corgi, sakura

Scripture for Labor and Delivery

Originally published at PamHardy.net. You can comment here or there.

Baby Hardy's arrival is getting ever-closer. I put together a list of scripture that I'm planning on bringing with me to the hospital when I go into labor. Here it is:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. Psalm 56:11a

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work. 2 Chronicles 15:7

The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him; my father's God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him. Psalm 28:7

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Isaiah 40:29

For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, "move from here to there," and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you. Matthew 17:20b

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. - Psalm 16:8

Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. Isaiah 43:1-2

corgi, sakura

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Review

Originally published at PamHardy.net. You can comment here or there.

The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimI finally beat The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim last weekend, and by beat, I mean I finally completed all 50 achievements in the game. I had already beaten the main storyline a few weeks ago. My total time played to complete all 50 achievements was 150 hours.

I did enjoy this game quite a bit, which is why I sunk 150 hours into it. But for me, Skyrim had a steep learning curve. I enjoyed the game more at the end once I had everything figured out than at the beginning of the game while I was still learning. I was also disappointed that I often had to rely on information from Skyrim websites to figure out where to go, or how to get particular achievements.

I think the following areas of the game could have used improvement:

Early gameplay. I was literally dying after almost every fight. This meant that in order to not lose much progress, I'd have to save after each and every fight, which was extreme. (Rob started making fun of me at the number of times that I would save my game.) It got better later in the game as my character got more powerful, but the early game was frustrating. Dying so often also meant that some dungeons would feel like they took forever to complete -- 2-3 hours, I'd guess.

Equipping spells. It felt very limiting to only be able to equip two spells at a time -- really only one spell, if you wanted to cast that spell at maximum capacity.

Inventory management. I would have liked to have seen my character's equipment separated by helm, neck, gloves, etc so that it would be easier to determine what pieces of gear I wanted to keep and which pieces I wanted to vendor. It also would have been nice to save certain gear "sets" such as a "plus to vendoring" set (prices are x% better and that kind of thing), a lockpicking set, a pickpocking set, etc.

It would have also been nice if vendors started out with more gold. Vendoring got very tedious as vendors would run out of gold quickly, and then I'd have to "wait" in game for time to pass so that the vendors would re-stock their gold. I would have also liked more inventory space, but I did learn to deal with the limited amount of inventory space, so this one wasn't as big of a deal. But I would estimate that I spent about half of my in-game time (so half of those 150 hours :P) on vendoring, which is a wee bit rediculous.

The in-game compass. I had to find a guide online just to find out what all of the different symbols on the in-game compass meant. Why wasn't this information in the game's manual?

Quest management. I was taken by surprise to find out that the game has unlimited quests, which I think should have been made more apparent to the player. I was trying to clean up my quest log by completing all of my "Miscellaneous" objectives. Imagine my surprise when I was reading a webpage online and found out that those "Miscellaneous" objectives are essentially limitless, and that the game will keep generating new quests even if you run out of quests. So I essentially wasted some of my time trying to clear out the log, because it will never be clear (unless you're careful to not talk to NPCs to start new objectives).

Bugs. My character in particular was hit by -- not sure if I want to say "game-breaking" bug, but essentially, my character is stuck as a werewolf due to an in-game bug. There's supposed to be a quest that lets me cure the werewolvism, but that particular quest is bugged for my character, so I'm unable to cure my character. This wouldn't be a big deal except that after learning about vampires in Skyrim, I really wanted to make my character a vampire, and if you are a werewolf you are unable to become a vampire. So again, calling it "game-breaking" might be a little extreme, but I was disappointed.

Companions. Somehow I killed Lydia, my first companion, without ever noticing it. By the time I noticed she was gone, I had saved over any save files with her still alive. I picked up a new companion, but as a destruction mage, it got too annoying trying to aim spells so that I wouldn't accidentally blow up my own companion, so I eventually resorted to playing the rest of the game without one. I didn't miss my companion, except for the extra inventory space that I lost from not using one.

