asterinzitmagget

Sending M365 mail from your all-in-one scanner/printer

Precursor

Imagine the following : you recently migrated your mail platform from the “classic” POP/IMAP mailbox setup towards Microsoft 356’s mail solution.

If you’ve done the M365 setup correctly and migrated everything towards your new cloud environment (see tons of previous posts 😉) you’ll soon run into some issues when trying to send an e-mail from your super-cool all-in-one printer/scanner/copy/fax machine, which is hooked up to the network and ready to send scanned documents in your (domain) name.

One of these issues being that you receive a NDR from your recipient relating to something like “Error 550 5.7.1 The user or domain that you are sending to (or from) has a policy that prohibited the mail that you sent” or anything basically that falls back to “we don’t trust this e-mail, because you smell of spam/phishing/malconfigured SMTP/…

Your printer – in this example – still has port 25 and (for instance) uit.telenet.be as outgoing mail server (yes, I’m Belgian – hence the .be TLD on my site)

(PS : don’t want to read this entire story ? CTRL-F your way to “How do I set this thing up ?”)

Behind the scenes

What happened behind the scenes before and after your migration, concerning mail flow ?

Before your migration,

you used to have and old-school mail provider that allowed a lot.
Your recipients didn’t care much or already added your scanned mails with PDF’s in them in their white allow-list.
Maybe your mails got through, maybe they didn’t.

Your outgoing mail provider (let’s say it’s Telenet nv for the sake of the already mentioned example above) doesn’t really care what you send over their mail server, as long as you send it from an IP address on their network.

(a small note : at the time of this writing Telenet no longer accepts anonymous port 25; they need authentication through an @telenet.be address and use port 587 with TLS encryption)
(another small sidenote : Proximus still allows anonymous port 25 at this time *cough*)

Whatever the case, it would allow senders to send any mail they want from any e-mail address they want, as long as they use their own internet provider’s mail address.

After migrating to M365,

Microsoft kind of enforces you to add certain DNS records, before 100% completing the setup wizard of their Online Exchange offer.
✅ green ticks tick my own boxes as well, so as an OCD-enjoying IT guy, I can’t not complete this wizard :p

One of these records you have to create is an SPF record, which partly regulates the mail flow for your domain by defining. (more on the SPF record on [this page])
Microsoft is also kind enough to allow you to send over their own SMTP servers (good guy MS !!!) and provides certain regulations in order to be able to do so.

Server/Smart Host: smtp.office365.com
Port: 587
TLS/Start TLS: Enabled
Username/Email address and password: pretty obvi what this is….

In a perfect world, you’d be able to just enter these settings in your super-duper all-in-one printer and you’d be good to go. 👌

HOWEVER…

On the dreaded day of June 30, 2023 Microsoft disabled out-of-the-box support for a tiny little protocol we know as TLS.
Specifically, they disabled support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1 (fear not).
A lot of these printers use this “older” protocol and – as you might already guess – this complicates the entire sending-of-mail process.

Never fear, though !

Microsoft built in a backdoor/workaround in their own security enforcement and still allows you to send mails like you would in “days of olden”.

 

How do I set this thing up ?

We’ll take this random internet screenshot from the mail settings tab in an OKI printer as an example :

Following all instructions you find on the internet, this would be the way to go.
And it is.

Using these settings in 2024 will result in a “cannot send mail” error on the printer.

Did you misconfigure something on this printer ?
NO.

Here’s what you need to change on the Microsoft side :

  • Through https://admin.microsoft.com browse your Users > Active Users and click the mail enabled user for your all-in-one device (Yes, you need to have a mail-enabled user for this)
  • On the screen that appears on the right, go to the “Mail” tab and click “Manage email apps
  • By default “Authenticated SMTP” is not active.
    Activate it and press “save changes
  • That’s not where it stops, though.
    Microsoft, sneaky as they are, still disable SMTP AUTH on a more global level.
    So just activating the above, will result in the same sending error on your device.
    sooooo, let’s go to https://admin.exchange.microsoft.com for part 2 of the config.
  • On the Exchange Online admin center go to Settings (in the left) column and pick “Mail Flow” (not to be confused the the “Mail Flow” fold-out menu in the left column).
  • One thing that needs to be de-activated is the “Turn off SMTP AUTH protocol for your organization“. (the tick needs to be unticked – super confusing option – double negatives and all)
    Depending on the type of device, you may or may not need to opt-in the tick “Turn on use of legacy TLS clients“.
    Even though Micro$oft disabled TLS 1.0 and 1.1, they still allow older TLS versions to communicate with the SMTP AUTH endpoint “smtp.office365.com”.
  • Press “Save”, give it a couple of hours tops and BAM, send at will with your Brother MFC something something, your mail enabled camera system, CRM software, …

I’ll leave the “plus addressing” tick for you to Google. It’s a cool feature, with little use-case.
Still cool though.

Peace out.
Happy mailing !

DKIM simplified and how it works (but not for beginners)

Lifting shrouds from IT-related mysteries is what we do here.

DKIM… yet another mys(t)ery to so many, but actually not that much rocket science as it seems.
Let me explain : 

Simplified as an acronym, DKIM stands for “Domain Keys Identified Mail” and is nothing more than “just another TXT record” in your DNS.
In a previous post, you could read up about SPF records and how they can diminish the amount of spam being sent FROM your domain name. DKIM takes this to a next step.
It’s the implementation of DKIM that will require some extra feedback from me, though.

Extremely simplified

Woodpecker.co explains DKIM as following :

“Take Game of Thrones to get the bigger picture of DKIM. Ned Stark is sending a raven with a message to king Robert. Everyone could take a piece of paper, write a message and sign it Ned Stark. But there’s a way to authenticate the message – the seal. Now, everyone knows that Ned’s seal is a direwolf (that’s the public key). But only Ned has the original seal and can set it on his messages (that’s the private key).”

