All posts by KyleWilson

Facebook account hack frustrations

Definitely feeling @facebook frustration here.

Lorna had her @facebook account hacked in March (sometime around March 23). She has had the same account for 20+ years and uses that account to stay in touch with our daughter Alyssa who is in the navy and stationed in San Diego.

That account (and our netflix account) were compromised in the middle of the night and by mid-day the following day we had recovered both accounts. At that point we thought things were basically dealt with.

She appears to have chosen a poor password (the name of one of our pets from some time ago) and it was guessed. I was a bit concerned when facebook asked for a scan of her driver’s license but in the end we sent what they asked.

The account was reclaimed and then instantly disabled for ‘violating community standards’. Lorna thought this was just a 30 day thing as nothing she had posted caused it and we assumed facebook had removed whatever the hacker posted and was punishing her for having a poor password.

It is now June and her account remains disabled. I have had no luck finding a way to work with facebook to recover the account or address whatever may have been done during the hack. Friends have suggested just creating a new account but that violates facebook terms of service and loses 20 years of history that her real account contains.

At this point I’m going to have to just keep trying avenues to contact them and see if I can work this out. If I had a bigger presence on the web I’d be able to post public comments and perhaps force a response. As is I’ll just have to keep at it and hope that I’ll eventually find someone who can provide assistance.

Fun with Facebook Bans

My wife had her account hacked a while back. At 1 AM here someone guessed her password and appears to have hijacked the account and broken some of Facebook’s terms of service. In the morning when she was notified that something wasn’t right with her account we recovered the account and found a ban notice.

She followed the steps for appealing the ban (which seemed a bit scary as they involved sending facebook a picture of her driver’s license) and nothing much seemed to happen except that the lock-out page now said no appeal was possible.

We’ve been waiting now to see if the ban expires and she can get back on. I didn’t make a note of when this started because I expected the time to go by and everything to reset. It still hasn’t and facebook is notoriously unhelpful to those who use their service.

I’ve finally sent an email to disabled@fb.com which appears to be the email address for discussing disabled facebook accounts. Hoping this works and gets us some information on the state of affairs. I also saw that there is appeals@fb.com for information specifically related to appealing actions taken by facebook. If this email doesn’t get a response I may try that one next.

Frustrating that there seems to be so little access to feedback from facebook. Even more scary that if this happened to me I’d lose the ability to do much with my Oculus Quest 2 VR headset and have no easy way to figure out what was happening or how to make things right.

Long time no posts…

The site here has been quiet for some time. I really need to talk to GoDaddy and get my hosting migrated from the legacy unix hosting I’m on currently. The current version of PHP is not supported here so my wordpress version is locked down until I do that. I’ve been avoiding adding content so that I have less to lose the transition gets messed up. I backed the whole site up a few months back…

Still moving the network cryptography design forward at work. Many, many details to lock down and several teams to keep on track. Feedback is wonderful but making sure it all gets propagate to the right places is always challenging.

Started playing in a friend’s online D&D 5e game a few weeks back. Only been two session so far as scheduling has made it hard to get everyone online at the same time. This is a zoom and foundry virtual tabletop based game as the players are not co-located. So far the games have worked pretty well. I’d like a slicker virtual game system but the one we’re using is probably the best that can be found out there…not a lot of money in building such things I expect.

It has been a long time since I played in a game and still pretty long since I’ve run one (3.5e last time around). I have been watching some YouTube pieces by Seth Skorkowsky that have me thinking I’d love to try some Traveller SF gaming or Call of Cthulhu. I used to do lots of board wargaming and tended to avoid combat light games with more investigation and less fighting but I’m intrigued after seeing his descriptions of running these. Who knows, perhaps some day 🙂

I’ve been bringing my C# up to date with some tool code for home projects lately. That should also flow into working with Unity once I get back to VR coding again. For now I’m just working on my command of modern C# idiom and best practices while coding up some tools to help manage my photography and other archives using a MongoDb back-end to locate duplicates and ensure I have the right number of backup copies for things.

