The Daily Grind

Random ramblings from a random admin.

Browsing Posts tagged RPoL

So, as I was saying (quite some time ago), to help my enthusiasm in coding I often do stupidcrazy things, namely more coding.  It’s not quite “feature creep”, but I’ll get some idea or see some request and thinking it’s relatively easy or cool enough an idea, I’ll start coding that in.  Then, of course, I’ve just ended up with more work before the final product is finished, and sometimes the extra bits take a lot more time than I’d think, so I’ll end up with even more to do before it’s all done.  That gives me more time to get a bit bored and look for something to increase my enthusiasm…

There’s not much I can do about it though, there’s little method to my madness, but what method there is, is mine.

I did put a note in the dev forum over Christmas (my present to the users?) saying I was trying to lock down the code in a lame attempt to curb this… who knows if it will hold.

Many a person has asked why I don’t get help coding (including on here), there’s a few very good reasons for that.

Firstly, the code isn’t modular, there’s no good way for a person to work on one portion of the code without having to compensate for it elsewhere.

Secondly, is personal embarrassment.  My coding isn’t very elegant, damn-right messy at times.  I sometimes read a block of code and wonder what I’m trying to achieve (my commenting is poor), or puzzle over why I did it such a long-winded or messy way.  I also block indent the old way (well, the old way I was taught), which puts the open and close brackets in odd spots (for people who aren’t used to it).

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love help.  I think the website design needs updating, I do need coding help (but that’d probably be the hardest to accomplish, so the last on the list), SQL assistance, and in general someone to muse ideas over with.

These people would have to do it for the love of the site, because they’d be getting as much money out of it as I have for the past ten years!  (c;

Coding for fun and spending your weekend indoors, more like.

One problem I have with coding for RPoL, besides the general fact I have no idea what I’m doing, is that I bite off more than I can chew.  I had to abort a massive project I undertook for the site in about 2005 because it was too big.  I know what I need to do, but the end of the tunnel is so far away there’s not even the glimmer of hope of some light shining down it.  The more I work on the changes the more I realise needs to be done.

This all stems from opting not to use mySQL (or any structured database) back when I made RPoL in 2000.  I opted for Berkeley databases, some of which are so basic they are actually flat text files, each record being a line in the file.  The sad fact of all this is at the time I knew I should use SQL, but I looked at mySQL and could just not get my head around it (actually, it might have been to the fact that when I was originally learning programming they forced a lot of SQL onto us then and I hated it; I think it took over ten years to get over the trauma).  Later in about 2004 when I revisited it, it all seemed so easy and I had no idea why I didn’t use them before.  I’ve been slowly migrating the databases over to mySQL since.

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I wish I had more time to spend on RPoL and RolePlaying in general, though I sometimes wonder if I should grow out of it and act like a sensible mature adult.  But really, that sentiment is just insulting to those adults that I know that do still RolePlay.  I guess I’m included in that, but that does depend on your definition of “adult”.

I do some web searches from time to time to see what the general consensus is with RPoL, and to see how it’s received compared to other sites.

Two things to spring to mind when looking at the results.  Firstly, I get the opinion that RPoL is more orientated toward the mature audience and less toward those who possibly expect every web bell and whistle to be available to them, and for everything to be automated.

The second is that I wish I had the time to monitor this stuff more closely, to offer suggestions to visit RPoL and to rebuke stuff like:

I don’t want to push a conclusion or accuse them of fudging, but we’ve always been confused by the way they handle their stats

Thanks kaethre, very kind of you to not not say that.  While it’s vaguely (very, very vaguely) satisfying to know we’re in a position where people want to cut us down, it’s not at all nice to see such accusations flung around.  That’s certainly not the first mythical accusation I’ve seen weaved from a member of that particular site, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

As I said, it makes me wish I had more time to participate on other sites.. or maybe a small pack of rabid Rabbits Rabbids roaming the Internet.

One of the reasons that I wanted to start this up again is so I had a little development diary and could also mention a few things that don’t belong elsewhere on RPoL.  “Bitching a moaning” probably dominates previous posts.  (c;

Back in.. uh… 2000 to 2004? …  Back when I was working at the datacentre where RPoL was also hosted, I found it fantastically quick to do coding.  Whatever I wrote could almost instantly be uploaded to the beta site for testing.  The server was physically about 5 metres from me.

