Adventures in Ingress: Sticking it to the Smurfs

I had a big surprise when I reached work today… The Smurfs had lost a couple of their portals to some enterprising Enlightened players! Good lads! They had taken down two of the main linking portals  and broken the largest MU fields.

I took a wander at dinnertime and decided that if the green portals had survived over the weekend then the Smurfs who took down my gains last week must have gone home for the summer. It was tine for my take over plan!

I started small but quickly gained in confidence as portal after portal fell to me and the thrill of the battle was upon me 😀




I took portals all over campus until I had taken over nearly the whole place! This is how it looks now…


Not bad, huh?

Small edit… As I’ve been writing this, the head Smurf has returned and has already ripped most of my  work apart. Actually that’s good news as today’s fun got me to level 5 and if I have to do it again I’ll be on my way to 6 😉

Adventures in a Ingress: Expanding empires…

I have three portals in my home village now and have linked two of them. I still need a portal key to drop for the final link and then I’ll have completed my first zone of mind unit control, albeit a very small one. Hey! I’m just one man here, and a lazy one at that.


On top of that expansion I’ve had some unexpected success in a London. Almost as soon I stepped off the train I found one unowned portal and another two Resistance portals on the edge of collapse. I took one of them down [I’ll get the other tomorrow] and snaffled the unowned one in double quick time and even managed to link them!


Not bad for an Ingress loner, huh? 😀

EDIT (17/06/13]: Woke up this morning to find some passing Resistance player had taken one of my London portals back and severely damaged the other. I’ll be correcting this cheek soon 😀

Adventures in Ingress: Awash in a sea of blue…

I can see my office from here...

I can see my office from here…

See that mass of blue? Well I’m slap bang in the ruddy middle of it! Me! A loyal Enlightened foot soldier for Jarvis nuts-deep in stinking Resistance fuck-buggery.

Sigh. It ain’t easy being green.

Still, I have a plan. The map above is the University where I work and I can see from the portal owners data that there is only a small number of Resistance devils on campus – only the fact they are a) Level 8s and b) living here 24-7 means I can’t get a foothold (they even nabbed a portal I had submitted the second it was approved!) but come the summer they will have left and I will be still working here. All alone. Unmolested by their Level 8 shenanigans. Oh yes, by the time the Uni opens again in mid-September I shall reign supreme and I will be wallowing naked and glorious in a sea of green, lovely lovely green…

In the meantime I’m stockpiling my supplies by hacking the bejesus out of these blue portals every day and hoping against hope at least one Jarvis virus drops.

Please Jarvis, look kindly upon this poor wretch and infect me with your glory. And virus, you mucky pup.

Me and… Google Now

I like Google Now. I like the idea. I like the look. I like the little cards and the updating widget. Honestly I like Google Now.


Despite all its promises of putting the zing into organising (ho ho ho) my life I’m finding it’s falling flat. It simply isn’t giving me any useful or interesting stuff, just reports on the weather and how long it will take me to drive to work, both facts I’m usually aware of and don’t need. The cards are, as I’ve said, a lovely idea but I can’t get lots of them to actually pop up and the ones that do aren’t necessarily the ones I’d like to. Let me list a few examples:

Weather: Sure the weather is always updated and displayed by Now and it leads to a lovely sliding bar forecast thing when clicked on but I’ve never cared about the weather, hell it’s the first widget I remove from phones so it sort of irks me that I have to keep it in Now because even though I know I can turn it off in the settings, if I did 90% of the time my Now widget would be blank!

Travel: I’m writing this on a Sunday morning so why is Now telling me how long it would take me to drive to work? Surely by now it should know I don’t work weekends? Also, when I am driving to or from work Now has never once alerted me of long delays due to accidents on the motorway – even when I’ve ended up stuck in one for over an hour. If Now is telling me there are no delays, I kind of want that to be true but instead I have to check an RAC app or the BBC travel news web page to be absolutely sure. On top of that, I really don’t like the fact that if I search for information about a place, Now takes it upon itself to show me directions there whether I’m planning to go there or not. If I want directions I’ll ask because for them, whereas what Now is doing is cluttering up my card stack with spam I then have to clean out!

