Category Archives: Personal

Ars Technica: Same box, better graphics

In the never-ending war between PC and console gamers, one of the PC side’s favorite points is the fact that console hardware stays frustratingly static for years at a time, while PC users can upgrade everything from the RAM to the graphics card as technology improves. Thus, by the end of a given console generation (and sometimes earlier), a price-competitive PC will almost always be able to outclass the performance of its aging console competition.

This is true, as far as it goes. But as any console owners can tell you, unchanging hardware does not mean unchanging graphical performance over the life of a console. On the contrary, as time goes on, developers are often able to extract more from a console’s limited architecture than anyone ever thought possible when the system launched.
Ars Technica: “Same box, better graphics: improving performance within console generations”

Great retrospective that highlights how much those early consoles improved over time, though not so much on the later consoles. I’d be surprised if the same retrospective would be applicable to the consoles coming out today or in the next couple of years.

I am surprised, however, they didn’t highlight the Nintendo 64. I think of all the consoles listed in the article, the N64 would be the best example of just how much progress developers could make in a single generation. The Ocarina of Time was an amazing game in terms of story, scale, and mechanics, but the graphics, frankly, paled in comparison to Star Wars Episode 1: Racer and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Despite the games being so expensive, I was really disappointed when the N64 was discontinued because the games looked great and had none of the load times seen on the PlayStation. I still miss that console sometimes, and if Nintendo would get their act together, face reality, and start releasing games on the iPhone, I would pick up pretty much every one of them.

The Sad State of Boston.com

Boston.com used to be a useful website. But something happened earlier this year that has turned the site into one of the biggest piles of drivel I have ever come across. The content that is truly useful and entertaining—Weather Wisdom and Love Letters—are absolutely buried on the site, at least two clicks which in web terms is almost dead and gone, without any links on the front page. If Boston.com weren’t such a hack job nowadays I would kind of understand (but only kind of) making readers walk to the back of the store, but the front page content is so awful now that I don’t want to take the time to dig any deeper than absolutely necessary. Boston.com has become this confusing mix of poorly written editorials mixed in with articles somewhat resembling news (though largely unimportant and much of it having nothing to do with Boston) and not much visible, cohesive organization.

Why I read The Economist

I might have quoted this in the past, but I think this is just great:

We like free enterprise and tend to favour deregulation and privatisation. But we also like gay marriage, want to legalise drugs and disapprove of monarchy. So is the newspaper right-wing or left-wing? Neither, is the answer. . . it opposes all undue curtailment of an individual’s economic or personal freedom. But like its founders, it is not dogmatic. Where there is a liberal case for government to do something, The Economist will air it. Early in its life, its writers were keen supporters of the income tax, for example. Since then it has backed causes like universal health care and gun control. But its starting point is that government should only remove power and wealth from individuals when it has an excellent reason to do so.
The Economist explains itself: Is The Economist left- or right-wing?

“Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe.”

This, then, was one of my themes for Dune: Don’t give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero’s facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero. And sometimes you run into another problem.

It is demonstrable that power structures tend to attract people who want power for the sake of power and that a significant proportion of such people are imbalanced—in a word, insane.

That was the beginning. Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.
Dune Genesis by Frank Herbert

The last time I’ve read Dune is many years ago. Perhaps a new reading during my winter break is in order.

U.S. Digital Services Playbook

Today, too many of our digital services projects do not work well, are delivered late, or are over budget. To increase the success rate of these projects, the U.S. Government needs a new approach. We created a playbook of 13 key “plays” drawn from successful best practices from the private sector and government that, if followed together, will help government build effective digital services.
U.S. Digital Services Playbook

Three of the plays—1, 6, and 7—focus on people alone. Solid advice for any project.

Boston.com: Nobody Else Wants to Host the Olympics. Why Does Boston?

Somehow, some way, the quadrennial whispers about a potential Boston Olympics have finally taken hold. The city is now one of four finalists for the 2024 US bid for the games, along with Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Supporters insist that a carefully crafted plan could lead to massive infrastructure improvements, an explosion in tourism, and venues that can later convert into civic centers in their own right.

Maybe.
Boston.com: Nobody Else Wants to Host the Olympics. Why Does Boston?

Pretty much for the same reasons as any other city, but in this case, “maybe” equals “highly unlikely” when talking about the impact of the Olympics. London got lucky essentially zeroing out on the balance between tourist dollars and getting upgrades to transit systems.

I will admit, however, that if the Olympics were to come to Boston, that I would likely get tickets for the family. I went to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and I have never forgotten it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and to have it in the town just an hour away from where I live is too good a deal to pass up. But I would also try to see go if its in New York or D.C.

Boston doesn’t need it, and I easily imagine a lot of people not wanting it. To borrow from the article, explosions are not the long, slow burns needed to sustain economies and, as the article points out, Boston already gets massive tourist dollars. Compounding Boston summer tourism with the summer Olympics would be the very definition of a shit show.