Warren

Time for an Update

Well, I haven’t been here for a while, so let’s give a quick recap of what’s going on in the world of Warren.

First, I’ve moved! I’m now in a much nicer housing unit living across the hall from my friend Dave and down the street from another one of my coworkers, Jake. I have to say that I was very impressed with the state that this particular appartment was left in, and our landlord has been nothing less than incredible.

Business is still going strong, and for anybody interested in having their computers fixed or purchasing home electronics, you can feel free to send me a message. I’ve got a few new clients here and there which may lead to me actually having a positive income this year from my business partnership, Edgelink Consulting.

Work-wise, I’m back at RIM for the summer, returning to my roll as a BIS Tools Developer. The work isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but I plan to put a few Warren-themed changes into the system. (No, Jake, I won’t break anything.) I’m planning on starting my Work Report early this term so that I have plenty of time to review it.

School-wise, the winter 2009 term went really well. I ended up with (what I think) are pretty decent marks in my CS and Human Resources class, and an okay mark in statistics. With any luck, this means that I might actually be in good standing with UW (which I’m told is not an easy feat). Over the summer, I’ll be taking another Professional Development course (Problem Solving), which should be, um, enlightening….

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do with my free time this summer, but I’m going to try to focus on learning some C++ or Perl, and I should probably brush up on my PHP skills (check back later for an article on getting PHP running on IIS).  I’d sort of like to update this site with some sort of software, but I don’t have any ideas as to what to actually make.

I think that pretty much does it for now, but I’ll try to update this thing once in a while.

– Warren

Doing Things the Hard Way: Debian GNU/Linux

So in the midst of panicking for exams and living in my crapshack, I totally forgot that I actually have a blog sitting here. Somebody even commented on it, but got blocked by my spam catcher.

Anyways, over the last few days I’ve been struggling through getting a working installation of Debian on my server box. For those of you who don’t know me, let me give you an overview of my knowledge of the wonderful world of Linux: little to none.

So, while I won’t bore you with the details of actually installing it (basically you put the CD in and press go), I will regale you with some of the adventures I have had setting up and configuring this system. I’ve been working exclusively from the command prompt.

First of all, what exactly am I working with? Well, the important parts are below:

  • Intel E2160 Dual Core CPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 2x500GB storage drives (I haven’t finished formatting the rest) and a 250GB boot drive.
  • Antec 900 Case

Static IP in Debian

Alright, first things first: I hate networking. I don’t really know why some systems don’t want to communicate with others, but that’s the way it is. I like my servers to have static IPs because I find that the hostname is often unreliable. In Windows XP, which is what the system used to have on it, it’s a simple 4 or 5 clicks followed by an OK to get you set up. In Debian, this appears to be a much different story. It shouldn’t be a shock to anybody that you need to be root to perform these operations.

The file that you’re looking for here is: /etc/network/interfaces

In the file, you’ll probably see some auto-generated information about your current interfaces. Now, for me, my ethernet card is eth1. eth0 was mysteriously stolen by the firewire interface I didn’t even know I had. In order to set a  static IP for eth1, I had to enter the following (I really wish I had a code box):

iface eth1 inet static
address 192.168.1.20
netmask 255.255.255.0
network 192.168.1.0
broadcast 192.168.1.255
gateway 192.168.1.1

This tells eth1 to use the address 192.168.1.20… somehow. I hear that broadcast and gateway are both optional!

Configuring Programs to Run at Boot in Debian

This is something that sounds a hell of a lot easier than it actually is (at least the first time you do it). First of all, you need to write  a shell script that goes in the /etc/init.d/ directory. I’ll post the one that I use to start SABnzbd+ at boot. Feel free to correct me if there’s something wrong with it, but it works and that’s really all I care about.

— sabnzbd.sh —

#!/bin/sh

case “$1″ in
start)
echo “Starting SABnzbd.”
/usr/bin/sudo -u warren -H /etc/sabnzbd/SABnzbd.py -d -f /home/warren/.sabnzbd/sabnzbd.ini
;;
stop)
echo “Shutting down SABnzbd.”
/usr/bin/wget -q –delete-after “http://192.168.1.20:1200/sabnzbd/shutdown”
;;
*)
echo “Usage: $0 {start|stop}”
exit 1
esac

exit 0

— end of file —

So essentially it launches python to start running SABnzbd+. You can start and stop it manually by typing:

% /etc/init.d/sabnzbd.sh start/stop

In addition to placing this script in the directory, you also have to make the necessary symlinks to have it run at boot. To do this, I simply type the command:

% update-rc.d sabnzbd.sh defaults

Hooray. Done.

