Monday, December 16, 2013

Tapped Out Troubles (D'oh!)

I once heard an acquaintance who is a seriously committed fan of Apple and its computer (and personal entertainment) products explaining to another acquaintance that the reason that she preferred Apple over PCs is that with the Mac you hardly ever run into problems.  And when you do the computer is smart enough to tell you what is wrong rather than force you to guess, which she believed was a universally correct fact.

When the person she was speaking with pointed out that while that may be true to some extent, the problem that they had was that when a Mac actually does have a problem, it is not usually something that the owner or user can easily fix and invariably the cost to get it fixed -- at an authorized Apple repair place -- was always three times as expensive as the cost for fixing a PC.

"You don't get it," she tried again to explain.  "The point is that PCs break like all the time!"

Tapped In to The Simpsons Tapped Out

I play The Simpsons: Tapped Out on my iPad.  The touch-based romp through the world of Bart and Homer Simpson and company is often the highlight of my day -- at least on the very bad days when I am forced to travel-- and I really don't have a choice about playing that particular game because I have to stay current in it as it is one of those ongoing guide projects I have to maintain.

Over the course of the past week I have not been able to play the game for more than 20 seconds without being notified that the game has disconnected from the server.

If you are not aware, Tapped Out is a touch-based fantasy game that takes place in the Simpson home town of Springfield, in which as the result of incompetence by Homer Simpson that was a product of the man and his childlike focus on video games, resulted in a meltdown at the Springfield Power Plant at which he worked that resulted in the complete destruction of Springfield and its surrounding towns (including the Krustyland Amusement Park, which is a low-scale ghetto version of Disneyland).

The basic premise for the game is that Homer, with the assistance of his family, friends, and neighbors, must rebuild Springfield one building, home, and business at a time.  Along the way in addition to rebuilding the town pretty much the way you -- the player -- think it should be built (hint: You do not have to follow the layout from the show) game play morphs into a mix of missions and quests that provoke you into building the different structures.

In addition to the reconstruction you are also presented with a serious challenge to resist the purchase of the special premium objects, structures, and people (and some cute pets) that require you to spend in-game Donut Currency, a premium form of currency most often required by exchanging real-world money for those Donuts.

That should give you a basic idea for how the game is structured, its point, and how it works.  Did I mention that Winter has arrived in New England?  Or that I am having dreams about being back home in Byron Bay where it is Summer now?  I like Summer.

Gaming in 20 Second Slices

For the past week or so Tapped Out has not been working.  Or rather it HAS been working in the sense that I can log into the game (Tapped Out requires that you (A) have Internet access to play, (B) be able to log into the EA Origin Server to play, and (C) actually BE logged into the EA Origin Server to play!

This scheme is what Microsoft imagined gamers would sit still for when they originally envisioned for the new Xbox One -- game security and authentication that was based upon an always on and always connected Internet connection.  

Of course if there are any problems with that connection then you will invariably end up spending a lot of frustrated time not playing your game while you figure out what has gone wrong.  I was not able to quickly or easily figure out what was going wrong, hence my description of the problem having lasted over a week...

The basic experience worked like this: I would load the game on the iPad, tap the login button, and the game would then log in.  For 20 seconds or so (sometimes less, sometimes more)  I could play as usual, but eventually (and often sooner rather than later) I would be disconnected from the game only to then repeat the process.

Eventually all of the other things I have to do on a daily basis failed to distract me from the problem with Tapped Out so I ended up sitting down to research the issue to see if it had a solution.  The best way in my experience in dealing with this sort of thing is to look for other people online who have had the same issue and see what (if anything) they ended up doing to fix it.

Well that and also to learn the cause of the problem if that informaiton was out there...

As it turned out the problem was not the game but the network that the game uses as its connection point.  Specifically Electronic Art's Origin Network.

This Origin Thing

The way that this works is that logging into the game actually means logging into the Origin Network, which once you have done so, verifies that you have an account for that game, opens that game client on your local device, and then downloads your account file so that you see all the nifty things you have purchased or built in the game, and your own is the one you designed and not some other town or worse, a generic town -- but we are getting side-tracked here.

When everything is working the way it is supposed to the gaming network does some things that you don't see it doing and, more to the point, since you are not supposed to see it doing those things, does them all ninja sneaky.

Among the various tasks that the game network completes is a periodic check-in to the message system that the game uses.  Its "Post Office" if you will, that in addition to containing the email or messages that other players have sent to yhou, also keeps track of the various system messages -- including for example how many people have asked to be your friend and whether or not you have accepted those requests -- or denied them.

Having lots of mates in the world of EA's Origin is not just a good idea, and not just a social relationship -- for many of the games in this social gaming network having lots of mates is a crucial element to success.

Since you are limited to having just 100 mates total BY that network, if you are a popular gamer you will end up spending far more time hitting the "Ignore" button on those requests than you did in accepting the earlier ones.

Here is the rub: If you have too many friend requests AND you ignored the need to press on the "Ignore" button to make the requests go away, what happens is that these requests build up into a huge pile of unresolved friend requests.

Once the pile gets sufficiently large enough to cause the game client (or the network client, which one it is is still not an established fact) to panic and crash, what happens is really simple and predictable:  You log into the game and the game goes through its normal list of start-up tasks and after about twenty seconds or so it gets to the "check for friend requests" part of the chores list and crashes your network connection.

Sound familiar?

A Simple and Easy Fix?

The solution to this issue is to go into your account and delete (press the Ignore button) for each of the thousands of outstanding and unresolved friend requests.

The problem? You have to be connected to EA's Origin server to do that.

If you are really REALLY lucky you might get the chance to hit the Ignore button on two or at the most three of those outstanding requests before the client network connection crashes.

Fortunately there is a work-around to this issue.

While dealing with the requests via the game and network client on your iPad is really not an option, if you download and install the game and network client on your notebook or desktop computer (you cannot actually play Tapped Out on either of those devices mind you so this is probably not going to be one of those intuitive processes -- once you figure out that you CAN do that, then clearing the outstanding requests is simply a ten minute period of pushing your mouse button over and over again as you click on Ignore, Ignore, Ignore...

Wouldn't it be really great if there was a button you could tap in the settings for your EA Origin account to automatically ignore or bin future friend requests?  Yeah, that would be great.

As far as I know there is no such button or setting.

How is your Monday going?

Random Network Geek Comic of the Monday Day

My Most Recent Fortune Cookie Attained Wisdom (TM)

Location Received: Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant, East Falmouth, MA
Date: 15 December 2013 20:35 GMT -5
Party: Yvonne, Peter, Autumn, and Myself.
Meal: Mu Shu Chicken with Vegetables and Fried Rice.

Fortune:  Stop thinking about the road not taken and pave over the one you did.

