Am I insulating myself?

I continue to use my phone without Google services, and I like it. I finally feel free. But now I’ve started to wonder.

I remember watching “The Matrix” for the first time back when I was 15 or so…and I remember thinking about the nature of what motivated the characters and why. “Freedom” is a word that gets thrown around alot, but there is a part of me that, even back then, seemed to resonate with Cypher, the one who negotiated with Agent Smith to get plugged back into The Matrix in exchange for giving up Morpheus. Now sure, the betrayal part wasn’t cool, but wanting to get plugged back into The Matrix? That made a whole lot of sense to me.

Cypher was having a steak dinner. Not really, but it was real to him. What was everyone else having? One nutritional supplement. That’s it. For the rest of your life. Neo found love in Trinity, but Morpheus never did. If Cypher was looking for female companionship, there were no options on the ship after Switch died. They spent their days constantly on the run from the Sentinels, they never saw daylight, there was nothing they got to truly own…the list of drawbacks continues, while the list of advantages of not-being in The Matrix doesn’t. We root for Morpheus and Neo and Trinity because they’re fighting the good fight…but in practice, was Cypher really so off base for wanting to live out his life back in The Matrix? I don’t think so.

It’s been about a month since I’ve been using this phone completely Google-free. I can take pictures, but not nearly as good as the photos I can get using the Camera app from OnePlus. SwiftKey is still inferior to Swype. Visual Voicemail barely works. Frost, my Facebook replacement, acts strange and has trouble loading pictures sometimes. I can’t be sure that it’s truly software related, but my 5G performance is generally worse than LTE…and that’s just the things I know.

I don’t use TikTok.
I don’t use Craigslist.
I don’t use Snapchat.
I don’t use  Youtube (except in a browser).
I don’t use SoundCloud.
I don’t use Twitch.
I don’t use Office.
I don’t use a Fitbit or other fitness band.
I don’t use Teams or Slack or Monday.
I don’t use CashApp or Zelle…though I do use Venmo and it works.
I dont use Discord.
I dont use Spotify.
I don’t use Pinterest.
I don’t use Walmart or Target or pretty much any shopping apps.
I don’t use Google Docs or do much in the way of document editing on my phone, unless you count this blog.
I don’t use Uber Eats or Doordash or pretty much any food ordering app.
I don’t use Alexa or Google Assistant or Siri.
I don’t use Ring or a security DVR.
I don’t use Neighborhood or Next door or Everyblock.


The list goes on and on…and I’m starting to wonder if the experiences I eschew to spend my days on a command line on my desktop are worth it. People are finding things they like, buying and selling things amongst local people, ordering new foods, chatting with the people it’s been a social taboo to meet, and I’m sure there are hundreds of other things that mobile apps are doing, but I’m not.


There is most definitely a part of me that feels a bit like Ariel… Wanting to be where the people are and finding myself  wondering if my aversion to echo chambers and endless online accounts means that I have simply made an echo chamber of my own. I sit, wondering whether the nuance of the liberty I feel is a technicality in that I spent a massive amount of time and effort to simply custom build my own prison.

Google collects a metric truckton of data from everyone, and yet, the world turns. Nobody else gets concerned if Google has all their contacts; nobody in my contacts list isn’t in someone else’s phone that is uploaded. My texts are synced on someone else’s phone, and even if my location is only partially traceable based on the amount of disabling I have implemented, my work phone remains on my person with far fewer limitations.

Why am I fighting this battle? What am I fighting for? “because I can”? Because I’m somehow sticking it to “Big Tech”? Because I’m worried about my data being accumulated and monetized while also using Facebook and doing nearly all my shopping with a credit card?

Maybe all of this effort is just me spiting myself. If Google turns on the billion people that already have Android phones and somewhat-consensually sync all their data, then I’m very unlikely to be “spared” from whatever happens. I’ve got friends who expressly opt into giving Google data in pretty much every possible way… And they seem happy.

