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  • Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound 3.5 Grams
    Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound 3.5 Grams
    Artic Silver

    If you’re having problems with your Adonit Jot capacitive touch stylus or Hex3 Jaja, you can improve its performance and reliability with careful application of thermal paste! For more on this, check out my capacitive touch stylus how-to fix-it guide. Months later (Sep 2013), my styli are still performing great!

  • Klear Screen iKlear Cleaning Kit for iPad, iPhone, Galaxy, LCD, Plasma TV, Computer Monitor and Keyboard (Cloth, Wipes and Spray)
    Klear Screen iKlear Cleaning Kit for iPad, iPhone, Galaxy, LCD, Plasma TV, Computer Monitor and Keyboard (Cloth, Wipes and Spray)
    Klear Screen

    I use this cleaner for my iPhone, iPad 3, iPad mini and MacBook Pro. It’s great all-around and won’t mess up the oleophobic coating on iOS device screens.

  • Klear Screen's iKlear 8 oz. Pump Spray Bottle 7351-IKHP, Others, Electronics & Computers
    Klear Screen's iKlear 8 oz. Pump Spray Bottle 7351-IKHP, Others, Electronics & Computers
    Klear Screen

    The stuff I use to keep my iPad screen nice and clean!

  • Cosmonaut: Wide-Grip Stylus for Capacitive Touch Screens
    Cosmonaut: Wide-Grip Stylus for Capacitive Touch Screens
    Studio Neat

    Awesome capacitive touch stylus created by Studio Neat. Great guys, great product. I use mine every day! Bradtastic Approved.

  • Adonit Jot Pro Stylus for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Other Touch Screens (ADJPG)
    Adonit Jot Pro Stylus for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Other Touch Screens (ADJPG)
    Adonit

    Adonit Jot Pro is an awesome capacitive touch stylus for iPad & other tablets.

  • Nomad Compose Dual Brush Stylus for iPhone and iPad- Short Tip
    Nomad Compose Dual Brush Stylus for iPhone and iPad- Short Tip
    Nomad Brush

    nomad brush = fantastic capacitive touch tool. Very little friction, comfortable. The super short bristle tip offers precision.

  • Pencil by FiftyThree Digital Stylus for iPad Air, iPad Mini and iPad 3/4 - Walnut
    Pencil by FiftyThree Digital Stylus for iPad Air, iPad Mini and iPad 3/4 - Walnut
    FiftyThree

    Even if you consider yourself a casual doodler or note-taker, you’ll love this well designed stylus. Built for Paper by FiftyThree, the iPad app — however, many other apps support Pencil.

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition
    The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition
    Bethesda

    One of the greatest games I’ve ever played! This gorgeous open-world RPG blew my mind, in part because I wasn’t a big fan of Oblivion. Skyrim is a much less intimidating experience due to streamlined character creation and simpler UI, but there’s still a lot of depth and customization!

My Amazon.com Wish List
If you’re looking for an app, need personal or corporate branding, marketing material, an illustration, logo, sketch or design — there’s a Brad for that!

Saturday
Dec202014

Winning Video Poker and a much needed change in luck

Video Poker is a game of variance, skill and luck.

Even a knowledgeable player playing an advantage game can lose a ton of money really quickly. An advantage game one is where the player actually has an edge over the house — in Video Poker, this advantage is usually no more than a few percent if you include cashback, comps and casino perks. The best consistent game in Reno offers players a 0.762% advantage on the base game (Full Pay Deuces Wild).

I’ve been on a bit of losing streak, aka negative fluctuation. These fluctuations are the real world results of variance, or the standard deviation from the expected return (ER). Example: holding four cards to a Royal Flush has a 1 in 47 chance of turning into a Royal Flush; on single play, I’ve been dealt over 60 of these (RF4) without completing the Royal Flush. This isn’t very unusual, but it does suck.

