Currency Traders Telnet Game
|A new, large Currency Traders game is up. To connect enter the following command from an xterm, konsole, or other terminal/command line window:|
It runs on port 23, just like traditional telnet. It's free to play and no software is required to play. All you need is an internet connection.
This is an old-school, no-graphics strategy game. All you need is a telnet client to play -- and every modern operating system comes with one. It's free and you can play anonymously. Just choose a name and a password and log in. If you don't know what to do, just press your H key for a Hint and a context-sensitive Tip.
This game is played in a persistent world where whatever you build, buy, or otherwise 'acquire' in the game will still be there tomorrow. Unless you make an enemy of another player, that is. PVP (player-versus-player) is always enabled here so other players can attack your deployed fortifications -- or even, heaven forbid, you.
This is a turn-based game that can be played any time of the day, night, or week. Each player is issued a certain amount of energy (turns) per day that is used to travel, trade, or play at the arcade in the several Malls. If you don't use your turns, they accumulate for as much as several months -- so there's no disadvantage to skipping a day or even a few weeks.
A slightly longer description of Currency Traders is here.
|mail this link | permapage | score:9365 | -Ray, January 23, 2013|
How to install Ubuntu Linux on the decTOP SFF computer
I recently bought a decTOP small form factor (SFF) computer. My goal was to build a cheap, fanless, quiet, and low power consumption Linux server. For $99 plus the cheapest available shipping, $40, my machine arrived 11 days after I placed the order.
This is a tiny computer, about the size of a Mac Mini. But, because it has no fan, it runs a bit quieter and, with the help of a 1-watt, 366 MHz CPU, consumes only 8 watts. For comparison, the G4 Mac Mini consumes about 20-30 watts, depending on load.
The decTOP comes with 128 MB of RAM in its sole SO-DIMM slot and a 10 GB 3.5 inch hard drive. I understand that it's a simple matter to replace the drive and to upgrade the memory to a maximum of 512MB.
It also comes with no operating system and the ability to boot only from a USB drive. This article details the steps I used to build the USB boot/installation drive and install Ubuntu 6.06 on the decTOP.
There is another article -- with additional decTOP links -- here on installing Ubuntu 6.06 on the decTOP with the aid of a Windows system. Fortunately ;), I run Mac OS X and Linux (Ubuntu 7.04), so that article didn't work for me. I did the installation of the Ubuntu 6.06 LTS Server Edition using my Ubuntu Linux box and a 1 GB USB flash drive -- although a 512 MB USB drive should work as well.
- Download the Ubuntu 6.06 server ISO image from the Ubuntu download page. Depending on your plans for the decTOP, you might want to choose the desktop version. Unless you have already upgraded your decTOP's memory, however, you'll want to stick with the 6.06 releases.
- Install the mbr, mtools, and syslinux packages on the Linux system you'll be using to prepare the USB drive. If you run Ubuntu or some other Debian-derived system, the following commands may do the work for you.
apt-get install mbr
apt-get install mtools
apt-get install syslinux
- Partition the USB drive with a single FAT-16 partition. I used the fdisk 'n' command to make the new primary partition 1. The fdisk 't' command can be used to change the partition type to FAT-16. My device name was /dev/sda.
- Make the FAT-16 partition the active partition. I used the fdisk 'a' command.
- Install a master boot record on the USB drive.
- Install syslinux on the USB drive. Note that the USB drive should not be mounted when you do this.
syslinux -s /dev/sda1
- Create a mountpoint and mount the ubuntu ISO image using the loopback device.
mount -o loop -t iso9660 ubuntu.iso /iso
- Create a mountpoint and mount the USB flash drive.
mount /dev/sda1 /usb
- Copy the contents of the ISO image to the USB drive. This will take some time.
cp -r . /usb/
- Copy the /usb/dists/dapper directory into a new /usb/dists/stable directory.
cp -r dapper/* stable
- Copy several files from /usb/install to the /usb root directory.
cp /usb/install/vmlinuz /usb/
cp /usb/install/mt86plus /usb/
cp /usb/install/initrd.gz /usb/
- Install the following text into a file named syslinux.cfg in the /usb root directory.
append initrd=initrd.gz ramdisk_size=24000 root=/dev/ram rw
- Flush all writes, unmount, and remove the USB drive. After the sync step, wait for all of the data to be written to the USB drive.
- Connect the ethernet adapter to the decTOP and connect it to your network to allow automatic configuration of the network interface.
