Monday, December 26, 2011

Regarding the blogging

Not really blogging a whole lot because I just post about the updates in polynomial forum on steam, and then forget to post here. I've made a bunch of updates, and added some new enemy which is available in the "experimental" level. Feel free to upload a video of this enemy, and then I might link the video from here (but use the polynomial's own music, or some music that you know you can use freely on youtube).

In other news, with publication of Brink and Rage (both those games use OpenGL, as does Polynomial), the driver quality has remarkably improved, and there's far fewer issues.

Not everything is smooth though. The current big offender on the 'not giving a damn about OpenGL' list is, surprisingly, HP and their laptops with 'switchable' graphics which aims to use Intel HD graphics for non-demanding applications and Radeon graphics card for games. Except that for OpenGL it won't use the Radeon unless you go into bios and disable this whole 'switchable' nonsense off, which may require a bios update. There's (as usual) no way for an application to request faster card.

Friday, September 9, 2011

On 9/11 and it's significance

The way I see it... if we were able to see it in perspective, relatively to other terrible things that happen - if we seen this as a highly unfortunate something like 20% bump in the murders that year - there would be a reaction for sure - such a jump in murder rate is a very bad thing! But it wouldn't have started two wars, damaged the economics, terrified the people, and resulted in some loss of freedom - which is what terrorists wanted. We don't want the lives lost to be lost in vain, but we surely should want the terrorism to be in vain.

When we mourn lives lost in 9/11, but don't equally mourn greater number of lives lost to random drunk idiots with guns, that elevates Bin Laden too far above the plurality of drunk idiots. That makes him so much more than n times the drunk idiot. Bin Laden surely does not deserve that.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Camels, last straws, mutations, strict EPA standards, and common sense.

Suppose you have a large number of camels under slightly varying, very heavy loads of various things; about 40% of camels break their backs from overload.
You add extra straws to each camel's load, by accident. You observe a slight increase in the camel's probability of suffering the broken back - perhaps when you add 1000 grams of extra weight, the increase is from 40% to 41% . The common sense tells you to expect increase of 0.1% when you add 100 grams, and 0.001% when you add 1 gram - if you can plot a smooth curve of camel deaths versus weight, you would expect that you can approximate the curve with a line at small ranges - and you can expect that even if you add a single extra straw, there is a possibility that it would be the last for some unlucky camel.

Humans suffer from cancer, at a lifetime rate of approximately 40%; cancer is understood to be caused by a long, improbable sequence of mutations within a single cell's lineage. There is a very large number of mutations constantly occurring in the human body - vast majority of them not caused by external carcinogens.

Carcinogens, however, add a small number of extra mutations. Carcinogens are not expected to have safe doses - as the mutations are past the safe mutation rate - and the standards on the known carcinogens (including radiation) are thus extremely strict. No extra straws should be added to camels already at the risk.

The EPA standards for carcinogens - including radioactive contamination - are thus set to be as low as technically feasible. Strictness of the standard is not related to the danger, but to the ease of prevention. When those are exceeded, it is unacceptable, but is not a very big deal for you personally.

The EPA's standard for radioactive iodine in drinking water, in particular, is about 0.111 Bq/L . When this is exceeded by a big factor of 100, that is entirely unacceptable in the sense that the nuclear reactors have not performed as well as was deemed technically feasible - and that is entirely unacceptable because it can cause a few extra deaths in large population. But it is, in itself, not a reason to be afraid.

There is a second set of standards, set by relative threat to human life. Those are substantially more permissive. When food products exceed those standards, however, products have to be disposed of. Those standards are typically in the range of hundreds Bq/L. When those standards are exceeded, there is a sufficiently high risk to human life as to implement active measures to prevent consumption of contaminated food or drink.

Note: the camels are only an allegory. Of course the mechanics of back breaking and cancer are very different. However, both represent the situation where the normal is already unsafe and the extra risk is small.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nuclear accident management in Japan - I just don't understand it.

There's the things I simply do not understand about Fukushima nuclear disaster.

