Category Archives: Cyn’s Guides To Almost Anything

Force ElvUI to use Friz Quadrata TT

I am in a period of UI experimentation and decided to give ElvUI another shot. Having wiped everything out and going back to the basics leaves me with nothing to lose if it decides to take out my keybinds again, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I’d pretty – I’ll grant it that – but the fonts it uses are terrible. It even rewrites the default font used by the system, so that when you disable ElvUI the character nameplates use a cramped PT Sans Narrow instead of the Friz Quadrata TT that has been a hallmark of World of Warcraft since 2004.

So I was fiddling with it this morning and couldn’t for the life of me change everything in the user interface. The TukUI forums suggested a set of alternate addons or modifying the LUA but I started going, wait, what, why all this just to fix the fonts?

Then I figured the right way to fix it, as with anything on a computer, is to get into the command line and write a shell script.

The following script removes all of the fonts that ship with ElvUI and replaces them with symbolic links to a font of your choosing. I chose Friz Quadrata TT, which I downloaded and placed in my ~/Library/Fonts directory. The symlinks fool ElvUI and World of Warcraft into thinking they’re using the ugly default fonts, but the files they pull up are the font you directed them to.

#! /bin/sh

sourcefont=~/Library/Fonts/frizquadratatt.ttf
elvdir=~/Dropbox/Warcraft/Interface/Addons/ElvUI/media/fonts

for elvfont in Action_Man.ttf DieDieDie.ttf Continuum_Medium.ttf Homespun.ttf PT_Sans_Narrow.ttf
do
rm -v $elvdir/$elvfont
ln -s $sourcefont $elvdir/$elvfont
done

Use at your own risk. No warranty provided, this has the RM command in it so it deletes crap, only works on my computer, etc..

I might try some different fonts – Friz Quadrata looks nice at the larger sizes (8+) but it’s not the best display font for the teeny tiny buttons and chat windows.

That said, it’s an improvement over the defaults.

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Macro: Clear Your Keybinds

Following up on my advice to trash all your keybinds, I found the following macro on Twitter from @pontelon:

/run for i = 1,120 do PickupAction(i) ClearCursor() end

This will remove everything from your bars in one fell swoop. (Be sure to get your secondary specs, too!)

Thanks, Pon! Great macro!

 

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Children’s Week 2012 and the School of Hard Knocks

A quick break from talking about Warlocks for a bit.

Children’s Week 2012 starts this Sunday, and with it will come everyone’s favorite holiday PvP achievement – The School of Hard Knocks.

And by favorite, I mean “most polarizing, hated achievement in the history of Warcraft achievements.”

Here’s the thing. No matter how much you’re dreading it because you don’t do PvP, you can do this achievement. Really, you can!

If you’re new to battlegrounds and dreading this achievement, check out my Guide to the School of Hard Knocks from 2010 – it’s still accurate, even with some changes to the Warsong Gulch graveyard, and it’s easier to mount in Alterac Valley (you can do it right out of the gates.) It has maps and video walkthroughs for each step of the achievement (hah, early Cyn videos!). The keys are practice and perseverance – you can do this! Get in some practice runs today and tomorrow to get used to the maps, then don’t give up in front of your orphan!

If you’re a battleground veteran, may I point you to two other articles – A Modest Proposal and A Vicious Proposal – that address the problem of this achievement in our playground. Be a good host. This week is the opportunity to infect a lot of people with the Battleground PvP bug – let’s not squander it.

One suggestion for experienced PvPers that isn’t in the above posts is to get an orphan and run with them, even if you have the achievement already. If there are folks in your BG who like picking on non-PvPers, you might as well be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. :D

Good luck next week! YOU CAN DO IT!

(And don’t forget, ALWAYS have your orphan out.)

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Synchronizing World of Warcraft Between Two Computers

Playing Warcraft on two different computers can present some real challenges to a player, and the more customized you make your user interface, the harder the challenge. How do you keep your UIs consistent, your addons updated, your preferences shared between the computers?

