Posts Tagged ‘rant’

Ready Player One and TrackMania

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

I still call BS on Ready Player One movie adaptation. Spoilers, duh. A crazy unwinable race is taking place but you can win, if you go backwards from the starting line. Nobody discovered the secret for years! Bullsh**

Let me tell you a story about a game called TrackMania. It is a stunt based racing game. Community support has given TrackMania nearly unlimited custom tracks to play. When played at a LAN party, you can have a over 200 players on a server. All playing the same track. This is possible because each player is racing alone for the best lap time. You can see other players, but they are ghost cars that you can clip through. The match continues for a preset time, during which you can make as many attempts as you want at having the best lap time.

Because of the nature of user made tracks. Things get crazy really fast. Having the best lap time isn’t always about maintaining control of your car, making a perfect turn, or accelerating to “just” the right speed to jump from one halfpipe to the next.

So let me set this up for you. I drove 5+ hours to attend a LAN party in Menominee. It was setup in the college’s auditorium and was run like a big convention. Even inviting speakers and hosting workshops. Most folks were there for the various tournaments. The LAN party went on for THREE days. Guests were invited to stay the duration, but not necessarily play for 72 hours straight. Only weirdos best players like me stayed up all night. In the wee hours of the night, between the tournaments I signed up for, there were hours of downtime to fill. You could take a break, or join any one of the spontaneous LAN matches. TrackMania became very popular because of the number of players it supported and how crazy fun it can be.

Image Credit: PONG

Most tracks are a grind of memorization. Within the time limit, you can reset your car back to the start line and try again as many times as you want. Fall off the track and plummet to the ground? Reset. Flip upside down because you didn’t hit the loop de loop just right? Reset. As long as you have the lowest lap time by the end you can still win. However, the craziest tracks are so hard you can’t actually make it to the finish line more than once. The track is so crazy, with so many stunts and pitfalls, just surviving to the finish line gets you on the leaderboard.

One track in particular stands out in my memory. The time limit was set for 30 minutes. From the start line, you can see most of the track laid out before you. Dozens of half pipes and loops, jet propulsion lanes, all floating hundreds of feet in the air. My first attempt resulted in me plummeting to my demise within the first 10 seconds. With the advantage that I could see where other drivers were taking the jumps, little by little I would survive longer and longer down the track. After just 5 mins of game time, I noticed names appearing on the leaderboard. People were reaching the finish line. This was typical for our group of players. What wasn’t typical was the lap times. 5.6 seconds, 4.1 seconds, 3.5 seconds! I reset and stayed at the start line to watch them. They were driving backwards! The finish line was literally behind the starting line. You couldn’t see it at all from your perspective in the car, but if you blindly drove backwards sure enough. 3 second lap time.

My point is. This is the exact plot of the movie Ready Player One. Only in the movie, the entire overpopulated world played the race over and over. Failing for years to find the secret. Seriously? It took my group of maybe 50 people less than 10 minutes.

The plot from the book was so much better. The main character was a student with no money. The only reason he even owned a VR rig was a grant from a charity so he could attend high school safely. In VR his friends all had enough credits to go off world on the weekends. Leaving him alone on high school world. This is how he discovered and beat the first challenge. The creator wanted a student to win. That’s why the first key was placed on a school planet.

Sigh. Long story short. Go read the book. Play TrackMania.

Network Connections in Windows 10

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Windows 10 can be great, but a lot of things have been dumb since Windows 8. Like how they hide access to Network Connections. The window that on WinXP and Win7, was used for all things network related. All it’s functionality is still there, you just have to find it.

There are several ways to get to the now buried window, but with this method you can reach in two clicks.

  1. Right click the Start Menu and select Network Connections. Done? Ha, no. Welcome to the Network Status setting window. Hardly.
  2. Now click “Change adapter options”.  You made it~! This is the “real” Network Connections window.

For the uninitiated, this window shows the network status better than the previous Win10 Network Status window. Right click your adapter and select status to gander at all the info.

