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‘At 21 I have no regrets’: I just got an email from myself, a decade ago | Life and style

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I just received a mysterious email. “Dear Wilfred,” it began. “You better be a baller by this time. You better have a hot wife and kids. I hope you have a Porsche. If not, I don’t know what is wrong with you man.”

The 280-word message, which arrived in my inbox this week, on the morning of my 31st birthday, was actually from someone who I knew well: myself, exactly 10 years ago.

It went on: “I’m just kidding. None of those things really matter. I just hope you’re living a good life, being a good person to the people around you, and not losing your sense of wonder about the world.”

Since I was a teenager, I’ve been sending messages to the future using a free email service called FutureMe, which is kind of like a digital time capsule. It’s simple: you compose an email, enter a recipient, and select a date in the future. Once you submit it, your note is sealed away in FutureMe’s servers and won’t send until that date, which could be years or decades later.

In a time of dopamine-drenched social media feeds, this might well be the world’s slowest messaging service.

The site was launched in 2002, as a side project of Matt Sly and Jay Patrikios, programmers who were then in their 20s. Sly told me he had designed the site to be “super streamlined” so that it would be able to run indefinitely – at first the server costs were just $11 a month.

Now, despite handling 10,000 to 20,000 emails every day, the server costs just a couple of hundred dollars a month and brings in far more in revenue, Sly said. He sold FutureMe to a digital memorials company last year but feels confident about its longevity.

“The cool thing is the longer it’s around, the more kind of profound these experiences are, because 10, 15, 20 years is a long time,” said Sly, who writes about 10 letters to his future self every year. “It’s intense, as you experienced.”

The first time I used this time machine, a high school crush and I sat next to each other just before we graduated and sent letters to each other one year in the future. She stayed in our home town; I moved across the country and got her email the next winter, during a snowfall in my lonely first semester.

She wrote: “Right now, your probably somewhere in new york city, seeing amazing things, feeling amazing things. Amazing things that i probably can’t even imagine. I am REALLY REALLY excited, nervous, happy for you! I know you’ll become the person you want to be.”

I mostly forgot about the service until I turned 21, when I got a short note from 17-year-old me congratulating me on being old enough to buy alcohol. (“Now go DRINKING!!!!” teenage me urged.)

My 17-year-old self would be disappointed to learn I didn’t end up getting hammered that day. Instead, I penned the heartfelt letter to 31-year-old me.

“I hope you can remember what it felt like to be 21,” young me wrote. “Because I have no idea what I want to do with my life right now, but it’s okay. Because I do have faith that things are going to find a way to work themselves out.”

Wilfred Chan smiles as he sits in front of a cake
The author celebrating his 31st birthday. Photograph: Courtesy Wilfred Chan

As I read it, I felt memories of the last decade wash over me. Twenty-one-year-old me would never have predicted that I would start my career in Hong Kong, as a journalist covering its tragic democracy movement. That I would return to New York City years later and work for a while delivering food. That we would face a pandemic amid resurgent white supremacy and accelerating climate catastrophe.

Other things really did work out. I don’t have a wife or kids, but I am in a lovely relationship. I’ve stayed close with old friends and met new ones who have been there for me through many highs and lows. I now write full-time for publications I admired when I was younger. And 21-year-old me would be thrilled to know that marijuana is now legal in New York.

Too often, when I think about the past, I fixate on the moments of pain and confusion. Or I dwell upon other dreams I had then that never came to pass. But the letter helped me celebrate the most important victories (“I hope you haven’t died yet, because that would actually kind of suck,” 21-year-old me noted). And it revealed that I didn’t need external success to grasp life’s bigger picture.

“I can say, today, at age 21, I have no regrets so far,” I wrote. “I hope you don’t regret anything that’s happened since then. This world is far too beautiful to be wasting your time looking back and wishing you had done things differently.”

I need to hold on to this. But life happens, and I’m sure I’ll forget it again. That’s why I’m going to send a message to my 41-year-old self. I’m going to tell him, truthfully, that I feel grateful for what I have. And remind him that the real challenge of adulthood isn’t getting ahead – but getting back to an understanding that the world is beautiful and limitless.

The complete letter from 21-year-old me

Dear Wilfred,

You better be a baller by this time. You better have a hot wife and kids. I hope you have a Porsche. If not, I don’t know what is wrong with you man.

I’m just kidding. None of those things really matter. I just hope you’re living a good life, being a good person to the people around you, and not losing your sense of wonder about the world. It’s never too late to do that shit you’ve always wanted to do. It’s never too late to learn that thing you always wanted to learn. I can say, today, at age 21, I have no regrets so far. I hope you don’t regret anything that’s happened since then. This world is far too beautiful to be wasting your time looking back and wishing you had done things differently.

