Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Transistor count

Apple tops the transistor count in Microprocessors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transistor_count

Object-Oriented Programming is Bad

There aren't many people that I can talk to about computer programming.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM1iUe6IofM

In the 1970s, I learned that you write functions to avoid duplicating code.  The example most often given is a square root function.  You only need to write it once and call it from multiple places.

In the 1980s, I learned in school that you should break long sections of code into smaller easier to understand pieces by calling functions.  For example...

initializeGame()
playGame()
terminateGame()

This can make the code somewhat self-documenting.  I became a big fan of this style of programming, even while writing in assembly language, which is what I mostly used in the videogame industry.  In the late 1990s, one of my coworkers accused me of writing "spaghetti code" by doing this, although I still like this style.

I didn't learn about Object-Oriented Programming until the 1990s.  I had to use it with Visual C++, but I didn't do much with it, and I didn't feel comfortable with it.  Since then I have grown somewhat accustomed to it, but I never reached 100% comfort with it.  Initially, I believed that Object-Oriented Programming was only useful for Graphical User Interfaces, which is what it primarily was recommended for.

Reportedly, Microsoft was pushing Object-Oriented Programming in the 1990s.

I have found debugging objected-oriented code potentially a nightmare especially when dealing with inheritance.  In this case, it also feels like "spaghetti code."

I don't look at Objects as a style of programming, but as data structures that are occasionally useful.  If the code is very tightly bound to a specific set of data then putting it in an Object helps organize the code.  If you have multiple independent instances of a data structure, then the code is (possibly) cleaner if you put it in an Object. 

Not that I am a big fan of OOP.  In most cases, I don't find a compelling reason to use Objects.  I am glad to see a video that favors "Procedural Code".

It seems like people in the computer industry have for a long time been trying to deal with the issue of complexity.  Back in the 1980s people were pushing "Structured Programming."  Today, I don't even know what that is, but in the 1980s I found the buzzwords enticing.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Also:   




Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Amazon Fire HD 10 is 50% off right now in Black Friday tablet deal

I'm going to start off by saying that I don't know why anybody needs a tablet.  Compared to smartphones with large 5.5. to 6.5 screens, tablets are bulkier and more difficult to take everywhere.  However, Amazon has $75 off their 2021 10.1 inch tablets, which is a heck of a nice deal on already budget tablets.  Last year during Black Friday I purchased the 2019 model for $80, and it is fine as a tablet.  My only complaint, besides not really needing a tablet, is that iPads, costing hundreds of dollars more, feel nicer to hold in the hands.

If you want more processing power and slightly more RAM, and you probably should because it will provide a better overall experience, then spend the extra $30 to get the "Plus" model, which is also $75 off.

Reviewers have complained about being limited to the Amazon ecosystem, with the Amazon store and Amazon software.  However, there are fairly easy ways to get around this, and there are videos on youtube showing how to install the Google store or how to turn the device into a regular Android tablet.

You might get much more value out of the tablet if you have an Amazon Prime membership.

https://www.tomsguide.com/deals/the-amazon-fire-hd-10-is-50-off-right-now-in-black-friday-tablet-deal

https://www.tomsguide.com/reviews/amazon-fire-hd-10-2021

Saturday, October 23, 2021

"Game Development in Eight Bits" by Kevin Zurawel

I find this very interesting.  When I was programming for the SNES, we used the same techniques, but the SNES has 192KB of RAM and up to 1 to 4 megs of ROM.  Some cartridges were much smaller.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPbroUDHG0s

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Apple Took All My Money

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNUQ2o-wiL8&t=607s

Not personally interested in laptops, but I am impressed with the progress Apple has made with its custom processors.  Apple was the first company to introduce a 5-nanometer processor.  I'm waiting for AMD and Intel to catch up.  Until recently, Intel was struggling to go from 14-nanometers to 10-nanometers.

