literally unprecedented

Our mans have been trying the recent Windows 7 beta (build 7000) and it appears that it is in fact faster than Windows XP.

No, really. I would love it if this were not true and be completely unsurprised. But I find myself relishing this prospect even more: preliminary indications show that Microsoft actually knows what they’re doing.

I’m trying to keep this conservative, but after the vastly disappointing debacle that was Windows Vista, the concept of a BETTER version of Windows after six or seven years is mind-bending. And very exciting. As inviting as the prospect of the gaming world migrating to Linux might be, it’s a GREAT relief to find that it wasn’t completely hype after all.

I have been a stolid unbeliever for many moons in Microsoft’s ability and willingness to change their dastardly ways and make an operating system that did what it should (i.e., operate the system, not commandeer it). This was all started when they made Vista and subsequently failed to improve it significantly, and the Games for Windows initiative didn’t help either. (It seemed to evil, and furthermore it was pushing games on Windows Vista, the last thing I would want to run games on. Well ok, not the last.)

Their continuing advertisements, as vital they may have been to the company’s product line, really ruined their crediblity with me and many other technologically adept people, since they doggedly continued to insist that Vista was just fine, nothing was wrong with it and people aren’t buying our product for reasons that don’t apply any more. The fixes they applied to the OS were still sadly inadequate, however, and the Mojave project only showed how fancy and easy to use their shiny new interface was without revealing anything about its performance problems. We already knew Vista looks pretty nice to use; that doesn’t change the fact that it’s simply a resource hog that chops the very heart out of your high-performance applications and messily eats it, spilling all over what parts of your RAM it isn’t already using.

With all this going, I found it nearly impossible to believe thta they were actually making improvements over Windows Vista as they claimed. When it was announced that they weren’t writing it from the ground up but merely modifying the Vista base, I essentially lost hope. Early alphas were also essentially Vista only slower, uglier, and fraught with worrying compatibility issues.

So, this comes to me personally as a great and welcome surprise. I will now assume a stance of cautious optimism in the face of future and pray that the great M$ does not continue on to botch and murder what could have been their greatest achievement in a decade.

Connway there will probably be putting up some numbers from his testing, playing various games and stuff in Windows 7 and XP. It’s looking quite promising, it really is.

brawl in the family

This is actually quite a fantastic little webcomic. It’s really making me laugh. It’s pretty much all Super Smash Brothers references, but it’s great.

anachronistic

Our flight home from California yesterday was number 2008; true to its anachronistic name, it was also late.

more recent graphics

Enlighten, a newish graphical engine developed by Geomerics, has actually achieved real-time radiosity effects. It simulates light scattering off of lit surfaces and lighting other surfaces that are not directly in the light, which then  light other surfaces… a process which Geomerics claims continues effectively ad infinitum with their engine.

It’s quite impressive, and I recommend that you give it a look on their media page.

In other somewhat-related news, VLC Media Player’s newest version finally has good-looking subtitles. For anyone still using 0.8.6, now is a perfectly good time to upgrade to the newest version0.9.8a at the time of this writing.

It’s been over three years since I first used VLC, and the whole time I’ve wished that it had more powerful subtitles. Now it features a pretty powerful engine with proper layout, colors, and fonts as dictated by some of the most recent subtitle formats. I thought this day would never come.

In fact, I had just installed the newest version and was chatting with a friend about this very feature, pondering if and perhaps when it would ever be made. I was somewhat doubtful…and then BAM they’d actually done it. Pretty crazy.

black out facebook? are you serious?

Oh man, did I have a good laugh at the expense of these guys. (If the group has already dissolved on facebook, you can also see it here and the event here where I’ve saved them for posterity.)

Take a good look at what they want to do and why they say they want to do it. See if you can guess why I found their twitching, futile antics amusing. Then continue reading.

Before I begin I want to point out: I’m not saying all one million people who joined the group are idiots. I know more than one person who joined it. The group’s premise is inane, though not obviously enough to make it instantly spottable.

