In my 2021 Looking Ahead post kicking off the year I picked a theme of push, rapid, build, go fast, expand, explode. With a second year of pandemic, there wasn’t a lot going on outside or socially, and with starting the year off at work with Cwtch needing an entirely new UI, there was a lot to do. But I’d say for the most part I did a adequate job of living up to that, more on that later in the work section but shortly, I learned a lot, we produced a lot, and we’re in a much more exciting position heading into 2022.

It was also another year of staying inside and working a lot and consuming what media I could find and like. With a lot of non social non work time on my hands and the world still in pandemic, it was sometimes a struggle to find media to keep me entertained, but some of that can also be chalked up to a general feeling of heightened frisson? It wasn’t a relaxing year so while I had time, I didn’t for example engaging in reading nearly as much as I could have or might have ideally liked to. I definitely tended more towards media consumption that would let me veg and relax and unwind a bit. With the life as it was, I poured what energy I had into work. Compatible media for me may be different than others, it generally meant media that was somewhat aligned with my headspace or encouraging me in certain directions.

2021 was very much a year of working from home in PJs, struggling to play catch up, and then when relaxing was needed after work, only at home options being available. It was a bit of another year of context collapse at home. Work from home can blur the lines a bit at times, sometimes in healthy ways like not needing to set alarms to for wake up for an arbitrary schedule, instead just wake up when you do and then a bit later get to work. But also when I was chasing completion of a task, I would sometimes find myself returning to work late at night after dinner and some time off playing a game or watching a show, lightly refreshed but still craving finishing the task, and why not, I often hadn’t left my work desk, just switched contexts. It’s a trend to keep an eye on, with pros and cons. Becoming the job is bad.

As an extrovert (possibly now previously tho) I used to derive a lot of relaxation and energy from socialization and it’s been a year where that was sharply curtailed. As the second year of the pandemic however I find I’ve adapted somewhat to that and actually have gotten a lot less eager or interested in socializing. It could be the never ending ebb and flow of risk associated with going out side. It could be, having had a lot more time on my own to pursue my own desires, I’ve become much less accommodating of other people to the point I’ve now often found preference for just doing my own thing rather than compromise on my free time and do something I might like less in the company of others. I haven’t really experienced this before, till now I was always a person to say “yes” to nearly any invite, always able to find some enjoyment from just socializing with others. But as 2022 progressed that has less and less been the case and I can’t quite pin down why. Perhaps I’ve become more radical in some of my views and trying to smooth that over with older friends groups is just tiring and unsatisfying now. Again, having had ample time to indulge in my niche enjoyments from sci-fi to generally politically aligned media, having to engage with others on some aspects of pop culture is less easy and more taxing than it used to be.

Suffice to say, I seem to be becoming a bit more of a cranky hermit. But with Omicron rising fairly unchecked, that might not be the worst adaptation heading into 2022.

So let’s talk more in detail about some of the media I’ve consumed in 2021, my thoughts on it, and more about other aspects of my life like work and health. And by “talk” I mostly mean barely structured brain dump, more as an exercise for me to dump lots of thoughts out and apply some light structuring to them before moving on into a new year, with ideally a slightly clearer brain.

Games

Here’s what I’ve done this year in gaming, there are definitely some games that have been out for a bit I found this year looking for more to dig into. There’ been a pretty obvious trend here of liking mostly scifi works and ones with at least anti-capitalist themes if not stronger positions.

