nawkcire

Games, Tech and Blogging…I can't guarantee in that order.

Tag Archives: technology

Editing Photos

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I’m getting pretty good with my camera. I’ve managed to take some good photos of scenes and portraits recently. Summer’s almost over and I think I’ve shot over 1000 and uploaded only under 50. I personally learned a few things just by shooting. More importantly I learned to shoot the same scene about three times using different settings. I usually find a better shot through the three photos; better in a way of how it looks and the colours I’ve captured.

Ever since I got my computer (almost a decade ago now), I downloaded a nifty image editor called paint.net to replace Microsoft Paint. Out of the box, the program is an improvement on MS Paint and feels has more control familiar to Photoshop. Recently I’ve jumped into the forums to find plugins for the open-source application, trying to find stuff I can use for editing photos. The community did deliver, I managed to find a package of plugins which focused on photography. After installing the files, I’ve been experimenting with a few of the effects. On some photos I used more effects than some I tweaked the white balance and the histogram.

While tweaking and playing around with the photos, I’ve noticed a few things about my photos. The problem I have is I can’t take pictures of the sky without having shaded objects look dark and vice versa. So for me to take pictures of sunsets, the foreground would appear dark while I get white out if I focus on a subject that is darker than the sky. Even with this, I’ve managed to snap a few photos. In the future I might try and take pictures using Canon’s .cr2 format which is a RAW format. Hopefully my system with an upgraded GPU can handle it.

Oh yeah, I bought a 950 GTX. But that’s a post for another time.

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Ironies Of The 21st

Lately, my city suffered service disruptions from the power company. Throughout the night, my lights were flickering like a rave. In my finite wisdom, I turned down the lights and continued to surf the net and charge my phone. After a good hour of playing video games, I went to scour the internet for services that would be useless without power or cellphone reception. Here’s a short list of things I found for my locale.

Bus Schedule

In a large city, you are bound to encounter public transit at least once. Most of the time, the system does keep all neat and efficient and have boards to tell you approximate bus times and the routes where the stop is located.

Assume you are ever connected to the internet and you look up everything on an app and public transit decides to knock off the paper schedules lined on each stop. If the wi-fi kicks out, you stuck with a pretty useless app to do anything at all, neat waste of space on your phone. If the power goes out, there is a likelihood (If you are on a data plan) the cell tower will be knocked out of power or service would be dodge since a small crisis.

Good luck standing out there in the winter wondering when the bus will arrive as you stare as you search for service.

“Keep updated at…”

A lot of businesses and services are using social media these days to link back to their website or link toward social media itself for additional information. Though I agree, businesses should be transparent and allow the clients and customers to view current shakeups and hiccups. However I found there are some are not really that important. On my Twitter account, I don’t usually follow services and business around my area. When I do, it’s usually on a appreciative level. If I go there often and I like what they do, they get a follow eventually.

I don’t need to be in the know of a new product or a pre-order I will likely never want to purchase. If it’s really good, I will follow until I have to throw you overboard because this ship only has so much cargo room before you are no longer needed.

Back to services like say your power, phone or ISP; this makes me giggle a little bit. If the power goes out, you can’t check for the latest information on the power company’s website on a desktop. If you’re experiencing a service disruption from your ISP, you’re boned because you don’t have access to the net to find out what’s going on; and don’t bother calling the phone company either if you own a cellphone.

By then you are literally stuck in the dark. That is enough information you will need for the time being.

All the money in the world

This goes closer to the new technology to remove plastic cards out of our lives by having phones you can tap to transfer funds.

You do realize how much power you have on a phone right? On idle, you get about 12-24. Once that screen is active you are looking at 2-6 hours. This is all assuming certain setting are in play and you do not own a battery pack to carry more power.

Indeed convenient to have a all you plastics and accounts on your phone in a “super high tech encryption that is 100% hacker proof”. But what if you suddenly need to go on a shopping spree? There are days where I personally made purchases about 12-15 hours apart. As a person who doesn’t obsess on charging my phone, I keep her on sleep until I need her. In reality, the only benefit you get our of a consolidated electronic payment method is really just convenience while sacrifice availability. Better to have it on you than there but your cellphone is dead.

One last thing…

In the end, the best conveyance of funds and communication is just what we already have and not the electrical gizmos they’re trying to sell. People say I’m a bit nuts to have cash on me. You never know when you enter a place that’s “cash only”. I lived in the digital age before the digital age; we used coins on payphones, paid by either credit, debit or cash and we still have them around because of it’s popularity and ease of use (Probably not as much as payphones).

Regardless how emerging technology makes everything convenient, there will be some that would complicate your life when you rely on them the most. Call me old school all you want; but I want to be flexible so when one thing fails, the other will have my back.

Before my laptop dies and until next time, paper and plastics will always be more reliable than photons and electrons.

Have and Have Nots–Internet as a Utility

In a recent article by CNET, The United States of America is considering the internet into an public utility. As the free and openness as it sounds; the past history of the country when it comes to freedoms and the control of freedoms and rights, it makes me wary about the future of the internet from it’s humble origins to a controlled space.

The appeal of the internet in its infancy was the idea of sharing information from anywhere in the world. One person from Britain can talk to someone in Japan, an observatory in Hawaii can compare results with another observatory in Switzerland; a mother sending a video of her child’s first steps to he husband. The internet, much like the telephone, is a communication tool. In it’s essence, voice and digital information is just data; how you interpret the information and if you understand, it is data. Under this argument then yes, the internet should be a utility because it connects our society together; much like power, water, sewage and telephones.

