Why is Star Trek Online still garbage?

When people think of Massive Multiplayer Online games, they think of World of Warcraft. They also think of billions of dollars in profits that World of Warcraft has raked in.

What they don’t realize is that World of Warcraft was a freak sensation. Not because an MMO can’t be good, or because an MMO can’t be profitable, but because most MMOs are not either of those things.

A perfect example of this is Star Trek Online, which has been a persistent failure since it’s debut in 2010. The company that operates the game has changed owners at least 2 times in the past 6 years. They give the game away for free and they still can’t get a decent number of players.

Is that because nobody is interested in Star Trek? Hardly. The latest Star Trek film grossed $60m on it’s opening weekend alone. The reason Star Trek Online is failing is because it is garbage.

There is a lot of content in the game, a _lot_ of content. There is so much content you will never see it all because you will be sick of playing after a couple of days. Rather than spend any decent effort on creating a very solid game, they have focused on constant content updates. Content updates are great, but you need a solid core first.

I’m going to point out one specific area, Inventory Management. Your inventory space is very limited, and you collect a lot of gear by completing quests and PvE “Dungeons”. There’s no means to recycle gear into crafting materials, but you can sell it. However, the marketplace interface is almost non-existent. When you go to sell an item there is no indication of the going rate for that item. If you want to sell intelligently you have to search for each item by hand. And because the market is flooded with duplicates because there are no players, this means you need to make extensive use of the filters. There is a filter for rank, which does not match the rank on the items so you have to guess which item ranks go with which player ranks, then there’s a filter for rarity, and filters for item types. All of these have to be set individually, to sell one item. And then for the next item you will probably have to change all of them again.

It is literally a grind, it’s not fun, and it is enough to make me, a die-hard gamer and star trek fan, quit playing a game that is completely free. That is a recipe for a failure and in any normal business environment people would be fired extremely fast. But in this environment the people making the decisions do not know anything about the game industry or playing games. The developers who actually play the game don’t have any say in development priorities. The entire system is broken.

Massive Multiplayer Online games are great, and the free to play model can succeed, if done right. Let’s get rid of everyone destroying the scene presently, and replace them with real gamers who have a clue how things should work.

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Let’s Encrypt IS the panacea to all our HTTPS woes.

This is a response to a blogger’s post located here: “Here’s how broken today’s web will feel in Chrome’s ‘secure by default’ future” discussing the future of encryption on the World Wide Web.

I was banned from commenting on Mr. Hunt’s page because I made one critical comment about one of his articles. So much for free expression and the exchange of ideas. I don’t feel like re-writing my opinions so when you read it, bear in mind it was originally intended as a comment.

My Comment:

I can’t entirely tell what your intention with this article is, perhaps just to discuss the subject, which is great cause it needs discussing.

There’s no debate to have, encryption is the future, it should have been the standard by now. A discussion needs to happen to wake the average user up. Encryption isn’t only about protecting privacy, it’s about security, as well as simple standards of living.

SSL is trivially easy today. You said that Let’s Encrypt is not the cure, but you are wrong. Let’s Encrypt _solves_ the problem completely. Any remaining difficulty in adapting 100% SSL is the fault of lazy engineers and developers, and nothing else.

SSL is not a luxury product. SSL _was_ a luxury product. And just like Operating Systems, Digital Audio Workstations, Anti-Virus, E-Mail, and so many other applications, the generosity and effort of computer purists have given us free tools capable of replacing proprietary models. SSL as a Luxury product is going away.

The internet is changing the world, just as people predicted it would. Corporations find a niche where they can profit and they refuse to innovate, preferring to maximize their profits by taking advantage of peoples’ ignorance for as long as possible. What has happened with Let’s Encrypt, and other technologies, is that information-freedom-fighters have liberated the masses from the control of those corporations.

The future of the internet is bright, probably more so than 100% of ‘meat-space’.


FIN.

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Decoding Evil: It’s not about morality.

Decoding Evil: It’s not about morality.

Preface

Before I dig into the meat of this post, I want to clear up some language conflicts. I am using the word ‘Evil’, which carries a lot of baggage with people. A lot of that baggage is centered around religion. This post is not about religion. I was raised by christian parents, and while I do not personally follow any religion, the influences of christianity have made themselves apparent in my vocabulary. I am using the word ‘Evil’, you are free to substitute another word in it’s place if you like, so that you may better understand this post.

What is Evil?

We need a common definition of evil. A quick websearch suggests the following:

Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful

Characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous

These aren’t the only definitions, but they are what we’ll be using for this post.

Why is Evil ‘Live’ spelled backwards?

