Is Google Dying? Or Did the Web Grow Up?

Charlie Warzel for The Atlantic:

Like many, I use Google to answer most of the mundane questions that pop up in my day-to-day life. And yet that first page of search results feels like it’s been surfacing fewer satisfying answers lately. I’m not alone; the frustration has become a persistent meme: that Google Search, what many consider an indispensable tool of modern life, is dead or dying. For the past few years, across various forums and social-media platforms, people have been claiming in viral posts that Google’s flagship product is broken.

I switched to DuckDuckGo a few years ago and only use Google through a Bang command, mostly when looking for hyper-local content. But the few times I have to use Google's search engine, I see the same bad results Warzel describes in his article.

He continues:

Brereton’s most intriguing argument for the demise of Google Search was that savvy users of the platform no longer type instinctive keywords into the search bar and hit enter. The best Googlers—the ones looking for actionable or niche information, product reviews, and interesting discussions—know a cheat code to bypass the sea of corporate search results clogging the top third of the screen. “Most of the web has become too inauthentic to trust,” Brereton argued, therefore “we resort to using Google, and appending the word ‘reddit’ to the end of our queries.”

This has slowly become my go-to way to look for anything, even on DuckDuckGo. There is a website called Redditle, which uses Google's site-search feature to only look at Reddit. It's one of my most visited websites nowadays.

Unlike Google's results, I know (or at least believe) that most content on Reddit has been written by users looking for genuine answers or recommendations. So far, the bots and search engine experts haven't tapped into Reddit, and I doubt they will have much impact due to how Reddit works. (People upvote the good stuff and downvote the bad stuff. And while a bot army could impact that, mods can take these faked posts down.)

If I were the CEO of Reddit, I'd focus a lot of development effort on making Reddit's native search much better and much more central to a logged out Reddit-experience.

How I use the Steam Deck

I‘ve warned you in my last overkill select. Now here is the first of many more posts to come. Let‘s talk about Steam Deck.

For those who follow me but live under a rock, a little explanation first. The Steam Deck is a handheld gaming device from Valve, makers of Steam, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal and some other pieces of software. (They also make the Valve Index VR goggles, but that‘s a bit more niche.) While it is an injustice for both devices, the Steam Deck is most often compared to the Nintendo Switch.

But in reality, while both are handheld devices to play games on, that‘s about where all the similarities end. Because the Steam Deck is, in fact, a full-fledged PC, and it runs a whole Linux distro named steamOS in the background. This means you can do anything you want, unlike the Switch, which you must jailbreak first to install software not allowed by Nintendo.

Now, this opens up a whole plethora of scenarios. This makes the device theoretically much more complicated to use if you dislike tinkering. (I say theoretically because, in reality, you can stay in the gaming environment of steamOS and never touch any configuration files or even a file manager.)

I am, however, a tinkerer. I like working and breaking things, which is why my Steam Deck configuration might be a bit different from your typical go-to experience. Let me show you what I mean.

The gaming handheld

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First and foremost, I think I spend 80% of my time in the gaming mode of steamOS. I have around 40ish odd games installed, most of them supported out of the box without me having to work on any configurations. The games work, Valve labels them as verified or playable, and that‘s how I spend the majority of my time.

For the few odd games that Valve has yet to test or might even label as unplayable, some more work is needed. But thanks to the fantastic protondb website, you‘ll quickly find ways to make games work you thought unplayable. Sure, this is a bit more involved, but often all you have to do is to change the compatibility layer, maybe copy-paste some few lines of code, and they run magically.

Protondb is so good, if I see a game I want to install, I don‘t bother checking Valve‘s rating system anymore. Straight I go to check protondb. I wish there were a plugin for steamOS to include the protondb-rating into Steam.

The emulation station

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I had to speed up this video to fall below Ghost's 10MB file size limit.

I am a sucker for old games, especially those exclusive to Nintendo hardware. So you can bet your ass that I installed emulators.

On the Steam Deck, this process is much easier than on my gaming PC, thanks to a tool called EmuDeck. (This might have become easier on PC since I last installed emulators from scratch a few years ago.)

EmuDeck launches a script to download, install and configure most emulators. This way, you can ensure that all the controller configurations have been set up. The tool is also frequently updated, so now EmuDeck even includes a hook into the gyroscope of the Steam Deck to use in something like Cemu, the Wii U emulator. This allows you to use the gyroscope with the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild. (I had to do this by hand before.)

But the Steam Deck can’t run everything. Emulating the PS4 might be the upper limit. Also, the state of Switch emulation is not so fun. Then again, I own a Switch.

Unfortunately, so is the state of Xbox 360 emulations on Linux — it just doesn’t run at all. This saddens me because I‘d like to play Fable 2 and 3, which have either not been released on PC (Fable 2) or been delisted from purchase before I could get them (Fable 3). But this is where my next category comes into play.

AAA-games on Ultra

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The Steam Deck is a portable device. While people are still amazed by how well it plays some modern games at 60 FPS without frame drops, it is not as powerful as the RTX 3070 in my gaming PC.

