Did you know musicians also play the Nintendo Switch? Shocking, right? In a recent interview with Variety, the American-born singer, songwriter, record producer and now actor Anne Erin Clark – better known as St. Vincent – revealed she had spent hundreds of hours playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the hybrid platform.
Speaking about her new film The Nowhere Inn, which she co-wrote and starred in, Clark explained how in one scene she required a games console. One of the producers on set had a Switch with a copy of Breath of the Wild in it, and so she ended up using that.
Most countries have dropped the requirement for learning Morse code to become a ham radio operator. Because of that, you might think Morse code is dead. But it isn’t. Some people like the nostalgia. Some like that you can build simple equipment to send and receive Morse code. Others like that Morse code is much more reliable than voice and some older digital modes. Regardless of the reason, many people want to learn Morse code and it is still a part of the ham radio scene. The code has a reputation of being hard to learn, but it turns out that is mostly because people haven’t been taught code in smart ways.
I don’t know if they still do, but some youth organizations used to promote some particularly bad ways to learn the code. The second worse way is to learn “dots and dashes” and many people did learn that way. The very worst way was using an image like the adjacent one to try to map the dots and dashes into letter shapes. This chart dates back to at least 1918 when a Girl Guides handbook printed it.
Even if you are a visual learner, this is a bad idea. The problem is, it is nearly impossible to hear sounds at 20 or 30 words per minute and map them to this visual representation. Another visual method is to use a binary tree where left branches are dots and right branches are dashes.
If you only need to master 5 words per minute to get a merit badge, you might get away with this. But for real use, 5 words a minute is very slow. For example, this sentence would take about 3 minutes to send at that speed. Just that one sentence.
So what are the better ways? Let’s take a look.
Sound It Out
When you hear someone say the word “elephant” you do not (we hope) translate that into individual letters. You might actually hear phonemes, but most people don’t even do that. You just hear a sound that your brain knows means a large grey animal with a trunk. That’s what you want to get to with Morse code. Sounds should just mean letters without having to interpret them.
That leads to what might be the third-worst way to learn and, unfortunately, a way many of us did learn. It is very common — especially in the past — to send Morse code very slowly for beginners. That’s great, but it limits you when you try to go faster.
If you consider the elephant example, it would be like if you were trying to learn English and your coach said “El….uh….phant.” It would be easy to understand her, but harder to understand people speaking normally.
Speed Up to Start: The Farnsworth Method
Today the Farnsworth method — named for Donald Farnsworth — is very common. The idea is to send the code at the target speed you would like to learn, but space it out so the average speed is much slower. For example, your coach might send at 15 words per minute but spaced out so it was really 5 words a minute.
That makes sense. You hear the sound you’ll hear when you are proficient. But you’ll have time to think about it. As you get more proficient, you reduce the gaps until you are at normal spacing.
A less common, but very effective way to learn is the Koch method named after a psychologist Ludwig Koch (we think it was the same Koch famous for nature recordings). Like the Farnsworth method, you send characters at the target speed. What’s different is that you send only two characters. When the person copying the code can copy 90% accurately, the coach adds a third character to the mix. You continue with those three characters until the learner is back to 90%. Then a fourth character shows up and the whole process repeats until the learner can copy all characters.
This is surprisingly effective because it naturally makes you pay attention to the sound and not the dots and dashes. Koch was able to teach a class of students to copy code at 12 words per minute in under 14 hours. However, the method wasn’t often used until recently.
Digital Age Unlocks the Path Less Taken
The problem with the Koch method is that it is hard to do with standard ways code was traditionally taught. Records, audio tape, paper tape sending machines (like the Instructograph in the video below), and radio broadcasts don’t have an easy way to provide you practice with the groups of letters you know plus one additional character. It is also difficult to do in large classes because one or two slower learners will hold up the entire class.
So, ideally, you have one instructor for just a few or even one person, or you need a computer that can send Morse code. That’s easy today but it wasn’t always so simple.
If you want to learn the code, or if you want to learn it better than you know it now, the Koch method is pretty simple. If a bunch of students can learn code in 14 hours, you should be able to, as well. Even spending an hour a day, that’s only two weeks.
There are plenty of resources, but one we like is LCWO (Learn CW Online — CW or Continous Wave is ham-speak for Morse code). The site costs nothing and will track your progress. Once you’ve learned it, you can practice text, words, callsigns, and common ham radio exchanges.
Even if you don’t need Morse for a ham license anymore, it does open up new opportunities. If you don’t want to do ham radio, think of all the Arduino projects you could do where the device could signal you with a blinking LED and you could command it with a single switch contact. Not that we’d use a scheme like that to count blackjack cards. We’d never do that. If you don’t want to use the computer and still need a coach, you could try this 1939 code trainer.
Since Proton came out, all of us have been enjoying more games, more compatibility and more freedom when it comes to picking up new games to play. Did I say “All of us“? I need to rephrase that. This is not accurate. There is still a certain group who is certainly not happy with this kind of trend. The “No Tux No Bux” zealots.
I have never been a fan of their message, but I have to admit, they got several things right. First, having a short catchline helps make things memorable. Especially if they rhyme. “One Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!“. People are conditioned to react more positively to things that rhyme – for no rational reason. So I will give them that: they coined it well.
