YOIS News Archive (2014)

12/12/2014It's official: The combination of workload, real-life issues and holiday stress has become unsustainable. So I'm shutting down the Shoppe until things settle down after the first of the new year.

There is one BetterThanTheBay auction still active, so I'll wrap that up as soon as it's done. If you have open transactions, I'll get those finished as soon as possible. Any other issues, you are welcome to email me, just be aware that I may not respond quickly. Just wanted to remind everyone how much I love being repeatedly pestered when I'm busy and stressed. Which is to say, not in the slightest. Please, don't be this guy.

I'll see everyone after the 1st, with new Shoppe games and new auctions of rare promo Infocom items. Safe and happy Christmas / Hannukah / Kwanzaa / Eid al-Fitr / Festivus / Winter Solstice / I hope I didn't exclude and offend anyone.

11/16/2014I've posted a set of 5 Infocom sale sheets for auction. This will probably be the last auction for the year. Sorry, but I've been busy as heck the last few weeks clearing out things for the flea markets, and my schedule is going to get really full in December. I'm pet-sitting for a family member for the entire month and will have quite a bit of holiday-related family activities that will take up a lot of my time. Once all of that settles down, I will be back with more auctions.

If I don't post again before the end of the year, everybody have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

11/02/2014In case you noticed that the Zork Trilogy sale sheet and postcard auction is gone, here's the explanation:

A previous bidder contacted me, seeming to indicate he was expecting to receive this, even though I don't have him as winner. I'm not finding the item here, so I've asked him for clarification. I deleted the auction listing (even though I'm loath to do that) until the confusion gets straightened out.

For the record, any questions about an auction after you win it can be emailed to me directly. The "everything is public" rule only applies to active auctions, to eliminate backdoor deals and other miscreant behavior. Once you win an auction, any questions or concerns you have about delivery, condition, completeness, etc. can be followed up with me privately.

11/01/2014New BetterThanTheBay auctions are posted. With winter setting in, I'll be spending more time indoors once I'm done with the flea markets and the end of the month and I get all the leaves raked. My goal is to finally get all of the Infocom promo items organized this winter, as I've had them for an entire year now, and have BTTB auctions running well into next year.
10/27/2014The flea market went pretty well. I moved some stuff, made some money, met some area collectors and handed out a few business cards. No takers on the Infocom items, but I had a few people recognize them. I also had one person recognize me from my cameo in the "Get Lamp" documentary, and I met the members of a local band named Encounter at L-5, after the Atari 2600 game. Which I actually had a copy of, so they bought it. Sorry the label was in crap shape, guys.

Normally the flea market is one Sunday per month, but in November they're doing another on the 9th, so I signed up for that one as well. I have a small gold mine of consoles I'd like to get tested so I can bring them to sell, but I'll also try to get a few more BetterThanTheBay items up.

I've found myself with a lot more free time since suspending my Dish satellite TV last week, after their corporate toddler-fight with Turner Broadcasting caused them to drop Cartoon Network and several other channels from my subscription package. (You do not come between a man and his Adventure Time.) On top of that, I'm about to replace my phone and Internet services after a pointlessly crappy experience with AT&T. That's another mini-saga that I'll post once it all wraps up. Add them to the list behind eBay, Microsoft, the U.S. Postal Service, and two local car dealerships. *sigh* I just can not get along with anyone, can I?

10/21/2014BetterThanTheBay auctions are ending tomorrow. I'll try to get some additional items listed this week, but I'm pretty busy prepping for the flea market this weekend. Need to clear out some of my console game clutter. I always take a couple of Infocom items along as well, just to fish for local interested parties.
10/10/2014I've fixed an issue with the postage calculator on BetterThanTheBay. It wasn't grabbing the package weight from the database correctly, so the calculated amount was a bit low. To anyone with currently active bids, if the higher shipping cost affects your max amount, please let me know and I will adjust it (just this once, since it's the result of a coding error on my part). And as always, if it turns out you got overcharged on shipping, just let me know and I will refund the difference. I use a physical scale for weighing, not electronic, so sometimes the weight shows as off by a few ounces which can affect the price. I've ordered some slightly smaller Priority shipping boxes too, which should cut down on the packaging weight for BTTB items, while still providing adequate protection.

I know I'm always ranting about the issues with the USPS's website, but this time it was my fault. Let it never be said that I'm unwilling to self-criticize.

At the request of a user, I've also added a PayPal link to the auction detail page, in case I'm a bit slow sending the invoice and you'd like to go ahead and pay. If you want to combine auctions, or have an auction and a YOIS order shipped together, just let me know and I'll get you a revised postage quote. Please let me know if you experience any other issues with it.

