Chrome: Prevent the Gnome-Keyring Prompt (Chrome and Chromium)

You have once again entered the Chrome world of survival horror… Good Luck…

For the purposes of this post, I’ll be referring to Chrome & Chromium as Chromium because Chromium is the open source code-base from which your Chrome is built and I use the “Chromium” build so it makes my life easier to just call them both Chromium. Apply your own changes where needed. Now, to get rid of that annoying prompt…

First open Chromium. Make sure any extensions you want to keep are enabled in Incognito Mode (there’s a checkbox that says as much).

Next clear your full history. That’s everything, including saved passwords. Bookmarks *should* be safe to keep, I’ve never tried because I fixed this during my transition from Firefox (which I still use) so I hadn’t imported my bookmarks yet.

Now exit Chromium and restart it in Incognito mode. To do this, use the “--incognito” parameter, like this (remember “chrome” = “chromium”):
$ chromium --incognito

Now go to a random site like https://wordpress.com and check that there’s no password prompt. There shouldn’t be.

Assuming it was successful, you now realise that all you need to do is run in Incognito Mode, something you should always do by default. However, running “chromium --incognito” from the console or gExec can be tedious, so here are your alternative choices:

1. The Preferred Way: Take advantage of the nice launcher script provided.
2. The Fallback: You could create a launch-script. I won’t cover that in much depth.

Since I don’t know what ships with the official Chrome (as I mentioned, I use Chromium), I can’t be entirely sure that The Preferred Way will be applicable, but I’m pretty sure based on the contents of the launch script (there’s a variable call APPNAME assigned the value “chromium”).

If you’re afraid of the console, editing scripts or anything else, create a launcher to Chrome/Chromium on you desktop/dock/panel and then edit it so the command has “ --incognito” at the end. Click here for an example. Please note, this does not solve opening links and files from outside of Chrome/Chromium.

The Preferred Way
Editing the Startup Script

The location of the startup script should be /usr/bin/chromium (or chrome) on most distributions. Remember you can always use “whereis chromium” or “which chromium” to find out where the launcher script is. Once, you’ve found the launcher script, open it as root in your plain-text editor of choice (mine is nano because it’s simple and comes stock with most Debian children). If you’re lost, don’t fret, just follow the steps below.
Become root (because it is easier than privileging each command):
$ su root
or (Ubuntu users especially):
$ sudo -i
You should (but don’t have to) back it up before editing it:
# cat /path/to/chromium > /path/to/chromium.bkp
Now (where you see nano, substitute your editor)…
# nano /path/to/chromium
Now navigate to the bottom of the script and you’ll find this line:
exec $LIBDIR/$APPNAME $CHROMIUM_FLAGS "$@"
which you will change to this:
exec $LIBDIR/$APPNAME $CHROMIUM_FLAGS "--incognito $@"
and save it. If you’re using nano, just press Ctrl+o and Ctrl+x. Congratulations, try running “chromium” (or “chrome”) from the console without parameters. If it starts at all and does so in Incognito Mode, you’re done. If not, go back and ensure you didn’t break anything. To restore the original from the backup (if you made it):
# cat /path/to/chromium.bkp > /path/to/chromium
Don’t give up kid, it’ll happen some day.

The Fallback
Creating a Launch Script

I’m not covering this in detail, if you aren’t comfortable or knowledgeable, just use The Easy Way. You need to be root.
$ su root
or (Ubuntu users, again):
$ sudo -i
Now just do the following (remember “chrome” if you’re using Chrome):
# echo -e "#! /bin/sh\nchromium --incognito\n" > /usr/bin/mychromium
# chmod a+x /usr/bin/mychromium
Now you can set “mychromium” as your default browser via you DE’s settings and you’re done.

Stupid Questions and Assertions

“But now I can’t save my passwords and browsing history!”

And why is it a bad thing? Seriously, saving passwords and history is a bug in the actual design of all browsers. Saving passwords with your browser is probably one of the worst practices of all time. As for history, well you decide.

