Tag Archives: Parental Controls

June in Review

The Site

I posted a little bit more this month.  In fact, I posted about as much as a usually do in a given month.

I have mostly Blizzard to thank for this.  Their screwing up parental controls and bypassing security protecting them got me on a roll.

I think the biggest change to the actual site is that there is a link to my Facebook account way down the side bar.  My Facebook profile features this picture.

Wilhelm, circa 1988

I only mention this because my wife found the T-shirt I am wearing in that picture just the other day.  It is from the 1988 TimeCon, a science fiction and fantasy convention that used to take place here in Silicon Valley, apparently notable only for a rule it imposed during its spectacular 1991 flameout.

I also found the convention program for the event. (Michael Dorn was a guest!)  I’m trying to decide if I put these two items back in storage or try to sell them on eBay.

I also still have the flight jacket I’m wearing in the picture, a 1950s US Navy G1.  It is not for sale.

Anyway, if you need a neighbor in FarmVille, you can friend me.  I won’t guarantee I’ll go visit your farm every day, but I’ll send return gifts once in a while.

One Year Ago

People were upset about Blizzard not including LAN play in StarCraft II.  It looks like Blizzard stuck to that plan, as there will be no such feature when the game ships at the end of July.

The NeuroSky MindSet was released, but I still cannot cast fireballs in WoW using only my brain.

Then there was that Wii Bowling Ball controller.  Has that generated any lawsuits yet?

There was a new definition of hard core gamers.

I was complaining about the local newspaper being made up of 8 pieces of paper.  I think I finally received the last home delivery of the paper yesterday, when my subscription ran out.  I shan’t be renewing.

There was an attempt to get Age of Empires II: Age of Kings going while people in the instance group were on vacation.  We did end up getting connected via a service called Game Ranger.

And then there was World of Warcraft.  They changed when you got mounts in the game allowing people to (literally and figuratively) fly through the Burning Crusade.  There was that whole WoW/Mountain Dew cross promotion which, if nothing else, got me another in-game pet.  I spent all my gold on the artisan flying skill, and then they lowered the price with the mount changes.  I got the achievement The Explorer.  And I bought an authenticator.  Viva account security.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Random Site I Want To Mention But Don’t Really Have An Excuse or Category

Mogazine.

Mostly for the point/counter point articles on starting off in EVE Online

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Pokewalker Winner’s Path WiFi Event
  2. Blizzard Real ID vs. My Privacy
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  5. Hulkageddon III – Summer of Gank – Coming Soon
  6. FrontierVille is Educational
  7. Hulkageddon III – Dates Announced
  8. TTH Picks the Top Ten PvP MMOs
  9. World of Warcraft Gold For Sale!
  10. Blizzard Authenticator: New Tool for Bad
  11. Steep Learning Curve? We Meant to do That!
  12. Will it be Screws-ville in Middle-earth?

Search Term of the Month

future twike
[I’m not sure what that means]

Spam Comments of the Month

weak indian viagra
[I guess if you cannot handle the strong, US version….]

Can the WOW accounts be auctioned? Both for buying and selling of accounts. It would be an awesome idea. Are there any providers for this?
[A short sample of what you get when you do a post about selling WoW Gold.  The long sample was a post in and of itself.]

Deleted Comment of the Month

I had a hacker, now I have empty boxes, and I can’t send only a few gifts a day to ,my Mafia players. I need to speak with someone, why do you have no phone number?
[I do have a phone number, I’m just not giving it to you.]

EVE Online

Hulkageddon is coming, but I’m not sure that will do much for me.  I extended my subscription using ISK to buy PLEX, but the wormhole space station mission has not been a success so far.  All your wormholes are belong to somebody else already.  Or so it seems.  So I have mostly been playing the training game.

Lord of the Rings Online

I have been playing more LOTRO than anything else lately, trying to exceed my previous level record of 33 with a character on Firefoot.  That should be doable, if I can figure out which character on which to focus.  Always the challenge for an alt-impaired played like myself.

World of Warcraft

While the instance group has been out to play a couple of weekends, I have not played much outside of that.  Part of this is pre-Cataclysm malaise.  I can only do so many daily quests or battlegrounds.  The other part is that I have preferred playing LOTRO of late.

Nintendo DS

Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are still being played regularly at our house.  As I said previously, I am ramping up for the final big fight in the game, at which point I think I can declare victory.  Then the long hard road to the National Pokedex awaits.  I didn’t manage to finish it in Diamond or Platinum, so the outlook is only “fair” for SoulSilver.

Coming Up

StarCraft II ships at the end of the month.  Do you suppose I will mention that?

Maybe.

I’ll probably write more about LOTRO though.  And Pokemon.

The Strangest Parental Control Default

I looking at the new and, in my opinion, screwed up parental controls page, I actually played with some of the controls I normally do not use, just to see if they changed as well.

