Simbly Me

Day 14

As I try to write on my blog each day, penning down my thoughts comes with two challenges.

  1. Am I writing this for myself?
  2. Is my writing good enough?

I suppose I am writing for myself. At least I think I am. Occasionally there might be some posts that is aimed at the reader. Writing consistently for an audience is too much a pressure. When I had my blogger account, I wrote a short story that snowballed into something else because I had an audience. One could tell the difference between the first post (which was for myself) and the subsequent ones (demand and supply!). Certainly do not want this experience to turn out like that.

Is it good enough? I don't know what the metric is here. A grammatically correct sentence is a start. A cohesive paragraph is next. A post that I can enjoy and not cringe months or years later is the objective. Be it personal or something written for the reader. For starters, I am looking into the Open Source proof-reading tool LanguageTool to improve my writing. The goal is to set up a local server to parse my post within the terminal before posting. Baby steps.

PS: I didn't realize this whole time that my posts had date on top because the post titles were at H3. I have no idea why. Went back to each and every post and corrected it and fixed the style as well.

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Day 13

As recently as January I used to have over 36 games on my iPhone. After the great culling in February, its down to 4 and there's only one game I even open in some 10 minutes I am on the throne. Crash of Cars.

Crash of Cars home screen

Gameplay

Crown Mode

There are many maps and at one time we can choose any 6 of those for multiplayer game. The maps keep rotating every 4 hours and there are different network regions based on different regions – Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, South Korea, China, USA East, Japan, USA West, Canada East and India. We can choose any region and the connection strength varies depending on which part of the globe we are in.

The Crown Mode lets us amass crowns and shoot any other cars in the map. Every other car in the map is an enemy. We fight for the crowns and avoid being killed. There are plenty of cars to choose from. Some cars have their own special powers which gets activated in the game when collecting mystery boxes. These mystery boxes also hold regular weapons which activate only for a short period of time. Some of the maps have hidden areas upon entering which it gives us hidden cars. There are only few cars which are worth using it in the game if we want to avoid dying early. I prefer the one called Shadow (in the picture above). Its not the fastest but it's faster than most cars and can disable shields on other cars. Super handy in the fights. The speed and shield piercing comes at a cost. Any hit from other cars makes it lose control and become unresponsive for a brief second during which we are most vulnerable.

Skirmish Mode

No defensive weapons in this mode. Some cars have defensive capabilities like dropping health, mines, oil or deploying shield which are not allowed in this mode and killing an opponent gets us extra crowns.

Private Match

We can create a private room for our friends to play if we don't want to play with strangers. The private matches are the only place where we can play TDMs and Crash Ball along with regular Crown Mode. I usually play by myself with online players so haven't been able to play this mode yet.

Progress in game

When we amass 100 crowns, we can exchange those for a prize in the Prize Machine. It might be a new car or an upgrade to the car which gives us Prestige that will unlock new weaponry to use in the game. As we upgrade cars, we get gems which can be used in the Rare, Epic and Legendary Machines next to the Prize Machine for cars or upgrades like body color or weapons. There are daily missions to earn extra crowns and a lab where we can mix different cars to produce a mix which has all the properties of those mixed cars. The advantage of gaining a new car has the disadvantage of losing all the cars that went in the mix which we have to earn it back from the slot machines (Prize, Rare, Epic and Legendary). We can choose to buy gems with real money to advance in the game but earning crowns is not so hard. This free game does come with annoying ads but that can be removed by any single purchase of gems. The lowest pack of 20 gems sells for $1.99.

I was planning to upload one of my game session on Peertube but was not able to transfer the video from iPhone to the laptop 🤦‍♂️️. I will update this post once the video is up.

Please enjoy couple of screenshots from the game here.

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Day 12

Apostrophe, the prince of markdown editors

I found Apostrophe from the homepage of the AppCenter on Elementary OS. The markdown editor of my choice to compose my blog posts in. Mainly because the compose window in Write.as is designed to publish immediately. I am not that impulsive and the way to manage drafts is not very intuitive here. You can maintain only one draft. And then there's the preview. I like to have the live preview to make sure I am not making any syntax errors. Besides, writing locally on the desktop gives me the flexibility to post via the command line.