Favorite Dinner Conversation Quote:

Autumn: Wouldn't it be cool if Twinkies had fortunes in them?

Peter: They'd be soggy!

Autumn: Plastic Fortunes wouldn't be soggy...

Yvonne: Charley would end up choking on one.

Autumn: Oh, yeah...

Note: Charley is our two-year-old Husky-Beagle Mix (AKA a "Busky")

Saturday, November 23, 2013

First Impressions of Microsoft's Xbox One Game and Entertainment Console

At E3 2012 the question of the Eighth Gen Consoles was jump-started by the presence of Nintendo's Wii U, and the fact that the Japanese electronics and gaming giant (actually if you think about it the company also has a major presence in Washington State, so calling it Japanese is not, strictly speaking, entirely the case) had basically beaten the competition to the market, being first to get its next gen console to the public.

The Wii U was all bells and whistles, and clearly as far as Nintendo was concerned it was ready to go, but the same was not true for both Sony and Microsoft's next gen consoles -- but for two very different and very good reasons.

In the case of Sony, the reason that their Next Gen Console -- the PlayStation 4 -- was not ready for public consumption, had a lot to do with the partnerships and support commitments the company made with the major game studios which supported its PlayStation 3 console.

In simple terms these creative companies had committed money, effort, and time (the typical modern console game has a minimum of three years of development time that goes into it, with all that that entails from the creative costs and promotion right down to paying wages) and the studios were not ready to walk away from that platform in 2012.

It is bad enough that game studios have to field multiple versions of their games for each platform, there is also the question of in-genre competition with other titles -- and Sony had committed to a firm support period in 2009/2010 that would see the current crop of game titles onto the platform.  

Even that is expensive without having to deal with a competing console from Sony and gamer feelings that a new gen console makes all games for the previous gen obsolete!

For Microsoft there was a similar issue with major studios bringing out major titles, and more than a few major series sequels, but a more compelling issue for the Redmond, Washington mega brand was the fact that the Xbox One was simply not ready - there were several technological features that needed to be properly polished up before the Xbox One was ready to reach the public...

22 November 2013: Launch Day

The morning of Thursday, 21 November 2013 was a blustery and cold one with sunlight that was tinged with shades of steel and a bite in the air.  

Into that hostile environment our brave and attractive assistant and personal care-giver Yvonne (who also serves as the enabler to our gaming addiction and the facilitator of obtaining our Zero-Day Fix for new game consoles this stellar Fall of 2013) was being dispatched upon a mission.

While it was not strictly necessary, due to the insurance of the pre-order process, a decision was made to send our well-armed agent to our local GameStop to pay the outstanding balance on an Xbox One that we were assured would be available after Midnight that night (or more accurately at 00:01 in the morning of Friday, 22 November, 2013).

This decision was based upon stories that cropped up about the PlayStation 4 launch the previous week, and claims that included pre-ordered systems somehow ending up sold to gamers who had not actually bothered to pre-order them.  

While GameStop was not part of that debacle and has always been an above-board, honest, and helpful supplier of all things required by a video game addict, we were not taking any chances.

Secret Agent "God is She Cute" obtained our reciept, marked "Paid in Full" and the cryptic instructions for her to return at 23:00 that evening, fully prepared to take posession of the box containing the Xbox One.  Can do!

Fast forward to 23:04 on the evening of 22 November 2013 and a crew of GameStop Gang Members (well they were all wearing identical colors and symbols, so what else do you call them?) was there to usher each of the lucky winners into a group inside the store, where they were taken one at a time to have their receipt code matched up to an Xbox One box with the corresponding serial number on it...

While our Secret Agent kept an eye peeled for Jabberjays, Monkey Mutts, and Tracker Jackers, they battled their way to the front of the line and, scoring their box from the coruncopia pile, fought through the tributes still waiting for their number to be called and made it outside.  

OK enough Hunger Games references eh heh.

Xbox One: First Impressions

The Controller
In addition to a new generation of game console, we also get a new generation of game controller in the form of the Xbox One Gamepad.

If you are familiar with the gamepad from the Xbox 360 the basic features of the Xbox One gamepad will be familiar to you, though there are some noticeable differences here.

The new gamepad is slightly smaller and flatter, lacking the slight curve of the one from the 360 -- and in addition to the shape difference the wizards at Microsoft's Xbox Division spent a lot of effort tweaking it to improve a number of features.

The rumble system is present, and all of the basic controls as well, with their familiar layout.

A new white glowing Guide/Home Button is closer to the back of the controller, and its bright white glow means you won't have any trouble finding it in the dark :)

The controller now includes force-feedback on the triggers.

The D-Pad has received a lot of love - first it is clicky now which gives a positive feedback to pressing it that lets you know you have actually pressed it. The responsiveness of its clock-hand-focused activation points seem to work much better than they did on the 360's controller.

The tether connection for the new gamepad is Micro-USB format.

Xbox One Gamepad on PC?
The presence of the Micro-USB slot made us wonder if, like the 360 this gamepad could be used on PC via Micro-USB to USB for playing PC games.

Sadly when we connected it the drivers for the old gamepad did not work and, when we loaded Fallout: New Vegas the controller was not recognized and did not work. Sigh.

It is early yet though, so there is every reason to believe that Microsoft will eventually get around to adding support for the device on Windows 8. We cannot wait.

Xbox One Kinect
A slightly thicker and more brick-like form is the first thing that sets apart the new Kinect which like the device on the Xbox 360 needed to be configured before it could be used.

Unlike the previous version of the Kinect, which did not work in the very small space available in my games room and the gaming area set aside for it -- which has about four feet of floor space -- the new Kinect worked very well in that abbreviated space, and as it turns out that is not an accident.

The new Kinect system has been optimized to function in smaller spaces, though it turns out that a four-foot section of floor is the basic minimum that is required for use of the device. Still, win-win since that is pretty much what we have, and that means that we will now be able to use our Kinect in the games area rather than having to use the Xbox in the living room when we want to play Kinect-enabled games.

The Xbox One
While there was a lot of controversy early in the PR and news run-up over the course of the last eighteen months with respect to the copy protection and online requirements of the XO, in the end the decision was made to require only a single connection to the Internet when you first configure the console, after which an online connection is not required -- though having one is generally beneficial to gaming.

After we plugged in the wires and properly installed the batteries in the controller the XO got itself online whereupon it demanded that we apply a mandatory online update -- which was painless and took less than four minutes -- after which we went through the usual form of setup, telling where we were, what our time one was and the like.

We spent a half-hour exploring the new dashboard with its familiar-but-different organization. While that process was going on we noticed something strange - the XO was not making any noise. Its Power Brick was not making any noise. This thing was NOT making ANY noise!

