Heh. Sigur Rós coming up.

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Heh. Sigur Rós coming up.

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The pokeball’s third jiggle. Reblog if you agree.

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

The pokeball’s third jiggle. Reblog if you agree.

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Their world is fire, and blood.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Their world is fire, and blood.

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He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself…

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.

And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

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Saturday, August 20th, 2016

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Pokémon GO tracking using the Nearby feature

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

Below the cut I discuss Pokémon GO tracking using the newly revamped Nearby tray. In particular, I describe my use of a separate app (Topo Maps for iPhone) to help in that process.

A lot of people have already explained how to do Pomémon GO tracking using the Nearby feature. There’s a (presumed) 200m radius of visibility for Pokémon shown in the Nearby tray. Knowing this, you can use the following technique:

  • When the Pokémon first appears in the tray, you’re exactly 200m from it. Make a
    mental note of your location as Point A.
  • Pick a direction and start walking in a straight line. When the Pokémon disappears from the tray, note that as Point B.
  • Backtrack to a point midway between A and B, turn 90 degrees and start walking. You should now be headed either directly toward or directly away from the Pokémon.
  • If the Pokémon disappears from the tray you’re going the wrong way. Turn 180 degrees and walk the other way.
  • Keep walking until the Pokémon appears.

The technique works, and has the virtue of being easy to describe and remember. Still, it isn’t as efficient as it could be. There’s also the problem that when walking on city streets you can’t always walk in straight lines or at right angles; sometimes your route is constrained.

I’ve been using a third-party app (Topo Maps for iPhone by Phil Endecott) to help address those problems. The app isn’t free ($7.99), but I had it already for hiking and like it a lot.

Side note: Someone I was describing this to wondered if using a third-party app like this violates the Pokémon GO Terms of Service. My view is that unlike GPS spoofers or bots, or trackers like Pokevision, all of which involve lying to the Niantic servers and/or sharing game information with other users, all I’m doing is using an app to help me interpret legitimate in-game information. Maybe it’s splitting hairs, but as someone who chose not to use Pokevision because it felt like crossing an ethical line, I’m fine with using the Topo Maps app like this. Still, as Emily says:


There were a few setup steps needed to get Topo Maps ready for tracking. First, I downloaded topographic maps for the area where I hunt Pokemon. (The maps are free once you’ve paid for the app itself.) The app’s built-in Help feature explains how to do that.

Second, by default Topo Maps shows distance circles graduated in fractions of a mile:


By pressing and holding the offset-distance readout toward the upper-right of the screen, though, I made a selector appear that lets me switch to km:


…after which I get an inner circle with a radius of 200m, perfect for tracking Pokémon:


While playing I keep the Pokémon GO app in the foreground and the Topo Maps app in the background, switching back and forth by double-pressing the Home button.

Let’s see the technique in action. (Full disclosure: Some of the following screenshots were recreated after the fact, which you can tell if you look closely.)

Here I am, happily walking down the street: 


Suddenly, a wild Eevee appears in the Nearby tray:


Sweet! I want one of those. Switching to the Topo Maps app, I drop a pin at my current location (Topo Maps calls this “Creating a waypoint”) and label it “A”:


If I display a 200m circle around that point, I know that the Eevee must be somewhere on that circle:


Now I need a second point, point B, that is also 200m from the Eevee but that is at least 50m or so away from point A. (If point B is too close to point A, any errors will tend to be magnified, making it harder to determine the target Pokémon’s location.)

Note that unlike the standard tracking technique described above, I don’t need to walk a straight line or keep track of the midpoint between A and B. The Topo Maps app will take care of that for me. All I need to do is switch back to the Pokémon app and start walking until I find a place a little ways away where the Eevee again disappears from the Nearby tray. Once I find that spot I switch back to the Topo Maps app and drop a new pin, labeling it “B”:


Again, because point B marks a place where the Pokémon appears and disappears from the Nearby tray, the Pokémon must be somewhere on a 200m circle centered on that point:


At this point I know enough to determine the two places where the Pokémon could be. There’s no need to backtrack to the midpoint of A and B and walk at a right angle; I can plot the Pokémon’s two likely locations from here, pick one of those locations, and immediately head for it via whatever route I want.

One way to find the two possible locations would be to plot a 200m circle centered on point A, and another 200m circle centered on point B, and see where the two circles intersect. The two points of intersection are the only places the Pokémon could be.

