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Under the Apple Hype Machine, Amazon Drops Fire Phone Price To 99 Cents

DuckDodgers Re:It's not apple this time! (134 comments)

If Apple insisted that no lower prices be advertised elsewhere and then took a notably smaller than usual percentage of sales, I would agree with your point. Since their percentage of sales is, as far as I know, even with Amazon or Microsoft I think they do want profit from their applications and media delivered through applications on their app stores.

3 days ago
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Under the Apple Hype Machine, Amazon Drops Fire Phone Price To 99 Cents

DuckDodgers Re:Spoon (134 comments)

The philosophical problem I have with Windows RT is the Microsoft walled garden. But the reason sales flopped is that it had inadequate specifications and too few interesting features at that price point, and it was further hampered by the fact that the only Microsoft hardware brand name with some consumer enthusiasm - Xbox - wasn't on it.

"Microsoft came out with something that's a tablet-laptop hybrid. If you get the cool keyboard it adds $100 to the cost, so $450 for the base model." "Oh yeah? How does it compare?" "Well, a $500 iPad has far more applications and better performance, plus a display resolution that's twice as good. A $500 laptop has shorter battery life but can run far more software, has a bigger screen, and runs the same software as the Surface RT - Office, Internet Explorer - much faster." "Oh, then who do they expect to buy it?" "I haven't figured that out yet. I don't think they have, either."

If Microsoft was going to launch a Surface RT, they should have launched it later this year with a 64-bit ARM CPU, 4+GB of RAM, 2048x1536 or better display resolution, the features of Windows 8.1, and the lineup of RT applications that their Windows store has now. Lucky for us open source fans, they launched way too early with something uncompetitive.

about a week ago
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Under the Apple Hype Machine, Amazon Drops Fire Phone Price To 99 Cents

DuckDodgers Re:It's not apple this time! (134 comments)

Apple still cares about a cut of the app sales and so forth, that's why they won't let companies that sell through their app store offer products more cheaply elsewhere.

So I would amend your comment to stay that Apple cares about content but cares about hardware sales more. Amazon just cares about content sales.

I'm happy the Amazon Fire flopped. I don't want Microsoft to be the undisputed king of desktop PC operating systems, I don't want Apple or Samsung to be the undisputed king of smart phones, I don't want Google to be the undisputed king of search engines, and I don't want Amazon to be the undisputed king of internet stores.

about a week ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:MMO Crap (203 comments)

Wow, you've probably read as many RPGs as I have. I'm familiar with FATE too.

10% chance of critical hits, and the associated damage bonus are a very big deal at lower levels. They're just not significant next to spellcaster power at higher levels.

I like games in which experience for overcoming obstacles is awarded the same regardless of whether combat is involved. Bribe the Duke to stop attacking with his army? Trick the Dragon into taking on a Lich and getting itself killed? Talk the Orc Chief into a peace treaty instead of war? Outrun the pirates that are trying to capture your ship? Pose as a messenger from the Hill Giants ordering a group of Ogres to move in the wrong direction?Same XP as killing them outright. But I just don't see it done that often in practice. Maybe I gamed with the wrong groups and read the wrong gaming fiction.

Again, I loved Earthdawn as a concept but want a simplification of the rules.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree with respect to Dungeons and Dragons. From what I've seen, most of the DnD fans fall on your side of the fence.

about two weeks ago
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AMD Releases New Tonga GPU, Lowers 8-core CPU To $229

DuckDodgers Re:Sigh. (98 comments)

In the Athlon64 era Intel started negotiating with PC makers under terms like "we'll charge you 50% less per CPU if you sell zero AMD processors, 40% less per CPU if you sell less than 10% of your total sales volume as AMD processors, 30% less per CPU if you sell less than 20% of your total sales volume as AMD processors, and full price otherwise." AMD hemorrhaged cash, and could no longer afford the research investment they needed to make the Steamroller/Bulldozer chip family competitive with Intel's i-line of CPUs.

Hopefully things are turning around.

about two weeks ago
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AMD Releases New Tonga GPU, Lowers 8-core CPU To $229

DuckDodgers Re:Time to cut prices (98 comments)

For AMD, these are top end processors. Their very best desktop CPU is now $230. That's pretty good.

