John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Pokemon Go Quick start

Unless your living under a rock or in the middle of BFN you have seen people playing or talking about Pokemon Go. It’s a new Android/iOS game that is quickly spreading. I’d heard enough people talking about it I decided to have quick boo and see what it’s all about. I’ll try and tell you a bit of what it’s about as well as some basic quick start ideas. First and foremost realize I am new and still figuring it out. So if I got something wrong, please bear with me.

Pokemon Go is what is called an augmented reality game. The board you are playing on is a map of the area you are in.

The first thing you need to do is sign in. Now you can use your Google account, but I am not sure I see a reason to do that. There is no social side to the game so why grant access to Pokemon Go to all your Google contacts etc. So you can create what is called a trainer account. Just be patient the servers are stupid busy and it may take a while. Just keep trying.

On the map are what are called Pokestops. Think of these like Geocaches. The idea is to go out and explore and find these. Your board allows you to see Pokestops (and other stuff near you).
What isn’t on the maps anywhere is other players. It’s like your the only one playing it. Why they didn’t add in a social side to this game is befuddling to me.

When you get close enough to a Pokestop (the blue almost @ like symbol) you can click on it and swipe the item to collect things from the Pokestop. These can be potions (to restore your Pokemon after battle, more on battles in a bit), revive (to wake your Pokemon if he has been knocked out in battle), and other useful stuff.

For the first part of the game you simply wander around and keep going into the Pokestops collecting stuff. These Pokestops have unlimited stuff in them. You can go back to them over and over again (with a 5 minute delay in between). What you get from a Pokestop changes somewhat each time you go back to it. You are not competing with anyone for what’s in the Pokestop. Just walk around collecting stuff. All the while you are getting small amounts of experience points. You rise in levels in the game.
Eventually you will get to the point where your bag is full. Your backpack can only hold so many items. Click items and you will see what’s in your backpack and how many you can carry. Clicking delete beside something you have too much of will allow you to delete as many of them out of your backpack as you need making space for other stuff.
Even when your bag is full you continue to gain XP by going into a Pokestop. You can increase the size of your bag if you want to spend real $$s in the Shopping area of the game, in game upgrades.

Now while wandering around you will feel a vibrate. This will tell you are near something, a Pokestop or a Pokemon. Pokemons are just like the old trading cards. You capture them by throwing a ball at them. These balls are collected at, you guessed it, Pokestops. You can collect many of the same Pokemons. This first view (called the Pokedex) shows you which Pokemons you have. You can sort this in a variety of ways by clicking the bottom right hand corner. Sorting by name will show you your duplicates.
The second view (called Pokemon) shows you the individual Pokemons you have.
Each time you capture a Pokemon you get experience points (XP), Stardust and Candies for that Pokemon. The higher the CP of the Pokemon, the harder it is to catch, and keep. They often get caught and wiggle there way back out. You can increase you chance of catching and keeping the Pokemon by using a Razzberry and/or a Great ball.

This chart shows the XP per level.

You can not trade Pokemons with friends, but you can transfer them (give them back). You get candies back you can use to evolve your Pokemon. There’s not much point in having more than one of each Pokemon, and having a bunch simply provides clutter. Candies are needed to evolve a Pokemon but you only get candies for a particular Pokemon by capturing or transferring a Pokemon of the same kind. A pokemon that is in the same evolutionary chain uses the same candies. Before you decide to transfer the Pokémon back, be sure it isn’t a higher CP/HP than the one you already have. Every now and then you may find one that has already been upgraded and has a high HP/CP (hit point combat point, more about these later). There are limits to how many Pokemon you can carry, 250 by default unless you pay to upgrade it. Your Pokemon list screen shows how many you have and how many you can carry. Don’t take too long to capture that Pokémon or someone in the area may get it before you do.

The Pokemons can be evolved or powered up. You are asked if you want to do that the minute you capture a pokemon. Don’t bother. Save it to upgrade a couple Pokemons to help you get them as powerful as possible as quickly as possible. Powering up costs Stardust. Stardust is general so save it again for powering up a few Pokemons. On the screen for the Pokemon you can see how many Stardust or Candies it takes to upgrade your Pokemon and how many you currently have.
This link shows the max CPs a particular Pokemon can eventually get to.

