iphone setup and apps


I’ve had the same wallpaper since my first iphone. The homescreen setup is by and large similar, with more organisation when folders were first introduced. Like most people, I download and keep too many apps on the phone in case I want to use them. So what does my iphone homescreen really say about me? It’s organised clutter and full of folders. Notifications are only enabled on phone and text, and I zero out all notifications. I don’t use colour in any meaningful way.

Time for a change. What I want to achieve, is having a homescreen that is comfortable, set up for easy access, and uncluttered.


The fiery apple wallpaper looked cool 10 years ago, and although it still looks good it’s way past time to switch to a new one. Eventually I want to have a plain white one perhaps with subtle patterns. For now I changed to one with sunset because I love the colours. The caption says watsons bay, so I must have taken it in Australia although I can’t remember it and the date doesn’t coincide with me being in sydney. May be I scanned it from an older pic? That’s the problem with having 33,000 pics, it’s impossible to remember them all.


I’m also saving all my various wallpapers in one place for easy access.


After seeing all the cool homescreens both on the twitter thread and at r/iOSsetups, I really wanted to emulate the way users implemented minimalistic homescreens. I also took to heart this article about simplifying our smartphones.

I set aside some time for this mini-project. First, I deleted tons of apps: a) obsolete ones that aren’t compatible with the current ios, but I hadn’t realised because the apps had been on the phone for years; b) apps i had never used; c) apps I haven’t used in months. This enabled me to consolidate several folders too: I combined all text, messengering and email apps; I shuffled between utilities, info and productivity; I reduced all games to one folder.

The next tip is to identify the apps I use most. I had a long list of 24 core apps, which I whittled down to 15, including 4 of the most commonly used that I keep on the dock. I love the setups where the apps are at the bottom of the screen so I googled for instructions. The method of achieving this effect is to create transparent (or as they describe, invisible) icons. Of course there’s an app for that, makeovr. They need a screenshot of the blank page with wallpaper, then it’s a matter of patiently creating individual icons to match the spot it needs to go to. It takes advantage of safari’s copy to homescreen functionality. In this example, I selected icon row 1 column 1:

I planned out where I wanted the core apps, then created the appropriate transparent icon and moved it in place. Needs a little patience because each icon has to be created and moved. I like the result, although I’d like to get rid of more homescreen apps:

I’m thinking eventually I may move snapseed to the second page and may be even evernote (or its potential replacement, bear–see below). If and when I get a password manager, I’ll have to find a place for it too. The second page looks more like a conventional iphone page:

I did the same for the second phone:

And for the ipad, I used iempty, similar to makeovr but with a clunkier interface:

Since the second phone and ipad are used for a narrower band of tasks, the number of core apps is very few.


The exercise of looking at other people’s apps was both fruitful and not. Fruitful because there are some great apps and not because a lot of these great apps are paid.

Low hanging fruit first, free apps. Added spark, discord, mega, snapseed straightaway. I have snapseed already and it does have better UI and functionality than lightroom. I tested outlook vs spark and spark’s UI won hands down. I also downloaded bear on both iphone and mac and still researching it. A lot of people have moved from evernote and apple notes to bear and report good experiences. I’m not a power EN user, and mainly use it for text notes so its simplicity and speed will benefit me. As ” title=”verge”>the verge says:

Bear plays the sleek TextEdit to Evernote’s monstrous Microsoft Word

There’s a simple migration process and the app has a lot of positives like markdown support and tags. The problem for me is, I prefer folders over tags and bear doesn’t organise via folders. This is potential deal-breaker for me. The second one is that I’ll need a $15 annual subscription to enable syncing across devices, compared with EN which allows syncing across 2 devices for the free version. Two is what I need: mac and iphone. I may give it a try for travel research next trip.

Back to apps. There are a few paid apps I really want. I ended up buying one only, but I’m keeping tabs on the others. The paid app I got is carrot, and yes I paid $4.99 for a weather app, when there are tons available for free. I’ve known for a long time that dark sky is the best weather app and kind of holding out waiting. Carrot uses dark sky and has so much more, the funniest being its snarky comments and quests for secret locations. While I may get tired of snark and quests, there’s no question that its core functionality, showing me upcoming weather, is fantastic. It’s simply a pleasure to look at the page with hourly predictions.

