sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2014-08-01 12:47 pm

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?
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2014-07-08 10:51 pm

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?
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2014-02-14 12:36 am

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!)
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2013-12-28 05:51 pm

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)
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2013-12-26 12:23 am

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.)
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2013-05-24 02:21 pm

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
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2013-03-29 11:17 pm

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.)
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2013-03-14 12:39 am
Entry tags:

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?
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2012-02-15 11:21 pm
Entry tags:

Cracked.com: 10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (And Must) Agree On

I don't normally link to Cracked.com because I find many of the things on there to be uninteresting. The articles are typically lists of things, in a "top 10" style. Things like "5 Creepy Ways They're Replacing Humans With Robots", "The 5 Weirdest Reasons We Have Sex (According to Science)" and "23 Painfully Honest Valentine's Day Cards" (to take three examples from the front page currently).

However, just now I saw an article that I thoroughly agree with and need to share: 10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (And Must) Agree On. I applaud the writer of this article; they've taken some thorny issues and managed to write about them in a manner that isn't, to my mind, heavily biased towards one way or the other. That's not an easy thing to do, and it makes some excellent points. I'd urge everybody to read it.

[edit: As [profile] kabarett noted in the comments on DW, the author of the article treats gender as binary and acts as if the reader is male. I hadn't noticed these on my reading of the article at first - sorry! To me it's not jarring, and I still believe the article is great to read, but if you're sensitive to these issues then you may want to bear that in mind. (Privilege, I has it.)]
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2011-12-22 06:01 am

(no subject)

I've been meaning for a while to do a post about Dreamwidth and the differences it has from LiveJournal, but for now I just want to point out that from now until the end of the year, you don't need an invite code to join! Just click to create an account and you'll be able to do so. :)

(This post is mainly being done for the people reading this on LiveJournal, but some already-existing dwenizens might find it helpful too!)
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2011-09-16 02:27 pm

Portal 1 is free again for the next few days

I know some people missed the "free copy of Portal 1" offer last time I talked about it, so just a heads-up; it's free again for the next few days, until the 20th. Most of you have probably already got it, but if you don't, now's your chance. :)
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2011-07-06 02:40 am

...I hate it when companies do this.

So, remember the messiah:studio offer I talked about in February? The idea was that the prices would slowly return to their regular prices after a while.

And yes, they have risen, but I'm fairly sure they've been stuck now at $199 and $149 for a while. And in fact, I just used Google Cache to verify that on July 1st, the page was reading that the price of the Pro edition would go to $249 on July 3rd, and $299 on July 24th. Today, that same page reads that it'll go to $249 on July 24th, and $299 on August 14th.

Not cool. Luring customers to buy with the promise that the price will go up later, and then not having the prices go up on schedule, is misleading and false advertising. And this isn't an out-of-date page that was only used during the offer; this is the page that's being linked to as the official Shop page.

This isn't a judgement on the actual software at all; merely a judgement on the practices of the company behind it. I really hate when companies pull sneaky things like that. :(
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2011-06-12 01:21 am

Being truly pseudonymous

So, I read a post in [personal profile] synecdochic's journal just now discussing the geolocation feature that LJ had added to its IP logging feature to tell you where commenters were from (the feature is now removed), and it got me thinking that too many people don't really know how to truly be anonymous on the Internet. Tor, which is mentioned in the post, is good, but it's not nearly good enough if you just use it and do nothing else to protect yourself.

So what do you need to do to be truly anonymous on the Internet?

It is possible, but the answer to *that* question would sound very far-fetched to most people here. That's because most people don't really understand the concept of what anonymity actually is. As I ranted about in my post about 'real' names, anonymity means to not have a name. The trouble is, if you have an account on DW or LJ (which you probably do if you're reading this), then you do have a name - your username - and thus you are not anonymous. At the very best, you're pseudonymous - writing under an assumed name.

So for this post I'm actually going to cover an angle which is probably more relevant to people here, and that's how to make absolutely sure that nobody can connect your pseudonym to any of your other identities (which is what most people think anonymity is anyway). Most of these points are prerequisites to being truly anonymous anyway, and a lot of people will find even the list in this post to be over-the-top. That said, I'll cover being truly anonymous (or at least as anonymous as you can get) in another post at some point.