One of the options allows you to select a pre-filled out time grid.  You have the options, that are kind of self-explanatory, of:

  • Weekends only (all weekend hours)
  • Friday and weekends only (which is really Friday after 3pm, so after school)
  • After school and weekends (3-6pm daily and weekends)
  • After 6pm and weekends (6pm to midnight daily and weekends)
  • After 3pm and weekends (3pm to midnight daily and weekends, i.e. sleep, go to school, play WoW life)
  • Break Time

None of those are particularly useful to me.  They would allow my daughter to play much more WoW than we would want.  But that is why I am annoyed by the new parental time control grid, because we dole out time in much smaller increments when we feel it is appropriate.

Now you will notice that I did not explain the option “Break Time.”  The others were, as I said, somewhat comprehensible by their description.  You knew what to expect, if not in full detail.

So I had to see what that last time template offered.

I've got your break time right here

Essentially, “Break Time” sets a pattern of regular two and a half hour play slots, each broken up by a 30 minute break.

This limits you to 20 hours of play a day and makes you step away from the computer at least every three hours.

I’m just wondering who would find this sort of schedule useful.

That is way too much play time to be allowed a child and way too regulated for any normal person that I know to follow and be aware of.  I would, I am sure, constantly be logging on to play about 10 minutes before break time.

Would you find this useful?  Do you know somebody who would?

Blizzard Screws Up The Parental Controls Interface

The third and final post in this week’s “WTF Blizzard?” feature.

Previously I ranted about how they compromised the security of the parental controls page and about the new Real ID feature that just launched this week.

Now I want to proceed to the actual parental controls interface, which have arguably suffered from this round of updates.

Not that the old version of parental controls was a joy to behold.

But the controls, and its center piece, the play time grid, were  clear, functional, and intuitively easy to use.  I was worried that I would have to describe it in detail, since it no longer exists, but Google images always provides! (Thanks to the similarly named blog, The Experienced Noob, from which I borrowed this image.)  So lookie:

The Old Play Time Grid

Green meant your child could play, red meant they could not.

You could easily click on any of the half hour increments to turn them on or off.  You could also click and drag your cursor across a range of increments, changing them all in a single pass.

It was simple, but that is what a tool like this should be.  No additional instructions were supplied or required.

Now there is the new grid.

The New Play Time Grid

At first glance you might actually prefer this new grid.

It looks a bit like one of the calendar views in Microsoft Outlook.  (That is familiar to far too many of us I fear.)

And it is easy to see the time ranges and durations once you have selected them.  The clarity of presentation is as good, if not better, than the previous grid.

Selecting the actual times though… you know, using the tool…

Here is a tip that you haven’t necessarily improved the user experience:  You need to explain things that previously needed no explanation.


I won’t quibble about the fact that the instructions, which are next to the grid, refer to “the time slots above.”  That is easy enough to fix. (I won’t pass up the opportunity to point it out however!  It supports my conclusion!)

No, it is the fact that time selection works in a different and not quite so intuitive manner that gets me.

Gone is the toggling on and off of half hour time slots.  Not that you would want to, since the vertical size of the time slots is eye-strain small.  You will miss your desired half hour increment often.

Now you have to click on the starting time and drag your cursor to the ending time all in an action that reminds me very much of pulling down a window shade.  It seems easy, but you often have to repeat it to get your settings just right.

And, if you are like me and sometimes set multiple play times for a single day, you’d better read that final tip.  Somebody at Blizzard decided that multi-select editing rules were appropriate, so you have to hold down the Ctrl key down while you select additional time slots for a day.  If you forget to hold down that key, your first time slot goes away as soon as you start dragging out the second one.  Oops.

Finally, make sure you don’t accidentally click on the wrong day.  Once you click on a day, you are stuck with a half hour selection that you can only remove by navigating away from the page without saving, then coming back to start over.

The half hour that would not leave

This also means that once you have a time slot selected for a given day, you will always have a time slot for that day unless you use the “clear schedule” option, blank out the whole grid, and start over again.  Ctrl-select was fine, but you couldn’t give me Shift-select for delete Blizzard?

Not a winning interface update.  Remember, they felt that having password protection for this page was too complicated, but somehow this grid selection method was just fine!

Okay, maybe you do not use parental controls and do not care.

And maybe “screws up” is an over-statement when referring to the whole parental controls interface.  Much of it remains exactly as it was before, with the time grid being the major change, even if the time grid is the major feature of the page.

But we are speaking of Blizzard, the company for whom “polish” is the alleged watchword.  And this interface update is clearly one that could have used a bit more thought before being released.

Blizzard Compromises Parental Control Security

Or such is my view of the recent changes they have made.

For previously, parental controls were a simple thing.

They were an option off of the account management page and thus secure behind the account login, which in the case of our household, includes a Blizzard Authenticator.

Roll Stock Authenticator Footage

Once in to the parental controls page, all sorts of options were available for controlling your child’s play time.