There are also eggs, which hatch into a Pokémon. To hatch one go into your pokemon list, slide over to eggs and you can set an egg to hatch. It is placed into an incubator that you have. To hatch an egg you have to walk about. Once it hatches low and behold you have a new pokemon. You won’t know which one until it hatches. Don’t try and trick the game by driving, it knows the difference. Biking was successful at tricking it some of the time. Likely based on speed. I can think of no reason why you wouldn’t want to always keep eggs in however many incubators you have. You gain experience points by hatching eggs as well as Pokemons.

Speaking of driving, one of the things about this game is it encourages people to get out and explore around. But unlike other apps like Waze that makes sure you are the passenger before it lets you interact with it while driving, pokemon makes no attempt. So if you are stupid enough to be playing pokemon while driving, well it will let you.
Update: They now added this:

In your items list is something called a Lure, which you can drop at a Pokestop. It attracts Pokemons to the Pokestop. This benefits everyone in the area. You can tell a Lure is in use at a Pokestop by the colorful pink confetti dancing around the top. Once you click on the Pokestop you can see above the picture a pink Lure module.

After wandering around for a while you finally will get to the point where you have reached level 5. Your now able to go onto the next phase of the game. Battles and gyms. The CPs (combat points, think experience in fighting) as well as the HPs (hit points) you see on your Pokemon tell you how much damage it does in a battle. This is why you want to upgrade your Pokemons. How far you can upgrade your Pokemon will be limited by your level. Evolution of the Pokemon is limited by the pokemon. This chart shows the Evolution path of the pokemon.

The white bar indicates how far you can Power Up your pokemon at your current player level. Notice I am almost at the top of this Pokemon at my level. Researching shows this Pokemon can go all the way up to 2184 if your player was at a high enough level. As you get towards the top it seems to cost more and benefit less (in CP/HP). The second image shows a completely maxed out Pokemon. As an example at player level 22 the hypno could be upgraded to 1368 CP, and at Level 23 1426 CP an increase of 58 CPs or a mere 4%.

I read an interesting trick. Save up all your evolves. Then use a Lucky egg (in your items). For the next 30 minutes you get double XP points. So do a bunch of evolves at once, go to a gym, hatch eggs do whatever to get XPs for 30 minutes and you can move your player up in levels quicker! I did this and earned over 13000 XP in under 1/2 an hour. I also used a lure to bring Pokemons to me.

In case your curious the maximum level for a player is 40. And it is reported that between levels 39 and 40, you need a whopping 5m XP. A cheater reached it and took screen caps.

Pokemon can be played on more than one device, in fact I see nothing that would prohibit you from working together as a team to move up in the ranks quicker.

Pokemon loves battery, don’t plan on heading out and being away from a plug for long and playing Pokemon Go. In an hour on an iPhone 6 it dropped 33%!

For an app in this day and time, I am shocked at how replete the code is of social media. No sharing on facebook, nada. Did I mention there is little to no social side to Pokemon? And given how obsessed we are with stats, there are shocking few in the game. Don’t look for your battle win percentage, or how many balls it generally takes to catch a pokemon, nada.

And finally after a couple of days … your allowed to explore the gym. This sets a whole new level and drives how you play the game. Gyms are scattered around the map. Don’t go looking for a search utility or a way to list gyms, nope, wander around and find them (although there are apps that try and do that). Gyms are defended at a particular moment by a particular pokemon, and a particular team (well unless it is an unoccupied gym). Gyms can have as many defenders as they have levels. So a level 2 Gym for example can have 2 defenders. If there is an open spot in the gym and it is held by your team, you can leave your pokemon to help defend the gym. You earn Pixiedust and Pokecoins for defendeding a gym. And you can drop your Pokemons at more than one gym (but you can only leave one Pokemon per gym).

I finally figured out how the pay out works and it is a little odd. Go and get your poke into a gym, just one gym. That starts a counter for 21 hours. You can come back in 21 hours to collect your reward for defending a gym. The number of gyms you are holding at the moment you collect is how you are paid out, 10 poke coins and 500 stardust for every gym. That in turn resets the timer and you can rinse and repeat. How many gyms you held, or how long you held them in between the first gym you take and when you choose to collect means nothing (other than experience points). If you show up after the 21 hours the clock is simply frozen waiting for you, it does not accumulate.

