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Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2007-09-04 00:25
  Subject:   Yay teh hiking!
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  Music:John Denver - Rocky Mountain High

This hike goes from the Moffat Tunnel (a bit west from Rollinsville) up about 2000 vertical feet to several lakes right up near the continental divide. Last time we did this hike, we stopped at Heart Lake. This time, we hiked up another trail to Arapahoe Lake, and then scrambled up the scree fields for another hour or so to get to the very top. The view was well worth it.

All images are large:

http://www.gully.org/~mackys/lj/mtal-lake.jpg - This is what it looks like from very high up (possibly on the continental divide), looking back down towards Arapahoe Lake.

http://www.gully.org/~mackys/lj/mtal-birds.jpg - Anyone know what these are? We stumbled upon five or six of them on the way back down. As the picture probably shows, they aren't very afraid of people. I guessed ptarmigan, but they may be a weirdo variant. Their camouflage is quite good. They really do look like just another rock from more than about 15 feet away.

http://www.gully.org/~mackys/lj/mtal-top.jpg - Another picture in the top 3 worst pictures of Ben ever. Despite no trace of Irish Scottish blood, I managed to look like Fat Bastard here. GIT IN MAH BELLY!!


Thanks to Kotoe for the pix, and Travis for driving!
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2007-09-04 14:53
  Subject:   Ars Technica's review of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is everything that gamers have been waiting for: a solid, well-developed, long-lasting experience that casts aside Nintendo's "casual-friendly" focus of late for the sake of unadulterated gaming.

The key to the success of this title is quite simple: polish. Every single aspect of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has been polished to a blinding sheen. The graphical presentation, the control, the sound, the pacing—everything feels superbly tuned. This is a AAA release in every regard, and the work that has gone into the title is evident from the first time you boot it up until the moment you beat it.


http://arstechnica.com/reviews/games/Beautiful-corruption-a-review-of-Metroid-Prime-3.ars

This review is a little breathless for my taste. I disagree with them on a few points. I'm only an hour or so in, but the grapple-and-yank move still feels clumsy to me. Seems like the nunchuck doesn't register my yanks very well. Luckily this is rarely used in combat, so I don't have to care.

What did they get right? The controls! Finally! Someone's finally using the Wii controls the way they were meant to be used. It's quite intuitive, and once you get used to it (twenty minutes or so, for me) extremely fluid. I do recommend that you turn the control sensitivity up to either Intermediate or Advanced. And surprisingly, I also recommend "hold Z to lock-on to enemies" as well, it really works. Overall, I've found the controls both responsive and greatly immersion enhancing. I also think the artistic stuff - level design, character design - is quite good. I think the Wii is still a little underpowered as a rendering platform in places, but you probably won't notice.

It's also interesting to see some of the sub-plots in here. In particular, phazon is no longer the slime of pure evil, it's actually becoming useful. (Though that may end up being a plot twist later on in the game...) I also like that for a change you start out fairly powerful. You already have space jump. You already have morph ball and bombs. And the ability to hop while you're balled up by giving the wiimote a toss is great.


Edit: Here's a better review that gives you a more balanced perspective. Their conclusion is that while MP3 isn't flawless, it's awfully darn good. Maybe the best of the Prime series.
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2007-09-04 15:14
  Subject:   Programmers have trouble thinking beyond dual-core.
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  Tags:  parallel computing, reddit

To get a sense of what kind of performance improvement we can expect going from 2 to 4 CPU cores, let's focus on the Core 2 Duo E6600 and Core 2 Quad Q6600 processors. These 2.4 GHz CPUs are identical in every respect, except for the number of cores they bring to the table. In a recent review, Scott Wasson at the always-thorough Tech Report presented a slew of benchmarks that included both of these processors. Here's a quick visual summary of how much you can expect performance to improve when upgrading from 2 to 4 CPU cores.

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000942.html

What's that? Software written in the days before cheap multi-core machines were readily available to programmers... aren't programmed to take advantage of multi-core? Shocker!!

I'm not saying that multi-core coding is easy. It isn't. Even the smartest programmers screw it up all the time. The human mind is set up to think procedurally. That's why even experts at lock-based programming still cause race conditions, deadlocks, and other forms of screwage with regularity. We programmers don't really understand parallel coding yet, and we don't have all the tools we need to do it well. I especially don't (yet) see any kind of reason to believe that parallelization of code can be made automated except in the simplest possible cases. Some human being is always going to have to be decide how a program splits up its tasks, and write the code accordingly.

So if you're going to buy a computer tomorrow, or next week, getting a faster 2-core may indeed be a smarter move than getting a slower 4-core. But I think in the long run, there's no contest. Programs that are properly written for N cores do see almost an N times speedup. And the tools to write code for multi-core are getting better all the time. It will probably take ten years for programmers to get fully up to speed on parallel computing. But once we do, watch out...
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