Saturday, February 27, 2016

Easy importing of other browsers' favorites into Edge

Microsoft made a big deal about Edge, IE's replacement, upon Windows 10's release, but the fact is, 7 months later, Edge still lacks basic features you'd expect to be standard.

One of these is importing favorites from browsers other than IE. Edge simply cannot do that ATM.

Nevertheless, since Microsoft kept IE11 in Windows 10 for the sake of compatibility, this created a loophole you can use to import favorites from other browsers to Edge, albeit not directly.

If your browser supports exporting favorites as an HTML page, use that functionality. Then import the resulting file to IE11. Finally, open Edge and import your favorites from IE11 to Edge. Presto.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Kodi finally starts actively fighting against piracy

So, this happened.

For those who don't know what Kodi is, it's the old XBMC, which is an open source media center for various platforms. Originally running on jailbroken Xbox, they expanded to a wide range of platforms.

The fact Team Kodi is finally going to crack down on people selling "Kodi boxes" preloaded with illegal addons is good news, indeed. It adds more legitimacy to the whole project.

What I didn't expect to see was that, in the comments to that blog post, there are people openly supporting piracy! And implying that Kodi has massively benefitted from it and Team Kodi are hypocrites.

Get real, lads. There are many, many ways to use Kodi legally. If you have the money to spare and put in a little effort you can have a huge collection of media stashed in a NAS, plus a legal emulation source from the Internet Archive via the Internet Archive ROM Launcher, and on top of that you can integrate your loaned cable box from your cable provider into it with the appropriate backend and plugin. All legal.

Of course, you can't get an official Netflix plugin, because the MPAA are allergic to open source, but there are many ways to control Netflix on Windows with a very good setup, some of which integrated into Kodi itself. And there are also many legal plugins to different content providers.

No, Kodi doesn't require Genesis to be great. And Team Kodi's move against piracy is a great one.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Install Steam games to a different folder WITHOUT setting up another install location on your Steam account (Windows)

This is a small idea I had when using Steam In-Home Streaming which came from some previous experience with using different folders to store mods.

So, with IHS, one of the features Valve offers is to install games remotely. You click on "Install" on your laptop's screen and choose another machine to install your games in.

However, there's a catch: for some reason, Valve doesn't allow you to choose where in the host machine you'll install your games to, so Steam automatically installs them to "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\". This is obviously frustrating.

You need not worry, though, for there's a quick solution for that. Make a junction!

A junction in Windows is one of three ways in which folders and even files can be related to each other. When you join one folder with another, the latter is the one that will hold all the data, while the former remains as a path. Both still exist independently, but the first forwards all the content to the latter, so that if you store a file in the former, it gets sent to the latter instead.

To create a junction, you can follow some easy steps:

1) Open the Windows' command prompt with administrator privileges.
2) Type mklink. It'll give you a list of parameters you can use with the command. mklink is the Windows command for symbolic links, which a junction is a type of.


/D - Creates a symbolic link. This can also work, but we won't use it due to something I'll explain later.
/H - Creates a true link.
/J - Creates a junction.


1) Navigate to your Steam client folder (if it's in "Program Files (x86)" you'll need administrative privileges to modify its content!).
2) Open the "steamapps" folder and copy all content inside it.
3) Create a folder where you want to store your Steam games, then paste all the content from "steamapps" you copied in the previous step. This new folder MUST exist before you create the junction!
4) Go back to the Steam folder and delete (yes, delete!) your steamapps folder.
5) Open the command prompt again (with administrative privileges if necessary). Now type the following:

mklink /J [path to Steam folder]\Steam\steamapps\ [new folder you created with the content from "steamapps" inside]

For example, if your Steam folder is in C:\Program Files (x86)\ and the folder you want to store your games in is D:\Steam\, the command will be:

mklink /J C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\ D:\Steam\

And done.

Now the junction with the path of C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\ will be treated as the regular "steamapps folder", but whenever you add content to it, it gets sent to D:\Steam\ instead. Since remote installation only allows you to install to the standard steamapps folder, this is a way to circumvent this limitation and allow you to remote install to a different folder in the host.

Please note that moving/renaming/deleting the junction does NOT alter the location it links to in any way. Your games will still be stored in the new folder the junction links to.

But... Why junction instead of symbolic link?