What worries me since this news is coming from the United States is the past attempts to spy upon it’s own citizens and other countries in “the interest of national security”. Every country has it’s own right to be suspicious of itself and others. However in my opinion, there are certain things the government shouldn’t be mandated to monitor. I’m mostly referring to information that was not necessarily consented to the government. Of course, they can place the end user license agreement to include all information you send can be scrutinized. In the best interests, it does sound like an opportunity for all to have access to the internet but at the same time it worries me with regulations, it would dilute the economy of the internet into a corporate melting pot; much like TV networks. The hardest would be keeping the internet open and equal to all without hindering or disrupting service. The past year and decade has proven there are forces at work trying to push back the internet to something more controlled and centralized. It starts with the minorities like pornographic sites.

This is something I hope in the new year, people will continue the fight for an open and free internet. Indeed the internet would benefit as a public utility in many ways in many countries; at the same time, the governments which choose this should not regulate and it’s not the responsibility of the internet or the companies that provide the service.

See you on the other side, readers!

I’m never much of a Boxing Day kind of person. The one time I went to buy something on Boxing Day, the lines were very long and the stores were very crowded. Let me just say, for all the risks, the rewards are few.

The first and last time I ever went out on Boxing Day was back when I picked up my Blackberry Playbook, at the time it was half off because the company wasn’t making much of a profit of them. So I though it would be a good time to snag one at a very low price. So I went out of the 26th at five in the morning. At first walking along the darkened empty streets seemed eerie as a few passing cars come and go on a large avenue. Human silhouettes indistinguishable to the eye as I briskly paced myself on a December morning. As I approached the downtown  shopping centres, I could hear people talking as the bright lights of the square gleamed the pavement with everlasting light. Already I could make out a few rows of people standing outside stores.

The line to the store I had my eyes on spanned up the street and around the corner for another block length. As opening was upon me, people began to fill the stores; moving the line as they entered. By the time I was inside, it was packed and hot. Chaotic movements jolted me back and forth like a violent wave. I checked the time when I paid for my new tablet and found it was almost 8. Two hours of waiting and one to wade through the bodies to get something that was worth under 200. Though a bargain, it was still stressful and chaotic.

For though boxers of Boxing Day, good on you because you can do this every year to catch some deals. For those curious of cheap wares, heed a warning from me. Don’t buy anything from Boxing Day that you really want. Seriously, dedication for a small material object is not really worth the stress. If you are planning on buying something on Boxing Day, I would suggest finding something you would like to have but wouldn’t be disappointment when it’s out of stock. You can either choose the long early line or sleep in because no worries, right? It’s not like you really want it that bad. When you get there it would still be packed with other customers, just calmly walk through to what you want to buy and pick it up, go straight to the cashier and calmly walk out. And there you go, one item with less hassle and stress compared to what I went through.

This year with my gaming channel, I really wanted a new pair of headset and a new hard drive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really muster for the challenge. After going through this once, I just couldn’t deal with electronics stores being packed with people. It’s not really much of a hardware upgrade, my hard drive is running low on space but I can manage. As well, my headset is kind of getting old and in a deteriorating state; but it’s not worth the $20 I could save on Boxing Day. Like many things in my life, I can wait. I can wait to find what I need and want because I’m fine with what I have now. I think that’s where I will end off the last blog post of 2014.

Until next time, see you on the other side!

 

P.S. I did buy one thing on Boxing Day. One pizza.

Formality v. Functionality–Big Twitter apps

[Starts 3 paragraphs in for those who want my review, thought you liked a good story…]

It’s not a surprised I use Twitter more often now to promote my blog and YouTube channel. I’m usually on there to just find something to read or have something short to get off my chest rather than posting it on my blog with under 140 characters. For a awhile when I started my blog, I wanted to be able to spread my message out there in the simplest form. Mainstream or some way to broadcast to the world, “I wrote something, might be nice to give it a read.” I started using Twitter as a media prerequisite to learn about the world and the culture I live in, over time the account went into disuse until I started my blog. First impressions, Twitter wasn’t the best place for a 19 year old. I was on it because my teacher wanted me to be on it so classroom censorship was a tough deal breaker when you have something to say but your account is restricted for media studies only. The turn around when I started this blog a few years ago a way to document my thoughts and activities. As I began to grew a skin around blogging and microblogging, I decided to use an application to be a hub for all my Twitter needs. At the time, I just read up on applications and reviews; most of it in jargon. So rather than just reading a review for the pick, I just observed what everyone was using. Most of the time, it was TweetDeck and HootSuite.

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For the past couple years, I’ve used TweetDeck on the basis of popularity. It was most commonly used when I was lurking at hashtag threads. When I first got it on Chrome, the interface was simple to master. One simple login screen later, the application went to work by sending me feeds from my own Twitter. Soon after, found the Search button to find other hastags to follow and after that was able to organize to what I wanted to see and not see certain posts. But that’s just one camp out of many to simplify the experience.

The other large one I seen and heard about was HootSuite. Only largely came to me from large app review sites and users from organizations. I was really hesitant at first to ever try it. Today, let hesitation be damned! Setting into a new application isn’t always easy if you’re like me, why move on to something else when one works perfectly? After creating an account through HootSuite, I was greeted with a stark dashboard similar to the TweetDeck app. Along with an approximate sidebar for your options. So how do they fare against each other?