Betrayal aside, maybe Cypher was right: the steak he ate wasn’t real, but the experience of eating it was, and it was an experience he could have inside The Matrix that he would never experience as long as he was “free”. Maybe my quest for a Google-free phone is little more than a quixotic waste of time, and I’d achieve greater happiness by going back to the phone’s original software from the manufacturer, leaving my phone modding days in the golden age of the HTC HD2 or Galaxy S3.

Or maybe, freedom is ownership…and even if “freedom” boils down to constructing my own prison, at least it’s mine.

Wow…Going Mostly-Open-Source on Mobile Is Hard!

Hello everyone!

 

I hope everyone has had a fantastic New Year. It’s 2021. All it has to do is be not-as-bad as 2020. I’m tepidly optimistic.

 

About a month ago, my Nokia 7.2 decided to install an update. This bothered me because I did pretty much everything in my power to get it to not-download updates, and then telling it to not-install updates it downloads…and yet, it did it anyway. This ruined root, which in turn caused an issue with booting, which then caused issues with Wi-Fi, and to this day the phone disconnects from the cellular network far more than it should. 

When I got my OnePlus 8T+ 5G functionally-for-free as a result of shuffling around some things with my cellular plan, I decided that I would finally cut the umbilical cord and install a Google-free ROM. Turns out…that requires a lot more commitment than I thought…

Continue reading

Why “Among Us” doesn’t appeal to me

Yes, I visited my family for Thanksgiving. 

 

My niece and nephew enjoy the game “Among Us“, as do millions of other people around the world. I bought a copy of the game trying to give it a shot, but the game doesn’t have a single player mode or a training mode where you play against bots…so, it sat for a bit until my niblings asked to play it with me, so I did.

Now, having watched a Youtube video or two on the topic, I knew the rules and such so it wasn’t an issue at all to play with them. I’ve played a few rounds, and while it’s enjoyable enough to do with them, it’s far from something I look forward to doing once I get home. This got me thinking: why do these young kids enjoy the game, along with no shortage of people my age and older, but I find it the sort of thing I’m not looking forward to playing at all?

 

I think the biggest reason is because the skill in the game stems from being able to either lie effectively, or figure out who’s lying to you. If I’m the impostor, I win by lying to people. If not, I accuse people who may well not be the impostor.

 

This sort of difficulty happens a lot in life. A game with such scenarios as a central mechanic don’t strike me as the sort of thing that draws me in.

Who knows; maybe next year they’ll be ready for Civilization.

Hello AWS!

…pursuant to me wanting to dip my toe in the water for work, I’ve moved my blog to Amazon AWS. You should find it a bit faster now. Let’s see how well I learn about doing things on AWS.

Voice IVRs Need To Die: A Rant

I had something else planned to write about. But last night, I had a simple question about paying my American Express bill. Like any normal person who had such a question, I made a phone call.

That call took six minutes. One minute was spent getting my answer from Charlotte, two minutes were spent on hold, and four minutes were spent convincing the automated phone system that I did, in fact, need to speak to a representative.

Here is the problem:

No, not the actual command line in itself. I use that all the time. Not for everything, certainly, but I do use one. In 1988, everybody who used a computer used one of these (except of course those Mac and Amiga folks). By 1995…basically nobody did. The reason command line interfaces are relegated to developers and sysadmins is because they have a major flaw: what do you type? It’s not readily apparent what commands get things working, and the list of those commands isn’t intuitively discoverable, either. 

Voice-based phone systems have the exact same problem as command lines. I called American Express to discuss a question about paying my bill…but when I said “question about paying a bill”, it then told me the status of my last payment, and asked me if I wanted to make another one. I then said, “Ask a question”, to then be condescendingly read four paragraphs that amount to ‘look at the website’. Eventually, I just held down the ‘0’ key until it said, “I’ll get you over to a representative”. Then, it asked another question ‘so that it could get me over to the right representative’, and when I answered, it said, “I’m connecting you to a representative”. I’ll also mention that virtually every prompt up until this point ended up with me getting a “sorry, I didn’t get that” prompt. The representative I ultimately got connected to understood my question and answered it in less than a minute.