This is not accidental. Nothing in popular language is accidental. Someone made a conscious decision to teach us all the word Evil, and the word Live. Someone made a conscious decision to make them the reverse of each other. Whoever that was, I believe they were trying to pass knowledge to the next generation in a way that would survive the storybooks.

It is my belief that we are to learn to recognize evil, and work to counter it. It is in this way that we find the best path to ongoing prosperous life. That is why Evil is shown as the reverse (or opposite of) Live.

How to recognize Evil?

Recognizing evil is a lot easier than you might think. It’s got nothing to do with morality. Philosophers spent years debating morality, and found themselves at an impasse. Evil is easier. Evil actions create Evil results. I’ll use an example. Smoking cigarettes is a deadly activity that causes cancer and heart disease. It is a habit that is guaranteed to kill you if something else doesnt kill you first. Many of us would say that makes it Evil. Smoking cigarettes often leads to fires, people fall asleep with lit cigarettes, they discard their cigarettes or matches in the brush of forests which starts forest fires, and so on. Evil actions lead to Evil results.

We can recognize the results are ruinous, and look backwards to see the actions which created those results were Evil. This doesn’t allow us to predict the future but it does allow us to learn from mistakes, which is a critical skill for any species which wishes to survive itself. We can use this method to recognize and discourage Evil, without ever invoking morality. I could go on and on with examples of corporate greed, warmongering, and so forth. The examples of Evil being practiced and tolerated every day by Human beings is endless.

What should we do?

Every person must ask themselves if they want to live or die. If they want to be happy or miserable. If you want to live, if you want to be happy, if you want to be prosperous, then logic dictates you should not act in Evil ways, and you should discourage Evil where you see it. Practitioners of Evil such as overpaid CEOs need to be brought down. For-Profit prisons need to be eliminated. Profiteering at all costs needs to be discouraged. The power and wealth of those who have benefitted from these Evil actions is undeserved and belongs to the community which they have harmed. We are not obligated to tolerate their activities.

By persuing Evil means to their selfish goals, those people invade the liberty of the citizens who they share this nation with. One man’s liberty only extends so far as to not invade the liberty of another man, so with their actions they have forfeited the right to liberty, at least until they bring their activities back within the boundaries of ‘Not Evil’. It is up to us to discourage Evil wherever we see it, both for our own protection and for the protection of our communities and families. Inaction will lead to ruin.

Summary

I believe I have made the case today that Evil is ‘bad’ for us, like a poison or dangerous narcotic. Evil kills people, destroys communities and families, and topples empires. Evil is the kryptonite that defeats Human Ingenuity. IF we can minimize the Evil in our societies, together we can accomplish greater things than many can even imagine. People do not need Evil to prosper. Perhaps they lack an understanding of consequence, or they have not been taught how to succeed without using Evil methods. We can address these issues without ever bringing up the confusing topic of morality.

I read today an article that reminds us how the abuse of anti-biotics in abominable industrial farming techniques is creating deadly bacterial mutations which cannot be killed with medicine. If the human race does not act to eliminate the Evil it has allowed to flourish, then the results of that Evil are going to kill the entire human race. We all have choices in our lives, I encourage you all to make the right ones, and stand up to those who do not.

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My First Fender Stratocaster

Cherry Sunburst Fender Stratocaster

Cherry Sunburst Fender Stratocaster

My first Fender Stratocaster, purchased in 2015. It’s a Cherry Sunburst finish with maple neck and head.

Also pictured is my Fender “Frontman” amplifier, and RAT2 distortion pedal, as well as my American Flag.

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Encryption, PGP and Keybase.io

Privacy matters. Encryption matters.

Everyone has heard that the united states government is spying on you. They probably aren’t the only ones. If you aren’t concerned that strangers are reading your emails and instant messages and tracking your browsing histories you really, really should be.

A strong encrypted solution to online privacy has existed since 1991 when PGP was invented. A lot of people think that key-pair encryption, also known as end-to-end encryption, is really complicated or technical but it isn’t.

How it works

You have two keys. a PRIVATE KEY and a PUBLIC KEY. Your PRIVATE KEY is kept private, and you give your PUBLIC KEY to the world.

Receiving encrypted files & emails

When someone wants to send you an encrypted message or file, they encrypt it using your PUBLIC KEY. You decrypt it with your PRIVATE KEY.

Sending encrypted files & emails

When you want to send someone else an encrypted message or file, you encrypt it using their PUBLIC KEY and the other person decrypts it using their PRIVATE KEY.