Because the Royal Flush makes up, on average, between 2.5-3% of a game’s return, any given cycle without a Royal is played at a negative. Royal Flush Cycles (the average number of hands played between hitting Royal Flushes) are usually between 37,000 and 44,000 hands, and unfortunately, it’s not unlikely that you’ll play through several cycles without a Royal.

Understanding the math behind the game makes session losses a lot less painful, but it still sucks when you’re trying to make money and leave with less than you started with. Playing Video Poker is not an easy moneymaking endeavor; if you play less than perfectly (failing to hold the mathematically most valuable cards every time — not always intuitive or psychologically easy), you cannot expect the theoretical return in the long run.

And then there’s Lady Luck.

Good luck, or bad, makes up a significant part of the Video Poker experience. Any given day, you can do everything right and lose your entire bankroll while the idiot next to you plays poorly a terrible short-pay game, hits Four-of-a-Kind after Full House after Flush and feels like a genius. Although mildly irritating, I accept it. I also know that that sort of player will be a long-term loser, and that that type of play keeps casinos open 24/7.

As stated, recently, my luck hasn’t been great. I normally play Deuces Wild ; when dealt three Deuces (or any three-of-a-kind), drawing two leaves a 1 in 23.5 chance of getting that elusive final card. I’d been dealt three deuces 51 times on single-play and 11 times on triple play (three line Spin Poker) without getting a fourth Deuce. Many times I’d thrown away Straight Flushes (such as WWW45) and Five of a Kind (WWW77) when 5oK pays 75 instead of 80 coins (as it does on NSUD, normally a 99.73% return game) and ended up with a 25 or 20 coin Four-of-a-Kind.

And then finally on Sunday, magic happened.

I was essentially killing time before a slot tournament, playing off $20 free play with a 5¢ Spin Poker machine with the NSU version of Deuces Wild, playing three lines (75¢ per play). A few hands go by, some missed Wild Royal Flush chances… and then I’m dealt Three Deuces — and it completes in the center line. Woo! Though only a $50 win, it was still a relief to finally see the elusive hand.

I played a few more hands, was dealt a Straight Flush playing nine lines (+$22.50) cashed out, and moved to my usual 25¢ “progressive” NSU Deuces Wild game.

(It’s called Progressive, but the reality is that the Royal Flush is just set at a perpetual $1199 — one dollar underneath the W2-G amount and $199 more than a normal quarter machine Royal Flush.)

Initially, I was dealt into several Flushes and natural Full Houses (no wild cards), drew into a bunch of Full Houses some Straights. And then luck turned and $70 turned into $1.25 really quickly.

I dropped in another $20 and fluctuated between $30 and $2.50 over five minutes. I was considering quitting to walk around a bit because nothing exciting was happening. A lot of Wild Royal misses. Not fun. Last hand, I suppose.

I was dealt a single Deuce and garbage. On average, holding a solitary Deuce is worth about even money. I’ll get my bet back and cash out. Draw.

The remaining three spill out. +$250

Up about $300 for the 35 minute session with hours until my slot tournament round, I played for an hour or so and stayed even. I hadn’t eaten lunch, so at 5pm I went to the Chinese restaurant in the casino and had a decent fried rice while relaxing, resting, writing/working a bit and watching some YouTube videos. After eating, I still had a few minutes to kill, so I sat down again. Put $25 in and lost most of it really quickly, and then drew a Five-of-a-Kind.

At 6:30 I played my slot tournament round, got a decent score but nowhere near the top ten (I did manage to place finally last week, somewhere between 21st-40th, at JA Nugget in Sparks, NV — winning $100 free play), and headed over to another casino (Grand Sierra Resort) to pick up a free gift that they give away every Sunday. It happened to be a Christmas dinnerware set; apparently, it was extremely popular because they ran out and needed to get more from the stock room. Twenty minute wait I was told. Sigh.

At this casino, the best game I’ve found is a particular Progressive Double Double Bonus quarter machine.

