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New Systems

Posted by Tigereye, Nov 9 2009, 10:35 PM in Allegiance

As some of you may have heard, FAO will be getting access to shinier new systems this December. If you're curious about the upgrades, read on. If it's all techno-babble to you, just know that the upgrades will bring these benefits to our community:

  • Faster response for ASGS queries (ASGS login time should be slightly faster)
  • Easier maintenance by administrators (My job will be easier)
  • Shorter turnaround time for administrative requests (more people will have access to "the keys" to get things done)
  • Easier backup of our community data.
  • The ability to run multiple queries on our data at once. (The "post-game stats" webpage can return!)
  • Easier migration for the future (future ASGS replacements can be transitioned easily. If stripe suffers hardware failure or if Tiger decides he doesn't want to do this anymore, it will be easy to migrate our core systems to the new admin's server)

Regarding that last point, don't worry: I have no plans of jumping ship any time soon, so provided your ZLs don't want to ditch me for someone else, I'm sticking around.

Here's what stripe is now:
  • 1x dual-core opteron 2210 processor (1.81 GHz)
  • 2GB RAM
  • Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition

This one server runs the following for the FAO community:
  • ASGS Server
  • Allegiance Lobby Server
  • AutoUpdate server (for ASGS and Allegiance itself)
  • SVN Server (for the developers)
  • ZL Tools
  • ZL pr0n (okay not really)

Here's what stripe will be when it's done:
  • 2x quad-core opteron 2370 processors (2.0GHz)
  • 10GB RAM
  • VMWare ESXi 4.0

The server will run a few single-purpose VMs which will provide logical separation between the jobs that stripe does. Future moves will be as simple as stopping a VM on stripe, copying the files to new hardware, and starting the VM there.

I'm currently preparing for the massive amount of work it will take to move from a one-OS system to a multi-OS system. As you can imagine, this will bring some downtime. However, with proper planning and preparation, I can minimize the downtime our community will experience during this migration - hopefully to just an hour or so.

I haven't set the date for the migration since it depends on having everything ready-to-go. As the date nears, I will make sure to give the community ample notice, and will help ensure there are two redundant backup plans in place:
  1. The beta lobby will be hosting games during the downtime so you can all get your fix. Clear instructions will be available to help the techno-challenged.
  2. A "oh @#(!" backup will be taken before beginning so that if something screws up really badly, I will be able to abandon the upgrades and return us to where we were before I started breaking things

Have no fear though: I'd like you to know that I am planning to have 0 problems during the upgrade/migration! smile.gif
Despite this plan though, I'm also planning on having a plan B and plan C to deal with the worst possible scenarios.

Anyways.
You may now continue with your regularly-scheduled forum flaming and administration criticizing.
Watch the News for more up-to-date information about the migration.

--TE


DEFCON 16 - Amazing fun, as expected

Posted by Tigereye, Aug 12 2008, 01:43 PM

DEFCON 16 this year was a lot of fun for so many reasons, I just had to share.

In no particular order, here are ramblings of things Tiger did down in Vegas.

Thursday night: Watched a friend of mine win $2000 on his second hand of Video Poker *EVER*. Serious case of "beginner's luck." He played one hand of video poker for 25c, lost. He played a second, hit the highest jackpot possible on the machine. Crazy.
We tried to get into the "toxic bbq" but were too drunk to find the place. Instead we played around with the DEFCON badge, drank more, and walked around the conference grounds to see the staff scrambling to set everything up in time.
After that, we started sniffing the DEFCON and hotel networks to see what was up. In pure penetration-testing style, we found a way onto the hotel network through a covert channel, bypassing that annoying "Pay $9.95 for 24hrs of internet" redirect screen. In retaliation, we caught someone using the new Kaminsky attack on us... as if I wouldn't notice all my internet traffic being redirected to another IP tongue.gif

Fun hack/counterhack.

Friday: lots and lots of talks, many interesting, many awesome. I learned so much and crammed so much useful knowledge into my braincells, I simply had to compensate. As a result, I got trashed tongue.gif
So trashed in fact that I thought it would be a good idea to submit an entry into the TCP/IP drinking game. Apparently not trashed enough to fail their questionaire because I was accepted. Anyone who was there would have seen me on the stage for an hour trying to be stumped by the crowd with random TCP/IP questions. I walked off stage in a drunken stooper trying to reclaim my seat in the crowd.
After that was HACKER JEOPARDY the one must-see event at DEFCON. The M.C. (emcee?) Winn is such an awesome guy, and is absolutely $#@!ing hilarious. Especially when drunk!

