Wednesday, October 30, 2002

It was the best of times, it was the worst of novels.

Noah pointed me to NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Participants begin writing novels on November 1st, and all who cross the 50k word boundary by November 30th are pronounced "winners". As you might quess, the goal is "quantity, not quality".

I'm so very tempted, but since our first baby will be arriving sometime in November, now is probably not the
right time. Damn.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002


After lunch today I hopped over to CompUsa (two blocks away) to buy Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, both released today. I figured I'd beat the rush of kids stuck in school. (Suckers!)

Like its predecessor, Vice City centers on criminal activity, and so features violence and foul language. Since kids don't know about violence and foul language, it's important to make sure they don't get exposed to it accidentally. (Who knows what chaos would ensue if the cat got out of the bag. It's amazing we've kept the secret as long as we have.) Thus, I was only mildly surprised when they asked for my ID. I always enjoy being carded (makes me feel young and old at the same time), so I didn't really mind.

What surprised me, though, was the girl at the register. She seemed really embarassed to be selling me the game. I don't know what they told their employees, but I think she thought she was selling me porn.

"You want to play this game?" she asked me, incredulously. I nodded. "I can't want to play this game," she added.

In my mind, I ran through the scenario of me trying to explain to her the merits of the game. Imagine the most rich, detailed virtual city environment in the history of computer games. Imagine cars, boats, planes, helicopters, bridges, motorcycles, buildings, alleys, all open for exploration. Imagine the freedom to experience a complex, busy city in a way you never have before--unconstrained by etiquette, tradition, laws, and propriety.

Sure, the game lets you do horrible things. You can shoot people. You can hit them with cars. You can cause huge car accidents which, in real life, would cause horrific injury or death. All terrible things.

Imagine, though, what the game would be like without those things. Imagine if, in the game, you had to follow all the rules that make you a decent person in the real world. What fun would that be? It would be like a DMV driving test, but much longer and with cutscenes. Who wants that?

In my mind, as I explained this to her, all I got was a suspicious blank stare. I was buying adult material, after all, so everything I said was suspect. So I said nothing, smiled politely and walked out with my purchase.

I've had such fun with the game, and I haven't even broken the shrinkwrap yet.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Click Here for Savings! Click Here, Dammit! CLICK HERE!

Flutterby links a Wired article about
spam in blog referral logs. I ranted about this over a month ago. At the time, I snooped and found at least one of the culprits, though (since referrals are money to these people) I still refuse to link to them. And since then, the problem has gotten worse. I've pretty much stopped reading my referrer logs.

Another medium of useful information ruined by the scourge of advertising.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Wadda mean it's on fire?

[Posted by Kevin:]

Two weeks ago I was tweaking my home computer a bit. See, I derive a perverse pleasure from streamlining my desktop, os, and machine settings as it is one of the very few things in my life I have total control over. Well, I was having some rebooting issues, so I downloaded a new Bios update, which, when installed, gave me the ability to change the speed of my processor.

Kids, that's called overclocking.... and should only be tried by trained professionals.

Since I was new to the practice of overclocking (I understood the concept very well, just not the actual implementation), I thought I'd just change that little setting, and tell my AMD 1200(1.2ghz) that it was running at 1.8ghz. Well, it didn't like being told what to do and promptly (on the order of milliseconds) fried itself.

Swearing aside, and with great admonishment from my disgruntled wife..."no honey, I don't know why I can't just leave things alone, no I don't know why I have to keep playing with stuff that’s working well enough"...I decided I had to replace my machines processor.

Kevin, I said...I call myself that...Kevin, if you are going to get a new processor, why not just get a faster one when you order it. Hey, if you are going to get a faster CPU, you'll need a new mother board, and, well, that new mother board will need faster ram. You know, all those components are going to make a lot of heat, maybe we should get a new heatsink, and fans, and case...ohh and you'll need a new power supply to drive it all. Hey, what about that 200 gig hd you've wanted....

So, for about 1100 dollars, I got an AMD Athlon XP 2200+, ASUS A7V8X MB, Corsair XMS 3200 DDR (1gb), a 431watt Enermax power supply, an Ahanix case with an external temperature monitor/fan control, and a 200gig Western Digital HD. The rest of the bits I pulled from my old machine.