Since both myself and RPoL have left that place I’ve tried to setup similar test beds, but nothing has stuck.  Finally I recently installed Sun’s VirtualBox on my desktop machine, installed (err, grabbed a ready image of) CentOS 5.1 (which the RPoL server runs), installed all the various applications that RPoL uses, and gently applied a hammer to get Berkeley DB to work.  I then grabbed a copy of RPoL’s data and voila, I have my own local copy of RPoL Alpha running on my machine.  Then with the help of WinSCP doing a “Keep remote directory up to date”, anything I edit here is uploaded to the alpha site within a second.  No longer am I forced to wait for 10 or whatever seconds to upload to the dedicated server in America before I can test if a tiny change worked.

I’ve found it amazingly helpful, and really great for speeding through code changes.

It will also let me test code a lot more before I upload it to beta, which used to suffer from very alpha and unfinished code as it was where I uploaded every code change, whether it worked or not.  Beta will get updated at pretty much the same pace, it just won’t get all the intermediate test script uploads that I do that leave the site in a sad state of disarray.

The new private groups are looking good, by the way.

You’re still checking daily, right?

Many a year ago I updated this thing very infrequently.  Now I feel like I’ve got more to say, though surely nobody still vists, let alone will want to read it.  But alas, intrepid reader, here’s whatever I feel like jotting down.  Infrequently as ever, I assure you.

I must say, WordPress is being very kind (to me, cruel to you) and is letting me add in backdated posts.  As fun as it was to muck around with coding the old blog, I think the days where I spend my time coding something when another, far superior, program exists are over.

Fortunately for the users of that particular site, RPoL is still far superior to anything else.

First it’s the end of financial year, and I really should do my tax for once.  Now to just find a good accountant who isn’t prone to laughing or telling off…

There’s so much to do for RPoL, and not just for the site that you’re all used to me referring to, but for other things as well.  People keep on asking about various RP related things that I want to do.  I want RPoL to be to RP like Google is to search engines.

Alas all my grand schemes rely on this new version being done, and although I’ve done some good work on it this weekend (and last week), there’s still so much more to do.

Today I’ve spend about 4 hours on it.  Alas I’ve really lost track of my running tally, probably about 40 hours.

I said that to a friend once, I thought it was very profound.

But enough sharing, that might imply I care.

Nothing really to report, thus the lack of posting.  I’ve been working on RPoL, but nothing very exciting, I’ve been hacking up the visual layout, which is more fun than coding, until you have to get it to work for half a dozen different browsers and for twice as many colour schemes.

I’d guess I’ve spent 16 hours on it all since I last posted.  That’s a lot of html.

This week doesn’t look too consulting-work busy, so hopefully I’ll get quite a bit of RPoL coding done (though hopefully not too much, I’d like to get paid for a bit).

Time spend on RPoL today: 1 hour.
Total time spend on RPoL: 24 hours.

I don’t post for months, and yet within a day of posting two people have not only read my entry but posted replies.  My god people, you must be bored!

Anyhoo.  Today was a day of… uh… frustration It’s currently 2am.

I got up at 9-something.  A bit late I know. ‘lo any behold, as if to punish me for sleeping in the server was down.  I wasn’t sure if it was the server or Zip, so I contacted support telling them that our server was not available (giving them the details of the server, which included the IP address and host name) as well as, to my folly, the IP address of the last device that responded with my trace route.

Support happily told me that the IP address of the last hop I quoted was responding fine.  Uh.. firstly; can you read?  Secondly, don’t you know the addresses of your own networking equipment?!

eventually they got it right and it was our server, so it was rebooted.  Seven hours of downtime. )c;

I was a little miffed with this and asked what happened to our server monitoring that they were supposed to provide?  We are supposed to be notified if the server’s down for 30 minutes.  It seems they forgot us, but now it’s all good.  So they say.

So that was the morning gone.

Then came client #1.  PC’s running like crap they reckon.  So we load a test document and wow, does that take forever, they’re right.  To cut a boring story short, after 30 or so minutes of playing around trying to figure out why it takes so long to load a document we find out it’s not “a” document, it’s “the” document.  This one document we decided to test the PC with is a piece of crap and takes up to two minutes to open.  Other, large, documents open in a flash.

