Solasta campaign finished, Phoenix Point started, a data recovery attempt, Unraid, the dentist, and more, or less.

Not Quite "New Car" Expensive - June 2023

2,981 words.

Not Quite "New Car" Expensive - June 2023

Solasta campaign finished, Phoenix Point started, a data recovery attempt, Unraid, the dentist, and more, or less.

PC Games

Solasta: Crown of the Magister. I finished the first campaign, i.e. the Crown of the Magister campaign. The final fight was basically impossible until, on the fourth attempt, I stumbled into what I assume is the standard, recommended way to play it: My Wizard was dying, the last one left alive after the rest of the party had been decimated, as usual, in one or two rounds of melee attacks from the Sorlaks that do massive damage with two and three attacks per round, when she happened to fly up and land on one of the little floating platforms around the Rift to catch her breath. Then I noticed she was completely safe from melee attacks there, only getting hit by ranged attacks.

In the next fight, my Wizard cast Fly on all four party members and all four of them landed on the little platforms above the Rift while the Sorlaks were distracted in the first round by the dragon (the dragon even managed a breath attack that killed the two Assassins), and then the rest of the fight was easy (if tedious and cheesy). I couldn’t think of any other way to win that fight without a massively-overleveled party that was somehow able to mitigate incoming damage that mathematically exceeded any reasonable party’s capability of healing.

And then there was a second phase, which I should have anticipated, but didn’t. I had blown basically all of my spell slots and abilities in the first phase. Somehow I scraped by on the first try, with nothing but cantrips, to get to the credits. In that phase you didn’t have to kill everyone, you just had to survive ever-increasing waves of enemies for a certain number of rounds, which I was able to do from the relative safety of the floating platforms.

Next I’m starting The Lost Valley DLC with a whole new party. My first campaign was a party of meat-and-potatoes staple D&D characters: A Fighter, a Wizard, a Cleric, and a Rogue. This time I’m playing a Warlock, a Druid, a Bard, and a Monk, all classes that barely existed or didn’t exist in first edition AD&D, the last time I played.

Diablo IV. So I got it. It’s fine. It’s the same as Diablo 1, 2, and, presumably, 3, except they really, really want to convince you that the cut scenes are dark and gritty and scary and super serious and everyone talks in a low, growling bassy generic AAA game voice actor voice, then you commence clicking your left mouse button fifty thousand times in a row.

I was significantly turned off by seeing other rando players roaming around in what I thought was going to be my single-player game, though. By the second day I was hitting escape to skip all the quest dialog and text, and by the third day I was wondering why I wasted my money on this boring, grindy idle clicker game.

PS5 Games

Phoenix Point. I was looking for a tactical RPG I could play on my PS5 while lying in bed, and I came across Phoenix Point, a game which was recommended to me a while back. It’s basically XCOM, except with a different name and noticeably less development budget (I think some of the same developers worked on it).

It’s … well, it’s XCOM, so it has the exact same pros and cons. The pros being that it’s a pretty good turn-based tactical combat experience. The cons being that there’s a lot of excess “base management” and “story” built on top of the game that isn’t all that fun or interesting.

But it works well as a PS5 game to play while I’m resting my back, the controller controls are pretty good, and it’s not an action game so it’s easy on my left thumb, so it gets a thumbs-up, as it were.

Gaming Industry

The big new release, of course, is Diablo IV. I saw Belghast finished the campaign in like 3 days, and someone else I know did as well. Reportedly, there is still fun stuff to do after that three-day period.

Much like when Elden Ring released, I doubt any other big titles are going to be silly enough to try to launch within the same time frame.

Broadsword is apparently taking over Star Wars: The Old Republic from Bioware, prompting many MMORPG gamers to remark, “What, that game is still running?” I kid, I kid. But seriously I haven’t logged into SWTOR in a long time, and I doubt I ever will again. It’s an okay MMORPG, and that’s exactly what’s been wrong with it from the beginning. It’s merely adequate, in a space of games that demand we play only one at a time, every day.

Video Production

I’m slowly working on tweaking my video post-processing Python scripts.

This year, as luck would have it, I started a new process of doing most of my active video project work on an external USB drive. (Lucky because my NAS failed and my previous video workspace disappeared overnight.) When one drive fills up, I’ll get another one and keep moving to new ones every year.

So I’m working to organize the directory structure of each drive so that the raw OBS video files are in one place, then the scripts will generate cache files in a related directory, and the output videos will be at another location. The idea is to separate the directories so that it’s easy to find the raw source files, the cache or temporary files, and the finished, rendered files from the top level of each drive, so it’s easy to free up space if and when needed.

