my journal
August 2014

Date: 2014-08-01 12:47
Security: Public
Tags:big posts, internet, link, nsa, privacy, request for comments, skype
Subject: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

If you use Skype, you may have noticed the number of people online on your contacts list dwindling a little lately.

I myself was signed out of Skype last night. I can no longer log in; my old version of Skype, 5.10, is now considered to be too old.

I can't say I'm *entirely* surprised about this; I was given ample warning that this would happen, and I just didn't heed it because the older version still worked long past the cutoff dates given to me. Unfortunately, this has left me with the problem of how to tell everybody that I'm probably not going to be using it any more. This is a shame, because I actually used it quite a lot.

Why will I not be using it any more? Why can't I just update to the newest version?

Well, for some people the answer will be that they're still using Windows XP, which the newer versions of Skype don't support. That's not the case for me, but if you know that a contact of yours has Windows XP and you haven't heard from them for a bit, that may be why.

But no, the thing for me is that I've been hearing a lot about how Skype is connected to the NSA. I probably don't need to explain why this is a bad thing, but it's possible some people reading this may not realise that the NSA collects data about you in bulk, including recording audio of phone calls, recording IMs, web sites you visit, and a lot of other things. Recently news came out that they were targetting the privacy-conscious.

To put it lightly, the NSA are violating your privacy quite deliberately and knowingly - even if you live in the US. (The NSA's states that it only applies data gathering to foreign countries, but I'm willing to bet that there are sites you visit that aren't sited in the US. Same applies if you live outside of the US and thought you were safe; if you use sites sited in the US (note: Dreamwidth is such a site), then the NSA is interested in you.

The NSA also lies about how much data is collected. It was thought that the NSA "only" recorded metadata about phone calls such as time/date, phone numbers of each party, etc. Turns out that's untrue; apparently, "At least 80 percent of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US". I am a little doubtful about that figure (and there is no evidence for this, unlike with Edward Snowden's leaked files), but if the figure is off then it probably isn't off by much. Even if the figure was 60%, that's still a frighteningly large amount.

I see no reason to believe that Skype is exempt from this, especially as there are news stories about Skype being connected to the NSA. (The linked article is just one such article.)

I also found out today that Skype comes pre-installed with Windows 8.1, which follows their phase-out of Windows Live Messenger (also known by many as MSN Messenger). This makes Skype an incredibly attractive target for not just the NSA but also for hacking/cracking groups. Mostly the NSA, though.

So what is someone to do? I believe I can no longer use Skype as a permanent solution. Note that using an alternative Skype client will not solve the problem; any recording of data would be server-side, so it really doesn't matter what client you use to connect to it. (Not that Skype has exactly had the best of compatibility with third-party clients anyway.)

Does anyone have any ideas?

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Date: 2014-07-26 02:12
Security: Public
Tags:moving, parents
Subject: Parents

I'm living with my parents again.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. :/

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Date: 2014-07-09 00:18
Security: Public
Subject: I'm sorry.

I want to apologise for my last entry. (This apology is being made without any prompting or feedback from anyone.)

As a game, Air Control does not live up to the standards expected by most people. But developing and publishing the game is likely a learning experience for the developer, and they chose to publish it. I do not normally engage in public shaming when the problem is most likely due to lack of experience, and I'm kinda embarrassed that I did so here. I should be holding myself to better standards than that, and I failed in this case. I'm sorry.

I believe that with encouragement and experience (including the experience learned from developing and publishing games like this), people can create awesome things. Killjoy, please don't let the experiences of this game stop you from learning more about game creation.

Thank you, and I'm sorry to anybody I may have triggered with my public shaming.

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Date: 2014-07-08 22:51
Security: Public
Tags:link, steam
Subject: So, um. Steam?

[content note: Public shaming. I have apologised for this post. I am leaving it here because I believe in owning my mistakes.]

Hey, remember when Steam used to be a store for quality games?

I do.

