Web Applications not Always the Best

WritingAs I am getting my creative world back on track I have needed to revisit all of my old files.  This is OK, except they are in a couple of formats, Final Draft (which I have a physical copy of on CD) and the other is in Celtx.  Celtx was an open source application (which I will go on more about later) that enable not only screenwriting but provide initially basic pre-production tools to which I could breakdown a script, budget, schedule, etc.… with relative ease.  It wasn’t the prettiest but often when it comes to Open Source they are rarely are.

They offered a decent cloud based solution that enabled you to save your files onto the servers on the web and save multiple versions as well.  Each save prompted you with a comment dialog and then you could save it online for access by another user.  The subscription for accessing this service was reasonable I believe it was $49.90 a year.

Now.  Between the last time I renewed the subscription to know something has changed.  Firstly, they do not offer a version of their desktop application for Windows.  They make no apologies about it they provide one that is for Mac only.  OK.  This leaves me in a little bit of a bind as both myself and my friend had many scripts on this server with multiple version on there and all kinds of notes which we like as we often brain storm in this manner.

I have gone onto their site and they provide NO help on this.  “We do not provide a version for Windows.”  they say, “Download the legacy desktop application to connect to the legacy studio to be able to save your old projects to your computer”  um, didn’t I just read there is no legacy desktop application for Windows.

So, if you run a Windows PC and have many of your scripts on the Legacy site then chances are you are fairly screwed and the support people don’t seem to want a bar from you

So.  I dug around the traps and found Celtx on a site that is NOT Celtx.  This version was the last version I have used.

CNet, this is where I got the version I tried.  Download it and install it.

Next go to https://studio.celtx.com – and log in.  The reset password functionality does work so if you forgot your password.

Once logged in, you can do a couple of things.

Celtx and Signing in

Celtx has a Studio which is the web site allows you to view and administer the users of the system and the desktop application which is where most of the work is done.

imageWhen you open Celtx and this is the first time you will need to log in.  Make sure you select Legacy Studio as the location.  Enter the username and password you sued to log into the Celtx site.

Click OK and this should sign you in, at the time of writing this it did.  Once signed in, if you select Sign in on Startup it means you don’t need to worry about selecting it when opening up from the web.

Latest Version

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Click the Projects icon.  This will bring up the Projects window.  Click each icon in there will show information on the last time it was updated, if you are sharing this project, who the owner is and the number of version available.  I will explain about the versions below but at the moment I will show how to get the latest version.

Click the Project

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Click Edit.  This will open the newly installed desktop application.  You can choose to edit it if you like from within the Celtx application or save it, but don’t hit the save button as this will try (and I am unsure if this works) and save back to the cloud service. 

If you haven’t logged the Celtx application into the service then you will need to open sign in with that.  

Once in Celtx, Click File | Save Project As (Ctrl + Shift + S)  This will open a save dialog and will enable you to save the file anywhere on your local PC or network shares if available.

This will give you the latest version only.  But if that is all you want then you are good to go.  But if you want to save all the versions of your script then this process is similar but will take considerably longer.

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All Version

I wish there was an easy way to do this but there isn’t.  It isn’t elegant either and once saved I am unable to provide advice on how you should manage all the version other than just files on a file system.

Instead of click Project you want to click Archives instead.  This will show you all of your projects as folders.

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So, in there if you double click the folder another “window” will open and show you the versions of the application you have.

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Like opening the latest version it is simple once here.  But Select the version you want to open.  In the case above 1, through 4.  Then click Open Selected Version. 

You then see Celtx open locally and it will download the contents to your computer.  From there, you save the file locally like before Clicking File | Save Project As (Ctrl + Shift + S), browse to the location you wish to save the file.

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I type the version number 01 – [Name of Project], click save.  Make sure you put a zero at the front to enable proper sorting of the versions.  If you have more than 100 then use 001 or more than 1000 then use 0001 and so on.  This will ensure that numbers are sorted correctly when compared to the Alphabet.

Once this is done, close Celtx, go back to the studio site, click the next version and Click Open Selected Version and repeat the process until all versions are complete.  I am sorry if you have many versions my greatest was 72 thus far, but if you have more, you have my sympathies.

PDF Services

This is a note.  Celtx offers the ability to print and save your document in the right format, one the script document there is a tab called Typeset/PDF.  Click it and you will find it takes sometime before it produces the output needed.  From there you can then save as a PDF file.

