Archive for June, 2010

A Tale of Two Upgrades

Posted in Downtime, General on June 25, 2010 by Erbo

Okay, you all know about the big move and upgrade that CCP had planned for the Tranquility cluster, and how it all turned to worms on them, resulting in them giving us a slug of skillpoints each to make up for it.  (They mentioned that the CSM signed off on this particular mode of compensation.  So, thanks, Mynxee! 🙂 ) I’m sympathetic; just tonight, the development team I work for just managed to properly deploy an important piece of software for the first time in about a month.  As with everything else, it’s always the details that come back to bite you in the ass.

But, on the not-so-negative side, I’m fascinated by the description of the technologies involved.  In my previous job, I worked for a company that sold high-performance cluster computing systems; Tranquility is just one of those clusters writ large, and the way the EVE server system is structured is one of the more interesting applications of distributed computing I’ve seen.  The only thing I can compare it to is Second Life, and EVE’s cluster is just a bit more advanced.  SL basically requires that each region, or “sim,” comprising 64K square meters of virtual territory, have its own dedicated CPU core (with some exceptions), while EVE can load multiple lightly-trafficked star systems on a single CPU core, while able to assign heavier-loaded systems to dedicated CPUs, either statically (in the case of Jita et al.) or dynamically (in the case of fleet fight reservations).  This allows EVE to run a larger “world” on a smaller cluster.  (Admittedly, SL has to cope with high degrees of user-generated content, while EVE does not.)  And, looking at that picture, it looks like CCP is putting its equipment in APC racks, just like the ones the company I used to work for assembled and shipped our clusters in!

. . .

Meanwhile, one of the things I was up to in the gap between when we suspended operations in EVE and when we reactivated things, once I had secured gainful employment, was a much-needed program of system upgrades here at the Ralpha Dogs Orderhall.  Both my and Selena’s workstations got an almost total overhaul; each of us is now running quad-core, where we were single-core before.  Selena is now running an Athlon II X4 630 on a Gigabyte motherboard, while I have the Phenom II X4 955 Black, on an Asus board that turned out to be one of the better motherboards you can get for the money.  We went with 4 Gb of RAM each, which is usable by Windows 7 64-bit edition, which replaced Windows XP on our systems.  (Mine dual-boots to Ubuntu Lucid Lynx 64-bit as well, which I use for work and for serious hacking.)  With the OS upgrades also came drive upgrades; we now each have over a terabyte of disk space at our disposal, divided across three spindles in my case, two in Selena’s.  My old 21″ CRT monitor has been replaced by a pair of 21.5″ widescreen LCD displays, HD-quality, driven by a new nVidia GeForce GTS 250 card.  The resulting system runs EVE buttery-smooth, with little or no display lag and gorgeous quality.  (I’m not done yet; I want to replace the keyboard with a Logitech G19 and the mouse with a Razer Naga.  Basically, I want to intimidate the hell out of anyone else that tries to sit down at my desk…)

With well-balanced systems like these, no power in the ‘verse can stop us.  Unless it’s another bout of extended downtime… 🙂

Advertisements

Arise!

Posted in Storyline on June 20, 2010 by Erbo

June 20, YC 112

In a dusty, now all-but-forgotten corporate office, inside three cryonic suspension tubes, three sleepers lay dreaming the deep, slow dreams of suspended animation. One man, two women; one woman with the hard features of the Minmatar, the other two fair-haired Gallente. Only their clothing gave clue to their identities, or even the fact that they all served a common cause…the characteristic black hooded jackets and Greek letter pins on their lapels.

The three dreamers each dreamed their own dreams, sealed away inside the plastic-and-metal cocoons that preserved their lives. The Minmatar woman dreamed of great struggles, of hot desert planets and the flash of bright blades in combat, of crushing defeat for the enemy and the triumph of her tribe. For the Gallente woman, dreams were more a means of escape; she dreamed of other lives in other places, noble indigenous natives, ethereal elves, worlds beyond imagination. The subject of many of her dreams was the third sleeper, the Gallente male; his own dreams were more shadowy, bordering on nightmares, tending towards the idiosyncratic. He might not remember these dreams when he woke…or he might choose not to remember them.