Lest this review only be full of complaints (because why would I have spent 150 hours on a game I didn't enjoy?), here are some things I liked about the game:

I loved the vastness of the game world. Also, being able to instantly fast travel to locations I'd previously visited was extremely convenient.

I loved that none of the quests felt grindy, irrelevant, or boring. Each quest felt as if it were part of the main "storyline," even if it wasn't.

I loved the inclusion of professions in the game -- both crafting and gathering.

I loved blowing stuff up as a destruction mage, and that I could also dive into different trees. I ended up playing as a "sneaky mage" for part of the game, but by the end of the game, there was really no need for me to sneak because enemies would mostly die instantly.

I liked the quest tracking system. I liked that an arrow would show on the compass showing you the direction of your current quest objective. I also abused the daylights out of the "Clairvoyance" spell to show me where I needed to go.

What else to say? It's a really fun game, and I would recommend it to any RPG or fantasy game fan.

corgi, sakura

You Know You're In Your Third Trimester of Pregnancy When...

Originally published at PamHardy.net. You can comment here or there.

Third trimesterI saw a forum thread today where other third trimester pregnant ladies were putting a list together of "You Know You're In Your Third Trimester of Pregnancy" when's. I thought it would be fun to put together my own list that applies to me. So, without further ado:

You Know You're In Your Third Trimester of Pregnancy When...

  • Putting on your shoes is an over-complicated process.
  • You make involuntary grunting noises when you have to turn your torso or bend over.
  • You can no longer reach your legs or see other certain body parts in order to shave them.
  • You have to ask your husband to clip your toenails.
  • You need help standing up from sitting on a chair or couch.
  • The first thing you do when you stand up from your chair is use the restroom.
  • You use the restroom every 10 minutes.
  • You've started to wonder if maybe you should just stay on the toilet the entire day.
  • You've become intimately familiar with every bathroom outside of your house, even if you were previously uncomfortable with using public restrooms.
  • You have to ask your husband to slow down while walking because you cannot walk that fast.
  • Walking across a parking lot feels like you've run a marathon.
  • You can't stay standing for more than 5 minutes without your leg falling asleep.
  • Rolling over in bed makes you feel like a beached whale, or possibly a turtle stuck upside down laying on its shell.
  • Sleep? What's that?
  • You feel ravenous all of the time but can't eat more than 10 bites before your stomach runs out of space.
  • Dropping something on the floor (like a pen or your purse) is a serious disappointment.
  • You can see your now-outie belly button (which used to be an innie!) through your maternity shirt.
  • You are overheated all of the time because you're carrying a giant baby space heater.
  • Your belly now doubles as a shelf.
  • You make random "Oof!" or "Ouch!" noises throughout the day as your baby tries to take up residence in your rib cage.
corgi, sakura

FYI to LiveJournal readers

If I still have anyone reading this LiveJournal, I wanted to let you know that I have set commenting to Friends Only. This is because the majority of the LiveJournal comments in the last year that I have received have been spam, and I am tired of getting spammed.

If I don't have you friended, you can still reply to my posts at my website.
corgi, sakura

How To Backup Your Windows PC To Your Web Host with cwRsync

Originally published at PamHardy.net. You can comment here or there.

So, I've been wanting to back up my personal files for some time now -- at least since this year's World Backup Day, which was March 31st, but probably even since before that. I have a lot of files that are irreplaceable -- mostly photos.

What do you do when you have irreplaceable files and you want to make sure that you don't lose them? Well, ideally, you want to back them up. But backing them up to an external drive attached to your PC or even another computer in the same house isn't good enough. What happens if your entire house burns down or you are victim of a tornado? Then your original files AND the backup files are gone.

The solution is to make sure that you have at least one backup off-site, preferably in a different state. There are many paid online backup services that will do this for you. However, I already have unlimited online hosting available via my web host. It didn't make sense to pay for online storage when I already have online storage readily available. But how could I set up an automated backup system to back up my personal files to my web host automatically, so that I would not have to do so manually?

I first tried a SVN repository. This did not end up working for me. I never got it set up so that it would back up automatically. In addition, the repository required vigilant maintenance. If I deleted a file or renamed a folder in the wrong way, the repository would complain and have to be fixed. This was too much micro management for me, so I searched for a better solution.

