Quick way to improve your chess game

Chess is the one game I play more than the rest. I’ll typically start my day with at least 2 games before work, and another 3 later during the day.

Playing Chess frequently without analysis and study might be fun, but your rating won’t improve very much.

If you don’t even have a rating then perhaps it is time you sign up for FICS (Free Internet Chess Server) . It won’t cost you anything and you’ll be playing real people.

I’m not a fan of playing against computers. I just don’t do it. Technology is however great at offering post game analysis.

I think often we get so caught up in studying rules and positional analysis that at least in my game, I’ve overlooked short term tactics.

This is until I picked up http://www.chesstempo.com – once again another free service, check out the tactics training section.

This will drop you in various positions from real games, unlike those unnatural chess puzzles you might find in newspapers. To solve these positions might seem simple, but the conditions are just to make the best move, this means you’re not always looking for mate or a quick win yet these scenarios are included.

You get dropped into these truly juicy positions that if you don’t rush to solve will eventually help you learn short term strategy. Eventually you’ll get quicker at solving these, so don’t rush.



This website is better than Reddit

If you’re looking for a website like Reddit only better, I think I have found something for you. 

Now before I just post the link let me explain a few things. 

Firstly I understand the appeal of Reddit, and a massive part of the addictive value is the comment system. On Reddit virtually any kind of content you can think of gets posted, having the ability to comment on what you’re looking at is massively empowering. 

There are 2 main elements to this. 

1. If you did not like the content you can vent off some steam. This gives you an outlet, and since Reddit is popular you get a sense of justice by posting your disagreements in a place you can be sure people will read what you’ve said. Likewise you can also post positive remarks or even gratitude. 

2. Having a karma systems means you can gauge if you’re inline or understood with your peers. For people on Reddit, having highly rated comments or posts makes them feel loved and special. Having negative comments, well you figure it out. 

Now I’m mentioning this because I know how you might think it is important that you get into discussions with others over a variety of topics, but I want you to really be objective about those discussions. Are they really that helpful or useful or has Reddit of late become nothing more than a troll pit? 

What I am finding lately is that no matter what you comment on, you always find some smart ass trying to be one better than you, or someone trying to point out flaws, often completely missing the point. 

For example, you might make a statement like “I like driving with sunglasses on” and some dumb shit Redditor will say something like “Driving at night is better because there are less cars on the road and you don’t need sunglasses”, this is exactly how Reddit is, full of pseudo intellectuals who actively go around trying to outsmart you. 

Mostly I find Redditors think they’re super smart, often (mostly) missing the entire point of what you’re actually saying, even though it wasn’t that hard to figure out and to be fair there’s a lot of nastiness going on there. 

All in all, you need to ask yourself, in the long term what are you really getting out of the site. Do you really want to put up with the jerks who are trying to outsmart you. Do you really need to live with it, or is there a better place on the net. 

For starters you need to learn to stop looking for validation from others. If you can do this, then you’re ready to leave Reddit. If you want to discuss every small little find with others, well there are very few places to discuss such things on the net. 

I’m saying, put behind the discussion mentality, since there isn’t much personal value in it. 

Next thing I would like to discuss is that Reddit is an aggregator, so it doesn’t produce original content, except for text posts which all fall in discussion land. Whatever you’ve found on Reddit comes from somewhere else, perhaps even more specific sites. 

Once you’ve stripped away the need for discussion, you’re much more free to roam and enjoy the net. Most net discussions aren’t worth a damn and you might think you’re being proactive by participating, but since there are so many people discussing things, it is likely more than enough will express your view point and there is no need to get your hands dirty too, unless ofc you’re after validation. Just remember every time you post your point of view you’re at risk of some jerk coming along who wants to wipe that smile off your face. Why even bother? Make real friends, and discuss stuff with them, not with strangers on the net. 

If you’re after videos, then liveleak has a lot of the content you’ll find on Reddit anyways, only you’ll get it sooner and with much less reposts. Or just become a Youtube explorer, I mean instead of being passive, be more active and explore Youtube for content you’re actually interested in. 

If you’re after tech reports, Reddit technology is all about being paranoid, there are much better tech sites out there focusing only on tech, and so once again pull that first hand and leave the discussion for the peanut gallery. 

but if you’re after an aggregator that learns while you explore, then you want Stumbleupon: http://www.stumbleupon.com

It’s like Reddit without the basement dwelling know it alls.