Visual Appeal

Apostrophe is designed for Elementary OS. The app follows the design language laid out by the folks at Elementary OS making it feel like a part of the OS. There's a neat trick Apostrophe pulls when you start writing – The title bar disappears leaving you with just your words. Go fullscreen by pressing F11 and now you have a no distraction mode. Neat. You can turn off title bar behavior in preferences if you wish so. Advanced writers who prefer Hemingway Mode / Focus mode can also set them via app settings (the gear icon on the top right). Apostrophe looks great even in the dark mode. Apostrophe in Dark Mode

Markdown Language Format

I am a newbie when it comes to markdown and make do with the Plain Markdown for my purposes. Advanced users have the option to set the Markdown input to:

  • Pandoc's Markdown
  • CommonMark
  • Github Flavor
  • MultiMarkdown
  • Plain Markdown

There are plenty of Markdown editors (Atom, VSCode) that can do fancy stuff like Flowcharts, Sequence Diagrams, UML etc with the help of plugins. Apostrophe doesn't do that nor it has any plugins that will enable such a feature.

Issues

The developers fixed two major issues with the last update. One with the external image preview and the other with the opening of md files via file manager. However, they forgot to update the version number in the UI which points to 2.2.0.2 instead of 2.2.0.3. I wanted to report this minor issue but loathed to create any account in GitLab. Anyone who has a GitLab account is welcome to create this issue. Version number in UI

Alternatives

Plenty of tools available to even possible for me to list everything here. Do your own research for your choice of OS to find one. A popular markdown editor on Elementary OS that gets featured in every article is Quilter. It certainly is packed with more bells and whistles but I couldn't warm up to it. Found this online editor dillinger.io which taught me how to add links at the bottom of the article you are writing to keep the content clean but unfortunaltely isn't supported by Write.as. Thanks to this post by Justin Vollmer.

I took couple of other screenshots and added them in an album but Write.as doesn't have any means to embed an album currently so I will leave the apostrophe album link here if you are interested in checking out how Apostrophe looks.

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Day 11

The 100 day writing challenge is fascinating. Some of us are tech wizards. Some are storytellers. Some loves to write reviews. We come in all shapes and sizes and that's the beauty of it. Some posts can send you down the rabbit hole. Some make you chuckle. Some inspire you to write a piece of your own! Its like a river of thoughts and ideas flowing into the 100 days to offload ocean. Sometimes (dramatic pause) getting that flow going can be tricky.

I had something else to write about today but I saw a similar theme across three blogs participating in this challenge and had to mention it. Jake Bauer didn't find inspiration in the topics he had chosen to write and instead talked about his day. Hannah Vollmer embraces the unplanned and rolls with the questions to find answers. She finds how sometimes the ideas don't feel right when you pen them down. Olivier Forget framed it succinctly with how you can write the idea down but can't capture the inspiration. We all have our struggles in writing. When @mgrondin@youdabomb.social was wondering about the days when he can't find anything to write about, he posted a poll asking whether to prolong the 100 days or to post anything for those dry days. I am of the opinion that if it's stressing you to write everyday just to meet the numbers, don't do it. Take a break. This ought to be fun.

Drafts are an excellent way to have a list of topics handy when the drought strikes. Indulge in your hobbies; write about it, find something else to do other than your regular stuff; write about it, read a book; write about it, plan what to write for rest of the days; write about it, Do nothing; write about it. Zoom acquired Keybase; write about it. Save these seedlings of thoughts in the drafts – nurture it, water it, starve it, trim it, fatten it and let us savor it when its ripe and ready.

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Day 10

Replacing Google Maps

I moved away from Facebook in last December and haven't looked back. Deleting Facebook was easy. I didn't use it much and whoever I need to be connected with were available by other means. Replacing Google Maps however has been hard. I have been intrigued by Open Street Maps and would try one or the other iOS apps but they would fail spectacularly. Yesterday I found an app that showed promise. Karta GPS Navigation & Maps. The link opens to iOS App Store. It has turn by turn navigation, finds businesses and shows their Yelp listing and works in offline mode as well like many other OSM based apps. And best of all, it's not an eyesore. The Traffic data is free for the first 185 days and is a paid feature after that. But its a one time payment and not a subscription. Hopefully I can test it out soon on my next grocery run.

