Four in February 2023

4 in February - Can you beat them all?
4 in February (2022 Banner) courtesy of the challenges Facebook page

After taking a year off (mostly because I was completely addicted to my first time through the Mass Effect universe in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition this time a year ago), it’s time to do Four in February again! This is a challenge to complete four video games during the month of February, as the name implies. There aren’t really rules beyond that: it can be games I’ve never played before, games I’ve already started, or anything else really!

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is an indie game that draws heavy inspiration from Paper Mario – particularly the first two entries in the series that were turn-based RPGs with QTEs to get bonuses on attacks and defense. While the Paper Mario series may have moved on from this style of gameplay, with entries on the Wii and later introducing new gameplay styles for each entry, it’s clear there are fans that didn’t move on, including some that eventually said, “we’ll do it ourselves!”

Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling – PC Release Trailer

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Fun fact: the only Uncharted game I’ve played is Uncharted 4, but I loved it and I fully expect to love The Lost Legacy as well. I recently purchased the Legacy of Thieves collection on PC, so it’ll be great to experience the game for the first time on the best version of the game. Even better, it looks like the game is only 8-10 hours to complete, so it should be a nice easy one to squeeze into the shortest month of the year!

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Story Trailer (PS4)

Doom (2016)

Doom, any of the Doom games really, is one of my gaming blind-spots. I’ve never played any of them, but they are so critically acclaimed it feels like I must play them! It seems like there’s no better spot to start than the 2016 iteration and if I like it then I could move on to Doom Eternal on Game Pass if I want to.

Doom (2016) Launch Trailer

Far Cry 6

Is Far Cry 6 more or less the same game as Far Cry 3, 4, and 5 before it? It sure sounds like it. Is that a problem for me? Not at all – I’ve loved my time on a tropical island, in an Eastern mountain-covered nation, and in nutjob Montana, so I’m looking forward to my time in not-Cuba too. Enough time has passed since I played Far Cry 5 that I think I won’t burn out on the open world before the end, especially if I can exercise enough restraint to not do all the map checkboxes.

Far Cry 6 Story Trailer

Updates

Will I be able to complete these games in just a single month? Especially when a couple of them are pretty long? Only time will tell! Updates on my progress will be posted from time to time in this section of the post, and you can follow along as I will try to stream my progress on Twitch.

More Server Migration Adventures

A server room
A stock image of a server room, since I don’t know what the server room my VPS is hosted in looks like. Image by Elias from Pixabay

The Upgrade Treadmill

I seem to have gotten into the habit of upgrading my server and website configurations every other year. My last server migration blog post was in 2018 and saw me upgrade from Ubuntu 16.04 to Ubuntu 18.04, with updated versions of PHP and a better database and things like that. I didn’t do a post about my 2020 server upgrade, but that was a big one. I switched to a mostly Docker based setup, with Nginx just reverse-proxying all the containers.

My 2020 setup had some enormous flaws though. I had no backup plan – as in, I wasn’t doing any automated backups. As you might expect, I wasn’t doing regular manual backups either. I wasn’t good on backups before the Docker-based setup either, but now it was so much easier to update the software I was running, but that would also have made it easier for a botched update to take everything down. I did make one thing a little easier: I moved a couple of WordPress sites onto a single WordPress multi-site installation. While it is certainly more complex to have a multi-site installation, it also meant I only needed to go to one spot to update themes and plugins which made it a lot easier to remember to do!

My goal with my 2022 upgrade was to make my setup much more robust. I wanted automatic backups, and I wanted to have the entire setup running within Docker so that if I wanted to move to a different provider, I could just spin up a new VPS, install Docker, restore the backups, and update the DNS for my domains. No manually setting up Nginx configurations, or anything like that. Importantly, with the automated backups I would be able to restore my setup with less than 24 hours of data loss if I had to move providers through no fault of my own.

For my most recent server migration I moved to Hetzner and their new US-based AMD-powered servers. The good part is that I’ve now got 4GB of RAM instead of my old 2GB, and it’s a little less per month. The bad part is that, as a Europe-based provider, they bill in Euros. While the credit card I use has no foreign transaction fee, the currency conversion means that my bill is never quite the same from month to month. They also only had servers in Virginia at the time I signed up, so I have higher latency than I had before when I was using a Vultr server in Seattle, though they’ve added an Oregon datacenter since then. (Maybe it’s time to do another server migration!)

