Customizable Startpage

GitHub offers one free domain for each user and a domain for each repository. I never used them until recently when I had the urge to finally get myself a website and since I don’t want to pay for a server and a domain name I got myself a github.io site. It’s free, but you’ll have to write the entire site by yourself and the source code has to be public.

Since none of these conditions are an issue to me I went ahead and created univrsal.github.io. It’s nothing special currently but at least it’s something. But I also wanted a custom startpage that I see when I start my browser or when I open a new tab. So I made a sub link /search/, which gives you a start page which you can configure by clicking on “cfg”. All settings are saved via cookies and reapplied when reloading the page. You can configure these things:

  • background image
  • background color
  • the quick links at the bottom and their color
  • the accent color (secondary color)

It’s nothing much but maybe you’ll find it useful. I know that I’ll use it 😛

Sourcecode for the entire webpage.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

When the game came out last year I really looked forward to it, since the original Mirror’s Edge was a pretty good game and it had been about six years since that one came out. Unfortunately it was a AAA title which means it costs around 40+ Euro so there was no chance that I’d buy it at launch. But now that some time has passed I finally got my hands on it and man does it look gorgeous.

The first game was already known for its great art style and the amazing visuals. Now six years after the original release they managed to make it even more beautiful. The game comes with a multitude of new technologies which make it look even better than the last one. For example they added real time reflections, which reflect your surroundings and yourself.

But next to the insane graphical improvements it also has some new gamelay mechanics, like open world. You can now freely move around and choose whether or not you want to continue with the story, do a side quest or try to beat someone’s time at a parkour course. You can even make your own races across the city and share it with others. While there’s all these things that allow for online interaction you can still play it offline, which sadly in todays times is something you have to mention. Since you can now freely move around you also get a map and visual representation of how you get to waypoints like the next quest or locations you marked on the map. You can also configure how much visual aid you get. The game also tells you that the GPS will only show you a possible route and not the fastest one incouraging you to try out your own paths to find more efficient routes.

After I played the game for a while I wanted to capture some of the amazing architecure in the game with screenshots. Which eventually lead me to nvidia Ansel, which is a tool specifically for taking screenshots in games. It’s actually been out for quite a while but it seems like noone paid attention to it. It features a bunch of useful features to capture ingame footage like 360°, stereo and 360° stereo images (Stereo as two images next to each other for VR) at configurable resolution aswell as a freely movable camera, some integrated filters, and super resolution to capure images at higher resolution than your actual screen size. Sadly Ansel has to be supported by the game to be available. It also requires a recent nvidia gpu (starting at gtx 650 up to the latest 1080). The saddest thing for me was that Mirror’s Edge catalyst doesn’t support the super resolution feature, meaning that I can only capture the game in 1080p.

So I ended up just getting high res screenshots from other people and made some wallpapers out of them. But I might go back through the game when I finished it and capture some screenshots, but the game really tests your system even on medium settings.

From my current experience the game is decent in terms of it’s story. It is a little odd that you have to read a comic to understand the beginning but other than that it’s pretty good. It might not shine story wise but its visual immersion makes up for that. It features a couple of new mechanics like a leveling system with upgrades which is not something I’d consider an amazing addition but it’s there so you can slowly unlock all the new mechanics. The combat is something that I really dislike because you can’t use any guns like in the last game and you’re mostly restriced to melee and although they offer multiple ways to combine and alternate your attacks it just feels like random button mashing.

TL;DR:

Game is visually amazing (Graphics are top notch, map and architecture design is incredible), story is good (so far and I don’t expect it to change), gameplay is great (except for the combat).

After about a year the price has gone down quite a bit so I’d say you get a really good game for your money (~15€ from what I saw). If you think about getting it I’d recommend you take a look at the website, since it offers a lot of information like an interactive map tinteractive mapo look at the cityinteractive map and some other things.

Anyway here’s two 360° images of the game (Viewable in browser):

360° image of city overview
360° of city ground level

Overwatch on linux

Overwatch on linux
Overwatch 1.11 running on arch linux through wine-overwatch-2.8
Full image

Yeah you read that right. Overwatch uses a directx 11 based engine and therefore the chances of ever getting a native linux port are close to zero. So the only way to ever play that game on anything else than windows is wine. But even wine can’t help you with dx11 games. Or can it? A while back I searched around about whether or not the game was playable through wine and only found that since it was using directx 11 it won’t be possible anytime soon.

Wine is pretty good at running windows software and even games on linux and MacOS. It even is so good that supposedly the mac version of sims 3 is just the windows version running through wine. Older games using directx 9 run almost perfectly with it, but once again Overwatch uses one of the latest iterations of directx, which is a collection of APIs used for creating games.

