Put My Games Folder in its Place

On XP and earlier Windows OSes, all your files went in My Documents. In there you had My Music, My Pictures, etc. In Vista and forward your user folder has been rearranged so that each of those has its own folder in the root of your user profile. One folder that still shows up in there though is My Games. Its a default save location for saved games that try to follow Microsoft's filing system, this folder's new home is Saved Games. While there are redirects in Windows already to point programs to UserName\My Music instead of UserName\My Documents\My Music, for some reason My Games was not given this treatment. Luckily, its pretty easy to add.

First off, rename your current My Games folder in My Documents, something like My Games.bak will be fine for now. Open up a Command Prompt and browse to your My Documents folder.

cd %userprofile%\Documents

From here, you're going to create a Junction which is like a Shortcut on the system level.

mklink /j "My Games" "%userprofile%\Saved Games"

And finally we'll remove it from sight with this command.

attrib +s +h +i "My Games" /l

Now move the contents of your My Games.bak into your Saved Games folder. From now on when a program goes to access My Games, it will use the more appropriate Saved Games folder. One note, if you will need admin privileges to do this, so if you are running cmd as another user you won't be able to use the alias %userprofile% and instead will have to type out the full path "C:\Users\".

How to Protect WoW from Devious HomeGroup Users

HomeGroups in Windows 7 are awesome. Its an easy way to share content on your computer with other users on your network. There is a rather large issue with it though. Its not an issue with HomeGroups specifically but more with how modern games get around needing Administrative Privileges to run updates. Games like World of Warcraft install on Vista and 7 to C:\Users\Public\Games\. The problem is that by default when you join a HomeGroup this directory gets shared out with full read/write access to everyone in your HomeGroup. To prevent a malicious user from destroying your WoW install, you just need to change your NTFS permissions on that folder.

Start by opening Computer and browsing to C:\Users\Public. Right-click on the Games folder and go to Properties. In the Games Properties window click on the Security tab and then Advanced.

Our goal is going to be to remove the Everyone entry from the permissions list which currently has Full Control. Click on Change Permissions. Before you can remove Everyone from the list, you'll need to turn off inheritable permissions (currently Everyone can access C:\Users\Public\Games because they can also access C:\Users\Public) by unchecking the Include inheritable permissions box. It will ask you if you want to Add the current permissions to the new list you'll be making or remove them and start with a clean list, click Add.

Now scroll to the Everyone entry in the list and click Remove. To be safe, make sure that Administrators is in the list with Full control and/or your user account. If it isn't click add type in either Administrators or the user name you use to log into windows and in the window that follows click Full control and OK.

That's it! Go ahead and OK out of all the windows that are still left open. Now only administrators and people you added to the list will be able to access that folder. When someone accesses it from a HomeGroup they are using the HomeGroupUser$ account which is not an administrator and was being caught in the Everyone permissions before. With that gone your WoW install is now safe from being randomly deleted by bored network neighbors! If these directions weren't clear enough, or there's anyone questions, speak up in the comments.

My ISP Sucks

Being on an island in the middle of nowhere doesn't give you many choices for internet providers. Here in Hawaii we have two choices for broadband access; the local cable company, Oceanic Cable (Time Warner/Road Runner) and the local telephone company, Hawaiian Telcom. I've been with Road Runner since I got here over 10 years ago. While I still think they provide the best service on the island, it still sucks.

Unreliable connection
Earlier this week there was a statewide outage from 12:00am til about 7:30am. The issue turned out to be caused by an undersea cable being severed. I don't blame them for this since its a rare occurrence and something they couldn't have easily prevented. What I do take issue with is me periodically losing connection to the mainland and essentially the rest of the internet in the process. I can run a ping on one of the routers on island and have no breaks in the connection, but if I run a ping on the first router outside Hawaii it goes in and out throughout the day. This means unless I'm just connecting to sites in Hawaii, I can't access anything. It usually happens every few hours and will last anywhere from 20 seconds to 10 minutes.

On the left is a local router (oahuhimili-rtr1.hawaii.rr.com) on the right is a router in california (tustca1-rtr1.socal.rr.com).

