The Cranky Sysadmin A world of technology, fun, and ignorant rants.

January 27, 2009

Playing Eve-Online Again.

Filed under: Eve-Online — Cranky Sysadmin @ 9:31 pm

Since things are slowing down a bit in WoW-ville, I’ve picked up EVE again. It’s still an amazingly deep game, and the interface has gotten some spiffing up since I last saw it. There are “cool down” bars on all of the weapons and activated ship fittings for instance.

I’ve been kind of poking at things to see what’s interesting. I tried mining, but it’s awful boring. At the skill level that I am willing to commit to, the money isn’t very good either. The best guide I found on mining is from Halada. It goes deep into the mechanics of mining.

I know that almost anything I do in EVE will require cash (ISK), so I need to do something that is fun, but throws off a lot of coin. Level 4 missions seem to be promising. Even now on level 3’s, I can spend an hour and make 5 to 8 million depending on how lucky I am with loot. Level 4’s are supposed to throw off tens of millions per mission. Because coin is what makes EVE go ’round, my first priority is to get Level 4 mission ready. I’m probably a week or 2 away from that. I’m using a Dominix right now. It seems to be a perfectly serviceable ship for Level 4’s according to the forums and loadout pages. Before I step into level 4’s, I need to work up my armor tanking skills, my Gallente Battleship skill (for drone damage and durability), and my drone skills so I can get sentry drones out there. One of the popular methods for clearing a Level 4 solo is to agro a group at a time if possible and use sentry drones to kill everything before it gets to you.

Once I have a good source of cash, I’m going to work on my PvP skills, both in-game behind the keyboard. If I’m going to wander around in 0.0, then I should know how to defend myself. EVE tends to be a pretty hostile place. Even in high sec areas, there is plenty of griefing and other shenanigans. 90% of the people in high sec just go about their business, but that 10% can cause a lot of trouble.

After I get the basics of PvP down, I’ll work on my Covert Ops and exploration skills. That seems to be a neat part of the game, and I’d like to see it.

Who knows what’s after that. EVE is a big game with another expansion coming out in march which should introduce “Tech 3” ships… And I haven’t even gotten to a Tech 2 ship yet. Well, there is still time. I’d better get back to earning ISK.

Waiting on More Wrath Content

Filed under: World of Warcraft — Cranky Sysadmin @ 9:02 pm

Our guild has Naxx, Obsidian Sanctum, and the Vault all on farm now. We’re working on phase 2 and 3 of Mag. I expct mag to be on farm in a couple of weeks. I have my 4 piece T7 bonus, and any other gear I get will come from 25 mans… which our guild is having a hard time organizing. Strangely, we have 3 groups of 10, who raid on two of the same nights, but there just isn’t much interest in getting 25 people all in the same place. Below is what the t7 shaman set looks like. It’s not very shamany. In fact, I could be mistaken for a mini-lich king.

January 13, 2009

Sapphiron Down

Filed under: World of Warcraft — Cranky Sysadmin @ 9:39 am

Our raid group took down 10 man Sapphiron last night. We spent about 2 hours learning the fight. The successful try was like someone flipped a switch. Up until then, we couldn’t get him below 70%, and then everything clicked and we downed him pretty fast.

There are several things in this fight that everyone has to pay attention to. First, you must get out of the blizzard. The damage piles up, and once you’re caught in the blizzard, it slows you so it’s harder to get out. In our group, we let the tank eat the blizzards so he didn’t have to move Sapp around and kill folks with tail swipe. During the air phase, everyone needs to spread out, wait for the 2 ice blocks, and then go hide behind one. The frost breath that happens soon after will one-shot you. If you took the cleanse talent, you’ll probably have to help with life drain. It needs to be cleansed as soon as possible as it not only does damage, but t heals Sapphiron.

The caster loot was limited to the Circle of Life. I passed, as our other shaman was replacing a blue ring and mine are as good as this one. The Helmet of the Inner Sanctum drops here, but we didn’t see it this time.

We did 3 attempts at Kel’Thuzad, but didn’t get him down. We got past the adds, but the ice blocks were our downfall. We’ll probably get that fight down next week.

January 5, 2009

The Cost of Checks

Filed under: Programming,System Administration — Cranky Sysadmin @ 10:14 am

I read an interesting article by Paul Graham about the cost of checks in an organization. Checks in this case refer to things like comprehensive QA of a product or feature before release. Paul’s premise is that all checks have a cost and some of the costs are surprisingly high. I tend to agree, but I also see things through the lens of an operations guy. When I release a product that has gone through no checks (I have been told to do this), there is a high probability that something will break. In many cases, the breakage can be crippling. I think there is a good chance that some checks will actually make a company more nimble, especially as a code base grows in complexity and more people depend on your product.

If a company spends as much or more time fixing the problems caused by a release as they spent on the release, maybe some checks need to be put in place to cut down that wasted effort. The problem is finding a balance where the check costs less then this extra effort and pain.

Maybe unit tests help. People who do unit tests seem to have different opinions about how effective they are. Some say that it causes them to take twice as long to write the code. Others say it helps them write the code faster since they have a codified requirement.

Automated testing is another thing that can make the release process better. There is a large cost associated with this in many cases though. You need a highly qualified QA guy who knows how to program and knows the product to write the tests. If he’s that good, maybe his time is better spent helping build the product (if this is a small organization). Could the automated tests be written by the group who develops the software? Sure, but it will slow down “real” development work.

I think the real problem is that as complexity increases, the need for checks increases. Eventually, one gets to a point where progress is ponderously slow. What do you do about this? Well, all of the solutions that I know of are bad in some way. One has to make a choice between pain and searing pain.

  • Keep it simple. Simple systems are easier to check and there is less risk in changing them since they’re easily understood.
  • Keep it small. This is really a subset of simple. If you have 5 simple systems (like web servers), you’ll have an easier time managing them then if you have 100 simple systems.
  • If you can’t keep it simple, only make it as complex as it has to be. This means managing customer expectations (which no one wants to do in my experience). Make sure the system isn’t more complex then your developers and operations staff can manage.
  • Don’t let complexity creep up on you. Know that it’s coming and plan for it. Know that your costs will rise as the complexity rises. Find ways to make the cost rise as slowly as possible.
  • If you have to have complexity, automate the heck out of everything you can find. This is easy to say, but if the system has grown so complex that all you do is fight fires, then you won’t have time to automate unless you are willing to accept a lower level of service for the time it takes to automate.

I am learning these things the hard way, so I don’t know of any elegant solutions to the problem of complexity which go beyond what I’ve already mentioned. Maybe after a few more startups I’ll have more useful advice then, “Watch out! You’re headed for a big bucket o’ misery!”

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