For the last 3 years I’ve been working in Systems Administration, specifically focusing on Cloud Infrastructure, and working directly with Development teams to try and make deploying websites as easy as possible.

I sometimes find it hard to describe what I do in a few words, suggesting that “I work in IT” doesn’t really leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. I’d rather string buzzwords together like “Cloud Infrastructure Architecture” than handle being compared to Roy from The IT Crowd, and accept the stereotypes that go with it.

That said, I do enjoy working in this part of IT. There is something very refreshing about walking into the office, knowing that the development team will have somehow invited a new problem for me to solve, and I don’t mean that sarcastically.

DevOps is becoming a rather popular, and interesting process. A lot of people struggle to define it, so I’m not going to do that here, but it does require a good mix of people working together to solve Web/App Development challenges. You need a good mix of Developer, QA and Designer types supported by Infrastructure and Security Engineers. Obviously people can wear more than one hat, as long as nobody tries to do everything.

For the indoctrinated already, I’m mainly using a mix of AWS services, specifically AWS Opsworks (Chef), RDS, Cloudfront with Vagrant and Jenkins for local tooling.

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Insomnia / Sponge

Since i49, I’ve now attended a number of Insomnia Gaming Festivals, returning as a staff member each time.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of people from Multiplay, but also with the event volunteers. I should have expected as much by now, but the community behind projects is often the most interesting part of the experience. Not to mention getting the chance to meet some really cool people from the Minecraft, Youtube, Twitch and Gaming communities.

I’m already booked to work the next iSeries event, but I’m also helping Multiplay out at the upcoming Minecon. This will be the first time I’ve worked behind the scenes at Minecon, and I’m sure it will be quite a different experience. I’m also assuming I’ll miss out on the cape this time around, as I wont need an attendee ticket to attend the event.

This event is looking to be an interesting one. Last Minecon, we had a stable modding and plugin platform which were seen as ‘semi-legal’, being that Mojang supported the projects and there were no legal challenges. Since then, we have had the DMCA drama with CraftBukkit, leaving Minecraft without a clear solution.

In this absence Sponge, and Spigot have picked up the mantle.

Spigot is running with a (legally interesting) solution based on Bukkit, which has allowed server owners to run almost all their old plugins on 1.8 compatible servers. This is quite a logical choice, with the absence of any other Bukkit compatible platform, being able to continue development in any form, is helping the server owners and helps people maintain interest in Minecraft.

Sponge on the other hand is a complete rewrite. The API is designed to be platform agnostic, but contain all the functionality that is expected of a modern API. When Bukkit was originally created Minecraft was in a different place, and that has meant to try and stay up to date the Bukkit API has evolved, but some design decisions simply couldn’t be modified this late in the game. Sponge is built on the idea that we take everything learned from Forge and Bukkit, and produce a single API which provides everything we need. The initial implementation is a forge mod, with a few other implementations on the cards. The real result of this is that if you create a Sponge plugin, the plugin will work: on Servers (modded and unmodded), on Single player, and on Open LAN games. We finally have a fully supported solution that will allow plugins and mods to live happily on the same platform with reduced barrier to entry. Future goals also include things like custom interfaces and API support for client side modding.

Currently Spigot has the most the server community supporting it, and Sponge has most of the development community. This however is mostly due to the fact Sponge is not quite ready to replace Bukkit, but this should change in the near future. Once Sponge is out, I think we’ll see a lot of interest from the server admin community, as this could lead to a lot more flexibility when it comes to game modes. Then the game is a battle of inertia.

A few people have questioned why I’ve not released an official release of Essentials thus far, and this is due to some legal advise I received early in the DMCA situation. I’m not blocking the development of Essentials for Spigot in any way, but not personally taking part at this time.

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Minecon #2

I guess I just don’t get around to posting on here very much.

It has been a year since the last Minecon, and it has been an interesting year. I was invited to be a speaker at Insomnia Gaming Festival 49 (i49), which was great fun. Got to meet a lot of awesome people, including HatFilms, Skydoesminecraft and BebopVox. I also got to meet some friends which I had missed at Minecon 2012.

