Predictive Text

Posted by on Mar 2, 2016 in words | 0 comments

For several months I’ve been using the SwiftKey keyboard on my phone, and all the while it has been collecting data on the type of text that I enter. It uses all of that data to (among other things, I’m sure!) predict the word that I’m most likely to type next. At this point, it’s nearly at the stage where SwiftKey knows what I’m going to say before I know myself.

That being the case, I think it’s only fair that I left SwiftKey write the rest of this post itself…

Have a look at the moment it’s still going strong and durable plastic bags of my email to you yesterday. I have been having some issues with this list for this reason. The only thing that is not rated yet to receive the best price on conveyancing in my opinion is the most important part of the family.

Aston Martin car hire in London for your time to get the kids to be honest with you and your team. The 7 minutes apart from a range of services for people who want the special chat system and I am not sure what to expect from a wide variety of extras such as the kind of patent pending for your help.

Have a great weekend in my drawer and a half day to be in the UK for your time. Are they going to be SO kind as to the hotel where we’ll be having a text conversation with you on roaming rates for the girl or her parents and teachers.

I keep forgetting that the company has also worked with him on Facebook and Twitter and Facebook and Twitter and Facebook and Twitter at the end result of this month. This will help to increase my own personal information about this property.

I hope that’s all clear.

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OT: Presentation Tips

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in words | 0 comments

Today, after I’d done an IT induction talk at work, a new student asked me how long I’ve been lecturing because he would really like to get better at public speaking. I told him that I’m not a lecturer, but I often talk at technology user groups and conferences, so talking to the 150 people in the room today was now about as natural as talking to him afterwards. I said that it just gets easier with experience, but on the way back to my office I realised that I’d done him a disservice, because there are other key attributes that make a good public speaker, and there are people with lots of experience who aren’t that good at it (as he’s likely to find out the hard way from some long-time lecturers*).

Back at my desk, I sent him an email with the advice below, in the hope that it’s more immediately useful that simply “gain experience”. Some of them are things that I’ve worked out for myself; others are likely from other sites that I’ve read about presentation skills. I’m sorry that I don’t have any attribution for those – my intent was not to copy anyone else’s work, but simply to put together a list of things that work for me**, and may be helpful to you…

While the age-old tip of “imagine your audience naked” might be fun with some audiences, it isn’t going to really make you a good public speaker. Hopefully these should help:

  • Keep in mind that aside from a few sadistic freaks, your audience isn’t waiting for you to fail. They are on your side and want you to do well because they want to get something good (useful information, entertainment, or both) out of your presentation.
  • Know your material. If you use slides or notes, make sure they’re just bullet points for you to talk around. Don’t be reading long streams of text off the screen or a bit of paper.
  • The hardest presentations to give are the ones where you fear that you aren’t telling anyone anything they don’t already know. Find a way to make the content fresh for them by including anecdotes from personal experience (or other people’s experience, but then you run the risk of them already having heard it again, so try to find obscure ones – something that makes the point but comes from another field, perhaps).
  • If you do 2 and 3 right, you can go into it with the confidence that even if you’re talking to subject experts, they at least haven’t heard your take on the presentation before.
  • Repetition helps, so rehearse. I was able to deliver my bit today so easily because it’s basically the same one that I’ve given half a dozen times before, almost word for word (that was my first one of the year, so all I did was glance through the deck this morning and remind myself of the key points). The rehearsing thing goes towards gaining experience – ask a friend to watch you rehearse and give feedback, or video it and then critique yourself.
  • Try to use light and shade, even if the subject is very dry. I usually try to inject a bit of humour into a presentation, but if the content/audience doesn’t suit that, on the flip side, a good cautionary tale works well (eg. “Obscure Company X didn’t put enough effort into their SOX 404 audit compliance, and it ended up costing them TWO BILLION DOLLARS!”).
  • Appropriately timed pauses help you make your point, but also help you work out what you’re going to say next and avoid “er”/”um”s. I came across a woman who had clearly had some coaching where she’s learned to replace a filler sound like “er” with the filler word “obviously”. It was terrible. Once you’d realised that she, obviously, said obviously a couple of times a sentence, it, obviously, became impossible to hear the point she was trying to make. It was even worse in her case because the things she was talking about were far from obvious! Pausing is best, but “er” is still better than “obviously”.
  • Remember that even if you’re really well prepared and even if you’ve had a successful dress-rehearsal in the same room, with the same equipment (which you should do if possible), things can still go wrong. If you’re demonstrating anything live, there’s a good chance that it will manage to fail at the worst moment in a new and unexpected way. If a demonstration is critical to your presentation, record it before hand to use as a backup – that way, at least you can do a live demo with the confidence that you have a “get out of jail free” card if it goes all goes to crap.
  • There are a million different tips that you can find online in terms of building a good slide deck. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to avoid too much text on a slide, and try to use supporting imagery where you can.
  • Watch other good presenters and shamelessly copy the things you admire in their delivery. is a fantastic resource for this.


