Welcome to the Thunderdome

Due to the incompetence of my previous web hosting company, I’ve had migrate all the web sites and emails to a new web host. My own web sites have been a lower priority, but finally I’ve moved about 16 GB of my own files over and things are looking good so far. A couple niggling errors, though nothing fatal.

Similar Items Shopper popup removal

Lately I’ve had this cursed “Similar Items Shopper” popup appearing when I browse shopping sites like Amazon.com or ebay.com. I can’t tell you how annoying this is, but I finally found the source and I’m sharing in the hopes of helping others out there avoid suffering the same rage I’ve experienced.

The cursed popup appears when browsing Amazon

Similar Items Shopper popup

Another example of the Similar Items Shopper popup, this time at ebay

After trying various virus scanners and finding no relief from this annoyance, I found that the source of the ads is the New Tab Page extension for Chrome, which is a shame because it’s a sweet little extension that mimics Google Now.

To remove it, go into Menu -> More Tools -> Extensions. The New Tab Page extension has an option to Disable Ads. Check this box and you’re set. No need to restart, no need to reboot.

Disable Similar Items Shopper

Disable this guy

In fact you should probably check each and every extension for this option. If the popup still appears, then disable all extensions. At this point you’ll know whether or not the extensions are responsible and you can start turning them on again one at a time. Feel free to send appropriate feedback to the extension developer via his web site or via the Google Chrome store.

Hope someone gets some use out of this. You are welcome.

My experience playing Ingress

IngressSo, I’ve been playing Ingress for the last few weeks. Ingress is an augmented reality game where two shadowy organisations wrestle for dominance over the minds of Earth’s human population: Enlightenment are trying to establish mind-control portals all over the world to help aliens called Shapers bring a powerful Enlightenment that will lead to an evolution of humankind. Resistance are trying to stop them.


The cool thing about the game is that it’s out there, in the “Outer-net”, in the “real world” you might have heard so much about. Ingress actually requires you to get off the sofa, away from the keyboard, and run around in the fresh air. All you need is your Android phone.

Game play involves taking control of “Portals” which are located at points of interest such as sculptures, murals, or significant buildings. You take control of a portal by placing your own Resonators on them which, in game terms, tunes the portal to your own team’s energy.

You can attack an enemy-controlled portal by firing “XM Pusles” at them, which sap the energy from the portal by destroying the other team’s Resonators.

You can Hack any Portal to gain XM Pulses, Resonators, Portal Keys and other items used in the game.

But to actually use the items requires two things: you to be in proximity to the Portals as well as the use of XM, or Exotic Matter, which is distributed fairly randomly around the streets. You gain XM by, again, coming into proximity and allowing your XM Scanner (a fancy name for your Android phone) to pick it up.

So my lunch hours have been spent briskly walking around the city collecting XM and hacking Portals, attacking the Enlightened Portals and placing Resonators at the Resistance Portals. I generally do a couple circuits of 3-4 city blocks in an hour. I’ve changed my walking patterns before and after work so that I can walk past these Portals to get a few Hacks in. I managed to take down my first Level 4 (mid-strength) Enlightened Portal the other day, being the Lord Forrest statue in Supreme Court Gardens. It changed hands again fairly quickly. Indeed, the map changes hourly. There seems to be a lot of unemployed no-lifers or students playing it and they’ve managed to level themselves up fairly quickly.

It’s a fun game though. It’s meant to be a social game as well. In wandering around the city to the various Portals, you tend to see a lot of the same group of people constantly checking their phones. Covertly checking their screen you can see a telltale blue or green glow, an indication they’re playing Ingress. Generally you can say hello, or give them a nod and a wink and ask them what team they’re on. If they’re Enlightened or Resistance, it doesn’t really matter. I met one guy from Hong Kong who was actually using Ingress as a sight-seeing tool. It turns out he was also a very high level Resistance player and he helped us out by placing some of the highest level resonators ever seen in Perth.

How does one get in on this action? Well, for now it’s a closed invitation-only beta, though you can go to the web site and request an invite. I hear invites are being dealt out 2-3 months after the request is received. If you’re after a social game that’s good for your health, you could do worse than Ingress.


Is it hot enough for ya?

Last week was hot in Australia. Pretty damn hot. So hot in fact that the Bureau of Meteorology were caught short and had to amend the scale on their temperature charts by adding two more colours to represent temperatures above 50:

So ladies, start melting cuz the boy is hotter than hot!

