Category Archives: Minecraft

Mineserver – A Minecraft Hardware Solution

Having fled from the impending demise of NetherByte… which was still up and running the last I checked… and its “$22.50 for six months” pricing to find refuge at MCPro Hosting, which has a better reputation, but charges about that much a month if you add on the ability to do server backups, and for less RAM, the whole “buy or rent” question has surfaced in my head again.

At what point is it worth just buying some hardware and hosting the server myself?  Visions of Intel NUC boxes float through my head, but the cost even at that end puts the return on the investment a bit too far out in the future.  If I could just put together something that would handle our group, wasn’t a complete pain in the ass to manage, and had a ROI point of about 12 months, I would be very interested.

On to this fertile mental pasture… and remember, fertilizer is traditionally most shit… lands a post about the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign.

Mineserver, according to the campaign, is a hardware and software package that gives you a headless server that you can plug into your network, administer through a web interface, can be made accessible/discoverable outside your network (so your friends can play), and even has an Android/iOS admin app that allows parents to control access from their ever present phones and tablets.

For this, the three primaries in this operation Channing, Cole, and Fallon (ages 13, 11, and 9 if I have the names in the right order) want only $99 for a Mineserver capable of hosting 20 player, or $199 for a Mineserver Pro, which is billed as being able to host 50 players and still keep its cool.  Less if you order early.

Pull the other one, right?

The tale is more plausible when you bring their father into the picture, Mark Stephens, more commonly known as Robert X. Cringely.  A long time staple of Silicon Valley, his column in InfoWorld was a must-read though his primary claim to fame is his book Accidental Empires, a history of Silicon Valley and the early tech industry, very much a must read in my cranky old opinion (along with Rick Chapman’s In Search of Stupidity, which fills in some of the missing lore), which was turned into the PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds.  His blog, I, Cringely, is a regular read of mine and is linked somewhere down in my blogroll.

Anyway, Cringely and his tech connections and knowledge and backing of the whole venture makes everything more plausible.  The kids have clearly had access to the right sources and mentoring from the right people in order to put this sort of project together.  This gives the project credibility.

Still, I look at it and I have a few doubts.  In this sort of venture it seems to me a good plan to emphasize your strengths and obscure your weaknesses.

The strengths they are running with are cost, ease of administration via their custom software, security and safety for your kids, and server speed.

However, on speed, they are focused almost entirely network speed because the Mineserver will be plugged into your local router. (Though there is a WiFi option for people who want the box to sit somewhere else.)  That is a speed boost for people in your house, maybe not so much for anybody remote.

Things they have not brought into the picture include any details about the admin software, the discoverability aspect, the Linux distro, the Minecraft server version, the long term viability when it comes to updates and support for ongoing Minecraft development, and most important to me, any hardware specs whatsoever.

The last to me is doubly vexing.  First, as I have learned fairly quickly that, at least for hosting services, saying a config will support X players is often hopelessly optimistic.  I refer back to MCPro Hosting where, during their setup I told them I wanted to be able to host 20 players for vanilla Minecraft and they immediately recommended a 30 player option where we are constantly at edge of processor and RAM usage with four players in-game.  So when they say a Mineserver can accommodate 20 players, whose measure are they using?

Second, hardware isn’t something this project should be competing on, yet when asked point blank about specs, Cringley has declined to answer because he says he doesn’t want to project to be reverse engineered. (Comment on his blog post.)  But the secret sauce on this burger is the software, the stuff that they clearly see as the strong part of their pitch.  Hardware is a commodity and ought to warrant two lines at the bottom of the page with basic specs simple to prove that the platform has the moxie to do what they say it does.  Doubly so because whenever I show the Kickstarter to anybody in tech, the first question they ask when they see the hardware is, “Oh, is that run on a Raspberry Pi?”

Screen grab from the project video

Screen grab from the project video

I hope it isn’t a Raspberry Pi, or if it is, that they have been able to really optimize their software as I am not sure that would run anything beyond 10 players very well.  Also, Raspberry Pi as a server has been tried and talked about before.

Still, the doubts I express might just be mine.  As somebody who works in enterprise software and frets about such details professionally, I tend to have a skewed outlook.  For somebody who wants a home server this may very well be an ideal solution.

