03/15/2014

The Jolly Season

Posted by – March 15, 2014

Let’s start with the major news of the last 5 or 7 days: The disappearance of flight MA 370 (Wikipedia). Last week, the Malaysian authorities have shown a lack of competence in the handling of news regarding the lost plane. From looking at the wrong location, holding back crucial radar information, suggesting the wrong race for the people who travelled with stolen passports and now, it finally looks like that they are ready to blame the flight crew of Flight 370.

Closer to home: There are elections in Quebec and unsurprisingly, this election round is full of Quebec sovereignty talks. There’s an excellent analysis (link) at the CBC:

One of the aspects about sovereignty that makes it so difficult to sell, even to strong Quebec nationalists, is the list of unknowns. Uncertainty, after all, makes both individuals and market forces (i.e. jobs) very nervous.

And last but not least: the Crimea affair. I highly doubt that either the US or (particularly) Europe will stop Russia from claiming the Crimea. One can only hope that the Russians aren’t seriously thinking of taking over that Ukrainian region: the precedents that they have been creating sound similar like the preludes that started so many wars. Tomorrow’s (illegitimate) referendum in the Crimea to join Russia will tell what is going to happen.

01/26/2014

Holy, Months

Posted by – January 26, 2014

Holy moly, I’ve not updated since last year? Preposterous! Might just as well give it ago:

The worst part of 2013′s last days was the rainstorm annex ice storm that hit parts of Ontario and NB: In our region, I recall people being out of power for over a week while temperatures dipped down to the -20s (Celsius). I tend to frequently bring up the power restoring issues when Juan hit Truro back in 2003: however, having no power nor backup heat while it’s -20 degrees out? I’d pick out Juan as my preferred ‘out-of-power’ event. Technically, I believe this Winter is going to be one of the worst I’ve seen here: Fluctuating temperatures from + 4 to -20s and way too much snow.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but since early September we decided to bring back home a puppy. Welcome to Pepper, our overlord border collie/australian something mix. Now that’s she’s also been legally fixed (‘spayed’), it’s time to get her agility training (SLYT) going.

And last but not least, forthcoming coding projects this year include a ‘diff tool’, a ‘zip tool’ and hopefully, a wrapped-up ‘SQL tool’. And some of that.

12/01/2013

Steam stuff

Posted by – December 1, 2013

Having been on Steam now for over 10 years (really): I remember the days that Reddit’s most popular games delivery system was oh so unstable and bug-ridden. I also remember ordering my very first Steam game on-line, which was X3-Reunion. It was a brilliant game that I played on a Toshiba laptop.

Anyway: Steam’s making its foray into the consoles world via their SteamOS (Wikipedia, Valve): a Linux-based OS that will run all current Linux Steam games. Valve is (reportedly) talking to third-party publishers to publish games for this new OS. If this concept will, lets say bear games: who knows. Generally speaking, if successful, it may finally put Linux to the fore. I’m personally excited to be able to run SteamOS on my crappy laptops.

Last but not least a critical note: I sort of agree that thanks to Steam a lot of crappy games have been published and it almost looks like game devs and publishers don’t care in what state their software is. For example, Egosoft’s “X-Rebirth”, a product that supposedly took 7 years to be developed, was released as a full product a couple of weeks ago. I’ll be frank: it’s horrible, ridden with bugs and while it works, heavily un-optimized. I gave up after playing a 9 hours into the campaign mode. I’ve yet to decide if I’ll wait for any updates or not: My impression is that while Egosoft went to the bank (“EXCELLENT SALES!!1″), that their X-Universe IP is soon to expire. I hope not, but yeah, that bad.

10/20/2013

A summary of sorts

Posted by – October 20, 2013

Very many moons ago, I finished listening the SXSW 2013 track list (as graciously provided by The Unofficial SXSW torrent site. Later today (or week), I will trans-scribe the full selection of reasonable tracks according to my ears. As is traditional, here are the very best five tracks of 2013:

  1. “Sweet tooth” – Kids on a crime spree. Short and heavily inspired by the Spector-sound (vimeo).
  2. “Mosaic” – Fear of Men. Also short, but poppish UK sound (vimeo as well).
  3. “Switzerland” – The Last Bison. Folkish, US sound. Good, but I hesitate to recommend them now that they’ve gone commercial.
  4. “You were never there” – Diego Garcia. Easy listening folk-pop? (Youtube).
  5. “Dreamers” – The Blue Van. Danish band with original sound.