But one entity survived to watch over them. The Ralpha Dogs’ main command core, the Multi-Operational Team Hub and Event Recorder (M.O.T.H.E.R.), kept close watch on the frozen sleepers, lest their long sleep inadvertently turn into the Last Sleep, and also monitored external events, to know when it was time for them to wake. For months, it had fulfilled this capacity in silence, while events swirled on outside this office, outside the station, outside the star system, beyond constellation and region, beyond the borders of space controlled by the four great empires, and even beyond all human ken in a dimension that defied understanding…and the realm of an entirely different, and more dangerous, class of Sleepers.

One screen on Mother’s console lit, in response to a recognition signal received from a far-off source. The computer considered the signal for long moments, verifying the authentication codes, pattern-matching it against known transmission characteristics. The machine made a decision. Long-dead circuits came to life, additional readouts flickered on, the room echoed with the loud clicks of power relays snapping over.

The room lights, long darkened, gently faded up to a soft glow, and the chill air in the room began warming to a temperature more hospitable to organic life, as the patterns of lights on the sides of the cryonic suspension tubes changed. More words flashed across Mother’s displays:

...SUBJECTS...ERBO EVANS...SELENALORE EVANS...FANCHON SIHU...
...REVIVAL SEQUENCE...INITIATED...

For long minutes, nothing changed.

Then, the hiss of hydraulic mechanisms began as the cryonic tubes swung slowly open.

. . .

Selena was the first to awake. For long moments, her dreams blurred into the awareness of reality, of the fresh air of the room impinging on her face, removing the chill from her bones. Her eyelids fluttered, then popped open, the piercing blue eyes behind them focusing on the consoles at the other side of the room. The light, slightly painful at first, became bearable as her eyes adapted.

She craned her neck from one side to the other, peeking over the edges of the tube around her, checking first Erbo’s tube, then Fanchon’s. Neither one seemed to have stirred from their own slumber as yet. A momentary flash of panic came to her, but she quickly cooled it with the discipline of an Abbot of the Ralpha Dogs.

Placing her hands on either side of the tube, she pulled herself upright, cautiously stepping forward and out, her steps wobbly at first but gradually gaining surety. She turned to her right, facing the leftmost of the three cryostasis tubes, and gazed upon the still-sleeping face of the man she loved, watching his chest gently rise and fall as the enforced sleep of cryostasis gave way to more natural sleep.

So handsome, she thought to herself. He always has been, really.

She stepped carefully over to Erbo’s tube, leaned down, and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. His eyes remained shut, but his breathing deepened slightly, and he emitted a small rumble of contentment that reminded Selena of a cat purring.

“Dear,” she said, gently, “it’s time to wake up.”

One of Erbo’s eyes fluttered open, tracking on Selena. He muttered something that she thought sounded like “Mommmm…not time yet…”

“Yes, it is,” she repeated, gently shaking his left shoulder. “Come on, dear. We’ve got work to do. And I think Mother wants to talk to you.”

Erbo’s eyes opened, and he reached above his head, stretching long-disused muscle groups. “Okay, okay…gimme a sec.”

From the third tube came another voice, feminine with a pronounced Minmatar accent. “What’s all this noise?”

“And good morning to you, too, Fan,” said Selena, stepping over to her tube as Erbo disengaged from his own, bringing himself to his feet, scratching the back of his neck near the carved-ebony dust cap protecting one of his neural jacks as he tentatively stepped over to Mother’s console.

He touched his NeoCom, syncing it with Mother’s information feed. The master status showed green; no hostile activity, no internal trouble, no urgent pending issues other than one person asking for a corporate invitation and a few bills that had been automatically paid. Touching the keys on the console, he began giving orders as Selena left the room to see about getting their quarters habitable again.

He had taken possession of the Ralpha Dogs’ funds and matériel while they had been in stasis, to prevent it from being stolen. Now, money flowed back into the corporate accounts as massive warehouse containers were opened and their contents restored to their rightful location. Ship hulls and fitting components, ammunition, drones, ores and minerals, and containers of blueprints all made their way to the correct locations. Communication channels long-closed came to life and membership applications were once again enabled.

