Additional Information on the SWTOR Story

swtor-logo-256x2561I saw this addition on the Star Wars: The Old Republic site.  It seems that they are releasing a little more information but not a lot of information.

At the start of the year two new flashpoints were introduced, where either faction can storm the others home worlds, well sort of.  The story line “Forged Alliances” sees the Empire taking the fight to the Jedi on Tython and the Republic flying head long onto conflict with the Sith on Korriban.  Then the second part of this is, both parties take back Tython and Korriban from their enemy. “Korriban Incursion” and “Assault on Tython” are the flashpoints.  You can find out more information here.

So, there was an update on the direction the story is taking.  They provided a “teaser” of this;

Some teaser, that aside.  What does this show?  This came after a Developer Blog post where they were providing an “extract” from a Personal Datalog from a Selkath named Shuuru.  Where it speaks of the happenings on Manaan after Revan arrived in Ahto City to the eventual driving off, of the Sith Empire.

Reading this, it seems that they are setting up for more with Manaan.  As they have spoken of a new settlement, Mercantile Plaza, and the image above shows a Manaan Research Facility, which could have been the one below the surface that Revan visited to seek the Star Maps for the enigmatic (at that time) Star Forge.

Will the Selkath regret, once again, trusting outsiders to not bring their conflicts and prejudices to Manaan.  Time will tell.

What could be coming, well, tough to say.  What I can de3duce is, there is a new area, called Manaan Research Facility.  Is this an area on a planet or a Flashpoint my guess it is a Flashpoint.  Who is the Wookie in the picture, a new playable species?  Unlikely but I will be happy to say I am wrong if it is. 

Another point to note is this is the biggest expansion since Rise of the Hutt Cartel.  Which gave us a new planet with increase level cap from 50 to 55, with faction specific story content, new story arc missions, Microbinoculars and Seeker Droids a new Operation Scum and Villainy, Hard Mode Flashpoints.  So, what could this include, we know that there will be some Flashpoints, will there be an Operation, is this Manaan Research Facility a new Operation, would be nice.

There are people wanting a new planet, but it is unsure what is classed as a new planet, since Oricon and CZ-198 areas were new “planets” (yes CZ-198 is a moon).   But we would look at a new planet as new world missions additional daily missions, some faction story arc (though they won’t have class specific stories anymore) and a level increase.  So if Rise of the Hutt Cartel is a bigger expansion, there will be cuts.

Passwords a Plenty

lock-iconIt is a trend in life, you live in the modern era you will have a presence online, it seems a inevitable as the rising of the sun every morning there will be data, out there with information about you.

So in this growing online world the amount of information that exists grows as well.  We start finding it easier and easier to share photos and updates to family and friends.  Once we would send a yearly letter, with a current photo, now, log on to Twitter or Facebook and it is there, what we did this weekend, last weekend, and the hundreds of weekends before.  This is good and it is also bad.

But this post isn’t about the benefits of social media nor is it about the pitfalls of having a presence online.  It is about trying to make sure you data, remains as safe as possible and the first line of defence is the password. 

There has been plenty of information about there about what the most common passwords are, but what I will do in this post is show ways to help manage the plethora or passwords that are out there without having one universal password, how you might be able to have the most complex passwords out there but there is only a need to really remember one of them, and if there is only one, then that one can be more complex.

Hackers use a couple of different techniques when hacking the main is a brute force attack.  This is trying any account information they might be able to glean and trying all types of passwords.  Now a crude brute force attack, uses a combination method.  There are far more sophisticated versions available that use many different algorithms and heuristics to try and get passwords for accounts.

I want to show some examples of the amount of time it can take for a crude brute force attack.  To put it simply when using just characters, upper and lower case and numbers (this is a minimum for most passwords), this gives, 62 different characters.

Password Length

Combinations

a-z, A-Z, 0-9

Combinations

a-z, A-Z, 0-9, &, #, !, *, $, @

Difference

1

62

68

6

2

3,844

4,624

780

3

238,328

314,432

76,104

4

14,776,336

21,381,376

6,605,040

5

916,132,832

1,453,933,568

537,800,736

6

56,800,235,584

98,867,482,624

42,067,247,040

7

3,521,614,606,208

6,722,988,818,432

3,201,374,212,224

8

218,340,105,584,896

457,163,239,653,376

238,823,134,068,480

This simple table shows how the length affects how many possible combinations available.  Now looking at the Oxford dictionary there are about 228,132 words.  A brute force attack would and could cycle through a word in the dictionary very quickly.  To see the inclusion of the additional characters at only 8 character passwords offers 238 trillion more possible passwords.

The amount of time it takes for a PC to try and iterate through 457.163 trillion passwords is:

NOTE:
This is a single threaded calculation, using multiple threads across multiple cores could increase this speed, same would be using the cores on a GPU, my home PC has 1000+ CUDA cores all could be used to calculate passwords.  Though is more difficult than using a traditional processor.

So a quick explanation on how secure a password can or can’t be shows that the more characters one includes means that there are than many possibly combinations to check.

So, knowing that, what is one to do;

  1. Having multiple simple passwords across all the sites
    This is the most common approach people use passwords are easy to remember but are also easy to crack.
  2. Having a Single Complex password across all sites
    This is good, it makes cracking a password more difficult, but once they have it, they have it for potentially all sites.  Especially since people use the same email address too.
  3. Use complex passwords that are connected to what is being used
    This adds further complexity to the passwords but also makes it a little easier to remember them since you are at the site the password is being used.
  4. Multiple complex passwords mixing it is good
    And difficult to remember, we are creatures of habit, when we enter our password many times we will remember it, if we don’t then we will for get it.  Then you are going to have to go through a number of forgot password steps to get or reset the password until next time you forget the password
  5. Use a password vault.
    This is the best solution, as many password vaults enable very complex passwords, store ALL your passwords in an encrypted file and it also means you only need to enter one main password to open the fault.

Above is ordered, in my opinion, from worst option 1, to best option 5.  So why is it this way?  Why should I consider having any of these options.

Forget the single words

This is plan and simple, forget the days of having “password”, “welcome” or anything else that is a single word, why.  Simply because these words are in a dictionary and are the first ones used.  That coupled with numbers, “password1”, “welcome1” and so one.  These are nice and easy to remember, but a cinch to guess in a snap.

A password can be more than one word

A password can be made up of multiple words, it can be a sentence.  Single words are more simple to hack, but multiples in a sentence can add more complexity to hacking this password than even using a mixture of letters and symbols.

This also make the password more simply for the user to remember.  “LetsGoBroncos” is an example, “ImNeverGonnaGiveYouUp” these simple phrases suddenly make things more difficult.  Words exists and common heuristics can be used to help work out patterns but once again these take time to process and the longer it takes to hack it then the less likely it is to be hacked.

If it takes them 50 days to crack 1 account or 1 day to crack 50 accounts, they will opt for the 50 accounts in 1 day, every time.

Replace and Increase

There are letters and even words that can be replaced with one symbol.  “ILoveMoney”, “ILove$”, “ILove$$$$$” are all realtively easy to remember, but the last one, is a little more difficult to crack that the first 2.  Including these symbols means the number of possible combinations to try go up.  The more combinations the more difficult it is.  Other are using &, @ () for letter or word replacements, I will not give a list here, some are common some aren’t but it is best for you to use what you understand than me, some might use # for H but, I would use # for hash or sharp.

Forget the right way, use your way

What I mean by this is, the right spelling might not be the best.  Many ways to spell different words, or the use of homonyms, words that sound the same but have a different meaning. Butt and But, Poor, Paw, Pour and Pore.  Each of these can be used in your phrase;

MyCatHaasBigPores – so, Hass, and Pores changes the context of the word when looking at it and again makes it more difficult to guess.

