Go Pokemon Go!

Last week Pokemon Go was released to the public. Kevin and I have been playing the Field Test version for a couple months, so we had a good head-start on it. Our accounts were reset though, so we had to start over when the public release came out, but at least we had a lot of time to learn the basics and watch it turn into the cool game it is now. Boy has it taken the world by storm though!! It seems like almost EVERYONE is playing it, with crowds of people found at Pokestops and gyms all over the place, meeting up and playing together.

It’s fun knowing where this all came from, and knowing we, as early Ingress players, played a big part in it. It seems a lot of Pokemon Go players have yet to learn how it all came to be. When I talk to Go players I explain what Ingress is, and that Ingress is kind of a “Pokemon Go Origins”. Niantic (creators of Ingress) and Nintendo got together and shared their gaming data to create a new sort of Pokemon/Ingress hybrid game. They used all of the basic GPS mapping data and features and Ingress “portals” to create all of the Pokestops and Gyms in Pokemon Go. Having a good knowledge of the entire area’s portal locations from over 3 years of playing Ingress gives us “old school” gamers a distinct early advantage in Pokemon Go, but with so many more people playing, virtually everywhere, and many of them much stronger and better Pokemon players than us, the overall favor still tips things in their way it seems.

Most of the portals that Ingress started with were created by Niantic using the data from the Historical Marker Database on the Internet (http://www.hmdb.org/). But they were few and far between when the game was first released. So we, as early Ingress players, were allowed to submit hundreds of locations players might find interesting while playing Ingress, and after a sometimes-very-long acceptance process by Niantic, each portal was either rejected or accepted. If accepted, it became a “portal” when Ingress players could go to build it up for their faction, either for the blue team (The Resistance) or for the green team (The Enlightened). Personally, I am responsible for the creation of nearly 200 portals in the game, all in and around the Kenosha, WI area and near my work in Waukegan, IL. I have also made it to the top Ingress level, L16, so I feel I know Ingress fairly well.

Ingress is sort of a capture-the-flag GPS-based game with two factions fighting against one another, worldwide. Niantic would periodically hold “anomaly” events in different cities around the globe, which would draw in hundreds or thousands of players from all over the area and around the world to participate in close one-on-one and team-on-team battling for a day.

I had thought Ingress had gotten pretty popular itself, until seeing the effects of this past week’s Pokemon Go release! It’s almost like having an “anomaly” event every day at the moment… hundreds of people flocking to clusters of portals (known as Gyms and Pokestops) to Pokemon Go players… It has already been on the front page of the Kenosha News, all over every TV news program, and even on TMZ! It’s getting everyone up and out, walking around, being social, and getting some exercise, playing with their kids, and getting active. Many say so many adults are playing because they grew up on Pokemon, and are sort of reliving their childhood at this point. Whatever the reason, it’s getting people out exercising and socializing like never before, and playing a game with their kids again. I can say, personally, that it has had the same effect for me. Kevin, my son, now 18 years old, played Ingress with me a few years ago, reach level 10 after about a year and got bored of it and stopped playing. Since Pokemon Go came out, he is now excited to go back out and play with me, and we’re often out playing together again!

Kevin and I heard about this game’s “Beta Testing” a few months ago, way before it’s public release last week, and we signed up to “Field Test” the app. Luckily we were both accepted for the field testing… From what I heard, many others in the area that also signed up never got accepted, so we felt quite fortunate. We actually got a chance to play some very early versions of the game, and watch it evolve a little until the final version was released to the public. We saw some pretty interesting changes come and go in the game–some of which gave us great insight into how the data from Ingress is implemented in Pokemon Go. But perhaps I should leave those nitty-gritty details for another article…if anyone is interested.

Anyway, Niantic (creators of Ingress and an app called Field Trip) got together with Nintendo, and together they created a new version of Pokemon for smartphones, and all of that data for “portals”–most of which was created by us, it’s players–was used in Pokemon Go to create all of the Pokemon Gyms and Pokestops in the game. This includes the photos we took of each location. So based on Ingress gameplay, we created several “farm” areas all over the world. These are small geographic areas densely-populated with many portals, which groups of 8 or more of one of the two teams would often build up to the strongest level for their respective team and then “farm” that area’s portals for top-level gear.

So now, in Pokemon Go, these farm areas are fast becoming hugely-popular meetup areas for vast numbers of Pokemon Go players! For us Ingress players, it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before (except for the rare anomaly events held in major cities). Go players will cluster around a group of Pokestops (which are also Ingress Portals), plug Lure Modules into them, and just stand or walk around and watch the wild Pokemon come to them so they can capture them. Lure Modules are pretty rare in the game, but you can purchase them with coins (and you can buy coins for the game with real money, or earn coins in the game without paying with real money). Lures will attract Pokemon to that Pokestop for a period of 30 minutes, and players seem to just continuously deploy new ones on these popular Pokestops when one wears off, giving everyone around them the benefit of catching many Pokemon with very little effort.

