Tag Archives: Pottermore problems

Maybe If I Yell “Alohomora” At The Computer Screen…

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I’m putting this on the blog because I’ll never, ever be able to load it on Pottermore… for several reasons…

All I can say is, it’s a damn good thing I have a sense of proportion about the inherent glitchiness of online/internet stuff, but even with that sense of proportion, the Pottermore “experience” is still falling somewhere between extremely trying and @*#%*&!!! I had been nurturing the fond hope that perhaps, after an almost two-month absence from Pottermore, a few things might at least work when I finally returned, but it seems the site as a whole is still woefully under-servered, because my load-times (8 minutes for the Gateway to load, 10 to 12 minutes for the Profile page to load) have not changed at all. Today, while waiting for my computer to choke its way through my Profile page, I peeled and cut up 5 avocados, hand-juiced some limes, and whipped up a batch of guacamole, which I then consumed about half of while waiting… waiting… waiting…

I will remind my readers that I am on a dial-up connection, but even so, I can routinely access Google, Facebook (and Facebook games), my own blog here on WordPress, Amazon, my local Public Library system, and even a graphics-heavy Moroccan website called BaboucheShop (where I purchased a pair of babouches online just last week) without experiencing anything resembling the online pain I continue to have on Pottermore. I have to ask, if a Moroccan webstore selling purses, shoes, sarouelles and jewelry with lots of pretty pictures and slideshows can make itself accessible to a dial-up user like me, why can’t Powered-by-Sony Pottermore?

So what can I still not do on Pottermore? Glad you asked!

1) I still cannot brew potions. The potion practice page still does not load fully, so although I can crush my little handfuls of Snake Fangs, dump them in my cauldron, and turn the cauldron on, the part of the page that contains the temperature control for the cauldron never loads, so there is no way to regulate the temperature. There is also no way to wave a wand should I ever get that far, because there is no wand to wave…

2) I can still practice-duel, and each practice still takes a lot of time to load. Subsequent practices with the same spell load a bit easier, but not by much. I haven’t tried dueling for real, as I’ve only been able to practice about 3 spells total.

3) I was able to load only one Moment from the latest Chamber of Secrets chapters, but after that, my computer froze twice, even after I asked for low quality on the graphics.

4) When I ask for low quality on the graphics, there is nothing to click on or collect, and I cannot access the extra backstory goodies, which is my main reason for wanting to visit Pottermore after all the non-fun it’s been. (I am also seriously grumpy about JKR apparently back-pedaling on writing the long-awaited Potter Encyclopedia, and instead putting the heretofore unpublished stuff only on Pottermore… where… I… can’t… access… it…)

5) It took me 45 minutes and five page reloads to get out of the last chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone and into Chamber of Secrets.

6) The following statement is still true– I can only really access Pottermore decently from the broadband public internet terminals at my work, and in high quality graphics mode, even the work computers choke and require page reloads after several Moments have been waded through.

7) Several of my coworkers tried using their laptops and the wifi access we have at work, and Pottermore managed to crash two out of the three laptops we tried the site with after about 10 minutes of play in each case. After all this time and supposed beta-testing and revamping, this should not be happening! (These same coworkers of mine use said laptops to play other online games with nary a stutter, hiccup or glitch, I might add…)

8) It still takes me between six and ten minutes to go from any one page on the site to any other page on the site. Pages still frequently load only partially, even with immediate browsing-history-and-cookie-dumps. I frequently have to reload the page more than once to get a fully finished download, and the potions page never fully downloads, no matter what I do, or how many times I refresh.

Now, I will repeat this again, because it bears repeating– I cannot think of another website anywhere on the internet that performs this badly for dial-up users. Even with regard to streaming video, which takes ages to load on dial-up, I can still rest assured that at the end of the download, I will actually be able to watch the video. This is because sites like YouTube have enough server-power to allow lower-speed down-loaders to get enough data to make things work. When I am on Pottermore attempting to access something, I have no such hope.

Additionally, I will note that among the thousands of kids who use our public library computers each week for a bit of game-playing fun, Pottermore is not a site they visit with any regularity, which I think says it all.

So, three Furnunculus Hexes and one Jelly-Legs Jinx to Sony for being excessively cheap when it comes to server-power for Pottermore. Combining these two spells is said to produce facial tentacles in the hexed– just deserts, I feel, for cutting corners in the name of trying force technology-upgrades and eReaders on everybody to make the corporate bottom-line look tasty. If I am forced into a (completely spurious) “choice” between having to buy yet another new computer and more expensive high-speed internet access and foregoing Pottermore, I will forego Pottermore, despite the exclusive, never-before-published content from JKR.