How to successfully maintain a completely separate pseudonym )

So, yeah, being truly pseudonymous is tough - tougher than being truly anonymous. In another post I'll talk about that. In the meantime, though, I'm kind of tired and need to rest. :D
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2011-04-29 07:50 pm

Just beyond the moon...

Most people reading this journal will know that although I used to be a Christian, I'm not any more. (I won't go into why in this post, but I'm willing to talk about it if you want to hear.) I'm not a member of any other religion either.

But I'm not an atheist - far from it. Some people have asked me why I'm not an atheist. And rather than responding in full, I'm going to post the lyrics of a song that I absolutely adore, called "Just Beyond", created and sung by Mich Sampson. She's an extremely talented musician who I've met going to various filk events, and she's given me permission to post these. I'd also highly recommend listening to the original; it's available to listen online along with other songs that she's made. This song in particular is beautiful, and resonates strongly with me.

Just Beyond
Mich Sampson (listen online)

I remember as a child
looking out my window
and seeing how the trees made funny shapes against the stars,
and wondering what they felt,
as they brushed their branches against the moon
and struggled in the breeze...

It's not so different now:
at my desk, Monday morning, close my eyes...
remember how I felt
one cold spring night,
when I gazed up into the sky,
and thought there might be...

...be God,
be aliens,
be a world of dreams,
be my own imagination?
I didn't care.
I thought there was something there;
just beyond the moon,
just beyond my hand...
...maybe.

It's hard to believe,
when you're dealing with the little things
and all of life's mundalities.
I take the time to hope;
read history and fairy tales,
read the scientific news.
For just beyond the moon,
just beyond my hand,
maybe there's something that I don't understand...

...be God,
be aliens,
be a world of stories,
be my own imagination...
I don't care.
Please let there be something there;
just beyond the moon,
just beyond my hand...
...maybe?

Just beyond the moon,
just beyond my hand...

(instrumental)

Some people think we're strange -
that we've got our heads above the clouds
and never fall to earth.
But that's how we keep sane;
if we can hold on to the faith or hope
that there is something more.
For just beyond the moon,
just beyond our hands,
maybe there's something that we don't understand.

Be God,
be aliens,
be a world of spirit,
be our own imaginations...
let them stare.
We pray there is something there;
just beyond the moon,
just beyond our hands... maybe.

Just beyond the moon,
just beyond our hands... maybe.

Just beyond the moon,
just beyond our hands...

...maybe...
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2011-03-22 01:58 pm

TRIGGER WARNING: Duke Nukem Forever

If you were thinking of buying Duke Nukem Forever when it came out, I'd highly advise not doing so. I'll explain why under the cut; it could be very triggering.

Trigger warning for kidnapping and abuse. )
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2010-12-12 06:35 am

(no subject)

As a follow-up to my last post, if anybody's interested, I made a video about the first day in Minecraft. Yeah, I know there are tons of videos out like this already but I wanted to try my own hand at it, with the intention of possibly turning it into a Let's Play-like series if people are interested.

The video itself is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJtXSIgeKvw . I apologise for the bad voice recording here; at some point I'll probably use a proper recording setup, once I can actually do so.

The video is public, which makes me kinda nervous; although I'm more confident that my voice sounds good, I'm still not really sure. And of course, we're talking about YouTube comments here, so there are going to be harsh comments, I'm sure. I... really don't know how I'll take that, but we'll see.

Anyway, let me know what you think. :)

(also, if you're curious, I have other Minecraft videos on my channel, but they're all short and demonstrate various peculiarities of multiplayer, for the most part, and don't have my voice on. Go check them out if you want to. :))
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2010-12-11 07:51 pm

Minecraft, I'm talkin' about Minecraft...

