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Location-Based Reminders, As They Are Now, Aren’t Very Useful.

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 14:34

OmniFocus is missing a delay in location-based reminders. As soon as I’m within range (which is always blocks away), I’m “reminded” to do something I’m not yet able to do, since I’m not there yet. The only app I’ve seen get location-based reminders close to right is Checkmark 2 by Snowman. You can set it to remind you a few minutes after you arrive somewhere, which gives you time to settle in. For a while, I had a reminder that would send me the URL to my OmniFocus task list for work 5 minutes after arriving at the office, which was just enough time to get seated and logged into all my systems.

There’s quite a bit of contextual data other than location which is important for location-based reminders. Location-based reminders need to a) be for categories of locations (are you close to a grocery store, that’s open?), b) know your method of travel (are you currently walking or in a vehicle?), c) possibly wait for a trigger, such as a Foursquare Swarm or Facebook checkin. The open-source OwnTracks app can ping an endpoint of your choosing and then you can have the endpoint take action based on your current location. My current use for it is to have it notify me of which Toronto neighbourhood I find myself in.

My research into notes applications that have APIs continues, and that will make possible much more interesting location-based reminders. Because the current crop lack either more contextual awareness or don’t have a built-in delay, they are not as useful as they could be.

Location-Based Reminders, As They Are Now, Aren’t Very Useful.

Just a Gwai Lo - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 14:34

A delay, not to mention more contextual awareness, will improve the current crop of apps that send you reminders based on your physical location.

Published by Richard on July 4th, 2018

Rocket League Season 5 and Season 6

My Year in Gaming - Thu, 02/08/2018 - 16:17

Season 6 has just come to a close. I didn’t realize that I could get a silver badge for my efforts in Season 4’s competitive matches. In online play, there are bronze, silver and gold levels, with levels within each. Win a game, and you’re likely to advance a tier. Lose a game, and you’re likely to be relegated a single tier. (And cry a single tear.) I didn’t take Season 4 seriously, but I did gain a bronze badge. In Season 5, I won enough games at the silver tiers to get that reward at the end of the season.

Photo by Leximphoto on Unsplash

Season 6 introduced Haunted Hallows, a time-limited event where players are awarded candy corn which they can redeem for Hallowe’en-themed items. I got all the items save for a 3rd crate, so I’m pretty happy. At the beginning of the event, my opponents would forfeit as soon as they got a certain amount of in-game points (a goal is 100 points, and points would help determine whether you were the MVP of that game, assuming it was more than 2-on-2 or higher). They would even forfeit right when they themselves scored first, which wasn’t fun at all. A few days later, forfeits ceased. The best I could tell is that someone gamed the candy corn system and Psyonix caught on (or responded to complaints) and adjusted the rewards so that it incentivized complete games.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

At the end of the year, the game introduced Frosty Fest. I left my apartment for 3 weeks, and very seriously considered taking my PS4™with me across the country to get all the items. I settled for the thing I wanted the most, which was the sweater banner, which shows to the other player after I score a goal in any mode.

I lost interest in trying to grind for to get a gold-level season. It was frustrating, during one-on-one competitive play, to have players say “easy” to me if they started winning, or “No problem” if the score was slightly in my favour. I ignored it for the most part, but I don’t consider it very friendly to tell me you’re going to wipe the floor with me. Let me lose with some dignity!

My favourite altercation is when an opponent called me a “pussy” during a match when I was down by a significant margin, a game I would go on to win. Always stay till the end, I say.

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It also bugs me that players will run up the score even when the game is essentially over. There seem to be few unwritten rules in Rocket League, but this is something I’ll never, ever do. If I’m up by 3 goals and it looks like I’m going to win, I take my foot off the pedal and decide to play defence exclusively. Goalkeeping is a shortcoming of mine, so it’s a chance for me to practice, and, I hope, for my oppponent to gain some experience. This game is fun, OK? Fun goddammit.