I finally found it -- automated backup with the Windows program cwRsync. cwRsync is the Windows version of the Unix program Rsync. Rsync is a lot like SVN - they both synchronize your local and off-site files, only backing up the files that have changed recently. So the initial backup of all of your files may take quite a lot of time, but the subsequent backups after that will take much less time, only backing up the files that have changed.

Below, I'll describe how to set this up.

Installing cwRsync

First, you need to download cwRsync. You can find the latest version of cwRsync here. Click on the most recent version. On the next page, click on the file named cwRsync_x.x.x_Installer.zip (where x.x.x is the version number) to download cwRsync.

Install cwRsync by unzipping cwRsync_x.x.x_Installer.zip and running the executable once it is unzipped. Install cwRsync in the default location. Take note of whether this location is C:\Program Files\cwRsync or C:\Program Files (x86)\cwRsync. You will need this information later.

If cwRsync did install in C:\Program Files (x86)\cwRsync, do the following. (If cwRsync installed in C:\Program Files\cwRsync, you can ignore this part!) Open up C:\Program Files (x86)\cwRsync in Windows Explorer. Right click on cwrsync.cmd and left click Edit. Change

SET CWRSYNCHOME=%PROGRAMFILES%\CWRSYNC

to

SET CWRSYNCHOME=%PROGRAMFILES(x86)%\CWRSYNC

Configuring Your Local Computer for cwRsync

You need to create an SSH public/private key pair so that your automated backups can occur without you being prompted for a password. When you create the keys, make sure you are logged in as the same Windows user as the one who will be running the automated backups.

In order to create this key pair, do the following:

First, open Windows Explorer and navigate to your C:\Program Files\cwRsync folder (or C:\Program Files (x86)\cwRsync, if that's where Windows installed cwRsync for you). In the cwRsync folder, create the folder home\[user]. For clarification, you will need to create a folder named "home" inside of the cwRsync folder. Then, inside of your new folder "home," create a folder whose folder name is identical to the username on which you are currently running Windows. This may be the Administrator user, or it may be another username. If your username is Administrator, create a folder named Administrator inside of this new "home" folder. The end result will be that you have a new folder C:\Program Files\cwRsync\home\[user].

Once you have created that folder, if you are running Windows XP, click the Windows Start button, and choose "run". In the run dialog box, type "cmd" and hit enter. The command prompt window will open.

If you are running Windows 7 or Vista, click the Windows Start button and type "cmd" in the search box. Hit enter. The command prompt window will open.

In this command prompt, type:

cd "c:\program files\cwrsync\bin"

and hit enter. Note that if cwRsync installed to C:\Program Files (x86)\cwRsync instead of C:\Program Files\cwRsync you will need to modify the above text accordingly.

Then type:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -N ''

and hit enter. Note that the above line ends in two single quotes, one right after the other.

You will be asked to "enter file in which to save the key." Hit enter to accept the default that is given.

Your SSH public/private key pair has now been created.

Now, create a folder on your C drive to house a copy of your private key. This folder's name should contain no spaces. You can call it whatever you want, just make sure to make a note of what it is called. Once you have created this folder on your C drive, copy the file C:\Program Files\cwRsync\home\[username]\.ssh\id_rsa to that new folder. (Substitute Program Files (x86) if your cwRsync install is in that folder.)

Configuring Your Remote Server (Web Host) for cwRsync

On your remote server, create a folder named .ssh . Next, upload the file C:\Program Files\cwRsync\home\[username]\.ssh\id_rsa.pub to the remote .ssh folder. (Substitute Program Files (x86) if your cwRsync install is in that folder.) On the remote server, rename id_rsa.pub to authorized_keys.

Remove write access to this file. If you are using the FTP client FileZilla, right click on the authorized_keys file and left click File permissions... . Uncheck write permissions for Group and Public. The numeric value for this CHMOD permission is 644.