The Trust Issue

There is another consideration, how do you know if the PUBLIC KEY that claims to be from john.doe@example.com actually belongs to Mr. Doe? In the past the method was to create a “web of trust”. John would personally give you his PUBLIC KEY, and you would digitally sign it using your key. Then when John gives his PUBLIC KEY to someone else, they can see that you have vouched for it’s authenticity. The problem with this is that everyone needs to do it. This has been one of the greatest hurdles in the adoption of key-pair encryption.

Enter Keybase.io

The clever folks at Keybase.io have found a solution. Their service allows you to connect your PUBLIC KEY with various online identities, such as Twitter and Reddit, or websites which you control. These entities are considered trust-worthy, because we use them every day to communicate with our family, friends, and colleagues. This service practically solves the trust issue, eliminating the necessity for the “web of trust”.

Keybase.io will also help you with the creation of a key pair, which simplifies and standardizes the process for a lot of people. Keybase.io also generates seperate key pairs for each device that you use, be it a smart phone or a laptop or desktop. If you stop using a particular device (for example if your smart phone is lost or stolen) you can revoke the keys for that device, preventing someone from using it to impersonate you, without having to destroy your original PRIVATE KEY.

The Future, Transparency and Ease-of-Use

Encryption is the future. It is the future because the alternatives are too horrifying to live with, which is why we have books and movies like 1984 and The Matrix warning us about them years in advance. Privacy is sacred and as a race human beings are going to embrace it, whether the government likes it or not (they really don’t like it). There have been technical hurdles to overcome, but with open-source community funded projects like Keybase.io, I am confident that the future of privacy looks bright.

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The Root Causes of Violence

Stop Violence

The Root Causes of Violence

We the People have neglected education

The United States education system is neglected. We used to be praised as the leader in public education. That was because of education reforms we made in the mid 20th century, things like public schools in every town, guaranteed education etc. However we have not made any significant progress since then. Also, we’ve built only a tiny number of new schools despite our population rising by 150,000,000 people.

Failing education

A lack of education has lead to an increase in under-educated citizens who are less capable in the workplace, less likely to start their own businesses, and more likely to prey upon others to support themselves and their families. Our federal spending is around $4t dollars, but less than $100bn of that or 2.5% is used for education, our most important resource to ensure a prosperous future for ourselves and the generations to follow. We can literally buy societal intelligence if we’d spend more.

We the People have embraced systematic poverty

Systemic Poverty

The United States suffers from systemic poverty. Our society has adopted a dog-eat-dog mentality which traces it’s roots back to early tribal societies. The strongest tribe takes over until the next one replaces it. This is usually done with hostilities. If we want to have an enlightended and civilized future society we need to change the way we approach issues of Education and Poverty. We should be unified in raising and uplifting all of our citizens nationwide. This can only make our entire nation stronger and everyone will prosper.

We the People have encouraged an oppressive government

The United States has become an oppressive government. In May of 1970 the United States government murdered peaceful college students who were protesting the vietnam war. In April of 1993 the United States government murdered 76 people by trapping them in a building and setting fire to it. Since the 1960s and 1970s major cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles have been terrorized by unreasonably hostile and racist police forces. Often these crimes have gone unpunished.

Abusive police

Many of us cling to the America of our dreams, one where United We Stand, but young people growing up in this environment and facing the senseless carnage and abuse that our government has been allowed to get away with will feel disenfranchised. They don’t see a nation guided by the rule of law, they see a lot of meaningless words on paper intended to empower the ruling elite while keeping the poor and underprivileged locked in endless struggles.

We the People have made life hell

The United States suffers from a widespread social disease. When someone has a bad day they take it out on other people. Those people then have a bad day and they take their frustration out on yet others. This goes on and on until everyone is miserable.

When people have disagreements, they do not look for ways to understand each other, they use their disagreements to create divisions between “Us” and “Them”. The parents of today’s youth have not tried to encourage their children to embrace our similarities, instead they have become more xenophobic than ever, teaching their children that everyone else in the world is a threat.

Our nation is enslaved by television, whether in it’s traditional form or delivered via the internet. Everything we know is presented by the television, which is controlled almost entirely by large corporations who do not care about social stability, only profit. In fact social instability usually means more profits for media corporations, so it is in their best interest to stir up problems and they are constantly doing just that.

Our politics has become completely insane. The discussions that occur in Congress at the federal and state levels are infantile and rarely show evidence of rational, considered thought. Children are not born stupid. They grow up in this environment and they see the insanity of all of the adults around them, it is no wonder that many learn to feel alone and threatened by the entire world. When faced with choices they will be more likely to make self-serving choices because they don’t believe anyone else is on their side, and that can lead to violence.

