Friday, November 28, 2008

Climate change

I've been seeing quite a few of these types of articles lately.

I find it a bit strange that a lot of people even have opinions on climate change at all: it's something that we simply cannot control - and by that I mean this: what have you done today specifically for the sake of attempting to change global temperatures? Yesterday? The day before? Nothing. That's what.

Some say economists don't like voting because they know that, statistically speaking, their one vote will not win any elections. They are right in one important sense: the weight of people's actions varies per person. Al Gore and environmentalists had a lot of influence in what is being done today about global warming, just like people who worked on election campaigns and news agencies had more influence on elections than the average Joe. You and I haven't done anything compared to that. Voting for a new president really doesn't count - the resulting policy would be the same regardless because, realistically, there are far more people convinced by political/scientific/pseudo-scientific propaganda than there are people willing to vote differently due to environmental ideology and their own research. Besides, the policy doesn't change because one or another layman voted for the green party. It'll be whatever the world leaders decide. Sure, there's lobbying, but you aren't doing it, which brings us back to the point that a few people's actions weigh differently by several orders of magnitude.

What I think we need to realize is that not wanting to die from a phenomenal ecological disaster is not the same as caring about global warming. Caring means doing an extraordinary effort to accomplish something. Talking about an idea that we're not comfortable about (e.g. dying in agonizing starvation) is not effort, it's simply insecurity.

What matters

What I'm saying is that it doesn't matter if the world is going to end, just like it doesn't matter what your neighbour is doing for dinner. All of these factors are pretty much chaotic (and yes, what your neighbour bought for dinner has an impact on farming and manufacturing, and therefore on the environment). Others who have careers in the respective fields will do all the work to shape the environment of the future. So I ask, why worry about it?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Syllable hyphenation rules

Who in the world invented these rules? Seriously, latin-based language syllables and asian phonetic systems are so much easier to deal with. Argh! :P

Sunday, November 23, 2008

xhr caching

A XmlHttpRequest caching test suite.

My problem right now is that I want to actually make use of caching (what a novel concept eh?) and that caching xhr doesn't seem to be quite possible (at least out of the box).

Recursion

Interesting.

Collective vandals

This reminds me of the Lucifer Effect experiment.

It's also something I've noticed in online games. I had many friends who started hacking after it became common knowledge that cheating the game was possible (and that admins weren't doing much about it).

This phenomenon is particularly annoying because in an ideal development life cycle, you need to do things in orderly steps: write code, test, deploy. It's not something you can do in a matter of hours. Addressing game mechanics abuse, on the opposite hand, requires immediate action to prevent damage to the collective perception of the game.

Having hacked items polluting the database isn't a big deal in itself, but having the entire community thinking it's ok to google for hacks can negatively affect bottom lines in several ways: when users quit, when you have to start to compete against gold-selling sites and shady eBay auctions (this applies mostly to micro-payment models, like Nexon or Ntreev games), when the time it takes to get from level 1 to some considerably high level becomes so short that the social value of the game diminishes, when new players are turned off by a sour greedy community, etc. It can really spiral out of control.

Some might think that hiring more moderators can fix the social problem, but in reality, that's the same as a company adding more people to a call center and expecting customer satisfaction to go up. Relying on a horde of minimum-wage workers to save a business is just foolish.

I suppose a better solution would start in the design phase of the game, but judging from the quality of many games out there, I think it's safe to say it's incredibly hard to get it right.

Virtual economics

Very interesting article. Just because a game uses pixelated coins as money, it doesn't mean its economics are any simpler than real life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Romney on the auto industry

He says it should go bankrupt.

Doesn't it suck when you live in a country where cars are a must have?

16 seconds

Am I the only one who thinks this is stupid?

Look ma, no flash

Audio using embeds. Pretty neat. I'm pretty sure you can use object tags too.

What i wonder is why is it that people like to spend so much time doing something that:

  1. can be done much easier and better in flash
  2. will be supported by a completely different native API in HTML 5

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Videos in videos

This is pretty darn cool, but not what quite the same as "agenda payloads" that I mentioned a while back.

Virtual Immersion

Apparently using virtual reality immersion dramatically improves the recovery of burn victims.

I wonder how much the goggles cost.

Ron Paul

What do Peter Schiff and Ron Paul have in common? They are both proponents of Austrian economics. Hmm.

Interview with Peter Schiff

You may have seem videos of him predicting the economic meltdown as naysayers laughed. Here's an interesting interview with him from a few months back.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Concurrency on high level languages

Nice article. In any case, I still don't get what's so terribly difficult about parallelism.

