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Pokemon Go Strategy Guide

Tips for beginner players

In the beginning, the whole Pokemon Go world may seem a bit daunting.  At L5 you have your prize 100CP pokemon, and you make your first foray into the gyms, and all these ultra-intimidating 1000+CP Pokemon that you don’t think you’ll ever find in your life are guarding all the gyms.  It makes you want to throw your hands up in despair.

Well, don’t.

The key to surviving Pokemon is patience.  Patience and experimentation.  The game has enough randomness and handicaps factored in where you will have advantages over experienced players.  But, if you’ve just hit L5, don’t expect to be taking over any gyms.  In fact until you hit L10, you should only be focused on capturing Pokemon and tagging Pokestops.

But that sounds boring!

Don’t worry, there’s plenty to explore and learn until level 10.  Effectively capturing Pokemon is a skill in itself that you need to learn.  Not just how to effectively flip that pokeball, but what spots to hang out at, what bonus items to exploit.

So, go to your favorite neighborhoods, see what Pokestops are around.  Check out a park or a body of water somewhere and go “fishing” – just waiting around and seeing what pops up.  If you can make something out of your “Pokemon Near Me” screen, go for it.  It’s been spotty for me.


That white ring you see represents your “discovery” limit. Any Pokemon, Pokestop, or gym in this ring will become interactable.

You can try to use the Pokemon Near Me screen to find those Pokemon you covet.  But you don’t know which direction they are, and if you’re like me, you can no longer even see how far away they are – just relative to each other (they read like a book – nearest is top left, farthest is bottom right).  So if you want to sweep for them, keep an eye on your white ring.  Run it through a neighborhood like a vacuum cleaner – up and down, back and forth, not missing any spots.

EDIT: I used to think you compete with other players for Pokemon.  You don’t.  What shows up for you shows up for others, but you all have the capacity to catch it yourself.  Even the rare ones.

What does happen is they “blink”: a Pokemon will appear in a specific location, but it will only hang out there 15-20 minutes before disappearing.  So if you chase a Pokemon that seems close and all of a sudden it’s no longer even on your radar, it’s because time’s up.  It does make the radar look like it’s messing with you.

The good news is it also means Pokemon tend to “blink” in the same spot – at least the more common ones.  So if you (or a friend) caught a Pokemon in a specific spot before, feel free to go hang out there some other time and see if it will pop up again.  Also, if you’re near that area and you see it registering nearby, go to that same spot.

You’ll also notice different types of Pokemon gather in different spots or streets.  So don’t waste too much time in your quiet cul de sac hoping a couple will show up.  Go to popular hangouts, and, well, hangout.  See what pops up.  Talk to other people and see where they caught good Pokemon.  A classic one is water Pokemon hanging around bodies of water.

This is where those lures and incense come in handy.  I think the jury is still out on how they operate, but I think they increase the chance of a Pokemon “blinking” into existence.  That is, if it is already known to blink there.

Catch them all – don’t worry if you have a bunch.  Did you know you can transfer unwanted Pokemon to the professor for a piece of candy?  So you’ll get that, you’ll get XP, and you’ll get precious stardust.

Don’t get me wrong, lures are nice.  If you combine them with a Lucky Egg and incense, you can have a wonderful time harvesting and leveling up with it.  Just try to find ones that haven’t lured everyone in sight.  I’ve seen some lured Pokestops that are virtual ghost towns.

At some point you’ll have enough basic Pokemon where you can experiment with powering up and evolving them.  But you should be cautious with spending your stardust and candy until you have some better choices on what to do with it.  Which leads us to

To Evolve or to Powerup?

It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out just how I wanted to budget my candy and stardust.  Which is part of the fun of the game.  But if you want to fine-tune it, there’s one basic rule to start: Don’t evolve weak pokemon.


Note the position of the dial. Don’t let this Pidgey fool you … it’s a butt kicker.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, above every Pokemon’s picture is a rainbow-shaped dial which corresponds to their CP (Combat Power).  Far-left is the weakest, far-right is the strongest.