“Using extensions in Incognito Mode defeats the purpose… blah, blah… It can compromise your privacy… blah, blah…”

If you’re relying on Chrome’s Incognito Mode for absolute privacy, you’re already doing it wrong. Incognito mode is just a way to mitigate, not stop, many, but not all, forms of tracking. By clearing browsing history and cache automatically, it saves me doing it manually. It’s just a convenience (unless you use Grandma’s laptop to visit porn sites, in which case it may be quite vital).

Update on Privacy: Now there’s a very easy way to prevent being tracked (which I’ll cover in detail later) called Privacy Badger. It’s available for Chrome/Chromium and works by “learning”. Simply install the extension and visit some mundane sites filled with advertising (example Gmail, travel agencies, etc) first. After this, you’ll start to see things getting blocked as you browse.

A Final Note

There are many other solutions, but I find this method is most preferable because it prevents the pop-up window entirely, saves the time-wasting of building Chromium, and I use Incognito Mode by default so it serves as a convenience, too, the Gnome Keyring issue notwithstanding.

As usual, feel free to leave comments, ask questions, or post death threats using the comment button below. If you found this post useful, it’s good to share or like it, or even both.

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A Day in the Life of a Transcriber — Part 01: Parts Shouldn’t Have Names

Being Part One of a serial of such posts. If you missed the introduction, it’s discussed here. The short version is I do transcriptions as my main income source and the only way I can vent my frustration is by having a laugh at some of the fail.

I never even knew nothing about it […]. Or I did, but I think it was like, pushed to the back of my head. Like, consciencesly [sic] I knew that […], but it wasn’t a thing that I took much notice about […]. I knew, but I didn’t know, if that makes sense, like.

Where do I start? Not at the beginning, that’s a little overused. We’ll start with a very interesting word — in the loosest sense of the word.

consciencely [sic]

I’m not too sure of the spelling, so I’ve typed it phonetically. I’m not too clear on the definition, but it would appear to imply a moral manner in which something occurs or is performed. Use cases may include performing surgery. One performs surgery consciencely when one does it carefully, considerately and not under the influence of substances. In this context, though, I think the word you’re looking for is “consciously” — to be aware in one’s conscious mind instead of only the subconscious. Now, note how we spell it. Yes, similarly, but without the N-sound. Minus twenty point for stupidity. Next:

I never even knew nothing about it

That roughly translates to, “I have never, not once, known nothing about it.” This can be further simplified to, “It’s always been been something I was knowledgeable about.” Minus fifty points because it’s such a well-documented, commonly-known mistake. I don’t not condone double-negatives if they’re used cleverly. Onwards:

Let’s look at the next part and the last part:

Or I did, but I think it was like, pushed to the back of my head.

I knew, but I didn’t know, if that makes sense, like.

Basically they both add up to exactly the same idiocy. We’re ignoring all other issues and just concentrating on the meanings. First off, you give the listener the choice of whether you know something because you used “Or”, which implies that they have the option of whether or not you knew. Since you’re the one doing the knowing, that’s something nobody else can decide. Secondly, you either do or don’t know something. You can’t know and not know something simultaneously, at least without entering the paradoxical land of Quantum Mechanics. Minus another fifty for stupid, but plus twenty for making me laugh. Seriously, that has to be in the top ten most idiot statements, yet I hear a surprising number of people spouting stuff like this. So, for the sake of anyone reading this who has ever said something along these lines, you either know something or you don’t (with the exception of quantitative contexts). Too confusing? Don’t worry, I’ve prepared a pocket-sized cheat-sheet below to illustrate exactly how it works:

adayinthelifeofatranscriberpart01_flowchart

You can print that (there’s a button below this post), cut it out and laminate it so you can carry it around as a reference card. That way, whenever you’re in doubt, just check the diagram to clarify.

That’s all for now, but here’s a preview of things to come: An internet avatar becomes aware she’s actually being controlled. Everything she says and does are the result of involuntary obsessive thoughts that manifest as ticks. The only time she can truly know her thoughts are her own is when the person controlling her sleeps. How will she break free? Who is controlling her? And what is the outside world that everyone call “reality” really about?

…Find all this and more in the next exciting episode of “A Day in The Life of a Transcriber”. Until then, comments, shares, likes, hates, death threats, and everything else welcomed.