Unfortunately the Topo Maps app only displays one set of distance circles at a time. Here’s the workaround I’ve been using for that:

  • Position Point B at the center of the map. (It will be there already if you have the GPS tracking turned on and just dropped the pin.)
  • Display the 200m circle centered on point B.
  • Judging by eye, pick a point on point B’s 200m circle that is equidistant from A and B.
  • Turn off GPS tracking in the Topo Maps app (so you can reposition the map), then drag the map so the estimated location is at the center of the screen.
  • Turn off the 200m distance circle (which will still be centered on point B), then turn it on again to position it at the center of the screen.
  • If you picked the right spot, the new 200m circle should pass through both points A and B. If it’s off, nudge the map a bit, then cycle the distance circle off and on again to reposition until you get it right. (It doesn’t have to be perfect.)
  • Drop a pin and label the new location “C1”.
  • Repeat the above steps to plot the other possible location on the opposite side of points A and B. Label it “C2”.
  • Pick one of the two possible locations (C1 or C2) and start walking toward it. If you reach a place within 200m of that point without the Pokémon reappearing in the Nearby tray, you’re going the wrong way. Turn around and go to the other point C.

Here’s how that looks in the app. Estimating point C1:


Dropping and labeling the pin for C1:


Dropping and labeling the pin for C2:


Some observations about my experience using this technique:

  • It sounds like a lot of work, and it’s certainly harder to describe than the standard approach. But in practice it’s pretty quick.
  • That’s good, because time is a factor. So far I’ve only had about a 33% success rate at tracking down Pokémon before they despawn.
  • As a semi-rural player, I have to fight the urge to stop and catch low-quality Pokémon while I’m tracking. Seconds count.
  • There’s an inherent conflict between navigational accuracy and speed. For example, doing a quick backtrack at the time a Pokémon appears or disappears can help confirm that I actually crossed a detection boundary, rather than seeing a spawn or despawn. But even a brief backtrack takes time. It’s a judgement call whether it’s worth doing or not.
  • The new-style Nearby tray only displays each species once, so if there are multiple Pokémon of the same species present it will mask the 200m disappearance/reappearance events. Fortunately, rarer Pokémon are the ones most worth tracking.

Have fun tracking Pokémon!

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strix-tristitia: Birding is the original Pokémon Go. The other…

Monday, August 1st, 2016


Birding is the original Pokémon Go.

The other day a friend mentioned hearing that people have been playing Pokémon GO for hundreds of years – they’ve just called it birdwatching.

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savescreen: Pokemon GO fanart.

Saturday, July 30th, 2016


Pokemon GO fanart.

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bourbakiaxiom: My POB (Pokemon Order of Battle)Until recently I…

Saturday, July 30th, 2016


My POB (Pokemon Order of Battle)

Until recently I had been quite boring, and left all my Pokemons with their default names.

I was whinging later about how you need to open them to check their attack types, when my son suggested including this in their name. Brilliant! But then I imagined having one of these sitting in a gym, and how it would be pretty obvious and detrimental to call my Kangastan “NormalGround”.
Solution? Use a locally obscure language like Latvian to encode them. Above you see the result. If the fast and charge are the same, I just use the one type.

So, a puzzle for you guys. It should be easy to work out some of the above words (e.g. which one means “Flying”?) How many can you guess?

This is awesome. You don’t need to worry about other people seeing the nicknames you’ve assigned, though, since those are only visible to you. Other players seeing your Pokémon in gyms only see their default names.

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Announcer: This Tumblr post brought to you by the Pokémon Go servers being down.

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Announcer: This Tumblr post brought to you by the Pokémon Go servers being down.

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level of obsession: switching the google maps app from miles to kilometers

Monday, July 25th, 2016

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pondwitch: god help us Following up mostly to Mary’s…

Monday, July 18th, 2016


god help us

Following up mostly to Mary’s tags:

#how did they not anticipate this???#Pokemon Go

PokemonGoTech is a parody account. It isn’t affiliated with Niantic/Nintendo. So those aren’t likely to be real numbers.

It’s true the game has been down a fair amount, especially at times of high activity. The last bad meltdown was Saturday morning on the US east coast, when the bulk of the US trainer population, having looked forward all week to getting some quality Go time in on their day off before it got too hot (there’s currently a heat wave over much of the US), tried to play all at once.

For what it’s worth, a highly-respected-by-me sysadmin/devops person (not at Niantic, but people talk) was saying that the scuttlebutt she’s heard is that it’s not really a server-scaling issue, because the server side of PGo is running in the Google Cloud and if it was just a question of spinning up more servers that would be easy. It is, rather, a “code is hard to shard across servers” issue; i.e., a software design limitation. In still other words, the system, while clearly doing some pretty impressive things in terms of handling a mind-boggling amount of activity, wasn’t so well-designed that it could actually scale smoothly all the way up to the current level of demand.