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After spending a few hours on HootSuite, the similarities begin to fade away. Both platforms offer multi-account support, so you can monitor each Twitter profile simultaneously. Each can create tabs based on criteria such as retweets, favourites, and hashtags you wanted pinned as a tab for easy reference. TweetDeck and HootSuite provide a simplified interface to ensure ease of use, so you know where to go and how to do certain Twitter-y tasks. Unfortunately this is where TweetDeck ends it’s list of goodies.

HootSuite offers more than just connectivity to Twitter. It provides a way to be connected to other blogging and social media websites like LinkedIn, WordPress, Facebook and mixi (Hell if I know what is mixi). Along with account aggregation, it has an array of enterprising features such Assignments to help business consolidate their media efforts. As a Pro and Enterprise user, you have access to team organizations to help with assignments. With organization, you would want to see the team’s or your brand’s performance in media; so they have analytics to help form a report on your media involvement through all your accounts or just particulars. Along with it’s organizational faire; it boosts a range of in-app applications such as a YouTube app to view and share through your HootSuite, which most apps are trying to advertise the same view and share feature if not trying to enhance the in-app experience.

As a Personal user, I found the program fairly restrictive. Most of the features your listed as Pro feature which required a $8.99 (assuming US currency) per month payment for use. The only things I can really necessarily do is add apps within an app and just view counters of my tweets and followings with analytics. As a personal user, the only redeeming quality is a list of followers and a list of people I followed; which is easily accessible but really unnecessary at times. Like this feature already available on TweetDeck and on Twitter itself, it’s analytics is par if not worst to the online solution already provided by Twitter. I’m a free user on both, but getting additional data from Twitter for free. Though if I was a business, I would agree HootSuite might contain some insight through it’s own analytics but would not necessarily change my behaviour within social media. The auto-scheduler is a nifty touch if you want to send out tweets at a particular time. However this feature is best removed to prevent people with spam accounts from filling threads with their wares. Unlike Tweetdeck, it feels more geared towards businesses than it is for individual users. With it’s suite of analytics and in-depth monitoring, it’s a improbable choice for a single user like me.

What I found interesting is the load times and the refresh rates. Upon loading up each application, I found TweetDeck to be much faster. Though if you have a speedy connection, you won’t feel it. As a person who uploads video to YouTube, it’s noticeable. I can only speculate what is going behind the scenes, but this slowdown makes it very regrettable since it feels not optimized for lower connection speeds. On HootSuite, you can set refresh rates to as close to 2 minutes for each tab within the application. On TweetDeck, you can set it to almost real time in a margin of a few seconds if you have a slow connection. While TweetDeck can update in the background, Hootsuite seems to stop updating when you’re not in the Chrome browser tab. Along with update angst, the way it personally handles hashtags does make it easier to read since it gives you a brief amount of time before the dashboard tab refreshes. Good thing if you are watching a keyword or tag with a lot of frequent users.

Each application has features gear towards a niche user. Enterprising and business prefer to see things by the numbers while your average Jane and Joe want to just post and share. As a personal user with very little social outreach, it would be preferable to stick with TweetDeck by Twitter for it’s simplicity. Simple doesn’t always mean better, simple means in this case I get what I need and I don’t really need it to be any better. If I was a social media specialist or a community manager for a large organization with multiple accounts, I would say HootSuite is the way to go to provide the means of easy consolidation; but would not jump on board too quickly on analytics.

Overall experience for both, restrictive on HootSuite where features are blocked and load times are slower when connection is slow. However it does provide a sense of additional control through analytics and aggregation. Where are TweetDeck is simplistic with little to no load times. However remains to be seen if it can handle business.

Don’t believe me? Give them a try on Chrome:

TweetDeck

HootSuite

Until next time, follow me on Twitter?

Grid Style Ciphers And Such Security…

Recently I read a WordPress blog about hacked email woes. I think I should share my experiences with it and some techniques to prevent it. After the first time when you feel your privacy is violated, you usually would want to find the solutions that would solve it. Usually, we take the easy routes to get it done. Easy routes are cheap and less time consuming, however they’re probably quick solutions to probably a few small small problems in your security.

Lets start with account security, this is pretty much anything requiring a user name and password. Though not sure if everyone does this, but it seems those that assume the same username to all their accounts fairly much allows a bit of consistency with password insecurities. Especially if it’s those people who have your user name across multiple service, they can just easily search up the username and if they crack the one password for that; they’ll get them all. If you are those kind of people who keep usernames the same and keep shuffling the password, that’s a good plan. However do note it is recommended to keep a different password for each account; from my point of view in out interconnected world, this might be hard. Consider we all own probably 2 or more email address as well as miscellaneous services like online banking, online games, and various accounts requiring an account and password; this approach would require a minimum 20 password you have to remember by heart. Eidetic memory would be the only ability you would need for this, however most of us don’t really remember those passwords that well and usually try to brute force their way onto their account by cycling through passwords or just resetting the password which would defeat the purpose of having the password in the first place. To reduce the amount of passwords to use or even cycle through, I suggest prioritizing your accounts into categories.

