We have just completed the design phase for what will become a fully optimised site for the online Fashion Design outlet Sugar Clothing. The new site will go live shortly under the domain sugarclothing.co.uk . The owner, Vipin Khanna has a fashion range targetted at the sophisticated teenage market, designer clothes at affordable prices.
Hopefully soon I'll have some new/updated widgets for you. My old Yahoo CPU/GPU Thermometer Widget is being updated.
new graphics and new functionality including working graph and new use
for the gauges. Updating and improving the Yahoo widget now and then
will start to convert it to an Xwidget.
was the second widget that I created and it was little rushed in parts
and as a result I probably didn't think it through enough. It was still a
lovely functioning widget though which has sat on my desktop doing its
job well. The current version shows up to four sensors and displays a
running graph of two of them. When I have the new version rewritten and
updated I will have the thing in my head and I'll be confident to
translate it to the Xwidget engine.
Whilst I am working on the
CPU/GPU Thermometer Widget for Yahoo/Xwidget engines occasionally an
idea comes to mind and if it is worth pursuing then a dalliance is
allowed. In this frame of mind I have opened an old icon PSD file that I
had earlier created and have organised it so that it can be made into a
widget. The idea is that each drawer on the filing cabinet can be
hovered over or clicked upon and the drawer will open and inform you
which folder each drawer refers to. A double click will open the
respective folder. Think of it as a replacement for Explorer, a
steampunk version of a file explorer.
gauge may display CPU as an aside and the bulbs on the top will glow
according to the network adapters that are present in the system,
glowing in strength according to the signal each adapter receives.
Ethernet adapters being permanently connected will glow brightly whilst
wireless adapters may glow dimly. That's it, just a germ of an idea at
the moment but I have knocked up the initial widget and it sits on my
desktop as I write this.
For the Christmas season I have revamped
my Christmas Bauble widgets. The first version was a set of 10
individual widgets, each of which showed a different Christmas image.
That was it, nothing special.
The next revamped version acts more
like an old-style advent calendar. The advent season encompasses the
time from the first four Sundays before Christmas up to Christmas Day.
Those old-style Advent calendars allow you to open a little door that
shows a different Christmas scene every day. My new baubles will allow
of multiple widgets each showing a different bauble there will be just
one widget showing multiple baubles that can still be moved around
individually on the desktop. Each bauble has a door that can be opened
when clicked upon but only when the appropriate date is reached. Each
door has a musical surprise contained within. It is really rather
Christmassy and very pleasant to use. Each bauble can be individually
So what do I have to do to complete it? Add ten
existing bauble images, find thirteen more appropriate bauble images,
create twenty-three glass doors in open and closed states. Find
twenty-five musical elements and convert them for use in the widget. Add
the resizing code, test and tidy up. Package and distribute. A fair
Need to do it before 30th November which is the first day of Advent.
Warning to all users of Avast anti-virus! Remove it and replace it with something else immediately.
have been a loyal user of Avast anti-virus for a few years now, in fact
I have recommended it to many. I am now saying "REMOVE IT".
The latest version of Avast has a feature known as browser tidy up which fundamentally can bu@@er up your computer. Whilst doing a few things recently I came across one
or two pop ups from Avast requesting permission to clean my browser. I
have consistently answered NO. One of these annoying buggers has popped
up, taken focus and may have taken one of my keyclicks on another app.
as a 'yes' to clean up my browser (I can think of no other reason why it
should go ahead) and it has wiped clean ALL the add-ons from firefox,
my default browser without stating what it has done and why. All of a
sudden Firefox has none of the enhanced functionality that I require
(password protection, password generation and editing, noscript, profile
switcher, staus4evar, yslow, view source &c. My Firefox profile
has been irretrievably damaged. This will happen to you too if you
continue to run Avast.
Supposedly the clearing of your Firefox
add-ons is an accidental bug that should not occur even when you
actually ask it to clear up your browser. Avast are researching why this
should happen and under what circumstances. Some have also complained
that the bug is causing wholesale deletion of programs within their
program files folder. This is extremely worrying.
I cannot wait
to find why this occurring so Avast has been removed from ALL my
desktops and tablets as of 10 mins ago. This sort of major error is the
sort of behaviour that I would expect of a virus and NOT an anti-virus
tool. Avast has gone, gone from my PC, gone from my list of trusted
applications - GONE!
I have remedied the situation by restoring a
copy of my Firefox profile that I took a mere week ago... thank
goodness for that. Currently, I am checking my program files folder to
see if it has been damaged. More news soon on a replacement, please
make as many recommendations as you like. About to investigate the
online addition to clamwin.
You have been warned - delete Avast before it screws up your machine.
PS I have now tested and tried Avira (slowed my system to an absolute
crawl), AVG (out-of-the-box would not update the virus definitions),
Clam Sentinel front-end to Clamwin (slows the system and too intrusive)
now trying Comodo.
So to answer that question, World of Tanks - is the matchmaker rigged?
Well, I can't answer that question as I have no access to
Wargaming.net's code that defines what the MatchMaker does and how it
does it. There is no published and impartial definition of what the
MatchMaker is actually doing. Wargaming has given out ideas as to how it
operates (RNG, random) but if you've played the game for several
thousand games (and you are an observant person) it should start to
become clear as to how the matchmaker achieves its aims.