Windows 10 Settings

Software will save us

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Summary: Some old insights are still true. Hardware has almost 2000 times more transistors in each chip comparing 1995 to 2015, but steadily increasing software demands of hardware have given us slower and slower systems. A basic task on a 1995 machine completes only slightly faster on a modern machine.  Our computers are not 2000 times better or make us 2000 times more productive.

i7 PC散熱

I was reading a press release from Intel on the feasibility of chip advancements after the next gen 10nm chips. Ideas do exist, but nothing will gain the power and speed that the brute force method of “make it smaller with more transistors” approach has for the last 60 years.

Got me thinking about the end game. We have been privileged to sit back and enjoy ever increasing gains from improvement to chip hardware. However, the nature of exponential growth means we have to hit a limit at some point. That point is fast approaching. Could be 2017 or 2020, doesn’t matter, we are already there.

We hit that limit around 2006. That was the point where chip manufacturers could no longer double the number of transistors per chip every 2 years. Instead, Intel and others began making chips with 2+ cores. The guts of two chips inside of one chip casing. You could consider this cheating. These new multi core chips needed special software to run in parallel. Software does not run faster simply by adding more cores. The multicore overhead limits gains like this. For example, the jump from 2 cores to 4 cores was 200% the number of transistors, but only 20% faster running the same multicore software.

Where do we go next after the completion of moore’s law and the end of brute force improvements to hardware? Optimizing what we already got. There are still improvements remaining to be made to hardware, but nothing that will deliver us any magnitude improvements of what we already have. Instead, software engineers are going to have to save the day.

Modern software won’t run very well on chips from 2006, but you can look at similar software available at that time to do a comparison. The scary thing? With the boom of parallel processing, software has gotten slower.

Software bloat is the real reason for computers slowing as time trenches on. Is a concept worth a read on wikipedia. I will summarize some of the causes:

1. Lazy software engineers. As hardware has been improving 100s of fold since 1990s. Software folks have been enjoying making new generations of software that are not very efficient but is hidden by the faster hardware speeds.

2. Change in software tools. Prior to the 1990s, software engineers were limited in memory and speed. By necessity, they had to work much harder to create the most efficient solution. Often this meant writing code in assembly, the machine language. Today’s software folks use high level debugging tools. Are useful sure, but are far removed from the actual code that runs on the chip.

3. Software has become huge. No single person understands every part of what has been cobbled together. How could they? The modern operating system is developed by hundreds and thousands of individual people contributing millions of pages of code.

Many futurists will talk about something called the technological singularity. The point where a computer can design a better version of itself. Rewriting better and faster versions of itself, at a incomprehensible speed. Leading to an explosion of powerful computers that humans no longer understand. Too late…

Links:

 

Reminiscing about XBConnect

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

What is XBConnect? It was an online gaming service for the original Xbox.  This was before Xbox Live was popular.  XBConnect used the system link mode built into many Xbox games, basically hijacking the network traffic and rerouting over the internet.  XBC stayed relevant through the years due to two factors: 1. it was free and 2. it was compatible with the “new” xbox 360 which used the same system link as the original xbox.

screen1

XBConnect was a great service for broke college kids who had access to non-dial-up internet.   After writing several help guides, I was invited to be a moderator and eventually an admin of the forums from 2004 – 2014.  You can still find some of the guides I wrote, hosted here:

As of last year, XBConnect went offline for good, and it’s sad.  The downfall started when the software was abandoned by the original author, leaving only a copyrighted closed source to the remaining team to keep the servers running.  They had permission to add new games to the gamelist, but no new features or bug fixes were possible.

What’s left? There are some cool people that still know what XBConnect was on facebook, and run a fan page.
facebook.com/XBConnect

Other than that, is not much.  The website is gone, the servers turned off.  You have to scrounge the internet wayback machine to find any mention of XBC.
XBConnect doesn’t even appear in the english wikipedia, here is a finnish one: https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/XBConnect

dennis_revenge_iasip

Final forum post count: 5,298

Let’s talk about luck

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Luck can be quantified. Each person has a set max amount of luck they can carry with them, and a set flow rate that their luck is replenished.

A person throughout the day uses there luck all the time, without even realizing it.  Each time you take a risk, big or small, you use a portion of your luck reserves. Here is where people run into problems. Using too much luck creates a luck deficit, this is the cause of bad luck. A person who presses their luck all the time with a risky lifestyle will find themselves out of luck when they really need it.