It evoked memories of the episode of Frasier titled “Roe to Perdition”, in which Martin tries to return an extra $20 bill to a bank, and ends up shouting “PER-SO-NAL!” to one such system. When he gets nowhere, he heads to the bank to talk to a human, who herself gets on the phone and yells ‘personal’ in the exact same way. That episode was aired in 2003, and automated phone attendants utilizing voice prompts remain just as useless as they were nearly 20 years ago. The fact that this technology remains just as problematic today as it was in the year Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean were released leads me to believe that the issue is more fundamental than it is technical.

I had some hope about two years ago when I saw the demo for Google Duplex. While the demo was met with skepticism by some at the time, it does appear that the tech is being used ‘in the wild’ at this point. I had always hoped that Google would let Duplex integrate with phone systems, where people could ask natural language questions and talk to an AI that’s able to route users to the right place by intelligently making the distinction between “make a payment” and “question about making a payment”. It looks like the technology exists, but unsurprisingly, it hasn’t made inroads into this field.

This leaves the human element far worse off than it could be. Now, I understand the major issue with having human receptionists: people are likely to tell their whole story to the first human they talk to, even when it should really be handled by someone in a specific department – typically billing or support. While my particular question likely could have been answered by just about anyone, it’s obvious that not every question would fit into that. Automated attendants do help to do some base level routing.

What we have now, though, is a command line. It doesn’t look like one, and it might use words instead of commands like “ls -alFh”, but a command line it is. One might argue that it’s more of a menu driven interface with a hidden menu, but either way, when ‘navigating the menu tree’ takes more time than a plurality of the calls it routes, the result is that callers begin from a starting point of frustration, which increases the level of work call center employees must do to help customers who weren’t frustrated when they dialed. Voice prompts make life worse for both sides of a customer service call, even more so when every attempt to guess a command is “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that”. It’s less human and yields no benefit for the owner phone system.

This leads us to the “For X, Press 1”, truly menu-driven phone interface. It’s the least-bad option, but when the late, great Robin Williams can make them part of a stand-up routine, it’s clear that it’s like being able to say, “at least our customer satisfaction levels aren’t as bad as Comcast”…yes, it’s a good thing that it isn’t worse, but that’s not a statement of success. The problem with menus is that, more often than not, they are implemented poorly. The fact that the website GetHuman.com exists is a testament to this. Many phone systems have too many options, commonly landing users on recordings that take too much time to listen to for the next prompt, and have routing loops and unnecessary levels of complexity.

As I’ve considered how phone systems should be laid out, here’s what I’ve come up with: Until Google Duplex and its enterprise components are integrated into a phone system, Phone menus should have no more than five options, and each of those five options should themselves only have one additional menu with five options on it. This can be stretched to three menus of depth if and only if the first menu purely consists of language selection. This leads to a total of 25 possible destinations for a call, and I’m hard pressed to think of businesses where call centers would need more than 25 possible call destinations, not including direct extension dialing. If there are, then there’s probably justification for a second phone number, and the process repeats again.

So, that’s my rant.

Matthew 18 in a Post-Facebook Society

I run a small RocketChat server. Nothing major, just a handful of friends in a private chat, my own personal contribution to the XKCD Chat Platform problem.

I’d love to have more of my friends in it, but RocketChat has a strength that is also its fundamental weakness – the “general” room. Everyone is in it. I can change that behavior if I want, but that’s not the point. 

I’ve got 850 Facebook friends…and only five of them are in RocketChat. Now sure, the nature of the term “Facebook Friend” comes into play here; I’m sure my one FB Friend I met on AIM nearly 20 years ago may not be much of a candidate, nor would the sister of a relatively new friend I met in an online community but sent me a request anyway, but even if I put 90% of my Facebook friends into that category, I still would have trouble getting 85 of my Facebook friends in the same chatroom together.

It would eventually devolve into an argument. That argument would then have chilling effects on discussion thereafter – some people would leave. Others would ignore the general chat and stick to the PMs. Discussion after that would become surface level, as nobody wants to ignite another powder keg. Then, one inadvertently starts, and the cycle begins anew until there’s nobody left except whoever agrees with the last person to win the argument.

