Sunday, December 31, 2023

Improving your Wordle performance

The wordle game is deceptively simple. However, I find myself tempted to cheat by employing outside resources when completing a game. There are many useful tools available such as the Merriam-Webster word finder which help in some situation, but none are explicitly built to help with Wordle. So I decided to write a little python utility called Wordle Cheat which aims to help Wordle players by providing a list of dictionary words which meet the clues they have been given

Since I released the project under an open source licence, it also technically meets my retirement goal of contributing to an open source project. I hope it is useful and please let me know if you find any issues with it. Of course if anyone wants to add a new feature(s), I would be delighted.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Playing Wordle


Everyone seems to be obsessed with the Wordle game so I decided to give it a go. The short summary is that I am not impressed.

The game rules are very simple. You have 6 attempts to guess a 5 letter word. Each time you guess, you are told if each letter in your guess is either a correct match, a correct letter in the wrong position or not in the word at all. However, this is tricky enough to play - this forces you to use your brain which is the general idea.

The good news is that it is an easy way to pass time. The bad news is the advertisements which are constantly popping up and they seem to be deliberately hard to dismiss.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Paying with your mobile phone - How does it work?

It seems like magic to me that it is possible for me to pay for stuff using my mobile phone.  I am not an expert in payment systems, but this blog post is my attempt to describe what happens behind the scenes to make this possible. Since I have an Android phone, I will describe how it works with Google Pay - I assume that the same principles apply to using Apple Pay if you have an iPhone. 

  1. The first step is to register all of your cards with Google Wallet. To make this easy Google Wallet allows you to simply take a picture of your credit/debit card(s) and it will save the card details without the need for you to type in the long card number manually. When you enter a card Google automatically communicates with your bank to ensure the card is valid and not reported stolen.
  2. When you are buying some goods or services, the merchant will type in the amount on their point of sale device.
  3. Assuming you are willing to pay the amount requested, you first need to pick which one of the stored cards you want to use for this transaction. With android, this is done by long pressing on the power on/off button and then swiping left and right to highlight the card you want. To make it easy for you, Google Wallet will display a small picture of what the original card looks like.
  4. Having activated your chosen card you hold your phone within 4cm of the POS terminal so they can use near field communication (NFC) to exchange details of your card. NFC is deliberately limited to only work at such short range to avoid accidentally paying for someone else's purchases.
  5. The POS terminal then checks with Visa/Mastercard who in turn contacts the banks which issued the card to verify that you are credit worthy.
  6. Occasionally the bank decides that they want to double check the identity of the person making the payment. If this happens, you will be asked to unlock your phone using a PIN code, unlock pattern or fingerprint reader. After this happens you need to return to step 4 above.
  7. When payment is successfully made, your phone will display a confirmation message with the last 4 digits of the card used (displaying the entire card number would be aa security weakness).
As I said, I am not an expert in payment systems. So if I got something wrong please let me know.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Retirement in practice

Before I retired I published a planfor what I would do with my time. 
Now that I have been retired for roughly 4 months, I thought I should review what I actually did:

  1. Cycling: I am still cycling most weekends, but I am surprised to find that I don't really have time to cycle mid-week. My Strava statistics show me doing more or less the same milage as before retirement.
  2. Lecturing: This is working out very well. I find it very rewarding and I am planning to possibly increase my hours next semester.
  3. Night classes: I attended all the planed classes, but I must admit I never practice guitar between classes - the usual excuse of being too busy.
  4. Age Action: This is working out very well. The gap in age is very small between me and the 'older persons' that I am teaching, but it is still good to be doing 'give back'.
  5. Open source: I haven't really gotten to spend time on this goal. I did identify a project that I might like to contribute to - a set of node-red nodes for iOT devices. However, I have not yet upskilled to the level that I might be able to make a contribution.
  6. Men's shed: I did not join a mens shed as such, but I joined a 'mens club' in my local community center. This has worked out great for me - I am making new friends and keeping very busy
  7. Book club: I found a book club in the local community center. Unfortunately I am the only male member of the club, but I don't let that interfere with my enjoying the club.
In general, I think retirement is working out more or less as I hoped and I have no regrets