Bluff Avenue Blog

Updates and news from the Bluff Avenue trenches.

5/18 Release: Email is Back

Monday, May 18, 2020 12:41 AM

It's been a long time coming, but we just rolled out the first Bluff Avenue release since launching back in 2009. :)

 

I took the last week off from work to dust the cobwebs off the source code, figure out just how the heck everything works again (doing a lot of reverse engineering of stuff my past self wrote but neglected to document…Bad me!).

 

Things in this release:

 

Email

 

The short of it is that email's been broken for a long time--I suspect our email provider cut us off. To get things working again, I decided to start fresh using AWS, so I migrated our email backend to use SES, the AWS email service.

 

This is a paid service, and from doing some googling, they will cut you off if you have a reputation for sending "poor quality" email, i.e. emails that bounce or generate complaints.

 

So in order to both cut costs, and reduce spammer risk, I've flipped everyone's messaging settings NOT to send notifications (for things like private messages, friend requests, etc.) to your email. You'll still see them when you log into Bluff Avenue. That way, we can save email for more essential usages like password resets.

 

If you do want to receive notifications to your email, you can opt in by doing the following:

 

  • Click the "account" link in the upper right and adjust your email notification settings
  • For groups, go to the group page and click "Messaging settings" in the Actions menu on the left.

 

Server Upgrade

 

I added 8 GB of memory to the server.  Doesn't solve all our server memory problems but will let things run smoothly for longer.

 

Donation Buttons

 

I added donation button to a couple of pages. Hopefully not too intrusive, but though migrating the site to a real hosting solution (AWS) will help site stability and uptime, it will be a lot more expensive (likely in the hundreds of dollars per month) than our current rig, and I will need help to cover the costs.

 

If you play on the site regularly, consider helping out. If we could recoup $5 a month for every active poker game, we could probably cover our costs in AWS. As a single player, even a couple of bucks a month will go a long way if enough people chip in.

 

If you're a game organizer, $5 a month for your game would be fantastic, and helps cover the players in your game if they're not the donating type. :)

 

A big thank you to everyone who has already pledged donations. It's really appreciated.

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1. Posted by

Thank you for the updates, Kevin! 

5/18/2020 6:25 AM
 
2. Posted by

Realistically, how much do you absolutely need per player to keep the site running? No new features, just running the site... if you are comfortable sharing. 


I am asking because I suspect you are going to need patreons in hundreds, not in tens to keep everything running. 

 

Thank you for everything!

5/18/2020 1:01 PM
 
3. Posted by

That's a good estimate.  Daniel and I were thinking in the mid hundreds per month.  If we got more than that in donations that would be gravy and could help support us taking on extra projects.

 

Neither of those would be out of the question based on how many games and players we have per month, but the big question is what percentage of people are willing to pay some amount.  There are enough players on the site that the suggestion I gave above ($5/mo for a game organizer or $2/mo for a player) could easily cover our AWS operating costs and then some, if enough people were to donate.

 

I get it though, these are rough times for a lot of people and not everyone is in a position to be spending extra money.

5/18/2020 1:23 PM
 
4. Posted by

I think the Donation Buttons comment, Kevin's humble request & expectations (& further comment above) should be more widely circulated.

 

Would either of you mind if I edited it together, then copied & pasted it in a new thread?

 

5/21/2020 1:28 PM
 
5. Posted by

Will do on the donation!

5/22/2020 12:30 PM
 
6. Posted by

You're the bomb!  Thanks for making quarantine better

5/22/2020 8:28 PM
 
7. Posted by

Hey Dude ! great Site, super handy for lockdown !

 

I work for AWS, happy to help you with any code if i can be of assistance.

5/25/2020 5:03 AM
 
8. Posted by

I would like to be able to set up my own blind structure.

9/5/2020 3:45 PM
 

Help Support Bluff Avenue!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 9:22 PM

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, since the flood of pandemic traffic we've gotten started in mid-March, I've been overwhelmed by the offers of support from the generous users of this site.

 

Since then, after an incident with our host cut off our service, we had to take physical possession of the website server, and to this day, it is literally sitting under the desk I'm typing this on.  This is obviously not how we want to be hosting the site in the long term. Our intent is to move the site into the cloud and host it with AWS.