He came upon the “Suspension of Operations” bulletin posted in the corporate communications system. With a rueful grin, he erased that bulletin and quickly wrote another:

Now Online

We have resumed EVE operations here and we are once again open for business. We’re still shaking down, so it may take us a bit to establish a routine. But tell your friends…the Dogs are back in town!

Wrought in deepest Hell…our vengeance is freedom!

Clear skies,

– Erbo Evans, Abbot, ΡΑΔ

He quickly followed this up with a message to the entire corporation, requesting status information. None of them had been around for awhile, according to the corporate member listing, but it was worth a shot.

Finally, he keyed up a view of his own hangar. The screen lit to reveal his hangar space, now brightly lit again. Scores of workmen were checking over the ships ranked therein, verifying their systems. Occasionally, via the audio feed, he could hear the whine of ion and plasma thrusters as engines were lit and revved in tests. He glanced over the neatly ranked battlecruisers and cruisers, the lean, powerful shapes of Minmatar Rifters (which he privately thought of as “the official ship of gettin’ yo’ ass in trouble”), the long, slender shapes of Iteron Mark V haulers next to the compact, flat bulks of ORE mining barges, and, looming over all, the Orca Janne Wirman and the Obelisk freighter Tuomas Holopainen. All bore the Rho Alpha Delta corporate monogram; soon, they would be ready to fly once more.

“Sweetheart?” came a familiar voice from his left, a voice he’d not heard for months prior to this day. He turned to face Selenalore.

“Yes?”

“We’ll have food on the table shortly. Anything from Mother?”

Erbo looked thoughtful. “No, all quiet here. Things are getting back up to speed now. Hopefully, we’ll know where we stand soon.”

The two of them left for the crew quarters, leaving Mother to her own inscrutable thoughts.

The Past Through Tomorrow

Posted in EVE Blog Banter on June 16, 2010 by Erbo

Welcome to the eighteenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by none other than CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

On May 6th 2010, EVE Online celebrated its 7th Anniversary. Quite a milestone in MMO history, especially considering that it is one of the few virtual worlds out there to see its population continually grow year after year. For some of you who’ve been here since the very beginning, EVE has evolved quite a lot since its creation. With the expansion rolling out roughly twice a year, New Eden gets renewed and improved regularly. But, how about you the player? How has you gaming style evolved through the years or months since you’ve started playing? Have you always been a carebear, or roleplayer? Have you only focused on PvP or have you given other aspects of the game a chance – say manufacturing. Let’s hear your story!

. . .

Erbo Evans, speaking for the Ralpha Dogs–some of whom are still sleeping peacefully in cryostasis, but not for very much longer.  The preparations are almost complete; the hardware has been upgraded; the new software is installed; the only question left is that of timing.  But I digress.

When the Ralpha Dogs were formed, it was right at the tail end of the lifespan of the Trinity expansion; Empyrean Age was released less than a week later.  Our still-fledgling corporation saw no need to get involved in Faction Warfare, especially as we weren’t experienced in PvP combat.  (We still aren’t, really.  And six months or so of enforced sabbatical, what SF fans call “fafiation,” hasn’t helped matters.)  Instead, we started out mostly with what we’d been doing for Chilled Solutions: asteroid mining and mission-running.  We branched out some into manufacturing, to have something to do with all those refined materials, and the mission-running was like mission-running always is, even if it made for some entertaining blog entries.

We eagerly anticipated Quantum Rise, as that brought us a new toy to shoot for…the Orca industrial command ship (of which we have two now).  It’s proved to be the greatest boon to mining operations since the invention of the strip-mining beam…and comes in handy for shifting assets from place to place, as we are wont to do.  And we’ve made good use of the corporate medals, too.  But neither of those really affected our play style; we just kept getting better toys.

Apocrypha brought us wormholes and W-space, about which I was dubious at first.  But we went from wanting to steer clear of them, to training up scanning skills and checking them out, to knocking off Sleeper battleships.  (At least, a few of them, here and there.)  We even seriously started to consider a “field operation” in W-space, basing out of an Orca, or perhaps even a small POS tower setup.  Funny…we wouldn’t set foot in 0.0 space, but we were planning, at least temporarily, on setting up shop in some of the most hazardous 0.0 space there is.

