Categories
tech

David’s Travel Tech Prep

I wrote this up prior to my Birthright Israel trip with Towson Hillel, but the advice here is applicable to any international travel. It covers essential technology and financial stuff that people always forget to do before their trips and regret after it’s too late.

  • Disable any Sim Card security locks that prevent you from using your phone if your Sim is removed.
  • Back up your device to the cloud and/or save important photos and contacts to your computer. Assume the worst can happen.
  • Google Maps – say/search “okay maps” to download the region you are traveling to as well as the route to the airport. The entire country of Israel is approximately 270MB as of June 2022. Waze is commonly used in Israel as well but doesn’t allow offline downloads.
  • Spotify premium or other music services, download your playlists offline in high quality, as streaming licenses may be unavailable in Israel. Enable offline mode. Overkill: firewall-block Spotify from accessing the internet prior to flight.
  • Google Translate, Microsoft Translator – download offline languages for the region you are traveling. For Israel, this would be English, Hebrew and Arabic (under 400MB for both apps)
  • Keyboards and voice typing – Enable Hebrew layout and input, download English voice-typing offline, and Hebrew if available
  • Update all apps, especially WhatsApp and the Birthright Israel app, and any pending system updates to your phone. Do not remove WhatsApp in Israel because you might not be able to log back in if you don’t have access to your phone number.
  • Multi-factor authentication that doesn’t rely on a phone number for accounts such as email and social media. Twilio Authy, Google Authenticator, etc.
  • Determine one or two credit cards and checking accounts that have minimal or no foreign transaction fees to bring on your trip. The Amazon Chase card has no fees, and Ally Bank debit cards have a 1% transaction fee. Discover is not commonly accepted in Israel but Visa and Mastercard are.
  • Write a note with all international and local phone numbers for financial cards you are carrying in case they are lost or stolen. Have this note emailed to yourself or to a family member in case of emergency.
  • Notify your financial institutions that you will be traveling so they can put a note on your account. Have all financial apps installed and logged in and know how to access card locking functionality. Lock all cards you aren’t taking on your trip prior to leaving home for the airport.
  • Decide if you want to keep biometric authentication (facial, iris, fingerprint) enabled on your device. While this is HIGHLY unlikely to occur, Israeli law allows police to forcibly unlock your phone with your biometrics, unlike most of the United States.

Categories
games

Free Games on EGS

The Epic Game Store (EGS) releases several games free, typically at least one each week on Thursdays, and often of high-quality titles from both small and large game publishers. Around the holidays they often give away games daily over a few weeks. Epic gives away these free games to both support developers and bring in more customers to their platforms.

I avoid their platform when possible due to its associations with Tencent and China. There are whole communities dedicated to hating on the company, the CEO Tim Sweeney, the anti-competitive business practices, the in-house game engine Unreal, and the free-to-play battle royale game Fortnite.

Here is my list of games that were free on Epic, and where I play them:

Game:Platform:
Grand Theft Auto VEGS
SUPERHOTSteam
Among UsSteam
Brothers: A Tale of Two SonsSteam
ControlSteam
HueSteam
LimboGOG
InsideXbox
MinitItch.io
ObductionGOG
Tomb Raider seriesEGS
The Spectrum RetreatEGS
GNOGItch.io
Q.U.B.E. 2Steam
The Talos PrincipleGOG
The BridgeSteam
Drawful 2Steam
while True: learn()EGS
The Stanley ParableHumble
DarqEGS
SupralandSteam
Categories
games

Games for Ukraine

Several hundred games are on various platforms but are associated with bundles where purchases were essentially donations to help people affected by the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

There was the Itch.io Bundle for Ukraine as well as the HumbleBundle Stand with Ukraine Bundle. Some of these games I’ve acquired or started playing prior to the invasion.