Also, make sure that the .ssh folder does not have write permissions for Group and Public. Right click on the .ssh folder and click File Permissions. Uncheck the write permissions for Group and Public. The numeric value for this CHMOD permission is 755.

Testing Upload With cwRsync

Now it is time to test uploading with cwRsync. First, create a test folder on your local C drive named temp. Place a test file in here as well (can be any file, but I recommend a small text file).

On your remote server, create a test folder named test.

Open up C:\Program Files\cwRsync in Windows Explorer on your local computer (substitute Program Files (x86) if necessary). Right click on cwrsync.cmd and left click Edit. Add the following line to the end of the file:

rsync -av --chmod u+rwx -e "ssh -i /cygdrive/c/[name-of-folder-containing-private-key]/id_rsa" /cygdrive/c/temp [your-remote-username]@[your-remote-subdomain].[your-remote-domain].com:/test/

In the above example, you will need to substitute the name of the folder containing your private key, your remote username, and your remote web domain, as noted.

Save the cwrsync.cmd and close the text editor.

Now, in Windows Explorer, double click on the cwrsync.cmd file to run it. A command prompt window will appear, and it may ask you for your remote web host's password. Enter your password and hit enter.

At this point, your test file in your test folder on C should be uploaded to your remote web host. FTP into your remote web host and check the remote test folder to be sure.

If running cwrsync.cmd prompted you for a password, run it a second time by double clicking on cwrsync.cmd to make sure that it does not prompt you for a password the second time around.

If your test file successfully uploaded to the test folder on your remote server, and you were not prompted for a password, congrats! cwRsync has been successfully tested and is working properly. If not, you have some troubleshooting to do.

Setting Up A Backup with cwRsync

Once you are able to successfully back up a test folder to your remote host, you are ready to set up your "real" back up.

Open up C:\Program Files\cwRsync in Windows Explorer on your local computer (substitute Program Files (x86) if necessary). Right click on cwrsync.cmd and left click Edit. Modify the rsync code above as follows:

rsync -av --chmod u+rwx -e "ssh -i /cygdrive/c/[name-of-folder-containing-private-key]/id_rsa" /cygdrive/c/[path-of-folder-to-backup] [your-remote-username]@[your-remote-subdomain].[your-remote-domain].com:/test/

We are only modifying one part of this code -- the path to the folder that you want to back up. The syntax for this will always begin with /cygdrive/[drive-letter]. Do not worry about the fact that the folder cygdrive does not exist on your local machine. That's just how the syntax for rsync works.

So, let's say you wanted to backup your My Documents folder. Your rsync code would probably look something like this:

rsync -av --chmod u+rwx -e "ssh -i /cygdrive/c/[name-of-folder-containing-private-key]/id_rsa" /cygdrive/c/users/[your-local-username]/Documents [your-remote-username]@[your-remote-subdomain].[your-remote-domain].com:/test/

Once you're happy with your rsync line, save the cwrsync.cmd and close the text editor.

In Windows Explorer, double click on the cwrsync.cmd file to run it. Your backup will now commence. Depending on the size of the folder that you are backing up, this could take quite awhile.

Automate Daily Backups with Windows Task Scheduler

Once you have verified that your initial backup was successful, it is time to schedule automated daily backups that require no future action on your part.

Windows XP Instructions:

Open Windows Task Scheduler by clicking on the Start Menu and navigating to Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Scheduled Tasks.

Scheduled Tasks will open. Double click "Add Scheduled Task."

On the first screen, click Next.

On the second screen, it asks you to "click the program you want windows to run". Do not choose a program from the list. Instead, click Browse.

Click the Browse button and navigate to C:\Program Files\cwRsync\cwrsync.cmd.

On the third screen, it asks you to "type a name for this task." Create a name for this task, such as "Automated Daily Backup."

On this third screen it also asks you how often to perform the task. Choose daily.

On the fourth screen, it asks you to choose a start time. For time of day, I recommend running your backup in the middle of the night, when it is unlikely you will be using your computer, such as 2:30 AM.

