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The “Bite Me” Minetest Server

Rendered logo - by Blockmen

For those who do not know, Minetest is an open-source free-to-play and free-to-modify alternative to Minecraft. It’s Free as in Freedom – and as in Free Lunch.

For the past few days I had been running a  Minetest server – it was fun whilst it lasted, but I have been extremely busy with work and it turns out I need to liberate that server node for something more productive… so for now, Bite Me, and its villages, are defunct.

Intent

Originally the idea was to run a Minetest server with a difference – during the week, an easy setup would have allowed players to create whatever they wanted in the world; settle villages and such, without any aggressive mobs or PvP.

On Friday nights however the world would be backed up, and NSSM would be turned on, PvP would be enabled, and random protector blocks would be deleted.

On Monday, the world would be reverted to its state as registered on Friday.

It would have been oh so fun…

I did keep a backup of the world data though, and all tools I had written to monitor and manage the server. It’ll be back online some day, but with a little bit more pre-prep; I’ll post some of the tools on my github page eventually, including the items allowing swithcing between the week-day safe mode, and the week-end massacre mode…..

Specs

For those of you who are curious about stats and requirements, I was running this on a Ubuntu 16.04 server with 512 MB RAM and 1 GB swap, 20 GB storage (more than enough) and a single CPU at 2.3 GHz, courtesy of digitalOcean.

At peak, I think I had about 10 players all playing simultaneously, with a good few off exploring different caves and causing the map gen to work in several locations siultaneously, and the server was handling fairly well I believe.

I expect if you want to run a properly specced server, 2GB RAM, 2 CPUs and 2GB swap would be a better bet. I might use that in future.

Examples

Here’s some screenshots from when I was exploring as admin:

Exhibit 1 – some weird shadows from the clouds. These shadows were persistent (never changed location), and dark enough that stone monsters would spawn in them….! You can see a htop report showing server stats too

 

Screenshot-16

 

Exhibit 2 – I was using maikerumine’s esmobs mod to generate some difficult mobs. For some reason, they would hardly ever spawn in my main village – but they did everywhere else and my goodness were they a handful… see the log how much damage they would have been doing if I hadn’t my admin shield equipped! (probably from 3d-Armor mod, made easily accessible from the Unified Inventory)

 

Screenshot-18

 

Exhibit 3 – Sokomine’s mg and mg_villages mods, combined with VanessaE’s moretrees mod produce some superb settings…

Screenshot-19-bis

Mods

Here’s the full list of mods I was using:

https://github.com/minetest-mods/biome_lib
https://github.com/minetest-mods/moretrees
https://github.com/minetest-mods/moreores
https://github.com/minetest-mods/homedecor_modpack
https://github.com/minetest-mods/stamina
https://github.com/minetest-mods/city_block
https://github.com/Sokomine/locks
https://github.com/Sokomine/travelnet
https://github.com/PilzAdam/nether
https://github.com/stujones11/minetest-3d_armor
https://github.com/minetest-technic/unified_inventory
https://github.com/dmonty2/minetest-u_skinsdb
https://github.com/tenplus1/protector
https://github.com/Uberi/MineTest-WorldEdit
https://github.com/Sokomine/mg
https://github.com/Sokomine/mg_villages
https://github.com/Sokomine/cottages
https://github.com/tenplus1/farming
https://github.com/minetest-mods/playeranim
https://github.com/BlockMen/cme
https://github.com/maikerumine/esmobs
https://github.com/NPXcoot/nssm
https://github.com/Sokomine/mobf_trader

About That: Linux Mint’s site hack

Byte City

The Linux Mint site hack a few weeks ago has brought to the fore how lackadaisical the security efforts behind some projects’ hosting and distribution sites may be. The truth of the matter is though, without a dedicated resource to look after this aspect, any effort can quickly grow stale and obsolete.

The tools and workflows required to keep sites and software packages secure are moving targets and a full-time effort; and the demand for latest-and-greatest software does not help one bit as a culture of blind trust has washed in on the back of the false mantra “Linux is inherently more secure.”

No it is not, and its growing popularity is demonstrating this. Linux is set up so that you can look more easily into your security and manage it, but security does not come without at least some planning and consideration. Jumping to BSD will not save us either. Improving our tooling and workflows is the only viable, forward-looking strategy we have at the moment – and it’s lacking.

