An Open Letter to the Lollipop Keyboard

10 December 2014

Dearest Lollipop Keyboard,

This is most upsetting. I upgraded my Nexus 7 to Android Lollipop and quickly regretted it after using you for the first time. Fatigued is the best word to describe how I felt. Why would I feel fatigued!?

Just take a look at yourself.

What have you become!?

The fucking lines separating your keys are gone. Along with the characters themselves, the lines helped my finger hit its target. Yes, I do type with just one finger. They’re gone. I typed a little more and my fears were confirmed; I was exerting myself more than usual.

Seriously. You were an amazing keyboard and then Google came along and took a “Material Design” shit all over you. I’m sick of the excess use of bright white, I’m sick of thin grey fonts on white backgrounds, I’m sick of everything going flat, and I’m sick of labeling all this terrible bullshit under some holier-than-thou Material Design umbrella and expecting everyone to be excited about this shit.

Sincerely disgruntled,

Mark

Thoughts on Serial

08 December 2014

Serial

After hearing about this podcast that was blowing up the charts, I finally checked out Serial. Serial follows the 1999 Baltimore murder of a high school girl, Hae Min Lee. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was charged and found guilty of the murder and is serving a life sentence for the crime. While there was scant physical evidence incriminating Anand, the prosecution had a star witness: Adnan's friend Jay, who said he helped bury the body of Lee after Adnan murdered her.

Directed and narrated by Sarah Koenig, each week we walk alongside Koenig as she explores every facet of this story.

I started listening on Monday. On Tuesday, I had blown thrown 10 episodes – that’s 7 hours of content in two days! It’s good. It gets you hooked. They did a pretty stand-up job producing this show. While I eagerly wait for my next fix of Serial (delivered on Thursdays), I put some of my thoughts about the show on paper.

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Finish the Flow!

18 November 2014

The other day I got a follower on Instagram. Yay! But, I think this follower was a scammer. Any time someone on the internet invites you to visit a website to get to know them better, it’s usually a scam. Especially when their name is MissDiamond. Bummer!

Like any good community member, I decided to report this user. Here’s what the “reporting a user on Instagram” user flow looks like.

See that last screen where Instagram thanks me for reporting this user? I sat on that screen for a while. Little did I know I had to press “Cancel” in the top left to dismiss the confirmation. That’s pretty shitty. I just completed doing something. Don’t make me doubt myself by forcing me to hit a button that says “Cancel.” Put a button that says “OK” or something more positive! Finish the damn flow, please!

My Weekend with Tales of Hearts R

16 November 2014

Tales of Hearts R

I picked up Tales of Hearts R this week. Originally released in Japan in 2008 on the Nintendo DS, six years later a re-imagining of the original made its way to the PlayStation Vita in the West. As the weekend comes to a close, I unabashedly admit that I poured twelve hours into this game! I'm a fan of the Tales series so I'm a little biased and I have yet to finish the game, but this game is great so far. Here are some thoughts:

  • A lot of reviews about this game give the localization a lot of flak. My command of Japanese is pretty poor, but I haven’t run into anything that’s offensively translated yet. They did “translate” the protagonist’s name from Shing to Kor, which I think is pretty weird, given they left other Japanese names like Kohaku and Hisui as is.
  • The story is somewhat cheesy, but I like it. The theme in this game, as the title hints at rather strongly, is about love and “meetings between hearts.” So far, there is enough mystery in the plot and characters that I want to keep playing to see what comes out of the woodwork.
  • The battle system is what you’d expect of a Tales game: lots of action and a lot of fun. The AI for the characters you don’t control is pretty smart too; I can count on one hand the times I questioned what my allies were doing!
  • The growth system is cool. Characters gain EXP from slaying fiends and as they level up, they gain points to improve their stats. Points can be allocated over six categories that improve different groups of stats. Spend enough points in a category and it will level up, granting new skills. Leveling up categories uniformly is encouraged as bonuses are awarded when adjacent categories reach certain levels. All in all, the system makes me want to level up more and more so I can improve my characters.

Anyhow, time to squeeze in a few more hours with Tales of Hearts R before I go to bed! :)

Thoughts on Archon Mode

12 November 2014

This past weekend, Blizzard unveiled the final chapter in the StarCraft 2 trilogy: Legacy of the Void. Naturally, a lot of attention has been paid to the slew of additions and changes to the multiplayer compositions for each race, but one of the cooler announcements was the unveiling of Archon Mode. Like two High Templars joining to form a single formidable Archon, in Archon Mode, two players control a single base/army and battle a single foe.

Archon Mode!

Why is this needed? StarCraft is hard. It’s really freaking hard. You need to macro to keep your economy healthy. You need to micro to get the most out of every unit in engagements. And if you want to really do well, you need to split your army and micro on multiple fronts. Having a good strategy is key, but mechanics play an even larger role in success. You need to be able to execute a plan. In that respect, playing StarCraft can be very discouraging. Every time you find yourself improving, the match-making system matches you up with better and better opponents. Even at the professional level, there are clear cases where improved – beyond the already ridiculously impressive – level of multi-tasking and mechanics would impact the flow of a game.

Archon Mode should alleviate this somewhat and make the game more approachable, for all skill levels. It’ll be interesting to see how far Blizzard runs with this. It’d be cool to see a ladder just for Archon Mode, where two people can face off against two other people… or one Korean! While I’m excited to play with all the new units, I’m excited to merge with a friend and become an OP (over-powered) Archon!

Read more about Archon Mode in its official announcement.