I’m also toying with either IA writer or byword as a text editor for iphone and ipad, leaning more towards byword. I write all website posts in textedit then copy paste to wordpress, which is fine because it’s distraction free and has only the basic features. Byword is equally clean-looking and goes a little beyond by supporting markdown and publishes directly to wordpress. For writing writing, of course I’ll stick with scrivener. I’m not sure as yet I want to shell out $5.99 just because I want a direct publishing option.

One thing I’ve noticed, that I’m very disappointed in, is apps in the mac app store are not only more expensive than for iphone/ipad, the app can’t be shared. This means if I want byword for example, I have to pay $11.99 for the mac version and $5.99 for iphone/ipad. The argument is mac apps are inherently different because iOS is not the same as macOS. That said, there are rumours that apple is planning to combine both stores. In the meantime, I probably will stay with mostly free or included apps.

random tech news

A few tech related stuff spotted recently.


This post about old floppy disks from sixcolors wasn’t as interesting as I thought initially. Jason Snell talks about all the various floppy disks he’d had over the years, from the 5.25″ floppies he used in his Apple IIe (talk about an early adoptor!) and how he managed to image these disks and somehow get the data off them, albeit as txt files. There’s a lot of words that seem to simply go over my head, for instance when he started talking about DOS3.3, I was confused, wasn’t he using an Apple II? Anyway, the good news is he recovered files as well as records of old BBS entries. The upshot:

It turns out the journey, through old computers and transfer cables and disk images, was the true reward. Nobody needs to see the term papers they wrote in high school 30 years after the fact.

The reason this post caught my eye was the pic of all those old floppy disks. I threw out all my disks last time I moved, and now only have some cd-roms, which will go in the bin next time I have a clearout. I saw an old zip drive plus some zip disks on mm’s bookshelf one time, mainly because she hasn’t had multiple moves and she said she doesn’t even remember what they are. Strange to see them still on sale, even though they’ve evolved to being connected via usb nowadays. Hmm, I still have firewire cables.

A handy listing of keyboard shortcuts, ranked by importance. Although I don’t necessarily agree with the ranking. I don’t use cmd-z or emd-y that much, but cmd-x, -c, and -v are definitely essential. I can’t remember the last time I used the Edit menu for copy paste. I’ve been using cmd-tab a lot more, although when I first starting using it lots I would accidentally hit cmd-q, which is NOT GOOD.

Others like cmd-o for open, cmd-n for new, cmd-s for save and cmd-t for new tab are good ones to remember. One that isn’t on the list that I use all day is cmd-w to close current tab. I’m not the type of user who has dozens of tabs open, probably 4-5 at most. A new one I learned is cmd-h to hide the current window which is so much cleaner than minimising.

The two keyboard shortcuts for screenshot is great too: cmd-shift-3 for whole screen and cmd-shift-4 to select the area to screenshot.

Another one they don’t list that is extremely important to excel users is cmd-shift-arrow to select the whole column or row. Imagine having a spreadsheet of 500 rows of data and wanting to select it all, dragging the cursor all the way is not effective.

And finally, at long last apple is revamping the ibooks app, and it’ll simply be called books. There’s been no update for ages and ages, new features apparently:

include a simpler interface that better highlights books currently being read and a redesigned digital book store

plus a tab for audiobooks.


Good news, and provides some competition for kindle. eBook sales through amazon has gone from 74% market share in 2015 to 83% in 2017. Apple will really need to up their game though, because there’s a lot to catch up both in terms of competing against kindle readers and the selection in the app store. I sometimes check out books in the itunes store and the selection is pretty dismal. It shouldn’t be hard for them to get more ebooks, since their focus is selling iphones and ipads rather than content so they can well afford to have ebooks selling at lower prices than at amazon.