At lower levels, you’ll have access to predominantly weak Pokemon.  But as you level-up you’ll see stronger and stronger ones.  One reason you wait till L10 is by then you’ll have some halfway-decent Pokemon worth powering up.  As well as a good idea of what Pokemon in your area are plentiful and which ones you should keep a tight budget with.

This Pidgey to the right is a classic example.  It’s powerful in its own right – certainly more powerful than some Pidgeots I’ve caught in the wild.  Also, if you were to take this to a gym, defeating an enemy could win you a powerful bonus.  Pokemon has a built in handicap system where if a low-CP Pokemon beats a high-CP Pokemon, you win much greater prestige.  But we’ll get to that later.


This Pidgeotto was evolved from the Pidgey above. Note the position on the dial is exactly the same – though the “XL/XS” tags can change.

The thing to remember about evolving is, any Pokemon you evolve maintains the same position on the dial after it evolves as before.

If you’ve already “wasted” your stardust on your weaker Pokemon, don’t fret.  Powering up weak pokemon is a relatively cheap affair.  But once they get near their limit, we’re talking 2000+ stardust per upgrade.  And I imagine this Pidgeotto has about half a dozen upgrades left before it’s maxed out.

So, Stardust or Candy?  At some point, you will want to pull the trigger and evolve that kinda-powerful Pokemon.  Never regret that decision.  But the bottom line is this – if a Pokemon is plentiful (like this Pidgey) you will get plenty of candy to evolve it.  So don’t waste stardust on it – find that ultra-powerful Pidgey and evolve it away.  Save stardust for those rare finds that you will want to power up.

One other note – evolving a Pokemon will automatically run a full heal.  So waiting to evolve a Pokemon until after it’s been beaten up is a good way to go.  Also, if you wait to chain a bunch of evolutions at the same time, you can get a Lucky egg in there and get that XP bonus.  Especially if you’re evolving it into an undiscovered Pokemon type.

Gym Strategy

Okay, so you’re L10, you’ve got some Pokemon ready, and you’re raring to hit the gyms.  But before you go charging in, remember – potions are limited, and they’re the only way to heal your Pokemon (aside from evolving, we’ll get to that later).  You can easily spend all your potions to take over a gym, only to have someone else knock you out in a few minutes.  So this guide will help you figure out how to save those potions for maximum benefit.

First thing to do is copy this to your phone and memorize it.


Got it?  Okay, we’re ready to move on.  Here’s where you should learn the secret: don’t let high CP Pokemon intimidate you.  I’ve gone in and wasted them with Pokemon of less than half their CP.  The key is in studying this chart, studying the Pokemon you’re attacking, and finding the right Pokemon to beat it for maximum prestige change and minimum HP loss.

A Pokemon’s type reflects their defense.  A Pokemon’s attack reflects their attack.  The two are rarely the same, and are relatively randomized.  For example, I have two Pidgeots – both are normal/flying.  But one has a Steel attack and one has a Flying attack.

When going up against an enemy Pokemon, the strategy is to find what attacks they’re vulnerable to, and what resists their attacks.  Then choose the Pokemon with the minimum CP that you think could defeat them.  Note there’s some randomness here.  You’re not really sure what their attack is, you just have a couple choices to choose from.

One way to find out is in combat.  If someone wanted to figure out my Pidgeot, he would put a Rock Pokemon to fight it, and then see if the Pidgeot’s attack is “Super effective”, which would mean a Steel attack, or “Not so effective”, which would mean a Flying attack.

As for dual nature Pokemon, I’m not quite sure how their defense works.  Do they get the strengths and vulnerabilities of both?  Are they averaged out?

Why take over a gym?

I’ll start this off with an anecdote.  I have a gym just out of reach of my house, and I have a couple neighbors in the Red team (I’m in Blue).  They told me how they need to stay in control of that gym, so any time someone took it over they took it right back.

