XPilot change of upstream growing pains

XPilot development has changed hands over the past several years. While the
original website at www.xpilot.org continues to be run by the original
developers, XPilot-NG (xpilot.sf.net) is where all of the new development has
been happening. But xpilot.org still performs an important function for the user
community: they run the meta servers1 that list all public xpilot servers around
the world.

Recently, we (the XPilot-NG developers on #xpilot at irc.freenode.net) noticed
quite a number of uncontactable servers popping up on the meta servers. This is
annoying, to say the least. Users don’t know they can’t connect until they’ve
tried (unless they’ve bothered to try pinging the server first) and besides
which, having all those “junk” servers in the list makes it harder to locate
contactable servers.

Now, naturally, we wanted to know where all of those servers were coming
from, and why now, at this particular time? I knew my Debian package (and
presumably any derivatives) do not report to the metaserver by default. Any
admin starting an XPilot server would have to explicitly configure it to do so,
so the incidence of uncontactable Debian XPilot-NG servers should remain
relatively low and have a constant growth rate. Then I found the Fedora
package, and started poking around inside. After a shallow review of the
package, I concluded there was a good chance it was the culprit2, especially
since it recently (FC5) had an init script added. Such a bug, coupled with the
relatively recent release of FC5, would account for the sudden spike in number
of permanently running non-contactable XPilot-NG servers.

Bingo! I found some helpful folks at #fedora-games at irc.freenode.net, including the XPilot NG maintainer, which
led to filing this
. I subsequently invited the maintainer over to #xpilot and had a nice time introducing him to the other upstream devs and chatting about our current issues.

Ultimately, we know we need to fix the problem at the metas, but in the meantime, I am pleased to have established contact with my counterpart in the
Fedora project, expanding the diminishingly
small XPilot developer community by one.

1 They deliberately never released any source code for those metas
to try to keep the user community unified at the centralized servers. While I
see the reasoning behind the decision, given the problems we’re facing now,
it’s clear the XPilot community would be better off with meta server source that
is actively being maintained.

2 Admittedly two problems with the +reportMeta option upstream set us up for this problem. First, counterintuitively, +reportMeta disables reporting to the metaserver (following the rule ”+” negates the meaning of an option starting with ”-”). Second, -reportMeta is a stupid default. Most people starting servers are behind firewalls these days, so unless they consciously decide to make their server public, making the corresponding adjustments to their firewall, the option should not be set (not to mention the security implications of making a server public by default).

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