I feel like the advice in Matthew 18 is timeless and incredibly relevant, even if you’re more of an Atheist than Richard Dawkins…but I feel like there are concepts between the lines that are worth exploring. For those who aren’t familiar with the passage, it goes like this:

15 If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.

The underlying assumption here is that there is, at some level, a mutual desire to rectify a relationship. Also assumed here is that there is a shared agreement on an authority. Both of those are less of a given in modern society. John Oliver said it well when he described a segment of discourse between an Infowars reporter and a very left-wing protester: “What we do have there is a nice distillation of the current level of political discourse in America: two people, who don’t really know what they’re talking about, being condescending to each other nonsensically until one of them lands a sick burn.” While in Oliver’s clip it’s unlikely that either party had a desire to achieve consensus, I submit that the notion of salvaging a relationship at the expense of winning a particular argument seems sufficiently lost on modern society. Getting one’s perspective shifted is a fundamental requirement in order to make any headway, but the willingness to do so seems to be in short supply.

Once there is agreement that the intent is to salvage a relationship, the private discussion between two people disagreeing is useful because it prevents the spread of rumors and helps to address small grievances on a small scale. To bring two or three witnesses into the disagreement is to provide an outside perspective; ideally one that would impact how both people would approach the disagreement, and hopefully the input would be received well enough to achieve a resolution without things escalating further.

Getting to the ‘take it to the church’ situation here, that part gets a bit interesting because of the concept of ‘church’ at that time – Jesus wasn’t describing a group of several hundred people with an elder board…though thinking about it a bit more, Jesus was talking to a crowd more familiar with the temple system, which very much did have a hierarchal structure and political power so I need to do a bit more research on that topic…but, I think it’s safe to say that there is a case to be made about taking the dispute to a mutually recognized source of authority, to whom both parties consider themselves subject to their ruling.

If, one party decides that the ruling isn’t valid for whatever reason, then “treat them like a tax collector” is notable in that, while they were considered so undesirable in their society that the gospels commonly reference “sinners and tax collectors”, indicating an “even worse than sinner” connotation…but, at the same time, the audience of this teaching still dealt with tax collectors. Perhaps it was begrudgingly, perhaps it was a “get in, collect your taxes, get a receipt, and get out” sort of a deal, but Jews still had to work with them, and every so often, there was a Zaccheus – a tax collector who turned from his ways. 

I think this sort of clear and direct escalation is incredibly relevant today. The fact that society has generally turned to “sick burns” as a way to decide how an argument is won, and winning more desirable than reconciliation, is the sort of fundamental shift Jesus spent time encouraging His followers to avoid. The results of this shift have clearly caused a level of enmity that divides people who could probably “agree to disagree” successfully under Jesus’ system, but are sworn enemies on Facebook.

This leaves me with a sparsely populated RocketChat server, and social gatherings which are fewer and further between than even five years ago. Whether you identify as a follower of Christ or not, I can guarantee there’s someone you disagree with on something. You probably agree with them on ten others. Try focusing on that, and try salvaging a relationship. It won’t be fun, but it will probably be worth it.

AI, Art, and Dictionaries

So, a philosopher from Harvard wrote an article about whether or not artificial intelligence is capable of producing art.

This left me with two major questions: First, how do we define artificial intelligence? Second, how do we define art? I believe the answer to the question hinges on these two things.

Strictly speaking, a computer is capable of creating aesthetically pleasing pieces of media, and have been doing so for decades. Whether an audio visualization counts as art due to them being a result of a computer following a strict set of programming guidelines is the nature of the question – how few inputs does it take before the definition crosses over from ‘program’ to ‘AI’?

