Archive for the 'Meta' Category

The recent unpleasantness

Last Tuesday, my server went down. This is not unusual; when you run your own server, you come to expect service to be interrupted once in a while. Usually it’s the router, and usually all I need to do is power-cycle it. Until recently, if this happened while I was at work, I’d just dash home and fix it. My current commute makes this impractical, so the downtime can last multiple hours, until I get home.

This time, it was even worse. When I got home, before I even got in the door, I could hear the alarm from my battery back-up. Something had gone seriously wrong with the system, presumably with the PSU. The machine was unbootable.

In times past, when my server suffered catastrophic hardware failure, I’d fix it with a transplant from my Windows machine, and then go buy a replacement part as soon as the shops open the next day. But this assumes a certain equivalence of hardware. Ever since I moved across the country, and left my old server behind to minimize downtime, my server has lived in a small-form-factor Shuttle box. This has a nice quiet PSU, but it’s a nonstandard size and shape, designed to fit snugly in the one case it was optimized for. I do like the system a lot, and I’ve been saying for some time that I should replace my big noisy Windows machine with another Shuttle box when I upgrade again, but since I started this blog, and have devoted most of my gaming hours to old stuff, I’ve had little motivation to upgrade.

There was another option for a transplant, though: move the hard drives into the Windows machine. Having done this, it failed to boot. Attempting to do an emergency repair of the OS, I discovered that the version of Linux I was using (Debian Sarge) didn’t recognize several of the system’s internal devices, including the specific ethernet adaptor and the SATA port. So it couldn’t access my data or the Internet, which kind of made it a failure as a server.

At this point, I was thinking that I’d need to get some replacement hardware before I could get the server up and running again. Which posed another problem: With my current commute, I can’t shop for hardware on weekdays. My job is in a location with nothing around it except cheap office space. My home is within walking distance of an excellent computer store, but it’s not open yet when I leave in the morning and closed when I get home. In desperation, I placed a rush order with newegg, telling them to deliver to the office, but this ran into validation problems because my credit card company didn’t have the office listed as an address of mine. By the time this got striaghtened out, the advantage of ordering online had been lost: the weekend was approaching, so I figured I might as well wait it out and buy the necessary components personally.

Which, ultimately, I didn’t do. When Saturday rolled around, I got the server up again by upgrading Debian Linux to the newest stable release, which recognizes the hardware on my working machine. Upgrading to a new release of Debian is always a pain — that’s why I was still running Sarge after all this time. Even now, after a day of tinkering, I don’t seem to have the mail server completely right. Nonetheless, it’s up, as you can tell by the fact that you’re reading this.

It’s not entirely happy with the new hardware, though. The load average keeps on getting into double digits. I’ve set up a cron job to restart mysql and apache every 15 minutes, which keeps it from getting entirely wedged, but clearly this is not an ideal solution. Also, it was periodically overheating, especially when doing something computationally intensive, like attempting to install upgraded Linux packages. The OS is smart enough to throttle down when this happens, but whenever it did, it would issue a warning to all consoles (messing up any text editor I had open) and beep. And then it would beep again a second or two later when the temperature came back to acceptable parameters. It’s as if the system had hiccups. I managed to turn off the warning and the beeping, but it’s just one more reason I need to get this system back into something it’s happy with, before it burns down the house or something. It all makes me wonder what was going on when the same hardware was running Windows. Was it running hot and simply not telling me?

Anyway, I have more hardware on order — not a rush order this time, because the crisis has passed. But in the meantime, I’m without a Windows machine. Which means it’s time to switch over to the PS2 for a while. As far as I’m concerned, the big lesson from this whole experience has been that it’s really inconvenient to not live near where you work and also work near where you shop. I suppose other people would derive a different lesson: that it’s not worth it to run your own server, not in the 21st century when there are plenty of reliable free alternatives. But that’s crazy talk.


Let’s try something here. Let’s play a little game. As I said before, I’ll probably wrap up Final Fantasy V soon. I want to do Portal afterwards, but that shouldn’t take long. As I hinted, I’d like to give the readers of this blog the opportunity to choose what I play after that. I still don’t want to post the contents of the Stack just yet, though. Instead, I’d like to know what kind of game commentary you want in general. I’ll try to pick the best fit from the Stack, and also bear the results in mind in future choices.