Getting Started

First you are going to need to think about all the possible passwords you can create. Don’t pen them or type them out; use your mind and figure out which ones are going to work out. To find out which one’s are going to work out, you have to know what kind of restrictions you have on your password from the service you are going to use. Sometimes the service would want you to have numbers and letters while some would go the distance and ask for numbers and letters with one letter capitalized. Most of the time, numbers and letters will do fine and dandy. Now in your head, find things you know that people won’t know. These could be important dates, lucky numbers, names of pets, and certain random facts you know of yourself that others don’t know or would not be able to guess. From this stack of keywords and numbers, we have the most secure passwords; lets call these Alpha Phrases for now.

Now think of things people might know in person only; sports teams, political and religious affiliations, inside jokes, names of those people and so on. The bulk here will be our Beta Phrases.

Optionally, think of common words and numbers you could use in a pinch. These could reference to games, movies, books, dirty jokes, et cetera. This will be our Pool. These should be easily recalled at anytime but would make the least secure passwords like “asdf”, “root”, “admin”, “1234”, and “password”. These phrases suck when combining with themselves but would make a minimal password when combined with a Alpha or Beta Phrase.

Priority Tier System

This is how I normally put my things together online to keep it from getting compromised. This system varies depending on people’s influence and usage.

A priority based system would require is pre-planning in terms of how you will classify your accounts. Basis of this blog, I’ll demonstrate with a 3 tier linear system. Linear because each priority does not interact with the one succeeding or preceding itself. However if you are part of a business or a person who has grey zones, read the non-linear area of this section.

The highest priority should be assigned to accounts that will contain real life consequences in the event that your account is breached. Under this priority I would recommend using a combination of two or more Alpha Phrases to ensure security. This should make it impossible for someone to break into the account and would protect your assets like a bank account or a business email. Each account here should have it’s own unique password.

One down is moderate, passwords should be quick accessible but hard to guess. So the bulk of these passwords would be Beta Phrases, you can sneak in a bit of the Pool in there if you want it. In my opinion, this contains personal and social media. This is the area where you wouldn’t mind an accidental breach or doesn’t have a physical loss, don’t cry over spilt milk and all that. You can be a bit more lenient in using a password twice, try and not overdo it since people might find out.

Low priority are the accounts that will get lost so the passwords won’t make a difference since it’s kind of just something you made to check out the service. This is things like IRC and forum accounts unless you are a forum moderator or an administrative figure. Which case, these are things may be consider moderate or high depending on popularity of the service you are working with. As a normal user, likely you will only need to mix a couple Pool phrases together. The accounts listed here are the low of the low so you can literally have one password for all the accounts.

Now in life, nothing fits into boxes the right way so for those that aren’t too sure what is what I’ll help you how with exceptions and rules to help you through in sorting accounts and assigning passwords. If your account links to other accounts, that linking account must be secured higher than the other accounts. So lets say you have an personal email to forward email, that forwarding email address’ password MUST NOT be used again since it’s directing information to other emails. Same goes for gaming accounts where you’ve collected ultra-rare gear in and social media if you are a social butterfly. So they’re like semi-high priority but not really when you don’t want to use it anymore.

The only thing you would have to worry about in this system is any passwords that are shared since if one gets compromised, then it’s likely the other would get hit pretty hard. Also if you don’t have a diverse pass phrase pool since someone could can just guess it. Any case, change you password after you think one of them is compromised and try and avoid using the same password.

Gridlock

Another approach is to construct a cipher, a method to conceal your written work. Depending on what you use as a cipher it can be super easy or super hard. You can use a grid of 260 squares arranged in a 26 x 10 grid and fill each grid with a random character from A to Z and 0 to 9. Based on a phrase or a number, this grid should hash out a sequence that should consist of numbers and letters. You can use it like a map. First you establish a set of rules. easiest one off the top of my head is a mnemonic like “I love those adorable puppies.” So “I” has one letter, so look in the square in I1. “Love”, four starting with “L”; L4. And so one until you have a sequence from the phrase. Usually online services require a minimum of 8 characters so your phrase should be at minimum 8 words long.

Simpler cipher is to get yourself a letter, like a rejection letter from a college or university. Pick a number, then just go through the letter puling out a word or number that happens to fall upon every n times, where n is your count number. You can substitute it with letters so you can take single characters in words. It might take longer than pulling words but as long as you remember the count and keep the correspondence, you can always refer back to it. It’s antiquated but as long as it’s difficult, password’s safe.

Take it to the cleaners

Not too sure what it’s called but it just wipes temporary data off your computer. I personally use CCleaner by Piriform, it deletes all the temporary history from all my browsers and for a bit of flavour I have it clean out my Start menu and certain programs that need to be deleted. Even without programs, you can delete it too but it would be quite hard to know what’s junk. The point to it is to get rid of anything weird that’s inside a file that’s either sending or receiving information that you don’t want sent, such as what you’re typing in as a password. This is only a temporary measure but it’s a start of a two prong attack to rid your computer. Having some anti-virus protection helps a lot if it program has an active scan feature to let it check incoming data for malicious material like a worm or something. When I get nervous, I usually use CCleaner then run a full scan followed by another run with CCleaner to make sure it’s all cleaned up. Probably the first one isn’t necessary but it never hurts to try.

Nuke it like North Korea (too soon?)

If you have exhausted all methods into removing malware off your computer, there is a last resort but sometimes comes at a heavy price. Reformatting a hard drive would be a hard thing to do considering the size and collection of stuff you’ve accumulated. Best you can do is save as much as you can before you wipe the hard drive clean and start over. Usually all operating systems now have some feature to allow you to wipe the hard drive. I have two methods of wiping my computer if I had to, CCleaner has a feature to allow a full hard drive wipe and I have my two operating system boot discs. Be careful when you do this and change your BIOS to allow boot up from a CD or USB, whichever medium you keep your boot disc on. This should be a the last course of action, but it’s necessary if you want a virus free computer.