- Insert the USB drive into the decTOP and power it up. The decTOP should automatically boot from the USB drive and start the Ubuntu installation.
- Answer only the first two questions concerning language selection and go to the next step, below.
- Press Alt-F2 (hold down the Alt key and press the F2 function key) to open a shell. Then press enter to start the shell.
- Create a /cdrom and a /dev/cdroms directory in the installation ramdisk
mkdir /cdrom /dev/cdroms
- Go to the /dev/cdroms directory and build a symlink from /dev/sda1 (that is likely the device name of your USB boot partition) to /dev/cdroms/cdrom0.
ln -s ../sda1/cdrom0
- While still in the shell, mount the USB drive to mimic an installation CD-ROM.
mount -t vfat /dev/cdroms/cdrom0 /cdrom
- Return to the installation program with Alt-F1 and continue the installation.
From this point, the process should be identical to a routine CD-ROM installation.
For a grand total of $140 and 8 watts of power consumption, I now have a near-silent Linux server running 24/7. You can telnet to it here and marvel at its blinding speed running a 250,000-sector Space Tyrant game.
|mail this link | permapage | score:9277 | -Ray, August 16, 2007 (Updated: April 26, 2011)|
Space Tyrant: Multithreading lessons learned on SMP hardware
|There is much to report in this update of Space Tyrant. Before getting into the new features and functions, I’ll dispense with the crisis of The Bug. |
For a couple of weeks, we had been noticing odd anomalies with Space Tyrant (ST) running on the virtual server at Ioresort.com (now offline -Ed.). We never saw the problem on any other box -- and it was tested on at least four other Linux boxes and a Mac OS X system. We did all manner of stress testing, locally and over the Internet, script based and even feeding the game the output of /dev/random. Nothing caused the anomaly on any other box.
At first, I suspected that it might just be an obscure problem with the virtual server itself; after all, I had been forced to modify the TLR code to get it to run properly there. That problem turned out to be merely a limitation of NFS, not a bug with the virtual server software. However, the environment was clearly different from any other system I had used which raised my suspicions -- and reduced my urgency about looking for the bug.
While the bug wasn’t frequent, it was persistent. The bug appeared to be related to corrupted buffers or corrupted buffer indexes. Out of idle curiosity, I lowered the number of buffers used by ST to see if that affected the bug. Somewhat counter-intuitively, it substantially raised the frequency of the problem.
Brian Estabrooks (the hero of this release) and I spent more and more of our efforts hunting this incredibly elusive bug until that was all we were doing. I implemented various diagnostic routines hunting for clues. The all seemed to point to buffer indexes being changed incorrectly. Both Brian and I audited the code. It seemed impossible for the indexes to be changed improperly. Brian even went so far as to replace the ring buffer scheme with a high watermark approach but to no avail.
While I continued to suspect it to be a simple logic error in the code, Brian turned his efforts elsewhere. What he came up with was quite interesting. It seems that on many hardware architectures (most? all?), modifying a bit field can temporarily modify other bit fields in the same word! Now, this isn’t a problem on a single-CPU system; it repairs the damage in the same operation, making it, effectively, atomic. On an SMP machine, however, two different CPU’s working on different bit fields of the same word simultaneously create havoc. The operation isn’t really atomic and it doesn’t work.
Did I mention that the virtual server is a 4-way Xeon system?
The ring buffer indexing in ST relies on unsigned integer bit fields to automate wrapping back around to the first buffer after using the last one. My parsimonious programming, of course, packed all the bit fields together, several to a word. Brian’s test version of ST added a pad after each buffer index to round it out so that each bit field lived alone in its own complete word. We abused the new version for nearly an hour before either of us would dare say it. The bug was gone.
So, the moral of this story is: Operations on sub-word fields affect other bits in that word (at least on many hardware architectures). Tread very carefully if multiple threads are accessing different bits in shared words. It may appear to work perfectly, only to crumble into a pile of smoldering rubble the first time it's loaded on a multiple CPU system!
Other than the primary lesson, some other good things came out of (the search for) the bug. Several other latent bugs were found and fixed and Brian and I are both much more intimate with the code.
And, on to the enhancements. ST is starting to look like an actual playable game. The following functions implement the new major features.
players(): We now have player rankings. It works by adding all the players’ ship resources to an integer array. Then it scans the universe looking for deployed fighters and adds those to the array as well. Currently, those two items comprise the total strength of a player.