And if I ever do buy an eReader, it will not be a Sony.

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As Long As We’re Talking About Yew Wands…

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English Yew specimen. Everything about the tree is poisonous, except for the fleshy red part of the Yew-berry/cone.

To get the Pottermore-experience update out of the way, my unhappy time there continues– the Moments still refuse to load properly, but I can get into my Profile page, which takes about a half-hour and a couple of page-refreshes to complete. I can accept Friend requests, and look at stuff that I’ve collected, but I cannot even try to brew a practice potion, as the potion-brewing page also does not load completely. Interestingly, the practice spell page (in preparation for participating in Wizard Duels) does load, and I have so far managed to score 90 to 105 on the two spells I practiced briefly.

The one thing I really wanted to be able to access the Moments for– the extra back-story stuff that JKR has allowed to be published on the site– I cannot access at all from my home dial-up platform. Today at work, I used 40 minutes of my lunch hour and a public internet computer to try to get through as many Chapters as I could, collect as many objects as I could, and score as many Galleons and House Points as I could, while trying to find the thing in each Moment with extra (and locked) back-story that would allow me to open the locked material. I then dumped everything I opened into my Favorites folder for later perusal. I will also add that I almost froze the public computer I was using, because even with broadband access, the library computer I was on almost could not handle the pages when the graphics/animation quality was set to high. I also found that if I set it to low (to keep the CPU from making horrible asthmatic wheezing noises), I could see stuff like Galleons and other collectible items, but I could not actually collect them, so I’d briefly click back to high-mode, and try to collect whatever it was as fast as possible, before the CPU threatened to choke. I’m up around 24 House Points, having slogged my way to the beginning of Chapter 17. I’ve managed to collect a lot of potion ingredients, and some other trinkets and goodies, and I’ve collected enough Galleons to recoup most of the cost of my Screech Owl, which is nice, but not especially thrilling.

Next week, when I have a bit more time to myself, I will be sending in an email to Pottermore summarizing the problems I’ve been having, both from my home dial-up and from broadband public-use internet terminals at work. It’s just not been a smooth interface or experience any way you slice it, and my main complaint is that there is no way to opt out of the high-graphics-quality mode until you load at least one Moment to the point where you can select the low option. The site also does not remember that you selected the low setting, either– every time I come back, I’ve got to ask for the low option all over again.

Now on to something much more fun…

I was a bit surprised– though not at all disappointed– that the wood of my wand on Pottermore is Yew. It tickled me into going back through my various magickal books and herbals to re-acquaint myself with the occult properties of the wood. First, here is the little paragraph one gets at Pottermore describing Yew-wood wands:

Yew wands are among the rarer kinds, and their ideal matches are likewise unusual, and occasionally notorious. The wand of yew is reputed to endow its possessor with the power of life and death, which might, of course, be said of all wands; and yet yew retains a particularly dark and fearsome reputation in the spheres of duelling and all curses. However, it is untrue to say (as those unlearned in wandlore often do) that those who use yew wands are more likely to be attracted to the Dark Arts than another. The witch or wizard best suited to a yew wand might equally prove a fierce protector of others. Wands hewn from these most long-lived trees have been found in the possession of heroes quite as often as of villains. Where wizards have been buried with wands of yew, the wand generally sprouts into a tree guarding the dead owner’s grave. What is certain, in my experience, is that the yew wand never chooses either a mediocre or a timid owner.

This really does not give a very good insight into the mythological associations and the actual magickal and mundane uses of Yew wood, which are extremely interesting, and I think knowing about the real symbolism of the Yew tree actually explains some of the stuff that went on between Harry Potter’s Holly/Phoenix wand and Voldemort’s Yew/Phoenix one. First, here’s some general and also magickal information about Yew trees–

1. Yew trees can grow new trunks out of the original root-bole of the plant. Because of this ability to regenerate, it is estimated that some of the British Yew trees (Taxus baccata) now alive are as much as 4,000 years old.

2. Yew trees existed as far back in time as the Triassic Period, 200 million years ago. An archaic Yew, Paleotaxus rediviva, has left fossil traces in rock formations dating from the Triassic. It is believed that all 10 varieties of modern Yew developed from Paleotaxus.

3. The Yew has managed to survive great climactic and general planetary upheavals. Yew fossils have also been found that date from the Jurassic Period, 140 million years ago.

4. Pollen counts of samples taken from ancient peat bogs across Europe indicate that Yew trees were much more abundant during the last Ice Age than they are now.