The first thing you should notice (after you’re done reeling from the wet slap in the face that is their grammar) is that they only have some 1.1 million people, only one week before the deadline. That’s about as fast as you can make one of these silly pyramid schemes grow.

So, we have one million people leaving facebook forever. No, wait… boycotting facebook for a month? A week? No—they’re merely deciding ahead of time that they will not log in at all for only one day. The best they’re likely to get out of this is that about 800,000 of facebook’s (estimated) 15,000,000 daily visitors won’t log on for one single day. That’s a staggering 5.3% of the total population! The site probably gets greater fluctuations than that from day to day for no apparent reason.

So, what is this lilliputian demonstration of might meant to accomplish? Well… they don’t have an actual agenda. They’re not trying to actually do anything per se but merely to bring awareness of their plight, or whatever it is, to the administrators of the site.

How do they describe their misfortune?

“Friends account deleted, Limited in sending message or poking, stupid new layout !”

It seems to me if they were so incensed, they could just leave the site. As a matter of fact, it was a lack in limitations to poking and the like that is commonly cited for the reason that facebook’s growing population took a slice in late 2007 and early 2008. Part of facebook’s ongoing response to this problem was the redesign of the appearance and interface of the site, downplaying all the annoying applications that people tended to wontonly plaster over their profiles. I can’t comment on the deletion of profiles; I’ve never really seen one. While it does unfortunately occur sometimes, it’s better that some few real people who joined 1,000+ groups and sent hundreds of friend invites to people they didn’t know got their accounts removed than the whole site be filled with spam accounts.

In summary, the whole effort comes down to a whole lot of people throwing a tiny collective tantrum protesting the administrative staff’s efforts to protect them and improve their time on the site. To those who read and briefly processed the stated reasons for the group’s creation, it is a sort of fanciful dream of thousands of people standing up to the big evil men in suits. To those who don’t really pay as much attention it’s simply another silly pyramid group that everyone else is doing too.

As a friend tells me, this group was evidently created long ago and was only recently given a date. This is immaterial: they still have no stated goal, merely complaint against the administrators’ work to protect and improve.

Ohh… fine, I’ll forgive their grammar. The guy who started it is apparently French. That still doesn’t change anything.

hey, look over there

Well, I added my shared items RSS from Google Reader as a widget to the page. In it you’re likely to find things I thought were funny, interesting, edifying, etc. Probably worth a look, or a subscription even. Either way. I’ll try to use that for more of my random internet linkage from now on rather than using this space for the same purpose.

I need to post some recipes on here. I need to actually store them for myself before I do that.

Something went horribly wrong with all of the posts from “review/” and before; they get put in their own <div> boxes on the front page instead of in the box where the newer posts go.  In themes that show them on the front page, they take up the entire width of the page, or display in center align, or obliterate all columns to the left and right, or all three. Something must be done.

Might this be because I’m using Google Chrome? The answer is no, it happens in Firefox 3 as well. If it happens in both of these excellent browsers, I’m not even going to bother with Internet Explorer. I’ll just have to re-add those posts later and see if that fixes them;  I’m trying to improve this sites appearance without paying money, and to do that the next step I want to take is to move it to a better multi-column format that’s easy to read and displays the entirety of at least the few most recent posts.

Right now, I can’t do that at all because every theme but this one is spectacularly broken by something evil in the formatting of these older posts. We’ll see how that goes.

update: It was all the crazy formatting HTML necessary to make the youtube tutorial post semi-presentable. This has since been fixed, and the theme changed to something possibly better.

danger: technical stuff about the future!

An article posted only a couple hours ago on Ars Technica regarding memory bandwidth vs. many-core computing made me raise their eyebrows. The gist of the article is, as computers are now, adding more cores to the processor will not continue to be beneficial since there is a limit to how fast information can be read or written to the RAM. As you add more CPU cores, each one gets less and less memory bandwidth; the number of CPU cores has been increasing faster than memory bandwidth lately.

