Yearly Archives: 2023

Disabling Automatic Closing Braces in Visual Studio Code

I really like Visual Studio Code as an editor, but it has some annoying defaults.

When working in C# (and a lot of other languages), it tries to be “helpful” by automatically adding closing braces, brackets, and parentheses when you type the opening ones.

An Automatic Closing Brace

Automatic closing brace added when typing an opening brace.

For some people, this is great. For me, no. It just doesn’t work with my typing and coding style, and ends up being something that gets in the way and I have to move or remove later.

Fortunately it’s easy to turn this off.

Go to File –> Preferences –> Settings

Search for “auto closing brackets”.

Change “Editor: Auto Closing Brackets” to “never”.

Auto Closing Brackets Setting

Turning off the auto closing brackets setting.

Problem solved. Happy coding!

Seasonal Website Advertising Income Differences (Monthly RPM Changes)

I’ve been running advertising-supported websites for about 15 years now, primarily music-related.

I typically notice a decline in income at the beginning of the year, and a spike in income toward the end of the year. My audience is international, but the majority of visitors are from the USA and to a lesser extent other English-speaking countries.

I gathered up the data on my historical earnings for the last three years and charted how much income changes throughout the year on average. Using January as a baseline, this is how things change throughout the year:

Month Earnings vs. January Pageviews vs. January
January 0% 0%
February -2.2% -9.9%
March -2.0% -3%
April -6.1% +6.6%
May -15.0% -0.4%
June -18.0% -15.7%
July -16.1% -17.0%
August -6.8% -21.0%
September -4.4% -38.6%
October +2.5% -8.0%
November +16.3% -4.1%
December +26.6% -3.2%

What’s clear and obvious is that income is heavily impacted by the holiday season.

Something else that I didn’t realize is how much both traffic and earnings drop during the North American summer and early fall. I think this a sort of “go out and play” influence — I tend to get less traffic on days when people are out with friends in the evening or otherwise on vacation. People tend to spend less time working on music and looking for tools to make that music when they’re out playing music in clubs or at parties.

That’s my theory, at least.

Of course, this is a sample size of one person (across two sites) over three years, so there will be a significant margin of error. Nevertheless, I still find it interesting.

Coming Full Circle With Game Development (Unity)

The very first programming I ever did was game programming.

It started with my Commodore VIC-20 in 1984. The computer’s manual had some BASIC programs you could type in and run. One was a Space-Invaders-type game.

Well, naturally, after typing in this game and playing it for a bit, I wanted to start making changes to enemy colors, speed, and score values. This was how I started programming.

It continued when I got a Tandy 1000 EX that ran MS-DOS and started writing games in GW-BASIC. By now I was coding much more detailed and complex programs. They were still text-only (ASCII), but I was creating them from scratch, and they had much more detailed mechanics.

I remember well a text-based gladiator combat tournament game that I spent the better part of a year working on, at about age 10, in addition to a few text-based adventure games.

Later, as the Internet started to grow, I became interested in multi-user dungeons. There were various codebases — Diku, Merc, Envy, Circle, and others. Not only did I work on some existing games, I also created my own, starting with Illustrium Arcana, and later with the Basternae  rewrite, Basternae 3: Phoenix Rising. If you look at the “Basternae and ModernMUD” topic on this blog, you’ll see that I was working on them well into 2013.

When I was finishing my college degree in 2004, I took some classes for credit at The Game Institute and got a job with a company working on simulators for the US Army (among other government contracts). It was basically a video game company, but replace “fun” with “realism”. I didn’t really work on any graphics code, and ended up specializing in audio and network communications. This was the first and last job I had in video games.

My strong knowledge of audio programming and networking protocols took me on to develop parts of the Authentic8 SILO browser, work on a home automation system, and build the various audio applications I released as Zeta Centauri.

Now I’m returning to my roots and learning Unity. It’s incredibly intuitive, and the programming is easy and natural thanks to the many years I spent writing C# code.

I’ve started with the “Complete C# Unity Game Developer 2D” course available through Udemy. I’m about 50% of the way through, and the deep, thorough coverage coupled with real hands-on coding projects has been great for the learning process. I’m definitely going to take more of the courses because they really know how to teach.

The Job Interview

(This is an old joke I remember from childhood.)

A guy was in a job interview, answering every question correctly and showing an impressive level of knowledge and skill. After nearly an hour of tough questions, the interviewer said, “You seem like a great fit, but I see there was a 7 year gap since your last job. What happened there?”

Guy: “Oh, I went to Yale”.

Employer: “Oh great! Well, you’re hired, and you start Monday. What did you say your name was again?”

Guy: “Yim Yohnson.”

The 80/20 Rule Is Going To Ruin Your Life

I’ve touched on this before, but it bears elaboration.

