Computers and I

The danger of fake news

by Rob on

Lately there is a lot going around about fake news. The Internet is an incredible resource for news and information, but unfortunately not everything online is trustworthy. Fake news is any article or video containing untrue information disguised as a credible news item.

Fake news is dangerous as it may influence the opinion of people about certain matters and even may lead to have them make decisions based on wrong information.

Recently I saw the picture below on the Internet. It claims that on certain American schools the students were forced to do Muslim prayers…

Fake news

The moment I saw that picture I , and luckily many others with me, noticed something strange about it.

Muslims always pray in the direction of their holy city Mecca. The children on the picture are kneeling down in two directions! That is not how Muslims pray.

It turned about very fast that this had nothing to with the Islam or Muslims. These children are training how to act in case of a tornado. This is a so called tornardo-drill and nothing more as that!

In this case the attempt to spread resistance, and maybe even hatred, against the Islam was very easy to look through.

Sadly more often fake news is very hard to recognize as being fake. And that makes it of course very dangerous.

An example of this was that in 2015 the news was spread (including by the official media) that the island of Lesbos was overcrowded with refugees coming through Turkey from Syria.
Marion and I almost cancelled our holiday to Lesbos because of that news. Luckily we didn’t. During the 2 weeks we were there the refugees were never a problem and the island was absolutely not overcrowded with them. And the refugees we met were very nice, friendly and thankful people.
Many tourists cancelled their holidays to Lesbos and are still not considering to go there again. The people of Lesbos, who depend on tourism for a big part, are still suffering from that.
The same happened to other Greek isles close to Turkey as well.

The message here is clear: Don’t believe everything right away. Check the source of the news, is it a reliable source? Has the source spread fake news before? Can the news be checked on other reliable sources? And above all, does it sound believable!

Don’t believe everything you hear or read…

(Credits of the photo in this article are with www.greenvillegazette.com)

Rob
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Offline

by Rob on

Out od order
As some may have noticed, my weblog has been for the last two days offline. Well, maybe offline is not completely correct. The site was running, but not in a proper way. Visitors only saw blanc pages.

So what happened? For a certain update I wanted (and needed) to do on the weblog a newer version of PHP was required. PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is the scripting/programming language that was used to create Word Press. And Word Press is the software package that I use for my weblog.
So I contacted the company that hosts my weblog what the best way would be to do this. They suggested to move the complete weblog to a new server in their data-center with the newest version of PHP and other software (as MySQL) installed. That sounded as a good plan.

My provider moved the site and mailed me that all the was done, but that it could take some hours for the site to be reachable again.

But sadly the site didn’t come available again. Well, it showed only blanc pages. It was Marissa who noticed it the first and sent a mail to me.

It turned out the a rather old plugin was not compatible with PHP v7.* and that caused any page to show as a blanc page.
Luckily this plugin that caused the problem was not an important plugin and could easily replaced by one that almost did the same.

The trick I used to solve it was renaming the plugin-directories (“askimet” to “askimet.old” as example. Renaming the directories will deactivated the plugins automatically. By renaming the directories one by one to the original name and reload the website in a browser will show fast which plugin caused the problem.

Anyway, all is working as normal again and now the weblog is running with PHP version 7.1.2 and MySQL version 5.7.17. And that was the goal I was after.

And oh, the new server that is running the website is really faster :-)

Rob
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Defiance, the computer game

by Marissa on

DefianceLately Rob and I have been looking again at an online game that is already around some time, the game named “Defiance”. Yes, this game is based on the TV series with the same name. We played this game when it was just released.

The game was released in 2013 and is available for PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The game went in 2014 to free-to-play and you really can play it without buying in-game things, but to be honest spending a little money makes the game more fun and more enjoyable.
Rob and I upgraded the game to the Gold Edition that contains all the downloadable content, some nice vehicles, outfits, weapons and other cool stuff (to be honest, Rob bought the upgrade as a gift for me)

Defiance

There are three playable races, humans, Casrithans and Irathients. Casrithans and Irathients belong to the races that came from the Votan solar system).