1: Lack of high range radiation meters - the ">1000 milliSievert/hour" figures that keep cropping up.
2: Complaints by the Japanese government on the inaccurate measurements performed by TEPCO. Why the government did not have it's own experts on site doing the measurements? Surely they should have some sort of nuclear war or terrorism response team that is trained for measurements of very high levels of contamination. If they don't - US does. The contamination levels are millions times higher than what TEPCO routinely deals with.
3: Why the situation is being controlled entirely by TEPCO?
4: How the spent fuel pool in reactor 4 ran dry and caught fire (the major source of radioactive release into atmosphere) ?
5: Where are the US and French (Areva) experts and what are they doing?

Lithuania - the country where I live - operated 2 nuclear reactors.

The reason I felt reasonably safe about that is - I knew that if something happened, it would have been handled by the entire European Union, using the immense resources of a region that is a largest producer of nuclear power worldwide.
There is no question that my local electrical utility would not be able to handle reactor accident. But I believe that in Europe vastly larger resources would be available. If I thought that in a case of a nuclear reactor accident in some small country in EU they would not have robots and high range radiation measurement devices on site the next day - if I had any doubts that EU's handling of such accident, combined with a natural disaster, would be vastly better than Japan's - I would be an anti nuclear advocate.

If I thought that in the event of one in a thousand years disaster, the reactors could fail here like they did in Japan - and the spent fuel pools would simply run dry if reactor basements get flooded - I would be an anti-nuclear advocate. Because it is in the disaster when nuclear power may be the most beneficial - the nuclear plant can run for a year without refuelling, providing the power to rebuild the infrastructure after the disaster. The renewable energy sources are unfortunately very fragile and vulnerable in the event of disaster. The fossil fuel sources require constant supply of the fuel. Nuclear reactors should be the energy source to rely on in the face of unprecedented disaster - not the amplifiers of severity.

This is an example of nuclear power plant that did provide shelter to the people who lost their homes, instead of contributing to their suffering. Had the Fukushima plant been built to proper standards, the nuclear power would have been the saviour in the face of disaster - but sadly, that was not the case and the nuclear power did show it's less than beneficial side.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Plant worker radiation doses.

Two workers hospitalized for radiation exposure.
"As a result, their feet were exposed to 170 to 180 milliSieverts of radiation."
You cannot possibly know dose from something like that to such accuracy. Also, I've heard over the radio feed that water got into their boots.

Read what Sievert is. By it's very nature it is only an estimate and cannot have this kind of accuracy.
Elsewhere I even heard a figure of 173 milliSieverts. Right, 1% accuracy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fukushima: Disclosure vs secrecy.

In the discussions of the disaster that arose in the web, it became apparent that many people think that the data indeed has to be withheld from the public to avoid panic in the disaster such as the one at Fukushima nuclear power plant. Data such as high resolution pictures taken by US drone, disclosure or non-disclosure of which is up to Japanese government. Data which, it can be argued, is meaningless to the public.

I'm sure however that for anyone who ever thought about making a donation, it is obvious that full and accurate disclosure would help the cause. How much you donate to a particular cause is dependent on how bad it is.

Let's not engage too much in the thinking of how people who live there - people who are going to work as usual despite their anxiety over things they don't know - their anxiety over nondisclosure of the data - are less brave or less educated than you and would panic in case of public disclosure. That is deeply disrespectful of those people.

Let's instead be positive and think of the people more generous or more rich than us who can make the difference if they are moved by the data. Let's think of the companies right now developing new technologies, which would benefit from the data and which can donate something that no money can buy - the technologies that exist only in prototypes. Let's not forget of all the people smarter than us, who would be thinking how to make reactors safer - and can tell their ideas to a friend who happens to be a nuclear energy professional, over a cup of tea.

Let's be more humble and less narcissistic, let's not think that public is all dumber, less educated, and less brave than you. The public is not. Even if you happen to be a 'genius' with meaninglessly high score on IQ tests, there's members of the public who are smarter than you, those who are more educated, and have relevant experience. The public is varied. Some people actually care and can help a lot more than you or me could, if they have the information.