There is nothing wrong with this, it works, but for how long, is it a method they implement on their servers or is it a 3rd Party that is offering the solution that they are merely calling the web API to do the hard yards.

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Not to mention you get this nice little ad popping up spruiking their current offering and their need to get an account.  15 days free trial.

What Next

I can’t tell you what to do next.  You now have a folder that has many different version of files or many files.  You could go with the solution for Celtx Online Studio, to write scripts is a free service but the desktop application they provided previously allowed;

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Yes, all of those items.  But now, their free service is just screenwriting.  Their next version at $10 a month offers all the same as the original desktop application, which you have just installed to get the files off their legacy studio.

So this is where I am very disappointed.  Celtx was an OK product, it wasn’t the best screenwriting application, it wasn’t the best scheduling application and so on.  But it was by far greater than the mere sum of its parts as it offered a centralised solution for your pre-production services. 

imageSo if you have an extensive collteciton of Celtx files then I would say that you should maintain using Celtx.  Convesion from the old style to the new one has the ability to upload files into the new account.  Log into the Celtx Studio and at the top left there is an upload Icon.

Click the upload icon you are given a fly out dialog, you can drag a heap of files in there or Click Browse your Computer and you will be presented with a traditional file dialog. 

You will then see the application will upload the document, once complete click the Close button and you will then see the file name of the file you uploaded in

imageyour file list. Expand it and you will be presented with all scripts that were in the file.  All of them and nothing else.  So if you had breakdowns and other documents in there including overviews, treatments and so on they will not exists in the new folder.  Not one of them is carried over.

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It looks very much like the previous Celtx desktop, a little slicker but all in all it is much the same.  So, if you have just scripts by all means use the online version, it is free.  BUT.  You have also lost all version tracking which the previous studio version supported (if you had the legacy studio and you had your script online, if you click save it would then save the file as a new version (that included everything in the file) with comments.  Now, no.

As for the Standard version which includes all of the things you got for free that you now have to pay for, the transition to this would be based on your own needs and financial state.  My opinion is, to now pay MORE for a service that has less feature than a product that was free.  To its credit it does have some benefits, but using a service like One Drive or Drop Box makes this feature seem fairly unimpressive.

I will just provide some details on what the service offers in the new world to what wasn’t in the old.

Scratchpads

This was a great way to just throw down ideas quickly and easily and get access to then later without the need of creating a new document.  They have implemented a notes feature in their online version, which the original desktop version had. 

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But the scratch pad is gone.

Index cards

A feature just part of the script, it creates a new index card per scene.  Now, this is a feature you pay for and is only part of the standard subscription.  I used to like using the index cards, as I used them physically stuck to the walls of my room.

Find and Replace

Wow, this was something we have had in our software since Windows 3.1 (possibly in DOS days too) to have a new fancy script editing application and to then say, we don’t have this feature, sorry, but if you up vote it then we might include it.

Versions

They did include this one, thankfully.  Slightly different but I think implemented better.

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It shows all of the versions, which one is the latest and which is the working copy (the latest and you have the option restore (only if you upgrade to the Subscribe to the standard subscription model).  I included it as it is something that SHOULD be included in free version.

Celtx went from being a solution that met the needs of people wanting a complete solution for everything rather than expensive software for something they will only use a small portion of.  It is now even less for more money if you go one of the subscriptions now than the cost of the previous legacy studio subscription.

Why did they feel this was the best use of their time when migrating to a web application solution.  I am very disappointed in the direction they took and in reality I would rather use Sophocles an equally unsupported software than has many of the same functions of Celtx in the desktop but there are some additions and some missing options.  Sophocles is difficult to find at the best of times and I might provide a link through if there is requests for it. 

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But it enables scheduling, step outlines, budgeting, full revision support.  It is a beta software released ages ago but the developer has since disappeared from the face of the earth and with many people who have speculated as to what happened no one can say.  But, his quality software does live on.

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Why the Hatred?

swtor-logo-256x2561OK, this is a strange post.  Many who might read my writings would see that I play SWTOR, many would also see that I write that at the top of posts that are a little bit of a social commentary about something in game.  Recently in the game there was a bug that enabled players to receive free rewards without the need of completing the content.

Operations are large scale battles between a boss and a number of people with a goal to take down the boss.  Each operation has 4 or 5 bosses and any number of mini bosses.  At the end of the fight you receive reward in the form of Credits, Commendations and a random dice roll on allocation on new gear and crafting materials.