Rocket League Season 5 and Season 6 was originally published in The Gaming Years on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

My Recommitment to Gaming for 2018

My Year in Gaming - Wed, 01/03/2018 - 19:02

I’m in for another year of gaming. MLB 17: The Show, which I purchased, as usual, late in the year at half price, sits in my suitcase. I made a commitment to buy a keyboard extension to my PS4™ controller so I can ask Rocket League opponents why they feel the need to run up the score on me. Based on the reviews, the Bluetooth connection between the keyboard and the console dies after a minute of non-use, which sounds like a very short amount of time. A similarly short amount of time elapses between the “second screen” iOS app, which Sony had the wisdom to make a separate app, and it disconnecting. Standing in the Best Buy, with a week between my reunion with my gaming platform of choice, I decided to buy the Chatpad or Chatboost online, and ordered closer to when I get back so it will be waiting for me at the door (or at least arrive shortly thereafter).

I have gone 2 weeks without gaming, for the bulk of Rocket League’s Winter Event, now over. My time with the event was long enough to get the banner, which is all I wanted in terms of items. 2018 will bring season 7, coming soon, and who knows what kind of special event that I’ll almost certainly be traveling for half of. I still like Rocket League enough to want to be better than just good at it, somewhere between good and great, or at least just good enough that my teammate in 2-on-2 doesn’t express their frustration with me. That might involve coaching beyond the lessons that are inside the game, which I have opinions about.

This single-year blog turned into a multi-year effort, hence the renaming in August of the site to The Gaming Years. I registered a Twitter account for the site if following that is more your bag. As long as there’s time to kill, I’ll keep gaming, and as long as I’m gaming, I’ll keep writing about it.

My Recommitment to Gaming for 2018 was originally published in The Gaming Years on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Random Run: David Balfour Park to Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 21:11

I had wanted to resume my habit of strolling around Toronto on a Sunday morning. Then I recalled that I hadn't gone for a run in a few days, and decided to go for a jog instead. After two years of living here, this city is still new to me, so I took the opportunity to pick a random point and make a randomly generated route that I could run. Vancouver-based app RunGo would provide the turn-by-turn direction this time, as the app I previously relied on seems to be defunct.

This run would take me from Davisville Station, south on Yonge, and then east on St. Clair, where I would veer into David Balfour Park. (I would later learn, through the Yelp review, that the park is popular for cruising.) A rivine bisects the park, so the hills are long and sometimes muddy, and going up the stairs made it impractical to cross railroad tracks. (I had to go under it, not over it in this case.) That took me to Mt. Pleasant Rd., which is not pleasant at all. The entrance to the park is car-friendly, not person-friendly, so I had to dash across an uncontrolled intersection with no crosswalk. I failed to heed my own instructions, that is, to take a look at the route in Google Street View before setting out. The rest of the run, which I mostly walked, took me through TK and over the railway I couldn't cross earlier, using the Summerhill railway Footbridge. I saw a half dozen giant inflatable Santas, and at the end, I walked through the humongous Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. I reflected on how both Vancouver and Toronto have cemeteries in a place called Mt. Pleasant, and both are named Mt. Pleasant Cemetary, and both have wide streets running through them.

The “run” took me an hour and a half, though it was still a great way to see a strange city. You can see the route I created (imported to RunGo) vs. the actual route I took. I played the usual place-based games (Foursquare's Swarm, Fog of World, and even fired up Ingress to see what I should be looking at). Strava crashed a number of times, though I used the GPX from RunGo to upload my activity. It was smart to bring my battery pack, as the number of location apps running in the background took my level down to 16 percent.

Random Run: David Balfour Park to Mt. Pleasant Cemetery

Just a Gwai Lo - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 21:11

After two years of living in Toronto, this city is still new to me, so I took the opportunity to pick a random point and make a randomly generated route that I could run.

Published by Richard on December 7th, 2017

Rocket League Season 4

My Year in Gaming - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 17:38

I got distracted from Rocket League by the current political situation in the United States and by playing MLB 16 The Show (which I buy at the end of the season for half price). The only notable thing that happened in Season 4 is that I plateaued in my skills and had to hide my level (determined exclusively by amount of experience) because my “teammates” couldn’t believe I was that level and that bad. Now that they don’t know my level, they can believe I’m bad for whatever reason they like. I went without playing RL for long enough to lose my ranking in competitive play sometime during the season.