Performance wise the machine lives up to its specifications with the glaring exception of the memory bandwidth. I didn't learn until after that AMD motherboards are limited to 2.1 Gb/s memory throughput, and I was expecting to get at least 2.9gb which is the rate the 3200 DDR would run at 400mhz. Having said that, I did overclock the machine (successfully) to a 185/370 MHZ FSB (from 133/which is actually 266 since AMD places data on both the leading and trailing edge of the pulse) and a 11 multiplier on the CPU which put it to 2024mhz (from 1.8ghz). I also aggressively tweaked the memory timings, and the total system speed jumped by about 1/3.

So for about $1100 dollars worth of parts (the 200gig hd was around $389, and actual machine stuff was around $750), it was a relatively cheap way to get a machine that is very close to the extremes of speed, albeit with a bit of overclocking. Which, by the way, is what got me a new machine in the first place. :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Yeah, well, I choose to call it Tom's Sendy Technology Thingy.

About a year ago, I bought a spiffy Sony Vaio laptop. Among the various ports on the side is a "Sony iLink" jack. I paid no attention to this, since I assumed it was some ill-fated non-standard Sony-thing, useful only with other Sony devices.

It wasn't until today that I found out that iLink is Sony's branding of FireWire. (Just like Creative's branding, SB1394.) So all this time I've been fiddling with crappy USB devices, I could have been enjoying the speed (and elitist Macintosh chic) of FireWire instead. Sigh.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Down with Turing!

Ed Felton reports a disturbing characterization of current Washington attitudes:

"The political dialog today is that the general purpose computer is a threat, not only to copyright but to our entire future."

By extension, I suppose, the entire field of mathematics is a threat to National Security. After all, only creepy, smelly, hard-to-understand people know how to wield its power. Who knows what they're up to? Nothing good will come of it, I tell you!

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Lessig Speaks.

Larry Lessig, the man who argued Eldred v. Ashcroft last week, has at last posted his take on how things went.

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Intimidating robes and powdered wigs.

First-hand accounts of oral arguments in Eldred v. Ashcroft are starting to show up. Several can be seen at
LawMeme and CopyFight. (Transcripts won't be made available for quite a while.)

The basic consensus is that the Justices asked hard questions of both sides, and that there's no way to know what they'll decide. No surprise there. Still, I'm looking forwarding to hearing more detail about the questions and responses.

Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The laptop battery industry must love these.

Silly gadget purchase of the day: a USB-powered light and a USB-powered fan. I don't know why, but using a data port only to draw power seems silly to me. I bought them mostly as novelties, but both have proved useful already. So that shows how much I know.

Tastes like chicken slime.

If you're squeamish, don't read about hagfish slime scones.

Monday, October 7, 2002

Jump up onto the thing, then duck under the swinging thing.

Tonight I bought Sly Cooper and the Thevius Raccoonus, the latest, greatest 3-D platformer for the PS2. It's gorgeous, gameplay is excellent, and the voice acting is even decent. It's not quite at the level of Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, which set the bar unusually high for jump-around-and-collect-things games. It's not far off, though, and it's taking all my will power not to keep playing through the night.

It shouldn't take long to finish--after three hours, I'm already a fifth of the way through--but perhaps it will tide me over until Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 come out.

Watch commercials. It's your duty.

From LawMeme, the MPAA have asked the judge in the ReplayTV case to name the Electronic Frontier Foundation a competitor, so that the EFF lawyers can be barred from sensitive movie industry documents in the case.

Silly MPAA. The EFF is a political organization. They're not participating in your industry--they're trying to raise awareness of the way its members behave.

For those who have lost count, the ReplayTV case is the one wherein broadcast companies say you're stealing when you skip commercials, because that violates an implicit contract with the broadcaster.

An analogy occured to me today. When I pay my credit card balance in full each month, and thus pay no interest, the credit card company makes no money from me. Does that make me a thief, or just shrewd? Am I morally obliged to let charges accrue?

Much gnashing of slide-rules.

Rough Science: a Survivor-like show where the contestants are scientists, and where the tasks involve creating machines, devices, and substances from indigenous materials.

I'll watch it, as long as there's no voting-off-the-island crap.

Thursday, October 3, 2002

I negate your serif by flagrantly flipping this bit.

Noah pointed me to Typophile: The smaller picture, a collaborative effort to build up a typeface, one random pixel at a time. (Also linked on memepool today.)

It really is an excellent project. In addition to observing the current state of letters and contributing to the final form, you can watch animations of how the letters have progessed. It seems most letters converged quickly to recognizable forms, but have diverged since, possibly due to Web Moron Sabotage. Statistical analysis reveals impressively clear characters, with the only significant variance involving optional serif locations.

I love projects like this.