On the fifth screen, it asks you to "Enter the name and password of a user." This is the Windows login that the backup will run under. It is important that you choose the same Windows login that you used to create your SSH key, above. The username is entered in the form computername\username -- for example, computer01\administrator. Make sure to enter your Windows password.

On the sixth and final screen, click Finish. Your automated daily backup has now been scheduled!

Windows 7 Instructions:

Open Windows Task Scheduler by clicking on the Start Menu and navigating to Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Task Scheduler.

Task Scheduler will open. Click "Create Basic Task."

Create a name for this task, such as "Automated Daily Backup." Click Next.

For Task Trigger, keep Daily selected and click Next.

For the start date, choose tomorrow's date. For time of day, I recommend running your backup in the middle of the night, when it is unlikely you will be using your computer, such as 2:30 AM. Click Next.

For Action, keep "Start a program" selected and click Next.

Click the Browse button and navigate to C:\Program Files\cwRsync\cwrsync.cmd (or C:\Program Files (x86)\cwRsync\cwrsync.cmd, if this is where cwRsync is installed). Click Open and then click Next.

Click Finish. Your automated daily backup has now been scheduled!

Final Thoughts

I wrote these instructions because I had trouble with the instructions I found online. They seemed simple enough, but for various reasons, they weren't working for me. I did some trial and error and the above instructions are what ended up working for me. Your mileage may vary. I used the following resources to aide me in setting up cwRsync:

Backup Your Personal Computer to Dreamhost with Rsync

The rsync Tool In Windows

cygWin connect by SSH using RSA key; ssh.exe couldn't create /home/user/.ssh

corgi, sakura

Managing large amounts of passwords

Originally published at PamHardy.net. You can comment here or there.

So I read two interesting articles this past week, both by the same author. The first one that I read was The only secure password is the one you can’t remember (first seen by me on Lifehacker). The second article that I read was an older article, linked from the first one: Who’s who of bad password practices – banks, airlines and more.

The first article discusses the need to use strong, unique passwords for all of your online accounts, and the struggle to remember all of these unique, strong passwords. The author makes the claim that if all of your unique passwords are strong enough, that you'll never be able to remember all of them. Thus, you need to use a password manager like LastPass, KeePass, or 1Password. The password manager, like it sounds, manages all of your passwords, enabling you to only have to remember one singular password that will let you access all of your online accounts. Each of your online accounts will then be protected by a strong, unique password that you are unlikely to remember.

This sounds good in theory, but what happens when your one singular password is compromised by a keylogger? No one is impervious to viruses and keyloggers, as I found out two weeks ago. From what I understand about LastPass, it allows you to log into your accounts from any computer, from anywhere. If it allows you to do that, what's to stop someone who compromised your master password via keylogger from doing the same?

Even if the password file is stored on your local machine, what's to stop someone from writing a virus specifically targeted at LastPass (or another one of these password managers) that will grab the password file from your local machine? If these password managers become widely used, you know that black hat hackers are going to be all over writing malicious software to target them.

As such, I personally believe that using a password manager compromises too much security for its convenience. So what to do instead? How do you create strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts that you will actually remember?

Well, I'm not going to tell you my exact method, because I don't want anyone being able to guess my passwords. But you have to come up with a system that create one base, strong password that you will remember, and a system of altering that base password for each online account so that each one is different. I used the following Consumerist articles for inspiration for my system: Create A Different Password For Every Site And Never Forget A Single One and How To Easily Remember A Different Password For Every Site.

I won't lie, if someone got access to one of my passwords -- say, my Facebook password -- a human could probably look at the password and guess my Gmail password. But it would take a human to do so. No one is going to have a virus that is able to not only grab my Facebook password, but also systematically figure out my Gmail password, because the two passwords are different. It would take a human looking at my password to figure it out. I personally think I'm much more likely to be hit by a virus that targets millions of people over someone targeting me specifically.

Now, the frustrating part is after you come up with your awesome password remembering scheme that uses a strong password as its base, and then you encounter companies like Blizzard and Verizon that have stupid requirements on their passwords -- not letting you use certain characters -- that break your awesome password. I have to remember "different" passwords for these sites, unfortunately. These companies make me grumpy.

corgi, sakura

No one is safe: My GMail account was compromised

Originally published at PamHardy.net. You can comment here or there.