Where I am can help me remember

I use the Blingles site and when I create my password I use “ILoveMyBlingles”.  But don’t use this across the board.  “ILoveMonstersHigh”, “ILoveMoshiMonsters” and so on.  Since guess the patter and you have all of them.  But, “
”MonstersHighRocks”, “MyMoshiMonstersAreCool” provide some examples of this.

A place a password can call home

We have now, so many passwords all complex and all long enough to take your account out of the mix of any quick brute force attack.  But I can’t remember them, well, I can now say don’t.  Use a password vault.

A password vault is a secure place for you to store all of your account and password details.  But there are so many, some online, some offline, some mobile, some not.  The thing to remember is look at something that you want to use and which is the best approach for these.

The simple ones is just an encrypted repository for all your passwords.  This is all it needs to be.  Others have better features like auto typing or storing additional information or grouping of the data.  Some features a nice others I feel are required.  Below is a list of things you want any password vault system to have no matter where or how it is stored.

  1. Strong Encryption – You want to have the best encryption possible, but also you want this to change if the best encryption gets better.
  2. Encryption is only as good as its encryption key.  This is like the password used AES uses up to 256bits for a password key.  Below is an example;
    6ZPIAFHPwPyqjkMIyRTRkC4Hd4MZPjUhkM4fgKF8T8M= MyEncryptedPassword but is encrypted with a 256bit key, the maximum size for AES.
    AuR4SL2Bt1BfPxdoB/X87bAQ6b+lsepCkoFrsQQ46+I= is the same word encrypted as before, but it used a 128bit key.  So, as you can see when something is encrypted with a longer key it will create better encryption.
  3. Generating passwords is a good one since coming up with passwords that are complex enough for use in systems and keeping them safe is not as easy as it sounds.  Once could simply put in jshdfjksdhfjksdfhjdsh  but without knowing I have created a pattern in the password, patterns are one element of trying to hack and crack encryption as patterns in passwords and keys could also setup patterns in the data they are encrypting.  Keep away from this.
  4. Key or a Password, why not both.  The better vaults have the ability to use more than one method to secure the vault.  Passwords are good, simply remembering a single password makes things easy, but a key, is far more complex than any password.   If the software can use both, it will further lock down the vault and prevent people hacking that, since this is going to contains the keys to your entire digital life, might as well make it as secure as possible.
  5. Password hashing – The vault should store your password within the file as a hash.  If it doesn’t hash it, then it isn’t as secure as one that does.
  6. Is NOT a cloud based solution.

With these in mind we need to look at a couple of elements I stated that need further explanation.

The Keys to the House

I used words like AES and 256bit, 128bit, Keys, Hashing.  So what are these and how does this affect me looking at password vault software.

AES

This is Advanced Encryption Standard it is one of the newer and possible more secure of the the encryption algorithms.  Though no encryption algorithm is completely unbreakable, the time to break 192bit and 256bit AES is obviously increasing high.  It is the current standard used by the US government.  Though with all of the goings on about the NSA and them hacking and requesting data, it is best to keep things as secure as possible.

256bit, 128bit

These are the key lengths used to encrypt the data.  The minimum of AES is 128bit and the max is 256bit.  I know what you might say, if increasing the key length also increases the strength of the encryption as I showed above why not use a longer key.  The Algorithm is fix to take keys at a maximum size.  But there is a trade off, the longer the key the longer it will take to encrypt and decrypt the data.

Keys

Keys are a file or a single of characters up to a certain size that are used to add to the security when encrypting.  With Vault software some of them might use a password and a key.  If you don’t have the key you can’t decrypt the file, ever.  Since both parts are used to decrypt the file and therefore you are missing a large portion of the key used to encrypt the data.  SSL uses this form of encryption since there is no passwords they use a combination of public keys and private keys.  Data can be encrypted using the public key but only the private key can be used to decrypt the data.

Hashing

This has nothing to do with potatoes.  A hash is a one way encryption of data.  In the world of the ever expanding internet when passwords are stored on the server they should be stored in a hash format.  Why?   It is impossible to workout the value that created the hash, I say impossible but in terms of reference, in computing nothing is impossible and giving the amount of time it can be calculated, infeasible means the time it takes it process, currently is not within these boundaries and therefore are not possible at this moment in time.

Given a machine that can perform 1012 operations per second, this is a lot.  The time to work out a solution 2n and given that this time is in the terms of time small, 264.  It would take 213 days give or take to calculate this.  Increase it to 2100 which is still not terribly complex that would take 40,196,936,841 years, yes, 40 billion, the universe is only 14 billion years old, give or take.  So a computational task that takes that long to complete, is considering infeasible.  213 days isn’t but I wanted to point out the difference between the complexities, might not look like much on the surface but turns out to be massive in the end.  AES complexity is 2254.2 so that would potentially take longer than the 40 billion years to work out a 2100 complexity.

OK, so you want a vault that has good encryption, enables use of keys and passwords (both would be better), can generate passwords, stores the vault password as a hashed value and is NOT a cloud based solution.

Encryption in the Clouds

Why not in the cloud?  So much stuff is moving there, it would be nice to use a system that enables me to get access to all my passwords online.  For a couple of reasons.

  1. The internet might not be always available and therefore you might need a way to use it offline.
  2. You can be assured the business who operates the site will be there tomorrow.  If it is gone, so is your complete vault of passwords.
  3. Can you trust them?  Given the plethora of statements made by Edward Snowden regarding the NSA and companies handing over private data to them what gives you any trust in someone who houses all of your account and password information.  NSA knocks on their door and requests is with a federally signed document stating they must provide it.  OR, they are in a country who’s laws aren’t as strict as other countries and therefore it isn’t in their best interest in keeping this data out of state hands.
  4. You sure it is secure?  I have entered my password and the database is showing, but is it encrypted, how can I tell, where do you keep the password, in the same database I have my data in, etc…  All of these are valid and go to show when the data isn’t in your hands you are putting a lot of trust into these businesses.

So, offline would be a recommended model but cloud solutions are good if they offer ways of backing it up offline, accessing it offline, terms of services and service level agreements, etc…  If not, and you read some of them and realise that they do not store things in one way encryption or using simple encryption algorithms.

What should I use?

Well there are two I would recommend, both are offline and one offers many more devices.  It is a preference and either would enable you to feel safe using.  KeePass is an open source software than provide all of the elements I would look for an more.  This is an offline model but it can support using file hosting services like DropBox if you wish to maintain this not just locally but enable you to synchronise the data across all systems.  There are some mobile applications that can use the KeePass database as well, but KeePass has only the software for Windows but since it is Open Source, there are many different versions available for many devices, see the Download page.

The other is Norton Identity Safe.  This is a Free product as well but is not Open Source.  But Norton release a version for Windows, iOS and Android, which can cover most of your needs.  Norton is a trusted name for the protection of your PC.  Since they released Norton Utilities, they have kept making your PCs faster and more secure.  BUT, this is the only cloud based solution I would recommend.  It is simple, easy to use and can store more data you need.  My main issue with Identify Safe is there is no use of keys, passwords for the vault that are limited to 20 characters. 

Is there an issue with using Open Source software for your passwords, no, as long as your control the file the passwords are stored in and I do.  I have my password file, available to me anywhere I want.  Store it in DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, anywhere that might enable you to store any file type the ones that allow automatic integration into Windows Explorer or enable automatic synchronisation as well would mean all PCs that run the software could get access to it.

IF you WANT a cloud based solution I have included this one in here as my recommendation for it.  But I would prefer to recommend KeePass.  As it is more secure (as it is offline), can use a key and a password, the passwords aren’t restricted in size for the vault itself.

The Password to Rule Them All

So, you have decided to use a vault and you are about to create a new one.  The password, remember the lesson of the password.  It comes all undone (potentially) if you secure your vault password with password (11bits, yes a long way shy of the maximum of 256bits allowable in AES).  So if you only need to remember one password, then go to town.

0n3P@$$w0rd2Rul3Th3m@ll

It means that once you have that, then everything else is there for you and you can store anything secure in there you like.