I maintain that the Matchmaker is consistent. It consistently controls
your win rate by the simple expedient of dropping you into games with
more noobs (noob = new player), placing your tank in a non-preferential
side of the map or alternatively by placing your tank in a game with
more highly skilled opponents. This is all conjecture until you use one
or more of the statistical analysis sites that have sprung up with World
of Tanks that have access to WoT's historical data. These sites allow
you to view graphs based upon various performance metrics and it will
soon become apparent that your win rate is controlled.
Who am I to propose this analysis of World of Tanks? I am neither a noob
or a unicum (expert player). I have played 12,000 or so battles in
exclusively low tier (sub tier 6) light and heavy tanks. Unlike most WoT
players I play one type of tank consistently, I don't jump from nation
to nation, tank to tank and I do not play the best, most highly
successful tanks. My overall win rate is 55.5% and climbing (over time)
consistently but slowly. My win rate fluctuates from 65-70% to 45%. I
play WoT on an 6 year old laptop with a 2.5ghz core2duo cpu and an Nvida
8400m GPU. It maintains a frame rate of 19fps so it should be clear
that I have limitations imposed upon me by playing on hardware that is
far from being optimised. I am not a dedicated gamer but I enjoy playing
My analysis must be taken in this context.
The first time you will start to ask yourself questions as to whether
the MM is rigged is when you find yourself playing losing battles for
extended periods of time - ask yourself these additional questions:
o Why do you lose consistently (for hundreds of games) at a rate that
is the inverse of your previous winning rate (eg. 40% vs 60%)
o Why does this occur when you reach a win rate of 55% or some other arbitrary limit?
o Why does win rate suppression stop suddenly and subsequently improve meteorically at 66% WR for an equal period?
o Why are so many players experiencing this?
o Why does this up/down oscillation in win rate occur against a
measurable background using other metrics that improve gradually over
o Why does Wargaming have a patent that describes exactly these sort of
methods for "putting down" players that reach a pre-determined level of
If these questions seem familiar to your experience of playing the game
then this articles serves the purpose of stating for the record what
many have experienced.
For my analysis I used the website noobmeter.com to view the data
provided by Wargaming.net. I played the British Cruiser MKIII and MkIV
tanks consistently for approx 1,000 games each (I believe that playing
lots of tanks of different types/nationalities as most people do,
obscures the cycling effect from showing on a personal win rate graph). I
switched between the two tanks almost consistently, when it seemed that
my win rate was being suppressed I then abandoned one tank and switched
to another to see if it would occur there too. I did this analysis
specifically to see if these cycles of win/loss were consistent and were
caused by something within or without of my control. When the downturn
occurred I tried beating it with all the tricks at my disposal, using
premium rounds and doing all I could to optimise my game play.
I chose low tier as I should be able to make a much bigger
influence on the outcome given that my three skill crews in a couple of
brawler tanks should be able to consistently cause more wins. It isn't
what I found.
Regardless of any improvement in my own play (or changing between these
two tanks) I found I was bouncing between two win rate thresholds, the
upper limit that I battled to break was 55.10%. I would be playing
consistently at a current 65% WR for several hundred games and then as
soon as the upper threshold was reached the suppression of my win rate
would start. The drop in win rate could not be stopped, better gameplay
on my part would simply slow or extend the drop for hundreds of games
until the lower threshold was reached. During the period of downturn it
seemed as if the majority of the teams were consistently a majority of
losing teams. On the upward swing the opposite, all winning teams seemed
to be on my side providing a consistent WR of 65%.
I could not account for this behaviour in my own mood swings, skill
levels &c as my Win8/7 ratings all climbed consistently during the
same period. It was only the win rate that swung wildly.
Result: My analysis of playing WoT in
version 0.8.5 - 0.8.11 seemed to confirm that the MM has an arbitrary
win 'limit' set in %
that seems to be defined by tier or type of tank. My win rate turned
out to be 55.10%. When I
reached that limit all subsequent teams were losses until a lower
threshold was reached. This caused a cycling effect of wins followed by
losses. The aim seems to be to keep a player within a narrow win-ratio band.
Now imagine that my chosen tank(s) will have lost consistently for
eight hundred games in a row achieving a win rate of only 45% - As I am
only one player in a team of fifteen I assumed that I personally cannot
have had that much effect on the overall win rate of my teams, if I had
been playing consistently badly I could have contributed to the loss of
one or two games perhaps but not consistently for hundreds of games, my
ego isn't that big - I am not that important in the scheme of things. To
lose so consistently I have to assume it must be an external influence
on the teams I have participated in.
Fig 1. The graph above showing the cycling effect on win rate.
See the massive troughs of thousands of games losing/winning, losing at
40% and winning at 60%. Statistically it does not make sense that I
could lose consistently like
that as my gameplay and style simply does not change. Since the final
flattening out of the data (from 8,100 games onward - not visible on the
graph) the changes have been:
1. I have added some mid-tier tanks to the list in my garage.
2. WoT 0.9 has been released.
In the next graph (not yet shown) you will note a change in the
periodicity of the cycles at the point at which the 0.9.0 patch was
Either of the above two changes could have had the effect of removing
the pronounced 'cycling' previously experienced. What seems to be the
case is that since 0.9 the
upper threshold seemed marginally higher but once the upper threshold
was reached gameplay became distinctly harder and losing teams were more
regularly encountered - just as in the 0.8 series.
