Use a VPN

Hi Everyone

Welcome to another episode of the UK’s slide into a right-wing totalitarian state. The government, cravenly unopposed by the supine opposition, just signed the Snooper’s Charter into law. This is a monumentally bad idea, and a worse one is coming in the form of the Digital Economy Bill.

The state, in the form of more or less any agency that cares to ask for it, can now find out every website you visited in the last year from your internet service provider. They don’t even need a warrant. Let that sink in for a while. Even if you have nothing to hide and are doing nothing wrong, the information that a junior civil servant can punch up about you is very worrying. And of course, the records will be hacked or sold corruptly to the tabloids or anyone who wants them.

If you live in Britain, the government have effectively just installed webcams pointing in through every window in your house.

I urge everyone reading this who lives in the UK to install and start using a VPN (virtual private network). Choose one that’s registered in another country, that doesn’t keep logs, and choose one that you pay for. British ones have to obey the same snooping laws to spy on you that your internet service provider does. Free ones sell your data, which is the opposite of what you want. And if the company doesn’t keep logs, they don’t even have the information to pass on.

This is not a panacea. It means placing some trust in the VPN operator, for a start. But if they make their money by running the service, it is in their interests to do a good job for you.

A VPN routes your internet activity through its internal network so outsiders can’t see where you are going. It also encrypts the data as it goes to make it hard to snoop on. All your ISP can report to the government is that you are using a VPN: they can’t tell them which sites you have visited or anything much else. They’ve been used by companies for years to allow people to connect to the company’s internal network whist working away so they don’t have to worry about security at random free wifi hotspots. They are a mature and well-integrated technology which integrates easily with modern devices (for example, iPhones bring up a little “VPN” icon when you’re connected).

This was already pretty good practice for protection against hacking and cyber-crime. State-sponsored intrusion into ALL our private lives is on a whole different level, though, and I really must urge everyone in the UK to do something to limit the information that a junior civil servant or policeman can find out about you. It’s only a matter of months before the records are hacked, too, and some poor celebrity’s choice of porn will be splashed all over the tabloids. The number of people suddenly having access to everything you’ve looked at online will be HUGE, and corrupt release of records or out and out hacking the database is pretty much a certainty.

If you are very concerned, you can use Tor. In fact you can use Tor over a VPN, but this slows things down a lot. A well-run VPN should have relatively minimal impact on your connection speed.

The state has just installed CCTV pointing in through every window in your house. A VPN is drawing the curtains. If you live in the UK, I strongly urge you to install and use a VPN right now.

You can find out some good ones here: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/test-centre/internet/best-vpn-2016-2017-uk-what-is-vpn-3641578/

Hywel

Kinky Britain

Hi Everyone,

The production company have just sent us a link to final transmitted version of Kinky Britain, so if you are interested and haven’t been able to see it yet (eg from the USA) you can hopefully watch it here:

https://vimeo.com/wearesundogpictures/review/178167400/ecbb5ec999

Hywel & Ariel (Joceline)

Email mountain

Hi Everyone

I need an automated email queue announcement at the moment!

“Your email is a queue. Hywel has 63 substantive emails to get back to, dating back to 2nd July. Our lines are very busy following the TV show Kinky Britain screening on UK TV. Your email is valuable to us, please be patient and we will get back to you!”

Sorry everyone- I was still catching up after my illness, but got a bit flooded after the programme aired. Will get back to everyone ASAP.

Hywel

Good News and Visual Novels

Hi All,

Well, it’s been quite a week here in the UK. Politically, we’ve just shot ourselves in the knee-cap. It’s all a bit too depressing, so I wanted to post a few bits of good news.

1) Pandora won her appeal

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OFCOM, the UK regulator, over-turned the ruling by the over-zealous and now abolished UK video on demand regulator, ATVOD, banning Pandora’s site Dreams of Spanking, which is now back online and accepting sign-ups again. YAAAAY!!!!

You can read her thoughts about it on her blog. We had a chat about it with another friend producer a couple of weekends ago and all admitted that getting the tap on the shoulder from the censorious dead hand of the state is more stifling of one’s kink and creativity than any of us had expected. We’re so glad Dreams is back! None of us know what the future holds for the censorship climate in the UK- given the political turmoil this week, nobody knows.

So we’ll just have to keep chipping away and putting our points logically and rationally and make sure that we are heard (even if they go ahead and do it anyway). To this end, I’m supporting Pandora’s Patreon campaign to support her advocacy- and if you want to help kink survive online in Britain, please chip in a little too if you can!