Don’t worry too much about you’re own luck deficit. The important thing to remember is too be aware of events in your life and how much luck you are using to accomplish your goals. If you use a lot of luck in any given day, lay your head down low for for awhile. Don’t take any additional risks. Depending on how much luck you used, your luck will be replenished in a few days or weeks.

Another important aspect is that luck can overlap between people and even be shared. This happens because the two people are close emotionally, or sometimes just physical proximity.  A person in a luck deficit will attempt to replenish their reserves, this happens naturally, but is sometimes not enough and that person becomes a luck black hole to those around them.

Avatar Sequel Scripts

Friday, January 15th, 2010

I had some ideas for the avatar sequel and wanted to write it down. Turns out, I guess it was a fully developed idea because it turned into 5 pages. Click ‘More Info’ to enjoy!

Movie #2
[Due to science reasons the 2nd movie must take place ten years after the first.] The camera opens on pandora and Jake giving us a montage recap of the past ten years. He took his place as the leader omaticaya and replanted hometree. With Eywa’s help, hometree has now grown almost a hundred feet. It will still take many generations before they can live there. In the mean time they have created themselves a tree village, high above the ground. The omaticaya’s skills with fabric have become more in demand making peace and trade relations with the neighboring tribes easy.
After the montage, Neytiri asks to accompany Jake on some lame mission that requires Jake to leave the village by himself at night. I won’t go into the details of this mission but imagine this, it will be constantly pretty to look at and pointless to the plot at the same time. As Jake returns to the tribe, he sees a flash in the sky. He has dreaded this day for ten years, the sky people have returned. He hastens his pace back to the village to gather a search party and they all run together toward the fireball that is slowly descending from the sky.

[We are now seeing things from the perspective of one of the crew members.] Not the captain, but very much a leader of the people on board the ship. The ship they have resided in for three years is much smaller then previous ships that were sent to pandora, manned by only a handful of crew. They had no choice but to steal this ship. The only other ship available was under the close guard of the military. [clunk] They have landed. The leader asks to leave the ship immediately, they must not waste any time. As the doors of the ship open, the crew realizes their mistake. The ideal plain that they have landed in is a herding ground for hammerhead titanotheres. They are able to escape the scene, but watch from a distance as their ship and all their supplies are shredded by the jungle creatures. The remaining crew gathers what they can carry and venture out in search of some na’vi people.
They make so much noise that they are easy to track by Jake’s party and he intercepts them. When he meets them, Jake does not know these people but is compelled to trust their words.

[The next HOUR!!! of the movie consists of a stupid and depressing flashback.] Back on earth, the return of the military and miners from the failed Pandora campaign is met with the greatest of sadness. The atmosphere of earth is in a process of rapid decay. A few years ago when Jake left, only a few people wore breathing masks outdoors for health concerns. Now everyone wears them. Much like Pandora, Earth’s atmosphere is toxic. The current government had promised the people of Earth a solution. Using unobtanium [and some techno mumbo jumbo], scientists had a bold plan in place to completely restore Earth’s atmosphere and give a kick start to agriculture. The ships return with an empty cargo hold all but nails the coffin shut on the human race. They do not have the time or the resources to mount another mining expedition. The leaders of the world would now consider the most desperate of plans. A plan so despicable they would have never even considered it before this event. The plan is to use the same technology that would restore the Earth’s atmosphere on Pandora instead, effectively killing off the entire ecosystem of Pandora. Everything living on the blue world of Pandora would be killed to make way for the green of Earth. Implementing the plan would be simple enough. They wouldn’t even have to land on the planet to activate the device. A missile containing the device would be launched from orbit at a high enough velocity to penetrate the crust and tap into a vein of unobtanium. The process would start a chain reaction releasing a reactant into the air that instantly converts the Pandorian atmosphere into an Earthian one.
The plan was so horrible that it was kept a state secret till now. The leaders brought the plan public, because they needed the full support of the world’s industry to complete the plan within the allotted time table. The people of course demanded a vote, the vote was met with extreme protesting and violence. Yet the vote to proceed with the plan passed anyway. It is widely believed that the vote results were fixed. This leads to more protests and more violence. At the same time the plan proceeds. The project is made up of people who are desperate to save themselves, their families, and their people. As the launch date approaches, two missiles have been prepared. Across the world, the news telebroadcasts surprise as a premature space launch is detected. A cult of na’vi worshippers have stolen a small ship outfitted with a space drive. There is no doubt where the traitors are headed.