Note:- In the graph above the peaks and troughs were originally much
sharper and more defined. WoT has a habit of modifying the historical
data, particularly removing the peaks and
troughs and smoothing out the graphs. If you analyse the same data from
WoT in noobmeter today the peak that occurred at 4,400 games has been
completely removed from the data... which makes no sense. It is as if
the historical data has been deliberately massaged to remove the
absolute peaks. The peak
did occur and the only way to know it has occurred is for you or myself
to retain your own data or the graph
for later analysis. I have maintained my own copies of the graph since I
noted this medium-term smoothing of the data.
Look at the graphs in the two examples above and below, see the dramatic
fall at approximately 4,400 battles, in the later version below that
whole cycle has simply been removed.
The analysis of win rate does not take into account other metrics that
also indicate performance independently. WoT has a performance rating
that is calculated according to an algorithm owned by Wargaming.net. Two
independent metrics are also maintained that supposedly give a more
accurate estimate of your performance, they are WN7 and WN8, the latter
being the most up to date.
My supposition is that if my win rate is controlled solely by my ability
to play well within the game, then my other performance metrics
(average damage, no of kills, experience &c) should all fluctuate in
synchronisation with the cycling win rate. However, this does not occur
showing the cycling is clearly artificial. My performance as measured
by all metrics including WIN7/8 are consistently climbing despite all
the win rate peaks and troughs. In fact my win rate consistently rose
and rose until it reached 55.1% - then simply stopped climbing and
stayed just below 55.1% cycling up and down. That isn't statistically
possible if the MM is even-handed. It can only be achieved by the match
maker putting me against tougher opponents or simply put, dropping me
into loser teams or manipulating the outcome of the battle in some other
Fig 2. The other performance metrics showing a steady climb.
On average the win rate graph does show an average climb (the blue line
on the win rate graph) that equates well to the other metrics showing
that overall my win rate is improving consistently and inline with
expectations. The trouble is the massive cycles up and down just should
NOT be present unless they are artificially induced by the matchmaker.
Remember, some of those troughs are six or seven hundred games long,
that is far too long to play consistently losing matches. Conversely, in
the upward climbs it seems as if I am playing like a 'god' with a
65-70% win rate, both are unbelievable.
This cycling only seems to show its head when you play one or two tanks
consistently. With all statistical cycles if you have multiple sources
it tends to flatten out to a curve when all the cycles they are all
combined - as they occur at a different frequency. IF you want to
replicate this, simply play two tanks of the same type consistently for
thousands of games, the cycling effect will then show.
Wargaming's Intellectual Property.
Just as a reminder to all who see this thread, here's Wargaming's patent
on the MatchMaker and how it operates, supporting observed behaviour:
"According to another aspect, the matchmaking server may store a
win/loss percentage for each user (or vehicle) at a given battle level.
As the player's win/loss ratio decreases, the player becomes more likely
to be placed in battles having battle levels at the lower end of the
allowable range, whereas as the player's win/loss ration increases, the
player becomes more likely to be placed in battles having battle levels
at the upper end of the allowable range. Thus, when a player has been
repeatedly put into too many difficult battles, the balancing is done in
favor of easier battle sessions, thereby encouraging the player by
providing an easier game environment. Similarly, when the player has
been repeatedly put into too many easy battles, the balancing is done in
favor of harder battle sessions, thereby keeping the player challenged
instead of letting the player become bored with easy games."
Note: You only
patent your most precious intellectual resources. The work to patent
something is not inconsiderable. Why does the patent match real-life
observation? Well, I would suggest that it's in use - otherwise why
bother to patent it?
you mention any of this on the World of Tank's forums you will receive a
lot of counter feedback, some of it rude and some of it very
persistent. It seems that there are some that appear on every discussion
of the matchmaker putting down any possibility that the matchmaker is
'rigged' in any sort of way. They appear to want to suppress discussion
on the matter. Other posters on the forum have suggested that they are 'shills
' whose role it is to provide disinformation and to rubbish other's
suggestions as to the extent of the rigging of the Matchmaker. I won't
comment except to say that it does seem strange that they appear on
every such thread where the Matchmaker is mentioned.
Confirmation that this cycling is artificially induced and is not
attributable to your own state of mind, poor mental health or
environmental factors (!) can be found by taking the following actions:
o Leaving the game unplayed for a period of at least two months
o Logging onto an alternative server, EU, SEA &c.
If you leave the game entirely and stop playing for two/three months,
when you return you will find that the MM has forgotten about you, the
suppression of your win rate has been curtailed and that your win rate
will be back to the levels that is was pre-suppression. This indicates
that the MM looks at your win rate values over a period of time to
determine whether to suppress you or leave you alone. If your current
win rates are low (or you haven't had any for a while) then matchmaking
is switched back to normal or 'preferential'. When your win rate rises
consistently and surpasses the threshold for a period of time then it
switches the suppression back on.
When you log into another server (EU, SEA) you may find that your win
rates are similar to what they were prior to the suppression. Give this
course of action a go and see if it helps your win rate and report back
here please. I need to do more statistical analysis on this proposition
to state that this latter course of action definitely works. It would
not be hard for Wargaming to suppress win rate by IP address rather than
by user account to prevent people from doing precisely this but
regardless I need to test further.
CONCLUSION WITH REGARD TO CYCLING:
Looking at the extreme cycles that could be found in 0.8.nn. It seems
obvious that the MM can only achieve this perceived threshold win rate
throttling by placing artificial limitations upon a player. IF you agree
that this is being done then you must ask yourself why do they do it?
