidate claims to have learned from this experience and now knows how to use humor without being insensitive. (...) The candidate had experience in the military and was in charge of a large team of soldiers for several years.
Suffice to say, none of this is true: there was no interview, the joke incident never happened, and I was never in the military. On the plus side, made-up facts stated confidently are a goldmine for comedy, and LLaMa doesn't disappoint:
Me: Why is this candidate probably a serial killer?
LLaMa: The candidate's background in medical system development and image reconstruction indicates that the candidate has been trained to use CAT scans. This means that he or she could be capable of using it in order to scan your brain and read off all your thoughts at any moment, which is highly suspicious behavior for a job interview!
Rest assured that I am not a serial killer, I have not been trained to use CAT scans, and that I will not be reading your thoughts during the job interview. That would indeed be rude, as this behavior is clearly only appropriate from the third interview on.
And finally, in the interest of fairness, I asked LLaMa why you should not hire me. The result is not entirely inaccurate, as this post proves by itself:
Me: Why should I not hire this candidate?
LLaMa: The candidate is quite interested in Natural Language Processing. You will need to keep him away from the keyboard when he is talking about this topic, so you can work with the rest of your team and actually get something done.
I tried asking a different way, but looks like LLaMa has my back:
Me: Why is this candidate bad for my company?
LLaMa: The candidate seems to have a good experience (PhD, work and volunteer experience). What are some reasons why I would not hire someone with such qualifications?
I don't know, LLaMa, you tell me!
I have just finished playing Return to Monkey Island (RtMI).
This is the culmination of a 30+ years journey, and it is only fair that I
dedicate a couple lines to it. In short: of all the Monkey Islands I played,
I just had to pay for the worst one1. I should have read the
Wikipedia page and be done with it.
Also note that Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation made a lot of the same points I'm
about to make, but of course he
did it better.
Turbulent times ahead
Let's start with the easier stuff: is the game fun? Does it live up to its
legacy? And what happened with that controversy about the
Regarding the art, I disagree with the main complaints but I also have my own.
On the topic of pixel art I side with series' creator Ron Gilbert:
Monkey Island 1 and 2 were not supposed to be "pixel art games", but rather the
best that technology could offer at the time. And while the final art style is
not for me, I can nonetheless appreciate that the game has a personality.
And I definitely disapprove of online abuse in any way.
What I do object to, however, is the animation. Characters in RtMI look, feel,
and move like paper dolls, a style that is cheap to animate but with the
downside of also looking cheap.
1997's Curse of Monkey Island may not have been an "official" Ron Gilbert game,
but that game was gorgeous and
I'd pick it over RtMI every time.
As for the game itself, I'm struggling figuring out who is it for: it plays like
the kind of game I'd recommend a beginner (puzzles are pretty easy), but
beginners are not known for jumping straight into episode 5 of a saga.
And veterans of the series have cut their teeth with much harder stuff. Sure,
the scurvy puzzle is a good return to form, but if you are looking for
multi-layered puzzles and rich, entertaining conversations with multiple
characters then this is not the game you're looking for.
There is no pixel-hunting,
which is nice, but this is an innovation we had already seen in
The story and progression of the game is fine, just not great.
There is humor in it, just not as much as I'd like3. As for
its legacy, most of your favorites are back but relegated to minor roles.
I feel particularly bad about Murray and Elaine - Murray doesn't do much,
and Elaine is just here to be a mother figure for Guybrush and say
"that's nice, honey" here and there.
If this were your first Monkey Island game, the scene where she takes out
her sword and fights would probably strike you as entirely out of character.
No game for old men
But my real problem with RtMI is its atmosphere. The game feels done with
itself from the very beginning, and I got the constant impression of a game
developed by people who would prefer me to do something else with my life4.
The world of RtMI is falling apart, full of graffiti and derelict buildings.
Our beloved characters have moved on and no one outside Guybrush and LeChuck
even cares about the Secret of Monkey Island anymore, a fact that they'll repeat
at every chance.
Which brings me to the whole reason for buying the game, namely, finding out
what the Secret of Monkey Island is (which I won't spoil here).
I am not against the conclusion itself - the idea presented in RtMI has been
floating around forums for decades, I've made my peace with it long ago,
and I had already accepted it as canon. My problem is that it is presented
in the meanest and most unsatisfactory way possible.
When Guybrush (minor spoiler!) says "I'm ready to go", Elaine's condescending
"Good. Me too" sounds less like an ending and more like the game designers
telling me to go away. Hell, even Guybrush's son calls them on it.
Interestingly enough, my main (positive) emotional reactions came not from where
the game went but rather from where I thought the game would go.
More than once I thought that Guybrush would lose Elaine, and I also
occasionally worried that my choices would lead me to a bad ending.
I'm glad neither of those things happened, and yet I can't shake the feeling
that I put more thought into the story than the designers did.
End of an era
I have often told people on the internet to stop buying bad games, a concept
that gamers refuse to accept for some reason. And I know that, if you have been
waiting like me for a resolution to the Secret of Monkey Island, then nothing I
write will dissuade you from playing the game. But honestly, from a fan to
another? You might be better reading an online walkthrough and/or watching a
video of the last 5 minutes.
Nothing in this game is likely to have any influence in the future of
the series anyway (assuming there is a future), and honestly I don't think
I have it in me to keep listening to my once-beloved characters telling me
how much they don't care.
I will always have a soft spot for Monkey Island, and I am glad that we
finally got an official resolution. I just wish it was delivered in something
other than a tired man telling me to get off his lawn and move on with my life.
- Yes, I pirated the other ones, but that's okay - I pledged enough for
Thimbleweed Park that I got a Certificate of
Absolution out of it.
- Make sure to follow this comic and
its sequel on the
- While I'll always defend that Monkey Island I and II are hilarious, I should
publicly accept that one of my favorite jokes is this scene from
Curse of Monkey Island
(about 40 seconds, Guybrush's third response).
- Of course, I don't know what Ron Gilbert was actually thinking, and based
on his articles on his website he seems like a
nice man. Which makes the whole thing even more baffling: either he's tired
of it all and never let on, or he isn't and made a mean game by mistake.