Thursday, August 29, 2013

My First Two Encounters with Police while Playing Ingress

Earlier this week I had to go out of town for a funeral. So Monday evening I got in town, settled in, visited with some people. But by 10:00 pm was bored and had nothing planned to do. So I get on the COMM and announce I'm a level 8 player in town and want to help the local community while I was there.

Pretty soon I had a few replies. The other faction had a pretty large level 8 farm in a neighboring town, they were looking for some help taking down then they also needed help building their farm. I'm always in for blowing up enemy portals. So I offer to help do that. I was well stocked with several hundred Level 8 XMPs and dozens of power cubes thanks to the recent doubling the drop rate for cubes. I got on the road and headed to their farm.

I was blowing their portals up with ease. I went up one street and down the next attacking away and introducing Ingress to my younger brother (unfortunately he's an Apple guy and cant get him to play). I get to one street and even though I'm not familiar with the area I can tell the portals are in a park. I, legally, park on the side of the road in a marked parking spot and start firing L8 XMPs. Combining where I parked and the range on the XMPs I could hit all the portals in the park. By now, I've taken out half of the portals and then...

I saw the unmarked car pass by the first time and didn't make any mind of it. But a minute later he came back from behind be and the lights came on; including spotlights.

The officer approaches, very kindly, and tells us were in a park and the park closed at sunset.

I apologized and told him I didn't realize the street was in the park, but I would leave.

He was friendly and said the sign was not easy to see at night, but the entire street passes through the park and the park continued up until the next street. He thanked me and turned away as I pulled away. I unfortunately had to leave some of those portals, while damaged, still in the hands of the other faction.

I continue driving, my brother holding the tablet and navigating me through this unfamiliar territory. I knock out another couple of portals. I then come up to this church that has 3 L8 enemy portals on it's property. I park on the street. Once again I'm parked legally, on the street, in a marked spot in front of this church directly under a streetlight.  I'd been there for a minute or two then comes the same officer again. He pulls in the parking spot beside me, rolls down his window and asks me, "Are you playing that Google game where you have to go places to claim portals for your team and blow up other team's portals?"

I tell him yes as I show him my cell phone.

He goes on about wishing Google would delete the game and that they have gotten some reported possible burglaries that end up with people playing that game. He concludes by telling me that this is a small, sleepy old town that basically closes up completely at 10:00 pm and asks me to call it quits for the night and come back in the morning.

From my best knowledge, he had no legal reason to ask me to stop, I just thought it better to tell him I would stop. While I do not believe he had the legal authority to have me stop. Since I had left the park he admitted was poorly marked, I had done nothing wrong. But arguing was not something that could have any positive effect for me. Besides it was getting late and I think other than the chit-chat and catching up my brother was over playing with me.

In hindsight, I was an easy target for the officer. I was basically the only person moving around in the town, I had an out-of-state license plate and I was stopping frequently and probably seeming strange to anybody who did see me.

But note to others: If you are approached by police, be calm, be polite, tell them exactly what you are doing, and obey any instructions they give you. It's just a game. This officer very likely did not have the legal right/authority to ask me to stop, but is it worth the argument or discussion? No to me, that is not a booger I'm going to pick.

Decode Ingress has a good post about encountering law enforcement you may want to read if you haven't already: Ingress[tip]: Contact with Law Enforcement.

Happy and Safe Hacking!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Is the Ultra Strike Worth All the Hoopla?

So the new Motorola Droid phones came out earlier this week. These phones were preloaded with +Ingress and when you activated your account on these phones you also got a goody bag of items including several of the the new Ultra Strike weapons. 

Now since these phones have been released Ingress internet sites have been buzzing on how to get hold of the Ultra Strike weapon if you do not have one of these phones. These theories run the full spectrum from crazy to to easy to be true. Some of you have even commented here on rooting your phone and altering your build.prop file to mimic or be seen as a Droid. 

Sounds interesting to me and why I am not a technical neophyte, I have learned that I know/think I know enough to end up getting myself into trouble, but do not know enough to get myself out of it. So I will pass. Besides I do not believe this would fall in line with the game's TOS.

Other than being complete Ingress addicts and just needing to have the newest stuff and try it out, I haven't seen anything that makes me say I need this new weapon. Sure I want to get my hands on one and use it, but I doubt it will be able to knock my socks of.

The fact that you are using one item to destroy one resonator doesn't impress me by itself. What would impress me is if this new weapon were able to do its job and not result in the portal attacking and draining my XM Energy.

The one cool advantage I see with this weapon is that you could strategically go and knock out resonators of your least favorite opponents, just to screw with them.

I'll update if I feel differently later.