The project itself looks like a slam dunk to fund.  They opted for just a three week campaign and here, a couple days in they are just inches from their funding goal of $15,000.  (The joy of having a father people listen to, something my daughter will never experience.)  That will get them cases to kick off production, as everything else is reported to be done, so that they can start shipping out units before Christmas.  That would have to be some sort of short turn-around record for a Kickstarter project more complicated than potato salad.

It looks cool, sounds cool, and I want to believe, all the more so because of the enthusiasm of the kids in their project video.

What do you think?  Worth a go or not?  Certainly something I will keep my eye on.

Mineserver Kickstarter page

I also wonder what the guy who did the Mineserver software distro thinks about the project.  So few good names to choose from.

Addendum: The project passed its goal somewhere between when I wrote this and when it posted, so congratulations to the team.  Now where will thing go with stretch goals and such?  I hope they stay focused where ever they head.

September in Review

The Site

Well, one thing I never quite got around to doing this month was some sort of final, post-Blaugust wrap up.  Of course, Belghast has already summed the whole thing up, listed everybody out, and handed out awards.  I got the right to display this logo.

Made it all the way, second year running

Made it all the way, second year running

I was also going to collect up and link to everybody else’s summary to merge it all into some sort of mega meta summary or some such… and then my wife said it was time for dinner and I forgot about the whole thing until I found it in my Drafts folder yesterday along with something I was writing for the NBI… back in 2014 judging from the date… and that idea I had for picking the most negatively influential games I have played.  Anyway, these are the links I collected before I got distracted:

Maybe next year I will remember to finish what I started.

One Year Ago

Blizzard said no to its Titan project.

ArcheAge went live, was overwhelmed, and pissed off some people.  But everybody is happy now, right?

Destiny also launched and though I went nowhere near that, I was interested in Bungie’s seven design point.

Project: Gorgon was coming to the end of its second Kickstarter campaign and it clearly wasn’t going to make it.  On the other hand Defense Grid 2 was headed for release even though Hidden Path didn’t make all of their Kickstarter stretch goals.

Also on the developer front, Notch sold Minecraft to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars.  Since then sales have gone past the 20 million copies mark, which I am sure Michael Pachter thinks is nothing.

Rift was set to join the insta-levels club as part of their Nightmare Tide expansion announcement.

EVE Online had the Oceanus release.  We all remember that, right? Parlez-vous français?

Meanwhile the Lords of Null Sec put our their Null Deal proposal.  In actual space, we left Delve yet again to come home and clean up Deklein. We were out numbered at one point, but we ended up with a nice op at the end of the month.

As part of my Pokemon binge I finished up Pokemon White Version 2.  I still think that is a horrible name, but it was a good entry in the Pokemon RPG series.

In World of Warcraft I managed to get the Brewfest Kodo.  However, my Loremaster project started to fall apart in the Blade’s Edge mountains.  Well, we had more details about Warlords of Draenor to fuss over.

The strategy group was putting on a shameful display in Total War: Rome II.

I was wondering how long you had to be away before an MMO changed so much it became like a foreign country.

For the blog itself, I was on to the third iteration of my sidebar feed and it had been eight years since I started blogging.  And finally there was a review of the first Blaugust.

Five Years Ago

Well, there was that whole four year anniversary thing.

Planet Michael, the Michael Jackson virtual world, was announced.  How is that coming along?

The whole David Allen, Derek Smart, Quest Online public blame and shame fest ended when Quest Online gave David Allen some money and he went away.  Derek Smart could not help but throw in a couple final comments.  Good thing he’s been quiet since then… *cough*

CCP was talking about Public Fleets and such that were planned for their Incursions expansion.  That got delayed long enough for me to get tired of waiting.  Still, it was better than Incarna.

More interesting was a guide to suicide ganking in EVE Online put up by TooNuRacoon.

Meanwhile, I was kicking off my EVE Online screen shot contest.  All of the entries are now posted on my other site.

I tried turning an old joke into an MMO joke.  Some people got it.  Some did not.  Some got angry, because this is the internet and that is what people do on the internet.