You find the rewards in the Shop, and then look at the shield in the top right corner. It shows you a count down to your next payout and how many payouts you are entitled to..

If there isn’t an open spot you can still spar with your own team members. Beating your team members increases the prestige of the gym but costs you potions to heal. Loosing buys the gym nothing and again costs you potions to heal.
The icon in the bottom left corner says there is a spot in the gym and you can take it. Hurry someone can take it before you.

Gyms held by another team/color you are attacking and supply a Battlegroup of 6 pokemons to battle the defenders. As above the gyms level defines how many defenders there will be. Before you start a battle compare the Pokemon defending it from a CP point of view. Slide across and you can see all the pokemons defending a gym.
When you start a battle with the defender you just simply tap the screen like a lunatic. Each tap is an attack. You do damage based on your CP/HP. You will see the health level of you and of your opponent on the top. If you manage to loose, that’s ok your next Pokemon steps up and takes over, rinse and repeat until you are out of Pokemons from your group of 6 or you defeat the defender. Each Pokemon has a secondary attack that has to build up. There’s a white bar beneath your health that shows how ready the secondary attack is. The larger this bar the more powerful the secondary attack. To use the secondary attack press and hold the screen until a black bar comes down from the top then tap the screen and the secondary attack is released. You can move sideways to dodge attacks and make it harder for him to hit you.
Defeating the defender knocks down the gyms level. Defeat enough of the defenders and you can take make the gym vacant which is you rush you can drop your pokemon into the gym and take it over. You get experience points for winning battles. Sadly nothing for loosing 🙂 Once the battle is over you will have a variety of Pokemons that will need your help. You need to revive them (the were knocked out), and then heal them with potions. And then your ready to do battle again. Potions and revives are found at Pokestops. Here’s a great article on all of the items in Pokemon Go, free and bought with real $$s.
Beating one defender gets you 100 XP and takes away 500 prestige from the gym. Beat 3 and you get 350 XP and takes away 3000 XP. That’s a huge hit to the gym. Beat all defenders and the gym becomes vacant. Go back in and you can leave your Pokemon at the Gym. This then becomes your teams to defend. Your pokemon shows at the gym (and is no longer available for you to battle until the gym is defeated. In your Pokemon list you will see a little gym symbol showing it’s at a gym. Here you can see two of mine, the Vaporean and the Kingler. Once at a gym you can not evolve or upgrade them. And I do not see a way to recall them either.


When gearing up for battle it’s important to have upgraded the right Pokemon with the best potential, stamina, hit power and defense. This link helps you compare them. For attacking you have a team of your Pokemons that will do the attack so you will need to upgrade/evolve a few. They can be of the same Pokemon or different Pokemons. The benefit is each has there strength and weaknesses, so making a team of upgrade/evolved different Pokemons has it’s advantages.

There are things you can buy with real $$s in the game. They end up being charged through iTunes (on an iPhone). In Canada 1200 Pokecoins cost $15.81 (including tax) which works out to 1.3 cents per pokecoin. Buy 2500 1.1, 5200 and it costs 1 cent. Those pokecoins are then use to buy a variety of things within the game. Here are the in game upgrade costs (at time of writing) for a number of the items.
So for example if you bought 100 Pokeballs they would end up costing you 460 Pokecoins which at 1.3 cents per Pokeball equates to 6 cents a Pokeball. Etc.

There is so much unrealized potential in this game, it’s already gone viral, but the question is does it have staying power? With some improvements I can see it for sure. Already people are using the game to host flash mob based parties where they all use lures and it’s like chumming the waters. It’s a Pokemon frenzy.

Pidgeys are quite prolific in the game, relatively easy to catch and evolve with only 12 candies. This makes them a great way to increase XP by evolving them.

The game and the app right now are buggy. I get flat out crashes on an iPhone 6, times where the game registers me walking but ignores any input and LONG periods of complete outages. Not minutes, hours. Here you can check the status of the Pokemon Go servers.

