Archive for the ‘Thought for the day’ Category

Why overclocking means you get what you pay for.

Monday, August 24th, 2009

I spent a lot of time this weekend doing research to buy parts for a new machine.

One thing I realized is that people are stupid. Even technical people.

Specifically I’m talking about the overclocking crowd. Now I’m all about getting as much for your money as possible, but there are LOTS of people on newegg who complain that they overclock chips and they don’t work.

I don’t know if this is how it works anymore but in the good old days, intel or whoever would build a chip to the best specifications that it could, then test it. If it tested reliably as a 3ghz chip, it was sold as a 3ghz chip. If it only tested reliably at 2.5ghz, it was sold as a 2.5ghz chip.

Now in the days of quad cores, I can see where it would be hard to build a chip where all four cores tested reliably at 3ghz, which is why those chips are so much more expensive than the 2.8ghz for example. So people buy the 2.8ghz then try and overclock them and complain when they don’t work.

Do they not understand what’s going on? If it didn’t test reliably at a higher speed, then it’s not going to work reliably when you try and use it at that higher speed.

That’s why you pay more for it to go faster.

If you take your Chevy volt and try and go as fast as a Ferrari, it’s not going to work, the volt wasn’t tested reliably at ferrari speeds. That’s why you paid less than a Ferrari.

My BMW Z4 can get over 40mpg.

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The other day I was going to work and I remembered I didn’t have much gas in my car. The little low-gas warning light was already on when I started the car.

It’s got one of those little computer things that tells you how much gas mileage you’re getting and how many miles it thinks you have left in the tank.

It said I had 57 miles left, the drive to work is 35 miles, I figured I could make it. New car there should be no sludge at the bottom of the gas tank….

So I figured I should drive nicely. Now the little computer thing has to go by how much gas is in the tank and your driving pattern to determine how many miles you have left. I don’t know how far back in my driving history it goes to gauge but it’s more than today’s trip.

When I first got the car, I drove it nicely (since it was still in its  break-in period) and I got it to say I could get 400 miles to the tank when I just filled it up. I figured that was pretty good. But obviously that was pretty non-fun driving, especially for z4.

So I drove to work, got gas, reset all my computer settings, and went to the office.
Starting to drive home I noticed that it said I had 472 miles left in my tank. Not bad I thought, it must have remembered my driving style on my drive to work. Let’s see if I could get it to 500.

Well, as the miles clicked by the number went up, and I eventually got it as high as 512, and that was after having driven 20 miles or so, so I should be able to get at least 530+ miles out of  a newly full tank.
The mpg computer said I was getting 41.5 mpg.

A BMW z4.

Now of course this isn’t entirely fair. I had the windows open, the A/C off, it was all highway, manual transmission, and I think the trip from work to home is, on average, downhill (though there are plenty of up hills on the way.)

So my question is, if BMW can make a sports car that can put out 250 hp, that can still (if you try very very hard) get 41 mpg, why does EVERY OTHER CAR suck by comparison?

And it seems to me with a smaller engine and a lot of tweaking to force you to drive like I was driving, LOTS of cars should be able to get in the 30 mpg range, not just the mini.

So what gives?  How hard is it to make a car 10-20mpg more efficient than the going rate now?

You can forget all the hybrid stuff, and spend your money better on tweaking a known good platform.

I just don’t get it.

I like volleyball

Monday, July 13th, 2009

It seems unfair to the Olympic sponsors, the direction women’s volleyball is going in.

Every time the olympics comes around, the women playing volleyball wear skimpier and skimpier outfits. There’s nowhere for the sponsors to display their logo.

They’re going to have to start tattooing the players soon.

Web 2.0

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

It occurred to me today that for all of this server-side application server running the world stuff, the fact is, the web browser is a fat client. It just happens to be generic and not specific to one application.

How else can you explain it taking seconds upon seconds to render a page on a 3 Ghz machine?

I just had a brilliant idea.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

It’s probably been done, but check this out.

Sometime in the 90’s some new band put out an album with a one hit wonder hit on it, I think it was ugly kid joe.

For their second album, most other bands would have disappeared, but these guys were smart, they did a remake of cats in the cradle, which became their popular song and video for their second album, and of course were never heard from again.

Anyway, here’s a similar idea:

For your killer song on your first album, you take out a savage loan and hire somebody like slash or angus from ac/dc to play on your song, somebody really famous, you can gain notoriety just for that, and that’s all you need to get one popular song famous, then just ride the single, t-shirts and download wave until you lose favor.

Hopefully you’d make enough to pay off the loan.

My little lost luggage story.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I was away on vacation last week and on the way back the nice airline saw fit to lose one of our two checked bags.

You gotta wonder. We checked two identical bags at the exact same time, one ended up in Newark (correctly) albeit one flight before I did (I thought they instituted some rule that you had to fly with your luggage) and the other, they lost.

But all is NOT lost, I got a call from a nice lady in …. you guessed it… Toronto saying they found my bag.  With no flight tag on it.