We the People have a drug problem

Pills and Money

The United States is addicted to drugs. The Pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest and most evil industries to ever exist. They are not in the business of curing disease, they are in the business of selling pills. New diseases are invented, to which harmful and addictive substances are sold with inadequate testing. People who have fallen into a hypnotic trance staring at their TV are told they are sick and they need pills to fix them. Many of these “medications” are psychoactive which means they effect the way the brain works.

Besides prescription drugs, Americans are addicted en masse to psychoactive chemicals they are told are safe, such as Caffeine and Sugar, and poisons they know are harmful such as Nicotine and Alcohol which cause more than 8 million deaths every year. In some areas illegal drugs are also a problem, but the threat of illegal drugs is insignificant compared to the damage that we’ve done to our society with “legal” drugs.

We the People are distracted by the wrong issues

The United States has been discussing the epidemic of violence for decades. It does not require decades to find a solution to a problem when the discussion is healthy. One of the reasons we are in the same place as we were 30 years ago is that every time the subject of violence is raised, the conversation is immediately hijacked by people with extremist agendas. They never talk about anything except their personal agendas, and they make the most noise and drown out everyone else. After a few months everyone realizes what a sham it is, they get sick of it and they return to the routine of their daily lives, having done nothing about violence.

I have described for you in this article many of the actual root causes of violence in America. More importantly, I have focused on issues which can be realistically addressed and fixed, rather than divisive topics that nobody will ever agree about. Are there any which I missed? I invite your comments if you feel there is a root cause of violence which I have not yet covered. IF we’re serious about reducing violence in our society, then we need to get serious about addressing these problems rather than blowing hot air every time someone goes insane because of the things I’ve listed and decides to end their lives in an attention-grabbing way.

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Most Retarded Idea of 2016: Guaranteed Minimum Income.

Why guaranteeing income regardless of whether a person works or not, is a retarded idea.

1. Economy is a system.
Economy is similar to the ecological systems we see in nature. It is a system where resources flow from one piece to the next. You create things, things have value, other people trade their stuff of value for your things of value. Sometimes rather than creation, the value is in service, such as with doctors. But usually value comes from creation (or production, in the industrial realm).

2. Nobody would work.
Giving everyone a guaranteed income is exactly the same as giving everyone food without requiring farms or hunting. It is actually impossible. Over a long period of time people would stop working and would persue recreation instead. But for our world to survive, the majority of the people living in it must continue to work, to maintain roads, to serve lunch at the restaurant, to keep the internet operational, to route phone calls.

3. Money is a finite resource.
There are X number of dollars in the world. We are pushing those dollars around in a somewhat complicated circle. The only way to add money to this system is to create things of value. Over time, the money begins flowing into the hands of specific people, sort of like natural selection. Because stupid people spend their money on retarded things that they do not actually need. That isn’t going to change anytime soon.

In summary, a guaranteed income would destroy the global economy. There would be famines and depressions and mass poverty everywhere within years. People would die on a massive scale. A guaranteed minimum income is not a compassionate idea, it’s a retarded, selfish, lazy idea.

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anti-spam script

Monty Python spam skit

I created a script to notify the abuse@ person for an IP address, while simultaneously banning that IP address for a time-period using fail2ban.

In my case this is useful for spam that I receive through a web based contact form. I don’t want to put a captcha on the form, and most of the spam was coming from the same IPs every day.

This script depends on curl, pcregrep and fail2ban. You could replace fail2ban with iptables however setting an expiration date with iptables alone is more complicated. Since I use fail2ban everywhere (and you should too), this method is just easier. pcregrep is required for doing a multi-line regex match.

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Why I would vote for Donald Trump

Some people believe that if you would vote for Donald Trump, that makes you a trump supporter. These people are thinking in very limited, binary terms. You’re either democrat or republican, liberal or conservative. The real world is not black and white, and the human mind is capable of more complex reasoning than this or that.

I am not a Trump supporter, but given a choice between Donald Trump, a relatively successful businessman, and Hillary Clinton, a known felon with a history of fatal incompetence in government, I would have no choice but to vote for Trump. Or I could throw my vote away on some 3rd party candidate who would never win, thanks to our entirely corrupt and rigged electoral system.