You can do it manually, which can be a real pain if you like to roll a lot of alts. Smart profile use can help, but it only goes so far – at some point changes need to be synchronized between the computers, and only so much of your interface is stored on the Warcraft servers. Trying to keep your interfaces up to date can be a nightmare if you’re an altoholic, and more trouble than it’s worth even if you’re focused only on a single toon.

I finally found myself in the situation where I need to keep my Warcraft information synced between two computers, an old Macbook (2008 model) and a shiny new Mac Mini. They share similar operating systems, but have very different video capabilities. The Macbook has a 13″ screen and integrated video chip; the Mac Mini is hooked up to a 25″ monitor and has an actual graphics card.

Here’s how I did it.

ONLINE SYNCHING WITH DROPBOX

My goals were simple in concept, if not in practice:

  • Provide the same user interface, including keybinds, general bar layout, addon configuration. Logging in to a character on one computer should feel the same as logging in on the other.
  • Changes made on one game should be propagated to the other automatically. I don’t want to have to make an update in one place and then manually make it again on the other computer.

I thought a bit about how I could approach these goals. My setup was very addon-heavy, with a lot of custom keybinds through Bartender, using the Naga to both push buttons and move my character, and a suite of addons which I’d manage depending on the character’s current role.

It was, in all honesty, probably overengineered. (But that’s a different set of posts.)

I could:

  • Nuke all of it and use the default UI. This would get me my first goal, as well as providing an extremely fast load time and better responsiveness on my aging laptop. But it’s also restricting – I would have to make sure that I didn’t make any changes, and that I’d need to configure things like the bar setup on each computer separately anyways.
  • Redesign and periodically copy over the interface files from one computer to the other. This would help keep me synched up, but requires remembering to do it. That’s bad, I’m forgetful. Also, a simple copy means that you can have file conflicts between the two systems with no resolution system. When you make different changes to the same character, one or the other will be lost when you resolve the conflict.
  • Schedule an automatic periodic direct sync between the two machines. This reduces the chance of file conflict, but doesn’t eliminate it unless the sync is scheduled very frequently.
  • Use an online syncing program to sync the files as soon as a change is detected, usually on logout, reducing the conflict chance to nearly zero – since I can’t be logged in on the same account at the same time on two different computers.

Some other events happened which caused me to very seriously consider nuking all my addons and going back to a default interface, but after some thought I decided to go with an online synchronization service called Dropbox. Dropbox is one of several services available that you can try for free, and their free version is perfect for this task.

Plus I already use it to transfer files, so, you know, Dropbox was pretty much a no brainer for me.

Now, the problem with most online sync services is that they monitor a specific set of folders on your hard drive, usually within their own directory structure, for files that have changed.

The files that control the UI are in the Warcraft/WTF and Warcraft/Interface folders, however. So unless I put my entire Warcraft installation in the cloud – which gets expensive – I was going to have to find a way to make it so Dropbox knew about those two folders.

This is where symlinks come in.

SYMBOLIC LINKS

Symbolic links, or symlinks, are pointers on your file system that look like one address for files, but point to another location. If I have a folder in my home directory called “Website Logs,” but I don’t want to actually keep all the log files within my home directory, I could make that folder into a symlink and put the files where I really want them to be, say in an archive directory or somesuch.

Symbolic links are often the answer for problems like this.

  • Dropbox monitors a folder called Dropbox in my home directory (~/Dropbox/).
  • Warcraft stores UI data in the Interface and WTF folders in the World of Warcraft directory (usually /Applications/World of Warcraft/Interface, etc.).
  • By moving the UI folders into the Dropbox folder and putting a symlink in the WoW folder, WoW thinks that the data is right where it should be, while Dropbox syncs it whenever something changes.

(I’m going to use Mac/UNIX directory structures in my examples, but the concepts are the same in Windows.)

Before I did anything else, I made a complete backup of each folder I was going to be touching – just in case. Take your time when working with files!