By the way I abandoned the Twitching I mentioned last time almost immediately. It turns out that merely running a second instance of OBS and pressing a second “start” button is too much mental effort. (It’s one thing to record a video locally, where you can decide whether it’s good enough to publish later, but it’s a totally different thing to publish a live video knowing there’s no undoing it. It’s another layer of mental gymnastics that I’m usually too tired to bother with in the evenings.) But given my recent loss of videos, it’s another potential video backup, so I might reconsider. Just don’t expect any audience engagement from me.

Software Development

I have a stack of ideas for personal projects and I’ve been looking into some ways to write a React-based UI application I can deploy on desktop and on Android. Looking into things like Electron to package a React web application as a desktop application, and Cordova and/or React Native to package React web applications into Android apps. Nothing concrete yet.

Data Recovery

Previously I mentioned that two drives in my four-drive NAS failed. I was (probably?) using RAID 5 (the default when I bought the NAS), which means it can only survive one drive failure, and thus the entire thing died, and replacing the two drives did not magically fix it.

I don’t care about probably 90% of what was on there. Maybe even 95% of what was on there. But I would be very sad to lose that 5-10% that wasn’t backed up anywhere else. Pictures from my phone and DSLR camera, mainly, and a not-insignificant amount of music I’ve written and recorded. Some video processing scripts. Many other things I could probably think of.

Oh yeah, and a lot of game videos. A whole lot of game videos, mainly recorded from 2020 through 2022, the years I hadn’t quite gotten around to moving off to external USB drives. External drives like the ones I’d gotten one day prior to the NAS failing.

Well, I’m extremely fortunate to be in a position in life where I can afford to look into data recovery, so I got a recommendation for a place in Ohio, packed up the four drives, and shipped them off to see if there was any chance of recovering the data.

As yet I have not yet heard if they will be able to recover any of my data.

They only charge you if they can recover the data, which is nice. But they charge a lot. I mean, a whole lot. It’s not quite “new car” expensive, but it’s definitely “new gaming PC” expensive. I won’t be upgrading my PC anytime soon.

Actually that’s kind of a lie, because I’m building a new Linux server to serve as a new NAS (Network Attached Storage). The WD 4100EX NAS that failed was a fine plug-in-and-go solution back in 2017, but it was fixed at 4 drives and I want something I can add new drives to whenever I feel like it, something I don’t have to essentially reformat whenever I change the RAID settings. I’m going to try Unraid, which is a Linux-based OS built specifically for NAS (and other things like running docker containers and VMs), which has been highly recommended to me by trusted sources for this kind of thing. So far it’s working well.

Anyway, a Linux server is a lot cheaper than a gaming PC.

I also plan to put four new drives in the WD 4100 NAS and use it again, but most likely I’m going to repurpose it as a backup-only device.

All this backup and data management stuff is kind of expensive, if you’re wondering. Managing double-digit terabytes of personal data in a way that eliminates the possibility of any data loss for the remainder of your life is not an easy thing to accomplish. Especially when I’m currently adding about 4 TB of data to the collection every six months (in the form of game video projects).

It’s hard work to determine what is absolutely essential to have backed up in triplicate (passwords, family photos, etc.), with offsite cloud options, what is “nice to have,” (game screenshots, program settings, etc.), what are active project files (raw recordings, etc.) and what can be rebuilt if it’s lost (program files, rendered videos, etc.).

And Windows applications still tend to fling data all over the C: drive in disparate places. Every application is different. Sure, you can just back up the AppData directory, but 95% of that is just wasted space. You only really need to backup the 5% that contains your save game files or your OBS scene files or whatever. You don’t need to back up the 95% that is just random cache files.

Day Job

Building cloud-native applications and whatnot. Kubernetes, Helm Charts, Terraform, Skaffold, Hasura, GraphQL, AWS/RDS/SQS/S3, Java and Spring, React and Next.js, even Python. (I work in an extremely non-Microsoft environment now–in the software industry, you can work in the Microsoft world, or the non-Microsoft world, but almost never both at the same time.) These are all things I’m exposed to every day now that I wasn’t a year ago. Slowly shifting focus to building new projects instead of maintaining old projects, which was the entire purpose of merging my old team with a new team back in March.

I see a fair number of older developers, some around my age, some older, talking about how they’re stuck in their dead-end job which sucks the life out of them every day because they don’t know any new stuff, and it always makes me sad, because I used to be that person, but now I’m not anymore.

Since I have been that person, I know it’s utterly pointless to say this, because I would have completely ignored and scoffed at this advice, but here goes: It’s exhausting–it takes effort and patience and luck–but it’s definitely possible to change jobs as an older developer. I’m extremely lucky to now work in an environment that encourages developers (and sometimes requires, as when you get moved unceremoniously to a new team that does things radically different from your old team) to learn new things.