Considering how noisy the Xbox 360 is just at idle when it is first fired up, the fact that the XO was completely silent actually made us feel a little nervous! Was there something wrong with it?

No, it was not broken - it is simply not supposed to make noise - and how cool is that?

To get an idea of what the video playback would be like we quickly downloaded Hulu Plus (and it was quick - surprisingly quick) and we picked the most recent episode of scandal since we had not yet watched it.

It was shocking how clear and crisp and wonderful the video playback is -- even though we are used to HD -- as it seems to have improved the HD display of HD. In any case the video playback on the XO is far superior to that of the 360, so we now know which platform we will be watching our TV shows on!

The next test of the system was DLC Codes -- no joke, one of the more annoying aspects of the Xbox 360 and Live are the unexplained pauses when inputting DLC codes. On the 360 you entered the code, the console chomped on it for a few seconds, then you were shown the “download” meter.

At that point the meter pauses, starts to download, gets to around 50% or so, then pauses. After a five or ten second pause, it resumes downloading until it gets to 98% or thereabout, then again pauses for no clear reason.

After a pause of anywhere from 10 to 40 seconds, you get the expected “ding!” and the DLC has been applied.

For the Xbox One I am happy to say the experience is very VERY different! First, there is no meter. You enter the LC code or show the Kinect its QR code and the XO goes “Ding!” and the code has been added.

OK it is not really that simple -- you still have to confirm that you mean to add that code -- but the rapid process between when you confirm and when it goes ding! is really brief.

The lack of the meter does not mean that the code content is not being downloaded or that it was instantly downloaded -- rather it is being handled automagically as a background process. So depending on the size of the DLC anywhere from 10 seconds to an hour after you enter the code you get another ding! and confirmation that the add-on has been added on.

What Microsoft has done here is to remove the in-your-face process and turned it into a background process, and more significant to that is that they have reduced the level of awareness that you naturally devote to the process - and really that is a good thing.

Game Play & a Free Game
While a lot of emphasis was placed early on by Microsoft on the capability of the new console as an entertainment aggregation device that brings together the many entertainment options you have including Cable/Satellite or even Broadcast TV, for most gamers the XO is a game console. The rest of all that entertainment stuff is nice but what we bought it for -- and what we use it for -- is playing games!

For reasons that have more to do with work than anything else we did not pick up any games when the console was picked up -- though once the system was properly set up and after we spent an hour watching TV (and earning an Achievement for doing so much to our unexpected shock) we decided to download the free game that Microsoft emailed us about a month or so ago and then recently sent us the code for so we could check that side of the XO out...

Actually before we get to the game play experience that we had -- the unique and new game play experience -- I wanted to address the subject of that free game...

It seems that the criteria that MS used to decide who got the game -- Killer Instinct -- for free, and who did not, had to do with a couple of factors: a high Gamerscore and length of membership in Xbox Gold.

Right so my Gamerscore is pretty high - at least I think it is.... It is higher than almost all of the scores held by my mates, being north of 125K but not as high as some I have seen.

As for length of membership, well, I have only been a member for just under five years, so there is no telling just where the cut-off is.

Do I like the fact that the combination of my high Gamerscore (which is high due to my job basically) and my membership term (which is long again, due to my job)? Yeah, actually I think it is rather spiffy that they did that.

I don't undestand the negative reaction to that gesture by players who don't have a high Gamerscore of lengthy membership term -- those were the criteria used, it is not our fault.

Moving on...
On the Game Store screen the classic-style fighting game Killer Instinct was marked as available for Free - so we started the download process. Remembering that there was a free DLC code in our email inbox that we received earlier in the week from Microsoft, we checked that and tapped in the code, with the DLC being added while the game downloaded.

When the download for Killer Instinct hit 74% we received a pop-up notice telling us that the game was ready for play -- that's right, the XO determined that a sufficient amount of the download had progressed to the point that the game can be played, so while it finishes downloading the game we can start playing NOW!

Full TV Real Estate
The TV that I own is an HD flat screen that was manufactured and purchased way after the Xbox 360 was released, and as a result it included features that the 360 could not take advantage of. What that meant was that, even with some lengthy tweaking and having to learn a lot more about video modes and setup than we really wanted to, we were never able to use the entire screen.

The part we could use left us feeling like we were using a smaller TV that was sitting inside our larger TV, with that very easy to see (it screamed at you) black “frame” around the display that there was nothing we could really do about.

So you can probably imagine how pleased we were when the XO not only made use ALL of the available acreage but did it in a very crisp very impressive HD way. Now we knew what we had been missing and we can only imagine how nice it would have been to experience the Fallout Games and GTA this way...

On-Screen User Manual
As we started to get into the game it became obvious that we needed to check the manual for the different control and move combinations -- but of course this was a digital game, so no manual, right? Hold on, not so fast...

When we hit the Help option from the Pause menu the XO accessed the Internet, divided the screen with a fifth its width set aside on the right, and displayed the user manual in that fifth! Well how cool is that? Very cool indeed! Not only could we still see the game screen and the items it was commenting about, we could easily read the manual!

And that is another point that is certainly an improvement for the XO -- with the 360 we were constantly struggling to read the words on the screen because they were sort of small and fuzzy - but words on the XO screen are crisp and stand out, making it very easy indeed to read them.

Dashboard Drawbacks
While it is true that I have heaped praise above, that over-all glowing acceptance of the device glosses over a handful of fairly minor issues that exist with the Dashboard that detract from the otherwise glowing prospects for the console generally, though far from being a bug or error appears to actually be the results of an ill-advised strategy!

Microsoft has invested heavily in the notion that the typical modern Xbox gamer will be inclined to fully embrace the new Kinect and its voice control scheme -- in fact it appears that their expectations in that regard go so far as to curtail the variety of different options for tiles on the Dashboard.

A perfect example of this is access to the Settings and Configuration Menus.

While writing this post the XO went to sleep. As that is something that I never want it to do, I restarted it by pressing the Guide Button on my controller and then, after logging into my Gamertag I went looking for the tile that gave access to the configuration and settings only to discover that it was not there.

Tapping the Guide Button no longer takes one to the Blade Menus that are very much a shortcut still on the good old Xbox 360, but rather tapping the Guide Button on the XO simply takes you back to the Home Screen.

After a good ten minutes wasted looking through what was there, the realization struck home that while there certainly was such a menu, it was not to be found here.

After desperation struck I ended up experiencing something of an epiphany -- in a rather subdued voice I announced the following to the room in general:

“Xbox...” After a brief pause I then added, “Open Settings.”
If you guessed that my XO opened the Settings Menus which was just what I wanted and needed, well then you guessed right.

