Monthly Archives: August 2016

Vega Conflict: Finding the Pattern

For the past week or so I have been farming the new Level-60 Iron Star Deserter Supply Run fleets. They come in 5 flavors that yield boxes for Iron Star ships: Hunters (Python Cutter), Raiders (Heretic Cruiser), Battalion (Vigilante Battleship), Artillery (Machete Destroyer) and Scouts (Hurricane Frigate).

Although the fleets are technically different, they are actually precisely the same, consisting of four Python Cutters, Two Vigilante Battleships, Two Machete Destroyers and one Freyja Carrier. Various strategies exist to crush these fleets, and I have my own; you are welcome to peek into my battles and see how I do it. I can usually farm an entire hour-long supply run usually without losing a ship (the Cutters are the only real challenge, the rest is easy to kite), followed by a 1-6 hour repair cycle.

Any road up, the subject of this post is neither the makeup of the enemy fleet nor the strategy required to defeat it; my purpose here is to examine the “prizes” contained in the boxes.

Screenshot_2016-08-25-19-08-37Each box contains:

  1. Either a Tier-5 core, a Tier-4 core (I wish Kixeye wouldn’t give out sub-standard cores!) or a pattern (Mk II, III, IV or V)
  2. Ship Parts
  3. Iron Star Armaments

To mark up a single Hurricane Frigate to Mk V, you need:

  • 2048-2560+3200+4000=6688 Iron Star Armaments
  • 10+30+90+270=400 Hurricane Frigate Parts
  • 5+5+5+5=20 Tier-5 Frigate Cores
  • One each of Mk II, Mk III, Mk IV and Mk V Patterns

So, how much farming would that entail?

As an experiment, I collected a whole lot of Hurricane Boxes. When I opened them, I got the following results:

Screenshot_2016-08-25-19-09-08Screenshot_2016-08-26-04-10-12Screenshot_2016-08-26-22-07-48

This means that after after opening a total of 49 Hurricane boxes, I got:

  • Countless Iron Star Armaments (once so hard to find, now as common as muck)
  • 150+42+102=294 Hurricane Frigate Parts
  • 10+1=11 Tier-5 Frigate Cores
  • 13+4+12=29 Tier-4 Frigate Cores
  • 8 Mk II Hurricane Patterns
  • 1 Mk III Hurricane Patterns
  • NO Mk IV Hurricane Patterns
  • NO Mk V Hurricane Patterns

What does this tell us?

  • Tier-4 Cores (useless) outnumber Tier-5 (the ones you really want) by about six-to-one
  • Only one in four drops contain a Pattern.
  • Most of those patterns are Mk II.
  • You will have to farm fifty fleets to get one ship to Mk III
  • Mk IV and V? Forget it.
  • It is almost like Kixeye wants us to spend coins to get the pattern boxes ($4 per ship to get all four patterns)

Dear Kixeye, stop giving with one hand and taking with the other. Stop giving out sub-standard cores and stop playing silly buggers with the higher level patterns!

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I’m Sick of Being Right

Some weeks ago, I posted on why the SSA’s multi-factor Authentication scheme was a bad idea.

This morning I got another message from them:

SSA SOL2TL;DR:

  1. It is no longer mandatory, but it is recommended.
  2. We are working on alternatives.

I’m glad that they see things my way, but I am a little disappointed that an organization this big can make such a huge blunder.

Hobson’s Choice

An oldie but a goodie: I no longer have the phone but I found this screenshot:

Screenshot_2014-01-07-07-39-47

So where’s the “Cancel” Button?

SSA? SOL!

Or: When Security Isn’t.

I recently got an email from the good folks at the Social Security Administration (SSA). They have added a feature that requires you to type in a Security code that they text to your phone every time you want to log in to your “My Social Security” account.