Players have, for a while now, been able to add training sequences, so practicing is a lot easier and can be done in the privacy of my own arena. An example of my progress: I can now do arial hits from the wall with more regularity, and I spend more time in casual mode to warm up.

Season 5 has started and the arenas are refined. Neo Tokyo lost its ramps but still feels like the old arena, just easier to play. I continue to dislike Wasteland as being too big. Chats can now be exclusively private, so that teammates don’t have to be frustrated with me in public. The best experience of the latest patch so far has been playing with an obviously more-skilled player who would continuously want to play again after we were done. I got better as we went along, and wished the player goodnight when they outlasted me. I wish more players were like that.

Rocket League Season 4 was originally published in The Gaming Years on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Cycling Again

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 18:34

I'm commuting between work by bike again. I signed up in 2016 as a member of the Toronto Bike Share, and renewed again this month. Their call centre operation is weird, with a call center that presents options for English and Spanish. This being the country where English and French are the official languages, I have an idea of what that means. I haven't had a problem with their support when needed, at least.

A full Toronto Bike Share dock near The Esplanade.

Why not buy a bike? So far the thought of maintenance and locking it and worrying about it getting stolen have me using bike share.

I'm using the Transit app to see if bikes are available at docks, and Biko to get rewards. So far I have enough points for a beer tasting. Toronto Bike Share has mechanical docks around the city, meaning that's where you get them and leave them. So far it has been convenient. I'm looking forward to Dropbike, which more closely models Portland's GPS-based system of locking bikes. In Portland you can lock a bike at a dock or, for a small extra fee, any public bike rack. Toronto's system will have special bike racks, discoverable through their app, where one leaves the bikes. So far Dropbike is limited to University of Toronto's (huge) campus, so I don't have a membership yet.


I use Strava to track my rides that last more than a couple of minutes, and Moves quietly logs trips as well. I've only used it to commute and not for a personal trip like a picnic.

Cycling Again

Just a Gwai Lo - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 18:34

I'm commuting between work by bike again. I signed up in 2016 as a member of the Toronto Bike Share, and renewed again this month. Their call centre operation is weird, with a call center that presents options for English and Spanish. This being the country where English and French are the official languages, I have an idea of what that means. I haven't had a problem with their support when needed, at least.

Published by Richard on June 26th, 2017


Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 17:50

The Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto held their annual picnic last weekend, and before that, it occurred to me that I don't have the necessary equipment for having a picnic. That meant buying a blanket for sitting on and a picnic basket for taking along food and various whatnots. I shopped on Amazon.ca and found these beauties:

I went to the park next to my apartment on the Summer Solstice to try them out. I even brought my sharp water serving bottle and a tube of Pringles. I made a list of the things I forgot so that, during a real picnic, I'd be totally prepared.

This was my view as I lay down on the blanket:

Looking up at a tree.

On the way back I realized that the blanket folded up and fit under the handles of the basket. Bonus!

My arm, carrying a picnic basket and blanket.

The blanket folds up neatly (the tag has instructions in case I forget) and compactly. There are some limitations. The basket is too big to fit in the panniers of Toronto Bike Share bikes. The blanket is not machine washable.

I plan on picnicking every night in the summer and fall that I have leftovers from cooking to eat.


Just a Gwai Lo - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 17:50

I show off my picnic basket and blanket.

Published by Richard on June 22nd, 2017

I Missed Tom Hawthorne’s Book Launch

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:18

Book launches are loud parties where I don’t know anybody. Except the author, through their work and their social media. So I still like attending them, if only to get a signed copy of their book, and maybe say a word or to to someone who will probably forget it later.

Tom Hawthorne, author of The Year Canadians Lost Their Minds and Found Their Country, rolled through Toronto last night, and I didn’t find out about it until afterwards. That happens fairly often since I moved to Toronto. On the bright side, I attend way more events than when I lived in Vancouver.

