What can I do to link my board games with tech?
Although GaGu’s ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’ has seen him banned from board game night at Guru Towers – it is apparently not acceptable to bring weapons to the Snakes & Ladders table – he is happy to report that the ever-creeping purple miasma of tech is seeping quickly from the real world into the cardboard one.
You may have heard of Monopoly Ultimate Banking (around £28), one of the six million Monopoly variants which, this time, removes all the fun of hiding half your paper fortune under the board or cannily palming an extra 500 from the bank by using little virtual credit cards. But don’t play that: Monopoly is rubbish, and your family agrees. You may also have heard of digital versions of many popular games hitting platforms like the iPad – no dealing with components, setup or flagrant rule infractions, but the tactile pleasure of sitting around a table is completely lost. Some games also have scoring apps to help you keep track if your skill with pen and paper is that of a three-year-old hopped up on Skittles; GaGu is solidly OK with these.
As you may have guessed by Guru’s willingness to answer your question, there are much better games which use tech in far more interesting ways. Start with the mildly-technical (around £40) which has you playing a CD in the background which dictates events unfolding as you try to rally a crew to deal with them, the actions of which you won’t fully understand until the turn plays out afterwards.
(£55) is where we start getting a bit deeper, with a companion app which actively drives the action, controlling the alien invasion in real-time. And (£75) has recently been updated with an app which takes on the previously player-controlled role of Overlord, allowing more dungeoneers at the table and causing far fewer catastrophic relationship fractures.
Guru, I need something to do with my hands!
May GaGu suggest smoking? It’s... Ah. Hold on. Guru’s bedraggled counsel is suggesting that this is poor advice, despite what that strong-smelling man with the cough said. How about a nice butterfly knife? Oh. Not that either? Johnny Sevenfingers will be most disappointed. Best, er, knuckle down to a proper answer, then.
It is in our nature to fiddle. For some, this compulsion is much stronger than it is for others; people with ADD, ADHD, D&D and the like often need something with which they can keep their hands occupied, just so they can keep their mind on a single task. Luckily there’s a growing market for what are known, it appears, as ‘fidget toys’, and these can aid concentration and focus in just about anybody.
Guru has seen many a dedicated knife-flicking ‘EDC’ enthusiast switch to a much-less aggressive but similarly satisfying spinner toy, made of several skateboard bearings put through a 3D printer. They’re currently available, in limited supply, on sites such as Etsy for about £25 – go for a three-pronged variety, since the two-legged jobs are hard to get your fingers hooked around – but expect a Chinese factory to be fired up soon and the price to go down.
Alternatively there are much cheaper twisty things (technical term) made of bike chain components and keyrings, which go for about £4, and which you could probably keep your fingers busy constructing for slightly less than that.
The real gems, though, seem to be coming from Kickstarter. Fully funded examples include the Alpha, a CNC-milled spinning top/hand spinner hybrid which will set you back a ludicrous $190 (£155), and the wildly successful why-didn’t-Guru-think-of-it-first $25 (£20.50) . With buttons (some clicky, some not), a rocker switch, a little ball, a joystick, a thing to rub, spinners, rollers and a massive £4.5 million plus in funding, it’s fair to say that a lot of compulsive fingerers will be seriously happy when this one lands.
Why doesn't this USB charger work?
Tell Guru the truth, now. It’s not the original charger, is it? No. And that’s why it’s not working. More specifically, it’s not working because it’s not pumping out enough amps for the charging circuit on your phone. USB will (or at least should) always output 5 volts, which is what you want, but most newer devices demand at least 2 amps worth of that juice, something that smaller or older chargers simply can’t muster.
If you’re definitely using the original charger, and you’ve tried a different cable, GaGu’s expert diagnosis involves a lot of teeth sucking and the word ‘knackered’. Don’t be tempted to replace it with a cheapo equivalent imported from the Far East, however, since these usually lack things like signal smoothing and cooling features – making them slightly dangerous – and often include poorly wired integrated cables which will work themselves loose or split in just a few uses. Great if you want to start a fire, not so good if all you want to do is charge your phone. No jokes, please.
New speakers, a new amp, or new cables?
Don’t bother with the cables. Despite the letters Guru is surely about to receive from foaming audiophiles, most audio cable upgrades are entirely unnecessary. As for the other two, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re packing already. An amp upgrade could improve the clarity of audio output just as well as a new set of speakers.
Since GaGu suspects you’re running mostly digital sources, consider instead a nice DAC, compatible with as many hi-res audio sources as possible. You’ll get a notable increase in quality, and (if hi-res audio doesn’t dissolve into an awful format war, and it probably will) the hardware you need to cope with the next generation of digital releases.
My trousers snag my bike chain. Help?
Those billowing ’90s Blue Bolts should probably go in the bin, reader, but if you’re determined to wear them, at least one trouser clip is in order. Brooks does a classy leather spring-loaded number (£15) in a selection of colours, which should prevent fabric mating with cog quite nicely. Alternatively, GaGu endorses tucking one’s trousers into one’s socks, although he will not acknowledge your existence if you do.
Maybe it’s time to ditch the chain altogether? If you have the calves for it and can cope with the stigma of riding a fixie, think about picking up a bike with a carbon belt drive like the Roux Carbon Drive G8 (£750) – the reduced maintenance costs pay for themselves.
What should I look for in a ski jacket?
Make sure it’s a lurid colour so you can be seen, both for pulling off stylish pizza-slice slowdowns and so you’re visible when the stretcher inevitably comes to drag you to hospital.
Make doubly sure that it’s warm but with room underneath, so you can whip out an underlayer should you remain uninjured long enough to break a sweat. It should be breathable and waterproof… Manufacturers have already thought of all this, and as long as you go with a reputable one – Guru recommends Scott, Armada, or new kid Faction – you won’t go wrong.