October Update: Learning for TunnelFS

It has been a while since I announced I would work on an exciting new project, TunnelFS, and I think it’s time for a status update.

In that post, I mentioned I had a lot to learn before I could get anywhere with this project. I had an idea of how much it was, but it turned out to be more. I’ve been working on learning C — I can read C without much trouble, except the really complex cases, and I can actually write a little on my own. For example, I’ve been going through the entire FreeBSD SCTP implementation in an effort to document its sysctl MIBs (there’s still outstanding work on this, but I’ll cycle back to it at some point). I’ve been reading some books on the subject of C, and it makes sense to me. It’ll take a while to really learn the grammar, but the concepts are nothing new. It feels a bit like learning a new language which is similar to your own, but with slightly different grammar and vocabulary.

This week I’ve been trying to figure out FUSE. It’s difficult. Documentation seems to be virtually non-existent, the code that I have found isn’t documented, and what little documentation I have found is on some sourceforge page, or specific to the kernel-side implementation of the API with little or no concern of how one would use that API. I’ve been trying to figure out how to compile some example code using Clang, but have given up and will be using GCC for now. I don’t have to solve every problem all at once. The important thing is getting a grasp of the API. I hope to implement fuse-tunnelfs in C to make it easier to port it as a native file system, keeping the options open for future potential features such as booting from TunnelFS.

I’ve done some thinking on how I want TunnelFS to be implemented, logistically speaking. I’ve come up with two implementation alternatives, but might land on a middle ground if possible. The only difference between the two implementation options is how it handles filesystem I/O on the host side.

TunnelFS-Implementation1The first option has the filesystem I/O be handled by a separate process, which may run as a different user than root if desired, communicating with bhyve over UNIX socket or some other means which I have yet to investigate. This makes the data have to be copied or streamed three times: Between fuse-tunnelfs and the TunnelFS virtio driver (guest side), between TunnelFS VirtIO driver guest side and bhyve side (backend), and between that backend and the separate process. It also has a smaller chance of breaking Bhyve, as it leaves less code running in Bhyve’s context. It could also be slightly more portable, as the filesystem I/O code isn’t directly tied to Bhyve in any way.

TunnelFS-Implementation2The second option has the filesystem I/O implemented into Bhyve itself. This leaves a bigger footprint in Bhyve, meaning there’s a higher chance of breaking Bhyve. But it also means there’s one less data-copying step, as it won’t have to communicate with a separate process. It is possibly less portable than the first implementation, but it could remain easily portable if done right (i.e. not implementing the I/O logic directly in the VirtIO backend code). Filesystem I/O would run in the bhyve context, meaning all operations would be executed as root.

I think this is a performance-vs-security/reliability decision. I’d err on the side of security/reliability, but this is all quite far off into the future, so we’ll see what I find out. If anyone have any input on this please let me know; your knowledge is appreciated.

I think that sums up this month, and the status of TunnelFS pretty well. Hopefully, I’ll have skeleton code by the end of the year, but we’ll see. :)

Anarchy Online server merge and updates to tools & stuff

Anarchy Online merged two live and one previously discontinued dimension yesterday, February 26th, into one new live dimension called Rubi-Ka. More information here, here, here and here. The announced downtime was 24 hours, but the servers came back up after about 11 hours – around 23:00 local time.

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Towerwars.info didn’t update correctly this weekend

It was brought to my attention that towerwars.info didn’t update correctly this weekend. When I looked at the site, I noticed there were nothing new since 5th May. That’s a day and a half of quiet; And knowing the Anarchy Online community, that only happens when they’re physically prevented from raging war. Something was wrong.

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Coding core features

I’ve somehow slightly started on the scheduled coding spree, half a month early. I’m working on the core aspects of the code; The parts which makes a lot of non-connected events and data come together into a nice, clean interface for plugin developpers to interact with. The better job I do with the core aspect of the bot, the easier (and more enjoyable) it will be for people to extend its feature set.

I kind of figure that I shouldn’t really program any ‘directly usable features’ until all the core features are in place; Much because if I do implement a lot of features at this stage, any change to the core of the bot will involve lots of code change to the features which were prematurely implemented.

Todays most significant change is that plugins are now able to refer .Net and external libraries not referenced by default. To take a simplified example: The bot does not reference a MySQL library by default. This means no plugin is able to connect to MySQL databases without using unsafe code, which is not permitted for plugins.
With todays change, a plugin developer can attach the required MySQL libraries, then tell the plugin compiler to reference them when it does its thing. The plugin can then access MySQL databases.

Simplicity vs Features

It always starts with a simple idea. “I need a chatbot for Anarchy Online!”. The following days will involve a lot of thought, and hopefully, realization that it’s a project much bigger than first anticipated. This is what happened the first time I wrote a bot from scratch for AO (written in PHP, named ‘FLWBot’, using the BeBot-updated AOChat library developped by Auno). And I knew it would happen when I started on Bot#, too.

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I’ve had a coding drought the past couple of months. This is the best description I can think of: If you find a polar bear hunting for seals in the Sahara desert, he have probably been more productive/successful than my coding lately.

Therefore, I’ve decided to find a random date which is a while after I get my new laptop, where I will have a week dedicated to working on Bot#. I’m thinking 13th-19th June.

Things which have to be dealt with:
Rewrite of friends manager; Focus on internal tracking of friends/types, THEN on how to actually track them using the chat server.
Improve connection handler: Utilize multiple host IPs where applicable
Try to further improve the plugin system