5. Every part of the Yew tree is poisonous– roots, bark, needles, wood, and seed. The only thing that a Yew tree produces that is not poisonous is the fleshy part of the Yew “berry”.

6. Because the Yew is slow-growing, the wood it produces is tight-grained, resilient and tough. Many weaponry uses were found for it in the past– it was used to make staves, spear-hafts, hunting bows, and the very famous Medieval English long-bow. Arrowheads were also often treated with poison made from yew needles, bark or seed. Care must also be taken when filing, sanding or otherwise working the wood by hand– its name of Death Tree is well-deserved.

7. The Yew is sacred to all forms of the Underworld Goddess. It also has a Dark Lunar association because of its long-standing use as a raw material for making bows and poison for arrowheads.

8. In Britain, Yews are often found in churchyards, and it is plain from growth-dating the trees that they were there long before the churches were built nearby. There are many British churches and churchyards that once stood within a circle of Yews, and these Yew-circles are felt to be a legacy of Druidic Sacred Groves.

9. Yews are also associated with underground springs. In Wiltshire, at Amesbury, there are fourteen Yews in the churchyard that are all growing over blind springs. Eighteen yews at Bradford-on-Avon do the same. Of the ninety-nine churchyard Yews at Painswick in Gloucestershire, it has been determined that all of them are growing over nodes or underground springs. It is highly likely that the Yews were planted with the idea of marking and protecting these power-spots. Carvings of Yew-wood which were left as votive offerings have also been found during archaeological excavations at some sites of ancient springs and wells.

10. Magickally speaking, the Yew is considered the single most potent tree for protection against evil and malevolent intent. It is also held to connect one with the Ancestral Spirits, and is also held to bring dreams and access to the Otherworlds via soul-journey. Part of the probable reason for this association is that during warm weather, the poisonous resin of the tree produces a vapor that when inhaled causes torpor and in some cases, visions. The Spirit of the Yew can be invoked to assist with Otherworld journeys, and to enhance the openness of communication with the Otherworld. It also can grant an increased ability to perceive messages and other assistance being given to the practitioner by Spirit-Guides and other shamanic Helpers. It is also used for Summoning the Spirits of the Dead, and wands of the wood are particularly useful for “settling” or dispelling haunts and wraith-energy.

11. The Yew’s place on the Wheel of the Year is at Samhain, when the Veils Between the Worlds are thinnest, entry into the Otherworld is easiest, dreams are the most potent, and access to the Ancestors is most possible.

12. Modern magickal tradition identifies the Yew-energy-polarity as feminine. Traditions are split on the elemental identification, with some marking Yew as Water-associated, while others identify it with Air. It is probably safe to associate it with both elements, due to the ancient traditional planting of Yews over underground water and blind springs, and also because of the Yew’s visionary vapors, which are most definitely an Air-element trait. The Yew is also connected to the Zodiac-sign of Scorpio, which in ancient times, was not ruled by Pluto but by Mars, yet another energy-correspondence with the use of Yew wood for archery implements and other weaponry. Modern tradition planetary association identifies the Yew with Saturn, doubtless because of the Yew’s general poisonous nature, but I personally disagree with this. My own take on the energy is that it is much more Dark-of-the-Moon Lunar and thus watery in feel, mixed with a sharp and quick Mercurial vibe.

Here’s a bit more information from the Wikipedia entry on Yew trees–

All species of yew contain highly poisonous alkaloids known as taxanes, with some variation in the exact formula of the alkaloid between the species. All parts of the tree except the arils contain the alkaloid. The arils are edible and sweet, but the seed is dangerously poisonous; unlike birds, the human stomach can break down the seed coat and release the taxanes into the body. This can have fatal results if yew ‘berries’ are eaten without removing the seeds first. Grazing animals, particularly cattle and horses, are also sometimes found dead near yew trees after eating the leaves, though deer are able to break down the poisons and will eat yew foliage freely. In the wild, deer browsing of yews is often so extensive that wild yew trees are commonly restricted to cliffs and other steep slopes inaccessible to deer. The foliage is also eaten by the larvae of some Lepidopteran insects including the Willow Beauty.

Yew wood is reddish brown (with whiter sapwood), and is very springy. It was traditionally used to make bows, especially the longbow. Ötzi, the Chalcolithic mummy found in 1991 in the Italian alps, carried an unfinished longbow made of yew wood. Consequently, it is not surprising that, in Norse mythology, the god of the bow, Ullr, had an abode named Ydalir (Yew Dales). The yew longbow was the critical weapon used by the English in the defeat of the French cavalry at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415. It is suggested that English parishes were required to grow yews and, because of the trees’ toxic properties, they were grown in the only commonly enclosed area of a village – the churchyard. The yew tree can often be found in church graveyards and is symbolic of sadness. Such a representation appears in Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”.