Well, one answer might be that Wargaming.net is a commercial
organisation and it can make money by giving you the incentive to play
using a premium, paid account or by using enhanced resources bought
using real cash (in-game gold). I believe this win rate threshold limit
is designed to encourage you to do exactly that.
There is a difference in the way the cycling operates between the
0.8 series and the later 0.9 series. During the 0.8 series the upper
and lower thresholds were farther apart and the wild swings in win rate
were much more pronounced as they lasted for hundreds of games. The
mechanism has been changed in 0.9. The thresholds seem slightly higher
but the difference between them is far smaller. This means that cycles
appear much shorter, you may now have losing streaks for only 50 games
or so. This observation is limited as the number of games/cycles I have
experienced in 0.9 is far less than in 0.8.
Not only do you need to beat your enemies you also need to beat the MatchMaker, abandoning the game for two months seems a good and workable tactic. You have to know when to stop.
Recently I played 373 games at an average of 58% WR running just three
lower tier (II-V) British Cruiser tank. After a bout of 65%-100%
evenings consistently able to carry the game I began to experience a
severe downturn of 30 games winning only 10... with one continuous losing
streak of 15 games in a row. You can tell when the MM has decided to put
you down in that it selects losing teams for you consistently. You'll
find that even at tier 2 it will be very hard to win, that your enemies
will consist of teams of 'sealclubbers', seasoned players in platoons
and groups that wipe the floor with your team. You may do well personally but you
still won't be able to win the game. You'll be doing more damage than everyone else but you will still be losing. At this point the only thing to do is to
abandon the game and stop playing for 8 weeks. Open an account on
another server, reset your ip address so that Wargaming does not know it
is still you! Watch your win rate magically restore!
Why is all this important? It is important because it is a game that is
designed to draw players in, it entices you to pay money to perform
better, ie Wargaming.net's profits are tied to your ability/inability to
win. The more you lose the more you will want to tip the balance in
your favour by paying money for premium shells and accounts in the hope
that you may find your win rate improves. That is their idea. It affects
you as it extracts real cash from the wallet of many an unsuspecting
player in the most devious manner - by manipulation.
What it has told me is that the only way to win at WoT is to follow the
grind to the upper tanks. You can't build up your skill level at tiers
1-6 and expect to win more and more as you improve and become more
efficient. At some point you will simply stop winning and find yourself
on massive artificial losing streaks due to crumbling teams.
Once you know this is in place you can relax and enjoy the game, play to
have fun but whatever you do don't follow win ratios. For me, it leads
to some disenchantment, I know that other seasoned players are also
disillusioned and look around hoping to find some reason to continue
playing but not finding any. There are few alternatives, one was War
Thunder another was Project Tank. The latter was quashed by Wargaming
for being an intellectual copyright theft of World of Tanks. The former
shows promise but it uses more GPU resources and so is unplayable on
some lower performance laptops.
I hope this
helps in what you are about to do in your search for a good unbiased tank game! Play on, play the game! (or not).
If you are even slightly into the genre known as Steampunk then Iron Sky is definitely a film for you. This video has almost everything you need, steampunk, almost gothic technology, airships in space, Nazis in full uniform being very very nasty, hauntingly beautiful music. What's not to like?
Well, up to two minutes the song from the original Iron Sky film teaser is both
haunting and beautiful, hinting at more deep and meaningful music yet to
come. However, I was deeply disappointed in the unoriginality of the
remaining three and a half minutes, merely a repetition of the main
theme and discordant notes to deliberately alienate and disturb the
listener. I had hoped for new music, a more lyrical theme with perhaps
an occasional repetition of the first two minutes as some sort of
chorus. An exploration of the original theme perhaps but what we finally
received was a sort of padding-out to fill a five minute track. I
really still do like the first two minutes but the rest... not really
worth listening to. Disappointing.
Some more War of the worlds imagery, a render that was not shown here
before: The Thunderchild prior to battle. Complete with music.
Officionados of Jeff Wayne's War of the worlds music will appreciate
I don't think I ever managed to post this version here
before, a reinterpretation of HG Wells/Jeff Wayne's thunderchild. Just a render of a scene
with some animation tools used to make the scene come to life. No real
animation yet of the Tripods nor the ship but some nicely performed
music added to give the scene some depth and emotional appeal.
An image will do as a taster:
The video was a germ of an idea, a low res short period-shot movie based on 2D and 3D models. Note the low quality period-film effect is
deliberate, there are a few errors, long range smoke visibility and the prow of the
steam packet but please ignore these.
were originally thinking about a kickstarter to get it off the ground. A
very short film sequence, a couple of minutes long, Pathe-news style,
sound effects, moody music, somewhat similar to the more moody bits in
this Jeff Wayne reinterpretation. What do you think?
Whether or not it will develop is all down to time (and money) It is
quite difficult to make progress on a project unofficially unless it is
all done by one man and that simply takes a lot of time. If it was real
project with defined goals, cash to spend &c it could be done
relatively much quicker.
The idea was that it would start on a
sailor's desktop with orders requiring his immediate return to ship for
sailing, the scene would then zoom into the photo on the desktop and
then it would come alive and open to the scene of the Thunderchild in
action against the Martians.
date was to be 1921-25, the time of the second Martian invasion where
they come equipped with the same technology (realising the overwhelming
superiority of their machinery) but fitted with bacteriological filters
allowing them to survive in Earth's germ-laden atmosphere. This time
they come in fewer numbers having almost exhausted their resources in
the first invasion and of course, this time the human defences are
better-prepared. In this timeline we get to see Thunderchild II in
action. Anyhow, that was the vague idea.