 

Despite the fact that Daniel and I have been running the site in our spare time on what amounts to a shoestring budget, over the last 10 years I've easily sunk more than five figures into keeping things running. With AWS, we will have a reliable, scalable host. But you pay for what you get--in all likelihood, it will no longer be possible to run the site on the same budget.

 

And this is where I ask for your help.  I've set up a Patreon account to take donations.  Proceeds will go toward our operational costs.  It will also help me gauge how much interest there is in the site, and how worthwhile it will be to invest in new infrastructure and feature development.

 

Again, thank you to those who have offered to donate.  It's what inspired me to get off my butt and try to get the site into a respectable state. :)

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Game server outage

Saturday, May 9, 2020 6:15 PM

Hey all, sorry if you had trouble playing this afternoon/evening.  The game server crashed and I didn't notice for a few hours.  I have an alarm set up to text me if the website itself goes down, but not the game server.

 

Several of you had messaged me on Twitter to let me know.  Thanks--I will keep a closer eye on my messages in the future.

 

It looks like we had a ton of games created yesterday, and it may have eaten up the game server's memory.  I deleted a bunch of games that hadn't been played in 2 days to help clear up space.  Sorry if this nuked a game you use regularly, but not in the last 2 days.

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Well that was fun.

Friday, May 1, 2020 12:18 AM

If you tried to play on Bluff Ave today, you might have noticed we had a rather lengthy outage.  My apologies for that.  Given the big increase in traffic on the site, I've been trying to help keep you bored quarantined people sufficiently entertained by keeping a closer eye on the server and fixing crashes as soon as possible.

 

I had been talking to Daniel yesterday and it came up that the site has been doing pretty well since tweaking the load balancer settings a few weeks ago.  Maybe we got a little too self-congratulatory, because the poker gods apparently took offense and decided to throw a whole new kind of outage at us.

 

There was basically a mixup where we had our internet cut off at our host in the early morning hours.  The soonest they could restore service would be Sunday. <gulp> A 4 day outage?  What would all you folks do?  There's only so many times you can rewatch Tiger King.

 

So we decided to improvise and move the physical server to a new location that had Internet connectivity.  In other words, under my home office desk where I'm currently typing this. :)  This required several hours of work on the part of Daniel, investigating the connectivity issue, picking up the server, reconfiguring it for a new network, helping me get my network set up properly, and then shuttling it over here, all while maintaining social distance!

 

To his credit, it worked without a hitch.  I plugged it in, turned it on, and bam, service restored around 10:30 PM.  Let's give Daniel a hand for his heroics.

 

Long term, this event points to the need for us to move Bluff Ave into the cloud (AWS).  It's something I'm going to start looking into.

 

P.S. I've been neglecting Bluff Ave's Twitter account for the longest time.  I've decided to dust it off, and in the future will use it for incidents like this, so follow us there at @bluffave.

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Thank you! (Oh, and search is fixed!)

Friday, April 24, 2020 12:07 AM

The latest news: as I mentioned in my last post, the site has kind of blown up since the pandemic hit.  We're seeing 10 to 50 times the traffic we did in February.  We've made some tweaks to settings that we think have helped with site stability, but spikes in traffic have still been taking the site down every few days.  I've been keeping a much closer eye on it lately than I had been in recent years, so hopefully downtimes are limited to a couple of hours rather than days.

 

Now to the topic of this post.

 

Along with the huge surge in coronavirus traffic we've gotten in the last month has come a flood of blog comments and DMs from people who have asked to help contribute with donations (and even work) to keep the site running.  I just wanted to let you all know I have been reading them (even if I haven't replied to all), and that I'm incredibly appreciative of the offers.  A heartfelt "thank you" to you all.

 

All of the renewed interest has gotten me excited about the site again, and I'm mulling getting back to work on it in my spare time.  Stay tuned, I may have something to announce shortly.

 

Oh, and by the way, I fixed my first bug on the site in years! :) Group and user search had been broken for the longest time. I was poking around on the database and discovered it apparently lost a few of the required indexes during a server migration a while back.  I added them back and bam, we have search again. OK, so not a real bug fix, but something works now that didn't before, so let me have my moment. :)

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