What I guess is that Microsoft is expecting us to do just that sort of thing -- and it probably has not occurred to them that old-school gamers would prefer to be able to navigate to that set of screen using the gamepad.

All in all first impressions of the XO are of a solid and bug-free console - though granted our game play experience in it has been very limited.

Media and apps are solid - the graphics are amazing - the only real complaint is the lack of comprehensive Dashboard navigation options that do not require the voice controls available via Kinect.

Wishes? We wish that the Live Arcade titles from the 360 were playable via One, but we get why they are not..

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A well Deserved Grats All Around to Our New Eagle Scout!

This evening in a culmination of years of hard work, effort, and dedication, my son Peter earned his Eagle Rank as a member of Boy Scout Troop 42, St. Anthony's Church, Teaticket, Massachusetts.  His Mom and I are very proud of him.

Peter worked hard on earning the Eagle rank, which is the highest rank that a boy can obtain in the Scouts program, but he simply could not have accomplished this without the active and incredibly valuable assistance of a number of people, most notably his Scoutmaster, Russ Brown.

Russ Brown - an Amazing Man and Scoutmaster!
Although he leads an incredibly busy - one is tempted to say hectic - life, Russ has been Scoutmaster of Troop 42 for as long as I can remember and not simply because his own two boys were members.  His son Lucas was a member of my WEBELOS Den in Pack 41 when Yvonne and I pitched in as Den Leaders, and Lucas was one of the wonderful group of boys who worked very hard to obtain their Arrow of Light Awards - and I know that that was a proud moment for Russ and his wife not to mention Lucas and his brother Jacob.

They say that it takes a village and it does, but we are so fortunate that our village is populated by people like Russ, the Carters, the Howlands, the Abrams, the Fullers, the Geisheckers, and everyone else from Troop 42 - you are all an amazing Village!

Yvonne and I want to thank all of you, but in particular we want to thank Russ -- thanks mate!

Peter at Scout Camp - Good on Ya Peter!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

. . . Upgrading to the newest Apple Operating System - iOS 7

The plain-jane look and feel of iOS6 really stands out when it directly compared to the new OS

While other regions received the newest version of Apple's mobile device Operating System (iOS7) before we did, when the upgrade/update became available this past week I went ahead and applied it -- first to my iPhone (I use an iPhone 4S these days) and then, later, to the iPad that I have because of work requirements.

In both instances the upgrade process was smooth and trouble-free -- at least with respect to the OS and the Apple mobile devices.  I cannot say that there were not a few bumps in the road because there were, with the most notable being caused by changes to an app that I use daily for the Audible Book and Entertainment system (audio books basically).

It seems that Audible is now owned by Amazon -- I think I actually knew that before now, but it was one of those facts that is read, tucked away, and forgotten rather quickly in my case.

The process of upgrading the OS for my iPhone meant that I was logged out of ALL of the active apps on the device -- including the Audible client which is always running in the background because I really do use it on a regular basis thanks to a very large library of Audio Books that I own having been a member of that service since 1998...  

Well that and I am trying to learn Spanish on my own via a neat audio book series called Spanish in the Car.

When I went to log back into Audible after the update to the new OS my password did not work.  

It turns out that the Audible client (and website) has been switched over to use the accounts and login information for Amazon rather than its own account system, and I did now know the password for my Amazon account because I have not used it in years.

Long story short?  I ended up needing to ring up support and have them reset the password for me.

But really if you think about it, I upgraded the Operating System on both my mobile phone AND the tablet I use for work and the only problem that I faced was a password reset for an unrelated app...  

That is way beyond "pretty good" compared to previous experiences with the process way back in the day, I am just saying...

The visual changes to the OS are one of its more obvious -- and striking -- changes, and speaking for myself I found them to be a very pleasing and welcome feature for a new OS that includes a plethora of added features and is much easier to use.  If this actually cost money it would probably be worth the price of admission.

"I Don't Like Change"
Because one of my day jobs is being a columnist for the Business and Tech Section of the Cape Cod Times, I was not surprised to receive an invitation last month to download a pre-release version of the new OS early.

The email came from one of the public relations agencies that represents Apple, and basically it offered me the option of getting the OS installed on my devices early.  

If I had actually been assigned to review it or write about the OS, an early install would have been just the thing for me but, as that was not the case, I obtained my copy of the new OS just like everyone else did when it was released to our region

While the conversion to iOS7 was painless and quick for me, the same cannot be said for my kids, who -- while they did succeed in the transition -- both emerged from the experience feeling an intense dislike for iOS7.

"I don't like change," my daughter announced.  "Particularly when the changes make me have to learn how to use my phone all over again!  This is not good!"

That was how my daughter announced her take on iOS7, having marched into our living room to declare her personal experience in the upgrade process having been completed.

The changes that she was referring to -- the method by which the user ensures that the app or program on their device is no longer using resources or memory happens to be one of the changes that I viewed as an improvement.

The direct result of this is that I found myself more actively engaged in the conversation than might have otherwise been the case.  

It turned out that her reasoning was much more complex and covered other aspects of the new OS.  

It was not simply a gut-reaction in other words, and as it turned out she had well-thought-out and logical arguments that supported her opinion.  Good for Autumn!

Two of the users of iOS tech in our home: My daughter Autumn makes extensive use of both her iPhone and iPad, while her pet kittens Abaddon and Beelzebub are invariably the target of its built-in camera and audio recording capabilities as she likes to take snaps and short videos of the cuteness that they are and do in order to share them with her mates online.

Practical?  Yeah, Pretty Much
My kids are pretty smart even if it is their Dad saying so, and as we discussed the issues and as I made a mental note of that fact, I naturally began to tally up the various reasons behind my own more than favorable opinion of the new OS, because I could easily see myself writing this blog entry.

Where my daughter disliked iOS7 based upon subjective arguments and a noted dislike for change, the reasoning behind my son's condemnation of iOS7 came from an entirely different direction indded.

"It occurs to me that a lot of the superficial changes that were made to the OS were made just because they could.  Change for the sake of change," my son Peter says.

"On the positive side of the scales the implementation of the mini-control panel is pretty brilliant," Peter allowed.  Coming from him that is high praise indeed; Peter is not very free with praise and the concept of hyperbole is not something that he is either comfortable with nor likely to indulge in even if he were.

The new feature that he is referring to is the new control panel that has been built into the interface at the bottom, and which is accessible even while playing a game or using an app that has full control over the screen.

The New Instant Control Panel
When you run your finger along the bottom edge of the screen a tab appears, and when you swipe in a generally upward direction on that tab you open a new control panel with icons on either side for pretty much ALL of the basic elements for the device.

Depending upon the orientation when you activate the function (whether you are using your phone's screen in landscape or portrait orientation basically) the buttons / icons will be splashed top and bottom or along the left and right sides.

