I place the first game, Alto’s Adventure, high in the echelons of great iOS games. Alto’s Odyssey builds on the simplicity of Adventure in just the right ways. While I still greatly recommend the first game, after playing all the way through Odyssey I’m starting to think you should skip it entirely.
The core difference between the games is the terrain, there are three new “zones” Dunes, Canyons, and Temples. Each have their own unique set pieces and corresponding tricks you can do in that zone. For some examples: Canyons has cliff faces you can do wall rides on, it’s really satisfying to chain these however if you’re not paying attention you can end up beginning a flip and soon crash. You can only wall ride when in the standing orientation not in the middle of a flip like the wing suit. In the Temple zone there are waterfalls who’s water runoff is similar to the ice flow feature in Adventure. Sometimes, at the end of these flows are pools which act as trampolines if you land in them with enough force. The Dunes are pretty plain but has many air balloons which have lines you can ride between them, being non-fixed points the lines oscillate, making them a little more challenging to land on. The variety of landscapes is simply a joy to endlessly ride through, where going over 20km in Adventure becomes quickly repetitive, 20k in Odyssey is a cool breeze on a hot day.
The next three paragraphs are for if you have played all the way through Adventure. There is a potential spoiler about an unlockable character’s abilities in the second paragraph.
If you have played all the way through Adventure, be prepared to do it all over again with the same characters and similar power-ups. For having completed Adventure you get nothing, I was hoping for maybe some extra currency, maybe half of the power-ups I’ve already grinded for or not having to go through roughly the first 10 levels of essentially the same challenges all over again. (Let’s face it, you won’t use anyone but Maya until you unlock the final character or a challenge requires someone else.)
In the theme with swapping old mechanics for new yet similar ones, instead of disturbing elders who then chase you, there are lemurs you startle. (I guess that cements the game’s setting in Madagascar?) The chases are shorter but more dangerous, the lemurs are a bit faster, can run on rope lines, and will jump at you even if you aren’t on the ground. However, the final character is immune to these leaping lemurs! A great addition to the game, Elder chases are the number one reason why my runs would end in Adventure and it’s a relief I don’t have to pull the same acrobatics to avoid late-game lemurs here.
There are no more llamas and I miss them. Birds of Paradise will fly with you for a minute or two and nearby collect coins, but it’s not the same as wrangling a herd after running over a horn in the first game. A radio beacon replaces the llama horn, running over the radio drops some vessels with coins and power-ups in them, if you level the beacon up twice it can be significantly lucrative.
Adventure is still a joy to play to this day, only until the final character was unlocked did Odyssey replace that for me. I expect I’ll be playing it as much in the coming years. The early drafts of this review were rough on Odyssey, perhaps it was that I could not get fully used to the new and sometimes unfair terrains, or maybe the grind of getting all my characters and power-ups back soured me, but once you get through it Odyssey becomes much more rewarding to play than Adventure. (It’s so tempting to end this review with “See you on the slopes!“ but then again I guess I just did, sorry.)
Despite only ever funding one, the targeted ad powers that be have determined that I really like crowdfunding. I’ve noticed that a specific category always gets advertised to me: technology that can do something truly amazing which no one else is pursuing. A year or so later I catch an article that these same projects either get removed from Kickstarter, move over to Indiegogo, or vanish indefinitely into development hell. I’ll absolutely give the benefit of the doubt to the majority these creators, unexpected snags can pop up when you’re trying to scale hardware products. Though sometimes I wonder if people are just cashing in on technolust. In this brief post I’ll layout some steps to running a crowdfunding scam around a technology product.
Come up with a tech product that:
Fills some niche. Good categories include smartphone accessories, drones, and VR gadgets. For the appearance of novelty you can also take regular day item which just has some bluetooth addon so you can call it “smart” some ideas for free:
Smart post-it note
Claims to do something way better than anything out there, especially since you can connect it to your phone!