There are several significant black marks on Hillary’s record. First and foremost, the “email scandal”, which is not simply a scandal, but a crime. Hillary used private email servers that she owned for government business. That is a felony offense. She knew it was a crime, not that ignorance is a valid defense in any court of law, but that she knew it and did it anyway shows her disrespect for the rule of law. The laws regarding government correspondence exist to prevent spying, but also to increase security against hackers, as well as to provide transparency in cases when the Freedom of Information Act is used. Hillary knows this. She likely chose to break the law so she could avoid Freedom of Information Act requests. She disregarded the risk of hacking, and thereby disregarded the risk to our national security. She flat out lied about it when challenged, which there is documented proof of. She lacks the quality of character required for someone who is to be charged with leading our nation’s armed forces. Let’s remember that control of the United States Military, the largest nuclear power in the world, is the first job of the President. A person with her character flaws cannot be allowed to have her fingers anywhere near “the button”.

Benghazi is next. I followed this story when it broke, I forget some of the details as I write this, but I recall it was clear to me that the death of our soldiers was the result of Hillary Clinton’s negligence in her duties. She disregarded calls for increased security, and as a result U.S. service men died. Again, she does not show the competence or qualifications required to be Commander-in-Chief.

If we dial the time machine back a few years, when Bill Clinton was in office, you might remember there was a scandal called “Whitewater”. Basically what happened is some business associates of the Clinton’s got caught doing illegal stuff. The Clintons denied having any involvement but it was found that they were very closely involved in the entire scandal. And then Bill Clinton mis-used the powers of his office to pardon the people responsible. You can read the whole thing at wikipedia.

So what we see is a history of disregard for the law, incompetence in office, and generally being a “bad person”. When you watch Clinton talk, she appears fake and full of anger she is aching to unleash upon the world. She is completely in the pockets of large corporations and many rich people, some of who are probably also criminals. She is very likely going to be indicted on felony charges, which would make her incapable of serving as President, and would open the door to all sorts of weird backroom deals for the democrats to “name” a President without a vote from the people. She is basically the worst possible choice.

Donald Trump is not a great candidate. He’s a terrible public speaker, he clearly views women as subservient to men, his views on race are questionable, his wall-building rhetorric is unrealistic and obviously pandering, but he has good ideas too. Enforcing deportation of illegal immigrants for example, is a good idea. Laws are worthless if those laws are not enforced, and for the entirety of my lifetime the law has been if you come to this country illegally you will be discovered and thrown out. Why this stopped happening is a mystery. When you stop cleaning your house, your house becomes a pig-sty. Because you were lazy and did not keep up with your chores does not mean you should permanently abandon those responsibilities, it means you have to work harder to get back to where you should be. That’s what we face today. It may cost a lot of money but deporting illegal immigrants should be a priority for any president.

There are a lot of important things which Trump will not do. Trump will probably not raise the minimum wage to $15/hr, which really needs to happen. Trump will probably not increase the education budget, which really needs to happen. Trump will probably not start any new wars, that’s a good thing. Trump will not further the gun-grabbing agenda, that’s a good thing. He is a mixed bag of insane rhetorric and a few good ideas and a few bad ideas. When compared side by side to Clinton, that makes him a better candidate. Also, the conservative establishment hates him, which has got to count for something.

The only really hopeful looking candidate is Bernie Sanders. He’s got a relatively clean history in government, his policies are mostly based on sound science, he has suggested nothing insane so far, and he’s not too old (yet). But it appears we’re not going to be allowed to vote for him. So if this election comes down to Clinton vs. Trump, it’s no-contest, any rational thinking patriot has to vote for Trump.

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How to Disassemble & Repair the official Disney Store Zootopia Carrot Pen

Zootopia Carrot Pen

I’m a big fan of the film so when I saw they had this pen I had to buy one. It records great and writes adequately. It is possible to replace the pen part, however one should take great care when disassembling so as not to break any of the plastic bits.

There was one issue which seems like a defect to me. The spring on the pen is a bit too large for it, and on mine it shifted up and wedged itself on the block which is supposed to keep the spring down. As a result the retractable feature stopped working.

To repair the retractability, I carefully disassembled the pen:
1. There are two covered screws near the top, the covers can be removed with a sewing needle.

2. The silver cone tip is where everything locks together so that is where one must be very careful not to break the pen. The cone has two ‘teeth’ which fit inside the two orange halves, and each orange half has a tooth which fits into the cone.

3. Once disassembled, a bit of electrical tape wrapped tightly around the “blocker” part of the pen, just above where the spring goes, will keep the spring from shifting upward. A smaller spring might be a better solution, but who knows where to find such a thing.

~ fin

UPDATE Jan 7th, 2017

The pen broke again a few weeks ago, sadly.. The electrical tape must have slid from it’s spot as I feared it might. I’ll need a more permanent solution, perhaps a tiny bit of epoxy. It’s a low priority, I really love the pen, perhaps I’ll write Disney and asked if they’ve addressed the issue in a new batch.

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