The biggest chip manufacturer is in Tawain.  It has been reported that Intel has contracted for 100% of the not yet available 3-nanometer chip production.  In other words, everyone else is out of luck and would have to look elsewhere to produce faster chips.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Neat AI does Lenia - Conway's game of life arrives in the 21st century

The "Game of Life" is not an actual game, but a computer simulation invented around 50 years ago.  It was one of the first things I learned about computers.  It follows a couple of simple rules that create interesting self-propagating patterns.

Apparently, someone has taken this to a much more advanced level.




Monday, September 20, 2021

Did Apple Just Prove the iPhone Could be Cheaper?

More than one person has pointed out that the new iPad Mini is cheaper than the new iPhones, with essentially the same hardware.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPidIspifRM&t=837s

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Streaming videogames



Roughly 32 years ago I had an argument with a coworker.  He argued that once internet speeds became fast enough to transmit full-screen video, we wouldn't need game consoles, since we would be able to stream video games from a server to our computer screens.  Rather than pay for expensive hardware, that hardware could be on a server someplace, saving us money.

I have to admit that he had remarkable foresight literally 30 years ahead of his time.  This was at a time when the Internet was text only.  However, I saw a number of problems with his idea...

1.  Internet speeds were still fairly low, like 1,200 to 2,400 bits per second.

2.  Latency is always an issue when playing games.  No matter fast your Internet is, there is an overhead to transmitting data back and forth.  

3.  It is always advantageous to have your own hardware.  Imagine having to share hardware with other people competing for the same physical resources.  I figured that hardware would get cheaper over time, eliminating the need to share hardware with other people.

4.  His idea reminded me of the early days of computing where you would have to dial into a mainframe using a dumb terminal, one of which I actually owned and used at the time, whereas the new trend in computing was for everyone to have their own computer.

I argued that streaming video games would never be practical.  He couldn't understand why I didn't see the obvious wisdom of his idea.

Two years ago Google introduced Stadia, which was a video game streaming service, and it totally flopped.  Other companies like Microsoft and Amazon are working on the same idea, but they all suffer from the same problems like latency. 

It makes very little sense to be dependent on unreliable Internet communication and shared hardware to play games when you can purchase a video game console like the Xbox Series X for $500.  Putting hardware in a centralized location instead of your living room isn't necessarily cheaper, except that you can share that hardware with other people, but what if you all want to use the hardware at the same time?

In theory, this could become practical someday, but the same technology that will make this more feasible will also make it more feasible for you to have your own hardware that is just as good.  This is the problem I saw three decades ago.



Apple Store vs. Repair Shop: What the Right to Repair Is All About

How THIS wallpaper kills your phone.

How are we going to do this?

He is getting faster internet across 6 kilometers of water than what I get across my family room.

I'm running a 5 GHZ wi-fi router, which is around double the frequency of your microwave oven, probably at 100 milliwatts.  He is running a 60 GHz transmitter, which is very high microwaves, at an unknown power.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T98VsMe3oo


My mother and step-dad couldn't get internet to work 3 miles outside of North Vernon, Indiana, using Verizon Wireless as the provider.  Fortunately, they now have fiber internet, although at a low speed of 4 to 5 Mbs.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Now Games Can Look Like Pixar Movies - Unreal Engine 5

The bottom line is that the Unreal Engine allows massively detailed images to be generated in real-time for either games, or like on The Mandalorian TV series where they use a dome with screens on all sides to generate the environment for the actors to act in.  (https://techcrunch.com/2020/02/20/how-the-mandalorian-and-ilm-invisibly-reinvented-film-and-tv-production/)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47I2N_l47mw

The first version of the Unreal Engine was used to make a videogame in the late '90s called "Unreal".  I played this game.  By today's standards, it was very crude, but it was actually a step up from what we were used to at the time.

Monday, August 9, 2021

An honest conversation on Apple, hashing, & privacy with Daniel Smullen

https://youtu.be/9ZZ5erGSKgs

How is Apple examining the data on my phone any different than Wiretapping?