Recently on Instagram, I was indirectly criticized for playing $1199 Royal Flush Jacks or Better (99.956% return) instead of (probably 9/6 — Full House returning 9 coins per coin bet, Flushes returning 6) DDB (a practically unplayable 98.98% return). However, because the GSR progressive was at a decent number, it’s playable, albeit volatile.

The night prior, I hit four Queens twice in five minutes ($125) so psychologically, I felt good about the game. Plus, I needed to earn some tier points to get the next level card (Earning me a free buffet every Tuesday. My parents like to go there on Tuesday).

I sat down and started playing, staying fairly even. A few Flushes and Full Houses, many Three-of-a-Kinds and tons of duds. About 25 minutes in, I thought that the sets were stocked so I hit the service button so an attendant could watch the machine for a moment. A minute later, a slot guy came by. Right then, I was dealt a Full House, Aces and Eights. I immediately hit hold on the Aces.

While many people are probably happy with a guaranteed 45 coins, ($11.25) it’s the wrong play. By a lot. Playing Double Double Bonus, Aces are worth so much that you toss the pair and keep the three Aces. Most of the time, this will end with a 15 coin Three-of-a-Kind; on a rare occasion, it will become a Full House again (albeit with another pair since it’s impossible to draw discarded cards). Very rarely, it will become Four Aces (worth 818 coins on this particular machine, though normally 800).

But when luck is on your side…

I was just about to leave to get the free Christmas set before drawing two replacement cards, but thought, I shouldn’t leave the machine mid-game. I hit draw.

Woohoo!

Very, very rarely, three Aces becomes Four Aces w/ 2,3,4 — a hand that normally pays 2000 coins, or $500 on a quarter machine — but this progressive was at $547, or 2188 coins. That’s why you don’t just hold the Full House with three Aces. Most of the time it’ll be disappointing, but occasionally: jackpot!

In this DDB game with the 2188 coin progressive 4 Aces w/ Kicker and 818 coin Four Aces, a Full House is worth just 9 coins for every coin bet for a total guaranteed return of 45. Holding three Aces and drawing two is worth an average of 13.1665 coins — about 1.46 times more than the Full House.

In the long run, holding the Full House instead of just the Aces on a quarter machine will cost you about $5 each time.

After this big win, I cashed out, got my free Christmas dish set and checked my tier points. I was close to upgrading my card, so I went back to play the machine. (Incidentally, since hitting the Aces with kicker, the game went from being practically even to a slightly negative game.) Unfortunately, someone was sitting there playing Video Keno (a game with a huge house edge) 5¢ per play. With several bucks in the machine, I thought it’d be a long wait. Unfortunately, there’s only one in the progressive bank of machines set with a good payable, and he happens to sit there and play a game he could find on dozens of nearby machines. I almost offered $5 for the seat; I wasn’t thrilled about it however, because the game was worth slightly less due to the progressive reset. Fortunately, he ran out of money and left after several minutes.

Since I only needed a few tier points, I didn’t need to play too many more hands. Fortunate, since I wasn’t really feeling well. Twenty or so hands in, nothing exciting. I was about to leave, down about $20 or so. And then I hit four Sixes.

With perfect play on a positive game, you’ll still lose about 60% of the time.

If you’re going to play Video Poker with the goal of making money, know that after any several hour session you play, you’re likely leave the casino with less money than you started with. Competent players can play 500-900 hands per hour; most people play quite a bit slower than that. Within a several thousand hand sample size, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit a jackpot hand, which can account for 2-3% of the game’s payback (depending on the game type).

It’s a very risky way to try to make some money, but if and when you do hit that big hand, it’s pretty nice. If you’re going to play, remember the odds and the math — and practice, practice, practice.

For more Video Poker stuff, check out my Instagram (@bradtastic).


Since I normally play Deuces Wild, here’s a bit about the variations worth playing:

The NSU game paytable (99.73%), betting five coins, should have the following numbers from Royal Flush down to Three-of-a-Kind: 4000=1000=125=80=50-20-20-15-10-5 — With the $1199 Royal Flush, this game has a slightly positive return.

