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Comments

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What's After Big Data?

lgw Re:A futile effort (46 comments)

It's like trainspotting, but for advertising memes.

Gartner is the king/pusher of course. But I think they were actually insightful about this 5 or so years ago. They predicted about 3 year of all hype, no product "cloud", another 3 years of practical, useful cloud infrastructure with nothing really taking advantage of it, and only after that would we see startups (and VC investment opportunities) making use of the cloud to make actual products. I think we're almost there.

Even for hobby programming, the cloud is becoming quite appealing. For example, take a look at this remarkable Mabdelbrot zoom to 10^275. This required 6 core-years to render (6 months wall clock). If you have the patience, the machines sitting idle (perhaps discarded bitcoin rigs) and no fear of power bills, then sure, turn on 3 old high-CPU towers for 6 months. But if you're good at massively parallel coding (and Mabdelbrot rendering is great to learn that!) you can usually get AWS Spot machines for under a penny per core-hour. That means you can get that 6 core-years of CPU for about the price of a midrange geek PC, and you can get thousands of cores in parallel, and be done rendering in a day.

For a hobby project it might be hard to justify spending $hundreds this way, but for a start-up it makes perfect sense. So there's something to the "cloud" IMO if you're trying to do supercomputer parallelism on a shoestring budget, something that's really only become possible in the past couple of years. I'm not sure how cheap 10000 core-hours for $100 is, really, but 10000 cores in parallel for an hour for $100 is something wonderful.

2 minutes ago
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FCC Warned Not To Take Actions a Republican-Led FCC Would Dislike

lgw Re: yeah (308 comments)

If we had a non-corrupt government at any level, we'd have "last mile" as a public utility and a free market for the long haul. If makes so much damn sense that it will never happen.

23 minutes ago
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FCC Warned Not To Take Actions a Republican-Led FCC Would Dislike

lgw Re: yeah (308 comments)

Oh, don't be naive about the local governemnts though. This is a federal politician owned by Comcast standing up against local politicians who would like to receive large donations from a new utility company (or who have a nephew they'd give the business to, or whatever), since they held out for too large a bribe from Comcast themselves and came up empty.

But it's getting pretty crazy that the "last mile" isn't a public utility.

3 hours ago
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FCC Warned Not To Take Actions a Republican-Led FCC Would Dislike

lgw Re: yeah (308 comments)

This has nothing to do with "free marketism", unless you're in the market for strawmen. This is the opposite.

Do you think most towns can just stand up a muni broadband network on their own? No - they're going to hire some company to build and run their MAN, just the way that many utilities work.

This is existing corporate giants, which have government granted monopolies in many areas (the polar opposite of free marketism), using their political muscle to block competition from new "utility" companies who would be stealing their business.

yesterday
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FCC Warned Not To Take Actions a Republican-Led FCC Would Dislike

lgw Re:Correction: (308 comments)

Both parties have, as their first priority, protecting the financial interests of their largest (usually corporate) donors. Both parties lie about this to their voters, claiming to be the party of the common man. The only difference is that some donors don't give to both parties, and so different donors get favored depending on who's in power.

I cant speak for 45 years, but it's been this way for at least 25. Do you disagree?

yesterday
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Metamaterial Superconductor Hints At New Era of High Temperature Superconductors

lgw Re:150 kelvin = -189.67 F (36 comments)

Fahrenheit is the only temperature system anyone should use! It's the temperature component of the One True System of measure: the Fortnight-Firkin-Furlong system.

yesterday
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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Wish You'd Known Starting Out As a Programmer?

lgw Re:C++ is not the language you start with (514 comments)

Nah,
First learn assembly, so you know how a computer works
Then learn Scheme and the lambda calculus, so you know what a computer does

Really, though, the most important thing to move past "coding for fun" is to completely grok the call stack, pointers, recursion, and lambda. You should have no fear, uncertainty, or doubt about these foundations, or you'll write ugly hacks where none are needed, or be unable to properly debug.

yesterday
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

lgw Re:Flaws? (195 comments)

Even WotC has admitted that their skill initial 4E challenge system was a flop - but if they pushed out a revised version later I haven't seen it and maybe it's fine?