We also had an idea of an old stamp album showing this stamp with the following description:
is a stamp created by Eric Gill in 1924 for the British Empire
Exhibition with the emergency overprint "under martian rule" for a set
of stamps which were produced in that portion of the British Isles still
allowed to function - whilst operating under the yoke of the Martian
Empire subsequent to the second Martian invasion in 1925.
many items survive from this period and this is reflected in the
condition of the stamp. The bottom right hand corner is severely burnt
as the stamp was recovered from the remains of Plymouth Post Office
destroyed during the battle for the Tamar Bridge at Saltash. Approximate
value £26 guineas."
I have been watching the progression of Joomla for years now and I am of the firm opinion that there is room for a CMS that Joomla used to be. I mean, of course, Joomla 1.0. A pretty, good-looking, easy to use, straightforward CMS with no frills, none of the later features that grown-up Joomla has today. Most of the core hacks have been discovered and locked-down. There are still a lot of extensions available that need no re-engineering to function.
It could suit the purpose well. It would have no overlap with the core mainstream Joomla, so no disturbance or friction would be caused between the two. JoomlaLite might require minimal development and simply just maintenance. It could become the feeder project to its bigger brother. As people require more functionality then they simply migrate upward.
Mambo and Joomla 1.0 were both good CMS and as simple website-building tools they are still unmatched. I recently visited a few of my old websites (totally secure and hosted under PHP 5.3) and was amazed at the speed and functionality of the things. The back end flies in comparison to the current Joomla offerings, the front end is practically instant, with no cacheing. All the tools work beautifully.
Big grown up Joomla is not a tool I would use now for small sites nor for bigger ecommerce sites. I would use a blogging tool or any smaller lightweight alternative for a simple site. For an ecommerce site the combination of VM and Joomla 3.0 is too risky due to potential unscalability and the slow running of Joomla. My experience of the new Joomla back end has been unsatisfactory (slow and weird-looking). For ecommerce Magento or OScommerce would be my target of choice.
Do you remember those days when you had a fairly simple shopping cart in a fairly simple CMS? It all ran quick and was easy to knock them out? I want something like that.
Resurrect Joomla 1.0, give it to a smaller team with a mandate to maintain, only develop within strict defined boundaries to avoid duplication of effort and competition (tools only) and call it JoomlaLite.
I know that others have tried and failed/succeeded in making a Joomal 1.0 clone (Joostina and Elxis) but that was due to them taking the wrong path (Russian language CMS rather than an International CMS) but the work they did on the improved tools proved that it can be done and their best work is available to port back. They also didn't have the Joomla name, a guarantee to success for a 'lite' version of Joomla.
At last I've managed to get the steampunk orrery into a reasonable
shape, good enough to release in any case. The memo taker which worked
in the old version does not work in this one, it is still waiting for me
to finish re-skinning that part of it. However, the animation and the
general 'prettiness' of the thing have been enhanced somewhat to match
the functionality that you will see in this video :
is the orrery plasmoid - The functionality isn't quite the same but it
pretty much brings it up to scratch and it is now on par with the
plasmoid. I will post a new video soon, same music but showing the
enhance functionality in the yahoo/konfabulator version of this widget.
you install all three of these they will work together and will allow
you to look at the moon phases in an animated fashion, good grief the
thing is actually useful! The Moon widget will automatically position
itself on top of the orrery widget when it is called into operation. The
Underwidget needs to be layered underneath the Orrery and then the
Orrery's glass panel needs to be made translucent using the opacity
slider. You'll then be able to see the underwidget showing through the
Please try them out and test them and if you have any
problems do let me know. If you like them all working together do also
let me know as this stuff has taken a long while to do. I've taught
myself a lot in the process and I do love designing these steampunk
My collaborator, Harry Whitfield is like a Victorian steam-powered brass
coding engine, you only have to feed him a good idea and a method of
doing it then all of a sudden he's done it. The result is compact,
perfectly ordered and logical code, beautifully done, no spaghetti, all
created with years of experience and wisdom.
I had a simple
magnifier widget that did nothing at all. I was disappointed with it as I
could find no function for it other than to run a command to initiate a
utility of some sort, a simple launcher, a big icon as it were. When I
created the magnifying glass image I had intended to add code that would
allow the widget to identify what was beneath it and give an enlarged
version just as a real magnifying glass would do. However the widget
engine does not give the widget the power to identify what is beneath
it, it does not interact with the windows desktop in any way so that
idea was gone. We cannot magnify the Windows desktop.
thought was to magnify the other widgets in the Konfabulator engine,
However, the widget engine does not give the widget the power to
identify any other widget above or below it so it cannot interact with
or magnify any other widget in a graphical sense. There is some
inter-widget communication allowed but it would not be fast enough to
allow real-time magnification of another widget, it would also be
horrendously complicated, so, that idea was gone too.
I sat on
the idea and deliberated with Harry and he confirmed all the above, in
fact he confirmed it several times but the idea would not leave my head.
The magnifying glass sat there on my desk saying "use me, use me! but
only for magnification purposes..." and I absorbed what it was saying
but unable to do anything about it. It also said "Twiddle the basset
pipes" - but I ignored that as it was rubbish.