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A Day in the Life of a Transcriber — Part 00: Prologue

I wanted my next post to be something meaningful. A poem, a short story, or even the first chapter of a blog-based novel. Alas, my muse fails me, leaving me with this overwhelming urge to post what shall become quite serial.

Transcription is my main income source at the moment. It’s a terrible job, despite what you may hear or think. There is no fun in listening to people barely capable of articulating themselves over the background noise of a shopping mall, a bus station, an eatery, or a busy household. There is no fun in trying to filter out screaming children, blaring televisions, and the ambient hum of other people, especially in a recording made with a smart-phone. There is even less fun in the verbal discourse itself which ranges from topics such as dental hygiene to the endless incumbent ramblings of elderly interviewees about arthritis, ingrown toenails, and chest problems.

Transcription seldom, if ever, involves interesting subject matter. There are no psychiatry sessions with the future Jack the Ripper, nor interviews with scientists and creators breaking new grounds. Just the repetitiveness of barely-audible and unforgivably dull conversation.

There are two perks to the job though. Firstly, it doesn’t require leaving home, fighting the the rush hour traffic and dealing with colleagues and customers you want to strangle. Secondly, you get to laugh every now and then because this job truly highlights just how poor the average human being’s communication skills are. This is what these posts, “A Day in the Life of a Transcriber” will chronicle. They will generally be short posts, unlike this one, containing excerpts of dialogue (modified where needed to protect the identities of the parties involved and so as not to violate my NDAs). Since this post is already fairly lengthy, I’ve decided to end with just a simple sample of what to expect:

I never even knew nothing about it […]. Or I did, but I think it was like, pushed to the back of my head. Like, consciencesly [sic] I knew that […], but it wasn’t a thing that I took much notice about […]. I knew, but I didn’t know, if that makes sense, like.

You’ll be able to view my commentary on this excerpt along with many more wonderfail (I made that up, it’s a portmanteau of “wonderful” and “fail”) moments in my next post: A Day in the Life of a Transcriber – Part 01: Parts Shouldn’t Have Names”.

Likes, shares, and positive comments sure are wanted and welcomed, but I’ll accept negative feedback too, like how cruel I am for mocking at the poor downtrodden anonymous idiots out there whose insufferable accents, bad speech patterns and idiotic discourses I must endure to make ends meet while I’d rather be publishing games and books.

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Yes, I Know

Yes, I know, I’ve been really bad,
Being inactive, leaving readers sad,
Please believe, I’m quite contrite,
And will attempt, with all my might,
To get myself back, to sensible ways,
Posting at least once, every few days,
But right now, my life’s as busy as hell,
I can’t explain it, there’s too much to tell,
I’ll say this much, it’s for a new place,
Where I can be in, a better head-space,
In other words, I’m–

Okay, enough. Essentially I’m busy trying to make money to get out the shitty garden cottage I live in (actually, it’s fairly decent, but my landlord’s an intolerant bastard who think being different is wrong and that I don’t have the right to be myself within the confines of my own space which I’m renting). To achieve said move, I need to make money towards furnishings, deposits (and a PS3 controller — unrelated) so I’m doing soul-destroying work, which I’ll share more about soon, whilst trying to work on another project, too, and I simply, honestly, really, truly, actually, obviously haven’t had, and probably won’t have for a while, time for blogging because I’m tied up (and not in a good way).

If you guessed this post was just fluff to stunt the growth of the gap between my last real post and the next real post, you’re right. Your prize for guessing? How about a photographic collection of me cosplaying as Claire Redfield, Leon S. Kennedy and a zombie from Resident Evil 2? No? Then you’re a bigot and I hate you and you wouldn’t know kawaii if it leapt out and baka-punched you in the face.

Epic Deconstruction

Deconstructed Chicken and Avo Salad: Succulent cubes of chicken breast, slices of perfectly ripe avocado, grated mozzarella, sprouts, and rocket. Served with a honey & mustard dressing.

It sound really nice, and although I know what a “deconstructed salad” is (after all, it’s pretty obvious), I thought I’d toy with my waitress a little, because I’m a bit of a bitch at times.