Sports: I have zero interest in sport but my dad loves it so I took the opportunity to plug his footie team into Now so the match dates and scores would pop up and I could txt him a congratulations or commiserations message. Despite being able to pick his team (they aren’t some obscure Accrington Stanley affair after all) I’ve never yet received one update or score. Why?

Upcoming events: I have a surfeit of calendars – work, mine and a family one are the three most active and it seems that Now only wants to display the next single event which isn’t always what I want to know about. If I’m in London the chances are I want Now to be telling me about my 1pm meeting across town from my work calendar and not to be reminding me my daughter is in nursery all afternoon 200+ miles away because that event happens at 12.30. I find that I’m pretty much on top of an event before Now delivers me a reminder card and that’s when I realise that when they say Google Now, they really mean Now and that’s not how I live. I tend to live roughly one day into the future and what I need from my electronic PA is my full agenda shown to me stretching from “Get up!” all the way to “Time to climb the wooden hill, boyo!”

All in all I just want Now to be more… more… useful and less general. I want it to truly learn about me and start predicting what I want to know. Why can’t it follow what I watch on YouTube or read on the web or buy from the Play store and Amazon or play on Steam and start telling more about the stuff I like. Tell me all my appointments for the whole day but also when a new Elite developer diary comes out. Tell me when traffic has snarled up but also tell me when a new shoot em up is on sale at Steam. Learn who I am and tell me what I want to know when I want to know it. Oh, and can I have that Now, please? 😀

Entering Ingress…

I heard about Ingress sometime last year, I’m not sure when but I’m guessing around July or later and I was sufficiently interested & intrigued to request an invite.

And then I heard nothing and forgot all about it.

Until November when my activation code came through and I finally got the app working on my phone, at which point I realised I didn’t actually know much about the game. Frantic googling ensured and I found the slick Niantic Project website where the board of clues had been largely filled up. I flicked to the start of the timeline and read/watched every item pinned to the board in order. by the end I was totally drawn in to what seemed to be an exciting game layered on the world I actually inhabited.

Once I had devoured the marketing, the reality of the game’s beta status hit me when I found nary a portal anywhere near me! I live in suburbs of a small town and not only was the area around me empty, but the town itself was devoid of any Ingress action at all! By Xmas I was deep in Minecraft Pocket Edition and Ingress slipped from my mind.

Until last week when I found myself working in London in glorious weather (inclement weather is a bit of a ball ache for playing this game – waterproof phones and contact gloves are a must in wet, old Britain) and I set to trying to get my head around how exactly to play. Its not that it’s difficult, more that without actually doing it it can seem confusing. Well it did to me but once I found some portals near the hotel and began hacking them like a man possessed to get at their goodies hidden within 😀

This was my first portal hack, a statue in Russell Square Park. It gave up a resonator (needed for opening portals), some XM bursters (weapons to destroy resonators and allow portals to be taken from the enemy), and a media file which turned out to be a rather entertaining weekly need update produced to Google’s usual high standards.

Ingress - First Portal Hack (London, 23 April 2013)

Ingress – First Portal Hack (London, 23 April 2013)

I spent the next few days as I travelled between meetings hacking every portal I came across, friend or foe. I didn’t bother attacking much as every bugger in London seems to be a Level 8 and I hadn’t really got passed the start of 1.

Anyhoo, I can report I really enjoyed the spy-lite-like fun of Ingress and I’ll be playing it more over the summer, assuming/hoping we have more than two weeks of sunshine this year of course!

Have you tried it? If so what did you think? If not, let me know why as I’d be interested to know what you guys think of it.

By the by, I’m on the side of the Enlightened… 😉

Google+ Communities looks nice…

I’m sure that G+ Communities aren’t new, but I’m still finding my way around the whole shebang and hadn’t noticed them until the always awesome Daniel Voyager invited me to his SL themed one. I can see there are a few for Minecraft Pocket Edition but none for Survivalcraft yet.

