Unpaid Product Review: Boss Monster


[NOTE: I am forced to rewrite/reconstruct this post, as WordPress decided to send it down the memory hole for some weird reason.]

My wife and I are always on the lookout for things to do with our son. Luckily, he’s at the age where he’s into a thing that both my wife and I enjoy: Board games and card games. One card game was introduced to me by my brother-in-law one summer, a game designed to tickle the nostalgia center of my brain, given my love for old video games: Boss Monster by Brotherwise Games.

A typical two-player set-up.

In Boss Monster, players take on the role of the boss of a dungeon, building rooms full of traps and monsters in order to dispatch the heroes that constantly stream in to kill the boss and steal their treasure . . . provided they survive the dungeon. Each dead hero gives the boss one “soul.” Be the first to amass ten souls, and you are the winner.

Dungeons consist of up to five rooms, and are laid out to the boss’s left as the heroes enter traveling right as in an old-school side-scrolling video game, going room-by-room to see if they fall before wounding the hero. Five wounds, and you lose.

Boss Monster is a fast-paced game that requires on-the-fly tactical shifts and a healthy need for adaptability and improvisation. Each turn, two hero cards are revealed and placed into “Town,” where they are lured to dungeons with the most matching treasure types. Each dungeon room has one or more icons–for example, a money bag, which lures thief heroes–so sometimes the strongest room isn’t the best room to build in every situation. Rooms can be built on top of other rooms, can be destroyed, and in some cases be taken back into your hand, so dungeons are in a constant state of flux which keeps the game fresh.

Add to this spells which can both help you or harm your opponent, items that make the heroes stronger (but grant the boss special abilities if you are able to beat the hero with the item), and other ways of messing with other players, and games can get pretty intense. Continue reading “Unpaid Product Review: Boss Monster”

Unpaid Product Review: Bombfell 

Logo for the company Bombfell

For someone who sure enjoys dressing up, I really do not enjoy the experience of shopping for clothes. At all. I’d liken it to a dentist’s appointment, except I don’t hate going to the dentist.

How you dress does have a huge impact not only on how others see you, but how you yourself feel. The right outfit–and it sounds dumb but it’s true–can fill you with confidence. And it doesn’t just have to be an outfit that looks good on you; it’s also important to make sure that it’s an appropriate outfit for the situation.

Given that I have to suit up every day for work, and given that I like to dress well, you can easily see how my aversion to shopping for clothes can create some challenges.

My wife picked up on this as well and signed me up for a service called Bombfell. Bombfell is one of those “We pick a bunch of stuff and send it to you every month” deals that have been really popular with the urban millennial crowd for the past ten years or so, and as with anything trendy, I’m immediately skeptical. But seeing as how Bombfell is free to sign up for, is free to quit at any time, and places no obligations on the customer to purchase any of the clothes they send, I figured I’d give it a shot.

And you know what? Three months later, I’m still using it.

A package from Bombfell. Note that the bag is resealable for times you want to return clothes.

So how does it work? Continue reading “Unpaid Product Review: Bombfell “

Unpaid Product Review: Brave


Is your Internet browsing experience slow, bogged down by unseen programs running behind the scenes, tracking your every move? Do you hate ads, pop-ups and the kind targeted based on what you’ve looked at in the past, cat-food ads creepily popping up everywhere because of that one time you bought some stuff for your four-legged friend on Pet Smart’s website? Do you always feel like somebody’s watching you?

That’s because they are. A lot of “free” services actually do extract a price from you in exchange for your use of them, and that price is information: Not just demographic information, but your browsing habits, preferences, and past browsing history. This is why the complex algorithms behind websites like Amazon can pop up eerily accurate “You Might Like . . .” suggestions based on what you’ve done and how it matches to what other, similar minded, customers have done. YouTube does this too, with it’s “Suggested” sidebar; you listen to one piece by Rachmaninoff, and you get a steady stream of Russian composers popping up on there. Not that this is a bad thing, really, but it has a tendency to ghettoize all of us into an echo chamber. But I digress.

Enter Brave. Brave is a web browser created by Brave Software. Brave Software was founded by Brendan Eich, the co-founder of Mozilla and the creator of JavaScript. You might know his name due to the “controversy” surrounding him due to his financial support of a proposition in California that supported the legal definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. He was forced to resign in “disgrace,” because he’s in Silicon Valley, and silly traditionalists are just not allowed there.

Brendan Eich.jpg
Truly the face of hatred.
This might make you want to boycott Brave. And that’s fine. But I’m less interested in the politics and more interested in what Brave has to offer.

Brave is premised on the idea that the user should not be tracked. By automatically blocking these trackers, Brave will allow for faster browsing, as all of these background programs will stop slowing down your experience.

Up to a whopping 60% of page load time is caused by the underlying ad technology that loads into various places each time you hit a page on your favorite news site. And 20% of this is time spent on loading things that are trying to learn more about you.

The second big selling point of Brave–and I use the term “selling” loosely, since Brave is free to download–is that it browsing will be safer:

At Brave, our goal is to block everything on the web that can cramp your style and compromise your privacy. Annoying ads are yesterday’s news, and cookies stay in your jar where they belong.

Brave blocks harmful advertising

There’s a new ad game in town. It’s called “Malvertising”. The latest display ad technology can install malware on your laptop without your knowledge. But not with Brave watching your back.

Brave redirects sites to HTTPS

We’ve integrated HTTPS Everywhere into every Brave browser to make sure you are always moving your bits across the safest possible pipe.

Brave blocks Tracking Pixels and Tracking Cookies

Do you ever get that feeling that someone is watching you when you see an ad for something you bought a few days ago? We make sure you aren’t being tracked while you shop online and browse your favorite sites.

Brave even has an ad-blocking and replacement approach that purports to fund Brave’s operations while using anonymous protocols, with other plans to allow users to funnel ad revenue back to companies that users want to support via Bitcoin. I haven’t delved into this feature, but it partially explains how Brave can be offered for free. You can read more about this on Brave’s website.

Sounds good, right? But how does it work?

Continue reading “Unpaid Product Review: Brave”

Unpaid Product Review: Gab.ai

Maybe you’ve heard a thing or two about Twitter censoring people, often selectively based on political preferences or personal relationships. Or perhaps that the company manipulates it’s “Trending” feature to control what gets listed at the top, despite how many people are actually tweeting about it.

Twitter is well within its rights to do this. And maybe you’re okay with it! But Andrew Torba wasn’t.

Torba, a Bay Area tech entrepreneur recently launched Gab.ai, as a competing platform to Twitter. And unlike Twitter, Torba vows that he will let users dictate what they see or don’t. It is based on what Torba calls a #SpeakFreely mindset.

This is because Torba believes that the only valid form of censorship is self-censorship: Don’t like it? Don’t read it. 

Called #SeeNoEvil, the feature lets users decide what they want to filter out of their Gab experience.

And guess what? I’ve been lucky enough to get onto the beta version of Gab. So here are my first impressions.  Continue reading “Unpaid Product Review: Gab.ai”