🎙 21: Getting My Game Face On!

So far, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of gaming here at Dent Towers. Join me on this weeks podcast while I take you through some gaming aspirations for the coming months.

I briefly discuss the new Dent Gaming channel, where you can find me on an occasional stream and clearing out my Switch backlog.

As I mention on the show this week, I’m considering adding a bit more Gaming related reviews, news, stories, and thoughts onto The Dent. If you have any thoughts on this, be they positive or negative, please do get in touch and let me know.

You can find links to the show below:

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You can also find a direct link on the podcast page.

🎙 20: A (Delayed) Look Ahead To 2019

This week I finally get around to sharing a few of the things I’m looking forward to seeing in 2019 and also take a look at some of my favourite blogs, podcasts and content creators I’m looking forward to watching continue to grow and put out some really interesting content over the coming weeks and months.

2018 was an interesting year, and I’m looking forward to what 2019 will bring.

You can find links to the show below:

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You can also find a direct link on the podcast page.

🎙 Appearance: And You Are? #3

Greg Morris, of Bring Your Own Device Podcast fame, recently launched a new interview podcast called And You Are?. The first two episodes featured two extremely fascinating guys, writer and podcaster Daryl Baxter and author Matt Gemmell. If you haven’t already, I recommend you stop reading right now and get caught up with these. I really enjoyed listening to both recently.

While the first two episodes were extremely enjoyable, things take an interesting turn with episode 3, at least for me, because Greg very kindly invited me on as his guest.

It was a pleasure having a chat with Greg. I really enjoyed our conversation that covered everything from tech pundits that are passed their prime, pub landlord etiquette and much more besides. You can check this episode out directly on Greg’s site.

I’m really looking forward to seeing / hearing who Greg speaks with next week, and beyond and I wish Greg all success he deserves throughout 2019 as he continues to grow the BYOD podcast along with his solo projects of And You Are? and his micro cast the GR36 podcast.

Tech For Good: Be My Eyes

In the spirit of keeping things positive, and looking on the bright side of technology, I’ve been keen to explore some of the more interesting things technology can do to enhance our lives, and the lives of those around us.

Our iPhones (other phones do exist, or so I hear) and iPads have improved our lives in numerous ways. They help us find our way, capture and share magical moments with friends and family, and even let us browse through pages and pages of cute animals at a whim.

Many of us spend hours reading reviews about the latest and greatest To Do app, or email client, but there is often not much said about how these powerful devices can be used to not only help us remember to put the bins out on a Tuesday, but also enhance and even improve the lives of those in need around us. Allow me to change that, in my own little way, with a very specific use case.

I recently discovered an app called ‘Be My Eyes’. The team behind the app provides this short, but succinct, description about what it’s all about:

Be My Eyes is an app made up of a global community that connects people who are blind or have low vision with sighted volunteers and company representatives through a live video call.

In essence, it’s very simple, but it can have a huge positive impact on someones life. After downloading the app, you create an account, let them know what languages you speak and you’re done. You then sit back and await a notification indicating that one of the currently ~100,000 blind members of the community need some assistance with something. The assistance will, as you can imagine, involve helping an individual to read a letter or notice they’ve received, read an instruction manual or perhaps describe an item of clothing the individual has received as a gift.

I was first turned onto the app via the Late Night Alternative With Iain Lee podcast, which also spoke a bit about another alternative app, called BeSpecular which is the same idea, but a little less direct. At the time of writing, the sign-up page for BeSpecular seems to not be accepting new applicants, but you can sign up still from within the app itself.

If you have a little time on your hands on occasion, in-between cute cat videos on Reddit, it would be a great idea to take advantage of one of the above services to improve someone’s day, even if just a little bit. Not only will you be helping people, you may even find it quite fun and, BeSpecular in particular, could even be a fun game to play with the help of your children. It’ll teach them the importance of helping others, and to also make them aware that not everyone is life is as able bodied as others, and we could all use a helping hand at times.

If you get one of the apps above, and give it a try, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it. Please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter.

🔗 PAL Keys – A Link To The Past

As I mentioned in Episode 19 of the podcast, I want to focus my time, both on the blog and elsewhere, on positivity and things that I enjoy. To this end, alongside the tech, I’m keen to put a bit more emphasis on gaming as well. I’ve even started to stream a little more frequently to my Mixer account. I have, however, realised being a streamer is far harder than I imagined. It turns out all I do is mumble to myself like some kind of mad man …

Gaming was one of my first passions, way before more fruit based technology took a hold of me. I look back fondly on many an hour spent on the Atari ST, my first computer system I recall with any form of gaming capabilities.

To date, my passion for gaming, and podcasts, have remained largely disparate. I try to listen to a few more genres than just technology, but gaming podcasts have been largely lacking from my library. That looks to be changing, however.

Daryl Baxter of The Outpost Show fame recently announced a new show, PAL Keys which sounds right in my wheelhouse.