So, the article raises a valid point: the number of cores per socket is effectively limited in a practical sense by the total rate of memory access. I believe the problem with this argument—and the reason that we will be seeing vastly more than 16 cores in the future—is that you can always just split everything up.

You can put fast and compact DRAM on-die, right there on the processor die, as another level of cache (with maybe 128MB of memory per core? That’s not too hard). You can have multiple sockets: as massively multicore becomes the order of the day, more powerful computers will have appropriately more CPU sockets; the space and importance assigned to card slots may well lessen, as well.

And just giving an individual memory space to each processor isn’t such a bad idea either. So, say you have 128 processor cores, each one with maybe 128 or 512MB of dedicated, independent memory (perhaps on-chip)—you can then just have another 32GB or so of core memory shared between all of them and everything works out great. You can assign large chunks of work to each core, and the total memory bandwidth is off the charts.

There should also be a way to have data read from the core memory be uploaded simultaneously to an arbitrary set of CPU core caches, to make synchronizing data sets between cores easy as pie.

The point I’m making is, the article isn’t wrong in what it’s saying, but I believe it has an improper focus. It should focus not on the naysaying, pointing out all the reasons why technology can’t move on. (Don’t be silly, technology can always move on.) The article should focus on what should be changed about current computing architecture to adapt in the future.

edit: Basically, don’t freak out because current computing architecture has limitations. There is always some major aspect of the way computers are built that has to change next. If we’d done it perfect the first time, we would all be demi-gods ascended above the pithy material plane by now.

tl;dr – Don’t say that computers are limited because there are bottlenecks. Just make a whole ton of little computers and put them in the same box all wired together. Only, you know, with advanced technology. So that they go fast. And stuff.

the horror

There’s an unfortunate lack of words in the English Language suitable for describing different ways in which an object can be tumultuously rent asunder, and yea unto many pieces strewn yonder and away. Just as unfortunately, there are no words for describing the process by which something may be reconstituted after such a traumatic event, whether by painstaking reassembly or miraculous reversal of nearby time. I have thus striven to bring before you a proposition, an offering if you will, a standard by which future violence and its sudden reversal may be briefly and succinctly described:

~~

explode – to blow up, as by an explosion.
(Antonym – desplode)

asplode – to be blown up by some force internal or external, esp. after a critical failure.
(Antonym – unplode)

implode – to blow up, only inwards as opposed to outwards.
(Antonym – resplode)

preplode – to destruct—indeed, become stroyed—in so comprehensive (and often indescribably horrific) a manner that the past prior to the event is indelibly altered and the object hardly was. (See also balefire)
(Antonym – by definition, there can be no antonym; the oft-considered relation postplode, upon detailed investigation, was discovered to be a process by which a preploded object is annihilated again.)

~~

Upon observing the new and revised definitions, many plebes are unwisely curious about the aftermath of a preplosion. Only a veteran with the battle-hardened visage of one who has observed an actual preplosion in action can suitably describe it (a wild light in their eyes as they speak) in a way that renders the appearance of the aftermath comprehensible to the uninitiated. Some, it seems, even pass off scenes of a preplosion as abstract art to the unsuspecting public.

However inoffensive it may seem to the masses, such an unearthly grim sight is enough to turn the stomach of one who truly knows, ruining not only the entire day thence forth but indeed, often weeks at a time.

You2beLOL

A small disclaimer: the practices that follow may break the terms of use agreements of various video sites. They don’t like you actually saving these files to your hard drive, so they can have the power to take away the videos so you can no longer view them. Just so you know.

I have done some research and figured out how to directly download YouTube videos in both high quality (mp4) and normal quality (flv) from the web site with only Internet Explorer, and without visiting any sites other than the YouTube page.

I looked about and eventually found a couple sites that had bookmarklets, which are basically javascript programs that you store in a bookmark. You just click on the bookmark to use the program on the page you currently have open.

The first site has a really big bookmarklet which is slightly outdated but provides a lot of insight into how the systems of various sites actually work (or did work at the time it was made). You might notice that the bookmarklet is incredibly long; this is because it encodes several images as extra base-64 data, and there’s also a lot of code in there.