Runner ups: “Ausland” – Camera, “Water against the rocks” – Faye and “Nightmare #2″ – Bergara Quartet.

- SXSW 2011 best 5
- SXSW 2012 best 5

09/08/2013

SF and other unrelated news

Posted by – September 8, 2013

After having not used Sourceforge for over 10 years, I’ve decided to move some of my sources back to Sourceforge. The main reason for that is that SF still allows devs to distribute binaries as part of their projects. Google (and GitHub) have slowly moved away from this citing ‘security’ issues. From an open-source perspective, I can understand Google’s and Github’s reasoning. On the good side: SF does support Git these days and frankly, while SF’s main interface looks confusing, I didn’t have a hard time to start committing changes thru git. One major surprise: back in 2003: to start a project it had to go thru a long and elaborate approval process first. This time, setting up Convendro’s project page (and committing sources) only took an hour or so. Henceforth: Convendro’s new project page sans downloads.

I’ve slowly moved to watching videos on YouTube: surprisingly only because it allows me to watch videos I want to watch as opposed to Cable TV. I’ll discuss my subscription list at a later stage but the point of me mentioning this is this elaborate list of videos of the Russian’s point of view of the Second World War (link via MetaFilter). Mind you, it is a Russian documentary (in 18 episodes). If you can stand the patriotic undertones, it’s worth a watch: each episode is around 45 minutes.

And last but not least: I can confirm that we have not had any hurricanes this season yet. It’s almost mid-September and no torrential rains (or gutting winds) have been sighted yet. Accuweather (link to article) blames this on abnormally warm Pacific waters, which apparently have created more westerly winds:

The atmosphere over the tropics thus far has behaved more like an El Nino pattern, where abnormally warm Pacific Ocean waters create westerly winds aloft over the tropical Atlantic. The current sea surface temperature pattern over the tropical Pacific is considered to be neutral.

I guess this may mean that hurricane-related insurance premiums may go down. That is a joke.

08/04/2013

Greenpeace and other stuff

Posted by – August 4, 2013

I was sort of impressed with Amy Larkin’s “Environmental Debt” presentation at GoogleTalk. I’m saying “sort of”, only because, what she’s saying is not exactly new. She urges companies to switch from short term profit to ‘long term profit and sustainability’: her primary example is the Thai flooding of 2011, which affected (and still affects) international and local industries. The main cause of the flooding however, was the massive deforestation that happened in Thailand years ago. Cause and effect, simple. Once again, not exactly new, but worth a watch.

Locally, in SJ/NB, we barely got past the July heat spell which brought an interesting weather phenomenon to New Brunswick: The tornado. Without being too alarmist, I believe NOAA reported that once again the heat records were broken this year (link) and subsequently, global warming is frequently tied to extreme weather events (quote):

According to the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP, 2008), “most of North America has been experiencing more unusually hot days and nights, fewer unusually cold days and nights and fewer frost days. Heavy downpours have become more frequent and intense. Droughts are becoming more severe in some regions”.

Both TO and SJ have had their share of torrential rains this year, not to mention, the freak rain incidents back in Alberta. Are they all related to global warming? That’s up for the weather statisticians and scientists to tell (quote Canadian underwriter):

“I think as long as our economic policies are they way they are, and we keep putting more carbon dioxide up into the atmosphere, the temperature’s going to continue to rise, so we will see more of these events continue to happen. If you took a poll of a bunch of researchers, I think they would agree.

06/23/2013

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes

Posted by – June 23, 2013

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away. Oh, forget it: “Fallen Enchantress, Legendary Heroes” is the third game in Stardocks line of Elemental games. As you probably know, ELemental’s release was a total disaster: For most people FE was the actual Elemental game. On top of that, just a couple of months ago, Stardock released “Legendary Heroes”, which is (surprisingly) a standalone game for the full price. I was among the people expecting to see this released as a DLC or even as a patch.

Legendary Heroes, as its predecessors is a 4X game in a magical world/fantasy setting with a slight city management background: Additionally, having played some 80 hours on this game the focus is on battle as well. You guide your champion (or sovereign) thru time, enhance your troops thru research and then try to win the game. There are 5 or so winning conditions, ranging from Diplomacy to Domination. Games can take fairly long if you choose the random huge map: anything from 4 to 10 hours for a single game. Without a doubt, graphically the game looks really good and performs very good as well. There are several things in the game that show the attention to detail, from the cloth-style map (zoomed out) to the fine-grained bubbly city views (zoomed in).