I looked at cloaks in MMOs, and how little they resemble what we would call a cloak in the real world.

In World of Warcraft I finally got that Brewmaster achievement.

Lord of the Rings Online flipped the switch and went free to play.  We were truly among the free (to play) peoples Middle-earth then.  There were some issues with Turbine Points, though I did get my 5,000 point pay-off.

The instance group was still summering in Middle-earth.  The group was finally into the meat of the Lone Lands.  We also tried some skirmishes and talked about Anderson Cooper.

In LOTRO I also ran into somebody who was looking for a social environment similar to old EverQuest.  I wonder if he ended up on Fippy Darkpaw which, for a short time, had all the best aspects of early EverQuest.

New Linking Blogs

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. LOTRO and the Great Server Merge
  2. When is WoW Legion?
  3. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  4. EverQuest Expansion Plans and Progression Server Polls
  5. Once Upon a Lifetime Subscription…
  6. EverQuest Next Five Years Down the Road
  7. Flying Comes to Draenor
  8. Nine is a Magic Number
  9. GuildWars 2 and What Free Really Means
  10. Minecraft – Our World
  11. The Demise of NetherByte and the Portability of Worlds
  12. The Unusual Scent of Victory in Period Basis

Search Terms of the Month

i am getting adventurous dreams after wearing emerald
[You go… um… girl?]

pokemon x shot 3ds nintendo tea
[I like some Nintendo tea in the morning]

rerolled killed pantheon
[Not yet]

an ancient raft
[Like this one? I think that is an ArcheAge screen shot.]

эверквест Интор
[The EverQuest II Russian server lives I guess]

Diablo III

I spent some time playing this, far more time than I spent playing EQII, so swapped this in for the other on the side bar list of games I am playing.  It is fun, immersive, and I remain impressed with how good it looks every time I play.  It just isn’t a game that sparks much blogging interest in me.  Weeee, I followed the same linear path as everybody else and got some interesting somewhat randomized loot.

EVE Online

Just enough happened in New Eden to make me feel like I did something without me burning a lot of hours in the game.  A short deployment, a couple of fun roams, a couple of homeland defense ops, and here we are done with the month.  It wasn’t as interesting as a good war, but it was enjoyable.

EverQuest II

Post-cataclysmic Norrath fell off the end of the list.  I can only really play three ongoing video games at a time, and as noted above, Diablo III bumped EQII into the oblivion of fourth place.  A pity, as I was enjoying a bit of nostalgia on the Stormhold server… just not enough to actually play I guess.  Time to cancel that subscription.


Again this month, the game that eats up most of my gaming free time is Minecraft.  The game is definitely better with a few people playing in the world, so I am glad we have a hosted server so that the five regulars can play.  But with the bump in price due to changing hosts, I have again started thinking about the whole renting vs. owning calculation.  Expect a post again about that I suppose.

Coming Up

It is October and suddenly the end of the year looms as we rush towards Halloween and the blur of the holiday season that will inevitably spit us out at the far end in the bleak landscape of January.

And so much is coming up.  Daybreak is supposed to spill the beans on the EQ and EQII expansions… well, tomorrow… with an official reveal.  The GW2 expansion Heart of Thorns is coming out later this month.  SWTOR and UItima Online also have expansions slated for this month.  People will be passing judgement on the WildStar free to play conversion.  There is EVE Vegas, which signs indicate I may very well attend, and the reveals that CCP will have there.  And then there will be the run up to BlizzCon.  While that is actually in the first week of November, I am sure people will begin to speculate about what we might see there.

Which is all good because, as noted, I am not at all inspired to write about Diablo III, no matter how enjoyable it is, EVE Online content can rarely be predicted in advance, and I am not sure I have a lot to say about Minecraft at the moment besides server logistics and how I built yet another crude structure or fell off of some high place yet again.

So time to start thinking about the inevitable “hopes and expectations” post about BlizzCon I guess.  It is either that or take up the offer I got in email earlier to go review Aeria Games’ upcoming title Dragomon Hunter…. which would mean trying yet again to fit four games into a three game time budget.  Oh well,  I am going to bet that somebody Massively OP has that game covered already.