At Day’s End…

After all this stuff, online systems are vulnerable to attack. Certain companies are good at keeping up with security holes, some not so good. I know for a fact my Hotmail account was compromised server side since before they fixed it, my Junk folder would always contain 100 messages every day about random products and services I don’t want to know about. Sometimes no matter how hard you make those accounts hard to break into, sometimes it’s just something out of your control and you have to accept the fact that the service you trust can be so incompetent. In which case, it’s time to find a new service to replace it.

Stay safe and stay secured, everyone. See you next time!

Instant Messengers Make Me Feel Lonely…

So this is going to be that post where I jump straight to the point and not finesse my way through the English language. Every time I log into any instant messenger like MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger, it seems either someone is doing something or my entire contact list is offline. As a gamer, I sort of like the idea of someone on the other end chatting rather than just that intermittent message to check in now and then. For one thing, the Internet is face paced; meaning a minute real life is about four hours in Internet time. For me, even a minute seems a long time; an hour is almost an eternity without entertainment.

At the moment from the last past decade, I’ve had a lot of IM services installed on my computers now and again. First one I’ve ever used was MSN Messenger since it came with Windows (now called Windows Live Messenger). It was good considering I needed an email and a lot of people suggested Hotmail (now Outlook) and everyone I knew was using Hotmail. The downside is when I started getting a lot of spam messages after a few months of service popping into my inbox. Then when I started signing up for other services, it started to become a burden. At the time my hotmail account was live, I would get about 50 spam messages and maybe 10 from services I’ve subscribed. When I got into high school, I switched off from Hotmail as my email service and signed up on Yahoo turning my Hotmail account for games and tertiary services mail receiver; more on that later.

Yahoo.ca, still in use today more than my Hotmail account. Not very handy since it’s services connected to it are not really things I need. Yahoo Messenger was the biggest thing I used for about a few years just to talk to people who also moved on from Hotmail. Aside from animated native avatars, the service was more or less what I saw from Hotmail but with a news feed and some stuff I could get from other sources. I’ve spend about a few years with the account, then just slowly phased out to use the IM service.

From there, I started to be real storage heavy since I was playing a lot of games so I’ve moved on getting Trillian which was a Messenger client capable to most of the IM clients at the time like Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL. I wasn’t too sure at the time what I was getting into with a third party messenger client but I need the space and every bit of pinching helped. After all that, Hotmail was piling up with spam exponentially that I had to start putting everything in junk to be deleted. This was also around the time it seemed that my Yahoo account was also getting some spam as well, not from random messages but random people adding me and receiving bot messages about adult cam sites. Definitely moving on, indeed.

This was now around when Google started to public allow access to their Gmail service. It still is what it is today, a simple online service with integrated chat and video chat which is a nice feature. Great for those who don’t have hardware space for more software. I use it to this day, even created a second account for WordPress so I don’t have a lot of problems sorting through some messages (then I found out about folders, hehe). Not really much to say about the service since the company kept expanding into a news aggregator and a social network. Which pretty much Microsoft and Yahoo (or whoever is the parent company) was doing at the time as well to keep up with Facebook’s popularity.

In between all those email chat clients and accounts, I’ve found a couple game chat clients. xFire was the first one for me when I was getting pretty good at America’s Army so I decided to get it and try to join some social groups on it to play with them and hone in on my fragging skills. As you can tell, I never really did hone it otherwise I would be a pretty good cyber-athlete. But I did meet a lot of people on there; and then I got a microphone.

That’s when everything expanded into VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) programs. First was TeamSpeak, which was fairly advanced in the settings area. But the UI was simple enough to navigate. I use to be really into ti since I had a lot of servers kept on my gaming PC until the around 5 years ago when I started to really buckle down to my school work. I finally really gave up when TeamSpeak 3 was announced and a lot of people either upgraded for a server license or moved onto other things.

At the same time, I was in school and a lot of people were on Skype and talking about it. As a curious teen, I checked it out. Skype at the time was pretty simple, very MSN Messenger but without the email account. For the large part, it’s a VOIP client and a small telephone service. Which is neat and all, but I was curious about and tried it. To this day, I’m usually on and off since no one really talked to me and I only got it to kind of checked it out. Back then it wasn’t much of a hub for gamers since the the bandwidth was literally clogged for Skype. Now it’s a bit slimmer and more graphical in the interface. Now I hear good things, but in my opinion it’s just the ISP’s being “innovative” with better service. When I find a good group, maybe I’ll give her a shot.

Some time before I stopped pursuing being a damn good gamer, I was introduced to Ventrilo which is slightly complimentary to TeamSpeak. The user interface was a bit more complicated but still user friendly and the settings were very simple and straightforward. Around this time from what I remember, I used it mostly for Face Of Mankind and some casual games. Looking back and looking at both TeamSpeak and Ventrilo, I would be more into Ventrilo since the size and features are more in line to something simple and usable. If you want a server, it’s free but to a certain amount of slots I think. If memory servers well, it’s maximum of 40 players per private server.

