Games I was addicted to in 2014

I posted on TekSide:

I don’t consider myself a gamer anymore. I used to be. Countless, countless hours in Final Fantasy 6-9, Zelda, Tetris, Alleyway, Neverwinter, Halo, Fallout, Half life, Oblivion. The list goes on. I cut my teeth on a gameboy and SNES and kept going. Things dropped off after Halo 2. I surfaced for Halo  3 (a lot) and 4 (less so). I didn’t play much on my phone during my years on Android; the games really weren’t that great or polished.

Part of my commute is a 10 minute subway ride. Something quick to play is appreciated, but I’ve been looking for something a little more immersive. Something I can sit and get lost in for a few hours. The other part of my commute is a 30 min commuter train ride where I’m either reading instapaper, napping, or playing a game while listening to podcasts.

Baldur’s Gate – I found this very late in the year. In fact I think I installed it at my in-laws on Christmas morning. I had never played either of the originals and was curious. It was one of the few games that consistently showed up on “best iOS RPG” when I was searching for something to play. The face that it looked like Neverwinter was a huge bonus for me. The tutorial for this game is very, very buggy and was very off-putting. Once I got past that though, everything changed. The game mechanics started making sense: pinching and zooming the map is fluid and tapping on your party to direct their targets just felt completely natural. The story quickly swept me in and I started questing. When I play RPGs, I try to do all the side quests. Baldur’s Gate is no different. I’m currently grinding my way through a number of maps looking for someone’s lost cloak. Perfect gameplay for listening to podcasts on the train. Outside of that though the music and sound effects are top notch. If you were ever a fan of D&D style point+click RPGs, this will feel right at home. If you’ve never tried them, I can’t recommend this game enough.

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Tiny Tower & Pocket Trains – I put these games together because while very different games, they have similar gameplay mechanics. Build out your empire! In Tiny Tower, this takes the form of expanding a single tower. Inside this tower are all your Bitizens live: Where they eat, where they work, and where they have fun. Ala Sim City, but in an enclosed environment. In Pocket trains, you expand your train line, going for a trans-continental goal. Pick the cargo for your trains, build tracks, repair the engines, and race against the clock. Both games have IAP to buy coins and bucks to get you through the game faster. I’ve never used real world money in either and it’s just as enjoyable

RGB Express – This is a good puzzle game where you draw routes for your drivers, picking up packages and making sure that every house receives the correct package. Setup your route, press play, watch your trucks zoom, and hope you didn’t create any collisions! Pro Tip: You can set the playback to run the trucks at a faster speed. Kudos to the iOSDocked crew for making this the GameCenter Showdown in episode 77.

Threes – Threes is a tiny puzzle that grows on you. It looks simple at first. But at some point you figure out you need a strategy to go higher.  Match the same number, it triples and collapses. Keep going. Build higher and higher. Compete with your friends. It gets harder the higher you go and becomes addicting trying to get to that next score. I play tower defense style: Building into one of the top two corners and slowly growing numbers in those directions. What’s your high score?

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2048 – This game is very similar to threes (maybe too much so). But, it’s still fun. I keep this one around because it takes a little less concentration than threes. It’s more mindless and good for when I’m tired or need to think. It’s a good distraction. 2048 is my checkers to my Threes chess.

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Honorable Mention: Monument Valley – I can’t stress enough that you NEED to go play this game. There is no other experience like it on iOS. Control your character through immersive M.C. Escher-like paintings. The levels are gorgeous. You’ll spend time just staring at them, moving pieces around just to see what they do. It only gets Honorable Mention because of replay value. I played through it once in a few hours and that was that. But, it’s magical. Everyone should play it

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PHP7 Vagrant Box

I’m keeping a close eye (or as much as I can anyway) on PHP7 and what it means for the future of the language. Installing in your local dev machine is risky, especially if you have ongoing work. As usual, Vagrant comes to the rescue!

Rasmus Lerdorf has put together a Vagrant box to ease in the setup and isolate your testing. 

If you use Atlas, check out the box here. Otherwise, the readme is available on Github

Beyond UXKit – Robert Böhnke

Robert Böhnke wrote a good piece on what UXKit could mean for the future of iOS/Mac UI Engineering

The new Photos for Mac is based on a new private framework in 10.10.3, UXKit. It is essentially a replica of UIKit, based on top of AppKit.