So that’s a software issue, and getting it diagnosed, fixed, tested, and deployed is the kind of thing that’s going to take more time than just turning up a dial.

I suspect that the “bugs” of the Nearby tray in the app becoming random/useless and the capture location maps no longer loading are in fact intentional steps they’ve taken to lessen the demands of the application. That is, they’ve intentionally degraded the game by turning those features off in order to lessen the system’s back end requirements while they scramble to fix the larger problem.

It’s probably going to take at least a while longer before things are running smoothly. I appreciate what they’re doing to keep things afloat as best they can in the meantime. I’ve always liked walking around outside, so if I end up having to put my phone away and enjoy reality unaugmented, that’s okay with me. :-)

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personalspaceshow: The real star of the show. If I understand…

Sunday, July 17th, 2016


The real star of the show.

If I understand correctly, PS World is our world with the lone exception of space flight (which started a few decades earlier due to the pre-WWII defection to the US of Werner von Braun) and a few associated technologies and societal developments (e.g., Reagan’s third term and colonies on the moon and Mars).

So ignoring narrative-conceit-hostile butterfly effects, things like Pokemon Go should exist in-world. (Except that the script was completed prior to the PGo singularity, so any incorporation of the game into the show would depend on last-minute rewrites/improv. But setting that aside.)

What would it be like for the newly revived Second Shift crew on Overture, seeing accounts from Earth of the latest craze? They wouldn’t have the hardware to run it, and wouldn’t have Pokestops or gyms if they did. A silly thing like not being able to participate in the game would likely emphasize their feelings of separation, driving home the divergence of their stuck-in-1991 technological reality from that of Earth.

Things would only get worse for subsequent shifts, but Second Shift might be the one where the distance between their own memories and the increasingly alien (and multiple-light-years-distant) culture of Earth reaches the point where the crew has to confront the full extent of their isolation. FOMO is hard enough for Earthlings, but how would it feel to be committed to never experiencing the kind of connection afforded by augmented reality and a globally interconnected game, for people on a ginormous-but-tiny spaceship who decided at a young age to commit themselves to living out much of their lives in the company of exactly 3 other people?

I wonder: would they try to make a paper-based Pokémon game to play on the ship? Would they feel even sadder if they did? Seems like the kind of thing they might want to talk to the therapy program about. At least they have that source of comfort…

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Save Your Lucky Eggs and Evolutions

Saturday, July 16th, 2016



Here’s a trick to leveling up fast: collect a bunch of pokemon before doing any evolutions. I usually do this at the end of the day. Use a lucky egg to double you’re XP gain for the next 30 minutes. Then do all your evolutions.

Evolutions give you tons of XP, although the amount depends on which pokemon you are evolving. Start with the pokemon you really want to evolve then move on to evolving some weak pokemon like weedle. Simple evolves like this give out more XP per candy, so you can evolve more pokemon and receive more total XP. Add the lucky egg to that and you’ll be leveling up fast. Once you’ve leveled up your pokemon, of course you can keep them or transfer them to the professor to get back one candy.

Addendum: after I finished evolving all my Pokemon, I still had about 20 minutes on my lucky egg so I threw down a lure for 30 minutes. This all took me from the very low end of Level 13 to nearly-ready to graduate Level 14 in half an hour.

I’ve been doing this too. Pidgeys are good for this kind of low-level evolution grinding because there are so many of them (at least where I’m playing) and they only need 12 candy to evolve.

Other things you can do to maximize XP gain during the lucky egg’s half hour: time it so as many eggs as possible complete their incubation during that interval, do it in a place where there are lots of Pokestops, and use an incense and/or lures to make sure there are lots of Pokemon to catch.

I leveled up from 9 to 11 yesterday morning doing this, hit 12 on my lunch hour, then took a walk last night that got me to 13. The Carpinteria State Beach has a bunch of Pokestops, and people were putting out lures and having a grand time. At one point I passed a group of six or seven players talking with a park ranger. I came in in the middle of their conversation and didn’t linger (my lucky egg was running out and I had four incubating eggs that still needed 400 meters or so), but the part I overheard was the ranger explaining about the park rules and nighttime curfews, while expressing shock about how many people were wandering around. The players were sympathetic and expressed their willingness to cooperate, but also let him know that people were just going to keep coming. As I walked away they were showing him the game so he could see where the Pokestops were.

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