I hope you can remember what it felt like to be 21. Because I have no idea what I want to do with my life right now, but it’s okay. Because I do have faith that things are going to find a way to work themselves out. So I’m actually just going to trust that as you read this, you’ll be nodding your head, because things did end up working out okay despite all your doubts and fears. I’m trusting that you’re well. Actually, now that I think of it, I hope you haven’t died yet, because that would actually kind of suck … but hey, not ruling it out …

Anyway, I love you. Have a drink with me in celebration that you made it this far. Smoke some weed, if you’re not working for the government by now.

Happy birthday, man.

Wilfred

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The final Fifa: after 30 years, the football sim plans to go out with a bang | Games

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Earlier this year, at the famed La Romareda stadium in Zaragoza, Spain, EA Sports organised two football matches, one each for male and female pro players. During these competitive 90-minute fixtures, all participants, including subs and officials, wore advanced Xsens motion capture suits that recorded their every movement, shot, tackle and celebration. Involving more than 70 people it was, according to gameplay producer Sam Rivera, the largest number of players ever motion-captured in a single session.

Every year, the developers of Fifa tell us that their key aim is authenticity. This year, Fifa 23 – the final product of EA Sports and Fifa’s 30-year partnership – is about making key moments more intelligible, detailed and dramatic, zooming in ever closer to the action at pitch level. That grand Zaragoza mo-cap session provided 10m frames of animation – twice as much match capture as Fifa 22 – allowing for more than 6,000 authentic player animations, a wealth of which are female-specific.

Fifa 23 - Vini Jr v Lores.
Fifa 23 – Vini Jr v Lores. Photograph: Electronic Arts

That data has also been fed through Hypermotion 2, EA Sports’ machine learning engine, which uses the mo-cap data to create new, highly authentic animations on the fly, seamlessly filling in the gaps between mo-cap moments. This should mean smoother, more controllable movement on the ball. “Dribbling is getting more responsive,” says Rivera. “The personality of the players really shines through. We got the feedback in Fifa 22 that dribbling felt slidey; players were skating sometimes when turning. With the new system, they’re a lot more grounded, turning feels good, and the steps in between every single dribble touch are created by the algorithm. This means every step matches the path, creating better visuals.”

The designers are also enhancing dribbling’s defensive counter-action: jockeying. The machine learning system has been trained to detect which player is between the advancing player and the goal, and then governs their movements. They’ll usually approach the attacker from an angle rather than face-to-face, letting them tackle effectively. “They even put their hands behind their backs when they’re inside the box,” enthuses Rivera.

Players will accelerate differently, too: controlled, lengthy or explosive. This means a player such as Erling Haaland or Vinícius Júnior will burst away at speed, but will then slow more quickly, while someone with lengthy acceleration such as Virgil van Dijk won’t be quite as quick off the mark, but will gain speed. The idea is to break up the predictability of one-on-ones: it’ll no longer be quite as clear who’ll get to a loose ball first, or who will outrun an opponent down the wing.

Another new feature is the power shot: when players hit both bumpers while pressing the shoot button, the game brings up power and positioning options for a controlled, pinpoint strike. “It’s a risk v reward system,” says gameplay design director, Kantcho Doskov. “You can try it at any time, but if there’s a defender nearby, they’re going to tackle you. You really have to carve out that space, and even when you do, you have to aim precisely. Aiming at the top corner of the goal takes a bit of skill! When I try power shots, most of the time I don’t score, but it’s fun to test the keeper. And sometimes, just because the shot is so powerful, he’s forced to parry the goal back to my striker, who taps it in.”

Elsewhere, EA is telling us to expect redesigned set-pieces, with aiming on the right analogue stick, aided by a preview projection line – and defenders can now lie behind the wall to block low shots. And impact physics have been improved, so a player’s foot might be knocked sideways by a ball travelling at velocity, affecting their touch. The virtual grass now has individual blades, and the surface degrades as the match goes on: sliding tackles and knee-slide celebrations will tear up the turf, leaving scars that remain for the whole game. “At the moment, it’s purely visual,” says senior art director, Fab Muoio.” But we’ve had discussions about whether or not it will impact play and that’s something we’ll think about in the future.”

Fifa 23 - Signal Iduna Park.
Fifa 23 – Signal Iduna Park. Photograph: Electronic Arts

Muoio talks a lot about drawing inspiration from modern TV broadcast aesthetics. “Just look at the real-world use of drone cameras,” he says. ”I saw some footage from the Etihad of a drone shot going all the way through the concourse and the stadium. It looks amazing, like CG.