2) I’m feeling a bit better

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a nasty attack of gastro-enteritis at the start of June which is taking a long time to get over. Yesterday I managed to walk up one the local hills- one of my fave local walks, around two hours round trip. This is much more than I managed last week, even if I was a bit tired and achy the next day. But OMG, progress! Very very happy!

3) I just discovered a whole new genre of thing!

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Watch CINDERS trailer on YouTube

I’ve always liked computer games, from the first ones I played on Swansea University mainframe computer when I went in to see my Mum at work in the holidays through to modern extravaganzas. Having been ill in the last few weeks and needing some non-physical amusements, I played a few. I finally got through BioShock Infinite, which is OK- lovely visuals, intriguing if horrible racist 1900’s dystopia background, and some story.

Trouble is by the time I finished the game I felt like going and checking myself into a high-security prison for mass-murdering psychopaths. My word, but there was a lot of killing and gore and blood. And as far as I am aware, I got to make exactly one decision during the whole game that had much impact beyond the end of the scene.

So I went looking to see if there was a different sort of game out there, and discovered a whole new genre!

Parenthetically- I don’t mind the odd bit of violence in games. I just prefer a lot less of it than BioShock Infinite, which is why I don’t usually play first-person shooters. I really appreciate games like Thief where there’s at least an option to resolve things by less-lethal means when you can, or sandboxes where you can play the game with a less-murderous characters (Elder Scrolls games like Oblivion and Skyrim have good plot threads for stealthy characters, which require less slaughter than some other story paths).

A bit of a Googling and searching of Steam turning up the visual novel genre, which I’d never heard of. Apparently big in Japan, popular with female players, there’s a huge number of these things revolving around high schools and dating and a lot with pretty linear stories… but also some stuff that looked really interesting.

I like games where what I choose to do makes a difference through the game and to the game’s ending (which is why I like BioWare games very much). Add that to a non-violent storyline and GORGEOUS art-work and I settled on my first purchase of the genre: Cinders, a game by Polish indie development studio Moa Cube.

It takes a little getting used to. There’s a LOT of talking, quite a few decisions, and not much else. It’s like a Bioware game with all the running around and killing stuff and levelling up removed, and just the character interactions remaining. Since Mass Effect 2 is probably my favourite game of all time, I’m good with that 🙂 Makes a change from a LOT of killing, a few conversations and a very small number of decisions, which is what the routine fantasy and sci-fi RPG genres favour.

It may or may not appeal to you- playing Cinderella and trying to get one over on her sisters, step-mother, get the guy or get the hell out of Dodge, trust the Fairy godmother or really not. But if it sounds even faintly intriguing, I’d really encourage you to give it a go. Have I mentioned how gob-smackingly beautiful the artwork is?

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It’s not a long game- I got through it in one long-ish sitting. But it will bear re-playing, trying to achieve various different endings (I gather there may be “dead in a ditch” as one ending…). And the studio have another, larger game called Solstice which they just released, which I just bought and will start on once I have caught up on RE and SS stuff as I finish recuperating. The premise is really intriguing from the first scene, though.

Visual Novels for the Future?

Of course being nerdy introvert scientist Hywel, I had to look into visual novels more. I discovered a few game engines which look like they’d help a lot in setting one up. There’s an active community building them and sharing them, and a fair number commercially available.

Sad to say though it looks like MoaCube might not be making another soon. Well, unless we all go and buy Solstice and Cinders anyway!

Sounds like the indie games industry has hit the same market maturity issues as the porn industry. The studio head has blogged about how everything seems to have narrowed down onto Steam as a monopoly distribution channel, and how hard it can be to make a ripple with an indie game there. I hear that (try making a ripple with a single long, high-production-value movie on Clips4Sale if you don’t already have a fan base or channel in that genre).

And I hear the same thing from indies on the App store and musicians with online sales channels via iTunes and Spotify. All of these things have their wild west period, like membership websites did around 1997-2001, then settle into a small number of big players. At least the games guys don’t seem to have quite the industrial levels of piracy to contend with that porn does. (If you watch something on a tube site, know that it is 99% likely to be stolen. And the thief is making money pushing tacky adverts at your eyeballs while you watch someone else’s stolen work).

But still… I love the genre, and will be checking out more.

And better yet, even as polished and glorious a project as Cinders was made by a small team in a year and half… a few person-years of effort. That means it should be possible to do something interesting on a smaller and more modest scale in one’s spare time. There are some good tool-kits like Tyranobuilder and Ren’Py around to support it, too.

