Choosing between Azure and AWS for Minecraft

Having run Minecraft servers at home so my daughter and I can play together, the inevitable question of “Can I play with my friends” was voiced. I didn’t want to put any of my computers on the web or, if I’m honest, open any ports on my router, so Cloud computing was the way to go.

I started out with Amazon AWS because, well I can’t really remember now, but it was probably the prospect of a year’s free usage. That doesn’t entirely work out because the basic (free) servers aren’t really up for running Minecraft but it was a start. And it was fun talking seriously about cloud services with Amazon at a trade show using my Minecraft experiences. Scalability – yup I know that as the first server wasn’t up to Minecraft and Mumble.

Then Microsoft had a content marketing win by offering a free ebook on Azure. I’m a sucker for free stuff so I downloaded it the phone and started reading while I was waiting for BHS to cook the office bacon oreder yesterday. I’m equally a sucker for trying something new so come the evening I signed in to Azure and gave it a go.

I’ve got a reasonable server set up with AWS but was hoping to get an Attack of the B-Team server running as some friends had been interested in the Galacticraft plugin and it seemed the easiest way to get that running. It’s a lot more demanding than a standard Minecraft server; the batch file starts it with 3Gb of RAM rather than the 1Gb I normally start a server with.


That’s what’s important to most of us. I thought that Azure was cheaper but looking the the AWS pricing I think the server costs are about the same. It works out about 10p an hour for a 2 core instance with 7GB of RAM. Certainly cheaper than buying a server of similar power. (I still need to set up cron to shut down automatically in case I forget).

The pricing is like for like with an Ubuntu server. Azure offers Windows instances but then you have to factor in OS licensing. There’s times when that’s worth the cost but not for Minecraft.

Ease of Use

This was an win for Azure on several fronts

Authentication (passwords)

Security is inversely proportional to convenience so you could take the greater ease of Azure either way. Actually it’s more about choice. AWS provides you with key file to sign in with. Getting it to work with PuTTY involves conversion and then you need to have the key file with you whenever you want to access the server.

Not a big problem but I nearly came a cropper when I needed to access the server and wasn’t sure where the key file was. Luckily I found it.

Azure lets you use a key file if you want but I chose to use an ordinary username and password. A key file would be good for something that’s running all the time. But for an occasional game server, Azure is easier to manage.

Address on the web

Part of the setup process for Azure let me set up a web address, The AWS equivalent is where the x’s make up an IP address. To try and make something more memorable I signed up for an fixed IP address with AWS. Unfortunately that adds to the cost. To get to the same easy address to enter into Minecraft I signed up to It’s free but I do have to click a link to keep the account activated every month.

In use

That’s a win for Ubuntu rather than either AWS or Azure. It was a simple job to get Attack of the B-Team working.

Backend interface

I don’t like judging something purely on how it looks but the Azure interface does look good. AWS is rather functional but I’ve never had any problems with it.

It’s not all good looks. The Azure backend has some useful graphs showing usage. That’s important to me when running a Minecraft server because I want to be able to check that the server is up to the load before it becomes a problem. Users complaining about slow websites is one thing, but irate children is another!

Final conclusion

Given that the pricing is the same, it’s really down to convenience and it is nice not to have to carry a key file around with me and the server load graphs are handy for checking that the server is up to the job.

So it’s looking good for Azure at the moment.

Throttling Windows to prevent overheating

powerOptionsI’d wanted to throttle Handbrake video conversion because I was worried that the system was getting too hot.

*I’m running Speedfan so it’s not so much the CPU that bothers me but the mysterious Temp2 reading that never seems to stop rising when the CPU maxes out and takes a lot longer to go down.

Turned out that the answer wasn’t with Handbrake but with Windows. I remembered that all the Power Savings options are available even if you’re not on a laptop so I set the maximum CPU speed to 48%.

Hey Presto! And Handbrake is running and none of the temperatures are above 40 degrees.

speedfanGranted it’s slower but that’s a price worth paying for keeping everything cool. I might experiment with different maximum speeds.

Just so long as I remember to put it back to normal before anyone else uses the computer.


Ukulele Chord Chart

One of the most useful things when I started playing guitar was a chord chart that laid the chords out by how you might actually want them. Rather than a simple list of all the majors, then minors, etc it had them in groups of:

  • Tonic
  • Relative Minor
  • Sub Dominant
  • Dominant

As I didn’t spend enough time paying attention in GCSE Music that doesn’t really mean very much to me but you might recognise them better as C, Am, F and G7 or E C#m, A and B7.

As something else to procrastinate before doing some proper practice on my ukelele I thought it might be helpful to recreate the chart. And here it is.

Download my Ukulele Chord chart as SVG or PDF

As a bit of break from tradition, I used Inkscape for this project rather than my normal preferred illustration program Xara. I still love Xara and think it’s a fantastic program. But I wanted something that could be edited by as many people as possible, hence the use of an open source program.

I’ve got on fairly well with Inkscape. It’s not quite the same but this didn’t take me very long.

I might go back and make the number circles a bit bigger. Or you can – that’s the beauty of open programs and standards!

Saving a default template in Xara Xtreme Photo and Graphic Designer

How to change the default units in Xara Xtreme Photo & Graphic Designer

Xara Xtreme is a fantastic design program but I’ve often been frustrated by having to change the default units in every document I work on. As I mostly work for the web, I think in pixels rather than cm or inches.

It turns out that the default Page Units are saved in templates. Create a new document and set up any other options that you want as defaults.

To change the Page units, click Utilities then Options. Select the Units tab and then select Pixels in the Page Units menu. Click OK.

Click File and then Save Template. Choose a name and location for the template and select the option ‘Use as default template’. Click Save. Restart Xara and you should now be using pixels as the default unit.

My raspberry pi on a shelf

The Pi on the shelf – Getting to grips with X

As I don’t really have space for lots of monitors in my office, I’ve been experimenting with remote access to my Raspberry Pi. Why not just play around with a virtual Pi with QEMU I hear you ask? Well, the most exciting thing about the Pi for me is the breadboard with LEDs so there’s no fun emulating that in software. Remote access is nothing new for me (fixing the Aged Ps’ computer would be much harder without), but I’ve never tried it with something like the Pi.

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