I have done many operations, many bosses over my time in the game.  You can only do one operation boss once per week.  With 8 or 16 people partaking in the madness the chances of getting something of worth from these operations is low.  Below is a video of me in a boss fight just to show you what can go on.

Dreadtooth on Nightmare difficulty. (24 person)

So an 8 man fight gives the change of getting 1 piece of gear, so that is a 1 in 8 chance.  Some might say that is OK.  Then there is a Need/Greed system in which those who need are give precedence over those who greed, but there are some who take no heed and just need on everything.

Over the time of me completing operations I have rarely received gear for it, bits and pieces here and there and the way I have had to gear up my characters has been with commendations which isn’t as good as earning it in operations.

So that is the prologue to all of this.  This exploit enable people to get the gear from the last boss without needing to do the boss, people thought it was a win, win.  They received the gear alone, no need with the competition.  You could only do this once per week.  This post isn’t about the bug that enabled people to exploit the mechanic of the game it isn’t about the people who used the exploit, it is about those who want nothing but extreme prejudice taken against those who exploited.

Here is some quotes from players who are reacting to the information regarding the response to the exploit;

  • i hope they do perma ban you, people like you are the problem with this game.
  • All I see up there is “It’s Bioware’s fault I exploited.” If you get banned, good riddance.
  • Ban them, ban them all.
  • Cheating has become a national pastime, it seems, and morals are so relaxed nobody can see the line anymore. Makes me sick.

Also there is 1730 replies to this post in the forums.  Many people have many views but I am wanting to know why is there so much hate.  There are large grey areas when it comes to using bugs to gain advantage, many people will and do argue this very topic and to many some might find the temptation just too great. 

So, firstly I can say those who are crying for blood to be spilled or;

witch

Them to be burned , why?  Is it because of the advantage they gained, or is it a because I didn’t get it no one should therefore those who did should be banned.

Many who stand the moral high ground in this issue say, it is a choice, you chose not to, I chose to do it, I therefore am more pious than thou and therefore I should bring down the wrath.

This situation reminds me very much of the drugs in sport.  Professional athletes using any methods, legal and not legal to get the most from their bodies to excel in their chosen field.  Those who stand the moral high ground are once again saying if I don’t need to do it, therefore you don’t.  But we have, throughout our lives been subjected to choices some innocuous others not so, some have no consequence other have tremendous consequences or worse.

“This is a video game”  I hear, but people take various aspects of their lives very different do the screaming fans of a sporting club any different to those who push themselves to run personal marathons on a weekly basis even if they do not partake in them.Collingwood_Fans_Port_Adelaide_Finals_628

What I find in these cases is how many of those calling for blood on those who exploited the game, that a game is fun and cheating isn’t fun must fail to see the irony of being all serious of a matter that is, in the grand scheme of things very trivial.

Was it wrong?  Yes.  Should they have done it?  No.  They did, the developers know who did and who gained from it.  But the developers, when or if they hand out the punishment will not make any comment on it other than “we have decided the fate of those who we deemed, gained the greatest advantage from enacting on this exploit.”  They will not say, we have banned them for x days, week or permanently, nope and I am sure that the pitch forks won’t go away until they are satisfied that those who did wrong have suffered.

If they find it was a temp ban it will never be long enough and they will redirect the pitch forks in the direction of BioWare and EA for failing them.  These people will never be happy until their idea of sufficient punishment has been served and then, what next…  Will there be another they can point their rage at, someone else to go after someone who might be more innocent and less deserving of the ire of the mob.

There is a saying, “to err is human” which says, we all make mistakes and I am sure anyone who has been caught speeding will complain that they were only going just over a little or it was unfair.  I know I have been targeted by the unfair machinations of the public revenue machine that is speed camera offences. But each time, I pay my fine, cope the demerit points and carry on my life, just as well we don’t have those righteous coming out over those who speed should be locked up for life in gaol.  Thankfully.

A Long Time Coming

Last night, was the first time in a VERY long time where I came up with a story idea that I feel is fairly decent and would be turned into a very good script.  The second element of my amazement is with this story it is also one that would be EASY to film.  Could I be getting my film mojo back, I will wait until I say “Action” on the first shot before I write anything to the extent of having my mojo back.