Photo Sharing

I have been trying to post on my pixelfed account and it's supposed to federate with Mastodon but all I can see is my profile listing but no posts from it. Wrote to the pixelfed admins about this and hopefully its something they can look into. I have been debating whether to keep both Pixelfed and Snap.as profile. Both serve different purposes though. Anyway, please enjoy my Travel Snaps. There's more to come!

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Day 9

This post is inspired by @parasurv@mstdn.io's blog entry on Elementary OS. Do check out his blog for tips and app recommendations for Elementary.

My tryst with Linux started when a friend of mine showed how Compiz flew with all the myriad effects on Ubuntu on his old desktop while Windows Vista barely ran with the minimum hardware spec. Later I learned that Canonical shipped free Ubuntu CDs to anybody who requested it. All over the world! Being a sucker for free stuff, I ordered every possible configuration from them and had fun exploring what a live CD could do. I didn't have a computer back then and used to run the live CDs on friends machines and learned whatever little I could about this amazing free operating system that could run just from the RAM. When I did buy a laptop of my own, I installed a pirated version of Windows XP first. Barely a month went by and it was infected with malware and that's when I started dual booting Ubuntu and Windows XP. Everything that I wanted to do with a computer, Ubuntu could do faster than Windows. And everybody knows what happens next. Lurk long enough on forums and you will need to scratch that itch. It all starts with customizing the desktop to look exotic. Then you obsess over the performance. Then you obsess over which distro is better for the hardware you have. Then comes a string of affairs with various distros. Personally I have tried Slackware, puppyLinux, Debian, Slax (when it used to be based on Slackware), openSuse, Fedora, Arch and its children, Manjaro, Antergos, various flavors of Ubuntu, and some others which escape my mind right now. Some have been discontinued.

I eventually came back to vanilla Ubuntu because it was much less stressful to set up with dual boot. When Elementary came on the scene, I wasn't very eager to try because they weren't on the latest version of Ubuntu. I tried Freya when it was released with much fanfare but didn't stick long. I switched to Pop!_OS soon after (when it released) and would try Elementary once in a while but never settled on it. The current Dell laptop that I am on came with Windows 10 which I formatted and did a clean install with dual boot of Windows 10 and Pop!_OS. I was happy with Pop!_OS till December last year when I had to reformat everything and decided to dual boot with Elementary Hera instead of Pop!_OS.

Elementary is running smoothly and something has changed in me this time around towards it. I love Pop!_OS but I am now kinda sold on Elementary's way of doing things. There's a beauty and consistency to it. The apps built for elementary have an approach to simplicity unlike any other. Their point updates are always thoughtful and focused on making personal computing easier for everybody. Accessibility is not an afterthought here. It's part of their design process. It gives me exactly what I need and gets out of the way. Without doing any tinkering. The only customization I have done is to opt for dark mode via Elementary Tweaks and to use Jetbrains Mono font instead of monospace. They look fantastic. I even went ahead and used Elementary's color palette on this blog.

I do have my eye on Zorin OS but not interested enough to try booting with it. Maybe in virtualbox. I am looking forward to Odin (next release of Elementary). I don't have a separate home partition but that's ok. I prefer to do a clean install anyway. I can't wait to see how they enhance this beautiful operating system.

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Day 8

Took a day off from writing anything on the blog. I don't want this to become a chore and taking even a one day break makes me eager to write when I am back to it. The only rule here is Just. Write.

Yeah yeah.. Let's get on with the monologue already and give us stuff to read, you say? Worry not traveler, for you shall receive some good stuff to read today. Just not my own.

I go through tons of articles and news in my feed/mastodon/twitter. Here I have collected the most interesting stuff that I found today and might be worthy of your consumption. The list is short keeping in mind your valuable time.

  1. Federic Dossena talks about Google and how they try to scrape every possible data from us through its services. I apologize for sending you to a blog with a stupid background animation. Its annoying as hell but the content is great.

