YOIS News Archive (2016)

12/31/2016Just mopping up a few things before the year officially ends:

I've essentially accomplished what I was hoping to do this year. The Vault is up to date, with the exception of a few boxes of non-game items that don't fit easily on my shelves, and the rest of the Langosy items I still need to pick through. And I'd like to take an updated picture but there's still a bit too much stuff in the way. My 2017 goal (I won't use the "R" word) is to get my wanted list current again. I think it's been a good decade since I touched it last.

Does anyone know of a place that sells acid-free plastic storage bags larger than 16.25 x 10.5? Those are sometimes called "treasury bags" and are the largest size I've ever found, but I have a few oversized items (Starcross saucer, Suspended mask box and the Digital Infocom folio releases for DECmate and DEC Rainbow) that don't fit them.

I've heard from two people for whom the Shoppe site is not working at all. They say that no matter what page they try to access, they only get a blank browser window. I have not been able to reproduce this issue. If you encounter it, please let me know at yois@if-legends.org. (Might want to grab that address and save it somewhere in case this starts happening to you.)

Recently I played through the King's Quest reboot and had a pretty good time with it. It was obvious the developers loved the original series, and they worked in a lot of obscure references, my favorite being the "impossible riddle" which I assume refers to guessing the old gnome's name in the first game. And it may be just my imagination, but I swear the blacksmith lady was modeled after how Roberta Williams looked in the 1980s. It was a nice blend of traditional LucasArts-style point and click and the choice-driven narratives popularized by Telltale.

I realize that serial games tend to get some criticism because the choices players make don't truly affect the direction the story takes, but I tend to view them the same way as real life: In cosmic terms, nothing we do matters. In a few billion years the sun will bloom into a red giant and either scorch or entirely engulf the earth, the universe will continue without us, and it won't matter what we did in our lives. But it has meaning to us now, as we're living them. I see Telltale games as being like that. Your choices are important to you when you first play the game. It's only after you start looking at the big picture of how the game works that you realize you didn't really have that much of an impact. (I know some people who can't bring themselves to play those games more than once, because they feel it would cheapen the decisions they made.) Even the text parser games of yore followed a predetermined plot.

I keep hoping someone will eventually do something interesting with the Zork IP. It would be a shame to have its last gasp be a crappy free-to-play browser game.

January is shaping up to be a busy month, so I might close down the Shoppe until I have time to handle things again. Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone.

12/16/2016Whilst toiling on my Vault Organization Project (I'm almost done with Infocom!) I noticed some of my box variations for Zork Nemesis and the Legacy Collection were incomplete. Because I take in loose parts whenever I can find them, I was able to pull an inner cardboard piece and a reprinted map out of existing Shoppe items. Ah, the benefits of compulsive hoarding.
12/10/2016If you live in Spain, France, Italy and possibly the U.K. and are willing to help me track down a few items, please get in touch with me. Nothing particularly rare, or even old, I'm just trying to plug a few gaps in my Activision-era Zork shelf. You'll be compensated for your efforts. Thanks in advance.
10/30/2016Yesterday I drove about an hour to pick up a trunkload of stuff from a guy who used to work for IBM and was looking to de-clutter his house a bit. I haven't gone through all of it yet, but there's a lot of original IBM promotional materials and old business software as well as games. Let me know if you're looking for something specific, and I'll let you know if I find it in the pile.

Update: Just to clarify, I was referring to the business software and IBM promotional materials, trying to gauge if there was any interest here for that. Any worthwhile games will eventually end up on the Shoppe or BetterThanTheBay.

10/23/2016Wow, over two months since the last update. Time flies when you're having fun and simultaneously dealing with annoying bullcrap. Quick rundown of all things C.E. and YOIS. This'll almost be like a mini Shoppe column:

AAA? More like FFF.

