Amazon Smile Redirect Extensions

Surely, if you’re a dedicated Amazon user, you’ve seen advertised or used Amazon Smile, the Foundation that donates 0.5% of the purchase price to a charity of your choice with every transaction. I’ve been a Amazon Prime member for almost 5 years and an Amazon Smile user for 3. In those years only 8 of what is probably hundreds of transactions have counted towards Amazon Smile. Why? My blasted memory.

The catch to this wonderful Amazon service is that your browser must be directed to smile.amazon.com for the purchase to count. When you click a link from a Google search or shop from the app, amazon.com is the default, making it difficult to really make use of what the foundation is offering. There are solutions for absent-minded yet conscientious people like me though. To start, there is a bookmarklet that you can add, but you still have to remember to click it and then search for what you wanted. Amazon offers a more advanced assistant that will redirect you to Amazon Smile but this won’t help with links or Google searches. It’s not a bad tool for the frequent Amazon shopper, but you still have to remember it's there.

After a bit of searching, I’ve found browser extensions for each of the three primary browsers that simply redirect any link heading to amazon.com to smile.amazon.com without any further input nescessary. To start, I recommend making sure you’re logged in to Amazon Smile, then follow the directions for each extension below.


Smile Always for Google Chrome

After waffling between Safari and Chrome again last year, I ended up in Google’s playpen once more. The best option for Amazon Smile redirects here is Smile Always by Josh Haimson and Dan Elitzer. Simply install the extension from the Chrome Web Store and you’re good to go.

KeepOnSmiling for Safari

Inspired by Smile Always, Craig S. Bosma created a similar plugin for Safari users with the same goal in mind. KeepOnSmiling is a small plugin that avoids the annoying page reloads of similar Safari extensions in just three lines of Javascript.

To install, visit Craig’s github and download the folder and proceed with the following directions.

  1. Go to Safari->Preferences->Advanced
  2. Check “Show Develop menu in menu bar”
  3. Go to Safari->Show Extension Builder
  4. Click on the “+” on bottom left and choose “Add Extension…”
  5. Choose the KeepOnSmiling.safariextension folder which you download from GitHub.
  6. Choose “Install”

Smile Redirect for Firefox

This add-on for Mozilla’s browser is as simple and direct as the name. Download T. Scott Barnes’ extension from Mozilla’s add-on directory and you’re ready to go.


If you don’t have a charity in mind, but like the idea of donating through your purchases at Amazon, consider donating to HHT Foundation International Inc. as I do. This mission of this foundation is to find a cure for Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia while saving the lives and improving the well-being of individuals and families affected by HHT. I chose this foundation before losing a friend to HHT a few years ago. More information about the disease and the foundation can be found here.

Introducing: Celebrity Friends

This week I'm proud to say that I've made my debut on the iOS App Store through a collaborative effort with my good pal and Punchline bassist/sometimes vocalist Chris Fafalios!

You see, on occasion, celebrities will call Chris and Chris will record those calls and animate them too. We decided to make some iMessage stickers out of Chris' celebrity friends to make your messages with family and friends feel a little more famous.

You can get Celebrity Friends on the iOS App Store here. There will be plenty more stickers to come. If you have any suggestions, let us know with a tweet!

If you need any assistance using iMessage stickers, you can check out this handy dandy guide to get you started!

PokémonGo: An Overview of The Phenomenon

As a twenty-something in the year of 2016, I've been catching Pokémon for almost my entire life. Never before has it felt as interactive as it does with Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game by The Pokémon Company and Niantic. After a rough few days of server errors and frozen screens, I find the game mostly stable. Enough at least to provide my overall thoughts on the phenomenon that's sweeping the nation.

Starting Out

You have to walk?

It's as if millions of millennials cried out and were suddenly silenced by the main objective of the game, to exercise. For me, exercise is not one of my main concerns. I have an Apple watch with all but the weekly feedback notifications of the health and fitness tracking software disabled. I occasionally play tennis or go for walks with my girlfriend and pup. Apart from those leisurely jaunts around town, getting out much hasn't been a focus of mine. That was until Pokémon Go landed.

I'm lucky to live in a historic part of town. That means there are 15 Pokéstops and 3 gyms within view on my map while sitting on my couch. From what I've gathered by chatting with friends and coworkers, I have a pretty generous supply of Pokéballs cached in interesting locations around my home. Armed with my phone and a battery pack, I've spent roughly 4 hours traveling around my neighborhood that would normally be spent doing anything else. It's working.