I haven’t seen that gym go Red in a couple days now.

I imagine they kept trying to take it over until they ran out of potions.  Now, they’re powerless to do much of anything.  The point is, don’t let pride get in the way.  You don’t need all the gyms all the time.  What you do need is to have the gyms at the right time.

Well, what time is that?  Once you take over your first gym, immediately go to your Shop.  You’ll notice a shield icon in the top right corner.  Click on that to start the timer, which runs for 21 hours.

Now, during those 21 hours, you don’t actually need to control any gyms.  In fact, if you wanna really piss people off, put a weak Pokemon in there, a Pokemon you’re ready to evolve or transfer to the Professor anyway.  Start the timer, let people beat it up, then do what you will with it.  No potions wasted.

Once that 21 hour timer expires, now it’s time to take over some gyms.  You can let it expire without having any gyms, it doesn’t matter.  Just see how many gyms you can control simultaneously when you finally go to the shop to collect your bonus.  I’ve had up to four gyms at a time when I went to collect.  2000 XP and 40 Pokecoins is nothing to sneeze at.

But HOW do I take over a gym?

Oh, that’s right, it’s still all confusing.  The way they set up gym combat was built for high turnover.  If you go up against an enemy gym, you get to use six Pokemon.  If you go up against your own color gym, you only get to use one.

To ease your way into gym combat, you probably want to find a gym with a free spot.  Then put a Pokemon in there and see what happens.  If there are no free spots, you can make one.  You do this by battling the gym.  Put up a Pokemon that you think will beat the first one (what I call the Doorman) for maximum prestige and minimum HP loss.  After that fight is over, you’ll have option to keep fighting the rest until you run out of HP, but I tend to run away after that.

That gives the gym added prestige.  Once it hits a certain threshhold, another slot opens up.  Put your Pokemon in there, and it will file in according to CP.  Lowest CP is first to fight and first to get kicked out.  The top CP (champion) goes down with the gym.

Which leads to the next topic – how to take down an enemy gym.  You get six Pokemon to do it, and you get to choose (on the fly) which Pokemon goes up against which defender.  So chances are good you can defeat the whole gym.  It doesn’t mean you take it over, but defeating all a gym’s Pokemon will deliver a huge prestige blow.  And as its prestige goes down, its bottom Pokemon get kicked out, and it becomes easier to beat.

The basic rule is – the fewer and lower CP Pokemon you use, the more gym Pokemon you take out, the more prestige damage you deliver.

And while a friendly gym will only send your Pokemon to 1HP, an enemy gym will make your Pokemon faint (0HP).  Which requires a Revive crystal.  This is a good thing.  While potions are pretty scarce, I tend to have a lot of revive crystals.  So if you can find a way to attack a gym when all your six Pokemon are at 1/2 health, you won’t need any potions to defeat it.  Just Revive crystals, and patience.  They’re also good to use on high-powered Pokemon, since they restore more HP.

Ronnybiggs is an LA based player who won’t be selling his account for $100.

I work on the 14th floor

I just started a new job, in the 14th floor of a building.  As you know, buildings skip the number 13 when they number their floors because it’s unlucky.  But it just got me thinking.  As a mathematician, you’d think we’d be above number superstition.  But we actually get that much worse about it.

Namely, in this case, is my floor still unlucky since it’s really the 13th floor?

But it gets that much worse.  Here’s some other neuroses that come out: is 13 only unlucky in the realm of integers?  Or does it apply to real numbers too?

If it applies to real numbers too, what’s the range of real number that are unlucky?  Anything that rounds to 13, meaning anything from 12.5 to 13.49?  Is it precisely 13 on the dot that’s unlucky?  Is there an envelope where things get more unlucky the closer numbers get to 13?

In the realm of integers, is it only the number 13 that’s unlucky?  Is 1300 unlucky?  13,000?  Are only powers of 10 unlucky, or any number with a factor of 13?