Client #2 was a server migration.  I was hoping to ghost from disk to disk, but after about three hours of trying I give up, ghost just either crashes or won’t see the new and old disk.  So then I go with a backup and restore option, but by this time it’s past 9pm.  And that’s where I still am now, at 2am, just polishing off the new server, getting Windows happy with the new hardware.  I’m almost done now, almost.

And because this is going to become my running tally of RPoL development;

Time spend on RPoL today: 2 hours.
Total time spend on RPoL: 8 hours.

omg omg!

4 comments

Why yes, it’s back, I’m back.  For better and for worse, til boredom do we part.

Anyhow…

Today is the first day without a certain large organisation paying me to come in whenever I could.  Now the pay wasn’t fantastic, but the conditions were good, I could pretty much come and go as I pleased, which allowed me to continue doing my “real” job of contracting for my business.

Whatever it may or may not have been; it was a great financial crutch.  I’m now crutchless, not to be confused with a similar word.  Yes, “potato”.  Very similar.

So today I contracted for just under 3 hours, which is ok if I can do that every day, which there’s certainly no guarantee of, so more would have been nice; but at least I’m doing another 3 or 4 hours tomorrow arvo.

But to the point, and why I’m suddenly posting like a hyperactive mailman; I came home at 12 and, unlike what I used to do, I didn’t play a game, watch TV, have a nap or do any slacking off.  I actually worked on RPoL for 6 hours.  So, even though I’m not going to get any money for the second half of the day, I’m hoping it’ll eventually pay off.

So.. anyway.  That’s my current plan.  When I’m not contracting then I’ll be doing either business maintenance or working on RPoL.  If this rate of work continues I should imagine the next version will be finished in short order.

I’m even still wearing a tie.

Is this news?

9 comments

I really thought tonight was going to be the night.

I really thought I was going to go through with it.

Go ‘all the way’.

But it’s 5am, I didn’t.  I’m not sure if I elaborated before, but my problem with sleeping isn’t so much going to sleep when I go to bed, it’s the fact I wake up during the night.  I was sure that I was going to sleep through until the alarm went off at 11am today (I’m normally very good at sleeping in), alas the winds of fate (is that even a saying?) were against me and deemed I should wake up.  At least I can take solstice in the fact it wasn’t me just waking up, for once.

I don’t think I’m pushing any envelopes when I say that I spend a lot of time on RPoL.  Thinking about it, coding it, administering it, and, every now and then, a dash of playing in it.  Over the past five years it’s dominated my life in one form or another, starting as a hobby and growing from there.

I’ve always harboured ideas to get more of a RP community going, and not RPoL centric, though it’d be nice to be considered the ‘hub’.  Things like the IRC chat channel being #RolePlay not #RPoL and my offering of the chat code to another other site (not that they ever used it), to the upcoming RP news site; a user submission and moderated based page.

Whilst I opted out of coding as a profession so many years ago, I do enjoy molding the site into what the users (hopefully) want.  I always enjoyed coding, I used to write silly programs just for kicks; but I got lazy, I was put off by the claim that I’d only code for a few years and then I’d go onto something like teaching, but ultimately I decided I didn’t want to sit in a room all day and code (misnomer or not).  That’s why I went into technical consulting, going out to meet new people and solve their problems is great.

But RPoL’s such a beast now, my complete novice coding and decisions from five years ago are still there on the site, I’m slowly trying to migrate off as it really does make my life much easier moving to a mySQL database, plus I think the server has reached it’s performance limits without some serious disk caching and technology change.  The current version has taken over a year to get here.  There’s been lots of outside influences but ultimately it’s just one big beast.  A very large change, a necessary one to release the performance bottlenecks, and I’ve got more stuff to go, lots more.

Administering, coding, and generally maintaining RPoL combined with my ‘build a community’ plan is just getting too big, it’s taking up far too much of my time.

Yesterday it dawned on me that I just can’t do it any more.

I can’t try and earn a living and commit the time I want to, that I need to, to the site.  There’s so much to do, but not enough time in the day.  I find myself coding RPoL more and more during the day of late and not developing my business, the thing that keeps me ‘comfortably well off’ (to quote Daffy Duck).  It just doesn’t work, it can’t work, I need to focus on the very basic requirement, and (unfortunately for us all) that is making money.

And so, dear friends, associates, comrades, RPoLians and the general reader, I hope you’ll understand when I tell you I’ve decided to try and make a living off RPoL.

I have no idea how I’m going to do it.  I can guarantee you, however, that it won’t include ‘you must pay to play’.