The Ascent Coop Review Xbox Series X

Do you know the feeling that you occasionally get when watching a gameplay trailer, and you immediately want to get your hands on the game? Like, right now? This sensation does not come around too often for me, and two games managed to do just that last year. One was Outriders and the other one The Ascent, which I am discussing today. I am not sure what exactly did it for me, but probably because it reminded me of something I played in my youth. In 1999, a game named Expendable made the rounds, primarily due to its stunning visuals at the time. Back then, it demonstrated the power of a graphics feature called Environment Mapped Bump Mapping to enamor the game’s textures with depth information and more perceived detail. The core visuals will not excite anyone in 2021, but that game was full of effects and did not hold them back. Expandable still puts on quite a show. 

Games like this are a rare breed and seem to catch my eye whenever one pops up. A more recent example of this type of game that I am aware of is Halo Spartan Assault and Halo Spartan Strike – of which I played the first one. Combine this with stunning visuals in a futuristic, gritty, cyberpunk-themed world, and you get The Ascent. Because it is 2021, no game can make do without some RPG elements. Thus, you get to create your character, level up, and collect loot along the way, making shooting stuff more enjoyable.

And enjoyable it is. Once you get to the point where your brain can cope with the twin-stick-shooting mechanics, and you start to both move and aim in the right direction, The Ascent begins to make a lot of fun – especially in Coop. I discovered how the game works with another player, which is always more motivating than figuring out weird concepts alone. After a while, it started to feel right, and I wanted to continue playing weekend after weekend until we had beaten the game – and that is a good sign.

Here is my report on The Ascent in Coop mode: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Windows 11 First Look at New Visual Design – Not Yet a Fan

Thanks to a recent article by Paul Thurrott, I finally convinced myself to give Windows 11 a try. I was hesitant at first because of all the negative information regarding some of Microsoft’s choices – and I do not mean Secure Boot and TPM. I was not sure if I wanted to support this behavior. Be that as it may, maybe a topic for another day, what finally convinced me was the fact that Secure Boot must not even be enabled. It is enough that the system supports it. This means I can still run a Linux installation in parallel, which I did not want to give up easily.

You must understand that these are really only first impressions. I have not spent hours upon hours with Windows 11 and dug deep into the system. It boils down to an opinion on the visual presentation, the most glaring change compared to Windows 10. Teaser: I do have some mixed feelings about it.

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Fedora Linux 35 Beta Install NVIDIA Driver

This is a quick one because the installation works in the same way as it did in Fedora 34.

First, I added the RPM Fusion repositories as described here.

sudo dnf install \
  https://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm
sudo dnf install \
  https://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm

Next, I installed the akmod-nvidia package like it is explained on this page.

sudo dnf update
sudo dnf install akmod-nvidia

One reboot later, the NVIDIA module was up and running.

$ lsmod | grep nvidia
nvidia_drm             69632  4
nvidia_modeset       1200128  8 nvidia_drm
nvidia              35332096  408 nvidia_modeset
drm_kms_helper        303104  1 nvidia_drm
drm                   630784  8 drm_kms_helper,nvidia,nvidia_drm

For completeness: my computer has an NVIDIA GT1030.

I hope this helped you, and thank you for reading.

C# Delegate, Action, Func, Predicate Explained

Depending on your entry point to delegates, the documentation might look a tad confusing at first. For me, it was The delegate type section of the C# language reference. It throws around terms like Action, Func, Events, custom delegate types. Predicate is also related to this topic, and this was what I was looking for.

Let me briefly explain what all those words mean and how they relate to delegate. Then I will explain why I was looking into this.

Short teaser: “Named Predicate”, like a Hibernate Named Query.

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Emulate Java Enums With Values in C# (Pt. 2, Improved With Conversion Operator Overload)

In a previous blog post, I demonstrated how Java’ enums that contain one or more values/objects can be emulated with C#. One thing bothered me, though: the switch statement and how inconvenient it was to determine the proper type. Worst of all, it was not type-safe. In my simple example, it was easy because I was using strings. Imagine your fake-enum does not contain a string to quickly identify the instance.

Well, there is a prettier workaround – and it involves an actual enum. I was thinking about how the same could be done in C++ and in C++, you can have type conversion operators. Then I searched if such a feature also exists in C#, and sure enough, it does.