That’s my recommendation. . 


Why I’m quitting Anarchy Online – again.

I can assure you this will not be “just another rage quit”. There are many aspects of Anarchy Online that I love and in many ways I’ve learnt more since being back, and had a more diverse experience than the first time around.

You see my initial toon started in 2007 had originally been froob and joined a very helpful org early on. I had really enjoyed playing that soldier but if I must be honest then a lot of my gaming experience was hand held by more experienced org mates. Especially when it came to questing and getting gear, and not forgetting getting twinked.

I still enjoyed myself immensely with that initial soldier and did eventually level him up to become a very well twinked 220 with almost all the bells and whistles. Except alphas perhaps and a BOC.

When I initially left the game I had gotten to the point where I was just flat out bored. I had done all the instances, farmed all the times I wanted from the new Xan experience. I was logging on and had almost no aim or purpose. The org I was in was changing and my good friend in the game started getting grumpy.

I had over stayed my welcome and it was time to leave. So without much ado I stopped playing my account and for about 5 years I didn’t look back much. At times I would check out the forums to see if there was any progress with the new engine and yet nothing ever materialised.

In the meantime I continued to play a considerable amount of games, I upgraded my computer and got lost in all the good titles I could find. I had come to enjoy the single player experience. A solid rush of polished game experience and once all the good stuff was extracted it was time to swiftly move on.

I played through games like Skyrim once. Not focusing too much on side quests. Just playing the main bits and getting short term pleasure. And once I was done, there was a seemingly unlimited amount of games out there to keep me busy.

From time to time I got stuck on one title or another. I remember playing Fallout New Vegas extensively and Age of Empires online. I wasn’t limited to genre nor too invested in just one title.

The sometime around 5 months ago I got an invite to try out the new beta. As it turns out, I never did get a real invite, and the email was more of a fishing hook trying to catch a few old players. I rolled a froob and believe it or not, once again a soldier. Thinking I would go for a stroll around, checking for old org mates and just pure nostalgic value.

The game had changed here and there, and I guess I started seeing the game in a new light. I reinstated my main account, and got really into a new org. Within no time I was promoted to SC, and had a few good org mates.

At around this time I rolled a new MA, specifically for S10, since lately without a S10 twink you don’t stand a hope in hell of making any real credits. S10 is a gold mine, no other instance in the game even comes close to the earning potential.

My MA alone could farm the relays, but I needed to be self reliant. It wasn’t too long then before I rolled an Engi. The engi turned out to be a massive amount of fun to play, after having learnt how to cast bots 2-3 times my level. Honestly what a blast. Now I could build my own relays.

Still just being able to farm and build relays didn’t leave the picture complete. One still needed to kill the boss, and that would require a team. My org mate rolled a tank, and I with help managed to level up a Doc in 3 days to 150, twinked and ready. Able to CH and although the first pb was a wipe, the 2nd one and subsequent 10 were not – life was good.

I continued farming and got the MA very nicely setup with living dragon body 450m and slippers 350m. I picked up a crit scope from HI, and a 4/5 prisoners robe. IS for attacks and after upgrading the symbs the MA was more than capable.

More work on the Engi.

But somewhere over the past 2 weeks I’ve just lost interest. There is just no true incentive for me to play anymore. I can’t see any real decent progress on the horizon. The beta will take another year (at least) maybe two before it becomes a public reality, even then the new engine isn’t revolutionary, and besides some performance tweaks, the game will still be clunky.

Don’t get me wrong, I would still highly recommend the AO experience to anyone unfamiliar with the game, but I really think for now I’ve exhausted nearly every drop of fun out of the game.

It’s sad in a way, such a great game with such amazing potential which is becoming stagnant. I wonder if all MMO experiences end this way.







Business Travel Sucks

Ironically I actually enjoy travelling, however I enjoy travelling with a significant other and in a recreation capacity. I’ve too done a fair amount of solo travel, and that too had some high points. 

When it comes to business travel though, especially being over 30, I have to say, all in all it just sucks. 