Convincing the goblin chief and his horde to go home carries the same XP as wiping them out, and can be done more quickly.

Heh, I haven't been in a game for 20 years now where you got XP for killing things, or for specific encounters. I forgot that people still play that way (I guess it's natural if you're used to MMOs), rather than XP based only on quest completion.

or poison a rampaging dinosaur

I ran a game once where the party poisoned a powerful enemy with a raging dinosaur (that wasn't a fly in his soup, and a subsequent dispel magic was quite colorful - ahh, early D&D).

hate that, and even though I like 4E I'm glad their move away from an open ecosystem bit them hard.

Do you think Hasbro learned anything? Or did they take the opposite lesson from Pathfinder? I guess we'll see where 5E goes. Open game management tools (character builders, encounter runners, etc) would make the game worth checking out, IMO.

yesterday
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

lgw Re:Flaws? (195 comments)

The problem with 4e is it dropped everything else. The fixes to combat make it much more accessible to a new generation, and that's great, but a D&D session shouldn't play like an MMO. You need just as much richness in the setting, in open-ended exploration, in diplomacy, in absurdly over-engineered traps, and so on. 4E got some pieces very right, but it's too tightly wound IMO - too much focus on combat, and especially on well-balanced combats. It's a poor system to accommodate cleverness and tactical elements not captured by player abilities.

4E adventures tend to be a set of very-well-balanced encounters all very level appropriate for a party, but that loses much of the charm of D&D. 4E is poorly suited mechanically for "crazy plans that just might work" to take on foes far out of the party's level range (unless they're scripted into the module). E.g., the party wants to kills a group of foes far more powerful than they, so they gather intelligence by diplomacy, intrigue, and seduction, discover a good time and place for an ambush, arrange to blow up a cliff face to drop an avalanche on the foes as they walk past on a marrow path, then attack before the dust settles. Pre-4E, it's fairly natural for a good DM to figure out how that all works and run a fun session around it in a way the players find fair. In 4E you have so little to work with for any of that, unless it was part of the script.

2 days ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

lgw Re:Flaws? (195 comments)

I just don't see the broken-rules problems in RP-land ...

2 days ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

lgw Re:Flaws? (195 comments)

Old school RP is a tiny corner of the gaming world, and really well served by rules-light RPG systems, I think. Risus is great IMO for anything where you don't need "tactical simulation rules" (hmm, TSR, someone should make a game company ....), or one of the many Emo Goffpire games. I just see the broken-rules problems in RP-land that plague the tactical world.

Here's the problem: it's boring to be in an encounter where you have nothing to contribute. And bored players make problems for games, one way or another. With social encounters, most players can enjoy what's going on even if they're just arguing about what the charismatic rogue should say, but it's different in tactical combat, where too great an imbalance in ability to contribute can ruin the game.

2 days ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

lgw Re:Flaws? (195 comments)

becomes an arms race between players to find the most powerful, game breaking combos. Spreadsheets, forums, and research on things that can be abused. It leaves the non min/maxers in the dust, ...

You can roleplay the smartest/strongest guy around, or you can abuse the rule system to become the strongest/smartest guy around. When your level 5 character has godly powers to influence the game through some clever min/maxing, it really ruins the experience for others.

All I can say is: that just isn't true of every game system. It's horribly, horribly true of 3.5, which is the fundamental problem with 3.5. If careful min/maxing gives you a 20% combat advantage over a naive build, likely at the cost of non-combat stuff, that's not going to be a problem. Heck, it could be 50% more powerful without hurting the game if the DM is willing to shape encounters a bit (not ideal, but workable). But 3.5 is so bad that some classes simply can't contribute except in carefully contrived encounters, while others (with expert play) won't have any challenge without equal contrivances. Heck, 3.5 has infinite HP builds, infinite damage builds, and so on, though that stuff is less worrying as its so blatant.