So, it finally happened. My Gmail account was compromised, despite all my best efforts, which included the following:

  • I don't click on links in emails
  • I keep my OS and other software up to date
  • I don't enter my passwords on any computer that is not my own
  • All of my passwords use both letters and numbers
  • I use Firefox with Adblock Plus... MOST of the time.

That last item may have been my downfall. I've been using IE, Safari, and Chrome for various reasons recently: usually to see how one of the websites that I am developing displays in those browsers, but I also use them occasionally to view Google search results (to see the rankings of the websites that we're in charge of SEO for, since on Firefox, I have Web History enabled). I also very recently loaded up Chrome just to play Robot Unicorn Attack, because Chrome is a little faster than Firefox. :(

I know that Chrome has Adblock available for it, and I thought I had it installed, but I still saw ads when I went to play the game.

Another concerning thing is that recently, in Firefox, I remember seeing a Groupon ad even though I have Adblock Plus enabled. I gave the ad a funny look at the time, but didn't bother to look further into it since Groupon isn't shady. Maybe I should have :(.

My other downfall is that even though I KNOW it's a horrible thing to do, I use the same password pretty much everywhere I go. I just never took the time to figure out a system that would make it easy to make and remember unique passwords for each website. It was one of those things that I would do "eventually" and just never got around to doing.

So I might have been infected via an ad. I might have been infected by using the same password in too many places. I may have even been infected via my Droid X somehow, since I log into my Google Account on it.

I was first alerted that something was amiss when I received an email from myself, with my work signature. Immediately I knew something was wrong. I started getting some "mail failure notifications" as my hacker attempted to send emails to people in my address book whose emails either no longer exist, were typed in incorrectly, or just were smart enough to block my spam.

I quickly changed my Gmail password on my MacBook, which I figured had to be cleaner than my PC, but the spam emails kept being sent. I finally remembered that Gmail has a tool where you can kick off everyone who's logged into your account. I quickly did that and the emails stopped, and I changed my password a second time, from a different computer that I was 99% sure was clean.

Now it was time for the cleaning. I downloaded and installed MalwareBytes, and set it to do a full scan of both my hard drive and the USB drive that is connected to it. While the scan did its thing, I started changing passwords to a bunch of my online accounts. I got about four or five accounts done when I realized that I REALLY REALLY needed to come up with a system of unique passwords for each website (I was changing all of the accounts to the exact same password).

I finally came up with a system and started changing all the passwords again. I got to my WoW password, which wouldn't let me change it to my new, unique one because WoW only allows certain special characters in passwords. Bad, bad Blizzard! So my WoW password is a special snowflake from all of my other passwords.

MalwareBytes finally finished its full scan an hour later and found 0 infections. No!! I wanted it so badly to find something so that I could work on getting it clean. I sent frantic messages to Rob, who is away on a Knights of Columbus retreat this weekend. He had me download and run TDSSKiller and ComboFix.

TDSSKiller claimed it found one infection, but when I researched the name of the program, it turned out to be Daemon Tools, which is harmless. Rob told me to kill off the process anyway, but there wasn't any option to do so.

I couldn't get ComboFix to run at first. It was complaining that it only supports Win32 only. Rob managed to remote in and get it to run, though. Not sure what he did to get it to run. I am not sure what ComboFix found just yet -- I am waiting to check back with Rob, hopefully tomorrow, so he can analyze the log and tell me what it says.

I learned a few lessons from this ordeal, though.

The first: use unique passwords! I may have had my Gmail account compromised because another site that I used the same password on was compromised. If I don't find any malware, this might be what happened (but I doubt it, I strongly suspect malware).

The second: keep your Gmail contacts cleaned up! A few of the spam emails were sent out to people not in my contacts, but in Gmail's special list of contacts that it keeps of everyone that you have ever emailed or been emailed by, ever. So I've probably got a couple of folks wondering "Who is this Pam Hardy and why is she sending me spam?"