10/04/2014Yeesh. September was really busy, but I think things are quieting down now.

If you're ever in the Chicago area, be sure to check out the Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield. It's by far the best video arcade I've seen since the glory days of the 1980s. The building is larger than it looks on the outside, and it's got several rooms crammed with arcade cabinets, most of them original, all organized by genre. My cousin and I had 4 hours fly by here, barely realizing it. I spent a good slice of that playing their Ikaruga (kit-built, not a Japanese original), Darius, R-Type, Mars Matrix... pretty much any 2D scrolling shooter you could possibly want. (Radiant Silvergun, alas, was down for repairs.) Brought back a lot of memories.

I've listed my loot from VCFMW and ECCC below and on the sale pages. Mostly Amiga and Commodore items. I also came across a Wing Commander III Collector's Edition, in the huge box with the metal film canister, and I'm debating whether to list it in the Shoppe or on BetterThanTheBay.

Segueing into BetterThanTheBay, there are more auctions ending this weekend, and almost no competition. I can't help but notice I've been listing (what I think are) a lot of awesome items, but they just aren't drawing many bids, and I'm wondering why. So, please tell me: What's holding you back from using BetterThanTheBay? Is it that I'm setting the starting bids too high? The fact that you only get to bid once? Not being able to watch the price go up as the auction runs? The "no reselling on eBay" clause? Please let me know. I'm a bit disheartened by this, and am considering switching the rest of these items over to the trade-only system if things don't pick up soon.

1337 haxx0r, 3h?

Remember my Chinese script kiddies? YOIS experienced another hack attempt earlier this week, this time in the form of a full-fledged automated assault that probed for all kinds of security exploits and vulnerabilities. This one came from Canada. And we all know what Canadians are like, don't we? Heh. I hope the source of my next hack attempt is American. I already have a clip picked out. It's a good'un.

The script ran for about an hour before I noticed it, but didn't do much actual damage, aside from creating a crapload of fake survey responses I had to clear out, and hammering my inbox with an avalanche of automated emails generated by all the webpage calls. At first I thought it was a denial-of-service attack, but I could still get to all the pages, so I was able to view my private logs. Fun fact, I've had a lot of warning systems and precautions in place to monitor the site since the days of the first attempted Shoppe "hack", the twatnougat who went nuclear on me after I busted him selling self-printed Infocom T-shirts as originals... Remember that guy?

So it was easy to see what was happening, and the undoubtedly hockey-loving script kiddy's IP was blocked after a quick email to Stefan, the IF-Legends admin, who suggested it was probably eBay, Microsoft and Sony all ganging up to annoy me. ;) Forwarding the relevant portions of my logs to his ISP seems to have fried his Canadian bacon for good.

I've also installed a honeypot in a remote corner of the Shoppe, to help catch other miscreants who would attack sites in a similar manner and/or harvest emails for spam. In the spirit of Zork, I've christened it "Flood Control Dam #3".

Think that's everything for now.

09/22/2014New BetterThanTheBay auctions are live! Lots of rare pieces this time, including a Moonmist poster, Spellbreaker launch party invitation, and an issue of the Infocommuniqué newsletter. More to come!
09/20/2014Didn't find much at the Peoria hamfest as far as vintage games. I did take home a box of older game consoles from a local electronics recycler's booth. Now I need to find time to clean and test them.

New BetterThanTheBay auction items are going up tomorrow night.

09/19/2014Just a reminder, BetterThanTheBay auctions are ending over the weekend. It's also the annual ham radio and electronics expo here in Peoria, so I'll be out hunting for games and old computers to buy up. I still have a box to go through and list from the shows in Chicago last weekend, and I'd like to finally get some more auctions posted as well. This month has been especially busy.
09/15/2014Had a good time at the Vintage Computer Festival Midwest and the Emergency Chicagoland Commodore Convention on Saturday. Made some contacts (one guy had a booth featuring Infocom games and their props), found a couple of possible leads on a rare item, and bought up quite a few good pieces for both myself and the Shoppe.