Having been an Ingress player for over 3 years, and watching it only get rare new players, it’s a little overwhelming to now see TONS of new players, constantly playing this new game. Pokemon Gyms, which players can fight and train on, and claim for their team, somewhat like portals in Ingress, are flipped to a different team so often, it’s hilarious! Players have the potential to earn 10 coins in Pokemon Go for each Gym they have a Pokemon deployed on, every 21 hours. This is known as a Defender Bonus, and is the only way you can earn coins to purchase items in the game’s store, aside from spending real money. I think, since most players know this, this is one reason it’s so difficult to keep ownership of a gym for any length of time. Until the game settles down a bit more, all gyms will probably be constantly changing hands multiple times every day.

In Ingress, players would try to locate remote hard-to-get-to portals and try to use them as “Guardians” so they could own them for several months to earn one of their badges in the game. This eventually led to some players harvesting Ingress data and analyzing it to determine how long players have been on each portal, which would tell them how close these players were to earning that badge, so they knew exactly which portal(s) were a particular player’s guardian portal. These players were referred to as Guardian Hunters, or “Gunters”, to steal a term from the great book (and soon-to-be movie) “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ready_Player_One

I’m sure the “newness” of this craze will die down over time, and things will then start leveling off to a level a little closer to where Ingress is. Then again, with how much more popular this game is compared to Ingress right at its start, who knows! If they improve the performance of the app and keep adding better features and options like they did with Ingress, it might just gain much MORE popularity! I can’t imagine how that would be possible, but I guess we’ll see. I envision having “ops” much like we’ve had in Ingress, with groups of players from each faction planning massive attacks to take over gyms throughout an entire geographic area, and a nice world map like Ingress’ Intel Map so we can see how our team is doing, region-wide and worldwide compared to the other two factions.

Hold on to your Pokemon, people…this is just the beginning!

Oh, and just to throw in a shameless plug for our Kenosha group and my team of choice… Please signup to join our Slack Team at KenoshaGo.com. All teams are welcome! There are several public channels there for everything Pokemon Go, from news, gyms and meetups, to just general game discussion. Or you’re free to create a private channel just for your friends or for your own team to private discuss plans or meetups. Go Team Mystic!

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BvS in 4DX

I went to see Batman vs Superman on Sunday. In 4DX. I took Kevin and his girlfriend to Gurnee Mills, and I had a few hours to kill, so I went to see a movie. I went in having no idea what the heck a “4DX” movie was, I was just curious.

As it turned out, it was a blast…Quite literally! The price is even a kick in the nuts, as it turns out! I reluctantly sprung for the $19 ticket, saying to myself “Oh, this BETTER be good…” I skipped the snacks to make up the difference and just bought a small drink. Turns out I should have skipped that too–since I ended up WEARING half of it! If you’ve been to Six Flags, you have more than likely experienced the Space Shuttle simulation–with the moving, shaking seats and the huge screen and immersive experience. THAT is what 4DX is like, except it lasts for the entire length of the movie–two and a half hours! This includes shaking and rumbling seats, surround sound AND lighting–during lightning and explosions the entire theater flashes, wind, and even misting–yes, when it rains, or someone on-screen gets splashed, YOU do too!

Holding onto my drink and trying to find just the right “safe” time to take a sip, was an ordeal in itself! At several points I even had to grab onto my cell phone and glasses which were in the cup holder attached to the seat, because I thought they might fly out of the holder and onto the floor! Explosions were the most jarring, including gunshots, giving me quite the kick at times. You certainly can’t relax and fall asleep in one of THESE movies, that’s for sure!

A few times, I even got a bit queasy when the camera, often floating above the action, made the seat “float” through the air very slowly, and the accompanying breeze added to the effect perfectly, so it really felt like I was floating along with the camera. Very cool effect–enough to make me just a teeny bit ill.

Since I have a bad eye, I’m guessing much of the 3D impact was lost on me, but I could tell they tried hard, and the movie looked great with the glasses on, though, as always with me watching 3D, my eyes eventually began to water a few times.

When it was all over, it felt like I had spent an entire three hours on a Six Flags ride! I was actually exhausted. I thought the movie itself was good, but because it was my first time in a 4DX theater, all of the effects were a bit overwhelming and distracted me from focusing on the movie itself at several key times. I guess I’m going to have to go see it again–maybe next time at a standard theater so I can follow the story.

Oh, and when you see this movie in 4DX, they say the effects are actually enhanced for the “team” you are supporting. Sunday was “Team Batman”, so the effects from Batman were enhanced more than for Superman. Good thing too, because…well…I’d better stop right here before I say too much… Go see it for yourself.  Before someone spoils it for you.