The Barad-dûr in Minecraft – First Attempt

I had an idea.  After digging those long tunnels in the roof of the nether I was looking for something to do with all of that netherrack that was piling up.  So I started refining it into nether brick, which gave me a decent supply of dark building material to work with.

What better plan than to use all that dark material to try and recreate the dark tower of Sauron, the Barad-dûr.

I went for a somewhat modest first try.  While I had a lot of netherrack, the supply wasn’t infinite, and I was leery of building too far up both because I tend to fall off of things and because once something is above the cloud line, it tends to get obscured at night.

So I ended up with this.

A dark-ish tower

A dark-ish tower below the cloud line

My brilliant plan was to make the eye at the top a portal.  That seemed a bit easier than trying to work with lava, as I had originally intended.  I had seen various screen shots of rounded portals.  However, that is not yet a feature of the game, meaning portals still have to be rectangles.  So I ended up with more of Sauron’s Jumbotron as opposed to his eye.

The original tower was all in dark nether brick.  But then I decided it needed something to spice it up.  With some colored clay from the mesa biome I put together a lidless eye of sorts.

Sauron has a sanpaku eye...

Sauron has a sanpaku eye…

All of which would be innocuous enough, except that I chose to build this monstrosity just within the view range of Xydd’s castle. (Complete with road from my own complex.)

Xydd's castle and the tower from a map render

Xydd’s castle and the tower from a map render

So now when he looks to the north, the north looks back at him… or some such.  That top screen shot is the view from the top of his mountain.

Also, Xydd looks to be building some sort of parking garage on the far side of his castle.  The tower might not be the biggest eyesore soon.

So Close to Taming an Ocelot…

After several expeditions into the nearby jungle biome, I finally ran across an ocelot in one of the clearings I had made on previous trips.  It wasn’t even a single ocelot, but an ocelot with two kits.  My quest to tame one seemed to be close to success.  I crouched, put a fish in my hand, and approached.

The ocelot family was attracted and came over to be fed.

The ocelot family, ready to be tamed

The ocelot family, ready to be tamed

It was only then that I noticed that I had forgotten to grab that stack of fish I had set aside for this venture and had only three fish available.  Three attempts to tame the ocelots.  And they all failed.

Once the last fish was gone they sprinted off into the jungle.

The hunt continues.

Into the Roof of the Nether

I went down into the nether earlier this week only to be confronted with a grand new structure there.  Amongst our various portal protecting block houses there was a tower that seemed to stretch to the very top of the nether, decorated with lava no less.

Lava tower in the nether

Lava tower in the nether

Of course, I immediately had to go investigate, climbing up and down the ladder that went up the center of the lava spire.

It was mesmerizing to travel through...

It was mesmerizing to travel through…

A hell of a structure, and I had little doubt that Aaron was behind it.  Like all of us, he has a building style of his own.  While Skronk is decorative, Xyd is grandiose, and I am… erm… somewhat primitive in my style… okay, my stuff tends to look like a 4 year old’s LEGO project, but I’m working on it… Aaron has a flair for both monumental scale and efficiency.  Just look at his farm.

Nobody tell PETA please...

Nobody tell PETA please…

Sure enough, the next time he logged on I mentioned it and he said it was his, and that it was central to a plan he had come up with.

Rather than all this mucking about on the floor of the nether, building roads through walls and over seas of lava while under constant attack from ghasts… along with the lurking threat of the zombie pigmen… we should just go up to the top of the nether, burrow into the netherrack up there, and then dig tunnels through that to wherever we wanted to go.

Having faced some of that peril in the past, I was good with the idea.  And so began the excavation at the top of the nether.  Aaron started out with a plan to dig to the location where he could link up with the portal he had previously put up the mushroom island he found during his explorations the previous week, while I decided to head off in the direction of the mesa biome.

Digging northwards from the top of the lava tower, which was at level 108, it quickly became clear to me that we were not quite high enough.  I ran out of “floor” after a short distance, so started filling in with cobblestone, back filling way up over a lake of lava on the nether floor below.

It doesn’t matter how far you fall if you’re falling into lava I suppose… but I still wasn’t going to lift a hand off the keyboard to screen shot that view.

