BlizzCon and the AXS of Evil

As we mention in our latest episode, our plans have changed and we will not be going to BlizzCon this year. We could just let it go and accept that it is what it is… but remember how I mentioned my love of throwing salt into the Internet? So we’re gonna do that instead!

AXS: The most useless ticketing service

We mentioned a few of our issues with AXS in Episode 5. It’s the new ticketing service that Blizzard decided to go with this year. Using AXS was a first for them; last year they went with Universe. In theory, it seemed like a good idea for a convention as popular as BlizzCon where there’s always a massive scramble to get tickets. Instead of having to hope you’re lucky enough to click on the button to buy tickets within 0.23 seconds of it going live, AXS is supposed to serve as an equalizer. They open up a lobby 30 minutes before tickets are available. Anyone who is in that lobby at any time before tickets go live is supposed to have an equal chance at getting them. Hopeful customers are randomly selected from the lobby and are given 7 minutes to purchase their tickets. Seven minutes is plenty of time, but if you don’t purchase them within that allotment then you’ve lost your opportunity and someone else from the lobby is given a chance at them.

The problem is that it didn’t fucking work at all. Instead of getting tickets when I submitted the purchase after getting lucky RNG, I got this error. Over and over and over.

I immediately opened support cases with both Blizzard and AXS. Blizzard was insanely unhelpful. They first asserted it must’ve been an issue with my card. I told them I tried 3 different cards with the same results, and that I saw pending transactions for each of them. They then told me it would have to be handled through AXS. This isn’t surprising, but I was hoping they would be a bit more accommodating considering it was an error on the side of the partner they were ignorant enough to select. So I then waited to hear something on my support case with AXS. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Days went by without hearing anything, so I hit them up on Twitter where they asked me to DM them. I sent them my case number and they responded with the following lovely exchange:

Essentially they just admitted that their service didn’t do the one thing it’s supposed to do. On top of that, they didn’t even bother to read my reply, let alone respond to it. As I point out with the arrows I drew in the screenshot above, the blue check next to my original message means that it was “Seen”. The grey check next to my follow-up questions simply means that it was “Sent”. If that isn’t garbage-tier customer service, I don’t know what is.

Also, this apparently counted as covering the support case I opened as I never received an email or anything else in regard to it.

Despite this setback, we were still planning to go. Brandi had been in touch with someone we met at BlizzCon last year who has a friend who works for Blizzard and thus was supposedly able to hit us up with tickets. They weren’t on lockdown yet since internal folks apparently get their tickets later on, but we figured worst-case scenario we’d get to hang out in southern California for a few days. It was a nice bonus because I we got a great deal on a hotel… until we didn’t.

Hilton us where it hurts

If you’ve ever been to BlizzCon before, then you know the Anaheim Hilton is the place to be. Along with being right next to the Anaheim Convention Center for easy access to BlizzCon, it’s also the after-hours social hub of the convention with parties breaking out each night. The Hilton embraces this and last year had a bunch of pop-up bars in the lobby selling Bottle Logic’s special StarCraft 20th Anniversary beer. It was awesome.

Last year we didn’t stay at the Hilton because, on top of just being a Hilton, event prices are pretty insane. Staying for just 4 days, for example, easily pushes over $2,000 USD. I have family who works for Hilton which means I can often get a “friends and family” discount, but events are always blacked out. Brandi and I just happened to check this year, though, and sure enough discounted rooms were available. Suffice to say we pounced on one, booking 5 days for half the price most people were paying for 4 days. Even if something fell through without our BlizzCon tickets, being in the area and in the epicenter for the happenings of the convention still seemed super fun. Unfortunately, a week later I got the following email:

“We are contacting you regarding your upcoming Go Hilton reservation at Hilton Anaheim – Confirmation # XXXXXXXXXX. Unfortunately, due to a misconfiguration in our booking system there were Go Hilton rates offered that should have not been made available. This affected reservations booked between May 09th and May 13th 2019. We regret to inform you that we can no longer honor these reservations, and they will be cancelled shortly. We are deeply sorry for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding due to the systems error.”

Followed shortly by a cancellation email with the most tone-deaf greeting possible:

“JOHN, we’re sorry to see you go! We hope you allow Hilton Hotels & Resorts the opportunity to serve you in the future.”

