Category Archives: Software

Status Update: Ubuntu is Now my Friend Again

I whacked Windows 7 on The Son’s old laptop (circa 2012ish) The Dell laptop gifted to me by Eric finally died a tired, old death last year and I’ve been rummaging around the house for another functional portable now that mom is in the hospital. I stumbled across this one in a bag in The Son’s room (also in the bag? The Mac Mini we’d been planning to give to mom. The Wife was ecstatic) but it’s drives were full and it was running a dead old version of Windows that I wouldn’t trust to run reliably or securely away from home.

We discovered that Ubuntu has a Studio version for graphic creators and video editors, so we burned a disk of that OS and after a bit of back and forth we’ve managed to make it work reliably. I am now happily keyboarding from the couch in mom’s hospital room. She’s happily snoring quietly as Rainymood plays on my phone which is plugged in across from her bed.

The interface is clean and spare. The tools for graphics editing are plentiful. I just wish I had enough editing skills to be able to judge their quality. I have always found Gimp perfectly acceptable as an image editor given the limited amount of image editing I do. But then I get by on Windows with just Irfanview. In Windows 10 Paint is capable of saving in common graphic formats (not just for bitmaps anymore!) I don’t know when they added that ability but it is a welcome discovery in version 10.

It looks like I’ll have plenty of time to test tools, sadly. We could easily be here for several more days. But that is OK. I am a vampire and I enjoy waving the nurses away at night so that mom can sleep. With Sister #2 being a nurse and willing to drop by for the day shift, we can keep doing this indefinitely. Well, I can. I don’t really have anything else to do aside from sit at home and enjoy my vertigo. At least here I can medicate my vertigo if it occurs and do so under medical supervision. It is a win-win in my book as long as mom gets better. 

The definition of Secure and Insecure

When I walked up to these public terminals  a few minutes ago, the couple next to me helpfully offered the advice “that one is broken”. A few quick keystrokes later I discovered that the problem was the touchscreen interface was registering false touches. Probably the result of previous abuse.

While I was amusing myself with the interface, attempting to see if it was hackable in the context of my rudimentary knowledge, the couple next to me got up and left, having completed their search. These are pay terminals. They require a credit card to access. This was the second thing I learned. I also learned that the people who set these terminals up were pretty good at their job. Physical plugs all behind lock and key, drives and ports in another part of the building. Hardware essentially out of reach without damaging the wiring.

The software is a version of Windows 7. Most of the known bypasses from within the OS (known by me) are locked off, and you can only get to the Windows interface by paying in advance or convincing the system you have paid. This knowledge I gained by accessing the broken system that the couple had paid for previously. Paid for and then couldn’t use and paid for a second system.

Some people apparently just pay for things without ever even asking why; a willingness to be defrauded that I’ve never understood. This couple had paid twice for information their phones could have given them for free. They had also walked away from the area leaving their information available on two different public terminals. Accessible to any nefarious person who wandered by. I did them a favor and logged them off both systems. I’m apparently not as big an asshole as I thought.

Stuck in Mobile Interface Hell

Mobile apps are so kludgy. Why is it apparently impossible to make a mobile app that can produce content that can dance and sing like  desktop applications do? The Tumblr app will not let blog posts tap the power of the social web by drawing content from other websites and displaying it as it does on the desktop/browser interface.

At least I can access the code with the Tumblr app. The Blogger app cannot give me access to HTML code at all as far as I can tell. Don’t get me started on how the Facebook app can’t let go of content, even when you tell it twice to let go.

Yes, view in browser. No, I mean a real browser. No, I mean Chrome!

Why do I have to argue with Facebook programming on my own phone? The Blogger app can’t find my photos. Tumblr can’t multi-media code unless you can do it all from memory (I can’t) and the Facebook app? Zuckerberg isn’t getting the blogging part of my soul. He already has too much of the rest of it.

This is hell. I want my desktop back. Now please.

Jean-Luc Picard programming binary code from memory
into Data’s severed head in Time’s Arrow (Part 2).
I cannot program on this level, but I do know people who can.

Hey Google! Blogger Interface Needs a Patch!

For the last few weeks I’ve been getting spam comments from Blogger. Yes, that’s right. Blogger is spamming me with comments, if sources for the spam are to be believed. The problem is a little more involved than that.