I’ve tended to dump snapshots of important data on a new large hard drive periodically. This leaves me with (probably) far more duplicate backups of some things and perhaps too few of others. Building some code to scan the file systems and record file paths and cryptographic hashes for everything should allow me to locate duplicates and clean things up a bit. Hoping I end up with gobs of free space when I’m done. Worst case I polish my C# a bit and have some handy tools when I’m done.

Second Life and VR INteractions

A friend asked me about second life recently. I thought I’d comment here is a bit more detail than my facebook response…

I have limited exposure to second life. I do have an identity there as NineCrows. Haven’t used it in some time but I checked after you mentioned it and reset my password to something I know.

It would be cool to try that environment with room scale VR and I’ll look to see if they have software for that sometime soon. I did check and it looks as if they took a run at a VR product but gave up and sold off what was left.

My take on web- next with them is that they have the AOL or CompuServe walled garden model and that is limiting.

The web took off when HTTP and HTML were released openly and without royalties. Add in the free mosaic browser and free web servers (i admit that apache is the earliest I can remember…there may have been earlier options) and the web exploded.

I would think that an immersive VR web could happen if some group put together the equivalent for VR worlds with an open and relatively uncluttered protocol, a free open source client and server (these don’t need to be fancy, just work reasonably well with an assortment of hardware) and a URL equivalent for doorways between independent servers.

That would make it possible for a merchant or site to host their own environment with various implementations of fancier servers and clients in the mix and doors acting like links in the VR environment. Would be cool, I suspect we need more good quality VR systems and better internet links (lower latency?) out there for something like that to retake off.

I’m thinking that the protocol design would be the hardest part. You need to be able to push the complex information needed to render a virtual environment out quickly, handle the interim situation as assets load in a way that doesn’t make people upset and end up with high enough quality at the end that users would enjoy the experience.

Interesting challenge but one that is huge enough in scope that I’m not currently in a position to even poke at it 🙂 I do have a friend who wants to try VR chat sometime soon though so I may be able to get a basic idea from that as to how things perform in terms of latency and overall experience.

On reflection, if I take the random dungeon generator toy project in Unity far enough this might be an interesting ‘stretch’ goal. Allow doors to pull layout and assets from a remote machine (on my local net for simplicity) and render them in VR. Cool idea, probably too challenging to get to any time before something else catches my attention for home projects though…

Moday, September 7, 2020

Got the work bench in the basement cleaned up (finally). Not perfect at this point as much of the clutter that was on the bench is not in boxes of bins…but usable.

Installed the latest blender on several decently capable machines. The learning curve to get to a level of proficiency I want/need remains dauntingly steep. Challenges to be surmounted 🙂

I’m also probably going to look deeper into either WPF or Angular UI building so that I can build some tools I really could use. Probably WPF as some of these tools really want access to low level windows APIs and control of where windows show on the screen.

I think I want to become more comfortable with simple graphical editing in WPF (could go with MFC but that is really old-school) and see if I can build the tools I want to laying out things for Unity projects.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Looking to get back to some personal software projects as the fall approaches.

Got the VR system back together in the basement again. Software updates have been done. Needing to decide whether to pick cluster back up or head off in a different direction.

It has been a crazy year (almost) since I went from KMC to Draeger.

Started during a busy time for the team and spent a couple of months designing and prototyping an architecture for modern password management. Kind of a fun exercise building out samples for windows in C++ and C# and for linux in C using OpenSSL.

Dug in a bit and found that the bcrypt password hashing algorithm is obsolete. SCrypt partially replaced it and PBKDF2 seems to be the modern, tunable option.

Around December the member of the team who was leading (and mostly building) the proposal for the overall security architecture for the networking aspect of our devices gave his notice. As I was available and know my way around cryptography and cyber-security I stepped in and have spent the time since then taking his rough sketch and getting it much closer to a final product.