What makes this more refreshing than some of the ideas I have come up with before and there have been a couple is, the tone of it.  It seems to have a very real aspect from within, not anything I have done, want to do, but it is also a product of the nature of the mind having been altered chemically and its need to accommodate the changes in chemistry to make up any shortfall, as a consequence I have come up with a VERY dark and VERY disturbing story that for someone who might know me might be very curious where it has come from.

underwater

Much is unknown about the mind of humans less about any one person.  Like the ocean and there is many areas that show everything from the surface and others are so deep, covered by the darkness that lurks and hides things that are sometimes best to remain hidden.

That said I will expand on this story as I feel I have the first 1 ½ to 2 acts of the story very briefly outlined.  And I know with the help of my writing friend, I will have the last part finished and be on my way to writing the script.  More and more elements are coming together there is a spark which show the light, I will speak with another friend who is an actor if she would be interested in playing a part in it. 

I am a long way from ever getting things together but I feel I am a lot closer to that than I have ever been in a very long time.

A Change for the Better or no Change at All

This is a rambling from my mind, my mind has been hit very hard of the last few years.  I have been on a mix of heavy pain killers as my back was causing issues.  I was taking various mixes of anti-depressants which lead me from being incredibly tired and lethargic to not have a consistent train of thought.  Since then I have had 2 operations, one for a complete ankle reconstruction the other for a neuro stimulator implant device.  This has had some massive affects on my life.  I now do not get back pain to the same extent I had before, a win, but  the device gives me sometimes massive head-aches.  These are, well terrible, they are migraine like but I believe worse as the device is what causes them.

So, the other issue I have had recently is the my creativity and thought process.  My thought process in these times has sporadic to put it mildly.

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Above shows a crude chart, the numbers on the left side represents any particular thought be it about dinner for tonight my current work, the weather, anything, each number represents a thought that can entered my head.  Then there is the time and I can concentrate on any one things for only short bursts before not through any reason I can find my mind loses track of the thought, it disappears amongst the many neurons that are firing and forever will it not return.

This alone has been the reason why my posts of late have reduced, I was able to focus, save come back and save over a period and then post it but lately it is the coming back that is getting more and more difficult.  Then there is the creativity side of it.

I used to be a creative type, some might disagree with it but having many a story written, feature film scripts, novels etc… each showed I had a depth in many areas for creativity.  Then, Pfft, gone.  Unsure why, how when, it was a process that happened for some reason and I find it returns for even shorter periods than my normal thought processes, it requires obviously a different side of my mind.  But right now as I am writing this I am struggling to stay on my task of keeping things together enough to form the sentences to make sense since I feel I could type words but not have structure to it and have not sense at all.

I am now coming off the drugs the anti-depressants at the moment and this is causing more issues.  As I feel it further constrains my thinking or other physical abilities as all my processing is just trying to keep my mind running, like a computer running at 100% CPU usage, and I need to speak to someone but I have to wait until there is a gap in the processing before I can and when there is I jump in but it has taken too long and I find I have run out of the processing power and therefore it will come out in fits and bursts as the mind is too bust controlling other things other elements other processes that I need to speak.

You can imagine in a business where I need to work on solutions to complex business process problems where I need to use my mind in many different ways, logically, conceptually, creatively (to a lesser extent), draw on all my history of programming, architecture and so on and have all of this needed on a whim when someone asks me, “Tell me how I can best do this…” Recently I was asked to appraise someone’s proposal (it wasn’t really but I won’t get into that) for a solution for recording time and attendance in a system in many systems that aren’t linked together in any form and they proposed to have this implemented by the middle of February, this was also dealing with systems I only have the fleeting understanding of to begin with.

So, I have my mind, needing time to process things I normally do, what everyone does, the random thought changing processes that come into play, “Why was it foggy on the morning of 9th September 1998 and why did I leave my lights on””?” then I will need to concentrate hard on my work, then there is the withdrawals of the anti-depressants.  Which are terrible.  I have been slowly coming down off them for almost a month, to the Dr. request is was 100mg, 50mg, 25mg 12.5mg over the 4 weeks then stop.  I did that and I am still feeling the side effects of these drugs not in my system.

Dizzy spells these are terrible, I will be siting down and simply moving my eyes from one screen to the next and my mind, will have this bizarre feeling of being delayed in updating what I am physically seeing.  There is the vagueness, which is no knowing anything, not thinking anything the true moment when someone says what are you thinking I can say, nothing, there is not a thought in my mind, light is entering my eyes and that is it nothing else.  Right now I am trying SO hard to type this.