Sadly, it wasn’t long after Dominion was released that we suffered the biggest possible change to our play style…with no job and, at best, severely-reduced income for an indefinite future, I had no choice but to suspend our accounts and put the Ralpha Dogs “on ice.” (EVE wasn’t the only thing I had to curtail; on the Second Life side, we sacrificed just as much, if not more.)  I actually got very, very lucky, and was able to find a new job relatively quickly, but I’ve spent the months since then getting used to a new way of doing things…which, without getting into details, is more involved than you might think, and involved plenty of “catch-up.”  We’ve also invested in some much-needed hardware and software upgrades, so when we do reactivate our EVE accounts, we’ll be able to experience the worlds of New Eden like never before.

. . .

But that is all the past; to quote Steely Dan, “Those days are gone forever, over a long time ago.”  What about the future, and the new possibilities Tyrannis brings to the table?

It’s apparent to me that we’re going to come back into EVE at a huge disadvantage.  We’ve missed the Great Planetary Land Rush, for instance, and no doubt every planet everywhere has had command centers aplenty (or other things; I don’t know everything about the planetary resource mechanics yet) dropped on it by now.  As for wormhole systems, hell, we’d probably be lucky to find a Class 1 where we could clear a couple of cheap Sleeper installations and haul out the loot without getting ourselves stomped flat by the “rightful owners” of the system.  Our numbers are few, our skills are lacking (and probably pitifully rusty by this point), and our resources, while considerable, are unremarkable.  (And I still can’t even fly a damn battleship!)  We’ve kept out of most trouble, up to now, by “flying under the radar”…but that’s never a sure thing for the long run.

Our work is definitely cut out for us…but we shall persevere nonetheless.  For simply “giving up” is an exercise in futility.  None know that better than we do, from inside the cryostasis tubes where we, even now, await our reawakening.  Soon, though, the time shall come for us to arise…and the communications channels will once again ring with our words of defiance and hope:

Wrought in deepest Hell…our vengeance is freedom!

. . .

Participants:

  1. CrazyKinux’s Musing: The Heroes with a Thousand Faces
  2. StarFleet Comms: Life. Evolved.
  3. A Carebear’s Journey: This Carebear Thinks He Is Developing Teeth
  4. The Elitist: Our ventures in EVE
  5. A Mule in EVE: From a guppy predator
  6. Travels of the Ronin: Evolution and Adaptation
  7. The Ralpha Dogs: The Past Through Tomorrow
  8. Where the frack is my ship: A journey, not a destination
  9. I am Keith Neilson: 7 Year Itch?
  10. Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah: Evolution Me
  11. EVE Opportunist: A long history of a short time
  12. Roc’s Ramblings: Things Change
  13. Guns Ablaze: Onwards and Upwards
  14. EVE On Real Life: Haven’t you grown up yet?
  15. The Fang: The path of the ninja
  16. EVEOGANDA: Whoops Apocalypse!
  17. EVE SOB: Learning to swim
  18. The Life of a Dead Jester: My Time with EVE
  19. Personal Files, Ciarente Roth: Personal Diary 18.6.112
  20. Learning to Fly: Change is Good
  21. Depths Unknown: Falling With Style
  22. Morphisat’s Blog: Jack of all trades
  23. Sarnelbinora’s Blog: Thoughts of EVE
  24. Confessions of a Closet Carebear: It’s the yellow box, stupid…
  25. Adventures in Mission Running: My path amongst the stars
  26. When 11 Ninjas isn’t enough: First days in the North (continued)
  27. Lost in New Eden: My EVE Life So Far
  28. Life in my Hole: How My EVE Experience Has Evolved
  29. The Lathspell of Mithrandir: EVE-olution
  30. Chocolate Heaven: Recurring Themes
  31. Diary of a Pod Pilot: The many sides of me
  32. eve’s parity bit: Me; the perpetual student
  33. Mike Azariah: When you look into the Past, the Past looks into you
  34. Escoce – Eve Trader: I Have Always Been Escoce
  35. More as they get published…

Delivery Confirmation

Posted in Storyline on June 9, 2010 by Erbo

TransStellar Shipping Storage station, in orbit around Jarzalad 8, moon 8:

The delivery pilot announced himself in the station manager’s office.  “‘Scuse me?”

