Friday, March 27, 2020

2K versus 4K and 8K

When 4K TV's first came out, some people pointed out that your eyes can't see in 4K. (I know mine can't.) I bought a 4K TV anyway on a Walmart Black Friday sale at a great price.

The 4K designation is a bit deceptive because the 4K refers to the number of horizontal pixels. In the past, video resolutions were designated by the number of vertical lines. Therefore, just so we are clear, 4K is 2160P, and 1080P is 2K.

Old tube TV's broadcast in 480i, which means the video was only 480 lines, and the TV takes two 1/60th of a second cycles to draw the entire screen.

The most you can get out of broadcast TV right now is 1080i. The old TV shows that dominate broadcast TV were recorded on videotape, which is 480i, so that how they are broadcast today. Blu-ray disks are typically 1080P, and DVD's can be as low as 480p. There is a special Blu-ray format that is 4K, but you need a Blu-ray player that supports it.

When movie theaters started using digital projection, the format they used was 2K, and some later movies were shown in 4K. I am one who sits on the front row of a theater when everybody else sits 2/3 of the way back. (That's kind of nice for me actually.) Even with a giant screen in front of me, I can't notice any lack of resolution with a 2K or 4K projection.

My favorite computer resolution is 1440P, which is technically 2.5K, and this is what I use now. This is an ideal resolution for playing games. The Apple iMac that I own is capable of 5K, which is overkill on Apple's part because it doesn't make sense to have that much detail on a 27-inch monitor.

On my computer, I routinely watch videos that are 720P and I never notice any lack of clarity.

So now the industry is developing 8K TV's, which is insane. Your eyes will not see the difference, and there's not going to be any content available in 8K. The new videogame systems that are coming out this year are also going to support 8K, but likely just for content and not for games which will be in 4K instead. Right now you can buy a 98 inch Samsung 8K TV for $79,000. This is insane.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Walmart's $250 laptop is AWESOME!

Because of new chips, people can get much more power on budget devices.  The processor benchmarks at 90% of my 2009 Core-i7 iMac, which is not bad.  The graphics are far superior.  There are few drawbacks, but just enough that a person might want to wait for next year's model or a cyber Monday sale.

On Walmart's website, this currently lists for $299.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Finding text in Chrome web browser

If you are looking for some text on a web page using Google Chrome, you can search for the text by hitting the control key and the 'f' key at the same time. Chrome tells you this when you click on the options, which is the three dots in the upper right corner. However, I have run into some frustration when using this feature, because if you navigate to a different page and hit the same keys, it will not work unless you retype the text that you are looking for.

However, I inadvertently found a workaround. Hitting control plus 'g' searches for the same text again.

There are many shortcut keys available in Chrome which most people will not know about. This website talks about them:


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Computer History

A brief history ...

Around 1982 to 1983 I purchased my first computer, a Timex Sinclair 1000. This small computer had 2K of RAM, which I would later upgrade at some cost to 16K using a plugin module. It only displayed in Black and White, and both the graphics and 3.5 MHZ Z80 processor are comparable to a TRS-80 from the previous decade. It was a very limited machine whose hardware was inferior in every way to other 8-bit computers at the time.
However, it was the only thing remotely affordable, costing around $100 to $150, whereas other 8-bit computers started at around $500, which is equivalent to about $1300 today. However, it did have a rather clever operating system that made the best use of its limited resources, and I liked it for this reason. The machine was popular because it allowed many people to own a computer who otherwise could not afford one.

In 1984 I upgraded to the Timex Sinclair 2068. The biggest differences were a real keyboard, sound, more memory, color graphics (although still inferior to the competitors), and a better operating system. At $200 it was a good value compared to other computers. This computer, along with the European version, were hugely popular both in the U.S. and internationally. It allowed people to have a halfway decent computer for the time at relatively low cost compared to other computers.

For a short while, I had a thriving business selling software I wrote for this computer.

In 1986 I bought my first 16-bit computer, the Atari ST. Cost was a major factor, because it had much value for the money, but the market would be dominated by much more costly computers. I tried unsuccessfully to make a living writing programs for this machine.