Quite the analogy, if you’ve seen GoT (and no spoilers, even !)

 

What happens when using DKIM ?

The entire concept is based on encryption of a specific value that uses a public and a private key, that are generated in pairs and therefore cannot exist apart from each other.

The public value is stored (obviously) in a public location where all e-mail servers and clients can access it : the DNS server that holds your domain name (OVH, Skynet, Godaddy, Combell, …)

The private value is sent in an encrypted way over internet and can be verified through means of that private key, to check if it used the original correct signature.
It’s comparable to how an MD5 checksum works

(with the exception that at the time of this writing, DKIM can not yet be broken and it’s possible to “fake” an MD5 lol)
Image courtesy of postmarkapp.com

This hidden signature is then verified by the mail server, through which you send your signed mail, as well as all other mail servers where this message passes (in its original form).

Because…. the signature is added to the mail headers and is completely independant from how SPF records work, a proxy’ing mail server that just passes on your message, retains headers.
Theoretically, your mail could fail on an SPF, but could be perfectly valid on a DKIM basis !

 

Fool-proof ?

Is this method a fool-proof way of confirming ALL mails from your domain are safe now ?

A simple answer : NO.

DKIM is kind of the reverse of SPF, whereas SPF tells the receiving mail server what mail NOT to trust.
DKIM tells the receiving mail server that this specific mail, sent from this specific source is – in fact – OK to receive. DKIM does not guarantee that mails from your domain name, sent from a source other than the one defined in the key verification, are in fact safe, because the key in the verified mail message only counts for the specified source.

“Should I not bother to use DKIM, then ?”

You should still try to implement DKIM wherever possible, as all methods of securing your mail flow and getting spam/phishing mails out of this digital world, are most welcome.

 

What does DKIM look like & “comment ça marche” ?

Enough with the theory; let me explain how (and when) this works.

First of all, your own mail server, through which YOU send outgoing mail, has to have support for DKIM key generation.
Most ISPs (I think we can say “all ISPs”) will not use DKIM, as this would mean having to sign every friggin mail message that the millions of their customers send out on a daily basis.
All mail software would first have to talk on an encrypted basis to a public SMTP server to stuff that signed key in the mail header of their own mail message.
Seeing as most ISPs allow sending over their mailservers, without any authentication whatsoever, except for sending from their IP address range, this can ony mean : a big no-no.

Onward.

If your mail server supports DKIM (we’ll be using Microsoft 365 as an example), we can go ahead and create a DKIM.

https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/security/office-365-security/email-authentication-dkim-configure?view=o365-worldwide  explains in heavy detail how to create a DKIM pair on a M365 mail-based subscription (Exchange Online in short).
Go ahead and read the article.
The come back here, for a small moment of enlightenment.

All caught up?
Good.

The original private key is never shown and is only known to your very own mailserver.
You get to see – usually in the form of a next-next-next wizard – the entries you have to add as a CNAME record in your own DNS server that hosts the domain name from which you’re sending mail.

As cryptography goes, the mailserver recieves your request to send a mail to somebody.
Next, it adds a specific unique mail header to your outgoing mail, based on its own private key, in combination with the key known to the public (and thus shown in your DNS records, for others to reverse verify)

Before showing the layout of the DKIM record, let me show you what a signed mail header looks like.
If you’ve been following my instructions, you’ve already seen a DKIM record on the Microsoft website mentioned above, by the way :p

DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; d=example.net; s=newyork;
c=relaxed/simple; q=dns/txt; t=1117574938; x=1118006938;
h=from:to:subject:date:keywords:keywords;
bh=MTIzNDU2Nzg5MDEyMzQ1Njc4OTAxMjM0NTY3ODkwMTI=;
b=dzdVyOfAKCdLXdJOc9G2q8LoXSlEniSbav+yuU4zGeeruD00lszZVoG4ZHRNiYzR

Analysis time :

  • Every DKIM signed mail starts with “DKIM-Signature:”
  • The obvious part “v=1” defines the versioning (duh). Ironically at the time of writing, the version will always be “1”
  • “a” defines the signing algorithm, usually RSA-SHA or RSA-SHA256
  • “d” stands for the domain name of the sender
  • “s” is short for “selector” which can be found in the corresponding DNS record (in this case) newyork._domainkey.example.net 
  • “c” is the abbreviation for “canonicalization algorithm”. A tricky one to explain, but I’ll try my best.
    You can see it contains 2 values. They represent header/body and define the (dis)allowing of slight header changes in mail forwarding.
    “Relaxed” allows a certain change in the header (for instance when forwarding a mail).
    “Simple” just tells the receiving mail server, that no change in the mail header part is allowed for it to still be a trusted DKIM key.
  • “q” is for “query” and tells the receiving end how to perform the DKIM check.
    The q-part is optional. At the time of writing, the only valid entry here is “DNS/TXT”, which defines that a DNS lookup needs to be done, looking into a certain TXT field.
  • “t” is the timestamp
  • “x” falls together with the timestamp and stands for “expiration”, in case you have a fast-rotating key-pair in your DKIM setup and want to assure the receiving end of a higher security level.
  • h” lists the signed header fields …
  • …while “bh” is the hash for the body part of the mail
  • “b” is the actual signature data.

Should you totally want to geek out more on the RFC for DKIM, you can get your groove on at https://dkim.org/specs/rfc4871-dkimbase.html

 

The DNS record(s)

Why did I keep this part for last ?
You could see in the above example, that the RFC leaves space for a different way of reading your DKIM record.
For now, we don’t have a different technology other than DNS to exchange DKIM data, but if DKIM were to be upgrading, so to speak, the possibilities would not be limited to DNS.

