Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Building Your Own Bot Server: Epilogue

Last time we concluded a series on building your own bot server. I went over in detail how one can use ESXi to use as the “main operating” system and running virtual machines of the bots underneath. Some people have asked me if they need a separate machine for running just the bots themselves or could the same machine be also utilized for personal usage.

It's not so much a silly question. I know in my situation, having a machine totally dedicated to running bots would attract the attention of my wife and the kids. Some people may not have the space to devote for even one extra beige box.

The answer to that question really depends on the intended uses of the user in question. If the intended uses are surfing, email, and casual gaming, then another virtual machine can be created to function like an entry level system today. Performance should not be a major issue as most of these tasks are not processor or memory intense. Although it has been my experience that many of these Flash-based games, especially the ones on Facebook, are resource hogs and should be either avoided or planned for.

The same advice that one would give to one purchasing a computer also applies when designing virtual machines: more memory is generally a good thing.

The downside of course is that dedicated gaming is not possible. VMware creates virtualization technology for business purposes and has not dedicated the resources to properly implement DirectX. While Magic Online runs under VMware, most other games simply do not. The classic gamers want VMware do make it possible to run older games like Diablo II but VMware hasn't complied with this request yet.

Next time we'll delve into another topic. I've not decided what that shall be yet.

For those who have left comments, I do read them but through some odd quirk, I am unable to respond to any of them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let the money work for you

A person can work only a limited amount of time per day - say 8/10, maximum 12 hours. Of course one cannot be efficient (both mentally and physically) after 5/6 hours of hard working.
By myself, I find very difficult to be efficient and "sparkling" after 5 hours of work - of course I can still work and finish my tasks, but my efficiency decreases.

The goal here is that you have to put your money at work. You have to use your money to build more work - by hiring people, by purchasing new machine, by purchasing third-party services and so on. You have to go bed and be sure that someone or something is working for you - being it an entire company, or a simple server hosting your website.

If you keep your money immobilized, you won't do anything big, you will just sell your time. You will never be "big" if you sell your time.

Building A Bot Server (Part 7 of 7)

Last time I mentioned how ESXi can maximize computer hardware. To conclude this series, let's assume that ESXi has been successfully installed. I know this is project I am looking forward to attempting in the near future and I'll be sure to let you know of my progress. For the sake of concluding this series, let's assume that it works perfectly.

Bot Management

At this point there are a few ways to get your bots from one machine to another:

You can simply transfer the folder from the old machine to the new machine. You can do this as a straight copy/paste as we are all familiar with. It is a quick process and does work although this will result in some downtime, unless of course you time this move with MTGO's weekly Wednesday downtime.

You can alternatively use VMware's own utility for a live, in-place transfer where transfer the running VM from machine A to machine B. I've never seen this in action although it definitely sounds interesting and you will have zero downtime using this method.

The closest I've ever experienced is their Physical to Virtual tool which will convert a physical machine's specs into a special VM so that things that can not be lost, are therefore never lost. Things like original disks being lost, companies going out of business, key people who knew how to work a custom piece of software no longer being available, etc. I had to use this feature to “save” a program which my wife needed for work and could no longer use an installation or another machine. Their P2V tool worked very well for me a decade ago so I am sure they could do a live-migration.

What I prefer to do however is to do clean installations. This means creating a new virtual machine, installing Windows, applying all patches, downloading .NET, installing MTGO and then I can clone this machine and place fresh installations of the bot on those freshly minted machines.

Yes, this can be time consuming but I find that in the long run, this saves me more time as these new installations have fewer problems and any configuring that needs to be done can simply be ported or copied from existing machines. The problem I have found isn't so much MTGO or the Library, but rather Windows and its interactions with new hardware, which is why I prefer to do new installations and not simply transferring bots from machine to machine.

Hopefully you can now use this guide to building your own bot server. Enjoy and Happy Profits.

Monday, October 24, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.61 is out!

We had a crash when loading "PersonalPercentages.txt" in versions 4.59 and 4.60. ML Bot 4.61 fixes the error and let you load the file as usual!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.60 is out!

ML Bot 4.60 is out. It fixes a problem with PersonalPrices.txt - in some cases the bot was not able to read properly the "quantity" fields at the end of each line

Friday, October 21, 2011

Building A Bot Server (Part 6 of 7)

Last time I teased that you didn't need to use Windows to run VMware Server. I'm sure some of you are thinking about UNIX or Linux. Those are viable solutions as well. Depending on the distribution of Linux, you can greatly customize what is installed and what is not installed. Linux isn't as scary as it was only a few short years ago. Installation of various distros, like Ubuntu and SUSE, are graphically depicted so no cryptic command-lines are needed. The auto-detection is much better now thanks to the offers that the Linux community made to the hardware manufacturers: (We'll write the drivers for you, for free, if make your products compatible with Linux.)

