Verizon attempts to break into the gaming industry.

Here’s a slightly more ridiculous blog post this time. Verizon, the telecommunications giant that everyone dislikes as much as Comcast (who, by the way, is the voted the worst company in America), is now trying to get into the gaming industry. How, you ask? By creating a service called “VerizonGaming”, which they plan to operate like Netflix. It will be an app on the Nvidia Shield (which is a streaming console-like thing) that you can sign into with your Verizon account and play games.

Verizon, hilariously, spent $1.2 BILLION dollars on something called Go90 in 2015 that was targeted towards millennials and was positioned as a social entertainment platform. “How did that go?” I hear you say. My response is: Have you ever heard of Go90? Probably not, and you never will again since they shut down last year in 2018.

Personally, I do not want to touch anything game, or even internet related that has Verizon’s logo on it. There are plenty of better ways to stream content to your TV than signing up for their wildly overpriced (not confirmed, but I’m making an educated guess) streaming service that will be billed monthly or annually. In fact, I should probably write a blog post on doing just that.

However, participants in their closed beta tests apparently get a free $150 Amazon gift card after testing the service for them, so you can bet I looked into how to sign up for that sweetness. Spoiler: it’s already closed. ;(

Verizon is not alone in their venture into cloud streaming services though, Microsoft is working on their “Project xCloud”, and Google is working on “Project Stream”. To the surprise of probably no one, Amazon is also getting in on the action and developing a streaming game service of its own, but it’s not named yet.

Time will tell which the best one will be, but I think I can go out on a limb and make a safe bet here: it’s not gonna be Verizon.


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The Razer Blade 15 review.

I purchased a Razer Blade 15 a while ago and wanted to share my experience and thoughts with you. It’s been about 6ish months so far, and my overall impressions are very good. Let’s get into it.

Screen

The screen is beautiful. It’s bright, matte, and crisp. I bought the 1080p version, no touchscreen, with 144hz. I’m scaling it up by 125%, so that things aren’t so small. Use a custom scaling factor and turn on “attempt to fix blurry apps”, and nothing will be blurry on the device, even with the scaling setting.

Everything looks crisp.

It’s equivalent to my $240 144hz 1080p monitor I have from ASUS that I use as my daily, so I barely notice a difference switching off besides the size.

Keyboard

The keyboard is excellent. I use a Razer Blackwidow V2 for my desktop, and those use Razer Green switches (Cherry MX Blue equivalents), and even though I use a mechanical keyboard on the desktop, this doesn’t feel bad to type on after. One of the best laptop keyboards I’ve used. Everyone complains about the secondary functions not lighting up on the function keys, but I’ve personally just changed the colors slightly of those with the Chroma app, and then remember which color corresponds to which function. It’s not that big of a deal.

Speakers

The speakers are good. For a laptop. You won’t be shaking the walls with these speakers or anything, as the bass is very weak, but they’re excellent in clarity for mid to highs. Talking to someone on a call will be no problem, as will listening to anything you might need to for work. For music, definitely pick up a pair of headphones to go with it. Besides, no one wants to hear your music blasting out of your laptop anyway.

Trackpad

I would compare the trackpad to the Macbook Pro’s, as do many others. It’s large, spacious (actually one of the biggest I’ve seen on a Windows laptop), and glass surfaced. It comes with Windows Precision drivers, so no bloatware and odd trackpad behavior coming from the vendor. Windows itself handles the trackpad movement and gestures, which leads to really accurate behavior.

Build Quality

The build quality is excellent. The screen has no flex, and you can open it one handed. It feels solid and well built, but not heavy enough to be a bother. It weighs 4.6 pounds, which isn’t as light as something like an XPS 13 or a Macbook Air, but it also has a lot more power and features, so obviously it’s going to be bigger. I put a dbrand skin on mine to hide the Razer logo, as it’s a bit flashy. The matte black dbrand skin covers it well and gives it a very smooth look.

Performance

This thing is a beast. I undervolted mine, which is a safe procedure in which you give the chip less energy. The performance is still the same, it just generates less heat. It’s a bit of a lottery if you’ve gotten a good chip or not, and how much you can undervolt. After undervolting, the fans NEVER turn on unless I’m doing something intense. Coding, web browsing, editing word documents, Spotify, the fans are completely silent. It’s great. Once the fans do turn on, it’s not an annoying sound. They’re deep enough to not be an annoying high pitched whine, and are acceptable in decibel volume. You could use this in an office and get away with it. Performance is great. Unity rendering, game playing, whatever. It packs a GTX 1060, but remember it’s the laptop version. It’s less powerful than a full desktop version would be, but is still great for a laptop. As long as you aren’t a hardcore laptop gamer, this will satisfy 99% of the population. If you’re that hardcore, you should be using a Desktop too, anyway, in which case this will also work. So in reality it’ll satisfy 100% of people. Please do note that the battery drains spectacularly fast when doing something like gaming. Here are the unofficial and anecdotal battery times I’ve been getting:

  • Gaming: ~2 hours on 50-75% brightness
  • Unity/3D work + Coding: ~3-4 hours on 50-75% brightness
  • Web browsing/Discord/Non-intensive work: ~5-6 hours on 50-75% brightness

I recommend enabling battery saver automatically if it drops below 100%. I also automatically switch the hertz from 60 to 144hz depending on if I’m charging it or not. You can learn how to do that in a previous blog post of mine. Yes, I recommend you leave it on at all times if you’re not plugged in. It helps somewhat. I also recommend you undervolt. I’m pleasantly surprised by this things battery life. If you’re using it at 50% brightness for web browsing, it can last a good 7 hours after undervolting it. The fact that I have the ability to suddenly perform powerful tasks on my laptop if I need to is a huge bonus. Battery banks will NOT work with this laptop. The charging port is proprietary. Linus Tech Tips, a massive tech company, complained about this in a couple of different videos, saying: “If you were hoping for USB C charging, you will be sorely disappointed”. They didn’t understand the decision and tried to charge it in one of the laptop’s USB C ports, and implored Razer to add USB C charging and switch out the port next version. However, you’d think a tech youtuber channel would do their due research. According to this article and this article,

Thanks to the upgraded Power Delivery 2.0, the new USB 3.1 specification also offers a noticeably higher power supply of up to 100 watts at 20 V/5 A.