Did not have as much fun going around to places in the West Loop, since that day was Riotfest in Humboldt Park. You know how people say, "Everybody's gonna be there"? Well everybody was. Ugh. >.<

09/09/2014I can now officially confirm beyond any doubt that Sony's customer service department is every bit as incompetent as Microsoft's.
09/07/2014New BetterThanTheBay auctions are posted. I'll try to keep a steady trickle going, but September is going to be a bit iffy as far as new listings. I'll be occupied with other things on most weekends, plus I may end up feuding with Sony over a PS3 repair issue. *sigh* They're showing early signs of possibly turning into another eBay or Microsoft. These things always take an unbalanced amount of my life to rectify. (Why must I be tormented so?) On the plus side, this news nugget did lift my spirits, not to mention my schadenfreude-meter. >:}

Just a heads-up, there may be issues with the postage quotes tomorrow, both for BTTB and the main site. The USPS is dinking around with their API again. I read through the notes and I think the Shoppe is compliant, but they've thrown me in the past. I'll log on tomorrow when I have a chance and check it to be certain.

08/23/2014New BetterThanTheBay auctions are posted! Right now I'm about one-third of the way through organizing the promotional Infocom items, though only a small percentage of what I have has been listed so far. Keep checking, as I'll try to list a few more every weekend.
08/22/2014Just a reminder to everyone that the first new batch of BetterThanTheBay auctions are ending tomorrow. A few new ones will be posted tomorrow morning as well. I've finally got all of the promotional items unpacked and organized, and will be taking pictures this weekend. As well as pulling the pieces I intend to put in my own collection.




08/17/2014I've listed some more Shoppe items, mostly InvisiClues, and a couple of repeat BetterThanTheBay items. Still need to go through that lot, but I'll try to get to some of the more interesting stuff soon. (Combination of busy, and waiting to see how many of the early listings show up on eBay again.)
08/09/2014BetterThanTheBay is back online, with four major changes, based on what I learned from the test run back in May.

The first and most important change is that users now need to declare that they are not going to resell BTTB items on eBay. Given my long history of disgust with eBay, not to mention the name of this site, I didn't think that was something I needed to explicitly state, but apparently I do. I've added another checkbox to the registration process for this. Existing users, this means you will need to register again. I've sent everybody who signed up before a notice about this.

The original intent with BetterThanTheBay was to get these rare items into the hands of fellow collectors who would appreciate them. It was not to make myself a cheap source of rare items that people could immediately resell at a huge personal profit. When I bought this lot of promotional Infocom items from my source, I made a promise to her that, should any of them end up going for an insanely high price, I would share some of that windfall with her. Flipping items on eBay at a huge markup will rob her of that. This is not just about me or you. Out of respect for her, I'm asking everyone nicely not to do this.

There is now a (not-so-nice) contingency plan in place, so I won't get blindsided like that again. If I catch anyone flipping these items on eBay -- and I have automated searches set up through multiple sites -- I will switch the remainder of them over to a new system which is already set up, tested, and ready to go. This will permanently replace BetterThanTheBay, and the BTTB page will feature the full contact information of whoever is responsible, and it will never, ever be taken down.

Oh, and as a little gift to myself, the first auctions are set to close on my birthday. So you'll be spoiling my birthday present if you take them to eBay. Just a little extra guilt-trip there. ^^)

Second, I'm streamlining the shipping process. Both U.S. and international shipping will be via insured Priority Mail only, since the boxes are free and uniform in size. It saves me the trouble of hunting for the perfect one. Also, to speed up turnaround and further discourage flippers, any combined shipping will only be done with auctions ending on the same day. Otherwise, everything gets paid for and shipped individually. (This does not apply to YOIS. You can still combine items from the regular Shoppe, like always, and you can still combine YOIS and BTTB items. Just no more holding auction items while waiting for other auctions to finish.) To reflect this, I've also shortened the expected transaction turnaround time from 30 days to 10 days.

Third, I've added another checkbox to the registration process, asking people to verify that their YOIS mailing address and their PayPal mailing address match. With the original batch of auctions, I had a couple of cases of mismatched addresses, one of which resulted in a package being sent to the wrong place. (It seems to be PayPal's fault. They keep bringing back people's old addresses for some reason.) I'll be comparing them myself, and if they don't match I will cancel the payment and ask you to resend it once they do match. This will delay the shipping of your items, so please check in advance.

Fourth and finally, all bids are now hidden until the auction is over, with the exception of the minimum starting amount. This will eliminate any influence one person's bid might have on another's, which is something I noticed happening during the trial run -- People bidding $1 more than the current maximum. From now on, bid what you feel it's worth, not an amount based on what any other bidder before you has said. Once the auction is over, all bids will be revealed in the usual manner -- amounts including the winner's true max visible to everyone, user IDs only visible to the seller and participants. Again, with BetterThanTheBay, you bid once, so always enter your true maximum.