I came to know a few people who live in Tokyo, and come to work as usual. They don't deserve extra suffering from the anxiety over whenever the government is giving accurate figures. And they definitely don't deserve mockery with references to 'tin foil hat' from those of us who are fortunate to be living far away from any radiation incidents. If you happen to fancy yourself educated on the topic of radioactive contamination, you should be able to explain things instead of giving self important 'look i'm better than you' speeches. Reserve those speeches for unaffected, if you want to make speeches.

If you like this blog post and think that it is well written, please share it. If you disgree - you can comment negatively, as long as it is not disrespectful of the survivors, any comments are welcome.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Articles about radiation: Complex reality of the radioactive pollution.

As a departure from the primary topic of this blog, I am going to publish a few articles about radiation, to display support for the people affected by the terrible disaster that is unfolding in Fukushima.

Complex reality of the radioactive pollution:

There is a map that everyone must see before thinking about pollution from Fukushima.

The most common misconception is imagining contamination as having a neat falloff or smooth distribution. The distribution is smoothed over time but remained this unsmooth even after a decade. There could be a spot where you measure high levels of radiation, few meters away the levels can be normal, and few more meters away the level may be high again.

You shouldn't think of it as of contamination with 'radiation' that 'radiates' around. No, it is a contamination with dirt that goes around the way dirt does; the dirt itself is radioactive and can expose you either from outside over distance, or from inside through ingestion, inhalation, food chain, etc. The reactor pollutes environment with radioactive dirt. The radioactive dirts radiates the radiation. The radiation from the dirt does not itself make anything radioactive.

The 'radiation levels', unduly exact numbers in microsieverts/hour, are not a measurement of environment pollution with radioactive isotopes from the accident. They are merely an *indication* of a fact of pollution.
A counter would measure drastically different values whenever clean counter is held up in the air, the counter is directly held to a surface that has been collecting dirt from the air (and here it would drastically depend to the position of this surface), or the counter is allowed to collect dirt from the air [however that would pollute the counter]. The alpha and beta activity as measured by a counter held to a surface will drastically depend to the amount of *non* radioactive dirt that is mixed with radioactive dirt.

The meaningful pollution values are that of estimated curies (or becquerels) of particular isotope per square kilometre, per cubic metre of air, per cubic metre of water, etc. To measure air pollution by radioactive dust you have to run specific volume of air through the filter, then measure radioactivity of the filter.
Different isotopes have different presence in the human body even at same environmental concentration.
Furthermore, the radiation levels on the surfaces fall off quickly in first few rains even for long living isotopes due to the radioactive dirt being washed off and mixed up with a deeper volume of soil (picture radioactive dirt sitting on surfaces affecting the geiger counter a lot, then same radioactive dirt mixed up with soil and groundwater, largely not reaching the geiger counter; with a significant fraction of that dirt being washed off into rivers and then dispersed in the sea).

When you live 500km away from Chernobyl and you know of everyday things such as radioactive boars in Germany thousands kilometers away from Chernobyl, which are radioactive beyond permissible limits for meat because the boars eat truffles which concentrate radioactive isotopes, while humans and other animals whom do no routinely eat radioactive truffles (or radioactive boars) are not even remotely as much contaminated as those boars, you tend to appreciate the complexity of radioactive environment pollution which can't be represented by a mkSv/h number. Elsewhere, you do not know such things.

That is to say, the issue of pollution is very complicated and it is far more difficult to measure pollution than to hold a Geiger counter to something. So far I haven't seen any pollution figures from area around Fukushima. Only readings from Geiger counters indicating the fact of pollution.
Understandably, after earthquake and tsunami, they have other issues to be concerned with.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Google accuses Microsoft of stealing results.

It's final, I am moving this blog out of here. And this is the reason.

Don't take me wrong, I am no fan of Microsoft. I use Linux for most of my needs. But I can't stand this sort of BS.