The Eihwaz rune is named after the yew, and sometimes the yew is also associated with the “evergreen” World tree, Yggdrasil.

I am planning a “Part B” to this post, in which I would like to talk about the interaction between Harry Potter’s and Voldemort’s wands from the perspective of  European Shamanic/Magickal practices and traditions, which I think adds an extra layer of richness to Harry Potter’s story (and I think such an exporation also helps clarify a few things about HP wandlore as well as JKR’s “writer’s intuition”), but I am tired as well as short on sleep from a very busy caregiving-and-work week, so I’ll end this here for now…

I Love/Hate Pottermore– or, Harefoot at Hogwarts

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After seven months of no-explanation, no-projected-start-date waiting with about half the planet, I finally have an active account on Pottermore. My main reasons for wanting a Pottermore account are that 1) I myself am a big fan of the Harry Potter series (I’ve always wondered what House I’d be sorted into if J.K. Rowling was the Sorting Hat), and 2) since I work for a public library system in a major U.S. city, I know there are going to be kids who will want to explore Pottermore on our library computers, so I need to know something about using it.

It’s a fun concept, and one of the things that looked interesting about it was that there would be additional background-notes material by JKR available on the site– stuff that didn’t make it into the books, but would be fun to know about. The art for the site also looked quite nice, and although in other circumstances I think I would have tried very hard to be a beta-tester for Pottermore, I had to let that idea go because of other demands on my time.

Because I am basically a long-time lurker on the two biggest Harry Potter fan-sites– Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron— I have been following the saga of the Pottermore beta-testing from the very beginning. It rapidly became apparent that Pottermore had major platform and lack-of-servers problems, and the server problem struck me as a particularly stupid one for the site to be having because JKR herself pointed out to Sony and the platform development folks that they would probably need a lot more server-space than was being planned for. What happened in response to her input really ticked me off– they basically “politely dismissed” her concerns, and went ahead as planned, and the poor beta-testers soon found out how poor the planning for the site had been. Pottermore had problems that should have been worked out long before it ever went into beta, and one of the main issues was… nowhere near enough server space. This became obvious when they pushed back the date that the ebooks would be available for purchase on the site– they needed the book-vending server space to keep Pottermore from turning into one big Fuchsia Screen of Death.

I felt bad for both the beta-suckers-I-mean-testers, and for Ms. Rowling, whose name and sterling reputation is all over Pottermore. Sony definitely did not do right by her, and it started with them thinking they knew more than she did about what the response would be like for Pottermore. What really bites about this is that you know if it had been, say, Donald Trump telling the planners they needed more servers, they would have all rolled over on their backs, widdled all over themselves like 6-week-old puppies and would have said, “Oh yes, Mr. Trump. We are currently in the process of relocating one quarter of the population of Atlanta so that we can turn that portion of the city into a vast server-barn just for you. It will all be done and up and running by tomorrow, Mr. Trump.” However, the person doing the suggesting in the instance of Pottermore happened to be female– never mind that she’s the most successful children’s author of all time and has about the same amount of money as God, so she could literally buy Sony and all its subsidiaries if she wanted to– which meant, bottom-line, Sony and the planners felt free to ignore her “girly, artiste” input. Are you laughing sardonically now? I know I sure am!

Anyway, it became apparent very quickly that Pottermore was in heaps of trouble, so beta-testing was first extended for two months, and then “indefinitely”, and Charlie Redmayne was induced to jump ship from Harper Collins to helm Pottermore. I hoped at this point someone would step forward and offer a simple explanation for the delay. Human beings do make mistakes, and the courteous, customer-service-savvy thing to do would have been to offer a simple “Oops, sorry, we miscalculated and will fix this as soon as possible, but it may take 4 to 6 months. In the meantime, please hang in there. We promise we will make it worth the wait.” This also never happened, and cynical little me thinks it was probably because 1) the supposed demographic of the fan-base makes it easily dismissed– i.e, it’s just kids, so let ’em wait, and 2) some dim bulb in a boardroom somewhere very likely came up with the “idea” that if people were not told when exactly the site would be back up, they’d visit Pottermore more often to check to see if things were open to the public yet.