“Excuse me,” I said gently, looking up from the menu with large, innocent eyes, “What is a deconstructed salad exactly?”

“Well,” the waitress began, fumbling in her mind for a way to explain it without it sounding as if it was nothing more than a plate of unmixed salad ingredients.

I continued to look the picture of sweetness and innocence while I gazed expectantly at her. Hesitantly, she explained, “It’s basically, where we don’t mix the salad ourselves. We let the customer mix it how they like it.”

Well, I’ll give her points for managing to make it sound like a good thing when, on paper, it sounds like a lazy chef. “So, you mean you just bring me the ingredients and I have to make it?” I asked innocently.

“Yes,” she replied, maintaining her composure, though I could see resignation glinting in her eyes.

“So it’s not de- constructed, it’s un- constructed,” I contended. “You can’t deconstruct something that was never constructed to begin with.”

It was a weekend and the café was packed with families and their screaming children, gaggles of elderly women, and hipsters plugged into their i-devices. Perhaps my timing was a little cruel, but, in my defence, I was seated at one of my usual tables in the back, a much quieter and more private area that was cut off from the chaos in the front.

“Um…” She seemed tense. She was at a complete loss now and fully resigned to her fate, another difficult customer, as I watched the dread creeping into her eyes. It was obvious she wasn’t just new to the café, but new to waiting in general, so I decided I’d let her off the hook. It was a pity, because my trolling session could’ve yielded some very interesting fruit.

“Don’t you think that’s a little lazy?” I asked with obviously contrived outrage. “If I have to make it, then I think I deserve a discount for my labour!”

Her increasingly tense form relaxed and she began to smile. I started to laugh and she soon joined me. “Sorry,” I said, “I do this sort of thing to every new waitress I meet. Most of the staff here know I’m full of crap.”

As I always do when I torment a waitress, I left her a generous tip at the end of the meal. Feel free, as always, to share your thoughts, whether they be about how mean or funny you think I am.

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Poem: Asylum

So, in the spirit of posting even a little meaningful content now and then on this blog, I’ll present you a poem I wrote quite a few years back. I’m not exactly sure how many, but I know it was before the end of 2011 and after the start of 2009. I was much younger and still thought of myself as dark and misunderstood by the world. I think this is echoed a little in the poem. And to pre-empt any questions: No it does not hold any special relevance to me or the people around me, it just happened inside me like most things I write. So, without any more procrastination, with not another word of discussion, absolutely no digression, and no further ado whatsoever, in any shape or form, neither explicit nor implicit, I present to you:


Asylum
By J. McMaster

A man wakes in a bed, he’s surrounded by the sun
He looks all around him, but he’s the only one
No walls for shelter, no roof for shade
Not a trace amongst the rubble, of the house that he made
The neighbourhood’s in ruins, the garden’s scorched earth
There’s absolutely nothing left, with any kind of worth

Across the world it’s night-time, where a young girl walks the street
To the unchanging backdrop, of chainlink and concrete
Not a light in a window, or a soul behind a door
Everything’s a shadow, of what it was before

And outside of that world, a few feet down the hall
The men collect some medicine, to give to Jane and Paul
And once again the doctor, sits each patient down
“Why won’t you even acknowledge me?” he says with a frown.

And somewhere in the rubble, Paul swore he heard a call
But this time he ignores it, he’s heard it plenty times before
While Jane runs up and down the street, searching for the sound
Hoping to escape from this, world in which she’s bound
But soon she starts to tire, and then to forget
And then her mind starts going blank, as the medicine takes effect


For those who noticed the thematic inspirations from Silent Hill, a pat on the back. For those who did not, you just lost five-hundred points you didn’t know you had. But you have the chance to win them back — or double them, if you didn’t loose them — by simply sharing, liking, or posting me some feedback that doesn’t involve discounted eyebrow tattoos.

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The End User Patch

Below is the beta version (0.1) of the End User Patch, the “JoDo”, by John Doe. You can read more about how he came about it here. The patch requires no installation and improves security on all devices and platforms simply by reading it. The security increase is estimated to be around a whopping 80%.