[Flashback has ended, oh thank you!] It is now revealed that the small ship did not have cryo sleep. The crew has been twiddling their thumbs for three years eating recycled food and drinking recycled water. [Yummy!] The lack of stimulation has made their minds soft and the speech they prepared during their journey is now revealed do be missing logic.
Jake, using his best skills is able to interpret the message. It was clear enough. The sky people are returning and they bring a terrible weapon. Jake invites the humans to come with him to hell’s gate, this is the name for the original human settlement on Pandora. There we meet more humans that have been surviving on Pandora and continuing their research for the past ten years. We find out that the avatar program is back on and has been perfected. Avatar bodies can now be produced in weeks instead of years. They even have reverse breathing masks so na’vi people can hang out indoors. [yay!] Jake leaves them there and returns to his people to come up with a plan to defend against such an attack. After consulting with the rest of the humans, he is now certain that the attack will be space bound. The humans wouldn’t dare step foot on Pandora again without such a tactic. Consulting with the rest of his tribe proves to be useless, what defense could they have against a sky enemy that never steps foot on the ground. Jake goes to the tree of souls to consult with Eywa. After making his plea he carefully listens as he was taught to. He can make out a whisper telling him to go on a journey to meet Eywa in person. Jake returns to the village and requests everyone join him at the tree of souls to perform the ceremony.

[Jake’s journey of the mind starts off kind of boring. Sure it is pretty, but it is all so existential, which I don’t care for] To summarize though, he does a lot of floating and the background is filled with other floating things and everything is very bright. After a bunch of floating he finds Eywa, but at the same time not Eywa. Not what he was expecting. It is Dr. Grace as her human self! She tells Jake of a great weapon that she is helping Eywa create. A tree cannon. Jake instantly has doubts [me too, lol], but Grace promises him that the weapon will be completely effective against an inbound ship. It turns out that Eywa was not just growing hometree for the omaticaya people but also to use as a weapon. The unobtanium just beneath hometree is being absorbed into the roots and converted into high energy plasma. Jake must sit midway up the tree where a purple interface vine has been hidden. Jake thanks Grace and is about to leave, but is now shown to be restrained. Grace moves in closer to Jake to give a stern warning. Due to the nature of the weapon slowly gathering resources from the ground, he will only have one shot to hit his target. It would take years to recharge for another shot. The shot will be wide so the ship is unable to maneuver out of his crosshairs. Jake is then allowed to leave and awakes lying on the ground. Two days have passed and his people nearly gave up hope for his return.
[oh tears it is!] The END

[Tree cannon? Seriously, this is the best they could come up with? lol, You want to see that tree cannon fire a volley at a space target, don’t you!]

Movie #3
[Just to mix things up] The movie opens on the blue gas giant that Pandora orbits. Slowly rotating around to see Pandora as a small ball in the distance. Not wasting any time, they get right into continuing the story. Despite protests from his village, Jake is able to convince them that hometree has become a weapon to eliminate the sky people. [Montage and rehashing old music!] Jake orders his people far away to take refuge with over tribes. The date that the sky people arrive is fast approaching and he still has much to do. Like learn how to control such a weapon. The humans help him the best they can, coaching him in projectile physics for high velocity plasma. [lol this script is that side of awesome]
Word gets out about his plan to eliminate the in bound humans and is met with opposition from the other tribes. Pre-emptive attacks are not their way. The humans must make the first move. Jake passionately makes his case for destroying the human threat, but is met with death ears. Jake is no long the Toruk Makto and they have no reason to follow him. The other tribes place a permanent military presence at hometree and do not allow Jake anywhere close.

With his tribe disbanded for the moment, Jake is alone in his fight. [what about Neytiri, haven’t heard from her for a while. Truth is she has kind of just been hanging out in the background of most the scenes, not really contributing to the plot, till now!] Neytiri comforts Jake and another half baked na’vi hair brained sex scene follows. Jake’s mind is made up. He must find his long lost companion, the leonopteryx, and become Toruk Makto once more. He goes on a brief montage hike into the jungle to find the leonopteryx. He does and the leonopteryx remembers him. On his way back to push his way up to hometree, disaster strikes. Not only was he too late making it back to hometree before the sky people arrived, the humans had already fired one of their missiles.