The hottest day I remember experiencing was 44.4 on January 12 1979, a date I remember because it happened to be my birthday. 50-52-54 is unimaginable.

You may ask yourself “How did I get here?”

So I’m currently reading a book called How Music Works by David Byrne of Talking Heads fame. Great read so far… thankfully not too autobiographical but an interesting investigation into music styles based on history, technology and sociology. Anyhow, there’s line from a song called Once in a Lifetime, “How did I get here?” I thought it’d be a good question to ask of everyone reading this here little blog.

So, I turned to Google Analytics which tells me that in the last year people have landed here by searching mostly for:

  • Venus Surface
  • Pale Blue Dot
  • Spud Shed
  • Michael Palin
  • Brian Hoover
It’s nice to know people are looking for me, but why do none of you ever say “hello”?
Among the more surprising search terms which have lead people here in the last year are:
  • rule 13
  • how to bring down a web server
  • how does singing in mandarin work
  • i’m a preop transgender female
  • is mandurah train station real?
That last one just boggles my mind.

Kindle is better than real books

It might have taken me a while, but I’m more convinced now than ever than electronic books like Amazon’s Kindle and Google’s Play Books are better than their real-world counterparts. Before, say, two or three years ago I wasn’t so sure, but having used e-books very regularly I can see a time where real books will be a bastion of old-time stalwarts doggedly holding on to old nostalgic tech much like how vinyl records are treated by recorded music enthusiasts today.

I used to take a certain pride in my home library, small though it was. Through high school and uni, I built a small but well loved collection of books including both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve had to cull a lot of books from time to time, mostly to keep my wife sane and happy. But I’ve kept a core books which I could easily say defined what I knew of the world and of myself; great reference books and timeless stories which both educated me and inspired me.

Since buying into the Smart-Phone market, I’ve been able to sell most of those books on ebay (not without a measure of emotion) and buy their e-book equivalents on Amazon Kindle and Google Play, even making a modest profit in the process. I’ll admit, it’s fairly hard going reading, say, War and Peace on a 4 inch phone screen but since investing in a Google Nexus 7 this year I’ve found myself reading a lot more than I used to.

There are lots of benefits to the e-book paradigm. In my device, I can carry THOUSANDS of books. If I’m stuck on the train or looking for something to do, I can reach out and have access to every book I’ve ever bought, no matter where I am. You always have a selection of books to read, and no weight to carry around.

And since they’re instantly delivered wirelessly, buying a book any time any place is a simple matter. No more disappointments from sold-out titles at book stores. No more dings, dents or dog-ears from other less thoughtful consumers who’ve previously handled those physical books. Nope. I enjoy the system of browsing, downloading and reading instantly.

I’ve even got some magazine subscriptions, which are a nice surprise to find waiting for me when I turn my device on.

If you’re short sighted, you can always zoom in or increase the font size. Things like changing the font or paper colour, or setting the screen brightness are a snap. Searching the book is a lot easier and more thorough. Kindle and Play also allows you to highlight parts of your e-book, much like using a neon highlighter, with the advantage of being able to remove unwanted highlights. Of course there’s also the electronic version of the good old bookmark so you can easily find the last page you were reading.

And if, Heaven forbid, I lose my device then I can simply re-download the books for free onto my new device. There’s even a system for “loaning” books to a friend.

So if you’re into books, I say “throw off the chains of the physical world” and invest in an e-book reader whether it’s a Kindle, iPad or Android device. You’ll be glad you did.

This is sure and impressive library

I have Klout

Apparently I have a Klout score. And so do you, but you might not know it yet.

I am better than you.

After listening to the “Download this show” podcast and reading this article, I’ve found that some people actually take this whole Klout thing seriously.

For those not in the know, Klout helps you measure your online influence, a social media vanity score if you will. The more people you interact with online using services like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare the higher your score.

But when Big Ben’s twitter feed gives a Klout score of 48 from simply posting “Bong Bong Bong” automatically on the hour, I’m skeptical of the analytics and result. And even the point.

Happy fifth birthday, Android!

Well, sorta. There are different dates for different things. On September 23, 2008 the Android Developers Blog announced that Android 1.0 SDK release 1 was available. Then, on October 28th, 2008, the first commercially available Android phone, the HTC G1 launched. And lastly, today, is the birthday of November 5, 2007, when the Open Handset Alliance announced that Android was in the works.