VM Server has been ported to run on some flavors of Linux so that will help maximize the hardware usage to the VM's themselves and not the operating system itself.

However, isn't what I was thinking of. VMware has recently made one of their paid products freely available: ESXi.


This formerly paid product allows one to have as minimal environment as possible so that maximum usage can be dedicated to the servers themselves and not the topside OS. ESXi only requires 32 Megs of memory. That's right, 32 Megs.

This means that on a 4 Gig, 4 CPU system, I can dedicate 1,016 Megs of memory for each of four (4) bots. ((4096 – 32)/4). While not quite 1,024 Megs, I doubt the the loss of 8 Megs is going to be noticeable.

This is a far improvement where you devote one gigabyte of memory just to run the underlying Windows OS, which means you can only devote 768 Megs of memory for each of three (3) bots. While better, than 512 Megs, my experience is that the bot likes 800 Megs of memory at a minimum to be happy and responsive.

A friend of mine wants to try an ESXi installation but that's been placed on hold as he recently bought a house and now that he's moved, in, his employer has been making him work only eighty (80) hours a week. He also has more expertise than I do and has the actual test hardware necessary for this little experience and it would be best if we did this together so we can solve the problems together.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.59 is out!

MTGO Library Bot 4.59 is out, fixing an issue with the opening of the Autotransfer trades - in some cases the bot always tried to open trade, in an endless loop.

Scalable, viral business

A scalable business is, by definition, a business that has the potential to grow "a lot" (10x, 100x) with no or little increase of the costs. If you run "X", you can run "2X", "4X", "10X" with few extra efforts.

A viral business, instead, is a business that exponentionally grows because of the word-of-mouth. You have a customer, the customer talks about you to two of his friends and they do the same...

Do you recognize something familiar :-)  ?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New website up!

Hello there!

I have finally published a website regarding Swebot.
The website address is, unfortunately the website is pretty empty at the moment. But i'm currently working on a price/stock displaying system that will show prices for foil and non-foil cards, boosters and so on. I have no clue at all when the system will be finished, but when it's done i will publish it on the site and maybe write a short note about it here on the blog.

I didn't receive any design proposals during the last few weeks so I got the design elsewhere.
As you can see the site is very small at the moment and i would gladly accept any suggestions for the site, to make it more useful for people. Since i do all the programming myself pretty much everything is possible to add to the site :)

Also, I read a post here on the blog about what kind of bots you should have, regarding selling / buying cards. Ultimately I decided to start some new bot accounts for buying cards, using the old ones for selling cards. The new buying bots are named SwebotBuying, SwebotBuying1, SwebotBuying2, SwebotBuying3. At the same time when i created and transferred all cards to the new accounts i raised my buying limits a bit so that my total collection will grow even more. In my opposition the best way to support a bot chain is to sell cards to them, so if you want to support me, go online and sell cards to my buying bots! :)

That's all for now, over and out!
/Sebastian - - SwebotHelp @ MTGO

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.58 is out!

The new version features an improved connection with the webserver, resulting in less problems with credits and / or lost trades. ML Bot 4.58 also correctly classifies "standard" and "extended" sets after the Innistrad rotation.

Building A Bot Server (Part 5 of 7)

In our continuing series on building your own bot server, we discussed why a solid state drive is better than a spindle based one.


Surprisingly, one doesn't need a video card for a server bot. One can get by just fine with the default video card included with the motherboard.
But what about the requirements of Magic Online which states that you need DirectX 9 or higher? And doesn't MTGO Library require some resolution higher than what a motherboard's video can deliver? And isn't the whole point of that video so that you have an emergency backup in case your video card goes kaploey?

What about it? We're not running MTGO or the Library on the machine itself. We are running MTGO and the library UNDER VMware and VMware will supply the necessary software-based video driver to deliver the resolution nicely. I've run YATBot and MTGO Library under VMware quite nicely. Besides, one doesn't even need a monitor to run a server. One is helpful for actual tweaking or diagnosing problems, but one is not need for actually running.
So save yourself the money: One doesn't need a video card for this endeavor.


The sad thing about Windows is that tries to do all things for all people and therefore is cumbersome and takes up way too many resources. You can successfully run VMware Server with a couple of bots underneath. There are even a few sites dedicated to trying to slim down Windows so that only the barest services are ever run. (Do you really want those printer drivers and fonts on a server machine?)

But what if I told you there are alternatives to putting Windows on your server machine? Have I piqued your interest? Tune in next time to find out the answer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.57 is out!

ML Bot 4.57 supports the wishlist buying mode for the Innistrad set (ISD).