Not specific to BTTB, but still worth mentioning: I have fixed the issue with the international shipping calculator. Again. I still loathe the U.S. Postal Service's website. Should that ever change, I will shout it from a mountaintop. I do not suspect that it will.

That's everything. I appreciate everyone's patience while I sorted all of this out.

Before I go, a special shout-out to the Chinese script kiddies who've been poking around the site: Hi. I see you. Even through all the smog over Beijing, I see you. SQL injection attacks, really? That's what you're pitting me against? Don't look now, but I think I see some Mongorians attacking your shitty wall. (P.S. Learn SQL.)

07/27/2014With my outdoor summer projects mostly out of the way, I have reopened the Shoppe.

BetterThanTheBay is still offline, but I finally have time to start work on the changes I need to make to it. There will be a detailed post once that's complete.

05/21/2014Just received word that our old friend Eyal Katz has bought a California Pacific Ultima on eBay (user ID "jeffcowe"). If you see him peddling any in the future, they're likely to be fakes.

Why people don't just block the little twerp from bidding I will never understand.

05/14/2014I'm seriously starting to believe BetterThanTheBay is cursed.

I had one package undeliverable because PayPal merged the buyer's old address into their new account. Still waiting on that mess to be resolved.

Then there's the address in Canada that the USPS (yes, THEM again, *sigh*) doesn't recognize. I tried to buy the postage online because it's a bit cheaper that way, but you have to choose a city and province from a drop-down and then they give you a list of valid postal codes... Only my buyer's isn't showing up there! So I get to diddledick around with that, too.

The third buyer is paying with a wire transfer. Don't worry, it's someone I know and trust, or I wouldn't even accept that method. But I still can't wait to see what could possibly go wrong with THAT.

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother trying.

05/09/2014The initial test run of BetterThanTheBay has completed. I need to do some recoding to correct a few issues, and implement some changes based on what I've learned and suggestions others have made.

Unfortunately, with the weather turning good, outdoor projects and bicycling are calling me, so I don't really have time to mess with it right now on top of everything else. Plus, the whole experience of seeing the BTTB items immediately flipped on eBay sort of pissed on my fire a little. I need some time away to get past that and think about the best way to handle future auctions.

I'm shutting down both BTTB and the Shoppe for a while, until I take care of other things and get my ambition back. If you have open transactions I'll finish them up. If you want to place new orders, please go ahead, and I will get to them when I can.

04/29/2014Hmmm. Perhaps I should have seen this coming.

All that effort. All the hours of hard work coding and testing I put into BetterThanTheBay... and the very first items I sell immediately get listed on the very site I was trying to get away from. It just... feels like a real slap in the face.

The idea was to get rare promotional items to collectors who wanted them, at a price dictated by the bidding itself. It was not intended to give people a cheap, secret source of rare items they could turn around and flip at a huge profit.

It's my own fault, really. I'm too naive and trusting. I try to be honest and fair, and I tend to assume other people will treat me the same way. But apparently greed still trumps friendship in the vintage game collecting world.

I wonder if he was ever going to tell me, or just keep using me? Needless to say, this individual is blocked from any future bidding. I won't take back the positive feedbacks, since he did pay on time. But I don't have to keep putting up with this.

Enjoy whatever profit you might make. You lost a potential friend in the process. I hope it was worth it.

04/23/2014I just listed the pile of loose manuals I found a week or so ago. Nothing rare, but maybe you'll find a missing piece you need.
04/19/2014A Shoppe visitor pointed me to these links, showing a guy who made his own zorkmid coins using a 3D printer and is offering them for sale. Judging from the pictures, the details came out very well. He also says he can replicate the bronze coloring and the "aging".

At least he's not attempting to pass them off as originals, but that wouldn't stop someone unscrupulous from buying and trying. Unfortunately my days of fighting counterfeiting on the front lines are long over (I don't have the time or energy, and the last time I ended up feeling distinctly unappreciated), so the best I can do is put the information out there so people can be aware.

Be extremely cautious when buying zorkmids, be they loose, still in the baggie, or even sold with the Zork Trilogy. I have a known original so I'd be happy to do an appraisal of yours and give my opinion, if you're at all uncertain. If anybody buys one, I'd appreciate the opportunity to examine and compare it myself. I'll pay for the shipping both ways.

04/18/2014One final reminder, there are auctions ending this weekend.

I've got a full schedule of yard work and family obligations planned, so I won't be able to monitor the site as closely as I'd like. If you're planning to bid on one of the 3 items closing, please don't wait until the last minute to request BetterThanTheBay access.