 

The actual public key would look like this :

NAME : 
nameofyourselector._domainkey.example.net

TYPE : 
TXT

CONTENTS OF RECORD : 
v=DKIM1; k=rsa; p=KLJHLHkjhkhkluhiukhjiulYUHKJUIYUYNJKHLKHIOUHJhjkhkjhklhjkh

The content of this record will be provided by your mail server, when you go through the DKIM generating process

 

A different approach is the use of a CNAME record instead of a TXT record, where your key is stored elsewhere.
Depending on the suggestion your mail server gives you, you’ll implement one or the other.

Your CNAME record could look like this :

NAME : 
nameofyourselector._domainkey.example.net

TYPE : 
CNAME

CONTENTS OF RECORD : 
heresmykey.something.anotherdomain.com

 

There we have it.
Theory and samples.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me by mail, postal pigeon, smoke signal, …

Zuper out

 

Handy websites concerning this subject :

  • https://mxtoolbox.com/
  • https://easydmarc.com/tools/dkim-record-generator

 

Getting the most out of your Beat Saber copy

We’re (still) playing Beat Saber !

…and that’s because of the addictiveness of the game (the release of natural dopamines helps a great deal too :p)
To keep everything spicy while playing, there’s a ton of things you can do to improve your gameplay experience.

In this post I’ll be discussing fun upgrades for the PC version of Beat Saber, in case you’re still playing the “vanilla” version. (I’ll post something on upgrading your Oculus version as well in an other post).
If you’re already using mods, you might see an other perspective and/or learn some new things. Or you could even teach me some new stuff, posting your comments below.

Convenient table of contents :

 

Modder lover

First thing’s first.
Making life easier is what it’s all about.

Mod Assistant

After installing Beat Saber, you can surf to the Mod Assistant Github page and click on the “Download Here” link on the page to get the latest release. Modassistant also auto-updates, as a lovely built-in quality-of-life feature, by the way.

Follow the installation instructions on the Github page, after which you’ll be presented with a screen similar to this :

Modassistant screen 1

Click accept and then click on the Options button on your left.
Click the “Activate OneClick Installations

…and make sure all three options are activated. You might be welcomed with a security popup from your computer depending on your Windows security settings.

Afterwards, click on the “Mods” button and install all of the default selected mods, by confirming the “Install or Update” button in the bottom right of the Mods window. They will be your absolute basic list of required mods.

  • Always make sure that you boot up and shut down Beat Saber at least once, after installing the mods through Modassistant.
(Warning, should you be unlucky and get an ‘unsupported version’ notification, there’s ways around that. More on that in a later post on downgrading Beat Saber to a compatible version)

Now… on to the list of mods.

 

Custom Songs

Loading more than the default songs into Beat Saber, is where the fun part of the customizing starts. Who doesn’t want to rock out to some superhappy anime theme or headbang to the latest Rammstein song ?
Didn’t find anything that tickled your fancy in those 65000+ songs ?
Why not create your own song in popular tools such as Chromapper or MediocreMapper ?
Although creating your own songs is something for an other post…

It’s optional, but I still strongly recommend creating accounts on Bsaber.com and Beatsaver.com

The sites mentioned above use the same database in the background, but Bsaber (aka Beast Saber) has a good search engine and lists specially created song playlists. It’s also used as a helper tool for adding custom songs on the standalone version of Beat Saber on the Oculus Quest).
Beatsaver on the other hand, allows you – as a content creator – to upload your manually created  (the “manual” part is an important factor) Beat Saber maps.

In the chapter above this one, I let you activate OneClick installations.
This is where that option shines, as ModAssistant allows you to add songs to your game in  – you’ll never guess it – one click.

OneClick in stall
Example from https://bsaber.com/?s=military+storm

Clicking the little cloud icon opens ModAssistant’s installer tool (after maybe a security popup from your browser)

Installed !

Et voila, your song has been added to the list of custom songs within Beat Saber and is now playable in a separate menu tab :

Custom songs

Have fun !

 

Competitive spirit

Competition is one of the things that keep me going.
Beat Saber’s built-in scoring system has a neat feature where you can see your Steam friends and their resp. scores.
However, when you’ll start adding custom songs (see above), there’s no way Beat Saber can save its scores for these songs as they’re not part of the “official” songlist.

ScoreSaber

The tool you’re going to need here is the ever-so-popular “Scoresaber“, which basically is a global ranking system for custom songs.

Log into scoresaber.com with your Steam credentials in order to link the SC account to your personal Steam account, so you can start playing in the “big league”.

Modassistant (above) has Scoresaber as a built-in mod for you to activate, so that your Beat Saber will automatically upload scores to the global ranking database and you can get competitive with your friends or get an understanding on where you place in the world and country rankings.

Your personal page will look something like this, after a couple of ranked songs :

Score saber scores by Zupertails
Sample scoresaber page. Yes, I’m not a pro :p, don’t judge me.

(For a more up-to-date view, check the link to my profile here.)

Scoresaber also has an great API, documented on https://docs.scoresaber.com/ (you’re welcome – this specific URL is badly documented everywhere), so that (for instance) you could create your own bot on discord or create your own personal ranking system among friends, if you’re a little tech-savvy.

For a more detailed explanation on how the PP (Performance Points) system in Scoresaber works, see https://bsaber.com/indepth-guide/
Mostly, just focus on your accuracy and keep in mind that the main idea is to have fun.

 

More competition !

The term “sniping” in Beat Saber refers to specifically targeting somebody’s score on his or hers best performed songs.
In order to get better at Beat Saber and increasing your score/rank, sniping is actually a pretty efficient way of working yourself upwards in terms of skill.

One of the mods you’ll need here is “Playlistmanager” from Modassistant, if you want to save yourself some trouble in manually seeking songs.