Nowadays, Steam seems to have dropped its quality threshold entirely. Still, games on Steam always seemed to have at least some modicum of quality, even for games like Airport Simulator 2014, which revolves around you waiting for planes to land at an airport, then driving utility vehicles to the plane one-by-one, then waiting in real time for the jobs to be done, being able to do absolutely nothing else in the meantime, then driving the vehicles back to their original positions and waiting for the next plane to land. With the currency you earn you can hire workers to do some of those jobs for you, and eventually end up with all the jobs filled and you winding up with absolutely nothing to do other than exit the game.

It's not much of a game, to be honest. I've seen it called "the worst game on Steam".

I'm here to tell you that's not the case. I'm not defending the game, mind you. It's quite a horrible game. But you can tell that a fair amount of effort was put into it; the overall presentation of the game is nice, the graphics are relatively detailed, and the game obviously works the way it was intended to work, even if the actual game is somewhat lacking. That's not something you can get without putting a fair amount of effort in. I'm very forgiving when it comes to games, unlike many people.

There are other games that are low-quality on Steam, too. But none of them are as low-quality as the game I watched a video of today. It's called Air Control and it goes to show that Steam has absolutely no quality control these days. There has been pretty much a bare minimum of effort spent on this game.

I don't mean to say that the game is simple; simple games can be very fun if done correctly. (Think of things like Super Hexagon.) This is not a simple-concept game (although the gameplay is more-or-less simple to a point), and it is most certainly not done correctly.

I can't do justice to how jaw-droppingly bad this game is (though the fact that I'm even writing about this should say something to many of my readers), so let me link you to NerdCubed's video on the game.

This is being sold for money. Not a small amount, either - £4.79 as of right now, and not on sale. For a scale of reference, The Binding of Isaac (sans DLC) is £3.99, Terraria is £6.99, and Bejeweled 3 is £4.25. (All prices are without sales discounts; it helps that none of them are on sale right now.)

Now go watch the video, if you haven't already. Judge for yourself whether the price tag is justified.

Steam, what the hell are you thinking?

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Date: 2014-07-04 14:11
Security: Public
Subject: (no subject)

Ninteen Eighty-Four, anyone?

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Date: 2014-07-03 11:57
Security: Public
Tags:moving, stella
Subject: Updates

It's been a long while (more than a year!) since I last posted here about myself, and nearly half a year since I posted here at all. I apologise for that.

A lot has happened since my last personal update. Among them, [personal profile] cxcvi and I are no longer in a romantic relationship. (I had originally worded this as "no longer engaged", but while that's true, it's also ambiguous.)

Other things: in September last year (while we were still engaged), we moved into a rented house together. Unfortunately, due to circumstances (among them the relationship, but others too), we've separated again. I'll be moving back to my parents' place on the 25th of July; [personal profile] cxcvi has already moved back. Neither of us want to do this for a multitude of reasons, but at the moment it might be for the best.

I'm so sorry I haven't been around on DW. I really need to work on it.

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Date: 2014-02-14 00:36
Security: Public
Tags:game dev tycoon, game tycoon, link, psa
Subject: PSA: Game Tycoon is *not* Game Dev Tycoon!

So, a new game called Game Tycoon was released on Steam a few days ago. It's a game where you create games and move up in the games industry, with new technologies becoming available over the years.

Does this sound familiar? If so, it's probably because of Game Dev Tycoon, which is also on Steam and has exactly the same premise.

Now, before I go any further, I want to say that Game Tycoon is not a ripoff of Game Dev Tycoon - it's been around since 2006, whereas Game Dev Tycoon has only been around since 2012. (The "release date" mentioned on the Steam page is the release date on Steam only.) So please don't think that it's a blatant ripoff, because it's not. It's just that Game Dev Tycoon has had a *lot* more hype.

However, Game Tycoon is not a good game. I don't have it, but from what I've watched and read, it seems to be riddled with bugs, and the initial release on Steam didn't even include the EXE file needed to run it!

It's getting a bad enough reputation that I feel the need to make this PSA about it to make clear that the two games are different. GDT is actually fairly good, though a little too limited for my taste. Please do not mistake Game Tycoon for Game Dev Tycoon when reading its reviews!

Thank you. :)

(Yeah, I know, I haven't been updating this journal for anything apart from PSAs for ages... I'm sorry!)