* For all I know, this student might experience only excellent lecturers – I’m just guessing that some won’t be as great.

** I don’t necessarily consider myself to be a great public speaker, but I try my best.

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The Wishlist: 2015 game releases

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in words | 0 comments

The Wishlist is home to our tech desires. It may be improvements to existing things, or something that doesn’t exist yet, but we really, really want.

Each year the gaming industry reveals forthcoming releases at the E3 Expo, so I use those announcements to make a shopping list (and a budget!). Before getting on to my 2015 list, let’s take a look back at my 2014 list and other recent purchases…

Many years will see me make a list after E3 and then not stick with it. This year, I have actually picked up everything that I said I would, and I’ve been very happy with my choices. The Golf Club Game has had less play time than I expected, given my history of playing Tiger Woods and Links over the years, but it has still been enjoyable and a worthwhile purchase, especially since it’s priced significantly lower than most console titles. Some of my Tiger Woods playing friends find it significantly harder to play, but that’s because they were used to affecting the flight of the ball after they’d hit it, which is clearly unrealistic – I like simulations, so I’m all for it. FIFA15 is a game that I haven’t played half as much as my son; in fact I probably haven’t played it without him. I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up as soon, since I already had FIFA14 via EA Access, but I managed to find a download code at a price that made it not worth waiting for it to release on EA Access (which it now has) – I doubt that I’ll be picking up FIFA16 until it’s in the Vault. Disney Infinity 2.0 Marvel Superheroes has been a lot of co-op fun in our house. We haven’t used the creative aspect of it, but we have played a lot through the included Avengers story, and we’ve added the Spiderman playset. Overall, if you include my son’s pocket money purchases and gifts from family members, there’s been a lot of money spent on Disney Infinity characters and the like, but I don’t feel like it’s been a waste. Halo: The Master Chief Collection has let me relive the fun I had playing co-op Halo with friends, and let me relive it with my son. It’s been an incredible bonding experience playing through the 4 games and we’ve now got the Halo 3: ODST levels as DLC to play through before Halo 5: Guardians comes out. NBA 2K15 had some significant problems with the online components when it launched. Didn’t bother me as we were happily playing local multiplayer. This series is still the gold standard for sports games, both in terms of gameplay and presentation IMHO.

Aside from what I had on my 2014 wishlist, the last year or so has been a good one for me in gaming terms. I’ve already made my feelings clear on Elite: Dangerous, which I’m now enjoying on Xbox One in addition to PC. There are two other games that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed on both those platforms; neither are mainstream, both have provided a welcome change of pace with respect to the play style, and they both came with a cracking soundtrack: I heartily recommend Valliant Hearts: The Great War and Life Is Strange. In addition, I’ve played a lot of Lego Marvel Superheroes and more recently Lego Jurassic World with my son and we’ve had enormous fun with both.

Without further ado, these are the games that I’m most excited to buy so far for the rest of 2015:

Rare Replay – It’s 30 games from Rare’s back catalogue for £20($30) and it includes Grabbed by the Ghoulies – I’m in!

Super Hot – I played the prototype of this game a while back and found it really addictive. Since then the art style has changed up a little bit, for the better it would appear. It has a unique look and a really cool mechanic where time only advances when you move. It’s easier to understand when you see it in action, so go and check it out.

Star Wars: Battlefront – First up, the obvious thing is that this looks incredible. When the first trailer was released for this game you could be excused for confusing it with a movie. That said, trailers can be misleading, so it was refreshing to see some gameplay footage from E3. I have seen some people saying that they’re disappointed that this plays like the old DICE Battlefield/front games, and perhaps that’s not what is needed in 2015. Stuff their opinion – that’s exactly what I want it to be!

Disney Infinity 3.0 – As I said earlier, Disney Infinity 2.0 has had a lot of play in my house. We’ve really enjoyed the Marvel characters in that game. The only place to go beyond that for me would be Star Wars. I’m just pleased that Disney keep buying up all the things that I care about, cos it makes life easier. I said to my wife (when discussing another trip to Walt Disney World) that as long as we set aside enough money to pay the bills, the mouse can have the rest! 😉

Shenmue 3 – During E3, it was announced that Shenmue 3 would have a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. I’ve been one of the many who have been hoping for this game for years, so I backed it straight away. At the time of writing, it is approaching double the $2m goal, so it’s definitely happening and I’ve already bought a copy. Happy days.

Rise of the Tomb Raider – Rarely have I been so blown away by the visuals on a gameplay video as I was watching Lara Croft climbing up an icy mountain. The last Tomb Raider was great, and I expect nothing less from this one.

