firewing1's blog

Keyboard not present; press F1 to continue.

I've gotten ^ this error ^ multiple times while booting up a client's computer for troubleshooting and forgetting to plugin a keyboard. I chuckle every time.

Blizzard Entertainment's support system seems to follow a similar design philosophy. I recently went to my friend's place with my PC to play some games and when I tried to sign on to Diablo III I was informed that my location did not follow my regular usage pattern so my account had been locked. I was genuinely happy and impressed that Blizzard was proactively protecting accounts from hack attempts, but that happiness faded quickly when I tried to unlock my account.

To unlock it, I needed to reset my password by either answering my secret question or entering the first 6 keys of one of my Blizzard games attached to the account. Easy, right? Well, I don't have any of the CD keys; I purchased my copies online and so the keys are all saved in my Battle.net account game listing, which I was locked out of. Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom, also decides does not send you the game key in the online purchase confirmation email so this reset option is not viable if you've made online purchases. I proceeded to answer my secret question instead and their page says I would receive a confirmation email shortly. Cool.

I waited, and then waited some more; nothing came in. I checked my spam, nothing in there either. I even opened up my server logs and checked all incoming mail only to find nothing from Blizzard at all. Blizzard hadn't sent the message.

My next logical step is to submit a trouble ticket with their support team, so I went to the trouble ticket manager and it asks my to type a few words related to my problem. I enter 'can't login'. It offers me a few suggestions (including the password reset page which doesn't send emails) and then says if my issues are not resolved to sign in to create a ticket. Wonderful. So (1) I am locked out of my account, (2) the system detects this and (3) their recommended course of action in this context is to sign in to my account.

I try their phone support and find out that not only are they busy, but their hold queue is full so they are refusing to take my call. I tried calling a couple hours later with the same result. That brings us to today, where my calls are still being refused. Here's a really easy solution Blizzard: hire more support staff.

I've also tried email support@blizzard.com and got a response saying that the address is ignored and to sign in to create a ticket. Fail.

I'm normally a patient person when it comes to this type of thing, because as a software programmer I understand how complex maintaining a beast like battle.net can be. But it was entirely Blizzard's chose to remove single player play from the game in favour of online connectivity to reduce piracy. I get that, and I'm okay with that, but Blizzard has to keep up its end of the deal too. Account hacks are not my problem. I use a strong password and I shouldn't have to worry about getting my SINGLE PLAYER game account locked. If your system is under automated attack, find a way to fix it without inconveniencing your players. Otherwise, I'll take my money elsewhere.

Update 2012-06-25: After finally getting a response on a ticket submitted from my brother's account, they told me I would have to call in. *sigh* I'll just find another game to play for two weeks because realistically I'm not going to speak to anyone before then.

New additions

Just a quick heads up, I wanted to let everyone know that I have added social media sharing buttons at the end of each post as well as enabled a new comment notification system so that you can know when I or someone else has replied to your comments.

By default notifications will only be sent for responses to your comment thread; you can also opt out entirely from the feature when posting a comment simply by unchecking the box.

The US media industry has it backwards

I'm sure I've blogged about it at some point before, but I sincerely believe that the US media industry (particularly, the RIAA and MPAA - collectively the *AAs) have way too much lobbying power and are using their lawyers in substitution of adaptation.

This hilarious TED talk called 'Copyright Math' by Rob Reid just about sums the entire story up. They refuse to change their business plan to meet customer's new needs and then proceed blame any potential lost profits (which were determined based on outrageous projections to begin with) on rampant piracy online and copyright infringement.

Anyways, I'm blogging about his because I just saw this article on TorrentFreak: Student Fined For Running Movie & TV Show Subtitle Download Site. This student had a website where people could upload subtitle files that they themselves had translated, resulting in a movie subtitle database with translations for various local language dialects. Sounds great, even for the copyright owners, right? This community site is offering a way for people who would otherwise not be able to enjoy the movie to view and understand the movie. That means more people consuming the media and more (yes, legitimate) content buyers. That's more money in your pocket, *AAs.