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Date: 2013-12-28 17:51
Security: Public
Tags:link, psa, sourceforge
Subject: SourceForge - how the mighty have fallen

A PSA for anybody who uses SourceForge still - I recently read that they've rolled out something called "DevShare", which is basically something that projects can opt into to have their downloads bundled with adware, monetising the download for the project owners.

I used to trust SourceForge downloads. I won't be able to do so any more. :(

(more information: reddit, article)

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Date: 2013-12-26 00:23
Security: Public
Tags:link, psa, steam
Subject: Left 4 Dead 2 - free for today only

Just so that everybody knows, Left 4 Dead 2 is free on Steam for today only. I already have it, but other people might appreciate this!

I hope everybody has a great holiday season. :)

(And yes, sorry I haven't been updating! I will at some point, I promise.)

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Date: 2013-07-25 12:43
Security: Public
Mood:curious curious
Subject: An experiment about PINs

I want to try an experiment.

Imagine you're calling an automated phone system to set up an account. The phone system asks you to make up your own PIN code to control access to the account, and to press the # key when done.

Did you think of a number? Good. Hold that in your head. I'm not going to ask you for it, but I do want to ask you a few questions about the number you chose under the cut, as an anonymous poll. (Meaning that even I can't see who answered what, for security.) If you haven't thought of the PIN code you would use in this hypothetical situation, do so now.

I explain why I'm doing this in another cut inside the cut below!

And here are the questions )

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Date: 2013-05-24 14:21
Security: Public
Tags:link, mashups, my music
Subject: Backstreet Boys vs. Britney Spears - (You Drive Me) Crazier Than Life

I've been meaning to post this for a while. I made another mashup! I already posted this one on Twitter a while ago when I released it, but didn't post it here. Oops.

This one is called (You Drive Me) Crazier Than Life (direct download link) and is a mashup of these two songs:

  • Larger Than Life, by the Backstreet Boys
  • (You Drive Me) Crazy, by Britney Spears
Thanks to a friend of mine for the suggestion to make this mashup and for the ideas for what to do with the mashup while I was making it!

As always, feedback is very much appreciated. :D

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Date: 2013-05-16 21:23
Security: Public
Mood:disappointed disappointed
Tags:names, steam, usernames, valve
Subject: Oh, Valve.

So, you may remember that two years ago, Valve transferred my games from an old Steam account to my current one, in what disappointingly appeared to be a one-off.

Just to make sure, however, four days ago I asked Steam Support for an update on what would happen nowadays for people that were in my position.

These are my three contributions to the Support ticket. )

The main question I asked in this ticket was this (emphasis added):
If someone else were in the same situation as I was two years ago, having had a legal name change (with evidence in the form of legally-recognised documentation such as a deed poll or statutory declaration), a username which was clearly based on their old name, and a clean VAC record, would Valve be willing to change the account name upon the submission of such evidence? (For the purposes of this question, 'change the account name' may also include creation of a new account and all licences registered on the old account transferred to the new one, as that was how my own ticket was resolved.)
Now, I realise that this is a pretty narrow field. This was intentional in order to increase the chances that they might be receptive. I do realise that there are trans* people out there who don't meet these criteria. Policy changes always have to start somewhere, though, and I understand the issues involved. I figured that if any policy change at all had been made, this narrow definition would fit inside it.

Today, they responded. (In fact, it was Walter who responded; the same person who replied in the other ticket to assist me with transferring the games.)

So, what was their answer?
4 Message by Support Tech Walter on Thu, 16th May 2013 8:26 pm

Hello Sophie,

We have not changed any policies regarding account names. As mentioned in your original ticket, this is for security reasons.

While we understand this is a frustration for you, we have this in place by design. There are no plans to change this at this time, however I have passed your comments on to the appropriate people.
Disappointing, to say the least. There is still no reasoning given for not being able to change account names, besides the very vague "this is for security reasons". (To be fair, I didn't actually ask for an explanation in this ticket, but still.)

I'm really disappointed by Valve right now. :(

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Date: 2013-04-21 19:55
Security: Public
Tags:ask me anything, request for comments
Subject: IAmA Sophie, AMA

It's been a while since I've written anything here (excluding the mashups and status update) and I'm kind of wanting to get back into writing stuff. Only thing is, I don't know what to write.

