Death Stranding: The Director’s Cut was due to be released on the Mac on the 2nd December, but has been moved back to the 31st January 2024.
Even Kojima-san (who came and visited us at SMG a few months ago along with film director Nicolas Winding Refn) can push back release dates at the last moment. Actually, that’s not quite true. I’m guessing it’s all to do with 505 Games, Inc., as they’re the ones that ported the original PlayStation game to Windows PCs and have consequently ported the game to the Mac. No reason has been given for the delay, but at least they’re willing to delay in order to fix any last minute bugs, etc.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing how well this game fares on a Mac on both a professional and personal level. Death Stranding is an absolutely superb game, and is currently my all-time favourite. So I’m happy to wait a bit longer for it to appear on my platform of choice. In the meantime, here’s hoping the dystopian cat game, Stray, gets an on-time Mac release – due the first week of December.
A week and a bit ago, I managed to pull a senior moment and fell over in my kitchen after coming back from the toilet and getting upstairs back to bed. I must have still been pretty out of it when it happened (was it the onset of flu?). But luckily, I managed to catch myself and avoided smacking my head against the hard tiled surface – but I did scrape my ankle and knee pretty badly (though the majority of it has healed now). My foot swelled up the following day which meant I couldn’t walk properly – especially if it involved shoes. And to make matters worse, I came down with the flu good and proper on the Friday too. Never has so much snot emanated from a person before. So, I’ve spent the past week mostly in bed blowing my nose every 30 seconds. Thankfully all is good (well, good enough – still bit of a chesty cough) now and hopefully that’ll be the end of that.
Some observations. When I have been awake, the only TV vaguely watchable were repeats of Blankety Blank (the new Bradley Walsh version). It stopped me from going insane, though I do not recommend the show itself. All I will say is they don’t make contestants like they used to. The celebrities were fine, though.
While I was away, a parcel arrived for me at work. I got a pleasant surprise when I went back to the office this morning in the form of an enveloped marked “From the desk of Dr. Rodney McKay”. For those that are not familiar with the TV series Stargate Atlantis, this was a sci-fi show that aired between 2004-2009 and set in the Stargate universe. Actor David Hewlett played the scientific genius, Rodney McKay, who would inevitably come up with something clever to get the team out of sticky situations.
Since then, David has written and directed several films, starred in a whole variety of things (including Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water). He also takes an active interest in all things scientific and geekery and runs something called Techbandits which encourages youngsters to get involved with science and technology. I whole heartedly approve of this as this is something I wish I had when I was a teenager. We need a new generation of geeks if we’re going to be able to tackle problems of today and that of tomorrow. As such, I bought two special Stargate related coins – one for myself, and the other for an American friend whom I met through David’s old Google+ circle social media thingy/YouTube. And here it is! I’m not a number – oh yes I am – I’m 3,661.
The above image taken from the BBC’s Mastodon feed reminded me of Back to The Future in which Marty McFly and Doc Brown are dressed in their hazmat suits about to test the DeLorean time machine for the first time. Maybe this is part of the Back to the Future multiverse?
I recently stayed at both the Premier Inn and a DoubleTree Hilton in Woking. The Premier Inn is cheaper, and while there are fewer thrills, is a perfectly comfortable. The DoubleTree Hilton is more expensive but offers a few more interesting things. I have some thoughts on both.
Digital Keys and the Smart Hotel Room
Something I’ve wanted to try for a long time was the ability to use one’s phone or Apple Watch to unlock your room door. Effortless checkin from app to room without having to go through to front reception. Premier Inn doesn’t support this – thankfully, but there is the ability to check in at the front desk via one of the machines. Unfortunately with the Premier Inn automated check-in, it’s failed two out of four times – often with the machine failing to print the room number or the meal voucher. It’s a bit like a supermarket checkout – it’s just quicker to have somebody check you in.
With the DoubleTree, I booked online and used the Hilton Honors (sic) app to set-up the digital key that would let me check-in via the app and go straight to my room. That all worked just fine, but when I came to go to the hotel – I headed straight to the lift and it didn’t work. So I went to reception who had to issue a keycard anyway so that the lights and AC in the room would operate. Alas, this isn’t strictly necessary as you only need a credit-card size something that fits in the slot.
The digital key itself uses Blueooth. You need to hold your phone near the reader (either on the door, or by the lift buttons) and wait until the user interface changes in the app. And yes, you need the app opened at the time – simply pointing the phone at the reader doesn’t activate the app.
In all truthfulness, the digital key doesn’t save you any time at all. I found it fiddly and intrusive and there is no integration into the likes of iOS or WatchOS which would make a huge difference. And what’s worse is that you need a card to be inserted into the wall socket for the lights and AC to work – where is the Premier Inn’s The Hub-like smart room features such as being able to control lights and AC from the phone? But similarly, where is the digital lock for Premier Inn’s The Hub?