  2. Real life copy and paste. Point your camera at a real life object, and paste it on your computer! A very fine use of AR. The developer Cyril Diagne even shares his code on GitHub.

  3. When COVID-19 hits home. Kevin writes a poignant tribute to his father-in-law whom he lost to COVID-19. If only the governments took the pandemic seriously...

  4. Andy's latest post is hilarious. I ended up going through his older posts as well and thoroughly enjoyed the blog.

  5. Many of you must have already gone through this and I am pretty sure this must have been shared many times over at twitter too but this visualization of wealth in USA is so awesome and very revealing in how tax reforms must progress.

That's all for today folks. Hope you find something of interest here.

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Day 7

I was going to write about the applications that I use most frequently on elementary and give a tiny review of each that doesn't weigh you down with too much details but its 11:13 pm here and I don't have the energy nor the inclination to write up a long post tonight. Maybe some other time. I don't have any drafts ready to be posted or thoughts that just flow out magically. I envy others with that skill. Writing is a deliberate process for me and I marvel at the elaborate content and amazing stuff that arrives in my feed reader for this 100 day challenge. I find myself get lost reading about stuff that I don't particularly care about because the writing is so captivating that you don't want to stop. Being on fosstodon means regularly reading toots/blog posts from smart people about technical stuff most of which is way over my head but I learn a little from them every day.

I like seeing how the author starts a post, fleshes out the body of the subject and finishes the post with a flourish that concludes a satisfying read. I almost always struggle with concluding a post. What should I end the post with that ties together all that I have written above? Its one question that I always ask myself. Sometimes words fall in place and a sentence is born that does the job. Sometimes I write a whole paragraph wondering about it and never arrive at an answer... like this.

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Day 6

Elementary OS pushed an update today and I wasn't aware of the changes until I saw that the System Settings has switched to light mode and there was a new Screen Time & Limits section. The full notes about the Hera 5.1.4 update is up on their blog. I love how detail oriented they are about the major updates. They take improvements to quality of life in using Elementary OS very seriously.

The dark mode was enabled by Elementary Tweaks and I know there will be an update or somebody will find a fix for the System Settings screen soon. I love dark mode as long as its easier on my eyes. Some applications look better in light mode and some in dark mode. Case in point, the text editor Code. It looks so polished and easy to read in light mode. The dark mode on Code, however, is absolute shit.

My favorite update in Hera 5.1.4 is perhaps the deep search in System Settings. It now shows the path to get to the settings we are looking for so that next time we know how to navigate the System Settings screen. To be honest, searching is way faster than clicking through. There are performance improvements to the AppCenter which I have to see for myself. I usually install/update the apps via Terminal. Speaking of Terminal, I came across this post on how to use Alias command on @R10T@infosec.exchange's blog. I was familiar with chaining commands and alias but had no idea how to save the custom alias. Now I can just type 'update' on the Terminal to update my machine! My update alias looks like this:

alias update='sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade && sudo apt purge && sudo apt autoremove && sudo apt clean && sudo snap refresh && flatpak update'

And with that its time for me to 'exit' this post. I will toot about any issues/news about this update at @thumb@fosstodon.org.

exit.

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Day 5

Counting today, I have mowed a lawn two times in my life. The first time I mowed the lawn was about 3 weeks back and was using a corded electric lawn mower. The genius that I am, I thought a 50 ft (ca. 15 m) cord ought to be enough. It wasn't 🤦‍♂️️. I couldn't reach one corner of the house and had to leave it untended. I also didn't realize how the cord would interfere with the mowing. No amount of Amazon reviews will prepare you for the real experience. Here, I have prepared a helpful chart to help you understand what I was going through.

Today I had a 100 ft (ca. 30 m) cord to wrestle with. It actually made things a little easier. I didn't have to worry about the cord being pulled from the wall outlet and could cover all the corners of the house. I actually finished faster than the last time because I watched YouTube videos on how to mow with an electric mower.

In keeping with the spirit of doing something new, I made salad for dinner (I am not a fan of salads) based on the recipe of a dear friend of mine. It was amazing! 🤤️. I did make some changes to how the chicken was prepared but going to stick to the original recipe next time. Some things are better that way.

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