On a side note, there were enough base classes in 3.5 that you could almost make whatever character you wanted by dipping into them a la carte. See my rogue/scout/ranger/fighter.

I always liked that part, though I'd say it's a bit of a 3.5 flaw that you have to do that awkward dance to realize what's likely a pretty clear and sensible character concept (just not one of the D&D archetypes).

2 days ago
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C++14 Is Set In Stone

lgw Re:Oh god so what? (190 comments)

Cool - I haven't used VS for C++ since they grew up and added C99 support - I really should try it out.

2 days ago
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Netflix CEO On Net Neutrality: Large ISPs Are the Problem

lgw Re:Big Data (181 comments)

as anyone who's ever wanted to save a Netflix movie for offline viewing on a flight

They offer that service separately, and I use it all the time: DVDs - but for most people that's a corner case. The problem most people have with Netflix (myself included) is the tiny amount of streaming content in the first place. Even with the DRM they can barely get any content owners contracted. The studios just have recto-cranial inversion over streaming in the first place - the DRM is just a distraction from the real issue.

In both cases - content owners and big ISPs, you've got abuse of government-granted monopolies. The real issue is our alleged democracy selling monopolies in the first place!

2 days ago
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Netflix CEO On Net Neutrality: Large ISPs Are the Problem

lgw Re:Big Data (181 comments)

Hastings, Netflix, and 99.999999% of all streaming customers give approximately 0 fucks about DRM. They pay Netflix, they see the content, there's simply no problem. And they're right. Technology makes life better by working. If it "just works", then it's fine. This ISP-throttling-Netflix BS, OTOH, is punishing customers until Netflix caves. That's not fine.

2 days ago
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Netflix CEO On Net Neutrality: Large ISPs Are the Problem

lgw Re:Big Data (181 comments)

They used Akamai for several years for the majority of their streaming traffic, but then they outgrew Akamai. Netflix is, what, 1/3 of all internet traffic now? They are the biggest CDN.

2 days ago
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Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

lgw Re:Flaws? (195 comments)

Min/maxing is half the fun of the game, unless it leaves the PCs woefully unbalanced between one another. What you want is a system where min/maxing produces reasonable character concepts, and reasonable character concepts produce well-optimized characters. That was the huge flaw in 3.5 - it was impossible for the new player to figure out what worked mechanically and what didn't. When I play an RPG, I want to play a hero, dammit. I can play the flawed loser in real life, thank you very much.. But I shouldn't have to know or care that if my idea of a hero is a martial monk that I'll bee all but useless in any encounter, while if it's a pure caster that I'll have an "I win" button if I do it right.

That's the problem. Not the idea that if I'm going to be a wizard, I'm going to be the smartest guy around, or if I'm going to hit people in the face with my axe, then I'm going to be the biggest, toughest guy around. Those are totally viable character ideas, especially your first time playing before you've grown bored of the shallow archetypes. And yet, that's min-maxing. Bah, min-maxing is fine. It's a broken system where in order to be an non-cliche character you have to be disadvantaged mechanically, because the game is build on archetype enforcement, that's the problem.

OK, it's worse still if you buy what you thought was an RPG and it turns out to just be miniatures combat rules. 4E got combat right, but the game had little else. At least in 3.5 with a veteran DM guiding new players to make effective characters, or any previous D&D version, there was a deep game there that only occasionally focused on combat.

2 days ago
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Of the following, I'd rather play ...

lgw Re:Chess (273 comments)

Which is why chess is dull as dirt, IMO. It's the element of chance that makes a game interesting. That makes "strategy" meaningful. It's easy to even out the luck in an organized event, but it's the element of chance that makes it all fun. Like physics, it's not deterministic, but you can still determine the optimal path, the "path of least action" to victory. The trick is, well-designed game, predictable play gives your opponent an advantage. It's that element of "do I do the obvious, and walk into whatever plan he has, or do I do something not quite as good, but unpredictable". Chess is just missing that - there's one optimal play, period, just a matter of seeing it; might as well be doing my taxes.