To create a symlink you use the ln -s command in Unix. The format is ln -s target link, where you specify the destination – where the files should really be stored, what your symlink points to – and then the name of it.

To keep things easy, I created a Warcraft folder in my Dropbox folder. This means that my targets are both going to be in ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/.

On the machine with the UI I wanted to use as a base (the server):

  1. Move to your Warcraft installation directory:
    1. cd /Applications/World\ of\ Warcraft/ (or wherever your WoW installation is)
  2. Copy the current Interface and WTF folders to Dropbox with:
    1. mv Interface ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/
    2. mv WTF ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/
  3. Create the symlinks:
    1. ln -s ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/Interface Interface
    2. ln -s ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/WTF WTF

When I look at a full list of the directory (ls -lah), I see my symlinks for Interface and WTF, along with their destinations, in my home directory (/home/username/Dropbox). A quick check of the Dropbox folder and I’m able to confirm all my files are where they should be, and the symlinks are up!

My final check on the source computer is to fire up WoW and validate that everything still works. If I’ve made a mistake, it shows up in here pretty quickly.

It goes without saying that syntax matters in UNIX, and small changes can have big repercussions. ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/Interface is different from ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/Interface/, for instance. If you’ve never tried symlinks before, take your time and practice. There’s a manual page for it – type man ln and you can read it.

I did all of that work on my server, since it was shiny and new, and I was making a lot of changes to my UI to take advantage of the big screen. Setting up the laptop was very similar, but because it was going to be receiving the files I didn’t want to move the WTF and Interface folders into the Dropbox folder – instead:

  1. Rename the WTF and Interface folders (WTF became WTF 20120101, etc.)
  2. Create the symlinks from WoW to Dropbox, just like above.

This points WoW on my laptop to look at the interface files stored in Dropbox – which are the same ones from my server. It was pretty cool opening up WoW on my laptop and seeing the UI I’d created on my big screen in all its glory.

Except… wait.

WoW looked really good on my laptop. Really good. Better than it’d ever looked before.

Uh oh.

EXCEPTION HANDLING, VIDEO SETTINGS, AND OMGWTFBBQ

It didn’t take me long to realize that not only was I looking at not just the addons, keybinds and bar layouts of the server on my laptop – I was looking at the same video settings. The video settings were turned up way higher than WoW normally allows my laptop to handle, and with good reason – my laptop can’t handle very much.

So after I shut down WoW, I realized that I needed to sync most of the settings, but not all of them, if I wanted to avoid using my laptop to actually cook BBQ.

The video settings are stored in ../World of Warcraft/WTF/Config.wtf, a plaintext configuration file. The other UI elements are stored in WTF/Account/. So what I needed was the ability to sync everything in WTF/Account/ but not the Config.wtf (or Launcher.wtf file.)

Symlinks to the rescue!

On the server:

  • I didn’t change a thing. This way the Config.wtf will be backed up and I can use it, or not, if desired.

On the laptop:

  • I deleted the symlink and restored the /Applications/World of Warcraft/WTF/ directory from backup. (i.e. I renamed WTF 20120101 to WTF in the finder.)
  • I went down a level and backed up the Account directory, renaming it to Account 20120101.
  • I created a symlink for the Account folder only:
  • ln -s ~/Dropbox/Warcraft/WTF/Account Account

Doing this allowed me to keep the UI layout unified between computers, without threatening to fry my laptop’s video card (and me underneath it!)

Each computer now has its own video settings, while sharing the same UI.

It may not look as good on the laptop, or have as much space due to UI scaling, but it has a consistent layout and feel – which is what I really wanted.

Also, it won’t set my laptop on fire.

ON UNIX COMMANDS, WINDOWS, AND TECHNICAL DISCLAIMERS

While I’ve been working with the seedy UNIX underside of Mac OS X, this technique should be adaptable for Windows. Vista and higher has a mklink command which functions similarly to ln; however, since I don’t run Warcraft on Windows, I can’t really test the function out. It should work, but computers can be funny.