  • Adding major stress to the whole trip is the travel component. You might travel by plane, train, car, etc but no matter how you get to your destination, I don’t see this as adventure, much more just a chore. The modern travel system just isn’t that exciting, waiting around in departure lounges sucks all the romance out of the trip. Trains though I find tolerable if you get the right carriage and some privacy. Cars too might give you ultimate privacy, then again driving long distances becomes a never ending tale on the highway interrupted by all too familiar gas stations. It’s all modernised and franchised and frankly boring.
  • Strange accommodation:  Strange as in unknown, unfamiliar. Call me old fashioned by after a long day at work I like returning to that place I call home. Frankly in my mid 30’s now, and anything else feels like a compromise. Oh sure it is nice to get away on a romantic holiday with your SO, a nice way to add some much needed spark to an old flame. Business trips though, and for the most part it’s lonely hotel rooms. 
  • The more the merrier? Not entirely so. I’m currently on a business trip with 4 other co-workers, and none of them are happy about being on this trip. I guess they all feel the same way about the trip as I do, frankly we would all much rather be in our comfort zones rather than having to spend time browsing markets and cheesy forms of entertainment while we pass time to start work tomorrow. Everyone is grumpy and just about tolerating it, we’re just getting started on a 2 week trip. I guess here it depends on who you end up going on trips with, but for the most part, let’s just call these stock standard politically correct co-workers. No, not fun at all. 
  • Different surroundings being in the foreign office, and having to work in unfamiliar settings. As a coder I can code anywhere, so what this trip will mean is far more meetings. Meetings can be useful if the content applies to you, however my experience with meetings is that very little of the content applies to any 1 individual in particular. All ground gets covered which means a lot of the time you end up just keeping a poker face waiting for the meeting to end. 
  • Lack of organisation. Often you arrive only to find that the essentials have not been setup. No domain access, or no desk space, or a lack of an external monitor. Any / all of these are on the cards. 
  • The additional politics. As a coder I guess I like to keep my head down. Not interested in playing a political game or over extending myself. These travel situations force you into situations where you’re bound to have a few of those meaningless polite conversations that really get you nowhere in the long term and no new “real” friends. 
  • Lack of your comfort items. The place we’re staying at now is self catering, Took a dump only to notice no toilet spray. Got out the shower only to notice no rag to wipe the floor. Since the guys who booked the place didn’t get it right, one of my co-workers ended up being booked in a kids room – you know the ones with bunks?

All in all, I guess this won’t be the last trip I go on, but yeah not exactly a thrilling, adventure. Business travel sucks. 


Bluetooth woes finally solved, once and for all gone!

I had originally bought a pair of Creatives WP-350 Bluetooth enabled headphones.

I’ll be clear, the sound quality on these headsets is certainly top notch, and considering the price well I’m more than happy with my purchase.

Indeed via my Android tablet, I’ve had absolutely no problem pairing these headphones and listening to music or watching videos.

The problems crept in the moment I paired the set with a laptop. Sound quality reduced and hindered by stuttering or just loss of sound altogether.

This frustration lasted for about 2 months. I did more research, I installed Linux Mint, and even went as far as downloading the source code for Bluez and Bluez tools and started looking for how I could fix the implementation. I wrote bash scripts and yet still the BT experience was nothing short of terrible.

Windows was even worse, I purchased a copy of BlueSolaris which did absolutely nothing to help the problem. NOTHING HELPED!

Then I came across the final solution: Creative Bluetooth Audio BT-D1. In my previous blog I wrote about this dongle, but that was theory while I was waiting for it to arrive.

Been using it now for 2 days, and during that time it’s worked without any issues, absolutely flawless!

So yeah I’m recommending this dongle to anyone who is about to throw away their BT headphones, before you do that buy this dongle!


BlueTooth A2DP Headsets, why they suck and what you can do about it?

Recently I bought a pair of Creative WP-350’s. I mainly (only) wanted these to listen to Music on.

I’ve had them for a while now, and to be completely frank, they’ve been the cause of most of my day to day computing headaches. They’ve been frustrating as hell to work with, but can we really blame the headset?

There is nothing wrong with the headset

We cannot blame the headset, it implements the BT protocol perfectly, Creative have done a good job creating these headsets, read the whole post, and you’ll see why the headset is not at fault.

The receiver hardware too isn’t the problem

You might think because most laptops and phones sport a wide range of BT hardware receivers, that surely we can start blaming the receiver hardware, some are good and some are bad? Right? Well yes and no. But usually if your BT device is giving problems, stuttering sound, sound cut offs, disconnects etc, it too isn’t the receiver hardware that is the problem

So why does bluetooth audio suck so badly?