A few days back I once again searched to find out whether or not Overwatch was playable through wine and to my surprise there actually was. I stumbled upon some videos by djazz which show him playing the game on linux. From there on out I found out about lutris, which is somehting like playonlinux but in my opinion better. I followed the rather simple installation process and there we go: Overwatch running on linux through a custom version of wine which contains patches for Overwatch.

Sadly it seems that with my current setup it performs very poorly but if you have a decent PC you might be able to play it without needing windows. So if you want to give it a try first get lutris from here. Then head over to this page and click install. This will open up lutris which will guide you through the installation. If you already have Overwatch on another hdd (Maybe because you play it on windows) you can save some time by either copying it or using a symlink.

If you encounter problems installing it you can also join the discord and ask your questions in the #lutris channel. Also if this works for you, then you should go ahead and thank strider, djazz and (I think) gamax92 on the discord because they’re the ones who made that possible. You can also give the lutris devs some money on patreon, because they did an awesome job creating an open source gaming platform.

Punycode

Phishing or domain squatting is something that has been around for a while but people never stop to find new ways to trick users into handing them confidential data.

I never really got hit by any of that except for a few fishy links that looked like steamcommunity.com but for example there was an extra letter in the domain name. Now this way is easy to spot and usually your browser will block them anyways since their reported. A new way of luring people onto fake websites is Punycode. Well if I’m correct it’s not really new it just got some attention recently.

Take a look at the two urls. They are from two different websites, but they both look exactly the same, in fact I don’t remember which one is from the actual apple website anymore. That’s the power of punycode. It works in both Chrome and Firefox and any recent other browser. You can try it you yourself here (Test site: apple.com, Original: apple.com).

Punycode is used to allow special characters in urls like ü,ä,ö etc. but it also allows other characters from other alphabets that look exactly like the roman alphabet. Now while this sometimes is a useful feature it’s rarely used and it’s making it hard to tell the difference. In this case the entire domain is written in cyrillic letters (You can only really see it on the l). This way most browsers won’t see it as a phishing domain.

Depending on your operating system it might be that the current font will give away the fact that the url is not actually apple.com but on windows you won’t be able to tell. Both sites use https and have a working certificate making them look completely identical at first glance. Firefox also shows what certificate is used which can tell you whether or not you’re looking at the original site since it’ll say “Apple Inc. (US)” in the URL bar. That doesn’t happend with all URLs though so it’s not a consistent way of identifying phishing sites.

A way to dodge punycode phishing

Firefox allows you to disable punycode which is the easiest way, but it’ll also make normal website look a little off. Here’s how to disable it:

  1. Type about:config into the address bar (Accept the message if it shows up)
  2. Search for “puny”
  3. Set the value “network.IDN_show_punycode” to true
  4. Done.

Now the previous website’s URL will look like this: https://www.xn--80ak6aa92e.com/ instead of apple.com.

I’m not sure about chrome but there’s probably a way for it too but you’ll have to look for it yourself.

For the initial article and further reading (which is also linked on the testing domain) go here.

Protonmail

A lot of people use Gmail. It seems to have become a standart for email adresses just like most other google services. My google account to this day is linked to my old email address not because I dislike Gmail but because my account is already linked to a gmail which has a completely random and weird name so I can’t use it.

Gmail is definetely a good service. The web interface and the spam detection is pretty good, but is it really necessary that google gets another oppertunity to collect data? They say that they care about privacy but I still don’t think it’s needed. Also I kinda started disliking gmail addresses because so many people use them as their business addresses which is really unprofessional especially when they already own a domain and it’s only a matter of setting up an email server.

I recently was told about protonmail, which is a small secure email provider. It offers you the security by encrypting your emails with your password (So choose a strong one) and also your data is stored in a data center “underneath 1000 meters of solid rock”. The communication is oviously also end-to-end encrypted and overall it’s one of the most secure email services I’ve ever seen. The emails are accessed over the browser which means their not stored locally (For mobile there’s an android and iOS app). That’s both negative and positive. For one your messages are savely stored on the servers and even if someone had access to your local files they’d be safe. On the other hand you always have to login to use your email. Currently there’s no way to safe your login, which is probably intended for extra security. You can safe your login information but that would be counterproductive so I recommend to use a password manager.

Currently I haven’t completely switched to protonmail but if I’ll end up using it as my main email address I’ll probably ditch my email client and just have the proton inbox open in a tab for the most time so I don’t have to login over and over.

To sum it up: Try protonmail out, it’s pretty nifty if you care about security and your email domain will stick out in the masses of gmail addresses. Just note that if you use the free plan your emails will have this signature:

Sent with ProtonMail Secure Email.

So if you care about your privacy and want to support the people behind proton mail you can donate to them or get protonmail plus for 48 $/€/CHF per year and get some advantages.

Overwatch

Even though they take up a considerable amount of my time, I haven’t written about games on this blog. At least not directly and as the title obviously says I’m about to change that.