So lately I've been hooked on a game called Minecraft. You've probably heard about it; it's a game where the world is made up of blocks representing different types of material, looking something like this (click to enlarge):

A screenshot of Minecraft, showing a 3D blocky landscape with land closest, then water and sand in the middle, with more land in the far distance. There are blocky trees to the right-hand side, and a pig on the left-hand side.

It's an excellent game, and there's a lot to it. The game is currently in Alpha status, but despite that it's still very playable. Rather than being free, Alpha is being sold at half-price, making it €9.95. And it's sold a heck of a lot!

Why am I telling you all this? Because Notch (the creator) announced today that Minecraft would be entering Beta status on December 20th. This means a few things:

  1. After December 20th, Minecraft will no longer be half-price; the price will rise to €14.95, which is 25% off the full price of €20.00.
  2. .
  3. More importantly, the license is being changed to say that you won't get all future updates to the game for free. While the game was/is in Alpha, the license included that line, and it will be honoured for those who bought the game while that line was in the license. However, if a person buys in Beta, they'll get all the updates that pertain to Beta, but once the full game is released, they'd need to pay again for that (though I suspect at a discounted rate).


What does this mean for you? It means that if you want to receive the full game for half-price, your only option is to buy between now and December 20th; if you pay after December 20th, but before the release of the full game, you won't get the full game with that purchase. Personally, I think it's a bit of a crappy move to make people pay for a beta and then not give them the full game when it's released, but I'm not Notch, so.

But let me tell you, this *is* a fun game. I'll probably make a video on the first steps in Minecraft and post it to my YouTube account so people can see what sort of thing is involved. (I'll post it here in my journal too, of course.)
sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
2010-11-27 05:05 am

The Rocky Horror Show

It's astounding... time is fleeting...

I've never seen the Rocky Horror Show. And I just realised that I really, really want to.

Only problem is, the UK tour is ending very soon. The last 2010 UK tour date is in Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, from November 29th to December 4th. So it's quite possible that they're all booked up already. But just in case they're not... is anybody interested in seeing if they can make it with me?

Let me know if you are!
sophie: An almagamation of the Venus and Mars signs, representing transgendered people. The pink and the blue are inverted. (transgender)
2010-11-20 11:21 pm

Transgender Day of Rememberance 2010

Today was the Transgender Day of Rememberance. I forgot about this fact until just now, when here in the UK there's only about 80 minutes of it left, which I'm not proud of. But I wanted to post about it because I know there's still a lot of time left in some parts of the world. And really, even if it's not the 20th where you are, the main aim of TDOR is to promote awareness of the issue, not to get everybody to do something on one specific day.

I, as many of you already know, am transgendered myself; I'm a trans woman. A lot - and I mean a lot - of transgendered people have had their lives cut short the past year. I say a lot even though there are 'only' 27 listed (page lists causes of death and links to articles) because to me, it is a lot, and there are almost certainly a whole lot of others not listed.

None of these deaths were necessary, and they speak to a big problem in this world. We need to be able to accept people; that's all it takes. The fact that we can't even do that makes me really sad. :(

Like my friend [personal profile] rho (who has written her own piece on this year's TDoR), I'm public about my transgendered status. That's not to say that everybody I interact with will know, but that if it comes up or is relevant, I'll tell them about it. That's a personal choice I've made, because in order to prevent this sort of thing from happening, people need to know that we exist, and that we're not freaks; we're just normal people, like everybody else.

But I completely support those who don't want to do that, because some people don't want to be known as 'that girl who thinks she's a guy' or 'the weirdo in the skirt'. And I can't say I blame them - that sort of crap hurts. And, of course, this is speaking from a position of privilege; I have it really easy compared to a lot of others.

Yet even in the privileged world I live in, the threat to trans people is a lot greater than to cis people (cis- being the opposite to trans-). Quite frankly, it sucks in a lot of ways to be trans. No, we are most emphatically not "getting the best of both worlds", and if you think we are, let me know so I can point you to some resources and explain why that isn't the case.

But it doesn't have to be this way. You can help, by spreading the word. Let people know we exist, and explain to them why it's not okay to think of us as freaks. Don't let the deaths of transgendered people in the last year be in vain.

Our time will come.