“We also reworked our out-of-play cameras to make them look a lot nicer when you have a corner kick, throw-in or goal kick: we’ve adjusted the depth of field and the composition, just to have the player pop a little bit more from the background. It looks more in line with what you see in modern broadcast football, with that heavy depth of field.”

An early beta demo shows all of these new details in action. Playing as Manchester City, you see the fast, insightful runs of Jack Grealish and Kevin De Bruyne and the amazing shot-stopping capabilities of Ederson. Attempting a power shot with Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio gives you a real sense of his strength and accuracy. There’s also a beautiful moment of animation fluidity when Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus turns and volleys in a crowded box, arching the ball into the top left corner. A couple of hours of play show up more diversity of movement and interaction between players, and although the pace is similar to Fifa 22, it feels like there are a few more milliseconds available to line up ambitious passes.

EA Sports has some big changes coming to Career mode, including interactive match highlights, which let you play the key moments from important matches instead of the whole game, making for a snappier, more dramatic narrative. There are announcements to come about the ever-popular but also hugely controversial Ultimate Team mode. EA has stated that it will not be abandoning the “loot box”-style random player packs that underpin the mode, even though several countries have either banned or are considering bans on them. Whatever EA does to improve this part of the game, including making it easier to progress without purchasing packs, the ethical quandary of the loot box will cast a long shadow over the entire game.

Work is progressing, too, on EA Sports’ post-Fifa future, which will arrive in 2024 as the awkwardly-titled EA Sports FC. It’s clear that Fifa itself is going to struggle to commission a new football sim that will get anywhere close to EA’s game in quality and detail. The development team views Fifa 23 as a good indication of where things are heading. “You can see by the amount of content this year: we want more, we want to continue going big,” says Rivera. “We’re excited about 2024 and what’s coming. There are a lot of opportunities. Responsiveness, visuals, authenticity – are what will take us there.”

He’ll only give up one specific detail: the use of machine learning animation, currently confined to very specific areas of the game, is likely to expand as EA moves into the next era of its simulation. There is a dedicated AI coding team at EA’s Vancouver studio that have been working on this tech for several years, and if this year’s implementations go down well, we might soon see the end of scripted animations. “I can’t talk about the details of where it’s going because these are huge future features, but the potential that we’re seeing is crazy,” says Rivera. “We can see how machine learning can take over animation in the future.”

It still feels kind of surreal that this is the end for Fifa as we know it. A game that began on the Mega Drive with its blocky, stylised sprites and electronically simulated crowd noises, now features lifelike motion captures taken from genuine matches, and an intelligent animation system that mimics the behaviours of real-life players. Fifa has been loved and loathed; it has seen off one great rival – the Pro Evolution Soccer series – and will soon compete against whatever licensed products Fifa can pitch against it. In embracing the women’s game, it’s doing the right thing at the right moment, while at the same time, its insistence on retaining the loot box lottery of Ultimate Team will ensure that controversy as well as fandom will follow it into the future. But that, after all, is football.

Keith Stuart attended a press trip to Electronic Arts in Vancouver with other journalists. His travel and accommodation expenses were met by Electronic Arts.

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Slightly late, but a worthwhile upgrade • The Register

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The first point-release of the newest Ubuntu is here, which marks the stage it formally becomes the new long-term-support release.

As we mentioned last week, there were some last-minute delays in the 22.04.1 release process. The release was delayed until August 11. But now it’s here, as Canonical announced on its official blog. The release notes list the changes.

This is only a point release of the OS, and if you are already running “Jammy Jellyfish” you will automatically get 22.04.1 when you next run a full update. No new installation of the OS is needed. If you are doing new installations, though, Ubuntu makes new installation images for each point release, so if you go to the downloads page, you will get a shiny new 22.04.1 image. If you keep an emergency boot disk, for instance with Ventoy, this is a good time to update it.

All the same, it’s significant in a few ways. It’s a bug-fix release, so with any luck, you won’t notice any changes – just a few things may start working more smoothly. In theory, the Snap-packaged version of Firefox may start a little faster.

One of the most noticeable is that the first point-release that follows an Ubuntu LTS is when people running the previous LTS release will start getting notified and prompted to update. So if you are running 20.04 “Focal Fossa,” or the previous short-term release 21.10 “Impish Indri,” then you can expect to receive nags any time now.

We are being intentionally vague about the timing as Canonical uses a process called “phased updates,” which means that immediately after the release, only 10 percent of users will be notified, and this percentage increments every six hours. So it will take 54 hours, or just over two days, for everyone to get the notification.

If you want to kick off the upgrade from 20.04 or 21.10 right away, before it’s been suggested to you, it’s pretty easy. Do a full update, however you prefer. We also recommend doing a full backup, just in case.