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Emulate Java Enums With Values in C#

Update August 28, 2021

I have written a follow-up that improves on the following solution using a type conversion operator overload.

When I started dabbling in C#, I wondered if it supports values in enums. In Java, an enum instance can have properties (called fields in Java lingo) associated with the enum’s literals. By taking advantage of this feature, you can encode more information in an enum, like a string, for example, or a constant number. You can even embed instantiated class objects, maybe to associate an object factory with a literal.

In my use case, I wanted to achieve a form of a key-value-pair mapping. I require certain illegal characters in the NTFS file or directory names to be replaced with a given code. I use HTML encoding for my needs because I can simply look up the values online if I need to.

Here is the Java reference example. First, let me start with the basic enum definition (I use Lombok to auto-generate boilerplate code like the constructor and accessors).

@Getter
@RequiredArgsConstructor
enum CharacterReplacementCode  {
    COLON(":", "&58;"),
    POUND("#", "&35;"),
    QUESTION_MARK("?", "&63;"); 

    private final String character;
    private final String replacement;
    
    @Override
    public String toString() {
        return String.format("Character '%s' substituted by code '%s'", character, replacement); 
    }
}
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KDE Plasma Remap Meta/Windows Key From App Launcher to KRunner

Sometimes I want to run applications that I do not have pinned to the quick-launch bar of my choice’s operating system/desktop environment. To do that, I am used to pressing the Windows/Meta Key, begin typing a few characters, and hit Enter. This is muscle memory and hard to get rid of. Although it does not matter which UI opens, I do not need the full-blown KDE Application Launcher, Gnome Shell, or Windows Start Menu. The amount of UI that pops up and changes while searching for the app is distracting.

Therefore, I wondered whether I could remap the Meta/Windows key from opening the Application Launcher to opening KRunner. And you can, but only on the command line.

Remove the key mapping from the Application Launcher.

kwriteconfig5 --file kwinrc --group ModifierOnlyShortcuts --key Meta ""

Open KRunner instead.

kwriteconfig5 --file kwinrc --group ModifierOnlyShortcuts --key Meta "org.kde.krunner,/App,,toggleDisplay"

Apply the changes to the current session.

qdbus org.kde.KWin /KWin reconfigure

I hope this helps you. Thank you for reading.

Right to Repair: Do Not Forget Firmware

Early July 2021, US president Joe Biden signed an executive order strengthening the right to repair in America. It is all the rage in the YouTuber space. Over here in Europe, the European Parliament is also working on encouraging reuse and repair to save on resources (Ecodesign Requirements, Grant EU Consumers Right to Repair, Europe Reduce Waste by Guaranteeing Right to Repair). However, I do not think the movement is as strong as in the US, based on my perception of the media coverage. I had to actively search for information rather than having it thrown at me by media outlets, old-school and modern alike.

Disclaimer: This might just be my way of looking for and consuming information. I strongly prefer non-German modern tech media (read YouTube creators) because I am yet to find one that produces at the same level of production quality as someone like Linus Media Group, as one example. I watch German news, though, so I am not entirely ignoring my own country 😉

Now, the topic of this post is not where I get my information or how far the current state of legislation has come everywhere in the world.

I know that "Right to Repair" goes way beyond smartphones and computers. My focus is on consumer technology because that is where my interests are.

I want to talk about the software that runs on the hardware since it is just as important to a product’s lifetime. Washing machines and similar household appliances are becoming "smarter and smarter" with every new generation, so it is no longer just phones and tablets. Together with mobile computers, the latter two categories are likely what everybody interested in tech immediately thinks about when hearing "Right to Repair".

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Terraform Azure Error SoftDeletedVaultDoesNotExist

I just ran into a frustrating error that seemed unexplainable to me. My goal was to replace an existing Azure Resource Group with a new one managed entirely with Terraform. Besides a few other errors, this SoftDeletedVaultDoesNotExist was incredibly confusing because no more Key Vaults were found in the Resource Group’s list of resources.

