Recap of 2007 / What Kept Me From MOUL Recently

Various discussions on the MystOnline forum has prompted a good point from SuperGram, which I wanted to address more publicly here, regarding my own absence the past several months (and why I’ll be scarce for a couple more). It’s going to end up being a recap of my activities for 2007, after the last St Pats Parade (which was around when the DST Hell ended and the next round of work stuff began).

So, in no major order, what was happening with me in ’07:

The DST Hell: Already mentioned in past posts for the year, it was no small feat in making sure that 1200+ hosts across two continents were ready for the DST changes – in eight weeks. ‘Nuff Said.

Travian Hell/Bitterness: My one major tactical mistake of the year (long-term) was getting involved with the browser MMO Travian. Short-term, it was fun, and really cool – I got to interact with a bunch of really nice folks and I hope, one day, to meet some of them RL. But this reminded me of my old personal promise, which was never to get involved in a combat-oriented MMO again (Diablo II was the last one – if you could count it as such – and 9/11 ended that).

As Travian approached its endgame (as they play instances in 10-12 month ’rounds’), involvement increased dramatically. It ended up beginning to affect my life enough that my boss noticed, and asked me to cut back on whatever I was doing; I did one better and quit, after realizing that I got caught into ‘addiction’ mode again, which is easy for me to do in this sub-genre. This realization of course left me bitter about both that game specifically (for additional reasons I won’t go into) and computer gaming in general.

I’m currently on a a forced detox from online environments to get me out of that state of mind (really, you don’t want me in-cavern just now); I should (hopefully) re-appear with regularity sometime next month. The fact that I’m following and posting on Uru/MOUL forums again is a good sign that I’m ready to re-dedicate some time to this.

Work & RegNMS Hell: I’ve posted before about RegNMS too; Though as an individual wanting the markets to do well, I’m happy about this change, as someone having to deal with its infrastructure changes I’m not at all pleased about it (mostly because that every growth calculation I ever used in the past 7-10 years got tossed out the window in the course of ONE MONTH).

Work & Moving Datacenters: In mid-Dec, we had the pleasure of ending a 16-month datacenter move and shutdown project. The fact that every server that I was given to move did so without major incident was an extra plus for me, but costed me my sanity for awhile (dropping Travian, above, helped with that tremendously). The main upside of the whole thing is that I have a desk again (after 6 years on 3rd shift – nearly half my time with the company – this is a big thing to me). The long-term downside is that I have to commute again, but with a fair amount of Uru/MOUL work being done through forum and other outside stuff, it should not affect things going forward.

Personal Health: 2007 was the year that I really started dabbling with trying to get something akin to ‘in shape’ again. I’m not looking to lose any major weight (I like being 180 lbs, as I didn’t feel drunk for a week after donating blood – like what happened when I was 140 lbs). Instead, I am more interested in getting back the strength and stamina that I had back when I started work – preferably at my current weight.

To that end, I’ve devoted more of my time dabbling with various types of exercise; Right now I’m having fun with a place called Tiger Shulman’s (despite their website being my initials getting me annoyed), and doing their routines instead of traditional exercise (which I did first half of the year) has more forcefully sparked other areas of my health to be looked at. I had my first physical in nearly two decades, just a couple months ago; Ended up that I’m very short on D3 (no surprise since I get very little real light) and the doctor has wholeheartedly endorsed what I’m doing now. I’m also working again on dealing with my acne, which is just plain annoying.

My Mother’s Health: Not the least by any stretch, but as I have financial responsibilities to my mother (who has no health insurance atm – she’ll hopefully have MediCare next year) that has taken some of my time last year – and will continue to do so for now. The distance between here and her house is problematic at times (read: traffic getting worse), which is making me re-think when I visit.


These are the primary factors that I’ve been away, and will determine how much time I’ll be on in the future. I do intend to re-allocate time for MOUL again, that’s a given; It’s just the amount of that time actually in-cavern will likely be smaller.


The Next PC – Considerations

As I mentioned previously, I’m in the middle of working on my next PC. I’ve been using a Shuttle SN25P for about 1.5 years and its beginning to show some problems (most of which are probably due to the single-core Athlon 3500+).