The Software I Use

Now let’s get into the software I use:

  • For an RSS reader, I replaced Tiny Tiny RSS with FreshRSS. While it seems things have improved in recent years, the primary developer of TT-RSS was known for being a little hostile towards people asking questions or suggesting improvements. FreshRSS just seemed to have a better community, and it’s a lot simpler to set up too. I pair this with a private RSS-Bridge instance to get RSS feeds for sites that don’t bother to use RSS anymore (boo).
  • I’m using Offen Docker Volume Backup to automatically backup all my Docker volumes daily, weekly, and monthly both locally on the server and to S3-compatible storage. This container also manages removing the old backups to keep the storage from getting out of hand. It feels good to finally have everything backed up in a robust manner.
  • For website analytics, I replaced Matomo with Plausible Analytics. Matomo is trying to be a full replacement for Google Analytics, but that’s just more information than I need or even really want. Plausible focuses mostly on page views, which is all I really care about with my personal site.
  • Of course, WordPress, which powers this very blog, is still the same. In fact, it was one of the easiest things to move to the new server, as there were almost no changes to the configuration. I’ve been using WordPress consistently since early 2011, and off-and-on since probably 2006, so while I’ve considered moving to a static site generator, I like the familiar security blanket feeling that WordPress provides.
  • Vaultwarden also stayed the same. I use it as my password manager, though I’m eyeing Bitwarden’s new unified Docker container that’s in beta as it will likely go through security audits after it leaves beta.
  • I use a neat little tool called Your Spotify to keep track of my Spofify listening habits. It’s like having my own version of Spotify’s annual summary whenever I want it!
  • I added a single-user Mastodon instance at the end of October thanks to the Birdsite’s new owner starting shenanigans immediately – that’s been a bit of an ordeal with its ever-increasing disk usage, though just this week I migrated it to using S3-compatible storage for its media storage and that has solved things, though I won’t fully call it solved until I’ve given it a week or two. Follow me on Mastodon!
  • I use Portainer to view logs and clear out old images and stuff more easily.
  • I’m running Uptime Kuma on a separate VPS with a separate hosting company to monitor everything and let me know via Discord if anything stops working. It’s really a very polished tool and is easy to use while having tons of configuration options.
  • Finally, I use Watchtower in notification-only mode to let me know when a container has an update available. I don’t have it set to automatically update so that I have the chance to read the release notes and make sure there’s nothing I must do besides pulling the new image and restarting the containers.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m incredibly happy with how this server migration has turned out and I don’t foresee any major changes to my configuration in 2024 as things finally just work. I love how good this setup is in comparison to my old one!

Four in February 2021

4 in February 2021

It snuck up on me, but it’s February, and that means it’s time for Four in February again! The goal is to beat four video games in the month of February. This year I want to take advantage of the different platforms and/or storefronts I have games on. So, I’m going to pick one of the free games I’ve claimed on the Epic Games Store, one from Xbox Game Pass for PC, and two from Steam.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Epic Games Store

I’ve put about an hour into this game so far, but it’s time to actually complete it. By all accounts, it’s a competent 2.5D platformer, and it’s been quite some time since I’ve completed a 2D platformer. Time to revisit this genre and enjoy the level design that always shines in this genre!

Halo

Xbox Game Pass

I once played through the campaign of the original Halo: Combat Evolved on a pirated copy for PC back in my freshman year of college. Now, it’s time to play through a legitimate copy! I don’t know for sure which Halo game I’m going to do from the Master Chief Collection yet, but it’ll probably be Combat Evolved so I don’t have to worry about missing any lore.

UPDATE: I completed Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary at approximately 12:45am on Feb 21st! That still leaves me 2 games to complete in roughly one week though.

 

Sam & Max Save the World

Steam

For my money, the Sam and Max games are some of the greatest to ever come out of Telltale Games. Recently, a remastered version of the first “season” of the series was released by some former Telltale games staff (and it looks like they plan to remaster the other seasons as well). Though there is a minor controversy about some jokes in the game being changed and one character’s voice actor being replaced, I’m glad this remaster exists because the original versions were well on their way to becoming unplayable on modern systems due to their age.

UPDATE: I completed Sam & Max Save the World Remastered on Feb 14th! That means I’m only… checks calculator… half the speed I should be in this challenge having completed no other games yet. Oops.

 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Steam

For some reason, I didn’t really get into Shadow of the Tomb Raider when I first purchased it despite loving the first two in this trilogy. So, I’m going to give it another shot!

Those are the four games I’m going to try to complete in February! Due to how long it’s been since I last attempted each of them, I’m going to be starting over on all of them (except Sam & Max – I’ve already done the first of the five episodes, and that was recently so I remember the events well).

Maybe I’ll even stream some of my gameplay! Or maybe not! If I do, it’ll be over at twitch.tv/lazyrivr.

Four in February 2020

Four in February 2020

Four In February 2020

28 Days. Complete 4 Games.

 

An annual tradition started by Mike Suszek while he was at the now-defunt Joystiq, Four in February is a challenge to just complete four video games during the month of February.

I’ve attempted it a couple of times before and came close. I’ve decided to try it again, because lately I’ve been starting a lot of games, but never finishing any. Check out my picks below! I also plan on streaming some of my attempt: I don’t know if I’ll be streaming on Twitch, YouTube, or Mixer (or even all three simultaneously), but you can follow me on those platforms to find out.

Marvel's Spider-Man

I picked up Marvel’s Spider-Man on Black Friday, but I just haven’t gotten more than a couple hours into it yet. It’s not that the game is un-enjoyable – it’s very good from what I’ve played so far! I just haven’t made the time for it yet, so that’s what I’m going to do – make the time to play it through in February. If I speed through it quickly enough, I might even try to do the DLCs as well!