Full Pay Deuces Wild (100.762%): 4000-1000-125-75-45-25–15-10-5 — It seems like a lesser paytable, but the 25 coins for Four-of-a-Kind makes all the difference. In Deuces Wild, 4oK is a common hand due to the presence of the wild cards, mathematically more frequent than Full Houses, Flushes and Straights, appearing about 6.5% of the time.

Note: These variations of the same game cannot be played the same way. There are numerous strategy changes based on the payout.

Lastly, I’m not a “video poker expert” — if you’re looking to learn, check out books by Bob Dancer and Dan Paymar. Good place to start. If you’re looking to check unique paytables, check out the Wizard of Odds Video Poker Strategy Calculator. It lists the odds of the game, probabilities and generates a strategy chart.

Tuesday
Dec162014

iCloud Drive Sucks: Apple is Screwing Up

Presently, iCloud Drive is unreliable crap.

If it’s working for you, I’m happy for you and hope that it continues to work well. For me and probably tens of thousands of other people, files appear, disappear, appear but won’t open, take days or weeks to sync…

It’s a mess.

I’ve been working on more substantial, long-form content for this site and other things, but since iOS 8 and Yosemite, I haven’t been able to reliably work on documents on my various devices.

I prefer to work in Ulysses III/Daedalus Touch, iA Writer Pro and Day One, and all three worked great before the switch to iCloud Drive. Now I’m having issues with all three.

  • Ulysses/Daedalus — None of my documents from Ulysses III show up in Daedalus on iPhone/iPad. Waiting for a sync to spontaneously occur yields nothing. Tried the reset troubleshooting instructions; nothing.

  • iA Writer Pro — Numerous documents aren’t listed on iOS. They are viewable when using the iCloud Drive folder feature, but are gray and won’t open. New documents take over 20 hours to sync — some have failed to sync entirely.

  • Day One — After waiting weeks and trying the troubleshooting methods repeatedly, the majority of the entries have synced across the various devices. However, 14 entries from my iPhone 5S wouldn’t upload for another few weeks, and finally synced today. During this time, entries would appear synced and then disappear a day later.

To be fair, a lot of the first-party iCloud Drive features are working okay. Photos enter the stream much quicker, and that’s nice.

Additionally, iOS 8 is problematic in general.

Shame on you, Apple. I’m really glad that I never moved beyond iOS 6 on my old iPad 2, because iOS7 ran and iOS8 runs so poorly on the iPad mini (first gen). My iPad 3 has issues with iOS8 as well; random lag and crashes. For the most part, the iPhone 5S handles iOS 8, but there are still random crashes and occasional device restarts.

In an attempt to beautify the OS, you’ve made it slower and glitchier. Turning off the fancy visual effects makes for a minor stability improvement, but overall, iOS devices haven’t seemed faster than iOS 6. When I first received the iPad 2, I was impressed by the lack of slowdown and minimal (if any) wait times. Now, idling has become the standard. In many ways, it feels like devices have taken a step back. I really miss Steve Jobs.

It’s as if these new iOS iterations are designed this way to force people to upgrade to the newest devices every year — and yet most of their phone deals with the major carriers are based on two-year contracts and upgrade cycles.

While it’s a nice idea to have synchronicity across devices with iOS 8, I’d prefer speed and reliability. Ideally both is best, but right now, that’s not reality. Also, Apple removed the Camera Roll in favor of a new organization system; while some may prefer it, it’s not optional. This seemingly small change has serious consequences for many apps and is far less usable for me.

Apple, please don’t be like Microsoft. Put your customers first and you’ll continue to stay on top.

If you try to put short term gains in profit and market penetration ahead of the user experience, put the desires of shareholders ahead of the needs of the consumer, your supporters will begin looking elsewhere. As I’m sure many already have.

