Geek archive

Stardew Valley Hints & Tips

There are many ‘obvious’ elements to Stardew Valley that took me an incredibly long time to notice/learn. Hopefully by noting down some of the bits n bobs here, other players will catch on quicker (and other players can fill in gaps!)


Stardew Valley, drawing inspiration from classics such as Harvest Moon, is an open-ended country life RPG. Starting on a farm you inherit from your grandpa, you can grow crops, raise animals, fish, forage and mine to build a dream life for you and your potential in-game partner.

The game was entirely developed by ConcernedApe and is available to buy on Steam.


The pickaxe can un-till soil.

You can use the pickaxe, axe or hoe to empty casks before they’ve finished maturing.

You can water / hoe multiple areas at once with upgraded tools by holding down the left mouse button.


All fruit and veg are worth more when turned to wine (in a keg) or jam/pickles (preserves jar)

When you find your first ancient seed, plant it rather than donating it. Ancient Fruit can then be turned into more ancient seeds.

Put a tapper on a giant shroom to generate mushrooms.

Corn and sunflowers (standard/silver quality) can be put into the oil maker to make oil, which is worth more than the origin products.


Always close barn/coop doors after the animals have gone to bed, to protect their happiness rating (happier animals give better quality products).

Animals left ‘trapped’ outside at night (with barn/coop door shut) are susceptible to wolf attacks.

The chance of a pig finding a truffle is greatly reduced at peak happiness (see explanation) – pet pigs every other day (or stop petting throughout winter) to keep pigs only mildly happy, increasing truffle profit.


Turn on the ‘Always Show Tool Hit Location’ option in Settings.

Holding right click whilst e.g. collecting veg or animal products, or distributing into kegs, barrels, etc speeds up the process.

Sprinklers make mass farming doable. Krobus sells iridium sprinklers on Fridays.

Best crop formation with normal and quality sprinklers (external)

Mayo machines, kegs, etc can be placed inside barns, coops and sheds to maximise space outside.


Several (non-rubbish) items caught by the crab pots are classed as fish and can be turned into sashimi and sold for a profit: Clam, regular and silver quality Cockle, Mussel, regular Shrimp, regular Snail, periwinkle, and Oyster.

The above also applies to smaller fish: Anchovy, Sardine, Bream, regular and silver quality Smallmouth Bass, regular Perch, Carp, Sunfish, Herring, regular and silver quality Red Snapper, Ghostfish, regular and silver Chub, and regular Shad.


The Statue of Perfection spits out iridium ore every day when placed in your house (or shed). Don’t keep it in a chest for 2 years like I did…

Keep hold of one of every item that you find, farm, forage etc: you never know when they’ll come in handy for quests.

Give a loved gift on villager birthdays to gain a big heart (relationship) boost.

Once you reached 10 hearts (or 8 hearts for a non-marriage candidate) with a villager, you no longer need to give them gifts or attempt to maintain the friendship.

Hoe wiggly worms in the ground (easiest to spot in winter) to find artifacts, clay, coal etc

Go mining in the winter when farm and forage profit is lower.

You can get further in the mines with bombs than bashing every rock and enemy one by one.

You can stand next to a bomb as it explodes without coming to harm as long as you eat/drink something at the same time.

Optimal cellar cask layout (short of filling the entire cellar as you exit, which allows for over 200 casks, but is a PITA to undo/redo)

External Tools & Further Info

Stardew Valley imagery, names, info etc © ConcernedApe

Retro gaming (aka reliving lost youth)

This month I’ve been giving thought to buying an old Nintendo console. I think it’s a combination of things tempting me in that direction: being so busy with work I need some downtime away from my laptop (before I throw it out of the window), a regression in my mood meaning I need a way of escape that doesn’t involve going out and getting drunk, and just generally being a massive Nintendo nerd.

As a kid we had virtually every console that Nintendo released, from the NES to the Wii (OK, I bought that one as an adult, but it totes counts) including the handhelds: various Gameboys, Nintendo DS etc. I definitely think this early access to console gaming shaped an interest in technology and “geek” that eventually went on to form the what matured into a career in IT. In fact, one of my first websites was a Majora’s Mask fansite. Gaming is good for kids, yo!