Then, their heart is in the right place. After all, having a wealth of “native” Linux clients for every game out there is desirable, and nobody disputes that. We all want our favorite games to run directly on Linux. Where we differ is mostly in strategy and tactics. Not many developers are going to care about missing 1-5% of potential sales, and this is already what we have seen on the market so far. Even Mac as a gaming platform is largely ignored and it’s several times bigger than the Linux install base on desktop. The effectiveness of a appeal to financial gain is close to zero, and “No tux No Bux” is typically used as a one-liner, to pretend that nothing else matters and there is no other discussion worth having (which is why I refer to them as zealots). I am not going to explain again at length why it does not work, I am more interested today by the fact that No-Tux-No-Buxers are increasingly a thing of the past, while they used to be a very noisy minority until 2017-2018. In 2019, it was increasingly obvious that they did not pop up as much as before, and I suspect in 2020 their share of voice will be even smaller.
A few things have changed since then and made a dent into their “spiritual” movement.
First, Proton. Proton has had a massive impact to make running WINE and associated frameworks (DXVK, Esync, etc…) completely painless and transparent to end users. For games that run with it, it’s as simple as an single click. Frictionless. Almost like magic. I am pretty sure that some of the “No Tux No Bux” clan have fallen under the spell of Proton. Not the most fanatic ones, but anyone who was more or less on the edge, that’s a different story. How many? Who knows? But such stories are out there. I have heard a few times folks who described themselves as “all about No Tux no Bux before Proton, but I changed my mind…”. These stories are few in number because nobody likes to admit they changed their mind on something in the first place. But direction-wise, if I were to bet, I am pretty confident that there are less pure NTNB activists than before. The whole Proton initiative has reduced them into a smaller, shrinking minority.
Then there is the other face of Proton, seen by pragmatic Linux gamers. There is a wealth of reports that Proton has been a massively popular option among existing Linux gamers, and whenever the subject of Proton comes up in any online thread it’s fairly easy to spot that the overall opinion is very positive and most users love it. So where in a discussion before, you typically had mostly NTNB leading the topic, nowadays it’s a lot more diverse, with numerous “positive advocates” who are likely to voice out their opinion and defend Proton whenever it comes up. This is what brings balance to the Force.
Third is the topic of newcomers. Let’s say lil’ Ryan has known nothing but Windows until now, and discovers Linux can also play games. Is he going to care about any silly argument on how “native” the game that runs on Steam is? No! Not at all! All he is going to see is whether it runs and if it runs well. Any point beyond that will be irrelevant, just like FOSS concerns are completely irrelevant for most Windows users. Maybe lil’ Ryan will change his mind later on, but that will take time and a long self journey to understand the in and outs of such stories. The same holds true for Mac users, who tend to be very pragmatic as well when it comes to gaming (many Mac gamers have no problem using Bootcamp as a solution to their gaming needs). Whoever transitions to Linux is more likely than not to become very pragmatic about it and a “positive advocate” for Proton.
More recently, streaming services completely do away with the concept of running native applications on your machine (Google Stadia being the most notorious). This makes the question “is it still a Linux client?” almost irrelevant since you don’t really know what and how it runs on the remote server. If you use such services, the proper answer is… “Who cares?”.
I may be completely wrong, but… as Proton keeps pushing the boundaries of Windows games being able to run on Linux and “official ports” seem to stagnate or slow down in numbers, and platform abstraction continues to develop as an alternative, I expect further appeals to No Tux No Bux! to be met with indifference… or derision.
Instead of a battery, the torch relies on a 1.5 farad supercapacitor to store energy. The body of the torch is constructed out of PVC pipe and fittings, and packs strong neodymium magnets inside. A coil of wire wrapped is formed around an old solder spool, which, when shaken past the magnets, generates a current. This is rectified with a series of diodes and charges the supercapacitor, powering the light.
It’s a classic design that is available commercially, but it’s one easily replicated in the home shop, too. It would make a great educational project, particularly as students would be left with a useful device to take home at the end of the lesson. We’ve seen others resurrect commercial builds with upgrades, too. Video after the break.
MangoHud enables you to quickly and easily monitor FPS, temperatures, RAM, VRAM and do a little benchmarking too with Vulkan games (native and Wine/Proton). A fresh release was just today put up.
This big new release brings in some exciting features to make it a true all-in-one tool. You can now limit the FPS, force VSync, display RAM & VRAM, show the current time, add a crosshair and it adds support for Zorin OS and Pop!_OS with the build script.
Since I find this particular tool interesting, I took the new version for a quick spin to show off a bunch of the options in No Man's Sky played with Proton. Take a look:
MangoHud is incredibly easy to install and get going too. Download the release file from the announcement, extract it and then run the install.sh file and you're good to go. If you're testing with games on Steam, all you need to do then is add a launch option of:
Configuration is super simple too. The configuration file just needs you to comment/uncomment strings using a hash symbol to turn things on and off (or add them to a MANGOHUD_CONFIG environment variable)—that's the kind of simplicity I love to see.
I can see MangoHud becoming a really invaluable tool for both Linux gamers and developers. Since it's not tied to drivers, they can really quickly iterate on it and improve it with new features.
You can find MangoHud on GitHub and see the 0.2.0 release announcement here.