I went through all 100 of Gmail's "Other Contacts" and added about half of them to my actual address book, and deleted the other half.

The third lesson: ads are evil! Once my computer is somewhat usable, I need to go into IE and Safari and change their default homepages to Google, so that they never have a chance to display an ad to me. I also need to never play Robot Unicorn Attack on anything but Firefox. Also also I need to make sure that Adblock is actually installed and working correctly on Chrome.

This isn't a lesson, but more something I'm thankful for: my WoW account was not compromised. Even though I don't really care for WoW at the moment, if my account info got compromised it would have been a major pain in the neck to get all of my characters' gear restored. So I am grateful that for now, my WoW account is safe.

I never thought this would happen to me, but it did. Right now I feel violated. My life is on my computer, and my computer was violated. I feel icky just thinking about it.

corgi, sakura

The war between manga publishers and scanlations

Originally published at PamHardy.net. You can comment here or there.

A group of Japanese and American manga publishers is threatening legal action against 30 manga scanlation websites. The sites haven't been named yet, but One Manga, one of the largest manga scanlation websites, is already making plans to shut down within a week.

I'm disappointed. My disappointment isn't necessarily directed at One Manga shutting down -- even if One Manga shuts down, there will still be other places to find scanlations online. My disappointment is more directed towards that group of Japanese and American manga publishers who don't seem to understand what their consumers want.

I understand that online scanlations are against copyright laws, but I believe the official publishers should take notes about what we readers like about online scanlations: that they are distributed digitally, and that they are translated into English shortly after release in Japan. Perhaps the fact that they're free, too, but that's perhaps a separate discussion.

This sort of tug-of-war between the publishers and the consumers reminds me of how the movie industry initially resisted VHS tapes, and how the music industry initially resisted digital music. Technology is moving faster than the big wig producers want it to. Consumers are rapidly transitioning to digital media, and away from wanting physical disks and books.

In the manga industry, it takes years before Japanese manga is translated and brought to the U.S. in official, purchasable, legal format. Fans are able to scan and translate manga into "scanlations" in a matter of days. Why is there such a huge time difference? I don't know the details, but I would guess a lot of the time goes into the actual publishing process of the manga books. Distributing manga in digital format would take so much less time and it would save money (at least from a consumer standpoint).

In contrast to the manga industry, the anime industry has connected with its consumers, and is starting to understand and give them what they are asking for. Anime is available shortly after airing in Japan with English subtitles on Crunchyroll. This is a start -- I would still like to see actual anime downloads available for purchase, in addition to being able to stream it.

What I would like to see is for the manga publishing industry to understand what consumers are asking for and to give it to them, instead of going on a legal crusade against the websites who are giving the fans what they want. Yes, these websites are breaking copyright laws. But at least they understand what the fans want.

Give us a legal option for digital manga translated into English shortly after release in Japan -- that's what the fans are asking for.

corgi, sakura

RealID: Real Bad Idea

Originally published at PamHardy.net. You can comment here or there.

I have spent the last two days spending entirely too much time reading about the Blizzard RealID fiasco. The fiasco is this: in a few weeks, Blizzard will be changing all of their online forums to a new forum system that will require you to display your real name in order to post -- instead of your character name. Blizzard cites their desire to reduce trolling and inflammatory posting as their reason for this change.

Their reason for this change is a fallacy. If their sole reason was to reduce trolling, they have at least two different options.

The first option is to create a "Gamer Tag" for all forum users that they must post under. Each forum poster would be able to choose their Gamer Tag -- it would not have to be their real name.

The second option, which could also be incorporated into the first, would be to display all characters on a person's account every time they post. That way, when a user posts on the forums, every single one of their character's identities is held accountable for the words that they are posting.

If trolling is not the real reason that Blizzard is switching to this new forum system, what is the real reason? Two main theories have been floating around.

The first is because of South Korean and Chinese law that states that online forums that are larger than a certain size must require their users to post using their legal name. I personally do not believe this to be the true reason behind Blizzard's intent, because if Blizzard really wanted to, they could create a forum system solely for use in those countries, and allow all other countries' forums to continue using character names.