  • Outer Wilds + Echos of the Eye: Outer Wilds and it’s DLC Echos of the Eye were really surprisingly enjoyable and even touching experiences to play. The clockwork solar system was a joy to explore and find new things and it’s constantly evolving state was amazingly executed. The story starts so light heated and is then mostly told through being a space archaeologist digging up ruins and reading remnants of notes. Every one’s experience will be a bit different cus you definitely bring in a bit of your own expectations, in my case “I assume I can fix this”, and then due to its very open-worldlyness everyone will piece together the story in different ways. Suffice to say, having things slot into place and realizing what kind of game it actually was definitely gave me pause. A story on knowing your place in the vastness of time and space and working to accept that wasn’t what I expected but I do appreciate it and it’s solid delivery. The Echos of the Eye expansion was a fascinating genre pivot while maintaining some of the core elements, and the final act reveals basically turning you into a hacker were top notch. The game and team behind it are really doing some innovative work in game design and story telling.

  • Disco Elysium: Blasted through this late in the year and on holiday and wow. A lot of story and text and political… if not exploration, than summary. I have seen a few bounce off it for not having “much gameplay” but it’s really just a core RPG, and a damn good and interesting one at that. A game without a lot of answers perhaps but a good, inquisitive, scathing and satirical set of questions I’ll want to take a bit more time to sit with. As one Sophie said, “There aren’t easy answers, and if there are answers, easy or not, we just don’t really have them right now. So sometimes the best thing you can do is just really accurately represent the current dumpster fire state of things”.

  • Sable: A smaller experience than the two previous but still chill enjoyable one. You are a girl coming of age in your clan and so you have to take a hover bike and just go out and explore the dessert world around you meeting people and maybe finding your way. Def a needed and chill time, and I totally enjoyed it.

  • Warframe: My staple game of the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve really kind come to the end of it. I spent some time just grinding out getting and levelling gear from MR 21 to 27 but that got, well, grindy and boring. I’m not a fan of the potential direction the game was teasing in the Sisters of Parvos release with the Warframe being the least used part of your kit behind both Necramech and Railjack, which offer incomparably less variety and just are less fun over time. So I’d say I’ve hit “end game”. Pretty much stopped playing from lack of interest in spring. Revisited it for the big New War expansion in December and it was a really enjoyable quest line but there wasn’t anything new to spice up the grind after and hardly anything new or rewardingly worth while after it to justify sticking around. With 42 Warframes and literally hundreds of weapons, and a ton of endo and forma invested, there just isn’t much that’s challenging that would justify grinding out any more frames or weapons, especially if they continue to push in a less Warframe focused direction anyways. And hell, I ground my Railjack intrinsics to at least 7 across the board and have pretty top tier weapons and mods. Ditto for Necramechs. The game isn’t offering anything of challenge. I love it, the gameplay and the wonderful lore, but nothing can last forever. I seem to have become a veteran player who will keep coming back for a few days for big expansions but that’s it. Bitter sweet.

  • Apex Legends: I needed something new to start dumping unwind after work time into and it does seem to be a trend that a lot of Warframe vets head over to Apex probably in part because it has some really good movement kit that many other FPSs do not. It’s simple, fun, and the lore what there is is cute and relaxing and pleasant. Unproblematic and they are making an effort.

  • Titanfall 2: With all the Apex, had to give this a replay. It still totally slaps. It’s got a really good and tight and delightfully fun to play single player campaign. It’s short and to the point. If you like movement focused shooters and haven’t played it, you’re really just denying yourself an experience you’ll enjoy.

  • Remnant From the Ashes: Picked this up I believe for free on Epic store and gave it a run. Having just talked about how I enjoy good fast movement kits , this isn’t that. But it was still pretty fun. Did a full run through and started a second before getting distracted. But I have some friends who might want to try coop in 2022 so might give it a go again. It’s nothing fancy but it is solid. Good gunplay I guess? Enough of a progression system to dump points into, power creep is very restrained. A bit of story that works.

  • CloudPunk: Another very chill meditative story game, just exploring a decaying under capitalism city as a delivery driver with a slightly mysterious past for a potentially suspect company.