After running down my supply of cobblestone, I decided it might be better just to go up a little higher, so I stair-stepped myself up to level 118 and carried on.  That turned out to be just about ideal.  I had more than 600 blocks to mine to get to the right coordinates, but never once broke through the floor to a long fall at that level.

I also seems to be pretty much immune to my one dread tunneling in the nether, the random pockets of lava.  Grinding through netherrack with an iron pick is fast work, but you have to be wary lest some of that fast moving nether lava suddenly start pouring out into your dig.  I only hit one such pocket the whole way across.

Aaron reported similar success as he dug towards his goal, though later on, when he started on the dig to the ice spike biome, he was beset with lava pockets and died repeatedly until he managed to get past what must have been a pretty thick mass of lava there in the roof.

I managed to get all the way to the right coordinates, at which point I dug out a decent sized pocket in order to house the portal, a chest for supplies, and to have some room for a rail stop.  The grand design wasn’t just to have paths, but to build a series of mine cart tracks up there to speed through the nether.

Having finished the basic tunnel, I walked back to the top of the lava tower, prettied things up a bit, and put up a sign.

Mesa biome, this way

Mesa biome, this way

Of course, it wasn’t quite ready yet.  I had to get back down to the bottom of the tower and then walk all the way to the portal I had previously built down on the nether floor, take apart that portal, get back up to the new location, rebuild it there and then light it up.

I also did the same for another portal to the north, just to get them all on the same axis.

Then it was time to use up all my iron building tracks.  I always worry about not having enough gold for the powered segments of the track, but with the ration of iron to gold track segments being 30 to 1, iron gets used up a lot more quickly.

I started laying track.  Ran out.  Made more track.  Ran out.  Made even more track.  Ran out.  Mined for some more iron and made a bit more track.  Ran out.  Went and scrounged through chests I had scattered about three bases and several outposts, found I had a lot more iron squirreled away than I though, used that to make more track, and actually got to the end with about a stack of rails left in my possession.

Something to start the next rail line.

So we now had a significantly quicker way to get to the mesa biome to collect colored clay.

Mesa biome rail terminus

Mesa biome rail terminus/launcher

I think the most immediate beneficiary of this new travel route was Skonk and Enaldi, who used the new access to harvest up supplies for their growing base being built in something of an Italian Renaissance style.

Colorful shops on the end of the piazza

Colorful shops on the end of the piazza

I am definitely stealing some of their ideas.

Anyway, the first rail connection has been setup and there are tunnels to two others.  Now somebody just have to collect enough iron again to roll out the next set of track.  Meanwhile, the lava tower stands in the middle of our efforts in the nether.

The lava tower, another view

The lava tower, another view


The Demise of NetherByte and the Portability of Worlds

On the bright side, with the previous bit of unpleasantness with NetherByte still relatively fresh in my brain, I had already started thinking about swapping Minecraft hosting services.

I was not, however, sure I would have to do it so soon.  And then a reader posted a link to an update about NetherByte that brought things to a head.  The announcement said:

Dear whomever this may concern,

NetherByte will be shutting down due to an unexpected issue with our CEO. Unfortunately there is no capability of continuing business.

Services will gradually shut down within the next 2-4 weeks and will not return.

If you have any concerns or queries please raise a ticket at

Our TOS at may help answer any questions, please read before contacting us.

– NetherByte team.

Well, that escalated quickly.  My immense thanks go out to Onwuka for bringing this to my attention! (And if you chose NetherByte as a hosting based on my post, I do apologize profusely!)

You see, NetherByte wasn’t sending this out to their customers.  I certainly didn’t get this statement in email.  No, this is apparently their current response to any support tickets being opened up.

Basically, if you were a happy customer experiencing no problems, you wouldn’t have known a thing until NetherByte shut down and you lost all of your data.  This is not the behavior of a business in trouble, this is the behavior of assholes.

I won’t bother linking to the statement in the post  (though it is in Onwuka’s comment if you must see it first hand) as I suspect that link will be dead soon enough.

Meanwhile, the terms of service document to which the statement links has the following “get out of responsibility free” statement:

We reserve all rights to terminate your service upon any violation of these terms of service or for any other base if deemed needed and appropriate by us. Termination of your server before the end of your billing period does not qualify you to any kind of refund.

