All posts by Erik

About Erik

Honestly, I have no idea how I got here.

Sony is LAME

Apparently, the Go.exe binary that comes with the same discs infected with the Sony rootkit is statically linked to LAME, and thus a GPL violation.

Wow. Sony – You’ve made my day.

Monty Hall

Perhaps a real mathematician can help me here. I just don’t understand the supposed solution to the Monty Hall problem.

I understand the reasons that it is supposed “unintuitive” but I still believe them. Allow me to forumlate the objection in a way that seems novel.

Once Monty reveals the Donkey, and you are given what is in reality a new problem – pick a door with a 50% probablity of any one being the right one. The thing is that switching from your originally selected door doesn’t change the probability of the door being the right one. Merely the act of revealing the donkey behind one of the unselected doors does.

So what’s critical is selecting a door under these new odds – which is exactly what Monty is letting you door. The key for me is that even choosing to keep the door you already have is a selection.

What am I missing?

Flock

Here is what’s cool about this blog post – I’m doing it all with flock.

I think I may do a little review of this new still pre alpha browser. When I first heard of it I was very dubious about it. But after only five minutes of use, I “get” it. Flock may not be the browser for me, even when completed, but I understand the Flock philosophy now, and understand why it’s developers seem so excited.

At heart, Flock seems to be gunning for making the read/write web we were all so excited about 10 years ago but didn’t get. It’s tactic is that sites like del.icio.us and tools like weblogs are effectively adding the write/share features of the old Web vision on top of the current read/display web that we’ve got – so why not make a browser that combines all those things transparently. For example, when I say that I’m blogging this with Flock, I don’t mean that I surfed to the WordPress login with Flock, I mean that I used Flocks built in blogging tool to write this blog – Flock autodetected how to connect to the XML-RPC service that WordPress provides, and is making this post for me. All I needed to do point it at blog.xfce.org and enter my information.

Jack Thompson’s Modest Proposal

I realize that this is not the kind of content I would usually present in this forum, but nonetheless, stupidity on such a grand scale cannot be countenanced.

Jack Thompson has, as a sort of grandstanding piece of satire, proposed a particularly violent video game scenario, with the intention of donating $10,000 to charity, should the game be produced.

I myself am not ignorant in the ways of public manipulation. This is a win – win for Thompson. If the game isn’t made, then he spins this as reveling the hypocrisy of the video game industry. Blithely ignoring that studios exist to make money, and producing a game that is directly insulting to their target market is tantamount to suicide, Thompson will claim that the absence of his game points to a hypocrisy in the industry. Underneath, Thompson will say, they know that such a game would cause a flowering of violence in the real world.

And if the game is made? Thompson has created a scenario so horrific that the studio who made it will have made only more evidence for Thompson’s claim that we are all depraved, vicious peddlers of filth and darkness to the fragile and pure children of America.

Thompson misses the essential truth – that America is a disgustingly violent place. The fragile and pure children are nowhere to be found. We live in a culture of violence, in a time of unjustifiable military action, in land stolen from it’s native people by application of force, whose media from Saturday morning cartoons to the evening news is saturated by blood. One wonders if perhaps Thompson himself carried violence in his heart – is this scenario of his what his dreaming self wants to do to the video game industry? When Jack Thompson writes the name “Osaki Kim” does he breath the words “Jack Thompson?”

More to the point, does old Jacky boy not realize that he has created the perfect opportunity to satirize himself, and display as only interactive fiction can, his own lunacy? Showing, in grim high def 3-D detail, the senseless murder of pale, scrawny, geeky high school aged video gamers, innocent and defenseless, by a man who has been told by his culture to take retribution out of the hands of the court and into his own will not help make Thompson’s case.

Thompson is saying very little new – writers, filmmakers, musicians, all have been blamed in the past for our cultural degeneracy. What Thompson adds to the mix is his subtle finger pointing at us, the gamers. Saying that it is our weakness of character, our support for video games that is the real cause of rape and murder – effectively, Thompson is blaming me and mine. Thompson still lives in a world where gamers are the minority, and can be blamed for those things which are epidemic to this country. And that is so insulting, and so irresponsible, that I believe Thompson’s charge must be taken up.

Games can contain stories, and stories can contain ideas. All Thompson sees is gore and robots, just as all my grandparents heard in the Beatles was sex and drugs. He cannot see the ideas, and as a man with no soul he cannot see the power of storytelling. He has presented us with a scenario which a talented game designer could turn into a bleak tale of individual madness, the culture that praises and nurtures it, and the idiocy of the scapegoat.

I truly hope that someone with the talent and the balls takes up the task.

Fear

When I was a child my gradfather – my dad’s dad – subscribed to National Geographic. He would read the whole thing in a day, and then he would pass them on to me. I loved them. There is something of a formula that can render the magazine dull over long periods of time, but it is not without it’s charm, especially to a curious kid like I was.

And then the bastards sent submarines after the Titanic.

I have never been so afraid in my life. The terrible pressures of the deep on those tiny vessels, the accumulated silt of ages, the monsters that lurked below. Every image became a nightmare. God help me, I was scared of the shrimp.

I switched to novels. Dad gave me 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

And now my irrational fear of those which goes *SLORP* in the eternal night of the deep had a concrete form in the Giant Squid. Lord of all that is Evil and Slimy, I can’t eat teriyaki sauce to this day, the association of slimy food to the slick, oily skin of Nemo’s Bane is so strong. Worse, this childhood fear had been stirred up with the discovery, several months past, of the (I shit you the fuck not) a goddamn collosal squid. They just keep getting bigger and bigger. My only comfort has been that every giant and (*shiver*) collosal squid discovered has been dead or dying, bodies swollen with shrimp and evil in the bellies of sperm whales – sperm whales, in whom I have no fear, due to the comraderie of mammalhood.

My one salvation: I have been spared the horror of seeing the things live, seeing how they move, as they must, swimming in an abyss cold as space, yet filled with a dark Cthuloid life.

Well fuck a duck

Icons!

I disagree fundamentally with the assumption that icons exist to highlight the “important” bits of the UI.

First off, nine times out of ten, if you have unimportant UI bits you’ve screwed up. Second, if an important bit of UI needs “highlighting” you’ve almost certainly screwed up.

Icons are not workarounds, they are the key to the whole visual metaphor. Several papers have discussed the power of pairing a visual and a lexical stimuli for increasing accuracy and response time in a number of tasks.

Give someone a set of words, and ask them to select the one of them according to a criteria (Like picking the menu item which will save the file from the list of menu options), and it will take them several milliseconds to find it.

Give them a set of images with the same criteria (“Find the toolbar button that saves the document”) and they will take several milliseconds.

Pair the two together (image plus text) and it will take less time to select the menu item.

This makes it pretty clear that eliminating icons throughout the system is a net loss. What is still ambiguous, from a scientific perspective, is what happens in the mixed case – in other words, what is the performance change for the case where “important” bits of the UI have icons and “unimportant” bits do not.

I strongly suspect that performance of selecting a specific “important” item will go up marginally at best (and I could make a strong argument that would theorize performance would plummet, in most cases) and that performance will be so much worse for selecting “unimportant” elements of the UI, that the effect would be a net loss.

I’d be happy to test this out, however, using Gtk+ specifically, if one of you happens to have a grant?