And no, I’m not going to start one. My days of Yahoo Groups and Cthulhu forums are well behind me now. I’ll join, maybe, but I’ll not be starting one.

Google+ Plans, Pains & Possibilities…

Ever since I joined Gmail about 10 years ago I’ve been in love with Google’s services and keen to get as many of my family and friends to use them as possible as it makes my life easier and I’m lazy like that. I hardly use Office any more as Docs does what I need, Drive has pushed aside Dropbox for me and Calendar is sublime! Still, not every product Google has is great; WordPress outshines Blogger by a country mile and Flickr is in a whole different league to the painfully limited and frankly pug-ugly Picasa and it is in these areas I find myself pining for a better Google, a more integrated Google, a Google that provides me with everything in one place. I’m lazy you see, did I mention that?

I finally thought Google+ was it. Sure it’s taken me a while to get started with it due to the fact they wouldn’t let my HeadBurro Antfarm profile use it until very recently but now I’m in there I’m really liking it. I’ve even got my real self up there with my real name and everything! Go me!

But now I’ve hit another brick wall and I’m wondering if anyone reading this could help me with it. Can Google+ be used to share resources between family members? Before you ask me what the hell I’m on about, let me explain, first in words and then with a quick pencil sketch.

I have a Google account. My wife has a Google account. We use both mainly for emailing our own friends and family with some G+ing from me. We also have a joint Google account that we use to coordinate our family lives by supplying its email address when dealing with household bills and the like, as well as both using the same calendar to set up days out/medical visits/school holidays, etc. If the good lady taps “Dentist Visit” into the calendar on her phone it pops up on my phone as we both have access to this joint calendar and that is so useful I can’t contemplate not having it in my life. On top of that, this joint Google account provides us both with the perfect store for our family snaps as we can both upload them to the shared Picasa direct from our phones rather than all of mine going to my Picasa and all of hers going to hers. And that brings me to what I want to know. Is there any way we can share a calendar & Picasa account if our shared Google account moves to a Google+ profiled account?

Still confused? Well take a look at the diagram below and hopefully all will become clear. We currently do the one at the top but is there any way of doing the one at the bottom in Google? I hope so because I just want this shit to be easy and G+ seems to be making it harder.

Google+ Plan

Google+ me, baby!

It seems my many appeals to Google have paid off and today I received an email from them saying that, upon reflection, I was right and my HeadBurro Antfarm profile did not break their naming policy and I could once more enter the rather lovely world of Google+.

Cheers Google, it took a while but I’m glad you reinstated me 🙂

Google+ and me…

Google+ was always going to have an uphill struggle with me. I dropped Wave pretty much right after trying it out, I barely ever used or looked at Buzz beyond re-buzzing a blog post or two and when it comes to Facebook, well not only do I not facebook but I simply do not ‘get’ facebook. So when Google announced they would be opening G+ for beta you would not place me at the front of the queue for an invite, would you? Wrong! I was actually quite excited by the idea of Google+; partly because it sounded interesting and partly because I’m a Google kind of chap (not for me an Apple products and I’ve long since moved over to Google Docs for my writing and blogging). So I got in as HeadBurro Antfarm, populated it and quickly found that I wasn’t using it – it was just another facebook to me – just another “I don’t get it” thing so I deleted the phone app and haven’t looked at in months.

Until about two weeks ago I decided I should give it another go. I think I read about ir being out of Beta, maybe that tickled my fancy or something but whatever it was I turned back to the phone app and found it wouldn’t work. How odd. I went to the PC and there I found my account had been suspended due to name violation. Of course I’d read about the hoohah in Beta but quickly lost interest as G+ became irrelevant to me. It would appear the issue had not been resolved and now I had fallen victim to Google’s odd Big Brother-esque ruling. At first I wasn’t fussed. Big deal, thunk I, I don’t use it and probably never will. But then I noticed that they had suspended my profile too. That’s when I got riled.