I think I’m the rare reader who’s resisted buying kindle books and stubbornly keeping to epub all these years. I hope the updated app is better and they don’t over-engineer it. My wishlist is pretty simple, I’d like to have folders to organise my ebooks rather than just one flat library. And the ability to sort books in a series in the right order will be awesome.

gmail yes no reply

I want to set up simple Yes/No reply buttons in an email to about 50 people. Although this is easily done in outlook it’s not an obvious functionality in gmail. I’m guessing we’re supposed to use google forms. Completely agree that google forms are easy to setup and use but in this case I want recipients to give my recipients a one-click action.

There is a workaround that involves using email links as responses and adding filters. It’s not difficult, but should be easier. In my case I want to ask a group of people if they see books in their reading assignment.


  1. Write the email including the survey question and answers

  2. Add a hyperlink to each of the answers and select email then use the plus addressing feature:

  3. Create filters to send the replies to different folders:

Tested and it works. I guess I can use images instead of links to make it look like buttons. I’m not sending out the email just yet but it’s ready to go.

@watty_io came first in a competition


Last October I got a bunch of congratulatory tweets meant for a Swedish internet of things startup. I noticed that they have gotten some good reviews and attention for their product.

Seems like they won something again. My twitter notifications blew up that they came first in something at the annual Sthlm Tech Fest that was held in Stockholm over the past few days. It’s described as the biggest tech startup event in Sweden where

[e]very startup founder, investor, designer, developer, and journalist comes together to share, be inspired and meet the whole startup ecosystem, and welcome visitors from 20+ countries.

I congratulated them and they tweeted me back that they love my handle, hahaha. So I DMed them to ask what actually they won and their response was that it was “a flic button competition or something like that.” Interesting. So it seems that flic is a smart bluetooth button that can be used to control all sorts of devices and apps. Wow, the more I delve into these startups the more impressed I am. I’m glad that through a shared name error, I’m learning so much and can watch so many cool products develop peripherically.

At least I’m not the regular person behind famous twitter handles like @coke or @bmw.

family & bbmm day

Met Uncle P for lunch at queen’s café. Old styled “western” food like borscht and skewers and beef strogonoff. He brought a copy of the photoessay book he’s been working on. Photographs from the 1970s to 2000s. I really like the theme and the photos are of course top-notch. Tried explaining the concept of crowdsourcing to him but I think he prefers the traditional publisher route.

Everyone had plans afterwards so I met up with mm. Hot day, walked a little then found a happy hour place. I was going to have beer but had a glass of wine instead. Korean bbq for dinner although we didn’t eat that much.


She was telling me about her supervisor who got her PhD in 2.5 years and is able to read 11 pages of academic journal in 2 minutes. Sounds really smart. So we were texting afterwards and we were both googly eyed. I was also trying to use the wordflow keyboard that I downloaded. I tend to type one-handed and thought the curved keyboard may help. Gave up after a short trial. I can’t figure out where to get stickers quickly. It wants to capitalise the first letter even though I turned it off. And I don’t like predictive keyboards. So three strikes and out.

twitter lists


Seriously, it’s taken me this long to get round to sorting out people I follow on twitter. Normally I just let the feed scroll. If I miss a tweet, I miss a tweet. No big deal.

Then suddenly for no good reason I feel like getting organised. Argh, the list function on twitter is rubbish. Slow, slow, slow and who invents a list function and then not let people sort alphabetically? Stupid.

The best I can do, with almost 800 people I need to add, is to use a rudimentary list manager. Marginally quicker than twitter, and better visualisation.

It’s pretty neat, to have a dedicated column in tweetdeck so I can check on actual friends instead of random people I follow. I wonder if there is a function where I can add multiple lists to one column. Doesn’t seem like it. No big deal.

flickr 4.0


As I was uploading trip pics I noticed yahoo rolled out yet another new look for flickr. The main photostream page still isn’t as good as the original layout, but better than the horrible 3.0. Less cluttered with sharper, cleaner lines. Can sort by date taken or different permission views. The set (sigh, album) page looks cleaner too, although I’m still not a big fan of infinite scrolling.

The two major new features are auto uploading and auto-tagging for a more powerful search.

