Recently Watched on Amazon Prime

I’m not sure why this feature is as deeply hidden as it is, but despite what most people think you can see your recent watchlist on Amazon’s Prime Video service. It’s a feature I use quite a bit to ensure that my Trakt and MiM records are correct, but I often find myself having to Google where to go. So, as much for my own records as anything else, if you want to see what you’ve been watching recently then follow these steps:

  1. Go to Your Account
  2. Scroll to the very bottom to Improve Your Recommendations
  3. Choose Videos You’ve Watched on the left hand side menu

Et voilá! You have a full list of everything you’ve ever watched through on the service. You may even be able to skip out the above steps by clicking this link instead. Thanks to Lee Turner on Quora for pointing me in the right direction.

Palliative Bug Fixes

A palliative is a treatment that soothes even if it can’t cure the illness.

By all means, whenever you can, fix the problem, go to the root cause, come up with a better design…

But when you can’t (and that’s most of the time, because the straightforward problems have already been solved), the effort you put into providing a palliative will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

~ Seth Godin

I’ve been catching up on Seth’s blog (I’m woefully behind on pretty much everything at the moment) and this post in particular caught my attention, largely because it reminded me of the reason why I haven’t really been reading/posting/watching anything much lately: Pokémon Go. I’d still like to do a full breakdown of that game, which isn’t this, but Seth’s words really summed up one of the aspects of the game’s development that has impressed me.

Anyone who has had anything to do with Go by now has probably come up against one of their many bugs. When the game first launched there were dozens; the game would freeze when you caught a Pokémon, when you didn’t, when you span the map too quickly, when you randomly encountered the wrong species or item. It crashed routinely, the servers were completely unstable and core features, such as the Pokédex and tracker, straight up didn’t work. The game was a mess and often very frustrating, but many people saw the gem at the core and decided to stick around anyway (yours truly, clearly, included).

Over a month later and many of these issues persist. However, quite a lot of the bugs have been addressed. Sometimes, as with the now infamous “three footsteps” glitch or the more recent issue where some Pokémon randomly changed upon a successful catch, it seemed like each fix broke something else. Despite this the game is now far more robust than at launch and barely ever force quits for me any more. I can tell several of the bugs still exist, but wonderfully were they couldn’t instantly cure the problem they’ve introduced palliative solutions.

Sometimes, the game hangs when loading. When it first launched, you couldn’t do anything when this occurred except either wait it out and hope or force the app to crash and reload. Now, after a certain time has elapsed, a “Sign Out” button automatically appears. Press it and you’re returned to the initial splash screen where you can reattempt to connect. It’s not a fix – the loading screen can still hang – but it presents a much less frustrating solution than the previous alternative. Same goes for one of the earliest bugs where the “rocking Pokéball” animation would just fail to load, locking you into a useless screen and forcing you to (again) force quit the app. This bug still occurs for me from time to time, but now the app deals with it, forcing the next animation to trigger and ignoring that the previous one never did. These are simple, easy “fixes” that don’t solve the (I imagine) rather complex underlying root causes of these issues, but make the game infinitely more enjoyable to play regularly.

I’ve never seen a games developer or software company really take this approach before, but Niantec seem to be making it work for them and personally, I think I’ve learnt something about how to handle problematic code.

Logitech Z4 Speakers and The Weird-Ass Problem

So I’ve owned a set of Logitech z4 2.1 desk speakers for about five years now, ever since a good friend of mine effectively gave them to me because they couldn’t fit in his car. They remain one of the best speaker sets I’ve ever had the pleasure to own or use. The sound clarity is exceptional, especially considering how thin and tiny the actual uprights are; the bass can be a little dull, but fits my music tastes pretty damn well and can fill a room. Basically, I’ve been very lucky and I couldn’t imagine how I would ever replace them. So when, just after Christmas, it seemed the connector for the right upright suddenly blew, it was at a loss. I couldn’t quite pin down what was wrong, but basically no (or very little) sound would come out the right speaker; swap over the outputs and it would be the left that wasn’t working. Seems like a connection issue, right?

