whbboyd's recent activity

  1. Comment on What games have you been playing, and what's your opinion on them? in ~games

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    I'm borderline incapable of using twin-stick controls, and I've been playing video games since I was 5, and I have an essentially complete understanding of the mechanics. Building the muscle...

    I'm borderline incapable of using twin-stick controls, and I've been playing video games since I was 5, and I have an essentially complete understanding of the mechanics. Building the muscle memory takes an incredible time investment, and resources to teach the basic mechanism are effectively unavailable if you don't have a very patient friend who can coach you through it.

    I really strongly suspect that part of the exclusivity complex that heavily dogs gaming as a hobby is that it is itself very exclusive. If you didn't join the club in your childhood or teen years, when you had loads of time and highly malleable muscle memory, it's going to be a real challenge to pick it up later.

    4 votes
  2. Comment on China's censorship is far reaching. Searching for "tank man" on some image search engines brings up zero results. in ~tech

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    DuckDuckGo gets their search results (mostly? Entirely?) from Bing. While this probably does merit a "WTF", it means they're really just reflecting whatever Microsoft is doing.

    DuckDuckGo gets their search results (mostly? Entirely?) from Bing.

    While this probably does merit a "WTF", it means they're really just reflecting whatever Microsoft is doing.

    6 votes
  3. Comment on "What has been happening across the arts is not a recession. It is not even a depression. It is a catastrophe." in ~arts

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    Gabe Newell has somewhat famously said that "piracy is a service problem"—i.e., people pirate products because they are annoying to purchase, not because they are expensive. This is, of course, at...

    Gabe Newell has somewhat famously said that "piracy is a service problem"—i.e., people pirate products because they are annoying to purchase, not because they are expensive. This is, of course, at most partly true (broke student me certainly pirated a significant number of games I absolutely could not have afforded to buy because it was free to do so—though that puts the lie to the anti-piracy argument that pirated copies are lost sales, since I certainly couldn't have spent money I didn't have to buy them if piracy had not been an option), but highly illustrative. Very, very few people pirate media out of principle. Instead, they pirate because legitimate channels are too expensive, or too inconvenient, or the blistering lack of respect for customers shown by oppressive DRM schemes is intolerable.

    Newell himself made unimaginably large piles of money by running Steam on essentially that principle—if you make it easy to buy games, people will happily give you money rather than pirate them.

    5 votes
  4. Comment on Spreadsheet horror stories in ~tech

    whbboyd
    Link
    All spreadsheet stories are horror stories. ;) Glibness aside, spreadsheets serve a very specific purpose: Everyone needs software; but Professional software developers are very expensive (and...

    All spreadsheet stories are horror stories. ;)

    Glibness aside, spreadsheets serve a very specific purpose:

    • Everyone needs software; but
    • Professional software developers are very expensive (and let's be real, we have a bad attitude—however justified—about the sort of programming that's typically done in spreadsheets); but also
    • Spreadsheets are sufficiently accessible that non-programmers can pick them up and meet their own needs, and also rarely well-controlled by business processes.

    Of course, the net result is non-programmers writing software in an environment neither designed nor well-suited for it, which is why every non-trivial spreadsheet "application" is an incomprehensible, buggy trainwreck. However, trying to ban spreadsheets is either futile or starts us on an endless treadmill of programmable tools; programmability is incredibly powerful, and thus will always be a desirable feature, but the difficulties with managing it are evidently inherent. (We wouldn't have "software developer" as an independent discipline if software development were easy to get right.) So to me, the much more interesting question is, how can you make the situation less awful without trying to throw out spreadsheets as a tool?