Image and logo from PlayStation.com.

Update (Feb 2): I was right about it being very good! So good, that I completed the main story over the weekend! One game down, three to go. My progress will likely slow during the week, due to work, but I hope to get an hour or so of Pokemon in each night.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

In what is a recurring theme for my Four in February picks, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is another one I just haven’t gotten to. By all accounts, it’s a beautiful, important, and well-acted game. The Game Awards trailer for Hellblade II was disturbingly great too. I can’t wait to put on my headphones for this one.

Image and logo from SteamGridDB.

The Outer Worlds

I got The Outer Worlds free with my CPU when I built my new computer (I should write about that!), but I’ve only put an hour or so into it. I was worried about putting an Obsidian-developed RPG in my list, as they can take a while, but then I saw it’s actually a fairly short one – only about 12-15 hours or so! So it’s time to give this a proper go!

Image and logo from SteamGridDB.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

I bought Pokemon Sword on launch day, and I got Pokemon Shield for Christmas, but I’m only a couple gyms into Sword, and I haven’t even started Shield. I tend to start a new Pokemon game very excitedly, but then rarely actually complete it, so it’s time to change that. I don’t know if I’ll just continue my Sword save, or if I’ll start a new save file on Shield, but either way I want to get through it. This will be a good one to play in bed on my Switch, so I can just tackle it a little at a time.

Image from TechRadar’s review, and logos from Nintendo’s site.

Watch along on Twitch...

I’ll try to stream as I play these games (except for Pokemon, since I don’t have a capture card), and Twitch will be the primary platform with the PS4’s integrated support!

...or YouTube...

I’ll also be simultaneously streaming to my YouTube channel, so you can watch there too!

...or Mixer

I’ll probably be simulcasting to Mixer as well, at least for the PC games.

Adventures in Server Migration

Not the actual servers – this is a stock photo.

I recently finished moving this website to a new server. I didn’t change the server provider or anything like that, but I wanted to take advantage of some new stuff. Here’s why I did it, and some of the difficulties I encountered.

Why did I do a server migration?

I wanted to upgrade to Ubuntu 18.04 to take advantage of newer PHP and nginx versions. I could have attempted to upgrade from 16.04 to 18.04 in place, but there were a lot of changes between those LTS versions, including how networking is handled. It seemed like the risk was just a little too high. I opted instead to build the system out on a new server, and then move all the website data to the new server. This had a few additional advantages as well:

  • I could switch from MySQL to MariaDB, a community developed version of MySQL that has gained support from several major tech companies. It also supposedly runs faster in some situations.
  • I could simplify my nginx configuration files. For each of my sites, my nginx configuration files are almost identical. Pretty much the only different parts are the server_name, paths to the ssl_certificate and ssl-certificate_key and the root for the website’s files. In building out a new server, I could move almost all of the configuration into snippets, making it easy to make changes to all of the sites at once. This will be useful in the future when some things change (like a newer PHP version).
  • I could entirely remove the andy-bell.com files. For a while I’ve been redirecting andy-bell.com to andy-bell.com, but I was doing so using a WordPress redirection plugin. Since andy-bell.com was literally just cloned from a backup of andy-bell.com, everything’s the same except new stuff. I took the opportunity to just nuke the old files and do the redirect from andy-bell.com to andy-bell.com solely in nginx. This also saved some time, since I wouldn’t need to move the files or database for andy-bell.com.
  • I use acme.sh for my SSL certificates. I was able to slightly improve things as I re-provisioned all the certs on the new server. (I just issued new certs on the new server so I wouldn’t have to move all the old ones over, plus now they will all renew on the same day, which will help me keep track of it better.)

Moving to the new server

It turned out to not be too difficult. Once I got the new server set up with nginx, PHP, and MariaDB, it wasn’t very hard to move all the old files over (I zipped them up on the old server, moved them straight from one server to the other, then unzipped them). Moving the databases wasn’t much harder. The only issue I had with the databases was one particularly large database that I had trouble with due to the file size. It was actually surprisingly smooth. To help ensure the move from one server to another moved quickly, as soon as I knew I wanted to move servers I changed the TTL (Time to Live) on my DNS settings to 5 minutes, so that it wouldn’t take too long for the DNS changes to propagate. Then 48 hours after I completed the move I turned the TTL back to the default setting!

I’m pretty pleased with the server performance, and I’m happy to be running on the latest Ubuntu LTS release. This should help keep things moving quickly and smoothly for years to come!

Summary of the new and old servers

Old Server New Server
Provider Vultr (Seattle) Vultr (Seattle)
OS Ubuntu 16.04 Ubuntu 18.04
Web Server nginx 1.10.3 nginx 1.14.0
PHP PHP 7.0.30 PHP 7.2
Database MySQL MariaDB

(Note: those Vultr links are affiliate links, because I really do like Vultr. If you use either of those links, and are active on Vultr for 30+ days with more than $10 in payments, then I’ll get a $10 credit, which is enough for 2 months of hosting for this site, not including tax.)