  • Outriders: As I’ve been hitting end game Warframe for a bit I’ve been looking for a new big game to sink into and so obviously another scifi looter shooter with power aught my attention. Outriders ultimately wasn’t quite all I was hoping for, but I enjoyed it for what it was. A very stodgy movement system that at first might feel like from Gear of War, and the cover on the maps might lead you to think that even more. But even with such restrictive movement (no jump at all!) it actually encourages a fairly aggressive play style via your powers and passive healing mechanics which generally trigger through kills at various proximities depending on your class. The story was very campy but also still with in my wheel house of scifi with some cynicism. Played it though, did some end game grind, and did some coop with a friend. Totally fine experience, but also nothing terribly memorable.

  • FF 14: So much hype this year as it’s basically supplanting WoW as top RPG. Gave it a start and it’s fine, I guess? But the early setting started rubbing me the wrong way. Helping out the “good monarchs” of the city who were having a “hard time” with the crime and corruption and just needed a bit more help so they could achieve their noble goals and all would be good for everyone definitely was a stick out theme I noticed I wasn’t enjoying. I mean if you look at the other games I’ve been playing, I generally like my story left, anti-capitalist, etc and this was wildly not that. So not too long after that I kinda found other things to play. On the other hand, everyone says the core FF14 game story is bad and a barrier to be got through to the expansions where it actually gets good so it could also just be chalked up to that general atrophy. We’ll see, maybe I’ll be back?

  • Carrion: Cute diversion for a day. It was fun but also glad it wasn’t longer, it was almost stretching by the end.

  • Ghost Runner: I like movement games and scifi or cyberpunk settings so had to try this out. It’s hard. Good but hard. And while the setting is good, maybe there’s too little story and too much game? For what ever reason I just kinda gave up on the struggle of progression about half way through. May revisit yet but we’ll see.

  • Destiny 2: Another potentially obvious refuge for Warframe players to seek, but as Bungie is turning Destiny 2 from a 2/n game into a forever game, they appear to have deleted all their initial and introductory game parts, story and missions, so it’s now a fairly aggressively hostile to new players game at points giving you quests to just fuck off and go level a bunch and come back when you’re more suitable. Some of the factions don’t get introduced at all now. So unless I wanted to just go to youtube and watch playthroughs of cut videos summarizing the old intro game, I was kinda left in the cold. So out in the cold I stayed. Maybe sometime in the future they’ll repair this better or I’ll get bored enough to justify breaking through this battier to the better game I hear is there deeper in. In the mean time it actually made me really appreciate Warframes intro game experience cus… while it’s certainly open to critique and could always use improvement (tho they have been this year too), it’s incomparably better to the just absence of Destiny 2’s.

Books

I didn’t read nearly as much as I’d have liked to but I just often found that after a day’s or week’s work I just wanted something a bit more multimedia and often “easier”. It’s also partly my fault, with books, I have a bad habit of trying to pick things I think I should read and chastise myself for picking things I will read easily. I prolly attempt to challenge myself the most with reading, to the detriment of me doing much reading.

  • Wool, Shift, Dust: Really enjoyed Wool as a series of shorts, and format of them, their growing predictability, and their twist end. Shift really really dragged for me. If you’ve gone to the trouble of establishing us “in media res” and fill in what we need to know, and entire book of backstory, and history, just trying to get back to the cliffhanger we left on is going to be a challenging proposition. I pretty much tried to speed read it. Dust was a pretty decent pick up and cap off.

  • A Desolation Called Peace: The sequel to A Memory Called Empire and was a good next story. I enjoyed it and what it added to the world. No complaints, looking forward to presumably the trilogy end book in a year or two. It’s hard for me not to enjoy someone adding aliens with very different thinking, I’m generally always happy to see author’s takes on this.

  • Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief Collection 1: There was a gap in my literary knowledge that didn’t resolve till the show Lupin came out, and I “discovered” the French Gentleman thief, which pulled at another fiction I loved “Hey, that sounds a lot like Jean le Flambeur, the gentleman thief”, and yes, the lead of the Quantum Thief trilogy is a scifi adaptation of the same! Being one of my fav scifi series in no small part because of Jean, I had to visit the source material, so I read the first collection. It was fun. Definitely better than the Lupin adaption in the new show as we’ll get to in the next section. I’m just upset it took till now to learn of this historical Gentleman Thief.