These are the games I’ve been playing so far:

Game:Platform(s):
Baba Is YouSteam+Itch.io
SUPERHOTSteam+Itch.io
Dear EstherSteam
Brothers: A Tale of Two SonsSteam+EGS
MinitItch.io+EGS
And Yet It MovesSteam+Itch.io
The White DoorItch.io
SupralandSteam
Drawful 2Steam
Broken AgeSteam
System ShockSteam
Rusty Lake HotelItch.io
Categories
Uncategorized

Things I Hate or Don’t Trust

This is a list of companies or products that I hate or cannot trust because of ethical issues, privacy or security concerns or terrible customer service.

Technology:

  • Apple
  • GoDaddy
  • TikTok
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Zoom
  • Tencent
  • React by Meta

Sketchy Financial Institutions:

  • Wells Fargo
  • M&T Bank
  • Zelle
  • Bank of America
  • PNC Bank
  • PayPal
  • Bank Mobile

Media:

  • Netflix
  • Disney

Assorted:

  • Chinese government
  • Temu
  • Planet Fitness
Categories
software

Portable Apps

A portable application is one that doesn’t need to be installed in order to be used. Some may store configuration files in a dedicated sub-directory within the application. These programs are convenient as they can be deleted when no longer needed without leaving excessive residual data on a system. Additionally, these programs can be stored on various storage mediums including cloud folders or USB flash drives.

I personally use PortableApps.com and its dedicated PAF format for various applications used on a daily basis. Not all of these programs are available on the PortableApps website and are published independently. All programs are open source or free. These are my essentials:

  • Deluge – a fully featured bittorrent client
  • FileZilla – a useful FTP client
  • HexChat – a powerful IRC client
  • Notepad++ – a text and code editor
  • Telegram Desktop – an instant messaging client
  • VLC Media Player – a powerful video player
  • 7-Zip – an open source file archiver
  • Mozilla Firefox – good secondary browser to Microsoft Edge
  • OBS Studio – good for streaming and screen recording
  • MediaInfo – analyze various content information
  • Frhed – hexadecimal editor
  • Audacity – complex audio editing tool
  • WinDirStat – tool to calculate storage space
  • Rufus – utility to make bootable flash drives
Categories
software

Kodi Configuration

  1. Enable Expert Mode in settings under any settings sidebar
  2. Change Estuary colour to midnight under Settings/Interface/Skin/Colours
  3. Remove Main Menu items for Movies, Music, Music Videos, TV, Radio, Games
  4. Side-load the PlexKodiConnect repository and enable Unknown Sources
  5. Install and configure the PlexKodiConnect add-on to preference
  6. Sideload Discord Rich Presence addon
  7. Install service add-on Simkl TV Tracker, activate with PIN on site
  8. Install service addon-ons Unpause Jumpback
  9. Configure Jumpback to 10 seconds with minimum pause time of 0 seconds
  10. Install service add-on Stinger Scene notification
  11. Set TV shows view-type to Wall from the sidebar
  12. Flatten TV season hierchy under Settings/Media/Videos
  13. If on Windows with Bose QC45 headphones, change audio to WSAPI under Settings/System/Audio
Categories
Uncategorized

Tasker App

Tasker is a useful automation tool for Android that allows programmable events to occur.

By default, Tasker will use the device clock/alarm function to guarantee events are run. This function is called Reliable Alarms. A clock will be visible on the Android notification bar and other screens, even though no actual alarm is set. This feature can be disabled by accessing:

Preferences > Monitor > Use Reliable Alarms

…and set it to Never, or only when the device is off.

Categories
games

Game Completion Progress

This post is intended to keep track of the game completion progress of the various games that I play. Most of these games are considered untraditional. Some might not truly be able to be assigned a form of completion and be estimates. The games are listed in no particular order. Perfect games have 100% completion, and if the game supports achievements, 100% achievements for those games. Games that support achievements on alternative platforms but not on the completed one are not listed.