This has been particularly interesting as the devices on the network span three different operating systems. Some of the devices are rather old with low powered processors on no frills on the CPU selection. This needs to pass muster at FDA in the recent climate there where cybersecurity is being taken seriously and it has to drop into the existing network architecture without too much dislocation.

Fun challenge made even more challenging by the arrival of covid-19. I’ve been working from home and communicating with the rest of the team by teleconference and email. Nice to avoid the commute for a while and it has been a very pleasant summer but everything is harder when you can’t easily take everyone into a conference room and hash things out on the white-board.

I’m hoping that things will calm down a bit now so that I can get some VR work going again. I’m still toying with buying a resharper license to make C# development a bit more pleasant. I’m looking at VR headsets and newer CPUs and the 3000 series graphics cards that NVidia is about to release but probably won’t make a move on that front any time soon. If a new and exciting VR headset came out I might go for that…so far I’m not sold on any of the latest crop over my old first generation vive.

I’m still doing some photography though with our vacation plans for this year totally cancelled I haven’t had anything more photogenic than the pond to shoot. We did get the kayaks back in the water this summer and I’ve been getting a decent amount of paddling in. I’ll probably get out on the water some more this weekend and likely bring the camera along.

Photo Contest at Work…

Draeger is holding a photo contest so I’ve grabbed a few shots to run off 8×10 prints of to submit. There are six categories. I’ll probably submit a couple of shots in ‘places’, ‘things’ and ‘animals’ and skip ‘people’, ‘humor’ and ‘black and white’. I have some ‘leanings’ at the moment from the sets of shots I’ve printed, but until I see how they render I’m going to reserve final judgement.

I did leave things off till a bit late so I have to have my shots in by end of day on Friday and Sam’s Club is indicating they’ll be available a bit before noon on that day…

Here are the shots I’m looking at.

Animals:

Places:

Things:

…and in the ‘not likely to be used’ but worth going through the process of selecting…

Humor:

People:

Black and White (not yet monochromatized here)

A Blendery Weekend

I’m finally getting around to learning some blender. Not really functional yet, but headed in the right direction.

Blender

I watched a bunch of tutorial videos and read through my ‘intro to blender’ book (my more detailed blender book is 2.7 based and thus doesn’t really talk to the current UI). I also pulled the git source onto jabberwock in the basement and successfully ran a build. I’m not sure I’ll ever get involved with blender development, but it seemed like something nice to have around and was very straightforward to do.

I took a cursory look at what is involved in building blender extensions. Looks as if they’re all written in python. This surprised me a bit as I wouldn’t have expected python to have the necessary performance but it certainly would seem to make the development process easier. I’ll probably look at this stuff in more detail once I have the basics of running the tool well in hand.

Sunday evening I sat down to try to build something with the things I’d learned and realized how many gaps I had left. I think I need to print out a blender hot-key cheat sheet for 2.8 and then dive back into some of the early tutorial pieces and get some basic shapes built.

I am particularly interested in walking through the steps from blender creation to import into unity and material manipulation on that side. For game pieces I very much want to be able to adjust the color/textures on parts of a given item programmatically while using the nicer models that can be generated in blender. I expect this can be done, I’ll just have to work through the details.

Unity

I’ve started looking at text in VR space options. Mostly watching some presentations on text and in-game UI alternatives so far. I’ll probably try out a few things over this coming week in the evenings as time permits.

I also took a quick look at in-game VR keyboards…doesn’t look as is there’s anything in unity itself. There are a few choices on the unity store that are available for purchase. I think I may just look at quickly rolling my own when I need one.

I’m thinking that once I get to looking at online, multi-player options there will be a need to text input. The VR keyboard in google earth seemed reasonably usable so I’m optimistic that I may be able to build one that works decently.

