4 Jun 2015

Unruly - Basketball Night in Canada Chapter 3 - Commentary

Caitlin takes matters into her own hands and Heidi's friend finally gets a name..  Welcome to the commentary for "Clock's Ticking".  Please read the chapter first before continuing.

Heidi's friend, first introduced in Chapter 2, got named.  There wasn't an easy way to slip the name in; I was pushing it with Heidi.  But, now Caitlin needs to call her something, though "Heidi's Friend" is still on her list.  Tanya might regret getting involved at this point, but that's now on her.

Caitlin takes charge of the investigation.  She can't help it, really.  It's her nature and the reason she's at the Academy.  After all, leading at least two revolutions before high school - one against her previous school, one against Academy juniors - can't be done by just anyone.  Takes a certain mindset.  Heidi might have fallen in right away if the red-haired girl hadn't mentioned lock picking.

Simcoe's computer lab may or may not reflect current standards in high schools in Ontario.  I never researched this.  However, libraries do use similar.  Computers there provided a virtual drive only, so anything that needs to be saved has to be on a USB memory stick.  I'm also assuming that schools were forced to upgrade their equipment with Microsoft ending support of Windows XP.  Many corporate and government sites had to go through a very last minute upgrade, hardware and software, as a result, though Microsoft gave plenty of warning.  In most cases, new computer equipment was needed; the costs of upgrading was far more than anyone wanted to pay, leading to a larger cost as everything is replaced at once instead an incremental roll out.  Schools aren't in the best position to take this sort of budget hit, being underfunded.  Tanya's miracle, indeed.

Passwords.  Everywhere wants a password today.  Job sites, social media, newspaper webpages, and places that you never expect, on top of work or school logins.  How does one track it all?  There are password keepers, but those need a password, too.  Common ones include swordfish, 123456, password, and qwerty.  The result?  A staggering number of accounts are just waiting to be misused*.  What does help, though, is a limit on the number of tries at any one time.  Most corporate and government sites allow three times before locking the account.  Sites like Gmail, though, can't lock the account in the same way, but will provide a means to reset a password through a link sent to a registered contact, such as email or phone.  Autumn can't use brute force, not that she would, to hack an account.  Tanya did get lucky, but Autumn didn't have anything to lose.

The riot Tanya references at the Academy was Caitlin's Jennifer uprising.  The Academy does have some problems with public relations.  The Unrulies are a convenient scapegoat, and they do relish the part.  If they're going to get blamed anyway, might as well do the crime.  It was one of the core concepts I kept in mind when writing; the Unrulies would normally be someone else's antagonists.  In any other story, the Academy would be the villain.  The girls enjoy being in the role, at least most of the time.  I never had a chance to do some pre-NaNo work as I wanted, similar to the background work I did for By the Numbers to get in to the characters' heads.  Keeping in mind that the Unrulies would normally be someone else's villains helped keep the plots going.

Tomorrow, the new Unruly episode, Chapter 4, "Cheesecake and English".
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Evil Dead.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Fixing Dungeons & Dragons.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of /Lost in Translation/.

* A recent xkcd strip added a new wrinkle, though.  Pass phrases are harder to guess, easier to remember, and can include a mnemonic by site so that different passwords can be used without losing track.


  1. I think you've made the right call a few times so far this arc:
    -Widening the world even more to include another school. With what seemed to be a plausible reason for doing so. Plus decent team names and everything.
    -Not showing too much of this game. It is, after all, a means to an end, not the end game itself (otherwise it would end the arc)... plus I get bored by game mechanics.
    -Having Caitlin challenge Tanya for her name, since it was needed. It was very Caitlin, and it was funny. (Btw, her name appears as "Tania" at one point.)
    -Not showing or telling whatever the "ref blackmail" was. Better left to the imagination.

    Something I'm less sold on: Heidi and Tanya's willingness to help. After all, their team is benefiting from this, and is apparently not so torn up by the actions of some of their teammates to protest themselves. It might have been a nice twist to have Caitlin attack them more overtly with ethics, or with the challenge of a mystery, rather than threaten them with the photos of a possible outcome. (Though the threats were totally in character - it's more I wish she'd had to stretch herself more to get her allies. A bit like she had to after the lock picking remark... by the way, what does "Would any of your fellows even talk to me and mine" mean? Like, people Heidi dates, or what?)

    I caught the "riot" hint that you planted too. And nice that Vamsi was referenced with gambling, given the earlier mention. Could this all be due to the same people who took the Jennifers last time? Because the people behind it had to know the people to target pretty quick.

    1. After two arc/episodes spent mostly at the Academy, it was time to get out for a bit. The Academy's team name, the Phoenix, came from the idea that the school's purpose is to help girls get back on their feet, and goes well with the school's motto, "Concidimur sed resurgimus", or, "I get knocked down, but I get up again." Simcoe's team name required a bit of thought, but since James Simcoe was an United Empire Loyalist, it was a natural choice.

      I think their sense of fair play was offended at the blatant dives. Their team didn't need to cheat, especially against the Phoenix, who had never finished a game in their memory. That should have come out somewhere along the way. "Would any of your fellows even talk to me and mine," is Caitlin overstating things again; someone less pompous would say, "Would anyone at your school even bother with us?" instead.

      Caitlin is proud of her work, especially riots. :) Little details, like Vamsi and the gambling, I find help. And you are way ahead of me when I started writing the arc, though, yes, it could.

  2. Separate remark about high school computer labs:
    You are correct about forced upgrades and no Linux. Not so much about virtual drives, or at least not where I teach. Every student has their own unique login and password assigned to them, so when they log in, they are linked to a drive space on the network. (I don't think students can change their randomly generated password, or if they do, it's at least visible to our school tech.) Anything you save to a specific computer WOULD be wiped, but you can save files to your spot on the network and hence access it from any computer in the school. This includes things like webpage bookmarks. (Of course, not every computer might have necessary software installed on it to open a file - depends on the lab.) It's exactly the same for teachers. There's also a location in the network where students can save or "drop" files for submission - they have write access only and cannot see other student files. This is used less these days as students simply email their documents in.
    I think the only person with admin access would be our school tech (maybe also the computer science dept head). The tech also has the ability to mirror any computer in the school, so if he wants to see what Computer #6 in Lab 110 is showing at a particular time, he can do that. Autumn would do well to remember that. ;)
    I'm amused that my MuseHack column on Passwords might be useful to people, though I know I wrote that after you'd written this.

    1. I completely forgot about network drives, despite, you know, working in IT at locations that use network drives where users are supposed to story their data so they don't lose it if their PC dies. >.<;; I went with the virtual drives - essentially, a throwback to terminals with no local disk beyond what's needed to connect to the network - mainly because where I had just finished working switched over to that type of environment. Which would have network drives, but would you tell Autumn that?

      That makes sense. I didn't know about mirroring. Ooh, Autumn would not be happy if Headmistress Stone could do that.

      Passwords are an occasional thought I have. The biggest issue I have is the sheer number of websites that require an account. Some people use password keepers, encrypted local files that require a password to access other passwords, but lose that and there goes every password a user needs. And, yes, your column would be handy and should be mandatory reading for anyone starting a new job and setting up an account.