Perfect Games

Game Title:Achievements:
Myst: Masterpiece Editionno
Mystyes
Riven: The Sequel to Mystno
Myst: Exileno
The Roomyes
The Room Twoyes
Quellyes
Hueyes
Machinariumyes
The Bridgeyes
Castle of Dr. Brainno
The Island of Dr. Brainno
Half-Lifeno
Half-Life: Opposing Forceno
Half-Life: Blue Shiftno
Half-Life 2yes
Portal 2yes
Aperture Tagno
Portal Stories: Melyes
Portal: Revolutionyes
Hacknetyes
Samarost 1no
Samarost 2yes
Supralandyes
Supraland Crashyes
Supraland Six Inches Underyes
A Juggler’s Taleyes
Samsara Roomyes
Cube Escape Collectionyes
Rusty Lake Hotelyes
Firewatchyes
Limboyes
Insideyes
Cocoonyes
Amanda the Adventureryes

In-Progress Games

Game Title:Percentage:Achievements:
RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition100%38%
Myst: Revelation5%
Myst: End of Ages
Obduction100%
Portal100%80%
Portal Reloaded60%
Factum Solus100%
Portal Prelude20%
Rexaura70%33%
Grand Theft Auto V25%14%
Half Life 2: Episode One100%57%
Half Life 2: Episode Two
Superliminal100%44%
Life Is Strange: Complete Season23%23%
The Talos Principle: Gold Edition40%25%
TIS-10075%40%
Exapunks5%
Eliza50%100%
Shenzhen I/O
And Yet It Moves100%43%
The Room Three40%20%
The Room 4: Old Sins
The Room VR: A Dark Matter
Quell Reflect66%66%
Quell Memento
Quell Zen
Lightmatter100%74%
Baba Is You10%6%
The Spectrum Retreat100%87%
The Guest10%10%
Among Us83%
Pinstripe100%67%
Tomb Raider100%24%
Rise of the Tomb Raider15%
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons100%16%
Quantum Break96%57%
The Wolf Among Us17%17%
Control Ultimate Edition27%27%
A Way Out40%7%
It Takes Two100%25%
Unravel70%19%
Rusty Lake Hotel100%0%
Rusty Lake Paradise100%50%
Rusty Lake Roots0%0%
Cube Escape Paradox0%0%
The Past Within100%79%
SUPERHOT100%50%
SUPERHOT VR3%3%
SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE0%0%
Beyond: Two Souls95%60%
Human Fall Flat35%15%
Starfield70%48%

Categories
guides tech

How to Set Up Bitwarden

Bitwarden is a password manager that is Open Source, (aka Free as in Speech as well as Free as in Beer). The free portion is feature-rich and convenient for most purposes, containing all the features of a solid password manager, including encryption, and synchronizing between devices.

  1. First, you need to create a Bitwarden account. You can create this account on https://bitwarden.com but be sure to store your Master Password in a safe space such as a safe, because this is what encrypts your other passwords.
  2. Next, you can optionally import your passwords from other password managers, including the built-in ones of browsers such as Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. Instructions for importing passwords from your existing password managers are available here: https://bitwarden.com/help/article/import-data/
  3. After you have imported your passwords, it’s a good idea to install the applications and extensions for Bitwarden on your computer, your web browser(s), and on your mobile devices. Download links for all of these are available here: https://bitwarden.com/download/
  4. To configure the Bitwarden Desktop application, be sure to set configure a PIN login and enable other forms of access, such as Windows Hello on which allows for biometric access on a Windows computer with a fingerprint sensor or a supported infrared camera. You can set the time limit for how long the program will stay accessible before locking out the vault.
  5. The browser extensions can be set to autofill passwords on websites, but this setting is turned off by default. Additionally, the extension has a time-out limit for how long before the extension will lock out access to the vault. Be sure to disable the built-in password managers on your web browser to ensure you don’t save passwords there in the future and be sure to disable any previous password managers you used to use.
  6. On your mobile device, if you are running Android, you can have Bitwarden auto-fill passwords into mobile applications. You can additionally have fingerprint authentication to allow easy access to your vault if you have a fingerprint sensor. Some additional accessibility settings will need to be enabled to give the app the ability to do this autofill capability. iOS devices aren’t currently capable, but the app will still allow you to copy/paste passwords to and from your clipboard.
  7. All websites and apps are listed in Bitwarden with a name, and the URL, and with fields for your username and password. Additionally, there are notes fields, and Bitwarden will keep a password history of previous passwords that were saved. The URL can be exact, or approximate, such as “starting with” or otherwise. For many uses, the default should be fine, but if you have duplicates, you can adjust your settings for individual sites or across the app you are using.
  8. You can protect your Bitwarden account with 2-Factor-Authentication using apps such as Authy and Google Authenticator. Be sure to store any backup codes offline, because if you lose access, you will not be able to restore your account.
Categories
guides tech

