So. What have I been up to these last weeks, you ask (or maybe you don’t care, in which case I’m gonna tell you anyway, cause it might still be interesting to you).
Also, why am I writing this blog post? Why, you see, I made a promise of some kind (I’m also kinda cheating here, but whatever). I have a patreon now (here). I ask for money to fund the Mastodon server I’m running, here, that has almost 900 users at the time of writing. I say server, but it’s actually servers, since I’m also hosting this one, less generalistic and more geared towards creators and people who enjoy what we call “les cultures de l’imaginaire” in french, which loosely include SF/Fantasy type settings, role playing games, TCGs, etc. More on that one soon, but for now let’s stay on subject : why am I writing this blog post? Well, enough people were nice (or foolish, depending on your opinion of me) enough to give me money that now I have to keep my engagement to write a blog post a month (which means you’ll see way more posts since the last one is from… february (and I had to check)).
Anyway, yeah. That’s mostly what I’ve been up to these last few weeks. I’ve started hosting a mastodon server on social.wxcafe.net about a month back, I’ve spent a while working on the mastodon codebase and issue tracker (I haven’t had time to do that as much as I’d like lately, I’ve been working on other project with more urgent deadlines…), and the imaginair.es project started developing with the help of Ekzael and Eutrapélie about two and a half weeks ago. I then worked a bit on automation and stuff (more on that soon) and the imaginair.es mastodon instance was launched about a week and a half ago.
So, about imaginair.es. The idea with this is not to make it a single mastodon instance, but rather to have it be a nebulæ of mastodon instances. Basically, the main domain is to be an open discussion board, with creators and people interested, as I said before, in SFF, etc. But then, seeing how mastodon could be amazing for role playing, subdomains are available for, well, roleplaying groups. Meaning you can get your own mastodon instance for your RP/RPG group, and play online through that. I don’t know about you, but I think that mastodon would be a pretty nice medium for that. Anyway, I’m going to talk about the technical details now so if you don’t care skip the next two paragraphs.
So, how do I plan on running that many mastodon instances (ah, the rethorical question, best friend of bloggers)? Well, that question requires a bit of insight into how Mastodon works. First, Mastodon is comprised of three services: web workers, a sidekiq process, and a streaming (websocket) server. Combined, without much activity, these use up about 1 gig of RAM. I rent a Dedibox Classic 2016 at Online.net, a french provider. That server has 1 Xeon (6C/12T) at 2.2Ghz and 32 Gigs of RAM. That means that I should have enough memory to run 32 low-activity servers, which typically RP servers should be. That would be if I did traditional virtualization (Xen, etc), but not with KVM/Qemu, because Linux now has a feature called KSM (Kernel Samepage Merging), that allows it to merge memory pages that are the exact same. Meaning if I run 10 mastodon instances on that same server, that are all copies of one another, it should use only 1 gig of RAM. Of course, since users are present and different from instance to instance, since the content they post isn’t the same either, and since the system (like all systems) isn’t perfect, its not 100% efficient. But I can envision hosting at least 100 instances on that server, for about 30€/month.
“But isn’t that a security problem?” I hear you ask. Well, yes and no. Yes, it could be a security problem, it sounds less secure than strictly separating each VM and never letting them interact through the hypervisor. But given the number of high-profile providers who use KVM/Qemu with KSM, I feel pretty secure using it too, and we’ve seen more bugs in Xen than in KVM/Qemu (I’m talking about KVM/Qemu specifically here, not about the kernel itself…) in recent years. Anyway, if someone manages to get a shell on one of these and then gets root and then uses KSM to jump between VMs and/or escape the VM entirely AND THEN gets root on the host, well, I can only pray they’re not pissed at me enough to fuck with my other machines.
Anyway, so here are the projects I’ve been working on these last weeks. I’m gonna continue working on these, of course, even tho I have some more pressing projects right now, and I hope then can be useful to some people. If you’d like to join either, feel free, of course, and if you’d like to get a private RP instance, HMU at @firstname.lastname@example.org