Just a year before founding this blog, I got into a bit of casual games. Nothing really one or the other, but just something out there to keep busy without much level grinding and gore. Major memory landmark here is the good half year of Wurm where I found a good bunch of people to play with into building a small settlement. Then we have a few falling outs, then it just got complicated and I dropped away from the game due to lag and drama. However they did introduce me to Raidcall, which I still have on my gaming PC. Raidcall I believe is a Chinese port for another system they use in the East. The system is really much of a need-to-know interface and settings. Nothing really too complex and ridiculous in terms of extensive settings for audio or interface. The UI is fairly much close to TeamSpeak with a simple menu and list of channels. For those with a low budget group, servers are free and you technically own it. Downside to the ownership, it’s more of a virtual server on their side so free is determined on your server traffic to determine how slots are allocated to you. However I do believe they have slot packages if you wish to upgrade rather than get more server traffic in with a maximum of I think 4 servers per account.

Through all these open hub connections to the Internet, most of the times I’ve logged in is either empty or very lonesome since there is no one really there for you. Always out of place and only out for game loot, groups don’t really provide for the social interaction I sometimes need; just to talk and relax rather than focusing on getting in-game gear. In short, I have no friends. Yup, no friends… I guess that’s why I like to play games that are very co-op in terms of working together rather than exploiting one another to get what you want. Either that or single player games that are pretty immersive or intensive to the point I don’t care if I’m alone in a virtual world.

That’s all for this week, see you guys for the next one!

We are back online! Back to blogging and laziness!

The last three weeks have been pretty tough considering the lack of the Internet. After just a few days of connection, I’ve been trying to fix a lot of problems. For one thing, sleep; another thing, find a job. The sleep thing for one is kind of difficult since my sleep cycle is equal to a teenager cramming exams last minute. I’ve been trying to keep awake for a full day so my cycle sets back to to night. For this week, it will be my mission to put my cycle back to around the 10 in the evening mark. Once the net was back into my own home, I pretty much got reacquainted with Star Trek Online. It was literally the first thing once I saw I had a connection. Sort that out for a few hours or so then moved onto updating and upgrading Avast! and completing the final bits of thing I forgot to do on my laptop. Felt a little sluggish at the start of the session since I mostly forgotten what I wanted to do and what to do. After a few rounds, I began to finish and catch up on my YouTube viewing list. Especially watching a 30 hour long playlist of someone playing Kerbal Space Program. As of this post, I’m about 10 away from completion. Hopefully it would give me some insight to how I am playing this game and what I can do to change up my own techniques. Of course a physics game has calculations I can pull from experienced players, but the best kind of fun is when you try then you look it up to compare where it went wrong. I guess that’s why I like Minecraft, you get to do so much but without a guide you can’t really accomplish everything. But you can try then when you give up, just look it up on a wiki page.

As of now, the library and Starbucks shenanigans are a close; but I might see the library some day and just look out on the street and think of the times I’ve been there alone and reading from my tablet and then my “new” laptop. With new hardware, comes new challenges. From last Sunday to now, I’ve been slowly clearing space off my desk to accommodate my (somewhat) portable device. I went though a lot of old paper receipts that have found their way on my table and wiped off the dust a bit. With all the cleaning of this quarter of the tabletop, it’s a tight fit with all the cables I still need to feed to it. I borrowed an old TrendNet router from an acquaintance from high school. So far it works very well since the cables going from my computers do connect properly to the router and from the router, it makes a good connection to the modem. Of course the router is wireless so I do have the capabilities of the B and G protocols. Downside, I think a fuse broke prior to the installation so I get a drop out with the router from time to time. It’s not a hassle with streaming video but when it comes to games, I will have a lot of lag when it attempts to reconnect or forces me to relog after a long time out. So far the drops outs take about 5-10 seconds to reconnect, I have nothing to complain since it’s the only way to get a free router. Maybe if lucky I will pick up an old DLink router; I’m afraid my luck has been expended with this miraculous find. Cheap router yeah, but free is another matter.

On the literary writing ownage front, I got two poems in on the weekend. They’re in my opinion are good and stylish with a lot of inspirational undertones. I might say it’s a bit eloquent but I’ll let the judges decide on the 31st. I tried emailing to them but I’m not quite sure if they received my message or just ignored it as spam or something. In which case, I am a bit suspicious but I will continue on in writing as much as I can and think good thoughts. If anything, if I do win the prize money would help my problems especially finding a job. For a month’s work, it would definitely be worth it for trying even for third place. I’m not greedy, just pretty much under-qualified in a world where academics defines “experience”; not necessarily bitter about it, just have to make do what I can to get by. Still, it could be an opportunity to jump from a literary loser to a professional poet. Thinking big, thinking positive.

Onto visual creativity, still looking for stickers to put on the back of my laptop on a budget of free with a theme of personality and dorky. Seriously I have to hide this messed up factory paint on the back. If Photobucket was responding, I would definitely post up some picture onto the post about the look of my salvaged laptop. It’s kind of neat. Kind of antiquated of about half a decade or less with a cracked cosmetic side along the exhaust port and scratched and beaten back. Did I mention the the F8 key? Oh right yeah, I think in the last week’s post. The F8 key works, just missing the button face. Otherwise the rubbery cushion and the input still works. I’ve replaced the power adapter but my acquaintance says I may have been scammed; though in my opinion when it comes to electronics, power input is important and should always be powered by the exact specifications by the manufacturer. Which would explain the loaned router just constantly resetting or dropping my connection to the modem since the power adapter is from another device which he “traded” for his snapped original power adapter. Suffice to say this set up with two computers side-by-side only cost me a power adapter and much luck.