The Control Panel offers you one-tap On and Off control for the following:
  • Airplane Mode
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Portrait Orientation Lock
 on the left side or top edge of the panel.
  • Flashlight
  • Timer Controls (Opens the Timer Menu)
  • Calculator (Opens the Calculator App)
  • Camera Button (Opens the Camera View)
along the right-hand side or bottom edge of the panel.

In the center of the new Control Panel is perhaps the most useful and best controls - being from top to bottom the following:

(1) Screen Birghtness Slider
(2) Rewind / Play or Stop / Fast Forward Controls
(3) Volume Control Slider

Seriously, these all may appear on their face to be intuitive and, well, the word "Obvious" springs to mind -- but there you have it!  

Here is a control panel for the most common features of the device, and you wonder why they only just now got around to adding it into the device?!

Observers of what is still widely considered to be the "new" and "struggling" sans-Jobs-Apple consider the process of revealing the features of the new OS to be a critical element in how the company will present itself not just to the public but to investors.  There is no argument that Jobs was the creative spark that revived Apple and transformed it back into the force to be reckoned with that it had previously been.  But where it will go now is anybody's guess...

The Improved Topside Menu and Interface
While we are used to seeing that same effect when it comes to swiping the top edge of the screen on our iPhones -- with iOS7 when you swipe down from the top edge of the screen you now get an improved menu within which you will find time and date based information, with the very top consisting of a set of tabs reading "Today" "All" and "Missed" that serves to organize the events they contain.

Under the "Today" tab you have the date, weather conditions and high temperature as the default, along with the display of whatever the scheduled activities are for today and right now.

A list of "Events" for the day appears in the bottom section, and when you swipe to the right you get the display for the second tab which is labeled "ALL" and which contains a summary of the recent events that you have undertaken on your phone or which your phone is keeping track of...

The final tab -- labeled "MISSED" -- contains a detailed listing of the things you failed to do, from answering a phone call to attending a meeting, and I am sure that there are other things it tracks and tells you about, I just somehow managed to not do things that would cause the phone to get uspet.  

Go me!

What it all means?
We could probably spend the rest of the day discussing all of the different things that iOS7 can do and how it makes your mobile device so much better, trotting out all of the good things that have changed on it.  Seriously.

I actually sat down and made lists of the changes, lists of the improvements, and eventually, lists of the lists I was making!

But in the end I realized that what iOS7 is (and this may shock you) is the results of some engineer somewhere at Apple sitting down and making their own list of all of the suggestions that users of Apple's mobile product lines have sent in over the course of the past three decades, and then maybe making a list of all of the common and utility type aspects that THEY wish were present...

And then implementing it all.

I have decided to rename the iOS7 update.  Heretoforward it shall now be known as:

iOS7 - The Common Sense Update

That is all.  You can go back to your games and work now.

Friday, September 20, 2013

. . . CDC Identified Previously Unknown “Tuesday-Flu” Epidemic

The mysterious and widespread illness that severely impacted rail and air transportation, the financial sector, manufacturing, and public services industries in nearly every major city in the United States this Tuesday AM has been identified as a previously unknown variant of “G4M3r Flu.”

Researchers at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the CDC National Center for Environmental Health, with assistance from CDC Division of Bio-Terrorism Preparedness and Response in Atlanta, succeeded this morning in identifying the virus.

“What we have here is a previously unknown strain of the G4M3r Flu,” Dr. Benjamin F. Pierce of the CDC's rapid-response unit, explained to the assembled news media outside the CDC′s Roybal Campus in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

“Interestingly enough, agents from the Division of Bio-Terrorism Preparedness and Response were able to walk-back what develops was a series of simultaneous infection vectors,” Pierce revealed.

“It appears that all of the vectors originate from the very same Patient Zero -- or rather Patients Zero, as in plural.

“It seems that some time last week the pair were initially exposed to the new strain of a previously unknown secret virus due to improper sanitation habits -- they shared a bottle of champagne without using glasses -- at a development studio located at Calton Square 1, Greenside Row, Edinburgh, Scotland.

“Patients Zero -- they are brothers from the same mother but with very potty-mouths -- have been identified as Dan and Sam Houser -- and were evidently celebrating some sort of event related to their businesses, and giving a speech to staff at the original infection vector in Edinburgh.

"I would also like to add Hotel Oscar Lima Yankee Sierra Hotal India Tango! just because I like to sound cool that way," Pierce said. 

After quaffing an ice-cold can of Rockstar Energy Drink -- available in over 20 amazing flavors in over 30 countries -- Pierce continued his address to the press while smacking his lips audibly and repeating "Nom, Nom, Nom!"

“As near as we can determine, the pair then proceeded by private business jet -- the bastards -- to perform similar talks at locations in Leeds, Lincoln, and London, before departing the UK.

“They then traveled to North America, making stops in Andover, Massachusettes, New York City, and Toronto, before flying on to San Diego, and finally to an undisclosed location in Japan.

“It appears that at each of these stops the pair delivered the same speech, and then proceeded to repeat the same very unsanitary sharing of beverages -- champagne,” Dr. Pierce explained.

“What we can be sure of is that the virus was both created and spread -- the distinction is not clear at the present time -- by the Houser brothers, who then passed it on to wave after wave of apparently willing victims throughout the world.

“The rapid spread of the 0-Day virus -- which has now been formally named as GTA-V -- transitioned to epidemic levels by 23:59 this past Monday -- that would be 16 September -- and as unbelievable as this sounds, within 24 hours infected something on the order of nearly 14-million first-wave victims!

“No wonder nobody showed up for work on Tuesday morning!” Pierce declared.

Willing Victims line up to be infected with 0-Day GTA V Influenza, increasing the odds that they will not be in for work the in the morning by, oh, I don't know?  100 percent?

Unique Circumstances to Blame for Simultaneous Global Infection

In this case a startling but unique set of circumstances permitted nearly simultaneous global infection and the subsequent spread of the virus before any national agencies became aware of the dangers.

Calling the official reaction a “Colosse au pied d'Argile” members of the French version of the CDC called for a retreat while Congress in the United States and Australia held emergency sessions to determine if video game violence could somehow be related to the nearly 14-million dollars in sales for GTA-V.

Sources close to the studio that created the game offered this official response to those allegations: “Duh?!”

While hard numbers are presently unavailable, sources in the know at parent company 2K speculate that the numbers for 17 September 2013 will easily exceed the infection rate from the previous outbreak of 29 April 2008, and pointed out that nobody held them responsible for the massive loss of productivity and man-hours during the GTA-IV Pandemic, so it would not really be fair to do so for this one...