More items coming once I have time to list them. This week has been insane.

One other thing, I cleared out the undeliverable addresses from the YOIS mailing list. There were a bunch of 'em, not surprising since I hadn't used the mailing list in years and only just started again recently. If you haven't been receiving BetterThanTheBay updates and you want them, it may be that you were signed up under an old address that's no longer valid. Please feel free to sign up again.

04/16/2014The first BetterThanTheBay auction closed successfully yesterday. I've made one adjustment to the auction page: It now displays just the insured postage options, based on your registration info and the current bid price. The external link to USPS is displayed as a default if the site isn't able to calculate your postage on its own.

Please let me know if you encounter any problems or strange behavior from the site. I've fixed a couple already. And don't forget the other auctions ending this weekend.

04/12/2014I've listed a few more items I found in a box while doing some rearranging. Also found a bunch of loose manuals and reference cards that I'll get posted when I have a chance.

The first auctions are ending next week, the first on 4/15 and a few others on 4/20 (YOIS server date and time, check how that compares to your own time zone).

04/06/2014I just posted a few more auction items and will list more in a few days. To be honest I'm a bit torn between posting a bunch of these at once, or spacing them out so people can replenish their collecting budgets. I don't want to impact anyone's wallet too harshly (I see there's a bid on the saucer) since it was always frustrating to me when people listed more stuff at once than I could afford to bid on. If you're concerned about this please let me know. Unlike a certain other auction site, I will listen.
04/04/2014As things seemed to go pretty smoothly with the BetterThanTheBay launch, I've reopened the regular portion of the Shoppe. Still might be a bit slow the next few days because I'm kitten-sittin' again this weekend. But I do plan to post more auctions as well.
04/02/2014If you noticed a message saying you were the high bidder in the auctions, despite not actually bidding, that is fixed now. How the heck did I miss that one?! Anyway, thanks to the person who pointed it out to me, and if anybody spots any other odd behavior, please let me know.

(Yes, the auctions are still up, because that was not an April Fool's joke. I'll be listing more in the next few days when I have time.)

04/01/2014We're live! You may have noticed the "auctions" link added to the main page. You can read more about this new feature in the latest Shoppe column, or just jump right in.

I've started things off slowly, just a few listings at first, to make sure the impact is minimal if there are any issues. (Shouldn't be, as I tested the heck out of things.) I have many, many more awesome Infocom goodies to list, and I will begin adding them in a few days.

My thumb is much better. Still a little pain and stiffness, but I could hitchhike if I wanted to. I should probably hold off on declaring any thumb wars for a while yet.

These are very exciting times. In addition to the new auction feature, I am currently in negotiations with Facebook to sell Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe. They will be adding a dedicated team of web designers to improve the look of the site and greatly expand it and fully integrate it with Facebook, to become the premiere selling and trading site for vintage computer games. I've signed a non-disclosure agreement saying that I can't talk about the price until everything is negotiated, but I will be posting what updates I can as the Facebook deal commences.

03/30/2014I've closed the Shoppe for the next couple of days, to allow myself to deal with any issues arising from the new site feature (which launches Tuesday). You're always free to place orders, just be aware I might not get to them right away next week.
03/21/2014Testing on the new site code is more or less complete. I still have a few things to get ready, and there are some back-end functions I'd like to code for myself, but the core functionality is working great. I could launch it now if I wanted to. I will definitely be launching it April 1st.

The other day I managed to pop a joint in my thumb, don't ask me how. It's still pretty swollen and sore, but not nearly as excruciating as when it first happened. Fortunately it doesn't interfere with my typing, though it has made it painful to operate a game controller. Which means I have to delay starting Dark Souls II until it heals. And just when my schedule was about to free up. Talk about agonizing. (I loves me my Dark Souls.)

03/12/2014Testing the new site code is going well. I've had the expected formatting errors and typos the PHP interpreter couldn't catch, but nothing game-breaking so far. A testament to really planning out and thinking through the design in advance, I guess. Really excited to show everyone what I've been building here. I think I will do what I joked about before, and launch this on April 1st.

On a less positive note, did you know the U.S. Postal Service (yes, them again) charges you six dollars to open an investigation into the disappearance of a money order THEY lost? I didn't know that until this morning. I also know I'm not buying a postal money order ever again.

03/08/2014If you don't mind, I would like to rant a bit.

I need more hands.

Because, whoever coded the U.S. Postal Service's online rate calculation API and wrote the documentation for it, I want to punch them in the stomach, the throat, the nose, the mouth, the genitals, and both eyes, simultaneously. To do that, I need more hands.