Search engines work by processing web pages and links between the pages. It is altogether possible for one search engine to process the page of another search engine just like it would process a regular webpage.

There's what most likely happened, or what you have to presume to have happened unless proven otherwise (innocent until proven guilty): To get Bing to "steal" results, Google guys had to search for those made up words on IE with Bing toolbar installed, for days and days, getting 9 words out of 100 into Bing. Bing toolbar is used to improve relevancy. All it takes to "steal" results is for the toolbar to occasionally process Google's page the same as any other. Which can happen if e.g. this file which specifies not to process the Google's page fails to download. Which could as well happen due to technical issue on Google's side, or simply due to unreliable connection.
And Google guys know this better than anyone else. The Google's blog post is most certainly a sign of Google slowly becoming just another corporation that expertly crafts lies and propaganda, using public lack of understanding of how technology works, and which competes not by creating a better product, but by talking bad about the competition. To 99.9% of people, all the technology could just as well have been magic, and witchcraft accusations are the hot topic now.

Monday, January 31, 2011

reCAPTCHA explained in one sentence

Defeating severe distortion that was applied to scanned old newspaper text (largely pre-internet spam) to stop bots from recognizing it and spamming, while feeling warm and fuzzy that it helps digitize the books that couldn't be digitized automatically.
Uhh yeach.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Piracy, DRM, Steam, and pirates.

I don't care very much about piracy.
There's a few things i hate, though:

1: Pirates contacting me for tech support. Every time there is a marketing push, the numbers are big, and even a tiny fraction of failures is a lot of reports. (most of issues are resolved by reboot by the way). I don't need you reporting me bugs that I fixed months ago! Buy it, and get the latest version with updates. And no I'm not going to be pitching my game to each pirate individually.

2: Certain individuals, who I cannot prove to be pirates, making up sheer lies for the purpose of getting others to pirate instead of buying.

I've seen big threads about my game, where early in the thread some wise-*** would tell authoritatively utter and complete made up lie that "Valve is taking >90% of the revenue" and he don't want to support a greedy evil corporation. Talk about word of mouth 'advantages' of piracy. Some paying customer starts a thread about my game, or writes a review, because he wants others to buy it too, and then someone drops by and post some made up falsehoods that would justify piracy and hurt the sales. (Don't know about you, but I would suspect this someone is a pirate). We are all trained since childhood to prepare defence speech in advance, to make up reasons. We are all trained to think that when others do it too, it is ok.

My game comes with no DRM what so ever (not even Steam's). There is a fairly generous demo. It is digitally distributed, meaning I get lion's share of what you pay. If you want to play without paying - at least keep it private, don't lie to yourself and everyone else, don't just make up and post reasons to pirate rather than buy.

Then the pirates making up bullshit about Steam problems (after never even checking my site for alternative methods of purchase). Steam may not be totally perfect, but it is VERY good and non intrusive. Yet people make up lies how you can't run game without Steam (you can) and how Steam is evil DRM adware and so on and so forth. Posting their speculations in a style as if they bought a game there then encountered problems, and had to resort to piracy (which does not seem to be the case).
They're just speaking of what they think is possible, and they don't even see this as lying, they see it as they are warning others of a possibility which they foresee using their unique skills of deduction. They don't see it as lying because they simply don't care what the truth is AT ALL. Well in my book it is worse than outright lying. To lie requires you to bother to learn the truth. There's some tiny degree of honesty in plain lying that is absent in bullshitting when you don't even care to know if you're lying or not.

Behaviours like this lead me to question whenever negative word of mouth impact from game's DRM is as strong as it would seem. It's hard to know what percentage of people who are claiming they won't buy it "because of DRM" would make up something else in absence of DRM.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Update released.