Happy Hacking!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GPS Drift

So your right where you normally go to hack/attack one of your favorite portals. You hit the deploy or hack button and get the message that the portal is out of range. Grrr.

Or IMO even worse you think you are at the furthest point where you can deploy resonators, you deploy them just to see they end up immediately on top of the portal making for an easy hit on your newly claimed portal.

You look on your scanner and it shows you are where???

Here's what got me thinking about GPS drift. The image below is from my commute this morning into work. Don't worry fellow agents I was going exactly 0 MPH when I took this screenshot. Just as I was going 0 MPH for the next 10-15 minutes, but that's another rant for another time. Keep in mind I am in the left (the "fast") lane on the interstate here. My GPS drift is probably close to 100M if the ring represents 40M. So if I were trying to hack or deploy, I'd be SOL.

First, your phone is not a military grade GPS, it is more perfunctory. 

Second, because of it's more general functioning ability it is more prone to disruption from weather (even mild/moderately inclimate weather) and obstructions like trees and buildings.

There are some things you can do to help. 

One thing I've found, and I can't explain why, is that you will need to check your phone's settings to make sure you are not set to automatically connect to Wi-Fi. It doesn't make sense to me because GPS is separate from your network connection and operate independently of one another, but for some reason it works sometimes. 

Another reason (beyond general security and not related to GPS drift) not to automatically connect to available Wi-Fi is that you may be just on the fringe of the Wi-Fi range and your connection may be slower than your regular data connection. I ran into this problem at my children's school. I have their school set up as a trusted site and to connect when available because I am active in the school and am there frequently. Well their school has a Civil War historical marker in front of it which is a portal. I had so many issues on that portal. It took me a little while to realize that I was connected to their Wi-Fi, but had such a weak signal being on the street or in the parking lot it made working that portal difficult.

I don't recommend it, but it may help; remove your phone's protective case. To help determine whether removing your protective case will help refer to your owners manual and find where your phone's GPS antenna is located. If the case is obstructing the antenna's reception, you may want to consider a different case. Remember were talking a low wattage signal which travels thousands of miles. 

If you are experiencing GPS drift there are some things you can do:
  1. Be patient. GPS drift often corrects itself in a short time. 
  2. Move to a clearer location or get outside of your building or car. This will help you get a clearer signal.
  3. Force Sync Ingress from the device tab in the OPS menu
  4. Restart your phone. Just like when you call tech support for your computer the first thing they want you to do is restart.
  5. Load a GPS App. I use GPS Status and like it it also has the ability to clear your GPS cache which can slow down your GPS and even give bad locations. 
  6. There are also external GPS antennas for phones, but I have no information on how well they work.

I hope this helps.

Happy Hacking!

I wrote this post at lunch time today. Now as I get ready to leave work I turn on my scanner to burn up the XM Energy I'd accumulated through the day. This is the image I get. Where I actually am is probably 400+ Meters from where it is showing me. I am barely on the map. This is the worst GPS drift I've ever encountered. I typically show accurately from my office. Wow...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Must Have Accessories for the Serious Ingress Agent

Sure, for the casual +Ingress  player all you need is a good smartphone and you'll be out there hacking away in a few short minutes. But for the true Ingress Agents (and if you're reading this you are a true agent) you will certainly need more.

From my experience the Google Play Store will allow phones which just don't have the capability to download Ingress. Ingress is a resource hog. You will not only need a good Android powered smartphone, but you will want one with greater resources. Like some of the latest models from Motorola or Samsung.

A tablet??? I have a cool, awesome and powerful smartphone, why would I need a tablet?

Your cool, awesome and powerful smartphone is great as a scanner, but you will need additional resources. Prime example is the Ingress Intel Map. No matter how powerful your smart phone is, the Intel Map blows from a phone; including the mobile version. For serious missions you will need constant access to the Intel Map.

Additionally, if you are part of a local community and use some form of electronic communication for collaborating missions having a tablet will make things a lot easier for you.

Tablets with GPS and their own wireless internet connection work best. Tablets which you are able to tether to your phone and use your phone's data can also work. Be sure to check with your wireless provider's terms.

Charging System:
Okay, you have a car charger that's a start. But to be a real agent that will not be enough. I've said it a million times before. Ingress is a resource hog on your phone. It will drain your phone's battery very quickly. You will hit some target rich environments which are not car accessible like theme parks, large parks or even some urban areas where the freedom of being on foot (or even bike) will be more productive than being in a car.

I immediately bought a portable charger after my recent trip to Disney World. There were so many portals, so much opportunity, but by lunch time every day my scanner was dead. And when you are really addicted to Ingress there is nothing worse than being in a target rich environment and have a dead scanner.

