New design, new focus for 2018

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Hi again after a long time of neglecting this site!

I have given it a bit of an overhaul and still some changes to make as time goes on, but the intention is for it to focus on photography and programming projects; I have a 2018 aim for 3 new apps to be on the Google Play store so that’s something, and I have a few ReactJS and NodeJS projects in the pipeline.

Feel free to drop me your comments!

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Pokémon ‘NO’ – launch issues and first impressions of Pokémon GO!

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Pokémon GO

How do you mess up the launch of a huge franchise like Pokémon? It’d be hard to, really, it’s one of the most popular gaming franchises out there and when a new game is out, all people want to do is pick it up and play.

Which is exactly how Niantic and Nintendo screwed this up.

As we speak, it still seems like the servers are down. There are thousands of third-party installed APKs on Android, and the rest are clamouring in fear of bans, bugs and of fearing being left behind in a persistent world, being the have-nots in a world of haves.

I put the blame for different parts of this diabolical launch with each of the respective companies. Firstly, Niantic really do know better than the server issues suggest; they have experience of Ingress and the millions of consecutive users that it entails. I put the blame here firmly on Nintendo, who have historically had low quality server capacity for online games and been criticised for this in the past. The giveaway for me is that it’s no coincidence that the Pokémon Trainer Club login is also down, leading me to the conclusion that the game, whilst running on Niantic servers (probably sharing Ingress data, really), the authentication goes via Nintendo, and its here that I expect everything has fallen over.
However, I’m not giving Niantic a pass here either; you guys grew out of Google, and have experience here – why the hell did you allow Nintendo to go with a phased rollout by region? That was NEVER going to work, in 2016 is a flawed business model, AND you know that APKs on Android can easily be extracted and sideloaded. It was inevitable that those outside the regions would install it, and if you wanted to keep it to particular regions you should have just GPS locked the game. Which is why I think all this talk of banning those early adopters is baloney. Paranoia is rife when the servers are so unreliable; you may think you’re banned because you can’t log in anywhere!

Pokémon GO
Not really going yet – but has promise!

No doubt, in time, the game will be playable. Right now, it isn’t; just too many server issues going on. I tried a gym fight and got locked in the battle, unable to leave it, to finish it, nothing but able to attack and attack. The CPU got bored with even trying to hit me and just stood there. There is significant lag, and the battery drain is obscene, even by Ingress standards!

So let’s talk about that a bit; Ingress. To me, it’s like when you have an Android phone. Underneath is Google’s Android, but Samsung etc. always slap their skin over the top. Such is the case here – this is Ingress with Pokémon layered over it. Colours are brighter, graphics updated, augmented reality is here, and the factions have been upped from 2 to 3, to represent the three legendary birds. Portals from Ingress have been torn in half, a mix of Pokéstops and Gyms. The former is what you use to gather resources, the latter are the places you are vying for control of in your faction. The evidence clearly shows that the same source data from Ingress is in use here; portals in Ingress match up well with the stops and gyms, although the frequency of them has been dialled back – probably because in urban areas Ingress was more like In-‘mess’.

So, how is it to play? Unsure. Its fun, I enjoyed walking around, and anything that gets my lazy ass moving isn’t a bad thing. But it has a while to go. It has made tweaks to the Ingress formula, and we all know there is a pay model in the background (hopefully not too much ‘pay to win’ but I wouldn’t be surprised…). Plus, you get to throw pokéballs at things, and battle, I haven’t had a good enough experience of battling to give my thoughts yet. I’ll definitely be playing more of it as it goes on, but I hope it grows a bit beyond the Ingress model.

But come on, Niantic / Nintendo!!! Release worldwide, and buy some extra servers!!! It’s 2016!!!

Divided Kingdom – the Referendum

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Buckingham Embroidery

The referendum is over; I’m so very disappointed right now. The United Kingdom, collectively, has decided in its referendum; that a fraction over half the country would prefer to leave the EU, rather than stay. Most people, including the leave campaigners, seem fairly taken aback by this, some of them going as far as to say if they knew it would really happen, they’d have changed their mind. The less said about such protest voters the better.