With the rise of AI, which most people call “Artificial Intelligence” but I call “Artificial Ignorance”, you are absolutely going to have problems if you are not normal, or are in the minority in any particular situation.

This is because AI systems use large databases to generate “rules” or guidelines about the world. Because they’re based on math and averages, there will always be a margin of error.

Let’s go with some fake statistics that I made up for the sake of this post.

  • 88% of people in Michigan like vanilla ice cream.
  • 91% of people in Michigan follow professional hockey.
  • 78% of people in Michigan own a pair of skis.

Well, if you don’t like vanilla ice cream, don’t follow hockey, and don’t own skis, it might be pretty safe to assume you’re not from Michigan. After all, only 0.2% of people in Michigan fail to meet one of these criteria, so it’s safe to assume everyone else is a faker.

When these 80/20-rule-type things start making decisions about your life, you are absolutely going to run into problems. Why?

  • Nobody is completely, entirely, 100% normal. Everyone is unique in their own little way. You will inevitably be in a situation where you don’t match the math that the computer has decided is correct.
  • As Google has shown, companies can get away with having almost exactly zero support for their products, so there will probably not be a Human you can talk to to solve your problem.
  • If there ARE Humans available for support, they probably won’t have the power to fix your problem, or will be overwhelmed with the 20,000 other people (0.2% of the population of Michigan) who have been miscategorized and need to have their issues fixed.

The AI apocalypse will not be robots shooting Humans. It will be dumb computers denying us food and housing because we don’t match their badly-calculated templates.

Google Is Not Very Smart (or Incredibly Smart)

To the layperson, Google might seem like the smartest company in the world.

Once you understand technology, it’s obvious that they’re not very smart. Or incredible geniuses.

If you’ve spent more than a few years building websites, you know very well the types of ignorant robot-stupid mistakes that Google can make. An example from this very blog is that I spent quite a few years working on multi-user dungeons (MUDs for short). There are a lot of posts on the subject, and Google’s ad system thinks that one of the main topics of this blog is digging holes in wet soil, and it’s not uncommon to see an ad for such machines on this site.

Google is PHENOMENALLY good at miscategorizing things. If there are two meanings to a phrase or topic, and 80% of the discussions in the world focus on the more popular meaning and 20% are about the less-popular meaning, the less-popular topic will be buried in the noise, because the systems will assume you mean “computer keyboards” when you meant “music keyboards”.

When you combine this with what I call “computational laziness”, this means that if your site happens to be categorized in a certain manner, you’re basically stuck there. Google doesn’t put much effort into revising its categorization models or re-analyzing sites based on new information.

What does that mean for web developers? Well, for a newer site, if Google puts you in a place you don’t want to be, you’re probably better off starting over from a different angle.

For people searching the web, it’s a little more complicated. Google is NOT designed to be the best search engine on the planet. Now that the search engine wars are over, the design has changed to focus on revenue maximization. What does that mean?

It means that Google as a search engine is designed to show you just-barely-adequate results that kind-of-but-not-really satisfy the question you were asking. It’s designed to be mostly-accurate but slightly frustrating, so that you are tempted to click on ads that seem likely to answer your question.

In a perfect world, a search engine would give you exactly the information you were looking for, as quickly and as accurately as possible. In THIS world, search engines are designed to give you the plausibly-relevant information that will benefit the search engine the most.

In a world where the profit motive rules over everything, product quality must necessarily suffer for the purpose of maximizing margins.

As something used by most of the people in the world pretty much daily, when does it make sense for search to become a public utility? It’s an interesting question worth pondering, but the mathematics and economics are far too complicated for a sound-bite answer.

The number of websites in existence has been relatively flat since 2017, not growing any faster than the world’s population, but processing power has effectively tripled. If Moore’s Law was still in effect, it should have grown 16x, but that ship has sailed. What this means is that, even though sites today have many more pages and much more data on average than six year ago, the ability to organize that information has grown faster than the actual quantity of information.

Google is not special. They’re just another business. And, with their original core patents being expired or expiring soon, there’s a lot of room to build something of higher quality with lower cost. Given the level of mind-share that they have (as any good look at Bing’s market share will confirm), is it worth it to build a competitor?

It depends.

I’m Available for Hire for Music Composition on Fiverr

Do you have a movie or video game that you want original music for? I’m now available for hire on Fiverr for composition work.

Since I have decades of experience in composing, recording, and mixing original ambient and soundtrack-style, I can create something both unique and high-quality.

Sure, you could go with one of hundreds of Hans Zimmer clones, but if you want something different — something that doesn’t sound like it came from a stock music website — having me write something for you would be a very good choice.

Click here for more details about my gig on Fiverr.