Unsecure Email
I did a post on this a while ago, but Road Runner has no authentication on their SMTP servers (the ones used to send email). They don't require a user name or password, and the connection between you and their servers is not encrypted. While their POP servers (where your email is stored online) do require a user name and password, there's still no encryption. All communication with these servers are sent in plain text, so anyone eavesdropping on the connection would now have the username and password for your email account.
Packet captured while checking email.

Poor User Privacy
I've had to call Road Runner a few times because I've gotten locked out of the account I use to pay my bill to them. This is usually because I have multiple passwords for different Oceanic sites, and I sometimes forget which one is to pay my bill. After a few incorrect attempts I get locked out. Calling up support they are helpful and are able to unlock my account without much work. The problem is that after they unlock my account, they read off my password to me. They don't reset my password to something new and give me that, they give me my current password which means its something they can pull up. I've also had the same issue with my email account where the help desk person was able to pull up my password. The amount of verification done before we get to this point is information you could get off of any copy of my monthly bill. Working at a support desk, or even an administrator, you should never be able to access a user's password. The only thing you should be able to do is reset it to a new random password and give that to them.

Stop Buying Discs

I use to be a big supporter of buying physical copies of things. The idea of paying for something that I could see and hold was important to me. In the last few years I've switched sides. Last month, I found that two things I had purchased were no longer usable. My copy of Zone of the Enders 2 for Playstation 2 had mysteriously developed cracks stemming from the center of the disc, and my copy of Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum Edition Vol.1 almost looks like its been melted. This made me very said, both of these I had bought new and paid 50$ and 40$ respectively. It just went to solidify my stance that physical media for games is a bad.

The alternative is to acquire everything digitally, and I'm gonna stick to purely legal methods here. Digital distribution still has some issues in many cases but I think Steam provides the best example of how you should do it. After I buy something on Steam, I can download and play it on any computer that I am logged in on. Steam allows me to download things as many times as I want without limitations, and at speeds that cap out my home connection I might add. All the limitations imposed how you can access your content would not cause any issues with any legal use of the products you bought.

I think a horrible example of digital distribution would be iTunes who I've bought one thing from an will never ever buy from again until they change their policy. iTunes started out by selling everything with DRM which made it so any music or videos you bought could only be played in iTunes or Apple devices. To my knowledge all their music is now free of DRM and I would hope the videos are the same way. Ignoring the DRM though, iTunes only lets you download things you purchased once (or again after like a week of purchase). So this means that when my iPod died a while ago and I wanted to re-download a game I had previously purchased iTunes told me to go and re-buy it and that I should have backed it up. Its a fucking 10mb game sitting on your servers that would cost you next to nothing to transfer to me and they refused. There are some other good ways to get music as well such as Amazon which is DRM-free as well, though I'm not sure what their policy is about re-downloading things. As far as movies, I haven't gotten the impression that there's a good source to buy movies digitally and most places seem more focused on either renting to you or streaming.

So that's my argument for digital distribution, let me give some examples of why I think you shouldn't buy physical copies of things anymore. As previously mentioned, there's my issue of your media dying for whatever reason. I take good care of my stuff. My copy of ZoE2 being broken is probably one of my old roommates abusing it. My copy of Evangelion though is beyond my understanding and you'd really have to see it. I think the last time I watched it was a few years ago and it was in the 360 so I'm wondering if the inherent fact that the 360 is a fire hazard had something to do with the damage to the disc.

In the case of games, they usually come with a box and manual. Manuals in 2010 are pointless, in fact Ubisoft isn't even printing them anymore. I believe that any modern game that you need to read the manual to know how to play has failed in game design. Collector/Limited/Special Editions have just become a way for publishers to get people to spend more than 60$ on a game. Throwing in things like, soundtracks, postcards, or in-game items cost next to nothing for them to package in and allow them to bump up the price. Most of the other stuff that comes with special editions of games I usually end up just throwing in a box never to be seen again. Probably the only exception for me personally has been things that come with figures or models that are of decent quality.