Catching Pokémon

Using your map, you'll instantly recognize your neighborhood. Maps sourced from Google are textured with grassy plains, perfect for Pokémon to hide in. Rustling leaves mean there could be a Pokémon hiding out, waiting for you to enter its radius. Once you do, it's on.

The act of catching Pokémon is much different from the Game Boy games of yore. In Pokémon Go, you're expected to take aim and flick a Pokéball at the critter ahead of you. Those who remember a simpler time in iOS gaming will surely recall office-based paper basketball games, a concept that hasn't changed much in the years following. While obstacles in games like that often included desk fans and rolling chairs, Pokémon Go has Pokémon that will jump, flip, or knock away a Pokéball if your timing isn't just right.

The visual AR aspect of the game kicks in once you've engaged a Pokémon in battle. Using your camera, you can move the view around to bring the Pokémon into frame. Personally, I prefer to turn this off. The disorienting nature of the AR view provides an additional challenge when chucking Pokéballs, but since I'm frugal when it comes to in-app purchases (more on my moment of weakness in a moment), I'd rather set myself up to succeed. Turning it off allows me to continue walking to the next PokéStop, rather than stopping in place (which could be dangerous to myself and those around me. I've seen young kids stop short on busy walkways, doorways, and in roads to catch a Pokémon whose name they've never even learned to pronounce.

As the game progresses and you level up, the Pokémon catching aspect of the game gets more involved. Berries become a useful tool in keeping Pokémon around. Depending on the level and species, Pokémon will flee after attempts at capture. A berry here and there will make them stick around for a least a few more tries. The rarer the Pokémon, the more I use. I take no chances at missing the good ones.

One evening, I slipped up. There was a Clefable in the street and I decided that I must have it. After attempting capture with 5 berries and about 20 Pokéballs, I ran out. Against my better judgement I bought 20 more and luckily captured him before I grabbed another batch. The freemium model is very much alive in this game, but completely avoidable with an attention to the levels on your supplies. Know your Pokéstop hotspots, folks!

Leveling Up

The more you play the more you and your Pokémon can level up. Increasing your trainer level will encourage more higher CP level Pokémon to show up around you. Increasing your Pokémon's stats will improve your shot at taking and controlling local gyms. Experience points and candies are the key to success. Here's what you do.

Visit PokéStops and you'll gain experience by stopping at local points of interest and grabbing free potions, revives, berries, Pokéballs and eggs. Winning battles in friendly or opposing gyms will also net you some heavy point hauls. You'll get some for every Pokémon caught, for each medal you earn for catching Pokémon, and for every upgrade and evolution your initiate with candies.

Candies... This is where the game takes its most drastic turn from the Nintendo games I grew up with. Rather than battle experience bolstering the power of your Pokémon, you'll need species specific candies to reach the results you desire. For example, to obtain a Pidgeot, you're going to need to catch a Pidgey or 50. Each Pidgey is essentially worth one Pidgey candy, so to cash that in you'll have to transfer all but one to Professor Willow—a one-way transaction that is necessary to become the best. Once you've traded in a bunch of those flapping little twerps, you can use your candies to evolve the remaining Pidgey into a Pidgeotto and eventually a Pidgeot. This works for every Pokémon with possible evolutions, so good luck with evolving your starter. As rare as starters appear to be in the wild, it's going to take a while.

Gyms

Once you hit level 5, you'll have the opportunity to partake in gym battles. The first thing you'll do is pick a team. There are 3 choices, Instinct (Yellow), Mystic (Blue), and Valor (red). I chose Team Instinct which is not the controlling party in my hood (yet), but is the controlling party at my place of work. This means that I can train at the friendly Yellow gym there to boost my experience. If that gym is taken over by a visiting trainer of an opposing team, I will have to take on the Pokémon left there to restore allegiance to my team. This is the most directly competitive aspect of the game so far. Until the game expands their feature set, this is the only way you have to engage with another player's Pokémon.

Battling has two input commands. Tapping attacks the opposing Pokémon, swiping left or right dodges attacks. It's basic and rather frustrating, but super effective.

The Social Experience

By far, the most interesting aspect of the game is the social one. Walking down familiar streets feels new when met by other trainers out and about with the same goal in mind. Sidewalks that are usually empty in the late evenings when we take the dog for a stroll are now filled with dozens of locals hitting Pokéstops before bed.


Its pretty fun, actually. It's nice to interact with strangers with common interests and it's surreal to interact with things you can't see with the naked eye with others at the same exact time. Running across a mall or neighborhood to nap an Abra together is exhilarating in a way. Playing Pokémon Go is unlike anything else.