  • Autonomous: Did not finish, this book had some interesting parts, but just didn’t seem to cohere. The main character pirate just, something didn’t seem right. And then there was the homophobia of the other main character and just the painful unhealthy only hetero relations of the rest of the characters… that might not have been such a problem if they didn’t consume so much time. I just didn’t get what this book was trying to accomplish, and with all it had available, not sure what it wanted.

  • The Outside & The Fallen: Sci-fi with some cosmic horror. Anti-fascist. Non neurotypical lead and author. Quite a delightful find! Good read. Interesting perspectives. The only sad part is that it’s a trilogy and The Fallen came out this summer meaning it’s probably a year or two until conclusion.

  • 2312: Returning to Kim Stanley Robinson. There’s a lot of interesting economics and some anarchism to chew on, but in what I’ve found of his writing, the prose and characters are challenging to connect with. I decided if I liked what he’s packaging up in his scifi it might be worth checking out his sources, so I found he’s a big Murray Bookchin fan.

  • Post-Scarcity Anarchism: Led here from KSR’s 2312, I’m not done this book as the year ends, just half way, but it’s been illuminating. The first part contained some good summary and critique (from Murry’s perspective anyways) of earlier anarchist and communist works. By the middle we’re getting to more of the meat of his early ideas on technology, ecology, and anarchism and socialism.

TV

  • Black Sails: What can I say, this was the single greatest discovery of the year. I’m just sad I missed its entire run from 2013-2017, but thanks to Rowan Ellis I discovered it and ran through all 4 of its seasons. Wow. Its was a delight, the central theme of the Pirates all facing off against the existential threat of “civilization is coming” and the slowly developed intersectionality of what the means to different people from your more obvious white male pirates, to women, to the sex workers, to the people of colour, and to the queer characters, was expertly done. The growing showing of the utter depravity and monstrosity of so called “civilization” was wonderful to behold. A criminally underrated show, and I’ll be doing all I can to convince everyone to watch it. Best show of the year even tho I was about 4 or 5 years late.

  • Terror in Resonance: Started right at the end of the year. Gripping opening, looking forward to seeing where this goes.

  • Resident Alien: Cute comedy. Alan Tyduk completely sells the whole show with his ability to convincingly look like he’s very poorly imitating every human emotion from normal, to happy, to sad and crying. A simple comedy, but it was enjoyed.

  • Hanna: I did more or less enjoy the movie many years ago so I always assumed I’d eventually check out the show. The time worked out perfectly, as I finally took the plunge, the 3rd and final season had just come out so I could consume it in it’s totality. It was fine, I enjoy a bit of spy and subterfuge, but it’s also pretty sloppy? The last season also felt a bit… constrained and rushed, but not massively so. Way too many career evil people were suddenly surprisingly charitable and willing to give our mains many more chances than they deserved, which always resulted in the expected. And I “love” a spy show that show cases less computer security from a ultra clandestine inner CIA agency than I practised at a big tech company (If we were ever caught leaving our desks with the computer unlocked we’d have to bring donuts for the team the next day, a simple measure to ensure you never walked away from your computer leaving it open and unlocked so that the shenanigans of Hanna could keep happening as double agents kept using other people’s unlocked computers when they gout up).

  • Russian Doll: Stupidly, this having come out right after I saw Happy Death Day, I thought it might be too similar, just a longer version of the prior, so I passed on it. However, this year after playing the incomparable Outer Wilds, I was given to realize that actually Time Loop can be a genre and has room for more stories to use this format to tell interesting stories. And Russian Doll was exactly that. A good use of time-loop and an interesting story. I enjoyed getting to know the main characters and Natasa Lyons is just always delightful to watch.