I also know that a lot of users aren’t comfortable working from the command line on either Macs or Windows. I’m going to toss out a disclaimer right now – the code I posted above is suggestions about what worked for me, not a script that you should just copy and paste and expect to work 100%. It’s not. This is more of a recipe than a shell script to execute – a guide to how to make syncing your WoW interface seamless, not a prescription to making it happen. If you’re not comfortable with a command line interface but want to try this out anyways, make a lot of backups. Copy your WTF and Interface folders somewhere safe on both computers before starting. Check each step to make sure the computer did what you expect.

If you’re willing to take the plunge into Terminal, I think you’ll find the command line very fulfilling. Stuff like this becomes possible without waiting for someone to make an app that does just the right thing. It’s not rocket surgery!

For me? I’m enjoying playing with my UI on my laptop, and seeing the changes mirrored on my desktop the next time I log in.

Good luck!

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Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking 2011

Pilgrim’s Bounty is my favorite holiday in Azeroth. It’s the one holiday which allows you to take a normally tedious task – leveling a secondary skill – and get up to Grand Master levels in about an hour. It’s so good that I wait all year to level cooking on my characters until this week, because doing those first 350 points any other way is just silly.

How great is it?

  • You can get any character to Cooking 350 in 1-2 hours.
  • You can start at any level. That screenshot up above? That was my priest getting it at level 19 last year. It can be done all the way at level 1, if you really want!
  • There’s no level limits on these quests. They’re a great way to get started on a new alt, or getting a stuck alt unstuck.

My original Guide to Powerleveling Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking is still accurate, as far as I’m able to tell. I’ll post any updates there and here if I find them – please let me know if you find any discrepancies!

Wowhead, as always, has a great guide to the entire holiday, which runs through November 26th of this year.

Now, I have to decide which of my (many) alts are going to need to get their cooking leveled this year. :)

Good luck! May your cuisine reign supreme!

 

Update 11/22/2011: Slow-roasted Turkey is now staying orange well into the 400s. This appears to have gone in a hotfix yesterday. Looks like this holiday has gotten even better.

I’ll update the original guide.

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Cyn’s Guide to Holiday Macros

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Cyn’s Holiday Guide. Sometimes, it’s good to step back from PvP and enjoy the other parts of the game. No, really!

One of the tiresome things about most of the holidays in Azeroth is the number of repetitive actions you’re going to do, especially if you do them across many characters. With Brewfest you might have had to dig in your bags for a Complimentary Brewfest Sampler or Ram Racing Reins; with Hallow’s End, you’re constantly getting Handfuls of Treats and using Water Buckets.

You can drag most of the holiday items onto your action bars, but that takes up space, and has to be done on all of your characters. It’s a minor hassle, but still – it’s a hassle.

Holiday macros are the answer. Make a single macro for all the items, and it will choose the right one for the task at hand.

If you don’t know how to make a macro, don’t be scared – they’re easier than they look! I have some macro resources on this site, including an Intro to Macros which shows you how to make them from scratch.

For a holiday macro, you’ll want to make a new Macro in your General Macros tab. This will make the macro usable for all of your characters, which is what you want.

The basic idea is that as you go through a holiday and use items, you add those items to the holiday macro. Pretty soon you’ll have all the items needed for the event in your macro.

No more opening your bags, looking for where the Handful of Treats has gone off to this time! Click the pumpkin, click your macro, auto loot, and you’re done!

Start with a basic macro setup.

  1. Open the macro pane by typing /m or /macro.
  2. In your General Macro pane, select New.
  3. Leave the icon as a ?, and call it “Holiday Macro.” Click Okay.
  4. In the Enter Macro Commands field, type in “/use ” and then Shift-click on the item you want to use. Or, enter in the commands discussed below.

Let’s start with the current holiday, Hallow’s End.

/use Handful of Treats
/use Dousing Agent
/use Arcane Cleanser
/use Water Bucket

This opens the treats you get from the treat baskets, douse the wickerman, clean up your home city, and put out fires, all with the same button.