  • Windows: support for any audio format via DirectShow codecs; simply install system wide codecs in the usual way to play any format. Some types of internet streaming audio might also work now depending to the system configuration. (OS X version already supports pretty much any format through system codecs)
  • Key bindings for next and previous song and song restart work correctly now.
  • File chooser directories are remembered independently for different file chooser dialogs.
  • Removed "Merry Christmas" from tutorial level (the Christmas tree remains in the Christmas level)
  • Moved Christmas themed music down in the default playlist.
  • New arena.
  • Wormholes are bigger now and easier to fly through.

For FLAC support - I tested it, after installing these codecs:
FLAC worked.

WMA and WAV formats should now work out of the box. I did not have time to try any codecs for Wavpack yet. Internet streaming works now if you put an URL into playlist file. (You need to have relevant codecs installed for the stream type)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Arizona shooting.

This is just horrible.
How easily an insane individual, perhaps barely capable of finding his way on the streets, can just buy a gun and go on and kill a lot of people by just pulling the trigger. How he can just buy a high capacity magazine that holds 3 more bullets than AK47 magazine. A magazine that no reasonable person will want to have for self defence, given how it almost doubles weight of pistol, makes pistol cumbersome to carry, and is more likely to jam.
I'm not normally posting anything about US politics. But when something like this happens, when you recognize one of the faces of those shot as a face you seen before, when one can imagine the personal tragedy of a family who lost their child, well one can't just stay silent as of what one believes to have contributed to this horrible incident.

What would it take to end a politician's career for inciting those insane to violence, if a hit list complete with gun related rhetoric is not enough? Realistic cross hair over photos? Direct suggestion that one must be hunted down? Should politicians have this sort of immunity? I think not. Disagreement is fine, but gun related rhetoric targeting individual opponents is not. It is ridiculous that a (quitted or not) governor, a part of establishment, would play revolutionary tunes.
Could Palin's constant gun references and violent rhetoric ever incite a sane person to vote for her, anyway? No I do not think so! Not for my definition of sane. Of course it can also be said that you must be crazy to interpret that as incitement to violence... ohh, right.
Who's to blame for violent rhetoric? Politicians? Or the mildly insane portion of public whom this rhetoric apparently incites to vote? Or perhaps both?

It is well understood that some percentage of people are insane and can be incited by this kind of political message. It is also understood that message to sane people can be conveyed without use of this kind of symbolism, without making violent allegories, unless one specifically wants to deliver a message to insane, even at the cost of turning sane people away.

On topic of freedom of speech, is shouting "fire" in the theatre OK now too? What's if someone wants to start panic but yells it like "Fire! Fire [less loud]those actors" ? How far can plausible deniability stretch?
I sincerely hope that politicians will cut down on mixing guns into the politics now. This is outright insane. Even if this particular shooting cannot be linked to any particular rhetoric, that does not make it fine to mix guns into politics, to incite crazy to do politics by using guns.

But Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, has a surprising (well it was to me) spin on Palin's comment. If she thinks she's turning the guns, so to speak, back on her critics for attempting to endanger her (her what? her political future?) by claiming she contributed to a climate of violence, she's gone about it totally backwards. He told me today:

It's not just inappropriate, it's profoundly ironic. By making this comparison and playing Jew in the picture, the person endangered by a blood libel, she admits that the words people use can have deadly impact.

By claiming that others' words are a blood libel that endangers her, she's at least admitting the prospect that claims her words endangered others could be true.

I'm not giving her a free pass. It was a poor and hurtful analogy. But clearly, she's affirming exactly what her critics charge.

I'm with Rabbi Brad on this one. Astute observation. Same goes for claiming that gunsight crosshairs were meant as something else. Ohh yes, so the gunsight crosshairs could have incited violence, but Palin is totally innocent, so innocent she couldn't have imagined those crosshair like icons can be seen as gun crosshairs.

edit: Long before the shootings, Palin's list was described as "an al Qaeda Christmas card" and criticized even by conservatives previously supportive of Palin. There.
Palin's (and supported by her) 'view' how Obama is a terrorist? How Obama is like Hitler? How Obama's healthcare will introduce "death panels" that will kill her child? Combined with "don't retreat, reload" and the like. Holy shit. Is she trying to assassinate Obama or what?