Where Insanity Thrives… Still

Well I’m sure at the title you are wondering what the hell is that, well muggles read on to find out.

Geocaching is a treasure hunt that anyone can join, all you need is a GPS, a map and some spare time. now your proberly thinking I don’t have maps or a GPS and that sounds expensive to get, but these are much more common than you think, if you have an iPhone or like me an android phone, you already have everything you need. to start hunting for treasure.

In this game you will be hunting for Geocaches, these in the simplest form are a container that has a log in it and usually a writing implement depending on the size (but ill get to that in a moment), these may also contain trade items, that when you discover the cache you can swap for another item of equal or higher value (not putting an item if you take one out in is considered very bad manners) or sometimes track-able items. these come in many varieties but the most common you will come across are Geocoins (a specially minted coin that has a unique tracking code on it to record its movements) and tracking bugs (these are a set of dog tags again with a unique code that can be attached to any item) that are given a mission to achieve by traveling from cache to cache, with its movements logged on each step of the journey

the best part of this is often the locations that you will find while hunting for these caches so its always to have a camera on your to capture your finds 🙂 so if you have the equipment why not give it a go, just go to the website linked at the start of this post and sign up or read more and you could start geocaching now.

Well its been far to long since I put an update on here so just a quick note that I recently bought an Android smart phone, and I must say I am very impressed with it.

I haze also started to tinker wtth the sdk for it and its wonderful easy to you so don’t be surprised I’d you see some little apps appearing on here soon.

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Well I have been neglecting this for far to long so I’m going to have another attempt to make this in to a serious  blog. based on some of the things that interests me, mainly PC’s and using them to play games.

After having stopped playing Wow I though I would share why I decided that this game wasn’t for me and how i think it could have been improved.

My main grip with this game is that it was a grind in every aspect of the word firstly you start out in content that has long since stopped being current in the way of the vanilla WoW content, and while this was a great set of content its now sparsely populated on most servers making ti hard to do group quests with most people just attempting to get past as fast as they can, hardly worth the effort to support at all, and to top this off if you have picked a PvP server (hence forth called a gank server) you also have to deal with people that have nothing better to  do then bring there max level, highly geared toon’s through and 1 shot you while you attempt to reach your goal, in part this was improved with the random dungeon finder tool that blizzard has introduced that allows you to pull a group together across several servers making you able to atleast see this content if your a new player… all be it as the group your with attempts to set a world speed record as they run through it. As you move on to out lands, and north rend the pace picks up a little but its still a long, pointless grind to get to the level cap, and they intend to make this longer with the next expansion!

once i had finished this grind i was thinking to my self “Yay I made it time to get in and experience everything i have been told so much about” so i pull up the local trade chat to find it full or people spamming for people for raid groups, looked good for a few minutes… till i realized that no one was doing the basic level content once you reach the cap, and ignoring anyone who did not have current raid level gear… this was disappointing and in 2 months at the level cap I never even attempted one of the lv 80 raids and only did a few off bosses in another, and they were rushed. and i was forced to go back to grinding to get the gear to enter the current level of content.

Again after this next grind I thought “Now i can get in and do something”… Wrong! with out the experience of already having done the content no one would look at me for there groups, this community really does need some work, but thats not the worst part of the game. nor what I wanted to talk about in this blog. after 2 long grinds i got to the content and with some help from friends managed to meet the communities insane requirements to get into a group, only to find the current content (ICC at the time of writing) was impossible for the average player (even one who plays far more then they should like myself.) to be able to experience this content and best it with the balancing that Blizzard has given it.

I believe that this was a major mistake that blizzard has been making when creating content, as it currently stands there are 4 levels of difficulty in the current raids (10 man normal, 25 man normal, 10 man heroic, and 25 man heroic) and like any other game I would buy I would expect that at the lowest difficulty any body should be able to complete all the content to at least say they have done it, while harder difficulty’s are left to the more hardcore of gamers that want to prove something more.

the other problem i see with wow is its lack of other content for high level players, after reaching the cap there is no non-combat options for a player to pursue, even crafting will require the player to go in to raids to allow them to create the high level items, and these are much worse then the content that you have to do to create them. and PvP from my experience is something anyone can achieve, via battle grounds, and Wintergrasp so there is no high level content here and wow toon setups don’t allow for a metagame as each class/spec combo can only do one thing.

so in conclusion the best thing Blizzard could do if they want to keep WoW as the top of the bunch of MMO’s out there would be to add more endgame options for the players out there, and re-balance the difficulty of the raids to allow everyone to experience the content while still providing a challenge for the top tier of players at the high end of the difficulty scale.