Not only is the self-identified user Blogger spamming me, but the landing page for marking comments from blogger as spam still references the old blogger developers blog that hasn’t been updated since 2013!

Now, I understand. I rejected Google’s G+ comments interface. I post to G+ for blog promotional purposes (as limited as that is, I’ve seen the metrics) and I got tired of seeing my own posts listed as comments on the blog articles. It makes you feel lonely and pathetic when you are the only one posting comments to your blog. Yes, maybe that is because I am lonely and pathetic, but I don’t need reminders from my blog interface to realize this potential fact. So I moved back to the native blogger comments.

If they want me to use G+ as the only commenting form, perhaps they should fix the G+ interface to import old blogger comments properly; as in, not showing the obvious HTML code inline with the comment text. Give me the option of not showing my own posts to G+ as comments on articles. Something. Anything.

But please Google. Please. I’m begging here. Clean up the old Blogger interface? Make links go places that are still in use? Keep clearly proprietary user names reserved for Blogger and Google not to mention Alphabet, the new parent company and all the other companies that Google now Alphabet owns. At the very least, can you kill the spammers account? The fake Blogger? Please? 

This is not the Warcraft it Used to be.

A week into the Legion expansion and I can tell I’m on the outs with Blizzard already.  The backing image on my Battle.net launcher has been changed to the Burning Crusade packaging image from the image that adorned the packaging of the Warlords of Draenor.

You may well ask “Why Burning Crusade?” at this point. Burning Crusade is the first expansion of World of Warcraft, not the vanilla version, the original version.

The answer to that is both simple and complex.  The simple answer is that Blizzard has dropped the myth that Burning Crusade is a separate expansion (even though you can buy packaged versions of it and later expansions from Amazon) and back in the days of Mists of Pandaria they bundled the two together, creating a default image for WoW that was different from the vanilla version of the original game.

With the current expansion they have dropped the pretense that any of the previous expansions were actually expansions to the original game in the online store. So why are they sticking to the Burning Crusade image? Because changing it would take work, and they are on a budget from Activision. It is either that or perhaps there is truth in advertising. Burning Crusade is what the current WoW experience seems most like. Burning Crusade is where the new class was the enemy of choice. Burning Crusade is where the Burning Legion was first assaulted directly.  Legion is a rehash of Burning Crusade in much the same way that Warlords of Draenor was a rehash of story content first introduced in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.

In the online store you can’t get any of the previous expansions. You can only purchase World of Warcraft and Legion. There is a problem with this, and that is where the story really gets complex. It gets complex because there really isn’t two versions of the game.

Blizzard will tell you that there are two versions. There is the version of the game which includes preserved content from previous iterations of the game.  Then there is the version with the additional content that they want to charge you almost three times as much to play, as well as the cost of a monthly subscription.

Never mind that the content represents the smallest expansion of World of Warcraft to date. The problem is that what they are calling World of Warcraft isn’t World of Warcraft. What you are purchasing is a disabled version of the accumulated base programming that Blizzard has put into their World of Warcraft project. You are being asked to pay for what the programmers who first put together Blizzard gave away for free. A shareware version of content to whet your appetite for what Legion has to offer. That is because there really isn’t a version of WoW other than Legion.

Having played every version of the game since and including Burning Crusade, I can tell you the differences between each expansion it pretty gory detail. I won’t bore non-players with too many of these details.

It is worth noting that major sections of each expansion have been lopped out of the current game structure.  The legendary quest lines for Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor have been removed. It may not seem like much, but those quest chains marked the actual progress through the game as it was played when it was the current version of the game. If you are playing the game today and you wonder why certain factions, structures and islands still appear in the game, what you are seeing are the remnants of endgame content that has been bypassed and pruned.

This is aside from the fact that playstyles of the various classes have also been changed and simplified. If I was purchasing and playing the first game called World of Warcraft, I would have to have extra space in my bags for soul shards while playing a Warlock. Brew poisons as a Rogue. I would have to have arrows or bullets for my weapons. There would be no professions of inscription, jewelcrafting or archeology.  There would be no Pandarens, no Blood Elves, no Draenei. No playable versions of Goblins or Worgen. There would be no Death Knights or Monks. You would have to be in a particular faction to play Paladin or Shaman. I would not see a disabled option for creating and playing a Demon Hunter.