Screw you, but all official-like!  Six month hosting plan purchased in July, gone before October.

And, as an additional kick in the nuts, there is no date on the “we’re going out of business” statement.  So the whole thing is going down 2-4 weeks from when?

It was time to get the hell out of Dodge.

So I got on the server and kicked everybody off… well, Aaron offered to log off after I gave him the situation… brought the server down and backed everything up to my local drive.

Then, as that was copying, it was time to figure out where to jump.

I went back to the providers I had looked at when I first went the hosted server route and decided, after looking through them, that I was going to take the opposite approach.  I ended up with NetherByte because I went for the absolute cheapest solution available.  That was fine for a trial run and I learned quite a bit.  This time around I would go with a premium service.

The first thought was Minecraft Realms, the official Mojang (now Microsoft) hosting service.  The problem there is that their services are very limited. (And, also, Microsoft.)

So I went back to the list and decided to go with the service I highlighted in that post, MCPro Hosting.

MCPrologo-fullThey host a lot of big realms, their press is good, and the main complaint I have seen is just value for the money compared to budget hosting services.  So I went through their setup, told them what I wanted to run… vanilla Minecraft with a maximum of 20 players which, given that we have 5 active, 4 semi-active, and a couple potential players, seemed about right…  and let them pick the hosting plan for me.  Like Santa, they chose to give me coal.

Coal is what you get!

Coal is what you get!

We were running with 2GB at NetherByte, but that was on the assumption that would want to run some mods and such.  Knowing we are going to stick with vanilla Minecraft for the time being, going with less RAM seems okay.  Only my daughter is agitating for mods at this point.

Now we’re into monthly MMO subscription territory… as opposed to $22.50 for six months with NetherByte… but given that I haven’t been playing WoW for a bit, that is probably a fair price.  The server gets a lot of use.

So I click the button and committed to six months with MCPro Hosting… there was a price discount… and received the confirmation email right away.

Then it was time to get things setup.

I logged in and went to the hosting control panel… MCPro uses Multicraft for that, like everybody else… started a world so it would lay down all the files, then stopped it.  I then got the FTP credentials, logged in with WinSCP and renamed the key files and directories, the copied over the files and directories related to our world.

The copying of files was the longest part of the whole process.

Once that was done, I started up the server and logged in.

Everything seemed to be okay.  I went to the nether… all of our nether work had gone missing when I tried to restore our server after NetherByte wiped our partition… and that seemed to be fine as well.  All the usual structures were in place.

Some nether forts

Some of our nether infrastructure…

I sent out the new server address and got Skronk and Aaron to log on and look around.  Everything seemed fine.

So there we are.  We went back to work on things in the world, leaving NetherByte behind.

Now there is the question of what to do with the old server for the time it has left.  I thought about removing the whitelist restriction and posting the address here to let people have at it, but something about that seems wrong. (Though if you’re dying to see it, I could still hook you up I suppose, if you drop me an email.)  I might just let my daughter experiment with mods on it for a while and see what becomes of the world.   But for the moment it is down just to keep us from accidentally logging onto the wrong server and freaking out that something has gone missing.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of things I have to contend with.

I am going to try to simply ignore the fact that the control panel at MCPro says that we are using 100% of our memory allocation no matter what is going on.

One player shouldn't spike memory, right?

One player shouldn’t spike memory, right?

The IT person in the back of my brain is convinced that once you get beyond 50% of capacity you have to start planning to expand.  My gut response is to upgrade to 2GB RIGHT NOW… because that was what we had at NetherByte and I never saw the meter hit 100%.

However, we’re only a day into this, performance with three of us online together seemed fine, so I am just going to take a deep breath and leave it be unless we find that there is an issue.  I can upgrade at any time or swap over to Spigot, which as I noted previously, is supposed to be better at memory management.

I also suspect that the display is incorrect… or that I am not an expert on how the Minecraft server allocates memory… or both.  I am also leery of how much CPU we see to be using.  Sometimes I just shouldn’t be allowed to see these sorts of things.  I will only make changes if we seem to be running into performance issues.