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My Samsung Galaxy S6 Debacle

The battery died on my Galaxy S6 last night, and I tried pretty much everything possible to get it working properly again, including soft reset, hard reset, factory recovery, etc. etc. etc., but nothing worked.  It seemed to “reboot” to the “SAMSUNG” screen most times instead of the “GALAXY S6” logo screen that normally appears from a power-off state. In fact, it REFUSED to even power off! Holding down the power button for a few seconds–which normally brings up the menu to power off of restart the phone–simply made it reboot back to the “SAMSUNG” screen (which is not a normal reboot, as previosuly mentioned).  Doing things in some apps – like trying to export my OnTrack readings and e-mail them to my wife, which I do daily, caused the same reboot, as well as just trying to open the built-in “Themes” function in Settings.

About a week ago I upgraded to Android Marshmallow, and everything worked great with it up until now. I’m not sure exactly what triggered this to happen except for my battery going dead while I was trying to use my phone. Pretty much everything is backed up to the cloud–all my apps, photos, etc., and the rest I have backed up manually (my OnTrack test results, SMS backup, and screenshots of all of my home screens, folders, and all of my app drawer icons–just to remind me of what was installed, for future reference). So my phone is primed to be wiped, but I can’t even get it to do THAT at this point.

I tried all of the instructions I found online for “How to hard reset the Galaxy S6”, but no luck. I even set the security settings to wipe the phone after 25 failed attempts at entering a PIN! I didn’t realize, however, that this little function was so time-consuming! What it does is let you enter the wrong PIN about 5 times, then reminds you about the wipe after 25 attempts and gives you a 5-minute delay before allowing you to try again. After trying again, maybe a few times, it reminds you again and increases the delay to 10 minutes. It repeats this process all the way up to 25 attempts, until it only allows 1 attempt before increasing the wait time between attempts. Finally, after the final attempt (and a whopping 1 HOUR delay), it tried to wipe the phone, showing “Deleting all data…” on the screen for several seconds, then did it’s reboot to the “SAMSUNG” logo, and returned to the login screen. When I tried to login once more with a bad PIN, it then showed “-1 attempts left – try again in 60 minutes” and the “Deleting all data…” message stayed on-screen as it once again attempted to wipe the phone. This time, however, the “Deleting all data…” message stayed on-screen forever. After waiting about 30 minutes with nothing changing, I pressed the power button and it went to the “SAMSUNG” startup screen again, rebooting.

After all that, I got desperate. With the only other option being to bring my phone into my carrier’s store, and having them first go through all of the same time-consuming troubleshooting steps I already went through, I started thinking about those buttons. For a warm boot you press 3 buttons. For a hard reset you press 3 buttons, but use the opposite volume button… and neither of those work for me. So what if I press ALL the buttons at once? There are a total of 4 on the phone: Volume Up, Volume Down, Power, and Home. So I did it and held them for about 10 seconds. Sure enough, my phone rebooted…CORRECTLY! Showing the GALAXY S6 screen instead of the SAMSUNG screen it kept rebooting to every other time! It just rebooted back to the login this time, but at least I could now consistently get it to properly reboot. So with this in mind, I did the 4-button reboot, and then immediately switched to the 3-finger combination used for a normal “hard reset”, figuring it would think it’s coming up from a power-off state and actually reset. After a couple failed attempts, the third time was a charm and I was able to switch buttons quick enough at the moment the GALAXY S6 screen appeared, holding the 3 buttons down, then the ANDROID logo appeared! SUCCESS! The next part was pretty amusing too… The little Android robot proceeded to fall over on it’s side, dead, with a big red circle with an X in it on he Android! I laughed pretty hard at that, which took away a lot of my frustration with this whole mess.

After a short time, the recovery menu appeared and I knew how to navigate this one–by using the VOL UP and VOL DOWN to select menu items and the POWER button to select them. With those I chose Factory Reset, and after it worked for several minutes I was FINALLY back to a brand-new phone! Everything is setup once again and working properly now. I know it’s good to refresh your phone every 6 months to a year, but this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be done. It was, however, good practice, and maybe this posting will even help someone else who might end up in the same situation. I have no idea what actually caused the issue or what became corrupted, I only know that my battery went dead quickly. If I’m not near a power source when it gets low though, I tend to push it right to the edge, so maybe that’s not such a good idea. It starts warning me at 15% battery, which is a sign to start charging or shut it down–SAFELY. Since I didn’t do that, it could have been in the middle of writing something critical when the power ran out. All I know is that it wasn’t a “CLEAN” shutdown, it was instantly dead. When I last glanced at the battery, it was at 1%.

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“Stressed Out” – by Twenty One Pilots

It’s strange the things you remember and the things you don’t. It makes no sense at all. I can remember getting only 1 thing wrong on my driving test (not stopping before a crosswalk when pulling out of a parking lot) yet I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night.