References


Public-Key Cryptography. (2014, June 15). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-key_cryptography

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). (2014, June 24). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Encryption_Standard

The Patterns in a Practical Position

thc1bl12enPatterns, software development and the last 5-8 years have been pushing patterns.  Like Agile and SCRUMM (I know they are different), the new wave of development is the implementation of patterns into applications (they aren’t new, they are old but as we are developing more and more cross platform application across multiple devices it becomes more and more important to use familiar logic to hook our applications together with).

My biggest issue is not the use of them, they are great, they offer a wonderful reusable way of implementing common functionality throughout you application and then future applications with minimum fuss.  The best one recently I can think of is the MVVM/MVC and its purpose is to decouple the interface from the application, the purpose of this is to have a single backend code and the front end can be across multiple platforms and be native as they are all using the MVVM/MVC pattern.  But why am I?

Also note, MVC isn’t new (Circa. 1970s), but it has become an important part of mobile application development as you can’t always determine how you will connect to a backend and therefore keeping the UI separate means you, as the UI developer, only need to hook in the view to see it working and not concern yourself with calling specific methods, API calls or other more complex ways to get data in and out of an application.

So like Model View View-Model (Model View Controller) other pattern creep in and provide a mechanism to help make life easier for the developer, but there is one thing that irks me about new patterns.  Details, details and I will also say details.  It is all well and good to show me code, this is the way to implement the Snake Pattern; implement this interface, inherit these classes, create concrete classes from the interface, charm a snake and then, you will have your application.  Why?  Why am I doing this?  What purpose is the pattern in solving a problem, can this pattern be used on all applications across all platforms. 

I see code, it shows me how the person implemented this pattern.  I started by doing this, next I added this and this to implement this.  Next I, blah, blah and blah.  That is fine, following word for word code is fine, at the end I hit F5 and everything works, but why?    The one I see and it might be me and not understanding the purposes for such but a pattern was shown to me as a way of decoupling a class’s implementation from it’s abstraction enabling the two to vary from one another.  I understand abstraction, being a core component of object oriented programming, but the decoupling of it, my nature of the abstraction means no implementation of the class is in the definition of the abstraction (please tell me if I am wrong, I would like to know). 

But the remaining part of this article tells me how they did it, using a metaphor that isn’t common in the development of examples.  New technologies and learning new techniques and methodologies is difficult enough and keeping on top of them in an ever changing world is even more so.  So, telling me about useful patterns, Bridge, Adapter, MVC, whatever it might be is good, telling me it is for this, but tell me why, show me why, don’t make me just copy verbatim the code you have provided to make it work.  This means I won’t learn anything.

It has been a bug bear of mine over the many years of learning languages and learning how to program in those languages and it is the examples and the nature of telling me how to do this and that. 

When learning the basics, it is fine to say this is how you create variables

int varable = 1;

But when it comes to things more complex, give me more useful examples.  But it is a gripe and nothing to much other than this is the way I learn new things. 

George RR Martin and the DOS

WordI have a DOS operating system at home.  I know the redundancy of saying a Disk Operating System Operating System, but DOS is its name, despite it having an acronym.  I do like using it, it takes me back to a days when computing was simpler but also more complex at the same time, viruses were propagated by the sharing of floppies, spyware and malware were words not invented and despite there being some issues it often just worked.

So why am I writing about this and George RR Martin using DOS, well why, DOS was decent for 1992 but we have moved on and not just for the worst, see below;

‘Game of Thrones’ author George RR Martin has explained why he does all his writing on an obsolete disk operating system (DOS) computer – because it does not correct his spelling.

BBC – BBC – Wed May 14 23:45:00 UTC 2014

His reason for it and using WordStar was it never corrected his spelling.  I can relate to what, when writing novels using modern word processors they are trying to correct everything, spelling, grammar, improper word usage.  Now some of these features have been a god send in some ways, but the auto correction item sometimes makes sentences like “As I pushed my hands into the earth I knew I belonged on the Earth.” so, it is difficult for applications to know which context is what, as a reader we can work these out. 

So, for you George RR Martin, move into the realm of modern computing (I know your internet machine is) but there is much more that Word 2013 can offer than WordStar.  I know what it is used to but this is a nice tip anyway.

Click the File Tab and click Options

image

This opens Words options.  Under there is proofing which is where all the spell checking happens, so I will go through these options to help enlighten how they work and then, how to turn it off and turn your Microsoft Word 2013 into a sometimes less annoying application, at least when it comes to spelling.

When correcting spelling in Microsoft Office programs

These items are some exceptions to the general spelling rules.

Ignore words in UPPERCASE – Simply put, when you write acronyms, etc… like DOS, the spell checker will simply ignore the word as it knows you are possibly referring to an acronym.  Uncheck it and you will see those pesky words you have typed in uppercase to have the red squiggly lined under them.

Ignore words that contain numbers – Numbers within words, why would ne1 would want to do that?  Yes, we have started to become a society of abreviations for words that really don’t need them, thx to the texting generation or now the Twitter generation where getting the words out for what you had for breakfast might put you over the 144 character limit.

Ignore internet and file addresses – Type a URL or URI which can and often does have words that are not real, http://www.whereismyworld.com (This is made up, well maybe I haven’t checked it).  So, we can see that whereismyworld is not a proper word and Word would rightly flag it so, unless you using the http:// or the file: qualifiers to state what comes next.

Flag repeated words – Handy in much of my writing, who, who indeed, has not had this problem when they need to use two words in a row, Wagga Wagga and Mullem Mullem are examples, certainly in Australian Aboriginal lexicon. 

Enforce accented uppercase in French – There are words in the French language that their definition is different between one spelling and another and the difference to them is merely an accent character.   Remember the option of ignoring uppercase words, well this above will mean if you want to talk about “The sign above their head read CURE.”, well this would not be right since our intrepid heroes, being in France, are looking, not for a cure but a priest, which is, “The sign above their head read CURÉ”.  There are many different words that are like this but in Word this is often used with French (Canadian) selected (and is defaulted too).

image

Suggest from main dictionary only – Simple, any custom words you have added will not be included when you right click the word and it shows the suggestions available.   Unsure where you would want this, I guess to use within an enterprise who do not want people getting around spelling mistakes by using custom dictionaries to add words.

Custom Dictionaries – Opens a dialog that enables you to include any dictionary you want.  You can look up Medical dictionaries, legal ones, computing ones and so on.  You might have free ones, but many might be pay.  But this is where you would add any new or custom dictionaries you want to include.

AutoCorrect options

This is the area that Mr. Martin didn’t want to  do, and thankfully for him you can turn a lot of these off.  Sick of having those (c) being turned into © or worse.  Each of these can be turned off, like all options.  Though the AutoCorrect feature is handy, especially when it comes to words I just have trouble typing properly.

Show AutoCorrect Options buttons – These are handy options that will initially display as a small underline, then as you hover a drop down button appears with some options to reverse the change, turn off this auto correct or go to the AutoCorrect options.

Correct TWo INitial CApitals – This is a handy feature I must say, it happens a bit just because I am not a touch typist so I might just hold the shift key down a little longer than needed and then I have hit the next key.

Capitalise first let of sentences – Says what it does.  When typing a new sentence, which is the start of a new paragraph or the first word following a full stop.  It will automatically capitalise the word for you.

Capitalise first letter of table cells -  Like the sentence one, this will look at the first word of a table cell to need to be capitalised.

Capitalise names of days – Monday, tuesday, wednesday and so on, these days of the week and proper nouns and therefore need to be capitalised.

Correct accident usage of cAPS LOCK key – This one fixes the mistake of you hitting the caps lock key, and continuing you writing and will also turn the caps lock key, off.

image

Each of these options can be turned off, and it will no longer correct anything for you automatically.

When correcting spelling and grammar in Word

These options are for the spell and grammar checking in Microsoft Word.  Once again, each of these can be turned off if you do not want to even see your mistakes.