At 1TB, flickr offers more storage than dropbox, icloud and many other storage sites. Free. I’m not even at 10% of my capacity with 27k images so there’s no danger of running out (nor any desire to renew my pro account). The new uploadr, plus the 1TB storage, lets people dump all their images into flickr automatically from computer and smartphone. No need for there to be pics stored here, there and everywhere. We can still use instagram or vine or fb, but now flickr can act as central repository for all our image files.

Will I use uploadr like that? Yes on mobile, no for computer. I already use flickr as my image repository, but I go through the process of sorting and organising before uploading. Imagine uploadr taking all 3267 trip pics and uploading into one album for me to organise—-no, no, no. I want to control how and where my pics are uploaded, even though it takes me longer.

It’s a different picture for mobile. I’m pretty good at sorting my iphone camera roll, I review and delete pics that are duplicate, poor quality or temporary. Currently, I use dropbox to transfer to the mba (yes, I know I should be using pushbullet) then manually upload to flickr. If I can skip the dropbox step it will be a time-saver. It took the app a few hours to process my iphone camera roll, but going forward it will be quicker. Liking the app too, used to be clunky and non-user friendly, now I may start using it more.


The other major new feature is a powerful search engine using image recognition algorithms that sees the content of an image. As an example, I had basic tags to this pic of an Assisi chimney, the flickrbots are smart enough to add building, architecture, roof and outdoor tags:


Some users are up in arms about this, because they want control over their tags. I’m fine with the concept.


Another example: this week’s photofriday challenge is “detail” and when I plug that in as a search term, I get fairly interesting results, and advanced options to drill down into colours, dates etc. Before the update, I’d get an error or a no result page because I haven’t tagged any pic using the term detail. This is an improvement.


Where all the new features come together is the camera roll. I can set it to display by the traditional, boring method of date taken. Or I can use the new magic view which sorts my pics into, well, tags. Magic view shows my pics under common criteria, when I select pattern from the sidebar, it shows patterned pics (although I wouldn’t necessarily include the pic of the space needle). I can’t stop playing around in magic view, it really is magical.

Another new feature is bulk processing: bulk download, bulk sharing, bulk editing, bulk delete. The downloading feature is one that has been requested for a long time, it’s not relevant to me but may be for people who use flickr as triage.

Not everything is positive in the update. Thumbnails are too large. For a time all my pics defaulted to family & friends instead of public. All my sets in organizr are called auto upload. My biggest complaint is that getting the html link involves a popup lightbox as opposed to a simple hover menu before. I can’t get the html code for videos. Notes have been discontinued. They are moving in the right direction for a change. The Verge has a good summary of the new design:

What’s impressive is what it’s doing for free: backing up a terabyte of photos from your main computer and your mobile devices, then making them easily searchable in the cloud. The rest of Flickr is still there: you can still follow great photographers, browse beautiful photos, and showcase your own. But among the solutions for backing up your photos online, Flickr has moved from the back of the pack to the front.

instagram temp tattoos #picattoo


I bought a box of boomf marshmallows for my niece’s birthday last year and she was so pleased with it that she still hasn’t opened the box. The idea is to order 9 marshmallows on the boomf website based on 9 instagram pics; or 9 marshmallows from the same instagram pic; or a composite of 9 marshmallows from one instagram pic.

Anyway, the idea is to link instagram with products. Nothing new, we’ve been able to order all sorts of products from cups to caps to calendars from pics for ages.

The newest fun thing to do with instagram is via Rotterdam-based picattoo. For $15 including worldwide shipping we get 12 temporary tattoos sourced from instagram. Lots of potential fun for these cute tattoos, or even useful for marketing. Interesting. 

instagram twitter 001

As instagram overtakes twitter by reaching 300m mau, it’s worth looking back to my first posts on both services. Joined twitter august 2007. It’s easy enough to find a user’s first tweet through twitter’s discovery service. Not much meaning to that first tweet, which means I used it for the correct purpose, hahaha. I use twitter primarily to record my running and workouts, and for the longest time it was pretty much the only things I posted. I’m trying to vary the content a little more nowadays.