Tuesday
Dec162014

Blogging Update and Ideas

If you’re still taking the time to check out my blog or are new here, thanks for stopping by. I know that content has been sparse since my move to Reno, Nevada — I’m still adjusting to life here and haven’t even fully set up my living space here. I’m attempting to create more long-form content and interesting reviews for this blog, but I’m also looking at transitioning my art and writing.

All said, it’s been more challenging to do this than anticipated. Perhaps that’s due in part to life here being substantially better than it was in Oakland, California.

But because I’ve caught a cold or something major (seems to happen every year around this time) from Stephanie — whom caught it from a two year old she babysits — I have more idle time at home than usual and will endeavor to use this to catch up on design, illustration and writing.

I’m also looking at migrating to Squarespace 7, since the UI is finally usable. SS6 was a mess; many will likely disagree with that assessment, but I couldn’t get anyone I know to switch to it.

Because Squarespace 6 was such an unintuitive design and Squarespace 5 support became, at best, an afterthought, I began looking at alternatives last year. I tried Silvrback (which looks great now, and the price is fantastic), Posthaven, Medium, Roon (recently acquired by Ghost) and Ghost(acquired Roon.io; Roon shutting down this month)… and a few others that aren’t really worth mentioning.

I’m adding a new post about Apple shortly. Additionally, I’ve been writing about Video Poker, and that entry should appear within the next few days. I’ll update the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter when it’s live.

Saturday
Dec132014

Marrakech Magic Theater Card Design

I haven’t posted in awhile so I thought that I would share a design. I’ve posted some recent projects at Behance if you’re interested. But here’s a design created on the iPad using SketchBook Pro.

The design is work-in-progress and part of a project for The Marrakech Magic Theater, San Francisco’s #1 rated show on both TripAdvisor and Yelp. If you’re in San Francisco or visiting soon, make sure to check out the show and let Peter Morrison know where you heard about it.

I’m also working on a few new projects for MMT that will be completed and released soon. It’s nice to work on something that I have a lot more control over; I’ve been having pretty bad luck at Video Poker lately. However, I did place in a slot tournament for the first time and won $100 Free Play at JA Nugget last week, so maybe things will turn around. Wish me luck!

Tuesday
Oct072014

“Pressure sensitivity,” I knew the iPad could do it!

Got an iPad? Do you ever draw anything on it?

Ever since the first iPad, I couldn’t figure out why the capacitive surface couldn’t tell the difference between a tiny tap and a hard push. Turns out, it can, and I’m not talking about the soon-to-be-announced new iPads… your current iPad — as long as it has iOS 8.

I first noticed this with Paper by FiftyThree and their Pencil stylus. You can use the edge of the stylus to draw lines with greater thickness. Pretty cool. Then I looked at Zen Brush. Turns out, that app can do the same thing with just your finger. Go try it out.

Makes me really excited for iPad Air 2 or whatever they’re calling it. Now if they would only release the iPad Pro.

Monday
Sep222014

Government can’t crack your iPhone? Don’t be so sure.

I was thrilled when I heard the recent Apple and Google announcements about privacy and government proof encryption…

At first.

So the government can no longer go to Apple and ask for some workaround to get into your seized iPhone or iPad. If you learned anything from Edward Snowden, you know that our government will stop at nothing to learn everything it can about you.

Why would they care, you might ask; why would they bother? Because they can, and no one is stopping them. When libertarian groups, Tea Party members and environmentalists are classified as radicals, how many degrees away are you from someone the government really doesn’t trust? When was the last time you knowingly broke the law, and how can you be sure that you’re completely law-abiding with so many on the books?

So now Apple has a new selling point. We won’t give the government access to your information, because we can’t. Unless it’s on the cloud.

But what about Touch ID?

TouchID is a fantastic feature that makes using the iPhone so much easier. Unlock the device by pressing and holding your finger on the home button. Make purchases in the App Store or iTunes without typing in your password each time. Doesn’t seem like much; maybe it saves ten minutes per year if you use your phone a lot, but really, it’s about user experience. It takes a little stress out of the device.