well i have let this get a bit neglected over the last couple of months with things happening at home but there hasn’t been many exciting things happen to be honest.

until last week anyway when my wonderful laptop decided it had had enough the died on me leaving me with no PC. so it was time to do some shopping and try to build a computer on a very limited budget that was capable of playing most games, and and upgrade to Win 7 was defiantly in order. and after much searching i ended up going with the following system

AMD athalon x2 255 (3.1ghz)
Asus M4A77TD motherboard
4gb Kingston DDR3 ram
250gb seagate HDD
ECS 1gb nvidia GT240
Acer 23″ LCD monitor

with case power supply and win 7 and so far its been very impressive being able to run the games i have been playing at 1920 x 1080 res fine, particularly for the budget it was build on also allowing a lot of room for upgrades in the future.

In other news I have been doing a bit of game hopping lately after trying WoW (yes I sank that low) I have since started to give Eve online a go and so far I’m finding it much more impressive then wow. with the real time training of your skills and the low requirements to be able to become competitive its easy o get stuck in the the meat of the game after only a few days and while there are some minor grind points to get further in to the game these are in now way required to be successful at any branch of the game. and lastly one my personal favorite points of the game is that your are not stuck to any branch of the game on your character, give enough time you can cover all areas of the game with minimal training or specialize in to a specific area to improve your ability there.

on the home front we have been spending some time starting to get the house ready for when bub arrives.

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Its amazing how something so small can have such a huge impact on your life, and now one of theose tiny things is happening in our family with a new addion on the way in october.

for those of you who we haven’t already told Sally and I are expecting a baby in october and already this has begun to cause changes in our lives starting to get the house ready for the bub’s arrival. so things have been a little chaotic as we get use to the idea of being parent’s and make our house ready for bubs arrival, hence the lack of updates that I had planned continuing on the set of posts explaining how I set the site up on my new VPS’s.

would love to keep chatting but i have to get back to getting orginised for the new job and going back to shift work.

With my previous post regarding setting up a web server another item that should be on your agender if your setting up this sort of software would be an authoritive name server to serve out your DNS records for the domains you plan on serving out.

unfortunatly in my browsing i have been unable to find as nice a solution as I did for nginx to serve out a large number of domains. but what i did find was a dns server called maraDNS, the little cousin to BIND. This allows me to run an authoritative name server using less then 200kB of RAM!

# The address this DNS server runs on.  If you want to bind
# to all addresses a given machine has, use "".
bind_address = ", 111.222.333.444"
# The directory with all of the zone files
chroot_dir = "/etc/maradns"
# The numeric UID MaraDNS will run as
maradns_uid = 105
# The (optional) numeric GID MaraDNS will run as
maradns_gid = 109
# The maximum number of threads (or processes, with the zone server)
# MaraDNS is allowed to run
maxprocs = 96
# we are the authority on all under here!
csv2 = {}
csv2[""]       =  ""

by any stretch this config file is very simple binding the server to (to allow the use of the Askmara tool to check configuration) ONE of the servers external IP addresses and lastly we give a list of the domain that mara will serve for us.

there is only one peice of magic i have found with mara and that is in th zone config files that i have written like the following:

#give authority information
Issuing NS           | Contact email              | Serial No | Refresh [1h] | retry [10m] | expire [1d] | min ttl [1h]
% soa            1            3600           600           86400         3600
% ns
% ns
#main web ip
% a
ftp.% cname %
www.% cname %
#mail server
% mx 0 mail.%
mail.% a

This allows this zone file to be used for ANY domain the server will send out using these basic records so you only need to make a unique file if you have unique dns entry’s (extra subdomains etc) this is able to be done since maraDNS parses % as the zone being served set in the main config file.

and that’s all I really have to say on that count. Again another peice of software helping to bring you this page explained.

Well so as not to leave this to long I thought I would start with how I went about setting up Nginx (the software that is serving you this page)

My configuration is designed to allow me to easily add extra domains on as virtual hosts without having to change the server config files. while also giving me the flexibility to add new services on other ports (like web mail) with a minimum of fuss.