SSA SOL

On the face of it, this sounds like a good thing. But it isn’t. Let me count the ways…

  1. Texts are inherently insecure. They can be read by your network operator and phone provider. Due to the sheer number of texts passing through the system, this is not such a problem when a one-off secret is transmitted via text (say to validate a new device), but requiring this every time you want to log in is ridiculous.
  2. Not everyone has free texts. In order to keep my unlimited data plan (Thanks Verizon!) I have to pay for every text I send or receive. As a result I have texts disabled and use data-based chat apps (like Signal and Threema) to text with friends and family. This means that I cannot use any text-based system.
  3. It’s a cheap solution. Texting codes is not security done right, it is security done cheap. There are better ways to do this; one is to use a code generator like Google Authenticator. Another is to use a hardware token like a Yubikey.
  4. You have no choice: “If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will not be able to access your my Social Security account.” Translation: Do it our way or leave. Email or voice notification would work fine… but they aren’t offered.

Only the Government could get away with something like this; any private organization that had such a “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude would soon find themselves shuttered. Some other options would be a good idea. Even the option to eschew two-factor authentication entirely is a valid choice if the user is advised of the risks.

Where’s the “Give-me-my-money-back” button?

Boldly Going… Nowhere.

I recently stumbled across a game called “Star Trek: Timelines:

Thanks to Q’s intervention, you have access to characters from all Star Trek series, from Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the original series, to Archer, Tucker, Reed and Maywether of “Enterprise”. It is an RPG, which means you have to equip and upgrade characters, as well as upgrading your ship. Upgrades and items can be earned by performing different types of missions, or they can be purchased at the time portal.

Unfortunately, this excellent idea was killed by a nasty, ugly little problem.

Star Trek Timelines Error
This error message makes it impossible to progress beyond “The Mad Vedek”, so my Captain is stuck at Level 9.

When I reported this problem to support, I got the following reply:

I’m sorry for this inconvenience in your gaming experience. We are aware of this issue and our technical team is working on a resolution.

In the meantime, I have added 100 Chronitons to your account to replay lost mission.

Again, thank you for reporting this and appreciate your patience as we resolve the issue.

That was two weeks ago. In spite of an upgrade of the client, There has been no resolution of this matter. This is unacceptable.

I’m done with this game

The Un-personing of Milo

Or: Twitter, your slip is showing

Milo

I discovered Milo Yiannopoulos online last year. He’s an irreverent, unflappable, vibrant contradiction in terms — a British Gay Conservative, who writes for Breitbart news, and speaks out on the stupidity of political correctness and the insanity of third-wave campus feminism. While I am sometimes concerned by his excessive swearing (it doesn’t bother me, but it makes it difficult for me to share his ideas with friends and family who may be easily offended) I enjoy his style of writing and unabashedly self-promoting YouTube videos highly enjoyable. I find his ability to state the blindingly-obvious-but-politically-incorrect quite refreshing, including:

In particular, I love his sense of fun, particularly the way he can poke fun at liberals while taking cover behind what he calls  “gay privilege”. This allows him to get away with many things that straight people would be pilloried for.

He is currently in the middle ot a series of speaking engagement at US universities, which he cheekily dubbed “The Dangerous Faggot Tour“, which clearly showed that too many of America’s Colleges, far from being bastions of free speech had an aversion to it when a Conservative speaker says something that challenged their preconceived beliefs — in particular, one rather obese young woman who had a meltdown at one of his talks, then when it went viral, tried to assert that she had a right to privacy after misbehaving in a public place. I will not link to her, just Google “Trigglypuff” if you want to know what I am talking about.

Naturally, his unique brand of mischief-making did not go unopposed. Twitter, in particular, has made it obvious that they’ve got it in for him. Some months ago, Twitter “unverified” him. Verification is a process by which a Celebrity can protect themselves from impersonators by having their “genuine” account identified by a blue checkmark. Milo’s response was to put a red cross where the blue checkmark used to be.

Twitter’s official story was that he was “harassing” other Twitter users. This was strange, as many far more offensive speakers remained verified; I am sure that the fact that all of these miscreants were liberals and Milo was a conservative had nothing to do with it. Yeah, right.