I’m sure I’ll run into other adventures with my setup and I’ll be sure to post anything educational here. Either way, I’m pretty happy with the fact that it’s actually up and running now, and I hope it stays that way….

Congratulations to FFXI for a New Innovation in the MMO Market

Reading through the news today revealed this gem: http://www.playonline.com/pcd/topics/ff11us/detail/3599/detail.html. This is a new system designed to help attract newer players to the world of FFXI. Basically,

The FFXI development team is proud to announce the “Level Sync” system, a revolutionary new feature in the upcoming version update that will allow all players—grizzled veterans and novices alike—to adventure and gain experience together regardless of level differences!

The Concept

The development team has been listening intently to feedback from players, and working hard to address concerns such as the following:
“I can’t party effectively with my friends or linkshell members because our levels are too far apart!”
“I invited one of my friends to play FFXI with me, but we can’t party together because we don’t have any jobs at similar levels!”
“I can’t find anyone close enough to my level to party with!”

The new Level Sync system is the result of extensive discussions on how to resolve these concerns, while preserving game balance and avoiding abuse and power-leveling by RMT groups. It addresses the issues that have resulted from a steady stream of new, low-level players joining an existing game world populated by scores of high-level veterans, and is part of the ongoing effort to clean up the FFXI community and remove players in violation of the users’ agreement.

As an avid MMO gamer, I know that when it comes to helping people level as a higher up character, it’s just not fun, and I’m not really interested in starting a new character. Being able to temporarily level down to match a friends level is a fantastic idea, and I’m surprised that nobody has looked into it before.

The Market Does NOT Need More Free MMORPGs

Alright people, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts around the net about a recent study on the MMORPG genre. Now, as a fairly active participant in said genre, I would like to point out that while this study is valid, the recommendations provided by Yuanzhe (Michael) Cai don’t make any sense. Let’s take a look:

According to Parks Associate’s director of broadband and gaming, Yuanzhe (Michael) Cai, the barriers to entry with subscription-based MMORPGs, such as time and money, are too high for potential customers. Free-to-play models, however, offer flexibility and enable players to choose how much they want to invest based on interest level and play patterns. Thus, the firm believes that microtransaction models have the best potential to grow the U.S. MMORPG audience.

Alright, that’s fair. I understand the need to perform a study on how MMO games relate to people who don’t play them. Oh wait, no I don’t. According to the study, 14% of the 2000 players surveyed said that they would play MMOs if they could play for free. That kind of makes sense, until that 14% installs the game and then realizes that they’re surrounded by thousands of players who are better than them simply because they shelled out a hundred bucks just to buy gear. It seems like that 14% would drop off pretty quickly.

In addition to this, the 2000 people that aren’t playing MMOs probably aren’t playing because they can’t afford it, it’s because they, you know, don’t want to play them. That’s fine, every gamer likes their own thing, and that’s what makes online games great. So you’re talking to a group of people, asking them if they would try out another genre if it was free. Of course they will, it’s free. They’ll try it for about 3 days and then they’ll get bored and move back to their previously played games.

Now, assuming that this is actually valid info, and these players would stick with the games that were offered for free. Let’s take a look at the 2008 MMO market shares:

MMO Market Shares for 2008

See anything strange about the above image? Hmm, perhaps the alarming ratio of free MMO games to subscribed MMO games. For those of you who don’t know, let’s break it down.

  • World of Warcraft (62.2%): Pay-to-play
  • Runescape (7.5%): Pay-to-play AND Free-to-play (Paying gets you more features)
  • Lineage – (6.6%): Pay-to-play
  • Lineage 2 – (6.3%): Pay-to-play
  • Final Fantasy XI – (3.1%):  Pay-to-play
  • Dofus – (2.8%): Pay-to-play
  • EVE Online – (1.5%): Pay-to-play
  • EverQuest II – (1.2%): Pay-to-play
  • EverQuest – (1.1%): Pay-to-play
  • LotR Online – (0.9%): Pay-to-play
  • City of Heroes/Villains – (0.8%): Pay-to-play
  • Tibia – (0.6%): Free-to-play

See anything interesting about those numbers? Maybe the fact that pay-to-play games control 85% of the market. Now, I’m not a market analyst, but it seems to me that those pay-to-play games are doing pretty well for themselves. There’s hundreds of free-to-play games, which combined take up about one tenth of WoW’s market share.