The most telling thing about my recent Myst Online experience is this screenshot from Task Manager, showing a typical stroll in the City:

Shuttle CPU performance with MOUL

Many of those plateaus of 100% CPU correspond to my stuttering and hanging while moving around. Network monitor on the other tab was basically 0-1% (despite the upgrade to my new Gigabit Gaming Router, which has increased my download speeds nearly 5x). Graphics also does not appear to be an issue – I have a 7800 GT and was able to resize the MOUL screen multiple times during my travels with no appreciable affect (turning off shadows was the only help, but that’s a known problem ;) ).

Anyway, other than the above mentioned router (which apparently I should have replaced LONG ago), I’ve so far picked up the following items:

CASE: CoolerMaster Cosmos 1000 (NewEgg Reviews)

Since I’m ditching my SFF craze with this new build, I have to start totally from scratch (SFF systems like the Shuttle tend to be bought as ‘barebone’ cases with a custom case, PSU, and mainboard). Admittedly going all the way to a full tower case is a bit extreme, but this allows me more room to work in and much more flexibility than I’ve had for so long.

PSU: Semi-Generic, single 12V rail, modular plugs, 750W

I took what I could get here, since getting a single 12V rail *and* modular plugs was rather hard to find. It appears to be working.

CPU: Intel Q6600 Quad-Core, 2.4 ghz, G0 Stepping

Going straight to Quad may sound like overkill, but as I mentioned before (and again confirmed by NewEgg reviews) it was the best price-point while still being relatively future-proof. It should get even cheaper now with Penryn coming out. Oh, and apparently its a dream for overclocking (don’t normally care about that, but it gives me the option if I wanted to). The G0 version is smaller wattage; Even though its minor, it will add up over time both in cooling cost and electric costs in general.

GPU: My existing 7800 GT

After getting a couple apps that could query the video card in depth, I learned that it has a 256-bit memory bus. Between that and 256 meg of video mem, I should be fine. A new cooler from Zalman is awaiting the card though. ;)

MAINBOARD: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS4 (Currently in DOA Return)

I’ve been discussing P35 v X38 chipsets with Craig; He bought a gaming insanity via X38 (Northbridge on his was already waterblocked, which fit in with his cooling system). I’m wanting to do medium-duty stuff so P35 should fit me well while still being about 70% the cost of his board.

Unfortunately it was DOA. I just dropped it off for NewEgg’s RMA process, and we’ll see how that turns out.

MEMORY: 4 Gig of A-Data memory, two sticks

‘Nuff Said. I know that WinXP won’t see all of it, and Vista I want nothing to do with, so I’m probably going to dual-boot with something like NexentaOS or perhaps Solaris 10 x64 itself. Still thinking about that (and Apple should really consider releasing OS-X for use on an ‘ordinary’ PC – Leopard doesn’t look too bad, and its desktop is much more evolved than Sun’s).

HDD: Um, well…

I already have several disks of various sizes and SATA I/II compatibility (none of them larger than 320 gig, and those aren’t even fully used). However, just about all of them hold some data or other from prior systems which I never finished migrating. Again, I’m still working out what to do here while the mainboard is out for RMA (more accurately, I’m putting off a massive number of data shifts to free up a SATA-II disk :p ).

COOLING: Currently, Air (emphasis on silence, and low heat) with the possibility of water later

I would like to be able to have this system running 24/7 in my bedroom, even in the summer. To that end I’m working toward both ultra-quiet and low power. This has toned down some of my purchases above – in particular the motherboard, but the CPU and Video is also a consideration. Craig has an nVidia 8800 GTS with a waterblock on it (after CPU and Northbridge); Nearly ALL of the heat transferred to his cooling tower (in another room!) is from the 8800, and it gets HOT. I’m not interested in that, thanks.

The CPU cooler is currently the stock Intel one; I don’t like how its attached (it may have contributed to my RMA) so am looking at 3rd party coolers for the silence market. Water is possible to me (Craig had just the CPU and North chip on water at first – no appreciable heat) and given the right price I’ll go for it.

OK, this has gotten long enough. I’ve got about 2-3 weeks before its imperative to get this system up and running stable before the next Season of MO:UL. By then I should have a better idea what I’m going to do, and will post an update.


Re-Returning – And an Apology


First of all, I’d like to apologize to various folks both in MystBlogs and in Myst/Uru in general. It’s been a horrifically busy few months, and I’ve not been that out-of-touch in some time.