What about a number with a 13 in it?  Say, 2134… is that  unlucky?  Should we avoid following any 1 with a 3 in that case?

But you see, there is method to this madness.  Because it begs the question of the character of numbers.  And that’s ultimately why we got into mathematics in the first place.  Even when talking about something as fickle as luck (or lack thereof), it’s a great thought experiment.

See, numbers have character.  Indeed they are a reflection of existence itself, which breaks down into quanta.  And when you discuss numbers like this, you discuss existence.  Indeed when you get into advanced mathematics you find out that the biggest figment of our imagination is the set of real numbers.  They exist only to describe abstract things where we have no idea what’s actually going on.

Oh and for the record, the answers are: Yes, applies to reals, no, no, yes, no, yes, yes, only powers of 10 (or 101, 1001, etc in diminishing amounts), no, no.


Protest bid for Los Angeles free wifi

I posted this on per the advice of a Linux’y friend, but it looks like I have better success posting here.  So here you go:

The Los Angeles Times reported that the City Council wants to provide free wifi to the entire city. They’re quoting basic wifi internet infrastructure at $60-100 million dollars, and $5 billion for upgrading it to fiber speed. This all seems really high for a city with less than 500 square miles. I’m assuming someone is getting rich off all this.

We want to do a protest bid, and give a proper plan for wireless internet, based on the fact that the internet is actually free, and a city government can bypass businesses and take advantage of that. So I’m posting this to gather ideas.

Our basic plan so far is a central grid of high-powered routers, say about one for every square mile, that would plug into fiber channels. We could then crowdsource the high demand areas to plug in repeaters to make wifi communication reliable.

The central grid of routers would cost about $200k in parts and could be set up almost immediately. We would need about 1000 fiber channels to plug into, but this should be relatively simple, provided there’s already fiber all over town at this point.

Repeaters will be the bigger issue, since their range is ultimately limited by the strength of the laptop transmitter that communicates with them. But that’s why I think crowdsourcing high-demand areas is the best way to go about this. People can go to a website and pinpoint where they’d like to see better wifi internet access, then we can have a department do triage to see which locations need repeaters most. But at $50-100 a pop, we can keep costs low.

The other issue is how this grid will communicate with the internet at large, what peer arrangements we’ll need, what business we’ll need to suck up to until we build our own fiber infrastructure. But there are advantages to this. With such a large fiber internet infrastructure set up, the city of Los Angeles can become its own ISP, providing wired fiber internet to homes all over the grid.

Anyway, this is enough information to get the ball rolling.


So you want to unlock your iPhone?