The key to all your woes, and the number 1 cause is a) the drivers for your operating system and b) the BT stack installed in your operating system.

This can be proven with my current setup.

I’ve installed Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Linux Mint (Bluez4), Linux Arch (Bluez5), at the same time I have an Android Google Nexus 10, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, and a ZTE Blade (all running Android).

Amazingly on the same laptop with a different OS my BT experience is like night and day. I will tell you up front that regardless of OS – No implementation gets it just right, except Android.

Windows 8.1 : Sound quality was terrible, skipping, stuttering, etc.

Windows 8.0 : Sound quality was ok, skipping and stuttering.

Windows 7 : Unable to detect, updated to latest driver, could pair, sound was cutting off, no skipping. Sound disconnects while audio sink remains connected – unusable for the most part.

Android : Easy to detect, easy to pair, easy to repair, sound quality awesome, no stuttering or skipping.

You’re not shit out of luck.

When it comes to A2DP, the last thing you want to rely on is the operating systems bluetooth implementation or the manufacturers drivers. The very people who are creating the experience very seldom get it right.

Luckily there is hope, in the form of a special type of BT dongle for Creative Products. The Creative Bluetooth Audio BT-D1, could mean the difference between throwing away those BT headsets, or actually enjoying the experience.

Why it’s better?

When you plug in the creative Bluetooth Audio BT-D1 dongle, essentially what you’re connecting is a USB audio device, the OS is not away of the BT implementation, this is all encapsulated in the dongle. For this reason regardless of OS, the BT stack and drivers always reside on the USB device. This dongle is specifically designed for Audio too. And it’s the best hope in hell BT wireless has got at being OS agnostic, and work out of the box nearly perfectly every time.

Even the pairing no longer happens on the laptop, You pair directly with the dongle, not through software.

Another most excellent piece of news is that it does not support hands free telephony, for this reason it can only connect to the High Fidelity Audio profile. Say goodbye to that low resolution radio sound.


Distro Hopping : Antergos

I would love to tell you all about this spiffy distribution, but alas the installer did not even work.

After checking the official forums, it seems that this is a common problem depending on what display adapter you have.

Apparently it used to work, but since Antergos is based on Arch, and since Arch is a rolling distro, this no longer works? Excuse me are you kidding me?

So I liked the idea of being able to install Arch using a graphical installer with a DE selector, since I was thinking if pairing the install with Cinnamon.

Please also note: I tried 4 times. And the live CD takes a considerable amount of time to even boot.

Fed up finally I threw the install media in the bin. Conclusion: Antergos is far from ready.

Next : Opensuse 13. 


My thoughts on sort algorithms

I think it is a great idea for programmers of all levels to have a basic idea how sort algorithms work, just not for the reasons you might think.

Sorting data is a fairly common programming task, however higher level programming languages for the most part take care of sorting. I have yet to work with a higher level programming language where I could do a better job at sorting than the method implemented by the framework.

There is a reason for this, we’ve been using computers since 1835, and modern systems for over half a century, and we’ve become ridiculously proficient in the area of sorting algorithms.

What I like about sorting algorithms is that efficiency is easy to quantify. Without too much difficulty you can write methods than can determine how well your algorithm will perform on different datasets both in volume and type.

Modern high level programming languages take advantage of scientific achievement and implement (in theory) the best possible sorting algorithms we know to date.

To prove this point I coded up a bubble sort, a selection sort and an insertion sort. I will still get around to manually writing the quick sort.

I called these sort methods on an array of 100k (rnd*1000000) – Bubble sort natually the slowest could sort in 46 seconds. The selection performed much better at 16 seconds. The insertion better still at roughly 13 seconds. However the built in Array.Sort (which uses quick sort) pulled this off at a whopping 0.04 seconds!

How can you honestly hope to compete with that? If you have performance issues with such a sort then perhaps you shouldn’t be using a high level language in the first place?

Implementing built in sorting also to some degree always the sort to improve potentially as newer versions of the higher level language are released without making any code changes or monitoring scientific breakthroughs in sorting algorithms. Because like everything what we have now will be improved on as our datasets get larger and more varied.

So given all of this why would I still advocate learning sorting algorithms.

1. For ad hoc tasks where you absolutely cannot implement a built in sort.
2. To learn the methodologies and apply them to other problems that might not seem initially related.
3. To give you general knowledge on IO vs comparisons in loops.
4. To further improve your reductionism capabilities when dealing with performance issues.