    This question is pretty open-ended, but I have a few thoughts:

    • Excel is a mess. I realize I'm tempting fate, but it feels almost pessimal in the space of tabular data tools. It carries along bugs from earlier versions of itself, and even from its '80s predecessor Lotus 1-2-3, gleefully mangles data on input, and generally does not set its users up for success. And then to reinforce all that, its incredible popularity means it becomes the template on which all other spreadsheet software is based! We need to lose Excel, try our best to forget it ever happened, and set spreadsheet users up on less actively hostile foundations.
    • Spreadsheets should structure their data more like a table and less like a sheet of graph paper. The latter is convenient for screwing around ("oh, I'll just put this temp value in this cell over here"), but rapidly becomes a liability the moment you need any kind of structure in your spreadsheet.
    • Speaking of structure, the ability to straightforwardly specify a meaningful schema for your spreadsheet. It's possible to set restrictions on cell values in Excel, but Excel being Excel, this is by cell (not, as would be much more reasonable, by row or column), and it's not easy to use the feature, and significantly more difficult to get it right.
    4 votes
  5. Comment on What games have you been playing, and what's your opinion on them? in ~games

    whbboyd
    Link
    I've been replaying Diablo II modded to have 45 times as many monsters (inspired by MrLlamaSC doing a handful of such runs a few months ago). It's… something. It's actually fascinating to see how...

    I've been replaying Diablo II modded to have 45 times as many monsters (inspired by MrLlamaSC doing a handful of such runs a few months ago). It's… something. It's actually fascinating to see how the game's balance copes with such a drastic shift in the gameplay. AoE immediately becomes absolutely mandatory, but given that, the game is arguably easier modded like this than vanilla; you almost immediately become extremely overleveled, and the number of monsters is effectively negated by the ability of AoE attacks to hit arbitrarily many of them.

    (It's also somewhat impressive to see the engine cope with the extreme number of entities. Areas that are dense in vanilla often have so many monsters crammed into them they literally can't walk past each other and are sitting ducks until you clear out some room.)

    7 votes
  6. Comment on How to design a sailing ship for the 21st century? in ~enviro

    whbboyd
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    Oh, man, you're going to make me go back and dig up wherever I got that number from when I first calculated that? ;) This report by the USGS from 1997 suggests a typical uranium content of coal in...

    Oh, man, you're going to make me go back and dig up wherever I got that number from when I first calculated that? ;)

    This report by the USGS from 1997 suggests a typical uranium content of coal in the one to four parts per million range. (Interestingly, it also points out that coal is nothing special in this regard—most rocks contain trace uranium. The reason to care about uranium in coal is specifically that we burn it. Few people will ever try to burn granite, and many fewer will actually succeed in doing so.) Taking the energy densities from that xkcd, uranium fission delivers about three million times as much energy per unit fuel as burning coal; therefore, coal contains three to twelve times as much uranium as the uranium reactor fuel required to generate the same amount of energy.

    This is a huge simplification, of course. For one thing, reactor fuel is highly refined—if you magically extracted all the uranium from a bunch of coal, you couldn't just directly start fueling your nuclear reactor with it. For another, that number isn't directly useful for much other than making a rhetorical point; ironically, it actually understates how terrible coal is, because it contains other toxic and radioactive compounds that get released and dispersed through the smokestack or concentrated in ash.

    2 votes
  7. Comment on How to design a sailing ship for the 21st century? in ~enviro

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    https://xkcd.com/1162/ A fact I like ("like"), which is really anti-coal but does illustrate this well, is this: coal contains trace amounts of uranium. In the amount of fuel required to generate...

    https://xkcd.com/1162/

    A fact I like ("like"), which is really anti-coal but does illustrate this well, is this: coal contains trace amounts of uranium. In the amount of fuel required to generate a given amount of energy, burned coal contains more uranium than fissioned uranium does

    7 votes
  8. Comment on The most interesting thing about Days Gone is its PC settings menu in ~games.game_design

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    Rendered cutscenes are actually still a problem, as many who have modded the FoV of their games will know. When you change the aspect ratio, you either expand or crop the viewing frustum: expand...

    I'm not sure how often those are used vs. rendered cut scenes these days.

    Rendered cutscenes are actually still a problem, as many who have modded the FoV of their games will know. When you change the aspect ratio, you either expand or crop the viewing frustum: expand it, and you may get geometry intersecting the near plane or just stuff in frame that was supposed to be out of sight; contract it, and you may crop out important content (getting half a face that was supposed to be fully in-frame is usually the most obvious symptom of this).