If you're not buying a game because of all that other stuff then you're buying it for the game itself. Its a disc, physically identical to a million other disc you could walk down to Best Buy and pickup. The reason you're paying 60$ for it is for the content on that disc which you could get digitally online. Right now I think that if you're playing games on PC you're hopefully already getting all your games digitally whether it be from Steam or D2D or some other service. Hopefully in the next few years consoles will have a better model for digital distribution making that finally practical as well as the way that we get the rest of our media.

Mission Control is Online

Finally back to 3 monitors! <3

120hz is a Scam

The popularity of 3D in movies has got people talking more about 120hz on TVs. This has been driving me crazy that people are putting so much importance on this without realizing what a sham it is.

So a quick rundown of what I'm talking about. Hertz (hz) on a TV is used to measure how many times the screen refreshes the picture in a second. For as long as we've had TVs they've been running at 60hz. This number is used because it matches the current coming from the wall and was easy to use that to keep the timing in sync. All the movies, tv shows, etc you've ever seen is either 24hz or 30hz just for reference.

So the selling point with 120hz and higher TVs is that they provide a smoother picture because the the screen refreshes more often. The problem is that the content you're watching is still only 24/30hz, so what it's doing is upconverting. I think a really good analogy is 1080p, another thing people will tell you about when you go buy a new TV. When you get your 1080p TV, the sales guy is going to tell you that you can watch your old DVDs which are 480p and get an upconverting DVD player to make them 1080p, or you can get a Blu-ray player and watch movies in native 1080p. There is no 120hz content that you can go out and buy now, nor is there any plans for it. Your computer is capable of outputing 120hz, but usually only at lower resolutions like 480p. Now we run into the even bigger lie. All these 120hz TVs won't accept a signal higher than 60hz. So even if you did have content that was 120hz, your TV would be downscaling it to 60hz, and then upscaling it back to 120hz.

Final Fantasy XIV UI

While after putting 7 years of my life into Final Fantasy XI and have no intention of playing it ever again, I am interested in Final Fantasy XIV. With 8 years of working on MMOs and being in a better position to plan for hardware limitations, I think that Square would be able to solve a lot of the issues that still plague XI today. There was a video released a few days ago which showed some players running around in the game.

I'd like to pick apart some of the user interface elements I noticed. First off, its very clean and is either not actually what you'll see when you play, or there are elements that are hidden. I'm going to guess that many of the elements such as a chat box and hotkeys are hidden since that's how XI is by default. So on the screen we have 3 things; the players status which includes their name, hit points, and magic points, a minimap, and a network status. Obviously, the player status in a no-brainer and has the basic information you're going to want in any MMO. The minimap is a welcome addition that was absent in XI. It seems to not only show your location on the map but also the location of NPC characters. The one thing here that has utterly useless is the network status. If they're really going for a minimalist look that should be removed from the game all together.

As I mentioned there are a few things that are missing for the UI that are rather important such as the chat window and hotkeys. So we have no idea if the game will be limited to one incredibly clutter chat window like XI currently has. Hotkeys I won't say too much about since we don't know how the game is going to play. Issues that Final Fantasy XI has though is laggy macros, limited to 6 commands in a game that is built around swapping in and out up to 48 pieces of gear with each action. If the game moves away from this, they still would benefit from having some way of telling the cooldown time on a spells. Another thing not shown and which is a great flaw of XI is information on what you're targeting. Being able to see buffs and debuffs would be very helpful, and the distance from your current target is a vital value to show if this is going to play anything like other MMOs on the market.

I really don't know what to think about this game. On one hand, Square could simply refresh Final Fantasy XI with new graphics and a few slight changes to the progression system while ignoring all the annoyances and limitations that have plagues their first online game. Or they could actually learn from all their work on one of the most popular MMOs and not only fix issues in their existing game but avoid ending being held back by limitations from creating a cross-platform online game. I look forward to seeing which way they go and hopefully I get invited into the beta to get a better impression before its released.