When I let Brandi know, we were both pretty fed up with the whole ordeal. Along with losing the insanely good Hilton pricing, now a week had passed since most people would have booked their rooms… meaning that the availability of something else in the area had already been shrinking. We would have to settle for a worse room at a higher price. Did we really want to spend the money and go through the hassle when neither of us having even played a Blizzard game in the past three months? Ultimately the answer was no, so we’ll be bailing on the convention this year.

With the money we aren’t spending on BlizzCon, Brandi and I will likely do other cool shit this year. I have a few other trips in mind that I’d like to take, and Brandi is getting a freaking puppy! Expect TONS of puppy pics on Instagram when that happens!

In the meantime, keep the Morton’s flowing and stay pink!

It’s All About Open Source

A friend of mine who has been doing some programming (hi, Fy!) recently asked me for some ideas on open source projects they could look at and possibly contribute to. It made me think of what open source software I tend to use on a regular basis… which is a decent amount as someone who runs a few different Linux systems. It seemed like a solid opportunity to compile the Super Official List of Open Source Stuff John Likes™. As someone who doesn’t really know much about writing code, I have no idea if any of these are good candidates for someone to start contributing to open source; they just happen to be things I use on the regular. Without further adieu and in no particular order:

Notepad++

Notepad++ has been one of my favorite Windows text editors for as long as I can remember. While it may not be as flashy or as popular as some of the other editors I’ll get to in a little bit (yeah… I’ve got a thing for text editors), it’s hard to top the speed and footprint of Notepad++. It also has at least basic syntax highlighting for almost every programming language under the sun. I also can’t overstate the importance of being able to open a plaintext file at work and having the editor launch immediately.

Visual Studio Code

VSCode is another rare example of Microsoft software I enjoy. While I dislike the large, clunky IDE that is Visual Studio, VSCode is a nice balance between a simple editor and an IDE. It has a large plugin ecosystem that can give you benefits of things like Intellisense and a debugger without being needless. It’s based on the same Electron framework as GitHub’s Atom editor. I’ve found it to be such a nice editor across a wide array of languages that I’ve even taken to installing it on Linux systems for the times when I want a GUI editor.

If you’re curious how I configure it, here’s my settings.json file. Note that I mainly use it for PowerShell:

{
    "workbench.colorTheme": "Dracula",
    "editor.minimap.enabled": true,
    "editor.minimap.showSlider": "always",
    "editor.wordWrap": "on",
    "editor.scrollBeyondLastLine": false,
    "files.hotExit": "off",
    "powershell.integratedConsole.showOnStartup": false,
    "editor.fontFamily": "'Fira Code', 'Fira Mono', monospace",
    "editor.fontLigatures": true,
    "git.ignoreMissingGitWarning": true
}

Vim

Of course, most of the time when I’m using Linux I’m not using a GUI. I feel at home on the command line, which is good considering I run a handful of headless servers that I only ever access via SSH (which happens to be a great way to mess with scripting or code from a Chromebook if it doesn’t have support for Linux apps yet.) Vim is the de facto CLI editor for me (sorry Emacs users), and I can install it on literally everything. Most Linux distros also come with either it or Vi installed by default, so it’s ubiquitous.

Vim has a reputation for being difficult to use, but I don’t really think that’s the case. It’s just that it’s very different to use if you’re coming from most modern editors. Once you get accustomed to it, I’ve found it to be perhaps the most easy for editing text effectively. Plus, it has a rich plugin ecosystem for things like syntax highlighting and support. I use Pathogen as my plugin manager for Vim.

If you want to know my Vim config, this is my typical .vimrc file:

execute pathogen#infect()
set hlsearch ignorecase smartcase incsearch relativenumber ruler
set laststatus=2 tabstop=4 shiftwidth=4 expandtab notitle
syntax on
filetype plugin indent on

htop

htop is a super handy, interactive utility for seeing what the heck is happening in a Linux system. Think of it like the terminal version of the Windows Task Manager. It gives you a nice breakdown of CPU, RAM, and swap usage along with a listing of processes and what each is doing. It also offers and easy way to adjust the nice level of particularly important or greedy processes. It’s an enhancement over the older top utility.

tmux

tmux is terminal multiplexer, hence the name. If you have no clue what that means, it allows you to take a single terminal and divide it up into multiple virtual terminals. This lets easily have multiple terminals on the screen at the same time with different information on them without having to flip between tabs. Here’s a sample:

In a single terminal window I’ve got Vim open with some simple Go code on the left pane. The right side has two panes; the top pane has Cowsay running while the bottom pane I just used to install Cowsay. While not exact useful in the scenario I set up for this screenshot, it can be really handy for doing something like writing a script in one pane and having a second, smaller pane to the side or top of running it periodically without ever needing to close the file.