GOG Activity Feed Experiment

The GOG Galaxy Game launcher has some tricks or flaws in order to get a game to appear in the user’s activity feed. From my experience, some games would appear, and others would not. Because of the open nature of GOG, there are several ways to install games obtained from the game publisher. Sadly, when a player is trying a new game, the “User has started playing Game” item in the activity feed will only show some of the installation methods. Thus I’m running this experiment to determine the successful ways to get this outcome.

Here’s a list of potential ways to install games with GOG in 2020. All of these methods assume that the user has GOG Galaxy Launcher 2 installed and logged into the user’s GOG account.

  1. By using the Galaxy’s built-in downloading method and hitting the play button from the download page.
  2. By using the Galaxy’s built-in downloading method and hitting the play button from the games page.
  3. By installing via the backup archive download from GOG’s site, hitting play from the installer without adding the game to the user’s library.
  4. By installing via the backup archive download from GOG’s site, hitting play from the installer after adding the game to the user’s library but not linking the executable.
  5. By installing via the backup archive download from GOG’s site, hitting play from the installer after adding the game to the user’s library and linking the executable.
  6. By installing via the backup archive download from GOG’s site, hitting play from the Galaxy launcher after adding the game to the user’s library and linking the executable.

Note that there is an occasional delay on how GOG syncs the activity feed.

Items from this list that I have tried for this experiment so far include:

  1. Installing a game and running from the Download page did not successfully add the item to the activity feed, but tracked time.
  2. See below for a discussion on one game that can appear similar to this.
  3. Installing a game downloaded from another GOG account and playing from the installer tracked time but didn’t add to the activity feed.
  4. Installing a game downloaded from another GOG account and playing from the installer after adding to the library but not linking the executable also tracked time but didn’t add to the activity feed.
  5. A mixed conflict discussed below.
  6. Untested directly but potentially indirectly tested, discussed below.

One game had been sideloaded from the archive installer, and later activated on the GOG account. Several hours had been played before direct account linkage. Time tracking occurred, but not achievement tracking. The game didn’t appear on the activity feed. After the linkage, the gameplay was stored in a different directory. Initially, starting the game from the GOG client did nothing, but after Cloud Saves were synced, the item was added to the activity feed as started playing for the first time.

When installing a game from the archive installer, and then leaving the installer open, I added the game to the library and linked the executable in the launcher. I then hit the Launch button from the installer and the game started. After a few minutes, I closed the game. The time tracking had not occurred in GOG immediately. Out of lack of patience after waiting several minutes, I hit the Play button from the Launcher library. After several minutes of playtime, I closed the game. Several minutes later, the item appeared on the activity feed, and the prior playtime had appeared in the launcher. Therefore, it is a mystery whether it was due to opening from the launcher or from the installer that triggered it. Additionally, there may be a time zone locale issue with the GOG feed on the website, as there is a time difference from the more accurate Galaxy launcher.