In short, it would be a different game if it was really World of Warcraft.  This is the bigger problem for Blizzard. Last year Blizzard shut down the fan-run server Nostalrius.  Fan run servers do present a threat to Blizzard’s intellectual property, and they had every right to shut that server down; but the existence of the site and others like it present the problem and question that Blizzard wants to go away.

Players want to play the games they purchased, and those games don’t exist anymore.

There really is no place to play the games that I have faithfully purchased from Blizzard over the years. I cannot play Wrath of the Lich King. I cannot participate in the battle at the wrathgate and then storm the Undercity in retaliation, facing off against the opposing faction in the throne room of Sylvanas herself.  That pivotal moment in the game is lost.  The Kor’Kron and the rise of Garrosh? Also lost.  Orcs no longer guard Undercity watching the forsaken, guarding against another attempt to turn all of the living into puddles of goo.

If you click one of the many links above (aside from the battle.net links) and purchase one of those products right now, you cannot play the game that is pictured on the outside of the box.  You will be forced to play the disabled version of Legion, the version now called World of Warcraft. There are no servers which run the historic versions of the server software, software needed to play the games historically sold under the World of Warcraft banner.

A consumer should be able to be assured that their purchases can be used in the fashion advertised. This is business 101.  That none of the expansions exist to be played in the fashion the game was intended to run at the time of publication and purchase presents a problem to Blizzard, specifically because they make noises about this being one of the longest running games in the history of computer gaming. Because they are still making money off the franchise they have created.  Because they have a lot of disgruntled fans out in the hinterlands who have previously purchased games they’d like to play but are prevented from playing them because Blizzard does not maintain a copy of previous integral parts of the game’s programming.

If this is one of the longest running Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games Blizzard, why can’t the fans of previous versions still log on and play the game they played then?  I really wish someone at Blizzard would take the time to answer that question.

Windows 10

Wish me luck. I’m upgrading to Windows 10 over a wireless connection, ‘braving the storm on a skiff made of electrons’.

— ranthony (@ranthony) August 6, 2015

Microsoft Windows 10 Pro

I had no problem upgrading to Windows 10, that is the shocking news in this article. I didn’t  loose any data in the change because I haven’t relied on Windows software to do anything aside from run my computer in well over a decade now. I use Chrome or Firefox to surf.  Irfanview to view photos. Google Docs to write documents.

There is malware protection native in Windows 10 as there has been since Windows 7, they just don’t tell you where it is and that it is running anymore unless you go looking for it in notifications; notifications which are now on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen.  In the series of buttons on the notifications bar that comes up when you click on it, you will see one called settings. This can also be found from the Start menu which Microsoft wisely put back after taking it out of Windows 8.

Settings is where all the functions which used to be found in Control Panel are now located. Rather than have some arcane vernacular unique to Windows, Microsoft has elected to make their OS more like the other OS’ on the market making the learning of multiple platforms less tedious.  A wise decision on their part since most people now use an Android variant as their OS.

No one likes change.  The Wife complains every time her software is updated and she is my go to tech for hardware.  I don’t do hardware, but software I have few problems with.  Windows is now more like the other three OS’ that I use.  I find that 10 is a major improvement from 8 or 8.1.  It has been the least painful upgrade I’ve done in a lifetime of using Windows (starting with 2) DOS, Linux and when I’ve been forced to, Apple products.  It found all the drivers necessary to run my hardware before attempting to install new software.  For the FIRST TIME EVER I did not have to go out on another system and track down drivers that would have been available had the OS simply checked in advance before replacing the previous software.  I didn’t have to do anything other than restart the system and everything worked perfectly. I was as shocked as you are right now.

This is my basic rule of thumb when modifying anything on a computer; backup the data! Always backup your data because it will inevitably be lost.  Every single time I’ve upgraded in the past, this has been a true statement.  This is the first time that I felt no pain at all in changing to a new OS. I’m seriously waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It couldn’t possibly be this easy.

I hear your fingernails being dragged through the dirt as you try to desperately cling to the version of Windows you have now. Don’t deny it, you are terrified. Here is a newsflash for you, you will eventually have to upgrade. There is no avoiding it. On the other hand, there is no need to upgrade now. At some point your hardware will fail and you will be stuck using the latest version of whatever, and you’ll wish you had familiarized yourself with the software previously so as to ease the transition.

