Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Moto 360 (2015)

After a few years of consistent interest in wearable technology, I finally own a 2nd gen Moto 360 ( from Motorola.

I first mentioned my curiosity in smart watches ( back in early 2016. My sentiment from then remains the same. The cost of a new smart watch is high for what you get. Most of them run something north of $200, which would get a pretty nice analog watch that would last far longer than a smart watch. However, picking up a gently used one for a discounted price (like I did) puts them at a much more reasonable value.

Two of my conditions for purchasing a smart watch were that their usable life span needed to be at least 3 years, and their price needed to drop below $150. At $100, I got in the price range that I wanted, but I’m still not certain about life span. It seems pretty resilient, and Android Wear updates seem less consequential than full on Android updates to a phone’s OS. We’ll see how it does with moderate use over time.

Bad Stuff
I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way first. This isn’t a productivity device. When I first started looking into smart watches, I thought how much more efficient they would make me. With notifications on my wrist, I wouldn’t have to interrupt my current task to take my phone out of my pocket. At the same time, I would be able to more quickly respond to urgent notifications. A smart watch would make be a better user of my mobile device, I thought. I was wrong. It’s nice to get notifications on my wrist, but it doesn’t make me any more efficient at responding to them, and I still let several of them pile up before I actually do anything about it.

The functionality is extremely limited. In much the same way that I would rather do more complicated tasks on my laptop instead of a phone or tablet, there are many things that I would rather do on my phone or tablet than on the watch. The screen is very small, the apps are very pared down, and typing on it is… tolerable at best. I’ll use it to maintain tasks that I have already started, but I still do most of my heavy use on my phone.

Somewhat related to the limited functionality is the learning curve. With such a small screen, there are fewer dedicated buttons for functions. More of the watch’s controls are based on gestures. The problem with gestures is that you have to know them already. When setting up the watch for the first time, you get a crash course in the main gestures. I think you can also go through the training again from the settings menu. And admittedly, they aren’t terribly unintuitive. Swiping down from the top of the watch loads the settings menu. Swiping up from the bottom loads your notifications. Swiping left or right on the home screen changes watch faces. Swiping from left to right steps out of your current location, much like the back button in Android. They make decent sense, but I still occasionally find myself using the wrong gesture for what I want to do, or forgetting how to do something entirely.

Possibly the most frustrating thing is less about the watch specifically or Android Wear in general, and more about apps available on the platform. Some of the apps, most notably the first party Google apps in my experience, are designed pretty well. The rest of them are hit or miss. Specifically, I was tremendously disappointed in the Facebook Messenger app. Hangouts will allow you to look through your existing conversations and respond to them. You can’t start a new conversation with someone, but that is a limitation that I’m fine with on a watch. Facebook Messenger won’t even let you open existing conversations or respond via keyboard to new incoming messages. You can respond with emoji, or by voice to text, but that’s it. As someone who never uses emoji and rarely uses any form of voice to text, what’s the point? Is it so much to ask that I be able to look through my existing conversations? Again, I can’t really blame that on the watch or on Android Wear. That is a problem with Facebook, one of many, but it does affect my satisfaction with the device. Something to consider, for sure.

A slight inconvenience is that you can’t add wifi networks directly from the watch. You have to add them from the connect phone first, before you can access them from the watch when out of bluetooth range. Obviously, this isn’t going to be something that will affect most people. I only discovered it because my phone was unavailable, and I was going to try to get onto my wife’s mobile hotspot with the watch to access my messages. Since I had never signed into her mobile hotspot before, I was unable to get online just through the watch interface. Not a problem many people will encounter, but it would have been nice to know beforehand.

Good Stuff
As much as the Moto 360 isn’t a productivity device, it is a very cool gadget. Many people aren’t, but I am one who is fine with technology for the sake of technology. Tech devices do not have to be a means to an end. I’m genuinely cool with having a gadget just for its entertainment value. Being able to respond to messages, change my music, and navigate to a destination, all from my wrist? That kinda makes me feel like a secret agent. And I’m good with that.