After Insomnia my next event was Minecon 2013, this time in Florida, where I got to meet up with Andrewkm and Skylexia two of my good friends from Ecocitycraft. At the last moment got roped into running the Spigot booth, and even ended up doing a couple interviews.

One of the highlights to Minecon was the people who remembered me. I got to meet friends I made at i49. At one point before Minecon opened, Skydoesminecraft came running up and hugged me, followed shortly by Dinnerbone doing the same (although I might have coerced him a little into that one).

The whole experience, being a little bit of a celeb, was great fun. I signed a few autographs and posed for a few photographs. While I don’t think my public speaking at either event was great, it is improving, and should be much better the next time I’m up on stage.

Releasing this post, it’s been sitting as a draft for 6 months.

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The last blog post on here, was my first real post about Essentials. Essentials is a Minecraft server plugin, based on the Bukkit server mod. The purpose is to basically turn the basic vanilla server into a platform that can be used to host a online community. Without a plugin suite like Essentials, a player base of more than a handful can be painful to run. See my full post for a bit more information on this.

I’ve just recently came back from Minecon2012, an annual Minecraft convention, which this year was hosted at Disneyland Paris. Due to the expensive nature of Disneyland and the cost of the Minecon ticket itself I had initially expected to not be able to attend, but Andrewkm, the server owner of EcoCityCraft, offered to sponsor part of the costs of the visit and kindly paid for my ticket and room. Andrewkm, is one of the nicest members of the Bukkit community I’ve come across so far, and oft donates money to Essentials. Although inn exchange we generally address the bugs he reports a little faster than normal, but it’s just good business to keep the people who feed you happy.

Because Andrewkm offered to pay for the room, it turned out that all of the Essentials lead development team would be able to attend, so we decided to turn it into the first Essentials meetup as well. So for the first time, the lead developers got together in the same room. snowleo and ementalo are people who I’ve worked quite closely with now for over 20 months, but before Minecon2012 had the chance to meet.

Minecon in itself was rather interesting. While the highlight was probably meeting up with the EssTeam, I also got to meet various other people who I’ve spoken with on several occasions but never met. Some of the most notable being people from the Mojang and Spout team. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get the chance to meet the HatFilms guys in person (despite standing within 2 meters of the guys on more than one occasion, I did hear that pretty much every Minecraft server at Minecon was running our software.

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I briefly mentioned in a earlier post (Minecraft) the Essentials Bukkit server mod, for the game Minecraft.

The server plugin adds a basic set of admin/staff tools to a server, and can add a lot of easy to use tools for players at the same time. The idea behind Essentials, is that the core plugin provides a basic set of commands that cover the traditional and most common uses/problems on a Minecraft server. For example it allows you to ban a player who has gone offline by their last used IP address, or allows you to mute a player who is spamming chat.

At the moment, I’m one of the two lead developers on the project, and been an integral part of the team for over a year. I drifted into development by joining the support team, and then began to contribute bug fixes or minor changes that were brought up during support sessions. After a while, I ended up handling the brunt of most feature requests and bug reports, while running the IRC support channel.

I’ve really enjoyed my team working with the team, and had a hand in directing the development of both the code base and the community, although since I’ve taken a full time sysadmin position (to earn some real money) I’ve had far less time to donate to the project.

The Minecraft community in itself, is quite interesting. There are all sorts of overlapping characters, ranging from public figures to developers, all of which shape the community at it’s core. I’ve never been involved with such an active development community before, but for the most part loved the dynamic. Becoming the lead developer of such a (in?)famous plugin, has been interesting in itself. Since the plugin is seen as very mainstream, or even anticompetitive, it has been interesting to see conversation changes, as people work out who am I am. Continue reading

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For several years now, I’ve been using SVN to serve as a versioning system, and also for backup.

There are several folders on my hard drive which contain script and code which I would be rather upset if I lost. One of the ways I keep this code backed up is by linking it to a SVN hosted on my webserver. I figure the chances of my webserver and my PC both being erased at the same time is rather small. The advantages of using SVN make the platform beyond useful with tools such as diff for comparing two different versions of a script, or being able to revert to previous versions of code.
Continue reading

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