Saturday: After missing the first two talks because of an unscheduled date with the porcelain goddess in my bathroom, I returned to the talks and absorbed even more knowledge. The forensic talks were interesting, but the best one by far on Saturday was the "0-day" talk with Backtrack. A very very well-rounded summary of how to turn a random application crash into a vulnerability discovery, into a working exploit. For those who aren't yet wizards with vulnerabilities and exploits, this summary talk explained the entire process step-by-step. I wish I saw this presentation years ago while learning x86 assembly and other vulnerability info.

Saturday ended with many parties (both private and public), with the highlight being the "Graffiti" projector in the huge party in skybox 208. Basically it amounted to a Webcam + Projector + Software = instant graffiti. You'd use a laser pointer to draw on a wall, and the webcam would pick up the laser dot and feed it to software that would draw that dot with the projector exactly where the laser pointer was. So you'd wave the laser pointer around and it was like taking a paintbrush to the wall. To clear the projector's screen, simply touch the laserpointer to the top-left corner. SO MUCH FUN to draw everything from the Canadian flag to writing DEFCON, to drawing the Allegiance "A" logo, or the classic PENIS. Some guy even did his artist rendering of the GOATSE pic. This was so much fun, I will be finding a cheap projector and webcam to do this on my own!

Sunday: The big day... Dan Kaminsky's talk on the latest DNS vulnerability/exploit. For those of you who don't know about it yet, visit Windows Update and give yourself piece of mind. Basically this one (deadly simple) attack on DNS can be chained with many other small vulnerabilities to give you a skeleton key for the whole $#@!ing internet. With this you could break into anyone's account anywhere (email account, gaming account, bank account, anything), deface any webpage you wanted, distribute any amount of malware/viruses/spybots/software to anyone's computer, intercept and eavesdrop on ANYONE'S email or VOIP calls... the possibilities for this one small attack are simply limitless. Skeleton Key To The Internet is the best way I can describe it. Dan is such an amazing presenter, and awesome guy all around. Incredibly fun to drink with.
This really was the highlight of the entire weekend. Awesome.
(Plus, he gave out his grandma's cookies to those who asked good questions. They were good.)


Other than that, another thing that was a lot of fun for me was my own brand of vulnerability testing: A simple replay attack. Just like you can use a simple tape recorder to record someone typing their PIN for their voicemail, and replay it back later into your phone's mic to gain access (ie: replay attack), I did the same thing but with the access badges needed to enter any talk.
I simply put this year's conference badge in my backpack and wore last year's badge. I should not have been allowed into any of the talks, but every security guard blindly let me in without asking to see proof of payment for this year's conference. One security dude laughed at the message on my badge without registering the fact that the new badges don't display messages. Heh.
I then decided to get a bit blatant about it and wrote a customized message on the badge itself: "REPLAY ATTACK" turning myself into a walking vulnerability tester. I found it very ironic (and SO much fun) to test the security of the world's largest security conference and find out how BAD it really was! I was surprised to find out how much it sucked tongue.gif
By the end of the conference, only two goons (the security dudes) stopped me to ask me for the new badge, and both of them laughed so hard when they realized what I was doing. One goon offered to buy me a beer for "being so awesome."
I then turned it into a twist to scam free swag. "I'd like to do some 'responsible disclosure' of a security vulnerability that affects all of DEFCON's security. In return..... can I have one of those shirts you keep throwing to winners? mrgreen.gif"
That was a lot of fun. Too bad the shirt's way too big.

DEFCON has once again proved itself to be the most fun I've had in the last 365 days. I highly recommend the event to anyone regardless of whether or not they are technically inclined. There was so much "social engineering" or "soft skill" talks that were super interesting too... and just the chance to drink and hang out with so many geeks is well beyond worth it.

I can't wait to go next year, and I plan on running my own little contest there too. I'll post about it here in 10-11 months in case any of you are interested in participating.

--TE


Stacking

Posted by Tigereye, Mar 22 2008, 03:34 PM in Allegiance

Stacking has been the biggest problem about Allegiance for the last 8 years.