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My mind sees this, a lightening strike something quick and massive as all of above all at the same time being muddled and confusing and compounding as my mind is also trying to form words, words to articulate what I want to say only to find the harder I try and focus and more distorted the image becomes and therefore the words that I want to come out with might come out, and come out again, then it might repeat and this might be fine for a Herald Sun reporter (not a journalist), but when I am trying to describe what I am going through in words and images it is difficult.

So that is me right now, I want to achieve so much, there are times when I have a spring in my step ready to take on the world and others times I am sitting there looking blankly with nothing happening other than the simple involuntary actions taken by my body.

My Perspective

Might be curious to know one of the biggest things that is leading to my depression is the inability to be in control of my own destiny.  I am now a father and since getting married and having children I feel that these decisions that I would do, what I could do have been taken from me.  This might seem the same for anyone who has a family, priorities change, but the issue was before if I didn’t like my job I could quit and find a new one, now, I am scrutinised with regards to my job why did I quit, why do I want to quit.  It isn’t a matter of being unhappy where I am, well not enough of a reason to say I am unhappy where I am I want to find a better job.

Herein lies the dilemma, I want to find a job where I am making a difference, giving people enjoyment or making their life easier with their daily task.   As in my jobs where I get unhappy with my ole it is often due to changes in this, recently I have have had a software product I was working on, it was running, well, people were using it and it was making their life easier.  I was finding ways to improve it, to enable the best from it.  A choice made in November to completely remove this product from use at the site with no forethought, no consultation, just a new manager coming in stamping their authority and showing they are the boss decided to can the software and role back to the use of 70 plus Access Databases and even more pieces of paper and Excel spread sheets.

This was taken from me, I was not able to provide the input or anything, I am not in a state of limbo with development in I do not know my worth as a developer when I am writing software to facilitate communication as opposed to making life easier.  My film work was always fun when I knew people liked what I did, they were enjoying what I created.  The development of my film, which I had put so much effort into was taken from me when the people whom I trusted, stopped working thought their time was better spent elsewhere.  This is OK, but in the same reality I see this as being a betrayal as it happened, once again with coming to me, talking about it that they want to go at it alone, or whatever reason they wanted but it was the lack of consultation that I felt left me high and dry.

So now having children, and a wife who isn’t working means my income is the sole source of income further create strain on many aspects as there is even more focus on me my job, not the happiness factor it is a money issue, we need you to work, we need you to work in IT and we need you to work as a programmer as we need you to earn at least $X so I can’t just quit and become some dude in a check-out, not that I want to, but they are meaningless benign jobs that earn money but in the end provide no true fulfilment in the greater good, my greater good.

This endless cycle of wanting my work to mean something, have it mean something only to have my work forcibly taken from me.  All my work as an IT programmer has been like this, all the major projects I worked on have been work I have been proud of, but they are now not being used, for any number of reasons.  To pour so much blood, sweat and tears into creating artistic masterpieces only to see them used a fire kindling. (I know my work is no masterpiece but it is a crude but apt analogy).

I feel right now I have done my dash, I have written all the words physically inside me to describe this, but I still feel like I have undersold it or the contrasting one of over done it.  People can look at this, say, well that is life, we don’t get to make choices for the better we have to do what we have to do.  I have my boys and they are the most important thing in life, in my life to make them happy and healthy, but surely to make them happy would be for me to be happy myself and if I am happy with my life then I can be a better father, which I feel I am not.  I feel like I am a terrible father that I do things or do not do things more to the point with my men that I should.  Conscious effort to not be like my father in my boys upbringing only to find that I am in some ways.  Coming down off the medication makes this a larger blurrier line than before.

Having no choice, feeling out of control with where I am heading and feeling all along that I am wanting the best for my kids and I can’t do that. I need to work to give them a roof over their head, food in their bellies.  Yet a happy father and a dad who is there when they need them would be more important making them happier.  I have to wrap this post up, one it is terribly long, 2, I am starting to lose my way in the writing as I am starting to get vague in my mind 3, I am sure there was one when I started at 1. 

Apple pay is payday?

I have grave concerns over the details of the Apple Pay system. I have read what seems to be opinion pieces in the local news papers that try to glamorise this and also tout it is a new way of doing things making payments.  In the wake of the iCloud hacking scandal Apple needed to put to rest of their services being safe and secure.

