Free subdomains with FreeDNS

Because remembering an IP address is hard.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a private Voxelands server running so that the boys can build and explore in the same world. This works pretty well but it does mean that, as can happen, one of them connects to the wrong server I have to go and look up the IP address so that I can reconnect them.

And then I discovered FreeDNS which, as the name suggests, allows you to set up a subdomain for free. You sign up, select a public domain from the extensive list available, add a subdomain, and point it at your IP address.

It really is as simple and as quick as that.

I’m impressed at how simple and painless they have managed to make the whole process. So much so that, if I do find myself needing a premium service, I will be very happy to go back to them.

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Happy Blogiversary, Inscius

The Weblog of Inscius turned five years old yesterday. This means that it is now old enough to help with the weeding, but not old enough to know the difference between weeds and vegetables.

My blogging has gone down markedly, especially this year, but I am not giving up. I never had a goal, I did not have a glorious five-year plan. I write for my own enjoyment, and others’ enjoyment. Or pity :p

I find my own blogging can be all over the place. There are times when I am posting updates daily and other times when I don’t even look at the blog for a month or more. Ideally, I would like to manage a post per week, but time and motivation often get in the way. That said, though, it is nice to have a small space on the web that is unambiguously mine.

Happy blogiversary, Mikael, and here’s to another five years of text-based dufferdom.

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Prettify XML with Vim

File under quick and dirty, but works for me.

The issue is that I have an utterly unreadable XML file in front of me. Not only is there no indentation, I don’t even have any line breaks.

To format it for readability, first insert line breaks

:%s/></>\r</g

Then load and apply the XML indent file

:set filetype=xml
:filetype indent on

And apply it

gg=G

There are probably better ways of achieving the same end, but as a quick fix, this works for me.

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Facebook: Spying with impunity again

Back in November, a Belgian court ruled that Facebook should stop tracking Belgians who are not signed up to the site or pay a daily penalty of €250,000. This ruling, unfortunately, was overruled on appeal at the start of this month. Not, it should be noted, because Facebook is justified in tracking people who are not logged in or have never sighed up to their site, but because:

Belgian courts don’t have international jurisdiction over Facebook Ireland, where the data concerning Europe is processed.

The issue here is one of jurisdiction, not principle. The data protection and privacy laws invoked in this case exist at the EU level, they have not been challenged and the only question is who gets to enforce them. Since Facebook’s European operations are based in Dublin, that would be the Irish.

A little poking around online led me to europe-v-facebook.org:

Are EU Data Protection Laws enforceable in Practice? This may be the main question that europe-v-facebook.org is now about. The right to data protection is a fundamental right in the European Union, but at the same time very little companies respect it. Facebook is just one of many that have a bad reputation when it comes to the handling of users’ data.

So the question arises if users are just too lazy to do something about it, or if the laws are in practice unenforceable?

We unintentionally landed in the middle of a big experiment after filing 22 complaints against Facebook in Ireland, because of breaches of the most basic privacy rules. We happened to look at Facebook for a number of reasons, but the results are very likely exemplary for a whole industry.

You can follow our journey and the under “Legal Procedure“.

While it is clear by now, that no normal citizen is able to follow through with such a proceeding, we are still working to get our final decision today. We want to know if our fundamental rights are respected and enforced against tech giants like Facebook, or if our rights are only existing on the paper.

You can support them at crowd4privacy.org.

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Putting newsletters in the newsfeed

This is handy:

Introducing email newsletters in your RSS reader.

You can now forward your email newsletters over to NewsBlur and then read your email newsletters right in your browser/phone/TV/tablet.

For me, newsletters fall into two categories. The first is marketing bumpf none of which has any value. These are the mails that I try to avoid signing up to in the first place (always uncheck that “Please send me offers” checkbox). Sometimes I forget, though, which has me either looking for the unsubscribe button or – if all else fails – automatically filtering them out of my inbox and into the trash.

The second set is where Newsblur will (hopefully) come in handy. These are the newsletters associated with accounts I have or campaigns in which I am interested. These are the mails that are not urgent enough for me to want them cluttering up my inbox, but which I do want to read at some point.

I have a Newsblur account and have set up an initial filter. It will be interesting to see the effect of moving a little more clutter out of my inbox and into my RSS reader.

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Setting up a Multiplayer Voxelands Server on Debian

I mentioned an intention of setting up a Voxelands server a month ago so that Macsen and I could play in the same environment, and I have now finally gotten around to doing this. The server itself is running Debian 8 and the process turned out to be surprisingly painless.