To my knowledge, the best current ARM tablets have maybe 4GB of RAM. So if you want something that offers superior performance, an x86_64 bit dual core processor matches or beats any current 8 core ARM chip (correct me if I'm wrong, anyway) plus a minimum motherboard plus 4GB of RAM plus a 32GB USB flash drive plus a cheap case and power supply, not including monitor, keyboard, and mouse will probably run you... $300? That's for much faster computing power than any $300 tablet. It's still competitive in many respects, if not power consumption and portability. (Of course, all of this assumes you install Linux yourself. If you add in a Microsoft OS license, the price comparison gets less favorable.)

about two weeks ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:MMO Crap (203 comments)

That was an articulate post, thanks for taking the time to write it. I understand your mental disconnect with diegenetic and non-diegenetic (interesting word choice, by the way). But I think it's a valid thing to do in the course of making the game fun. I think if you want more realism, if you'll pardon the abuse of the word realism, in the game it makes more sense to switch to a more skill-based set of rules anyway - GURPS, Hero, White Wolf, JAGS, etc... Because levels are a similar kind of arbitrary framework that don't make sense inside the game but make things easier at a meta-game level.

The particular problem with using critical hits in Dungeons and Dragons instead of some sort of meta-currency is that the critical hit system that has existed in every edition before 5 isn't that potent. I haven't read about the critical hit rules for version 5, maybe it's improved. Critical hits in earlier editions are not useless by any stretch, but even if your DnD3 fighter uses a lance and has Weapon Specialization, and is against an opponent that is not immune to critical hits, he's got at best a 15% chance to do triple damage. (Maybe 10% or 20%, I don't remember.) It's better than nothing, but in a climactic battle scene it can't hold a candle to the effects of a cleverly targeted Charm Monster spell or Fireball or Improved Invisibility. Not even counting Dungeons and Dragons 3/3.5, even in earlier editions with spellcasters that were weaker than their 3e counterparts, at high levels they still handily outdid Fighters for combat utility.

So if you wanted to replace meta-currency with critical hits or something else equivalent, critical hits need to be improved. Or possibly a Fighter's base attacks and damage need to be improved, so he doesn't need better critical hits to be awesome.

I grant that in theory in Dungeons and Dragons and in practice in many other roleplaying games, all characters do not need to shine in combat. As long as every character has a fairly common chance to shine at something, the game should be fun. However, Dungeons and Dragons has had a very strong combat focus since the earliest editions. So even if we remove the magic-sounding encounter and daily powers from 4e from the newer editions, it's likely that 50+% of gaming sessions is a battle. The person playing the cleric that only heals well and especially the one playing the thief that only steals well are going to spend a lot of time twiddling their thumbs waiting for lucky dice rolls in order to feel useful, while the fighter and barbarian (and especially the wizard) are going to be highly effective.

And of course, it's worth mentioning that Earthdawn turns this problem on its ear by making every PC class explicitly magical. So the Fighter can have magic-sounding cool powers because he's actually using magic. I loved the game concept, though Earthdawn seemed a little too complicated to me. I never actually played, though, maybe it works better in practice than it appeared on paper. I keep hoping Earthdawn will get ported to another gaming ruleset, but no such luck.

about two weeks ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:MMO Crap (203 comments)

Sorry for the late reply, I was on vacation for a week and avoided the net.

I think you're require in-game justifications for special character moments, either without thinking about it or on purpose. The wizard can only use teleport once a day because he lacks the mental focus to handle it twice, or expends too much stored mana the first time, or has his Vancian spell erased from memory after casting it. Obviously no similar resource of concentration, memorization, or mana affects the fighter. But in dramatic storytelling it's common for a fighter to do mundane actions for most of a fight and then one or two standout moments. For example:
The hero takes quite a pounding from the villian but a second wind or the sight of a loved one in danger or a lucky event (the enemy slips, the good guy finds a sword in the rubble, the bad guy stops to gloat) allows him to attack with renewed vigor. There are dozens of examples, consider the fight between Bruce Willis and Alexander Gudenov in Die Hard.
The gunfight goes back and forth for a while but when only two people are left the hero and villain have a standoff and then the hero plants a bullet in the other person's eye or heart before they can get off a final shot. Again, there are dozens of examples - Danny Glover's character in Lethal Weapon isn't that impressive in combat next to his partner but when the enemy leader tries to drive away he pulls off an awesome signature shot that kills the limo driver.
The hand to hand combat goes back and forth for a bit with no clear winner but then the hero pulls off a great hit. For a perfect example, Michael Keaton engages a swordsman in Batman. They exchange blows a few times and Keaton manages to block all sword swings. The adversary backs off for a second to collect himself and comes charging back in, and gets taken out with one kick.