In August, following a reasonably successful Saturday of vintage game hunting in the west Chicago suburbs, wherein I scored an Infocom Science Fiction Classics triple pack (in the wild!) I went to meet my cousin for breakfast on Sunday morning, and my car broke down. Specifically, a U-joint on the front axle broke, rendering my 15-year-old Focus solidly undriveable.

I was a AAA member - emphasis on "was" - so I called them for a tow. AAA told me that the nearest garage that was open on a Sunday was 13 miles away and that there would be a surcharge because of the distance. I agreed to this, since it meant my car would at least be looked at that day, and possibly fixed soon enough to still get me home at a decent time, if I was lucky. But then you would have missed out on yet another tale of me receiving crappy customer service when I needed help the most.

It turned out that, even though I was told the garage was open that day, it was only the oil change mechanic on duty. There was no one there who could do more advanced repairs. Naturally I was pissed, because the only reason I chose to have the car towed 13 miles to that particular station was because I was led to believe that "open" meant there was somebody there who could actually look at my car. I don't think that was an unreasonable assumption on my part. (Is a restaurant "open" if there is someone there to walk you to a table and fill your water glass, but no one to cook food?)

So I ended up wasting $40 on a tow I didn't need and then piddling around half the day until someone actually bothered to tell me that there was no one who could help me. Ultimately my choices came down to: (1) leave the car there, spend money on a motel room, and wait for them to start working on it the next day, missing at least one day of work, possibly two, at my new job where I really didn't want to miss any work that soon after just starting it. (2) Rent a car and drive back home, except then I'd have to drive the rental car back, pick up my car, and drive my car back again, six additional hours of driving I didn't really have time for. Or (3) pay for a tow of my busted Focus all the way back to Peoria, which is the one I went with.

It was the least shitty of three extremely shitty options, and it wasn't cheap. Cost almost as much to tow it as it did to have it repaired. But I finally got back around six that night and got the car fixed two days later. (My mechanic place actually had mechanics.) And I was able to salvage some of the total cost. My insurance covers me for tows up to a certain amount, and I pestered AAA enough to reimburse me for the original $40 tow, plus the portion of the second tow that was due to their fuckuppery - they towed me 13 miles further away from Peoria, so I reasoned / nagged them into paying for 13 miles of the tow back.

But negative first impressions are very hard for me to shake off, and as a result (do I even need to say it?) I'm not a AAA member anymore. They've been sending me mail trying to get me to renew, and to sign up for their line of insurance, and I've been sending them back stamped with a middle finger shaped rubber stamp I acquired from a co-worker at a previous job. I call it the "birdie stamp." Real mature, I know. But it makes my feelings feel better.

If you're a AAA member, this could happen to you. It probably won't, and I hope it doesn't. But it could. Consider yourself cautioned.


The Most Expensive Free Game Console Ever

This one is shorter, I promise.

Literally five minutes before the car broke down, I had passed a house with a bunch of bags and boxes out on the curb, like the remnants of a garage sale that the owner didn't want to bother dumping off at Goodwill. Now I'm not above a little trash-pickin', and I could see from my driver's seat that the pile had an old game console in it. So I pulled up, got out, nabbed the console and spent a little more time going through the rest of the pile, but didn't find anything else. At the very next traffic light was when the car crapped out.

So, even though it was pure coincidence, in my mind I can't help thinking of it as the most expensive free game console I ever acquired. Still, I was able to sell it at the local flea market to recover a bit more of the car repair bill.


Various and Sundry Items

  • I went to Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 11.0 back in September and found some goodies, some of which will be listed here. There were several Infocoms, incomplete but cheap, that I almost bought up but wanted to look around a bit more first. When I went back later, somebody else had nabbed them, but I got a few things they didn't get! Spent a good half hour rummaging through a box of PDP materials. Still hoping to find a PDP-11 Zork some day.

  • The server on which YOIS is hosted recently underwent a migration. Everything seems to be working fine, but please email me if you encounter any issues.