At this stage Ariel is probably rolling her eyes at me. We’re wildly over-committed, as the big work backlog following my illness shows. The last thing I should be doing is thinking of future projects, especially ones outside the core business. But what can the harm be in having a little play around with these tools in the odd hour before bed? After all I’ve got quite a head-start in terms of creating artwork and storylines… maybe a BDSM visual novel (well, let’s call it a visual short story) might be fun?

4) The mega-four-hour film is done!

The mega-four-hour custom film we shot a few weeks ago is done! It’s the longest and most ambitious single project we’ve ever done, and it would totally have fallen apart without Ariel, Zoe, Natalia and cameraperson Katie.

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I’ve still not decided 100% whether to put it up on Elegance Studios or serialise it for Restrained Elegance: it is a single story, and it kind-of sits as a companion story to Slave Auction and Pony Girl in some ways (the customer liked those films so much he wanted us to incorporate elements of those into the story for him).

But pragmatically distributing it as a single 9 GB MP4 file is going to break the downloads of anyone not on a fast internet connection, and any hiccup in the stream might see you back to square one. The shopping carts system isn’t really built for downloads that big. So I think serialising it on RE is the way to go: look out for it on the members’ area soon! It’s absolutely EPIC- Natalia Forrest sent as a secret agent into the depths of a slave-trading gang! Forced to learn how to be a perfect slave, how strip naked for her master or mistress, the positions a slave must adopt, how to talk dirty… and much, much more!

Just in time to shoot the SECOND film commissioned by the same customer this week! (Fortunately not quite such a gargantuan undertaking!) Should be fun!

All the best everyone!

Hywel

Back to Normal?

Hi Everyone!

I haven’t posted about this except from a few of self-pitying tweets because moaning about stuff publicly isn’t very attractive or interesting. But as it seems to be taking me a while to recover, I thought I’d better let you know what’s happening.

At the start of June I had a nasty bout of gastro-enteritis. Nothing too dramatic or serious, but I was totally out of action for two weeks, I didn’t eat for a week of that and lost over 7 kg body weight. Fortunately I had the stored fat to cope 🙂 I took medical advice, all is well, I’m mostly recovered from the direct effects.

But it took a lot out of me, literally and figuratively, and there was a two week gap in my work schedule as well so I’m very behind.

It is taking a long time to build myself back up. My stamina in particular is lamentable right now. Ariel has been an absolute super-heroine in fielding a bunch of stuff I would normally have done, the most important being the longest and most complex custom bondage video shoot we’ve ever done which she stepped in to direct at the last moment, assisted by local camera-person and all around star Katie and our cast (Natalia Forrest and Zoe Page).

Yesterday I walked with Ariel and a visiting photographer through town to the castle, and by the time we got home I was wobbly and tired and needed a rest. It looks like it might take a while to get back to my normal mountain-walking form, since the castle walk is normally one I stride around in a lunch hour in the middle of a working day, not one that makes me have to go have a lie down afterwards.

Similarly, my endurance for shoot days, editing, and even just standing up is not what it was four weeks ago. Some days I’m managing two hours work, some days eight hours, but I’m currently incapable of the ten to twelve hour days I usually put in to catch up when I’ve got behind with stuff.

RE and Silk Soles updates are already done as far as end of July, but we have multiple multi-day shoots coming up and it might be a scramble to get August and September updates ready. We will – nothing has higher priority than keeping the RE and Silk Soles update schedule. I’ll hire extra helping hands to get through the shoots while I edit if need be, and the hell with the profit margin for the moment.

But some other stuff will have to go on the back burner while we prioritise the most important jobs that potentially impact the maximum number of our customers.

Specifically, emails and custom videos. Apart from the mega custom shoots, we were due to shoot a bunch of smaller videos, mostly with Ariel, in June and July. I’m very sorry but these will likely have to wait. I’ve not been feeling competent to rig, shoot and act in a film and do a good job (and indeed some days I’ve been so out of it that I’ve not even felt safe to rig bondage or drive a car at all). And if you are waiting for an email reply from me, please bear with me. It may be some weeks before I catch up.

So I’m sorry if I’ve gone quiet on you, or if we aren’t going to be able to deliver custom videos we hoped to shoot this month for a while. As I said, RE and Silk Soles updates are top priorities and I’m confident we’ll meet those obligations. And I’m definitely past the actual illness, it just may be a while before I’m fully recuperated. And in the meantime I’m not as productive as usual, so clearing the backlog may take several months.

Cheers, Hywel