The “0-Day GTA” virus -- now understood to be a variant of the “G4M3r influenza virus” has been reported to be more effective than Viagra in at least 439,721 cases reported in the United States, including 14 in Indiana, 2 in Michigan, 1 in Illinois, and 1 in Ohio, in which the effects lasted for way longer than four hours.

There has been one hospitalization due to a panic attack caused when the victims Xbox 360 displayed the "Red Ring of Death," though no actual deaths beyond that one documented Xbox 360 have been recorded among the patients.  

It should be noted that absolutely NO human-to-human spread has been identified because that capability will not be available until 1 October of this year.

When this virus occurs in teenagers, it is called “unauthorized access to an M-Rated Title” by the ESRB, whose approval is sought but entirely superfluous considering how bent the rating board is in Australia -- we are just saying.

Infection Vector - Insert Disc 1

Too much time on my hands, it's ticking away with my sanity
I've got too much time on my hands, it's hard to believe such a calamity

Monday, August 26, 2013

the Ghost in the Machine

If I remember correctly, the first time that I saw the phrase “Ghost in the Machine” it was on the TV in my flat, being the name of one of the episodes in the Inspector Morse TV series which I liked rather a lot...

But then I have always loved BritFic Detective stories - don't get me started because I have a long list of shows that I positively enjoy, starting with A Touch of Frost, which is of course based upon the Frost novels by R.D. Wingfield, and I tell you getting David Jason to play Detective Inspector William Edward "Jack" Frost was bloody brill!

Second on my list of all-time greatest BritFic Detective Shows would be the Midsomer Murders series, which are based on the books by Caroline Graham. I have to admit though that I was very unhappy when Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) was replaced by his so-called cousin DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) the wanker...

Third would be Cracker, which is set in Manchester, and tells the story of Dr Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald (Robbie Coltrane), and its focus in addition to the crime in each episode is centered on the very human foibles of Eddie Fitz - who is both a criminal psychologist (or "cracker") and a flawed human being - but hey, I cannot watch that show without the little voice in my head jumping up and down and screaming IT'S HAGRID! THAT'S HAGRID! HAGRID!

I can't help thinking - IT's HAGRID!

Coming in at Number Four (but a close tie with No. 3) is Van der Valk -- whose protagonist is Dutch Detective Commissaris "Piet" (real name Simon) van der Valk totally reminds me of my father-in-law who is also named Piet and is Dutch but hey, he was not a detective...

The Inspector Morse shows are next, and Morse is of course based upon the series of novels by Colin Dexter.   The often visceral story of Detective Inspector -- later Chief Inspector -- Morse (John Thaw) always unfolds with intense mystery which you have to like.  Plus there are over 30 episodes and they are more like movie-of-the-week than a TV show as every episode involves a new murder investigation featuring several guest stars, and are 2-hours long...

Let me tell you the one thing that I learned from watching these shows - the region of England that is called “The Midlands” is a dangerous place! You want to avoid that part of the UK like the plague, stay away! People DIE there! A lot!

But this is not about BritFix Detective shows, is it?  No...  Where was I?  Oh yeah!

So later I learned that the person widely credited with coining the phrase is British philosopher Gilbert Ryle (19 August 1900 – 6 October 1976) - and he was quoted by Arthur Koestler, who used it as the title to his 1967 book “The Ghost in the Machine.” 

That book was assigned as required reading by the professor who taught one of the philosophy courses that I took at uni - bearing in mind that the book turned out to be about philosophical psychology and not, as I initially hoped, about a haunted car.

But still I learned a lot from it, which is probably why when I got an email last Friday from one of the gamers who it turns out is a fan of the video game guides and walkthroughs that I write for SuperCheats - who sincerely asked me how it was that I got my Xbox 360 to write its own blog?

It had to be said...

A real Whaaaaaaaa? Moment

So yeah, I confess, reading that email the first time was a real Whaaaaaaa?! moment for me...  I can usually hit the ground running on the first try - figuratively speaking that is - but I actually had to pause, deer-in-headlights - and think about what I was being asked for a moment.  And if there really had been headlights, well, I paused good and long, so we are talking SPLAT! here.

But I eventually connected the dots and realized that he was referring to the "Recnef's Xbox 360 Blog" which I have a link to off of my home page in the Blog Section and which, I extrapolate, the young man found there, followed, and read -- and went away from the experience somehow convinced that it was a real blog written by my game console(?!).

Recnef's Xbox 360 Blog

 While this blog states that it is in fact written by my Xbox 360, in reality it is the machine-generated psuedo-blog created by the website that uses a selection of pre-scripted commentary and the monitored activities of your game console to create an amusing if actually rather scary blog that appears to be written from the point-of-view of the Xbox 360.

A sample entry that is most amusing reads:

Recnef's Xbox - Aug 23 2013

I had to set aside my plans for world domination yesterday when Recnef decided to game. Our score is 127,365 and always improving! That is an improvement of 50 points over last time! He rocked out to Gears of War: Judgment adding 4 achievements, and afterwards, there were some awkward stares and silence... you know how it is.
If you read the blog regularly you will see some of the lines repeated, particularly the humor-laced observations that the "Xbox" makes and its rather possessive (one is tempted to say possessed) attitude and jealous nature...

But that is the entire point of the site and its humor...  Under that humor though is a fairly useful set of services that among other things keeps track of your game play activities and provides a breakdown of your Achievement progress in the different games you play.

In addition to the daily summary the site also has a weekly summary that sort of collects all of the data from the week but delivers it in character - here is my last one:

Recnef's Weekly Recap - Aug 26 2013

This entry is a little different than the others. It is a recap of the last week of gaming. Check it: So yeah... Last week Recnef showed up 4 days total and logged some serious gaming. We added 190 points of gamerscore which ain't too shabby. Getting 13 achievements can do that to you. I was there. I saw it! Oh, and from what I remember, Recnef's favorite game last week was Gears of War: Judgment. He played it on 4 of the days.

So there you have it... Check back next week for another report from yours truly.

Like I said, it delivers it in character, but as I read it having been prompted to do so by that email I had to wonder if the person who emailed me was taking the piss out of me or what?  I suppose it is funny either way, but I wanted to know...

As it turned out - which I learned from emailing him back - he is 10 years old and actually thought that I had somehow managed to get my Xbox 360 to acquire Artificial Intelligence.  And he was so genuinely disappointed that it was NOT my console writing the blog that I almost felt like I should email his mom and have her give the bugger a hug, he was that sad over it.

So how was your weekend?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Audible Badges and the Keymaster

In the slightly less than four days since I finished the blog post before this one (Audible Badge Collection Revisited) a flood of email messages from other Audible Listeners (that's what we call ourselves and each other it seems - as Audible Listeners) has illustrated for me just how popular the service has become and, what is more, how intense the feelings are that exist within it.  I received a lot of email - a LOT of email - almost all of which was both supportive and equally of note, demanded to know what my personal Badge Count is?  With details?!