The term ‘AI’ seems to be a common enough buzzword, but I don’t think that Data or HAL9000 were deemed AI’s because they could tell bees from 3s with good accuracy (spare a thought for ‘Robot’ from Lost in Space who never even got a name). The Google Duplex system is a bit closer, but even it is incredibly easy to trip up even while staying on topic. Watson is good at jeopardy, but its success in its core purpose – cancer treatment – is a bit less rosy. I submit that current generation of what is called ‘AI’ consists of many very good incremental improvements, and is to be lauded. However, I don’t think it is correct to assign the description of “artificial intelligence” to a computer that can win Jeopardy but not understand the humor behind saying “let’s finish, chicks dig me”.

On the flip side, let’s discuss ‘art’. Though this video has its flaws (most notably comparing the best of the past with the worst of the present), the takeaway here is that what does and doesn’t constitute ‘art’ is so subjective that even defining it is subjective. If I, as a DJ, play a good set for a live event, is it art? If I do the same thing and post the recording on Mixcloud, does it then become art? If I produce a song using the sounds and plugins of Ableton or FL Studio and nobody else hears it, is it art? Does it become art if I do this a dozen times and release an album? Is is more or less ‘art’ than Handel’s The Messiah? Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder, or is there really a need for some sort of a governing body who defines what ‘art’ is, especially for exhibitions? If the latter, then how do those people ultimately decide? As one example, to what end does context play a role – does a piece of graffiti become art because it was painted on the Berlin Wall rather than an abandoned subway tunnel or a chalkboard frozen in time?

The fact that it is so difficult to define what ‘art’ really is makes the question of AI producing art fundamentally unsolvable. If art is is defined by self-expression, then the definition of AI would need to include a ‘self’, and that AI would need to have something to express. If art can only come from emotion, then the entire wing dedicated to furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is on shaky ground since a nontrivial number of those pieces were simply ‘ornate contract work’ whose artistic merit is commonly tied to their owners or context. If art is defined solely as something aesthetically pleasing, then “$5 Million, 1 Terabyte” doesn’t fit that bill (unless the case counts as art), but assisted CGI does.

Once we can settle on how to consistently define ‘art’, then we can talk about whether AI can do it. If art can’t be defined, then the source and inspiration become irrelevant, ironically meaning that one can equally argue that AI is capable of creating art and that humans cannot.

Unreal Tournament’s End of Active Development Is A Symptom

So, the news broke today that the reboot of Unreal Tournament was no longer in active development. It’s not much of a surprise: not only has there not been an update to the title in nearly a year, there hasn’t been an update to their development blog in over a year, either.

Now, in addition to being a general fan of the title, the business model was a favorite of mine, too: the game was free with no in-app purchases or lootboxes. A store where users could sell skins and mods and character models was available with Epic Games skimming off the top, and the Unreal Engine 4 powering it would be available for developers of other games to use, with royalties paid on the engine after a certain threshold.

However, Epic Games struck gold with Fortnite. If you haven’t at least heard of it by now, you probably haven’t spoken to an adolescent since the Obama administration. It’s so popular, Sony reversed their stance on cross-platform play for the first time ever in their Playstation ecosystem. Epic released the Android app on its own website, rather than in the Google Play store…and got 15 million downloads in three weeks; by contrast, I’m having a rough time trying to come up with another app not in the Play Store that has broke the first million. It’s that big. The fact that Epic has been focusing on printing money with Fortnite rather than developing Unreal Tournament is not just common sense, it’s almost absurd to try and justify the inverse.

While the unbridled success of Fortnite is undoubtedly a major reason why UT development has stalled, I submit that it’s far from the only reason. After all, Epic Games has been in the business since the 1990s. They are fully aware that empires come and empires go. Minecraft, Angry Birds, Halo, and Doom before it all testify to this fact. I think there’s a deeper reason why.

Unreal Tournament hails from a completely different era in gaming. UT2004 shipped with a level editor and dedicated server software. For some, a part of the fun was making one’s own maps, character models, and even total conversion mods, frequently distributing them for others to enjoy. While quality levels varied significantly, communities formed around map and mod development. Even if you weren’t a developer, one of the major draws to the game was that downloadable content was free, and created by the players.