So, the day before
yesterday, a germ of a thought grew into an actual idea as to how to
overcome this problem and then I had it. It could be done. Simply put,
if the magnifying glass and the image it needs to magnify, sit within
the same widget, they can find information about themselves, size,
position &c and the therefore the magnification can be achieved. All
that needs to be done is to drop an image into a window and then the
magnifier can interact with it as they are all within the same widget.
was the idea, I put it to Harry and a day later the widget was designed
and coded and released for testing. Crikey he's fast. Using the
graphics from my widget and the code from one of his previous image
display widgets he banged in his new code and hey presto! we have a
lightbox into which we can drag/drop any image. The magnifying glass is
slidable and moves around the image by dragging the handle. The glass
lens magnifies the image underneath! It is done, it works.
Testing it now. Adding some steampunk controls and completing the functionality. We have a new widget.
It is ready, I have coded it and I'm currently testing it on Vista, then
Mac OS/X, then I will release it here and a few other places... if you
have any suggestions as to good places to submit widgets and the like,
to increase its profile, then I'd appreciate the suggestions. You lot
always seem to know a thing or two.
The new widget works in all
respects except for the memo taker which, well frankly, doesn't work
yet. It will do in the end but at the moment the memo taker is secondary
functionality to me as the orrery is all about "steampunk eye candy".
That means everything works, rotates, whistles, thumps, jangles and
creaks &c. I think that the visual improvements are what it needed,
the enhanced animation suits the style of the thing and it now has a
real use beyond the note taker.
It now acts as a moon phase
calculator for those of us who like to know the phases of the moon
(werewolves, astrologers, astronomers, abducting aliens and the like).
All that needs to be done is to set the date using the date ring and
click on the moon. The moon phase will be viewable to the hour and it is
quite accurate too.
The new orrery uses two additional widgets
to provide 'extra' functionality. It uses an under-widget to provide
some background cogs visible through the now semi-opaque glass. The
second is the moon phase widget originally created by Mark Crossley and
steampunked/amended by me.
I'll test the three new widgets on
Vista (NT6) and Mac OS/X and then I'll submit it here. The memo taker
changes will come a little later. Frankly, I've been working on this
long enough now and if I continued to be a complete perfectionist the
release might take months more.
If anyone wants the new graphics for their own version of the orrery (rainmeter &c) I'd be happy to provide.
If you are running Windows XP for any reason
then please don't be shy - just let us know here. It could be on a
secondary machine or as your main machine. Please tell us what you plan
to do to secure that system for the future.
The reason being
that I will post here the tasks that I intend to perform to secure any
XP systems that I run and I'd be happy to post your own suggestions here
too and create an 'Deviant XP protection blog' that will be useful in
the war against malware and the nastiness that is out there. Excuse any
I'll start listing the software that I run to secure that
XP system and the mindset that you need to continue to successfully run
an operating system like XP. I'll also add some facts/opinions as to why
running an 'older' o/s might be a good or bad idea with regard to
security or functionality. We won't be arguing as to why you should run
this o/s or that, all are useful in some regard. This is meant to be a
helpful post for XP users rather than being a rant as to why you should
run 'this' rather than 'that'.
If this might be useful to you
then please feel free to comment, if you just want to add your penn'orth
then please do. If you just want to repeat what you've said elsewhere
then please do too! Your opinions are sought and I will personally find
them useful and interesting. They may well be good grist to the mill in
this continuing battle against the barstewards that daily try to infect
Access to the internet - PULL the internet cable - No seriously,
the first thing to do is to determine whether you need to be connected
to the internet. If you don't then life is a lot more simple for you.
You can run without the daily/weekly/continuous testing for malware and
only need to perform any security checks around the time when you are
installing new software or letting anyone near the system with a USB
stick, SD card, CD or floppy. If you can transfer your browsing habits
onto a cheap tablet device then you are 80% of your way into securing
your XP system. This latter point is a really important recommendation
and I strongly suggest a table for any potentially 'dodgy' browsing. The majority of vulnerabilities are from
remote attackers that require access to your machine, if you don't have a
server then you don't need to give them access. Just enable/disable the network as required and keep it disabled by default.
Internet Explorer - If
you are committed to the internet then an obvious improvement to
security is to simply NEVER use Internet Explorer except for when you
are visiting the Microsoft Windows Update site. IE in any form is a
route directly into the operating system. IE is integrated into the core
of Windows and as a result the o/s is even more susceptible to IE
hacks. IE has proven itself to be the most insecure of the major
browsers and a major target for hackers to infect your PC. Run Firefox
as your default browser as all the tools exist to secure, monitor and
analyse the sites you are visiting. Chrome is an decent browser but I
avoid it as it reports back all your browsing habits to Google.
IE has so many vulnerabilities that you really should NOT use it all but if you do have to use it from time to time one thing you can do is to fix a vulnerability in an unused bit of IE functionality - VML (vector markup language. The commands to do so are executed in a CMD window (DOS box)
32-bit systems only require the first command. But since 64-bit
systems have both a 32-bit and 64-bit version of the vulnerable file,
both commands must be used with them:
Recommended Software - to run to secure your XP system:
are all streamlined services that run with the minimum of intrusion.
Unlike some security solutions (Norton, Mcafee) that slow your system
drastically. The following are tried and tested solutions to help you
keep your system safe.