Let’s all face it. AT&T sucks. They have the coverage of a budget carrier and charge you what Verizon does. Now that the 4G network is up, your old iPhone is getting left in the dust. And the idea that your iPhone is “locked” to AT&T makes you feel like a prisoner to a corrupt and exploitative corporation. So how do you get out?
In a word, don’t.
Now for the explanation. I’ve certainly read my share of rants and articles saying that locking cell phones is an evil practice and we should take our devices where we want. But there’s a reason they lock them. The new smartphones have all sorts of protocols which are designed to work only with the carrier that issues it. And once you switch your phone to another carrier, all sorts of little functions will need to be manually configured, or even be unavailable. It follows the classic IT rule of if you don’t control it, you can’t support it.
I’m telling you this out of experience. I tried switching my iPhone 4S from AT&T to T-Mobile, and now I’m switching back. It was a good run, but it turns out I can’t get visual voicemail (or any kind of voicemail alert) on my iPhone with T-Mobile. It would have been nice to know this before I made the switch, but nobody at AT&T or T-Mobile warned me of this. And that’s why I’m writing this post.
Overall though, it was a good try. I’m not regretting the switch, but I plan on sticking with AT&T until either my contract runs out or I just buy a new phone. And when I do, then I’ll go to another carrier.
Here’s the details of the switch:
To switch your phone to another carrier, you have to go to the other carrier first and get them to port your phone number over. You’ll need your old account number and some security detail. Once this is done, your phone will no longer function until you go back to your old carrier, get them to unlock it, which will allow you to install the new SIM. You should unlock your phone with a rep on the line to walk you though it, since it involves some rebooting steps.
Unlocking isn’t difficult, and AT&T does it pretty easily if you just call them and ask. Technically, they will not unlock your phone until you’ve paid your final bill including your contract termination penalty. But because I switched early into a bill cycle, it meant that I technically would be without a phone for nearly a month, since the bill cycle has to end before they can send you a final bill. But the guy just went ahead and unlocked it anyway, he didn’t even need to call a supervisor or anything.
The issues came after I switched. And I repeat, nobody warned me about these issues. They’re so concerned about the money they stand to win or lose that they forget about what matters to you.
First off, the T-Mobile network isn’t bad. Like I said, it’s about the same coverage as AT&T, with an added bonus. AT&T liked to pretend that I was getting 4G speeds, even though my iPhone 4s isn’t capable of it. So while it showed off the nifty 4G coverage bug, my phone was grinding at 3G or even 2G speeds, which maked it look like it just wasn’t working properly. T-Mobile is at least honest about what speed you’re actually connecting at.
But like I said, the visual voicemail is totally incompatible. This is the case for any carrier, my phone will also be incompatible with Verizon. Once T-Mobile is able to sell its version of the iPhone, they will make it available on those devices. Technically, I can download some third-party app that basically downloads and deletes any voicemails I receive and put them in a visual format for me. But the apps I saw were not only sketchy looking, I couldn’t get them to work. I mean I could try harder to make it work, but if I’m having this many errors at the outset I imagine it won’t be quite reliable if I do get it to work. And like I said, not only is visual voicemail not available, I get no warnings at all that I have a voicemail. If I turn my phone off or go in a dark zone (both which happen quite often) I’ll have to manually call my voicemail to find out if somebody sent me something.
I also was unable to send MMS messages (pictures via text), at least initially. Turns out that you need to manually configure MMS settings, and once I checked some blogs and played around with it I got it to work.
There’s other features that also become available once you unlock that are nice, like tethering. But overall, not worth the more crucial functions you lose. It’s better to find a company that offers the services you want, get the phone through them, and stick with them without a contract until you’re through with them.

Switching to Disqus commenting

The Facebook commenting system is definitely nice, unfortunately it’s leaving out a lot of people who are not on Facebook. So I’m trying to switch to something more inclusing, and not so embedded in Facebook. If I have things correct, disqus should allow you to use your Facebook login or any number of popular logins, but will keep the comments within the site. We’ll see how this works.
I will keep the Facebook plugin going for a while longer as well, but if Disqus does what I want I will gradually phase it out.

The new WordPress is pretty awesome

So, you’re certainly aware my root site,, kinda sucks. And it’s been years since I updated it. The thing is that I designed it back in 2003, when CMS was still in its infancy. It’s based on PHP/MySQL and has a simple way for me to add new articles. But it’s also severely limited, since I really couldn’t adopt any kind of commenting system. I mean I could, and I did, but then the bots came and spammed all sorts of porn links, and I didn’t have the time or expertise to set up a security system to block that out.
I watched as WordPress came out with their own software, and was thinking of converting to that, but WordPress was also pretty simplistic. You had to set up your own login to comment, it was pretty bare bones and hard to modify as well.
Now it looks like they finally have something worth upgrading to. You can add all sorts of cool plugins, the least of which is a facebook plugin. This allows people to like, comment on and share things I write here as if they were commenting on a facebook post.
It’s a big step forward, so this alone is convincing me to switch to this platform. Of course there’s others, like an SEO plugin, and I’m hoping I can figure out how to write blogs in more than one section.
Anyway, that’s your news for today. Looking forward to playing around in this!