I started the game July 18th. In 15 days it has consumed 242.5MB of data. So depending on your plan you need to watch that. Oh, and A LOT of battery 🙂

In those 15 days I am at level 21 (of a possible 40 levels), my highest Pokemon has a CP of 1669, I’ve caught 69 out of a possible 147 different Pokemons or 47%.

And you know your having a bad day when 🙂

Update: 9/15 Pokemon Buddies
They just added a new feature called Pokemon buddy. You choose one pokemon as your buddy and anytime the game is up and your walking you get free candies for the buddy. The number of kms walked to earn a candy varies by Pokemon. This can help give you enough candies to finish a rare pokemons evolve or candies to power up. It’s a nice incremental update to the game. To enable it go into your profile and select buddy and you can choose which poke as your buddy. I did notice one little gotcha, your poke can’t be in two places at once, so if it’s out with you walking around you can’t leave him at a gym.

After you having been playing for a while you will get to the point where you want specific pokes and your into the stage of hunting. To achieve this you will need a tool called a radar that tells you what pokes have been seen in an area and when it will disappear. These radars can be used to lead you right to the pokes. Certain apps work on certain platforms (Android Vs iOS). On my iPhone I use two Go Radar and Go Chat. From a web site point of view I use PokeJoin.


July 24, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Training with a heart rate monitor

I’m a bit of a weekend warrior, I like to mountain bike. And I have always looked for ways to ensure I am at least maintaining my cardio endurance and hopefully increasing it as the season goes on. For a long time I have used a heart rate monitor to help this process. There are lots of kinds of heart rate monitors that I have covered over time on this blog. In the end THE most accurate heart rate monitor is a chest strap. It also as it happens, tends to be the least comfortable. When you are pushing up a hill breathing heavily the strap around your chest restricts your breathing. And sometimes the chest strap can come loose and slide down.

At this point I have three heart rate chest straps I use:
1) Polar H7 chest strap that broadcasts only on Bluetooth low energy. This can talk to my Polar A300 for excellent data recording, or to my iPhone running whatever app you want. Polars own app called Polar Beat can be used to send the bluetooth data to both Polar Beat and the Polar A300 watch. It’s reasonably comfortable, and for the most part stays in place. It runs on a replaceable CR2032 and from within some apps you can see the battery level of the heart rate monitor (I haven’t had this long enough to comment on battery life). Accuracy is good as long as you properly wet the contacts. The electronics snap into two clips on the chest strap. They seem firm enough to hold it in place.

2) Wahoo TICKR chest strap that broadcasts on both Bluetooth low energy and Ant+. I love this flexibility and it can broadcast to all of my Garmin devices as well as to my phone at the same time, or my Polar A300. Ant+ can broadcast simulataneously to as many devices as you wish. The Wahoo TICKR is oddly designed in that electronics clip into the middle of the strap meaning the electronics are being pulled by the strap. The TICKR is by far the most comfortable of the chest straps I’ve used and stays nicely in place. It run on replaceable CR2032 battery and you can tell the battery level from a number of apps on the phone (I haven’t had this long enough to comment on battery life). Via the Wahoo Fitness app you can even update firmware level. This is the first time I have ever seen this.

Update 6/13/2017
My battery was down to 15% after a year! Impressive. Changing the battery takes a bit of patience and finesse. Whatever you do, don’t do it in a rush as I did. First off there is small rubber O ring that creates a moisture seal (for sweat and rain etc). Be careful with it. Second there is a small arrow on the back side, you have to align it with the unlock when putting the new battery back in. Then turn to the lock and your done.

3) Garmin Ant+ chest strap. Now that I am on an iPhone this is of little use (My Samsungs had the ability to receive Ant+). It’s always been accurate anytime I have run correlation runs. It’s also the least comfortable, but is well designed and rarely moves on the chest at all. It runs on a replaceable CR2032 battery and gets something like a year battery life. It interfaces best with Garmin devices, which as it happens are my favorite bike gadget.

