I took some time over the holiday to improve the IF Archive setup. This isn’t fancy stuff, but it’s worth mentioning.

First, the directory URLs no longer have capital X in them. You might remember directory URLs like https://ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archiveXgamesXcompetition2018.html. That was an old hack. We’ve transitioned to sensible-looking URLs like https://ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archive/games/competition2018/. (The old ones will still work, though!)

The Archive has been running on a Linode virtual Linux instance with 20 GB of storage. We have 14 GB of IF-related files these days, which is getting close to almost being a squeeze. So I upgraded the instance to 50 GB of storage.

(I realize that 14 GB is fishbait these days. One AAA game or one season of streamed television is larger than that. But when you’re talking about hand-crafted text adventure game files, a gigabyte is really a lot.)

I’ve also put the server on the Cloudflare caching and distribution network. Cloudflare is a popular (and cost-efficient) CDN, and plenty of web sites use it without making a big deal of it. So why do I bring it up?

Roll out the history machine…

Back in, hmm, 2000 or so, when we were first updating the IF Archive to be a web service, the Web wasn’t that big. Bandwidth came in small buckets. We had permission to host the server at CMU and rely on their network, but we didn’t want to use a lot of their network.

So we asked around for volunteers to host copies of the Archive. The mirror maintainers got permission to copy the Archive files through a private rsync channel. In return, they agreed to make those files available on their own web servers. The address http://mirror.ifarchive.org/ was configured to redirect to a randomly-chosen mirror server. So we were able to distribute load over a bunch of servers and donated bandwidth.

This worked pretty well over the years… but not perfectly. We never really had procedures for monitoring the mirrors — making sure they stayed in sync, notifying hosts when they stopped working, finding replacements if they stayed offline.

Cloudflare now takes up the job which those volunteer mirrors handled. It’s done for money rather than love, and in that sense, it’s the end of an era for the IF Archive. But it’s not a lot of money and it works really well.

(And you can now express your love with money! Donations to IFTF help support the Archive and all our other programs.)

The most current mirror list remains visible on the IF Archive web site. It doesn’t include everyone who volunteered over the years, and it’s already out of date. We’re not going to continue updating it. Nonetheless, please take a peek and say “thank you” to everybody who has helped support Archive operations over the years. We’re grateful.

Newer post: Accessibility testing underway, and a call for more blind testers

Older post: Lessons Learned from Running an Open-Source Textbook for a Year