Where "The MFN Project" came from

Published by skylar on Sunday, August 13, 2023

The history laid out below is told from Skylar’s view and
some of the details are fuzzy and a lot of information and
people who were involved have been lost to time. Take it
with a grain a salt, as the timeline is most likely all
out a whack due to how memories fade and alter as the years
pass us by.

There is little to no documentation of the project from before
around 2016. Everything we did was flying by the seat of our
pants back then and was a huge exercise in could we make a
server that actually did…anything at all.

I’ve been in charge of “The MFN Project” in some form of another
since June of 2009. Let that sink in for a moment, that’s a long
time to watch technology change. I have been running this project
since Linux 2.4 or 2.6 was the base of most ISOs. Ubuntu 6.06 was
the operating system that Chuck and I painfully installed on an
iMac G3 that was hooked to a cable modem at my father’s house
that we used to run a website. (Edit to this from the original
post: It took some digging, but minecraft was ran on a seperate
machine and neither I nor Dhovakin remember what it was on, but
it wasn’t multiplayer either, we VNC’d in to play…this was the
early days of my hosting adventure and none of us in the group
really had a clue as to what we were doing back then.)

The group didn’t exist at this time but it should be noted
that this is when I jumped into the Linux/GNU OS since
a friend had borrowed my Windows laptop and it was
returned to me with Damn Small Linux running on it.
I learned the hard way how to function under the Linux
based OS because I suddenly had no choice for a few

Later, The UNXT Group, a small Minecraft server of about
five players and a handful of plugins was initiated. We
had a trading post, a crude market system, and some
other essentials.

I bought a Dell PowerEdge 2950 server from eBay; it wasn’t
shiny or new but it had 32GB of memory on two 32bit CPUs. We
had recently upgraded to cable internet at the house and
had expanded to a strange Minecraft setup that allowed each of
us to run our own worlds and settings; seamlessly migrating
without reconnecting. It was pretty neat and wasn’t a setup
that really took off until a few years later when it seemed
that the bigger community hubs started doing the same.

Later in 2010/2011, the members of the group all had slightly
different ideas of how to build and manage everything, which
led to various components of UNXT finding themselves across
different houses.

I think parts of UNXT ended up at Dhoavkin’s house. The main
server handled functions of our Minecraft server to allow players
to jump between worlds while keeping their items synced. Other
smaller side project servers provided the market and backups.
Though laggy at time, it worked and that is what counted.

Some pieces were running at my grandparent’s house and it
was around this time that UNXT had a very short venture with
another project that was running under the name “JoeyTech”
while I was in high school. Due to issues surrounding how
the systems were piloted differently, the two groups did not
work alongside each other for long.

I graduated from high school and went on to college. The original
group fell apart, we were all in different points of life, but for
posterity I kept the server online at my grandparent’s house,
serving solely as a website. I renamed things to just UNXT and
it hosted sky pictures from a webcam that I modified and

A friend got OpenVPN running on the server and had it setup so
that it would allow our friends to play a few games with
each other as if we were all in the same room together. Although
short lived because of bandwidth and latency issues, it was
pretty neat to see in action and might be one of the larger
things that got me interested in computer networking.

I stopped hosting all together because it was no longer
interesting, and I didn’t have the time to keep everything
up to date. At this time my interest in ham radio became
more of a focus and what extra funds I had were put towards
my radio projects and packet gear. I ran a small AX.25 BBS
in East Texas for around a year, but had very few connects
or messages left.

I brought things back online while running in a virtual
machine on my gaming pc at my grandparent’s house when I
started living with them. I registered the name “UNXT Hallows”
and was hosting a website, Minecraft server, OpenVPN for
remote work and a live weather camera that actually got
use from a nearby group because it had decent night imagery.

At this point everything died off because I did not have enough
income to support the cost of the server, domain names and licensing
and it got boring compared to the online gaming I was doing.