Modernising hotels with smart technology is hugely frustrating. I don’t believe any one brand has got it right yet. It’s one half of this, and another third of that. When I last stayed at a Premier Inn The Hub, even though it states it supports Apple TV, due to the technology they use, I could stream anything from my iDevices. So a complete waste of time. But at least they allow you to hook up via HDMI. DoubleTree doesn’t do that.
Premier Inn always win this, expecially with decent pillows and an ultra thick blanket. But the DoubleTree Hilton comes close – though the pillows are too soft and the blanket isn’t as thick. I did notice that DoubleTree’s beds are lower to the ground too, which I actually prefer to the Premier Inn.
Both good, though the DoubleTree’s bath is lower to the ground which makes getting in and out easier. The shower head, while adjustable in both positioning and type of shower, feels a bit cheap versus the Premier Inn’s rainforest-style head (although not adjustable).
Toilets are both okay – though if you’ve had 20 curries washed down with 500 pints, the Premier Inn isn’t going to be good enough and there are single sheets of toilet paper. DoubleTree has more household-style toilets with proper toilet rolls.
Tea and Coffee
Tea-making facilities in both hotels are reasonable. Nothing special. Neither provides enough sugar, tea or coffee sachets for the serious tea or coffee drinker. With Premier Inn, however, you can just head down to reception and grab some more tea, coffee or sugar. No idea what to do with DoubleTree.
And speaking of the DoubleTree, if I had gone straight to my room via the digital key, I’d have missed out on the Wi-Fi password (no open Wi-Fi here unlike Premier Inn). I had to get a welcome sheet from reception upon checking in with the password as well as room service details. The speed at the DoubleTree, however, is one of the best of the chain hotels I’ve seen so far. I could stream TVs and movies and do stuff. Premier Inn, even with their £5/day Virgin Media Business Premium package was absolutely dire. Premier Inn wins the award for THE worst Wi-Fi I’ve ever encountered. I had to tether my phone (which has poor reception inside Premier Inn, Woking) to get anything done.
It’s a shame that Wi-Fi in hotels overall are bad. We need to get these places up to Wi-Fi 6 standards at a minimum, with better placement of access points and better cabling within the property. I speak as somebody who has had to call a Canadian tech support line at midnight in Vancouver at his hotel, because his American lady friend wasn’t able to get a good Wi-Fi signal. We spent 30 minutes troubleshooting with the ultimate soluton being to reboot both access points on the floor we were staying on. That did the trick.
Premier Inn doesn’t operate a room service, but the DoubleTree does. The problem? Hilton are extremely bloody inconsistent with trying to balance technology with being sensible. As such, there is barely any printed material in the room. You have to scan a sodding QR code to get the menu. Or the phone directory. As a sysadmin and as somebody who works with technology for a living – it’s nice to see tech being used, but not at the expense of convenience. I found it VERY inconvenient!
Why can’t Hilton for all their development work in their Hilton Honors app put the menus in the app and allow people to order room service from within the app? Or put a laminated printed menu in the room? Let your customers pick the most convenient way of getting room service.
I don’t bother with hotel TVs. All my entertainment (audio and video and books) is on my iPad mini, iPhone or Mac. In any case, Premier Inn wins the TV fight because they allow you to connect your iPhone/iPad/Mac to the TV via HDMI and have other audio inputs too. DoubleTree does not.
With the Premier Inn in Woking, I usually get put on the third or fourth floors and found it quite quiet. There are some outside noises, especially if people are talking outside and I’ve encountered building work. Very little noise coming from the neighbours or corridors. The windows cannot be opened.
With the DoubleTree, I got to pick my room in the app and chose the 5th floor. The windows in the DoubleTree can be opened, though it took some effort to close my one – after which the noise from the main road dissipated. AC worked well, with decent controls.
The big issue I had with the DoubleTree was the lack of lighting. Just lamps beside the bed, one on the table and the entrance way. Made the whole place feel very dark with the curtains closed. The Premier Inn, on the other hand has a nice, well covered lights covering the room making it much brighter.
Lifts in both hotels do exactly what they say – nothing to write home about, though I did notice that in both cases – even with keycard protection on the DoubleTree’s lifts – for somebody from outside to come into the hotel. Had somebody waiting in the lift area when I was going back up to my room at the DoubleTree. Hadn’t unlocked the lift button and as soon as I had and got into the lift, he came up with me.
Still, could be worse – this is from the Travelodge in Woking from quite a few months back. I was amused by this and recorded a silly video (which has now had over 3,000 views!).