Here’s a bit of wisdom from my days as an architectural CAD guru. When AutoCAD transitioned to a Windows-based format the pushback from users who liked the DOS-based version was deafening. Professionals in the design business were swearing up and down that they would never switch to the new version; and yet within a year, all of them had changed programs. Some of them changed to non-AutoCAD drawing systems and had to learn a whole new program anyway, but none of them still used AutoCAD 10. There was no point in continuing to use it because the nature of collaborative design dictated that they had to move with the times. They had to do what everyone else was doing or be left behind. Be driven out of business.

Embrace change. That is my advice. Upgrade or switch to using Linux. You’ll thank me for it. 

#NoFlyNoBuy Are You Listening @WarcraftDevs?

Once again the moderators have struck.  I had a pretty decent thread going over on the forums.  This morning at 4am or thereabouts it was 7 pages long.  I had managed to avoid blatantly violating any rules by directly discussing bannings that the moderators have inflicted on me in the past.  Managed not to talk blatantly about any of the rules which govern the boards. Managed to keep myself from fucking cursing every other fucking word, so they couldn’t pretend that bitching was something vulgar this time. Thought it was going swimmingly until I logged on this afternoon to see if anything else had posted.

Not only had nothing else posted, but the entire thread had disappeared into a black hole, like every other thread I’ve started on Blizzard’s forums. No matter how many times Blizzard’s customer service representatives in-game assure me that the developers want to hear from you, go post on the forums I know from experience that the opposite is true.  They really don’t want to hear from me.

I’m generally well-school in dancing around the sensitivities of others. Just last week I managed to piss of the acting Guild Master of my now-former Horde raiding guild (Crimson Retribution – Terenas) because I dared to suggest that not only was he wrong about flight always being a perk in World of Warcraft , but that if his training as a systems administrator instructed him that all hackers are criminals (right after he had called me a criminal for rooting my cellphone) I didn’t think much of the value of his education.

Funny part of that was that he stopped talking to me because I insulted his education.  The dust-up wasn’t over his accusation that I was a criminal.  No, that insult to me was completely overlooked. His tender feelings were hurt. So I left the guild, because that is what happens when those with lesser authority have a disagreement with higher authorities.  You move on.  It is not a threat, it is what reasonable people do.

Similarly, there is no winning when the entire structure of a company wants to silence what you have to say, when the only place you can say it is on their forums and have it reach an audience. If you read over the Blizzard forum guidelines it should become painfully clear that any subject that isn’t praise for Blizzard and World of Warcraft generically will not live very long on their forums. They have (like so many other forums on the internet) created an echo-chamber for self-congratulation.

…and why not? I mean, Blizzard has created what is inarguably the most popular game in all the history of electronic gaming. World of Warcraft (or WoW) still boasts subscriptions that are North of five million, which is a number that nearly any other gaming company would give their firstborn children to have access to.  Never mind that at its peak WoW  boasted a subscriber base of over twelve million people, or that the release of Warlords of Draenor did not lift subscriber numbers from their slow downward slide for longer than a month or two.

They have a certified hit, a cash cow. But how to keep milking that cow without killing it? That really is a tricky question, the multi-million dollar question that speaks to the future of the company. I mean, Blizzard isn’t alone out there. Some would say that they aren’t even at the forefront of gaming any longer.

My children only play Blizzard games because I play them. Left to their own devices, they like their Steam games, playing any number of them for pretty much as long as we allow them to play (him anyway, and only for a few years more) when the daughter heard that Legion would be the next expansion for World of Warcraft her only request was that I get her one of the art books.  The game? Well, if you are playing dad, sure.

Steam has tapped into something that only Facebook is doing better at; and that because it doesn’t require any real talent to be on Facebook. You just have to have the connection and you can share memes till the end of time, play flash games till you die of repetition.  Facebook is to the internet was TV was to broadcast. Radio was informative and entertaining, TV had pictures!

I can’t explain what it is that Steam offers.  I haven’t been impressed with many of the games. I’m certainly not impressed with their business tactics involving the children that make up a majority of their player base (I’ve mentioned this before) But they have a loyal following, and Blizzard has noticed this, which is why they introduced Battle.net and its launcher.