NBA 2K16 – I love basketball, and my son loves basketball, so 2K Sports are going to get my money for their NBA game every year. This year they have NY Knicks superfan Spike Lee involved in the production, so I’m expecting a more story-based career mode, which will be good as long as you don’t have to play for the Knicks!

Tom Clancy’s The Division – I know technically this isn’t out until 2016, but we are expecting a beta on Xbox One this year and I’ll be all over that because although I have been very excited about this game, I’m not sure that it fits in with how I game these days, so I’m not sure if I’ll be buying it. I’m also a bit disappointed that they’ve cancelled the 2nd screen experience, which would have let someone with a tablet join the game controlling a drone. That sounded like a great mechanic, but apparently threw the game out of balance. It still looks cracking though!

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Seige – This Tom Clancy game is definitely out this year, and I wasn’t fully on board until E3, when they announced two things: 1) Terrorist hunt mode is back, and 2) You get Rainbow Six Vegas, and Vegas 2 bundled in with this. Those were great games and the chance to revisit them is very appealing.

Halo 5: Guardians – I’m now so invested in this series that I’m not missing the next chapter.

A little further out, I’m looking forward to seeing how two newly announced games turn out: Cuphead, a tough side-scrolling platformer with 1930s cartoon style graphics – what’s not to love? Unravel is another platform game, which looks utterly charming – I hope it’s as good as it looks.

I’m going to give an honourable mention to Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, which I’m playing in beta at the moment. It’s a really nice remake and I like it a lot, but as I’ve alluded to, the way I spend my gaming time has changed over at least the last console generation, so I’m not sure it’s a purchase yet. I do know that I’ll have a lot of friends playing it.

[Update] I’ve just realised that Lego Marvel’s Avengers is due out this year. After the many, many hours that my son and I put into Lego Marvel Super Heroes, this is a no-brainer!

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An unsupported app may be worse than no app at all

Posted by on Jan 11, 2015 in words | 0 comments

One of the main complaints of platforms that aren’t iOS or Android is the lack of apps. At least that’s the lazy “con” to put in your review of an operating system or device. In fairness, most platforms have most of the things that most people want. However, even if lots of your family and friends might be “most people”, there’s a good chance that you aren’t, and there’s a particular service that you use, and you can’t don’t want to live without the app that supports it.

Unfortunately, the arrival of your must-have app on a platform isn’t the end of the story. There are far too many cases of companies who offer nothing more than lip-service to a given platform. The good news for users of iOS and Android is that you’re less likely to fall foul of this, although there are some apps that are only/better supported on one or the other of those platforms, for whatever reason. For people who are thinking about changing platforms, it’s no use just checking if there’s versions of the apps really want on that platform; you also need to know if they’re any good and ideally if they’re being supported beyond an initial release window.

This brings me on to the sad case of Audible for Windows Phone.

As the number one supplier of audiobooks, Audible’s content is great. Sadly, their app for Windows Phone lets them down badly. My memory isn’t the best, but I think I can just about recall a wonderful period of time when it used to work fine. I use my phone to play audiobooks, podcasts or music on my daily commute, but at some point something changed and using the Audible app has been like torture ever since. It’s been terrible on two most recent Windows Phones (the HTC 8X and the Lumia 930). It may not have been Audible’s fault that it broke (there’s every chance that Microsoft pushed an OS update that changed something, but I do blame them for a lack of pro-active support of their app – plenty of people have reported it broken and they haven’t done anything about it since their last update on 26th November 2013.

For me the problem is starting playback. When it actually starts it’s fine, unless I have to pause for more than a few seconds, then the problems start again. Usually, when I launch the app to play a book, it takes several minutes to start playback. I have sometimes pressed play, taken a shower and got dried and half dressed before it starts to play. Sometimes I’ll see the screen turn off after 5 minutes without it starting – when that happens I’ll force-close the app and launch it again. Sometimes that helps, sometimes I get a short sound like the narrator is clearing their throat, then nothing. It’s abysmal.

My partner in crime at TheTekTonic pinged Audible about this on Twitter and they claim that they’re going to have an update for the app soon. I understand from checking up on this from time to time, that they haven’t had any expertise in-house to update the app, so I presume they have either recruited someone or paid a 3rd party.