I get posts all the time from the “You know you’re from Kenosha when…” Facebook page, and they often bring back memories of things I thought I had long forgotten. Recently someone posted an old photo of “Old Market Square”, the shiopping center at 85th Street and Sheridan Road in Kenosha that used to be “Topps” before that. It’s now the Kenosha County Job Center. I remember when the DMV was there, and when Funway Freeway was there, the Old Market Square Theaters, and mastering the pinball machine “Black Knight”, then earning and setting all of the credits I racked up on it.

I’m 52 now. I was that “pinball wizard” back when I was 17 or 18, working as a dishwasher at The Elks Club (now Heritage House, but long abandoned and neglected, but soon to be restored). After Hight School I went on to Gateway to get an Associate Degree in Computers. At some point, my dad got me a job at his work, AMC/Chrysler, as a security guard. I worked there 5 years before I was let go along with thousands of other workers as they shut down auto manufacturing in Kenosha. Who knows how long I might have stayed there if they hadn’t… After that, I got a job at ITO Industries as a Laboratory Technician. It wasn’t exactly a computer job, but it was technical, so a bit more to my liking. And, as it turned out, it became a computer job after all. When I started there, their lab was doing all of their chemical tests using a calculator for all of the formulas, bath adds, etc., and logging all of their results and changes in notebooks. After working there a short time, I quickly realized a huge need for an application that could do all of the calculations and logging for them, and even take that data much further with charting and trending.

I worked on it at home, in my spare time, and it wasn’t long before I had a working program to show them. Management was pretty impressed, and agreed to purchase the application. I chose to keep the rights to the application, intending to sell it to other circuit board manufacturers. I ended up doing just that, and thought it worked out pretty nicely. In the end, I had rewritten the entire application 2 more times. Version 1 was DOS-based. version 3 was the last, and included many more features and functionality than version 1 had, and was now Windows-based. Getting and keeping it running on all the different Windows variations at the time was a bit tricky though, and as Windows evolved, I wasn’t able to continue to keep the application (called “MicroChemLab” or “Microlab” for short) up-to-date and running on newer hardware and newer versions of Windows. I just didn’t have the time to continue developing it.

I eventually got hired by another circuit board shop, CirQon, in Gurnee, IL, and left ITO. I was brought in with the understanding that I would bring my application with me and adapt and implement it fully for their operation. This worked out great, and my employment there lasted until the company went out of business several years later. After that I finally landed a PC Tech job–something that was actually in my field of interest! And the rest, as they say, is history.

Why I wrote this, I have no idea. I guess I just wanted to see how much I actually remembered. There’s a lot more in-between stuff I skipped over, and I’m always digging back there, pulling out old odd and ends when they seem necessary in my ongoing journal I keep, so this certainly isn’t all I remember of “the good ole days”, but it’s enough for a decent blog entry. And it reminds me of a song I like. See the title of this blog entry.

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OK Google, figure this one out…

I had an argument with my phone this morning in my car. I’ve been using the hands-free features more often, trying to get used to them, so this morning I woke up my phone with “OK Google, navigate to work.” This has worked many times in the past without issue. This time, however, I was instructed to make some strange turns at odd times, definitely going in the wrong direction, though the ETA looked about right. That’s the main reason I use it–just so I know about what time I’ll be at work–so I can squeeze in a few other things before work whenever possible. So I argued with my phone, tellling it a few times that “this isn’t right!” and “You must be joking!”, but of course, these arguments weren’t stated with “OK Google”, so they didn’t do any good for either one of us. I knew that, obviously, but my phone seemed to be having a brain fart, so I just argued with it to be just as ridiculous.

So once it was obvious I was going to the wrong location, I asked Google “OK Google, what is my Work address?” My phone then displayed my Home and Word Addresses. My Home address looked fine, but my Work address said “Lindenhurst, IL” with no address. It not only “forgot” my address, but also had the wrong city! This made me a little angry, but I was driving, so I said “OK Google, navigate to…” and I spoke the entire address of my work. That worked fine, and now I was navigating to the right location. When I got to work later on, I checked my “Edit work and home” settings in Google Maps on my phone and they were both correct! The exact correct address was stored for both locations! I’m pretty confused at this point. When I google the question “What is my Work address” I do get just “Lindenhurst, IL”, and it says “Contacts – Only you can see this result” at the top of the search result. I checked my contacts, and I don’t have an entry named “Work” though. Not even anything close. Where it’s getting this “Contact” information from, I have no idea. I just wish Google Maps would default to it’s OWN stored Home & Work locations instead of trying to be smarter by looking elsewhere.

Update:  Issue Resolved!  Apparently, there’s a Contact with my name on it that it checks.  So “Jim Trottier” has my Home and Work addresses, and Work said “Lindenhurst, IL”.  I corrected it.  <sigh>

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