The game knows 4 origins a character can have.
Veterans: After the Battle of Defiance inspired the end to the Pale Wars, many soldiers were left trying to find a new identity on the new earth. Their combat experience, not to mention innate need for that adrenaline rush, make ark hunting a perfect career path for there men and women.
Survivalist: Not all Humans and Votans were interested in war. Some found themselves on the fringes of society, living solely off the newly transformed earth. After Armistice, a handful of these survivalists found that their explortative talents made them impeccable ark hunters.
Outlaw: For many trying to survive the violent post-Arkfall world, criminal activity wasn’t a choice, but a necessity. As the Earth Republic and the Votanis Collective helped society regain its footing, finding legitimacy became imperative for these outlaws. The gritty, and sometimes unethical, life of an ark hunter was the ideal fit.
Machinist: After the Defiance movement led to Armistice, the factories of war were shut down, leaving many skilled Human and Votan machinists adrift. Some became cityscape scavengers, hocking thier makeshift wares at markets, while the elite foragers were able to graduate to the much more profitable vocation of ark hunting.

Defiance

In Defiance every player is an ark hunter, a specialist in survival, combat and tracking who braves dangerous frontiers to locate and retrieve lost relics of alien or advanced origins in return for great financial rewards.

Ark hunters are specialists at salvage. Valuable alien minerals and technology scattered by the orbital destruction of the Votan planetary arks now encircles the earth in the Ark Belt. This debris occasionally rains down in dangerous events called arkfalls. Ark hunters must fight off other competition both human and alien if they wish to claim the rare minerals and Arktech from the heart of an arkfall for their own. The life of an ark hunter is exciting, dangerous and profitable … while it lasts.

Noted for their uncanny skills at finding Arktech and renowned for going where others fear to tread in search of their prize, ark hunters are greatly admired and employed by those who require their specialized talents. Many ark hunters work alone, searching for that valuable Arktech discovery that will allow them to retire to a comfortable life in Antarctica; others contract their services to individuals or corporations for a hefty fee, using their resourcefulness to locate specific items or information for their employers. Their expertise at finding nearly anything and surviving in the most dangerous situations and locales makes them valuable allies and formidable foes.

Defiance

To travel through the world of Defiance there are a number of vehicles available, as cars and 4-wheeled motors. Personally I like the Raptor (in the picture) a lot. It is fast and very flexible in steering and moving around.
Distances can be big, so an vehicle is really needed to move around. It also offers a way to get fast away from dangerous situations, as when you for instance run into a foe that you can not handle yet.
Apart from that, it is fun to race around the roads or going off road.

Defiance

Of course Hellbugs are also around.

Hellbugs are a mutated form of a rather harmless insect species from the Votanis system. Samples of these creatures were brought aboard the Arks on the voyage to Earth. During the Arkfall disaster, their DNA rained down upon the planet, only to be reconstructed by the terraformers and twisted into a new and dangerous form of life. Hellbugs are vicious predators that live in large collectives, usually within underground caverns in the terraformed frontier.

Hellbugs come in a variety of shapes. The smallest are Skitterlings – baby Hellbugs that are nimble and deadly when attacking in swarms. Warriors, Archers, and Monarchs comprise the soldiers of the Hellbug army. At the top of the food chain is the Matron: a single momma Hellbug found in each nest who is the progenitor of the species. Rumours persist of an even larger form of Hellbug – the Hellion. If the stories are to be believed, Hellions are several stories tall and carry an army of smaller Hellbugs within their own bodies.

Hellbugs produce one of the most powerful forms of fuel on the planet. They ingest gulanite ore as a digestive aid, which is transformed inside their bodies and excreted. Hellbug shtako (waste product) contains unrefined petrohol – the main fuel source for rollers and other vehicles in the new frontier.

Defiance

There is very nice story-line with many quests that has to be done. Some simple, some funny and some very challenging. Apart from the story-line there are many side-quests that can be done.
And if you want to see how you are doing, there are many time- and skill-based challenges all over the game.