The biggest benefit of the Moto 360 for me personally is the ability to get notifications and some basic features when my kids are watching cartoons or playing games on my phone. I realize that not everyone fits into this scenario, but for someone who does, it is absolutely invaluable. Usually, I get my phone back after a road trip and I have a notification bar full of messages. Ok, so maybe that’s the case even when my kids don’t have my phone, but I can at least see urgent stuff immediately. When they have my phone, I don’t get to see anything until well after the fact. If I do need to use my phone to make a call or send an important message, I have to pry it from their unrelenting grip, and deal with them screaming until I return it. With the watch, that is no longer the case.

In addition to messages, an even more valuable tool in certain cases is navigation. With Google Maps on the Moto 360, I get next step instructions, as well as a smaller image of the map on my wrist. When I admittedly don’t really need a lot of details, that’s great. I can start navigation to a place, give my phone to the kids, and I get updates on my watch. Having recently taken a vacation to Pigeon Forge, that was a great boon. I don’t need any sort of crazy depth, I just need to know how far to my next turn, and which direction I’ll be going.

More of the same vein of technology use when my phone is unavailable, I can control my music playback from the watch. This one isn’t quite as important when the kids have my phone, since they’re usually doing something with audio anyway. Moreso, this is when I have my phone playing music from a bluetooth speaker or Chromecast, but it isn’t on my person. We were putting together a bunk bed on Christmas eve, and it was so nice to be able to just tap the next button on my wrist to skip through songs. I didn’t know where my phone was for most of the process anyway, but I didn’t have to look for it just to access my music controls.

The modular watch faces are neat. I like that you aren’t limited to just official Google faces. There are tons of faces available on the Play store, and many of those can be customized with exactly what information you want to include. The one I use most just has the time in 24 hour format, and the date. If I wanted to change that up, there are so many options available. That sort of customizability is nice.

In my experience so far, the fitness tracking with Google Fit seems to work pretty well, at least for treadmill running. It isn’t perfect, but it was surprisingly close to my pace considering there is literally no input from moving around. I’m not sure if it uses the movement of my arms to estimate a pace given my height or something, but it gets close enough to give me an idea. I’m sure that actual runs with GPS logging would give more accurate tracking data, but I haven’t yet tried it out to see for sure.

Use Case
So who would make use of a smart watch, and who wouldn’t? Parents are obviously a prime candidate. If you frequently let your kids use your phone for entertainment, it’s nice to still have access to some functionality without dealing with the headache and bargaining with them to let you have it for just a second. Call me a bad parent, but I pick my battles with my kids. If I don’t have to deal with them pitching a fit, and just send a quick text from my watch, it’s worth the preservation of my sanity.

Another great use case is people who keep their phone in a purse, backpack, or somewhere else not easily accessible. I keep my phone in my shirt pocket most of the time, so it really isn’t that much more of a pain to pull it out, than it is to look at my wrist. Someone who doesn’t have shirt pockets for their phone would benefit more from getting notifications without having to actually pull their phone out. I’ve noticed that if I’m wearing a polo or t-shirt, and don’t have my phone in my shirt pocket, I use the watch more for notifications and such.

People who like playing with gadgets are obviously going to be inclined to get a smart watch. Even beyond the practical uses, it’s fun to play with. The novelty wears off after a while, and I’m sure I will eventually start wearing my analog watch here and there again, but it’s still neat to use for simple tasks.

All in all, I’m happy with the purchase. If you fit into one of these categories, I would definitely recommend trying one out. It may not be a productivity tool, but it is a fun gadget.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hardware Failure and Missed Blog Post

It was bound to happen eventually. I missed a Words on Wednesday post. What’s worse is that I missed the first post of the year. Not some random Wednesday in the middle of April. I missed the first Wednesday of the first month of the year. Fail.

While I am disappointed that I missed a Wednesday, I do have a good excuse. For one, I was on vacation, without having queued up a post beforehand. Plus, my laptop crapped out while I was out of town (more on that in a moment), so I had no way of writing up a post anyway. I can’t go back and change the fact that I missed a week, but I can at least give you the story of how I broke my laptop (again).