This Audible dot Com Thingy

As the exclusive supplier of audio book content to both iTunes and Amazon the folks at Audible have something like a monopoly (but not really) in the area of digital books and audio entertainment (not including music and/or songs) whose primary delivery system is the Internet via the World Wide Web -- the notion that a community, or perhaps a community of sub-communities would be a better take on the matter? Well, either way, the fact that such a community has sprung into existence really is not all that surprising. 

This being a very busy time of year for me, I cannot indulge in the philosophical aspects inherent in developments such as this, despite the fact that they practically beg for me to do so.  If ideas could talk this one would be saying "Explore me!  Delve into the quirky and yet mind-boggling fact of my existence!  Find the humor in me, it is there!  Really it is!  Please?"

But they cannot - and I wouldn't have the time anyway, in fact the best that I can do is jot down these notes and the briefest of observations as I attempt to fulfill the requests that have been made of me, and share with you the details of my Audible Badges since this appears to be a rather urgently important matter some of you...

Just be thankful that I am not Stephen King.  

I recently sent an email to the human interface at his publisher to whom one sends such requests  asking for just three minutes of his time to ask and obtain the answer to the questions: "How important would you say that your experiment in publishing your recent book exclusively online was?"  And "What did you learn from the experience?"

Those two questions are central to the issue that I will be examining in a column I am working on that explores the whole issue of PoD and online publishing. 

It has been suggested that we, each of us, have a book floating around in our heads waiting to be written, and but for the lack of a publisher to take our project on would all of us be published authors...

Of course Stephen King has never heard of me and I have no doubt was completely unaware of the exchange between myself and some faceless drone at his publisher whose job is to read the email that is submitted by that form on his "official" web page on their website. 

The fact that this particular drone has allowed their "power" to rush to their head and so chose to deny me in so transparently obvious and passive-aggressive a manner, well, I try not to take that sort of thing personally.  I understand - he is so busy he just cannot find the time to answer those questions.  Ever.

I am just saying that you should be happy I am not the Kingster - or more to the point, you should be happy that I do not have such a tool screening my email; if I did we would not be having this little experience that we are having, and where was I?

Oh yes!  My Audible Badges!
The Audible Listener Badge Collection has become something of a point of pride and, for many audiobook fans, a symbol of accomplishment...  For this Audible Listener the badges represent pleasurable hours spent multi-tasking while he earned his TCoB Badge!  Yeah, I've pooped in the woods...

The Official Badge Count (and information)
of Audible Listener CM Boots-Faubert

So the email that I have been receiving from readers has included their present badge status and nicely and politely requested that I share mine.  Since it was nice and polite for the most part, I figure what they heck, why not?  So here is my Audible Listener Badge Collection Status as of 0600 GMT -5 on 31 July 2013:
  1. Stenographer - Silver
  2. Social Butterfly - Silver
  3. Audible Obsessed - None
  4. Weekend Warrior - Gold
  5. Repeat Listener - Silver
  6. All Nighter - Diamond
  7. Marathoner - None
  8. Undecider - Silver
  9. Flash 80 - None
  10. High Noon - Diamond
  11. Binge Listener - Silver
  12. 7 Day Stretch - Silver
  13. Procrastinator - None
  14. The Stack - Silver
  15. Mount Everest - None
Thanks for your email, thanks for reading the blog, and thank you for reading the paper!



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Audible Badge Collection Revisited

Back in January of 2012 -- during a period wherein I was gathering information for a column that related to early adoption of consumer technology for the column that I write for the Cape Cod Times (Digital Grind, appearing every other Tuesday in the Business & Tech Section of the newspaper) and having  accidentally stumbled upon the Audible Listener's Badge Collection built into the iOS version of the audio book app from online audio book website --  I ended up briefly covering the subject in that blog entry.

I mention this for two reasons... 
The first reason being my genuine surprise at the explosive interest in that subject as shown by my readers.  In fact the post generated a whopping 73 email messages on that subject -- not counting the replies to my replies to those 73 original email messages mind you --  and considering that I did not know I had 73 regular readers for this blog, let alone 73 readers who were invested in it to the point that they would actually take the time and make the effort to send me email about something I had written about in it, well, let us just say that it was a gratifying experience indeed! 

This was a matter I found to be worthy of note personally as well as professionally, though come to think upon it, certainly it can be argued that as my activities with respect to the blog Speaking of... are more in the way of uncompensated and voluntary writing as opposed to writing assigned by an editor and in the general scheme of things, compensated, it is... but I digress...

The second reason has to do with the significant number of follow-on email messages addressing the subject that have been reliably appearing in my In Box over the course of the past eighteen months, the most common topic of which being genuine inquiries as to my own progress with respect to the Badges I have unlocked and, naturally, the sharing of their own progress in unlocking said badges.

My loverly wife and companion Yvonne, avid Pokemon Trainer and willing co-conspirator in the ongoing seemingly never-ending quest to obtain each rare and special Pokemon as those made available at GameStop's everywhere (or at least in the case above, at GameStops in Mashpee, Massachusetts), which is to say located in Paradise save for the fact that it is Winter in Paradise at the time that this snap was made so really not so Paradise as one might expect Paradise to be, there being no brilliant sun, heady temperatures, and Boat Drinks - mustn't forget the Boat Drinks, just saying...

Gibbs, Calvin, and the Odd Photo or Two
In my initial efforts to document the extension of what had at that point become a very well accepted and recognized means for promoting individual and group cohesion with respect to the obtaining of an established and valued visual symbol of status and rank in terms of participation in a given activity - in this case listening to Audio Books - I made it a point to include wholly unrelated photographs in the interest of illustrating that piece, and in keeping with that tradition endeavor to do so again herein...

Really though if you pause to give the matter thought, the present level of both popularity and success that this particular form of rank and recognition enjoys can be said to have a shared link not only to the more obvious military practice of the display of square ribbons on the breast, but in more contemporary terms the dashingly successful affiliated Gamerscore and Achievements systems created by Microsoft for its Xbox 360 games console (about which I have written upon numerous occasions, including here, and here, and also here, not to mention here and here!).

It turns out that the Audible Badge Collection is not only of particular interest to the very large community of Audible Listeners (of which I am one), it also appears to be of interest to a somewhat larger community of potential Audible Listeners - that is to say consumers of audio books who are not as yet customers of (by the by, I have in no way been compensated for the above plugs and promotion of the audio books from Audible - I am no shill, I just happen to really like and enjoy that service, for which just like you, I pay with my own money to enjoy).