  • I've finally had the time and energy to work on the Vault some more. Going through the Infocom shelves now, listing new stuff I've acquired (even though "new" in some cases doesn't really apply anymore). After that I've got my cassette games, several shelves and boxes of uncatalogued items, and ultimately my personal want list. Oh, and maybe a new picture, as the current one is from my old apartment which I haven't lived in for almost 10 years!


Which Brings Us to the Present, and Also the Past

Exactly 10 years ago today, my eBay account was hijacked by someone who used it to list a bunch of pirated DVDs. eBay caught the suspicious activity and locked the account until I called to confirm I was the actual owner, then they unlocked it again. However... The people who fixed my account did not report the hijacking to the VeRO (copyright infringement) department, so the next day my account was suspended because they believed I was the one who had listed the bootleg DVDs. All of my valid auctions were pulled from eBay with absolutely no warning, and I spent between 15 and 20 infuriating hours cleaning up eBay's mess.

I realized the exact same thing could happen to me again, at any time, without any warning, so I decided I was done with eBay. But I'm obsessive-compulsive and I mentally need closure, so I took steps to permanently delete my account. Due to eBay's incompetence, this took much longer than it should have, and eventually to amuse myself I started messing with the eBay support staff, wasting their time. The art of eBaiting was born. (Like scambaiting, but with eBay.) The concept never really took off like I had hoped it would, but I've maintained a steady trickle of emails from similarly dissatisfied eBay users over the years.

This is the important stuff: In honor of the 10th anniversary of eBaiting, Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe is having a special 10% off sale. The sale begins on October 26th, the 10-year anniversary of the day I originally put in the request to close my account, and ends on May 14th, 2017, the 10-year anniversary of the day my eBay account was finally closed. So, a 200-day sale. (Suck it, Black Friday!) The 10% discount applies only to the price of items where you make an offer which is automatically accepted by the Shoppe. That is, it does not apply to items where you make a lower offer and I later accept it manually, does not apply to item-for-item trades, does not apply to shipping costs, and does not apply to any BetterThanTheBay auctions... of which I do still have a number to list. Damn, the last few months have been distracting. The discount will be in the form of a PayPal refund, because that functionality isn't built into the site, and I haven't had time to code it.

And with that, I think we're caught up. Class dismissed.

08/10/2016Sometimes I feel the email scammers just aren't even trying anymore. I got one today of the "Amazing Thing" variety, which (presumably, I didn't open it) contained a sketchy link to some malware and a vague reference to something I'd "definitely enjoy." The best part was that it was sent by "Adam Trojanowski." Really, dude? Trojanowski? That's the surname you're going with? What's your girlfriend's name, Adam? Jennifer McKeylogger?

D-minus, but only because you made me chuckle.

08/09/2016This week the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider making laws requiring companies to disclose on their products' packaging whether they contain any Digital Rights Management (DRM). I know, lots of 3-character acronyms, WTF? The EFF sent them a letter detailing 20 DRM horror stories from consumers, and one of the ones included was my very own Saga of the Failed License Transfer... or at least a very succinctly summarized version of it.

You can read the full letter on the EFF's page. Special thanks to author and EFF activist Cory Doctorow for helping consumers fight back against this sort of nonsense. Remember, never buy digital, only physical, because if you "buy" digital you don't actually own it.

I've got a bunch of stuff waiting in the wings including more YOIS stock, why AAA roadside assistance gets a triple-F-minus from me, and the story of the most expensive free game console I ever acquired. (The last two are tangentially related.) Not sure when I'll get it all posted, as No Man's Sky releases tomorrow. Naturally, I pre-ordered a physical copy.

07/22/2016I just listed a few Zork titles. More Shoppe goodies to come when I have time.

Speaking of time, please spend yours doing something else if you're the nardtard who keeps spamming me "Documents from work" and "Scanned image from copier" emails with the YOIS address spoofed. I'm never gonna fall for it. I don't send work stuff to my YOIS address, ever. If you really want to get me, send me an email whose subject says... OH HO HO, nice try! Almost had me there you clever bastard you.