Ben McNally Books is a nice bookstore, with a generous area for seating when authors visit for presentations.

Since I buy Kindle editions of books now, I would have bought both the Kindle edition and a physical copy of his book, signed without having it addressed to me, and thought of a friend to give it to as a gift. I also print out the cover, tape it to my Kindle, and get the author to sign that, then tape it to the back of my Kindle when I’m reading it. It’s a thing I do.

(Did I ever tell you the story of how I met my favourite author Zadie Smith and got her to sign my copy of The Autograph Man and I was the only one who brought that book of hers to sign?)

I Missed Tom Hawthorne’s Book Launch

Just a Gwai Lo - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:18

I would have gotten him to sign my Kindle.

Published by Richard on May 25th, 2017

How to Get a Free Printer from Best Buy

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Sun, 01/15/2017 - 16:50

Here's how I got a free printer from Best Buy:

  1. Spend thousands of dollars on your credit card.
  2. Forget that you can use credit card points to make a payment.
  3. Instead use the points to get a $100 gift card at Best Buy.
  4. Look up on The Wirecutter what the best all-in-one printer is.
  5. Buy said printer on Amazon for about $125 and use the 30-day free trial of Prime you just signed up to get free shipping.
  6. Wait until the day it arrives at your doorstep. (Literally. Whoever delivered it just left it at my doorstep.)
  7. See a promoted tweet advertising a blowout sale for laptops at Best Buy.
  8. Forget that's what you clicked and spend 10 minutes retracing your steps to figure out what link you got there from.
  9. See that there are no Chromebooks on sale, but notice the printer you just bought—or, rather, one that's almost the same but a slightly different model—is on sale at $80 off, for a price of $50 (plus tax, plus recycling fee).
  10. Decide to buy that printer, and almost press “Submit order” before remembering you have the $100 gift card.
  11. Notice that the printer is on sale for just today.
  12. Rush home from work and find the gift card and submit the order and apply the gift card to the entire cost of the printer.
  13. Let the printer you bought on Amazon sit unopened until you're sure you get the free one in the mail.
  14. Wait for the email you'll get from Canada Post Flex Delivery that the printer has arrived for you at the post office.
  15. Pick up the printer. This is not the last step of getting a free printer, since you have another printer to sell.
  16. Return the printer you bought on Amazon. If that's not possible, this should be easy enough on Craigslist.

I'm currently at step #14.

How to Get a Free Printer from Best Buy

Just a Gwai Lo - Sun, 01/15/2017 - 16:50

16 easy steps!

Published by Richard on January 15th, 2017

How to Get a Free Printer from Best Buy

Just a Gwai Lo - Sun, 01/15/2017 - 16:50

16 easy steps!

Published by Richard on January 15th, 2017

Index Cards

One Stack Deep - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 10:51

One thing that works for remembering things, at least when I know I need to call upon them in the near future, is index cards. Since starting learning a new language (Icelandic), and, separately, realizing over the holidays that I had lost sight of some important goals, with the added complexities of aging and a more complex life with a new job in a new city, index cards re-entered my life as a necessary tool.

Guides for using them suggest you make your own, and in the two cases where I needed them (for studying Mandarin Chinese and studying for a streetcar driving test), that worked. I hadn’t considered actually constructing my, though until I came across a guide from chinesehacks.com on how to make my own index cards on a keyring. I found all the items for cheap at Daiso’s Vancouver location over the holidays.

There’s no obstacles to stopping me from making them now. I’m going to start small (another thing that works in learning something new) and make one that lists the tasks during my Sunday routine (something else that works in offloading the work my brain needs to do). I can’t wait to see how this goes!