Breaking the Laptop
To get a break from the day to day grind, we decided to rent a cabin up in the Appalachian mountains to bring in the new year. While I was able to take PTO days from my day job, I still have school and side hustle responsibilities that I always seem to be behind on. As such, I decided to bring my laptop with us and catch up on all my other work.

On Monday afternoon, we wanted to watch the NCAA college football bowl games and playoff semifinal games. Since the cabin didn’t have any sports channels, we decided to stream the games from my laptop. What better place to watch the games from, than in the hot tub? I sat my laptop in the rocking chair while we tried to get the kids into the water. Unfortunately, I bumped the chair in the process, and my laptop dumped out onto the deck. The screen went immediately black.

Having just taken my laptop to be repaired back in November, I really didn’t want to have to pay for it to be repaired again just a month and a half later. I brought the laptop inside, and started trying to diagnose the issue. I could remote in from my phone, and everything seemed to still work alright. Even if the screen was fried, I could at least hook it up to a monitor when we got home and use it like a faux desktop. Since I didn’t want to let such a minor nuisance ruin my vacation, I sat the computer aside and went back outside to relax.

That evening, I decided to work on the laptop a little more. I pressed the power button and the HP logo flashed on. Hey, maybe the problem had resolved itself with a restart. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, the screen went black again and stayed off. While the screen still wasn’t working, I at least knew that the display itself wasn’t broken. The HP logo looked fine for the few seconds that it was on screen.

Using remote desktop to access the laptop again, I noticed that it appeared to be the windows default resolution. It was almost as if the screen wasn’t connected to the computer. The screen was clearly getting power somehow, but the video output wasn’t coming across. Maybe the cable had disconnected inside the body of the laptop? Several possibilities crossed my mind, most of them far less severe than what I originally anticipated.

While I would liked to have popped the laptop open then and there, I didn’t have the tools available to disassemble it. Sure, I could’ve bought a screwdriver set from a local store, but working on a hardware issue ruins the point of going on vacation. I wanted to relax, and repairing a laptop is far from relaxation. I decided that it wasn’t a big enough deal to worry about. The laptop itself still worked, and I could see about tinkering with the screen when we got home.

Repairing the Laptop, Round 1
Once we got home, we unloaded all of our luggage and I sat down to work on the laptop. Since I’m more comfortable seeing something done before I do it myself, I started looking for disassembly videos. Every video that I found appeared to be for an older model of 15” HP laptop, since they weren’t quite the same build. These all had a bay on the bottom of the laptop that popped off, and the keyboard came off to reveal more internals. My laptop had no bay on the bottom, and the only seam on the top of it went around the outer edge.

I searched for manuals or disassembly instructions. Using both the model number of 15-BS016DX and the product number of 1WP58UA, I looked all over for any shred of information. Everything that I found either described another model, or gave me nothing useful. There were plenty of product pages and reviews, but nothing indicating how I might access the internals.

While I was far from certain in my ability to strip down the laptop, I figured it was worth giving it a shot. Surely, I would know enough not to break anything. Even if I couldn’t manage to fix it myself, I could try to figure out what was going on.

I powered the laptop down, removed the battery, and started taking off all of the screws I could find on the bottom of the body. The only seam appeared to run along the outer edge of the top of the body. Figuring that had to be where it came apart, I ran a card along the seam and felt as connections popped apart. So far, so good.

Getting mostly around the perimeter of the laptop with the card, the top and bottom of the body still felt securely in place. I didn’t want to risk breaking it by pulling it apart when I still needed to take out another screw or something. Since we still had to get dinner and run some errands, I decided to set the laptop aside and come back to it later, hopefully with some sort of documentation available.

Repairing the Laptop, Round 2
After getting back home for the evening, I decided to hook up the laptop to my monitor like I had done the previous time I broke it. Having a stationary but working computer was better than trying to fix it myself and having a severely broken computer. I put the screws back in, replaced the battery, and took it to my computer desk in my bedroom.