Later this summer I went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg properly equipped and over the course of the day turned the park which was entirely blue to entirely green. From destroying, hacking (enemy portals), building and linking I earned over 160,000 AP on that trip. A real boost to helping me level up.

So, you will need more power. There are a variety of options out there from the barely useful like this mini USB Charger which may get you one additional charge.
To this monster system created by some Resistance agents which can power 8 scanners at once. 

That's probably overkill for most of us. I got this one from Amazon. It has 4 USB ports of various power levels and can recharge my phone AND tablet multiple times making sure I have all the juice I need to have a productive day and even enough to share.

Others get backup batteries. That works too, but I find it more of a hassle to take off my cover, and switch batteries than just plug into my portable USB charger.

Protective Case:
Were out there walking, running, riding around with our scanner in our hand and not always paying the best of attention to the world around us. We have our nose stuck in our scanner as we try to get either close enough to a portal or get that optimal position to deploy or destroy resonators. Because we're not paying the best of attention, we slip and fall, we drop our scanners, we bump into things and any other number of things. Make sure you have a good protective case, not just a cool decorative one. While Geocaching once with some friends going over some unforgiving terrain I had a friend drop his phone onto a rock and bounce into a puddle. Needless to say his phone was then FUBAR. Quite an expensive accident.

Auto Mount:
First and foremost; do not play and drive! 

But, having an auto mount whether it is a vent, dashboard, or windshield mount is a great tool to have. It assists in navigating to unfamiliar portals or having quick access to hack, deploy or attack when stopped or parked.  

There is a a stoplight on my route to and from work that for better or worse I can go a week or two without catching the light. Only in Ingress are you wishing to catch a light on your way to or from work. But when I do from my windshield mount I can get them both. 

Also, in urban settings where you frequently stop park and hack or attack, then move on to the next target.

Google Glass:
You may have seen +Google Glass  in some Ingress Reports. I specifically remember seeing +Klue S.  wearing one in one report, but they pop up from time to time. If you are not familiar with it, check it out here: . You also see +Brandon Badger  wearing one if you follow him on Google+.

I'm not certain how it works with Ingress, but man I'd love to get my hands on one. 

Happy Hacking!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Don't Hoard Your XM Energy

Your XM Energy bar is at 100%! Great right?


Unless you are heading immediately to a mission to blow up enemy portals, there is no reason to have your XM Energy at 100%. 


Just doing absolutely nothing but going about your daily activity, you are bound to be able to pick up extra XM Energy. Here is my strategy.

In the afternoon when I'm ready to head home from work I have discovered that even as a Level 8 Agent I can bring my XM energy level all the way down to 25% and be back at 100% by the time I get home. When it is time to leave I get on the scanner and look at my keys and see which portals I need to recharge. 

I look at a couple of things as I scroll through my keys. First, I look at portals which are in areas where they may be more prone to attack. Then from there I judge which ones I either need to recharge the most or the ones I don't think I will be able to recharge directly. 

After that I will look at my "pet portals" these are portals that are important to me for convenient farming. Fully charged portals have a higher likely hood of giving more/better items.

But I do wait to deplete my energy until I am ready to leave, because through the course of the day I will get an alert that I have a portal under attack. Depending on the portal and it's strategic value to me and the local group I will recharge it causing the enemy to use more items to take it. Very rarely will I use a Power Cube to defend a portal. Most portals just aren't that important to me because I know I can just take it back if needed.

I will also remotely recharge my portals if I know I'm going to be heading out to lunch and Ingress isn't in the plans because I know just driving around town I can recoup a fair amount of XM Energy.

So do not hoard that energy! Use it. Calculate how much is your minimum you need and stay at that level until you are ready to go attack.

Happy Hacking!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Defending Your Portals

So you've taken the time and energy to take a portal and now you want to keep it, but that is often easier said than done. The enemy faction is constantly blowing it up. And now you have to rebuild it.

First understand that it is not possible to make an impenetrable portal. No matter what you do a Level 8 player with enough L8 XMP Bursters can (currently) take down any portal no mater how well defended it is. But some times it is a war of attrition you know they can take it, but make them work their butts off for it.

Keep it Charged
The easiest thing you can do is keep your portal fully charged. This basic step helps no matter what other tactics you use. A weaker portal is an easier one to take down.

Portal Mods

Portal Shields - Your portal shields are your basic building block of portal defense. Their defense rates range from 10 mitigation for common shields (the green ones) to 30 for the very rare ones (the pink ones).

Force Amplifier - These are nice mods to use in conjunction with other portal modifications, but you will not want to stack your portal with Force Amps because after deploying the first one you get less protection from each additional one. The first one deployed does double the damage to an attacker.