I have figured out the problem I was having with the API, and it was head-poundingly stupid and infuriating. This is an example of the API call I was passing them, which was failing:

http://production.shippingapis.com/ShippingAPI.dll?API=RateV4&XML=
<RateV4Request USERID="XXXXXXXX" PASSWORD="XXXXXXXX"><Revision/>
<Package ID="1ST">
  <Service>EXPRESS</Service>
  <ZipOrigination>61612</ZipOrigination>
  <ZipDestination>90808</ZipDestination>
  <Pounds>8</Pounds>
  <Ounces>1</Ounces>
  <Container>RECTANGULAR</Container>
  <Size>LARGE</Size>
  <Length>18</Length>
  <Width>12</Width>
  <Height>12</Height>
</Package></RateV4Request>

(Obviously I've withheld my login and password, lest others misappropriate it.) And here was the error I got:

Invalid XML Element content is invalid according to the DTD/Schema. Expecting: Height, Girth, Value, AmountToCollect, SpecialServices, Content, GroundOnly, SortBy, Machinable, ReturnLocations, ReturnServ....

The maddening thing is, I was clearly including Height. And all of the other elements are listed as optional in their online documentation, which admittedly in the past I have found to be infested with errors, so I had no reason to suspect that now is any different.

But thanks to this wonderful, WONDERFUL thread, I was able to figure out the problem. It expects width BEFORE height! Yes, everywhere ELSE on their stupid website, it prompts you to enter length first, then width. But here, it wants WIDTH first, and will fail otherwise.

http://production.shippingapis.com/ShippingAPI.dll?API=RateV4&XML=
<RateV4Request USERID="XXXXXXXX" PASSWORD="XXXXXXXX"><Revision/>
<Package ID="1ST">
  <Service>EXPRESS</Service>
  <ZipOrigination>61612</ZipOrigination>
  <ZipDestination>90808</ZipDestination>
  <Pounds>8</Pounds>
  <Ounces>1</Ounces>
  <Container>RECTANGULAR</Container>
  <Size>LARGE</Size>
  <Width>12</Width>
  <Length>18</Length>
  <Height>12</Height>
</Package></RateV4Request>

When I switched the positions of the two items in red, IT WORKED. Posting this here so others might find it and avoid the aggravation I went through.

Now, I'll admit, in their online documentation, they do list Width before Length. But, one, they could have called attention to the importance of the order somewhere in said documentation. And, two, my frustration was compounded by an error message that had NO BEARING on the actual problem. Why not change the error to something like "Expected Width before Length"?

To the person or persons responsible for coding the U.S. Postal Service's online rate calculation API and writing the documentation for it:

I HATE YOU.

I will not track you down, because I have more important uses for my time.

But if the randomness of the universe ever presents me with the opportunity to punch you in the stomach, the throat, the nose, the mouth, the genitals, and both eyes, simultaneously? I am carpe-ing that diem.

All right. I feel better now. Back to testing the new site code. >.<

03/07/2014I hit a major milestone on the new site code tonight: I finished coding, and got the page to load for the first time. Granted, it doesn't look like it should yet, but it loads. I hit and fixed 34 distinct typos across 2,100 lines of code. I'm astounded that number was so small.

Next, I've got a lengthy document detailing every aspect of the new code I need to test and verify. That'll take up the coming weeks, as time permits. It's getting there.

02/28/2014It's getting there, I promise. I finally finished the actual coding for the new features, now I need to start testing everything. Right now I'm a bit reluctant to even load the page, because I don't want to confront how inherently flawed my coding may be. So I'm going to enjoy the illusion that it's perfect, just for a little bit.

I'm also kitty-sitting for a family member this week so I don't have as much time. But it is coming, I promise.

Hmm, maybe I should aim for April 1st as a launch date, then no one would know whether to take me seriously.

02/22/2014I'm wrapping up the new coding and am hoping to finally start testing the new site functionality in another week or so.

In the meantime, has anyone else successfully used the USPS's rate calculation API? After days of non-response, they're telling me they don't provide the level of technical support I need. The issue I'm having involves packages over 4 pounds, where you have to specify the box dimensions. I've quintuple-checked the XML and their documentation regarding what is required, it looks right, but obviously something is still wrong since it's not working.

UPDATE: I've changed the error message for packages over 4 pounds so it's a little friendlier, until I can get this fixed. Just contact me and I'll get you a quote manually.

If anyone else has gotten the USPS's API to work for packages over 4 pounds, please contact me. If you can get it to work for me too, I will pay you for your time.