I plugged the HDMI cable from the monitor into the laptop, turned on the monitor, and powered on the laptop. Immediately, the monitor displayed some weird, glitchy lines that looked almost like a CRT television turned to a static channel. Well, that was significantly more broken than I hoped or expected it would be. I thought I had just disconnected the display from the body of the laptop. Turns out I made it where the video output won’t even screen mirror across HDMI. With the monitor displaying that jumbled mess, it could be something like the graphics card or motherboard. Those components were far beyond my ability to repair.

At that point, I was just dejected. I knew I would have to pay to have it fixed, probably a lot more than what I had paid to replace the screen. No longer having the mountain view to distract myself from the hardware problem, I just went into the living room. I at least didn’t want to dwell on the fact that I had broken my laptop again, this time even worse than before.

Eventually, I passed by the bedroom door again and looked in to notice that the laptop screen and connected monitor both showed my login screen. Uhhh… what? It was showing some weird glitchy mess just previously. I hadn’t done anything to it since before. How was it suddenly working just fine?

I disconnected the HDMI cable from the laptop, and the display stayed on. I logged in and clicked around for a bit. Everything seemed to be working fine. I closed the screen and opened it back up. Like clockwork, the display blacked out as the lid closed, and came back on when I opened the lid again.

I have no idea what tech wizardry I did, but I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. The laptop continued to work, and still is working some days later. I’ll certainly be more gentle with it now, but I have no idea what was broken before. The problem resolved itself by plugging in a monitor and leaving it alone for a few minutes. If anyone has any theories as to how that fixed it, I’m all ears.

Now that I have a working laptop again, and I’ve missed my first blog post, hopefully I can keep a working laptop and post consistently for a while. If I break the laptop again, I’m giving up on technology and shutting down Words on Wednesday for good. Clearly, I am not capable of taking care of my devices well enough.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017-12-27 Discovering Rock Music: The LA Lloyd Rock Countdown

When I say “rock music,” you say… Lorde?

At least that’s what people said about “Royals” back in 2014 when it won the VMA for Best Rock Video. I understand that was 3 years ago, and people made plenty of jokes soon after, but it still stands as a shining example of how rock as a genre has had its lines blurred to the point that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Even the other nominees for the rock category seem like a stretch. Imagine Dragons, Arctic Monkeys, and The Black Keys all fit into a weird area of… yeah, I guess I could maybe call it rock, but it’s more of like an indie sort of rock. The only nominee in 2014 that I would genuinely consider rock would have been Linkin Park, but I certainly wouldn’t have considered them the only rock band with a song in the running for “Best Rock Video” of that year.

What is Rock Music?
Suffice it to say, “rock music” doesn’t mean much anymore. I understand that with all the sub-genres and combinations within rock, it does encompass a rather wide range of musical styles. Still, there is at least a tentative boundary in my mind of what IS rock and what ISN’T rock. I can’t exactly give qualifications or firm conditions, but it is evident when I hear it what counts as rock in my opinion.

Now, with my criticism of the rock genre explained, I am left in a predicament. I don’t listen to FM radio much anymore, and I refuse to pay for streaming services when I already own a huge library of music. Between the garbage that passes as music, the annoying talk shows that play on my way to work, and the “HEY FRIENDS, JAY GILSTRAP HERE” commercials, I just can’t do radio. As such, I don’t really encounter much new rock music. Genuine rock music, I mean. The stuff that I actually enjoy listening to.

WTPT 93.3 The Planet Rocks
One tactic I’ve employed recently is looking at the station log for WTPT 93.3 The Planet Rocks. The problem there is that The Planet is notoriously bad about playing the same handful of songs over and over. Not quite as bad as people joke about, but there are a few songs that get played entirely too often. Specifically, songs that I already know about, and either own, or know that I don’t like. I want to learn about new rock music. If I want to listen to music that I already know I like, I’ll just play it from my collection.

Another issue with rock music (and I suppose any genre) is that the 1-hit wonder, flash in the pan artists make it into the charts for a few weeks, only to die back down and fade away into obscurity. Any of you remember “My Demons” by Starset? Probably not, but even if you do, that was one among many. A stellar song, one that stayed near the top of the charts for a few weeks back in November 2016, and subsequently disappeared. Those crop up so often, and disappear so quickly, it is absurdly easy to miss some real gems just because you didn’t catch them for the short time that they were popular.