It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given their prior consent. It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Apple is about to start scanning iPhone users' devices for banned content, warns professor • The Register

https://www.theregister.com/2021/08/05/apple_csam_scanning/?td=keepreading-btm

Apple claims to protect its customer's privacy.  Regardles of how good the cause is, I don't want them looking at my photographs.  It also shouldn't be their job to act as police.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Green Screen special effects

I saw a shorter version of this on Facebook that starts 38 seconds into it.  I found it impressive.

https://youtu.be/FFJ_THGj72U?t=38

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Friday, July 2, 2021

Centaur Smart Chess Set

https://store.moma.org/kids/toys-games/centaur-smart-chess-set/8910-146914.html

BTW, at the Columbus Chess Club last night I helped a guy named Paul Chestnut use his new chess computer.  This thing is pretty interesting.  It typically sells for about $450.   The board can sense where you move the pieces.  Want to start a new game?  Just set the pieces back to the beginning.  Want to take back one or more moves?  Just move in reverse.  You can take back the computer's move and play a different move for the computer, which might be useful if you want to play against a specific opening, or if you want to analyze.

There are circular lights under each square that highlight where the computer wants to move.

The pieces are the same size as my nice $35 chess pieces, although my pieces aren't as tall as some brands.  The board is just barely smaller than a standard tournament board, which makes for a pleasant playing experience.  The pieces and the board seem like they are made of lightweight plastic.  The pieces don't have much weight to them except that I think that they have a magnet on the bottom.  Underneath the board, there is no covering over the electronics that sense the movement of the pieces, so overall this device feels cheaply made.

There is a small screen that shows what position the computer thinks is on the board, which is helpful in case something got mixed up.  It can also display a chess clock.

All the brains seem to be on the narrow right side panel.  I suspect that it is using something equivalent to a phone processor, or maybe something cheaper.  It is running Stockfish, which potentially makes it a very strong chess computer.

Unfortunately, it only has 3 modes of difficulty.  There is "Friendly" that tries to automatically adjust to your level, however, Paul and I playing together lost to this mode.   There is "Challenge" that tries to be tougher, and then there is "Expert".  Given that it is running Stockfish, this "Expert" mode probably plays like a strong Grandmaster or better.  The Stockfish program running on a desktop computer is far better than any human player.

An ideal chess program would allow you to set the playing ability by ELO rating, which for computers can go up to about 3600.  My rating is around 2000.  Magnus Carlsen is rated 2847.   Ideally, it could also go down to zero.  




The Fastest CPU on the Planet - HOLY $H!T

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbiPapykbxQ

It is not necessary to watch the whole video, but for comparison purposes...




I've never seen a number that high.

BTW, I don't know who sold the computer to my mother, but her computer only has a benchmark of 300.  That is worse than most *old* laptops.  That is worse than budget smartphones.  Still, the computer can browse the Internet just fine, which is what she uses it for.



Tuesday, June 29, 2021

House littered with computers

This is an update to an article I wrote 2 years ago...

Around 1984 there was an article with a prediction that went like this: "Someday you will throw away computers. Your house will be littered with them. You will get computers in cereal boxes." Thirty-seven years ago, that day seemed like it would be pretty far off.

How exactly has this prediction faired? Well, how many computers do I own? Here is the list...

1. One of the more powerful computers in my home is my iPhone 6s+. It is a powerful computer masquerading as a phone. I bought a second one when the wi-fi on the first failed, so technically I have two. I also have a couple of older iPhones in storage. These could easily be thrown out since they are not very useful anymore.

2. I have an iPad 4. The only reason I bought it was because my iPad 2, which I loved, was stolen when someone broke into my home in Salt Lake City. However, I don't really have much of a need for it. The iPads were originally touted as book readers to compete with the Amazon Kindle tablets, but I don't think that reading books on a full-size iPad is a great experience. You can do all the normal internet stuff with them, but I have plenty of devices that can do that. I think that my iPad's best use is to play audiobooks.

3. About 11 years ago I bought a Microsoft Tablet on a Black Friday sale for $200 because this seemed like a fantastic deal at the time. At the time, it probably was. However, this has been the most useless piece of crap that I own. One could use it to browse the internet and read email, but it is way out of date, and it was never very useful to begin with. It is less pleasant to hold than an iPad. I doubt that I can get any software for it.