But if you’re arrested, the police take your fingerprints, don’t they? Now why couldn’t they use that to get into your phone after they have that warrant?

TouchID is a capacitive imaging device, not a normal optical scanner, so it’s a bit trickier faking it, but it’s hardly impossible.

Bottom line: don’t put anything incriminating on your phone or in the cloud, and don’t permit yourself a false sense of security, that you’re safe because Apple won’t share your secrets. They’ll take what they want, when they want it. And you should be concerned.

Sunday
Sep142014

September to Remember!

I wish that I had more time to write so I could share some thoughts about the new iPhone 6, Apple Watch, Pay and iOS8 (which looks amazing)… but being out here has really changed things. Aside from the usual things that I had to deal with in Oakland, there are these events and invites to things that come up, as well as free dinners almost any night of the week.

Of course, nothing is really free — most of these perks require some time at the tables or machines. But I did get to see the Air Races, Reno Collier and Larry The Cable Guy, as well as the Mayhem Showtime PPV event with Mayweather vs Maidana on a big screen while sitting in a very nice private booth I managed to snag.

Mostly, I’ve had to adjust to getting into a different mindset and thinking about things like inevitable gambling losses differently. It’s quite different when you live out of town and gamble maybe a few times per year; very different when there are major casino resorts less than one mile away.

One great side benefit is that I’ve been doing a lot more walking. It’s nice being able to leave the house without much worry about, well, Oakland things.

I still have a few art and design projects to finish up, and my birthday is on Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll get something neat! Like a $7K Royal Flush. Or something from my Amazon wish list. Who knows.

Life is much better here. But that definitely leaves less time to chat and rant about things on the internet. Hopefully I can find balance there, too.

Tuesday
Aug262014

Hot August and iOS!

Hey everyone, my apologies for the radio silence. I've been either too busy or too tired to really focus on posting since moving to Reno. I really love the area — it's a nice change from Oakland. Seeing my family more often has been fantastic, and I've made a few bucks playing at JA Nugget casino in Sparks. There have been quite a few big events around town this month, and next month — Air Races! Looking forward to seeing the F-22 demo.

I have created a few new things on my iPad and have been experimenting with art styles that I haven't practiced in years, but I'm not sure it's worth showing. I'm really looking forward to iOS8 and the new Mac OSX release. I'll definitely write about those.

For now, if you're into design stuff, check out Autodesk SketchBook Pro for desktop. The latest version has a ton of new features, some inspired perhaps by the incredible iPad app, Procreate. Adobe's new stylus/smart ruler combo are intriguing also; I just wish that their new companion apps were compatible with the Intuos or Pencil styluses.

I'm really looking forward to new iPads and iPhones (I'm still using iPad3), but I'm even more excited about getting enough rest and energy to update my websites and work on writing. My office isn't even fully unpacked and organized yet. When that's complete, I think other things will fall into place, and until then, it'll be hard to focus on things like moving from Squarespace 5 to SS6 or whatever.

[I'd love to chat with anyone familiar with SS6 or Bēhance Prosite — my goal is to get a portfolio up to put my design and illustration work all in one place, and use this (or perhaps Ghost) for things like iPad sketches and iPhone snapshots when I have them.]

All of these things will probably take awhile, but eventually I'll be back to reviewing apps and accessories. Thanks for the support — you know who you are — I really appreciate it. The past few years have been quite rough and I'm grateful (most of the time) to be (more or less) intact.

I wish I had some Swedish candy, though. Zoo (red) and hallonbatar. It's really good stuff, and my birthday nears so hopefully I'll get some.

Tuesday
Jul152014

Happy July!

Wow, time flies. Still have so much to do, but I have some new art to share.

Lots to talk about and things to review. Hopefully I'll have time soon. Recently I've been too busy with unpacking and organizing that all my 'spare' time has been spent sleeping.

I did get to play with my family's pets, though. Super cute.