I had an idea for a pet project at one point to combat this permanent disappearance. My plan was to create a little utility that would activate once per hour or so and scrape the HTML for the station log of WTPT. From there, it would grab the song and artist information, and pump these into a database or spreadsheet. Songs that were already stored would be omitted, while new songs would be saved. If implemented properly, this would yield a log of every unique song that has played on The Planet since I started running the utility. Sure, most of it would be those songs that they play over and over again, but mixed in would be the one-off songs that you rock out to when they play, but forget about in a few months. I never went through with creating the program, but it is still on the backlog of neat programming projects I would like to work on eventually.

LA Lloyd Rock Countdown
A few years ago, I would regularly listen to the LA Lloyd Rock Countdown for the latest top songs and artists. The music featured on the show fit much more into what I would call “rock music,” while still giving more variety than just a very specific sub-genre. However, see above for why I don’t bother with the radio. Plus, I can’t exactly sit down for hours at a time just to hear the top rock songs for the week. I’m busy enough doing everything else, and any spare time that I do get can be better spent doing more entertaining things.

I had all but forgotten about the countdown when I searched for it and found a full-fledged website. It seemed odd that the archives for previous weeks only went back to November 4, 2017. After tweeting LA Lloyd directly, he explained that this was when he revamped the website. In the future, each week should be archived.

With a consistent and arguably superior way to discover new rock music, I don’t have to listen to the radio and deal with the ads and junk. I can go straight to the top 30 each week and get the good stuff directly. Anything I don’t recognize, I can look up on YouTube and listen to it specifically. Perhaps I’m putting too much analysis and work into music discovery, but I love hearing new music that I enjoy. I really think that the Rock Countdown is the best way to do that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017-12-20 Christmas

I really wanted to write up some big post about Christmas, but… I’ll be honest. It’s not going to happen.

This whole “Year of the Dates” initiative I took with Words On Wednesday was almost geared specifically toward Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday, and obviously the one that I would speak the most about. Unfortunately, I am just so spent, I can’t even be bothered to write up a discussion of why I like Christmas so much, or talk about our family traditions.

So far, this term of school has been just the worst. I realize that it’s only my second term at SNHU, but the stark contrast between my first class and this one is just baffling. At this point, I’m just hanging on until the end of the term. As the adage goes, “C’s get degrees.” If I can pass, whatever. I’ll get my reimbursement check from work and continue onto the next class.

Shopping is awful anyway, but the fact that we’ve had to do every bit of shopping for basically entire family for our kids is so frustrating. I don’t mind buying gifts for them because Christmas should be magical for kids, but buying presents for them from so many different people, and having to keep up with who “purchased” what, and then wrapping every single present is just so taxing. If you want to get my kids something for Christmas, then YOU do it. Don’t rely on me to do it and then just pay me the money back. I hate shopping.

On top of everything else, I’ve been so slack on my freelance writing. I keep one client active, just to keep a steady stream of work, and at the same time not overload myself. But I’ve neglected him week after week just because school deadlines are so tight and I don’t have much free time to catch up on those articles. Fortunately, he’s a cool guy and understands that I have other stuff to do, but it would be nice if I could stay on top of his articles better than I do.

I’m not one who stresses much, but I’m just so done with everything going on right now. So no, I don’t plan on writing about Christmas. I’m not going to include any pictures with witty captions. I’m just going to enjoy time with my family, eat a lot of food, and open presents. I wish you and yours the best, and I hope that you all take time to appreciate the company of those close to you this weekend. Merry Christmas, everybody.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cash vs Credit vs Debit

I temporarily lost my credit card over the weekend, which resulted in a short but intense panic. However, even had I lost it for good, it occurred to me how much better it is to lose a credit or debit card than cash.

Had I lost cash, it would probably have been gone for good. While there are kind souls out there who might try to return the money, how do you differentiate your bills from those that belong to other people? Other than knowing the individual serial numbers of every bill in your wallet (which, really, who would do that?), a $20 is a $20. I’ve heard of instances in which people were able to prove their loss by knowing the exact amount, but I’ll be honest, I have no idea how much cash is in my wallet at any given time. And that still depends on someone being exceptionally generous. I guarantee you there are more people who would just keep the money than those who would even attempt to return it.

