Tag Archives: NetherByte

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 https://netherbyte.com/billing/

Our TOS at https://netherbyte.com/tos 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.

Major Minecraft Setback with NetherByte

I was in the office this morning and got a note from Xyd about the Minecraft server having problems.  I was able to log into the admin console from the office and saw all sorts of errors of this sort:

[Server] WARN net.minecraft.server.v1_8_R2.ExceptionWorldConflict: Failed to check session lock for world located at ./world, aborting. Stop the server and delete the session.lock in this world to prevent further issues.

That is never a good sign.  The server had shut itself down, so I left it like that, opened a ticket for NetherByte about the problem, included a long stream of the error output, and went back to work.

NBopenticketWhen I got home from work I went in to the server admin page again to run a backup, just in case, then went in with WinSCP to copy it down to my local machine only to find the backup was just 1Kb in size.

My server directory was down to the bare minimum of files, what you get when you first start a Minecraft server.  No world to be seen, no nothing, just the logs and jars directories and the eula.txt file.  And I literally had to go set that to “true” again, one of the first steps of a server setup.

Meanwhile I had not seen a peep back in response from NetherByte, so I started looking around for server outage or other notifications from them.  My work on that front left me with the belief that NetherByte hasn’t updated anything since around March of this year.

So I am not sure if they are really a viable, ongoing concern at this point.

Needless to say, I am in the market for another hosting service unless I hear something substantial back from them, like why they wiped my directory.  Suggestions are welcome.

But things must move forward.  I happened to have copied the Monday night backup of the server to my local system.  I do that about once a week, and a good thing too as all the daily backups were missing from the server along with everything else.  So I set about restoring that.

I also went back to the default Minecraft server jar file.  We’ll stay away from mods for the time being I think, until things settle down.

So that went well enough.  Everything was set back to Monday night, but that wasn’t too far back.

And then I went to the nether and found everything gone.  All that paving of the nether I mentioned, it is no more.  A giant mass of cobblestone has gone missing.  All that was there was the original portal, right on top of that burning spot that set me on fire the first time I arrived there.

So all of that work was undone, highways of cobblestone going too and fro, all gone.  My little outpost in the desert, will I be able to find it again?  And I have no idea why the backup of the world-nether directory wasn’t in sync with the main world directory.  They both get backed up into the same .zip archive.

On the bright side, Skronk and Enaldi, who joined the server this past weekend have been away all week… and have never been to the nether… so at least this won’t impact them.

Addendum: Finally got a response from NetherByte, the sum total of which was, “Have you installed any malicious plugins recently?”

No response, on two tries, in asking why they wiped all my data.

As always, you get what you pay for.

 

Minecraft and the Hosted Life

The profusion of Minecraft server hosting options out there speaks to just how popular this game has become, and how much people want to play with their friends, acquaintances, and random people on the internet.

Guess what?  Me to!

In fact, I started poking my nose into the idea of a hosted server about a week after my daughter and I started in on the whole Minecraft adventure.

My daughter was also keen on the idea, though she was more about having crazy mods and running her own public server.  My vision was more of a vanilla Minecraft server with some friends able to log in, maybe the instance group, and a whole world to explore.

Sounds easy right?  Nothing special needed, just my home server available to those outside my house.  In fact, my first idea was just to host something locally and use port forwarding and white listing to accomplish this.  However, I had just dumped the only likely candidate, an old Dell CPU, off at the e-waste collection, so my easy option was out.

For a short bit I considered trying to run the whole thing on a Raspberry Pi setup after reading this article.  I still might do that some day, but wasn’t really into it at the moment.

And so I started looking for Minecraft server hosting… and ran into the profusion mentioned in the first sentence.

There is, of course, Minecraft Realms, the official Mojang hosting service.  Supposed to be safe, secure, stable, and reliable, but when you read about what they offer, also a bit dull and limited.  I don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles, but I wanted a bit more than that.

So I started plowing through various recommendations and forums and blah blah blah looking for who might offer what.

MCProHosting came up a lot.  As a service it hosts some of the bigger servers and has a ton of options.  I recommend just digging through their before-you-order options list to see what is out there.  They offer up various server options mods.

Mod Packs listed...

Server and Mod Packs listed…

I did not know that Pixelmon, a Pokemon themed mod, was even a thing.  It was an eye opener.

They also offer a variety of pre-made worlds in addition to the standard random world options available with Minecraft.

First few choices on the list...