    Interactive cutscenes are usually okay, though you may still be able to get graphical glitches with very wide fields of view (since they result in clipping planes that are far from the camera at the edges), but of course, it's tough to be "cinematic" when the player is off throwing props at each other in the corner and ignoring the grand emotional masterwork you're attempting to stage for them.

    This is all to say nothing of geometry culling: the more stuff in frame, the more stuff that has to be drawn, and games that are pushing the limits of what their hardware is capable of could get pushed beyond by the extra work.

    4 votes
  9. Comment on Can anyone recommend a good collection of Greek mythology for children? in ~books

    whbboyd
    Link
    Edith Hamilton's Mythology is more-or-less canonical, albeit very aged at this point. (How quickly does classicism move as an academic field? The very subject matter leads me to assume "slowly",...

    Edith Hamilton's Mythology is more-or-less canonical, albeit very aged at this point. (How quickly does classicism move as an academic field? The very subject matter leads me to assume "slowly", but I don't actually have any idea.) I was older than 7, but not much, when I read it. It includes the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, but I don't recall it delving deeply into Ariadne other than her role in that story.

  10. Comment on FOSS and UX (twitter thread) in ~comp

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    I considered, but eventually decided not to, make a comment which was at least thematically similar. I think there are two very important aspects to the "FOSS UX" discussion (and even broader UX...

    I considered, but eventually decided not to, make a comment which was at least thematically similar.

    I think there are two very important aspects to the "FOSS UX" discussion (and even broader UX discussions) which are often and unfortunately glossed over, including in both the posted article, and the comment you replied to. They are:

    • UX is a diad: the interface and the user. Talking about the interface without the user, or making unwarranted assumptions about who the user is, will lead directly to interface designs that are, at the absolute best, suboptimal.
    • Interfaces that are tailored to the users who use them (and perhaps vise versa) lead to incalculably more fluid, powerful interactions.

    I personally use i3 on Linux. My interactions with my computers are orders of magnitude smoother, more fluid, and more powerful than any interactions I've ever observed between a Windows or Mac OS system and its user. I assume this is what @vegai is referring to: yes, obviously if you throw someone who's only ever used Windows or a phone OS into a heavily-tweaked free software desktop, they'll sink like a stone and accomplish no swimming whatsoever; but the interfaces they are more comfortable with simply do not enable the levels of interaction we know to be possible.

    I have a bunch more thoughts (and also a bunch of open questions) about this, but I think I'll leave it there, to try to foster some discussion.

    8 votes
  11. Comment on Is there a way to make sure sent e-mails are opened? in ~tech

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    Huh—apparently you're right. I checked a random gmail account I haven't touched the settings on, and it indeed defaults to loading external images. Well that's fucking atrocious. Anyway, it's...

    Huh—apparently you're right. I checked a random gmail account I haven't touched the settings on, and it indeed defaults to loading external images.

    Well that's fucking atrocious.

    Anyway, it's still not reliable, because people may (and absolutely should) disable that setting (though clearly it will be less unreliable than it should be).

    2 votes
  12. Comment on Is there a way to make sure sent e-mails are opened? in ~tech

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    I'm not aware of a single client, browser or otherwise, which loads external resources in email by default. Gmail definitely does not. Tracking pixels will (thankfully!) not be a reliable way to...

    this won't work with people who have image loading disabled

    I'm not aware of a single client, browser or otherwise, which loads external resources in email by default. Gmail definitely does not. Tracking pixels will (thankfully!) not be a reliable way to track message delivery.

    6 votes
  13. Comment on Motorists line up at stations in DC region; shortage of gas truck drivers compounds situation in ~finance

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    This was a real thing that was actually tweeted by a US government agency. I struggle to get over how stupid this is. Did people not learn their lesson from the toilet paper fiasco last year? Do...

    This was a real thing that was actually tweeted by a US government agency.