Fast forward to 2018, and that’s not at all how things work anymore. I can’t recall the last major game release that allowed players to self-host their servers or add their own created content, let alone ship with the tools to do so. New maps and character models are almost exclusively paid add-ons now, and few players remember it any other way. Even those who made their own content for UT in its heyday are likely either employed in some form of design or development, or have moved on to other things.

Those who are still doing this sort of development have a plethora of options, from the open source Alien Arena and FreeDoom to GoldenEye Source and straight up developing their own indie games to release on Steam. With lots of options courting a dwindling number of skilled individuals, Epic counting on ‘bringing the band back together’ was going to be an uphill battle. Moreover, even the sheer player stats probably weren’t great; Quake Champions, Toxikk, and other arena shooters are available as great options for players who aren’t perfectly happy playing UT2004, a game whose mechanics and balance are so well done that the graphics which reflect their era can be readily overlooked.

I don’t think this is really the end of UT development, though. Like I said, empires come and empires go, and while it makes sense for Epic to cash in on Fortnite while it’s a household name, by 2021 (if that long), there will be another game to take the crown. While Fortnite will still probably be popular enough to handle the payroll, the focus will likely shift back to developing and licensing Unreal Engine 4. With hundreds of games utilizing the engine including some heavy hitters like Mortal Kombat X, Spec Ops: The Line, Rocket League, Infinity Blade, the Batman: Arkham series, and of course the Mass Effect trilogy, licensing the engine is far and away the best source of steady income for Epic.

And when game developers are looking around for the engine upon which their next title should be based, there is no better way for Epic to showcase the Unreal Engine to have its namesake available for free.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 – One More Thing With Which I’m Incompatible

So, I took a little time to try my hand at Call of Duty, Black Ops IIII. And I am left to assume that it’s just one of those things that I simply have a fundamental incompatibility with…either that, or it’s clear that Activision ultimately has no idea how to learn some of the lessons from the games that came before this one.

Now, I’m sure I’m not entirely qualified to speak on the game authoritatively; I own Modern Warfare and the original Black Ops, games whose single player campaigns I’ve started twice and never completed.

I knew going into it that the single player mode was essentially just a tutorial; there were no shortage of pieces written about the fact that the game had no real single player campaign at all. I was also well aware that the game had loot boxes and in-app purchases as integral components of its design.

Jim Sterling has had a number of videos on the topic of lootboxes and microtransactions which I generally agree with, so I won’t go into detail on that front. The bigger issue I have is with the lack of a single player campaign is that adding one is trivial. The first Black Ops game had a story. It was a fairly outlandish one, but CoD has never really had its popularity due to its storytelling. Not having a story-based single player campaign is regrettable, but Unreal Tournament 2004 solved that problem over a decade ago with a simple progression ladder, where multiplayer matches vs. bots were won to advance to the next challenger, and so forth. Its use of the exact same maps and character models as the multiplayer game meant that development time was minimal, it provided players desiring a single player experience a means of doing so, and everyone had a way to get good enough to play multiplayer.

Now, Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw describes Destiny 2 as a game where the sum total of the objectives is “go to the place and shoot the lads”, with a paper thin story regarding *why* you’re going to the place and shooting the lads. Some readers might say, “but, don’t you like Unreal Tournament, where there’s not only a lack of reason for shooting the lads, but since the lads you’re shooting are in the same arena as you, you’re not even getting the satisfaction of going to the place to shoot them?” Well, yes…but I think there are a few reasons why I hold UT to a different standard than CoD.
First, UT doesn’t have the pretense of realism. For example, the earlier CoD titles that put the franchise on the map had their weapons closely modeled after real firearms, albeit not always military issue. Newer installments have moved away from that attention to detail, but it was a part of the early design. Early CoD games were set in actual historical theaters of war, the first two Modern Warfare installments take place in areas of conflict that are at least somewhat believable, and while Black Ops went for the ridiculous in the back half of the game, it at least began its setting in a historical conflict where one really could see a Black Ops mission taking place. Part of the fun was the fact that players could participate in historical events, and while for many it was likely an excuse to go to the place and shoot lads in uniforms laden with swastikas, there were literally hundreds of first person shooters released before Call of Duty, including iconic titles like Doom and Halo.
Unreal Tournament never did any of this any was always completely fictitious and fantastical in every way, from its remote planets to its impossibly proportioned character models to its brigher colors to its weapon loadout clearly focused on game mechanics, the title was always intended to be taken at face value. Asking why we’re capturing a flag in UT is like asking why we’re stacking boxes in Tetris or eating dots in Pac-Man.