By 1990 my computers were out of date. I eventually sold them to collectors. I no longer had computers at home until the internet was barely starting to become a thing.

Around 1995 a few brave souls were exploring the internet using only text because graphical web pages weren't available yet. I discovered that you could play chess on the internet, with the help of a program designed for that, so I began looking into getting a computer. What I got was bare-bones to the extreme, and cost around $1200. It didn't even come with Windows, and Windows 95 wasn't a thing yet. It had a 33mhz processor, which I would later upgrade to 66mhz. I spent a fortune upgrading this machine. Things that would cost next to nothing today, like a sound card and a CD Drive, weren't standard and cost a lot of money to get. My one regret is that I spent so much money upgrading this computer instead of just waiting for better machines to come out. By the time I had $3000 invested in the computer, it was obsolete.

Around 1998 I got a 400 MHZ machine, which was a huge improvement, but it quickly became obsolete.

So around the year 2001, I got a single-core 2.2 GHz computer. This was a big step up. However, by 2005 it was looking rather limited, so I upgraded to a new dual-core computer, which was the hot new thing at the time. This machine ran at 2.4 GHz.

However, what seemed impressive in 2005 seemed rather limited by 2010. I think that the machine was also having hardware problems, so once again I was looking again for another computer.

In February 2010 I took a bonus that my company gave me and bought a $2,000 Core-i7 iMac. It was significantly better than the average computer at the time, and I justified what seemed like an extreme expense by telling myself that I would try to make this computer last ten years. I still have the computer, but by mid-2019 the display was failing, and the repair shop told me that other components are starting to fail too. The computer still runs, barely, but it is too expensive to try to repair it.

So in mid-2019, I bought a slightly used 2017 iMac for $1150. This was a compromise between performance and price. Although it is 60% faster than my last computer and it has a much better graphics card, it is not a top of the line computer by today's standards. It is more like average.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

P vs. NP - The Biggest Unsolved Problem in Computer Science

A crude chess program in order to look 10 half moves ahead would take the hypothetical 25 moves possible and do roughly 25 to the 10nth power calculations, which would take a very long time. However, the alpha-beta algorithm eliminates mathematically unnecessary calculations making this more like 5 or 6 to the tenth power, which is a huge difference.

What surprises me is that program Stockfish reduces this to more like 2 to the N power, which is considerably less. Exactly how it does this I'm not sure, although I have some idea.

I would contend that looking deeper in chess will always involve an exponential increase, by definition. To not be exponential means that we could look infinitely far ahead and completely solve chess. This is kind of the point of the video.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Worst Console Launch Ever: Google Stadia -

Almost 30 years ago, one of my coworkers thought that the internet would get so advanced that we would be able to stream videogames, and we wouldn't need consoles.  I didn't think that this was realistic.  I still don't.  There is a huge advantage to having local hardware.  For $400 or $500, you can get a pretty good gaming experience from a box in your home.  It is going to be significantly better in 2020 with the next generation of consoles which are predicted to have about the same cost.

My 2017 iMac has slightly more powerful graphics than a Sony Playstation 4 Pro.  The latest tablets and phones are also powerful enough to make good gaming devices.

AMD has plans to introduce new APUs in 2020 and 2021.  This will make building a decent gaming computer cheaper, maybe costing $700 to $800.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


My $74 Rampage cabinet. Took us 2.5 hours to put together. There is nothing on here that I couldn't do on a SNES Classic. However, there is an advantage to having real joysticks. Three of them. I plan on modifying this using a Raspberry PI so that I can play Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Mr. Do with real joysticks. These games are harder to play with joypads because they require quick and accurate movements. I've done most of the work on the Raspberry PI already.

On this table it is a bit too high. I plan on buying the riser which costs $45, but it is frequently available cheaper, so I'll be looking for a sale after Christmas.

I use the Walmart app to check the prices on Arcade1up products. The prices change frequently and items tend to be heavily discounted when Walmart decides to close them out at a particular store.

What’s New in Chrome 79, Arriving Today