Battle.net is a pale comparison to Steam and it’s myriad of indepedent developers, though. Blizzard is now facing the same kind of broad-based competition that Microsoft laughed at when Linux was introduced.  Microsoft is no longer laughing now that Android (also Linux/Unix) runs on more systems than their software; similarly, Blizzard (or more accurately Activision/Blizzard) cannot long outpace a group which can essentially grow to incorporate all programmers who don’t work for them.

I had several players insist to me that Blizzard would stop WoW at level 100 for in-game characters, back in the days when I was writing about Cataclysm and its failings. I knew then just as I know now that there won’t be an end to World of Warcraft so long as Blizzard continues to see a profit. With the announcement of Legion and its 110 level cap, the notion that World of Warcraft might stop anytime soon has been left in the dust.

With new content needed, and the demands of the players for more and more challenging content to master, WoW programmers have a serious problem on their hands.  How to keep the players challenged?  How to make programming goals achievable in the foreshortened time that Activision was allowing for game development?  The developers, after seeing the new subscriptions and interest in WoD declared that they would exclude flight in all future expansions of WoW, reneging on their promise to introduce flight to the new content as this blue post goes into;

There’s a lot of discussion about flying/not-flying and I’d like to try to sum things up and maybe realign the discussion a bit. Some of the other threads are near-cap, some have really gone down tangents, so I’m just picking this one to throw a reply into. Apologies to the other threads.

Flying trivializes combat. A lot of people like to say we’re trying to force world PvP, or that we just really want people to look at the pretty trees we made, but those really aren’t the reasons that drive this same decision we’ve made every expansion. Flying allows you to escape or enter combat at-will. There’s a reason why flying isn’t allowed in dungeons and raids, or battlegrounds and arenas, and that’s because it would trivialize the core mechanic of the game in those areas – combat. For much the same reason it trivializes how content is approached in the outdoor world based on the simple fact that you can lift off and set down wherever you like 

So that’s the main reason. But sure there are a lot of other problems it can cause for content design such as zones having to get a lot bigger because flying mounts can travel so quickly (and thus making ground travel in them take much longer), it reduces the impact of elevation within zones, it completely removes the ability for us to pace or present content in any structured way, and in general removes our ability to determine how and when players approach a situation, see a vista or location, or charge into/out-of a combat situation. It just greatly reduces any gameplay we want to create by allowing infinite choice in how content is approached to best suit a player’s intention to (usually) avoid that content. 

I totally sympathize with people’s desire to do that, they want to be efficient and have it be their choice, but we have to balance our intent to create a game against creating a sandbox where anything goes. There’s a happy medium there somewhere, but flying mounts in most cases just do too much to undermine too many of our core intentions with the game world, the basis of the game: combat, or guiding players through a game experience, and for those reasons we have continually chosen (when we could) to disallow flying mounts in the ‘current’ outdoor content. In the past that’s meant only while leveling, but in our experiences with the Isle of Thunder and Timeless Isle we feel like we can extend that for a bit longer in the new content, and have it be kind of a big deal again once you’re able to earn flying in the first big content patch, and in the meantime putting focus on flight paths as well as having some more interesting travel options for players to use.

I liked Timeless Isle, despite the lack of flight.  On the other hand I despised the Isle of Thunder and the clearly contrived lack of flight in that area.  Why not allow players to attempt to fly? Perhaps the more clever could have figured out how to make it work, that’s why (more on that in a bit) so given the success of Pandaria, the increased subs for WoD, the developers thought that they had a solution to their problem of too little time/too much programming. Not so fast, though.

The player base is now abandoning WoD in droves. It is boring, being limited to ground travel. Being restricted to a very limited quest chain (which is allowed by making sure that players go where you want them) Once again the developers reverse direction and work in a gated introduction of flight into WoD.  Players who got a secret pleasure out of denying flight to players who wanted to fly were outraged.  The developers have to recalculate programming requirements for content that will now have to include flight. Things are not looking good for Blizzard.

The sad part of all this is that the same developers are still beating the same dead horse that was the established lore for Warcraft more than a decade ago, and trying to draw out the final few dollars they can milk from this story before it stops being profitable.  They could re-invent parts of the game as they did with professions in the current expansion (much to their detriment in this player’s opinion) but that carries risk, and large companies are nothing if not risk-adverse. (I offer Overwatch as an example of this; a pretty game but essentially a re-hash of Team Fortress 2. Not that there isn’t room for more of the same kinds of games)

Risk adverse developers throttle player content, rather than expand playability.  Warlords delivered this in spades, extending the amount of work and time spent in the game to achieve even less than you could do in previous versions of WoW.  Only now, after the announcement of the next expansion, do they finally grudgingly give players the last piece of playability we had in previous versions of the game.  The next patch will finally give the players the ability to fly in Draenor, the ability to use the mounts all of us have paid for with time, effort and real money.  Finally fulfilling the implied contract when they sold us flying mounts a year and more ago.  Those mounts will finally fly.