Now I can run a full screen application while accessing mail and wiki pages without minimizing a screen. Hooray, it’s like Star Trek but with a lot of cables everywhere!

Staring off into space thinking about stuff…

No doubt most of use have those genius moments where we figure out something on our own or put a different spin on a traditional thought. The human mind is a powerful organic machine that could possibly (for the most part) out compete a computer. The last few weeks with the flu going everywhere and been stuck in bed most of the time, I’ve thought up some of the most random and interesting things that really kept me sane while nursing myself back to health. Probably there isn’t much value to. These ideas, but ideas are worth sharing. So here we go, one paragraph ideas starting now!

I’ve seen stuff about mycelium to decompose bodies. Wouldn’t be possible to use fungus for most of our decomposing needs? Breed special varieties to eat away toxic waste or remove just about any kind of waste. It would reduce the time it takes to decompose stuff in landfills and some varieties of fungus are edible. Wouldn’t mind chomping on mushrooms, I do like them on pizza.

If NASA is sending people to Mars, it would likely be a one way trip unless they’re seriously carrying everything with them there and back. I think it would more suitable for the crew going there to have their food grown hydroponically. So no need to really send supplies, though clothing and equipment do wear out. Wait a second, grow everything they can on board. We do have the ability to turn biomatter into fuel energy. Probably on a long stay, the only problem would be the oxygen and equipment. NASA sends that while they do all the growing and exploring. While were on the subject, we have 8 billion people, wouldn’t it be possible to send a bunch of people to colonize it? We don’t really need to explore it any further, we’ve sending probes since the 90’s and we have collected a bunch of information. I’m just saying if we’re serious about stepping foot on an interplanetary neighbour, we should actually do it.

This one is kind of morbid, but bear with it. I know genocide is wrong; but if it was out of medical research with a chance of death, would it be wrong then? Considering how many people are poor or barely scraping by and the situation we have of overpopulating the world. Would it be right to just volunteer to find cures or enhance life at the risk of your own. If you consider it, it is somewhat noble by the fact which you risk yourself to save thousands. There is a government funded ad I watched it said an organ can save 8 lives. Well, you go into medical research as a lab rat and pretty much risk having complications to save at least one thousand. Between medical research and organ donation to save lives, medical research sounds good if it pays well. However the problem with society is I think we have an ethical code where we cannot use live humans for medical research. Somewhat unfortunate, but I think there should be exceptions. 8 billions lives on Earth and counting, we could do a lot with a handful of volunteers.

Another way we can solve the land crowding is to just use it all to gather food and energy. Yeah, every single acre of land we use now was just solar panels, windmills, water dams and farmland. Where will we humans live? Of course deep underground. We will keep to large underground cities of stone and concrete. All fueled and heated by waste we produce from ourselves and the stuff we don’t consume. We just have to find a way to pinch as much energy as we can without mining for the fuel. Of course besides from this, the surface would be dotted with landscapes of vast fields for cattle, tall forests of windmills and deserts of solar panels providing infinite amount of power from the natural elements as well as produce all the food we need. Downside would be to convince millions in a city to live underground. You got me there, society.

Speaking of technology and harnessing energy, the body produces head through muscles contracting when you shiver. I know our nanotech is not as near as I’m about to suggest, but it would be an interesting idea. On the topic of energy, why not implant biomechanical generators in limbs. As you walk or move your arms, it pumps the generators to produce a small amount of energy. Incentivizing the people who exercise by produce this energy that can be transferred to a battery. I don’t know much about the current state. Of our nanotech, but this idea could also turn into a form a currency where everyone has the equal opportunity get fit then sell this energy for money. Perhaps use the batteries themselves as the currency; an energy credit if you will.

Well these are the few ideas I’ve thought up. If you want to share your outlandish ideas like me, post it on you blog or leave a comment, I would love to read it. That’s all for now, until next time!

Humanity’s Ultimate Double Edge Sword–Technology and Transhumanism

How would you like to be perfect? Ultimately perfect; no disease, no genetic dispositions, superior senses, superior, live long, live perfect? How much would you pay to be that perfect, where you can fall and break bones then heal them almost instantaneously? Of course we do have technology to mutilate ourselves to look perfect, but seeking that holy grail of perfection. Most people would say immortality, intelligence, genetically flawless. We are closer to this reality believe or not.

We have done this once in out life, play the wiki game. You pick one article and only clicking on the links inside the article to get to an end article. Well this particular time, I discovered transhumanism. What is this fantabulous term, you ask? Straight out from the article itself:

an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

Off the bat, I can already think of things that are happening now to change how we view ourselves as human beings; to gauge our human selves on the measurement of man. We have mind controlled devices, limbs that can be controlled by thought, research into our DNA for the “death gene”, Google Glasses project to provide an onboard access to the cloud. Hardest part to realize is as we look forward to these technologies, they will later be part of us and will consume us from the inside. Take for instance the cell phone, firstly prized by businessmen and now for all men to communicate. When it opened up to the world, we have assaults on the technology; it causes headaches, tumours, radiation burns, and whatever that can be said about it. As the cell got small, we added more to it. Other wireless technologies, cameras, and capabilities to do what it was originally intended.