First few choices on the list…

But I also came across more that a bit of hostility directed towards them online.  Not that they do anything bad.  Nobody has anything negative to say about their service.  It was more a matter that they charge more than other services when it comes to the actual nuts and bolts capacity.  They also sponsor a number of Minecraft streams who sing their praises, which caused a little bit of grumbling as well.

In the end I did not go with them.  Running through their sizing, estimating maybe 10 people total playing at the high end of my optimism, they were recommending a plan that offered 1.5GB of RAM and ran $15 a month.  That is the price of an MMO subscription, something I have shown a willingness to pay in the past.  However, I had read a number of places that if you plan to use any mods or have more than a few people playing, you ought to go with 2GB of RAM, which would have booster the monthly cost to $20 a month.

The plan list

The plan list

As a side note, nearly every hosting service I ran across used the same sort of naming scheme for their various hosting plans.  It is just a Minecraft hosting thing I guess.

Anyway, that was more than I wanted to pay per month.

So I started sifting through other options.  As I noted, there are a lot of choices.  My criteria became a hosting plan that offered 2GB of RAM, hosted someplace near the west coast, that had reasonable pricing and no serious dings on its reputation.

That still left me with a pretty wide-open field. Amongst the hosting companies I looked, according to my notes, at were:

It was one of those things where the more I looked at hosting sites, the less sure I was about which site to choose.  There is a not a lot to distinguish many of the sites… how “fast is a fast SSD, does a hosting site in LA necessarily beat one in Phoenix or Seattle, should I pay extra for DDoS protection or go with another service that includes it… to the point that some looked to be sub-tenants of the same larger hosting service with just a logo change over the same interface, while most plans included most of the same features.

So eventually I just chose the one that had a coupon.

I hat put down in my notes that the NetherByte hosting service included a code for 30% off the price of your hosting plan.  Their hosting plans were already at the low end of the price range, with that 2GB server just $8 a month.

Again, same plan level motif...

Again, same plan level motif…

But with the coupon code “30OFF” that price dropped even further.  In fact, a six month run with a 2GB server ended up being $22.50.  That was cheap enough that I said, “Sure, whatever” and ordered it.

So I had a hosted server.

Their control panel was simple enough.  I created a world with the press of a button… there were no fancy world options, just the default vanilla Minecraft settings… then jotted down the domain name/port number and was able to log into the server itself to see what I had wrought.

There I was on a small island in the middle of a deep ocean with no trees, two pigs, and not much else.

Lonely Island

Lonely Island

Yeah, okay, the skin on my avatar is Captain Jack Sparrow, so ha ha funny joke, but it still seemed like a less than ideal start on a new world.  (My daughter made me change my avatar skin right away since she says the default just marks you as the FNG, though she didn’t actually use the term “FNG.”)

I was on the fence about creating a new world anyway.  I hadn’t invested too much time in the world my daughter and I started way back on Father’s Day, but I had grown attached to it.  On the flip side, if I was going to convince friends to join, I thought a fresh world would be more of an enticement.

Then I got a crap starting world.  Yes, I could have just rolled another one immediately, but that was just enough to make me want to move over the world on which I had been working.  After all, a Minecraft world at default size is freaking huge.  The short answer on world size, from the Wiki, is about 8x the size of the surface of the earth.  Plenty of fresh pastures for new players to explore outside of the approximate square mile of the overworld that I have touched.

The control panel has an FTP option built into it, but it is horrible. (The control panel is the Multicraft default which, as I understand it, is what most hosting sites use.)  But most web-based FTP options are horrible.  Fortunately they also give you direct FTP access and I have a copy of WinSCP installed on every system I have to touch regularly, so renaming the original world and moving my own over was a snap.  After that and a server restart I was back in my old world, now hosted remotely.

Then it was time to get somebody else on and playing.  Potshot had shown a bit of interest here during the summer hiatus, though has yet to bite on the whole Minecraft idea yet.  But there was my old pal Xyd, who has been showing up here to comment on Minecraft posts.  He seemed keen to peek in and see what was going on.

After a few hours elapsed from his first attempt to log in, he was able to get onto the server.  As it turns out, while you can “add” players to your server through the UI in the hosting control panel, you still have to go into the console and type “whitelist add <player>” to get them on the approved list.

He spawned in and set off a ways to start his own camp, not too far from my castle, but far enough away to avoid all the holes in the ground I left.

Cubby de Xydd

Cubby de Xydd

So now I have multiplayer online Minecraft.  Only three people play so far, myself, my daughter, and Xyd, but the option is there is the instance group or any other close friends want to come and play.