The second theory -- and this is the one that is the most plausible -- is that Blizzard is merging its games with Facebook. There is already proof that Blizzard has a partnership with Facebook as of May 5, 2010. Blizzard wants a piece of the social networking pie. They even allude to it in their own forum post about RealID, referring to World of Warcraft as a "social-gaming service." But I, and most of the other WoW players that have expressed their opinion on this topic, don't want a social-gaming service. We just want our Role Playing Game back.

Blizzard's response to those upset about the forum change is that we, the players, have two choices: post on the forums with our real names, or do not post at all. To quote Blizzard Community Manager Wryxian (whose real life name we still don't know): "Posting on the forums with your real name will be optional -- yes, in the sense that the options are simply post and show your real name, or do not post and you keep it confidential. If people are happy to post and do not feel intimidated by this, then great."

A choice between posting on the forums with your real name or not posting at all is not a real choice at all, for a lot of people. By not being able to post on the forums, you lose the following:

1. You cannot submit bug reports. Bug reports can only be done through the forums.
2. You cannot submit suggestions to the people who have the power to implement them. Suggestions can only be submitted through the forums.
3. You cannot seek customer support or technical support via the forums. These are available via other means (email and phone), but oftentimes, the queue times of the email and phone support is so large, that posting on the forums is a much faster way to get your issue resolved. The phone queues even instruct you to post on the forums when the phone queues are full.
4. You cannot recruit for your guild via the forums.
5. Roleplayers (of which I am not one) lose their ability to roleplay on official Blizzard forums.

So what is the big deal, anyway? Why are so many people up in arms about revealing their real life name on the World of Warcraft forums?

1. Knowing only your name, anyone who sees it can Google search your name and find things like your phone number and address. Less than scrupulous people could then use this information to threaten and stalk you.
2. Many employers Google search potential job candidates -- and many employers discriminate against World of Warcraft players because online gaming has a bad stigma for addiction and playing too much.
3. People who have obviously ethnic names could be harassed on the forums (or outside of them) solely based on what their name is.

As of writing this post, there have been 41,000 replies to this forum topic on the North American World of Warcraft forums alone. Most of those replies have been against the change. Despite this enormous outcry, Blizzard has not backpedaled and announced a reversal of their decision.

Well, money talks. I'm trying to speak Blizzard's language -- I canceled my account last night. Maybe if enough players cancel their accounts, Blizzard will listen. However, even if Blizzard backpedals, I'm not entirely sure that I will re-activate my account. Blizzard has lost a lot of my trust because of this move.

corgi, sakura

Soul Eater Review

Originally published at Birdangel.net. You can comment here or there.

Soul EaterI recently finished watching the Soul Eater anime. The first half of it was really good. Unfortunately, the second half's plot was laughable. Despite not having read the manga beforehand, I could immediately tell when the anime's plot veered away from the manga's.

My first impression of Soul Eater was that it was going to be an anime a lot like Bleach, but I ended up being wrong. I came to that conclusion after noting that the main characters were very much like the Shinigami in Bleach.

To summarize the plot fairly quickly, it revolves around 2-3 person teams of weapon meisters and humans that can transform into weapons. When I saw the first couple of episodes, I likened the weapon meisters to Shinigami from Bleach, but they're a little different. The weapon meisters kill evil humans instead of monsters that were once human. Okay, they are starting to sound more similar now that I think about it.

I didn't like Soul Eater's characters at first, but they've grown on me. My favorite character is Crona, but I can see a lot of myself in Tsubaki. Black Star and Death the Kid's personality traits were pretty annoying at first, but I think they became less annoying as the series progressed and the characters grew up a little bit.

Now that I've finished watching the anime, I caught myself up with the manga. It was interesting to see that some parts of the anime's second half were taken from the manga, but were altered for plot. For instance, I was convinced that Buttataki Joe was an anime-only character.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the manga develops. I'm going to have to give the anime only 3 out of 5 stars, though, since the second half's plot was a failure.