As I continued to read, I start to realize most of my life has been influenced to embrace transhumanism. In short, this ideology argues both for and against enhancing, modifying and improving the human condition through technology. To slow it down even further, think Star Trek’s Borg and it’s very compact and has access to Facebook. And the though there are many reasons to be better, smarter and stronger; there are arguments that all this can lead us to be more uniform, duller and distant future.

For those who want to save time and refuse to read the article for themselves, there are a lot of discussion on how this technology would  affect us. Argument the first, “pic or it didn’t happen”. Essentially, we can make educated or radical guesses on what it will happen but it won’t happen. The argument is sound considering what has transpired with the silicon wafer over the past half century to build electronic circuits. Ever since then, we built them smaller and small to the point every few years on the market there is always a new computer part. Now there’s work on holography, virtual presence and augmented reality. How fast half a century is when you look at how fast we can turn ourselves into that distant horizon to better ourselves.

Biomedical research too has taken towards into more technological methods to prolong life and enhance the human experience. We have mapped the human genome to be ready to build ourselves outside the reproductive convention; cloning. Not much time ago, many argued this would be religiously immoral since you can build a genetic copy of yourself and be physically immortal. Though there are flaws in the argue that would suggest you are in the original version would not technically be in the next version and the next one would experience life differently (the same argument about teleportation where you die at device A and created at device B). A more religious approach is the whole redesigning the future thing, creating a heaven on earth scenario. Where socially we choose to make our children super perfect and everything is set out for them in it’s very biologically healthy world.

Aside from prolonging life, one argument discusses the whole immortality issue. We’re talking about real immortality where you can transfer information to one brain to another like a computer. Overall, this would be a cosmetic issue considering there is no real benefit aside from living forever until you can no longer transfer your mind to another just so you can look in the mirror and look and feel younger or older depending on the body. Kind of like botox aside from the fact that botox can kill you.

We live in a society of excess, don’t deny it. We toss away more than we use. One argument states it is morally wrong to override what nature has done properly every since life started on earth. Why tamper and tinker with something already perfect? Living on a limit makes you appreciate what you have and what has been provide for you. In short, complex real life Minecraft on Hardcore mode with one life and anything will likely kill you.

Remember World War II? That thing that happened before our time where many people died to prevent a guy from killing a whole lot of people because they’re different? Yes, the master race thing is sort of the ego of now; sort of. We are taught if anything makes you look better and live longer is better for you. The what if scenario; what if the government started to tell you who you can and cannot marry in terms of your genetic constitution? Can’t marry that blonde girl you wanted because you have cancer. Can’t have intercourse with your neighbour because you’re susceptible to the common cold. That’s the kind of thinking that would turn us in a very uniform society.  Feeling kind of down about this paragraph? Sorry, can’t even be eligible to knock up something through artificial means since you might pass on the “sad gene”.

Last one’s my favourite one, dominance of artificial intelligence and the destruction of the human race.  Yeah that got your attention, AI and doomsday. Most of us has seen The Terminator movies where robots destroy humans. Then it’s a good thing in the Wikipedia article it’s called the “Terminator argument”. What it comes down to is that we create AI smarter than us, that we turn ourselves into second class citizens to our robot overlords. This can happen in so many ways but mainly programming gone awry, rogue human elements with diabolical plans, or just too well programmed robots bent on achieving the objective we put out for them whether it’s just consuming carbon dioxide or self-replicating to be do certain tasks.

Screw online piracy, we got bigger bureaucratic fish to fry. Some of the upcoming technologies may or may not be relevant now but they will, where will the laws be for those problems? For one thing, cloning is a big issue considering the likelihood of having it dilute the gene pool. Diversity within it has it’s upsides, one thing it does ensure survival of a species even though the downside would be you drew the short straw and will have to die to protect said gene pool. That’s natural probably that you might have “good” or “bad” genes, it’s better than knowing you got the same biological probably as the next guy. In every way I see it, everyone in natural selection has a slight advantage; since it’s random it’s likely you got good genes no matter what due to the variability. Cloning in terms of individual organ cloning is pretty amazing and likely a crack pot idea since genetic material is currently made with other pieces of the same puzzle and would require a fetus somewhere. There are other ways of making organs on the drawing table that is considered and in testing with much promise, like 3D printers. Biotechnologies like cybernetic and bionic implants are a good thing, but I personally draw the line at artificial intelligence. If it can think for itself and was made by man, I want it outside my body. If I had a choice between nanobot injections or an aluminum prosthetic controlled by thought for a new leg, I would choose the latter. Of course you could argue the bots could fix it like it never happened but you have to think it does have access to the rest of the body and what kinds of other things they snuck aboard that could to harm to me (Also the metal leg could make a good conversation starter.) I believe in a choice filled society, you can do whatever you please under the law and the laws only define things you do to other people. So if it’s your choice to get botox, I’m cool with that as long as I’m not paying for it. If you want to be injected with an immortality serum, I’m happy for you as long as I didn’t pay for it. If you want to turn yourself into a robot, sounds awesome and I better not be paying for that operation. On a grander scale, the laws we have or will need does have to define what is “man”. Does a clone count under law a “human” since it’s made by mankind or something else? How many clones of one organism can there be especially when it comes to people? If you kill yourself to have your mind be transferred into a machine, does it count as suicide or assisted suicide since the physical body is deceased? If you are immortal, then what is defined as your legal state in life (ie. senior citizen, child, teenager, adult) and are you to have the equal amenities as someone who is mortal? Many questions, most yet unanswered.