The Razer Blade’s proprietary port delivers 150 watts of power to the Blade. Therefore, it’s more than USB C can support, and thus actually better than USB C, since it charges faster. And boy, does this thing charge fast. I can get a full battery from 0% in 1.5 hours. Charging this up from 50% before you go anywhere is a breeze, because 30 minutes is probably fine to last you 5 hours.

 

There are a lot of others out there who have reviewed this thing far better than I have, but I wanted to throw my 2 cents into the mix. I will update again after about a year, to see if this thing lasts. Fingers crossed. One final note, do NOT buy from Razer’s store. I know this has been stated many times, but if you need more reassurance, here it is. Razer support is horrible and basically tried to steal my money. It took two months and back and forths with FedEx and the credit card company to get my money back, and I never even accepted the package from them. Trust me, you do NOT want to deal with them. Buy from Best Buy or Microsoft, someone who will be reasonable with refunds and deliveries. Again, do NOT buy from razer.com.

Overall, a very solid laptop that I am very happy and satisfied with so far.


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Next project.

I have a couple of projects to choose from, but one that I’m excited about is a new app that shouldn’t have TOO long of a development time (hopefully a month or less). I’m having fun coming up with cool ideas and I enjoy starting new projects. A fresh idea is always fun to work on. Anyway, here’s a very quick video of the game and a dying sequence:

Of course, everything is subject to change. It’s almost Christmas, so Merry Christmas as well.


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Stay in the Circle post-mortem.

This week was the release week of Stay in the Circle (iOS | Android), and release days/weeks are always fun and informative. Sometimes not as fun, but always informative.

First off, reception has been very positive. Initial impressions are very good. People have ignored the settings menu mostly, which leads to most users not knowing about being able to set a custom game position or the battery saver feature.

Retention has been high. 50%+ day 1, and similar numbers for the other days.

The title of the game seems to be very important. The first app I released, Hopper, has been almost impossible for people to find because of the ubiquity of the keyword across many other apps. “Stay in the Circle!” is unique enough that it’s the first result if you search the title on the iOS App Store. This has helped with visibility and should be noted for future projects.

The simplicity and forgiving nature of the game is also a big factor to acceptability. Spin Ninja has overall been regarded as too difficult for many to enjoy, except skilled gamers. I was going for a Flappy Bird esque game with that title, but it didn’t work out that way. Most people decided they’d just rather not play it and gave up.

The game dynamically adjusts difficulty depending on how good the player is, which allows any player to feel like they’re sufficiently skilled. Additionally, the implementation of the “Perfect” mechanic which rewards successive hits for skilled players, and allows them to quickly reach a difficulty threshold that feels challenging and enjoyable for them, which is an issue I’ve noticed with a lot of games. Even games like Jetpack Joyride start out slow enough to feel bored, but ramp up too quickly in difficulty, leading to short, boring, frustrating sessions.

Overall, I’m happy with Stay in the Circle’s release so far. 👍🏿

 


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How to build iOS applications on Windows.

Apple makes ridiculous decisions sometimes, to put it nicely. And none is more so hated by me than their choice to make it so that you HAVE to have a Mac to build for their app store.

Here’s the XCODE legal crap that Apple makes you agree to. I read it so you don’t have to. In section 2.2, “Permitted Uses and Restrictions”, they state:

Apple hereby grants You [to]…

Install a reasonable number of copies of the Apple Software on Apple-branded computers that are owned or controlled by You to be used internally by You
So, like stated above, you can only use the XCode software on Apple branded computers. A couple more points from the same document:
You may use the Apple SDKs (excluding the macOS SDK) solely to test and develop Applications that are specifically for use with the applicable Apple-branded products for which the SDK is targeted, unless otherwise permitted by Apple in writing; and
You may use the Apple Services solely to test and develop Applications that are specifically for use on Apple-branded products, unless otherwise permitted by Apple in writing.
You may not distribute any Applications developed using the Apple SDKs (excluding the macOS SDK) absent entering into a separate written agreement with Apple.
So you can see that Apple only wants you to use their SDK on their computers, to develop software for their computers. I think that’s stupid.
For the rest of this blog post, we will be assuming that the Windows environment you are working in to develop iOS apps is on an APPLE BRANDED COMPUTER running Windows through Bootcamp.
The best solution I’ve found for the general developer is this application right here. It’s not free, but it’s cheaper than buying a new Macbook Pro that’s strong enough to export and publish the app as fast as a normal Windows desktop is able to. I was not paid or commissioned by the developer to promote this, by the way. I got a similar setup working on my computer a couple days ago and this works well, too. I highly recommend this method as opposed to supporting this terrible practice Apple is encouraging. By the way, for the program linked above, you need one-time access to a Mac to get some required files. It’s still very easy, and you could borrow a Mac from anyone you know. If you don’t know any friends that have a Mac and you trust online strangers, I’ve uploaded the latest current (12/11/2018) SDK right here. Extract it to a folder called “SDK” and put it in the root installation directory after the program has installed.
The program takes a little bit of configuration to get going, but it’s not too hard once you understand what’s going on. And if you’re not up for/expecting to get your hands dirty anyway, why are you a software engineer?
Cheers.

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