New Top Gear 

I really loved Top Gear. It was one of my favorite shows for a very long time. It was about the unashamed celebration of cars, and had three great hosts who interacted in a genuine and fun way. Unfortunately, the last few seasons before it ended stretched the formula and it started to feel  quite fake. They also somewhat forgot the cars and got caught up with other shit. 

I had high hopes for a rebirth with The Grand Tour, but it was just fine. There was too much variety show silliness and not enough of the mates doing silly things with amazing cars that was the heart of the original series. It has some high points, but they were scattered amongst a lot of mediocrity and distraction. 

The BBC’s reboot of Top Gear was even worse, featuring a terrible host and a cast that had too many people who didn’t gel well. It also slavishly stuck to the old formula, which didn’t work with a new team. 

Thankfully, the BBC threw out the formula and started again this year, and it’s awesome. Yes, it’s still finding its legs, but it already vastly better than last season, and even better than The Grand Tour. 

The new hosts are great. Rory Read and Chris Harris were highlights of last season, and Matt LeBlanc is vastly better now he has two funny enthusiastic you guys to bounce off. 

More importantly, this is a show all about cars. There are a few small diversions each episode, but the cars are at the centre and make takenup most of the time. They’ve even managed to make the previously painful ‘star’ sections somewhat watchable. 

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season. 

Starfighter Inc.

Starfrighter Inc. is back on kickstarter and this time it looks like a proper game. I love the premise, a space sim like Elite or Star Citizen, but with heavy emphasis on the ‘sim’ part. The game uses realistic physics for the ships, and no shields or other sci-fi tropes. The ships are fragile, and difficult to control, which looks awesome. I really hope it reaches the goal this time, because I want to plat this.

www.kickstarter.com/projects/…

MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA

Super excited for this. With the exception of Mass Effect 3’s ending (which they fixed), the series has always been incredibly great.

I’ve only seen a few trailers, but loving the look of it so far. youtu.be/LASjx8R9x…

Hidden Folks is Delightful

Hidden Folks is a fairly new arrival on iOS and it’s wonderful. There’s nothing really complicated here, it’s a simple ’find stuff’ game, but the whole thing is so delightfully whimsical. From the beautiful and intricate hand drawn graphics, which are full of cute twists and surprises, to the fun little clues, and the awesome and unique sound design.

It’s not a game that does anything particularly new or complex, but it is just a delight to play that will put a smile on your face.

You should go buy it.

Zelda’s Hard Compare

Breath of the Wild, the latest Zelda game launches with the Nintendo Switch in early March. It takes the franchise in a new direction, grafting it into the open worlds that have been prevelant through series like Far Cry or Assassins Creed.

There have been a mass of previews for this game, including huge block of unedited gameplay, and I have been rather unimpressed. The world looks flat and uninspiring, and worse, the game is empty. There are vast open environments, with nothing in them.

Usually open worlds are jam packed with stuff to keep the game interesting and give you stuff to do. I know it’s only previews, but at this stage Zelda looks boring.

Especially when it comes out only two2 days after Horizon:Zero Dawn. I mean look at this thing! It’s incredible.

horizon_zero_dawn_13_nl

horizon_zero_dawn_11_nl

We haven’t seen as much of Horizon as we have of Zelda, but what we have seen is a world packed with stuff to do, and with visuals that are vastly better than Zelda.

Now I am sure Zelda will sell well on nostalgia alone, but any rational person, looking at these two games, would be insane to pick Zelda based on what we know so far.

Pillars of Eternity 2

Pillars of Eternity was an awesome game. A call back to the old days of deep, intricate RPGS that would eat up your time. The game, and its expansion was awesome fun with a great story and an interesting world.

Obsidian have announced a funding campaign for a sequel and I am super excited.

It’s already sailed past its funding goal, so there is no real need to get on board if you aren’t excited, but keep an eye on it, and definitley give the original a go if you haven’t played it yet.

www.fig.co/campaigns…

 

Week Two

I feel like this was a bit of a transition week, as I worked my way out of the prep of week one and through to a point where I am just starting to have time to sit down and get serious work done. Unfortunately, that has let my task list get just a little out of hand.

The main activity this week was the construction of a new office with more space for the dogs to snooze, more light and air, and a giant aviary. The aviary is still under construction, but I have the rest sorted, and it’s awesome. A huge improvement over my previous office which was crammed into the corner of the bedroom.

Not a lot else to talk about, but we finished the week in the best possible way, with a puppy play date stocked with lappies. Enjoy the pics.

 

AirPods - A Quick Review

I have had the AirPods for a few weeks, and I love them. AirPods are simply the best product that Apple has released in years.