Technically impossible, but not so much as to make customers think that it is impossible. For example (real examples):
A hub that transcribes lectures which is also a portable battery and wireless speaker. (Titan Note)
A drone that follows you autonomously and takes selfies. (Lily drone)
A bracelet which projects a smartphone interface on your wrist. (Cicret)
Hire a prop shop to make a mock of the product.
Make an amazing marketing video featuring the prop-product. Use the magic of editing and special effects to make it look like it’s functional. You could skip step 2 and use a digital model and place it in the video too but you’ll want something physical for later steps.
Post it to Kickstarter or Indiegogo, preference to the latter because if you don’t meet the goal you still get the money.
While the campaign is on-going take the time to develop a crude actually functioning prototype to post as an update to the backers. You don’t want to deceive people too much.
After the campaign is over, post updates every couple months about the challenges and the “progress” you’re making. Do this less frequently as time goes on, a sort of fade away to make people ever forget you still have their money.
Finally, after several months–or years–make a post about how you’ve run out of funding. How there were too many problems with the manufacturers but that you’re proud of your team and the work that you accomplished.
Congratulations! Your application to be a citizen in a contest to see who can best develop a yet unnamed island has been accepted! You shall develop the towns and villages under the banner of myself, the Earl of Martan. Godspeed!
Welcome to the island! We have provided you the supplies for one town and one road. Settle anywhere you like, but not too close to the competing settlers.
Oh, oh no. You should not have settled there, you see you will harvest too much wool and not enough wood, we want your town to be efficiently contribute to the cause. Not to worry, we have provided you with supplies for a second village and road.
It has come to our attention that the northwest road you are building has no where to go and we insist you stop building it. This is just a formality, but you may find that building any further is impossible as neighboring societies have also built roads in the vicinity.
As you may well already know, a band of thieves is in your area. Cease producing any goods from the resources they are marauding and keep your villagers safe. Our army is abroad and we can do nothing about this for the time being. Stay safe!
After some reallocation of resources we are proud to announce that we have the largest army on the island! For some reason, the rules of the contest only state that we can use our armies keep the bandits away, not forcefully annex neighboring villages.
You are hear by notified that the village in which you formerly lived is now a vibrant city. Being a larger populace we now request twice the resources you were formerly producing.
In so many words, we have lost the contest. You and other towns like you were not as productive as other towns. My status of Earl is being dissolved and ownership of your settlements is to be assumed by the Duke of Catan. Thank you for your service.
I was thrilled when I heard we were getting a pair of Google Glass at work. This was announced a few weeks after the “Explorer Program” went public. Now, for the extreme cost of $1500 US per pair, Google Glass can be yours too. The upfront cost might make you think that you’re getting an amazing piece of hardware that will augment everything about your life. However in practice the effects of wearing Google Glass are not so thrilling.
I used Google Glass extensively for two weeks, running it through just about every use case I could. It has some notable strengths, but for the most part what it was able to do was underwhelming, insufficient, or problematic. Read on to find out more.
I used the first revision of the Google Glass “Explorer Edition” that was released to the public. Here are just a few of its annotated specs from the Google product page:
Camera: 5mp stills, 720p video.
Audio: Bone conductive transducer, the Explorer edition also comes with a small earbud too, I never tried it.
Screen: A small prism of glass, it’s close enough to your eye that you cannot see projected pixels.
Memory: 1GB if RAM, the most recent edition has 2GB which would have been a welcomed edition for me.
Disk space: 12GB.
Connectivity: Bluetooth and WiFi
The actual glasses rim immediately separates it from traditional glasses with lenses. The screen is designed to just barely be in the natural range of your eyes so you’re supposed to put them fairly high on the brow of your nose. It’s surprisingly light, even for all the hardware they’re packing on the right side. However these glasses are only portable on your face, they do not fold up like normal glasses. This makes it really awkward when you want to take them off, you can’t just fold them up and rest them on the collar of your shirt. This same rim gets in the way too. Try as I did, I could not put on another pair of glasses along with Google Glass. Google’s solution is their accessory store where you can buy different glassesattachments.
