Abhay Rana aka Nemo

Writing on books - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a curious book:

  • The in-universe book is written by Newt Scamander and was published in 1927.
  • The first edition of the companion book was published in 2001. This is apparently the 52nd in-universe edition with a foreword from Dumbledore and was released to the muggle world for charity.
  • The 2001 edition pretends to be Harry’s copy of the book as of the end of Harry’s 4th year at Hogwarts. As such it includes hand-written comments from the trio. (Yes, Hermione writes on books!)

However, with the release of the film of the same name in 2016 - a new edition was released with lots of changes:

  1. 6 new beasts that made an appearance in the film were added to the book1:
    • Hidebehind
    • Hodag
    • Horned Serpent
    • Snallygaster
    • Thunderbird
    • Wampus cat
  2. The hand-lettering was removed.
  3. Dumbledore’s foreword is removed from the book, in favor of a in-universe foreword from Newt Scamander.
  4. “About the Author” section changes Newt’s background. He no longer graduates from Hogwarts, just “leaves” it, as portrayed in the film.

All of these changes are meant to fix the inconsistencies in the book with the canon, however that also makes the book much less charming. I got myself a copy of the Hogwarts Library boxset a few years ago, which includes the newer edition of the book (Bloomsbury) - that means no witty comments from Ron.

Since it didn’t have the hand-lettering, I took it upon myself to fix that mistake. Thankfully, lists of all the comments in 2001 edition are available on the internet. The trickiest part was the “this book belongs to” page, which is missing from the newer edition. I ended up creating a faux-library card for that instead.

Here is what it looks like:

  • Ron plays hangman and loses.
  • Hermione writes on books!

Thanks to Bhavya for helping with the troll illustration.

  1. I didn’t like the new additions, they sound less like a textbook and more like a transcript of what happened in the film. 

Analysing the Indian government cyberspace

I recently did some work on analysing the Indian government cyberspace, thought I should document them somewhere outside of my Twitter1.

List of GoI websites

I’d made a list of Indian government websites in Jan 2019:

The dataset was from 2 sources:

  1. GoI Directory
  2. crt.sh (All certificates ending in .gov.in were used)

I re-ran the scripts to get an updated list (12842 domains), then tabulated them against the public-suffix2 for each. There is a long-tail, and I’ve published results here. Here are the top public suffixes for Indian government sites:

Public Suffix Domains
nic.in 2454
gov.in 7259
in 528
ac.in 490
com 568
co.in 171
org.in 168
edu.in 117
org 844
res.in 134
net.in 12
net 38

Sanskari Proxy

This was a long standing idea on my ideas repo:

A lot of Indian Government websites are inaccessible on the public internet, because they geo-fence it to within Indian Boundaries. The idea is to make a Indian Proxy service that specifically works only for the Geo-fenced Indian government websites.

For eg, if uidai.gov.in is inaccessible, hitting uidai.gov.sanskariproxy.in will get you the same result, proxied via our servers.

Since I’d made an updated list of GoI websites, this seemed easy enough. I realized that setting up uidai.gov.sanskariproxy.in would likely count as impersonation under the Indian law, so I did the next best thing: run an actual proxy. Here’s the announcement tweet:

Project page is https://github.com/captn3m0/sanskari-proxy, and if you’d like to get access - please reach out.

Cyberspace Ownership

I’d planned to get a complete list of geoblocked websites next. While I’m progressing on this front, the results have been inconsistent/inaccurate so far. As an intermediate step, I’d made a list of IPs against every domain3, which looked like this:

Domain IP Address

While running numerous nmap scans (and failing), I start checking the ASN4 for some of these IPs to see who was hosting each website - especially the ones I was finding were blocked.

I stumbled upon a bulk IP to ASN service by Cymru, ran all the IPs against it and published the results. Here’s the important graph:

% of Indian Government domains hosted by each ASN. The image is a pie-chart representation showing share of each ASN. 45% of the chart is taken up by

As you can expect, NIC5 has the highest share, with NKN6, BSNL, and CtrlS following at roughly 5% each. There are a few other chart on the twitter thread, and the raw data is available here with interactive versions of each visualization.

What next?

I’m working on running and comparing connectivity scans to these IPs to get a better understanding of the geoblocking situation. There’s also some issues with the domain list, as it seems to be missing lots of domains - so more corrections are needed.

  1. Twitter decided to suspend 12 different accounts I had access to recently - I’m starting to get wary of using Twitter for archival now. 