The other super handy part of tmux is that you can keep a persistent session going on a remote system without staying connected to it. I can SSH to a server, open tmux, connect to an IRC server, and use it for however long I need. If I want to disconnect from SSH but keep my IRC session going, I can simply detach my current SSH session from tmux but leave tmux running. Then I can close my SSH session. When I later SSH into the system again, I can reattach to the existing tmux session and pick right back up where I left off.

PowerShell

Since I’ve mentioned code a few times in these examples after starting the post off by saying I don’t know what the hell I’m doing when it comes to writing code, PowerShell is the one exception. I basically live in a PowerShell window for work, using it for both my day-to-day management at the CLI and in scripts that I use to automate my work… because work smart, not hard, right? I feel decently proficient with PowerShell, and I’m excited that version 6 is now open source! It’s nice to be able to use the same scripting language and commands to manage Windows servers at work that I use to manage my Linux servers at home.

I haven’t posted anything new in a while (I’ve written tons of stuff but just haven’t thought to post it), but you can see some of my sample PowerShell scripts over on GitHub. I’ve also posted some /r/DailyProgrammer challenges as Gists.

Hugo

Hugo is a static site generator. The concept is that instead of needing a CMS (content management system… think something like WordPress) to manage posts, pagination, design, etc. on a website that you can instead do it all via plaintext. Hugo allows you to have HTML templates, CSS, and then posts that are authored as Markdown. When you make a new post or change the site in any way, you can recompile your site which is then output as simple HTML and CSS that you can throw onto a web server. New post? Recompile the site and just move the files. Hugo worries about things like how many posts there should be on a page and will adjust it all for you. Need to change information in your header? Just change it one time in your template file and then recompile; there’s no need to use sed through every page and change each of them.

There are plenty of other static site generators out there (Jekyll is a popular one), but I’ve found that Hugo is by far the fastest. When your site starts to get large with a lot of pages to parse and generate, generators like Jekyll — which is written in Ruby, an interpreted language — can start to bog down. Hugo is written in Go; it’s literally one binary, and that allows it to be super speedy even when your site is large.

NetHack

To end the post on a fun note, NetHack is an incredible video game. It’s easy to look at it and assume that it’s a simplistic, basic game. It runs in a terminal (though variants with tiles and graphics do exist), and everything in the game is represented as an ASCII symbol. Your character? The @ symbol. A kobold? The letter k. The game is also crazy old… it was released in 1987. Here’s what it looks like:

It’s a fantasy game so the whole point is to hack-and-slash your way through a procedurally generated dungeon, meaning no two games are the same since each level is random; on top of this is the fact that there are more classes, races, and mechanics than most modern games have.

Even better is that the game is still being updated. The latest commit on their GitHub repo was yesterday. Pretty nuts. The game is also a marvel of what’s possible in the C programming language. Imagine making something like this without even being able to use objects.

NetHack exists for every operating system on the planet, but if you don’t want to bother with installing it you don’t have to. You can instead just hop on the alt.org NetHack server.

There are, of course, tons of other open source applications I use on the regular — I didn’t even bother getting into operating systems — but these are the ones I use the most frequently and enjoy the most. The most important thing, though… is to stay pink!

Unusually Pink Podcast Links

As we mentioned in our last episode, we recently got our podcast all over the Internet so you can listen to it regardless of which service(s) you happen to prefer.

Our host for the podcast is Podbean. The posts on the podcast page for each episode will always link to our Unusually Pink Podcast profile there. (Related: we are crushing it on the alliteration front.) We figured most people wouldn’t be listening to it directly from there, though. So if you happen to use any of the following services, feel free to give the podcast a follow and stay on top of the latest episodes. Posts from the website for new episodes, of course, will also be posted to our Twitter and Facebook profiles.

Why does Google have two? Great question.