Comms Troubles

I wrote a little snippet for a story up working on where the characters have problems all too familiar to anyone who’s used video conferencing:

We all met Chloe in the briefing room. Our survey ship was in orbit and Sophie its Captain was going to give us a status update over videolink. After a short while the accept call prompt came up on the screen and Chloe clicked the icon to accept the call.
Sophie’s image appeared on the screen and we saw her lips move but couldn’t hear her. “I think the audio settings must be wrong, let me take a look at the console.” Said Lisa our IT tech. Lisa fiddled with the settings and disconnected then reconnected the external speaker unit. “Can you hear us now?” said Lisa.
“Hi Lisa, sounds like everything is working now,” said Sophie on the other end of the link. At that point, the screen went blank and the buffering symbol appeared. I rolled my eyes nothing works on this planet, does it?

I wrote a thing

So I’ve been thinking about writing and how cool it would be to have a fictional world where only women have a special power (like Bene Gesserit’s in Dune) and doing it in a trans inclusive way.

So I wrote a little short story about a trans women named Alice finally getting to grips with using her powers to guide ships through hyperspace. Hope you enjoy it!

Alice in Hyperspace

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Get the best resources in the galaxy to help me with my transition. Get injected with alien nanobots that give you superpowers and in return, all I needed to do was join a mysterious sisterhood of women to guide starships safely through the increasingly chaotic regions of hyperspace in the core. 

The only problem is I’m useless at it. My instructor sent out five hyperspace probes for me to guide to Alpha Centauri today and the best I’ve managed is for one to turn up in Barnards Star. Who knows where the others are probably lost somewhere in hyperspace never to be seen again. 

*** 

After our practice session, we all went to the ship’s mess hall to unwind after the day. 

“How did it go today? Is anything starting to click yet?” Lisa said to me. 

“I still can’t get even one of the training probes to the right destination. One ended up in Barnards Star and the rest lost in hyperspace who knows where.” I said. 

“Remember Lisa all the problems I had. I struggled for months and months and then one day something clicked and suddenly I could guide everything to the right place.” Anna said. 

“And don’t forget your six months behind us in training. Considering how long you’ve been doing this you’re doing well!” Anna said. 

“I guess,” I said. 

*** 

That morning Maria my instructor popped her head through the door of the mess hall while we were having breakfast. “Anyone want a break from navigating practice probes to the far corners of the federation? I’ve been invited to a banquette on Haven.”  

“Why don’t you go, Alice? A break might be what you need right now.” Anna said. 

“I don’t know. “ I said, “I’m not great at social stuff”. 

“It will be good practice for when you graduate and have to get involved in interstellar intrigue and diplomacy,” Maria said. 

“Ok then, I’ll come,” I said. 

*** 

I felt nervous walking to the scout ship.  

“This is a terrible idea. Why did I agree to this?” I said. 

Maria looked at me and said. “You will be fine I used to do state banquettes all the time when I was younger. You just need to stand around looking pretty and acting like you own the place.”  

“That’s kind of difficult when you grew up on a farm and everyone thought you were a boy,” I said. 

“Yea, but no one knows that. To them, you’re practically royalty.” Maria said. 

The jump through hyperspace was only a short one. Our little scout ship was fast and only took a few days to make the journey to Haven. 

As we made our final approach, I finished getting changed and met up with Maria in her quarters. Make-up is something I still struggled with, so I needed a bit of help getting ready. After we had finished getting ready, I looked myself up and down in the mirror. I knew in my head that all anyone saw when looking at me was an attractive young woman, but brains are good at lying to you and I saw all the flaws that had gone long ago. 

The ship landed smoothly on a pad at the starport and we prepared to leave. As we walked down our shuttles boarding ramp and onto the red carpet an honour guard stood to attention. We walked down the red carpet to the awaiting transport pod that would take us to the governor’s mansion. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to being treated like this I thought. 

*** 

I sat awkwardly at my dinner table. As guests of honour, we were at the head table with the planetary governor and his family. The governor was talking to Maria about how sorry they were about the incident with their diplomat on our homeworld. I sat there staring at my datapad, I’ve never been much good at small talk.  