Anyway, so here I am a few months off hitting 30 and I can think of nothing more awesome than sitting in my pants playing Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES, Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the SNES, or Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 til the early hours of the morning. Wiggling my thumbs to ward off cramp from hours of button mashing and control stick manipulation.

I’m sure that this old school gaming utopia I’ve painted in my head is unrealistic. I definitely remember having to blow in and wiggle the old console game cartridges a few times before the things would load, and if someone knocked the console mid-game you were probably screwed, but that’s not the end of the world right? I shall bask in imagined retro gaming glory for a wee bit longer…

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review

I tried to make a call to a website client of mine recently, and my phone — a Samsung Galaxy Core I8262 — spent what felt like half an hour thinking about what it was supposedly doing before locking up and rebooting. I am usually fairly patient with my technology but when a phone can’t do the one thing it’s actually designed for without spinning its wheels and throwing a fit, it’s time for it to go.

Strangely not put off Samsung in general, a cursory glance at their latest tech offerings had me ogling the Samsung Edge and the even newer Samsung Edge+. I ruled out the Edge+ straight away. It’s massive size would be far too big to handle in my dainty lady hands (this is bollocks: basically I couldn’t financially justify it) but the Edge had me intrigued. Boasting an octa-core 1.5GHz CPU and 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM, the phone tops a variety of benchmarks. There’s no way that was going to freeze trying to make a phone call.

I found the phone cheapest on Simply Electronics who I’ve ordered through before and had no problems, but their delivery times are always super looong so if speed is your bag you want to go elsewhere.

When I finally got my shiny new phone — and shiny it is, with its aluminium and gorilla glass casing — I couldn’t believe how light it was compared to the old Galaxy Core I8262. I weighed it up in my hands against Gaz’s iPhone 6 and in my unscientific opinion it was lighter than that too.

I was a little worried about the lack of a microSD memory slot in the Edge but checking my old phone I realised that I’d used only 8GB of the space available on the 32GB card I’d put in that, so with 64GB space on the new one I think I’ll be set for a good while yet (I’m barely using that much space on my laptop!)

As a self-confessed selfie queen I was impressed to discover that the Edge has a 16 megapixel rear camera with some kind of image stabilisation magic and a super fast f/1.9 lens. I can’t blame my dodgy selfies on a bad camera any more: if I’m looking rough, it’s all on me.

Phone hardware aside, some of my favourite features are because of the improved OS. From basic UI improvements like adding 0-9 on the standard keyboard screen to stop me from having to flick back and forth if I’m e.g. entering in a password, to more iPhone-esque sorting under Apps allowing me to sort my apps into folders (and indeed it comes with some — like “Social” — pre-sorted). Can’t help but gratefully cheer for the A-Z sorting too: that appeals to the organisation nerd in me. I think Samsungs still come massively bloated — the first thing I did when I switched on the phone was disable a bunch of bundled apps — but apparently this has improved over other modern Samsungs.

I’ve not bowled over by the fancy wraparound edge-y screen, which seems more of a fad than something particularly useful, but I’ve only been playing with the phone for a few days so I could be converted yet.

All in, it’s a lovely phone experience, but given what I’m used to I’m sure virtually anything could have been an improvement.

30 years of Mario

Raccoon_Mario_(Super_Mario_Bros._3)As Mario — the world’s favourite plumber — turned 30 this week it seemed only right to give him an honourable mention on the blog. After all, it was Mario that got me hooked on gaming as a kid: playing the NES console whenever I could pry the controller from the hands of one of my many siblings.

Nintendo was a big part of my childhood. We had between us virtually every console that Nintendo produced: NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Gamecube (still got that one), various Gameboys, the Nintendo DS and DS Lite and of course the Wii. It’s only really since I gained responsibilities and a job that I stopped playing regularly, so don’t keep up with the latest and greatest.