4. Recently, I bought an Amazon Fire Tablet, normally $150, for $80 on a Black Friday sale. It is a pretty nice tablet, but there is not anything I can do with it that I can't do on other devices. I bought it so that I could attempt to write Android apps and test them on the tablet.

5. I'm typing this on my 2017 27" iMac. This is a replacement for my late-2009 iMac that has several problems, such as the display repeatedly shutting off. I occasionally still use this machine just for analyzing chess games, which is processor intensive, although my new iMac is plenty capable of doing that.

6. Four years ago I was given a Raspberry PI 3, which is a very cheap small computer the size of a deck of cards. It can run Linux and do normal computer stuff, although it is not very powerful at all. However, I configured it to be a game emulation box that can be hooked up to my TV.

Newer, more powerful versions of the Raspberry PI are available.

7. I own both a NES Classic Edition and a Sony PlayStation Classic. These are both game emulation boxes. Both are good for playing games and both can be hacked to play even more games.

8. I bought three Arcade1up machines. These are 3/4 scale arcade games that you assemble yourself. They are essentially emulation boxes that come with classic arcade games. I like my Star Wars Arcade game the best.

9. Back in the early 2000s, I bought a joystick that can be hooked up to an old-style TV and it plays 10 classic games. As a game system it is not that good, but I still occasionally use it because it does a great job with one game in particular, which is Pole Position.

10. I have an old Sega Genesis with some cartridges that I plan on selling. Over thirty years ago the 68000 processor in the Genesis was considered a mainstream computer processor. I have seen really old mainframe computers that cost a fortune that used this processor. By the 1990s the 68000 processor was only really used in game systems.

11. I was able to fix an old laptop that I gave away to a chess player in need. Then I was able to purchase a refurbished laptop very cheap that is vastly superior. This computer proved very helpful as a backup computer while my iMac was in the shop, but otherwise, I don't really need a laptop anymore.

So I count 18 computers. My house *is* littered with computers, some of which I could easily throw away.

I am not going to count the three electronic chess clocks that I own. I don't know if they use a CPU or just dedicated logic chips.

I didn't count the Star Wars Storm Trooper Robot that I got in a package deal with my Star Wars arcade game.  This device can interface with your smartphone and play games.  I have been trying to sell it for a year.

I also didn't count my robot vacuum cleaners.  I own two, one of which is broken.  I have had these for well over a decade, and the one that works is starting to have problems.

If you own a calculator, which I don't, it has either a 4-bit or an 8-bit processor inside.  It is also a computer, although very limited.

As far as getting computers in cereal boxes, I saw a little handheld game that came in a 2007 cereal box.  It was pretty primitive, probably using a 4-bit processor.

--
Best wishes,

John Coffey

http://www.entertainmentjourney.com

Friday, June 25, 2021

The price of Flash drives

Five years ago I wrote:

I think that the first flash drive I owned was either 128 or 256 megabytes. Later I would get a 512 because I had a computer that could record television and I could fit a single program on a 512, which at the time seemed impressive. Now you can purchase 128 gigabyte (128,000 megabyte) flash drives for under $30.

I remember 1-gigabyte drives costing like $90. When my company gave me one I felt privileged. Now you can't even buy them, and no one would want one anyway.

When the IBM computer came out with its first hard drive in the mid-1980s, it was only 5 megabytes and cost a fortune.
----

Now it is possible to buy a 1TB flash drive for around $180 to $200. However, there seem to be a bunch of cheap ones for sale that are fake.

For $15 to $60 you can get 128GB to 512 GB flash drives which are a better deal.

--
Best wishes,

John Coffey

http://www.entertainmentjourney.com

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A specific network name can completely disable Wi-Fi on your iPhone - 9to5Mac

Using "%p%s%s%s%s%n" for your wifi network name is probably an attempt to hack the phone.  These characters are used inside computer languages to format text.  Using codes like this is usually an attempt to create a bug on the device, which it did.  The device read the name and then did something with it that it wasn't supposed to do.