Tag Archives: link

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 Economist: True Progressivism

Compete, target and reform

The priority should be a Rooseveltian attack on monopolies and vested interests, be they state-owned enterprises in China or big banks on Wall Street. The emerging world, in particular, needs to introduce greater transparency in government contracts and effective anti-trust law. It is no coincidence that the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, made his money in Mexican telecoms, an industry where competitive pressures were low and prices were sky-high. In the rich world there is also plenty of opening up to do. Only a fraction of the European Union’s economy is a genuine single market. School reform and introducing choice is crucial: no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have. Getting rid of distortions, such as labour laws in Europe or the remnants of China’s hukou system of household registration, would also make a huge difference.

Next, target government spending on the poor and the young. In the emerging world too much cash goes to universal fuel subsidies that disproportionately favour the wealthy (in Asia) and unaffordable pensions that favour the relatively affluent (in Latin America). But the biggest target for reform is the welfare states of the rich world. Given their ageing societies, governments cannot hope to spend less on the elderly, but they can reduce the pace of increase—for instance, by raising retirement ages more dramatically and means-testing the goodies on offer. Some of the cash could go into education. The first Progressive era led to the introduction of publicly financed secondary schools; this time round the target should be pre-school education, as well as more retraining for the jobless.

Last, reform taxes: not to punish the rich but to raise money more efficiently and progressively. In poorer economies, where tax avoidance is rife, the focus should be on lower rates and better enforcement. In rich ones the main gains should come from eliminating deductions that particularly benefit the wealthy (such as America’s mortgage-interest deduction); narrowing the gap between tax rates on wages and capital income; and relying more on efficient taxes that are paid disproportionately by the rich, such as some property taxes.
The Economist: “True Progressivism”

“A new form of radical centrist politics is needed to tackle inequality without hurting economic growth”

I never was one for ready-made politics, but this is really good.

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.

The American Room

More than 100 million Americans live in the suburbs. Suburban homes are built many at a time to achieve efficiencies. A set of tract homes is the horizontal equivalent of a skyscraper. The plans themselves are defined along familiar principles, designed to meet market demand. Programs like AutoCAD make it possible to quickly and efficently produce blueprints for homes using a pre-defined, standardized library of components. Viewed very broadly, the construction industry functions like a massive, decentralized, and human-powered 3D printer controlled by AutoCAD
. . .
You could judge those rooms and say that America has a paucity of visual imagination, that we live in a kind of wasteland. Or you could draw another conclusion, and note that America might be a little more broke than it wants to show. The painfully expensive 2,000-square foot home is furnished with cheap big sofas and junk from Target. Maybe these video stars don’t hang pictures because they are renters. Maybe they know they are going to move soon, to another part of the state or country; suburbs are the temporary worker housing for America. Maybe they moved in and just haven’t unpacked yet, and the big picture of grandma is still in the garage.

But try to see it from their perspective. Our protagonists are looking into the computer. They like what they see, find it stimulating and exciting. They are eager to participate. They see what we see when we go online. Other people’s rooms.
Medium.com: The American Room
Behind the nation’s closed doors, with YouTube.

Love people, use things

Love people, use things.

Easier said than done, I realize. It requires the courage to repudiate pride and the strength to love others — family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, God and even strangers and enemies. Only deny love to things that actually are objects. The practice that achieves this is charity. Few things are as liberating as giving away to others that which we hold dear.

This also requires a condemnation of materialism. This is manifestly not an argument for any specific economic system. Anyone who has spent time in a socialist country must concede that materialism and selfishness are as bad under collectivism, or worse, as when markets are free. No political ideology is immune to materialism.

Finally, it requires a deep skepticism of our own basic desires. Of course you are driven to seek admiration, splendor and physical license. But giving in to these impulses will bring unhappiness. You have a responsibility to yourself to stay in the battle. The day you declare a truce is the day you become unhappier. Declaring war on these destructive impulses is not about asceticism or Puritanism. It is about being a prudent person who seeks to avoid unnecessary suffering.
“Love People, Not Pleasure” Arthur C. Brooks, NY Times

BBC: The new sign on French menus

Now any restaurant that serves a home-made dish can indicate it on the menu with it new logo – in the shape of a saucepan with a roof-like lid. From next January it will be compulsory for all menus to carry the logo – so if you don’t see it, the food is not fait maison.

I find it interesting that it’s the restaurants that make a particular dish entirely on-site are the ones who have to follow the law regarding a new logo. I think that if something similar were passed in the United States (yeah, right), then it would be the other way around: those restaurants that use non-homemade foods would have to place a logo on their menu, and the one’s making homemade dishes wouldn’t have to change a thing. Then we would see that logo everywhere.

But, this makes sense to me because everyone wins. Even if they don’t see the logo, people will still go to those restaurants that prepare non-homemade foods, but those restaurants that show their food is homemade would, ostensibly, get more business. If the law were reversed, then those restaurants having to advertise the use of non-homemade foods could lose business.

Sleep as a Competitive Advantage

Too many of us continue to live by the durable myth that one less hour of sleep gives us one more hour of productivity. In reality, each hour less of sleep not only leaves us feeling more fatigued, but also takes a pernicious toll on our cognitive capacity. The more consecutive hours we are awake and the fewer we sleep at night, the less alert, focused and efficient we become, and the lower the quality of our work.

The research is overwhelming that the vast majority of us require seven to eight hours of sleep to feel fully rested, and only a small percentage require less than seven. The problem is that we kid ourselves. “Like a drunk,” the Harvard sleep expert Charles A. Czeisler wrote, “a person who is sleep deprived has no idea how functionally impaired he or she truly is. Most of us have forgotten what it really feels like to be awake.”
NY Times: Sleep as a Competitive Advantage

For me, nothing beats a twenty minute nap in the afternoon, maybe thirty minutes. Anything more than that is of little to no benefit. But that twenty minutes can make all the difference in the world for the rest of my day.

I think sleep is really only part of the solution to good productivity, and that exercise and a reasonable diet are needed as well for sleep to be its most effective. I say, “reasonable diet” in that there only a relative few out there that eat truly good all the time; some foods aren’t good for the waistline, but they are good for soul and are therefore irresistible.

I have been working on my health for the past several weeks by working through an exercise regimen from Nerd Fitness. I work out five days a week on average, for an average thirty minutes a day. It’s a well packed thirty minutes prioritizing intensity over time, and within only a couple weeks I found benefits in regards to how I feel overall. Even those nights where I only could get five to six hours of sleep I felt better than before I started working out.