The bone conductive audio is a very clever application. It’s loud enough that it sounds like normal audio, it actually took my friends trying the glasses on to convince me that only the wearer can hear the sounds it makes. It also leaves your ears open for everything else that’s happening around you. The explorer edition glasses also come with a single ear bud that plugs into the body’s micro USB port if you want more traditional audio.
Memory & CPU
The amount of memory available was an issue, if you do too many tasks in a row the body of Google Glass gets hot and significantly slows down the processor. Recording video stressed this the most, but using Google Maps in the background also occasionally proved difficult on the hardware. When the hardware is strained, the effect on the user interface is noticeable.
The touchpad is a blank strip on the right side that is the direct physical interface with Google Glass. Three primary gestures are used with the touch pad and have the corresponding actions: tap selects, swipe left/right scrolls, and swipe up/down dismisses or deletes. Glass prompts you for valid actions for each card so I was never confused interacting with it. There were however a few times where I found the touch pad too sensitive, for example a short swipe was too easily recognized as a tap.
For everything I did with Google Glass, the quality of the camera was sufficient, but not great. The convenience however was out of this world. It was really nice to not get my phone out of my pocket, turn it on, go to the camera app, focus, and take a picture. There are a few quick and simple ways to take picture: Manually: press a small button on the top of the body. Voice: if my hands are preoccupied the voice command “Ok Glass, take a picture” is astonishingly accurate, it takes a few extra milliseconds to actually take the picture though. Thus, vis-a-vis blurry pictures, I had to learn to stare a little longer at what I wanted a picture of. Wink: This is an experimental feature, you feel a bit like spy when it works, I didn’t use this much because it felt so unusual and covertly invasive, but it works surprisingly well.
Here are a few raw images and videos taken with Google Glass:
My primary goal with using Google Glass was figuring out just what this gadget is good for, while they were in my possession I tried as many reasonable activities as I could with them:
Taking-pictures-without-rumaging-through-my-pockets shows its strengths again when hiking. However when the whole purpose of the activity is to get out of the city and back into nature, Google Glass becomes minor nuisance. Whenever I’d look up at the trees the time or a stopwatch would show as if constantly reminding me that my time there is brutally finite. I wore Google Glass for about the first fifteen minutes of the hike, they were in the backpack the rest of the day.
Great, despite the noise from wind, I was surprised to find voice commands still go through perfectly. Combine this with the mostly touchless controls and it’s completely possible to interact with the (albeit limited) digital world while still having two hands firmly on the handlebars.
This is oddly the best use I found for it, the “Google” command is really nice when reading. Don’t know who Fritz Perls is? What Lamarkism is? Have Glass Google it for you and it will read back the results through the conductive earpiece. I felt like it added this really great distraction free dimension almost complementary experience to reading. You just look up and say “Ok Glass, what is property dualism?” Wait a second for it to recognize the words, and it will read a concise answer back to you.
Driving with Glass beats a GPS on a dashboard any day. With just a tap on the side of the device my location and route show up, when there is an instruction coming up, Glass will read off the instructions just like Google Maps for Android or iOS does. Periodically displaying and reading off these instructions however were definitely a kidney shot to battery life though, I didn’t use this for any long trips, I have my doubts whether if it could handle a six hour drive anywhere on one charge.
I’ll admit I don’t do much cooking, there are apparently some great Glass apps for this specifically. I took some videos of making breakfast one day, if I edit the clips together the output is somewhat aesthetic. If I made more fancy food than bull’s eyes this would be some great media addition to a food or chef’s blog.
Hanging Out in a Public Place with Friends
The moment I put these on in a public place I became a magnet for a few judgmental glances from strangers. I was never approached asking to take them off because I could only bear wearing them in the presence of friends and strangers for only about three minutes. As stylish and technological as these are, they do not have a stealth mode. My friends had a blast passing them around and trying them on for a few moments though before I put them away for good.