But is it too little too late?  Speaking for myself, it might be. I’m thoroughly burned out now.  Try as I might, there just isn’t enough content in the game to keep me interested; or rather, there doesn’t appear to be any one type of play that the current game encourages aside from the narrow channel of developer intent to progress through the garrisons and outposts. Without flight, exploration, pet battling, archeology, etc all become tedious slogs through NPC’s you’ve already killed repeatedly.  Giving me flight now just reminds me how much of the game I liked in Pandaria that I’m already too far behind on to catch up now.

Which is why this article starts and ends with a hashtag. I’m not even going to contemplate playing WoW after the next expansion releases unless the developers include flight in the game from the beginning. Not just flight, but flight for all levels (as it was in Wrath of the Lich King at least) available at the time the expansion releases.

I’m done with being throttled, of playing Activision‘s version of a Blizzard game that reminds me more of Facebook games than it does of the MMO’s and RTS’ of previous years. Most of all, give me the sky to fly in, or I’ll find some other game to play in the future. #NOFLYNOBUY

“I don’t care, I’m still free, you can’t take the sky from me” – Sonny Rhodes

(Started another thread on the forums with this title that references the Confirmation Bias post) 

Adventures With Malware

I’ve been testing running Windows as a smart consumer for the last couple of years. Having bailed on attempts to run Linux without becoming a programmer; and having very little inclination to become a programmer just to run a computer as a user (although that mindset is slowly, ponderously, altering) I decided to just see if I can make Windows work in the limited fashion I’ve been using it of late.

Rather than installing 15 different programs to sniff all my information exchanges from the various networks I utilize as I have seen others do in the past, I decided that I would rely on the native scanners and firewalls that come with Windows now.

Confession time.  I don’t actually run Windows 8, 8.1 or whatever they’re calling the new Windows these days. Microsoft, cleverly figuring out that consumers skip every other release of their OS’s, have skipped calling their new 0S Windows 9 even though that should be the number on the release, and are calling it Windows 10.  Now, I haven’t figured out what version of Windows that Microsoft will deem LTS (long term support) next, so I’m not spending any of my limited funds on an OS that they put out simply to smother some fire that they inadvertently started.

I run what was on the system when it was sold to me (although I’m in the process of converting the laptop to Linux) and that version is Windows 7. I liked XP, stuck with it for as long as I could. XP was the last version of the OS that Microsoft deemed LTS, as was Windows 2000 before that.  Windows 7 has been a nice stable platform for several years, so I’ve stuck with it.

Starting in Windows 7 there were native malware and virus detectors.  If this wasn’t the first time, then it was definitely the first time I noticed them or was willing to rely on them.  Virus scanners seem to be in bed with malware writers of late; witness McAfee being offered on sites that are clearly on the fringe of respectability, when McAfee once upon a time was a legitimate virus scanner that I couldn’t live without.  Now if you rely on them or a Norton product, you’d be better off not finding the internet, if either of them actually let you on it.  So relying on a native Windows application that offered to screen malware and viruses seems as legitimate as actually paying someone else to keep your system virus free these days.

Realizing I was giving up ever visiting a porn site, or sharing a music file, video or anything more sophisticated than email, I set to work.  The native program in Windows was/is called Microsoft Security Essentials, and for the last two years, that has been the only program that I’ve run on this system that does anything related to malware screening or virus scanning.

When I go anywhere on the internet, I use a third party application to do it.  I never allow Windows to do anything aside from run programs which are native to this computer. This is a habit formed since I first started using Windows back in the 3.11 days.  Internet Exploder, er Explorer, has always been the most utilized vector for spreading malware, so I never use it on a website that I don’t trust completely.  Trust like the vault at my bank (and I don’t bank) So I use Firefox or Chrome, or whatever non-native browser that looks promising today, to go to websites.