Check spelling as your type – This will show that red squiggly line under the mistake.  When this came in, with Microsoft Word 95 (I believed I saw it in Word 6.0 but I could be wrong). Was a real step forward in the spelling mantra of word processors, and you now see it all over the place.  In the later versions of web browsers that are now including these same marks to enable you to see the mistakes in web pages.  Don’t want to see them, then turn them off.

Mark Grammar errors as you type – Once again when this was introduced into Word it was an external application they bought and then integrated it into Word.  It didn’t work well when first introduced as it would often not pick up the different spelling of words based on the context they’re used in.   But this can be annoying in some respects but it shows a blue squiggly line when it detects and issue, so, turn it off and you will not know how grammatically correct your sentences is or isn’t.  This is annoying when it comes to a sentence fragment.  I like them.

Frequently confused words – There are words that are often confused.  Which words, well my mind pours over this poorly written work to know it isn’t the paws of a cat causing this nor is it the pore within my skin.  That is a poor example, but you get the point.  It is supposed to determine the context and which word would go there, or was it their, or they’re, who knows, well I do and most of the time, Word does too, or to.  Damn.

Check grammar with spelling – Remember once upon a time, you would click F7 and you would them be displayed a dialog.

image

Yes that is the one.  Though it did look different, and it shows you the work, selects it and shows you the options.  Once, this was the ONLY way to check the spelling in your documents.  I would be curious to know, who still uses the F7 key to check spelling. 

Granted now, I can get definitions and hear how it is pronounced, if you haven’t hear it before.  But times have changed since the humble spelling and now grammar dialog.

Show readability statistics – I know what this does, but I don’t.  Off the bat it tells me if the sentence I have written or even that matter the document will provide too much for the person clasping their eyes, trying to make sense of this madness, written before them, or if it is too easy and maybe the difficulty needs to be ramped up.

It shows the number of words and the like, but the what determines the Flesch Reading Ease or Flesch-Kincaid Grade level mean something, mostly I am sure Flesch and Kincaid.  But if these are important you can see this after using F7 and everything is checked and complete.

Writing Styles – If you use the grammar checker then this will be of some benefit.  If you understand the differences with all of the variations of sentence style or grammar then you will be more at home in this dialog. 

The dialog shows all of the different forms of grammar and then writing style that can be checked in your document.  But since you can turn off grammar checking, this might not be of to much interest if you have the check grammar with spelling turned off. 

I don’t think I will go through these options and tell you the difference between Passive sentences and wordiness. 

Now, if all of these options are too much for you to bear that is OK, baring all like this will help.  But you can also not care and turn them off, or just hide them in your current document. 

So for Mr. Martin, turn off Check text as your type, check spelling as your type and check grammar as you type and you will not be bothered with any of the issues that make you want to use the old DOS WordStar.  If there was grammar checking in this Live Writer, I think what I have written here would possibly break all the rules of any grammar checker.

Just for reference, turn it on in Word will make it look like;

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Too many squiggly lines if you ask me.  Perhaps George is onto something.

The SWTOR Helper

swtor-logo-256x2561As many of you who read my blog might know, I am an ardent player of SWTOR.  I am also a software engineer/software developer/computer programmer or anything else that has to do with making bespoke software.  For ages I have been looking into ways to help the SWTOR community, more often myself get better use out of the game.  I have come up with, an idea for a helper.

Now, SWTOR doesn’t enable extensions to the game, they have done this possibly for the reason of preventing exploits.  When you open up your API for others to use, they will not always use it for purposes of good.  Which is OK, there is much that I am sure many people would like to do, but we are restricted.

That said, I feel that we can have a helper which I will be working on.  One such helper application is the SWTOR Unleashed (exca, 2012)application, this enables the moving of some files into a RAM Disk to help increase the performance of loading some areas. It works BUT has consequences when updating the files on patches.  So, I have decided, so sometimes to think of a way.  But I have had mixed success as it seems to stick out.

Upon looking into WPF the other way, I have found a way to help make this look like it is part of the in game experience but it is not.  This is my initial test, I will be adding more into it to make things better, I will put down information I will be planning on expanding on as well.

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Well this is it for now.  What is the purpose of it.  Well right now it is very much a test for me to add more and more things.  It shows the current server time (this is based on the last played server, which while playing will be the current server).  It will also have a latest news link to the SWTOR site, which updates to the latest item on the news feed.

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Well this doesn’t sound like much of a helper, and I guess in the current context it isn’t, but it has enabled me to look at the timers and use in WPF, knowing that the UI and application components are on different threads in some contexts.  It got me reading URLs to read some data and then also learning WPF which is the most important aspect of it.

So what are my plans?

I want this to be a helper.  Sure the latest news is handy but I want to monitor the SWTOR twitter feed to get updates there, especially around the maintenance patches.  I want to show the server status of your last server, which will get this from the SWTOR site. 

Include a timer/alarm which can notify players, who are grouped (which I need to look at as well, similar to the way the parsers work with raids).  But it can enable the setting of a guild alarm, E.g.  Raid at 2pm Server Time, or UTC.  Have the clock convert between all server times, East, West, England, West Europe and UTC.    This way it will prevent the constant questions, “is there a raid tonight?”

Number of Kills.  This is just informative.  Throughout all of your characters, how many have you killed?  Well I will include that, and the idea is to have that Tally as a scoreboard, see who has killed the most and even break it down into All, Elite, Champion, Boss and so on.

Links to the tips.  This means I am going to link to walkthroughs and videos of the major fights, World Bosses, Ops Bosses, Flashpoints and so on.

Guilds this is something that will get there, I am wanting to eventually put down a list of all guilds, link them in for their sites or Facebook pages and/or twitter accounts.  Provide people with in game contacts based on the server you are on, including the recruitment restrictions and so on.

Short cuts to DirectX Diagnostic Tool, Trace Route application, things that might be handy when having issues with the game.  But these will also include some checks to make sure you have the right versions of DirectX and provide a link to install them

The idea behind all of this is a genuine helper.  Since we can’t hook into the game, make it so there is more than enough reason to have people want to use, avoid the need to search for these tips or information only to be bombarded with all manner of information of which much of it might be useless.  Or have people in general chat tell you see Dulfy’s site, unsure why, since as thorough as this information is, it is still not that helpful, why should I stack this over this, rotations, why, do I just step 1, 2, 3, 4 and repeat in the fight.  There might be other tips that can help, I will hopefully be able to find all I need to and link it in.

But I will be adding in a few more elements and I will provide updates on it too.  But this is a work in progress and it is something I am hoping people will use or find useful.  But the first element I want to include is that scheduling, since in my guild, we are often seeing people ask, do we have a raid, when are the ops.  So, stay tuned.

References

exca. (2012, 07 09). SWTOR Unleashed (game files in RAM to improve performance). Retrieved 05 05, 2014, from http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=529567

Delays for Galactic Strongholds, but Great.

swtor-logo-256x2561I have a SWTOR post, this one is information on a new release in SWTOR called Galactic Strongholds.  This was set for release in June, but through I am sure the increase in complexity, they have removed it from the 2.8 release which will still contain a host of fixes, include the Nightmare Mode Dread Palace.  So now in August 19 2014 will see the release of 2.9 Galactic Strongholds.  The official news article, Producer Letter – Galactic Strongholds

A Home away from Home

So, many MMOs have had housing, and now, SWTOR is no different.  Our ship was once considered the home we had it had mailbox, guild bank, cargo hold, GTN access and training dummies (if you unlocked the legacy items).  But, there seemed to be something cold about this.  We are all earth bound creatures so having terra-firma underfoot gives a sense of belonging.  So, housing, sorry, strongholds will hopefully give us that feel and like so many homes in MMOs we will be able to make it our own.