  • Miraculous Ladybug 1-3: Fun kids show with slow but decent world building. Wanted desperately to be an anime but couldn’t get the funding. Very reminiscent of Sailor moon.

  • Squid Game: What’s to say about the show that stormed the world and has anti-capitalist themes. It’s sure not the best thing ever, but it’s character development and the way the show plot evolves the challenges intersection with that character development is superb!

  • Stargate Universe: I originally watched this show as it aired, in a time just after the other Stargates, which were still fresh to me, plus as BSG was unfolding and other shows, and in general American TV was going through a large pivot. I hated it. i decided to re-watch it cus I was very bored. Going for it, it does have that more gritty lived in fleshed out scifi setting. It’s music is oppressive and that helps sell it. It is not a Stargate. Stargate to me is about scientists being given room to save the day their way, and it’s one of the most overtly anti religious shows ever, generally with the characters literally showing up and saying “Your gods aren’t real and are grifters and we’re here to free you of their yolk, and kill them”. For a Stargate to pivot so hard to incorporating some faith elements was about as hard a turn on core themes as you could do. But it was that time. Now, a decade later, I don’t hate it as much for that. It’s not a Stargate, but it is a thing. Some of my hate at the time was worry, as it broached those subjects and other shows of the time leaned in much harder. In rewatch it does back off them too some, maybe course correcting a little. Also tho all the characters especially in season 1 are horrible and unlikable, there is no one to root for, yet another divergence from Stargate. But watching it as it’s own thing… Well, I finished it, so it was watchable. I hate it less. I guess.

  • Bobs Burgers: Watched about 5 seasons so far, chill relaxing light comedy to zone out to while eating or late at night.

  • Chernobyl: Well done, no complaints. Shows some of the horror and potential scale of worse disasters well. Had our house falling down a Nuclear disaster well for a bit afterwards.

  • Invincible: Pushing cartoon bloody. Checked it out just cus J.K. Simmons was in it. Fine, good hook twist at the end of the first episode where up till then I was a little bored with the setup and not sure I wanted to keep going. After that I blew through it pretty quick.

  • Watchmen: Mixed. So much potential but really mixed messaging and dropping the ball as it went on. Strong start, weak end. Others have opined on this better than I can.

  • Lupin pt 1: As I mentioned above, I’m glad this adaptation exists as it made me aware of the Lupin books that were inspiration for another character/series I really love. However this adaptation I found disappointing. After a pretty decent first episode Lupin fairly quickly seems to lose his brain in order for the the plot to be able to move along and that was disappointing. Haven’t been back for pt2.

  • Star Trek Discovery S3: I’d call myself a masochist for sticking with the show. It’s… not good. I recall thinking the first episode of the new season was like a poor Star Wars episode. I suppose I stick with it, less cus of “Star Trek”, cus it’s not much of that, but because they are trying some things even if they aren’t doing them well. And Michelle Yeoh is delightful in all her scenes.

  • Dark Matter S2 & S3: Oph. There was plenty of continued potential here, and attempts at world building, but they would reliably drop them all on the floor. Maybe nothing is a better example than a mid season 3 episode where we get a glimpse into the future and near the end of their lives, one recites names of epically bad events to another. It feels like it is a vague plotting of multiple seasons to come. Then in the next handful of episodes somehow all those events come to pass and they are pretty minor. The show just keeps setting things up and then running away from them.

  • Prodigal Son: Apparently my trash. It’s very bad, everything is big tropes, and nothing is well characterized, people are what the scenes need often enough. And when some events happen we sometimes frustratingly skate past time for more reaction from characters. But apparently I’m a sucker for even just attempts at psychological thrillers, detective shows, and emo boys. Just about done season 1. They really could have paused everything and gone and watched Hannibal to learn how to do… it all better.