I won’t go in to the specifics of installing Nginx as im sure you will find that on a million other blog posts or your chosen distribution’s documentation.

after installing and checking that Nginx will serve web pages the first step is to make a few changes to the way that Nginx handles files, particularly if you want to serve PHP files with it.

so lets take a look at my nginx.conf file:

user www-data;
worker_processes  1;
error_log  /var/log/nginx/error.log;
pid        /var/run/;
events {
    worker_connections  1024;
http {
    include       /etc/nginx/mime.types;
    default_type  application/octet-stream;
    access_log  /var/log/nginx/access.log;
    sendfile        on;
    keepalive_timeout  65;
    tcp_nodelay        on;
    gzip  off;
    server_name_in_redirect off;
    include /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.conf;
    server {
        listen 80;
        server_name _;
        root /var/www/$host/html/;

        allow all;
        location / {
            index index.php index.html index.htm;
        location ~* ^.+.(jpg|jpeg|gif|css|png|js|ico|html|htm)$ {
            access_log off;
            expires 30d;
        location ~ .php$ {
            fastcgi_index index.php;
            include fastcgi_params;
       location ~ /\.ht {
           deny  all;

    include /etc/nginx/ports/*.conf;

As you can see I am only starting 1 worker process, meaning only one page will be served at a time, this is fine for a small traffic site, but if it starts to get more traffic then I would need to increase this number to improve the response time of the server. we then set the server wide defaults, with the error log file and how many connections the worker will take before it refreshes.

Then we go in to the magic section of the file that allows all our virtual hosts to work.

This server directive listens on port 80 and will accept connections with any server name (i.e. domain name) it will then set the root directory to a directory specified by the host name that is sent with the request so for this site it is set to /var/www/ we then give the index files, in this case html files and php files, and lastly the location directives, working from last to first (the way the priority for NginX works, .htaccess files are not allowed to be viewed over this connections, php files are parsed by extension (I’m yet to find a better way to do this) to the fastCGI server listening on port 9000 and all its parameters are set in the fastcfi_params file (this file will be explained in a later post) then all static files (images and html files) are sent directly and not logged in the access log.

Then once that default port 80 server is define we include all files in the ports directory that i created where i have a set of config files that define the different applications that run on other ports (web mail etc)

This config allows me to add a new domain by simply pointing its DNS records to the server and creating a directory in /var/www/ to hold its web files, I don’t have to restart NginX, change config files etc. making it quite useful in a number of situations including if you wanted to host a number of other domains that arnt yours (say your a hosting company) and a huge advantage over apache it only uses less than 2Mb of memory per worker process, and this does NOT grow depending on how much traffic you are getting, so start your server, check your memory usage, and you know that it will sit at that level and not drop into paging hell should you, or another site on the server be luck enough to experience the /. effect.

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Well its been far to long since I put something on here… mainly due to a lot of other things being worked on in the background.

After coming back and getting out of the routine of being at sea and having a whole house to look after again. It’s been nice to settle down for Christmas and spend some time with family.

But more importantly it has let me do some more work on doing a few changes to this site (that you haven’t seen), after a bit of Google searching i came across lowendbox and was reading not only about cheap deals on servers but also on how much a very small server could run, and after my own previous experiments with a Pentium 233mhz computer with 32mbs of ram I thought it would be interesting to see what I could do in a memory limited environment with this site and all the things I want to swing off it.

The result was the current location of my website, no longer hosted in Melbourne but the USA, on a 128mb RAM Xen VPS from quickweb that I got on special for half price, making it an even better deal 🙂

So after a couple of weeks of tweaking i have got it all setup and running with almost everything i wanted out of the servers with only 100MB of RAM used under load (not much load but what this site produces) after a few changes in the software stack (mainly removing Apache in favor of Nginx) and some configuration changes (particularly MySql) to help lower the memory foot print. to keep it from swapping constantly i have a full fledged web server with php and mysql, mail server and SVN server running so far. next stop the DNS cluster to move away from Cpanel hosting entirely.

now i must say that if you are looking to host a largish site or many sites looking in to a small VPS is defiantly a consideration you should think of, most hosts have images will all the software already installed to host your site (unless you go for something out of the ordinary) and they can handle a surprising ly large amount of traffic easily, and not to mention Google will help you solve most of your hosting problems on there.

My next project will be a small lightweight control panel to help administer this beast 🙂 (hence the SVN server)

So I should be posting some more on here as I get that up and running with how I have been getting it all to work, and small howto’s on getting your own full featured webserver running on a cheap VPS.

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Well i have finally finished uploading all of my photos from the trip for you to have a look at.

They can all be seen in the link at the top of the page, i wont link to it here as there was about 6 gallery that i have added to there 🙂

Time to start on something new to put on here 🙂

Mass Photos for you… Sunset over the Atlantic, and some pictures form a replenishment with a English tanker. Plymouth and London.

In Addition i have added a link at the top of the page to make it easier to access all the galleries.

Hope you enjoy

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