Best practices are starting to get on my nerves

Lately, I've been seeing quite a few articles like this, that, this and that, talking about best practices for HTML and CSS.

And quite frankly, best practices are starting to get on my nerves. A lot of what is said is essentially a repeat of has been advocated by evangelists back in 2004, when people were obsessed with semantic quality. Well, we moved on. Since then, we've largely realized that black and white rules don't always work, even for something basic like HTML and CSS best practices.

One funny trend I've noticed is that in the realm of web application development (as opposed to web design and static content), there's a lot more focus on performance, with things like the YSlow research, John Resig et al's efforts, and more and more news about "the cloud". Many of these best practices tips that restrict themselves to optmizing HTML and CSS, as opposed to whole systems often fall short in that area (e.g. strict doctypes aren't supposed to have iframes = no comet, multiple css files make managing them easier = more latency).

Perhaps the most notorious example of this clash of ideals is the google homepage: it's an insanely compressed unscannable blob of css, javascript and invalid html - the very opposite of what best practices preach - and it's the way it is for a good reason: bandwidth.

So, guys, next time you're going to blindly repeat evangelism from 2004 or go all "lol-u-dun-validatez" on some website, think outside the box for a minute.

Image resizing in IE

The IE7 property is actually pretty interesting. These techniques aren't a whole lot useful for non-user-generated images though: it's usually better to optimize things in Photoshop ahead of time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

New York Times

I wonder if there's an easy way to get these sorts of numbers in a aggregate manner.

CSS3 layouts

So, who here likes spaces and who likes tabs?

I just find the whole idea incredibly stupid: the crazier and newer the proposition is, the less likely it is to be implemented correctly in all browsers. Floats (and *gasp* tables) work just fine for today's websites and the table family of display values will work just fine for layouts in the coming years.

If you don't like typing and prefer to nudge things around in Photoshop, get a job in a design shop, sheesh.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Internet Explorer rumor

We all know that's not gonna happen any time soon, but it's nice to dream.

Off the top of my head, theres one bad thing about a switch that I can think of: comet support in WebKit sucks major ass.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Flash ExternalInterface and IE's "object does not support method" error

If you're pulling your hair on this completely non-intuitive error, check the second parameter to SWFObject, it defines the object tag's id attribute, and if you're getting errors, you most likely have a duplicate id.

Cheatsheets

I don't usually use cheatsheets, but they seem to be helpful to many people.

Multithreading vs Parallelism

A subtle difference.

I tend to think of computer programs as a race track where each lane is a physical processor. I then imagine painting a series of blocks on each lane to represent computational time for every operation on the system.

A thread pool where one thread is hammered with embarrassingly parallel computations (think any scientific data crunching) and one is mostly sitting in an idle loop (think a GUI one) is perfectly fine in emulated multi-threaded environments, but it's not efficient parallelism.

An analysis of the stock market with Obama as president

Interesting

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Flash games

A list.

Instant color schemes

Cool. It grabs 5 images from a yahoo images search and picks the most prominent colours.

Cloud

Is it just me, or has "the cloud" become a buzzword for "scalable web hosting"? In that context, I think talking about whether the software is open source hardly matters, as we're talking more about server cluster infrastructure.

If it weren't for the hardware infrastructure, then any box running PHP would qualify as a "open source competitor" to cloud hosting providers. Or am I missing something?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why vote?

So apparently a lot of people vote because of social pressure. Why am I not surprised?

Saving bandwidth

I know way too many programmers that don't know this stuff. Then again, I only learned about it myself when I built a server from scratch during my spare time. Hi, Jeff Atwood.

Vendor lock-in

So I saw some comments about Azure and how supposedly a lot of people seem to think that vendor lock-in is a bad thing.

I don't understand why anyone would put down vendor lock-ins as a bad thing; you're locked-in regardless of what technology you pick: you choose PHP and good luck getting asynchronous server processes to work. You forgo flash and no streaming videos for you. You abuse proprietary SQL extensions mostly because they're worth it.

I'm not saying any of these are bad, nor that they are a must have. The point is that if you're going to wait for the perfect environment, you'll never get anything done. And on a related note, if you are just finding an excuse to defend your favorite blub technology against the powers of evil, then chances are that you're not actually doing anything worth anyone's time :)

For the rest of us, the show must go on, so let's get on with the program, shall we?

Anger and violence

Article. Another article. At these times, I feel like I'm a kid watching an alien ant farm.

Security - bolt it on

Interesting article. I need to learn more about the javascript error / img behavior attacks.