Since then I’ve “made do”. Even one speaker down, the sound quality remained better than most other options in my house, albeit a little flat. Listening to new music, however, was becoming increasingly frustrating. Highs felt dampened, lows never quite hit and no matter how I positioned the one “good” speaker the end result remained painfully mono. In exasperation I had started looking for either a replacement or, as it became increasingly apparent that the Z4’s were even more special for their price range than I had realised, a means of repair.

So I was clutching at straws last night when I came across this archived forum conversation which appeared to show that I wasn’t alone in my troubles and presented a highly dubious solution. What possible logic could infer that turning off the volume controller, rotating its various knobs and dials a few times and (I quote) “tap[ping] the knob” after each full revolution would result in fixing a connection issue? But still, a handful of people had stated that it worked for them so why not? A couple of twiddles and taps later, everything plugged back in and, somehow, I’m now the proud owner of two fully functioning speakers! I still have no idea what I did (indeed, I don’t think the person who originally shared this piece of arcane knowledge understood it either) but it worked, so I guess if you’re having similar issues then give it a shot – it might just work for you too.

Edge of Frustration

For about two years now I’ve become increasingly annoyed at my PC screen. The left-most edge has been “clipped”, missing about 2mm across all programs. I’m not sure when the issue first occurred, I just noticed it one day, so trouble shooting was a complete nightmare. Secretly, I theorised that a Windows Update screwed up some settings and resigned myself to live with it. It was annoying, but not massively problematic.

I hoped upgrading to Windows 10 would fix it, but lo!, the problem persisted. Frustrated, I re-installed graphics drivers, display drivers, nVidia’s programs; basically anything I could think of. I fiddled with resolution, changed all the settings on the monitors own control panel, rotated the screen, downloaded apps… no dice. Once again I gave up, defeated and bored.

Fast forward to two two days ago, when a friend introduced me to the browser based RTS/Risk analogue: Call of War. It’s a fun little game, running a freemium model with an active and friendly community (who are largely against using the “paid for” perks, which is nice) and a level of complexity I really wasn’t expecting*. Unfortunately, some of the menus are pretty thin and almost entirely disappear off the edge of my monitor!

As a result, this afternoon, I re-attempted a brute force attack to fix the display. I refreshed drivers, updated control panels, searched through dozens of Windows menus and eventually, thanks to a comment on this forum thread, I found my solution. Irritatingly, I’ve likely hit upon it before but not noticed, as it requires a specific combination of settings/refreshes. The culprit was not Windows, as it turns out, but nVidia, whose (normally very useful) Control Panel had scaled my screen based on their “Aspect ratio” setting. That, it turns out, was causing the issue. I hadn’t noticed it before because just turning the setting off doesn’t fix the issue, I also had to refresh my monitor directly. With that weird combo learned it took 30 seconds and snap! my screen popped back into it’s rightful place.

I guess there’s some moral here about not giving up, persevering or thinking outside the box, but you know what? I’m not bothered. My screen finally looks “right”, everything’s a little sharper, menus are no longer absent and I can’t help but feel the “call of war” (ahem). So, with technical issues defeated, I guess Central Africa is next on the list. Bring on the weekend!

* On that note, the provided tutorial and guides are fairly woeful, but the in game chat is a pretty good place to go if you have any questions.

Tech Tip #1

I’ve had three Xperia Z3’s this year (which I’ve loved). The first blew out the headphone socket, so minor movements paused music (grr). The second was skewered on a surprisingly angular bollard in Toulouse airport, creating a pocketful of glass shards and a phone comprised of 60% duct tape.

Third time’s (hopefully) the charm, so I’ve installed an SD card and (finally) synced my Spotify account. Unfortunately:

Android 4.4.x + Spotify + SD card != AMP (Amazing Music Phone)

Apparently, the issue is the term order. Switch ‘SD card’ and ‘Spotify’ around and music syncs to SD automatically. Mysterious and frustrating, but thankfully fixable.