I've also gotten a few of those scam phone calls from someone claiming to be with the U.S. Treasury, but it's always when I'm at work. If they ever call when I can answer, I'll record my interaction and post it here for your amusement. I have a character I've been working on. (Yeah, recording phone calls without consent is technically illegal in my state, but... what are they gonna do about it? "Help! Police! Someone recorded my attempted scam call!" Heh.)

07/17/2016Yesterday I learned that Retro-Tech, the electronics recycler where I'd occasionally find old software that people donated, is closing up shop for good. They were my last reliable local source for this stuff, and they were good people. I did buy one more bag from the pile of old software that they were kind enough to let me dig through, and will be listing some of that in the coming days... along with a bunch of other stuff I haven't gotten to yet. But it's a little depressing.

RIP, Retro-Tech. I'll miss you guys.

07/15/2016I just listed a stack of other loose game parts, mostly Wizardry-related. (Wizardry is not as widely collected as Ultima, so it doesn't get its own Parts Day.)
07/14/2016Happy Ultima Parts Day, everyone.
07/12/2016Wednesday is Ultima Parts Day at Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe: I'll be listing a ton of loose Ultima game parts, from manuals to reference cards to cluebooks to even a couple of cloth maps. Mark your calendars! (And if you're in Europe it'll probably be after midnight on Thursday morning... Sorry, time difference, and that's just when I get off work here in the States.)
06/26/2016I'm opening the Shoppe again, although I'm still kind of busy and there might be a delay in getting things shipped. Watch this page, as I'll be listing a bunch of new items in the coming days/weeks. I scored a huge box of Commodore stuff from a local source.

The issue with receiving PayPal emails, it turns out, was not actually with PayPal but with POBox.com, my mail-forwarding service. I'd been receiving a lot of spoofed PayPal emails lately and they were incorrectly flagging the valid ones as spam. That should be sorted out now. So, I apologize to PayPal for pegging them as the culprit. They didn't screw up... this time.

05/29/2016Okay, I think the issue with dollar amounts being formatted with a comma instead of a decimal has been resolved. Please let me know if you're trying to pay via PayPal and getting an error that the amount is incorrectly formatted. Speaking of PayPal, if I can just get them to fix the damn email notification issue on their end, I can reopen the Shoppe.
05/06/2016Among the many site issues I'm currently dealing with, I'm not receiving any PayPal payment notifications. If you send me a payment, please also send a separate message letting me know. My email address should be at the bottom of every YOIS page. I did some research (also known as "Googling") and I'm not the only person who is experiencing this issue, so it's definitely on their end.

I suspect their entire site is still a broken mess from all those years they were partnered with eBay. But then, my site is currently something of a broken mess as well, which means my web coding skills qualify me to work at PayPal. Dang. I should have applied when I was job-hunting earlier this year.

05/04/2016I just got done with some site maintenance. Please let me know if you encounter any error messages.
05/01/2016There have been a number of technical issues with the site lately and I've sort of been slammed with other things. So I'm temporarily shutting the Shoppe down until I can get things caught up. Feel free to go ahead and reserve items if there's something you want to buy, just be aware that I won't get around to shipping anything for probably a week or so. Appreciate everyone's patience.
04/30/2016Can somebody who's registered with BetterThanTheBay let me know if you received the auction reminder email I sent out yesterday? I've been having some trouble with mail I send from IF-Legends not getting delivered properly, and I'm trying to determine the cause.

Thanks.

04/29/2016My last Hitchhiker's Guide press kit and the Devil's Tower cover painting are ending in a couple of days. If you haven't bid on them yet, it's your last chance!
04/20/2016Well, it doesn't look like I'll be listing any more of the Activision-era Zork photo positives due to lack of interest. No bids yet on the Devil's Tower painting, despite a nice plug in an article about early game cover art. (Liza Daly... I know that name. Why do I know that name?) For the benefit of anyone new to YOIS, don't let my obnoxious BetterThanTheBay logo turn you off from bidding. It gets normal after you're signed up and signed in.
04/13/2016Just a reminder that BetterThanTheBay auctions are ending over the next week. I'll try to get a couple more things posted this weekend. Busy, and still recovering from surgery.
04/10/2016Ordinarily this would be the post wherein I detail my Midwest Gaming Classic experience, but... I ended up not going. Apologies to anyone who was hoping to meet up there. Next year for sure.