He also comments on what something like react native could mean for engineers, and the attitude the community has had around other “non-native” in the past

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Mongular, a Content Delivery System

Mongular is something to keep a close eye on. We’ve had a number of projects at work where we might want something… other than a CMS. Where content is king and that content is decoupled from the system using or displaying it.  Other solutions that we’re excited about are Prismic and Contentful

Systems like this would let us do whatever we wanted with the site. Not being tied to the confines of a particular CMS’ way of doing things could be freeing. These systems offer much more powerful ways to relate content or parts of content to each other. Going far beyond just weighted tags.

What is Mongular?

Mongular is a Content Delivery System (Framework?… not really) built to take advantage of all the tools available to speed up the delivery of your content to users, and reduce server load.

Content Delivery System?

Mongular wasn’t built to be a Content Management System, even though with enough development it could probably be built to do just that.

Mongular was built to deliver content in an easy, efficient and extendable manner. Where developers take it, is up to them.

Related reading:

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Equality in the Apple Blogging Scene

Long time Mac developer, Daniel Jalkut posited a question last night on Twitter. 

This question came out of some of the responses to Marco Arment’s “hot” post last week about the state of Apple’s software ecosystem. Daniel got a good number of replies.

I’m always looking for more to read, especially technical blogs. I’ve gone through them and added the following to my iOS RSS folder:

Contributing to Magento2

The Magento2 dev team is now using Github in the traditional sense: They have an internal repo that gets pushed out to github at the end of their sprint. All commits stay intact. This is WAY better than the previous method of pushing a giant commit with everything each sprint.

Ben has a good walkthrough on submitting a pull request to the repo. He links to a few resources to get up and running on the new platform.  Alan Kent goes into more detail on the “why” of the change.

It’s not just code that has been opened up. The documentation lives on Github now too. 

These are all great changes. The more eyes we have on code the better. Do your part: Install the Magento 2 developer preview and get testing

My $2375 Amazon EC2 Mistake

A word of warning: Know what your modules/extensions/pods/plugins are doing, especially if they use any of your credentials.

I’m actually surprised that this actually was up that long. I accidentally did this once and Amazon was on the phone with me 10 mins later. 

Turns out through the S3 API you can actually spin up EC2 instances, and my key had been spotted by a bot that continually searches GitHub for API keys. Amazon AWS customer support informed me this happens a lot recently, hackers have created an algorithm that searches GitHub 24 hours per day for API keys… Once it finds one it spins up max instances of EC2 servers to farm itself bitcoins… 

Boom! A $2375 bill in the morning. Just for trying to learn rails.


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The Programmer’s Dream

Great short piece by Nick Bradbury

Programmers dream of new code.

We spend a good deal of our time working on code we didn’t write for software we didn’t create, much of which we believe is horribly written (or, at least, could be done much better). We dream of a chance to start fresh, working from scratch on a brand new piece of software that will eventually become something someone else has to work on and believes is horribly written.

If we’re lucky our software will look pretty solid from the outside. It may do weird things from time to time or very occasionally crash, but on the whole end users will think it’s stable and well thought out. Those of us who can look at it from the inside are amazed by this because we see a house of cards just waiting to come tumbling down. I think one of the benefits of open source is that we can see more clearly that everyone else’s code is just as frightening as our own is.

Keep reading

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Integrated Automation for iOS 8

I can’t wait to play with Workflow more over the holidays

“Workflow – first teased by Ari Weinstein and team in January 2014 – takes another approach: instead of relying heavily on a specific functionality (such as text editing) or third-party apps and services (like IFTTT and Dropbox), Workflow is primarily aimed at automating native iOS apps and features.

Workflow can automate Calendar events and Reminders, it can parse and extract data from webpages in Safari, and it has full support for Photos and sharing services. It even works with iCloud Drive and extensions. Workflow’s first version lacks some obvious features like backup and sync, but what it does today is an extremely powerful proposition – from both practical and conceptual standpoints.”

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Apple Pay and Magento

The Business of Apple Pay (Alec Simonson)

On the outset, Apple Pay is very cool and could very well be the wave of the future. A lot of this hinges on “what’s under the hood” in terms of Apple’s contract with the leading credit card companies who helped with the development. If everything is open, and companies like Samsung can let their customers pay with NFC technology as well, I could see this as something that will be successful, adopted, and an example of Apple leading the way. However, if Apple goes all proprietary (as they love to do) and contractually forces these major credit cards to only use their devices, or charges other companies like Samsung to license their payment platform, or otherwise mandate that all touch-to-pay via smartphone methods are hereby known as “Apple Pay,” I could see adoption problems happening. Open standards have frequently been key to paving the way to adoption, and this has never really been Apple’s model in the past. For example, AirPlay is really cool and loved but does not work outside the environs of iOS, and can therefore never reach greater than 14.8% penetration as of this writing. So Chromecast was born, and while not nearly as simple or feature rich, it’s open to both Android and iOS and therefore has a much higher potential of adoption. Feature expansion will follow.