Time Travel and the Ever-Moving Universe

I've come across an issue with the concept of time travel that has been bugging me for a while now. I'm gonna use Back to the Future for my first example to get the idea across.

In Back to the Future, Marty McFly travels from October 25th, 1985 to November 5th, 1955. My issue is that not with the actual moving through time, but moving through space. In 1985, the location he starts at is a shopping mall, but when he arrives in 1955 he is outside the city because the mall hasn't been built yet. I think for it to be accurate he should have ended up in the middle of space with Earth nowhere insight. We used years to measure how long it takes for our planet to go around the sun, so we'll say for now that if he had come back to October 25th, 1955 that this might have been okay. But instead he came back 11 days later, with the planet having moved about 17 million miles away from where it was when he left.

The other issue is that not only is our planet constantly moving, but our solar system as well as everything else in the universe is constantly moving as well. I think the answer to maintaining your relative position to an object when time traveling requires the gravity being a component in your method. In that regard, I think Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home makes the most sense as far as keeping your relative position while traveling through time. In Star Trek, the former crew of the Enterprise slingshot around the Sun at warp speed to arrive 300 years in the past. Because the gravity of a massive object like the sun was a vital component in this method, it makes a lot more sense to me that they would arrive in the same relative position that they started in.

Anyways, this is not something that I think there's really an answer for since time travel isn't something that we know anything about. Atleast it will give me something to talk about next time I meet an astrophysicist.

Best Secret Question Ever!

What is the true anomaly of my favorite celestial body on the day I was born?

Utada "In the Flesh" 2010

I think this sums up the concert pretty well.

Favorite Music for 2009

Here's some of my Last.fm statistics for the last year.

Top Artist
  1. Yasunori Mitsuda (1,773 plays)
  2. Motoi Sakuraba (1,190 plays
  3. Akira Yamaoka (1,165 plays)
  4. Yoko Kanno (1,071 plays)
  5. Green Day (950 plays)
  6. The Beatles (872 plays)
  7. Bruno Coulais (867 plays)
  8. Delerium (645 plays)
  9. Chris Hülsbeck (616 plays)
  10. Yuzo Koshiro (568 plays)

I started listening to Green Day again this year (I listened to them when I was in high school for a bit) and really really like American Idiot. The Beatles was largely inspired by The Beatles: Rock Band coming out this year and me wanting to learn lyrics and there's a bunch of other Beatles songs I like as well (obviously). Bruno Coulais did the soundtrack for the animated film Coraline which came out earlier this year. Easily one of the best films I saw all year and the music is part of what made it so great. Everyone else on the list is pretty much my regulars. I've been listening more to Mitsuda's stuff lately and maybe one day he'll catch up to Sakuraba on my list who got a huge number of plays a few years ago when I was on vacation and listened to nothing but Trusty Bell and Forest of Glass for two weeks.

Top Tracks
  1. Bruno Coulais – Exploration (66 plays)
  2. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along the Watchtower (51 plays)
  3. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Swallowtail Live (47 plays)
  4. Green Day – Know Your Enemy (37 plays)
  5. The Beatles – Ticket to Ride (36 plays)
  6. Bruno Coulais – Dreaming (35 plays)
  7. Bruno Coulais – Mechanical Lullaby (35 plays)
  8. Shaimus – Left to Dry (35 plays)
  9. Bang Camaro – She's Gone (Critical) (34 plays)
  10. Hiroko Kokubu – Eternity ~Memories of Light and Waves~ (33 plays)

I forget what exactly it was that triggered it, but I went a few weeks listening to a lot of Jimi Hendrix and at the top of that was his cover of All Along the Watchtower. Brian Jonestown Massacre is a new band I started listening to after watching a documentary about them called Dig!. A truly amazing band that I even got my step-dad hooked on. Shaimus is a band I picked up from Rock Band and the first track of their new album was amazing, sadly I didn't care for most of the rest of the album. I'm honestly surprised that the arrangement of Eternity by Hiroko Kokubu isn't higher on my list. While Final Fantasy X-2 might have had some issues as a game, I think the game had good music and the piano album has some beautiful songs.