In Dungeons and Dragons 1, 2, 3, and 3.5, those pivotal moments all simply represent an enemy character running out of hit points. Everything else around it is descriptive text. But this is a collaborative storytelling game, and it should be fun. There may be no in-game justification for that renewed energy, that special deadly shot, or that finishing kick, and there may be no in-game reason the character can only use it a limited number of times. But if it makes the game more fun for the person playing the character, why not add it? You can only control enough mana for a single meteor strike, I only have enough adrenaline for one jumping decapitation strike.

To answer your second point - the Fighter has been improved, relative to the 1/2/3/3.5 version. But a high level Fighter is still not in the same league as a high level caster, not by a long shot. It's only a partial fix.

I realize the 4e mechanics for special abilities are mostly uniform across class, role, and power source. That's a fair criticism, it robs flavor. But the alternative is custom options for each class that are still attempted to be more or less equal with each other in terms of in-game utility. That's incredibly difficult to do well. I think uniform mechanics are inevitable.

about two weeks ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:MMO Crap (203 comments)

I am aware that 5e finally changed spells so that spell level and caster level do not both combined to enhance the effectiveness of a spell, and they also added a bigger selection of special abilities for non-caster types. I do think that's a step forward from 1e through 3.5e. I respectfully disagree that it's a step forward from 4e. A high level 5e spellcaster may only have one use of something like Wish, Meteor Strike, Gate, Teleport, Raise Dead, etc... per day, but the character gets one utterly awesome game moment per day. The non-casters have nothing similar, they don't have their non-magical equivalent spotlight moment.

How about something equivalently awesome for non-casters, like at level 19 Fighters choose one of the following powers, which can be used once per day: 1. Overwhelming Attack: one attack you designate before you roll your attack dice is treated as though you rolled a 20, no enemy power of any kind can negate the attack (magical or otherwise), and the attack does 4 times regular dice damage plus bonuses. 2. Looks Worse Than It Is: wounds that appear serious were in fact only little scratches, at any time, even when it is not your player's turn, as long as your player is still alive you can restore 75% of your hit points up to your normal maximum. 3. Peerless Combat Skill: for the next five rounds you enjoy a +10 to movement, +5 to defense, +5 to attack, and +10 to damage. 4. Prep and Blitz: you spend one round in combat in a total defensive action as you examine the battlefield carefully and plan your next moves. On your next turn, you explode into action. Your movement for the round is doubled and your attacks are tripled.

I realize my ideas here aren't that different from what's in 4e already. But that's my point - giving each class the exact same amount of cool at-will, encounter, daily, and utility powers meant that everyone got similar amounts of awesome stuff to do in combat. The Defenders might clean house more than the Leaders and the Strikers, but they all had nifty stuff. Then out of combat the Strikers and the Leaders might get to do more useful things than the Defenders - but the point is, nobody felt like a third wheel in battle.

about a month ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:Flaws? (203 comments)

Did you read the 4E Dungeon Master's Guide? It has a great treatment of all of the aspects of roleplaying - character interaction with NPCs, exploring, new environments, new cultures, different game types including intrigue-focused games, etc... And if you're a power gamer / munchkin, skill challenges offer a much faster route for accumulating XP in 4E than combat! Convincing the goblin chief and his horde to go home carries the same XP as wiping them out, and can be done more quickly. Trapping the guard golem in a room carries the same XP as chopping it to bits, and can be done more quickly. Convincing the captain of the local garrison to leave the bar and take a patrol out after the zombies gives as much XP as wiping them out yourself (provided they succeed), etc... There's also good advice for managing gaming groups of different sizes, and a general classification of player (not player character) archtypes and how to work with each one.

So I disagree with the first part of your objection. I partly agree with the second part, though - the environmental hazard, poison, and trap rules are clearly set up with an eye towards not wiping out the entire party with a bad roll of the dice. That's a trade-off, and I understand why they did it because a total party kill may be realistic but it sure is no fun for the players. The down side is that if the PCs hit a group of Hill Giants with a rockslide, or poison a rampaging dinosaur, or ignite a circle of oil around an enemy squad of soldiers it's only going to be a minor inconvenience to the enemy and the rest of the encounter won't be much different than if they'd skipped the careful planning in charged right into battle.