Each episode will feature an interview with a different guest, talking about their favourite game and boss stage. This sounds like a really interesting take on an interview show. Nothing gets to the soul of an individual better than a deep dive into their gaming past. This premise has certainly got me thinking about some of my own favourite games and gaming moments, from the, then, heartbreaking death of Aerith in Final Fantasy VII (apologies if this is a spoiler!) to hours spent getting a kicking from my brother playing as Ken in Street Fighter II on the SNES.

I’m really looking forward to remembering even more ghosts of gaming past, via PAL Keys and the guests Daryl will be speaking to, over the coming weeks and months. I need to ask Daryl for the cheat codes he’s using to keep coming up with such great content.

You can subscribe to the show on iTunes now and listen to a short introduction to the show, prior to the first true episode launching on 11/01.

19: Are You Positive?

After a bit of a break for the festive period (apologies!) I’m back and ready to kick-start 2019 as I mean to go on, with some positivity!

I share a quick look ahead at what to expect from The Dent in 2019 and beyond. Leave your negativity at the door, please.

You can find links to the show below:

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You can also find a direct link on the podcast page.

I Wrote A Book … Sort Of

My daughter started school back in September and, since doing so, her love of reading has grown exponentially. Now that she has started learning to read to herself, there’s no stopping her. Her school has started sending some simple books home for her, and her classmates, to learn with. The problem is, these books are a little too basic for her, because currently they only have one word per page, and she was keen to try more.

As is always the case when I need something, my first port of call was Amazon, but this proved to be a fruitless exercise. Given that Amazon started life as a book store, it’s surprisingly bad to use when trying to find a book in 2018. I quickly gave up on this idea.

I moved onto Plan B.

This will likely come as a shock to you, but I adore my iPad and when I get a chance to use it for yet another task I’m a happy camper so I thought that it may just be easier to try and make something myself …

Now, I should start by saying that J.K.Rowling has nothing to worry about when it comes to my book writing ability. This isn’t a post to brag about how I’ve become a skilled novel writer overnight, it’s more about highlighting another fun thing you might enjoy using your iPad (or iPhone for that matter) for.

There are multiple ways of achieving the end result here, I’m sure, but when creating my master piece I took advantage of the following apps:

First things first, I used Pages as a basic tool for creating the basic design of the book. I’m not entirely sure how long they’ve been there, but the current version of Pages on iOS already has nine basic book templates to choose from. One of them, simply called ‘Story’, is already a basic children’s book, which is useful!

After loading up the Story template, I removed the placeholder text and began crafting my manuscript. This was, again, made for a four year old, so it’s no War and Peace …

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I duplicated each page, to keep the formatting the same, and just updated the content. All simple stuff so far, though it was obviously looking pretty bland. Given the target audience for the book, a bit of art was needed. I included the disclaimer above regarding my lack of novel writing prowess, but I’m afraid I am now going to have to include another. I cannot draw to save my life. This will be clear once you see what comes next.

A quick search on DuckDuckGo (yep, I’m a search engine hipster) and I’d found some great images to be the star of my book, Poppy. Given I will, clearly, not be selling the finished article, I was essentially free to grab a few images that I needed.

Once I had my images, I imported them into the excellent Pixelmator for the simple task of cropping out the background, leaving me with a clean image ready to use.

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Next up, the newly cropped image was copied to my iPad clipboard and I moved onto Linea Sketch to paste it into a new canvas to create the scene for the book. Linea is a really great app which is both simple, and powerful, at the same time. It’s in no way as powerful as something like Photoshop, but it’s not trying to be. Its main function is for drawing, but it does also include some basic laying functionality which was ideal for my needs. The panda images, which you can see below, were simply pasted from Pixelmator into a Linea canvas and I then added new layers for the background colour and then more for other things I needed to either also copy in, or draw, like the microphone (which was pasted in) or the expertly drawn hat.

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Once done, I had a selection of images that fit with the text I wrote early so I, once again, jumped back over to Pages to finalise things. I opened both Pages, and Linea, in a multitasking view and copied each separate Linea canvas and simply pasted the image directly into each page of the book. After a little dragging around to line things up, it was essentially done.

As a final little cherry on the top, I exported my creation out of Pages, into Apple Books, as an ePub for my daughter and I to enjoy at bed time.

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Generally speaking, my daughter doesn’t use an iPad much, especially at bed time, but on this occasion we did take the new story for a spin and it went down very well. She was able to read something herself that stretched her more and I had the satisfaction of both being able to give her what she wanted, whilst also getting even more use out of my iPad. The above process took about thirty to forty minutes to complete, at most, yet I’m pleased with the results. The book itself, on it’s own, looks pretty hideous, I know, but the fact I was able to make it so quickly was great, and the actual look was largely irrelevant to a child that just wanted to have some fun reading.

I can see a lot of potential for taking this idea further down the road, where we can maybe write and illustrate the book together next time. I’ll be sure to share some details of our next best seller as and when the big launch comes around next!

For now, however, you can breath easy J.K. your crown is safe.