I heard about Overwatch pretty early on when it was announced through a youtuber and livestreamer who goes by names star_, ster or niichts. He gained most of his viewer base through his TeamFortress 2 videos. Since Overwatch has been compared to TF2 ever since the day it was announced it was obvious that many TF2 players would be interested in Overwatch because it would give them something new. I played the open beta and like many other players I had the wrong assumption that Overwatch would be free so it could compete with TF2. I was prepared to pay for the game but sadly most big titles nowadays start at 50 bucks which was too much for a game which I’d barely played. So I didn’t touch the game until November at which point they reduced the price to 35 Euros. Still more than what I’d usually pay for a game but after the first free weekend a few weeks back I finally had to get the game.

At the beginning I already noticed a few flaws which are obviously connected with the fact that I was new to the game: The game had been out for over five months so as a newbie you only get to play with people who have played the game for well over a hundred hours. The matchmaking is supposed to look for players in your skill level, but it made it look like there was not a single other person in Europe which was my skill level since I almost always matched up with people over level hundred. This kinda ruined the initial experience since I basically lost every single game and the ones I won I could’ve probably idled afk in spawn because my team was doing all the work.

Now that I’m around level 80 (which is actually pretty low considering the fact that I have the game for about five months) this has more or less stopped. But there’s still a general pattern of continuous loosing or winning streaks. It just seems like either you get steam rolled by the other team or you are the one steam rolling. There’s very few games that I’d rate as “just right” in terms of skill distribution among the teams. My biggest complaint at this point is the queue times. Launching the game on a Friday evening you still have to queue around two minutes and up.

This certainly isn’t always the case but it happens more often than I’d like to admit. It just seems like the player base of the game isn’t that big when looking at something like CounterStrike where the competitive queue times are usually around 15 seconds.

Summing it up the game is certainly a lot of fun but there’s still room for improvement in some cases like the fact that they just *NEED* to use their own distribution software called Blizzard App (formerly battle.net). I just hate that I have to start up a second program just to play this game. I never played any other Blizzard titles and I don’t plan on doing so in the future. Why can’t we just all agree on one service which in this case would be steam. It has all needed features in one place and even offers a better overlay in my opinion. But Blizzard is not the only one desperatly trying to force their own launcher on the user (eg. EA and Ubisoft

Would I recommend Overwatch? If you liked Team Fortress chances are you’d enjoy it, but you probably try it on a free weekend or watch a few videos to see if you like it. Also the price is still pretty high.

Enpass

Small edit: I’m currently trying out Keepass, which an opensource password manager that has been around for over 10 years. It seems pretty good aswell but the user experience isn’t quite the same since it’s harder to setup and it doesn’t have any cloud syncing for linux. So if you don’ trust a newly established password manager that is closed source keepass is probably the way to go. It allows you to migrate from multiple other password managers including Enpass.

For the longest time I didn’t really follow the idea of “use strong unique passwords for every service”. One the one side I don’t really have any super important accounts (at least not that many) and all the ones that are important have two factor authentification. So I usually used pretty weak passwords and just relied on the two factore authentification. I never had any issues with it (maybe I’m jinxing it here. EDIT: I did 😛, but once again nothing happened) but a while ago I decided I shouldn’t wait until something bad happens to start using better passwords, infact I already got a number of emails from one service which told me that someone was trying to log into my account from somewhere in India, but they couldn’t since they also needed my email (Which obviously didn’t use the same password).

So I went ahead and looked for a good password manager and after a short search I found Enpahttp://keepass.info/ss. Keeping all passwords in one place is both good and really bad. For one their secured and you don’t have to memorize them. On the other hand if someone were to get access they’d have it really easy to compromise all of your accounts.

Enpass advertises itself as the “best password manager”. I haven’t used any others but for now I’m happy with it. It’s cross-platform runs on Linux, Windows and my android phone. It encrypts the entire password database with your master password and can sync across various cloud services like Google Drive.

The best thing about it is the browser addon which allows you to directly interact with enpass and transfer login information to the browser. Also it can generate passwords on the fly while creating a new account with settings like lenght, use special characters or only use pronouncable words. When creating a new account it can also automatically add the login information to the database. Obviously all that can only be done when logged in with the master password. You’ll be automatically logged out after 1 minute of inactivity within Enpass (Which can be changed). Passwords that have been copied to the clipboard will also be cleared after a give timeout.

Something that you should note is that passwords you have generated can be looked up in the password history of Enpass. I didn’t know that in the beginning an thought that the passwords were lost, since the clipboard was cleared.

To sum it up Enpass is a pretty useful tool which is free for Windows, Linux and Mac. The mobile version is limited to 30 database entries though. The only thing that can be concerning is the fact that one company could compromise thousands of accounts if they wanted to, let’s hope they don’t.