Not any more. BV has started cracking down on stackers, and I'm going to join him! Together we will show the community how to play fairly. And if they don't listen? They won't play!

The cleansing has begun, and in the end Allegiance will be stronger from it.

EDIT: The above text was written as part of an April Fool's prank, and was NOT intended to be true. For more information, visit the thread here: http://www.freeallegiance.org/forums/index...showtopic=40453

--TE


2008 - New Beginnings

Posted by Tigereye, Jan 2 2008, 01:42 AM in Allegiance

I can't believe 2007 is over. Is it just me or does time fly a lot faster now than it used to wink.gif

2007 saw lots of changes to this community. R4 brought many new features, the training zone has completely overhauled the Cadet and ACS programs which have led to a rise in player counts and retention.

This community has a lot to be proud of, so lets toast our glasses to a good year, and look forward to another one.

Happy 2008,

--TE


Administering a Community

Posted by Tigereye, Oct 12 2007, 05:15 PM in Allegiance

It's now been a year since Friday the 13th last year when I was given the keys to ASGS and put on Pook's hat as the Allegiance Community Administrator, so I figured it's about time I used this dang blog of mine.

A year ago I remember looking up at Pook and wondering why I would never see him ingame.
Or I'd wonder why he was the "Community Administrator" but didn't really seem to do much. I mean, I'd see him help the devteam release the latest version of Allegiance... or maybe I'd see a post or two confirming that some newbie's callsign is unlinked from his friend's... but beyond that the impression I had was "Pook must be too busy in RL; He doesn't get involved in Allegiance much anymore."

My, how that impression has changed.

After trying my best to fill his shoes this past year I've learned a great deal about just how much work Pook has done and constantly did for this community, and consequently why Pook burned out last year. Between the PMs, the "incidents", the events, and the administrative requests I'll make the understatement of the year and say: administering a community is a tough job. Anyone who sees the "Administrative Requests" forum would know how much work is needed - and that doesn't cover the private enforcement requests or the PMs!

After seeing Pook burn out, (and now after learning why first-hand...) I've been working as hard as I can to change things in order to prevent anyone in this community from burning out the same way. I worked with community members to restructure our organization to help divide and delegate responsibilities in such a way so that there is not one person who takes all of the sh%t from all areas.
Now there are 5 people taking 1/5 of the sh%t each smile.gif

Next, I took a look at how most of Pook's administration was done (Raw SQL statements directly to the database!) and realized that in order to one thing, maybe 20 SQL statements needed to be run. This required a lot of thought, work, and careful execution - not to mention technical expertise to get it done... and that's if no mistakes are made - One small mistake and the database could be ruined! (Thank God I haven't done that... although I did make one small mistake once that wiped all of Defiance's auth records. It's too late now, but at the time if one of her callsigns were banned she could have logged in on any of her PCs/Laptops with any of her hiders and gotten around it. Oops mrgreen.gif)

And then a funny thing happened.
I logged in one day to play and a few people said to me: "Welcome back, Tiger!" and I realized in an instant that the table had turned. Everyone has the same perspective now that I did a year ago. Because I'm not ingame as often anymore, or not posting as much as before, it appears that I've left the community... when in reality I'm doing far more work now to help the community than I ever did before. This realization hit me like a ton of bricks and instilled a bit of fear into me: am I at risk of burning out like Pook did?

Thankfully the answer to that is no. At least - not yet mrgreen.gif

Even though it was kind of stressful as I had to scramble to learn a completely customized system from scratch, I was able to do it because I have been surrounded by players who care about this community as much as I do - if not more.