Having been an MMO player for the last 5 years, I haven’t had a lot of use for porn or music anyway. MMO’s (Massive Multiplayer Online games) are notorious for sucking up all your free time.  The most challenging vector to manage, when dealing with online gaming, is how you get your addons updated. This is because every game has some cheat or other that you have to add to it in order to make it easy enough to complain about in online forums.  This process required a bit of legwork and investigation each time I changed addons or games.  There are addon managers that aren’t too shady, so if you are careful about what you click, read everything and check every toggle before you agree, you can generally lease your entire life to online games and not worry about anyone else stealing it.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’m beginning to have trouble reading.  This is the biggest challenge I face, being a compulsive reader.  Every now and then the eyes fail to track properly, the mind wanders and I miss a paragraph of text, forcing me to curse loudly, backtrack and start over.  Consequently I’ve taken to downloading a lot of content from Audible and various streaming media sites, taking care to make sure that the programs I’m using are pretty solid.

Most audio is only available if you buy it in advance. This is a battle I’ve been fighting since the days of MP3.com and corporate music’s foolish belief that they could stand in the way of file sharing.  To this day I strip audio that has restrictions on it, if I have a need to move it from some system that is recognized to one that is not.  Fortunately for Audible and my limited non-MMO free time, most of the systems I fiddle with these days are recognized by Audible or have Audible apps on them.  Consequently their heads-entirely-up-their-asses DRM remains on many of the latest works that I’ve purchased from them.  I don’t know why they still keep DRM on their files, Amazon has offered native unprotected MP3’s for years, which is why Amazon is about the only place I will buy music (rumor has it that iTunes now has unprotected MP3’s as well.  Too late Apple!) and Amazon now owns Audible.

But they do and I roll my eyes and live with the frustration.

Still, it presents an obstacle to sharing files with family members once you’ve purchased them.  Technically you can share them, according to Audible.  But you have to share them on systems that are recognized, and you have to authorize the hardware with the software, hold your mouth the right way, sacrifice your newborn and leave a pint of blood.  Just a bit of a hassle.

Consequently I have resisted buying audible content that I actually have credits for, if I know I’m going to want to share that content with family members later.  That resistance has now officially ended my Microsoft only malware testing period.

The Wife expressed an interest in a particular work recently. Having just given a pint of blood last week trying to share an Audible file, I went out and found an unprotected copy of the work she wanted, rather than try that again. I did notice some odd behavior in the dialogs, but that reading problem I mentioned caused me to miss exactly what the prompts said.

Hilarity ensued, if hilarity involves 30 plus hours of digging malware out by the roots.  Malware writers are a humorous bunch. They piggy-backed a lovely bit of work in on my foolishness.  Calls itself Unideal. But it’s not just Unideal. It’s also Youtubeadblocker and a few other names aside.  Installed itself as a false virus scanner under yet another name. Runs banner ads across websites sponsored by Robin Hood. Specifically places ads in areas that Ad Blocker takes ads out of.

What is the moral of this story?  I don’t think there is one.  File sharing was never a crime for me, because the things I share I either end up paying for anyway, or never would have paid for in the first place because it wasn’t something I wanted after listening to it once.  The one time I’ve been caught torrenting (by HBO) was the time I was a paid subscriber (won’t be doing that again) who couldn’t actually watch the programs I was paying for due to faulty transmission by my cable provider. If you enjoy HBOGO now, you should write me a thank you letter. That service exists because of people like me.

DRM-free label
defective by design

Were it not for DRM on Audible books, I would have simply used credits that I have on my Audible account to purchase the work my wife was interested in directly. But because of suspicion and doubt, the nagging insistence that if payment is not secured in advance no payment will be made, you must step outside of the protected boundaries of commerce and make back-alley deals with less than desirable types.

Were it not for the backwards nature of copyrighted works, and the DMCA that protects them, it would be possible to take material that the copyright owner has abandoned on a previous format, update it to current formats and be able to charge for the time and effort spent transcribing the material (a service which does have value) without opening oneself up to punishing fines for daring to think that abandoned works deserve to be preserved.

Perhaps there is a lesson here about keeping your software and hardware up to date, but as a disabled person living on a fixed income, it’s a bit much to ask me to purchase new hardware and software every few years just so I can keep current.  I have a test license for Windows 10 which has been made available to me, and in the next few days I may be testing that software after I get my second drive running a version of Linux I can count on.