I put in an appeal and in a week or so got a reply stating the G-men had looked at my case and found I was indeed guilty of being HeadBurro Antfarm, a name my mother had not given me when first I popped into the world, therefore they would not reverse their decision. I was welcome, they told me, to put my real name in the main name section and relegate HeadBurro Antfarm to the nicknames section meaning that both would be searchable. Now , none of you – NONE – know me by my real name. Well, maybe 3 or 4 of the TSMGO crowd do, but outside that NONE of you and no one who reads this blog* knows my real name so searching for my real name would be meaningless. And the thought that some of you could find my real name when searching for my actual name (I consider my actual name to be HeadBurro Antfarm, just not my real, birth name) makes my lower back all sweaty. I think it’s fear. I mean, I’m sure you are all a lovely bunch, it’s just I’m not going to put that to the test anytime soon, m’kay.

Now, I’m an easy going kind of guy so thought “Well, if I have to I have to. No biggie. Just as long as I can protect my real name, what harm is there? After all, Google know full well who I am, where I live and what my credit card number is as I’ve bought storage from them. I’ll do it as long as they let me ‘private’ my real name.” So I replied and asked if that would be an option.

It’s taken a few days for the reply to come through and it seems I can’t. I can not hide my real name if I fill in the profile as they want. But they did provide me with a workaround should I wish to use it.

I could (wait for it, it’s a doozie) put my real first name & just my last name initial in the name field. Brilliant! Genius! Now instead of being a unique HeadBurro Antfarm (a name I have held online for 5 years now) I can be just one of millions of “David B”s in the world. That, dear readers, is the thinking that got the Apollo 13 crew back to Earth, that is! That’s the kind of idea that makes the Dragon’s Den Dragons wet their pants with excitement! That’s the kind of clear, brilliant solution I’m used to expecting from an amazing organisation like Google.

Oh no, wait. No it isn’t.

It’s fucking daft is what it is.

So I won’t be using Google+, although I suspect they couldn’t care less if I do or don’t. On top of that I’ll be deleting my Google Profiles. All of them. I mean, what is the fucking point? I use Gmail, the calender, the RSS reader & Docs. I don’t share or like or +1, I just use these things for what I need. I blog with WordPress & keep my photos on Flickr. I imagine from Google’s point of view I’m a nothing to them.

* I don’t count my missus. she never reads this drivel.

LOTRO: Podcasts I Like – Part The Two

Some more podcasts for you here – I don’t know, since finding LOTRO I’ve become quite the podcast listener and spend far too much time in a morning downloading them to my phone via Google Listen so I can play them as I drive to and from work. I’ve made my Google Reader Listen section public so you can see what I’m listening to should you so wish – in the meantime add these feeds to your own reader/podcast thingy and enjoy 🙂

  • Sally Forth in LOTRO – A brilliant podcast from knowledgeable old hand Doc Holiday. Whilst aimed at experienced players there is plenty in each one for a LOTRO noob like me and I never felt lost. Also the audio quality is excellent and he has a great radio voice so it makes listening a breeze not a chore.
  • One True Cast – A funny podcast from my fellow countrymen. I like this a lot, especially as they laugh and swear throughout – Brits FTW ;-), but I’ll be damned if I can find a podcast feed – just add their blog feed to your reader and lookout for podcasts is my advice:
You’ll notice another feed in my reader list – Through the Palantir. I’ll be honest and say that I *don’t* listen to these. I tried with a couple but these guys are serious, SERIOUS gamers and as a noob I had a really hard time understanding what they were referring to. If you are a die-hard RPG MMO fan and level 65 LOTRO veteran who knows your stats & character sheets inside out you’ll find a lot here, but noobs will be lost. Also be warned that their audio quality is best described as variable and I found that in a car on the motorway I had to crank the phone’s media player volume to the top to hear them and after 10 minutes of ear-bud torture I had a right fucker of a headache 😀