Matt Hartley’s synopsis of the event is worth a read; the following are a copy of my initial reactions on his article. Read more

Install a secure web server on Linux

Setting up secure connection on your Apache web server is very much straightforward on Linux — all the tools are at your disposal, and in just a few commands, you can be fully set up.

The following instructions are for Ubuntu and CentOS, and covers generating a self-signed certificate.

For an overview of free and cheap SSL certificates, see http://webdesign.about.com/od/ssl/tp/cheapest-ssl-certificates.htm. These certificates from Certificate Authorities only certify that the certificate was issued to the same person controlling the domain. They are fine for internal sites and personal home pages, but not for eCommerce sites..

For an overview of Enhanced Validation certificates (more expensive but more globally trusted), see http://webdesign.about.com/od/ssl/tp/cheapest-ev-ssl-certificates.htm. These certificates are issued against a real-world check of your identity, carrying thus a higher cost and higher trust. They are suitable for high-traffic sites that want to be properly identified and commercial sites; they are overkill for small project sites and testing. Read more

SSL on Apache and tunneling VPN with OpenVPN on Ubuntu

This post is now superceded by a friendlier and more eficient method: https://ducakedhare.co.uk/?p=1512

The following are a bunch of quick notes about setting up security certificates, enabling OpenVPN and forcing all traffic through a VPN tunnel, and adding SSL

It’s all tailored for Ubuntu 12.04 / 14.04 servers, and exists primarily as learning notes. I may or may not come to cleaning them up.

OpenVPN details and dialectic can be found at https://help.ubuntu.com/14.04/serverguide/openvpn.html

Longer description of Apache SSL activation can be fouind here https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-create-a-ssl-certificate-on-apache-for-ubuntu-12-04

Read more

About that: Is TAILS an essential distro or just an added tinfoil hat?

A tech blogger put up a piece I came across on Tux Machines, asking whether TAILS, a security-oriented Linux distro designed to afford the user anonymity, was just another tinfoil hat for the over-imaginative conspiracy theorists.

It was stronger than me to let this be, as I believe that TAILS is actually very legitimately useful to certain people and professions – namely journalists, students and activists – and that the article was likely to gain page views over time. Below is my own answer.

Original article is http://openbytes.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/tails-an-essential-distro-or-an-accessory-to-compliment-a-tin-foil-hat-for-the-average-user/

For the TLDR – TAILS is not aimed at the average home user, but at non-technical users who actually do need to take their online safety into serious consideration.

…. it’s a bit of a straw man attack …

The real question is – where is the merit in deriding the approach and considerations TAILS addresses?

Read more

About that: getting out of walled gardens by using Blockchain?

ReadWrite is runnning a piece touting Blockchain as the panacea to solving the problem of Walled Gardens (because these in themselves are somehow stifling innovation).

The article does a poor job as far as I can tell, from reading it and from seeing the comments, of linking the two aspects, and I had to read a bit further to understand why this is potentially a game changer. Personally, I’m not sure it is. Below is the comment I added to the article:

Blockchain is a protocol that ensures identification and integreity of a piece of data and its iteration in time.

Apps are created and delivered in a walled garden. Where’s the connection?

I did go and read some of the linked articles and I think I can see where this was meant to be going:

The idea is that we want to develop apps that can leverage the power of “App+Could” type systems – that is, having an app that accesses your data online – without seeing your data being siloed into that company’s server forever more.

For example, a notepad app, with lots of your notes in it, accessible from all of your devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, watch, fridge [hey, you might have a shopping list note]). Your data is stored somewhere online, on some company’s cloud infrastructure, and all these apps query that company’s server.

Now if your data is in a peer-to-peer store, using a blockchain-encoded transaction to modify it, then its data is also distributed around the Internet, with changes in the data recognized and stored by the network. I guess the goal is to move the data to a truly disembodied cloud, and not just pigeon holes.

So you change a line in your shopping list on your fridge. The entire network validates this, changes the corresponding peered data, and that change is spread, verifying against the blockchain for the latest status. Your data is stored peer to peer, potentially anonymized and encrypted (ha!), and is resilient to deletion.

However we still have walled gardens where the actual apps have restrictions on their on-device functionality, and we cann’t necessarily control what servers they actually talk to. The reason apps are more interesting than mobile browsers is the interaction with the hardware on the device.