Going back to Mario: my favourite release probably has to be Super Mario Bros 3. To this day I’ve not played all the levels in all the worlds, because it was so easy to ‘cheat’ and warp ahead in the game. There is something about the simplicity of the graphics, the typical Mario baddies and genuinely difficult levels (maybe that’s just me?) that attracts me to it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Super Mario Galaxy etc are visually stunning but give me a bit of old school gaming any day of the week.

Happy birthday Mario.

Genesis column shortcodes with custom classes

(tl;dr download .zip here)

I, more often than not, roll out WordPress sites these days using Genesis as my framework of choice for theme development. It’s mostly because I’m lazy, and it does a bunch of stuff for me that I can’t be bothered to do myself (which gives me more time to focus on actually developing cool things… and sleeping)

One of the things the Genesis Framework has built in is column classes to divide up content into column blocks, but using these in pages means writing out HTML which scares most clients and users away. There’s a plugin — Genesis Easy Columns — which allows users to drop in column shortcodes at the click of a button that do the work for you. Great for clients, but it’s pretty basic… e.g. I can’t specify additional column classes, so making one column a different colour (or a different font size, or whatever) that I want clients to be able to edit later on is a pain in the arse.

I’ve very quickly created my own column shortcode plugin which does much the same job as GEC — in that it allows you to specify columns with a shortcode — but approaches it slightly different. Firstly, it’s just one shortcode (which allowed me to type a shitload less code) and secondly, it supports additional classes. And also doesn’t have nice user-friendly clicky buttons but I might get round to that in 2020.

It’s basic, but it does the job, and if you want it you can download it from its shiny new GitHub repo. I don’t really have any intentions on adding this to the WP plugin database (laziness) but I might be willing to make it better in the future so feel free to leave feedback on this entry.

How do I use it?

Let’s say you want two columns, you’d probably do something like this:
[columns size="one-half" first="yes" classes="foo bar etc"]some content[/columns][columns size="one-half" classes="alt"]some more content[/columns]

Or for three columns:
[columns size="one-third" first="yes" classes="foo bar etc"]column 1[/columns][columns size="one-third"]column 2, no classes on this one[/columns][columns size="one-third" classes="numberthree"]column 3, extra classes on this one[/columns]

etc etc… use the Genesis column classes as a guide. Remember to always set the first attribute on the first column in a row.

Note: while this is designed to work with the column classes supplied in the Genesis framework, you could easily make it work with your own WordPress theme by nabbing the columns CSS available in github.


Hahahaha you know I have 2 kids and a million jobs, right? Good luck with that.

A vague-ish plan

I have been thinking — I know, dangerous times — over the past week about my site (again) and my plans and my other blogs and bla dee bla. If you’ve followed me for any length of time you’ll know I have a constant dilemma of how I juggle my personal and professional identities alongside my varying hobbies and other crap. I try and keep work me and Me me vaguely separate but it basically never works because I have a huge ego and talk about my crap everywhere.

So anyway, the vague plan (which ties in nicely with my goal to drop some domains/projects) is to redesign this site (and by which I mean pay Lilian to redesign this site) so that there are several themed sections. “Me” stuff (inc. pets/parenting bits), Work stuff, WordPress stuff and probably miscellaneous other crap that doesn’t fit anywhere. I can redirect the existing domains to the relevant sections and bob’s your uncle, etc etc.

I haven’t made a great deal of effort in analysing whether it’s going to be a big SEO ballache or anything, because at this point in time I just need to streamline my crap and get on with blogging.

So, err.. yeah, that’s the general idea.

Chillin’ out relaxin, filofaxin’

Karl bought me a steam mop for my birthday.

I like to lead with that line because for some reason it shocks people. “He bought you WHAT?”

But it’s ok, because he also bought me a Filofax, which is funny because I was looking at them myself before Christmas. Which means he’s either been flipping through my Amazon history (probably to see what I was getting him for Christmas) or he’s a psychic genius that knows me so well. After nearly 12 years I can say with certainty that it’s probably not the latter.