You may get an error if you have the Dousing Agent in your inventory but aren’t by the wickerman. If so, you can add the following at the bottom:

/run UIErrorsFrame:Clear()

Here’s what I used for Brewfest:

/use Ram Racing Reins
/use Complimentary Brewfest Sampler
/use Elekk Dispersion Ray
/use Wolpertinger Net

The Ram Racing Reins are tricky, since they can disappear if you click on them with the Complimentary Brewfest Sampler in inventory and they’re not listed first. So make sure they’re first.

You can combine several different holidays in one, but one danger of that is that you’ll eventually bump into the 255 character limit. One way around that limit is to use the item ID, instead of the name. You can find the item ID by looking it up on Wowhead – the item ID is the unique part of the URL (wowhead.com/item=…).

The tricky part about using item ID instead of the name is that there might be different items used in quests between factions – Horde and Alliance often have slightly different versions of holiday quests, which usually results in different item IDs.

So, if you use item ID instead of item name, your Hallow’s End macro then starts looking like:

/use 37586
/use 68648
/use 68647
/use 69191
/use 70727
/use 32971

The other drawback of using IDs is that the code isn’t self-documenting – you can’t look at that and immediately see the macro does. I don’t recommend this unless you really are hurting on space.

I’ve gone ahead and added a Holiday page to the Macros section of this site, and will try to update throughout the year. Feel free to share your own holiday macros below!

(I just love the closing lines from the Orphan Matron; how will the kids ever fall asleep with all these heroes farming candy for them?)

Happy Hallow’s End!

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Grinding Calories: Standing Desks, Treadmills, and WoW

I’ve mentioned a few times that I mine while walking on a treadmill. I grind out ore and volatiles (my DK is a Engineer/Miner, thank you, Electrostatic Condenser) in Warcraft while also grinding out serotonin and calories IRL. It takes a little bit of work to set up, but once you get your workspace arranged properly it’s easy to turn farming into an authentically healthy activity.

I’m not really big on spending a lot of time gathering in WoW, even though there have been times during Cataclysm that it’s been really profitable (especially early on, when raw mats were so expensive.) I enjoy gathering professions while leveling, but that’s because I gather while I’m doing something else – leveling – and not just going out and spending hours chasing yellow nodes.

(Coincidentally, I really start to struggle with keeping my professions up when I start hitting PvP and LFD for leveling in the mid 50s. I don’t really quest through Outland or Northrend.)

I’m also not really a big fan of just walking on a treadmill. At the very least, I need some music to keep me going. I really prefer going outside for a walk, but I have the treadmill because there are lots of times when I just can’t get out for a walk – too hot, too sunny, need to be near the computer for work, etc. – so I figured I’d try setting up my treadmill so I could use my computer, and see how it all worked.

Other WoW players before me figured out a long time ago that these two activities can go well together. So, I thought, hey, let’s give it a try.

Let’s take a look at my setup.

STAND IN THE PLACE WHERE YOU ARE (NOW FACE LEFT)

Before we talk about the treadmill, let me talk about my desk first. I work at a standing desk. A few months ago, I switched from sitting on an exercise ball to a standing desk. There are numerous health benefits to standing instead of sitting all day long, and as someone who is susceptible to both back problems and cardiovascular disease I decided to give it a try.

I love standing while I work. My back is better, I’m more alert throughout the day, and I move around a lot more. My biggest challenge has been learning to wear shoes again – I worked barefoot for many years before this – and that’s not been that bad. (I may still get an anti-fatigue mat, because even though I’m through those brutal first few days of standing, there are still days where I get tired of it.)

I’m not trying to convince people of the merits of a standing desk here, though, but rather to point out that because my monitor is at eye level already. Getting the monitor up to your eye level is the biggest problem you’ll have with playing WoW on a treadmill. Before I had the standing desk, I mounted a smaller monitor on the wall with a VESA swing-arm mount and put the laptop on the floor. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. (You could put a small compact-footprint computer on the wall and use that with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, or run a long monitor cable to your existing computer with a KVM switch – lots of options here.