Rocket League Season 3

My Year in Gaming - Sun, 12/25/2016 - 17:44

I still play Rocket League. Despite being an Expert, I still make the same mistakes, unable to time a shot when my teammate centers the ball and unwilling to be as aggressive as everybody else. I have had to hide my level because it incurred criticism (“You’re an Expert and you’re this bad?”) from people who were supposedly trying to help me win games. At least the reporting mechanism seems to have resulted in fewer comments that were truly abusive. I can take the criticism to heart, just not the insults.

I continue to be awed by the amount of software built (like Rocket League Stats, where you can see my ranking) and the community discussions and the training guides people create. I continue to be awed by the updates Pysonix makes to the game, continuously adding improvements while sticking to their original vision of no buying your way to powering up. The mode with randomly-assigned powerups during the course of the game could not have been more ingenious. I even stumbled on a group of guys who wanted me to join their party and play with the microphone on, so they got to hear the sounds I made but also heard how players communicate using more than just the pre-fab in-game texting feature.

The only thing I would change about the game as it stands now is the starting points, which have predictable strategies associated with them. If starting points were themselves randomized and not matched up on the other end (as an option, say, in the non-competitive leagues), it would add another layer of difficulty while staying true to the game.

I continue with my attitude of praising the other team for great shots, reporting abusive players (or muting them if they are being sarcastic towards me), and hope to continue a new approach of being more aggressive when fighting for a ball and communicating more internally with a teammate. During any games where I blow out my opponents, I will still take my pedal off the gas and try to get the other team (or single player on the other side) the chance to improve on their play. I also want to get genuinely good at the game, assuming I can squeeze time out from my other pursuits. Rocket League continues to be fun, and continues to lead the way in making the game incrementally better.

Rocket League Season 3 was originally published in My Year of Gaming on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

No Longer Playing Ingress

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Sat, 09/17/2016 - 18:23

Heading north on a Toronto streetcar, my heart sank as I realized something which initially felt awful but almost immediately felt like a relief: 24 hours had passed since I last hacked an Ingress portal. That meant that my streak of 561 days had come to an end on a Friday where I worked from home and didn’t think to hack the portal that was in range of my apartment. That being the only reason for playing Ingress, having been superseded this summer by Pokémon Go (from the same company as Ingress and modeled closely on it), I decided this was a project I could drop.

I’ll miss the software I built for it, though the ideas are valid for other projects I have in mind. One such project was to notify me of nearby farms, crowdsourced by the Vancouver Enlightened community. The software they built was impressive, not to mention the other add-ons, many not sanctioned by Niantic, built by Ingress communities around the world. The fact that I had API access to a player-generated database was staggering enough. There are other data sets, official and unofficial, that the code I wrote would be useful for.

I’ve written extensively about Ingress, though not publicly, only privately in my journal. That‘s because a lot of it involved information that would be useful to the enemy. The game took me on an early-morning car ride to Hope, B.C. to make a BAF (Big Ass Field) so I and a few others could get a high level badge. I played the role of comms operator during the ground game that leads up to a BAF. I’ve participated in “anomalies” (Niantic-sponsored day-long battles between the factions) in Vancouver and Boston, travelled to Oshawa on a GO Train for the purpose of participating in a First Saturday (events organized by local communities that have global implications for the game), and attended events in Toronto, and even showed someone the ropes of Ingress while interest in it waned more generally. I read with interest as bloggers Tim Bray and Alex Gustafson documented their adventures. I completed over a hundred missions, and took photos as I played. I would get the hardest badge to achieve, the Guardian medal for owning a portal longer than 150 days, by holding on to the Penticton airport portal from the summer of 2015 until someone returned home for the holidays. An extra dimension of difficulty was that I would be out of range to re-charge it, but I had the presence of mind to get multiple keys for the portal, so fellow ENL agents re-charged as I toured Europe for a couple of weeks.

Ingress made me look up more often, appreciate how many historical and notable buildings and structures and art were in cities. I met interesting people and went to interesting places and, overall, had fun playing it.

No Longer Playing Ingress

Just a Gwai Lo - Sat, 09/17/2016 - 18:23

As a streak of 561 days in a row of playing Ingress comes to an end, I’ve decided to quit.

Published by Richard on September 17th, 2016