What I'd Like to See

The game is far from perfect. In fact, it hasn't even hit a one-point-oh. As a beta, there's a lot left to do. Many bugs to squash, many servers to bolster. However, I'm a forward thinker and I have some ideas that I would love to see used once the time comes.

Trading:
I would love to be able to trade some rare Pokémon I catch on a trip to an oceanic area to friends when I come home. Having that last Drowzee needed to evolve your friends' into a Hypno would add an additional level of comradery that has been a staple to the Pokémon world since 2000.

PvP:
Certainly once trading is available, so will PvP. Battling outside of a gym will provide entertainment to those who live in more remote areas and make the game that much more interactive with players on the street.

Seasonal and Event Pokémon:
There's little doubt in my mind that this is coming. In Pokémon MMO, the frowned upon hack that runs on Gameboy Color-era games with realtime chat and player visibility, there are Pokémon that are only available during certain times of the year or at in-world events. This sort of exclusivity would increase the length of time a player dedicates to the game and also makes for a good marketing ploy. Imagine the headlines every time a rare catch appears at a major sporting event or cultural gathering.

Apple Watch Support:
As cute as the $35 Pokémon Go Plus accessory is, I'd very much like a simple app on the Apple Watch that allows me to simply attempt catches or collect loot from PokéStops without pulling out my phone. If these things were possible, along with accurate distance tracking for egg incubation, I would be willing to subscribe to or purchase a "Pro" version of the app. No dongle, just my existing equipment as an extension of the game.


Overall I'm a big fan of Pokémon Go. The work it's done so far to get kids (and adults) off of their keisters and into nature is staggering. There's a lot of room for potential as the months go on. I'm not sure if I'll be grabbing the Pokémon Go Plus arm band just yet, but I'm dedicated for the time being.

Buying @Haje: How I got my given name as my Twitter handle for $250

For nearly as long as I've fought to regain access to the handle I am currently using on Twitter, I have been attempting to get @tender—the short and sweet one-word jackpot of a handle currently being used up by a mostly inactive account which doubles as my surname—as well.

Turns out Haje Jan Kamps at TechCrunch has been trying to do the same for his first name. He actually succeeded!

I had a plan, which had taken shape when I was emailing the Keeper of the Handle (as I had mentally started referring to this mythical, unreachable creature). If they’d gotten in touch, I’d have been happy to pay anything up to $500 for my first name as a Twitter handle. Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but I rationalized that people spend similar amounts on fancy vanity plates on their cars. “I don’t have a car,” I thought. “I totally deserve a vanity handle.”

Yeah. I know.

Crazy? I don't think so. I had similar offers in mind. The owner of the account I want recently got back to me after a few years of DMs and refused to give it up.

I’ll forgive you for thinking, “What the hell is wrong with this guy? Who pays $250 to register a trademark to get a name on a website?” I’ll even agree with you: It’s a spectacularly vain and dumb thing to be doing.

No, what Haje did isn't dumb, nor is it vain. In the digital age, a person's personal brand (as cringeworthy as that sometimes sounds) is incredibly valuable. Bucking up $250 for a killer handle like that is worth it. @Haje (or any one-word Twitter handle) is both easy to remember and stands as an indication of several important qualities. Most importantly, a handle such as this shows that you're an early adopter OR that you are savvy enough to appear to be. The difference doesn't even matter.

Reclaiming A Twitter Handle: My Seven Year Wait

“Hi”

This was the very first tweet I sent on April 21, 2009 at 9:46 PM from an account I made through SMS on my Nokia 2600c. It was a simple tweet, aimed at nobody in particular. I had no followers on that day 7 years ago. I followed nobody either. I was simply testing the waters of something that wouldn’t become important to me until much later.

I fired off two more tweets in the next two days. “Sittin in my bed” and “Wonders if sam knows anyone else wit twitter”. The lack of punctuation in those micro-blogs are as cringeworthy today as they are difficult to type in my text editor. If find there is no great way to intentionally skip a period without wanting to immediately fix it. Anyway, these were the last tweets I’d push through 40404, Twitter’s SMS service number, until September of that year.

“Can any of my ‘followers’ tell me if you see this ‘tweet’?”

This was my last tweet from @jacobtender, still seen by nobody. The story from here onward is foggy, but I’ve been piecing it together for 7 years while simultaneously pleading with Twitter to restore access to the account after I was locked out—possibly for good. Here’s a timeline to break it down.

April 2009:


  • The account @jender4 is created by myself at 11:29 AM on the 11th.

  • The account @jacobtender is created by myself at 9:41 PM on the 21st

Before regaining access to the account—which I’ll go into in a bit—I believed that I had used Twitter SMS to create @jacobtender before creating the account that I would later use as my primary account (@jender4). That was wrong. My primary account was actually made first, followed by the one I would lose. Still following? Let’s dig deeper.