  • Access to the strongholds on Nar Shaddaa, Coruscant and Dromund Kaas
Planet - Nar Shaddaa Planet - Coruscant Planet - Dromund Kaas
  • Legacy Storage
    This is one of my personal favourites.  I like the crafting in SWTOR, but I have 9 level 55 characters catering to a wide range of crafting, gathering and mission skills.  You get your alts to gather, get rewards for missions then, put it into the Legacy Storage facility, and hopefully, any player of your legacy with a crafting ability can use those materials without using their own cargo hold.
  • Prestige
    Unsure what this is, but to have this displayed for all to see.  This will have links to the Cartel Market, maybe.  Unsure at this stage, could also be based on the decorations and the quality used within the stronghold.  Which could lead to ultra rare decorations being dropped by bosses from Operations, Hard Mode and Nightmare Mode.
  • Decorations
    I believe this will operate like reputation trophies, in your daily questing you will receive potential decorations, they will have some available on the Cartel Market and also within pack from the Cartel Markets.  Bosses will possibly drop the rarest and more prestigious of the lot.
  • Guild Flagships
    The republic guilds have available the Valor (or Valour) class cruiser.  The Empire gets the mainstay of the Imperial fleet, the Harrower class Dreadnaught.

These were the initial announcements, but due to the delay a few more things were revealed and I am sure this got a lot of people salivating at the prospect.

  • Conquest Events – These are PvE based events according to Eric Musco on the SWTOR forums, see below.  “Conquering a planet is done through completion of Conquest Events, which are PvE Missions.”  Sound interesting am wanting to know more about these.
  • Strongholds are legacy wide, not a single character thing.  Which gives more credibility to the whole Legacy advancement.  There are good things and I am also thinking that some unlocks in the stronghold will be dependant on legacy level as well.
  • Flagships, will enable buffs to their members while down on a planet they are orbiting.  Transport the entire groups of peoples to coordinates and also perform the Conquest events, massive guild PvE events which based on similar to I am sure the stronghold ones but provide benefits to the guild.
  • You will be able to quick travel to your stronghold at any time, just like quick travel now, and subscribers might have options to quick travel back to the previous location, great for emptying the inventory into the legacy storage.

So, much to look forward to, but looking at answers given my Eric Musco in the forums, see below, means we have some more information to give.

“We want Flagships to be something that Guilds strive to acquire”

So this means it is going to cost a lot of money, one of the first missions will be to secure a flagship, though a conquest event, that will require an 8 or 16 man operations of sorts (which would be good).

Having guilds conquering planets.  There will be Leader board which will list the guilds.  Based on the points earned in the conquest missions will place the guild onto this board, and therefore if you are at the top, you have conquered the planet and will receive special perks and rewards, possibly like the ranked PvP perks.  Things like titles, decorations for the stronghold to show off that you have conquered the planet.

So, what is this going to do.  It is expand the game greatly and I am sure many people playing are looking forward to it.  But, on a guild point this looks like a have and have not situation, I will explain.

Current we have a top set of guilds, they are the ones, on the public test servers (when available), trialling the new operation mechanics.  When the time comes, the operation is live, they can do it, almost beat it in one, and they can start farming for the best gear.

Dependant on the missions involved (if any) on getting the capital ship for the guild, or even if it is money, these top guilds will often have millions of credits at their disposal.  They get the ship, they can enter orbit and complete the conquest missions first, get the points, get the buffs, etc…  We have a situation here that for anyone else trying to get over this hill would require a mammoth task.  The top guilds only will have the ability to get there and stay there.  I know what you are saying, if they are the first, they are the best, they deserve to be there.

I do not argue any point in that.  I simply say that it is going to cause a disparity as it does now.  More details will have to come out about these and what effect they will have, good bad or indifferent.  In many ways we are going through this in the Australian economy, haves and have nots.  But at least you don’t need to be a homeless bum sleeping the streets of Dromund Kaas, waiting for some upstart sith to attempt to kill you for sport. 

References

Maclean, B. (2014, April 4). Producer Letter – Galactic Strongholds. Retrieved from Star Wars: The Old Republic: http://www.swtor.com/info/news/article/20140423

Musco, E. (2014, April 4). Forums – General Discussion – Producer Letter – Galactic Strongholds. Retrieved from Star Wars: The Old Republic: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=737151

The Truth in the Stick

PS3%20JoystickWell, I occasionally put in posts about games I play (I am not counting SWTOR here OK).  But I managed to get some kid free time to play South Park; The Stick of Truth.  I was going to rant about the censors of Australia, like so many places of public officialdom believe that know better than I, what I want.  Suffice to say that not banning the game in Australia enabled me to get the game from overseas in Australia.  I am one for watching and playing the best version, Director’s Cuts, Game of the Year editions and so on, so knowing that some elements were cut from the game and replaced with just a crying Koala and a textual description of what was happening was not the same as seeing and therefore opted to spend my money overseas.  Another local Aussie retailer loses money because of the government (and it has nothing to do with the GST (Goods and Servicers Tax)).

So, with that disc in my hot little hand, I found my controller (the one not used the kids which means it still works as in Dual Shock and SIXAXIS) and I decided to boot up my PS3.  I am a fan of Role Play Games on the PC, enabling to play RPGs without the required organisation and room and time needed to find enough people with the same time to sit down and play a pen and paper RPGs these offer the next best thing.  I am also a fan of Obsidian as a game developer they have created some great games, Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Alpha Protocol and et. al.  But they seem to have some problems with delivery, unsure of the backroom machinations and who says what they are either over stating their ability to delivery what they can or are being forced to, either way it often leaves the game not properly finished or properly tested and as a consequence will otherwise mar a potentially great game.

I will use Alpha Protocol in this, the story, the game play each of these elements gave the game this feel that I have not had in an RPG in a long time, it sat me on the edge of my seat, wanting to push ahead in the game.  But so many times was the game hampered by problems, technical problems.  Which shows the game was not properly tested before being released as it was often commented on by reviewers.  This game got OK scores but had they released a properly working game it would have had better scores.  The same went for KOTOR2 and Fallout: New Vegas, a great game hidden by a myriad of bugs and technical issues.  Many have been fixed, but in KOTOR2, there is a large portion of the game never released because the game, already delayed was on a VERY tight timeframe to follow up on the massive popularity of KOTOR.   PC owners can download and install a mod that is meant to restore as much of the content that can.

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That aside, when I read about the delays in the release of South Park, which like many of the Obsidian games, I have been excited for this game for sometime but when the delays were announced and when THQ went under things were starting to not look good.

Thankfully Ubisoft took over the distribution and the game was finally released and I will say, it is a great game.  An RPG that feels like an old fashioned RPG but captures 100% the essence and feel of South Park.  This game comes so close to watching South Park that anyone who were to walk in the room, would not think twice if it wasn’t or not.

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So like many of the games the kids play in the TV show you find a way into the game they are playing.  Everything seems to be in this game that you might expect.  The number of times I have found myself just laughing out loud.  Trying to open Stan’s Wardrobe and hearing Tom Cruise say “I am never coming out…”  was a nice touch.

There are some minor flaws here and there but nothing that seems to have been on account of Obsidian rushing their releases and more to do with specific mechanics. 

As far as the RPG goes, it has all the elements.  The standard 3 class and the additional Jew class system.  The character customisation which is as good as it should be for this game and the fact that you can change your appearance throughout the game means you can pick what you want, and certainly when I got the Chin Balls I felt that I needed to walk a mile in Butters’ shoes.

Turn based RPG system that also requires timing of the button presses to make the critical strike.  There is weapon stickers and strap-ons that enable your to augment the ability you already have.  The special abilities are a good touch and provide a decent ability to help with vanquishing the “elves” that are in South Park.  Coupled with Magic, a special South Park Magic gives additional boosts and the ability to clear paths when needed.  But this is the mechanic that seems difficult to properly grasp and can often be ineffective.  But accompanied with Summons (like many Fantasy setting RPGs), you are able to unlock some of the friends you get in your journey but some being Mr Kim (from City Wok, or Shitty Wok) and Mr Slave to name but two.