Rooting Android

The Wife‘s phone is dying. She’s insisted she didn’t need a smartphone for decades, but now she wants one.  One problem; we’re dead broke.  We had to steal from Peter to pay Paul this month in the first place, large phone expenditures aren’t in the works for us.  If you want a phone that works well with today’s apps, you seem to need a new phone.

There are actually multiple problems here. We found a service called Ting.com awhile back, a service that saves us serious amounts of cash on cellphones. Ting.com makes them cheaper per line than standard wired service if you don’t spend hours on the phone every day. There is only one problem with this service; you have to provide your own hardware.

Luckily there is a service for that, too; several of them, in fact.  I like Glyde.com, I bought my current HTC device from them. My first foray into this strange world of buying used phones, I bought a different device, only to discover that the memory constraints on the phone were so limited I couldn’t update the phone to the current software. Couldn’t unlock the bootloader (whatever that was) much less root it. I picked HTC the second time out because HTC allows you to unlock the bootloader right on their website. Gave the first phone to my son. His first cell phone. That he leaves everywhere except in his pocket. Perfect phone for him.

Bootloaders. Rooting. It was a whole new language that I had resigned myself to learning, so I began exploring exactly how to even talk about what I wanted to do to the device, trying to figure out what the verb rooting really meant outside of swine behavior.  I apparently needed a new rom to flash after this rooting thing; and I was certain I wanted to avoid bricking the phone, because that sounded bad.  I mean, you can’t call with a brick, even the rocks know that.

I quickly discovered that it’s a minefield out there. Even if you find the right boards, half the links don’t work. Even if you find links that work, most of them lead to shady back-alley websites that I wouldn’t want to visit without protection; much less disable security on my phone and engage in behavior that my phone warns me I shouldn’t do even with people I know.

I’m under time pressure here.  The Wife wants an iPhone. The cheapest one is twice what I could pay for a comparable android device. She’s listened to me whine about this HTC device for months now, I’ve convinced her that you can’t fix old phones to do the things we want them to do, and I haven’t even gotten to the point of trying to modify my phone. It is time for me to bite the bullet. Now or never.

About 12 hours ago, I jumped in with both feet. I got my token from HTC, Unlocked the bootloader. Rebooted. Yep, there goes all those old text messages.  Glad I didn’t want to save those. Well, it doesn’t seem like I did anything else.  Head scratcher.  I scrounge around for old links.  Hey, what’s this? I can just download one program from xdadevelopers and it’ll root my phone? Well, getting superuser status on the phone is the next step (what rooting means. SU, superuser. Known to those of us who Linux. Yeah, I knew that) so that’s probably the right thing.  Xda’s users seem to be some of the more knowledgeable types out there, so I’ll bite.

Works like a charm. Now what?  Can I delete apps? No. All that damn garbage like Sports & Racing apps still clogging up the system. I really, really don’t want to go find a rom (image) to flash (load) while under time pressure.  That is the kind of thing you do to phones you’re not counting on using for a bit, altering all the interfaces and playing around trying to break the software.  I just want a program.  An app.  Something that will delete crap I want gone, move crap that I want somewhere else so that the 500 megs of phone memory stays as open as I can get it. Back to the Google. Wait, there’s a root uninstaller? Really? On the Google store, even? Nice.

Bye bye Tweeter. Sports you are out of here. Racing, go drive somewhere else. All you old pre-installs for Twitter, Facebook, etc.  All of you are now uninstalled. I’m going pro with this app. Hey, I can move stuff to the card with this puppy.  This is what I’m talking about! Where was this power months ago? I feel like a programmer, which is a dangerous delusion for me.

I’ve been tweaking, deleting, and tweaking again for the last 12 hours. Convinced The Wife that we could save a few dollars on a second HTC device, and I can make it do what she wants it to do (fingers crossed now) so the time pressure is off.  Now I’ll have a play phone for a few days at least. Time to find an alternate rom I want to play with.  And backup.  I need to find a rom builder.  Back to the Google.


I received a brand new  Nexus 5 for my birthday, and that has kept me beautifully distracted since I got it. I can finally play some of the games I’ve been wanting to play and install several apps that just were too big for the HTC Evo Shift. My heartfelt thanks to the friends and family who made the gift possible.  It really was the only thing I wanted, one of the few things I can use while essentially bedridden for days at a time.