My main Twitter account (first @jender4, then @curbsideaudio) was made on a public computer at the Rittman Public Library on a Saturday. It must have been while trying to connect to Twitter through my phone ten days later that I created @jacobtender, which was a better name to begin with. I sent off a few tweets from my phone having no idea that they weren’t being published online through the account I had intended.

September 2009:


  • I ask my followers if they can see my tweet. That tweet is typed on my phone and published through @jacobtender on the 19th.

  • “First Tweet” was the first tweet sent from @jender4 on the 24th.

Here I can only speculate that I gave Twitter SMS one last go after being told by friends (namely the aforementioned Sam) that my tweets weren’t going through on the account they were following. Some time between the 19th and 24th I logged in on another public computer [1] and assigned my cell phone number to the account my friends were following.

That’s when everything fell apart for the handle I should have been using. Honestly, I didn’t give a second thought to abandoning @jacobtender for some time. I continued to use Twitter without using a computer. SMS worked just fine. I even had this handy “tweet sheet” created by Jason Theodor to remember all of the commands. It wasn’t until a year or so later, when I began properly blogging, that I wanted that name back. That wasn’t going to be easy though and I knew it.

2011-2015:

Twitter support was certainly less rigid then than it is now but, even in 2011, an active email address associated with the account you wished to access was required. The trick in my case was that there was no email address attached to the account I wanted. It was made with a phone number as the primary contact. That phone number was stripped away from the account when I attached it to the other account I was using with my friends. Had there been a disclaimer explaining that this could happen, maybe I wouldn’t have hit okay. Allowing someone to use a phone number on a second account sounds glitchy now, but Twitter was still young at this point. The preventative measures today that would protect someone like me from a total account lockout did not exist at this point. All I could do was hope support would look into it and hand over access to someone with no solid claim to it. The next 5 years were filled with emails and support tickets. All futile. My pleas fell on deaf ears at Twitter and my hopes were dashed time and time again.

I got close once. In 2012, a friend in the valley put me in touch with a support tech at Twitter. She was on maternity leave and later left the company. From then on, I was determined to find someone else on the inside that could help. Weird thing is, a lot of people left Twitter at this point. By 2014, none of my friends in San Francisco knew anyone at Twitter anymore. I met a few people through the music industry that offered to put me in touch with someone, but none of them came through in the end. With Twitter’s increasingly strict policies from both user and employment standpoints, asking anyone to make a request on my behalf to someone they knew on the inside would be listed under the “putting them out” category. I get that. I don’t like being used either.

I continued putting in support requests with various angles of explanation of the situation. I’d start a new case every few months, hoping I’d catch the right support agent on the right day. That never happened, but someone else heard my plea.

April 2016:

On April 14, I sent a request to Twitter Support asking for access to the account. The response email I received the next morning wasn’t even on topic. Frustrated, I took to Twitter to complain. I also mentioned it to a fairly new friend over a text message. That friend, a developer in San Fransisco, took it upon themselves to see who they could get ahold of at Twitter. I didn’t ask questions, I just waited with bated breathe as he relayed ticket numbers and responses back and forth between myself and a mysterious stranger who had escalated my case.[2] Within a half of an hour, I received a response from Twitter support asking me for 4 declarative statements. After sending them what they needed, they assigned an email address of my choosing to the account and I was in. After 7 years of soul-crushing stares at an abandoned Twitter account bearing my name, @jacobtender was finally mine once again. I don’t think I’ve smiled that brightly in years.

Maybe it’s silly that I put so much effort and thought into having my name as my handle on a social networking website. There are certainly other things my will-power could be used for. Still, Twitter has been a huge tool in the advancement of my career and my personal life as well. Every job I’ve loved came through contacts made on Twitter. I met my girlfriend there. Some of the best friends and closest confidants I could have ever asked for were first engaged by an @reply. Twitter is a big deal to me and how I appear there is important. I feel like myself now in a way that I couldn’t when tweeting under @curbsideaudio, a name people have actually used to address me in real life situations. It’s always been my hope that people who follow me online will remember my name, not my Twitter handle. That’ll be a lot easier now.

As of today, I can be found on Twitter as @jacobtender. This blog can be followed at @curbsideaudio. This change has been a long time coming and I feel great about it. The blog has been and always will be an extension of myself, but my Twitter is 100% me—unfiltered.


  1. My family didn’t have a computer properly connected to the Internet until I was in college.  ↩


  2. My endless thanks to both of you. You know who you are.  ↩