The missile was aimed at the richest unobtanium deposit that they had charted, the one right beneath hometree. Jake can see the devastation even from such a great distance away. He turns and instead goes to hell’s gate. While there he is able to make contact with the orbiting ship. The man in charge on the ship assures Jake that once the unobtainium vein was converted the pocket of concentrated earth air would remain isolated to that particular valley and not spread further. After terminating the communication, the scientists at hell’s gate explain to Jake that assurance was a lie. The two atmospheres could not coexist. Right now the earth air was slowly being converted back into pandora air, but another missile could flip the balance. If earth air became widespread on pandora [didn’t they already explain this in the last movie?] everything on pandora would die. Not just the plants and animals, but Eywa too along with all the generations that she has preserved. Jake must travel to ground zero of the missile attack and fire the hometree weapon. The earth air that is now present there is toxic to na’vi people, but using one of those fancy reverse re-breathers Jake sets out for hometree.

Back on the ship, we have some random character development, and the audience tries to feel sympathy for their own race. The propaganda from earth against pandora is in full swing. All that false information has led to extreme prejudice. The humans can not wait to eliminate the na’vi menace and have already begun to shuttle passengers down to the surface. They still need the second missile to ensure that earth air will be produced by the teraforming machines and remain in high concentrations for several hundred years. Enough time for them to create a new ecosystem. They just have not found a second vein of unobtainium with enough mass to convert yet. Additional shuttles are sent out as survey teams. On the third day a survey report comes back, another vein has been found on the other side of the planet. This one is the largest ever discovered. Big enough that it could convert the entire pandoran atmosphere in one go.

Jake is finally arrives at the hometree weapon. [why didn’t he just ride the leonopteryx or take a gunship to speed his travel, idk] After the making “the bond” with the tree weapon, Jake suddenly sees the world with “Eywa Vision” being able to see everything, everywhere, and can clearly see the ship in orbit. But what is this?! the ship is moving away. Fast. He acts quickly, aims the weapon, and fires a shot that, he guesses, should intercept their trajectory.

Back on the ship, they have no sensors for this kind of attack. They only realized they were under attack when the plasma burst was within visual range [you know microseconds before impact, lol]. The attack WAS completely effective, but not in the way originally thought. The ship was not destroyed, but its engine was disabled. The ship was now in a decaying orbit and would burn up in the next 10 hours. An evacuation is ordered. Then a discovery is made, someone thought to run a simulation based on their current trajectory. They would reach their target a few minutes before the ship exterior would melt and be unable to fire. It is also explained that there was no contingency plan for this, the missile could only reach the unobtainium deep below pandora’s crust if it was launched from orbit.

Long story short, their plan fails. The launch tube jams and the weapon detonates in space.

Interestingly enough, the evacuates are able to make it to the surface. The humans convince Jake and his people that the weapon was not their doing and they should be allowed to stay. They make camp around hometree, where the highest concentrations of earth air is. They still have to wear rebreathers, but the air here is far less toxic than elsewhere. [No more skin rashes, yay!] The scientists estimate it will be about a decade before the earth air dissipates to the point that the air their will become completely toxic again.

The movie ends on somewhat of a political note as Jake is in a constant debate with the other tribes who want retribution against the humans. [Oh well, maybe in sequels 5 and 6]

Thanks for reading!
Dustin Westaby

Rotory Tools

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

I doubt there is any usefulness in cordless dremel tools. I bought a store brand cordless rotary tool from Menards a year ago and I knew immediately that it would be trouble. After the first charge, each battery would run for about 5 minutes on high speed. The highest speed setting was as fast as a corded version’s lowest speed. It did however come with a full accessory pack; lots and lots of cutting/sanding bits plus a flex extension tool.

Yesterday, I bought a Black and Decker corded rotary tool. The same $20 that bought me the cordless crap tool, bought me this wonderful tool. The black and decker tool didn’t come with any real accessories, just a handful of cutting/sanding bits and a wrench. I was surprised to find that nearly all my old accessories were compatible with the new tool! Even that fancy flex extender. So now my new tool is happy in a new box, surrounded by more sanding bits than it will ever need.