There are plenty of things that spoil the fun. The game’s stability (for one) is questionable. It appears to me that most crashes will frequently happen during the beginning stages. Additionally, the AI is very (lets say it) simple. It’s capable, but at times the AI doesn’t act decisively when it should. Often, further in the game, FE/LH can feel unmanageable, mainly because it’s hard to track all your individual champions and cities. Too many random events can also hamper your progress and gaming experience. And last but not least, while (turn-based) combat is fun, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of variation in combat maps. Hopefully mods might take care of this.

Generally, the game allows for extremely detailed management and for plenty of experimentation albeit, against a not very strong AI. If you like a 4X/strategic turn-based combat game, FE/LH will probably fit your boots. If you’re a Civ 5 fan, there’s nothing wrong with trying FE/LH. On my legendary “Frustration” rating, it’s a 6: Things are manageable during the starting phase of the game and before you know it, you’re at the end of your turn because you either lost or you gave up because of some random event spoiled the fun for you. Slightly recommended.

Gallery follows:

More…

06/20/2013

It’s a PC

Posted by – June 20, 2013

By now you have already seen and heard all about the next generation of gaming consoles, the PS4 and the Xbox One, which were both demoed at the last E3. Microsoft’s Xbox was panned by many reviewers and tech journalist, mainly because of the DRM and Microsoft’s intended online distribution strategy that would have evaporated the used/rental games market. Sony promised to allow people to share their (old game) disks which they announced thru some funny video.

Just two days ago, Microsoft reversed its position on pre-owned games (Eurogamer on this), a move that was praised by many internet youtube army. However, despite the fact that used-games shops breathed a sigh of relief, I think that both Sony and Microsoft just have set a precedent and that in the near future both will discourage the release of games on disks: printing and publishing disks is and will be always more expensive than digitally distributing games. Valve’s Steam has obviously proven that.

I’ve never been in the market of getting a console and personally, once again I think I’ll pass on this generation of gaming consoles. After all, these next generation of consoles are just dedicated PCs.

05/12/2013

Ubuntu 13.04

Posted by – May 12, 2013

Last week, I triggered the apt-distupgrade on both my Ubuntu laptops which effectively downloaded Ubuntu 13.04 (“Raring Ringtail”) to these machines. This was actually sort of unexpected as I haven’t been really following Ubuntu’s latest efforts. I’m aware of Canonical’s push to the mobile market: their case to bring Ubuntu to cellphones and other devices received high praise in the media. That is, if Canonical can deliver on speed (UI) and speed (Roadmap).

The reason why I bring up Ubuntu Touch is that Canonical is aware of the slugginess of their current Unity interface. I’m pretty certain I brought this up in an earlier post (when I installed/upgraded to 11.10): it’s by default, a memory hog. What keeps me switching back to KDE or say, Gnome 3 is that Unity is heavily supported by Canonical. This is the main reason what keeps me away from other Ubuntu-descendants like Mint.

Anyway, what I mean to say is that 13.04 is supposed to be having most of the optimizations of Ubuntu Touch. As the release notes say:

Unity 7 brings a lot of performance improvements, reduced memory consumption and a great number of small UI fixes to bring a better overall shell experience.

Unity does feel like it has been improved (besides the fancy new icons for apps and the changes to the launcher): memory wise, I can’t tell the difference. It just generally still feels bloated. Time permitting, I’ll check out Gnome’s state at a later stage.

Update 1: Rebooted back in Gnome 3 and my first impression is that Gnome desktop takes a lot less memory than Unity.

04/13/2013

AMD’s

Posted by – April 13, 2013

I‘ll be honest: I’ve always been partial to AMD’s processors after buying my very first 386 PC clone in the early 90s. I’m pretty sure the PC came with the AMD 386 DX40 processor: at that time, nobody fell for the Intel SX chip trap. Intel chips were too expensive, too slow (intentionally) and mostly, required more power than the AMD processors.

AMD, sort of, always surprised the tech. market. While not the first to have created a dual-core processor (that honour befalls IBM of course), they were the first one to put a server-based dual-core chip on the market. Intel, feeling the heat, rushed out a dual-core processor for the desktop market. If I recall correctly, Intel’s form of dual-core processors were literally Pentiums soldered on a single board (with external logic processors) as opposed to AMD, where their Opteron platform was from the get-go designed to support multiple processors on a die (wikipedia).

AMD’s ATI take-over was another surprise. By now, ATI’s technology has literally been integrated into AMD’s processors in the form of AMD’s so-called APU line (wikipedia). That is a feat that has Intel still smoldering for an answer: I mean, technically, their integrated Intel 3000/4000 HD processor was a half-hearted response.