But thanks to Moonlight, for games that either don‘t run on Linux at all (primarily due to anti-cheat software, or in the case of Xenia explained above) or are too heavy to play well on Steam Deck (Cyberpunk2077, etc.), you can use the power of your PC to stream the game to the Deck.

While there is a streaming solution baked into Steam called Remote, I’ve had a better experience using Moonlight — if you own an Nvidia GPU. (There is Sunshine, which is Moonlight but for AMD GPUs. I have not tried that, as I have never owned an AMD GPU.)

I can play high-fidelity games like Cyberpunk at max settings at 60FPS without taxing my Deck. This also has the advantage of being battery-friendly and enabling me to play these games for 6 hours straight.

Also, I use Moonlight to play Hearthstone on the couch. I could use my iPad but miss my deck tracker in this scenario.

It‘s a PC, dumbass

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And finally, and this is probably the most obvious one, the Steam Deck is a PC.

So I carry a USB-C dock with HDMI and a few USB-A ports to hook the Deck to a monitor and attach a mouse and keyboard. This way, I can use it as a laptop in desktop mode and do some light browsing. Or for whenever I need to do crazy terminal commands, to get weird whacky shit to run. (I tried, so far unsuccessfully, getting Cheat Engine to run on the Steam Deck.)

I haven‘t set up this thing as a complete replacement for any of my computers. I am primarily a Mac guy and carry my MacBook to most places I think I need a computer. But at least now, I theoretically have a backup solution everywhere I go.

And technically, since most of my work at my company is based on the browser (we use Amazon‘s SageMaker, among other web-based solutions), I could use the Steam Deck as a work device.

I, of course, would never play a game at work and tab to the browser whenever someone looks at my screen. Obviously. Naturally……

Ok, yes, I totally would.

I am launching a new pop-up newsletter

I am launching a new newsletter. It’s called Through the Looking Glass, and it is — what I call — a pop-up newsletter.

Starting July 1st, I will publish one image per day for the whole month, sent as a newsletter to your inbox. I might write a bit of prose explaining why I decided to share that particular image that day.

I will delete the list when the month is over and not move the subscribers to another list. You can sign up here:


I love taking pictures. I own a fancy camera, carry it wherever I go, and take photos of nearly everything all the time. Yes, I am that annoying.

But I don’t know what to do with my pictures from the moment I took them. I don’t want to post them on Instagram because I don’t care about playing the algorithm game. And I don’t want to post them on Twitter because it feels wrong.

I want to publish these snapshots, however. First, to get better at taking them and learning to know what is worth sharing — learn how to curate pictures.

Second, I want to learn how to edit. I don’t know how to do it properly, and I haven’t yet been able to discover what my “style” is. I don’t know what I consider good-looking. I sometimes get there by pure chance. I want to control this more.

So by publishing them somewhere, I’m hoping to develop an eye for photography, see what I personally like and dislike, and what works for me. And maybe, get people to react to them, tell me what they liked or disliked, and how I can get better. As usual, you can reply to the emails and share your opinion.


Sign up with the form below or by clicking this link.

P.S: I’ll be in Brittany for nearly two weeks, so expect a lot of sea, boats, and maybe some fish.

Tsundoku | My Reading List for April and May 2022

Two very slow reading months. So two months in one list.

I'm not really in a reading mood right now. I don't take the time, as currently, I much rather either learn Japanese, some Swift (a new project) or play video games on the Steam Deck.

I only read two books throughout April and May. However, I'm on holiday in a bit over a month and will take the time to get back into the habit. Or at least try to.

Also, I usually use the time commuting to catch up on reading, and it gets me at least two hours per week. But lately, I have had to take the car to work, and I tend to listen to podcasts much more than audiobooks.

So, all in all, lazy months.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

After Story of Your Life, another collection of Ted Chiang short stories. Not as good as the first one, but still a great read. I want more. But there is no other collection out yet. If anyone can recommend some more science fiction on par with Ted Chiang, I'd be more than happy!

Exhalation

Ted Chiang

Bookshop

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari

A great book! Not everything in here was new to me, but it is still a book I believe everyone should read. While the book focuses on attention, it is about so much more. It's basically a "what is wrong with society, using focus as a case study ". Turns out, a lot.

Stolen Focus

Johann Hari

Bookshop
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If in the future, you want these reading lists by email, you can sign up using this link. All you need to do is to enable the Tsundoko option.

overkill select | Spring 2022

Remember my Select series? You know, the one with a single article in it? No? Well, I thought so. To remind you what it is:

This is the first post in a series I plan to do on a semi-regular basis. In it, I'll write a few words on things I want to share my opinion on. These may be products that I like but are not worth an entire article, or I plan to write a review at a later date.

I decided to relaunch the series and call it overkill. Because most of the things below might be overkill for most people — me included. And because I paid for that logo and want to keep using it.

So here is the overkill select for Spring 2022:

HomePod Mini and Biggie

Yes, my TV unit is too small, the HomePods are in front of the TV!

I own three HomePods. Two big HomePods — the ones Apple discontinued, I got them through ebay— are used as a stereo pair next to my TV (LG C1, in case you care), and one mini in the kitchen, used for timers and music while cooking.