Here’s how it works :

  • Surf to https://ss-details.herokuapp.com/sniper (there are similar tools/websites)
  • This specific site requires you to add 2 players. The sniper (usually you) and the sniped (the player that is some ranks above you on Scoresaber is a safe an typical choice)
  • Click “Create snipe playlist” after fiddling with the options and an A.I. will generate a playlist of songs for you to beat your target’s score at. A file with extension .bplist will be generated and downloaded.
  • Now open Modassistant and go to the Options tab, where you will click on “Install playlist”, where you will select the recently downloaded .bplist file.
    This will start downloading and installing all songs required for you to snipe your target.
  • Your new playlist will appear at the top in this menu (screenshot)

Have fun improving your skill in this competitive way !

 

Increasing your PeePee (you heard me…)

An other efficient way of improving your Beat Saber skills is to have another A.I. analyze your Scoresaber profile (see where the Scoresaber part is getting more and more important ?)

The lovely URL you’ll have to visit here : https://scoresaber.balibalo.xyz/peepee

You’ll also need Playlistmanager as in the post above.

Entering your personal Scoresaber URL will have the site instantly starting the analysis.

My Peepee
This is my Peepee

Give it a couple of seconds and you’ll be presented with a screen that offers you 2 downloadable playlists.

Not played : after analysis of your current scores, the A.I. presents you with songs that seem good training levels and (mostly) will be completable in days or weeks, considering your skill level.

To improve : the A.I. gives you a list of songs that it thinks you can improve, based on your current scoring profile.

Both playlists have a little “Playlist” button that allows you to either download a .bplist file or install it instantly through the OneClick button.

Have fun getting even better !

 

Customize EVERYTHING

Been playing Beat Saber for weeks or even months and you’re starting to get tired of the same “dull” look of your sabers ?

Does the amount of particles flying around on the screen bother you or can your PC not handle all the stuff on screen ?

Check out a variety of mods such as Saber Tailor, Custom Platforms, Particle Overdrive, Tweaks55 and whatnot.

Modassistant offers tons of extra plugins to improve or upgrade your Beat Saber experience in tons of ways possible.
I’m not gonna go over all the possible mods, as that’s something that others have done before me, but just be aware that the options are almost limitless.

An example website where you can get custom sabers :

https://www.fandomspot.com/best-beat-saber-custom-sabers/

 

Trippin ballz (aka Noodle and Mapping extensions)

Some Beat Saber levels have (either optional or obligatory) extra functionality built in that graphically increase your experience

I have a quick and dirty unedited version of the song “Somewhere out there” that show the wonders of mapping extensions.
I’m also holding some custom sabers to give you an idea.

You’ll sometimes bump into songs that have a greyed out Play button as they might require one of these extensions (it will be explained which one(s) you are missing, by a small question mark next to to the song preview window)

Check out the following list of drool-worthy levels :

Top 8 Best Beat Saber Visually Stunning Custom Songs W/LINKS

Enjoy !

 

Stay fit (YUR)

The main reason I bought my VR kit is to get back in shape.
I used to play Dance Dance Revolution “back in the days” to build up some stamina.

Then, life happened and I slowly grew out of it.

YUR logo

Being competitive in spirit, I needed something extra to get me in shape, apart from Scoresaber.
That’s where “YUR” kickedstarted me.

YUR is a free piece of software that installs on your Apple/Android device and gaming computer and brings fitness to a gaming level.
It has the ability to sync 2-ways with Google Fit and Apple Health and has an overlay in VR games that track your movement progress and calculates your burnt calories.

I got introduced to YUR in another rhythm game : Synth Riders.
This has a built-in YUR watch that – by the flick of your wrist – shows you the calory meter like a real smartwatch.

Give it a try, if fitness and health stats get you going !

 

Extra’s

There’s a couple of cool mods out there that are still worth trying  :

Beat Together : https://github.com/BeatTogether/BeatTogether holds the download for a Beat Saber plugin that allows multiplayer for custom songs (installation instructions on the site). A real fun feature I only got to know waaaay after I started playing B.S.

Enhanced Stream Chat : included in Modassistant, this plugin shows you your Twitch live chat on-screen while playing. Fun for quick interaction.
Also check out LIV’s streamerkit as a great alternative

Counters+ : want to see live how good you’re doing in Beat Saber apart from a simple ranking system ? Counters+ show you in full detail what you’re doing in terms of accuracy and hit percentage.

 

That’s (not) all folks !

Zuper out (for now)

 

We’re playing Beat Saber !

Howdy !

In case you’ve been living under a rock or are not inclined to show interest in video games, you might have heard about the rhythm game “Beat Saber”, released in 2018 for PC and later adapted for Playstation VR and Oculus VR headsets.

In the virtual reality of Beat Saber, you carry a lightsaber – not unlike a Jedi knight – in each hand are are supposed to slash through blocks that come flying towards you.
Speaking of Jedi, there’s even een mod that allows you to play with the Darth Maul dual saber.
But I’m diverting…

Oculus Quest 2 is getting official wireless PC support | Rock Paper Shotgun

Late april 2021, I caved under peer pressure and got me the better value-for-money VR headset you can find : the Oculus Quest 2.

Disclaimer : yes I am aware that I have to sell my soul to the devil, sacrifice a virgin and deliver my first-born to Lucifer, because you can’t use the Oculus series anymore without a Facebook account and have Mark Zuckerberg know your every move (literally)

Get. Over. It.

€350 wil net you the best VR €350 will ever buy (for now) and this price statement is – commercially spoken – a slap in the face towards other VR headset manufacturers, stating it CAN be cheaper.
Well done, Zuck.

One of the many budget cuts that has been made here is the so-called “inside-out tracking“, where the headset has 4 tiny camera’s built-in and doesn’t use an external set of cameras to track your movement.
This has advantages as well as shortcomings, e.g.  :

  • the headset has built-in WiFi and is therefore a complete standalone working machine (I even play at night in my back yard)
  • body tracking is not possible. Also when you hold your controller behind you, the headset doesn’t know the controller’s location.
It’s now almost August 2021 and I still have no regrets on buying this headset. Neither have the CIA been knocking on my door asking why I have this thing on my head every evening and play super-realistic VR shooting games.
@CIA, if you’re reading this, you have no power here.