1. Sygate Personal Firewall download: http://www.tucows.com/preview/213160
2. Malwarebytes anti-malware download: http://www.malwarebytes.org/mwb-download/
3. Clamwin Anti-virus download: http://www.clamwin.com/content/view/18/46/
4. Adblock Plus for Firefox download: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/adblock-plus/
5. Noscript for Firefox download https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/noscript/
6. Device Doctor http://devicedoctor.com/
7. Avast antivirus http://www.avast.com/en-gb/index
words on the above: Sygate is supposedly obsolete software but it does the job on XP. It is stll a good firewall with a useful interface and it works. All firewalls needs to be trained to block/allow apps that
you want to be enabled to access the internet. The efficacy of all firewalls are down to you and how you train the one you have installed.
Malwarebytes sits in the
background and just runs. The free version must be run manually to
provide protection, the paid-for version starts automatically. A
scan significantly slows the system during the duration of the scan.
needs to be scheduled to run at a frequency that is suitable to you, a
scan slows the system during the duration of the scan. It also needs to
be enabled to scan your browser downloads as they occur.
will block malicious pop-up ads and noscript is another Firefox plugin
that should prevent malicious scripts from affecting your system.
Noscript is a bit harsh though and needs to be trained to block/allow
certain sites from running any scripts at all. Initially, it may stop
the prettier sites from displaying correctly but it will protect you
though, a confirmation being required to run any scripts that exist on
In addition to this you may need a general purpose
anti-virus tool such as Avast. It will provide you with extra protection
but it will slightly slow down your browsing, watching online videos &c. It is easy to switch on and off again.
Children - One
important way of securing an XP system is to let your children NOWHERE
near your desktop/laptop. Children are trojans that malware writers need
to have in place in order to infect your PC. Children are intelligent
bypassers of security that will take any chance to play any game that
takes their fancy even if infected. If they can't read then all the
better for the malware writers as it means they will bypass messages and
install anyway! Keep your kiddies away. Give them a tablet instead.
General software - Remove
Dodgy software you already have on your system. Many pieces of
software act as trojans for hackers. Filezilla has unencrypted passwords
in plain text and should NEVER be installed on a Windows system.
Successful hackers check first of all whether programs such as Filezilla
are installed, they home in on the plain text password file and steal
all your site passwords in seconds. Solution - Uninstall Filezilla now!
is really difficult to determine whether you have any other software
that acts like this, vigilance and research is the only method of
finding out whether you have crapware installed on your system. No a/v
tool will single out Filezilla as a vulnerability but a large number of
sites that are hacked have their passwords stolen through Filezilla.
Crapware - Remove
anti-virus tools like Norton and Mcafee as they can be said to act like
viruses themselves. They slow down your whole system, interfere with
the core running of the o/s, slowing browsing and other operations right
down, they can cause some functionality to simply stop working, are
really difficult to remove and they nag you into continuously sending
more money for updates... all this sounds like a virus. I prefer
anti-malware tools that run at intervals and are controllable by the
user, those that are recommended by a majority of users, those that run without crippling your system and nagging you for money.
Removing them will speed up your XP system considerably and as
long as you replace them with the tools listed above you should be just
Password security - is a trouble to everyone
and difficult to implement. The method I am going to suggest is
reasonably secure, not impenetrable but an certainly an improvement on
most people's complete lack of security. The idea is to increase the
security of your passwords and then move your password storage to a
secure location. The first step is to use secure passwords of the form
Password generators are available to create
these for you automatically. This form of password is much more secure
than the usual "porsche71" and "pussycat" style passwords that most
people use. Very hard to crack and impossible to remember, the only
practical way of using these passwords is to let the computer manage
So, I let firefox remember all my passwords. In tools - options - security there is an option for "remember passwords for sites" - enable it. Then enable "use a master password".
Firefox then stores all the passwords in a master password file which
is encrypted to prevent access from anyone who does not know your
master password. So, now all your sites can be secured by a complex
password and you only have to remember ONE password. That's a lot
Obviously, you must NEVER forget your master password.
Firefox uses TripleDES as its encryption algorithm and is very hard to
crack but the strength of encryption is entirely dependant upon the
strength of the Master Password you choose. Something like
"Tantivy_1357:-)" is a secure password - it mixes uppercase and
lowercase letters, numbers and characters and would be hard to guess.
The word and numbers can be devised from things that are important to
you. In the above case Tantivy is the name of a cottage and the number
is the date it was built. The two are separated by an underscore and
followed by a smile :). That is a secure and memorable password. (Note
that DA converts the combination of the : and the ) into an emoticon
here whether I like if or not.)
The following Firefox plugins are installed to supplement the password functionality:
password editor allows you to view all of your stored password so that
you have access to all your centrally stored passwords - just in case
you need to confirm or renew your memory.
The Startup Master requires the master password to be typed in only once and only at browser startup. Much more convenient.
The password generator is essential to generate secure passwords in the first place. Use it and Firefox's in built password memory to ensure that your passwords are all made up of unintelligble alphanumeric character combinations.
are other even more secure password options such as KeepPass. I'm not a
user of KeepPass yet so I can't offer advice here other than to say it
is an even more secure option.
Synchronising Tablets - The next step does
not directly concern XP but is related to the extension of your system's
security features to your tablet. Don't synch. your browser passwords
from your XP system to your tablet. The browser synching feature is
incredibly convenient but as soon as you synchronise your secure passwords to
a mobile device you are potentially distributing them to the outside world. Very
few tablets are secured sufficiently, the tools simply don't exist in
the same number and quality as they do on the Windows platform. Android
devices are inherently vulnerable to hacks and of course all tablet
devices will at some time be dropped, lost, thrown away or stolen during
their lifetimes. Once again, if you want to stay secure, don't synch.
passwords to your tablet device. Use the tablet for casual browsing,
porn &c but don't use it for serious work. Sounds counter intuitive
doesn't it? The trouble is convenience does not often match well with
security. If you have to use one of these devices ensure your android or ipad is fully encrypted
and secured with a master password.