The second site has another bookmarklet, which is pretty slick since it acts like a little add-on for the YouTube page, and adds a link below the video information section.

For formatting reasons I have moved the actual details of the method to this page. I’d love to post it here like before, but it was literally breaking WordPress. I guess there was just too much HTML in there and all the formatting got used up for the rest of the page.

Feel free to leave comments if you figure out how to do these any better, for other sites, or if you just want to tell me something.

review/

I think I’ll occasionally take up rating movies and shows that I come across which I find to be interesting enough to rate. Some titles I may consider from recent samplings include Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo, Vexille, Gurren Lagann, and perhaps Appleseed Ex Machina.

Hereuntoforthward, I shall rate stuff on a scale from 0 to 7, like I do in my personal records. You probably won’t see a lot of things below 5, since I generally don’t get worked up about mediocre stuff and lame stuff enough to really rate it or even finish watching it.

Now, I don’t necessarily want to be bound to using numbers and such, condemning subjective material to one fixed value forever. I often change ratings I’ve made in the past to reflect… whatever reason it is I’m changing it, I don’t know. Just keep in mind, these are indications of how well it struck me personally, not a rigorously computed sum graven in stone.

And before we delve into numbers, why zero to seven? Isn’t that just downright weird? Well, no. Professional reviewers use 1-4 with half-stars; halves never made much sense to me. 1-5 without halves isn’t quite enough levels, and 10 is honestly too many to make a decision easily, plus it’s a strange number. So, I found that from 0 to 7 it’s quite easy to pick out a number without too much unnecessary deliberation of whether you should choose seven or seven and a half… or even eight? Maybe six and a half? Anyway.

Here’s a general rundown of overall scoring: 4 is mediocre—nothing really special—and I wouldn’t particularly care whether you watched it or not, but it wasn’t really a total waste of time. 5 is decent, worth watching and probably a recommendation to most people. 6 means good stuff, which I enjoyed indeed, and almost certainly a recommendation. The great 7 is reserved for those things which truly belong on my favorites list; if brought up or reminded of in a conversation with me, you could easily find yourself confronted with a long string of praises and somewhat fevered insistence that you go off immediately to watch said movie or show.

If given a 3, it’s definitely listing into the deep and ugly bay of ‘you really shouldn’t waste your time.’ A 2 indicates it was pretty definitely missing some very important features such as entertainment and redeeming qualities; once we get to 1 it barely qualifies as the type of media it is purported to be. 0 is actually reserved for things that don’t even attempt to be, and really weren’t intended to be, anything like you would watch or enjoy normally. Maybe like a video that tells you how to operate a vacuum cleaner; you get the picture.

For individual categories, it goes:

7 is awesome, almost flawless;
6 is solidly well done;
5 is just fine for pretty much everything;
4 is here and there;
3 is not really featured much or poorly done;
2 is unimportant or terribly done;
1 is almost irrelevant or abominable;
and 0 means intentionally not a part of anything you see here.

I’ve experimented a bit with the various categories of rating that I use and have generally settled on humor, awesomeness, drama, story, and then the overall score (which is not an average). Stuff that makes you smile or laugh often is humorous, and something that is just depressing and leaves you feeling empty is not. Giant robots fighting with exploding drills is very awesome; sword fights are usually quite awesome, and slice-of-life is rarely awesome. (Think what makes you say ‘hey, cool…’ or just ‘awesome.’) Something that pulls you to the edge of your seat and pulls you into the characters’ situations and emotional state is dramatic; something that is just casual entertainment. (Think the stuff that has really good romance or does a good job of pulling you in emotionally.) Something that has a really well written storyline and keeps things moving without frequent fillers and plot holes has great story; something more like Azumanga Daioh, Excel Saga or even Robot Chicken have little to no story and are in fact largely completely random.

Something that does an exceptionally good job on any one of these things can conceivably get away with a good rating without much attention to the other elements (with the possible exception of drama, classically depending on story to make it relevant).