Also big events as sieges and huge ark falls with many extreme strong enemies are part of this game. I love the big ark falls where you with many other players fight the foes, which can be a real challenge at times.

All these quests, missions and challenges help to raise your skills. But they also bring better weapons and equipment. Specially the ark falls are a very good source to get better things to use through the game.

Defiance

But above everything, the game is a lot of fun to play. Specially when you play it with someone who fits your gameplay and who it is challenging to play with. And, as within so many other games, Rob is the perfect person for me to team up with.

Defiance

And oh, some times you run into people that may look familiar… you will meet people from the TV series. And at times they will be part of the quests and missions that you are doing. Fun, fun, fun… *SMILE*

Marissa

 

 

(Credit screen shots: Marissa)


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A look at Second Life

by Marissa on

Second Life is an online virtual world where people can meet each other and create their own content. It has already been around since 2003. I never had a look at it. This most likely because of the comments that I heard from Rob about it.
On one side he was amazed about the possibilities to create content in Second Life and the creativity of people connected to that. Basically you can create almost anything… clothes, houses, furniture, boats, trees. It seems that imagination is the limit here. And by scripts that you can add to the items that are created you can make them usable. For instance, by scripts you can sit on a chair in all kinds of poses, you can swim in water, you can work at a forge and so on and so on.
On the more negative side Rob told that the Second Life environment was completely ruined by jerks and misbehaving people who ruined the fun of others. This was among other reasons that many people turned away from Second Life and Rob with them. He said that it must be at least 9 years ago that he was for the last time there.

But some very beautiful pictures I have seen made me curious, so I decided to have a look at it. If not good, all I would have to do is delete the viewer from my computer (the “viewer” is the client application that you need to access the online world of Second Life).

So please meet the character that I created in Second Life:
Second Life character

The possibilities to create a character are endless. I had great fun with creating her and I think I managed a bit to make her look like myself. And I am pretty sure if I would really put more effort into it I would even get closer to it.

Apart from the character, the choices of clothes is really completely endless. And that is pretty awesome for someone who likes clothes as much as I do (Marion had a great influence in that *SMILE* ).

Let me show some examples of clothes my character can wear.
Second Life Clothes set 1
Second Life clothes set 2
Second Life Clothes set 3
Clothes are available in almost every possible style one can think of… the latest fashion, jeans & demin, beach & sports wear, classy and formal, seductive and sexy. All these clothes are made by the Second Life citizen themselves. Just as in normal live (or “first life” or “real life” as they call it in Second Life) the quality differs from lousy to good and extreme beautiful.

Some of these clothes are for free, but most you have to buy. Oh, wait a minute! Buying? For that you need money!
Correct. And here we come to what makes Second life roll (and bring profit to the company behind Second Life). Second Life has it own currency, the so called Linden $. With this currency you can buy things the people sell in their shops (which can be clothes or furniture and anything else up to complete houses and castles).
You can earn these Linden $ by doing jobs in Second Life, as an help desk manager in a shop for instance. But there is a more simple and faster way: Buy it directly from Linden Labs (the company behind Second Life) with a credit card or through Pay Pal (and there more payment sources). This is one way Linden Labs makes profit from Second Life.
Another way is renting land to Second Life citizens where they can places houses or anything they would like to do there. For this you need a paid account for Second Life. You pay a small amount of (real life) money for that every month and that gives you certain privileges over none paying citizens as direct support and the privilege to rent land.
Second Life landscape 1

One of the nicest things of Second Life is that you can meet people literally from all over the world. In the short time that I am there, I spoke with people from all kind of origins. Alaska, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Bulgaria, Italy to name a few.
Most of them a very friendly and decent folks. A joy to talk with. I have a learned a lot about other countries and their cultures.
Sure, there are jerks like everywhere else. I just ignore them. They keep bothering me, I block and mute them. And for the few with discriminating or racist slurs, there is the option to report them with Linden Labs, who will look into it and ban them from Second Life if the claim was correct.
But as said, most people are very friendly. I had some real great chat about all kind of subjects like religion, politics, culture, art, music and many more things. That is the nicest thing of having some many people around you. There is so much knowledge and experience.
Second Life landscape 2

There are many things to see in Second Life. There are places where people reconstructed places and buildings from the “real world”. The monastery of St. Micheal is an example of this.
Some people made very realistic looking area’s after their own fantasy, such as “West of the Rain” and “Netherwood”.
And so there are area’s for role players were you can be an elf, drow, dwarf or gnome. “Avilon” comes to mind. And oh, there are area’s with zombies and vampires!
And so there many more things for people to enjoy. Large parks, harbours, airports, jungles, forests, castles, rail road stations and much more.