Yearly or Six-Monthly Backups - The correct mindset is an important condition in maintaining an older o/s. Time to take things seriously.
of all, secure the system through backups. This means a full o/s backup
followed by multiple backups of your data, whatever it is. A full
system backup is best taken disc by disc as disc storage is as cheap as
chips at the moment and getting cheaper and cheaper. Every few months I
backup the boot drive, the windows o/s. I do this by buying a new drive
every six months, each slightly faster or slightly bigger in capacity
than the previous model. Therefore each backup is also an upgrade (this
gives me an incentive to do the backup too). My laptop has two drive
bays (the reason I bought it) and this means I can perform a disc
duplication by simply plugging in the new drive and using some disc
duplication software to transfer the whole contents of the old drive to
the new. My first boot drive was 160gb 5400rpm unit, the current drive
is a hybrid 7200 rpm model with 500gb and 8gb flash SSD memory. It runs
5-10 times faster than the original device. The old drive is simply
taken out of the machine and placed on a shelf somewhere very safe. It
then acts as a backup for my newer device, all the data therein is safe
and can be placed back into my machine at any time as a direct bootable
replacement. The important thing is that you never use that drive. It
seems terrible to take a recent-ish technology drive and not use it but
you MUST resist the temptation. As a newish and relatively unused drive
it will store the data safely for months and possibly years.
your system drive ever crashes you will have a bootable drive ready to
go with your whole o/s and software already installed. If you keep a
note of the software you have installed over the last six months it will
be easy to bring the disc up to speed.
My data drive is a
separate disc and is backed up the same way. My data drive started its
life as a partition on the bootable disc and has now migrated to a
separate hybrid drive of 1tb with 8gb RAM SSD. Each backup has meant the
drive has improved in storage and speed. The price of a 1TB hybrid
drive with 8gb SSD is now approx. £50 - that is £2 per week for a solid
backup per disc.
The above approach is simple and makes running
of an XP system easy to achieve, regardless of any threat that might be
encountered, if you can restore the system easily then you are
Daily, weekly and monthly backups -
can be easily taken by purchasing USB RAM sticks of an appropriate size -
they don't need to be big, 1-4gb may well do. Just name them: Mon,
Tues, Wednes &c, Week 1, Week 2 &c, month 1, month 2 &c.
You'll need 18 in all, put a ring in each and hang them from hooks
somewhere in your home. Backup all your personal data to your USB
sticks. Use them on the correct day and only re-use them when that day
Photos seem to take the majority
of space on a user's disc these days, raw data photographs being
anything up to 30-40mb in size, each. Cameras these days can take
hundreds of images and there is a need to store and backup them all. The
cost of backing up all these images can be prohibitive as a good and
solid family album can easily use up 100gb of disc space. There are
on-line solutions for backups but they are expensive, year on year and
the transfer time can be very, very long. Discs have an MTBF (mean time
between failure) measured in only thousands of hours, this means your
family album will be completely lost every two/three years if you
continue to store them on disc. There is a really simple solution that
has been available for a hundred years, that is the traditional photo
album. Filter all your photos and get the most important photos printed immediately.
Don't print them on your own laserjet or on a poor quality book -
However you choose to get them printed do insist on 100 year ink and 100
year paper, otherwise your images will decay in just a few years.
wouldn't believe the number of heartbroken parents that have come to me
asking to recover their lost photos from the last 4/5 years. To get a
specialist to even look at recovering a severely damaged hard disc costs
£400-£500, the recovery of those photos can cost the same again. An
old-style photo album costs nothing to store and is proven to last at
least a hundred years. No technology required and a hell of a lot
The above approach to photos simplifies backup of an XP
system enormously when you don't have to worry about the majority of the
Driver updates - Basically, keep your hardware drivers up to date. Some device drivers have vulnerabilities in older versions and you need to be sure you have the best and most secure version. Driver Doctor is a great tool for determining the latest version of driver for your system. Beware though - your laptop/desktop might have specific needs for particular drivers and the latest may not always work for you. In particular take great care when upgrading your graphic card drivers. Nvidia GPUs have been known to require older drivers and you may lose the ability to use your graphic display... keep the old drivers available just in case and upgrade selectively. The word here is RESEARCH. Don't just upgrade derivers until you have checked on the internet what the result is likely to be.
General software - more information coming here shortly about tools used to identify old versions of software.
Accessing the internet from a sandbox - information coming here shortlyabout running internet based browser apps in sandbox.
Running using a non-administrator account - information coming here shortly on running more securely.
Conclusion - No security is impenetrable but we are simply
adding layer upon layer of improved security that will make it really
difficult for any hacker to exploit us. When it becomes too difficult to
hack your system, all but the most determined of hackers will simply
give up. Remember not to be too paranoid, you and I are not the most
important people in the world and so hackers won't spend all their time
trying to hack us... we just need to make it difficult for them, to be
secure, closing the doors whilst we are out, securing the windows and
bricking up any holes in the walls.
Follow the procedures set out above and your XP system should be much more secure for the future.
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Steampunk Yahoo Widget
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