Remembering X-COM

They story behind a PC classic, X-COM.

The first part that you see is the strategic level. As the general in charge of the “Extra-Terrestrial Combat Force,” or X-COM — the name was suggested by Stephen Hand and Mike Brunton, two in-house design consultants at MicroProse UK — you must hire soldiers and buy equipment for them; research new technologies, a process which comes more and more to entail reverse-engineering captured alien artifacts in order to use your enemy’s own technology against them; build new bases at strategic locations around the world, as well as improve your existing ones (you start with just one modest base); and send your aircraft out to intercept the alien craft that are swarming the Earth. In keeping with the timeless logic of computer games, the countries of the Earth have chosen to make X-COM, the planet’s one real hope for defeating the alien menace, into a resource-constrained semi-capitalist enterprise; you’ll often need to sell gadgets you’ve manufactured or stolen from the aliens in order to make ends meet, and if you fail to perform well your sponsoring countries will cut their funding.


I lost a whole summer to this game. I spent hours every day playing this game and still remember it as one of the best games I’ve played.

Looking forward to seeing 2.0 released. The bookmarks feature looks great and will let me consolidate apps and services once more. Sadly, this means I’m going to call it quits on my own bookmarking app, Markcase.

A welcome change to the usual Sunday. My Dad took Drew out for a few holes at his golf club today. Great to see him playing on a different course and the best part, he had a great time!

View from the desk.

Basecamp’s excellent case for options

Shape Up, Basecamp’s way of building products, doesn’t use roadmaps. The team’s latest blog posts cite several reasons why they don’t use roadmaps and what they use instead. Options.

An option is something you can do but don’t have to do. All our product ideas are exactly that: options we may exercise in some future cycle—or never.

Without a roadmap, without a stated plan, we can completely change course without paying a penalty. We don’t set any expectations internally or externally that these things are actually going to happen.

Options, Not Roadmaps

They make an excellent case for options when it comes to product development.

The temptation to build a roadmap for Caddieclix has always been there. However, it’s being able to commit to that roadmap over time that has put me off putting a roadmap together.

Development on Caddieclix has taken a back seat over the summer months. I’m spending more time with my family, playing more golf and over-seeing the junior section at the golf club. With the season almost over though, I am looking towards picking up the development of Caddieclix again. And with no roadmap to commit to, I can implement the features that suit me.

It’s better for me to be flexible and have options instead.

I finally added the last replacement wedge to my bag yesterday. The RTX4s have a good feel and they’re good around the greens.

I’ve got two rounds of golf over the weekend to play so I’m sure they’ll come in handy. Next year I’ll look at replacing my irons.

Widgets and App Library oh my!

With Apple’s iOS 14 update, there are two features that I am using now to tidy up my home screen. Widgets and the App Library.

Widgets are tiles of different size that can show you a snapshot of an app. This give’s you the benefit of being able to preview information from that app and also tap on the widget to open the app which is much better than having to open the app and then find that information that you need. The only downside to this is that apps with widgets are minimal at the moment, but I’m sure over the next few weeks, there will be plenty of App Store updates for these apps to include more widgets.

The App Library is a feature that I actually read about a few weeks ago and then forgot about when I finished uploading my iPhone. The App Library contains all the apps that you install and puts them in folders based on usage, installation date and also by their category. You can access it by scrolling to the right of the home screen. The benefit of this is that you can now remove an app from your home screen without deleting the app itself. Nice!

In time I think I will see more widgets on my home screen to replace their app icons. These apps I’ll also delete and let them live on in the App Library. I’ll only use widgets for the apps that I use daily with a few other widgets for things like weather and photos.

Between the two of these features, I think I will also have more pages on my home screen to separate how I use my phone. At the moment I’m thinking about screens for daily, photos, work and then downtime.

It will mean less clutter on my home screen and will hopefully mean that I don’t check my phone as often, which is a bad habit of mine at the moment.

Catching the Spitfire

I managed to catch the NHS Spitfire as it flew over two hopsitals in my hometown of Paisley this afternoon.

That’s three times now that I’ve been fortunate enough to see this magnificent airplane flying. It was my favourite as a kid, and now that I’ve seen it again in the sky, it’s still my favourite.

The problem of call to actions in Twitter threads

Threads on Twitter have been around for a while now. It allows you to chain tweets together, which is handy if one tweet isn’t enough. Lately, I’ve noticed that people are using threads to push an additional call to action at the end. It could be to subscribe to their podcast, newsletter or blog—that sort of thing.

I’m not sure what to make of this. In some cases, it makes sense. Let’s say, for example, the thread is ten tweets long and covers an issue. At the end of it, you might see a tweet where you can follow up on the subject. This tweet might contain the author of the thread’s website or another article that backs up the contents of the thread.

In other cases, though I see threads that comprise of two tweets. The initial tweet with a second tweet with the call to action. It looks and feels sneaky.

And yet, this is the way that Twitter has evolved over the years. Users find ways of adapting it. It’s how we got retweets, mentions and hashtags on Twitter. They were all conventions that people used, and then Twitter formalised them as features of the platform.

The call to action at the end of a single tweet thread doesn’t feel helpful at all because you can’t see the call to action unless you expand the thread and there’s no indication of how many tweets are in a thread either. If a thread is only two or even three tweets long, why not just display the thread fully expanded? If they can’t do that, why not indicate the length of the thread?