The problem with free-to-play MMO games is that there’s no money in them. Anybody who has ever played a free MMO game can see that the quality (and support, I might add) is much lower than that of any subscription based game. Do you know why World of Warcraft is an exception? Because they actually listen to their players, and can front the money to pay decent developers. 10 million subscriptions at about $15 per month is $150 million, just from subscriptions. This of course doesn’t include sales of the software itself. Let’s compare that to your run-of-the-mill independant (most likely Korean) game studio who’s making their free-to-play fantasy game where you run around in a cell-shaded world, grinding your life away, trying to get to the level cap by killing increasingly more powerful “slimes”. I think $15 per month is worth it, don’t you?

Final Fantasy XIII Coming to the Xbox360!

It’s official. Moments ago, Microsoft announced at E308 that it has paired up with Square Enix to release FFXIII on the Xbox 360.  I know that this is big news for me, as I know several people with a 360, but not a single one with a Playstation 3 (and I seriously doubt any of my friends are going to be getting one any time soon). I can only hope that they also decide to release Final Fantasy Versus XII as well, as they both look like fantastic games.

For now, take a look at Kotaku’s Live Coverage of the event (obviously not live anymore). I’ll try to get a link once they make an official post about it, and I’ll verify this once Square and Microsoft’s respective websites are updated.

Atlantica Online: A Turn-Based MMO?

Reading gaming industry news actually brings up something interesting from time to time, and being a big fan of the MMO genre, I decided that this would be noteworthy. Today’s MMO is Atlantica Online, and it’s unique in the fact that it claims to be a turn-based MMO. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular type of game, turn based generally means… well… your characters and the enemies they are fighting take turns during combat, a la Final Fantasy X, or any of the Final Fantasy Tactics games. Most MMOs of today are real-time, in the sense that you walk up to something and can just start beating on it without fear of how many turns each attack will cost you.

Either way, the game is being produced by Ndoors Interactive and takes the form of your standard Korean MMO (expect some hardcore grinding). In my policy of initially judging a game by how much work they put into their website (yes, it actually helps to filter out some of the horrible games), this game actually impressed me with the design and layout, and thus qualifies for further inspection (plus beta testing is free!).

Check out Atlantica Online to register yourself for the beta.

High Latency During BitTorrent Downloads

No, I’m not talking about slow torrenting, I’m talking about what effect BitTorrent has on other applications and services on your network. George Ou has a very interesting article on how the BitTorrent protocol and its packet blasting nature can disrupt VoIP and online gaming protocols.

Since I have recently moved into a new house and have at least one roommate who frequently torrents large amounts of data, I’ve noticed this latency first hand, I’ll watch as my ping climbs to 900ms or higher and my Skype calls deteriorate into nothingness.

Enabling QoS on the router has almost no effect:

Now it is possible to solve this problem on the network level by prioritizing VoIP and gaming packets in the home DSL modem upload queue. Unfortunately, I don’t have administrative access to the modem and implementing VoIP or gaming prioritization on my home router seemed to have no effect.  Packets in the home router get forwarded as soon as they arrive with 100 Mbps Ethernet on both ends so there is nothing to reorder in the queue.  More advanced business-class routers like those from Cisco will allow you to configure the speed of the FastEthernet connection to match your DSL throughput so that the queue will migrate from the DSL modem to the router but this isn’t very practical for most people.

Very interesting read. Until a permanent solution is found, it looks like I’ll just be yelling at my roommates to turn off uTorrent.

Back, and Aiming to Stay Active

After a brief database corruption, I have managed to reinstall WordPress on this site. I have to say for one, that I’m very impressed with the quality of the Admin Panel in this version of WP. The last version that I installed (yes, laugh if you must at both my laziness and any website insecurity) was way back in June 2007, and it looks like the platform has come a long way since then.

For those of you who actually used my site for information, have no fear, as I will be recovering the lost articles and posting them again (apparently PHP Form input is a difficult task). Additionally, I have to rework my Google Analytics settings. To be honest, I’m not going to put any Google Adsense ads on the site. The traffic that this site generates is not sufficient to keep the (not-so) trendy ads on the site.

I’d like to bring back some interesting sections that I originally planned, but I couldn’t keep updated. One of my favorites was OCRemix Mondays, and since there’s such a large selection of tunes over at Overclocked ReMix, I should have enough content to last me for a while.

Another planned section is the weekly web links. I will be trying to compile a list of interesting links every week and putting them out on Fridays. This will include the various web comics, Cracked.com articles and other fun reading that I run across during my daily RSS feed reading.

Finally, I’m planning to post actual useful content once in a while. Things from tutorials to tips and tricks to whatever else I can think of. We’ll see what happens here, but I have a few DIY projects coming up, and I’m going to try to keep track of them so that I can share my accomplishments (or hilarious failures) with the world.

First I have to find a non-crappy WordPress theme….