I once again saw references to the Godot game engine. As a fully open-source option it looks interesting, but at the moment I’ve got enough investment in unity that I’m not inclined to go looking at other choices too closely. I may take a quick look and pull the code just out of curiosity.

Happy New Year

Rolling over to a new year. New challenges and existing things to pick back up and get rolling.

Photography

I haven’t been doing all that much photography lately as other things have occupied my attention.

I’m hoping to get that rolling again with the new year. I need to get my 5D SLR in to Canon for cleaning and maintenance as it is clearly in need of some work. Currently I’m using my older 7D and since I haven’t been doing much shooting that has met my needs. I want the 5D back in service before vacation this spring though. I’m also planning on getting a 1.4x tele-extender to see what a bit more range on my good lens can do for me.

I generally find that when I pick up a new lens I also find interesting new perspectives to work with. Hoping this extender can help on that front.

I’m also going to look at taking six+ shot ‘sky box’ sets in various places this time. Given the VR work I’m playing with, being able to sky-box locations in Florida would be pretty nice. Something else interesting to play with. I’m wondering if there might be a camera that can take these sorts of shots in one go…the stitched shots I’ve used in the past are a bit ragged around the edges when glued together.

3D Objects

I plan of becoming far more proficient in blender than I currently am. I want the objects I play with in unity to be much more interesting than the current simple shapes I’m using and blender seems like the ideal tool for my needs.

I’ve been planning on learning this tool for some time. Now is the time and I’m going to see where I can take this. Add in some textures from the camera and I’m hoping I can create some pretty cool items.

Keep an eye on pandamallet for more detail on blender and unity work in progress. Cluster is my current focus but I expect there will be more to come after that work reaches an interesting milestone.

3D Printing

Still of some interest…still not immediate enough to spend the money needed to buy an off the shelf printer. Stay tuned 🙂

Wargames and Role Playing Games

Always interested in playing but don’t have any players within reasonable range.

Looking for VR inspiration in the various games I’ve got around. I could see anything from VR sand-tables to full game implementations or environments coming out of this. Cluster is the leading edge, but if all goes well I’ll do more as time goes on.

I think that many of these games were too complex to be comfortably played on a table in any case (possible to play but really too much work and too many hours of play time). Looking at building games inspired by some of them that play in VR seems ideal.

It is funny because I started out doing ‘inspired by’ to avoid intellectual property issues but as things play out it becomes very clear that the designs would want significant adjustment to translate into offline, turn based computer format in any case.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Day after my birthday. I appreciate all of the birthday wishes from people I know. I’ve tried to respond to everyone individually, hoping I didn’t miss anyone along the way.

We wound up going out to dinner at Longhorn’s for my birthday without planning to. We’ve been getting meal kits from one of the places that provides those for a while now (nice meals, something different and less expensive than eating out). Yesterday the meat part of the ingredients pack turned out to have a leak so we decided to head out to a steak place and celebrate.

I ordered a couple of task force games games for my birthday. I know I’m not all that likely to find people to actually play them with. I still enjoy reading through the rules and seeing how they make things hang together. In this case these are the star fleet marines ground combat games. I am particularly curious to see how they make star trek ground combat work in a way that makes for interesting game play.

I’ll write up my impressions once they arrive.

Still not getting back to any serious Unity VR programming. Still on my list of things to get to, but not making it to the top.

I did get the back porch rework most of the way to completion over the last couple of weekends. The bulk of the boards are in place…I just need to add in the outer edge of the floor and stain the kick-plate between the top surface and the first stair. Looks good and water does seem to be beading up rather than soaking in. I also left gaps between the boards to allow water to more readily escape through the surface. The original structure had the boards tightly butted up against each other and we had a healthy crop of moss developing between them.

Heading up to the Conway area this weekend for a short trip. We used to take trips up there more often and it will be nice to revisit the old places again. Expecting a pleasant and relaxing weekend away.