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.

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.

Voxels ate my weekend

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.