The desk is essentially a buildup resting on top of my normal desk. It’s made out of 4×1 pine boards that my son and father-in-law put together in his workshop. I work on the black MacBook, which is connected to both the large monitor and various virtual machines (including one below, in the desk). The monitor hutch serves to both put the monitor at eye level and clean up cable clutter around the laptop. The large open panels down below are for electronic device storage; I have a Time Capsule under there, and will probably be moving more hard drives down there once I get my act together.

The key here was to experiment with the heights of the various components before setting in on a design. My first iteration of this desk was done with bankers boxes, shelves, and a laptop box for the monitor. The bankers boxes were cheap and surprisingly sturdy, but I could have used plastic milk crates or book boxes stuffed with newsprint to hold the shelf up. I added and subtracted until I got a feel for what was a decent height, then I measured where an ergonomic placement of the keyboard should be.

For me, it was 12.5″ above the desk surface while standing. I’m 6′ tall with long arms; your mileage will no doubt vary.

The design is really simple – two boards across, one board high, a support in the middle, a backing piece with cable cutouts – but getting the monitor up is the most important thing for this exercise.

Now, let’s talk about the treadmill.

RUNNING TO STAND STILL

Above, you can see what the setup looks like with the treadmill deployed. I use a manual treadmill (something like this one) that is powered by walking – no electricity. That’s both good – because it’s much, much cheaper than an electric one – and bad, because it’s a bit noisier, and I end up stacking reams of paper underneath the bottom to change the angle to make it easy to maintain a slow walk. (Yes, as I print out documents I have to walk harder while mining.)  I got mine for about $175, and I don’t have any major complaints yet.

The treadmill raises you up several inches off the ground, so if your monitor was at eye level while standing, it’ll be slightly below eye level when you get up on the ramp to walk. My trick was to put my monitor slightly higher than eye level while standing to help correct my slouchy posture, which works out well with the treadmill. If you’re mounting it on the wall you’ll want to measure from the treadmill height, not from the floor. (And wear your shoes, too!)

I bolted a platform desk onto the handle bars of the treadmill. This is a piece of MDF with some U-brackets holding it steady on the bars by going around the foam and steel pipe. These brackets are normally used in plumbing, but they had the angle I wanted, so, whatever. I then covered the MDF with black webbed kitchen shelf liner to provide a solid grip for my keyboard and mousepad.

This entire contraption can then be moved in place to where I normally stand in front of the computer, providing a higher platform over the normal desk area, where my laptop sits. This is necessary because the normal desk is too low, since I’m now standing 5″ higher!

This kind of setup can work no matter if you’ve standing or sitting – as long as you can get some kind of platform bolted on to the treadmill, you can put your keyboard and mouse on it.

And once you have your keyboard and mouse on it, you can play WoW while walking.

FINAL ADJUSTMENTS

So here’s the thing. When I first put the platform on the treadmill, I didn’t realize how low it would be. The handlebars are generally made for you to grab with your arms down somewhat, while typing you want your forearms to be almost perpendicular to the ground. So when I put my laptop or keyboard on it, it’s really awkward to use while standing still, let alone while moving.

So I, uh, improvised to get them a little higher.

(I’ll settle on a height I like eventually. For now, LotR and a tissue box will have to serve.)

Walking while controlling a character in WoW is challenging. I don’t think I should do any activity involving other players while doing it – grinding honor in BGs is right out. You have to make adjustments to your actions to accommodate the balance issues you’re going to have. Your reactions will be slowed a bit, and it takes you very much out of the walking zone. So I personally stick to mining or herbing while doing it.

I exercise not to lose weight, but for mood control. I have found that it’s one of the few things that can reliably improve my outlook, settle my nerves, relieve stress, and help keep me positive. While this setup has taken a bit of time and effort to put together, I’m glad that I can now go take a walk without ever leaving my desk. Walking regularly is important to me.

And I have a lot of Engineers to level, so mining is pretty important to me in WoW, too. :)

Enjoy the walk!

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