I also have a Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor that goes on your arm and picks up the heart rate optically. This is by far the most comfortable of the heart rate monitors I use and my favorite. The Scosche broadcasts on both Ant+ and bluetooth low energy so is very flexible in terms of what it can talk to. It runs off a rechargeable battery and gets 6-8 hours of battery life.

And now comes the hot topic of accuracy. What is accurate enough? What are you wanting to do with the heart rate data? These are personal choices. When I first started using a heart rate monitor I used it only to get a more accurate count of the calories I burned on a ride to ensure I was working on endurance. Calories burned is a simple calculation based on length of exercise and your average heart rate. If this is all you care about then you ought to go for the most comfortable heart rate monitor because as you will see in a bit accuracy at each and every data point is not all that important in that it does not dramatically effect the average heart rate, and so does not effect calorie counts. Each app calculates calories with their own magical formula. Comparing calorie counts between devices, or between apps is frivolous because you have no idea or control on what algorithm it uses. So choose something (an app, a device whatever) and just stick with it. One of the things I do like to have is a complete picture of my entire exercise in a week. So if you wear an activity tracker (I have a Fitbit Blaze and Charge), you will need to see what data inter operability options there are. Preferably automatic. I use Garmin connect, Fitbit and Endomondo. They all share data to one degree or another and ends up with a complete picture of my exercise in one place, well actually two Endomondo and Fitbit. Be careful if you use multiple devices/apps that your not double counting your exercise. Generally speaking these can be cleaned up manually if need be.

I started to have some suspicions that my Scosche was becoming inaccurate which frankly was what prompted me to look at this topic again. So I started out with an over 3 hours bike ride and used my Polar H7 logged by my Polar A300, as well as my Scosche logged by my Garmin Edge 305. Using dedicated devices to do the logging (instead of a phone app) gives you much better data for crunching numbers. Apps like Endomondo are less precise about how often data is logged. For example during a 3 hour ride I saw sampling rates averaging once per 3.8 seconds (Vs once per second like clockwork for the Garmin, and Polar A300) and at worst when the phone was busy doing god only know what of 17 seconds. Interestingly enough it makes little to no difference on the average heart rate, and thus no difference on the calorie count. If you were using an app to alert you on max heart rates then this might be something you want to worry about. I saw similar sampling rates for Endomondo running in the foreground and backup on iOS and on Android by the way.

As you can see after an initial period the two tracked reasonably well. Crunching the data showed the two were within 10% of each other 97% of the time. That’s not bad correlation. And in the end it only effected the average heart rate by 2.4 beats per minute.

It’s worth noting that the Scosche Rhytm+ can not be used for HRV readings.

Calorie count is just one reason to wear a heart rate monitor. More serious athletes keep an eye not necessarily on the BPM but the zone your heart rate is in. Now being off by 10% at 180BPM doesn’t sound too bad but translate into BPM and thus into a heart rate zone and you have a bigger issue. Looking at the same data and changing the threshold to how often was the heart rate off by 10 BPM and you get a more troubling 10% of the time. And this is with the first 15 mins out of the data.

Another reason to keep an eye on heart rate is to watch to insure you are staying within a min/max. I use a heart rate alarm on my Edge 305 to insure I don’t spend too much time maxing out my heart rate. I either slow down, control my breathing or flat out stop. Being off by 10% again makes this difficult. Using the alerts on the 305 I have managed to lower my max heart rate by 20-30 BPM which has to be healthier. Similarly using the low alarm you can remind yourself when you are dogging it 🙂

So now let’s have a look at a comparison of my Polar A7 logged by the Polar A300 and my Wahoo TICKR logged by my Garmin Edge 305. Now this is impressive.
Now this is what I call correlation. In the whole 3 hour ride the two were only off by 10% a mere 9 data points (seconds) in over 3 hours. Impressive. And if I change the threshold to 10BPM (instead of %) there are only 11 data points where they differ. It’s worth noting that wearing two chest straps in a bumpy sport like mountain biking can lead to the two just bumping into each other which may explain even the minor differences.

So all in all, give some thought to what you want to do with the data, and use that to choose how accurate you need your heart rate monitor to be and how much discomfort your willing to endure to get that accuracy! I love crunching number and doing data analysis …

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Activity Trackers, GPS Stuff, Uncategorized | Leave a comment