First, let’s choose the genre. You can select more than one option in this one, and there’s a certain amount of overlap. I’ve listed them in order of how many there are on the Stack.
Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Second, how old a game should I play?

What release date?

  • 1986-1995 (the DOS age) (36%, 10 Votes)
  • 1996-2002 (people start designing games for CD-ROMs, hardware 3D acceleration, and Windows 95) (36%, 10 Votes)
  • 2003-2006 (up to five years ago; reasonably modern) (21%, 6 Votes)
  • 1985 and earlier (the dawn of time) (4%, 1 Votes)
  • 2007-2008 (released after I started this blog) (3%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 28

Loading ... Loading ...

Do you want me to talk about something you’re likely to have heard of, or something likely to be new to you? (Note: None of the examples listed here are actually on the Stack.)

How obscure?

  • Things that I'd expect fans of their specific genres to know about, but wouldn't be surprised if others didn't (No One Lives Forever, Maniac Mansion, Lode Runner) (65%, 17 Votes)
  • Things I wouldn't expect you to have heard of, but it wouldn't surprise me if you had (ZPC, Amerzone, Claw) (23%, 6 Votes)
  • I'd be surprised if you had heard of it (Ken's Labyrinth, Symbiocom, Mimi and the Mites) (8%, 2 Votes)
  • Canonical works that even non-gamers have heard of (Doom, Adventure, Super Mario Brothers) (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Big titles that you probably know about if you're a gamer, even if you don't follow their genre, because they got a lot of coverage in the gaming press (Halo, Myst, Prince of Persia) (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

Loading ... Loading ...

Finally, what kind of soul do you have?

Should I play a game that I expect to be good or a game that I expect to be bad?

  • Choose something where you don't have strong expectations yet. (54%, 14 Votes)
  • Good. I want analysis of what works and why. (46%, 12 Votes)
  • Bad. I just want to see you amusingly rip into a game's deficiencies. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

Loading ... Loading ...

Year One

Today is the first of January, 2008. I started this blog a year ago today. When I started, there were “just over 300” games on the Stack. Strangely, that’s still true. I removed 20 games from the Stack over the course of the year, but also purchased some new games (abiding by the terms of the Oath), not all of which I have played. Note that the point system of the Oath doesn’t necessarily shrink the stack very fast — indeed, when I buy games for $10 or less, it doesn’t shrink it at all. Purchasing an anthology can actually make the stack grow. Also, in the middle of the year, I moved from one apartment to another, and in the process of clearing out my possessions, found some discs that had escaped the initial count. Perhaps 2008 will see the Stack clearing faster — there were a couple of major interruptions in 2007, such as the aforementioned move, and I did tackle some pretty long games, such as GTA3. On the other hand, there can be interruptions anytime, and I have some pretty long games remaining (including one Elder Scrolls game), so who knows?

This blog has been the most complete record I’ve ever made of what I’ve been playing, but it’s not completely complete, as not everything I play is on the Stack. For example, I played quite a few fan-made DROD holds after completing The City Beneath. There’s a lot of really well-made DROD out there, but the best-designed ones tend to be the most difficult, probably because the people who care enough to put a lot of effort into design are the most experienced players. Other off-stack favorites of the year include Desktop Tower Defense, Trilby: The Art of Theft, Portal: The Flash Version, and Angband.

As for what’s next: I have a couple more days of Pokémon ahead of me before I head home, then I intend to finish up Final Fantasy V. After that, I have made a promise to play Portal. After that, I’m open to suggestions.

New server

I have just moved this blog to a new machine, and in the process upgraded Apache, WordPress, and MySQL. If you notice any problems with the new setup, please either email me (if you have my email address) or leave a comment here.

Pleas for Attention

So, after a month and a half of secrecy, I’m starting to tell people about this blog. It’s got to be the case that a lot of blogs are started and abandoned with a mere handful of posts, and I didn’t want to suffer that embarassment here. But I’m convinced by now that I can fulfill the terms of the Oath, and that the only embarassment in the offing is that which I forge for myself through my words.

So, welcome, reader! I hope reading about someone else playing videogames helps to stave off the boredom of your workplace or classroom or wherever you’re reading this. Feel free to leave comments, because I derive a sense of personal validation from that, and it’s been a little sad seeing “Comments(0)” at the head of every single post.

« Newer Posts