Archive for January 2013

It’s certainly improved a lot in the last few years. Measured at the wall, my old Pentium-4 with a 7800GS graphics card used to use over 300W in intensive games. I tried the new i7-3770/GTX 660 system tonight, running through games like Arma 2, Guild Wars 2, Metro 2033 and Saints Row 3, with settings maxed out or nearly so. Peak power consumption was 210W, which would equate to more like 180W drawn from the PSU.

No wonder I can’t hear the fans while playing games, whereas the P4 system sounded like a jet engine.

Here’s an interesting way to simulate Mars gravity:

http://www.adamnorton.net/i_works_mars_gravity_simulator.html

I’ve been puzzling over this myself recently as I try to finish my first SF novel; it’s set on Vesta, where gravity is approximately 4% of that on Earth. That’s enough to be annoying but not enough to be useful.

Walking relies on gravity, leaning forward to move your legs, so on very low gravity worlds it would be problematic. A bounding run should work, but could be difficult to control.

Wheels would work, but can only put as much power down as the friction between wheel and ground allows. Since the gravity is much lower, the friction will also be much lower, so you won’t be able to accelerate or brake rapidly.

A railway — probably a monorail — seems potentially effective; if the wheels are forced against the rail, there should be enough grip to allow rapid acceleration and deceleration.

Hovercraft seem sensible, since little power would be required to counteract the low weight of the vehicle, and then it can be propelled by ducted fans or similar as though it was in microgravity in free space.

Moving walkways could work, and would likely be a sensible approach for speeds between slow walk and bounding run. If friction between feet and walkway isn’t enough, a railing could pass the force through, even if it would probably be uncomfortable.

More high-tech, some kind of nano-assisted material for soles and tires could help them cling to the ground and at least help with the friction problems.

I’m still trying to think of a sensible solution for movement on these kind of worlds which doesn’t come with a large number of downsides.

Why is it that a hamster prefers eating scraps off the floor of his cage to whatever fresh food is in his bowl?

Most times when I clean his cage I dump out the remains from his bowl onto the floor afterward and fill it with fresh stuff. When I put him back he says ‘ooh, look at all that good stuff on the floor’ and goes foraging. Yet it’s the same food he was turning his nose up at a few hours before.

OK, I understand the fundamental reason — it probably is a natural foraging instinct being triggered — but it’s still amusing.

Houdini eats corn

Does this count as foraging?

One problem I’ve had with my laptop ever since I bought it is the Realtek 8192 wireless chip losing connection and requiring a reboot to reconnect. This happens in both Ubuntu and Windows, though Windows is at least as likely to never connect in the first place.

I finally seem to have come up with a method of recovering the wireless connection in Linux without having to reboot. Merely restarting the network does not work, it requires unloading and reloading the driver, for which I’m using the following script:

#!/bin/bash
sudo service network-manager stop
sleep 5
echo "Remove Wireless driver"
sudo modprobe -r rtl8192se
sleep 5
echo "Reload Wireless driver"
sudo modprobe rtl8192se
sleep 5
sudo service network-manager start

The wireless has actually been working for the last week so I’ve only just had a chance to test this script and it seems to work. The delays may be excessive, but it’s still faster than rebooting and then restarting all my software.

There’s now a Beta release with an early version of hardware accelerated video playback:

libstagefright – Experimental hardware video decoding builds

On my Transformer TF300 it’s much better than the old software playback, but still can’t handle 1080P reliably. 720P isn’t bad and SD seems to play without issues. However, any .mp4 file causes Xbmc to crash, so there are still major problems to fix.

Looking forward to an official release with some performance improvements.

Another update appeared today, but there are no obvious changes; it’s certainly not the 4.2 I’ve been waiting for (mostly for the multi-user changes, which are the biggest omission from older versions). The odd thing is that I told it to check for updates and it said there weren’t any, then two minutes later told me it had downloaded an update…

Do game developers really not understand how stupid this message looks on a PC? We went through a couple of decades of PC gaming before anyone felt the need to tell us not go to the wall and turn off the power while the game is saving, yet now almost every game ported from a console is ported so badly that they can’t even take the time to remove this stupid message.

Finally a game designed to take advantage of the much greater power of current PCs over game consoles. It doesn’t look very scientifically accurate (using fans to collect hydrogen for ramjets in space), but it does look good:

Star Citizen

Last year I planned to release three novels and a dozen short stories. Due to slacking and tight deadlines in my day job I ended up with seven short stories and no novels, but I did learn how to create print-on-demand books as well as e-books, and I wrote over 200,000 words in half-finished novels and stories.

This year I’m going to aim for the same again, which shouldn’t be too hard as I have all those novels and stories to finish off and release. Let’s see how it goes.