ML Bot 4.57 fixes also a problem with transferring tixs out of the bot using the "at" command of the administrator.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Building A Bot Server (Part 4 of 7)

In our continuing series on building a bot server for your bot empire, we discussed memory last time and how you need to be careful of the 32-bit addressing problem. Let's continue our series.

Hard drives

In the old days, hard drive selection was fairly simple: Hard drives were like a garage: bigger means more space to put stuff in. These days however, it is more complicated. Rotation speed, hybrid drives, Solid state drives versus platter as well as the simple capacity can overwhelm the non-technical person. Fortunately, you have me to guide you through this detail.

Since the machine we are building is going to be a server, storage is not a main concern. However, speed will be. The more servers that are operating, the faster the hard drive needs to be in order to keep up with the demand. Otherwise, the bot will appear slow and may discourage customers at best and fail you at worst.

This is why in situations like this, I recommend a solid state drive of a minimum 150 Gigs in size. This allows you to allocate 30 Gigs for each of three (3) bots and still have space left over.

But space isn't the main concern: speed is and while a solid state drives is not as fast as memory, a solid state drive is going to be significantly faster than a spindle hard drive. This will increase reliability and since the drive isn't physically rotating 10,000 times a minute, thus, fewer parts to break down.

A word of advice: NEVER EVER attempt to defragment a solid state drive. There is absolutely no benefit towards putting large files together as physical proximity is not a concern for an SSD drive and the amount of wear and tear an SSD drive experiences while under going a defragmentation procedure actually shortens its life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Momir Basic strategy

Well, today to change things a bit, I will talk about Momir Basic, because I think it's a very funny format.

Despite what most people say, Momir is not a luck-driven format, it is a format where you need to be very careful about how you make your plays. One of the main things you have to pay attention to is when you start to build your deck, since many relevant creatures have activated abilities that demand specific colors. The main colors are black and red, so I play with more Mountains and Swamps then the rest of the other basic lands. Forests and Islands are next, leaving Plains at last.
One more thing you have to pay attention to is to have, if possible, one of each basic land in play (unless your opponent has one landwalker creature, of course), because when you start making 8 cmc creatures (normally where the game comes to a conclusion), you'll find that many of the creatures that cost 8 have upkeep costs, and in different colors, and having the mana to pay for it can win you the game, not to mention that if you reach 16 mana, Draco demands that you have one of each basic land in play, or else you have to pay for it in your upkeep.

I normally play in the following order:

When I'm playing - Mountain, Mountain, Island(make a 3cmc critter), Forest (4cmc critter), Swamp (5cmc critter), Swamp (6cmc critter), Plains (7cmc critter) and Mountain (8cmc critter).

When I'm drawing - Forest, Island (2cmc critter), Mountain (3cmc critter), Mountain (4cmc critter), Swamp (cmc 5 critter), Swamp (cmc 6 critter), Plains (cmc 7 critter) and Mountain (cmc 8 critter).
That way i avoid many losses for not paying the upkeep of many creatures that show up and if i reach 16 mana, i wont have any problems maintaning one or more Dracos in play.

Enjoy the tips and any doubts/suggestions you may have, just send me a email:

MTGO Library Bot 4.56 is out!

ML Bot 4.56 is out and supports the new set Innistrad (ISD)! The updated price list is available for free during the update, as well inside the installer and for download from the Online Control Panel.

Enjoy and happy botting!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Building A Bot Server (Part 3 of 7)

In our series of building a bot server, we went over CPU's and motherboards. Let's continue.


Whenever I advise people on computers, I always tell them more memory is better. The same is true with server machines as well. However these days I have to throw in a caveat: Make certain that the machine will be able to actually handle the memory. Because of the limits of 32-bit addressing, three (3) gigabytes of memory is all that can be addressed.

But what about this laptop I saw with four (4) gigs of memory?

There are three (3) reasons for that.

[1] They are using some virtual memory handling procedure to get the extra gigabyte. This was done in the past to break past the 640K (yes, 640 kilobyte) barrier. EMMLOAD was a common line to see in CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files.

Although that trick worked then, I have not been impressed with this iteration this time around.

[2] They may be using three (3) for the operating system and the fourth could be allocated towards video memory.

[3] There may really be four (4) gigs of memory on the physical machine, but the operating system can only see three (3) of them. Uneducated consumers think they have been ripped off and one needs Job's patience in dealing with these situations.

Assuming one is choosing to build a four (4) CPU machine, then having three (3) gigabytes of memory is plausible. While I prefer giving a bot at least 800 Megabytes of memory, the bot will work on a system with only 512 Megabytes of memory. We'll go over this detail in the future.