So, consider this an AMA (Ask Me Anything)! I saw [personal profile] kaberett doing this and thought it was a great idea. Basically, feel free to ask me anything in the comments and I'll do my best to answer. If you want to know more about me, or if you have requests for things I should write, or even if you just want to say hello, here's the place to do it! Anon commenting is enabled on Dreamwidth (though IPs are logged), so if you need to go anonymous, feel free to do so. (If you're watching me on LJ, you'll need to click the link just below this post where it says this has been crossposted if you want to go anonymous - otherwise feel free to ask on either LJ or DW.)

Looking forward to answering your comments. <3

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Date: 2013-03-29 23:17
Security: Public
Tags:link, mashups, my music
Subject: Nelly Furtado vs. Rihanna - Disturbia Night

So I decided I quite liked doing the last mashup, and I decided to make a new one. This one is called Disturbia Night (direct download link) and mashes up these two songs:

  • Night Is Young, by Nelly Furtado,
  • Disturbia, by Rihanna
Trigger warning: "Disturbia" is about mental anguish - I liken it to suffering from depression - and its lyrics reflect that, even though it's a pop song (and this mashup is even more poppy). In addition, the juxtaposition of the two songs makes it sound like the person suffering from depression is being told that they can just stop suffering by merely wanting to do so. Of course, this doesn't actually work.

Let me know what you think!

(Don't worry, btw - I'm not intending for this to become a journal of mashups. I've found that I do like making them, but this is still my journal first and foremost, not a collection of links.)

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Date: 2013-03-15 21:15
Security: Public
Mood:happy happy
Tags:amateur radio
Subject: CQ CQ CQ, this is MM6PRG calling CQ.

I have my amateur radio callsign now! It's MM6PRG. To break that down:

  • M: This is a UK callsign. The letter G is also used in some UK callsigns that were issued a long time ago.
  • M: This indicates that I'm in Scotland. This part changes depending on where I'm transmitting from in the UK. If I'm in England, I don't use anything at all for this bit, so I'd just be M6PRG.
  • 6: Combined with the first "M", this indicates that the callsign is a Foundation-licence callsign. Apart from M6, a Foundation licence is also indicated by M3 for older Foundation licences. (To my knowledge there are no Foundation callsigns beginning with "G", as the Foundation certification wasn't around then.)
  • PRG: These three letters identify the particular callsign within the given prefix (M6, M3, etc). You can either choose these letters yourself, or get the next available one alphabetically. I chose mine as a reference to the fact that I'm a programmer.
I'm looking forward to working the bands. :D

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Date: 2013-03-14 00:39
Security: Public
Mood:happy happy
Tags:link, mashups, my music
Subject: Girl Look At That Gangnam Style

So I made a mashup!

I started working on this a couple of days ago, and I just released it today. It's called "Girl Look At That Gangnam Style" and mashes up these two songs:

  • Gangnam Style, by PSY
  • Sexy And I Know It, by LMFAO (the song that inspired this xkcd comic)
I think that the finished result (direct download link) sounds pretty good, myself. What do you guys think?

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Date: 2013-03-11 16:48
Security: Public
Tags:amateur radio, scotland, stella
Subject: Hello!

Well now, it's been a while since I wrote a Dreamwidth post. Sorry about that! I'm very much still alive and kicking. Being in Scotland isn't the reason I haven't been updating; I've had Internet access just fine. I'm not entirely sure why I haven't been updating, really. I do have some news, though.

The first piece of big news: I'm engaged now!

I've been seeing [personal profile] cxcvi (Stella) for a long time, and helping her a lot through some really tough times. While I don't want to talk too much about that - privacy and triggers being the main reasons why - I can say that we're looking to move into a place of our own, and things are progressing on that front. Slowly, but they're progressing.