It got me thinking…

A long time ago when I worked at the finance department at rockland community college, I was told by my supervisor that if I got a phone call that I didn’t know how or didn’t want to deal with, I should transfer the call to the records department. This made for lots of happy customers. (I eventually got wise, and rather than piss off the people right down the hall in the records department, I transferred people to international studies on the other side of campus.)

I’m imagining some bag mover guy who got hold of our bag and saw no luggage tag and didn’t want to deal with it so he just put it on the next plane headed out.

There’s no way the bag would have gone from Charlotte NC to Toronto without a little help.

Figure they have a process to deal with lost luggage, why should the bag mover guy deal with it.

The “Don’t fill up on soda” diet

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I just got back from a cruise where you can eat as much food as you want. 24 hours a day for 7 days.

I figured for one week I can give up on trying to lose weight and go back to it when I get home.

For an additional $40, you can also drink as much soda as you want, 24 hours a day for 7 days.

So I came up with the “Don’t fill up on soda” diet.

When I was a kid my mom would always tell me not to fill up on soda before dinner because then I won’t have an appetite for actual food. But I realize now as I get older, this is a brilliant form of diet.

If you fill up on soda before you eat, you won’t eat as much actual food.

Now of course soda has plenty of calories itself, but it certainly is more filling per calorie than any non liquid food.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

How weird is that.

Friday, February 13th, 2009

By now, if you’re a geek you know that later today is 1234567890 in unix time.

Fri Feb 13 18:31:30 2009 to be exact.

But I figured that decimal patterns are meaningless in unixland, so I was going to see what else was interesting that was coming up.

Well, 1234567890 is 0x499602D2 in hex. Hey, that’s pretty close to 0x50000000 so, let’s see what that is:

Fri Jul 13 07:01:20 2012

I don’t expect anything interesting to happen on the 0x50000000 second, but isn’t it interesting that they’re both friday the 13th?

0x60000000 is Thu Jan 14 03:25:36 2021

0x70000000 is Wed Jul 18 01:49:52 2029

Not much interesting there.

One way to avoid the excesses of the banks that take our money.

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I just had this neat idea.

Everybody’s all mad about the 50 million dollar jet that citibank ordered despite all the handouts they’re getting from the government.
That and all the bonuses being paid to retain the best talent (you know, the ones that lost us all of our money, that talent.)

Well, I have a really simple solution.

The banks beg for money, the government comes up with some dollar amount that they’re willing to give to a given bank. Then, somebody from the government goes through the books of said bank and tallies up all the excesses.
Who’s to decide what the excess is? The government. It is after all their (our) money.

They tally up all the jets and bonuses and company funded weekend jaunts and subtract that from the agreed amount they were going to give to the bank.

Then the bank can decide whether to go out of business or to sell the jet.

And if they can keep the jet and stay in business, obviously the government gave them too much money to begin with. They can take note of that for next time.

We can’t put a man on the moon

Monday, January 19th, 2009

It occurred to me a number of years ago that we americans no longer possess the ability to put a man on the moon. And have them come back and still be alive.

Why? Because in the good old days mechanical designs and machinery were simpler. They operated on more basic scientific prinicipals and a LOT of resources were dumped into making it work.

Nowadays if anybody was tasked with getting a man on the moon, they’d use off the shelf parts, plug them into each other, skip over a lot of the basic rigorous end-to-end testing and while it should all work, it would not. Some part would fail, some badly written software would not handle an error condition correctly.

If we were to use the same design plans as we did in the 60’s we could make it work, but nobody in their sane mind would do that nowadays. We’ve come so far. We have computers and better alloys and greater understanding of space, certainly there would be shortcuts to take.

There’s no law of physics that says space travel has to be as easy as the movies make it out to be, and it’s not. You have to do a lot of over engineering if you don’t want something to fail. Given the money that would be available, and the culture of cutting corners to make it cheaper, I am pretty certain that a manned mission to the moon would fail.

I’m a software programmer by trade and I see how it is in my industry. Nobody dies when email is not delivered, nobody’s hand gets chopped off if an error message shows up on the screen. But in space travel, there’s not a lot of room for error, unless you overengineer a lot, and that wouldn’t happen.

There would be a lot of software on any spaceship made nowadays and it would have lots of buggy software on it.

Certainly you’ve heard the story about the ship that went sailing into mars (I think it was mars) because one group did specs in metric and another group used english units? And nobody talked to each other? That wasn’t even a software failure, all the software was correct. That was a project management failure.

Certainly plenty of those to be had in such a complex project as a manned moon mission.

Here’s another example I came across today. Remember the TRS-80 model 100? It was a little portable computer built in 1983, it ran on 4 AA batteries, and had a full qwerty keyboard. It had a little word processor built in (among other things) and you could do your typing for 6-8 hours on on set of 4 AA batteries.

Nowadays, we have laptops that require lots more battery and don’t last nearly as long because they’re ‘better’.  Basically, we can no longer in 2009 do what we did in 1983.