One of the aspects of Apple Pay that I think is great is that merchants aren’t really troubled with much of everything, since most of this is really on the backend. A new reader with NFC capabilities, and they’re off and running. Low cost or no cost adoption. Or is it? Nobody has mentioned what Apple’s commission is on this latest development. An article on Forbes suggested it may be around 0.2%, giving Apple $0.20 for every $100 spent. That’s not much, but when you consider what percentage that is of the credit card companies’ net (perhaps around 14%), it starts to look more substantial. Credit card companies like their investors, so it’s hard to imagine them not wanting to pass that extra cost onto merchants, who will be all-too-willing to share that with consumers.

All of that aside, it’s very smart and forward thinking, and early adopters will likely be looked upon with jealousy by others. From an implementation perspective, adding Apple Pay will likely be as easy as it was to add Google+, and merchants will do it. But the long-term prospects will rely highly on what sort of deal Apple made….the devil is always in the details.

The Technology of Apple Pay (Tim Broder)

Out of the gate, Pay is native app only. This leaves Magento sites at a disadvantage. In the future I’d like to see Apple open up this functionality to Safari on both mobile and desktop. Pay already has one-time number generation. This could be implemented in the browser similar to how 1Password can inject a credit card number into a form. Until something like this happens, only sites with a native app siting in front of Magento’s API will be able to take advantage.  If you are looking to investigate this space, meets.io, an unofficial Magento SDK, is a great starting point.

I’ll be curious if a developer comes up with a browser dedicated to this functionality. Tap into the Pay API and generate credit card numbers ad hoc, and bridge between Pay and e-commerce sites. Or, take it a step further and develop a custom keyboard for iOS 8. If allowed, it would be more seamless than a whole seperate browser. I say “if allowed” because there are some restrictions on what 3rd party keyboard can do. For example, they cannot touch passwords. The stock keyboard reasserts itself when tapping on a password field.

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Facebook, you creepy piece of sh*t

I debated posting this for a few days. I’m deciding to because when I was googling for something. I found nothing. I hope this helps someone:

A lot of people don’t talk about this. Some do. Most don’t. I’m not sure why. Maybe embarrassment. Maybe fear. Maybe they think they are alone. You aren’t. It happens. It’s real. I’ve talked to some people and we aren’t alone.

Laura and I have been trying to conceive for a bit. I won’t go into how long, at least not right now, so don’t ask. Talking to some people has helped. But, only a little. The internet, as far as we have found (Googled) doesn’t have much info.

“Just stop trying, it will happen”

“It’s so much fun!”

“It just happened!!”

I’m happy for these people? I really am. But at the same time F**K YOU, it’s just not that way for us.

2 things have happened recently that have set me over the edge. We took a break this month, just casually “trying” without any kind of schedule. We randomly thought we had a bite on the line so I went to the pharmacy to buy a test. The cashier wished me congratulations when I checked out. Then she asked me if I was excited. There are so many things wrong with this type of person doing this. I had a few friends in high school that worked as a cashier at a pharmacy. They aren’t supposed to ask personal questions. If they see a classmate buying something like condoms they aren’t supposed to say anything about it to anyone. It’s private. Ok, back to the present. First of all, f**k you. Second, that’s so dangerous. My response was “hopeful.” That’s about all I could get out without leaping over the register. It’s annoying enough that that is in no way shape or form the “congratulations” part of the timeline. You don’t know yet, that’s why you are getting the TEST. Second, can you imagine if we weren’t trying and something happened and this was completely unexpected. What would have been going through my head and then to hear those words? The response would have been: “Terrified, you b**ch”

The second thing happened this morning, and what spurned this post. I was still asleep. Laura was on Facebook. Facebook served her an adoption ad. Facebook, you fucking sleazy, creepy, f**king awful piece of sh*t. I don’t even want to know how you have the data to correlate that. I could probably figure it out, but that would probably end in me canceling my account. If you are going to show an ad like that (at least on Facebook), you need to KNOW that the person is looking to adopt. Not just something like “the person got married,” then “googled something baby,” and now months later, hasn’t googled “stroller”. Showing an ad like that to someone who is trying is beyond fucked up.

Facebook: For what you did to my wife this morning, if you were a person, I would have found you, and I would have hurt you.