Using them has that wonderful magic that was the hallmark of Apple in the iPod and early iPhone era. They are beautiful, tiny and, super comfortable. EarPods always fitted my ears fairly well, but the lightness of the AirPods, and the lack of a cord, mean the AirPods fit and feel better. You can genuinely forget you have them in your ears. I’ve tried to get them to fall out, jumping around, running, and playing with the dogs, without success. Once in my ears, they are staying there until  you pull them out.

Pairing is perfect, you just flick open the case and your phone instantly recognises them, and the pairing syncs across all of your devices in minutes. Once they are paired, popping them in your ears is all you need to do to connect them. It’s awesome. The range is also ridiculous, and far beyond anything I have been able to manage with previous Bluetooth headphones I have used. The connection is fairly solid. I have had a few random disconnections that required a restart of the iPhone to rectify though, so you occasionally get reminded that this is still Bluetooth.

Sound quality is good enough, and quite a bit better than the EarPods, with better bass and clearer mids. They aren’t for dedicated music listening, but while commuting, exercising, or for background music while you work, they are fine. The microphones are great, even when using a single AirPod to make calls.

Having Siri in your ear is transformational. I started using Siri a lot more when I started wearing the Apple Watch every day, and the AirPods make it even easier to interact with Siri. There are some downsides. Activating Siri with a double tap is clunky and I would prefer it if the AirPods supported ‘Hey Siri’. Siri also isn’t the best as at voice only interaction. Some queries would benefit greatly from Siri reading the response rather than referring you to the screen that is in your pocket, or another room.

AirPods are great, if you want portable earphones and are in the Apple ecosystem, you shouldn’t consider anything else. 

Week One

I sort of stumbled into 2017.

I arrived with a messy task list, some broken workflows and a desperate need to replace Evernote with something.

Happily I managed to get on top of all three issues.

For my task list, I consolidated back to using OmniFocus exclusively. I had been farming a subset of tasks out to Due and Reminders, but found that the disjointed scattered approach really didn’t work for me. OmniFocus is a phenomenal app that sits in a customisable GTD sweet spot that really works for me. It's been made even better lately with URL scheme support on the iPhone. You can now use Drafts to quickly write up a task using Task Paper format and OmniFocus will import it perfectly and apply due dates etc. automatically.

My main issue with workflow was for photos, but I seem to have that well sorted now by just moving the whole thing to Lightroom on the iPad, relying on Apple for backup and using SmugMug exclusively for publishing.I really love editing photos on the iPad. The screen is incredible and it just feels great to be able to touch and draw on your photos with the pencil. It's feels right to just kick back on the couch and work through your photos.

My other workflow issue was for this blog, solved simply by grabbing the new version of Desk. It’s great, a few minor reliability issues aside.

I loved Evernote as a ‘organise everything' solution. Having everything in a single place, with great search, was just so damn useful that I overlooked the falling reliability, questionable design decisions, price hikes, and privacy concerns. However, the recent (now retracted) change to allow employees to read my notes was the last straw. I decided to bail on Evernote.

The problem I had was finding a replacement that did everything that I wanted it to. I eventually stumbled across DEVONthink. So far it seems perfect. Importing all my Evernote notes was smooth and fast and organisation is easy. The iPhone and iPad apps are great and capture works really well on all devices. Best of all you can automatically store an encrypted backup on DropBox. I'm still testing, but this really seems to be the solution I was looking for.

In other news, we had two visitors this week, Loki the Finnish Lapphund, who we are baby sitting while his humans are having a holiday. He's a bit silly and has taken a few days to get into the routine, but has settled into he pack nicely. Pix absolutely loves him and they have spent long days playing with each other.

We also have a rescue Cockatiel that we are fostering. We have christened him BirdieBird for the time being and he is a wonderfully chatty and friendly fella, who seems to be happy enough. Hopefully his family gets in touch soon so we can get him back to them.

The Echo and Google Home are a Dead End

There has been a lot of hype around ‘home hub’ devices such at the Amazon Echo and the Google Home in 2016. At first glance these devices make perfect sense, a simple speaker that allows you to access intelligent assistants from wherever you happen to be around your home. Just speak a command and stuff happens. However, they are a technology dead end. They only make sense now, in the brief period before wearable computing takes over the world.

Even now, as soon as you have an Apple Watch or the AirPods, and get used to having Siri right there on your wrist, or in your ear, the little box stuck in a room in your home becomes irrelevant. The people clamouring for Apple to enter this market are wrong, Apple is already past the ‘box at home’ phase and onto stage two. The AirPods are a future that makes far more sense that a limited box in the home. Having worn the AirPods for a few weeks now, I can see a very near future, where everyone just has a set of AirPod like devices in their ears permanently, giving them instant access to whichever AI assistant they are used to using.

These hubs are a stepping stone on this road, but they have already been superseded.