  • Apple’s focus as a business is the design of nice functional devices.  They create nice looking devices, no question, it is the single reason why people went for them, why they are as popular as they are.  It isn’t anything new they are doing, nor is it the fact that are doing it well, but they are doing it with style. 
  • Apple has prove time and time again software is not their forte, iTunes, Apple Maps and the plethora of updates for your iPhone where they are unable to get things right.  Some addressing security concerns others fixing bugs, but since I have used an iPhone in the last 12 months I have updated it more times than I have updated my Windows Phone over a longer period. 

So, see this process diagram I have made.  This is based on the basic information I know about the process it is also about how I know these services will work. 

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The process in blue is common to the approval of credit transactions over merchant services.  If this is the only functionality that the device and subsequent services perform then how is this different to the current use of PayPass or PayWave functionality we have in credit cards in Australia (I believe the US doesn’t have a large influx of these services yet, so to the US market that might seem different).

I read you take a picture of your credit card and from that the information on the device will be stored.  I would assume that it would use OCR to determine the details of the card.  Apple has stated this

Every time you hand over your credit or debit card to pay, your card number and identity are visible. With Apple Pay, instead of using your actual credit and debit card numbers when you add your card, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element, a dedicated chip in iPhone and Apple Watch. These numbers are never stored on Apple servers. And when you make a purchase, the Device Account Number alongside a transaction-specific dynamic security code is used to process your payment. So your actual credit or debit card numbers are never shared with merchants or transmitted with payment.

So, this number that is stated, is a special unique number sent to the merchant services device for approval.  If this is stored on the device against that payment option, how is this resolved?  If it is passing that unique code to the device, and also a dynamic security code which will be a secure hashing of some data I am sure.  Where is it resolved? So somewhere this UAN (Unique Account Number) equates to your account.  The merchant (not the retailer) needs to know that your Credit Card XXX XXXX XXXX XXXX = UAN, how is this done and where is this done.  None of this is stated on their site.  Information regarding Apple doesn’t save details of your transaction but it is this resolution that I would like to know about.

This is the big question mark over this whole system, how does the merchant, the device determine the details of the card being used over this chip when no card information is passed. Well the only way I can see it is, one of a couple of ways.

  • The UAN and Card Number are transmitted over Apple services to the merchant services (AMEX, Visa and MasterCard), if this is the case it is this routing of traffic, passing through Apple which would be where I question mark.
  • The merchant ask Apple for the resolution of the UAN.  Apple I have this UAN, can you provide me the Card Number so I can approve or reject the payment.

These two go against Apples assertions about not storing, especially the second one.  The first that could, but it is still dubious as the device and information is still an Apple device.  We have seen copious amounts of data collection policies stating that it will collect this and that but make sure it is not identifiable to you.  So I would want to read these terms of service of this before ever committing to this.

The other method would be to encrypt the data.  Below is an encryption (a proper one) of a dummy credit card number (it isn’t real) and CVN

c+PGdAgN07UhLM4nj+Kmae+cDkLeFnn8

So, that number.  Could be what is stored and certificates are used to encrypt and decrypt the data on each end.  This is the only way I can see that would maintain current security of the system which is already needing to be very tight as these systems are attacked regularly and it would maintain performance as there is already the encryption of this data.

With all of this much needs to be revealed and much need to remain hidden and since like Google I am not entirely trusting of their motives behind it.  Since I am sure Apple might not need to store transactions but I am sure it can simply record, you bought at Store X, cool, then additional services it can add to Store X by offering abilities to push specialised services to Device X from Store X (no need for anything else). 

And if it is as simple as replacing your credit card, I am sorry, but it isn’t like they say

breakthrough contactless payment technology and unique security features built right into the devices you have with you every day.

as I have been using contactless payment technologies using my current credit cards since they were issued to me 2010 and 2011 on 2 different cards.  My phone has had this ability since 2010 (though I have not used it).  In mobile devices it was an application that was required to utilise these wallet and NFC features, the difference is now the device supports it.  Mobiles have proven to be a gold mine for hackers and nefarious minded as most people don’t care how secure their device is, default Bluetooth on, default Bluetooth password.  The default security password, account passwords that are as simple as 12345678.  Our lives are becoming more and more dependant on security of the system we used everyday and these systems are failing us and using now an electronic device to make payments, umm what happens when the battery goes flat, I can no longer use it to pay for my whatever it is.

Be wary.

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;

image

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