In any case, Stella proposed to me on December 21st, 2012, and I said yes. :) No wedding plans have been made yet, though, and it might be a while before we do them - getting somewhere to live together has been problematic so far, through no fault of our own. :/

I've basically resigned myself to being up here in Scotland, though. It's been about half a year since I've had to move up here and while there's plenty of reasons not to be up here, there are also some good reasons to stay. Rent is a lot cheaper, for one thing, which bodes well for finding somewhere together. I really would prefer to be down in England, but unfortunately that's starting to appear like it might not be an option. :(

As such, I've been settling down here a bit. I'm starting to get involved in amateur radio, and have been going to the meetings of my local amateur radio group, GM0AYR. I passed my Foundation exam recently and will be getting my M6 callsign soon, which I'm pretty excited about! (Well, it'll be MM6 for me since I'm going to be operating in Scotland, but that second M changes depending on your current region. M6 indicates England.)

I think that's most of what I want to say for now. Hopefully I won't take quite so long to make my next post here. :)

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Date: 2012-10-10 17:45
Security: Public
Tags:names, youtube
Subject: YouTube and full names

...fantastic. YouTube are pushing for people to use their full name on YouTube, which shows up in place of their username. I just got a prompt suggesting I do that.

I've posted about this matter in the past, though this is slightly different, because at the moment (and hopefully this'll be the case always), YouTube aren't forcing people to use their real name. You can decide whether to use your full name on YouTube, or to continue using your username. (Though it should be said that YouTube ask you to justify continuing to use your username if you want to go that way, which really rubs me the wrong way.)

It is nice that they offer a choice, somewhat. But when I said that they're pushing it, I mean that the UI is such that you're fairly likely to go through with it if you don't read carefully. And as I say, the fact that you have to justify your reasons for continuing to use your username is just... eugh. It gives you a choice of 6 buttons IIRC, and one of them is a button saying "I'm not sure, I'll decide later", but that sounds like they still expect a justification later.

There's also a slight annoyance because it makes it harder to tell who's who for me, but that's basically protesting change because it's change, and I'm sure I can get used to it. I'm much more concerned about what I've written above.

What are your thoughts?

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Date: 2012-09-16 03:41
Security: Public
Mood:unsure unsure
Subject: Moving: an update

Well, it's probably about time I update you all on the housing situation and what's been going on!

Two weeks ago, on September 2nd, I saw the house I lived in for the last time. We (that is, my Mum and I) drove up to Scotland to stay with my grandfather in Uddingston, close to Glasgow - the house we were to move into wasn't ready yet. My Mum left the next day to go back to East Grinstead to sort out the final bits with furniture moving and so on.

I stayed with my grandfather until my Mum and Dad arrived on the 6th (IIRC), and then the next day we travelled up to the Isle of Skye to visit my grandmother, aunt, and a few other relatives. I've been staying here since then.

Tomorrow - or more accurately today (the 16th), we're going back down to Uddingston again as it's closest to where the house actually is. The next day, we'll be visiting the house and I'll get to see it in person for the first time. The day after *that* is the 18th, when we finally move in.

Hopefully, I'll be staying there for about 3 months or so, maybe less. I've been able, via [personal profile] kaberett, to find some people (who are friends of theirs) who I would very much like to live with, and that might be able to happen in January. Of course, in the meantime I'd need to make trips down there to see various places, etc. Not sure of any details yet.

So... I think that's about everything right now.

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Date: 2012-09-01 23:14
Security: Public
Mood:numb numb
Subject: House moving

Tonight will be the last time I ever sleep in this house again.

Tomorrow, I move up to Scotland with my parents. (To be more precise, I move up to live with my grandparents while they finish off the rest of the stuff that needs to happen, and then they move up to also live with them until the new house they bought becomes available, which should be in about 2 weeks or so.)

Right now, my mind doesn't really believe this is happening. I'm lying in my room like always right now, typing on my laptop like it was a typical night. And yet...


...and yet this bed will not be slept on any more. Ever.

Not by me, at least.

Somebody else will be using my room. It won't be my room any more.

It's not the same as when I moved to Reading for a year. I knew I had this house as a backup then. This house that I've lived in for over half my life. It's always been there.

I do have housing plans in the making, but those most likely won't come to fruition until January.

In the meantime, I think I need to say goodbye to this house.

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