JoDo v0.1:

We’ll address the IoT stuff first

Stop acquiring IoT devices. When did you ever need a web interface for your dryer? It’s easier to turn the dial to 60 than to click three to four buttons on a PC. You don’t need a MacBook to operate your microwave. It’s more of a hassle to put food in, go to your MacBook, set the timer, and return to the microwave. That’s why the microwave has a keypad or dial, so that you can activate it without leaving the area. Why did you learn to drive? To drive a car, yes? You don’t need some “smart” software to do it for you. In fact, shocking as it may be, you don’t need GPS to find the Seven Eleven, you can get directions from the gas station. You do not want your door lock to be connected to the internet. That makes it vulnerable to hackers. You will find that a regular lock key is immune to remote attack and even local hacking.

Next, address the hand-helds

Don’t download unofficial software. Your mobile device comes with a built-in package manager. You needn’t understand this. All you need know is that is you “Software Center” or “App Store”. You get safe and verified applications from there. Anywhere else is a risk. You do not need superuser privileges if you are not a superuser. To clarify, if you cannot manually configure things, if you do not understand the difference between an OS and a kernel are, if you have never made system changes without the aid of a How-To or automated software or your friends, then you are not a superuser. The commercial game you want to download from an unofficial source is not free. It is pirated and therefore you still pay for it by risking your security. Is risking all your online accounts, saved passwords, personal information, and nude selfies worth saving five bucks? In case you’re feeling indecisive, the answer is no. Not even for double, triple, or one-hundred times that. What is your phone for? Answer for the two-dgit IQ: making calls and sending texts. So do you need a plethora of apps? No. You may benefit from VOIP and IM apps because they’re cheaper. You may benefit from social media apps. But that’s it. Can you really enjoy a movie on a five inch screen? Be honest. No. Do you need a music player? Maybe, if you don’t own another music player or an iPod, yeah. But that software comes stock so you don’t need to download one. Your phone is not a home theatre or media centre and you will never make it one. Can you really enjoy gaming on a 5 inch screen? Yes. But, can you enjoy gaming without a proper gamepad or kayboard? If you’re a hardcore games, then no. If you’re a casual gamer, the games that you’d enjoy are available from the official store. Do not install all apps on one device. Your phone should be kept strictly for comms. If it is a smartphone, install IM and VOIP, by nothing else. There’s no need for XYZ Saga. Use your tablet. The same is true of web browsing. You don’t need to browse the web every second of every day. Smartphones give a generally bad experience any way. Use a PC or your tablet. By the same token, do not use your tablet for sensitive apps. It is not a good idea to have a banking app on the same device as a game from some publisher with about five downloads and no reviews. The official software sources are usually safe, but it is foolish to rely completely on a system. Don’t have more than one device? Get one. Get a cheap smartphone for your games and insecure activities. If you cannot afford a secondary device look at your monthly expenditure. There is one smart device that retails for less than twelve slabs of chocolate. In other words, one less slab of chocolate per month covers the repayment on a twelve-month credit.

Personal Computers

Do not download software from unofficial sources. Open source software is different because it can usually be trusted to not be malicious. However, if you cannot build it yourself, you probably should not use it. It will appear in your operating system’s repositories when/if it meets the quality and security criteria. Keep your system up to date via to official method described by your OS documentation. If you do not understand, call your IT person.

