Voskhod instruments by Tom Royal on Flickr
Valentina Tereshkova with Vostok 6 by Tom Royal on Flickr
Voskhod Capsule by Tom Royal on Flickr
Chartwell by Tom Royal on Flickr
Chartwell by Tom Royal on Flickr
Heron by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr

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Kitten Block: Now for iOS

September 27th, 2015

Since I published the Chrome version, the most common request I’ve received from Kitten Block users is a version for iOS. But given that Safari on iPhone and iPad devices doesn’t support desktop-style add-ons, this has never been possible – until now.

With iOS 9, and subject to some limitations, noted below, Apple has made it possible to install content blockers into iOS for the first time. And so I’m pleased to announce that Kitten Block for iOS is available now.

Just a few things to note, though:

1) iOS supports content blockers on 64-bit devices running iOS9 only. That means anything from an iPhone 5S up can run them, but 5, 5C and 4S devices can’t. Apple imposes this limitation, not me – sorry.

2) iOS content blockers can only block, or add CSS – so it’s not possible to redirect users to kitten photos as we do on other platforms.

3) All previous versions of Kitten Block have been free, but this one costs 79p/99c. This isn’t because I’m hoping to make money from it, but to cover the cost of publishing – Apple charges £80/year for a developer license. In the possibly unlikely event that I make back that cost, all profits will go to CalAid, with the financials posted online for transparency.

With all that said, I hope you find the new blocker useful, and that your iOS device is now Daily Mail free. Because, well, I think we’re all going to need it in the coming days.


The best iOS game you’re not playing: 太鼓の達人

September 23rd, 2015


If you’ve ever been in a Japanese video game arcade, there’s one machine you can’t miss: Taiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人), AKA the one with the two huge drums (photo above by Amy Jane Gustafson). It’s a hugely fun game, not least because it’s so simple: there are only really four things you need to learn:

1) Red blob (ドン) means “hit the drum”
2) Blue blob (カッ) means “hit the rim of the drum”
3) Big red blob: whomp the drum with both sticks
4) Big blue blob: do the same, but on the rim.

That’s it. Have a few drinks, put a few 100 yen coins in, and you and a friend can merrily pummel your way ineptly through a variety of Japanese pop songs that you don’t even know. Yay. If there were one in a London pub, I’d spend a fortune on it.

The only problem is that, I assume primarily for music licensing reasons, the game is really quite rare outside Japan. But if you’ve got an iOS device, it’s now easy to play – albeit with your fingers.


Taiko no Tatsujin for iOS is free to download, including about five songs to play – all you need is a Japanese iOS account, which can be registered without a credit card. If you need a bit of store credit for in app purchases, eBay is your friend.

And, because it’s a game designed to play on a giant plastic drum, the game translates really well to the touchscreen. A semicircular area is marked at the bottom: tap that to drum, or tap outside to tap the rim. For a double-whomp, tap with two fingers. As you tap away, a variety of colourful and slightly crazed animations appear around the screen, themed according to the track you’re playing.

Additional song packs can be purchased, but at 600 yen (£3.25) for five songs you could end up spending a fortune quite easily. More conveniently, a one-month subscription costs 500 yen (£2.75) – this is all-access, so you can download every track in the game and play them to death for a few weeks. Just remember to cancel the subscription auto-renew if you’re finished playing.

If your Japanese isn’t great, here’s how to subscribe:


Here’s the main menu. The red button on the left is to play the tracks you have downloaded – go here if you want to try the free songs. The blue button with おすすめ above it is for subscriptions.


The four options on the right here are the subscriptions. From the right: one week, one month, three months, six months. I suggest 1ケ月 or one month for (at the moment) 500 yen.

After subscribing, you’ll be taken to the download menu. If you need to return there again, open the Subscriptions option from the main menu (blue button), then use the right hand option whose name ends with ドウンロード (literally, “download”).

Each track has several difficulty levels. Try かんたん (easy) or ふつう (normal) at first – おに (literally, “demon”) is something else entirely. Oh, and one other handy bit of Japanese: もどる means “go back”. Happy drumming!

Can you travel to Gatwick Airport using Oyster or Contactless?

April 30th, 2015

No, you can’t. If you try to visit this London airport using Transport for London’s Oyster or Contactless payments, you’ll find a line of ticket inspectors waiting to fine you – and everyone else who makes the same mistake – £20.

Plus you’ll get charged a maximum fare on Oyster or Contactless for not ending your journey.

And that’s despite the Gatwick website saying that both have been valid since 2014.

So, watch out. It’s a nasty setup.


How To: Push Mag+ MIB files via Automator

March 31st, 2015


At work at Apptitude Media, we make interactive digital magazines, brochures and the like using the Magplus system – both for ourselves, and for clients.

One of the final stages of any project is to send the finished MIB content file to a device for testing – it’s an action we perform several times each day. And there are a few ways to do it, the most convenient of which is the Simple MIB Pusher.

But here’s an even quicker way, if you’re on a Mac.

Open Automator, and create a new Service. Call it something like “Send to iPad”. Set it to receive selected files or folders from Finder.

Drag on the “Run Shell Script” command. Paste the following:

while read f
curl -X POST -F "file=@$f"

.. substituting your device’s IP address in for Save the workflow. You can now send any MIB to your device in one click from the Finder context menu.

Tweet Your Heat: Controlling Nest via Twitter

January 24th, 2015