I am also a little annoyed about the server backup scheme at MC Pro.

NetherByte didn’t do anything special on that front.  They let you use the Multicraft control panel scheduled tasks option to do a scheduled server backup if you wanted.  That would put everything in a .zip archive for you, which is handy if you want to download it regularly… and I was doing that.  They would only let you have three .zip archives on the server, but that was enough.

MCPro appears to have disabled that functionality in Multicraft.  I tried to setup up and it gets disabled when it tried to run.

Instead, MCPro has their own backup scheme and gives you 1GB of space for backups.  However, our world is already 522MB when compressed into a .zip archive, so I had to buy more space in order to have more than a single backup.

A further annoyance, is that the backup process is not automated, I have to go and press a button rather than having it run while we’re all logged off and asleep.   And I cannot access those backups directly.  So I cannot just have a script setup to download the latest backup to my local drive, which I find mildly annoying.

But I am going to try and take a deep breath and not worry too much about these things for now.  If we have problems, other hosts are available and I can always just copy the world uncompressed if required.

This, as I have said before, is why I don’t self-host the blog.  I would get wrapped up in the details of hosting rather than spewing out text on a daily basis.  (And still I find things to complain about on that front!)

Addendum: Actually, it looks like there is a way to .zip up everything and download it, but it isn’t automated and you have to use the web FTP client to do it.  Still not happy about that.

Minecraft and a New Age of Exploration

Last week I put up snapshot of the rendered map of our world in a post to show how much… or how little… of the potentially huge part of our minecraft world we had explored.

Strange World - Sep. 7, 2015

Strange World – Sep. 7, 2015

And in that world, the part we actually live in was a pretty small circle even within 6km wide, 5km tall rectangle of space.  That was maybe a square 2km by 2km at the most, not counting Skronk’s sand supply base south of his main settlement or other such outposts.

Local neighborhood

Local neighborhood

I also mentioned that a new friend, Aaron, had joined us in the game.

He spent some time setting up his own base… another source of new ideas for me… and the set out to do some exploring.

Up until that point Xyd and I had done some exploration, mostly by digging through the nether a ways and putting up portals to the overworld, taking advantage of that 8 to 1 travel bonus you get down there.  There are a number of such portals set out around our map.  You can see a couple of lone squares where we popped up but never bothered to make the overland trip home.

Aaron though had a different plan.  His declaration was “I’m kind of a ‘the journey is the reward’ kinda guy.” and so after he got his base settled and was equipped, he set off to walk further afield than we had previously, uncovering some as yet unseen biomes in our world.

So this week the map of the explored segments of our world looks like this.

Paths of the explorer

Paths of the explorer

While the east/west axis of exploration hasn’t expanded by much… I’m not going to count that lone ocean square that Xyd found… the north/south axis now stretches from about 8km north of the spawn point to 6km south, for a good 14km run.

I am actually not sure who did the northern run.  I suspect that was a special effort by Xyd in the nether, since I spotted one of his usual little towers at the north end of that run.  But I haven’t found his portal in the nether, so I cannot be sure.  However, on seeing the mesa biome with its colored clay layers, I made my own effort to tunnel through the nether and put up a portal there.

In the Mesa biome

In the Mesa biome camp on the map

That wasn’t a huge effort as Xyd had already started digging in that direction previously, so I took the furthest point I could find and continued moving from there.  My portal, of course, came up at level 14 in the world, so I had to dig up to the surface, build a shelter, take that portal down, and put it up again where it was more easily spotted.  I have plans for some of that colored clay.

But on the southward trek, Aaron reported back that he had found a couple more rare biomes.  The first was plain of ice spikes, where you can go and harvest packed ice if you have a pick with silk touch.

Ice spikes on the map

Ice spikes on the map

The other was a mushroom island, where giant mushrooms grown and where giant mushrooms grown and where you can find the rare mooshroom cow.

The island

The island

Aaron also mentioned that, in the interest of not having to make the many day journey back and forth, he had built a nether portal at each location, built a structure around each, and gave us the coordinates in the nether where the portals showed up.

I decided to go find the portal to the ice spikes, wanting to see that biome, so I headed down to the nether to look for the path.  Due to the 8 to 1 nature of things, the area around our spawn point portal is starting to fill up with portal protecting structures, which are becoming more elaborate in and of themselves.