General

Do not download or click on anything you see on the internet. There’s no magic pill to enlarge your penis. If you need a bigger penis, it is recommended you speak to a medical practitioner. There aren’t tons of singles dying to meet you. How can there be when they don’t know you? To find singles, use reputable sites. Paid-for sites are highly recommended because they filter out out scam-artists. If you want a free platform to meet potential soul mates, there’s a free service called The Outside World. You do not need to click on porn adverts because there are many, erm, reputable porn (sounds like an oxymoron) services through the internet or cable. Surprisingly your local video rental will have media too. You do not need to click adverts for clothing, fashion, make-up, or diets. All these can be obtained for a small fee at the mall. Is your security really worth the off-chance that an outrageous claim that you can shed five kilograms per day is true? High speed weight loss is detrimental to your health and leaves you with flabby skin and a fatigued look. So the answer is no, unless you want to look like the undead. Use a different password for each site you frequent or lock you have. It does not need to be something like @#$%B2A16709. Length is much better strength than complexity. Experts have been saying for years that using some simple words and a non-dictionary one is sufficient. Something like MyKittieIsPregnant@8Months is very hard to crack or guess so consider it. It also meets the criteria that more sites force on their users. Another example, WishIWas30&Flirtie. Do not store sensitive information digitally if you are not well-read on Information Security. Programs may promise to secure your data and passwords, but taking their word for it without assessing them and at least doing some research on them is similar to accepting an offer for heart surgery from a door-to-door salesman. If you have any doubts, remember the most secure place to store passwords is on a piece of paper. Paper, so long as stored and hidden responsibly, is immune to remote attack. If you have your own shorthand, even better, because deciphering it is difficult so if your adversary gains possession of it, it may be useless to them. Never give your details out. A site will never ask for your password or user name except when you login. They’ll never ask by email. If you receive an email from a site telling you to log in, never use the link in the email. Always log into the site from your browser history, bookmarks, or memory. Make sure the address starts with https for extra protection. Do not click links in emails generally, unless they are emails you are expecting, for example an account activation link. Do not login after activating you account, leave the site and return using the above-mentioned methods. Do not download attachments from emails unless you’re expecting them. Example A: your friend sends you some holiday pictures. This is fine. Example B: a random email offers a free something. Not a good idea

Finally:

Disconnect. Ask yourself the following questions about anything you do online.
Did I need to do this online ten years ago?
Did I ever need to do this online?
Can it easily be accomplished without physical internet access?
Do I even need an electronic device for this?
Do I even need to do this?
Do I even need this in my life?

Imagine how you’d feel, after reading all this, if you were the victim of cyber crimes. Imagine how bad you’d feel if a friend, family memeber, or other loved one was harmed by a virus that mailed itself to them from your PC all because you didn’t heed this warning.

Done!

Congratulations. You have just been patched. You can continually update your security by reading this note over and over again.

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The Ultimate Cross-Platform Patch Arrives

September 25, 2016 at 00:45 John Doe, a system administrator and security engineer was doing the thing most that most sysadmins do: monitoring his remote servers while playing Prince of Persia in a DOSBox. Despite the game’s dreadfully sticky controls and difficulty level, he’d been playing it long enough to allow his mind to wander on to one of his most recurring thoughts: cyber security.

“How does one deal with security all those different platforms? Patching one will not patch any of the others…”

In a world where more and more devices are becoming “smart”, the Linux kernel has moved away from its common uses in desktops, servers and embedded systems to become ubiquitous in “Internet of Things”, IoT, consumer electronics, too. Since all these devices were running the same kernel, they shared the same possible security vulnerabilities that a standard desktop or server may face. The difference? Where Linux-based servers are run by professionals, and can receive security updates, many consumer electronics can’t or won’t because manufacturers seldom, if ever, release updates. The logical step seemed to secure the Linux kernel and educate manufacturers and vendors about securing and maintaining systems. But manufacturers and vendors, even educated, may simply ignore the warnings. Also, this did not account for non-Linux devices. Many routers, for example, use firmware derived from BSDs, and though they share a common Unix-alike ancestry, they are very different. It didn’t end there. There many different operating systems form hand-helds and other smart devices, from Linux-based Android, to IOS, to Windows. “How does one deal with security all those different platforms? Patching one will not patch any of the others,” John Doe thought. “The biggest players on any platform seldom cooperate. They’d never modify their OS to help secure others.”

“I’ve found the single point of failure in all technologies! What’s more, I think I can patch it!”

It was then John had a thought that was so radical, he almost choked on his cold coffee, causing him to die in Prince of Persia. “That’s it!” he cried, standing swiftly and killing his DOSBox session. Immediately he called a friend of his to pitch his idea. “What if there was a single patch that was platform and architecture agnostic, available to every user that worked for all devices!?” he yelled as the call, connected. His friend was still half asleep and barely able to string a response together when John proclaimed, “I’ve found the single point of failure in all technologies! What’s more, I think I can patch it!” Although his friend had been catching up on much-needed rest, John’s idea went surging through him like a shot of adrenalin straight to the heart. The two immediately began their work as John outlined the plan details.