  • MCU TV:

    • Wanda Vision: Started strong and interesting but ended in flying superman punches, lasers, and fucking sky beams. I know there was a strong component on loss and such here but that missed me.
    • Falcon Winter Solider: The dumbest of them all. Just Write’s video on it sums it up well as the pinnacle show of the growing problem with politics in the MCU. Setting up straw-man leftist whom the hero will ultimately completely agree with “except for their methods” (often out of character violence) and have the “hero” fight them, kill them even, but than pathetically sorta take up their cause but ineffectively. It sucks. It’s a mess.
    • Loki: Less a mess but I wanted something wildly different from it and the ending really did me in. I’ve had it explained to me that I was never gonna get a wild rompy anarchist anti hero, as Loki is a narcissistic fascist and the show is about him learning to be a bit less that only. That description tho sounds fucking awful to me anyways. And the end of the show still killed me. I’m accustomed to latching onto minority characters for the moral heart of media and Sylvie was written overtly and sub-textually to fill that role for many, so to have Loki betray her at the end and have her framed as maybe not right at the end was another slap in the face. If Falcon and Winter Solider was a bloody mess and somewhat offensive, this I just found inexplicably strongly offensive. Minority view apparently.

Movies

There weren’t really any good movies I liked this year. Some where okish.

  • Dune: There was so much hype and predictably folks who knew me and knew my like of scifi assumed I’d be hyped too. Maybe even more so for the ones who knew I’d read the whole Dune 6 part series at least twice and the first few a few more times. But I wasn’t, took me a while to get to watching. And it was amazing, I haven’t read any of the books in likely 15 years, it was amazing how much came back to me, in part because of how much the movie skips over and doesn’t show. Which started getting me frustrated with it. It just skips SO MUCH world building, it’s a very stripped down story, but at times even in that it’s hamstrung by left out things. Example: I don’t think they so much as say the word “mentat” so we don’t know what they are, why there are no computers (I’ve had questions about that from others, no mention of the buttlarian jihad) and what the incredible value of mentats are. As such while Duke Leto fails to kill the barron, he does kill their mentat, which in the book is a Big Deal, but since they haven’t set it up, can’t even be acknowledged in the movie, even tho it further leads to more problems down the road when they do the next impossible and suborn house attredies mentat (if I recall correctly). This and so much else left me frustrated with what to me seemed a shallow facsimile of the story I loved as a kid. And that’s not even discussing all the poorly aged problematic parts that they had to mostly try and work around, which brings us to the question of “why do this movie at all” unless maybe you’re going to lean into the more radical ecological political aspect of it? But… they don’t seem to be. So it’s just a stripped down slightly past the point of breaking “adaptation”.
  • Reminiscence: Maybe the most interesting thing I saw this year but… nothing ground breaking.
  • The Power of the Dog: Slooow burn movie, very slow to ramp up. Somewhat atmospheric western. Sad tragic folk. A twist ending that was pretty well set up and executed just, sad. I dunno, can’t get into it much with out spoiling it.
  • The Protege: I like Maggie Q, this wasn’t bad but I feel could have been a bit better
  • Happy Deathday 2 U: Odd, not what I expected, like twice. The first is stronger IMO but it wasn’t terrible?
  • Freaky: I liked the premise, but the execution didn’t quite live up to it. Odd tone sometimes.
  • The Suicide Squad: meh. I guess better than the last, which I extremely didn’t like? But not my thing
  • Soul: Fine? Watched with some friends.
  • Free Guy: Not bad. Nothing super original. Reboot anyone?
  • Raya And The Last Dragon:
  • The Lovebirds: some laughs
  • Red Notice: Shockingly bland
  • The Net: Ha rewatched this, hadn’t seen since family rented it on VHS from blockbuster prolly the year it came out. wow bad. Poor Sandra Bullock just like bonces along with minimal agency.