In most cases, it turns out that the new stuff is generally similar to or expands on the old stuff, it’s just that it has different terminology. The trick is to find an older trainer who is familiar with both the new and the old stuff, because they can just say “this new thing is just like this old thing you’re familiar with, except with this slight difference.” Younger trainers don’t know that context so they can only recite the boilerplate meaningless marketing schtick. Perhaps I’ll start compiling lists of resources I used to get up to speed on new stuff.

Anyway, I had my quarterly “performance review,” which is another new thing in this brand new AI-enhanced performance-driven back-to-the-office environment I find myself in this year. I’m too old to emotionally invest in such things anymore, though. It went fine, as far as I know, but if it didn’t, who cares?

Did I mention AI, by the way? AI is really big at my company right now.

Health and Wellness

Had a followup dental visit to measure gum depth after the first cleaning (“debridement,” technically). Scheduled two “deep cleanings,” one for the left side and one for the right side, because my depth measurement numbers were too high, where they do so much cleaning they offer numbing agents. Yay. (I actually haven’t been to a dentist for cleanings for some time prior to this year.)

Also have another upcoming appointment to deal with problems in my lower left back teeth (19, I believe, was the tooth number–I’ve been to the dentist so much in my life that I know how they number the teeth). Need a crown and possibly some gum surgery and possibly some work on the root, but won’t really know what needs to be done until they start exploring. I lost a filling back there but luckily there is no pain because that area has had root canals in the past. Anyway, I want to get the deluxe repair treatment because the back left is the main chewing surface left in my mouth (chewing is less effective on my right side because I’m missing back teeth on the right).

Media Consumption

Taskmaster Series 15 is now over. The cast for Series 16 was revealed.

Watched Critical Role’s Zelda One-Shot, which was pretty good. One-shots are usually far more entertaining than campaigns, if you’re still one of those weirdos who are like “I just don’t understand why people watch those things” and looking to join the cool kids club.

Watched Dimension 20’s Ravening War, which will probably be over by the time this posts. It was less good than I’d hoped. Too much melodrama and not enough comedy for me.

Finished up White House Plumbers on HBO/HBO Max/Max/whatever. Started slow, but ended strong. A little preachy, but it’s almost impossible to find anything that isn’t trying to hit you over the head with some undisguised and overly idealistic political message these days. We live in a partisan age.

Watched one episode of Citadel. It was terrible. Not even worth taking the time to list all the ways it was derivative of other, better material.

Watched one episode of Succession. There are really four seasons of this and it was popular? I mean it was good acting and all, but there were exactly zero likable characters in it. Me: “Hate that guy, hate that guy, hate that guy, hate that guy, oh, there’s a token woman in it and, well, kind of hate her too.”

Watched Avatar: Way of Water. Like the first one, it was a decent movie. My lasting memory will be that they put so, so much effort into conveying emotion through switching tails and flattening ears, I was distracted by it in almost every shot.

I commented on Twitter that the spectacle of a high-budget visual effects movie is so routine now that I feel no remorse whatsoever for watching it on a tiny laptop screen with a bad speaker, while playing a game and not even really watching it at all. I had planned to watch it in three installments over three nights, but I got really invested in the second hour on the second night and went on to watch the final 2/3 on a real television with real speakers.

I forgot that I even still had a Netflix sub, and when I looked at the front page I saw a docuseries about Waco. I was intrigued by the title card that claimed it was the biggest gun battle on U.S. soil since the Civil War, which was something I’d never heard before, but sounds accurate. I was sort of expecting them to go into one of those 3D reconstructive forensic analyses to dramatically reveal definitively who started the fire at the end, but they never did, and only barely touched on that controversy. They mainly focused on the human element of the story, leaving it in a morally ambiguous gray area with all sides represented adequately, which seems like a good way to handle it. In any case, it was certainly a pivotal event in Modern American History, right up there with the JFK Assassination and 9/11.

Netflix is now The History Channel that my dad watched in the 80s.

World Context

Still not really in the mood to take meticulous notes about the news. Just a couple of noteworthy things.

  • An important dam collapsed in Ukraine, but nobody knows how it happened, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
  • Smoke from wildfires in Canada affected air quality as far south as Virginia (that’s me!), a somewhat rare occurrance for us on the East Coast. It was a big apocalyptic story for a few days, then everyone immediately forgot about it, because…
  • Trump was indicted in connection with keeping classified documents after he left office. It’s pretty much the only story now.

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