Some nether forts

Some nether forts

I am not sure if you can see, but the fort in the back has a tree growing out of its roof.  Wood in the nether is never an issue, right?

There, I started looking for a path to the coordinates he gave, encouraged by his description of the terrain around the portal, which he said was one “…a decently wide plain with netherack and soul sand.”

A plain sounded good, as maybe then there would be a minimum of tunnels and lava.

But as I tried to thread my way through, I kept running into the usual barriers, mountains of netherrack and seas of laval.  So I decided to blaze my own trail.  It was just about 700 blocks away.  How hard could it be?  In fact, a trail had already been started in that dirction by Xyd, leading to another one of his portals under the sea, that got me 200 blocks closer on the Z axis.

From there however, I had to dig.

Well, actually I had to bridge first, as that portal was on the edge of a river of lava, so I opened up a passage over the lava and started moving backwards, pinky finger holding down the shift key to keep me from falling off, laying a single wide bridge of cobblestone with a guard rail on either side.

Oddly, heights still make my stomach flutter in Minecraft.  I can feel my body reacting to the idea of being way up high over things and in peril of falling off.  Not that height makes a difference over a sea of lava.  Fall one meter or one hundred meters into it, you’re dead and all your stuff is gone either way.

After that bridging effort, it was time to start tunneling through a wall of netherrack.

From one angle, that is actually the easy part.  Netherrack comes apart nicely with one hit from and iron pick, so the work goes fast.  There is just the whole bit about being careful where you come out and not stepping out over open space should there cease to be a floor and just figuring out where you are in the nether overall.  Landmarks are scarce unless you build them yourself.

Oh, and the ever present threat of lava.  Netherrack is well stocked with squares of lava just waiting to flow out over the hasty tunneler.  I actually had to bypass an area that had three such squares close together which conspired to keep plugging up the hole… you just have to put something in the lava square and it ceases to be… from being a reasonable proposition.  I just blocked up that little segment of tunnel and went around.

I got through that wall and was welcomed to another sea of lava work around.

Always more lava to cross

Always more lava to cross

I also started thinking about moving along the X axis.  I was closing in on 600 blocks along the Z axis, but was still 150 blocks away on the X axis.  I had hit something of an open-is area and started to thread my way through things, eventually running into another wall of netherrack.

Back to tunneling.

I made it through that to another open area full of lava.  It was a wide sea, but there were some islands of netherrack above the sea.  I decided to build up to them to help get over the whole thing without doing a full bridge.  If nothing else, I was starting to get low on cobblestone.  So up I went.

Stairs up in the nether

Stairs up in the nether

It is actually easy to build stairs up.  It is building stairs down from a high point that is a bit of a pain.

Upon getting to the top I found that the islands were a bit less substantial and more spread out than I thought.  This was going to require some more bridge building.

As I stood there eyeing the possible path, I thought I saw some cobblestone lit up in the distance.  So I build a quick bridge over to the next island, which turned out to be fairly flat and made up of netherrack and soul sand… and had a cobblestone building on the far side that contained a portal.  I had, pretty much by sheer luck, found the portal up to the ice spikes.

So I went through that and headed outside just in time to see the ice spikes lit by the warm glow of the setting sun.

On the plain of ice spikes

On the plain of ice spikes

I went back and finished off the bridge and paved a bit of the way across the soul sand, which slows you down when you move over it, finishing the nether road to the portal and using up the last of my cobblestone reserves.

The next task will be to try to find the portal that Aaron put on mushroom island.  But first I have to mine some more to rebuild my cobblestone supply.

And while I am doing that, I am also going to refine the huge pile of netherrack I acquired along the way to make nether bricks.  My plan is to use that, along with some of the colored clay blocks from the mesa biome, to build the Barad-dûr within sight of Xyd’s castle complex, so at night the unblinking eye will be staring his way.

Of course, that will need a lot more netherrack.  You have to refine down four to get one block of nether brick.  So I might as well harvest that while I look for mushroom island portal.  That will also give me time to consider how to build a giant unblinking eye out of lava.