I’m hoping that their update will make the app usable again, but here’s their problem – if it doesn’t, I’m out of patience. They’re going to lose me as a customer. If they didn’t have an app on Windows Phone and I choose that platform, that’s on me. As it stands, I expect to be able to use their service on my platform because they provided an app for that, but the app doesn’t work properly, so that’s on them. So this isn’t about my poor choice; it’s about a company that doesn’t appear to value my custom. It’s eroded my faith in them as a service provider that I have been giving money to on a monthly basis for years. If their new app is great, I’ll be well on the way to forgiving them (because I know that making software work on such a wise variety of devices is not trivial), but if not…

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Elite: Dangerous

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in words | 0 comments

Way back in the 1980s, I had a school friend living round the corner with whom I spent many hours playing David Braben and Ian Bell’s space trading game Elite on his dad’s insanely powerful 128k BBC Master. To that point, there hadn’t been a computer in my house so I’d only ever used BBC Model B’s at school. Aside from Castle Quest (and later Exile), Elite really fills my first memories of using computers in any way.

I don’t know especially what it was that attracted me to Elite so much. Or I do, and it was everything! At the time Star Wars and Star Trek were among the biggest cultural influences on boys my age, so the content was ripe for sparking imagination; my mind’s eye making the Elite universe seem a solid, colourful living thing, rather than the jagged white lines and dots that represented it on screen. Exploration in my Cobra, the excitement of making a good trade and avoiding the pirates, the outside chance that every hyperspace jump might lead to an encounter with the dreaded Thargoids, bounty hunting, or even partaking in a bit of piracy myself and running the gauntlet of the Vipers policing the solar system. The possibilities were practically endless.


A little later, a family friend who was a teacher and knew that I was interested in computers, took me along to some kind of educational technology trade show where Acorn were showing off their new Archimedes computers. They were using another David Braben game, called Lander, to demo the hardware. Although I didn’t know they were produced by the same guy, I might’ve guessed; except this time the polygons of the ship and those making up the landscape were filled with colour, and there were trees and water. It looked absolutely gorgeous.

I don’t know exactly how long it took me to persuade my parents to buy an Archimedes after that, but I know that it was the leap from what I’d experienced in the wireframe graphics of Elite on the Master to the vibrant look of Lander which made me realise how quickly computers were evolving, and I knew at that point that I needed to have one. Yes, to play with, but also to better learn how to use it. I played the Archimedes version of Elite a lot on that machine. It had solid, filled polygons like Lander, so it looked great! As much as I played, I also taught myself BASIC from books and magazines, learned about RISC OS, and I spent a fair bit of time trying (and failing) to make a Harrier jump-jet simulator with a package called Flight Sim Toolkit.

It is ultimately because of Elite that I gained a degree in Computing Science and ended up in a career in IT. Over the years, I’d occasionally fired up BeebEm and played a bit of the original; dreaming of a modern version of the game that had so sparked my imagination. While more modern games might’ve looked better, and even offered “sandbox” gameplay, there wasn’t anything that offered the total freedom of “here’s the universe; go do what you want”. I realise that isn’t for everyone; some people garner far more enjoyment from structured gameplay. Conversely, there are those who like a big box of Lego bricks without any instructions. Elite isn’t for everyone, but I loved it.

Ironically, it wasn’t until recently – just a few days before I met David Braben at a conference where we were both speaking – that I realised that for a number of years people had been asking me about my unusual choice of pets, and I’d been giving the wrong answer. I kept snakes for about 10 years and I would frequently be asked what got me interested in them in the first place. I would always answer that I wasn’t sure, but I was fascinated by their movement or some such waffle. It took until Elite: Dangerous came on the scene before I realised the source of Cobras, Pythons, Fer de Lances, Anacondas, Vipers, Asps, etc (the ships in the game) in my sub-conscious!

I wonder how many of my other decisions in life have been influenced by this marvelous game?


The nice thing about this modern version of Elite is that I’ve been able to follow the development from an early stage, and as a backer on Kickstarter, I actually contributed to its creation. Had the game gone down the traditional publisher route, I would still have been among the first to buy it on the 16th, but this way I feel far more invested in the title.

At this point I’m playing a pre-launch build on a daily basis and I’m having a ball! It’s only going to get better after launch, when the story begins to unfold. I’ve already primed myself for some of that by reading some of the new fiction that has been licensed by Frontier and authored by Elite fans who pledged at a sufficient level on Kickstarter to obtain that license and the support from Frontier Developments to expand the canon.


Right now, I haven’t decided whether Commander Jonoble is going to be a trader, explorer, miner, bounty hunter or what. At the moment I’m making an epic journey to Lave, the system where everyone began their Elite adventure in the original. Along the way I’ve fought off pirates (occasionally being rescued by the authorities, not that I needed it!), l made enough profit in trades to buy more weaponry and a fuel scoop so that I could fill my tanks by skimming stars, and I’ve learned by trial and error just how close I can get to one before my ship blows up. It’s been a blast, literally! I’ve also learned not to accept a mission to retrieve some commodity for a space station without any idea where to obtain it (coltan, I’m looking at you!).

David Braben’s Frontier Developments studio releases Elite: Dangerous on Windows on 16th December. It feels exactly like the game that I’ve been wanting to play for years.

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