Resident Evil Village has just been released on the iPhone 15 Pro (only) and iPads with M1 and M2 SoCs (system on chip). It features PS4 assets which is, I believe, the first time that a mobile game has deployed such a thing. But given the size of the iPhone 15 Pro (and Pro Max), I ask myself this question: why? Why go to the trouble?
I downloaded a copy from the App Store to have a play about with, and the first thing I noticed was how bad the user interface was. Firstly, you’ve got to use a virtual touch controller or some other physical game controller (such as a PS5 or Xbox controller) rather than touching on menu options. I’ve never gotten used to virtual touch controllers – I find them too small and fiddly and when you’ve got multiple action buttons, the game becomes unplayable. The only way to play titles like those is to use a proper game controller from the Xbox or PlayStation console. That kind of defeats the purpose if you’ve already got the consoles!
You could use the USB-C function to hook the phone up to a monitor, but then because you’re just mirroring the screen, you don’t use all of the screen’s resolution. Plus, it runs at a much lower resolution to that of the iPhone’s native display. Not very Pro, Apple.
So, I think we can pretty much forget the iPhone Pro becoming a Nintendo Switch-like competitor because it tries to be everything, and that’s not always a good thing. Narrative games that require little or accurate input from the user, and the usual mobile culprits like Candy Crush and other simple UI games are about as much as the iPhone (or any other phone for that matter) will ever achieve.
This leads me to the new M3 family of chips destined for a newly refreshed MacBook Pro and iMac range. As I bought my M2 Max laptop earlier this year (and work providing me with a M2 MacBook Air), there is no chance in hell I’m going to be rushing out to buy an M3 Mac even if the MacBook Pros now come in a “Space Black” colour. If you want a fully tricked out MacBook Pro, it’ll cost you a staggering £7,200 (128Gb RAM and 8Tb of storage, 16-core GPU and 40-core GPU). Performance is a bit of a mixed bag, judging from the various commentary from those that have spent time studying the specs. Memory bandwidth performance is down a little, but overall memory is up (e.g. 32Gb becomes 36Gb) and you can now buy a MacBook Pro with a staggering 128Gb of RAM. Performance between an M2 and M3 equivalent is said to be similar between the M1 and M2 series. So, there is no love lost there.
The M3 series is really there for those people who have remained on Intel Macs all this time. Trust me, if you’re still on an Intel Mac, moving to an M1, M2 or especially M3 is going to amaze you with just how much faster things are.
The M3 does finally include hardware ray tracing for graphics, which is nice. But all this means very little unless Apple can convince developers (looks away, whistling) that developing games for the Mac (and iOS/iPadOS) platform is worth their while. Games that have been released aren’t going to play as well on a MacBook Air or lower end MacBook Pro than they would on an M2/M3 Pro or M2/M3 Max which has many more GPU cores. It’ll be interesting to see what the performance is like with Death Stranding when it’s released on the Mac platform in just over two months’ time.
Update: I discover that even if a company adds the ability to cancel a subscription in-app, there may be limits. I panicked when I saw a charge for 60p from Uber on a card and immediately disputed and froze the card. Looked at the Uber app and checked that I had cancelled the Uber One subscription. But I saw that it said it was due to renew on the 2nd November and there were no methods of cancelling the subscription. Until I clicked the Learn More link underneath and found that they need 48 hours’ notice. Facepalm. This is how they get you. And an update on The Times: I’ve disputed the charge which has now been returned to me. Still absolutely no response from The Times and Sunday Times customer care team via email.
My frustration is growing with companies that don’t provide the option to cancel or modify subscriptions through their websites or apps. This not only wastes my time but also complicates the process unnecessarily. For instance, I’ve been trying multiple times to reach the cancellation department of The Times and Sunday Times without any success. Despite a lack of callback, I wonder if they tried to reach me but were blocked due to a previous unwelcomed call.
Although I scheduled the date for my subscription renewal, the busyness of this week made me forget, resulting in an unexpected charge of £25.99. Currently, as a subscriber of Apple News+, I have access to content from The Times and Sunday Times. Therefore, the need to pay a substantial fee for a separate subscription just doesn’t make sense.
Yet, this issue goes beyond just The Times and Sunday Times. Numerous other services encounter the same problem, notably the telecommunications providers. Previously, Virgin was considerate in alerting me when my contract was ending, but recently, this information is no longer provided. Likewise, Sky’s performance in this aspect is also lacking.
Companies need to streamline the presentation of subscription information, prioritizing the convenience of their customers. This should include the ability to easily cancel or make changes to subscriptions in a way that caters to customer needs, rather than solely focusing on the organization’s interests.