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This is South Park, all the voices are here and all of them are well integrated into the game.  As for other sounds throughout the game, it give that feeling you are in that town but also don’t feel out of place for the type of RPG that this is.  The music is a combination of music from the TV show, custom music written for the game and there is a nice choral element where Cartman is in the background of the piece. 

As for game play it as as much depth as many RPGs of the past.  No crafting system but it would have been limited as to what you could craft.  But potions a plenty, revives, mana and power potions means you can help your allies or yourself.  One element I like is Butters’ Healing Touch, where he comes up, pats you on the back and tells you everything is OK.  It was a nice Butters moment.

Graphics, what could one say about the graphics of the game, it is South Park, it look like no matter where you go.  From the characters to the backgrounds to the weapons.  The PS3 version is running at 720p, but I don’t think it would matter if this was running at higher resolutions on a PC, since the graphics on each version would look the same.  This is South Park and no matter how many pixels you have to show it, it will look like South Park. 

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Adults are not Children

The only grievance I have is not with the game, it is over the version that was released into Australia (and it also seems some other parts of the world).  There was some content replaced in the game with that of a crying Koala and the textual description of the goings on.  To me, we had a recent introduction of a R 18+ rating for games and under these new censorship laws, this game was either going to be banned or needed to be edited.  Rather than fight, they decided to edit the game and replace it with what is above.

As an adult who has children, I have not played this game in front of my kids, ever.  I understand the concepts portrayed in the game and understand the contexts of what is going on.  But to be told as an adult that I am not able to view certain elements because they are, well for whatever reason not clean enough for me is just rubbish.  Now my only possible reasoning for this is that despite the R rating that they assume that children will be playing it (I personally know of several children who are under 18 years old who have played this game (the censored Australian version that is).  So regardless of the law children will still play the game.

But due to this crappy situation local retailers have lost out because I have ordered this game overseas.  It cost me less money in the long run and also gave me a game that is completed and unedited.  I am responsible with whom I let see or play this game, but those who are responsible are being subjected to antiquated laws even ones drafted in 2012, because they believe we are all children, or that children will see this.

That said, elements I have already seen in this game (unedited) are no worse than what I have seen aired on TV in Australia, which doesn’t make sense to me since that is only rated M or MA at the worst.  Interactive or not there is no excuse at all.

</RANT>

So, with the ranting over I would say, RPG fans who do not like South Park should not get this game.  Though it is a solid RPG and has all the elements an RPG should have, it is South Park, from the classes (Jew) to the Summons, Mr. Slave, to the taunts in the battles, all of them come back to the fact that you are in a South Park game, RPG or not.  South Park fans, who might not like RPGs will still get much out of this game.  Accessible for those not used to the concepts but certainly can be played on easy just to enjoy the South Park portion of it. 

People like me, who are fans of RPGs and South Park will find that the amount of content in the game will satisfy that RPG itch you might want and means you feel like you are watching just a South Park episode.  So if you are in Australia, then I might recommend Play-Asia.com, the PS3 version is not region encoded and therefore is playable on any PS3 but some versions of the XBOX360 version can only be played in certain regions so be careful with what you get.

A Strange Oort Cloud Object

SpaceSo many theories have come and gone about the coming of the 4 horsemen.  Some fantastical and some potentially plausible, depending on your belief and understanding.  But one recent theory has me intrigued and has me in search of more information.  But first I will put some context in it on perhaps where these theories might have come from and the possibility of links to others, if I can.

Nibiru

This is supposed to be a planetary object that is meant to come into the solar system that will either hit earth or be a near miss.  The orbit is contrary to the orbit of other objects within the solar system (which in itself is not strange).  This bizarre orbit is not the area which is not unreal, Pluto (a planet in my books still) was thought to have been capture by the Sun.

Simply put, a planetary body supposedly the size of the Earth orbiting our sun (albeit in a very contrary way to all other planets) would have been seen, would cause all kinds of other disturbances within our solar system including knocking asteroids in the asteroid belt and even hitting objects in the Kuiper Belt.  The theory of a hit or a near miss in 2012 never eventuated but because it hasn’t been seen one might postulate that it is still not proof it doesn’t exists as there are billions of billions of objects within the known universe that we have no seen but theory suggests it is there.  But this end of the world scenario has been theorised but has never materialised.

So going on about this Nibiru since this seems like the most plausible scenario on the scale of plausible of not plausible to potentially having plausibility.

Firstly why has not much in the main science spoken about this? Most of the comments come from what is called pseudoscience, even if some of these scientists are reputable.  It also doesn’t help the debate when conspiracy theorists jump onto this bandwagon and yell cover-up as to why only information from the fringe is emerging.

So let us look at the information we have;

Images, yes some have emerged from sources unsure that show and object with what seems to be satellites.  Those with some understanding states this object is a Brown Dwarf Star with its own system of planets orbiting.

So this is an image, enhanced, taken from an observatory in Antarctica.  This is an image in the infrared, the red blob is meant to be the brown dwarf, more often only visible in the infrared spectrum as they emit heat but very little light.

The position of this is 0°02’37.77” arc-degrees, Right Ascension 9h47m56.32s.

When things start to go strange is when the believers start looking at this with several pairs of rose coloured glasses, enough smoking of the wacky tobaccy and state that one of the celestial bodies orbiting this brown dwarf houses and civilisation that settled earth as a form of slave labour, in the subsequent 3600 years since their last visit we have expanded in size and have broken our so called shackles.  This race is called the Anunnaki, they are a technologically and supposedly morally superior race of beings to which we are their slaves.

Now I am willing to accept there is a lot about the universe that is not know.  I am even willing to look at the evidence about there being another object out there beyond the Kuiper belt affecting the orbit of the outer edge planets.   But the moment we start going into this realm of another civilisation on another planet orbiting close to their brown dwarf star then I need a little more than some theories out there.

I have some theories about the universe which are mine, I am not a astrophysicist nor a scholar nor mathematician of any kind and my theories are based on information I have read and seen, they are not unbelievable nor are they backed up by any basis either, they are mine.  I am one who requires a lot of convincing and will often sway when there is evidence presented.

Nemesis

Some scientists believe an object is out there an unseen twin to our sun, a Brown Dwarf which correlates to some information in the Nibiru camp.  But they do not believe that this object enters our solar system but merely orbits the sun, tugs on the orbits of Neptune and Uranus and every 26 million years (give or take) will disturb objects in the Oort Cloud and this send these sometimes massive objects into the centre of the solar system.

This theory has gained some momentum based on the theory of mass extinction events happening every 26 million years or so.  This option sounds plausible, most systems in the universe are binary systems and the fact that we are in the select few of non-normal systems and happen to have life and happen to have intelligent life, seems hard to swallow.  But the idea of there being a twin star, yet unseen orbiting far out from our sun doesn’t seem too far fetched.

So astrophysicists will continue scanning the heavens in search for this wondering where this object might be, why, well if it disturbs objects out in the far reaches of our solar system, these objects come into the path of the earth like Feb 15 2013 over Russia, seen, photographed, videoed and heard by people in the region.  This was one of the largest such objects in recent times but was smaller than the one that shook Tunguska June 30 1908.

So it seems like a good thing since this object that crashes back in 2013 was nothing compared to the size of the object that brought about the extinction of the Dinosaurs or the other events that brought the eras of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods to the abrupt ends.  And since there is a massive object (90377 Sedna) which some also call a dwarf planet and Sedna is about half the size of Pluto and if knocked from its orbit would cause a massive problem if it crossed into our orbit.  Hence the search for something that might cause some issues. 

The Oort Cloud is just as unknown as the Universe

That is the truth, the Oort Cloud a cloud of the remaining particles, gases and dust not formed into planets, comets, asteroids and other stellar objects orbiting our Sun it is a almost spherical cloud about 1 light years or about 60,000AU1 , scientists can guess the items in it, they would be making sure they mark the ones that can cause problems.  This floats around in space, orbiting our sun, very slowly.  It is said that the objects there can be perturbed by the gravitational forces of the Milky Way itself.  Though there is no data to support this theory but they need an explanation how comets from the Oort cloud change their trajectory around the sun.