Further down in the thread someone raised what I consider to be a much better criticism of 4E: they ditched the Open Gaming License for third party supplements. I hate that, and even though I like 4E I'm glad their move away from an open ecosystem bit them hard.

about a month ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:MMO Crap (203 comments)

I disagree. For a novel, that's fine. For a cooperative game, it sucks - do you really expect to tell players, "Okay, you two are going to play guys that are useful for the next six months. Then they'll suck. On the other hand you two are going to play guys that are going to suck for the next six months. Then they'll kick ass, and they'll kick ass way better than these guys ever did." (Change time periods depending upon how often gaming group meets, rate of experience, etc...)

In RPG discussion forums I've heard this referred to as Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard - with linear and quadratic as the metaphor for the rate of growth of power. Now again, this fits fantasy literature, it makes for great stories, etc... But it fails for a group because it means there's a completely uneven distribution of 'spotlight' time once the game lasts long enough. The people playing non-casters might as well not show up, they can be replaced by hirelings and a few summoning spells.

about a month ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:It all comes down to the OGL (203 comments)

I think you're right. I like 4E quite a bit, and I think the thing that killed it is two parts. On one side you have the many people who thought it was too different from earlier edition. But on the other side you have the third party support that 4E never got.

Incidentally, I've toyed with dozens of OGL games and my favorite by a wide margin is Radiance, http://www.radiancerpg.com/ It's a 3E/4E hybrid with a lot of good ideas, and the Player's Handbook is free. (I am not associated with the publisher in any formal way, I just exchanged a few emails with him.) I like it better than DnD 3.5, Pathfinder, Tunnels and Trolls, Castles and Crusades, Arcana Evolved, OGL Conan, World of Warcraft OGL, etc...

about a month ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:Flaws? (203 comments)

You realize the original Dungeons and Dragons was inspired by miniatures combat, right?

The reason to focus so much on combat and giving every class a useful role in combat is that combat generally takes longer to roleplay than anything else in Dungeons and Dragons. If you're playing Fate, or Risus, or Trollbabe, or Dying Earth RPG, then that wasn't the case and non-combat events and interactions can take as long as combat. But in Dungeons and Dragons combat always got the spotlight, that's why the Player's Handbook in all editions has twenty or thirty or fifty pages for combat rules and much less for other aspects of the game.

So in my view, the 4E focus on useful roles in combat for all classes just made the game more fun for everyone.

about a month ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

DuckDodgers Re:MMO Crap (203 comments)

I played all of the earlier editions and preferred 4th. Yes, it took ideas from MMOs. It took good ideas, like giving more people than the spellcasters a selection of cool powers they could use a few times per day. In older versions of Dungeons and Dragons, at low levels the Fighters and Thieves outshined everyone else because "I whack it with a sword" and "I stole 10 gp." trumped "I can do something that's like shooting a bow accurately, but only once a day!" And "I can be like a super fast first aid kit, but only twice a day!". But ten levels later the spellcasters were shooting gouts of flame and mind-controlling enemies to fight each other and teleporting and bringing back the dead while the Fighter can now say, "I whack it with my sword, only harder!" and the Thief can say "I stole 100gp!"

So fourth edition discarded a lot of what was quintessential to earlier editions, but in my view it was a useful step forward. Fifth edition is a regression. Fifth may well end up better than 1 through 3.5, but it will take work to convince me it's better than Fourth when you exclude nostalgia from the metrics.

about a month ago
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Microsoft Surface Drowning?

DuckDodgers Re:Confusing the issue (337 comments)

The problem were not Windows on ARM itself. The problems were:

1. It should not have shared the Surface name with something that ran on x86. Instead of Surface Pro and Surface RT, there should be Surface and something else - Slate, Pad, Shift, Slice, whatever.
2. They should have waited at least an extra year and spent all of the budget from the Surface RT version 1 on a wider selection of better applications.
3. The Surface RT version 1 hurt the product name by being underpowered for a late 2012 tablet running Windows, even a stripped down version of Windows: 1366x768 resolution, Tegra 3 processor. The first Surface RT should have been generation 2 - 1920x1080, Tegra 4. But again, even that got a lot of criticism for a lack of a good application selection.