Joined instagram july 2011 and the first pic was of my kettle. Very mundane. Most of the instagrams in the first few years were of food, and like twitter I’ve tried to diversify somewhat lately. Most pics I take on the iphone get instagrammed, and as new filters are announced, my view of quick pics has changed. I took pics of the recent pannacotta I made on both instagram and my camera and as I was photoshopping the camera pics I was looking for the effects I’m getting on instagram.

All my instagrams are automatically posted to twitter, and all tweets are automatically saved to a google docs spreadsheet; the automation achieved by IFTTT recipes. Because of IFTTT I don’t have to pick any one service, they seem to co-exist quite happily. I have mostly different followers so there isn’t so much overlap.


fun with wine apps

Downloaded a few wine apps for fun.

First, a couple of wine scanner apps. Both vivino and delectable recognise wines from a picture of the bottle’s label. They then give information about the wine, region, vintage, pairing and ratings from other users.


I grabbed a random bottle, a fuzion tempranillo 2012, and both apps got the brand and country right. Vivino got the vintage exactly right, but it’s pretty subjective. Both offer additional features, users can buy directly through delectable and vivino gives a list of places where the wine can be purchased. That said, when the correspondent at the washington post tried to find stores near to him, vivino told him to go to mcdonald’s.


Both apps encourage users to connect via social media, in fact delectable won’t let me proceed without signing up with facebook or my email address. I can use vivino as a guest, and this is the big reason why I’m keeping this app and I’ll probably delete delectable. I don’t want to be tracked or receive notifications thank you.


From wine scanners to a new app wine4me, yet another wine discovery app. This one creates a wine profile based on my preference of type, region, country. I entered a few like rioja, oregon, alsace and it gave me a profile and a list of wines it thinks I may like. As I add more wines that I have tasted, the app is trained to fine tune more choices. It’s good for casual wine drinkers but I find that it skews towards new world wine and doesn’t have my all-time favourite chateauneuf-du-pape (buried in southern france) or current favourite cabernet franc.


Finally, one that is a bit different and sort of fun. The WSET wine game is offered by the wine & spirit education trust who provides education and qualifications on wine. The aim is to place 10 bottles correctly in their country of origin. Level 1 even gives the region (eg central otago) and the challenge is to click on the map fast enough. It’s pretty much a simple game to market the WSET school and qualifications. Quite fun for a few minutes.

imogen heap run time song and app

via giz

Imogen Heap is awesome. Not only is she a great musician, she is also working on an app called Run Time that customises a run. It takes ambient sounds like breathing, footsteps, traffic and even birds and layers them with a pre-recorded electronic track. The best thing is that the runner can adjust the tempo of the music according to stages of a run: slow warm up, walking, running, acceleration and deceleration. She demonstrates this perfectly in her video.

Run-time, the song is based on the app. The album Sparks will be released on 19 August.

The app is still in development. Depending on how much it is, I will likely get it. Although, I won’t lope around NYC like a crazy person the way she did.

old games

gameipadslay01 gameipadhampstead01

Playing a couple of old games that have resurfaced in the app store. Slay was a game I used to play on mum’s PC in the 1990s, I think I have the 3.5” disk somewhere. It’s a simple strategy game where the aim is to move soldiers and occupy as many hexagons as possible. No bells-and-whistles graphics, just pixelated men with moving arms and hexagons in different shades of green. The trick is to link patches, put down towers, stop trees from spreading and make sure you have enough land to maintain different levels of soldiers. Oh, and attack other hexagons.

The graphics have stayed decidedly 1990s in the iphone/ipad version, which makes it kinda cute. The soldiers still yell “oh” when they are attacked, the attackers still have this evil laugh and dying soldiers scream as they turn into graves. I think I paid for the windows version, and I paid again for the app store version. It’s addictive nostalgia.

A game that predates Slay was Hampstead, a text game for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. I read that it’s been revived and available on the app store, free. So I downloaded it pronto. The idea is to move out of a filthy council house and get loadsamoney eventually moving into a mansion in Hampstead. Pure satire.