Buckingham Embroidery

I have never felt less British; indeed, I woke today feeling that the term ‘United Kingdom’ meant nothing to me anymore, those last few strings emotively tying me to that term have been cut. I feel profoundly sad that the remain campaign focused so much on the negative things, and failed to sell the vision of a prosperous, cultural, united Europe. The Europe of people and places and diversity, where we felt proud to be European in that way and felt like we were part of something bigger. I feel that those who have already benefited from the best parts of the EU, as well as their lifetime of free education, strong pensions, have now decided that because too many new people seem to be arriving they want a new generation to be pulled away; a generation that overwhelmingly fell on remain when they voted.

Problems and promises

On the face of it, it exposes a series of problems that have long festered in the subtle corners of the UK populace. A feeling of superiority over the rest of the EU being the chief amongst them, but also of deep disconnects between the various factions of society. But here’s the thing – leaving the EU is not going to solve any of those things, how could it?

The leave campaign meanwhile are already equivocating on their grandiose policies of hundreds of millions for the NHS, and immigration controlled. No no, they aren’t really sure about that, maybe it was just a lie. Instead, here’s what I suspect we will get:

  • More austerity
  • Snooper’s Charters
  • Confusion and disruption at the least, removal at the worst, of many of the funding streams provided by Europe – particularly for charity and voluntary sector
  • (Confirmed already!) disruption of the human rights act and similar laws
  • Serious questions over the function of the Good Friday Agreement
  • Resentment from our European neighbours

The issues facing the UK around immigration, economies and such are not UK problems; they are global, and the idea we can turtle up and hide until it all blows over is crazy. Globalisation is not reversing. But now its time for leave to put their money where their mouth is; time to show us all – and no, this isn’t the time for us all to “join together and get on with it.”. Please understand how patronising that sounds, and how inconsiderate. You were the ones that wanted to leave, its you that needs to make that first step

First referendum of many?

I said earlier I have never felt less British. I feel now a Scottish referendum is due, and potentially a border poll. I would support both, and I’d vote for a united Ireland at this stage if they could sort their health system out. I’d quite fancy the idea of a United Celtic Coalition of Ireland and Scotland, but its probably unlikely, sadly. So I don’t know, I don’t know if the breakup of the UK is now inevitable – but it would be quite ironic if it was, given the DUP position on the matter, no?

To be angry for a minute – I feel like this is a travesty, and those of you who voted for this, I think you will be very very wrong.

Windows 10 Start Menu not working?

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If so, try this simple test.

So I’ve been struggling with Windows 10 for a bunch of reasons, but the big one at the minute is that my start menu just stops opening. Along with that, the notifications pop-out and Cortana.

The biggest giveaway for me that a rogue process is at fault is that in safe mode its fine, and usually the first 5 to 10 minutes.

I got so frustrated that I opened task manager and started killing processes a few at a time and trying the start menu, including all but the key Windows ones and nVidia (because the last thing I need are MORE TDR errors…). Through this, I identified that the culprit is the “Runtime Broker” process.

Killed it, and the start menu, Cortana, notifications work again.
For at least 10 more minutes anyway.

In a tweet to me, Microsoft support say that the task involves the permissions for Metro-style apps. There’s probably a further root cause app at fault. But at least I can mitigate for now!

TLDR; try killing the “Runtime Broker” process.

Best games of 2015

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As far as gaming goes, 2015 has been an interesting year for me. More and more I lack the time for the triple A, big budget games, and find myself drawn to the simpler and more innovative games.

So my list of games of the year are the following:

This game is amazing, very Earthbound-style and meta, exploring morality, relationships, flowers, skeletons… It has a killer soundtrack, very NES but with a modern flair. Replayable at least a few times,  if you can count it as a replay!

– Axiom Verge
Wearing the Metroid influence very much on its sleeve, this retro styled action exploration game has a sorta cyberpunk theme. It’s fun to play, lots of cool weapons, story and theme, enemies, bosses, and yet again, an outstanding soundtrack.

– Downwell
A great little pick-up-and-play game, you are falling down a long deep well bouncing on enemies with your gunboots, building combos and going deeper. Very recommended for casual play, when you have 10 mins!

– Rocket League
I unexpectedly loved this! Simple concept but a crazy one – 3-man team football with rocket-propelled cars. Glorious 5 minute fun, with some serious competitive play going on.

– Super Smash Bros 3DS
I don’t have a WiiU so don’t get me wrong, I love playing it on the big screen too, but it’s great to me to be able to play on the move and in my palms. A steady stream of great, though pricy, DLC characters has been particularly tasty.

These are my top 5 of 2015! Let me know yours!