Scientists are trying to look at these bizarre trajectories of these ex-Oort cloud objects to determine a possible cause, but I believe they are still looking, and certainly the believes of any theory of an extra planet/twin star brings those believers back into the fray and scream cover-up again since they believe it is simple to explain why these objects have been shifted from the original and safe orbit around the sun.

But because something is not known doesn’t mean someone is covering information up.  A lot of science is the search for truth, so scientists out there are searching for this truth.  To them claim that the government is making or forcing the scientists to clam up about this mystery in the depths of our solar system is odd in deed as it would see that more data would come out, likes of Edward Snowden aren’t alone in their need to release information they feel the world should know. 

Let us Assume…

OK, let us look at this with some defined context.  Suppose there is a brown dwarf star out there orbiting our sun, it is about the size of 8 times earth mass, we will hold it there for now.  Since there is various theories on when this sucker orbits the sun 3600 years or 26 million depends on how far out since Sedna takes 11,400 to get around does show the gravitational influence the sun can have on celestial bodies.

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  1. It is thought that at its furthest point this star is about 3 light years from the sun, but it is also about 1 light year to Proxima Centauri (our closest star).  Knowing that Proxima Centauri is about one-seventh the size and one-eighth the mass of our Sun but is also at its furthest point three-quarters closer to Proxima Centauri than our sun you would think that there might be some tug from the closest star certainly enough for it to shift. 

But I will say that Proxima Centauri is our closest star now but hasn’t and won’t be ours in the past or future.  So this tug might be nothing.

Where am I going with this?  I am getting there, well I hope I am.  So, this body then decides (well, you know what I mean) swing by our neighbour hood.  Some might say we should be able to see it by now if it is going to swing by the place, well brown dwarfs are hard to see, they give off almost no visible light so spotting one, not iluminated and not silohetted becomes a tough job.

NOW, the government (puts its cover-up hat on) and determines that it isn’t in the publics best interest to know about this coming brown dwarf.  That it will not hit Earth but the magnetic field this object would have would possibly cause a reign of destruction onto the planet and the seas swelled, tectonic plates shifted, lava flowed land was lost into the seas, forever.

Why would they?  What possible explanation could they have for not letting us know there is an object, 8 times bigger than us about to cruise past and say hello?  That anyone who was planning on releasing information out there, publish papers in peer reviewed journals have said to have been killed.  There is only ONE reason I can possibly think of. 

Panic.  Often when the end of the world talk hits the air it is coming from the mouths of those who are not seen as credible sources.  They are not getting up with panels of experts or the UN science teams.  They aren’t broadcasting from major radio or TV stations they are more often confined to themselves or a select few, releasing podcasts and administering web sites about the impending doom.  So when they talk we hear but we don’t listen and even if they say something slightly credible, the number of boy who cried wolf scenarios that has come out from these people, we are loath to believe anything they say.  BUT, if the government comes out, the President or Prime Minister emerges to a pack media contingent, microphones, phones, tablets and notepads at the ready to take down the titbits about to come forth, then we listen, then we take notice and understand that things are bad. 

But is not telling us early going to create a panic when there is no denying it and the possibility of doom is looking as sure as the Pope’s convictions as a Catholic.  People will be rushing out buying supplies for the end, building bomb shelters hoping this means that the holy man Jesus will come down, take a select few and leave the rest to burn in the impending devastation that will come.  People will profiteer, selling new products assured of survival beyond the apocalypse despite the fact that would not ever help you survive crossing a quiet street let along this cataclysm.

So is it a cover-up, in the way to stop the panic now and create a worse panic later are they deliberately sending out the “scientitians” saying there is no Nibiru, there is no Nemesis, there is Planet-X and we are still unable to find the green sheep.

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So, where do I sit, I have provided all of this information provides pieces here and there, given even a possibly plausible reason (albeit not a very good one) why misinformation might be spoon fed to us by the governments.  What is my stand on it? 

Ifs, Buts and Maybes

We have infrared telescopes trained into space looking at the the universe presented before is.  This is a place of mystery to say the least.  We live in a galaxy with over a billion stars and certainly when you look at this image from the Hubble Space Telescope;

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You realise that this small area of sky gives us a glimpse of that wonder.  We are a young species, about 6000 years old, we have advanced so quickly in that time from the moments we burnt our fingers lighting a fire to burning our fingers on the hot fires of industry to burning our fingers on our friends iPhone as the battery is about to explode.

Out there, there are forces beyond our reckoning even for the super smart boffins pondering the ever evolving equations might say what a black hole can do but we don’t really know, they are equations on paper that tell us about it do nothing telling us what it feels like.   Words sometimes fail to adequately express situations, the feelings I have for my boys, the feeling I have when I gaze up in wonder the feeling I have while peeing in a pool and the warm euphoria sweeps over me. 

I believe there is something out there, it is disturbing things and might orbit our Sun.  This might be Nibiru or it might be Nemesis, since I am only looking at information I can get from documentaries, the internet and second and third hand talks at the pub, mean that I am still sitting firmly on the fence as to what it is. The ever violent nature of the universe tells me we can’t predict all possible outcomes, we can’t protect ourselves 100% of the time and that sometimes it is best to just take what we have and enjoy the moment.  Because IF there is something out there that will cause havoc, what can we possibly do to stop it.  Nothing.  If Sedna was coming towards us and even if we knew when it was going to hit, an object slightly smaller than our moon, we could not do anything to stop it.  Bruce Willis will be too old and in the words from Robert Loggia (General William Grey) from Independence Day said “And turn one dangerous falling object into many.”

It is out there, in space, our end and it will not come out of the blue, we will know it is coming and we will scuttle like ants with their nest disturbed trying to delay the inevitable.  But I want to enjoy my time with my family before I worry about the end and if it comes, we will worry about it then.

  1. An AU or Astronomical Unit is a unit defined as the distance from the Earth to the Sun (the mean distance since our orbit is slightly elliptical.  This is about 150,000,000km in in length.  This is only a guess but I am thinking that AUs were made to help measure the distances to the planets before things start getting measured in light years.
  2. FOX, Mem (2004). Where is the Green Sheep? Australia: Penguin Australia – ISBN: 9780670041497.

Addendum

It might sound like I believe in the theories of Planet X but in some part I do.  But I will be asking my beautiful wife if I can get a Telescope for my birthday.  I will then look at the stars and find the things I would like to see with my naked eye.  I will also like to target the position to be that of where this object might come and see for myself.

I would like to take some pictures of it myself and see what I can show.  The universe has always fascinated me, learning about the strange goings on around the place, Jupiter my favourite planet, biggest in our system but a minnow in the universal ring, but its magnetic field 4 times larger than our Sun, Whaaaa?  Questions, what drives it, Venus, shrouded in mystery and Sulphuric Acid Rain, extreme heat and pressure so intense it has crushed everything we have ever sent to the surface, more than 10 atmospheres.  Triton with geysers like Earth but eject liquid nitrogen high into the air and it falls back as rain on the surface. 

File:Triton moon mosaic Voyager 2 (large).jpg

This is only in our Solar System, what awaits for us outside it, or still within.  I will forever be learning of the universe and all we learn about the new things we find.  And if a day comes, in my life time space flight becomes a reality for more than the super rich I would like to see it. 

Time Alone or a Time Together, Certainly Time Missed

orbz-life-iconIt has been a few weeks since I last posted, not out of wanting to but today I felt I should include something, not to address a reason why but to perhaps just take stock and provide some, insights, if you will, into things.  My grandfather recently passed.  It was a very sudden event, I get a phone call telling me he has had a massive heart attack, but seems stable if not aware of his surroundings.  Just over an hour later I got another call telling me he went to sleep and never woke up.