Anyway, Filofax. I had no idea that these things had such loyal followers. I’ve found blogs, dedicated purely to the Filofax. People who write every day about what they’ve put in their Filofax, stationery they’ve used, how they organise it, free bespoke add-on papers, etc. You name it, someone’s done it AND blogged about it. Nerds.

Apparently this thing is like… the SAHM (stay at home mum) organisation bible. Every doctors appointment, play date, meal plan, shopping list, todo list. I’m thinking if it’s that good, then I can use it for both my homely duties (you know you’re a feminist if you winced at the word ‘duties’, FYI) with my nifty shifty home business thing? And what better way to do so than by documenting every step on my blawg. I can hear the applause from here.

Project: Feeding Friendly

While I was on maternity leave in 2009-2010 I had an idea for a website / mobile phone app… a central location for feeding and changing facility reviews/ratings across the UK. There was nothing else like it available, and parents (especially breastfeeding mums I came into contact with) were desperate for accurate info on things like comfy, clean nursing rooms; bottle-warmers or boiled water available; changing facilities that actually had mats or decent tables and not just filthy plastic racks hanging from the wall.

Anyway, I finally started building the site this week. I’ve decided to build on the fly – completely live – instead of doing it offline and perfecting it (because I’ve discovered this means projects never get finished!) The plan is to use a WordPress back-end so that I can bum off their functioning user management as well as using custom content types to power the tagged locations and reviews. Nothing actually works at the minute and there is no design – hey, I’m juggling a toddler and a full time job here – but I want to get feedback now. Lo, Feeding :)

If you’re interesting in contributing to the project … ideas, reviews, suggestions, whatever, please let me know. I will especially need mums who go out and about a lot to work with me tagging & rating places to begin with, so we can get some bare bones data up there. Comment here or e-mail me:

Crappy Facebook “Like” Bug

I finally got round to tweaking my sidebar and bringing individual sidebars for posts back (with just related posts for now, but with more post info coming soon). Anyway, I also added a Facebook like button as a temporary thing until I re-code the original share buttons I had, only to find my logs ram-packed with weird requests from facebook with ?fb_xd_fragment appended to the URL.

It’s something to do with outdated Flash players and Internet Explorer; I skim-read the bug report on it to find no real solution (just a multitude of crappy hacks). What surprises me is that this bug is a year old and hasn’t been sorted yet!

Anyway, my apologies if you had problems loading the site in IE earlier.

More WordPress Goodies

I’ve been getting about a bit lately — no sarcastic comments please — so thought I’d share the results of my hard work. More WordPress stuff:

Have also got a spin-off of the shortcode tutorial in the works which will enable folks to write their own basic Formspring plugin (to display answered questions on your WP blog). Keep your eyes peeled…

Upgrading to Firefox4

I downloaded Firefox 4 yesterday (and apparently I’m not alone, Mozilla have already racked up over 7 million downloads at the time of writing) and have been genuinely impressed by a) the speed of opening from a cold start and b) improved page load time.

Of course I’ve not done any benchmarks so I’m not entirely sure how much of this is psychological (ooh shiny new product must be faster, that sort of thing) and how much is actual, but there we go.

My biggest gripes so far:

  • Support for and has been deprecated. It took rather a lot of Googling to discover that a) it now needs to be done in userChrome.css and most importantly you need to set browser.tabs.animate to false otherwise you end up with ghost tabs. See: Firefox 4 Beta: Tab width CSS for more information
  • You can’t trial personas by hovering over the images on the Persona page now. You have to install, and then remove if you don’t like it. It’s not a major pain in the butt, just a bit of added inconvenience.

Err, and that’s about it. Not bad so far.

Search Engine Rank Tracker Comparison

My maternity leave meant I was out of the SEO game for over 12 months. I’m trying to get back in to it (for work and personal purposes) so asked Rhys what he thought the best rank tracker was … turns out he was writing a post on that very thing: the best search engine rank checker.

Thought it might be useful to a few of my geekier readers too :)