There’s enough information coming through my Twitter timeline without the added volume of call to actions tweets in threads. I hope there’s something in the future that Twitter can do to fix this.

Back to long nights and learning

With the golf season starting to wind down and the nights starting to get darker and longer, I’m going to have more time on my hands.

Tonight, I’m taking some time out to dive into Bridgetown, a Ruby-powered static generator that allows the use of more modern front-ends and CSS frameworks. The first step is to get it working with Tailwind.

Will it serve as a replacement for my stale website? Probably. Sure, I’m going down the road of how my website looks again, but the main idea here is that I can use the website to preview designs that I’ve built using Tailwind.

Finals day

Finals day at the golf club today.

As is my duty, I was the referee for the junior club championship final. Some great golf played and the boys managed to wrap up the final before the really bad weather crept in.

Even remembered the traditional sleeve of balls for each player as well!

Greyhound, a great watch

Just finished watching Greyhound on Apple TV+.

A great watch and goes straight into the action. Tom Hanks is brilliant as always and Stephen Graham is also great as the Greyhound’s executive officer.

I also think I’ve found myself a book to add to the reading list. The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester, the book on which the movie is based.

Time for morning pages again?

Last night I read a few posts on about people returning back to blogging and writing. I would like to start blogging again, but just more consistently.

I have fallen so far away from blogging, I have considered just closing up this blog on numerous occasions. The moment passes though and I write a few words with the intention of publishing something.

So many times my text editor has been opened and closed with nothing saved. Perhaps it’s enough just now to just save what I am writing with no intention of publishing. It may become relevant at a later date, it which point I could publish it.

Perhaps it’s time to return my morning pages routine again.

Yeah, I’m buying Madden NFL 21

EA is bringing Colin Kaepernick back to Madden. Starting today, Kaepernick will be available as a QB who can be added to any team in Franchise mode in Madden NFL 21, which was released in late August. He can also be selected in the game’s Play Now mode.

EA adds Colin Kaepernick to Madden NFL 21

You can play as Kaepernick! That’s all I need to know.

Morning technology woes

I spent the first hour of the morning trying to update some apps on an iPad for an iCloud account. I keep getting asked to login with the password, which always fails. However the same username and password can be used to successfully login to iCloud and the Apple website.

I’ve tried a number of additional remedies including verifying the account, logging out and logging in again after a period of time and closing the app on the iPad and opening it again. All without success.

Isn’t technology wonderful.

Just me and my boy out on the course tonight. He’s playing well and finished with a superb 4 playing from the blue tee which is about 150 yards out.

It’s not all bad. Germany is banning single-use plastic and styrofoam. It’s definitely time to throw away the “throw-away culture”.

Of course the tech companies passed on the new digital services tax to consumers

Oh look. The big tech companies are now all just passing on the new digital services tax straight to their customers. Who could have predicted that? All in a sarcastic tone of course.

Many small businesses and entrepreneurs will have received an email the other day from Google which informed them that from the 1st November 2020 Google will be passing the UK’s new 2% digital services tax straight onto their customers.

They are even adding a line item on their invoices for DST (Digital Services Tax) alongside VAT.

That means they are joining the likes of Amazon and others who are simply passing this tax straight onto small and medium businesses and consumers in the UK. Exactly what every online business owner knew they would do.

UK scores an own goal with its Digital Services Tax

Two things I’m taking from this.

  1. The UK goverment are fools if they thought that the big tech companies weren’t going to do this. It’s decisions like this that make me wonder if I should change my vote. I didn’t vote for an independent Scotland the first time, but I’m considering it now.
  2. I’m of the mind that the big tech companies exist now only to serve themselves. And yes, I’m including Apple in this one. The big tech companies face no competition and can call the shots in most countries. Of course they’ll just pass a tax onto their customers. With the amounts of money they are commanding, they can afford to do so.

Spent tonight refereeing our last junior semi-final match at the golf club. Looking forward to finals day now to see all our finalists play once more.

Jen timed picking up these new caramel crunch biscuits from Aldi perfectly. #mbaug

Our Japanese maple in the back garden is starting to change colour. A change of seasons is upon us. #mbaug

Nicholas Bate’s Tools of Excellence for a Brave New World series continues with The Master List.

Instagram’s sole aim is to keep you in the app

Looks like I removed the Instagram app from my phone at the right time.

As if Instagram weren’t addictive enough already, the company is adding a new feature that’s intended to keep you scrolling through your feed even longer. Starting today, Instagram will load ‘Suggested Posts‘ at the end of your feed, once you’re all caught up with updates from friends and other accounts you follow.

Instagram’s new ‘Suggested Posts’ feature will keep you scrolling forever

Like Facebook, Instagram is doing everything to keep your eyes on the app. Suggested users, copying features from other trending apps like TikTok and now suggested posts. These features aren’t designed to help the users, they’re designed to keep you attached to your timeline.

Without an open API though, the options to viewing your timeline on Instagram are restricted. It’s not the kind of platform that I want to be a part of.

I had no idea Unsplash had an iOS app. Found out this morning after continuing my process of updating accounts with my new email address.

Almost stationary. To be fair, I envy this little guy’s pace of life. #mbaug