Any road up, the “unverification” did not hurt Milo; his following and his stock continued to go from strength to strength.

Ghost. Busted.

Things came to a head, however, when he wrote a bad review of the new old movie “Ghostbusters”. Like most, this one panned the movie, which has gone on to become an almighty flop. He did not attack any of the actors personally. However, others did so, and a series of vitriolic tweets aimed at Leslie Jones, resulted in her making a complaint to Twitter. She complained, and Milo was banned from Twitter.

Milo’s account was “permanently suspended”, and all of his tweets, past and present, have been removed. Leslie Jones has said that she is leaving Twitter, but thus far, her tweets are still up. To quote Ariana Rowlands: “Twitter will permanently ban popular conservatives for jokes but will leave up ISIS accounts actively recruiting terrorists, and does not equally apply its rules and their punishments” (Source)

The saddest thing about this whole mess is that Twitter loses, Leslie Jones loses, Sony pictures loses, and the only person who wins is… Milo.

And so I concluded with a couple of open letters: one to Leslie Jones, one to Twitter. Enjoy!


Dear Leslie

As Milo so eloquently put it. You are the star of a Hollywood Blockbuster movie. Act like one. You are now a public persona, and will reap the benefits – and the brickbats- that go with it. Some are warranted, some are not. It doesn’t matter. But getting upset about mean things that people say to and about you reeks of insecurity, not Star Quality. Free Speech requires a Thick Skin; “Mean Tweets” does not equate to Harassment. People have opinions. They will call you ugly. They will tell you that you look like a man.They may or may not be right. *It doesn’t matter*. You have a block and a report button; use them- or even better, you can retweet/repost them publicly for all the world to see. Sunlight, after all, is the best disinfectant.

Finally, I would advise you to observe the golden rule. Your tweets about white people are every bit as racist as the ones aimed at you. You don’t get to launch arrows at others and then go running to Mommy when a hail of arrows comes back at you.


Dear Twitter

One of the reasons that I am on Twitter but not on FakesBook Stalkbook Facebook is because of your transparency. But that transparency is disappearing; lately I have seen more and more left-leaning bias creeping into the platform. Conservatives are censured in a way that liberals are not. Hashtags like #KillAllWhiteMen are considered acceptable, while #KillAllBlackMen would not be. To most well-balanced minds, both are equally racist and should be treated the same way.

The reason for this is simple: A lack of clear bright-line rules that apply to all people, all the time.

  • No Direct Physical Threats. Insults whether warranted or not, are not threats or harassment.
  • A clear reporting, complaints. grievance and sanctioning procedure.
  • Clear definitions for what sanctions will be employed and under what circumstances.
  • Sanctions for those who mis-use the complaints procedure for nuisance and censorship purposes.
  • A mechanism for warning sanctioned users as to exactly what they did wrong, as opposed to the usual woolly statement like “you breached our community guidelines”.
  • A clear explanation as to why someone was sanctioned and a clear and transparent presentation of the evidence.

Clarity and transparency are crucial here; anything less will be rightly perceived as editorial bias. When you removed Milo’s checkmark, others whose transgressions were far more egregious remained unpunished. This kind of bias is becoming obvious; it has already led yo your demise, and if left unchecked, it will lead to your eventual demise as a platform and as a commercial enterprise.

Holding Milo responsible for what others have done is wrong on so many levels. Hold people responsible for what they say, but is is wrong to hold them responsible for the actions of others. We have seen some of the vehemence and death threats that angry people (mostly feminists and liberals) have aimed at him; they remain unpunished while he is banned. Please explain this discrepancy.

Your shabby treatment of Milo has done you no favors and won you no fans, while his following has gone from strength to strength. When you ban someone like him, you deprive us of the diversity that we find most enjoyable about your product. It you want to know the real reason why your stock price is taking a dump, that’s it. Remember, Conservatives are wealthier and more generous than liberals. And when they leave, they take that money with them.