What I expect from Windows 9, and what would bring me back to Windows.

To those of you who’ve been following my recent posts, you should already know I’ve moved over to Linux. Each of my capable household devices now run some or other flavor of Linux.

Still in some ways I am sad to have had to depart my previously established form of computing in the world of Windows. Even with the best of my intentions there is still something to be said about the loss, in many ways Windows offers certain maturities you don’t get on Linux.

However I have to say I would gladly dabble in config files and the command prompt, because Linux to me anyways has taken over the desktop space, since the introduction of Windows 8 which is a hybrid tablet OS with strong bias towards touch computing.

This is my list of what it would take to once again spark my interests in Windows:

  1. A true pure desktop mode out of the box, without any silly 3rd party workarounds. Windows 8.1 just doesn’t cut it.
  2. Much less disk IO and the ability to fully tweak services that are IO expensive.
  3. Much better Bluetooth support, with full support for A2DP profile connections that don’t require odd tweaks to get working.
  4. A leaner base, with much more functionality removed, and installed on demand.
  5. A much more customizable UI shell, giving 3rd party developers the ability to replace the default shell completely, akin to the Linux DE, using a fully featured and rich set of APIs.
  6. Package Management would be good, but ok the app store is a step in the right direction – the presentation of which could be more desktop appropriate.
  7. Metro obliterated.

Would be truly great if Microsoft could invest a great deal into R&D and deliver us a truly awesome desktop experience, or just give us what we had back with Windows 7, thus not neglecting us, the content creators (who are on desktop devices) completely.



My thoughts on Ubuntu Touch version 1 (Reviewed on Nexus 10)

I’ve just installed Ubuntu Touch version 1 on my Nexus 10 and the whole experience lasted roughly 10 minutes. If anything the experience has left me with a new found respect for the Android operating system.

Ubuntu Touch version 1, is a primitive alpha at best.

I was expecting at least a semi usable system, but sadly no. Version 1 is nothing more than a developer preview with a version 1 badge.

Having said that and while sipping on a late night tea getting over the disappointment, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this.

There’s still a boat load of work to be done

My gripes are mostly with the versioning. Giving Ubuntu Touch version 1 status is indeed premature. Perhaps Canonical realise how quick they need to get to the party and how much catching up they need to do, and I am sure they’ve followed their best software development practices and each department is somewhat satisfied they’ve reached their milestones and have a checkbox next to their goals, but I’m looking at this from an end users point of view.

The reality is, it’s a buggy as hell proof of concept that should really be labelled as an Alpha.

I really do not see how this release has made it out of dev preview? Are Canonical confused? Previously they had a developers preview, now they’re on v1 however they state, this is a developers preview – why not just keep it as a dev preview update?

The user experience is already going in the wrong direction

What Ubuntu Touch tries to offer is multi-tasking. To do this they’ve created a way to run 2 apps at the same time. 1 is the primary tablet app, the other runs in phone mode.

Firstly this idea is nutty! It would have been awesome to have a scalable amount of first class citizen apps. Clearly the hardware isn’t there yet, so the work around offers some relief, but in practice it’s a terrible idea.

I would really like to ask if anyone in the development team, particularly someone involved in the UI development actually took the time to load up Ubuntu touch on a Nexus 10 and go through a first impressions check list.

Even the most basic of functionality is cruddy. Settings loading up in the phone app space, while on a tablet? Brightness only adjusting the phone app space, and immediately forgetting the setting!

The OS comes with the most rudimentary of web browsers too, not even able to hold a cookie, when I tried logging into a site. Now I know its a preview, but at least bundle in a decent web browser, to give us some idea of the potential.

Improvement ideas

  1. Include a boot logo
  2. Flashing instructions were good and the whole process was easy – good job on this!
  3. Tap to log in – no no no, what’s the point of the circle then?
  4. Make the UI much more intuitive. Ditch the phone app, and introduce intuitive multi-tasking
  5. Bundle in a version of Chromium.
  6. Fix the lag

My prediction though is that Ubuntu Touch is going to be a bit of a failure. I can see all my improvement ideas being implemented except 4. I just don’t think Canonical are working with the right team to truly revolutionize usability or even to get it right. And no matter how technically brilliant the code might be, ultimately usability is what is going to win over hearts.