Error: creating Vault: (Name "my-fancy-key-vault" / Resource Group "The-Codeslinger"): 
keyvault.VaultsClient#CreateOrUpdate: Failure sending request: StatusCode=0 -- 
Original Error: Code="SoftDeletedVaultDoesNotExist" 
Message="A soft deleted vault with the given name does not exist. 
Ensure that the name for the vault that is being attempted to recover is in a recoverable state. 
For more information on soft delete please follow this link https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=2149745"

with module.base.azurerm_key_vault.keyvault,
on terraform\key_vault.tf line 9, in resource "azurerm_key_vault" "keyvault":
    9: resource "azurerm_key_vault" "keyvault" {

That is because it was soft-delete enabled. And it was the Key Vault from the other Resource Group that I previously cleared of all resources, not the new Resource Group.

Using the az CLI you can display it, though.

> az keyvault list-deleted
[
    {
        "id": "/subscriptions/<subscription-id>/providers/Microsoft.KeyVault/locations/westeurope/deletedVaults/my-fancy-key-vault",
        "name": "my-fancy-key-vault",
        "properties": {
            "deletionDate": "2021-08-02T09:39:29+00:00",
            "location": "westeurope",
            "purgeProtectionEnabled": null,
            "scheduledPurgeDate": "2021-10-31T09:39:29+00:00",
            "tags": {
                "customer": "The-Codeslinger",
                "source": "Terraform"
            },
            "vaultId": "/subscriptions/<subscription-id>/resourceGroups/My-Other-ResourceGroup/providers/Microsoft.KeyVault/vaults/my-fancy-key-vault"
        },
        "type": "Microsoft.KeyVault/deletedVaults"
    }
]

And finally delete it.

> az keyvault purge --name my-fancy-key-vault

After that, it is gone.

$ az keyvault list-deleted
[]

Another option seems to be the Azure Portal, but I discovered this only after removing it on the command line.

Qt6 QtCreator Crash After Install on Ubuntu 21.04

Hopping Linux distributions, I came to Ubuntu 21.04, and one of the first things I do is install Qt manually. I have described the process in a previous blog post on Linux Mint, and it is the same for Ubuntu. Except for a tiny detail. On Ubuntu, the bundled QtCreator immediately crashes and triggers a "Send Diagnostic" dialog.

$ /opt/Qt/Tools/QtCreator/bin/qtcreator
qt.qpa.plugin: Could not load the Qt platform plugin "xcb" in "" even though it was 
found. This application failed to start because no Qt platform plugin could be 
initialized. Reinstalling the application may fix this problem.

Available platform plugins are: eglfs, linuxfb, minimal, minimalegl, offscreen, vnc, 
xcb.

The fix is simple.

sudo apt install libxcb-xinerama0

I hope this helps. Thank you for reading.

Customize Nautilus Default Bookmarks

Nautilus is the default file manager in basically all Gnome-based distributions. I wonder why I cannot configure the default Bookmarks in the left panel through a context menu with that wide adoption. Is there no demand?

I managed to achieve my goal by editing two files. One is for the user, and the other one is a system file. I have not tried multiple user accounts, but I assume it affects everyone that uses the computer.

I wanted to remove "Desktop", "Public", "Templates", and "Video" because I never need that. What I ended up doing was to also change the location of "Documents", "Music", and "Pictures" to point to their respective OneDrive equivalents. That saves me from creating symbolic links, as I have explained in one of my OneDrive posts.

First, the user file.

vim ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs

#XDG_DESKTOP_DIR="$HOME/Desktop"
XDG_DOWNLOAD_DIR="$HOME/Downloads"
#XDG_TEMPLATES_DIR="$HOME/Templates"
#XDG_PUBLICSHARE_DIR="$HOME/Public"
XDG_DOCUMENTS_DIR="$HOME/OneDrive/Files"
XDG_MUSIC_DIR="$HOME/OneDrive/Music"
XDG_PICTURES_DIR="$HOME/OneDrive/Pictures"
#XDG_VIDEOS_DIR="$HOME/Videos"

Next, the system file. If you only remove entries from the user file, they will be added again the next time you log in. My tests showed that it is enough to customize the location in the user file. The other way around does not work, however.

sudo vim /etc/xdg/user-dirs.defaults

#DESKTOP=Desktop
DOWNLOAD=Downloads
#TEMPLATES=Templates
#PUBLICSHARE=Public
DOCUMENTS=Files
MUSIC=Music
PICTURES=Pictures
#VIDEOS=Videos
# Another alternative is:
#MUSIC=Documents/Music
#PICTURES=Documents/Pictures
#VIDEOS=Documents/Videos

Finally, you need to log out and log in again for this change to take effect.