Similar to losing the money, what happens if you get mugged? That cash is gone. Even if you report the crime to the police. Even if they manage to catch the mugger. Even if they still have the cash in their possession. What’s to say you’ll recover the money? How can law enforcement officers know you didn’t lie about how much was stolen?

Yet another possibility of losing money, a house fire would absolutely destroy paper bills. Insurance policies usually have a way to try to recover losses, but I doubt that includes cash money. Again, what insurance agent is just going to take your word for the amount of money you had stashed away? Like with numerous other maladies, the cash is gone.

Credit and debit cards have protection against these unfortunate circumstances. Fortunately, I knew that my card was within one of very few places, each of which were removed from the public. Even if I dropped my card in a parking lot or store, I could just call and cancel it as soon as I noticed its absence. Most credit card companies are willing to refund purchases made soon before and after a card is reported stolen.

Instead of just losing it, what if my card is stolen? Again, I’m not likely to be held responsible for any purchases made if I call in a reasonable time frame. Furthermore, any criminal who makes purchases on the card is going to be tracked down. Some may argue that the criminal could steal your identity, but credit card numbers can be easily changed with the help of the company. Some vendors like Visa are even allowing stores to update the card number automatically by pushing an update of some sort out. I don’t know the details, I just know it’s an awesome idea.

Even beyond the security benefits of credit and debit cards over cash, a statement can serve as a record of transactions. I have a notoriously bad memory, and I forget transactions soon after I make them. Unless I keep receipts, I may have no idea how much I spent, and where. Fortunately, I can look at my credit card statements and see exactly what I spent, often as far back as the entire time I’ve had a card.

Additionally, I keep an alternate card to make purchases in the event that my main credit card is unavailable. Nobody keeps alternate stores of cash, at least not in the same vein. I keep a backup $20 stored in a hidden flap of my wallet, but I don’t keep a backup wallet with any sort of significant amount of money in it. I could have gone several days or weeks without finding my card or receiving a replacement, and I still wouldn’t have been significantly inconvenienced.

Obviously, I am a big fan of credit or debit cards over cash money. People who insist on using exclusively or mainly cash puzzle me. I’d be more than willing to try and understand the logic, but nobody has yet given me a convincing argument as to why cash might be the superior option. In any case, I’ll hold onto my credit card a little tighter next time, but I still won’t sweat it too bad if I do happen to misplace it.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Ligon "One Lane" Bridge

Have you ever experienced nostalgia for something strange? Something like a bridge?
Anyone in the Enoree area has probably driven over Ligon Bridge at some point. This rickety old bridge crossed the Enoree River on Beaverdam Church Road, behind James Davis’s service station. As the most direct route out toward the Gray Court and Fountain Inn areas, it was used quite regularly by locals.
I say it “was” used because in 2015, Ligon Bridge was torn down and replaced with a new bridge. Admittedly, it was in terrible disrepair. Per Bridge Hunter, the inspection of Ligon Bridge in October of 2011 yielded some abysmal results. Deck condition was 5/9, superstructure condition was 5/9, substructure condition was 3/9, appraisal was “structurally deficient,” and the sufficiency rating was 13.9 out of 100. It was basically about to collapse. Replacing the bridge was a smart move for safety reasons.
Still, I miss crossing the bridge. Every single time, it was a thrill to drive over. Would this be the time that the bridge collapsed? It certainly felt like it. The entire thing creaked and popped as your vehicle hit each deck board. Being only one lane wide (and consequently being called “one lane” bridge by some), two vehicles couldn’t cross at once. There was even a game of stopping on the bridge, rolling down your windows, and turning off your vehicle. Some rumors circulated that cars wouldn’t start again if they were turned off on the bridge.