It amazes me to see the creativity of people with what they build things in Second Life. They put a lot of time and effort in it. And yes, the pictures of landscapes I am placing with this article are places made by citizens of Second Life. Apart from resizing there was no processing the pictures with Photoshop or anything like. This is how it is out there. It is really amazing!

And yes, I do know that there are also many awful and ugly places there. But you learn to pass them and ignore. Just fly over them… Yes, you can fly in Second Life :-). Beside that there is a very nice way of travelling in Second Life. When you found an interesting place, you can create a landmark in your inventory. Just clicking it and you travel back to the location of the landmark. And it is very nice that you can share these landmarks with others.
Second Life landscape 3

I also do know that there is more erotic side to Second Life, as there is a more darker side to Second Life. But I choose not to get involved in that. And that is simple, every area in Second Life has a qualification (G = General, M = Mature, A = Adult). You can simple define that you don’t want to able to enter area’s with a certain qualification. So uncheck adult in the preferences of the viewer and you won’t be able to enter an adult area. To that: If it is not clear to Linden Labs that you are an adult (18+), you won’t be able to enter an adult are at all.
For the rest, see something you don’t like: leave! Simple as that.

Second Life landscape 4

For me Second Life will be for that time that I will visit it a place to meet nice people and explore amazing area’s :-).

Marissa

 

 

(Credit screen shots: Marissa)


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Facebook

by Rob on

Some people noticed that I haven’t posted anything for some time on Facebook. And that is correct, I basically stopped using Facebook. Main reason for this that Facebook becomes more and more a privacy thread. If not by Facebook self, then it is by people with bad intentions.

For the second time now in the circle of people that I know someone is a victim of identity theft.
The first time it was more or less innocent (if identity theft can be innocent at all).
Now the second time it is not so harmless and most likely it will have financial consequences for the person involved.

Apart from that, Facebook is storing more and more private information of people. It is really becoming an privacy threat. And if the security of Facebook was optimal, but sadly it is not. And making an account secure is so difficult that it is hard to do for people who are not computer-minded (and not secure accounts can become a threat for those that do have things secured properly).

So I cleared out my friend list on Facebook for the most of it. If you still on it, you are lucky. It means I have regularly face to face contact with you or you are important to me for some other reason.
For the rest deleted and changed the settings for those who can send me friend request.
The people that are still on my friend list are there because I think it is important for them to be able to reach me. That is all to it.
You are not on my friend list any more? Sorry, but I care for my privacy.

So friend requests will not reach me. Same can be said for private messages from people that are not on my friend list.

I know this all sounds very harsh. But I want to stay in control of my privacy.

Here on my weblog I have full control over what happens and can I act directly when a threat appears, even when that means taken temporary my weblog down.


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Dishonored 2

by Rob on

Last week, on 11 November, a the new game “Dishonored 2” was release, a sequel on the game “Dishonored”, released in 2012.

On the moment I heard that this sequel would be made, I already knew that I wanted the game. I really loved “Dishonored” (lets call that game “Dishonored 1”, to keep things more clear). I knew that it would be hard for bethesda, the company behind the game, to live up to the original game, but from that what I have seen until now, they managed to do so.

The series takes place in the fictional Empire of the Isles with the majority of “Dishonored 2” set in the coastal city of Karnaca and is set fifteen years after the events of the first game. After Empress Emily Kaldwin is deposed by an “otherworldly usurper”, the player may choose between playing as either Emily or her bodyguard and father Corvo Attano as they attempt to reclaim the throne. Both Emily and Corvo employ their own array of supernatural abilities. They can alternatively decide to forfeit them altogether. There are a multitude of ways to succeed in each given mission, from stealth to purposeful violent conflict.