Two days without sleep later, John unveiled “JoDo beta”, the John Doe Security patch for for all things, and made it freely available across the web. It doesn’t require installation on the device, firmware flashing, or anything beyond the abilities of even the most technophobic user.

While he admits this patch won’t solve everything, John estimates it would mitigate around 80% of everyday vulnerabilities. Below you’ll find a link to the patch. It’s easy to activate on all devices from whatever you’re reading this on.

View or Download the Patch Here

“I know it doesn’t fix every issue, but I feel that this patch does away with the biggest problems which leaves developers free to focus on the important ones,” John said nearing the end of our Linphone conversation. After that he explained he needed some rest and would probably not be ready for the mass media for a few days. “[I] need to crash for twelve hours. Then I’m going to order myself a pizza and sit playing Centipede in my DOSBox. Afterwards, I might dust the old PlayStation off, invite some friends round and do a Tekken 3 marathon. Then, I may even see if I can remember how to breed a Gold Chocobo. At this point, I just want to chill,” John explained before disconnecting.

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Short: Ame

Believe it or not, this blog was not started solely so that I could post satirical content and tips on how to make your PC and its software work. I also had every intention of publishing some more serious work. Since it’s my seventh post (if you count the first one, whose title even fails to do it justice), I’ve decided to dig up an old short I wrote back in about 2012. It’s titled “Ame” which means rain in Japanese. It’s about 1400 words, which is around four paperback pages:


Ame
by J. McMaster

Monday. It’s raining again. No, not again because it hasn’t stopped. It never stops now. I can’t remember a time when it didn’t rain, though I know that such a time existed once, the same way I know that the sky was blue – just don’t ask me what kind of blue because I don’t remember.
There’s a lot I don’t remember, actually, like how I came to be in this hotel, how I aged so quickly, why time feels like there are pieces of it missing, and who that person in the photograph is.
That photograph. It’s the only possession I have besides my clothes. I don’t know where it was taken and, although I know the person next to that man must be me, I can’t remember looking like her any more clearly than I remember a day it wasn’t raining.
That man in the photograph. Who is he? I don’t remember him and, unlike the sky on a sunny day, I don’t even know what he should be. Was he my husband? My boyfriend? Just a close friend? A casual acquaintance? A cousin? A brother? Something about his smile bothers me. There’s something false about it. His eyes seem unfocused, too. It’s almost as if he didn’t want to be there. Then again, I don’t look that enthusiastic, either. In some ways my smile is more fake than his. Did I not want to be there either?
The place in that photograph. Where is it? There aren’t any clues. It’s a generic backdrop that could be any middle-class home in almost any country. I can’t even see out the windows because there aren’t any. I suppose it’s because in photography it’s bad practice to take a picture facing a light source. There are exceptions to this rule, but generally the light should be behind the photographer and the subject should be facing it.
Why do I know about photography? I’m sure I never did any, neither professionally nor as a hobby.
“Good morning,” says a generic-looking member of the hotel’s staff as she enters my room. I didn’t order room service, I don’t think. She didn’t knock, either.
“Morning,” I absently mutter back. My mind is too preoccupied for pleasantries. I know something’s wrong, I can feel it.
She sets the tray down on my bed. Something is wrong. Definitely wrong. This isn’t food befitting even a low-end traveller’s lodge. This is like a prison meal.