Turret - This great portal mod gives your portal more attacks.Like the Force Amp you do not want to stack these up on a portal because of diminishing returns. You will want to combine it with other portal mods. Placing a turret on your portal will have your portal attack an attacker twice but will also give a hit bonus of 30%.

A not so commonly known fact is that links, either incoming or outgoing, provide a defensive bonus to portals. One link gives about a 10% defensive bonus to a portal. Each additional link gives less of an increase until you have 8 links. A portal with 8 links gets a 50% bonus, but after 8 links there seems to be no advantage.

Other Portals
Another interesting trick you can use to protect a portal is use other portals around it to defend it. The picture below is a local level 8 farm. The portal circled in red has no defensive portal mods, but rather heat sinks and multi-hacks. The portals around it have shields force amps and turrets. This is great for farming. We have 14 L8 portals and one is a very fruitful portal. You can walk the path of this artsy park and each sculpture has a portal. Then the monument in the center has the multihack and heat sink. As you walk the path, you can hit each portal and every 2nd or 3rd sculpture hit the monument. Walk the path a few times and you have hopefully loaded up on some goodies. The outer perimeter portals protect the inner one. An attacker would sustain significant XM losses and have to use many additional XMP Bursters to take down the farm. It's not impossible, and happens somewhat regularly, but it takes a lot of resources on their part to do.

Portal Keys
Yes, Portal keys can be a very effective defensive tool. When you get the alert on your scanner that you have a portal under attack, start recharging the heck out of it. Eventually your portal may fall, but once again you have cost the attacker to deplete their inventory much more than they otherwise would have. 

With these tips hopefully you can defend your portal well and atleast annoy the heck out of any would be attackers.

Happy Hacking

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Most Valuable Commodity - L4 Resonators

If you are like me and you have been leveling up, you might be excited when you start to see that you're getting Higher level gear and you may even start to grow some discontent when you hack a portal and get lower level items.

But not so fast there ..

Your lower level resonators are very valuable, especially your L4 resonators. Think about it:

  • If you are a Level 8 to fully power a portal by yourself you need:
    • 1 L8, 1 L7, 2 L6, 2 L5 & 2 L4 Resonators to make a Level 6 Portal
  • If you are a Level 7 to fully power a portal by yourself you would need:
    • 1 L7, 2 L6, 2 L5 & 3 L4 Resonators to make a Level 5 Portal
  • If you are a Level 6 to fully power a portal by yourself you would need:
    • 2 L6, 2L5 & 4 L4 Resonators to fully power a Level 5 Portal
You get the picture. 

But there may be strategic reasons for building lower level portals; i.e. being able to readily hack the L4 and lower level items you need.

I can't tell you how many times I haven't been able to complete fully charging a portal because I haven't had L1- L4 Resonators. It is irritating. So do yourself a favor and be sure to hack/build lower level portals regularly so you can build your stock of L4 and below resonators.

Now, the same does not hold true for the XMP Bursters. As you move up your strategic need for lower level XMP Bursters goes down. I generally keep XMP Bursters of my level and 2 below and strategically use my lower level ones as not to waste the higher level ones. 

But don't don't just drop them or recycle them. Help an up and coming player of your faction and arrange a drop.

Happy Hacking!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ultra Strike - New Ingress weapon

I've been wanting to post about this for a while. In Episode 19 of The Ingress Report it was announced that there is a new weapon available for +Ingress . The Ultra Strike is a weapon designed to be used against enemy resonators. You can strategically target resonators for an intense burst on a resonator. This burst will have limited range. Ultra Strikes will come in various levels like resonators and XMP Bursters and presumably will be most effective on resonators of the same level or lower. We have been told these items will be pretty common.

And the fans go wild !!!!!!!!!!!!!

But, it was also announced that this weapon can only be hacked using the 3 new Motorola Droid phones...

Oh, not so excited anymore...

But all is not lost, sports fans. While it is still only available to be hacked by the new Motorola phones, they can be shared and used by anyone. Yes, it still makes the majority feel like 1st runner up in a beauty contest it's not all that bad. I personally see limited use for this as a L8 XMP Blaster is highly effective and will destroy so much more.

Initially I was disappointed that these would only be available on the Motorola Phones. But lets look at the money trail. Ingress is done by Google, Google owns/has substantial stake in Motorola. Samsung (The current largest mobile device manufacturer that runs Android)  is testing their own OS, Tizen, in what is seen to move free from Google/Android. So they want to get people to put their money in their own pockets. And honestly I would prefer them making money from Ingress this way versus allowing people to stock up on items by buying them like they are able to do on many games like Farmville.

If/when Ingress starts selling gift cards like this , I will probably be out...

Happy Hacking!