The reason is that, when you create a junction and access the joined folder (D:\Steam\ in our example) from a remote computer, it gets treated as a folder inside the host computer. On the other hand, if you had created a symbolic link, the folder would be treated as belonging to the remote computer itself.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Steam client browser vulnerabilities

Martin Brinkmann of GHacks did a great piece on the vulnerabilities of Steam's built-in browser.  I wasn't really aware of that.

I guess it's simply better to purchase games via the Steam website instead, with a safer browser such as Firefox or the official Chrome/Chromium builds. This also allows you more flexibility with the use of password managers such as KeePass and LastPass.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Warner's mishaps on PC, Netherrealm Edition

It's a bit ludicrous that, after Warner released botched PC ports of Batman: Arkham Knight and Mortal Kombat X, and going as far as removing Arkham Knight from stores while it was being patched and issuing an apology to the community, the (current) makers of Mortal Kombat, Netherrealm Studios, who are under the Warner Bros. umbrella nowadays, decided to pull further PC support from Mortal Kombat X.

Like they say... Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. What incentive is there for PC gamers to buy any Warner Bros. published game anymore? I've got a legit version of MKX, what's there in store for us PC gaming customers when we know we're going to be treated as the bastard child of the gaming community despite being the bulk of it?

It's particularly infuriating because, back in the old days, Midway (the original creators of MK) made a point to be on every platform possible, and yes, this included the IBM PC. One of the four home ports of Mortal Kombat Trilogy was the PC, which was arguably the best one. Mr. Ed Boon seems to be in need of an urgent reality check and stop neglecting a share of the people who helped him become one of the greats of the gaming industry.

As for Warner, this is another PR disaster, a lesser one but dangerous nonetheless.

Monday, February 1, 2016

On amateur online content and copyrights (the Fine Brothers case)

This is something that I've been reflecting upon for a while and now we've had another instance of controversial monetization and attempt at IP registration, so I believe this post is appropriate.

Long story short: a group of YouTubers called "Fine Brothers" who specialized in "reaction videos" (videos in which you film yourself reacting to things you're reading/watching/playing/whatever) attempted to register the "reaction video" format under the "React" brand with the goal of franchising the brand to others. People got angry and there was a huge backlash against the Fine Brothers.

Dealing with money in this world is very dangerous. If you have something for free, whenever someone starts charging for it the relationship between content/service provider and customer/viewer simply isn't the same anymore. If you do it the wrong way you run a very high risk of being seen as a sellout, like the Fine Brothers here. A possible analogy would be to paid mods. Recently in the sim racing community there have been attempts of selling mods and this has sparked great controversy.

Generally speaking, the customer will be more welcoming of paying money when the payment is labeled as a donation and it's not enforced. The donor is effectively a benefactor, s/he does it because s/he wants to. Whenever these content providers go payware, the public's view on them changes almost overnight. Few are supportive, most aren't. We seem to have a sense of community online that we don't IRL, but we also sometimes take for granted the stuff we can get online for free and don't even drop a word of appreciation to the talented people who create it.

The Valve payware system, for example, was pretty bad, because it was obvious that Bethesda wanted to capitalize on the huge Skyrim modding community and wanted their slice of the pie, after all it's their game, if someone is charging for additional content, they are entitled a share of the profit, aren't they? It was a shameless attempt at earning easy money. The modder got a very small share, because of the risk: Valve, as publisher of the paid mod, runs a risk when they allow you to publish your payware content on their platform. The Steam shares could be a lot less draconian to content providers (a reason EA left Steam), but that's how it is.

Back to the Fine Brothers, I've found their attempt ludicrous because they didn't seem to understand under which conditions you can trademark something. A product can be trademarked only when it's one's own creation and it has a distinctive trait not possessed by anything else. For example, you can't really trademark the "reality show", but you can trademark Big Brother, MasterChef, Cake Boss, Survivor, The Voice, and so on. What did the Fine Brothers offer to the public that others didn't? You can find these sorts of videos everywhere. In fact, John Boyega's friend recently posted a video showing the Star Wars' actor's reaction to his appearance as Finn in a lightsaber-wielding scene during The Force Awakens' last trailer. A reaction video is less a "format" and more a "concept". What The Fine Brothers tried to do was akin to trademarking the Let's Play, the unboxing videos, the vlog, and, speaking in TV terms, the talk show, the soap opera, the TV series, and so on. And they've got a well-deserved backlash for that.

Monetization online can be a very dangerous path to tread, and we've seen here yet another chapter with terrible consequences. Above all, the Fine Brothers' reputation will be tarnished for a long time. And these controversies won't stop here.