The reason I didn't go follows in my proud tradition of sharing way more personal medical info than most of my readers probably want to know. (Side note? Look at the date on that post, and then Google the date Facebook was originally founded. I was needlessly sharing personal details online well before the rest of the world started doing it.) My MGC absense was caused by a kidney stone that's been plaguing me for the past month. When the pain first hit - and I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone, not even Eyal Katz - the stone was identified as being 4mm in length and I was told that it would probably eventully pass. Over the next month I had about one flare-up a week, lasting no more than an hour, and I took painkillers to deal with those. I was planning to live with it until the stone passed normally.

Yesterday the pain hit, worse than ever, and it didn't go away. So I spent the night in the E.R. while they gave me a series of IV drips to try and flush the stone out. When it was still there this morning, they wheeled me up to surgery, where they performed a "ureteroscopy with laser lithotripsy" which is basically medical-speak for "They stuck a laser up my dick... and played Asteroids."

So that ended up being my classic gaming experience this weekend. I was the Asteroids cabinet. Fortunately, the doctors got the high score.

Heh. Once my drugs wear off, this post will probably be pretty embarrassing. But right now I just couldn't resist saying it.

04/02/2016I finally got around to recording and uploading my answering machine message for Thimbleweed Park. Yeah, I'm one of the voicemail backers. Assuming Ron Gilbert doesn't disallow my shameless capitalist pig-dog self-promotion, Ye Olde Infocomme Shoppe will be immortalized in the game. I figure he owes me that much for all the time I spent trying to fix the "out of order" stairs in Maniac Mansion.
04/01/2016New BetterThanTheBay auctions are posted: Hitchhiker's Guide press kit, some variations on the usual Infocom sale sheets, and a piece of original TRS-80 game cover artwork.

I'm still experiencing possible issues with the USPS website, so the postage calculations given (for both BTTB and the Shoppe) may be reporting low. Feel free to email me for a quote.

03/21/2016Fixed. (The YOIS Canada issue with the USPS API. Not the USPS API itself. The USPS API is still broken and always will be.)
03/20/2016New BetterThanTheBay auctions have been listed, including a Trinity press release and Suspect press kit. Sorry about the delay... I start my new job on Monday and have been getting things wrapped up at the old one. I'm hitting Midwest Gaming Classic again this year, so let me know if you'd like to meet up. (I'll be the one in the YOIS T-shirt with the QR code on it.)

*sigh* It looks like the USPS's postage calculator is fighting with YOIS again. If it's quoting international shipping options for $0.00 or between $2 - $3, that's obviously not right. Let me know if this happens to you. So far it seems to be confined to Canada destinations. I'm looking into a fix.

Update: Okay I give up for now. I have an email in to their support.

I've identified the source of the problem: At some point the international rate calculator API started expecting the origin and destination postal codes for packages going to Canada. When I try to make an API call with a Canada destination, I get this error:

"The element 'Package' has invalid child element 'OriginZip'."

But if I leave OriginZip out, I am told:

"OriginZip is required when DestinationPostalCode and AcceptanceDateTime are populated."

And if I leave out DestinationPostalCode and AcceptanceDateTime, that's what leads to the $0.00 Priority Mail quote. So at this point my best guess is that it's a problem with the XML elements being in the wrong order. I've experienced that before, with the length-width-height issue a couple of years ago, which came dangerously close to making me mentally ill. I've said this before, but I despise the USPS's poorly-documented API. It is a beast of a bear of a BITCH to work with.