After a while, my datapad lit up with a message notification. Maria must have a neural link to hers active as she was still talking to the governor: 

Maria: How are you holding up? 

Me: Not sure. I’m sure everyone is staring at me. 

Maria: They are. They are staring at both of us with a mixture of fear and wonder. Try to enjoy the attention. 

Me: Ok, I’ll try. 

Maria: It takes time, but you get used to it. You’re doing really well so far! 

After dinner, I decided to get some fresh air and made an escape towards the mansion’s gardens. The gardens were lit by a combination of mood lighting and the system’s other star. It was nice to escape to the quiet and enjoy the fresh air and I don’t think anyone noticed I was gone. 

After spending the night in the governor’s mansion, we headed back to our ship I couldn’t wait to be back somewhere I could get out of this dress and go back to my usual outfit of jeans and a tank top. 

*** 

I breathed a sigh of relief as the ship accelerated out of the planet’s atmosphere.  

“I know you’re not a social butterfly, but it wasn’t that bad, was it?” Maria said. 

“It’s just social anxiety, I’ve never quite got over all the stuff that happened on Earth before I joined,” I said. 

“I remember that time when we first met,” Maria said. “I’d escaped my security detail to get some air and time alone and I saw you sitting alone in a park crying.” 

“I don’t know what I’d of done if I hadn’t met you then,” I said. 

I didn’t like thinking about those times. I’d come to Earth full of hope that I might finally find somewhere safe where I could transition, but it wasn’t to be. When Maria found me, I was very much in that awkward early stage of being on HRT. It had made me a target of bullying at college and that day everything had just got too much. 

Maria nodded and said, “I’m sorry if last night was a bit much for you too soon.” 

“I kind of forget that not everyone was brought up in a royal household and taught that they were the prettiest one there and to be the centre of attention at a young age.” 

“How comes you’re not still there?” I asked. 

“Well, let’s just say the planet is a republic now. Me and my mother barely got out with our lives and my father wasn’t so lucky.” Maria replied. 

“I’m sorry,” I said 

“Don’t be. My father was a despotic arsehole.” Maria said. 

I decided not to ask any more about Maria’s past and retired to my bunk for an early night. After yesterday I needed the rest.  

*** 

I woke up to the sound of emergency lights and klaxons. What’s on earth is going on I thought. A klaxon sounded and a robotic voice said “Life support failure, emergency oxygen and CO2 scrubber activated.”. I rushed to the Bridge and looked in horror at the captain trying to treat Maria with an autodoc. She was unconscious. 

They looked at me and said, “The main intrasystem drives down, we only have a day’s Oxygen left and we need to get Maria to a proper doctor.”. With the main drive down the only place we could get to in time would be the survey ship in the next system and the only person qualified to get us there was currently unconscious. Either I navigated the ship through hyperspace, or we would die. 

“The only choice is for me to guide the ship through hyperspace and I’ve only ever done this with practice drones. “ I said. 

“Agreed Maria is in no state to guide the ship, I’ll put her in a stasis pod which should stabilise her condition.” Said the Captain. 

I activated the neural link to the ship’s systems and established communications with the jump gate. Luckily for us, the conditions in hyperspace weren’t terrible. I spent about an hour searching till I finally found the beacon for the gate where our survey ship was. I didn’t want to risk the hyperspace getting more turbulent due to a passing ship, so I immediately commanded the ship to make the jump. 

Shit, I thought as we immediately started to drift in the wrong direction. I fired the thrusters to push us back on course and overcorrected. We were now drifting off course in the opposite direction. After about an hour though, I got our course stable and with a few course corrections we made our way slowly to the other gate. I breathed a sigh of relief as we reached the gate and we re-entered normal space. Luckily the survey ship wasn’t far from the gate and help arrived soon. 

***  

A week later the doctor was finally well enough to have visitors, so I went to see her. Maria was laying bandaged in bed in the med bay. 

“How are you doing?” I said to Maria. 

“I’ve been better. All I remember is the ship hitting some space debris and that was it,” she said. 

“The doctor said you guided the ship through hyperspace and saved us. I’m so proud of you!”  

I blushed and didn’t know what to say after that. 

