World of Warcraft

For the last three years or so, I was constantly thinking about those online RPGs, but the high amount of micro-management you had to do and the steep learning-curve, the newbie-killers and all those other factors led me to ask myself: “Why spending money for that kind of dubious entertainment?”

Then I’ve read many good things about Blizzards World of Warcraft: It was said to have a nice learning curve, few micro-management and to be entertainment-centered – now we where talking…

So I went ahead and bought it last tuesday.

While there were some problems at first when I tried to create my character (Blizzard was quite overrun by the many people trying it out here in Europe), they were solved the same day and since then I had no problems with long waiting lists or disconnects. So from a technical point of view, it’s very satisfying.

And then there’s the gameplay of course.

This is very well done: There are many small things where the designers have tried to minimize the problems other MMORPG seem to have: There’s no senseless doing stupid jobs with your alter-ego just to earn money (you earn money by beating quests which are somewhat diablo-like). There’s this concept of getting double experience points when you log in after a larger pause. Then, if you don’t want to play in a designated player-vs-player-area, it’s immensely difficult to be slaughtered by another player – if you get killed by another player, it’s entirely your own fault. And besides: Other players cannot steal your inventory.

While the game provides an incredible amount of options how to progress your character, it introduces them nice and slowly. I’m still quite the newbie (playing about 2 hours per day I’m now at level 9) and I never felt overwhelmed. Very nice.

The most interesting experience I’ve had so far was yesterday when I was having problems concluding a certain quest alone: The boar I had to kill was just too strong for me.

So I did the logical thing: I went to the nearest tavern and asked around if there was someone willing to kill that beast with me. I soon found someone and we succeeded. This is what I expect from a MMORPG – not forging horseshoes and selling them for much too less money becuase of ebay-caused inflation – each horseshoe taking about 1000 senseless clicks to build.

So WoW is definitely getting my $11 monthly after my one month trial runs out.

Oh. There’s one thing though: Here in Switzerlad, you just get the german version of the game. This is very unfortunate for me as I prefer playing in english realms. Now its quite difficult to talk about something with an other player if I just have my own translation of the german name instead of what’s on the screen of the other players.

This is partly my own fault – I could play on a german realm, but partly blizzards too – here in Switzerland, many of us are used to read and understand english – all the movies are shown in the original language (mostly english) with subtitles for example. I think, that many of us would really prefer to have an english version of the game.

I for myself will probably do as I always do: Use the CD-key of the german original with an english copy I get via other channels. This is not particulary legal, but not that illegal too, I think.

Please, Blizzard, if you hear me: Provide us swiss with an english version of your games in the future.

WoW: Language Hacking

As I explained in my previous posting, I very much like to play World of Warcraft in the english version.

Now I got my hands on the US-version and installed it (after uninstalling the german version).

The problem came after patching to the current version: My account was not recognized anymore – no wonder: The game was connecting to the US servers while my account is on the european ones.

A bit searching for worldofwarcraft.com in the games directory revealed the string set realmlist [something] in base.mpq

As always, google was my friend and showed me the solution: Add

SET realmlist "eu1.wow.battle.net"

to the file config.wtf in the directory WTF of your WoW installation.

This lets you login to the european servers where your account is recognized.

Works well (at least until the next patch is released ;-)

Update: if you have a file called realmlist.wtf in the main installation directory, change that one, not the config.wtf as it will get overwritten on every launch. And additionally, you should set the server to eu.logon.worldofwarcraft.com instead – the older one was for the beta.

Check for update

I’ve seen many pieces of different software.

Many of them provide the user with a way to go online and check for new versions of the program.

Nearly all of them have the corresponding menu entry in the “Help”-Menu.

Why is that so? Checking for updates does not provide you with help. Maybe, just maybe it can fix a problem you are having – but it’s nowehre near providing help.

If I wrote software, it would have this option in the Tools menu or – if the application had none – in the File-Menu, though it’s misplaced even there. As is “quit” for example…

Security Tools

There was this security announcement today: Another time a Symantec product does not what it’s supposed to and actually executes UPX-Packaged .EXE-Files to find out whether they conain malicious code or not.

This is certainly not the best way to accomplish that…

So this is anoter point why I’m no fan of security software in place of user education (and regular flaw-patching): Such software creates a false sense of security (“should I click here? Oh well.. I have my NAV running, so nothing’s going to happen”) and may even open bigger holes when itself is not secure.

As it stands now, a educated user without NAV that receives an email with a prepared UPX-packaged .exe will just delete the file and be happy.

An educated user with NAV will delete the file too, but before he can, NAV will have scanned the email and thus executed the malware. This is a case where the infection comes from the software supposed to be preventing it.

It’s just like with firewalls: Why installing a packet filter filtering unwanted packets to open ports when you can close the ports in the first place?

Security is (mostly) a social thing (not counting exploits which must/can be prevented by updating the affected software) that can be achieved best using social skills, not software-barriers (as software has flaws – education at least has the possibility of achieving its goals).

So I’m not bashing Symantec (for once), but security-software as such.

AWStats

For the last five years or so, I’ve been using ModLogAn for my/our web analyzing needs: The tool is fast and much more powerful than Webalizer which I was using before modlogan

Getting it to run was a bit difficult at first (requiring a hacked GD library and all that), but this gradually got better. Since then the tool does a wonderful job (except one broken release about three years ago).

With all this buzz about the phpBB.com incident which happened because of a hole in AWStats, I wanted to give said tool (in a fixed version – of course) a shot.

The gentoo ebuild is tightly integrated into webapp-config which I’ve not used before, so the installation was somewhat difficult for me, but some symlinks here and there soon brought me a working setup.

I must say that I’m impressed of the tools capabilities: It’s quite fast (not as fast as modlogan, but fast enough), its CGI user interface profits from its dynamical nature (filtering long lists in realtime for example), the plugins provided with it are very cool (geoip, whois,…) and as soon as one understands how it ticks, it’s really easy to configure and manage.

Useful for some people is its possibility to update the statistics in realtime by analyzing the current rotation of the logfile. Another thing, modlogan isn’t capable of.

And finally it’s the looks – as always. awstats looks much more pleasant than modlogan does (even when using the template-plugin which has the nicest look of all of them).

I’ve not deceided yet whether I should replace the currently well-working modlogan-setup or not, but I’ve certainly analyzed the whole backlog of gnegg.ch (link to the tool removed due to gnegg.ch redesign).