It may interest you to know that I have been a client at Audible since the very month that it was launched in the previous century by founder Don Katz, and in fact I have actually written about the service - see my column titled Heard any good books lately? (DigitalGrind, Cape Cod Times, 27 May 2008) - just to comply with my own policy of full-on transparency.

Wouldn't it be great if the services of the Winebulance (photo inset above) truly were available throughout the USA?  The UK-based parent company and its rather interesting concept now available in the Miami, Florida area and elsewhere - but sadly (and I firmly suspect that the laws pertaining to alcohol where I live, on Cape Cod which is to say in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts though there are plenty of locals who might argue that we only slightly accept the notion that the Cape is part of Taxachusetts, it being a nation in its own right) would prohibit the operation of such a clearly convenient and valuable service.  If  we measure political independence by arbitrary scales such as fun, peace, and tranquility than Cape Cod is clearly an independent nation along lines similar to those of the Conch Republic...

Audible Badge Collection
The badges that make up the Audible Listener's Badge Collection at the present time (and as of the writing of this post) consist of a total of fifteen (15) unique badges, each of which have at least three distinct and graduated levels, those being Silver, Gold, and Diamond, which are based upon the level in a particular category unlocked by the individual user.

Each of the Badges represents a specific action (or nature of actions) and each offers the listener a means by which they can visually gauge their participation in a meaningful way while at the same time present that participation in a format that suggests rank or standing in the Audible listener community, and how cool is that?

The current list of Badges consists of the following, with meaning, as presented in the iOS App version:
  1. Stenographer - add a bookmark/comment X times.
    Silver = 10
    Gold = 40
    Diamond = 125
  2. Social Butterfly - spreading the Audible word via Twitter, Facebook & etc.
    Silver = x5 shares
    Gold = x25 shares
    Diamond = x100 shares
  3. Audible Obsessed - you have used the app for X days straight.
    Silver = x7 days
    Gold = x30 days
    Diamond = x90 days
  4. Weekend Warrior - listened to X number of hours on the weekend.
    Silver = x5 hours
    Gold = x10 hours
    Diamond = x24 hours
  5. Repeat Listener - listened to X number of books over again.
    Silver = x3
    Gold = x10
    Diamond = x20
  6. All Nighter - listened to X number of hours at night.
    Silver = x4 hours
    Gold = x6 hours
    Diamond = x8 hours
  7. Marathoner - listened to X number of hours straight (uninterrupted)
    Silver = x16 hours
    Gold = x18 hours
    Diamond = x24 hours
  8. Undecider - listened to parts of X number of different titles in one day.
    Silver = x3 titles
    Gold = x15 titles
    Diamond = x40 titles
  9. Flash 80 - awarded for checking your stats screen X number of times.
    Silver = x50 checks
    Gold = x200 checks
    Diamond = x500 checks
  10. High Noon - listened to X number of hours during lunchtime.
    Silver = x2 hours
    Gold = x3 hours
    Diamond = x4 hours
  11. Binge Listener - listened to X number of books start-to-finish in one go.
    Silver = x2 books
    Gold = x5 books
    Diamond = x10 books
  12. 7 Day Stretch - complete X books in a single week.
    Silver = x7 books
    Gold = x15 books
    Diamond = x50 books (whoa)
  13. Procrastinator - have X books downloaded but not marked finished*
    Silver = x10 unfinished books
    Gold = x20 unfinished books
    Diamond = x75 unfinished books
  14. The Stack - have at least X number of books in your library.
    Silver = x50 titles
    Gold = x200 titles
    Diamond = x500 titles
  15. Mount Everest - completed a book that is X hours in length.
    Silver = x30 hours
    Gold = x40 hours
    Diamond = x50 hours
The inclusion of all of the X's above is, of course, meant to represent the sliding scale of numbers that relate specifically to the Level of the Awarded Badge - that is to say that the number is going to be different depending upon whether it is for the Silver, Gold, or Diamond Level Badge Awarded.

The inside colour does not appear to mean anything with respect to the badges but the outside rim of the badge clearly does - as you can see above the Marathoner Badge is "Diamond" Level while all of the others appear to be "Silver" Level...  The disturbing bit is that at some point in the recent updates to the app it appears that the edge graphic has been disabled, as there seems to be no relation between their colour and their status.  For example, one I know is Diamond Level has a gold border, and one I know is Gold Level has a silver boarder, while a Silver Level one has a silver border, and so on...  I very much dislike being confused like this...  Sigh.

* Note that with this badge if you delete the book from your device you can "lose" the badge since it appears to apply to the present inventory/status on the device.

In addition to the above, you should be warned that IF YOU CHANGE YOUR LOGIN for Audible - say if you have more than one account, or your significant other wants to listen to books from THEIR account on YOUR iOS/device this will wipe and reset ALL of the stats.  When you log back into your own account your stats will be reset to zero on all.

The Badge Collection is also now available for the Android version of the app.

Listening Level
In addition to the Badges listed above there is also a screen whose title is Listening Level and upon which is displayed the five levels of Audible Mastery, which are:
  1. Master
  2. Scholar
  3. Professional
  4. Novice
  5. Newbie
I do not actually know what the required times are precisely, though you can probably figure them out for yourself simply by reviewing my status at the time that this post was written (though bear in mind that the status only accounts for my listening statistics since I installed the app on my most recent iPhone - as my actual number of hours listening to books via Audible is a MUCH higher number spread across all of the platforms, from iOS to PC):
  1. Master (1907 hours to go)
  2. Scholar (907 hours to go)
  3. Professional (407 hours to go)
  4. Novice (7 hours to go)
  5. Newbie (Achieved on 12/13/12)
Based upon the numbers above the overall total appears to be based upon 2000 hours of listening...

Back in 2000 my wife Yvonne had her own "webcam" that featured two field mice that she had captured in humane traps that had, until their capture, been playing hell with our stored food stuff as well as anything in a cardboard box in the basement - but once the outlaws were captured became the focus of Mousecam!  That's right, the image of their domesticated mouse dwelling was shared online via the web every 30 seconds.

You Know, Whatever?
If you are curious, 2000 hours of listening breaks down to:
  • 83.333 Days
  • 120K Minutes
  • 7.2 Million Seconds
  • Number of hours of Cosmetology Classes required by the State of Utah in order for an applicant to qualify for a state license to work as a Hair Braider for pay.
  • The minimum number of hours that a non-partner lawyer is expected to bill in a 48-week year (they get four weeks holiday each year don't you know).
  • Number of volunteer man hours it took to build the 2,000 Hour Trail on the western slope of the Massanutten Resort by the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition.
  • From planting of the coffee tree to your first sip, 2000 man hours go into making that cup of coffee. (
  • Amount of time that budding game designer Alexander Velicky spent creating a mod for Skyrim just to get a job interview with Bethesda Softworks.