  2. A “public suffix” is one under which Internet users can (or historically could) directly register names. For eg - nic.in or github.io. Mozilla manages the list at https://publicsuffix.org/

  3. There are issues with this approach, since domains do resolve to multiple IPs. But this is okay for the rudimentary analysis I’ve been doing so far. 

  4. Autonomous Systems (AS) is how the internet is sliced up and managed by different entities. Each AS (usually an ISP) is responsible for routing within its network, while announcing network routes on how it can be reached. 

  5. The primary government office (under MeitY) that provides infrastructure and support for government IT services. 

  6. National Knowledge Network is a multi-gigabit research and education network that provides a high speed network backbone for educational institutions in India. 

The game breaking Deal Breaker card

I have a presentation I sometimes give about Monopoly being a terrible game1. I usually end it by pointing the audience to Monopoly Deal, which I introduce it as “the only Monopoly edition you can enjoy”.

The advantages are obvious:

  1. Much shorter game length.
  2. No dice rolls.

Even if you lose badly on luck, you’ve only lost 15 minutes. While it is better than Monopoly, that isn’t to say it is a well designed game (6.3 on BoardGameGeek).

The one major dent in the otherwise decent game is the “Deal Breaker” card, which breaks the game. I’ve house-ruled the game since forever to keep the card out of the game, since it breaks the most important rule of game design:

Games should be fun2

Deal Breaker stops people from doing that. How? Read on.

A lot of metagaming discussion with friends resulted in the following observations:

  • The Deal Breaker is a very powerful card (It takes you 1/3rd of the way to a victory).
  • You can assume the single Deal Breaker card to be worth a complete set.
  • The best use of such a card is to win the game. Using it earlier means giving other players a chance to drag you down from 2->1 set. But if you use it to win the game, the game ends immediately.
  • Hence, Deal Breaker will always end up being the last card of the game.

If you are playing a game with the Deal Breaker card, you’d want to save it till the very end, and win the game with it. The only possible case for not winning is the other player having a “Just Say No” card, and playing it on the Deal Breaker to negate your move.

Ergo, the metagame converges to the following:

  1. Any game with Deal Breaker will end up having the Deal Breaker as the last turn.
  2. The only way to prevent someone else from winning with the Deal Breaker is to play a Just Say No on the Deal Breaker.
  3. If you have a Just Say No card, you must save it till the end of the game for the Deal Breaker.

There are 2 Deal Breakers, and 3 Just Say Nos in the game. However, considering a single Deal Breaker is enough to win the game, and the chances of you getting a second of either card are fairly small - both the Deal Breaker and Just Say No cards will end up getting hoarded for the endgame.

What this results in is something that breaks the fundamental rule of game design:

Players are disincentivized from playing the Just Say No card.

As any Exploding Kittens player can confirm, playing a Just Say No card is one of the coolest moves in the game. It lets you stick it to the player who dares ask you for 8M3 rent. It lets you pretend you’re counting your money, and then pull out a trump card and feel awesome! By disincentivizing players from playing the coolest card in the game, the Deal Breaker card makes things less fun. And that breaks our “rule of fun”.

In fact, the mere existence of a Deal Breaker card changes the equation. Note that there may be cases where you lose with a Just Say No card because you were hoarding it for the eventual Deal Breaker (which might never come). Someone asks you for 4M rent, and you have to pay up despite having a Just Say No card, because you must save the damn card for when someone steals your set. There are a few rare exceptions, but the Deal Breaker creates too many plays where not playing the Just Say No is indeed the correct move.

So here is the more interesting corollary observation:

The mere existence of the Deal Breaker card breaks the game by making the Just Say No card unplayable and worthless.4

Hence, if you’re playing Monopoly Deal, please house-rule the Deal Breaker card and make it easier for everyone. Two easy ways are:

  1. Remove the card from the game entirely.
  2. Reduce the power of the game to be same as a Forced Deal, except let it break a set.
  1. I have the slides here, but they don’t stand well on their own. 

  2. Any game that eliminates players from the game breaks this rule. Popular examples are Monopoly and Mafia/Werewolf. Also see this amazing post on the biggest mistake that Guillotine makes (The “Callous Guard” card). 

  3. Turns out, that there is no symbol in the unicode for Monopoly Money 

  4. We decided Deal Breaker might make sense in 6+ player games with many more cards, where it might help even the playing grounds a bit for a losing player (much more likely) instead of helping the almost-winning-player score a victory.