I installed the Ubuntu deb from the Voxelands download page using gdebi, because I need my dependency resolution:

wget http://www.voxelands.com/downloads/voxelands-1602.00-ubuntu-x86_64.deb
gdebi voxelands-1602.00-ubuntu-x86_64.deb

And starting the server is a simple case of typing:

voxelands-server --port 30000

And, if I was going to run this only once, this would be enough. But as I want this to be available as and when required, it’s time for Systemd.

Handily, the Voxelands site provides a sample Systemd.service, so I copied and pasted it into /lib/systemd/system/voxelands.service with just one change:

ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/voxelands-server --port 30000

Then it’s just a case of enabling it:
systemctl enable voxelands

And starting it:
systemctl start voxelands

Now all I need to do is to upgrade the client versions so that they match the server.

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Voxels ate my weekend

Sunrise
Sunrise

Last week Macsen expressed an interest in Minecraft. He has access to an old laptop of mine, so I spent an evening upgrading it from OpenSuse to Antergos and installing Voxelands1 on it, along with a number of other games. I also installed Voxelands on my own laptop so that I could understand the interface well enough to answer any questions that might crop up.

I didn’t intend to start playing the damn game.

I did, however, spend a bit of time poking around the wiki so that, on Friday, I was able to show Macsen how to make a crafting guide and set him going. And he was off, digging, crafting and building. So much so that we had to crowbar him away from the laptop when it was time to eat2.

On Saturday Macsen asked me how my house was going. So I opened up my laptop and showed him what I’d built while tinkering around. Macsen showed me how to build a furnace and went away to copy my house design.

The rest of the weekend was a bit of a blur of YouTubery, sharing of ideas (something in which the twins were able to become involved), digging, crafting and building. And I have to say that there is something quite magical about an eight-year-old enthusiastically describing what he’s discovered and planning his next project.

At present we are both playing in single player mode. We have talked about shared worlds and I am thinking of setting up a small local3 server, but that is a task for another weekend.

I’m not normally much of a gamer but Voxelands has me hooked. It’s immersive, expansive, endlessly entertaining and frighteningly addictive. Darkrose and the rest of the Voxelands team have done a fantastic job so far. Long may they continue.

Footnotes

1 Voxelands is a fork of Minetest which is an Open Source implementation of Minecraft. From my limited reading, my understanding is that the Minetest developers have emphasised their modding engine at the expense of playability. Voxelands has dropped the modding engine and seeks, instead, to deliver a game that is complete, playable and fun. And playable is what I was looking for.
2 Figuratively speaking, of course. But now I’m wondering if it’s possible to craft a crowbar.
3 As in local to my home network and not connected to the interwebs.

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Bad Facebook. No Cookie.

Facebook’s ongoing attempt to get around EU privacy legislation in Belgium has taken a turn for the semantic:

Facebook has appealed a ruling from the Court of First Instance that supported the Belgian data authority’s demand that the social media network stop tracking users.

The court’s ruling contained some English words — like cookie, homepage and browser — which could violate a Belgian law that says all rulings must be in the official languages of the country: French, Dutch and German. Facebook has said this means the whole ruling must be annulled.

Facebook’s lawyers need to get out more. They’re not fooling anyone with this.

Privacy lawyers not associated with the case told POLITICO this is a “desperate, petty and last-ditch” attempt to avoid Belgian justice.

And that’s putting it mildly.

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Mongo only pawn… in game of life*

About a week ago, Ben Everard on Linux Voice posted an introduction to MongoDB from issue 11 of the magazine. So I thought that now would be a good time to go and see what all the cool database kids are talking about`.

One thing that isn’t mentioned, and which came to bite me, is that Mongo needs to have 3GB available for its journal and other data. This all goes into /var/lib/mongodb and, in my case, this is in my already undersized root partition. Thank you, GParted for digging me out of that particular hole.

Installing MongoDB on my Antergos box is easy:

# pacman -S mongodb mongodb-tools

The mongodb-tools provides import, export and diagnostic capabilities and become useful later.

And then the thing that I always forget. Start the daemon:

$ systemctl start mongodb.service

After this, you can launch the MongDB shell with the mongo command, and you’re in.

Ben’s article is certainly an interesting introduction, but what I found more useful was this article: Getting Started with MongoDB (MongoDB Shell Edition). The guide provides installation instructions for various operating systems, which you can skip past by clicking here. This guide also provides a database that can be downloaded, imported and played around with.

It’s surprisingly easy to get a handle on the basics of MongoDB, and I can certainly see how the objects and methods approach to building and managing data provides a lot more flexibility than traditional relational databases. Now I just need to come up with a project to justify seeing just how much I can get out of this.

* Because whenever I see the name Mongo, I think of this guy.

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