There are a multitude of apps that are readily available in a separate app store curated by Google. You can install new apps from the MyGlass companion app for Android and recently for iOS. All apps feel the somewhat the same or have the same interfaces based on principles of how the Glass SDK was designed. So no new app is so foreign because every interface is identical. Apps can all be activated with a phrase the developer picks or they can be clicked through the usual way.
I’ve gotten very used to saying “Ok Google, set a timer for 15 minutes” to my phone (A 2013 Moto X). I can say almost the same thing to Glass but it stops parsing what I say after “set a timer”. So the application opening is hands free, but then I have to set the time manually. The alarm on the timer has an unorthodox behavior too, it has never rung when it hit’s exactly 0 instead it rings when Glass gets activated next. I learned quickly not to rely on it for things that needed precise countdowns, like cooking. However for exercising activities there’s nothing wrong with going a few seconds, or minutes, over your set.
Unlike the timer, upon finishing the phrase “start a stopwatch” there is a 3 second countdown and a stopwatch begins. Stopping it takes some touchpad actions.
As nice as it would be to just watch cat videos in the corner of my eye whenever I want, the YouTube app is just for posting videos, not for watching them.
Google Now provides some helpful cards, I used Glass while the 2014 World Cup was going on in Brazil so it was always nice to look up and see upcoming games or current scores. Other Google Now cards carried over from my phone too like the weather and movies playing nearby. It’s worthwhile to note that these were among the few persistent cards that were left of the clock on the main menu.
I used Evernote on a few occasions. I found it nice to dictate thoughts but the margin where it would detect the note ending was too small. So unless my thought stream was really flowing, I just ended up with a lot of fragments that I had to concatenate later. The accuracy wasn’t always good either, here’s a full note where I was testing how long it would listen.
Google glasses text to speech input only last so long and it’s kind of frustrating when thoughts do not cum so unrestricted as when they do when your typing on a keyboard but its just keep talking and talking and talking the notes do continue to be taken it looks like I’ve talked about 40 seconds here and there still taking so how much longer can I talk until I reached a limit I’m really not sure and I’m not exactly motivated to find out you there but this is a lot longer than the first to know that I took is really unusual how thoughts they are kind of broken up with whom are deeper where is keyboard does pasar exactly recognized.
No punctuation and enough mistakes that it gets a little incoherent at the end. The other glaring issue with this was that all the notes are saved with the same title: “Note from Glass.” I only had about half a dozen of them but could see getting overwhelmed with if I used this feature more often. You can also send pictures to Evernote very easily, but with no text content and the same note title.
Hangouts and Messaging
The actual messaging works well, but the user interface is awkward. After the “Send a message” voice command or action, I have to manually select the contact from a list. I have about 100 contacts in my Google address book and Glass does not handle lists of that size very well. Each contact in the list is in a card layout as opposed to a vertical layout. The full computational process goes something like this: load 100 contacts, draw 100 cards horizontally, then load pictures for each one. Finally, when selecting the contact, it’s not immediately apparent which channel you’re sending the message through, that is Hangouts or the SMS app on your phone. There is a small icon on the bottom right of each card contact that represents this, but I would frequently overlook it.
There is no message send confirmation like there is if you’ve ever sent text messages with Google Now’s voice commands on an Android phone. This was a critical problem on two occasions, once where I almost sent an unflattering picture to an old contact, and again where I sent a nonsensical text message to a friend. After these two occasions I was much more careful when sending messages, and opted for using my phone more often than not.
Google Glass looks like a cool product, their website images and the device’s design reeks of it. But in experience, Google Glass is not that great. Having returned the glasses to work, I miss no parts of the experience they provided. Its efforts to augment the human condition is neither successful nor what I had in mind when I first heard of Google Glass several years ago. The price is also something that makes this a fringe product, given the device’s components I could see them lowering the price to $199-$299, but for some reason right now it remains at $1500. If you have the opportunity to try on a pair of Google Glass, without buying them, I recommend it. Otherwise they just don’t offer enough for the average consumer.