I hope this helps. Thank you for reading.

OneDrive Sync On Linux Part 3, With abraunegg/onedrive As Daemon

In a previous blog post, I showed another way of syncing OneDrive folders on Linux as an alternative to using RCLONE. It was the Open-Source project “onedrive” by Github user “abraunegg” (a fork of an abandoned project by user “skilion”). One thing I was having trouble with was the installation as a daemon. I used an @reboot crontab workaround to achieve my goal instead. However, I was not satisfied, so I went back to the documentation to see if I missed something. And miss I did. To my defense, other steps I had tried are omitting a necessary detail required to make it work.

I have mentioned the installation in the other post, but I also left out a thing or two that I came across. That is why I will include the setup process again, this time in more detail, and refer you to the other blog post for configuration tips. That is the part I will skip here.

My test system is the same Fedora 34 distribution, and I have also tested the steps on Pop!_OS, which means it should work on the other Ubuntu derivates.

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OneDrive Sync On Linux Part 2, With abraunegg/onedrive

Edit: There is a part 3 that solves the daemon problem.

It has been about a year since my first blog post about syncing Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage on Linux. The last time around, I used RCLONE, which required a more hands-on approach. I have found a new tool that I think is better because it can sync automatically in the background without scripting or manually hacking. It is aptly called onedrive that you can find on Github.

Its name might suggest that Microsoft finally ported their Windows and Mac clients to Linux, but, unfortunately, that is not the case. I would still like to see this happen, and if there is ever a time for Microsoft to do it, it is probably now.

Let me briefly explain how I have installed and configured the onedrive tool to suit my needs. Thanks to good default values, it is straightforward, and you might not need any configuration at all.

(I wonder how I managed to not find this tool a year ago)

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Xbox Series S – Is It Any Good Or Do You Need a Series X?

In a recent blog post (that I somehow accidentally deleted; thank you to WordPress for having a Trashed section from which you can restore), I already summarized my first impressions of the smaller variant of the new Xbox consoles, the Series S. Now that I have had the Xbox Series S for a couple of months, it is about time that I go into more detail.

There are a few reasons why I bought the Series S:

  • Overall hardware shortage, especially GPUs because I wanted a PC upgrade
  • The Series X was available nowhere or only overpriced (even worse for PlayStation)
  • It was the only console of the new generation available in Germany for MSRP

Before I took the plunge, I was very conscious about what to expect. I watch Digital Foundry videos regularly where their team investigates the performance and target resolutions of many console games, old and new, among other things. From my experience with connecting my PC to my 4K TV, I was confident that a resolution of 1080p is actually good enough for me to enjoy a game. Sure, I can see the difference to 4K. But my TV does an excellent job of upscaling, and the picture does not wash out and become a blurry mess. Therefore, the Series S should not disappoint. And it didn’t. There is a caveat, though, and I will address it in a later section of this probably pretty long wall of text that is going to come.

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Delete Windows System Folders From Former OS Drive

I demoted a former Windows OS drive to a data drive recently without formatting it. The SSD still contained my OneDrive folder, and I did not want to download it again or copy it from a backup. Therefore, all of the Windows system folders were still on the drive. I tried to delete them, but whatever I did using the GUI, Windows slapped my fingers. I was not able to remove the Program Files and Windows folder.

There is a solution using the command line, though. You must execute all commands in an Administrator command prompt.

Example for the Program Files directory.

takeown /f "Z:\Program Files" /a /r /d Y
icacls "Z:\Program Files" /t /grant administrators:F
rd /s /q "Z:\Program Files"

Gotcha: I have noticed that I had to execute the statements a second time on some folders to delete them finally.

An exception is the Windows directory. It cannot be removed using these commands. I have found another workaround that tricks Windows into believing it is a previous Windows installation. Rename the Windows directory to “Windows.old” and then run Disk Cleanup -> Clean up system files. Windows will detect this as an old installation and offer to remove it.

Documentation

  • takeown
    • /f – Path to folder
    • /a – Give ownership to Administrators group
    • /r – Recursive
    • /d Y – Do not require confirmation
  • icacls
    • /t – “Recursive”
    • /grant – Replace previous permission with new owner and full access (:F)
  • rd
    • /s – Recursive
    • /q – Quiet mode, do not require confirmation