Love that these older games are coming back. Next on my list are the Sierra games like Police Quest, King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, all have been ported to sarien’s mobile site. There’s a strategy game similar to Slay I used to play on my old macs, I can’t remember the name so I can’t search for it, sigh.

i’d rather lose speed than allow ads


A couple of random thoughts about web ads. This year marks the 20th anniversary of banner ads. If ever there was an invention that would generate so much discord, banner ads would be amongst the most reviled. Re/code asked a good question: has anyone said:

“Hey, did you see that awesome banner ad yesterday?”

The answer of course is a big no. People may remember good TV ads or print ads but most people’s reaction to banner ads, and most form of web ads, is ignore. No surprise, the more glaring and intrusive they are, the more people are turned off by them.


Whenever I use a public computer or one I haven’t set up I’m often flabbergasted at the amount of screen real estate that has been hijacked by ads. I googled a bit and found this example of that someone gave, of a page that has ads, ads, ads and a total of 8 words of actual content. I don’t know how old this screenshot is, and I have no intention of finding out.

Various forms of ad blockers are the most popular brower extensions. And even though they say it’s a must-have, lifehacker reported that ABP dramatically increases memory usage in firefox. What was surprising (actually not, considering lifehacker’s audience) were the commenters who said they’d tolerate slow loading times and even buy additional RAM rather than disable ABP. Fervent ABP users take the attitude of “allow ads over my dead body.”

The purveyers of ads always come out with the argument that without ad revenues they can’t continue to maintain their free sites. This argument never works. People who studiously block ads and nuisances will never click on an ad anyway; and nowadays with so many choices if one site shuts down a dozen will spring up in its place. Besides, whitelisting doesn’t really work because sooner or later the whitelisted sites will start serving annoying ads because sites that have ads are more concerned about selling things than providing a good user experience.

In any case, yes I’ve noticed firefox page loads are a little slower since the upgrade, may be it’s mum’s internet connection too. Doesn’t decrease my user experience, not compared with the alternative ad-filled scenario.

best smartphone pic

Lifehacker asked, what’s the best picture you have taken on your smartphone? Interesting. Mostly I use the iphone to instagram food pics so there are not that many that I would say come under the “best of” category.


One of the few unedited ones I have. Coast scenery whilst on a walk with mm. Nice colours and composition but, gasp, it’s vertical, ugh.

emptypianostage inst001kettle

Of the ones on instagram, the piano at concert has atmosphere and the kettle (instagram #1) has a still life quality to it.

paper discovery

With some fanfare, facebook launched a new app, paper. US app store only, but for the impatient there is a simple workaround. My itunes account has always been in the US so I was able to download the app without problem on Monday.

Positive reviews all around. The best facebook app, the future for facebook and facebook replacement are some of the accolades being thrown all around.

First impressions, clean interface and yes, very flipboard-like. It’s obvious they built the app from scratch rather than use the existing problematic facebook app. There are 2 sections, the top is the cover of different categories (or papers) I set up; the bottom shows the individual posts from that category.


I don’t mind that I must have my fb newsfeed as a category, it looks way better than both the webpage and the old app. Here the top is a pic recently posted by my friend Rachel, and the bottom shows recent timeline posts by other friends. For a start, no game posts, yay. I tap on the pic and it expands to full page so I can view, like or comment on it. Same with the timeline posts, I swipe up and then sideways to navigate through the posts. No refresh needed, new posts populate live.

The other categories I can choose include the usual broad categories such as news, tech, sports, food, home and design. One complaint is that there is a limit to the number of categrories (I have to start getting used to using the term paper). The good thing is, fb hasn’t limited my subscription to only the pages I liked—tech has posts from ars, cnet, sfgate etc and news has articles from BBC, NYT etc.

The most direct comparison is with flipboard. Even the use of gestures is similar. I haven’t been using flipboard long, and I’m still getting to grips with the concept of magazines. There are more options with flipboard—I can see what’s going on in my twitter feed, tumblr follows and google+ universe—these competitors will probably never show up on paper.

