A screenshot of some Laravel user authentication boilerplate code

The festive break seems to be one of the times I manage to sit down and try something new. This year I’m taking the time to learn a little of the PHP framework Laravel, by way of re-writing an app I made last year with React and Firebase. That app always felt a little fragile to me, even though it succeeded at its basic functions – probably why I haven’t gone back to update it at any point in the last year. In my defence, that app was a learning exercise too, as I wanted to brush up on React for my day job before starting on a project at the start of 2022.

But safe to say, I’m much more comfortable with “the old ways” of PHP. I’ve been writing PHP in one form or another for close to 25 years, and even though I wouldn’t ever call myself an expert due to my on-off usage of it over the last decade, I do still have the basics of the language in my head. I can follow along and debug most code I’ve encountered just fine. PHP 8.x is different enough that I definitely need to follow some tutorials to write it, but there’s still a lot I recognise. Laravel itself has a lot of similar concepts to frameworks I’ve used in the past, it just does them with modern practices and architecture. Again, lots I’m unfamiliar with, but plenty that I recognise.

Apart from making I Painted This! more robust and supportable (in my view), one of the primary drivers for this exercise – other than as a convenient excuse for learning – is that the app primarily uses Twitter for authentication. That’s not something I’m comfortable with any more, so it’s got to go – and if I needed to do that change, I’d be as well giving it a complete overhaul!

With the news that Amazon Studios, in partnership with Henry Cavill and Vertigo Pictures, are buying the film and TV rights to the Warhammer 40,000 IP, I have a couple of initial thoughts:

  • I can’t wait for a whole new audience to miss the point that the fascists are not the good guys, in much the same way as Judge Dredd, The Boys, Starship Troopers, Robocop, and many others…
  • I really hope they focus on telling stories in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, and not the story of the Warhammer 40,000 setting. A larger-scale, bigger budget Hammer & Bolter or Interrogator would probably work quite well, in my opinion… Possibly even something like Angels of Death, although I’m not convinced Space Marine stories will work well without 1) watering down many aspects of what makes them interesting, 2) spending a lot of money to get the look right.

With those worries stated, Cavill is a massive fan, and takes sticking to the heart of source material seriously – as seen in his disputes with the direction of The Witcher, so if anyone can help steer the ship correctly, he’s probably one of the best picks out there.

a pack of 'garden meadow' Seedballs, alongside a pack of 'poppy' Seedballs, and the back of the plantable thank you note.

My work sent all UK staff this thoughtful Spring gift of wildflower seedballs, to easily add some wildflowers to our homes and gardens. Even the little note that came with the packs contains seeds and is plant-able – just bury it and give it some water. I’m just waiting on some new planters to arrive, then I’ll get these added to the garden 🌼

This review of the Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop, by Bill Bennett, largely matches my own experiences with it. I’ve been using the Studio for the last couple of months, having bought it as a replacement for my aging self-built desktop, and it’s easily one of the best laptops I’ve ever used. Definitely the best Windows laptop.

My Surface Studo Laptop, with a sticker saying `#include <everyone>' in rainbow text stuck to the top right corner
My Surface Studio Laptop

I’ve gone for the “middle of the road” spec – i7 + 16GB RAM, as I couldn’t justify the jump in cost of the 32GB option – like Bill notes, these devices are expensive compared to available offerings from other PC manufacturers, but for me the following helped mitigate the price:

  • Solid build quality.
  • Great screen.
  • Really good laptop keyboard.
  • Similarly good trackpad – easily the best I’ve used outside of a MacBook.
  • No bloatware.
  • It’s in what I consider my “sweet spot” for laptop size.
  • I have just enough non-Apple needs to make a MacBook Pro (which has a similar price) not quite the best choice.

I wouldn’t say I’ve managed to really push the Studio very hard yet. I’ve mostly been using it for exam study and light “tinkering” in a WSL development environment, but I’ve also done a little bit of gaming in World of Warcraft. Playing WoW is pretty much the only time I’ve heard the fans make any real sort of noise, and with a little lowering of settings I was getting 4K on my external monitor at ~60fps from the 3050m GPU. For my needs I’d be happy to trade some resolution for higher settings at the same fps, but it’s not something I’ve devoted much time to.

In terms of noise outside gaming – I basically never hear it. Sometimes it will ramp up to a low-level “woosh” that’s barely noticeable above ambient, but most of the time it’s dead silent. Especially compared to my similarly specified (but 3 years old) work Dell – that sounds like a leaf blower from the moment it’s turned on, rising to jet engine as the day wears on.

The Studio’s signature folded tablet mode is “fine”; as Bill notes, it’s heavy, so you won’t use it on-the-go. In my limited use of it, the tablet mode is pretty nice for browsing/reading on the sofa as it’s more comfortable and balanced on your lap in tablet mode. I’m less concerned the whole thing is going to tip back off my knees and crash to the floor. It’s one of those features I’m not going to need 98% of the time, but on that rare 2% I’ll be glad I can make use of it.

Speaking of the fold – I don’t know if it’s just the way I lift the lid on the Studio, but I do find the double-hinge mechanism quite prone to opening up as if I were switching to tablet mode when I’m just trying to open up as a laptop. It’s not a big deal, but it’s happened enough I thought it worth mentioning.

Overall though, yeah, I’m really happy with the Surface Studio Laptop. It’s a very good laptop wrapped up in a premium-feeling package. As an aside, between this and the Xbox Series S, I’ve been very impressed with the quality of devices Microsoft is creating these days – it makes me wonder how well they’d get on in the smartphone space, if they ever decided to jump back in.