Enough on praising the Quest 2.
Let’s focus on the subject of this post : Beat Saber.

Beat Saber on Steam

Some of you might know I’ve been a sucker for rhythm games for a long time now.
When Dance Dance Revolution finally hit the European market, I gladly taped my plastic way-too-expensive dance mat to my floor tiles (thank you, Super Dragon Toys for ripping  me off lol)

When Guitar Hero got released, I was an early adopter.

Samba De Amigo ; some OCC (the lanparty) visitors might remember me playing this insane game for 10 hours straight.

The list goes on.

Why did I wait so long to hop on the VR hype train to play this amazing game ?
Well… I’ve never been a “true” PC gamer (translates as : I was/am too poor to buy a VR gaming rig)
The Oculus 2 was the first product to give me an affordable but real VR experience (I’m not counting you, Samsung Gear VR).
To this date I’m still gaming on a minimal setup, which just about covers my needs, but nothing more.

Now, why Beat Saber ?

I wanted to see if I could lose some weight, playing video games as it’s been 5 years since I (hyper)actively played on a dance machine (In The Groove 2), where the latter kept me at 85kg, being a 1,85m guy.
“The good life” had other intentions with me, so in order to get back in shape I needed a workout. I hate going to the gym and I’m not a weight lifter nor am I a runner, so alternatives needed to be sought.

At first I bought Beat Saber on the Oculus store which runs smoothly and was a fun little workout.
Until… I discovered bsaber.com, where you can add custom made songs to your existing Beat Saber game (after some software fiddling)

Dopamine released at 110% rates in my body as some of my old favorite songs became available to play in Beat Saber all of a sudden.
A couple of friends (hey, Dax & Sogg) had just gotten into VR as well and played their game through Steam.
Being hooked to the game but having no way of sharing or comparing my scores with them, I made the decision of switching to PC instead of using the standalone version of the game.

Luck had it that I could find a (relatively) cheap graphics card upgrade for my now 8+ years old “gaming” PC so I could finally get the minimal specs for a VR-ready PC (sorry nVidia GTX1600 with 3GB, you really weren’t VR-ready even though the box said so :p)
One expensive USB cable (and a little later one expensive 5GHz dedicated access point) later, Beat Saber was ON!

This is where the competitiveness came in.
Beat Saber has a mod called “ScoreSaber” which allows for custom songs to have a scoring system of their own. In fact, ScoreSaber is the generally used scoring system for the game instead of the built-in scoring table.
You compare scores based on your Steam account name and are ranked by country and worldwide.
Starting at the very bottom of the scoring table and being a bit adept at rhythm games, the growth curve in which I got to top 200 of Belgium worked as a huge motivator.
Having friends that like the same f*cked up style of music as I do, helps as well <3

I currently reside in the top 150 of my country, where the real work begins.
I know my Quest 2 hardware will not be sufficient to reach certain levels, but I’m having an awesome time nevertheless AND I lost some weight already. Not to mention the fact that I feel way fitter (in the British and the American sense lol)

On top of that I get to make these cool mixed reality videos and I’m having a blast.

Beat sabering the night away

My Youtube channel : https://www.youtube.com/c/Zupertails/videos

Overhyped.
Cya laterz 😉

Is there such a thing as free multiplayer video games ?

Multiplayer LAN games for cheapskates

aka “I prefer free or cheap games”

First of all, a small disclaimer is required. This list is mainly based on my personal experience when roaming LAN parties in combination with the games I like to play myself.

Not all these games require a platform account, but adding friends to your game is way easier like that.

For the biggest part of this list, you’ll be needing  a PC (obviously) and if you haven’t already done so, you need to first create an account on the following platforms through their respective websites :

  • Steam (the mothership of gaming platforms)
  • GOG (for lovers of retro games)
  • HumbleBundle (very cheap games, where your money’s donated to a charity)
  • Origin (that other mothership of gaming platforms)
  • Battle.net (limited amount of games, but huge player base. Does World of Warcraft ring a bell ?)

Steam :

  • War Thunder
    War Thunder
    War Thunder. pew pew vroom vroom

    Lots of fun and easy to learn.
    Flying planes and bombing tanks.
    Cross platform for Linux, Windows, Mac and Playstation 4

  • World of Warships
    A bit more hard core. You get to pilot actual replica of ships in a huge naval battle.
    Starts easy, but gets really intense on higher ranks.
    If you need a slow-paced but action-intensive game, this is for you
  • Warframe
    Yet another Steam game not obliged to run specifically on Steam.
    Sci-fi Spacey third person shooter with a simple and balanced class system.
  • Star Trek Online
    Star Trek Online screenshot

    Command your own crew in your personal NCC-ship.
    Multiplayer Trekkie heaven.

  • Star Conflict
    Massive multiplayer space ship pew-pew.
    Not really a beginner kinda game to start playing, but tons of fun with an experienced group of players. If you’ve played EVE Online and like that game, this is probably for you !
  • Winning Putt
    Sexy golf ?

    Sounds stupid, but it’s stupidly addictive as well.
    Multiplayer golf. What more do you want ? :p

  • Team Fortress 2
    The very first free-to-play game on Steam and still totally worth mentioning.
    This game stood the test of time and still kicks ass in the current-gen list of competitive shooters.
    It’s a team-based shooter where with many game typs such as “capture the flag”, ‘plant the bomb”, “king of the hill”, …
  • OGAT
    Of Guards and Thieves

    The title stands for “Of Guards And Thieves”, in case you’re wondering 🙂
    This little hidden gem has you play as either a member of the thieves or a guard (oooh, unexpected), where you have to infiltrate a mansion ans steal items or prevent the thieves from doing so.
    Sounds simple, but it’s a real blast.