There are some negatives. It loads slowly, I guess it’s because many people are playing with it. What’s available in each category are the usual big name sites that dominate everywhere; it would be nice to discover smaller, individual pages the way tumblr radar works. I’m subjected to the same stupid pictures of people’s dogs that I am on the regular site, and I can’t immediately find a way to get rid of them the way I can hide or report that post on the web app. Only the main timeline is shown and there doesn’t seem to be a way to read by custom list so I have to see posts by people I have no interest in reading (but don’t have the heart to unfriend). And I’m just waiting for the inevitable intrusion into my privacy, forcing me to read what they think I should read, and the ads, oh the ads are definitely coming.

All in all, it satisfies my need to find things to read as well as keeping up with what is happening with my online friends. I’ve already replaced the traditional fb app with paper on my iphone. Why it works for me is that although it is an app by facebook, it’s not a facebook app—if that makes sense. I can see that I’ll use it as a fb replacement at the same time as complementing flipboard, feedly and the occasion foray into digg reader to find new things.


Spent a chunk of the weekend playing geoguessr, which I’ve bookmarked since it came out wanting to try it. Basically it drops you at a random google street view location, you can move around, make your guess on the map at the side and the game awards points based on how close your guess is. Sometimes it’s easier, with street signs, buildings even buses as clues, sometimes it’s just a dirt path with vegetation all around it. It’s an honours game, and you’re not supposed to google but, well. So here’s a typical game, you get 5 locations.
location 1: a busy pavement-less road, dry vegetation and what looks like a goat at the side of the road
analysis: right-hand drive, seems to be a hot location so not UK or Ireland. No pavements so probably not Australia. More likely to be South Africa. Further down the road there is a Toyota dealer with partial name. At this point I did google
result: Botswana, not SA


location 2: holy cow, coral in the middle of the ocean
analysis: no idea, so I guessed the great barrier reef

result: somewhere in the gulf of mexico. At least I got more than zero points


location 3: straight single-lane road surrounded by farm, small road on the left with US-style mailbox leading to several houses and a barn
analysis: somewhere in the middle of the US, it’s flat and farm country. I guessed Wyoming
result: it was Idaho


location 4: chinese-styled white arch with red curved-roof building behind it, tourist buses parked in front
analysis: I can read the writing on the arch, and I’ve been to this place

result: chiang kai shek memorial, taipei. I was 100m out because I didn’t put the pin exactly where the street view vehicle was


location 5: corn fields, just like what we used to see on the X-files
analysis: mid-west USA, I guessed Indiana
result: southern Illinois



Total score 17,587. I think the max is around 30,000. My highest score so far is 24,989. It’s not all guessing, and some tips include looking at the weather, vegetation and soil if it’s in the middle of nowhere. Whether it’s right- or left-hand drive (if there are no cars road markings may help) is a good clue, as are road signs. I was dropped in a snow covered road surrounded by trees and thought it was Canada until I saw a beat-up Volvo and road maintenance signs that didn’t feel like Canada. Correctly guessed it was Sweden. It’s also useful to know where street view has visited: most of Africa, the middle of South America, China, Middle-East and the eastern part of Russia are out.

It gets slightly boring after about 20-30 games though, when it’s yet another empty road with nothing around it but scenery — I don’t have sufficient interest in plants or soil to spend time figuring out that reddish soil means either Australia or Mexico, or conifers suggest a colder region.

random tech stuff


So randomly, I decided to go home to see my parents. Seems Mum’s yahoo mail is causing her problems, and she can’t describe it to me over the phone. The login page for her mail, and the mail page itself aren’t loading properly, with absolutely no css, no wonder she was freaked out. Having identified the problem, I couldn’t find an answer no matter how much I googled. Finally, I installed noscript, converted her account to classic and it worked somewhat. Still didn’t solve all the issues but at least she can read emails now.