They are… decent. They are nice, they mostly do what I bought them for, but slowly some things bother me.

It's cute. I have to admit that.

The mini never hears me. As soon as I cook and have my range hood spinning, I can shout as loud as I want, but the mini won't react. When it does, it's good. When it doesn't, it's frustrating, and it mostly doesn't.

Now for the big ones. I seem to experience the same issues most people are running into: the HomePods are starting to fail. They occasionally crash for the weirdest reason, take ages to restart and sometimes don't react to my voice. I love how these HomePods sound, their appearance, and the general experience when they work.

But something is wrong, and they are dying on most of us. Apple doesn't yet seem to want to replace them, and I guess if they die before Apple releases anything else, I'll have to look at Sonos.

Apple, do something! I want to give you my money.

Kindle Paperwhite

Book with fancy words to show you how intellectual I am.

I love my Kindle, and I hate my Kindle. I wrote about it previously here, but for the sake of this post, let me recap why I hate/love it.

The Kindle Paperwhite is a decent device. It's nothing fancy, does what it's supposed to do, which is let me read books, but does so in such a dull, uninspired way that it's difficult for me to create any relationship with this device.

The Kindle looks fugly next to actual paper books.

Compared to a paper book, the reading experience is not as good. Sure, I can zoom, look up stuff, and change the layout, and it's backlit and synchronizes my reading position. But everything I love about books, the smell, the feel, the letter printing, what it sounds like going through pages (yes, I am weird), is just lost with this.

But, I have over 100 unread books on it, and it synchronizes my highlights with Obsidian without me having to type them or write them down by hand, which is why I continue using it. And will do so for a long while. Because I still have over 200 handwritten notecards with highlights from books, and I am not doing that ever again!

But damn, I wish someone would do something to the ebook market to make it more interesting.

Valve Steam Deck

A nearly 600 eurodollar machine to play an eleven-year-old game!

Oh, the Steam Deck. I don't think any gadget has me as excited about tech as the Steam Deck. I am still firmly convinced it will shake up the market in one sense or another. At least many other companies want a piece of that pie and are working on their gaming handhelds.

While still stupidly challenging to get, the Steam Deck does precisely what you imagine it to do. There's this meme in the Steam Deck community: whatever your question, the answer is yes.

You don't realize how huge the Steam Deck is until you compare it with the Switch.

The Steam Deck is a full-fledged Linux PC in a Nintendo Switch-like format. It runs steamOS, a flavour of Arch Linux, lets you boot into a desktop mode and technically be your only PC as soon as you attach a keyboard, mouse and screen.

I use it to play one of my over 700 games in my Steam library (don't ask) or emulate one of the several few consoles I own ROMs for. Oh, and I use it to learn how to get around Linux, and frankly, sometimes browse the web, lying on the couch and using the trackpads as my only input source.

I love it and expect much more content about it on this blog. I'll make you suffer from FOMO like the MOFO I am!

Lumin Skincare Regimen

For my routine: I use the cleanser face in the evening and moisturize it afterwards. Only water in the morning, however.

I used to have bad skin in a not-so-distant past. But then I went to a dermatologist, and she prescribed a drug called Roaccutane, and I've been acne free ever since. (My experience with Roaccutane was good, with no side effects whatsoever, but people keep sharing horror stories, which go from hardcore depression and bleeding lips to exploding puppies.)

But Roaccutane doesn't keep your skin from ageing, and since society wants you to have skin like a "baby-ass but without the rash", I looked for some skincare regimens and landed on Lumin.

I can't say much about the effects long-term yet. I've only been using it for a little over a month, but at least my skin feels good and smooth and like a baby-ass without the rash.

Looks good, smells good, feels good. Doesn't taste good.

Also, when you sign up for a subscription, you can get a trial month for "free" by only paying for shipment. The doses are much smaller, however.

Panasonic Automatic Bread Maker

Look at my bae!

I love carbs. I know I shouldn't, but the Italian genes make me love carbs as much as your uncle loves to drink alcohol.

Bread is my shit. During the lockdown, I learned how to make a nice bread following this tutorial, but I became lazy and still craved homemade bread. This is why I got this bread machine as a gift from my father-in-law.

I learned about bread machines through this YouTube video and have made brioche (a bit more involved) and a simple white bread (completely idiot-proof) so far. There are at least a few dozen more recipes I want to follow, but then again, I earnestly try NOT to eat as many carbs.

If anyone can teach me how to take a pretty picture of this thing, I'll pay you!

Really. I try! No, seriously.

Fellow Carter Everywhere Mug

This was a gift. And if you know me, you know coffee-related gifts always make me happy. And this coffee-related gift makes me especially happy.

I don't know how many virgins they had to sacrifice to create this jar of black magic, but the coffee stays burning hot forever. FOREVER! I don't know how often I burnt myself thinking the coffee would be merely lukewarm by the time I took my first sip.

Bullshit. It's like drinking lava. Not that I know what that feels like, but I imagine it feels like this.

I'm happy this doesn't have some drinking spout because then the risk of melting my intestines would be even higher.

Great product. I love it.