  • BlackViper is now responsible for all enforcement decisions so I don't have to. He takes a huge load of PMs out of my hands and handles them in a calm consistent manner.
  • Ozricosis has embraced his title as Event Coordinator and has planned so many fun events for the entire community. Reading through the THANKS! posts and looking at the event attendance it's clear how the community is better off having one person dedicate their time to planning these amazingly fun events.
  • ImmortalZ has taken over the Tech Support area and continues to find innovative solutions to the most arcane problems our new users face. We've all seen a dramatic increase in players, and they're all getting in without problems because of ImmortalZ's help.
  • Dogbones has been leading the charge in improving the game we love by fixing annoyances and adding new features. He has a whole team of developers who love the game as much as we do, and continue to submit new changes that will make our favorite game that much better.
  • ClayPigeon has been hard at work writing entire training *MANUALS* (these things might as well be textbooks) for how to kick ass in Allegiance. Together with BlackViper (Does BV ever sleep?), they've been rewriting Cadet material and writing new Commander material to help curb the steep learning curve for all who are joining our ranks
  • Last but not least, although I was in charge of Documentation for the past year, TheBored has been plugging away at our new wiki and pretty much whipping our documentation into shape. I remember one day looking at the wiki expecting to see an empty slate when all of a sudden I saw the thing filled with everything from our old knowledgebase + more. TheBored WAS leading the documentation without any direction from me, yet I took the credit. It was only right to give him the recognition he deserved
Were it not for these players, I surely would have burned out already like Pook. These players have taken their share of responsibility off of my shoulders allowing me to put time into what our community needed most: a more decentralized administration.

And that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of all of the other players in this community who contribute in many more ways but aren't recognized in an "official" capacity. From the @Allegs to everyone who posts in the helpline to help newbies, to the people who make training videos, to the people who host servers, to the people who post helpful hints here on the forums, or take players onto a private server to teach them how to play.... everyone plays their part in making this community what it is. None of it goes unnoticed!

Over the past year or so I've been writing a set of administration tools to let these players perform all of the administrative tasks they usually had to ask me to do for them. I haven't been logging in to play as much because whatever time I have for Allegiance that I used to put into playing, I now put into finishing these tools so that the community doesn't need to rely on 1 man anymore.
Anyone who sees the "Administrative Requests" forum has probably already noticed that the frequency of requests has dropped dramatically over the last couple of months. To me - that's a great thing. It means that I'm on my way to accomplishing my goal of decentralization, and making our community more self-sustaining without everyone depending on 1 man.

Anyways. I've made this post a lot longer than I had originally intended.

The main message I wanted to give was... even though you may not see or hear from "The Community Administrator" that often (whether it's Pook or me or the next guy), don't be worried that they aren't giving Allegiance the attention it deserves. Chances are they're giving a lot more than you can see.

Cheers to year 2,

--TE


Stripe Woes

Posted by Tigereye, Jul 17 2007, 04:11 PM in Allegiance

So I've had a long couple of days.

As some of you may have noticed, the dev team's SVN is down, as well as Stripe. I'm going through hell trying to resurrect it, and thought I'd share my horror stories.

It all started out when I wanted to restore a simple backup. It should have taken half an hour, and then another 10-15 of doublechecking to make sure everything was OK. Unfortunately during the restore process, the backup software hung and the system became hard-locked.

No problem. I'll leave it for 30mins to make SURE it's actually hung and it's not just me being impatient. 30mins pass, I reboot... and the system hangs. It can no longer boot. What makes it worse is, suddenly there's a RAID fault in my drive mirroring indicating one of the disks is screwed up.

After a few hours of diagnosing and ressurrection attempts remotely using the fancy remote keyboard/video/mouse which even lets me access the BIOS of the machine... I concede that it is unfixable remotely.

Yesterday after work, Stripe rode home with me and I got to work last night. True enough, there's nothing I could do about the harddrive: it's toast. Thankfully I was able to pull all of the important data off of the other drive though.

As it stands now, I'm purchasing new harddrives after work because I bought these drives at a great discount with my friend when we found them online. His harddrive died last month. Stripe's died today. If this is a track record, that means the 2nd drive in stripe will be going soon.

Long story short: Don't buy budget drives. Get good quality drives ALWAYS because your data is the most important thing on a computer. Thankfully I didn't lose anything important this time, but you may if this hits you, so heed my warnings!

Stripe should be reinstalled/fixed tonight, and I'll drive it back to the co-locator tomorrow.

Sorry it's been down a few days,

--TE


Stripe is online!

Posted by Tigereye, Mar 20 2007, 05:15 PM in Allegiance

It took longer than I had hoped, but my server is finally online.
As a tribute to Tigers, I've named my server Stripe. You can find its games listed in the public lobby by that name smile.gif

It was such a saga to put online though, so excuse me while I vent a little and write in my blog.

I arrived at the datacenter at 2:50pm for my 3:00pm appointment. My contact came down to the security gates at 3:25 to pick me up - the first annoyance.