  • DOTA 2
    Defending the Ancients like a bawz

    Spice is the variety of life. Or is it the other way around ? DOTA started as a simple mod for Warcraft 3, but quickly grew towards a thing of its own.
    DOTA 2 (Defense of The Ancients) is one of those games, where you defend your base and conquer your oponent’s. Computer-controlled units are your grunts, where you manually control a leader. As classic as it gets.

Origin :

While Origin occasionally used to have an “On the house” action every now and then, there’s not a lot of actual free games on their platform.
They stopped giving away freebies mid 2018 and don’t have plans to do so again (yet).
Nevertheless, Origin is EA’s gaming platform and it can never hurt to create an account here.

If you’re a fan of specific EA games (list on this Wiki page), have a go at Origin.

Also : PLAY ULTIMA ONLINE !!!

Humble Bundle :

Also, an other website that’s not known for instant-freebies.
HOWEVER….
Humble Bundle’s profit is poured mainly into general healthcare, Red Cross, humanitary help, … projects.
Every month or so, you’ll see a little announcement on their site where you get to buy an “Humble Bundle”,  which usually consists of around 10 to 12 games. Depending on the amount of money you donate, you’ll receive a small, medium o full package of games, usually Steam keys or DRM-free downloads.

It’s a bit of a gamble to get into their “Humble Montly” program, but definitely worth to create an account and stay on the lookout for a good bundle of games.
They even release e-books or specific software such as video editors every now and then !

GOG :

The GOG.COM platform has come a long way over the years.
It started out more like a fan-service to old-school gamers, but quickly grew into a legal distribution platform for the older games.
Now, GOG also provides the newer games on the market but is still known for its classic and historical games.
An easy search (https://www.gog.com/games?sort=popularity&page=1&price=free) will get you into their list  of free games (and demo’s).

  • As a lover of old games, I suggest the Ultima series, but they’re all mostly single-player RPG’s.
  • Gwent is quite likeable though. If you ever played “The Witcher 3”, you’ll love this. It’s the card minigame that has gotten a seperate game of its own. Very addicitve, although most card game players will either stick to Magic The Gathering Online, Pokémon The Trading Card Game Online (basically Magic for beginners) or HeartStone (on Battle.net)

Non-platform :

A couple of game have already been mentioned that are not necesarily platform-bound, but there’s a few ones that are not bound to any software distribution platform.

  • OpenTTD
    Choo Choo mother f*cker

    This beauty is a serious blast from the past, but remains an awesome game over all the years it had to fight to stay in the top game charts.
    As a free game OpenTTD (which is unoficially short for ‘Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe’).
    OpenTTD consists of a very simple concept to create the most optimal and lucrative transport system to get your products from A to B (and even to C and D in the process). The challenge for most people in this game, is getting the awesome train system to work.
    It’s a blast in multiplayer as you’ll soon be fighting over who gets the best coal prices in order to move them to your energy plant and whatnot.
    Fantasic game that gave me a good time in the past and I’m getting the urge to play it again by just writing about it.
    There’s even an Android port for the game, if you’re into that.

  • Pokémon TCGO
    Addictive Pokémon-themed card game from the creators of the all-popular card game series ‘Magic The Gathering’. It’s basically a gateway game to get you to play Magic AND there’s also a physical copy where you receive goodies for the online game per card pack.
    The online game is completely free though.
    You CAN invest real money in card decks, but it’s more of a time investment than an actual cash cow. Very fun to play with your kids, as most of the common languages are translated into it.

Actual non-video games ??? On a LAN party ???

And here we go again with the LAN party thing…
I’ve mentioned it before, but LAN parties are not all about sitting behind a computer screen for as long as you can.
They’re social events.
Part of the main audience happens to love real life party games and/or board games as well, so why not combine both ? As (almost) per definition, the default LAN party will last a complete weekend starting on a friday evening, going on ’till sunday evening. Depending on extended weekends, or going to events such as LANcamp (R.I.P.) this time might get extended to even a whole week.
When you’re my age (old) you lose interest in this mundane task of sitting behind a screen for over 48 hours and need a diversion.

  • SINGSTAR !!
    Hey I just met you and this is crazy, but be my singing buddy and get drunk, maybe ?

    The classic karaoke game that everybody (that sings) loves.
    Get everybody either really drunk and laugh your asses off, or battle in a competition of actual good singing voices.
    Either way, Singstar gets the job done.
    Protip : don’t karaoke near concentrated Counter Strike players (screw you sour-pissing CS player at Frag-o-Matic)

  • Any fricking board game you like to play with friends.
    I mean it, just get together with a couple of mates and pick something (preferably short in game time) as a diversion from your computer screen.
  • Dance Dance Revolution
    Arrows everywhere

    Or In the Groove or Stepmania, whatever floats your boat.
    Just make sure you play it on the controller it’s created for : THE DANCE MAT.
    Oh, and provide a shower opportunity on your LAN party, cause you’ll sweat your ass off…

 

Epilogue

This list of games is never done and you know it.
Let me know in the comments below if you have anything to add to this list of awesome freebies to get your (LAN) party started or throw me a PM on Facebook if you will.

Prepping for a lanparty. (part 2)

Read this first.

Done? Read on.
(keep in mind this text was originally written in 2013. Alterations were made in obvious locations. The games mentioned in this article have also aged nicely)

Back to the future

OCC, Sint-Niklaas, 4th of august 2000.

Over the years, the LAN party scene has evolved quite a bit.
The stereotype idea that people have of a bunch of nerds gathering together, talking geek stuff, eating and sleeping behind their computer screen and constantly playing first-person-shooters is already long gone.
The appearance of a high percentage of female gamers into the LAN scene has cranked up the credibility factor and given these events more of a social background.
Of course, not only the appearance of the opposite sex was the only change of direction.
Social media, free games and a bigger variety and subvariety of games have also played a role in this evolution.
To give you a wild example : expect score beating competitions in simple games such as Peggle and Word Feud Banished, Singstar, FTL, … to be played.
Scrabble Scythe and other board games (classic Warhammer Blood Bowl, anyone?) also take part nowadays.