Health and Exercise

Started working out twice weekly and then down to weekly to counter my body starting to fall apart “way too soon” in part to multiple factors like a lot of sitting from work and hobbies, the pandemic, and just general family bad posture and spine genetics. Saw some good improvements and am starting to get insight on and address some of the root causes. Hope to carry on with this and slowly teach my body to suck less in the new year.

Programming

Rust

What a year. I had started dipping my toe into Rust in 2021 but it hadn’t gone particularly well. When I had a spare block of time, on occasion I continued that across 2022 and somewhere in the year Rust started clicking a bit more. By the end of the year I’d been able to at least produce Rust bindings for libcwtch-go for work in the form of libcwtch-rs. This did include me discovering that for the first time since I used to program in Lisp, I’ve found another language that actually wants to encourage “meta-programming” which is a really really exciting development. I learned rust macro-rule! for libcwtch-rs and as the year ends and libcwtch-go has evolved I’ve realized to keep up I’ll need to learn proc-macros which I’ve just started doing on basically the last 2 days of the year. I’d say I’ve moved from not knowing Rust and being frustrated at it, not getting it idiomatically at all, I’ve now at least got just enough experience to do some basic stuff. Pretty stoked for the future.

Flutter and Dart

I’d been keeping a very light eye on Flutter from little bits of chatter I’d heard about it and had it marked as something to look into when I got a chance. Entering 2021 needing a new cross-platform non-HTML UI framework, I proposed Flutter. There was some initial trepidation about it, in part being a Google project and those having… not a good track record for stability. But we took a gamble, spent a few weeks doing some exploratory work with it, and it was all very promising, so we committed a bit more, and then just dug in, and by June we had a full new UI to release as a beta for Cwtch. Then we just kept running for the rest of the year adding new features.

Flutter and Dart for the most part have been amazing and allowed us to develop a UI at a much faster rate than QT/QML before. No language is perfect and there are gripes and rough edges, but the value Flutter provides out weighs them all and there just doesn’t appear to be a comparable framework on the market.

It’s been mostly fun learning, the nullable types and null safety system are good and I’d be happy to see it turn up elsewhere. Flutter is a pretty decent UI framework with some nicer higher level widgets. And we get pretty good performance from it on most platforms. Of note you do really need to learn and understand it’s redrawn system because on more than one occasion we’ve created non obvious loops that cause redraw loops maxing resource use. But on the whole it’s quite good, and doesn’t require too much boiler plate, and it’s pretty likely the parts of our code base with a bit of boilerplate could be rewritten smarter with some of that converted into upfront settings or what not, like we’ve found with themeing to a decent extent. Flutter is quite customizable. Where our code base is gross is prolly on us as users learning the system as we go.

Powershell

This was very unexpected but as we changed our framework we needed on Windows compilation so I had to set up a windows build server. In trying to keep up with proper standards that meant I actually wanted full Docker containers for our build pipeline and an automated build process all on Windows. Which meant as I went I had to learn a little bit of Powershell. I have mixed feelings, it is, as a life long unix user, overly verbose and weird in it’s syntax. I don’t particularly like it. But on the other hand, it allows me to script and automate that which simply could not be done on windows otherwise. So kudos to the Powershell team, it’s a desperately needed component of modern Windows.

Work

Pretty easily the biggest year for Open Privacy. As I’ve said we came into the year in a bit of a tough spot with our previous UI being scrapped, but Flutter really came through for us and we got a new Beta out by June and have been adding features all year. Cwtch is now in a really solid position with a lot of new experimental features and we’re in an incredibly solid position heading into 2022 to really just build it out more now. It’s incredible.

You can get a lot more details about the work we’ve been doing in our fortnightly dev blog discreet log of which we take turns writting so a third of them are mine. This incidently is where most of my blogging effort has gone for the year and I’m very pleased we’ve been able to keep it up!