NOTE: If you make a second copy of your root partition on the same machine, make sure you change the backup’s UUID (a partition’s internal serial number), or you will have problems. Copy the partition, for instance with Gparted on a bootable USB. Make sure that you know its name, for example, /dev/sdb5, and that it isn’t mounted. Then do tune2fs /dev/sdb5 -U random. If you want it to be bootable, you can look up the new UUID with blkid and edit the copy’s /etc/fstab to contain the new ID, then in your main installation, run update-grub and it should appear in your boot menu.

Then use the do-release-upgrade command. If it doesn’t immediately offer the new version, you can give it a kick with do-release-upgrade -d. Similarly, if you prefer doing updates graphically in the desktop, use update-manager -d.

The Reg FOSS desk had some problems with last week’s kernel update to 20.04, so we upgraded a very well-used, decade-old installation on a test machine to 22.04.1. It went without a hitch and runs perfectly. It’s probably the single smoothest Ubuntu version upgrade we’ve ever seen. ®

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Are we heading in the wrong direction when it comes to productivity?

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Jenny Darmody believes we’re falling back into a hustle culture in work rather than really thinking about what will bring a better working life for all.

The workforce is in a strange place right now. Torn between the fully remote world we were forced into during the pandemic and what the future of work could really look like, employers and employees alike are trying to figure out the best way of working for them.

A lot of the debate is around where employees will work. Some want to be fully remote, some want to be in the office on certain days, but only certain days or only for certain tasks.

While the ‘when’ and ‘where’ part of how we work will most likely take some time to solve and will depend on each company, department and need of the organisation, how hard we work is another topic that is being discussed right now.

Last month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees that Google’s productivity “isn’t where it needs to be”. This followed a memo he had sent a few weeks previously, saying that the company needs to be “working with greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger than we’ve shown on sunnier days”.

In fairness to Pichai, this led to him introducing an initiative to crowdsource ideas for quicker product development, so the underlying goal seems to be efficiency and working smarter. However, it seems to stop short of the ‘don’t work harder’ part.

He asked employees to “think about how we can minimise distractions and really raise the bar on both product excellence and productivity”. In short, be more productive.

It’s not just Big Tech CEOs such as Pichai that is looking for an increase in productivity. According to a recent study by software company Tipalti Irish people work more hours on average than people in any other country in the top 10 apart, second only to the US.

But is working harder and longer really the direction we should be going in? The Covid-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to talk about the possibility of reclaiming our work-life balance.

It showed the global workforce the opportunities to spend more time with loved ones, while also highlighting the dangers of not knowing how to switch off and burnout.

Employers have come out in favour of more workplace wellbeing initiatives and giving its employees more flexibility and empathy, but is there a danger that deep down these same companies expect us to work even harder than before?

A few months ago, I wrote about the anti-work movement, and the bigger conversation it opens around what employers can expect from their employees and vice versa.

Now, there’s another concept that is fighting against the idea of maximum productivity – quiet quitting. This doesn’t involve actually quitting your job, but it is the idea of quitting the habit of going above and beyond in your job and instead only doing the minimum amount required.

It’s the idea of stepping away from the ‘hustle culture’, which SparkToro CEO Rand Fiskin spoke about at Future Human earlier this year.

These feelings among the workforce should not be ignored, nor should the lessons from the last two years. Employers can strive for efficiently, smarter ways of working, better ways to free up time, for sure. But they can’t then look to fill that time with even more work so that their employers no longer have time to take a breath.

Flipping the narrative

Parkinson’s Law suggests that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, meaning if you give yourself two hours to do a job that should only take one hour, it will somehow take you two hours.

But we can use this to our advantage, if employers are willing to admit that building breaks, procrastination and downtime into our schedules is vital for employee wellbeing.

Google’s search for ideas that will make its workforce more efficient is not on the whole a misguided one. More efficiency can mean less time wasted on monotonous tasks, duplication of work and mindless tasks that don’t benefit the employer or the employee.

But where he loses me a little is the need to “minimise distractions” and “really raise the bar” on productivity. For one thing, I can find plenty of ways of being ‘productive’ without being efficient. It’s the whole idea of ‘busy being busy’.

But more importantly, distraction can serve its own purpose at work. It lets your brain wander freely, which can lead to more creative thinking. Frequently getting distracted may also be your body telling you that you need to step away from the task you’re working on and either take a break from work or switch to another task.

Ironically, helping employees to take better breaks, giving them more flexibility and giving them a better work-life balance is likely to yield better productivity anyway. But that wellbeing and flexibility has to be built into their workday, not added on as extra hours.

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