I am sure I am not the only Harry Potter fan who was less than impressed with them hanging fan-art and House Tweets all over the Pottermore blog like it was some sort of make-do cyberspace refrigerator (not that fan-art and Tweets are bad things, mind you– they’re fun!), and I am sure that I was not the only disgruntled Harry Potter fan who just decided to skip Pottermore altogether and continue to lurk at Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron, where I was sure that I would know soon enough when Pottermore was breathing again after repeated defibrillation and a stint at Saint Mungo’s with Gilderoy Lockhart as a ward-mate. I personally found out Pottermore was open from an announcement on Mugglenet this last Saturday, and I registered well before the long-promised “You Can Now Register” email got to me.

So now that I’m in, do you think my troubles are over? Heck, no!!! Apparently, Pottermore is still server-starved, and also apparently, no provision was made for people who are dial-up users. I registered Saturday afternoon and got notification my account was active Saturday evening. That evening, I was able to briefly access Chapters 1 and 2, but from Sunday on, nothing has loaded, even with graphics quality set to low, Adobe Flash disabled and my computer left running for hours unattended. Yesterday, I could not even click into the sidebar stuff, which is nothing but print, and when I’d try to reload the page, I started getting “Server Cannot Be Found” error messages. Demand is once again heavy-to-overload on too few servers, and the result is that dial-up users can’t download much of anything. This ticks me off not just because I’m a dial-up user, but also because a lot of low income kids are, as well. While kids may have computers at home, their families cannot always afford a broadband connection.

Now just so we’re clear about what’s possible, huge service providers like Google get around the dial-up vs. broadband issue by reading how much data a user is pulling and by having a 2-tier system for high-load things like image searches. As a dial-up user at home, I get Google’s Basic page when I image-search, but at work, where my connection is high-speed, I get their newer page with the searchable pop-ups. One would think the folks designing Pottermore would have taken into consideration that not all Pottermore users are affluent and have access to broadband internet service and would have offered something like a “Pottermore Basic”, and if not, they should have been up-front with the fact that there are minimum system requirements that must be met for access to Pottermore. This latter possibility– that dial-up users simply won’t be able to access Pottermore at all is frankly unacceptable, especially after seven months of waiting for things to be fixed. I pointed out on ElmBlade43’s excellent and helpful  Blog of a Pottermore Beta that as a dial-up user, I can use Google without a hitch, I can access Facebook and play all their games with only a few tiny hiccups, and I can download MP3s from Amazon, all without getting “Server Not Found” and “Virtual Memory Too Low” error messages. So, what in the name of Rowena Ravenclaw is up with Pottermore? I’ll tell you– not enough server-power.

In discussing the situation I am currently facing with ElmBlade (a very delightful Slytherin and my first Friend on Pottermore), I told her that I’d keep trying with my dial-up, but that I’d also attempt to access Pottermore from work on one of the public internet terminals, which are broadband, but which do not have the most recent software installed. The verdict so far is that my dial-up connection still cannot grab anything, but I did get on at work, although even that connection was also at times semi-slow.

Since our library computers are on one-hour timers, I quickly jumped ahead in the story so that I could at least get my wand and get sorted–and don’t I sound exactly like those poor beta-testers from last October, folks? Forget moseying around on Diagon Alley (which is really beautiful) and enjoying buying my owl and my first magic books– it was Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Sony and dump everything into my Favorites folder so that I can try to load it later at home to read it. Frankly, Pottermore is still more of a pain than a pleasure for me and my dial-up, and I think that things would be far better for everyone if they just did what JKR told them to do in the very beginning– make double-Peeves sure they can handle a lot of high volume site-traffic, because the blunt truth is that Pottermore will never be a low-use site, ever— just look at Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron and multiply it by about a hundred and fifty, because parents and grandparents are going to be playing on Pottermore, too. It’s fun, it’s cute, and it does most definitely scratch that “I wanna go to Hogwarts” itch.

So, to sum up, I love JKR and I love the concept, but I really hate Sony’s half-Squib muddle of what should be a fun experience for *everybody*, even if they don’t have the latest technology. Sony needs to take a page from Helga Hufflepuff and her House at Hogwarts– she never turned anyone away, or turned up her nose at anyone who was sincere.

And just so you-all know, I Sorted into Ravenclaw with nary a Hatstall, which I certainly thought I might because I truly am the sort of person who makes Luna Lovegood look normal. My wand is 13 inches (an excellently witchy number), is made of Yew with a Dragon-Heartstring core, and is “surprisingly swishy”. My user-name, in what I consider to be a real bit of true Magick, is ThornAvis9209. Please feel free to send me a Friend request if you are also on Pottermore— adding Friends and repeatedly changing my password are about the only things I can do there at the moment…