2 days ago
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C++14 Is Set In Stone

lgw Re:Oh god so what? (190 comments)

Sure, in simple code. But when you have crap like a list of labmdas that take a map and return a vector, or somesuch, because what you're doing is just like that, full type descriptions really help.

But that's rare, and I'd agree with you most of the time.

2 days ago
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C++14 Is Set In Stone

lgw Re:Oh god so what? (190 comments)

Processes are only as good as the people who implement them

Naturally. Your code is as good as the code review process, which is to say, as good as your people and how much they care.

2 days ago

Submissions

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Journals

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Economics in Brief (Internet Flotsam)

lgw lgw writes  |  about 4 months ago

Here's some internet flotsam attributed to a graduation speech by Thomas Sargent (without digging into whether this speech really happened: the content is interesting).

Economics is organized common sense. Here is a short list of valuable lessons that our beautiful subject teaches.

1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.

2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.

3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts,
and their preferences than you do.

4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That
is why social safety nets don't always end up working as intended.

5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.

6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their
choices. That is why it is difficult for well meaning outsiders to change
things for better or worse.

7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are
some promises that you'd like to make but can't. No one will believe those
promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to
deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about
whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change.
This is how you earn a reputation.

8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.

9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is
what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do
(but not the social security system of Singapore).

10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or
tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.

11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government
transfers (especially transfers to themselves).

12. Because market prices aggregate traders' information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.

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Geothermal vs Solar Power

lgw lgw writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Here are the basic numbers on aailable geothermal vs solar power (since this has come up in discussion more than once).

The surface area of the Earth is about 5.1 x 10^14 m^2. The cross sectional area is about 1.3 x 10^14 m^2 (one quarter of the surface area, of course).

Per this paper found as a cite on wikipedia, the total heat flow out from the Earth's interior is 4.42 x 10^13 W, or 0.0867 W/m^2. Of course, the available power is much less because it's only the subsurface-surface temperature difference that's available.

Total solar irradience is 1361 W/m^2 by NASA's latest estimate (so about 1.7 x 10^17 W across the entire cross section), or about 1000 W/m^2 on the surface at noon on a cloudless day. Averaged over the day-night cycle (surface area vs cross-section, so 250 W/m^2), and taking clouds into account that's about 180 W/m^2 (I can't find a solid source on that yet, but it looks close).

So, total solar power flow is about 4000 times as large as total geothermal flow. I'm not quite sure how to estimate the (ideal) available power as a percentage of the total geothermal power flow, but if we use a WAG of 50%, then the available power from solar is also about 4000 times per square meter more than geothermal - significantly more if we average solar power only across populated latitudes.

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Global Warming Link

lgw lgw writes  |  more than 5 years ago

This is the best summary of the great global warming fraud I've yet seen, and published in the most unlikely of places.

To be told, as I have been, by Mr. Gore, again and again, that carbon dioxide is a grave threat to humankind is not just annoying, by the way, although it is that! To re-tool our economies in an effort to suppress carbon dioxide and its imaginary effect on climate, when other, graver problems exist is, simply put, wrong. Particulate pollution, such as that causing the Asian brown cloud, is a real problem. Two billion people on Earth living without electricity, in darkened huts and hovels polluted by charcoal smoke, is a real problem.

Although I feel Harold Ambler makes some good points, he misses what I've always felt was the most important. Given that the climate will change (as it always has), do we want it to be warmer, or colder? As glaciers covering Europe (the norm for the ice age we've been in for the past 100M years) seems to me far worse than rising sea levels, I've never understood why we'd want to fight warming in the first place.

I think the whole global warming fraud started by ignoring all of the available evidence and blindly asserting that the climate is naturally stable, so therefore if man did something to break that stability we'd be creating an otherwise-avoidable catastrophe. What BS. The only thing historically unprecedented is the inexplicable stability of the climate for the past 10K years. Change is unavoidable, with or without the actions of man.

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Some quotes I like

lgw lgw writes  |  more than 9 years ago

"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged." - Abraham Lincoln

"Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me.'" - George Orwell

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