02/17/2014I finally had time this weekend to put in a marathon coding session, so the new site functionality is close to being ready for testing. Assuming that goes fairly well, I'm hoping to start selling some of the rare Infocom pieces toward the end of the month, or early next month.

Still no response from the USPS about the issue I'm having with their rate API. I like to think they're miffed about the Consumerist thing and are giving me the pouty silent treatment.

02/09/2014There's an issue with the USPS rate calculator (what else?) not returning data for large packages over 4 pounds. I'm awaiting a response from them. Smaller packages should still work fine. If you encounter this please send me a message and I'll weigh your package manually until I get a fix.
02/05/2014Moving my domain names turned out to be far less painful than I had dreaded. I went with NameCheap. They're running a "Move Your Domain Day" special today, where you can transfer a domain for $3.98 with promo code NCMYDD and get 75% off hosting with HOSTWITHNC. Their interface is a lot less bloated and cluttered than GoDaddy's, and they don't make you click through five pages of "Hey look! Buy this too!" before you check out.

I am not in any way being compensated for posting this. I just had a completely positive experience with this company and wanted to share it. Since I do tend to piss and moan a lot about negative experiences. (Today is Opposite Day, in addition to being Move Your Domain Day. It is allowed to be two Days at once.)

02/04/2014Check it out, my recent rant against the Post Office made the Consumerist blog. On my last visit there I didn't see any addressed packages piled around, and all of the Priority Mail displays were overflowing with boxes, so maybe they got my message. Now if we could just solve the Mystery of the Vanishing Money Order.

I'm slowly but steadily making progress on the rare Infocom items. Can't give an exact date yet, but they are coming, I promise.

01/30/2014Fixed a minor issue with the shipping. It was still showing insured Standard Post as an option (and at a very discounted rate) even if Standard Post was no longer available to your zone. Other than that, the new postage rollout seems to have been uneventful.
If you use PayPal (and I don't know of many collectors who don't) you might want to give this article a read. Short version, this guy had his website hacked by someone who managed to social-engineer the last 4 digits of his credit card out of PayPal. I strongly suggest calling PayPal and asking them to put a note on your account, telling them NOT to release any of your details over the phone.

I have to take this seriously, because this is the sort of crap that happens to me. Whenever I have a customer service issue, I seem to fall through every single crack in their support system. It happened with eBay, it happened with Microsoft, it's happened with a few local businesses I've dealt with. I've found the best way to avoid it is to imagine the worst-case scenario, and take steps to derail it.

Needless to say, I will also be transferring my domains off of GoDaddy.

01/29/2014I've just learned that David Lebling, co-author of Zork and co-founder of Infocom, wil be doing an hour-long Classic Game Post-Mortem panel discussion at this year's Game Developer's Conference, where he'll talk about the early days of the company and the creation of the mainframe and personal computer versions of Zork.

Very interesting, if you can afford the admission. I checked with the organizers, and it requires an All Access or Main Conference Pass to attend, and those are kinda pricey. But I'm sure they'll make it available for viewing after the event.

01/28/2014On today's episode of Post Office Incompetence Theatre, we find our lovely Peoria post office completely devoid of Priority Mail boxes. That's right, the service they keep pushing on us, the service they're trying to get more people to use by eventually dropping Standard Post from some zones, the service you see commercials for on TV about how fast and convenient it is and the boxes are free! Aaaaand then they don't HAVE any frikkin' boxes there for you to use.

*clap*

*clap*

*clap*

Brava, Peoria post office. Bra-VA.

01/26/2014Given my USPS experiences of the past couple of weeks, I was beginning to dread the launch of their API changes, but after doing some testing it appears to have been successful. I guess the law of averages worked in my favor this time. Please let me know if you experience any problems with the Shoppe's shipping calculator.

I've started going through the second batch of Infocom items, and... there is some amazing stuff here. I'm hoping I can finish coding and testing the new venue for selling rarities soon.

01/21/2014Adding to my rant about the Post Office: This morning I went in to mail a stack of packages... and there were two large piles of people's packages just sitting there in the lobby! One batch was underneath the cylindrical package drop, where you tilt the handle and it slides the package into the back area, because apparently the back area was already jammed full of packages and no one could put any more in. The other batch was stacked neatly beside a service door, indicating that someone who works at the Post Office was supposed to take them into the back, but hadn't.