Which brings us to the now: You’ve heard that AMD is going to provide chips for both the PS4 and new Xbox. AMDs long goal and plan has always been to move the FPU to the GPU leaving the main CPU just for integer processing (reddit discussion), not to much success and adoption from developers though. Now that both Microsoft and Sony are adopting AMD’s chips and the possibility of true cross-platform game development this is going to change. I have this feeling that nVidia will somehow end up in Intel’s hands. Not that it will help Intel, now that the market seems to be going towards low-powered CPUs. Nvidia’s only good move was to branch out to the mobile market with their RISC-based Tegra line.

03/10/2013

SXSW 2013 music part 1

Posted by – March 10, 2013

A week ago, I noticed that the Unofficial SXSW torrent site had started to distribute music for some of the major SXSW acts this year (site). Once again there are two torrents involved here: part 1 is the big 6 gig one, with over 900 files). Part 2 has a limited set of around the 200 music files.

Once again, I will be listening to (or attempt to) all the files in both sets: this year with slight interest tho, meaning with scarce commentary. Document 1 covers the first torrent file. Document 2 covers the last torrent file. To this date, I’ve listened to a total of 176 files or so. I’ve not yet heard amazing music yet: that is the wow factor is fairly low-key this year. We’ll report back in another couple of weeks.

One other thing that I keep forgetting is the part of how I export specific MP3 tags. Yes, I don’t type all the song names, artist names and duration of songs manually. Since most of the (legal) torrents are downloaded on my Linux laptops (previously), obviously I use Linux tools to take care of this. I use a tool called ‘exiftool’, which you may need to add to your package manager. For Ubuntu it would look something like: apt-get install exiftool. To extract specific tags I run the following command in a terminal session:

exiftool -csv *.mp3 -sourcefile -title -artist -duration > tags.txt

Note that you can export other MP3 tags as well: I’ll leave that to yourself to find out.

update 1: All related items are filed under the tag SXSW

03/02/2013

In Russia

Posted by – March 2, 2013

Earlier this month, a meteor exploded (I guess, literally) above the Russian town of Chelyabinsk causing plenty of injuries and damage. Thanks to car cams installed in (many) Russian cars, amazing footage was captured of the meteor’s entrance and explosion in the upper-regions of our atmosphere (video).

Coincidentally, around the same day, an asteroid was supposed to ‘near-miss’ our planet and various space agencies were quick to report that this meteor had nothing to do with that asteroid. However, initial calculations put the size of the meteor in the 17 meter range with an approximate weight of 10K metric tonnes. Just a couple of days ago, astronomers in Columbia traced the meteor to the Apollo asteroids (full Wikipedia analysis).

Obviously, this event has been compared with the Tungunska explosion (wikipedia again) and it has raised awareness of the dangers of extra-orbital objects and apparently, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (link) has suggested the possibly set up an “action team for near-Earth objects”. Tracking these objects is extremely hard tho: detecting a 17 meter object in space hurling at us with a speed of 18 km/s is nearly impossible.

02/21/2013

Roll up the Rim 2013

Posted by – February 21, 2013

Oh OK. It’s that time again for Canada’s favourite annual contest, Roll up the Rim, which we, at xsamplex, faithfully cover. We might just as well jump at and do some sleuthing at this year’s numbers. A grand total of 260,959,840 winning cups have been produced this year: this is about 25 million (MILLION) less than the year before. Every region is losing here, that is, except for Quebec: it’s gaining almost 4,000,000 more cups. The biggest loser this year, however, is Ontario. The Maritimes however, like 2012, 2011 and 2010, are losing out again: by over 6 million cups this year.

Prize-wise, it looks like Tim Horton’s is going back to the 4 major prizes: We have a car again (the Toyota Rav4 again, which was last sighted in the 2010 contest), pre-paid Mastercards (no electronics and/or TV this year!), the traditional gourmet set and of course, the 100 dollar Tims’ cards. The Prize/Region ratio shows an almost similar distribution as the amount of winning cups: Two regions lose out (Ontario and Atlantic provinces), not including the US. Secondly, there are a whole of less prizes to win than last year. 2012 and 2011 had 5 major prizes. In 2013, it looks like Tim Horton’s is going for a lot less.

My advice this year is like the ones before: if you win a monetary prize, please donate 80% to me. Thanks.

Previous entries: 20122011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002. Or click this tag for all posts tagged with ‘Roll Up The Rim’.