And all of this was kept from the child by a simple password.

My daughter would go log into the page and all I would have to do is make the changes, or review the changes she made (and often correct them to align with what I had agreed to allow), then type in the password and click accept.

The flaw in the system appeared to be the password.  I chose a password that was both complex enough to be secure, but one that both my wife and myself would remember.  And we keep tight enough rein on my daughter’s WoW account that we end up typing it in a couple of times a week, thus refreshing our memory.

Then came the email from Blizzard.

Dear World of Warcraft Parental Controls user,

We’re writing to let you know that World of Warcraft Parental Controls are now managed through our Battle.net Parental Controls system: http://us.battle.net/parents/.

This email is your new key to accessing Parental Controls for your children. Any time you want to make changes, simply click the link under the name of the child below:

[Account and URL Withheld]

Your previous World of Warcraft Parental Controls settings for the accounts above have been automatically transferred to Battle.net Parental Controls, so unless you’d like to make changes or explore the new tools, you do not need to take any action at this time. Be sure to hang on to this email for quick access to managing your Parental Controls settings in the future.

Battle.net’s Parental Controls features include:

– NEW! No more Parental Controls password to remember – just use this email as your key.
– NEW! Permit a child to use Real ID, an optional social-networking feature that allows players to interact and communicate using their real names. (Learn more about Real ID: http://us.battle.net/realid/)
– Set daily or weekly limits on the number of hours your child is allowed to play World of Warcraft.
– Create a custom World of Warcraft play schedule, or select from pre-set schedules such as “weekends only.”
– Receive weekly World of Warcraft play-time reports via email.
– Manage access to in-game voice chat for World of Warcraft.
– COMING SOON! The ability to manage future Blizzard Entertainment games such as StarCraft II, as well as additional access to Battle.net’s upcoming social features. We’ll share more info with you about these features as they become available.

For information on or assistance with Battle.net Parental Controls, visit the Parental Controls FAQ (http://us.blizzard.com/support/article.xml?locale=en_US&tag=PCFAQ) or contact our Sales, Billing & Account Services team: https://us.blizzard.com/support/webform.xml?rhtml=y&locale=en_US.

Sincerely,

The Battle.net Team

I initially ignored this email thinking that it was yet another phishing attempt.  Right, I’m going to click on a URL in an email from “Blizzard Entertainment.”

But then my daughter came to me asking to play for a bit, since the Midsummer Fire Festival was kicking off, and we noticed that the parental controls were missing from their usual location.

I went back, dug the one of two non-phishing attempts from Blizzard Entertainment out of my spam folder, and read the above.

So instead of easy access via account management, controlled by a password, I now have to keep a hella long URL handy if I want to make any changes.

I realize that some people are bad with passwords and that having held a job where I had to have 6 different passwords to do my job daily, each of which had to be changed every 45 to 90 days, might have trained me better than most in the fine art of mental password management (the company had heard of LDAP, but wasn’t really convinced it was time to jump on that bandwagon yet), but still.  This was one stinking password with almost no restrictions requiring special characters, numbers, capital letters, punctuation, or Chinese pictograms.

But no, passwords get forgotten and and I am sure that yields calls to Blizzard support, and support calls cost money.

So now I have a much less secure solution to the problem of parental controls.  Passwords may be as breakable, or much more breakable than the hella long URL Blizzard sent me, but at least the password entry made you go through the Blizzard Authenticator.  I bought into your security paradigm and this is how I get treated Blizzard?

Meanwhile, the URL is in a normal web mail account, the password for which can be phished for as easily as an account password.  And even if I copy the URL elsewhere, if you know that email address, you can just go to the parental controls page, type it in, and they’ll send you a fresh URL that will invalidate the old one.

All of this for access to a page that will let you lock people out of their account.  How does that scenario sound familiar?

Right, somebody gets the password to that email account, changes it, requests a new parental control URL, turns off all access to the account and there you go.

And you can say, “Well, be more careful with your email account,” but this sort of thing happens to people much wiser in the ways of security than myself.

Then there is the kick in the teeth following the boot in the groin, which is that this new setup is less convenient for our family.

Previously, my wife and I both knew the password, so either of us could manage our daughter’s account.

Now we need that URL.

Sure, I can forward that to her (another security hole, but what the hell at this point!), but there is a catch.

The URL expires.

This was probably the bit that let this whole “bypass the authenticator” scheme get past security review.  I’ve already had to renew the URL.

But the URL gets sent to an email account that is mine.  If the URL expires when I am not available to manage the parental controls, then the controls won’t get managed.  And I could switch it to a new account that we could both share, but that would be one more account and password to remember.

All in the name of not having to remember a password.

And I’m just getting warmed up.  This whole thing is a trifecta of annoyances, the security changes just being the first.

Look for a follow up post.

Meanwhile, the net result here is that if you used the Blizzard authenticator, your account is now less secure than before.