Newsletter March 2015

Public Service Announcement

This is the online version of the Von Neumann Defense Force monthly newsletter. Do you want mailings like this, every month, delivered right to your inbox? Then subscribe to the newsletter and make this wish a reality!


Hello, and welcome to this month's Von Neumann Defense Force newsletter! I'm Hanno, VNDF's lead developer and chief newsletter engineer. This month, I'm going to talk about the following topics:

Have fun with this month's newsletter and please email any feedback to Do you have any questions about VNDF in general or the contents of this newsletter specifically? Let me know!

Public Service Announcement

As you may know, I failed to write last month's newsletter article. I've been thinking about how to handle this in the future and have come to the conclusion that this article is not important enough to delay the newsletter for or to take away too much of my limited development time.

In the future, there won't always be an article. I will write one whenever there's something special to write about or when I have a good topic, but I'll not worry too much about it when that isn't the case.

To compensate, I decided to try and be a bit more detailed in the Development Update. Starting this month, I also began experimenting with a slightly different format for the update.

That's all for now. Enjoy the rest of this newsletter!

Development Update

Flying Through Space

Last month, I announced I was going to work on adding more features to the game, and so I did. After a rather large amount of work on the user interface and a comparatively tiny amount on the actual feature, ships have a position again.

(click to enlarge)

So far, this is very simplistic. Each ship has a position and a velocity. The position is updated regularly and sent to the ship's owner (the player). That's it, there's no way to influence the position or see the position of other player's ships as of yet. I originally had planned to do much more in this, but I got distracted by...

Another Secret Project

Yes, again. This time I had an idea about how I can make VNDF's user interface more attractive without necessarily increasing the amount of work required to implement it. All I'm going to say about it now is that it's some kind of fusion between the old graphics-based concept and the new text-based user interface.

I've already been working on this for a few weeks, and I'll keep doing so for a few more. By the time the next newsletter rolls around, I should have something to show for my efforts. You'll hear all about it then!

Server Maintenance

A word of advice for those not interested in server administration: Skip this section, it won't be very interesting to you.

Von Neumann Defense Force, both the website and the game prototype (the one newsletter subscribers have access to) are hosted on the same server, together with a few of my other websites. I'd been unhappy for a while about how all of this was set up.

I'm running all of this on the cheapest virtual server available from Hetzner, and since today's cheapest server is slightly cheaper and much more powerful than the one from last year (when I ordered my server), I decided it was time to replace it with a new one and, while I'm at it, set that one up in a way that's more to my liking.

The old server was running Ubuntu and used Docker to provide some degree of isolation between the different services running on the machine. I kind of like the concept behind Docker, but not so much the implementation. It had been causing me some trouble from time to time, and I had wanted to replace it with something more light-weight for a while.

The good thing is, Docker isn't made out of magic. It just exposes some features that the underlying Linux kernel has anyways. As it turns out, I can access those features more directly via systemd, and since it, - or something comparable to it - is running on my system anyway, why not make use of it?

Ubuntu is currently in the process of switching to systemd, but hasn't finished doing so yet. Since I assume that it'll be quite a while before systemd is supported in a stable manner, I decided to switch to another operating system for my server. The choice fell on Arch Linux, which has been shipping with systemd for quite a while.

So that's what I used. I'm very pleased with how this has turned out, and so far the new server has been running without any problems. That said, Arch isn't a very traditional choice for a server. I certainly hope that I won't regret that decision.

And yes, I remember that I said I needed to work on the website. That's still and issue, but I decided to do the server maintenance first, so I can build on a more solid foundations with the website changes.

In Other News

As always, I'm going to close the newsletter with some space- and gaming-related news from around the Internet.

Dawn Arrives At Ceres

Finally, Dawn has arrived at Ceres. It's currently in a high orbit on the dwarf planet's dark side. Dawn will emerge on the light side in mid-April, and we can expect increasingly better images from then on, as the spacecraft transfers to increasingly lower orbits.

Moon Discoveries

Lots of moon news this month! Enceladus' subsurface ocean may feature hydrothermal acticity and a subsurface ocean may have been discovered on Ganymede. It would be really great if the space-faring countries could transfer some of their military budget into space exploration. There are so many exciting places to visit, and at the current rate it will take ages until all of them have been thoroughly explored.

Manned Reentry Vehicles

A comparison chart of manned reentry vehicles. If you like it, also take a look at last month's Rockets of the World.

See You Next Time

Do you have any questions about this newsletter or Von Neumann Defense Force in general? Send them to me! I'd love to do a Q & A in some future newsletter.

Thanks for reading, and see you again for next month's newsletter!