So it’s an interesting start, but so long as there are practical advantages of using an app, we won’t escaped walled gardens on mobile devices.

In the mean time, if you’re really concerned about walling, try open source, try full computers, and try the real world. We’re all over here making stuff. Innovating freely.

About that: Cracking down on sites like Ask.fm

A petition landed in my inbox today: “Shut down cyberbullying website, Ask.fm, in memory of Izzy Dix & 12 other teens globally

This is, alas, another misunderstanding of how websites work, but most importantly how social interactions, in general, work. I’m not saying that anyone is at moral fault in these cases; what I am concerned about is that the petition spreads the idea that any one site should be targeted for crackdown. Politicians can jump at this easily, scapegoat easily, and look like progress is being made. This is shortsighted, and ultimately leads us to rest on laurels until the next, identical, scandal arises.

(TLDR:) In brief, it’s not a crackdown on websites we need, but action on a large scale. We must be in control of the message that society projects to young people, the message must be on every wall a young person will see, and the message must be:

If you are a victim of BULLYING, it is never your fault, and you must always SPEAK UP immediately.

Read more for details. Read more

The Surf

I was reading an article on why DRM has always been a bad idea, with mounting evidence to show it when the following came to mind:

Spread out your arms to stop the waves
From crashing into your lovely little sand castle
And be vanquished by its might

Or swim out into the unknown waters
Tussle with the ever changing unmarked currents
Fight to stay afloat in these tides

And then turn shorewards once more
Rush in with the swell and the implacable force of nature
Ride in on a wave of victory

Voila.

BitTorrent Bundles – True Free Advertising is Just Around The Corner

BitTorrent is currently trialling their new “Bundles” file format and mechanism, which allows content creators to create packages for their work to be freely distributed.

Anyone receiving the work will be able to view some of it for free, then be asked to take action to unlock the rest of the content:

  • pay a fee
  • provide their email
  • share the work

I’m hoping that they’ll also include a “View item in store” option as a mechanism for unlocking the content, to give the sharing and viral marketing paradigm a real boost, and turn the face of online advertising on its head!

Thus, persons who specifically do not wish to pay money will still not have to, but ensuring a store link for that particular content (and not the artist in general) accompanies the piece in an otherwise free-distribution format

  1. allows sharers to share, and recipients still have a no-pay way of viewing the material
  2. enables artists to edge persons amenable to the idea of paying towards a store, removing the requirement of said consumers to proactively locate a retailer
  3. which subsequently would make the act of sharing a real free-advertising mechanism

This could work really well, so long as sharing gratis and libere is still possible, and if artists using this can provide direct access to the specific item in an international store.

Here’s to hoping!

 

Copyright Should Make Way for Creative Commons

Currently, “Copyrighted” is the default state of any creative piece. I think it is time this is changed to be Creative Commons – or something similar. I would distinguish also a right for a piece not to be spliced/abridged. Part of a set, do not distribute separately.

For one, this is the way fandoms view intellectual property, and, let’s face it – without fandoms, merch does not get sold. Additionally, it is through the enrichment of stories and content that better content is created.

I think of storytellers who retold and embellished other people’s stories, I think of folk songs passed down, re-interpreted and re-matched against other tunes, and a flurry of other great things that we’ve gotten from being free to rework, rehash and recombine, and then compare that against an imperative to ensure that only one body has the right to copy and distribute an expression for fear that it is inherently in the copying that money is to be made (a very Pre-War point of view).

Abiding by the book: in law, buskers playing popular songs are repeatedly breaching copyright, fan fictions are a theft of trademark, every design on TeeFury and other t-shirt site is a violation of rights on intellectual property. Taken to an alarmist extreme, referencing popular culture in a published or performed piece is potentially a breach of copyright (the walls surrounding fair use are not watertight – they’d need to be clear for starters).

I think we need to relax a bit. More money is wasted on legal battles than earned riding the waves of popularity and fandoms – who, by the way, really want other people to know about your material. Since we can’t simply say in court “Copyright sometimes applies,” I’d vote for more permissive licenses to be the legal standard. This does not exclude the ability to copyright a work, but a change would highlight the differences between the two licensing schemes, and open up further discussion as to what is really, truly necessary to foster creativity without causing the collapse of creative professions.