One may well argue that CoD has been moving away from realism for some time, and the lack of a single player campaign simply reflects that sort of shift in focus, with reasoning anywhere from the pragmatic “players were spending 99% of their time in multiplayer anyway”, to the cynnical “A single player campaign, even a simple progression ladder, would conflict with Activision’s primary objective: sell lootboxes/DLC maps/live services”. Moreover, there are probably some who would say that my relative inexperience in playing CoD is a part of the problem. That too is a distinct possibility. Raycevick, who has played them, discusses this in greater detail. However, I submit that if Black Ops IIII is the natural progression of the title, it starts looking more and more like an arena shooter. Making this transition would put it into a subgenre where the things that made CoD stand out in its earlier iterations start to become a liability…especially when this installment has a $60 sticker price – a selling price so high, I could not find an arena shooter for even half of it. I could, however, find several of them for free – from the open source OpenArena and Alien Swarm to Goldeneye Source, Quake Champions, Unreal Tournament, and the 800-pound gorilla: Fortnite.

Creating both an internal and a guest Wi-Fi network on a Sonicwall

I have a hate-hate relationship with Sonicwall. They’re annoying when they don’t work. I recently had to conjure up a procedure about how to configure a new Wi-Fi enabled Sonicwall with two different Wi-Fi networks, one for internal use, and the other isolated for guests. Here is that tutorial. It assumes an out-of-the-box Sonicwall config, starting with the initial setup wizard…

 

1. When going through the initial setup wizard, do NOT specify any Wireless settings.

2. For the internal wireless, use the Wi-Fi wizard. Set its IP Assignment to “Layer 2 Bridged Mode”; bridge to X0. Give it a useful SSID and be sure to use the WPA/WPA2 mode and give it a password. Do NOT create an additional virtual AP in this wizard.

3. Go to Zones, then Add a new zone. Set its security type to Wireless. Defaults are fine; if you’re being fancy, the Guest Services page allows for a captive portal to be set.

4. Go to Interfaces, then Add Interface, and choose Virtual Interface. Assign it to the Zone you just made, and give it a VLAN tag (10 is what I tend to use). Make its parent interface W0, and set its subnet mask to something bigger than a Class C (255.255.252.0 is what I tend to use). Click OK, and confirm the notice saying the Sonicwall can’t be configured from the VLAN.

5. Go to Network->DHCP Server. Click ‘Add Dynamic’. Check the ‘Interface Pre-Populate’, and choose the VLAN you just made. Go to the DNS tab, and add some public DNS servers, especially if you’re in a network with a domain controller.

6. Go to Wireless, then Virtual Access Point. Click ‘Add’ under the Virtual Access Point section. Give it a name and an SSID, and set the VLAN ID to the one you made earlier. Under Advanced’ settings, set the Authentication type to WPA2-PSK, the cypher type to AES, and the ‘Maximum Clients’ to 128. Add a passphrase, then click OK. Also, you might want to edit the original SSID to allow 128 wireless clients as well, instead of the default 16.

7. Still in the Wireless->Virtual Access Point area, Edit the “Internal AP Group” in the Virtual Access Point Groups” section. Add the additional SSID you just created to the Internal AP Group. Click OK to exit.

8. Go to the Wireless->Settings area. On the drop-down labeled “Virtual Access Point Group” on the bottom, select the Internal AP Group option. Click Accept on the top.
(note: if you get an error saying “Status: Error: Too small 802.11 Beacon Interval for Virtual Access Point”, go to Wireless->Advanced, change the Beacon Interval to 500, and try this step again).

It will take about one minute for all SSIDs to be visible to devices…but you will have properly configured everything when you are done.