The fundamental concept was fine, the execution was inadequate. Microsoft is desperate to gain a foothold in mobile, and I think they're right to be desperate to get a foothold in mobile. I'm glad they screwed it up - I don't like Google, but I'd rather see the future of mobile devices be based on operating systems that have open source cores (even if Google adds a big proprietary layer on top) than otherwise.

about a month ago
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Oracle Hasn't Killed Java -- But There's Still Time

DuckDodgers Re:Oh right, Java is dying (again) (371 comments)

I work on Java professionally too and also hate it. I've played with Scala but I've actually come to prefer Clojure (a really cool Lisp dialect on the JVM, for anyone that doesn't already know). I'm hoping to work on Clojure or maybe even plain old Lisp at my next job. There are even a few Clojure shops in my neck of the US.

about a month ago
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Oracle Hasn't Killed Java -- But There's Still Time

DuckDodgers Re:Ahhh ... large corporations ... (371 comments)

In terms of major new whiz-bang features that you can show off to a corporate executive or a customer? You're right, not much new. But in terms of making the language suck less to use, Java 7's try-with-resources, Java 8 lambdas, and Java 8 default implementation of interface methods are all hugely helpful. And Java EE is now possible to use without XML hell, just a few annotations and you're all set. They can't change too much, if Java EE10 completely reinvents Java EE then companies completely lose the value of their previous investment in the technology. Likewise one business advantage of Java is that you can compile Java 1.1 code with the Java 8 compiler, so some of the coolest possible advances to the language would take that away.

But what I really want to see is the language as an open standard, so everyone can get the same benefits we see from the GCC vs LLVM competition. As long as Oracle thinks they can make money by avoiding that, it will never happen.

Well, I have two additional wishlists for Java 9 or 10: default language annotation @g @s and @gs on instance variables for auto-generating a public getter, public setter, or both at compile time without making me (my IDE) clutter up the source file by creating one for me and syntactic support for tuples. I think those two things would go a long way towards simplifying the language without hurting how readable code is.

about a month ago
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Oracle Hasn't Killed Java -- But There's Still Time

DuckDodgers Re:Ahhh ... large corporations ... (371 comments)

Facebook's a large company, and they came out with HipHop->HHVM and Hack, and they use the D programming language on some internal tools and employ some of the D language designers full time to work on the language. Google's a large company, and they invented Go and Dart and are helping actively develop both. Yahoo came out with Hadoop. And there are dozens of major and minor open source tools released by all three companies. And of course Red Hat, which as a company with revenue in the single billion dollar range is much smaller than the others, does everything open source.

And Microsoft, of all companies, realized they were losing relevance and started making IE standards-compliant and releasing languages like Typescript as fully open source and an open standard.

Big corporations are usually evil. I grant that. Verizon and Comcast undoubtedly are big enough to have tens of millions of lines of code in internal tools and as far as I know they don't work with open standards and they definitely don't release code or programming tools as open source. But it's not guaranteed.

about a month ago
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Oracle Hasn't Killed Java -- But There's Still Time

DuckDodgers Re:Nobody kills Java (371 comments)

Oracle was evil to do that, but Google could have prevented it and they didn't. Sun was failing before being bought by Oracle, and they tried to negotiate a licensing agreement with Google for Java but failed. If Google had waved half a billion dollars at Sun and said "Here's a one time fee if you make Java an open standard", the current mess would have never happened. Sun probably still would have folded or been acquired eventually, but Android - and Apache Harmony, and gcj would be legally in the clear and the latter two would be actively developed instead of mostly dead.

about a month ago
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Metamason: Revolutionizing CPAP Masks With 3D Scanning and 3D Printing

DuckDodgers Re:Lose weight (59 comments)

As others noted elsewhere, not all sleep apnea sufferers are obese. I found it a lot easier to control my appetite and exercise more often after I got my CPAP machine, and I'm starting to lose a little weight without extraordinary effort - of course the first ten pounds is always the easiest. So it's not clear to me whether sleep apnea is caused by my obesity or vice versa.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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Potential database breakthrough

DuckDodgers DuckDodgers writes  |  more than 5 years ago

DuckDodgers writes "The database company Ingres announced a partnership with research firm Vectorwise to bring to market an efficiency breakthrough in databases. They assert that most complex queries run by a database engine can run over 100 times slower than a C++ program hand coded to get the same information from the files on disk. They're working on a database engine that closes the gap dramatically by using several methods, like batching tuples for processing in sizes that fit in the processor on-chip cache, other methods for minimizing back and forth between RAM and processor cache, and structuring the data to be processed in a way to make best use of CPU branch prediction. Their example in the whitepaper (unfortunately, it requires registration) is a moderate complexity aggregate query against 6 million rows of data that takes 16 seconds in the regular database engine, 0.04 seconds with a C++ application built to do the same thing, and about 0.2 seconds with their optimized database engine. The press release is here, and some of the technical details are discussed on this blog (no, not mine): Next Big Future. Is this impossible, impractical, or well within the realm of possibility? If it can be done, why haven't we seen it before?"

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