*** 

It was three months later and I was feeling really nervous. Today I would be piloting the science ship through hyperspace myself for hopefully the last time before I become a qualified navigator. If everything went well today, I’d be assigned to a ship of my own.  

“You have control of the ship,” Maria said. 

I activated my neural link with the ship and the ship faded away to be replaced with a view of hyperspace. I concentrated on our destination and saw the bright flashing beacon of the destination gate. I then commanded the ship to enter through the gate. I felt the ship try to drift of course but quickly commanded the ship’s thrusters to counteract it. 

After a few hours, the ship safely transited out of hyperspace. 

“Congratulations. That was very well piloted. Looks like you’re ready for your own ship now.” Maria said. 

A few days later I received orders to report a freighter named the Eris. My new home. 

Epilogue 

Guiding this slow, rust bucket of a freighter was getting routine now. Most of my time was spent trying to find things to do to occupy my time for two/three months followed by a couple of weeks of intense concentration to get the big old ship through hyperspace safely. I’ve been doing it now for three years and I love it. The crew feels like a big family. I just wish they let me help out sometimes with maintenance and stuff as there’s not much to do when we are travelling to the hyperspace gates and back. 

It looks like I’m not going to be on my own with nothing to do for this journey though. We have a passenger and oh my god they are such an egg. Cute though. 

The End 

My experiences of game streaming

I recently bought myself a new laptop so me and my partner can still do computer stuff when we are in the living room and I’m away from my desktop. As I didn’t want and couldn’t afford a gaming laptop I planed to use game streaming from my desktop so I could play games with decent quality.

Below is my experiences of each option that I tried.

Steam offers has two methods for game streaming from one local machine to another. The first of these is the steamlink app/application that can run on Windows, Linux (both PC & Raspberry Pi) and Android. I’ve found this to work really well although I did have some issues with the wifi on my PC so using a wired ethernet adapter can work a bit better. Quality can be pretty much identical to running it on a local PC (apart from my laptop not getting so hot).

The steam application can also use do streaming internally. The only problem I found with this was that you need to be logged in on the host machine or you just get a blank screen. This can be solved by either using a VNC client or using the steam link application.

Moonlight and Sunshine (if you have a AMD gfx card)

Moonlight emulates the nvidia game streaming as used on the nvidia shield. This offers very good quality and you can also pair it with the sunshine streaming server if you don’t have an Nvidia graphics card. The main issue I have with it though is that it doesn’t work well with my WiFi. I suspect this is due to having spikes of requiring a lot of bandwith that our WiFi can’t handle. Over a wired ethernet connection however it works very well.

Xbox cloud gaming

This differs from the above options in that games are streamed from a server in a data centre rather than you own hardware. In order to use it your require a XBox game pass ultimate subscription and you can only play the XBox version of the games available for cloud gaming. Quality is limited by only support 720p resolution and I saw some graphics glitching. I did find it useful for trying new games without downloading them to either of my PCs and it might be a good option for playing away from home.

Transport Fever 2 – German valley main line

Introduction

I’ve recently been doing another play through of Transport Fever 2. This time I wanted to create a map with a lot of scope for fast express services so I created a long thin map where a single main line could connect most of the cities together.

I’ve currently paused things at about 1987 and am moving over to use more modded vehicles so things look much better.

Theme

The current map theme is a fictional river valley area in Germany near the French border. German ICE trains are currently not ready so high speed services are currently being provided by orange first generation TGV sets. There is also a fast intercity service provided along part of the route using rhine gold couches hauled by DB Class 103 locomotives. Various other locomotives haul services off of the main line and it’s various branch lines.

Route map

Route map of all lines in my map

Space Engineers: All the Ice I’ll Ever Need! and my new ship scripts.

I’ve been spending some time playing about with scripting in Space Engineers recently. My latest creation is a remotely controllable mining machine which uses a programmable block to allow user input to be used to control pistons. It also has a pan/tilt camera mechanism for checking everything is connected.

With this I don’t think I’ll be running out of ice anytime soon as it can crawl down the conveyor rail to go to any depth.

In order to make shipping the hydrogen produced by it easy I also designed a hydrogen tanker.When this is on the ground the main engines can rotate downward to conteract gravity and then they can swivel to a vertical position once the ship is in a climb or in space.