Scowling, the station manager looked up from the datapad on which he’d been reading the latest news from the home systems.  Just what I needed right now, he thought.  He grunted, “Yeah?”

“Got a delivery to make,” responded the pilot.  “Three Mark XIV capsules, to be transferred to resident pilot hangars and exchanged for Mark XIII units.”

“Huh?” responded the station manager.  “Why you botherin’ me with it?  Take it to the corp office for those pilots.”

“Can’t,” came the reply.

“Why not?”

“No one there.  Place looks empty.  Well, ‘cept for some cryostasis tubes…those things creep me out worse’n a Caldari frail.”

The station manager frowned as he looked over the proffered delivery status document.  It seemed illogical; most of the deliveries he’d seen for the Mark XIV capsules had been at least a week ago.  But everything looked to be in order.

“Awright,” he grunted.  He reached over and touched an intercom button.  “Gilles, Louis, report to…um…” He checked the document again. “Receiving Bay 12.  Cargo offloading and transfer.”

“Thanks,” said the delivery pilot.

The station manager didn’t even grunt goodbye as the pilot walked out the door, already returning his attention to his datapad.

. . .

In Receiving Bay 12, the promised help was already present by the time the delivery pilot entered.  They’d brought a repulsorlift hand truck, large and powerful enough to carry a capsule and offset its mass enough where a couple of strong men could move it.

At the pilot’s command, the cargo hatch of his vessel swung open, and the cargo elevator sank slowly towards the deck.  It bore three shining new Mark XIV capsules, the latest word in technology for the capsuleer pilots that made up New Eden’s true aristocracy.  Straight off the CONCORD assembly lines, the pods did bear one non-standard item of ornamentation: three symbols, outlined in space-black permapaint against the bronze of the hull.  A letter P, a letter A, and an equilateral triangle.

“What the hell is that?” asked Louis.

“Damn if I know,” muttered the pilot.  “But the instructions were specific about the lettering.  Had to hold these three up another day while they slapped ’em on.”

Gilles consulted a datapad of his own.  “Well, let’s get the first one on its way.”

He and Louis began to maneuver the repulsorlift under the edges of the capsule, making sure the safety slings were in place before engaging the repulsor fields.

. . .

“Would you look at that!” gasped Louis.

Gilles nodded.  The hangar they were in obviously hadn’t been accessed in months, but was chockablock with ships of various types, visible in the dim emergency lighting.  Most of them were Gallente designs; all bore the same markings as the new capsule they pushed into the hangar.  Towering over them all, the massive bulk of an Obelisk freighter sat like a hullmetal god.  It, too, bore the three-symbol motif, and under it, a painted name: TUOMAS HOLOPAINEN.

The two quickly located the old Mark XIII capsule they needed to replace…and were shocked to find that it hardly seemed used at all.  The hull was nearly as bright as that of the new Mark XIV capsule they had brought with them; it had very little of the dull patina caused by the impact of micrometeoroids that slip in through the shields of a spaceborne pod no matter what happens, or of the minor dents and dings a pod shows just from being slipped into and out of so many ships.  And certainly, they could see no carbon scoring or other indication that it had taken fire.

“What do you suppose is up with all this?” asked Louis.

“If it were me,” said Gilles, “I’d be sayin’ that this is the hangar of one of those three that’s up in those cryostasis tubes in that one office.  And I’d also be sayin’ we wouldn’t be deliverin’ new pods to these hangars unless them that is up there intend to be wakin’ up.  Pretty soon now.”

Shaking his head, he directed Louis to maneuver the new pod into position.  “Never could figure capsuleers.”

Time Won’t Drive Us Down To Dust Again

Posted in Inspiration on June 2, 2010 by Erbo

Call this a “sequel” to this post.  And, again, never forget where we come from.

Stay tuned, capsuleers.  Time won’t drive the Ralpha Dogs down to dust again, either.

(Song: “Hope Eyrie,” words and music by Leslie Fish.  And I was lucky enough to see this performed live, by Kathy Mar, Music Guest of Honor at Denvention 3, before I really knew what it was I was hearing…)