Somone recently asked me what podcasts I listen to. After a few seconds of thought I estimated I listen to about 16 hours worth of podcasts per week. For my own documentation, or if you’re curious, here they are (there is no particular order):
This is my first stickerless cube, I normally I would not have gotten it because of its stickerless. I have a policy of only reviewing WCA legal cubes, while stickerless cubes are not currently allowed in WCA competitions, there is a chance that they will be legal in the 2015 regulations. Given this, when NewIsland offered me to try their new cube, the Phoenix, I decided to give it a shot, making the gamble that I’ll be able to use it in 2015. The stickerless nature of the cube didn’t provided anything new but the internals and turning mechanism did, I quickly discovered this is a very different cube from what is already out there.
About NewIsland or: how a new cube company emerges
(You can skip this part but I think it’s a rare insight into a cube company) I’ve been wondering a bit about how a company starts making cubes, I’ve been in contact with NewIsland and out of curiosity I asked them a little more about themselves. To paraphrase, NewIsland is a new cube brand based in ShenZhen, China, previously their factory made other toys like yo-yo’s and snap bracelets. Recently, they reached out to some cubers in China to design some new cubes and we’re starting to see those now. They added that while there are a lot of cube companies in ShenZhen, their manufacturers are in other cities. This adds a level of quality assurance since they’re manufacture and sell the cubes themselves. Anyway…
What Comes in the Box
Cube, prelubicated I’ve been told with D39. The lubricant was a minor irritant for me, it could be the D39 or it could be that I’m more used to less toxic stuff.
Instructions, in relatively good English.
Felt bag, just barely big enough to hold the cube.
Colors and Stickerlessness
When standstill, the colors look nicely balanced, I particularly like the brightness of the blue. But when you start turning faster the warmer colors (yellow, orange, red) blend together just enough to cause some confusion from time to time, often in the form of improperly placed F2L pairs. It’s not a show stopping issue though.
The stickerlessness of the cube adds some attributes I did not expect. First the shape of the cube is more, well, cubic. There is very little bevel on the cube leaving your hands to occasionally catch an oddly sharp edge. Compared to many other cubes around these days, this is abnormal, I might posit that cubes are becoming more and more bevelled.
The other attribute stickerlessness adds is a lack of friction, without stickers to grip, there is just the cube. This has led to fumbling the cube a few times, I believe it could also be from lubricant getting on the surface of the cube, but enough wiping down of the surfaces has somewhat negated this belief. Like the colors, these are not show stopping issues.
The turning is smooth and relatively quiet. It turns definitively better than any other cube I’ve tried. This can lead to very very fast times, but also a loss of control during a solve. Combine this with the fumbling attributes mentioned above and a good solve can quickly turn south due to ambitious fingers.
The faces cut in both directions at a fairly high angle, I don’t think I’m able to do Y perms on many other cubes faster than I can on this cube.
The structure is what you should come to expect from modern cubes, with a few variations. Here are a few pictures:
Manufacturer’s note: plastic is made of ABS material a non-poisonous material which the color would never fade from.
Ultimately stickerless cubes are not legal under the WCA. So keep that in mind when buying this. I’ve been in contact with the makers and they’ve confirmed that a stickered version is coming. If you’re already fast, and you like stickerless cubes the NewIsland Phoenix is for you. Otherwise, you might want to wait at least until a stickered version comes out, I don’t think this is a good cube for beginners. You can get the NewIsland Phoenix from Amazon for 11.99.
(Edit Jan 2, 2015): There is now a stickered version of the cube available through Amazon here.
I have had the same reaction to each: ridiculous, silly, laughable. (I’d say the one exception is the Mirror Blocks.)
I can imagine or hope that they are trying to solve this problem somehow. 2008 was the year the cube’s popularity exploded, I have this Google Trends lookup and a spike in my YouTube video views to support this. By happenstance at the US Nationals 2008 I briefly talked with a pair of very out of place people who were from Rubik’s. Their purpose there was to investigate their product’s popularity and figure out how to bring it more mainstream. The conversation was brief, and as far as I can tell since then they’ve failed.