Ideas for a sequel to Dishonored began while developing its downloadable content, which spawned the decision to create a voice for Corvo Attano after being a silent character in the first installment. Emily Kaldwin was first proposed as a playable character and brought about the advancement of the timeline. The design was influenced by paintings and sculptures. Set in the new fictional city of Karnaca, its history was invented over the course of one year. The city itself was based on southern European countries like Greece, Italy, and Spain, drawing on the architecture, fashion, and technologies of 1851.

The Outsider is also there again. The Outsider is a mysterious supernatural being said to be part-devil, part-angel, neither good nor evil. The Outsider remains neutral in regard to events that transpire in the mortal world. He does not place conditions on those he gifts with supernatural abilities, and does not factor hierarchy or effort into their selection

I am very curious to all the adventures I will find in this game. If it is anywhere close to “Dishonored 1” the adventures will be many. So many enjoyable hours ahead!
But it is already clear, in this game stealth, speed, strategic thinking and some luck will be there again. Sneaking around in shadows, moving over roofs and back alleys. Assassinate and brutal open force.

And when I played all through the game, I will start all over and go for the most difficult play style for this game: Do the complete game without any killing…

(And Marissa, if you had not noticed it yet, this game is also added to your Steam-account!)

 

 

(Credit screenshots: Rob)


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The project is live…

by Rob on

At the company where I work we do quite some projects. And some projects are really big. So it is a great moment when a project is finished and goes live. Sometimes the project-manager is so happy about this that he or she does something nice or fun for the people who worked on it.

So today project “ECRS” went live (I won’t bother you with what project “ECRS” was about). To celebrate that the project-manager brought M&M’s with special texts on them. I must say that I didn’t know that it was possible to have M&M’s created with your own text on them. But really I like the idea very much.

Costum made M&M’s… How cool…


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Facebook

by Rob on

For quite some years I have an account on Facebook and during those years I was an active poster and debater. Maybe it is me, but I feel that Facebook has changed. Or more precise, the community behind Facebook has changed.
Many, maybe even most, of the ongoing discussions seems to be without any respect any more. If someone doesn’t agree with you, then that seems to be a good reason to flame that person or even insult him or her. Haters seems to fill up the pages.
Pages that were at first interesting, turned into places full with conspiracy theories and extreme opinions. I noticed how I left already many pages that I really liked before.

Already some years ago I stopped placing photo’s of people on Facebook (or anywhere else on the Internet). I witnessed how profile pictures, vacation photo’s and other photo’s placed on the Internet were used for identity theft involving someone I know.
Only exception here are people who seek publicity as politicians and artists for example.
But the thing is that it has become clear that nowadays you have to careful with what you post on Facebook. Stay away from anything that may used against you. Stay away from really private related matters.
So slowly Facebook turned in a place for vacations pictures and things that really don’t matter. And is that what I really want? No.

And that all drew me back to my blog that still hanging around, not used very often for some time. But I have a feeling that will change….

No, I will not leave Facebook, but I think my presence there will become less and less.


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Overwatch

by Rob on

May this year Blizzard released a new game called “Overwatch” and it is nothing like anything I have played before.

The story behind the game (in some lines): Overwatch was a global peacekeeping task force. It helped save the world during a global crisis, and was the big name in worldwide heroism and unity. It formed a covert ops division called Blackwatch. Eventually, accusations that Overwatch made things worse somehow resulted in it being made illegal. Winston, one of the original members, brought Overwatch back together — off the books — when another global crisis presented itself. Now, the world doesn’t trust Overwatch anymore. Its function is illegal, but it still needs to do what it was formed to do in order to protect the world — and lots of people, including some former members, want to stop it.

The game is available for PS 4, X-Box One and PC.

It is a team based game, where as team you fight another team. The other team can be another team of players or an AI based team (and believe me, that doesn’t make it is easy).