Anyway, there’s lots to talk about what I’ve been doing during that time, but it summarizes to:

-> Travian Endgame in, and my eventual leaving it due to work having a chat regarding my performance during that time. :p It was probably for the best anyway.

-> Work is, as usual, insane. We’ve steadily been getting rid of the old site next door to home, and enough stuff was moved that I finally have a desk again at the newer datacenter up north. :) I’m down to two major systems to move, and one of them will go this week (I hope).

-> Trying something new in the fitness front, namely this. A bit over the top perhaps, but it’s helped quite a bit. Unfortunately the increased social contact has gotten me more colds than I used to have, but oh well.

-> And, unfortunately, looking for the ‘next PC.’ I’ve my roommate to blame for that; He finally got a game he could not play on his old P4 (Dirt), and went off to do a complete rebuild of his PC’s innards (including his first PCI-e 16x card). Amusingly, we may end up with very similar systems this time around – I picked the ‘winning’ processor (Intel Q6600) and he decided to go straight to X38 chipset using an Asus RoG Mainboard. I’m still debating sticking to the older P35 (and therefore an MSI LanParty board), but I have to admit he’s got a winning combo (other than his decision to buy Vista -ICK!!!).

Looking forward to see what will happen for the MO:UL season closer. Probably will not be able to login until Friday anyway, but we’ll see.


Three Years in Second Life

The evening of this past friday (6/29) marked exactly three years since I registered the ‘Alan Kiesler’ account in Second Life. Though officially I left the Orientation island today (7/2) due to a bad crash and RL stuff, I logged in that night to hop around my old haunts.

Upon reaching the ‘Myst Online’ island sim (the GameTap sponsored replacement for Telador, btw), I found a group of folks playing ‘Heek (sort of – no less buggy there than it is in MO:UL ;) ). It was really cool to be able to walk in for the first time in a LONG while and just talk about Uru – especially while in SL, since that kind of ‘bridging’ is what I like to do best.

Imagine my surprise then, when I find out one of the folks at the table is Brad’li from the UO forum. He’s not been able to login to GameTap or MO:UL since it left the new beta, so I find it slightly ironic to learn that it was my own pics that got him over to SL as an alternative; My main calling in SL was (and still is) promoting Uru.

I ended up spending the next half-hour or so helping with the expected gaps in detailed documentation that SL is well-known for, as well as a small amount of L$ to start out with (which brings up the economy questions Gwyn brought up recently, but that’s a different rant).

I’m always happy to run across cool life coincidences like this, so it was particularly fitting to have one in SL at the 3-year mark.


Decisions, Decisions…

Well, it was not two days after I post a listing of thanks to my SL friends that they end up finding a way to bring Telador back – after a fashion…

It’s now called ‘Myst Online Uru’ island (I guess it hit the 20 character limit). Last notice I got from group D’ni was that it will open in a couple days – Almost in sync with the Grand Opening in the real MOUL. I need to check and send a note along to Hamlet if needed. :)

As I speculated (via Alan) in the IC Journal, this may be a way for Turner/GameTap to allow access to more international players (in particular, those that can’t have access to Uru at all since UU was shutdown last week – for whatever reason).

I obviously am placing my feet firmly back into Second Life due to this, though I will not back out of marching for the Parade next month.

I’m asking myself now – what can come of having an island in SL?

1) The Age Building groups have the possibility – via libsecondlife – to create ‘rough 3d sketches’ using the primitives system in SL and import them to Blender for finishing. I’m following the possibility to export an entire sim’s worth of data for conversion into a near-finished Age.

2) In SL tradition, we’ll have one of the more interesting SL cross-world events to occur. Normally that’s between SL and RL. In this case it could be between SL and D’ni.

3) I once again have a reason to be a walking, free promotion of Uru within SL. :)

We will have to see…


Being Alone While Also Being Together…

Tweek had a really good post the other day, and warrants a bit more than a comment from me.

I’m one of those people who’ve been a loner much of their life; In my case this was a self-defense mechanisn as I fell into codependency too easily when interacting with people. Though that trend is generally reversing as I mature socially, my life the past few years has taught me that doing things both alone *and* together at different times is an experience all its own.