Thursday. It’s raining again. I shouldn’t say again because it never stopped. The hotel staff are quite lively today and they even bothered to knock before coming in earlier. Maybe someone complained about the dreadful food and service yesterday. Wait, today’s Thursday so how can yesterday have been Monday? I guess it was Wednesday after all. I tend to lose track of time these days because everything always seems so similar. It doesn’t help that it always rains or that I live out of an hotel, either. Well, to be fair, I can’t control the weather and renting or buying a place would be a hassle at my age.
There’s a knock at the door. Should I ignore it? Probably. Room service has come and gone so it can’t be anyone I want to see.
The knock’s persistent.
“Fine, come in then,” I call in defeat as a well-dressed young man enters.
“How are we today, Ellen?” he asks, taking a seat without asking permission. Why is he addressing me by my first name when I’ve never met him before?
“Um…” I pause hesitantly. Something’s wrong. I know something’s wrong.
“Ellen, do you remember me?” he asks, not bothering to give me a chance to formulate a reply. I would think, given my reaction, it’s patently obvious I don’t remember him.
I wish this man would stop looking expectantly at me. I wish he’d let go of that fake smile. It’s as false as the smile I’m wearing in that photograph.
That photogr–
“Ellen?” the annoying man cuts in, prompting me for a reply.
I take a long breath and release it with intentional exasperation. “I should think it’s relatively obvious that I don’t know you, or, at the very least, I don’t remember you,” I reply.
The man is frowning now, yet still trying to smile. What an awkward expression; the upper and lower halves of his face at war. Finally, the frown prevails. Why is he taking it so personally? Nobody remembers everyone they meet.
“Ellen,” the man begins extremely gravely, “do you still have that photograph?”
Of course I have it, it’s the only thing I own. I nod a hesitant affirmation. I don’t like where this is going. Something’s wrong.
“Ellen, can you tell me who those two people in the photograph are?” he asks as if the coming of Armageddon hinges on my response.
“Well, the woman is obviously me,” I reply. Who is that man with me? I can never remember him which makes me question the sanity of carrying this photograph around for so long. Then again, it is my only real possession and that in itself makes it sentimental, no matter who’s in it. “I don’t remember the other person.”
“Ellen,” the young man says grimly, “that’s not you.”
Like he would know. He hadn’t even been born yet when this photo was taken.
“Ellen–” he begins but I raise my hand to interrupt him.
“Look here, young man, you weren’t even thought of back when this was taken, you couldn’t possibly know about it!” I spit with a condescending confidence, though even as the words escape me I feel uneasy. Something’s wrong. Something’s always been wrong now that I think about it.
The young man shows no signs of offence at my reply. Instead, he continues to frown while scrutinising me. What is he looking for? What does he want? Why can’t I kick him out? Even if he is the hotel manager or someone similar, this is my room.
“Ellen, that photo is one of thousands and the people in it are just models. They only use them to sell the frames. We’ve been over this before,” he sighs before handing me a folder with my name, age and a few other details printed on a sticker on the front cover.
I open the folder and begin reading it. It’s hard to make out the words amongst the scribblings as most of the papers inside are hand-written. Phrases like severely delusional, brain damage and amnesia pop out the sea of words and complicated medical terms along with names of drugs I can’t pronounce and their dosages. So much for morning vitamins. So much for hotels.
I look up from the mess of papers at the young man, my attending doctor. I don’t think he’s supposed to show me this file. It may cause him trouble. Still, he did it anyway. He respected what was left of a person inside me enough to let me in on the truth.
“Ellen,” he begins with a shorter, but more sorrowful sigh than before, “I’m truly sorry. Every time it rains, you seem to gain some lucidity. I really hoped maybe this time things would be better.”
He’s young. He hasn’t been jaded by the medical profession yet. I’m thankful for that because each time he does this, I get my life back — if only for a fleeting moment.
“Thank you again, doctor,” I smile.
“Do you remember anything new this time?”
For a moment I’m lost. I can already feel the fog forming around my mind again. It’s thick, heavy, and hard to resist, but there’s something out there, a light, one I’ve seen before, that cherished memory.
That photograph. I don’t know either of those people in it. They mean nothing to me. Yet, this is my most important possession because it’s all I have left of that frame, that beautiful silver frame he gave me. I took this photograph out and stuffed it into my pocket. I was going to put a picture of us into that frame, but I never got the chance. It was raining that day, too.
“I remember! It’s not about the photograph, it’s the frame!” I cry with excitement. “I was–”

Tuesday. It’s raining again. I shouldn’t say again because it never stopped. It never stops now, but, for some reason, today I feel as though it’ll clear up for a while.


Well, there you have it. Bear in mind it’s raw because I wrote it for a short fiction competition (the limit was 1500 words), but lost my nerve the last minute so it never got edited, let alone submitted. Still, all comments and constructive criticisms are welcome.

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