The main takeaway is this: Make certain that your machine will be able to address or see the entire memory contents or otherwise, the money you are spending on memory will not be utilized properly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.55 is out!

ML Bot 4.55 is out, fixing a connection problem with 4.54. In fact, version 4.54 was sometime not able to correctly log in the Online Control Panel the "Selling" trades.

Building A Bot Server (Part 2 of 7)

So you've decided to build a specialized machine to run your bot empire. There are good reasons to do so:

It consolidates the number of physical machines which must be kept running, cooled and more importantly in my case, saves on the physical space needed to house this.

Power consumption will decrease. Modern machines are more efficient and there will be few moving parts, like fans,

So let's look into the details:

Case or Housing Unit:

Get a big case and make certain it has plenty of fans and ventilation. I have a case which the entire side panel houses one giant twelve (12) inch fan and that fan definitely can pull heat away from the motherboard. For myself, I'll be using that case for obvious reasons: The giant fan and that I already have a case. I just need to make certain the motherboard will fit inside this case, but that's a minor concern as motherboards are built in standardized ways:

Motherboard and CPU's

Long time PC hobbyists remember the speed wars of the 1990's where Intel and AMD would brag about which chip they made was the “fastest”. Then the speed war quietly stopped. No longer did we hear of 2.4, 2.8, and 3.0 Ghz chips and the speed never increased. Curious about that, I researched the issue and found out that the reason chips cannot go faster is that there is an annoying law of physics: the speed of light is constant and that is now the bottleneck. How fast can light go in one gigasecond? About three inches. How big is a computer chip? About three inches.

So the movement now is towards parallel processing, multiple chips which can handle more tasks and could have dedicated chips towards this venture. These days, four CPU's is fairly common. This is enough to run three (3) or four (4) bots. We'll get into that later on in this series.

One final point: Try and get the CPU's and motherboard at the same time and make certain they are compatible with each other. I've encountered situations where CPU's and motherboards do not play nicely with each other and those are very difficult to diagnose.

We'll continue this next time.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.54 is out!

ML Bot 4.54 supports the TD2 set in the ''wishlist'' buying mode.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Building A Bot Server (Part 1 of 7)

Albert's Post on September 7th about specializing your bots instead of just having more bots which all do the same thing has got me thinking about doing this myself in the future.I've pondered off and on about a foil-only bot, a Standard only bot and a few other more obscure specialties.

However the way I run the bots on my desktop wouldn't allow for additional bots to be placed on my wife's desktop and the bot machine I was given some years back decided to blow up so placing additional bots there would not be feasible.

While I do have standing offers from friends to be the recipient of older machines to use for my fledgling bot empire, I simply do not have the physical space to house all these machines just so that I can run one or two additional bots. So I would have to build a new server machine from the ground up if I wanted to pursue this venture.

Before I begin with the specifics of all the details, I am going to make a few assumptions:
I'm not going to be recommending brand names or stores. This isn't the place for that.

I'm going to assume things like mice, keyboards, CD/DVD player and monitors are freely available. You can run a server without a monitor and mice and keyboards are easily obtainable if spares are not hanging around.
I'm going to assume that the reader is proficient in installing software and operating systems.
I'm going to assume a familiarity with VMware or other virtual machine software like Virtual PC.
I'm going to assume a willingness for the reader to do this. This is not going to be a simple project and this can easily take over a weekend. While there will be shortcuts and things one can avoid and those will be pointed out, this is meant to be a more thorough walk-through than “just move your bots onto the new machine.”

With that out of the way, we'll begin those details next time.

Monday, October 3, 2011

MTGO Library Bot 4.53 is out!

ML Bot 4.53 supports the DDH set in "wishlist" buying mode. It also fixes a number of minor bugs - among those the inability to handle trades with buddies with very long names (20-25 characters-long names).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The value of an Event Ticket

Days of crisis and bad economy, still the tixs (and in general the Magic Online cards) hold their value. You can still easily sell tixs for 0.95-0.96 usd and convert them to money.

Why is the Magic Online economy so unaffected by the real economy? Indeed it is affected, but the effects of effect are somehow filter by the following factors:
  • Magic Online economy is not connected to a single country (such as "California", or "France"), thus a bad performance of a single state it's much more diffuse.
  • Magic Online does not handle real value items: the items are not connected to supply and demand and not connected to "physical" resources (oil, gasoline, and so on)
  • The number of players / buyers / sellers in Magic Online is growing. Three years ago we were 1.000, now we are on average 2.500 and even 4.000 during release times. In 3 years will we reach 10.000?
  • It's a very liquid market, with almost no fees, no expedition costs and free adversing. In a nutshell, the costs of "running a business in Magic Online" are close to zero, opposite to real world
Am I missing something else? Please write me at!