Yay! And to celebrate, here’s a candy crush cake I saw on facebook. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to be playing candy crush. My niece and I played this game on the train, to spot the people playing it on their smartphones.

photoshop multiply

I’ve been doing a spot of photoshop designing lately as a favour; it’s been a while but thankfully I hadn’t forgotten everything I used to know. I had problems porting the program to the mba so whenever I had to photoshop my pictures I had to switch back to the mbp. Then in January, adobe opened up cs2 for free download, since it’s an old product they no longer support. I don’t mind, I’m not a professional designer and for the sort of basic photoshopping I do, cs2 is good enough. So now I have PS and Illustrator on both machines. The advantage of having cs2 is that it came with ImageReady, which I thought was a neat little tool.

I also learned a new trick, from someone who is a professional. How to remove backgrounds using the Multiply layer tool. Very nice.

lego life of george

I bought this fantastic lego game life of george for my niece. No idea why the name, but it doesn’t matter. This is the future.

The box comes with 144 standard lego bricks and a small board with grid markings. Before playing, I downloaded the app. The app gives pictures of what to build, the idea of the game is to build the same model using the physical bricks within the time allowed, then take a picture with the iphone. Scores are based on accuracy and time.

There are different levels, single- and two player modes and we can even create our own models. I wanted to get this a while ago, and had been waiting for my US trip, the price difference ($29.99 vs £29.99 — seriously) made it worthwhile to wait. We had a lot of fun, my niece and I. She’s much better at creating models and I’m better at making according to the pics.

facebook down



So this morning first thing, I logged in, as usual. Every tab loaded except facebook, which gave me a server error. Oh horrors! Immediately I checked on downrightnow which reported likely service disruption. Okay, so no mafia wars. I can live with it.

The most hilarious thing was, downrightnow then got very slow. Someone on twitter remarked that it was slow because everyone was checking on facebook status. What I get out of this is that it’s so easy to check on anything. In the past if a website is down, we’re never sure if it is them or our own connection. That scenario doesn’t apply anymore. One of another of the social sites will have something reported. That’s the power of social media.

flickr down


flickr was down for almost 2 hours on Thursday. They tried to be humorous and posted on their blog something about the servers being uncomfortable and then later

our chiropractors have found the spot and are applying gentle [massage] pressure right now

Thank goodness for twitter. As soon as I got the connection refused message, I went to check #flickr and lo and behold a lot of people were reporting the same problem. I appreciate them trying to lightened up the situation, but a major site like flickr going down has dire consequences, however much they apologise. I have 11,488 pictures and videos stored there. True, they are backed up on iphoto, but imagine if I had to reload them if something goes wrong. That’s inconceivable.

That the internet and the cloud has become so integral to our lives is no surprise to anyone. IMHO, it is a utility, just like electricity or gas or water. Prolonged outage will cause major stress.

hunch twitter predictor game


I love hunch. I haven’t used it that much to ask questions, cos I don’t have a lot of decisions such as “what should I do during my commute?” or “which space heater should I buy” to make in my life. I answer all the questions though. So last week they released the hunch twitter predictor game whereby hunch will guess the answer to a series of questions based on who you follow on twitter. It guessed pretty well so far.


I’ve been playing with hunch, a new startup from Caterina Fake that

helps you make decisions and gets smarter the more you use it

What is it? It’s a “decision engine” — I ask it a question, it asks me several related questions, then it gives me answers based on my answers. There’s also a big list of 70+ questions that i can answer that educates hunch about me.

So far, hunch has told me I should get the iPhone 3GS and not the Palm Pre (like, duh); that if I were to visit London I should stay at the Blake; and that I should try deep water aerobics as a fitness program. The last one is, well, pretty inaccurate — and I get a chance to disagree. It’s still a work in progress, there are not so many questions, but it’s fun.

new iTunes

I bought a new external hd, a small 320gb one for travelling. It transferred the mp3s alright, but when I opened up itunes somehow it was still wanting to locate the files at the old drive. So I did something drastic and deleted the whole library (keeping the files of course). What i forgot was to take a copy of the library database file, so i lost all my playlists and more importantly, play count, import date and ratings — the soft data so to speak. Sigh.

I guess it’s no big deal, some of the playlists date back to my first ipod, and are ratings really that important? I’ll just treat it as a new beginning.

At least it’s good news that drm is coming off itunes soon.