The movie studio's reaction to this? Sue the site owner of course, even after he took it offline willingly.

Hey, *AAs, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. If people are turning away to other services, that's because yours is lacking something. If people are mass pirating your content, that's because the pirates gives a better user experience than the DRM, ad-encumbered media we paying customers have to deal with. And most importantly, if you cut off sites like these and don't cater to that user base, then you're just losing potential revenue. Stop blaming it on piracy. This one's entirely on you.

Edit: A Slashdot story linking to an article called Game of Thrones Crowned Most Pirated TV-Show of the Season just came in... Yet another great example of this concept. Game of Thrones is a excellent TV series but in order to watch it HBO mandates that not only do you subscribe to a cable subscription, but also that you buy HBO on that cable subscription. You cannot pay for HBO Go on its own, nor can you get the media from other digital distribution networks such as the iTunes Store until the next season starts and HBO releases the entire season to DVD/Blu-ray/online distributors (relevant: this Oatmeal comic). HBO's stance on things is that watching TV over the Internet is a "temporary phenomenon"... Yeah, sure.

GEMS at Apps for Energy

** Vote for us here! **

At my work we have been developing a new website called the Green Energy Management System (GEMS) that targets small businesses and helps them perform quick and cost-effective self-energy audits. With the results, they are able to determine their estimated cost savings as well as view recommended energy conservation measures (ECMs) to help lessen their environmental impact.

We have submitted the project in the Apps for Energy contest and could receive additional funding for development if we place! If you have a minute please vote for us, it would be very much appreciated!

Printing ODT documents from the command line (and mass PDF exporting)

I recently had to print a collection of documents I had created over the year and I really was not thrilled at the prospect of having to open the file, Command+P, Enter, Command+W, Command+Tab, open new document, rinse, repeat for some 60 odd documents. All the documents in question were ODT documents created using either OpenOffice or LibreOffice, depending on how old they were.

A bit of research on command-line printing using OpenOffice and LibreOffice led me to some outdated posts that didn't quite give me the information I was looking for, but gave me a good place to start: the Writer application's binary is named 'soffice' and accepts various command-line arguments. A quick search revealed that the file does indeed exist inside the OS X application file:

$ find /Applications/LibreOffice.app -name soffice
/Applications/LibreOffice.app/Contents/MacOS/soffice

(for those that don't know, OS X applications are actually just plain folders that hold the application's metadata, executables and related files)

What's even better is that LibreOffice now has an option to do exactly what I was looking for:

$ /Applications/LibreOffice.app/Contents/MacOS/soffice -h
LibreOffice 3.5

Usage: soffice [options] [documents...]

Options:
--minimized    keep startup bitmap minimized.
[...]
--print-to-file [-printer-name printer_name] [--outdir output_dir] files
      Batch print files to file.
      If --outdir is not specified then current working dir is used as output_dir.
      Eg. --print-to-file *.doc
          --print-to-file --printer-name nasty_lowres_printer --outdir /home/user *.doc

Using the "--print-to-file" parameter will convert any document that LibreOffice can read into a raw postscript file by the same name.

Although I could easily send the resulting PostScript files to the printer using CUPS' lp utility, I wanted to take this one step further. Each of these documents contained the same colour logo and I wanted to avoid wasting any ink. Another search brought me to this question on SuperUser.com, where ysis's answer demonstrated that the gs (GhostScript) utility can do this and even merge all the documents into one file:

gs -sOutputFile=converted.pdf -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sColorConversionStrategy=Gray -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceGray -dCompatibiltyLevel=1.4 -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH input1.ps input2.ps input3.ps

After about 30 seconds of processing all of the 60 files were there, in blank and white, concatenated into converted.pdf. Printed it using OS X's Preview application using the "fast draft" setting and I had all my 60 documents printed with minimal ink used in less than 5 minutes!