Dark Cookies

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This document contains information pertaining to the World Wide Web phenomenon known as cookies and, specifically, how to overcome some of the problems associated with cookies and saving your game in Ultima: The Dark Core. If you are familiar with cookies, you can skip the sections entitled "Just What the Heck is a Cookie Anyway?" and "Where Do I Find These Cookies?" and proceed to "Dark Cookies" and "How to Thwart Dark Cookies".

WARNING: Unfortunately, Internet Explorer 4.0 handles cookies differently from Netscape, and makes it difficult to modify cookies directly (if at all). However, the cookies in Internet Explorer 4.0 appear to be preserved, even during a system crash. Thus, the information contained within this document pertains only to Netscape users.

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Just What the Heck is a Cookie Anway?

A cookie is a text file generally stored in your browser directory and is used by web servers for storing information. In essence, cookies permit web servers to write small amounts of data (a string) to your hard drive which the server, if revisited, can read. For example, creating a personal web page on Netscape's or Microsoft's site would most likely utilize information stored in cookies. The Dark Core also uses cookies for storing saved game data.

Despite recent paranoia about cookies and privacy (cookies even made it into Time Magazine!), cookies are relatively harmless. They are small files, limited to 4KB in size, and only 300 of them may be stored on your hard drive. Furthermore, a single web site may only write a maximum 20 cookies (I have heard rumors of less) and may only access cookies that match their domain. However, evil abounds on the net, and some folk, particularly advertisers, will take advantage of cookies to infiltrate your privacy, sometimes using cookies to "track" your web surfing activity. Fortunately, defending against such abuse is easy. For more information about keeping yourself safe from prying eyes and about cookies in general, visit http://www.cookiecentral.com.

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Where Do I Find These Cookies?

They can be found on your hard drive. If you are using Windows95, search for the file "cookies.txt". Netscape Communicator 4.0 users take note: If you are using multiple user profiles, then each user profile has its own cookie file. Make certain the one found corresponds to your profile. For example, my cookie file can be found in the folder "Communicator\Users\hilborn".

If you are using a Macintosh, search for the file "MagicCookie". It is located in your Netscape preferences folder which is stored in your System folder.

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Dark Cookies

Now that you are familiar with cookies and know where to look for them, the following is a brief description about how Netscape implements them. First, there are two types of cookies. Session-only cookies are retained in your browser's memory until you quit the browser. Then they evaporate. Dated or, as I like to call them, persistent cookies are stored on your hard drive, but will expire by a certain date which is specified by the web site. When you save a game in The Dark Core, the data is saved to a persistent cookie scheduled to expire in a few years. However, and here's the crux of the issue, persistent cookies, like session-only cookies, are initially stored in volatile memory. These Dark Cookies are written to your disk only when you exit Netscape. Thus, if your browser happens to crash while playing The Dark Core, any data saved during that session is lost. A game that was saved prior to the session, fortunately, will remain intact.

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How to Thwart Dark Cookies

Fortunately, there is an easy solution to the Dark Cookie dilemma. As mentioned previously, cookies are text files and the data is stored as simple strings. Thus, any cookie file is easily modifiable.

The steps outlined below describe how to directly modify your cookie file on the fly, or at least, how to save cookie data to a separate text file as a precaution against browser failure.

Step 1: Open Your Favorite Text Editor. While The Dark Core is running, open your favorite text editor, such as Notepad or Wordpad for Windows95, or Simple Text for Macintosh. Set up a new page.

Step 2: Activate the Save Game Easter Egg. Click on the disk icon found in the Dark Core control panel to open the Disk Options Window. While holding down the ALT key (for Macintosh users, hold down the META or APPLE key), click on the "Save Game" button. After your game is saved, you will notice an ugly line of text appear in the text window of the game. It may look something like this:


Step 3: Copy the Save Game Data. As you probably guessed, that ugly string is the data for your saved game (Yep, that's all there is to it). Copy the string. At this point, you can either paste it into your text editor and save it for future cookie editing or immediately paste it into your cookie file. When you wish to edit your cookie file, follow steps 4-7.

Step 4: Open your Cookie File with your Text Editor. The location of your cookie file is dependent on your browser version and your operating system. Consult Where Do I Find These Cookies? for details.
Note:Although Windows users can open the cookies.txt file with any text editor, Macintosh owners may encounter some difficulty opening their MagicCookie file. See Notes for Mac Addicts for further details.

Step 5: Ignore the Warning in your Cookie Header and Make a Backup. Specifically, dismiss the " # This is a generated file! Do not edit" header. If you are concerned about damaging your browser, then simply make a backup copy of your cookie file before proceeding.

Step 6: Edit the Dark Cookie. When you successfully open your cookie file, you will see something like this:

# Netscape HTTP Cookie File
# http://www.netscape.com/newsref/std/cookie_spec.html
# This is a generated file!  Do not edit.

	FALSE	/D%7C/multimedia/darkcore	FALSE	946616400	darkCore	beach.html+moongate01.html+forest.mid+beach.aiff+honor+summ+NULL+NULL+NULL+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+north+0+000000000000000000111111111000000100001
www1.nisiq.net	FALSE	/~jimmeans/falcon	FALSE	946684799	JSFALCON	5130
www.cisfi28.demon.co.uk	FALSE	/millennium	FALSE	2125405149	LastVisitJS	Sunday%2C%20May%2018%2C%201997%20%2010%3A19%20AM

Each row after the header represents a cookie and each column represents data stored within that cookie. Ignore all the columns except the last two on the right. In the second column from the right, page down through the file until you located the name "darkCore". This designates the cookie that The Dark Core writes to your disk (In the example above, it's the first cookie in the file and is highlighted by italics). Once you locate the Dark Cookie, replace the string in the next column (In the example above, this text is in bold) with the data string you copied in steps 1-3. MAKE CERTAIN THIS STRING IS ALL THAT YOU REPLACE. DO NOT remove the TAB in between the last column and the column before it. DO NOT EDIT ANYTHING ELSE (unless you really want to).

Step 7: Save Your Cookie. Once you save the cookie, the data is permanently stored on your disk. If your browser crashes, you can safely reload your game when you restart Netscape. That is all there is to it.

Notes for Mac Addicts: Opening your cookie file will require some special handling.

Step 4a: Before editing your MagicCookie file, you will have to find a program that is able to display and edit file types and creators. One excellent program is Snitch.

Step4b: Using your editing program, change the file type of the MagicCookie from COOK to TEXT.

Step 4c: You can now open the MagicCookie file with your favorite text editor. Follow steps 5-7 as described above before proceeding.

Step 4d: Change the file type of MagicCookie back to COOK. Make certain that its creator type is set to MOSS.

Step 4e: Your game is saved! And who said Macs are easier to use than Windows machines?

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