Out of everything that has happened I am thankful that my two grandparents (one grandfather I barely new my other grandmother I never knew, she died when my mum was 3 (or there about)), one was my mother’s father the other was my father’s mother, they both passed while asleep and pretty much without too much of a warning that things were coming.

But the death of my pop, was more of a shock for one of a few reasons.  I was planning to go up and see him and the family at Christmas 2013.  With my new family, 2 adults and 2 children and flight prices in Australia is pretty much like everything, EXPENSIVE, it was going to cost 4 Adult tickets to travel to Brisbane from Melbourne which was well in excess of AU$2000.  I spoke to my mother and we both didn’t think it was going to cost that much and decided we could put things off until they call come later in 2014. 

So now, they will be coming later in the year, but they will be without my pop.  There is a massive amount of regret I am feeling.  Why did I worry about the cost?  I could have physically afforded it, it wasn’t as if I was going to go without food or not have money to the house or bills, but I thought I guess nothing like this would happen, or more correctly I didn’t look at this as a possibility.  Often when making plans, one doesn’t take death into account.  “I should go see someone just in case they die.”.  But a lot of choices I make in the future, this might be in the back of my mind, when faced with the choice of seeing one of my family or worrying about some financial problems down the track (if that might happen) I will possibly take the prior.

Do events like this always need to happen for anything of such to change a tact of policy, perhaps.  I know if I had decided to pay the AU$2000+ in flights to Brisbane that Christmas, my Grandfather would have seen Isaac, but would have I felt better when getting the news about his death.  Was it not so much the fact I didn’t go at Christmas but just that I will miss a good man, we were not terribly close but since I was closer to him than my other Grandfather there is something missing.

Death comes to all and it is something that we all have to deal with as friends and family are taken from this world.  The one thing that I can take from this is;

So often in these moments we look at the person and miss the fact they aren’t there any more.  I know I will miss the bad jokes he would love to indulge us with or regale the tails of story from Readers Digest.  He loved playing Rummy Cub and any card game and was a very handy man, having built many things for my mum, as a child and also as an adult. 

He fought in World War II in Papua New Guinea and despite the many attempts to have him tell the stories of his time in war from what I knew, he never once told anyone, I could be wrong, but something happened during that time that he does not to share or relive in his mind.

He saw the death of 2 wives, 4 brothers and he always still liked to put a smile on peoples faces.  No matter where he resided he was always befriending people and did so with ease and was certainly popular with the ladies, even up in the last weeks before his passing.  He wanted to be a better father for my mum but all in all, the tales learnt and passed to me I see that though he thought he could have been one I don’t think he was disappointed with the way his son and daughter turned out and then subsequently his grandchildren whom he saw grow into adult hood and also bring him great grand children. 

My oldest son Elliott met his great grandfather a few times and he was known as GG to him.  My youngest still knows of GG and has only spoken with him.  Considering all I know about him, I couldn’t have wished for a better grandfather and certainly there was no better great grandfather for my two young men. 

You have now the infinite of space and time to come and go as you please but I know despite the tantalising nature of that is you will be happy to just watch over us and catch up with your Brothers and your first wife Agnes, whom you have not seen in some 60 odd years.  Your life will live on, always.

He is a man who will be missed, but no because of him not being here but because of the joy he could bring to others. 

Javascript Error in AjaxControlToolkit

thC1BL12ENDocumentation for this is sketchy at best, but I am unsure if this is the solution for all instances of the error.  The AjaxControlToolkit, is a nice addition to the ASP.NET stable, managed on Codeplex this enables you to include extenders that provide useful and sometimes just nice features to the existing toolkit of server side controls in ASP.NET.

Following their examples, I wanted to include a simple Password Strength extender to a password box.  Sounds simple, since as users type in their password it gives and indication of how good their password is.  This is merely a visual indicator and not anything to do with validation or what is acceptable.

I follow their coding example, which is below.

&lt;!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC &quot;-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN&quot; &quot;http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd&quot;&gt;
&lt;html xmlns=&quot;http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml&quot;&gt;
&lt;head runat=&quot;server&quot;&gt;
&lt;title&gt;Control Toolkit&lt;/title&gt;
&lt;/head&gt;
&lt;body&gt;
&lt;form id=&quot;form1&quot; runat=&quot;server&quot;&gt;
&lt;asp:ScriptManager ID=&quot;asm&quot; runat=&quot;server&quot; /&gt;
&lt;div&gt;
&lt;asp:TextBox ID=&quot;Password&quot; runat=&quot;server&quot; /&gt;
&lt;ajaxToolkit:PasswordStrength ID=&quot;ps1&quot; runat=&quot;server&quot; 
	TargetControlID=&quot;Password&quot; RequiresUpperAndLowerCaseCharacters=&quot;true&quot; 
	MinimumNumericCharacters=&quot;1&quot; MinimumSymbolCharacters=&quot;1&quot; 
	PreferredPasswordLength=&quot;8&quot; DisplayPosition=&quot;RightSide&quot; 
	StrengthIndicatorType=&quot;Text&quot; /&gt;
&lt;/div&gt;
&lt;/form&gt;
&lt;/body&gt;
&lt;/html&gt;

Straight from the horses mouth so to speak.  But you run this and you get a nice little error jumping out at you.  This isn’t an ASP.NET one but a JavaScript error so it only appears when you visit the page with the control on it.

image

What?  What does this mean? 

0x800a138f – JavaScript runtime error: Unable to get property ‘UI’; of undefined or null reference.

Hitting break shows me this line of JavaScript; (I added comments to prevent any browser issues.

//$create(Sys.Extended.UI.PasswordStrengthExtenderBehavior, 
    {&quot;CalculationWeightings&quot;:&quot;40;15;15;30&quot;,
    &quot;MinimumNumericCharacters&quot;:1,
    &quot;MinimumSymbolCharacters&quot;:1,
    &quot;PreferredPasswordLength&quot;:8,
    &quot;RequiresUpperAndLowerCaseCharacters&quot;:true,
    &quot;StrengthStyles&quot;:&quot;Bad;Poor;Weak;Normal;Good;Excellent;Strong&quot;,
    &quot;TextStrengthDescriptionStyles&quot;:&quot;Bad;Poor;Weak;Normal;Good;Excellent;Strong&quot;,
    &quot;TextStrengthDescriptions&quot;:&quot;Bad;Poor;Weak;Normal;Good;Excellent;Strong&quot;,
    &quot;id&quot;:&quot;PasswordStrength1&quot;}, 
    null, 
    null, 
    $get(&quot;txtPassword&quot;));

Strangely looking into the data finds that Sys is fine but it is the Extended that is undefined.  So why is this happening?  Don’t know, following the exact sample there causes an error.  My opinion, the example doesn’t work, period OR, it is not meant for the version of .NET I am using (which is 3.5 SP1).

BUT I fixed it.  HOW?  Simple, maybe.

Change;

&lt;asp:ScriptManager ID=&quot;asm&quot; runat=&quot;server&quot;/&gt;

to;

&lt;asp:ToolkitScriptManager ID=&quot;asm&quot; runat=&quot;server&quot;/&gt;

I am unable to properly determine why but it seems the standard one that ships with asp, this is the plain ScriptManager doesn’t have all the elements required for the one that ships with the Toolkit.  Therefore the ToolkitScriptManager is required.  There is also a reference to the ToolkitScriptManager on their site but examples use the ASP.NET one. 

SO, to put it as simple as possible ANY of the Toolkit objects you may want to use, USE the ToolkitScriptManager, place this just under the form and it should work.  Other Ajax controls that ship with ASP.NET the normal ScriptManager will work fine.

So even if you see this error on other controls you have used check the ScriptManage component in your code.  It might be the wrong one.  Might I say, since I am unsure if one might work in specific examples, all I know is the PasswordStrength one, this fixed it.

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