This little guide will prepare you computer-wise for a fun LAN.

Trackmania Turbo. Keeping the Trackmania hype real

The list below is not and never will be complete. You play whatever game you want at a LAN party. Just try to tune in with your friends and co-gamers to see what they’ll be playing mostly, so you can have optimal fun.
I’ll split up the list in free/paying games so you can decide for yourself.
Also : if you don’t have a Steam account, go and create one. There’s tons of free games on Steam nowadays !

FREE :

  • The Trackmania series (racing – multiplayer)
  • War Thunder (flying – multiplayer)
  • World of Warships (slow boats – multiplayer)
  • JFK Reloaded (banned here and there in the States for obvious reasons – also a score attack game)
  • Team Fortress 2 (first free Steam game – super popular first person shooter)
  • Stepmania (musical madness – plays best with a dance mat)
  • OpenTTD (less played, but still an awesome single/multiplayer game – free version of the original transport Tycoon Deluxe game – still does a great job after years of existance)
  • Tetrinet (not-so-licensed-by-Nintendo multiplayer version of the classic ‘Tetris’ brick-dropping game)

PAYING :

  • EVE Online (MMORPG – space themed)
  • World of Warcraft (MMORPG – fantasy themed)
  • Super Hexagon (psychedelic single player score attack game)
  • Surgeon Simulator (just plain fun – single player – I cried tears of joy playing this)
  • FTL (space ship simulator with a high-score system – single player)
  • Minecraft (incredibly fun sandbox game that actually has an ending – single/multiplayer)
  • Left4Dead 2 (scary zombie first-person-shooter. Absolutely worth every penny – use headphones and play in the dark)
  • Sins of a Solar Empire (old but sturdy real-time-strategy game – single/multiplayer)
  • Borderlands 2 (mature themed first-person-shooter-RPG – 4player co-op)

And don’t even get me started on all the LAN classics such as Battlefield, Counter Strike, Unreal Tournament and the Command and Conquer series and derivatives.

Diablo 3 – every reason’s a good one to play D3 – good old 4-player fun

Other software

  • DC++ (software that makes downloading easy – I can’t stress enough that it’s illegal to share licensed software, and other copyrighted stuff.
    DC++ is basically used to easily share your shareable data through means of a searchable index by connecting to a local server. If you plan to use this software, please hash all your shares beforehand as this takes a long time to complete. For more info on hashing, check the DC++ software manual) Stay on the lookout for my DC++ config guide in a nearby future 😉 – let me throw you a Spanish bone first ==> Manual de Direct Connect
  • A good antivirus solution for your computer (some downloads can and will contain viruses)
    As of the coming of Windows 10, there’s the very lovely built-in Windows Defender, holding the fort for you.
  • Filezilla Client. Want to go old school? Connect to a server using FTP
  • MIRC. Want to feel back in the 80s ? Connect to an IRC server for chatting and file sharing purposes 😀
  • Other than that : come to a LAN party with the right attitude ! You’re here to have fun and so is everyone else. There’s nothing worse than a whiner ruining the atmosphere for all the other players.
  • Oh, and don’t bring a Macintosh… There’s a special place in hell for people who bring a Mac to a LAN party…

Alternative ways to go and much more

Depending on the LAN party, there’s tons of alternative stuff going on besides the default ‘bring-your-PC’ mindset.

  • Board games.
    Yes, board games are having a revival for a long time now. They can find their place one certain LAN parties, depending on the theme
  • Game consoles.
    Kronenburger park, anyone ?

    Ever since the early nillies, video game consoles have started to appear on the otherwise PC-filled LAN scene. I personally have helped to push this fact in the fact, so I’m always ravished to be able to mention it at any given time.
    It’s not frowned upon to even appear at a LAN party with only your game console? Computers are over-rated 😉
    Party games on consoles are a great competitive way of having fun aside from sitting behind the PC. Like I said before, LAN parties are more of a social event than you’d think.
    Games like SingStar, Mario Party, Super Smash Bros, … come to mind.
    I even recall a certain somebody bringing his own arcade machine *cough*

  • Rentals.
    *Winks at Speedseats*

    No-one likes to drag their heavy computer around or stash their personal desk chair somewhere in the trunk of their car.
    Nowadays, it’s possible to rent a computer or even an excellent gaming chair for a very limited amount of money on most bigger events. There’s nothing worse than having to finish your gaming weekend with a soaring back ache.

 

There’s so much more to tell about LAN parties.
Just visit one (preferrably more) and convince yourself.
*mumbles something about Waasmunster*

Virtua *cough* Fighter 3

Prepping for a lanparty. (part 1)

And now for something completely different.

Those that know me personally, also know that I’m totally hooked to LAN parties.
With an upcoming one at work (yeah, that’s right, we hold LAN parties at work), I decided to necro an old topic of mine from 2013. I even had to look it up through this site, as I never saved the text locally.
This only proves that once you put something online, there’s no un-posting. Ever.

Here goes.

LAN parties …

oldschool yo
Before the hip kids all did it

You might have heard of them before, and maybe want to attend one (or preferably more) in your lifetime.

In case you don’t know what a LAN party is, I’ll give you a brief rundown :
First of all, the abbreviation “LAN” stands for “Local Area Network“.
LAN parties basically consist of a gathering of people, bringing their own home-computer setups with them, in order to connect them all into one big network.
Mostly with the common goal to play computer games together and hang out in an alternative social environment.

With the coming of high-speed internet, the “social” part has become a larger part of the LAN-life. The reason behind this, is that “in days of olde”, people could not achieve the data transfer speeds needed for fast network gaming of fast data tranfer altogether, over a simple phone line through a dial-up internet connection.

Plus, it’s way more fun to be able to punch someone in real life, who just shot you down in a video game, instead of scolding him over the internet.