I regret not taking a video of crossing Ligon Bridge before they tore it down. Since they built up the banks on either side, the entire thing is just a smooth transition from one side to the other. With the old bridge, it felt like there was a genuine risk that you might die every single time you crossed it. Maybe that isn’t something that should be part of a commute, but that stretch of road just doesn’t seem the same without it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Runescape... Again

It was only a matter of time. After a hiatus of a few months, I’m playing Runescape again.
The last time I spoke of Runescape, I had recently started back and was contemplating paying for a membership again. Though the dates are a little fuzzy at this point, I seem to have started back sometime around Thanksgiving 2015. I made the blog post above on January 27, 2016. Though I’m not sure how gradual the process was, I eventually played for the last time on April 19, 2016. I’ll get to how I came up with that date in a moment.
While I did stop actively playing the game for a period, I continued to keep up with it. I still followed the official Runescape facebook page, as well as periodically browsed the subreddit forums for Runescape 3 and Old School. As I’ve mentioned time and time again, I do miss the game when I’m not playing it. It’s occasionally nice to talk about it and reminisce about all the fun I’ve had with it through the years.
Eventually, one of these channels mentioned a mobile version of Runescape. I thought to myself how neat that would be, since I’ve used remote desktop to play from my phone, but it would be so much better to have a native client running on my phone or tablet. I considered that once mobile came out, I would try it out and maybe start playing somewhat actively again. Mobile wasn’t scheduled to drop until sometime early 2018, though, so it would be a while yet.
On October 15, I discovered that the fletching skill had been made free-to-play (f2p). Honestly, I was taken aback. As a sort of freemium game, with a free version that has most of the content behind a subscription paywall, RS has typically added very little to the f2p game and instead made new stuff exclusive to pay-to-play (p2p). I can’t blame Jagex, the creators. They are a business, and they exist to make money. If you give out more and more features for free, what incentive do players have to pay? This was huge. They made a skill that was previously p2p, and made the entire skill f2p, with the exception of a few members-only items.
I talked about this decision with MrPickler, a fellow ‘scaper who I’ve mentioned before. We both expressed a renewed interest in playing again, since one of our favorite p2p skills was now available for free players. For kicks and giggles, as well as a little bit of nostalgia, I decided to download the client and log into the game again.
On the login page, you can see how long it has been since you last logged in. My previous login read 544 days. About a year and a half. I took a screen capture for posterity and logged in. Later, I used this figure and the date it was taken to calculate that April 19, 2016 was the date 544 days before October 15, 2017. I played around for a few minutes, looking through my bank to see what all I still had, and playing with the new interface. With updates like the NXT client, RS actually looked pretty good. I had no intention of playing at length, but it was nice to just know Myst_Jake was still hanging around in Gielinor.
Within a matter of days, MrPickler mentioned that he had started high alching. High Level Alchemy is a spell in the game that converts items to a set number of coins. For a few items, the cost to purchase the item and the materials to cast High Level Alchemy are less than the amount of coins produced by casting it. As such, you can purchase a large number of these items and “high alch” them for a profit. What makes this such an attractive prospect is that players can organize their inventory in a way that the item to be alchemized is positioned directly behind the spell’s icon, and can click their mouse to a rhythm to cast the spell without paying attention at all. If you set up something like mouse keys or remote desktop in order to click without moving the cursor’s position, you can simply tap to a beat and alchemize hundreds if not thousands of items with very little effort. I started high alching in my spare time, since it was so easy to tap on my phone screen while doing other things.
Skill levels on 2017-10-18 (left) vs 2017-11-17 (right)
I still haven’t restarted my membership since I ended it on September 8, 2013. As much as I did play fairly regularly for a half a year or so between the end of 2015 and middle of 2016, I remained f2p for the duration. Fortunately, Jagex did give a free membership weekend this past weekend, from Friday the 24th to Monday the 27th. I’ll probably post about that more in-depth later, but it did give me a chance to play around with the p2p skills that I haven’t gotten a chance to use in over 4 years.

For now, I’m going to keep high alching, doing a dungeon here and there, and trying to keep on top of my daily challenges. Without paying for a membership, I can play or not play at my leisure, and not feel obligated to get my money’s worth with anything. If I decide I want to go p2p again, the option is there. If not, the free game is more comprehensive than ever, and there is plenty to keep me busy for a very long time.