It then sorts the array with a recursive bit-plane sort that I wrote for Starship Traders in 1998. The qsort() function in the C library was plenty fast, but took too much memory for my taste. Memory was a bit scarcer in those days and, worse, the SST software model gave each player his own copy of the server.
The sort reorders the array in place as follows. It scans the high-order bit in each element of the array. It then moves all elements starting with ‘1’ bits to the top and all starting with ‘0’ bits to the bottom. Next, it calls itself twice to reorder the first and second chunks of the array on the second bit. Each of those two instances of the sort then call the sort twice again, now giving 4 new sorts for the third bit, and so on. When all 32 bits are accounted for, the array is in the correct order with the top player on top, etc.
Scanning the entire universe can be expensive with a large map. Therefore, the player rankings function keeps the result and time stamps it. If another player asks for a player ranking within five seconds, the system just gives them the old one. After five seconds, however, any new request triggers a fresh listing.
autopilot(): We’ve added an autopilot to let a player find a specific sector -- or to locate the nearest planet. If you type a ‘0’ (zero), you’ll be prompted for a sector number within 1000 of the sector you’re currently in. You then will have the option of pressing ‘/’ to automatically warp to the destination sector.
If you’re looking for a planet, type the ‘L’ command that you would normally use to land on a planet in your sector. In the absence of a planet, the L key will engage the autopilot which will search for the nearest planet and give you a ‘/’ command to autowarp to it.
The new autopilot function consists of two other functions in addition to autopilot(), which is merely a control function. I had intended to use the old shortest path algorithm function from TLR but it was big and complicated. I decided to try to write a simpler, recursive shortest path algorithm instead. The new recursive function is much simpler but not quite as efficient as the giant for loop in TLR.
The actual algorithm is implemented in two functions called pathdepth() and pathcalc(). The pathdepth() function repeatedly calls pathcalc() with an increasing ‘depth’ parameter. ‘Depth’ tells pathcalc() how many levels deep to search before giving up.
The pathcalc() function simply looks to see if the sector it is looking at is the target sector. If not, it calls itself for each new sector that the current sector connects to. If the current sector is the target sector, it starts filling in an array for the autowarp() function to follow to reach the target sector. As the previous recursive calls to the pathcalc() function exit, they fill in the remainder of the path array.
And, yes, I seem to like reinventing the wheel. ;-)
The other interesting addition to the code is the backup thread. It is implemented by a function called backupdata() and works as follows: It scans the player data, the map data, and the history data looking for ‘dirty’ flags. (Whenever any persistent data is changed anywhere in the game, a dirty flag is set to tell the backup thread to write it out to disk.) This process is quite fast for a small game, but for a game with millions of sectors, it’s a significant waste of resources to scan the dirty flag array frequently.
Therefore, for the map and history data, I’ve implemented a ‘dirty block’ scheme as well. When a dirty flag is set, its corresponding dirty block flag is set too. Then, the backup thread need only scan the dirty block arrays, typically only about one percent the size of the arrays it represents. When a dirty block is found, only the hundred or so records it points to are scanned to find the actual dirty records for backup.
The backup file, named ‘st.9999.dat’ -- where ‘9999’ varies with the port number you run the game on -- goes into the current working directory from where you start the daemon. If the file doesn’t exist, a new game is started. Also, if you’ve modified the game in a way that changes the size of the data -- by increasing the map size, for example -- it will start a new game upon startup.
The game can be shut down from the command line by sending a signal 15 (kill -15 pid) or by the admin with the ^ command. Note that the first player to create an account in a new game automatically becomes the admin of the game!
makehistory(): The storing of historical data is new as well. Whenever another player attacks your ship while you’re logged off, you’ll get a report of the action and any losses when you next log on. Also, for remote deployed fighters, you never get immediate notification, so that information is stored in the history log even if you're logged on when it happens. You can view any accumulated event information since your login time by pressing the ‘e’ key.
deploy(): This simple function allows a player to deploy, or retrieve, guard fighters in a sector. Those fighters will not let another player pass through or view any of the contents of that sector. Any ships parked under the fighters are automatically protected against all attacks except for an attack by the fighters’ owner. Once the fighters are destroyed, of course, all ships there are visible and can be attacked.
There is also a newly implemented time limit in the game to limit the total online time of a day’s sessions to 4 hours. Like most other parameters, it can be changed by modifying a #define statement near the top of the code.
command(): The help page, a menu of available commands that a player can perform, has been redesigned and rewritten. This menu is attached to the '?' key.