Highlights for me obviously include just getting the beta of Cwtch out, but also the fact we’ve been dog fooding and using it as our main work communication since June. On top of that I’m incredibly happy to have incorporated server management and hosting into the app, a huge milestone for me. Decentralization is a core tenant of Open Privacy’s work, Cwtch, and just a strong passionate belief I hold, so when looking at some projects trying to be in the decentralized space, I find a lot of frustration with ones that take the “federated” approach. My interpretation of that is that they’ve left the server as an less accessible part of their software, only for more technical users to use, leaving the average user still having to pick from a limited selection of semi centralized services. A fuller decentralized closer to full p2p offering can be achieved by just putting in more work to make servers more accessible and easy for anyone to run. No one talks about this when doing Bittorrent file-sharing, the “client” app isn’t download only and you do not need a separate app that is command line only and has config files to set up to upload. It’s my plea to anyone working on federated software to take a look at decreasing barriers to entry for server hosting. For Cwtch, that has meant having the server have sane defaults so it can be just run and be useful, then having easy to use Docker containers so the server having/using folk can easily deploy it with out having to mess around. Nothing makes me sadder now than a long set up “setup” or “running” instructions. If you can write them, why can’t you automate more of them. And finally, as I said, my highlight was building server hosting and management right into the UI of the client app so anyone can try it and experiment with it and take ownership of their infrastructure and communication. It seems so vital I don’t understand why more projects don’t see it this way. But I suspect old techie traditions and views are in part to blame.

Tech

Well I already did a big rant about federated tech above…

What else can I say about the year that also I didn’t say last year? Linux desktop is still a zombie and fragment of it’s former self. And the directions getting invested in like Snap and Flatpack horrify me. Flatpack especially, having such a suboptimal solution that GUI apps can’t access theme data and appear unthemed, it appears to have caused the Gnome project to just drop the idea of themes for Gnome 4 which is mindbogglingly the backwards and most horrible way I can think of to be approaching the desktop and these problems.

It’s 2021 and the default text editor of Gnome doesn’t have inline spell check. Text edit boxes on websites have inline spell check thanks to browsers. What even is desktop tech doing?

Not much in tech is exciting right now, honestly the potential that Cwtch brings, a decentralized run infrastructure yourself communication platform that is programmable for easily in multiple languages, with clients on all the OSs I used (and MacOS) seems like the most exciting place to be. I’d really like to get into Cwtch bot development in 2022 as that could be amazing. But maybe I should save further thoughts on that for my “looking into 2022” blog post.

2021 was pretty meh at best with some real lows like “Meta” and all the hype surrounding the most pathetic and anemic virtual world offering we’ve possibly seen. Now suddenly I have non tech friends having opinions on “the Metaverse” that are just couched in FB’s marketing material and I’m like “hey, actually there’s like decades of history here, this isn’t new, or novel or interesting in anyway, it’s actually mostly a nightmare, sit down, here’s my lecture”

Conclusion

2021 was a year. It wasn’t terrible personally, even somewhat of a success, and contained a lot of growth. I’m healthy, work is exciting. Media was on the whole a bit lack luster with some of the best entries being ones from previous years I’d only gotten to or discovered this year. But it’s not entirely surprising, there is a pandemic going on, it’s bound to have impacted production of everything. Perhaps with people having somewhat settle into new ways better now we’ll see some improvements in 2022 on those fronts.

Also 2022 was definitely a year that fed into my misanthropy. I didn’t really add a section for politics or pandemic watching but yeah, oph. I’m sure left with the feeling the society as a whole is deep into death cult territory but a lot of people like it that way and not just the fascists and billionaires, or rather those aren’t all the same people. I’m left assigning myself more anarchist books to read to cobble together some new ideas about what I could possible expect from the future or how i could possible align myself to help, but as I keep coming back to it, holding steady and keeping working on Cwtch and at Open Privacy seems like one of the best contributions I can make with my skills.

I’m grateful for my partner who’s been a great company through the year, and my cat, who likewise, has been a nice fuzzy warm presence at home.