BetterThanTheBay uses the same API to calculate rates, so it's probably being affected too. Canadian bidders, please email me for shipping quotes. (Sorry, it's not free.)

02/25/2016So I finally rented and watched The Martian (I don't go to movie theaters anymore; long story) and was astonished to see a Leather Goddesses of Phobos reference in it. In a gag moment, Matt Damon's character finds the game on one of his fellow astronaut's laptops. Of course the film shows a graphical title screen, and it was an all-text game. It looks like the image was taken from the title screen from LGOP 2 and altered, removing the girls in the space car and the numeral "2" over Mars' moon, and enlarging the title itself.

It's weird, I can suspend disbelief when films flub computers in general, but it really bugs me when they take liberties with a classic game. I totally get it, they wanted a visual to go along with the game's title to make the bit funnier. But it's still a little irksome. Here's hoping Spielberg gets the details right with the Ready Player One movie.

02/21/2016I've relisted the previously unsold BetterThanTheBay auctions. More will be listed eventually, I promise, including that last Personal Software Zork. I think my quest for a different job is nearing the end, and that's what has taken priority for me lately.
02/09/2016Attention Infocomme Shoppers:

I fixed a couple of minor issues with the site, including a bug that was preventing some BetterThanTheBay user pages from displaying properly.

Things are finally starting to return to normalcy for me. I got a refund from the U.S. Postal "Service" for the damaged N64, though I had to file another credit card company dispute to get the postage back. In my claim I equated the USPS's actions - breaking an item they delivered and still charging me for the delivery - to a hypothetical restaurant where the server dropped my meal on the floor and then expected me to pay for it anyway. The credit card company ruled in my favor. Useful analogy to remember if you ever find yourself faced with this situation.

I may be close to landing a new job. I've had several promising interviews and have been offloading my current responsibilities, which makes me feel better knowing I won't be trapped there forever. I've also sold a ton of stuff through the Shoppe the last couple of weeks, and that extra income is helpful in spurring me to start picking up the BTTB auctions again. Just the basement is so damn cold right now. Frikkin' Illinois winters.

01/12/2016Sorry about the lack of updates. Between playing catch-up, the cold weather, a deep and soul-crushing dissatisfaction with work, and a tendency to escape into Fallout 4 because of that, I just haven't had the energy for any Shoppe work beyond fulfilling the regular orders.

There's another set of API changes coming from the U.S. Postal "Service", and I doubt I'll have time to do any testing before they go live. So if you get an error on the Shoppe's postage page, let me know and I'll weigh and quote manually until I can get a fix in. Wouldn't be the first time.

The quotes around "Service" are there because I have another story about them. So, did you know that the USPS can refuse to issue a refund if they overcharge you on postage? It's true. This happened during the Three Days of Icy Darkness, when the power went out and it was freezing. I had absolutely nothing else I could do, so I walked to the post office to mail a package -- I've had a lot of trouble with my garage door this year and didn't want to risk anything going wrong again by opening it manually to get my car out.

Anyway, I found out one of the automated kiosks at my post office had the scale incorrectly calibrated, and it was adding a few extra ounces. Unfortunately I didn't find out until after I'd already paid for and printed the postage. This was after-hours, so the next day I walked back again -- power still out -- and was told by the friendly uniformed cuntshrew that there were no refunds on postage... even though their machine was in error! I disputed the difference (not the full amount, that would be dishonest) with my credit card company, and they gave me an instant and automatic credit. Thank you, 800+ credit score.

Still waiting on the insurance claim for an N64 I sold and shipped that got smashed up in transit. When the buyer initially took it to his post office, they tried to tell him it wasn't insured... despite the fact that ALL Priority Mail now includes $50 in insurance, and I have the receipt specifically saying it did! Dirty, filthy, stinking, rotten, lying liars telling lies.

I'm seeing a lot of Craigslist ads for post office jobs lately. Maybe I should apply, and sabotage them from within. That would also solve my job dissatisfaction problem at the same time.


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