This is ridiculous, and more than a little bit horrifying. Any joker could simply walk in and walk out with several armloads of packages, and no one would ever know what happened! Hell, I could have done it if I'd wanted to. Needless to say, I gave my YOIS packages to an actual person at the counter after buying the postage from the automated machines. And I pointed out the situation to them. Hopefully they addressed it shortly after I left.

Here are a couple of pictures I snapped using my Vita. (Yes, Vita. I still do not, and never will, carry a mobile phone.)





01/19/2014I'll try to go through the second batch of Infocom stuff this week. Just been having delays, and lots of orders to fill.

Has anyone else experienced a sharp decline in the quality of the U.S. Postal Service, starting around mid-December? Since then I've had:

  • One package sent to me that showed no tracking information for almost a month until I filed an insurance claim, then said it was being returned to sender because of an error in my delivery address, then finally turned up on my end, with absolutely no address problems whatsoever.
  • One $300 money order, sent to a local business, that has not been delivered after a week, and for which I must wait 60 days to file a claim of loss.
  • Consistent long lines at the counter after 5PM, waits of 45 minutes to an hour, with only one person manning them.

Based on this, I must conclude that the congressional mandate forcing the USPS to pre-fund retiree benefits is not the only reason the organization is in desperate trouble.
01/11/2014Today I sat down and figured out the upcoming USPS website changes. Hopefully there will be no interruption to the site's postage calculator. Aside from updated prices the only thing that affect us is, apparently they are eliminating Standard Post (formerly Parcel Post, the cheapest domestic shipping method for heavier packages) for people in Zones 1-4 from me. This only affects domestic customers, not international.

U.S. Postal Zones refer to areas based on distance from the sender. You can use this tool to see if the change will affect you. Just enter 616 (the first 3 digits of my ZIP code) and find the range with the first three digits of yours in the table it generates. If your Zone is 1-4 from me, you might not have the Standard Post shipping option after January 26.

01/10/2014Oh wow. Remember my ongoing battles with the U.S. Postal Service's webpage, where they were always changing their postage calculation API without telling me? Well today they actually emailed and told me they are making changes. Even more impressively, they informed me in advance, rather than after the fact! So I should be able to adjust the Shoppe's parsing script, with no interruption to service. Is it too late to deem this a Christmas Miracle?

Now, if my computer actually works after I pick it up tonight, I just might start believing in a higher power.

UPDATE: I am posting this from my home PC!

Some kind of power short, that's the final diagnosis. The good news is, they were able to transfer the hard drive contents, so I didn't lose a ton of work and settings. The bad news is, for now I only have one and a half working USB ports (one that's fine and the other which is a little finicky, but I've figured out how to work with it). Going to pick up a powered hub and see if it can handle that. Short of replacing the mainboard entirely, there doesn't seem to be much else I can do about that.

To celebrate this... well I wouldn't call it a victory... "mitigated clusterfuck" has a certain ring to it. To celebrate this mitigated clusterfuck, how about a few new items? (Scroll down.) Couple of greys, a folio, an Ultima cluebook, and the rest of the Building Applications with Cornerstone copies I was able to obtain. These are most likely the last ones I will ever get, for realsies this time.

With the weather back to the point where I can work in my basement without freezing, I've set aside this weekend to work on various Shoppe machinations, and will try to do the same for the next few weeks, assuming the computer holds up. Come on little guy, you can do it.

01/09/2014Okay. I think things are slowly re-approaching normalcy.

*sigh* December was pretty much a perfect shitstorm. Work was aggravating and stressful, then there was all the holiday-related crap I had to run around and take care of. So when the computer screwed up I pretty much shut down for the rest of the year. I can only deal with so much aggravation at once, and when I hit my limits I tend to hit them HARD.

Just ask the guy who is now blocked from using the Shoppe. I warned him on this page, and I warned him over email, and he just would not stop asking, "Are we there yet?" And finally I just turned this car around. (I'm not worried about losing his business. He was attempting to lowball me at every turn. $20 for the sealed Infocom sampler? Puh-leaze.)

After Christmas I started shopping around locally for a repair service or replacement computer, because I just didn't have the energy to dink with it myself. Then the winter storm hit, and the cold and the roads were bad enough that I didn't want to drive anywhere. But this weekend, I should finally have a working computer again. Which means I should be faster at filling orders now, and I can pick up coding the new functionality for selling the rare items.

Speaking of those, I have the second Infocom batch on the way, lots of promotional and internal items in that. Then there's one final batch after that, with some T-shirts and maybe a few other things. Oh, and the the "interesting artifact" I mentioned back in November? I was able to obtain it for my personal collection. More details when I'm ready to share. Keep watching.


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