When the whole time, all everyone wanted, was a decent 2×2-5×5. Believe it or not Rubik’s used to hold that market. Then Eastsheen came along. They did some innovation and made a 2×2 that didn’t pop, a 4×4 that was smooth(er), and a 5×5 whose pieces wouldn’t break. V-Cube also made a huge impact, cube sizes greater than 5×5 were something that Ernö himself once said were impossible. Cubesmith came up and made stickers people loved! A few years later every cube that’s in competitions are not Rubik’s cubes and the products that Rubik’s make, including their classic 3×3, have been turned into a running jokes by the community.
Rubik’s can bring themselves back up, they can be a new force to be rekoned with. In addition to the above I have this to tell them directly: Stop focusing on gimmicky or digital spinoff products. Focus on the niche market you could have. Make a cube that is as fast as any generation of Dayan cube. Do what you did with the Mirror Blocks, remix your classic puzzle, (just look at what’s coming out of Meffert’s these days). Do one or both of these well and people will start listening, buying, more.
Over the years I have had the unusual misfortune of having products I like and use get acquired by Facebook. Sometimes good things come out of these deals, but often they do not. Here is my brief list.
A good lifetracking web app that had a really nice iOS app. At least until the team/co-founders were acquired. The web app continues to function, but the iOS app, which was my sole and preferred method of data entry; is no longer supported and crashes on start up. I know of nothing on Facebook’s end that came from this deal.
Mike Matas, the original designer behind iOS, brought us a fresh digital look into books and publishing. They go acquired in 2011 by Facebook after their first book “Our Choice” by Al Gore. The team at Facebook moved on to create Paper, which I have yet to try but is claimed by many to be good. Let’s remember that Paper took roughly two and a half years to make after the acquirement of PushPopPress.
I was pretty skeptical when I saw their Kickstarter in Summer 2012. Then I heard about a couple of my friends who got them and liked them. Now, where I work there are a few laying around and we have some plans for them in our interaction framework. They got acquired by the blue empire today and I can’t help but feel betrayed.
My first reaction was that it was some joke, or that it was a different Oculus. Then surprise. Now frustration and a little anger. What are they going to do with this if anything at all? Are we going to see some odd byproduct creation several years down the road like we did from the PushPopPress team? Or nothing, like what we got from the Daytum purchase. They’re either going to kill Oculus or turn it into something the original Kickstarter backers didn’t want. I really hope they don’t eff it up either way.
This last weekend I was the victim of news overdose as delivered to me by my preferred tech blogs and news aggregates.1 If there’s an equivalent for obesity of the mind, this is it. My subconscious has turned gluttonous, ready to spew out any irrelevant fact that it may have retained. Looking back I can barely remember a story or meme that was worthwhile or interesting beyond the news that Amazon will try shipping stuff with drones. While it’s not like I feel like I didn’t do anything worthwhile this weekend, it’s that I could have done much less of things that have no overall effect on the quality of my life.
Catching myself reading Buzzfeed’s “The 40 Greatest Dog GIFs Of All Time” inspired this post. The futility of it all struck me while watching #39 “diving corgi“. All of this is the same, and none of it is improving your life. That immediate thought was referring to the post, I had seen plenty of dog gifs before. Then the rest of it hit me too, I get nothing from news.
All of this is the same, and none of it is improving your life.
Sure there are important bits, but checking the same sites five times a day just so you can be the most caught up with the news from California isn’t worth it. It was the TV-esque crap my parents had told me about, it’s everywhere, constantly churning out new stuff, and I’m addicted to it. I thought reading more would be of some benefit, not this kind. I feel like I’ve read the first chapter in a book twenty times now, it never really changes.
It’s decent journalism usually, I just don’t need it 24/7. There are a lot of books I haven’t read that are in the mind of popular culture. I think I’ll take spend some time finishing up those instead of reading “Why Your Startup is Dead if You Can’t Enchant”.