The old debugger thread is gone, replaced by an in-game command function called showdata(). Press the ‘z’ key to see information on buffers, buffer indexes, and the backup thread’s state and history. Only if you’re serious about modifying the code will this information be useful.
The section of the gameloop thread that broadcasts radio and news messages has been modified to show only one of each type of message per pass. That way, replaying a long radio history won’t flood the output buffers and longer radio and news histories can therefore be retained.
The old jumprtn() movement function has been consolidated into the warprtn() function. It’s only slightly more complicated than having them separate.
The current source code can be downloaded from http://librenix.com/st/st.158.c. and the original article in this series is here. As usual, the compile script is embedded in the comments at the top of the source file. You’ll have to rename the source st.c for the script to work unchanged.
[A Space Tyrant home page has been created as a central index to the various ST articles, links, and files.]
|mail this link | permapage | score:9208 | -Ray, June 26, 2005 (Updated: July 26, 2008)|
Space Tyrant: A threaded game server project in C
|[Update, June 25, 2005: A Space Tyrant home page has been created as a central index to the various ST articles, links, and files.]|
[Update, March 21, 2007: A Space Tyrant has its own website! It's small but growing and will provide quick access to the latest code and developments in the ST universe.]
Space Tyrant: Today we kick off a new multithreaded, network socket programming project which we will call Space Tyrant. Our mission is to write an open source, multiplayer, networked, strategy game in the C programming language. The goal of this project is to make a solid code base which implements a simple space trading game upon which other games can then be built. The game will be a subset of The Last Resort (TLR) that currently runs at [offline]. This project will be a learning exercise for me as well as for any interested readers. The current state of the source code will be released with each article update.
The game design: While my TLR game consists of over 25,000 lines of C source code and supports a web interface as well as telnet and a graphical client, this code will be far smaller and simpler. It will initially only support telnet and will implement a far simpler game design.
Players will be able to telnet into the game, create an account, and play in a universe that contains ports, planets, as well as other players. Each player will be issued a starship, some cargo holds, and an amount of starship fuel. Additional fuel will be issued hourly and will accumulate in the starship. Fuel will be used to move the ship between sectors -- locations within the game universe -- and to dock with ports. Once a ship runs out of fuel it can't move at all until new fuel is issued.
Players will be able to buy and sell commodities (Iron, alcohol, and hardware) between the three different kinds of ports. Each port type will sell one of the three commodities and buy the other two. Prices will be based on supply and demand with rarely-used ports offering the better prices.
With the money players earn trading they will be able to buy more cargo holds to make their ships more efficient for trading. They will also be able to buy fighters -- small military drones -- that can be used to attack other ships or deployed to guard a sector and its contents. The fighters carried with a ship will guard it against attacks from other players.
Games will run for a predetermined length of time, then reset and start anew.
The programming model: Now, on to the software design. I've compared and considered various models for the server design. TLR is based on the forking model using inetd or xinetd to handle the listening and forking. While the forking model is inherently distributable to multiple processors, it introduces inefficiencies (forking multiple processes) and makes interprocess communications more difficult and slower.
Next, I considered a non-blocking, single process model. In this approach, one process handles everything in a single thread. It would use non-blocking IO (read and write functions that never wait for completion but, rather, return immediately if they aren't ready to read or write actual data). The thttpd web server is an example of a non-blocking, single process server. It's extremely fast and efficient. However, this model is quite complicated to code, and, I believe would make it more likely to introduce subtle timing bugs.
Next, I considered a pure multithreaded, single process model with a thread for each player. While appealing in many ways, this model would require the same kind of coordination between threads that the forking model requires between processes. Such interprocess communication would be simplified in that the various threads share memory, but the coordination issues otherwise remain the same.
Last, I considered another multithreaded model, this time with only IO threads for each user and a single thread that implements all game logic. While that one central thread might someday be a bottleneck that limits scalability on large SMP systems, it does distribute the IO on any additional processors that might be present, and requires minimal coordination. In short, this model combines the logic simplicity of the non-blocking single process model with the coding simplicity of the threaded model, while separating the IO from the main logic. There will also be two other simple threads in this model. There will be a thread that listens for new connections and spawns the IO threads for each new connection. There will also be a thread that writes the data to disk periodically.
This is the approach that I intend to take for this project. The code will be written for both Linux and Mac OS X.
More info: I have set up an email address for programmers following this series to provide recommendations, bug reports, and other feedback. Send email about this project to spacetyrant [at] librenix.com.
|mail this link | permapage | score:9182 | -Ray, March 18, 2005 (Updated: July 26, 2008)||