Take, for example, the island of Numbakulla in Second Life. It’s home to what’s essentially a single-player, play-at-your-pace adventure game. But the island allows more than one person at a time, so interesting interactions (not unlike Uru Live today) occur. Players swap info and hints for areas they’ve cleared, for the betterment of both. They work in teams, either fanning out to learn about the environment quicker, or exploring as a tight group (this is no small feat in this game; The SL architecture can be setup to only show messages at the player level). And some – like myself – just visit for the beauty of it all; One couple even got ‘married’ on the island over a year ago!

Getting back to Uru… Though I’m one of those who’ve clearly stated themselves to primarily be in the ‘alone’ camp, I do feel that group activities – be it forced or not – still be out there. That does not mean I’ll not participate; I’ve been to Delin by myself, poked at the door once or twice, and just smiled and drank in the age instead. I figure, that if I really want what the age ‘physically’ has to offer, I’ll join a group that’s interested and help them.

Let’s not forget, however, that places like Delin are supposed to be ‘rest’ ages, and were initially designed to be enjoyed by the soul, not as some waystop for a clue or trophy…


Missing Grid?

In looking at the last few day’s postings over at the Official Linden Lab Weblog, I’m not as much worried about concurrency or City lag with Uru Live.

For those who have not heard, LL did a major and highly-anticipated update last Wednesday; The big change was to visibility, and it was twofold: 1) avatars can now remove themselves from all forms of tracking, including online status, and 2) all island/estate sims will show on the master map, despite any settings disabling access.

In theory, these changes (or at least the second one anyway) are designed to reduce load on their master databases. So I have to marvel at the irony that the problems of the past few days since rollout are due to an overloaded database. :P

*sigh* Sadly typical, but they don’t have a large dedicated (perhaps fanatical) user base willing to test on a regular basis, like Uru Live apparently has.

Last I heard LL is looking to leverage parts of the libsecondlife project for load testing their Beta/Preview grid; Best of luck to them.

In other news, I’ve been AWOL from all IRC channels for a couple days now; It’s been pretty busy at work, and with vacations in full swing as of next week it’s promising to get even more interesting.


libsecondlife and Emmigrating to Uru

You know, about a year ago I was fervently advocating Uru within Second Life, trying to get people interested enough to convert in some way and prove there are alternatives.

Recently, I’m beginning to re-think that strategy, and have held my tongue there (though continue to outwardly show that I’m clearly an Uru person).

From the rampant arguments among its residents and the ways that Linden Labs are not acting proactively enough, on what appears to be a sinking grid, this is *not* the masses that I want over in the Cavern.

The folks I know who would appreciate the wonder of that world are mostly people I’ve met there the past couple years, and have supported over that time. Now I want to help them emmigrate elsewhere – perhaps be able to get their creations integrated into an Age someplace within Uru Live.

Enter the libsecondlife open source project. They’re working on decoding the client/server protocol used by the system (with the support of the Linden Lab staff). As of yesterday I’ve been added to the project team; My contribution will likely be in the form of documentation more than coding – I understand a lot of the basics of what happens but don’t have the knowledge or time to work on the details therein.

One of its sub-projects is the ability to accurately export build data for use elsewhere (in particular they are exporting to an XML format that’s readable by a *Blender* offline build plugin). You can take the next logical step, and use the data from that Blender import to create optimized meshes for use within the PyPRP plugin used for Uru Age Building.

There are several challenges to this; A non-obvious one is a matter of scale since LL uses metric while Uru uses the English scales. The really big one is the fact that object packets are not yet fully understood, so an accurate export is not yet possible.

This is something I care enough about that I’m willing to sacrifice the time I’d use working on Uru modding (like the Pahts Shell) to assist in the project. Because one of my concerns is that I won’t be able to see my dreams of true emmigration be possible before the Second Life Grid collapses under its own weight.

Anyway, onward bound…

Pics Link

Meant to post this last week, but weekend was hellish (short form – I learned how Linden Lab felt when they lost their colo last year):

About 99% of that is Telador. Warning though, some are large, even after a reduction to JPG. That’s due to the screen size it was taken at mostly.

Anyway, still got to kick the video into gear, but for now I’m more inclined to bring up Blender and fiddle with my shell instead…

Edit – Oh, as for Second Life, I started fiddling with sailing agian. Registered a number and all. Will see how that turns out.