Don't get too comfortable

If there's one thing we've become crazy good at in recent years, it's optimizing our own comfort. We have built entire service industries around decreasing effort and increasing convenience. Who wants to pick up dinner ingredients at the supermarket on the way home from work, when you could just as easily fire off a quick Instacart order while sitting on the toilet? Or, you know, just fire up Pizza Hero and swap dinner prep for play time.

It could even be argued that this same increased convenience is becoming a core element of today's working world. Even just access to aggregated business data allows for easier decision making and action.

But while taking advantage of all the on-demand professional resources out there, we need to be very careful not to let ourselves get too comfortable. 

I bring all this up because of something really smart that Casey Niestat said in a recent vlog episode:

People have a tendency to get very comfortable when they find any degree of success, and they’re like, “This is good, I'm not gonna change anything.” And then the world changes around them, and what was their security self-destructs. 
Avoid comfort. Don't wait for the change to happen and try to figure it out. Just be the change – then you're always ahead of it.

As usual, Casey is onto something here: Comfort can lead to complacency, which can lead to stagnation, which will almost definitely lead to obsolescence.

So what does "be the change" mean in practical terms? Ideally, it starts with avoiding assumptions. Just because something was the case, doesn't mean it always will be. In fact, the world is changing faster around us than ever before, meaning change is often the rule rather than the exception.

Remember also to always be observant. "Stop, look and listen," is good advice in pretty much any situation. The more clearly you perceive what's going on around you, the easier it is to identify the way forward.

From there, it's just a matter of adaptation. Simple enough, right? Well if you're like Casey, you're already actively consorting with smart people who could teach you a thing or two about their areas of expertise. And if you're not – start now. Because curiosity and collaboration are catalysts of growth.

Personal evolution isn't available on demand, but that's OK. As you'll realize the next time you roll up your sleeves and cook dinner for family or friends, some things in life are just better done the old fashioned way.

Test Chamber

Test Chamber

THE PITCH
"Test Chamber is a stylish, difficult, and not-quite-euclidean puzzle game. The world-wrapping mechanics of the world of Test Chamber create unique and devious puzzles that will challenge even the most skilled players. Guide our cube-headed hero through a mind-bending world, with levels designed to challenge your ideas of space."

THE BOTTOM LINE
Test Chamber is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Soothing music and sneakily bewildering puzzles! An adorable protagonist and his cryptic, not-at-all-helpful girlfriend! While the gameplay feels immediately familiar, the tiled level trick is a subtle stroke of genius that sets it apart from the majority of physics-based puzzlers. Get on this, it's a keeper.

Fanny Pack

Fanny Pack

THE PITCH
"Fanny Pack is the FASTEST and most convenient way to LOOKUP a venue across ANY of your apps. No more switching out of your messaging apps to get addresses or websites - Fanny Pack lets you do it with ONE TAP."

THE BOTTOM LINE
It's great to see developers coming up with more and more clever uses for third-party keyboards. Fanny Pack puts a funky name on a pretty practical tool – quick on the fly Foursquare location info lookups. Multitasking on iOS is still mostly non-existent and maybe even ill-advised, but this is one use case that shows it can be done in an elegant and lightweight way.

Cymbal

Cymbal

THE PITCH
"Cymbal is the app that allows you to share your favorite song of the moment, the song that is soundtracking your life right now — your cymbal. Cymbal is the app that lets great music do what great music does: Connect us."

THE BOTTOM LINE
I've been waiting for something like Cymbal for a while now. Calmly, patiently fantasizing about an app that would let me and my friends easily share (and listen to) our current jams-of-the-moment. Thanks to an intuitive Instagram-esque UI and seamless Spotify/Soundcloud integration, Cymbal delivers on that dream. Add me (@chrilson, duh) and let's do this, fam.

10-Step Podcast Guest Cheat Sheet

In case you haven't heard, podcasts are the new hot jam. And naturally, there are plenty of useful (and useless) resources out there on how to start, record, edit, publish, and promote your own podcast. What I haven't found, however, is a simple to-do list to give to people who will be joining a podcast remotely — which usually means via Skype.

So I wrote one myself.

Make sure you run through these steps before the Skype call...

  1. If you have a laptop, ensure your power cable is plugged in and connected properly.
  2. Connect your computer to your modem or router with a LAN cable.
  3. Plug in your microphone and headphones (or just your headset, if you're going that route).
  4. Restart your computer.
  5. Disable wi-fi; ensure your computer has an active internet connection via the LAN cable. Just open any site in a browser to test this. 
  6. Quit any apps that you don't absolutely need during the recording session. Check your menu bar (Mac) or system tray (Windows) to ensure you really have closed everything possible, especially apps like Dropbox that use precious bandwidth in the background.
  7. Open GarageBand (Mac) or Audacity (Mac/Windows), and ensure the settings are correct for recording a podcast. 
  8. Check the settings in your audio recording program to ensure that your microphone is selected as the active sound input device, and your headphones are selected as the active sound output device.
  9. If you're unsure, do a quick test recording, and listen to it. Once you're happy with the settings, delete the test file and open a new one so you're ready to record. Give it a sensible name.
  10. Open Skype. Check the settings here too, to ensure that your microphone is selected as the active sound input device, and your headphones are selected as the active sound output device.

That's it! You should be ready to start the Skype call and record your podcast. Just make sure you don't forget to hit "record" in GarageBand or Audacity when the call is active and the time is right. And of course, don't forget to send the recording file to your host or producer when you're finished.

dEXTRIS for iOS

From full-on ports of console shooters to completely stripped down "tap to jump" endless runners, we never really seem to escape the discussion of what kind of games work best on a small touchscreen device. Which makes sense, because it's really hard to get this stuff right — especially when it comes to the controls themselves.

Having said that, dEXTRIS is especially interesting because it's one of the few games that feels like it was designed around the control scheme — an approach famously used by Flappy Bird creator/developer Dong Nguyen, who wanted people to be able to play on the go, with "one hand holding the train strap." 

Whereas Flappy Bird optimized the single-handed control system, Chaotic Box's Frank Condello has focused on another familiar grip — the same one we all use when thumb-typing in portrait orientation. Take a look at AppSpy's gameplay video above to see it in action.

Condello already has a few iOS cult classics under his belt, and one thing they have in common that the competition often lacks is finely-tuned responsiveness. But now that the "twitch" genre popularized by Super Hexagon and Pivvot (and of course the aforementioned Flappy Bird) has blown up, Condello's penchant for creating fast-paced and, frankly, really difficult, games will hopefully gain him a broader following. He's often tweeted in the past about the monumental challenge of making a living as an iOS game dev, but since dEXTRIS is free and ad-supported, all it would take is the right combination of circumstances for him to be making some serious daily bank à la Dong Nguyen.

Of course, dEXTRIS doesn't feature a cute bug-eyed bird and nostalgic Marioesque pipes.

The bottom line is that dEXTRIS is pure, in almost the same way that Flappy Birds was. Do one simple yet super tough thing for as long as you can. And then do it again. And again. Until you want to throw your phone at the wall.

If that sort of thing appeals to you, I promise you: dEXTRIS is gonna totally be your jam, as it is mine.

dEXTRIS is free on the App Store.