I finally went upstairs, installed it into the rack and got it hooked up and everything was beautiful. I grabbed their "KVM Kart" which had a monitor/keyboard/mouse on it and wheeled it over to Stripe to make sure it was up and running... when I noticed they only had PS/2 keyboards. Stripe only has USB ports. They had multiple carts and many extra keyboards, but every single one was PS/2.

I left with the hope that Stripe was truly online - I'd figure that out when I got home. I left the datacenter and looked at the street I parked on - it was empty!! My car was missing! I only paid for 30mins at the meter and it took me an hour and a half. It was 4:15pm.

After a minute of panic I found a phone# for the parking authority and managed to track down my car. A long trek later I arrived at the towing company to be greeted by a brash 18yo teenybopper girl. She looks at me and says: "License." - Oh how polite.

I whip my driver's license out and she says "No. License PLATE" with that beautifully condescending tone of "Why are you so stupid?"
After debating my many possible responses, I politely gave her my car's plate# and was welcomed with an invoice for $112. On top of that, she gave me the parking ticket for $60.

All in all, Stripe made it up safely and I'm anxious to play a game on it right now.

For those who are excited about the new server and want to help defray the costs I've paid to share Stripe with the Allegiance community, you can make a donation by clicking this link, or by sending money via paypal to Tigereye@FreeAllegiance.org

See you ingame!


TigerServ

Posted by Tigereye, Feb 7 2007, 05:09 AM in Allegiance

A few weeks ago I asked people to ping a friend's server running on a fast connection located in downtown Toronto. The results looked pretty good - relatively low hopcounts to most people. Even those who were on the other side of the globe said they had better pingtimes. I was already planning on getting my own server for some other things I'll be doing, but wasn't 100% sure if I'd be able to afford it. After asking the community if they'd be willing to "fill in the gaps" and support this endeavour, I'd do it. Many of you offered your support. So, I decided to do it.

I just received the server today, and it's looking pretty sexy. I'm anxious to get it up, but it will take a while. I still need to find the time to format it, install, configure, secure, install the 'work stuff' first, etc etc etc. Then I gotta drive it and plug it in next to my friend's server at the ISP. I expect to have Allegiance games up and running by the end of February.

For those who asked, $2000 was spent to purchase this server, and keeping it online costs $100 a month.
Strike700 has offered a generous donation to keep the server up for the first 6 months.

If you're interested in donating as well, you can paypal a donation to tigereye@freeallegiance.org.

Thanks,

--TE


Allegiance R3 is finally live!

Posted by Tigereye, Dec 16 2006, 01:14 AM in Allegiance

The FreeAllegiance open-source community spawned from Microsoft's abandoned Allegiance game has released their 3rd update to the game! This update finally allows hundreds of previously-locked out players to return to the game. It fixes Microsoft's initial network code which used to require configuring all home/business/college routers, which wasn't always possible. This new update fixes that allowing everyone to once again log in.

For a bit of history, in 2001, Microsoft withdrew support for their award-winning game leaving the players to fend for themselves and hack the existing files to continue to play together.
In 2004, Microsoft was so overwhelmed with the effort put into keeping the game alive, that they released the full sourcecode to the freeallegiance community.

Now in 2006, players can log into Allegiance for the first time without adding Port Forwarding rules to their routers. Players behind College and work routers worldwide can once again play the best team-based space-sim online.

If you miss the game, come back and play without reconfiguring your hardware!
If you don't know what Allegiance looks like, here's a screenshot, and a link to a choreographed dogfighting video on youtube.


Allegiance on today's internet

Posted by Tigereye, Dec 13 2006, 06:32 PM in FAZ

It's almost here. I can practically taste it.

For 6 years, players stuck behind any device that employed Network Address Translation was prevented from playing Allegiance unless they had permission to (and knowledge on how to) add port triggering or forwarding rules to every single device inbetween them and the internet.

Thanks to the hard work of Fullmark, Imago, Radar, and MDValley, that's no longer a problem.

We've had many successful tests on Wednesday nights, and it's only a matter of a day or so before their changes are rolled out to the entire Community, along with many other changes submitted by other players who have donated their time to improving this game we love so much.

So exciting!!

I am extremely proud of everything the players in this community have done - it makes me honoured to be a member of this community along with every one of them. I'm also anxious to speculate on the set of modifications our community's members will decide to write next. So many possibilities smile.gif

Looking forward to a trouble-free rollout,

--TE


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