Unlike many other online games, you cannot create you own character. You can select before every match you play from a number defined characters. There are 4 skill groups of these characters: Offensive (damage dealers), defence, tank and support (utility). The more balanced the team with members of these skill groups, the more successful the team will be. Having said that, it can be great fun to play with an unbalanced team.

At first hand I didn’t like the idea of nothing be able to create you own character, but I have to admit that I got very fast used to the idea. Most of the predefined characters are fun the play. And specially Tracer made a big hit on the Internet.

All matches are built around attacking or defending locations or objects. The number is locations is large and very well made. And what it is a nice touch, these locations do really exist, although placed in the world of Overwatch.

Marissa, Marion’s niece and my gaming-friend, have been playing this game together. And as our tank/damage dealer duo we were quite successful.
Overwatch is a fun game to play and will make you laugh at time. Hopefully the jerks will leave this game alone.

As said, Overwatch is a good game. Although if you play it too often, it may become a bit boring. Curious what Blizzard is going to do with this game.


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Call of Duty: Black Ops III

by Rob on

As many will know my niece Marissa and I are both into computer games. And mostly at least one evening per week we spent on playing online games. I from Heemskerk and she from the other side of the country. Long live the Internet!

This weekend Marissa is staying at my place, to talk, enjoy nice food and listen to good music.

But (and this is really coincidence) yesterday also a new game was released: Call of Duty, Black Ops III. If I didn’t had read my mail, I would have missed it (there was an announcement mail waiting in my mailbox). So I bought the Digital Deluxe version (including season pass). And I bought the same package for Marissa, so we can team up when she at her home again.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III takes place in a dystopian future set in 2065, 40 years after the events of Black Ops II. Several countries around the world have developed high-tech air defenses that render air assaults useless. As such, most of the warfare between countries is done by covert operatives fighting behind enemy lines. Science and technology have radically changed both the landscape as well as the future of the human race, with society violently protesting and attempting to halt further advancements touted by scientists as “progress”. Military technology has progressed to the point where robotics play a main role in combat, and supersoldiers have been developed to fight in the battlefield. Humans have reached the point where they are considered to be more machine than flesh and blood. As a result, there is speculation and fear about an eventual robotic takeover. The game follows a team of black ops soldiers, like previous installments in the Black Ops series, with supersoldier capabilities.
(Source: Wikipedia)

The game has 3 ways to play:

Campaign: The campaign tells, while you play, the background story of the game. Campaign is fun to play and a great way to learn how to play the game. in my opinion every online FPS (First Person Shooter) must have a good campaign. It adds a lot to the value of the game. As far as I can see now the campaign is huge and that is a good thing.
The campaign is available for solo and public playing.

Zombies: It is tradition that every Black Ops-game has a Zombie-game. In Zombies you have to fight waves of Zombie-attacks. Zombies is available as solo and public game. A great way to practice playing the game. I must say that they made really some effort with the Zombies of Call of Duty, black Ops III.

Multiplayer: This is were you really play against other players. And this will be where Marissa and I pull together as team and work together. With a little luck we can be as successful as we were/are in Titanfall. They added all kind of specialisations to multiplayer, but we first have to dive into that to see what it really is and if we like it.
Multiplayer comes is the normal modes as Team Deathmatch, Free-for-all (Deathmatch), Domination, Kill Confirmed, Capture the Flag and so on.

The graphics are good. I am happy they didn’t follow the graphics of Call of Duty Ghosts, which I didn’t like at all.

In the last year released game Titanfall they added something new. Until now jumping and climbing was mostly the only way to cover heights in a game. Titanfall added wallwalking to change that and people really loved it, so I am not surprised to see it also in this new game.

New weapons, new skills, new tactics and lot more new stuff is added to the game. I think Marissa and I will have lot of fun with it.

I heard problems with performance of the game. I must say that we haven’t noticed anything like that. The game runs fluently with no hiccups or lag.
The only problems I have seen until now is that one time the keyboard configurations didn’t save. Not nice, but really not a big issue.


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