During this time the Hallows group began to break down because
I refused the idea of commercializing the project and expanding
it to be a service instead of a gathering place for people to
hangout. I really did not want the project to become a business,
I wanted it to remain free and accessible for anyone who wanted
to join us. A few members imaged the small server that was
currently in operation and took that as their base for elsewhere.
I don’t know what became of the images or if they were scrapped
and started fresh.

I ran a joint project with a few friends under the name
“Hallows Cave” which included Minecraft, DayZ, a poor
attempt at emulating another game we all played and hosting VMs
for some income on the side. This project dissolved in 2019 when
a new relationship happened, so with this life change I had to
focus elsewhere for a while.

Before someone points out the monetization of the VM hosting, I
was not the lead on that project and it wasn’t my choice. I
just did a lot of the upkeep and was given a small part of what
that project brought in.

At this point I ran a nameless IP hosting only SSH and OpenVPN
so that I could tunnel my phone. I didn’t even rent or own a
server at this point, but instead rented a VPS from OVH
with just enough resources to run the tunnel.

I bounced back as “marbledfennec.net” and began with just two
routers being virtualized on a server rented by the month. It was
a little intel server that struggled to keep up with the bandwidth
my phone could use but did okay tunneling the house to the Dallas
server for a game my friends played a lot.

During this year the project had to be moved to an Opteron server
because it had greater resources as some members had heavily expanded
their Minecraft server that I agreed to host. Others made use of the
VPN to host things from their home using the server’s IP. I believe
this to be what sparked the idea of the direction that the
“The MFN Project” has taken.

“marblefenned.net” then expanded into the “The MFN Project” with a
now much bigger server running a website, Minecraft VM, three router
VMs (on IPv4), an on the fly streaming VM, self-hosted email, and a
rarely used Minecraft VM. Yet, there was a small community of users
helping run things and working on the build out.

During this year “The MFN Project” experienced some leadership changes
and few volunteer staff members walked off causing the volunteer staff
membership to become pretty lackluster due to my lack of interest in
commercializing once again. My goal is to keep the human element at
the center of “The MFN Project” and would rather not run the risk of
it becoming just another faceless service provider. The goal of operations
has always been to teach others how to setup and work with computer
networks and to gain experience hosting services in a somewhat controlled

“The MFN Project” now owns both the names “marbledfennec.net” and
“fenfox.run” for daily operations. We secured IPv6 access from our
upstream provider and were given a /48 subnet to further build out
our virtualized infrastructure with.

The few members we had certainly helped accelerate the build out in
early 2023 and the project runs five router VMs, provides semi-public
IP transit, hosts two websites, has self-hosted email, still does
OTF streaming, provides routed IPv6 subnets upon request, hosts a
GTA5 RP server and has a somewhat playable but outdated Minecraft VM.

All of this is hosted on a Ryzen 7 based server we rent and for the
most part, the system is self-running and requires little intervention
these days.

Presently, my interest has waned since the volunteer members who helped
build the current server have mostly moved on since our disagreement
over commercialization and the standards of operation. Out of the six
people that built this project and made it a reality…I am the only tech
left on the project. I am only continuing to run it because there are
still four daily users who rely on the network for day-to-day happenings
and for those that simply enjoy dropping in every once in a while to
catch up and help out where needed.

Emotionally, it all feels a little weird. There doesn’t seem to be a need
for growth at this stage in MFN’s lifecycle, however, it still shouldn’t
feel boring because something unique was created over several years of
growth, experience, and human interactions. This project made and broke
a lot of ties over the years, but the changes those individuals made have
carried us to where we stand today. To the current team of volunteer staff
and the ones that have moved on with time, thank you for being a part of
the history of The MFN Project and helping make it what is has become.

It has been over fourteen years since I began this “hobby”. That’s a
lot of nights drinking coffee and hacking away at a terminal. While the
project may come and go over the years, it always seems to come back ever
stronger and brighter than the last incarnation. May it continue to do so!

Timeline and thoughts provided by Skylar Wylie Westbrooke.
Editorial support provided by Shay Ashlee Smith. (🐾thank you!🐾)
The MFN Project created and provided by countless volunteers
over the many, many years of operation.