Help! I Fell into the “Casual Gaming” Trap!

For the longest time I resisted having any games on my iPhone or iPad1. I preferred to use my commutes on the bus to either listen to music and daydream, or talk with Caley, on those mornings we were commuting together. The rest of the time I felt too busy to spend glued to a phone or tablet — especially when I have a games console in the living room I could play “real” games on.

Over the festive period though, I had more free time than normal, usually not at home, so needed something to distract myself. I ended up downloading 2048, then moved on to Threes. Both are fun games, but neither really held my attention for very long, so I’d only play them now and again.

Caley is quite fond of playing games on her tablet; she’s regularly tapping away on a CSI game, and Simpsons: Tapped Out. At first I was kinda dismissive – they’re the sort of games where you can only do so many things before you have to wait on a timer to count down while something recharges or gets crafted, and naturally there are in-app purchase options to speed this process up. Eventually, last weekend, I gave in to the temptation of Tapped Out, mostly because it was a bit SimCity-ish in mechanics, and there’s a (limited) social aspect to it, where I can interact with Caley’s version of Springfield for extra cash/XP (and vise-versa).

From there, it was a downwards spiral: untold hours were lost to Tapped Out, before I added another game into the mix: SimCity BuildIt. Of the two, this is probably my favourite, as it’s a lot less restricted by the timers – there’s simply more you can do while you wait for something to finish up.

I’m a little worried these games might just be a gateway though. I find myself checking the game section of the App Store now and then, though nothing else has caught my eye. I shudder to think what might happen if Apple add games to the AppleTV…

  1. Apart from an on-off dalliance with Warhammer Quest

Typing on my work laptop just got 300% better…

Thanks to using 2 cork stoppers to elevate the back of the laptop up about an inch.

Laptop cork legs

Typing on this thing (a Toshiba R500) has been abysmal for the 4 years I’ve had this laptop. The keys are slidey, mushy, inconsistent, and generally just a mess of bad design and ergonomics. Tilting the laptop at least makes it more comfortable. Thankfully it’s being replaced soon, but boy do I wish I’d thought of this a lot sooner!

Seems Legit

phishingFrom the misspelt “From”, to the poor grammar and different typography of the phishing “hook” (the “please confirm your account” bit)… it’s like they’re not even trying anymore. I did notice it’s only the sign-in button which is a phishing link; all the others are legitimate Amazon URLs – which is probably how it got past the spam filter.

Reminder: never click any links in an email asking you to verify your account so that something bad won’t happen.


Wrong Address

I’ve had my GMail address for several years now; I don’t really use it for anything more than legacy accounts, logins, or as a spam trap. For the most part it just sits there in the background, silently passing on any messages it receives to my “proper” account, which is email with a custom domain hosted on Fastmail.

Over the last 12-18 months, I’ve been receiving a slow-but-steady stream of mail clearly meant for someone else: newsletters mostly, but occasionally something personal, and the odd booking confirmation. At first I put these down someone mistyping an email address now and then, or something to do with how GMail has fun with dots (“.”) in email addresses1. Whatever the cause, at first I would just delete them as soon as I realised they weren’t intended for me.

Over time though, it became apparent someone genuinely thought my GMail address was theirs. The nature of the emails became more personal, and there was an increasing variety of individuals and organisations mailing the address, and increasingly with information you wouldn’t want to miss. I’m guessing from the nature of the mail that they are older, but that’s just a guess. The profile I’ve built up is (I’ve written some details more vague than I know them to be, and excluded others):

  • They live in an area of North London
  • They are a member of a residents committee
  • They have an elderly/sick family member or friend they wanted to keep up to date on
  • They used to use Eurostar semi-regularly
  • They recently decided to get their garage converted

Where before I used to just delete immediately, now I have taken to responding to certain mails, to let senders know they have a wrong address – in the hope they can let the intended recipient know they’re giving out the wrong address. Beyond this, I don’t know what to do… it’s not like I can email them to say!

  1. If you didn’t know, you can place a dot anywhere in a GMail address, and it will still resolve to your address. Another tip is you can “extend” your email address with a plus (“+”) and anything you like which gives you potentially unlimited addresses for the price of one. For example, will resolve to I would use it for potential “throwaway” addresses 

I Don’t Want Your App

Ads and websites which automatically redirect your iPhone to the App Store1 need to stop being a thing.

I’m seeing more and more instances of this user-hostile behaviour happening when I’m following a link on my phone. Usually it’s caused by an ad unit on the page, but now and again, it’s a site publisher who really, really, wants you to install their app.

Here’s the thing: if I wanted your app, I’d likely already have it installed. If I open a link to your website, I expect to (and am happy to) access your content there. Redirecting me to the App Store is a massive inconvenience and interruption; it takes me out of the app I was already using – often after I’ve already started reading your content – and puts me somewhere I wasn’t expecting to be. It breaks my concentration as my brain switches from reading your content to looking at the app download page. Assuming I still want to read your content after being treated like this, I now have to close the App Store, reopen the app I was just in, and hope I can pick up where I left off. The publishers who treat their users in this way seem to think I’ll:

  • Download the app, and wait for it to install
  • Create the usually mandatory account
  • Validate said account by switching to my email
  • Reopen the app, and try to find the content I’d clicked through to read in the first place
  • Read it (at last!)

Err, how about “no”? I was already reading your content. If you want to pimp your app to me, put a button or mention of it at the end of the article.

When this kidnapping of my attention is caused by an ad, I’ll sometimes go back to the site to finish reading, or I’ll go back to where I found the link, and send it to Pocket to read later instead (and without the ads to interrupt me). When it’s the publisher itself, chances are I’ll be annoyed enough I won’t return. You had your chance, and you chose to send me elsewhere instead. Either way, I sure as heck won’t install any app advertised using this method.

So can we please put a stop to this? It’s even worse than interrupting me to beg for an app review.

  1. This probably applies to Android and the Play Store as well, but I’m on an iPhone and so that’s where I have experience of this problem happening. 

My Top Workout Tracks for January

I’ve been hitting the gym since just after Christmas, as part of my goal to be more active in 2015. Without a doubt, music has been a big help in keeping me going through each session, and some tracks have stood out as helping more than others – so I figured I’d run through a few of those which have helped motivate me the most.

Girls, Girls, Girls – Motley Crüe

I’m not much of a Crüe fan, to be honest, but I’ve found Girls, Girls, Girls to be a great track for near the start of a workout, as I’m just getting into the swing of things.

Du Hast/Ich Will – Rammstein

Either of these tracks is brilliant for getting me through to the end of a cross trainer session. If I find I’m struggling in the last 3-4 minutes I’ll skip to one of these tracks and let the driving beats and guitars carry me to the finish line.

Metallingus – Alter Bridge

Again, it’s the drums, and the up-tempo guitars.  Usually best for me in the middle of a circuit, especially if I’m in need of something to push me up a gear.

I’m Always Here – Jim Jamison

Yes, it’s the Baywatch theme. No, I don’t know why it’s helping, but it is.

King of Kings – Motörhead

This one is usually on when I’m doing weights. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to be heading towards a personal best in the leg press, and having this come on. In fact, it’s a great song to close out any hard workout session full-stop!

My full January playlist can be found here.