Monday, January 30, 2017

Introducing... eclipse glasses and my newest book!

There are now two new items in the AQ Marketplace!

First up: eclipse glasses. For those of you keeping track of these things, the first total solar eclipse to hit the contiguous United States is scheduled to sweep through the country on August 21st. And when I say sweep through the country, I mean it--from Oregon to South Carolina! From sea to shining sea!

If you've never experienced a total solar eclipse, you've never witnessed the most spectacular natural event you'll likely ever see. I've had the privilege of seeing them twice and traveled to the Black Sea (1999) and Zimbabwe (2001) in order to see them. This time, it'll be in our own proverbial backyards! The path of totality is only about 70 miles wide so most of you might have to travel a bit to see it, but it's well worth the effort. Start planning today if you haven't already! If for some reason you can't get to the path of totality, the entire rest of the contiguous United States will see a substantial partial eclipse that covers over 50% of the sun's surface. But seriously, make the effort to get to the eclipse path. I can assure you, a 99% covered sun and 100% covered sun is as different as night and day. Don't think you get 99% of the magic with a 99% covered sun--it doesn't work like that!

However, as anyone with two brains cells can likely tell you, staring directly at the sun is very dangerous! You must either view the sun indirectly through something like a pinhole viewer, or through filters that take out about 99.999% of the visible light.

So I ordered a whole bunch of eclipse glasses so you can watch the eclipse safely. They come in sets of four, with each of the four being a different design. Share the extras with friends or family, or sell them at inflated prices on the day of the event to people who didn't order ahead of time. =) Supplies are limited--when I run out, I do not plan to order more. Although if I sell out really quickly--like in less than a week--I'll order more. But in any case, I wouldn't wait until the last minute to order. Supplies may be hard to come by as the event looms ever closer.

Also added to the AQ Marketplace.... a new book: Opowieść o dwóch szlakach. No, that's not a cat walking over my keyboard. That's the name of the book. It's a Polish translation of A Tale of Two Trails about my adventures on the West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Trail in Canada. Yes, that's right, the book sold so well, it's been translated into Polish!

Just kidding... it hasn't really sold that well. For anyone who reads my Another Long Walk blog, you're familiar with my Polish buddy, Karolina. Years ago she had told me that she was thinking about taking a course to become an English-to-Polish translator, and I somewhat jokingly said if she wanted to practice, she could translate my book into Polish.

She actually liked the idea and started work translating it. It took a few years before she emailed the final draft to me, and I packaged it up into a book form. So there you have it--my book translated into Polish.

I realize that there's probably not going to be a huge demand for Polish versions of my book, but if you have any friends or family who know Polish, it might make an interesting and unique gift for them. I'll autograph every copy sold! =)

In related news, I also made a few tweaks to the AQ Marketplace changing the prices so shipping is "free" in the United States. I put "free" in quotes because obviously, it's not free--it's just part of the price of the product now. I wanted the actual price for items displayed and not require people to add or subtract items to their shopping cart to figure out what shipping would be. I wanted to make the actual prices of ordering something more transparent.

It also now displays the 10% discount for premium members. If you live in the United States, the price you see is the price you pay! (Except if you live in Washington state, then I have to collect sales tax. Sorry! The sales tax is calculated based on your address, so it's not calculated until your zip code is entered.) Non-US shipping prices vary from $2 to $10 depending on what you order and where it's going.

If you're interested in either of the items, they're both available in the AQ Marketplace. And... that's it, I think. Happy trails! =)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

AQ: Now featuring security! =)

Okay, the title is a misnomer.... AQ has always had some degree of security. The first line of defense is to just not have anything that a hacker would even want. No credit card numbers to be compromised. No social security numbers, bank accounts, etc. There's not really much of anything on AQ that a hacker or identify thief would want to steal, except perhaps passwords which people tend to reuse across multiple websites (a bad thing to do, but we all know it happens!)

So early on, I bought an SSL certificate to people could log into their accounts securely. Most pages were still on the old, insecure http:// connections, though. Theoretically, someone on the Internet could see what you were doing, or eavesdrop on your AQ mail, or see where you were running letterbox searches. Or they could see the cookies your browser is using and hijack your session. Nobody has ever done that (so far as I know), but the possibility exists.

Until now! Yesterday, I updated the website to use https:// everywhere, all the time. Whether you're reading AQ mail or recording a find, no random people on the Internet can spy on what you're doing anymore.

I've actually wanted to do this for awhile but have held off because I knew it would likely cause some minor technical issues, and it has. It broke the maps for a bit. Apps that used AQ stopped working. All known issues have been fixed, but there could still be some unknown issues that I haven't found or have been brought to my attention. If you see something, let me know.

You also might get occasional security warnings depending on the content of the page. Some pages might point to a photo from another website (for instance) and the image isn't a secure link, and you'll get a warning that not everything on the page is secure. An image isn't really important in terms of security (unless it's an image of your bank account statement or something!), but the warnings can sometimes look scary. I fixed a few pages I found with that problem, but there could be others I've overlooked. Let me know if you see others and I'll see if I can fix it.

If you do include other content in your clues, or point a custom CSS to your own website, you could get warnings or outright errors unless it points to a secure resource. Ideally, if you can point to https://, do it! If you can't.... I wouldn't lose sleep over it, but the warnings might be annoying.

If you have a bookmark to Atlas Quest that appears not to be working, edit the link to https:// instead of http:// and it should work fine again. In theory, AQ should redirect it automatically, but there was a bug in some of the redirect code that handled URLs with lots of parameters. If you linked to a favorite search, for instance, that link might not appear to work anymore. I'm "permanently" redirecting links and if your browser has recorded the new (incorrect) URL, the only way to fix it is to edit the bookmark to point directly to https:// and not depend on the redirect. Most of you shouldn't have to edit any of your links since AQ will redirect automatically, but just in case you're one of those who have a problem, that's how to fix it.

For those of you with lots of watches on boxes, you might have gotten a lot of reports of "changed clues" last night. I automatically updated all clues that linked to AQ resources to use https:// -- so don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out how the clue was changed. It's just the link that was changed, and only to point to the secure version of the link.

 Hmm.... I think that's it! Sorry for any troubles this might cause, but it will be a better, more-secure website in the long run!

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Just kidding! =)