Come prepared

In any way, the following list will provide you with sort of a ultimate LAN party checklist as a preparation for your visit to a LAN.

Very important :

  • A computer + its power cable (I can’t state this enough, and yes I’ve seen people arrive without their PC…)
    Some LAN parties provide you with a rental PC, but very few do this. Check your LAN website when in doubt.
  • A screen + its power cable + its connector cable
    Unless you’re carrying a laptop with you, a screen is as important as your actual PC
  • Input devices, such as keyboard and mouse
    Or a braille input device as I once had the privilege to witness
  • Network cable of sufficient length (preferably UTP CAT5 straight cable or anything of higher quality)
    In few cases, the organisation itself provides you with network cable. Sufficient length mostly means 10 meters or more.
  • Power Strip with more than enough connectors for all your PC hardware (for you Dutch speaking who don’t know what a power strip is : “ne priezenblok”)
    Most LANs provide one group of tables with only one power strip onto which you can branch your own one.

Relatively important :

  • Sleeping gear
    Unless you want to sleep on a hard concrete floor, or in a chair with your head on your keyboard, some sleeping gear is handy.
    You can also be a “tough nut” and stay awake all night, cause that’s what tough guys do. However, I strongly suggest getting a little sleep in order to improve your concentration level when you play games on a need-to-win basis.
    My suggestion is to use a camping bed, a sleeping bag and a pillow to a default LAN party
  • Food
    Most LANs provide food at an affordable price. It is however recommended to bring along some snacks for yourself so you don’t have to rely on otherwise mostly fast-food.
    Healthy mind, healthy body, that sorta thing.
  • Software
    Bring all your necessary software with you. This includes, but is not limited to :
    … your Windows (or other Operating System) CD or install medium (a USB stick for instance)
    … drivers for your hardware, in case you need to reinstall your PC
    … games (although nowadays with platforms such as Steam, you can download your games after you formatted your PC, just by logging into the game client
    … anything you can think of, basicallyTrust me when I say that if ever you are in need of a piece of software when you’re hours away from home, you’ll think back to the day you have read this article
  • Personal hygiene stuff
    Basically you bring this along, so you don’t bother your fellow gamer with bodily odors.
  • Sound
    Although most bigger LAN parties have a headset-only policy, in some cases it’s always nice to have someone bring along his speaker/woofer combo for all of us to enjoy his weird choice of music.Seriously, if it doesn’t say ‘speakers allowed’ on the LAN website or in their invitations, DON’T BRING SPEAKERS

Optional :

I can think of a lot of stuff that would be optional for you to bring to a LAN. It depends on what transportation you’ll be taking and how much room is in/on your car, bike, bus, …

  • Your own chair from behind your desk is nice to have, for instance. So are extra blankets or pillows.
  • Extra clothing is not considered as must-have, but it tends to improve your social life if you attend a +3day LAN
  • Money is another thing. If you brought enough food with you to survive the entire LAN, and you’re absolutely sure you will not need to buy anything locally, then be my guest and show up as a bum. However, as Murphy’s Law lurks around every corner, I wouldn’t be surprised you’ll need some extra cash.

With that in mind, you’re somewhat prepared for your first LAN event.
Another handy tip : if you’re new to LANs, don’t go taunting the locals and brag about how awesome you are at some game. Even if you were good at a game, and even if (very slim chance) you’re as good as the LAN visitors who played for ages, you’ll be socially excluded within the minute. The ones I met in real life will know who I’m talking about.

“OK, Zupertails, you got me all worked up now. Where do I go from here with all this info?”

Basically, if you’re from Belgium, like I am, you stay on the lookout on various LAN websites.
Some of them are :

Lanparty.be (basically a calendar where you can see all other LANs in Belgium)

Frag-o-Matic (the biggest commercial one in Belgium we have atm)

9 Lives (one of the bigger gaming communities in Belgium)

The Gathering (the Mothership of all LANs, located in Norway, visited form all over the world)

The Gathering - 2005
pic from Wikipedia

I hope you enjoy this helpful little guide on the world of LAN parties.
Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to mail me, or post a comment (comments are moderated, so it takes a while before they appear).
Facebook is also a popular place where you’ll see me hanging around.

GAME ON!

Also… read on 

O365 product training

Good news

Microsoft just recently sent me one of their spammy messages that I usually overlook.
Instead, this time, it was a bringer of good tidings. Finally, Microsoft will force-feed you or your users with documentation, tips and tricks on how to use your Office 365 products and get the most out of it.  There has been a built-in training centre for admins as well as regular users in the portal.microsoftonline.com landing page for a while now, but – speaking out of personal experience – not a lot of end-users visit this page.

Kindly read the message below, that contains the interesting part of the original mail :

The mail :

We’re pleased to announce that starting on November 29, 2018, all users of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 will receive helpful product training and tips for services in their subscriptions via email. This feature has administrative controls to enable and disable.

[How does this affect me?]
After this change takes place, email communications will be enabled-by-default for your organization’s users, allowing us to provide product training and tips aimed at helping them increase their productivity and to maximize their utilization of the products and services they use most. End users will only receive emails regarding services that they have been enabled for, and you can control whether or not your users receive these communications in the End User Communication tab in your Office 365 admin center. Your users also have the ability to opt-out of receiving these emails on an individual basis by accessing the Security and Privacy pane of their My Account Portal.

This feature will be on-by-default for all Office 365 and Microsoft 365 organizations on November 29, 2018.

If you wish to disable this service for your users, you can do so between now and November 29, 2018 and your settings will be honored.

[What do I need to do to prepare for this change?]
If you prefer your users receive product training and tips that are all tailored to the services in their subscription, then there’s nothing you need to do to prepare for this change.

If you do not want us to send product training and tips to your end users, please follow these steps to disable:

  1. Log into the Office 365 admin center
  2. Click on Services & Add-ins
  3. Click on End User Communication
  4. Flip toggle to “Off”