    I struggle to get over how stupid this is. Did people not learn their lesson from the toilet paper fiasco last year? Do we need to just preemptively start rationing every product that hits the news because vast numbers of Americans reliably react as irrationally as possible? I want to think that paternalism is wrong and inappropriate, but the past year has me really struggling with that principle.

    8 votes
  14. Comment on What are your favorite short stories? in ~books

    whbboyd
    (edited )
    Link
    Two very different favorites: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin. A lot of thoughtfulness packed into a few thousand words, and easily-digestible, to boot. This was one of my...

    Two very different favorites:

    • The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin. A lot of thoughtfulness packed into a few thousand words, and easily-digestible, to boot. This was one of my favorite works to discuss in high school English class (a topic that was definitely not my forte).
    • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, by Larry Niven. Niven essentially does a deadpan analysis of the implications of a sexual relationship between Superman and one of his human paramours. It's one of the most hilarious things I've ever read.

    As an aside, what's our policy on linking to the full text of still-copyrighted works? Obviously I've chosen not to for this comment; both stories can easily be found by searching, or I would recommend patronizing your local library: they are collected in The Wind's Twelve Quarters and N-Space, respectively.

    7 votes
  15. Comment on Rental companies buy up used cars as chip crisis gets worse in ~finance

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    Your recollection is wrong or coming from highly biased sources. It's closer to a quarter to a third. (You are of course absolutely correct that no plausible technology will ever render cars...

    IRC, half of the lifecycle carbon footprint of a petroleum-propelled automobile comes from manufacturing.

    Your recollection is wrong or coming from highly biased sources. It's closer to a quarter to a third.

    (You are of course absolutely correct that no plausible technology will ever render cars environmentally sustainable.)

    3 votes
  16. Comment on Rental companies buy up used cars as chip crisis gets worse in ~finance

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    This is somewhere between wrong and highly misleading, and it's one of the most annoyingly pervasive pieces of anti-environmental astroturfing to come out of the oil industry in recent memory....

    What I'm left remembering (which could be totally wrong or outdated by now) is that it's almost always most environmental to drive a car until it cannot drive any more. The energy costs of making and transporting a new car to its first use are so high.

    This is somewhere between wrong and highly misleading, and it's one of the most annoyingly pervasive pieces of anti-environmental astroturfing to come out of the oil industry in recent memory. Operating a car is exceedingly energy-intensive. You will have spent as much energy operating an ICE as was used to manufacture it somewhere around the 30k-40k-mile mark.

    So: the most environmental thing to do, by a wide margin, is to not own a car, but if you must (as is the case in most of the US), the most environmental time to replace it is, if you can get a replacement that's significantly more fuel efficient, ASAP; otherwise, as late as possible.


    There have been many, many full lifecycle analyses of cars (many comparing ICE and battery electric) in recent years, pretty much all of which have the same general conclusion. Here's a random one I grabbed.

    11 votes
  17. Comment on <deleted topic> in ~tech

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    While I agree that the headline is somewhat click-baitey, this: is a terrible analogy. Apple will sell you a laptop for under a grand (barely, technically) with wifi which will connect to the...

    While I agree that the headline is somewhat click-baitey, this:

    Kind of like me trying to imply that Apple selling a Macbook Pro for $2800 with wifi means $2800 is "the price of getting on the internet".

    is a terrible analogy. Apple will sell you a laptop for under a grand (barely, technically) with wifi which will connect to the Internet (and indeed, will not sell you a laptop at any price which does not come with wifi). Oculus is not providing a way to get only the disconnected-from-Facebook aspect and not pay for the enterprise support, B2B markup, and other trappings of an "enterprise" edition. $500 is indeed the minimum surcharge for an un-Facebook-encumbered Oculus.

    1 vote
  18. Comment on Why your next rental car might cost more than a plane ticket in ~finance

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    And the… experience… of a $2,900 car. COVID did quite a number on already high used car prices; in a lot of places, that's verging on junker territory.

    And the… experience… of a $2,900 car. COVID did quite a number on already high used car prices; in a lot of places, that's verging on junker territory.

    9 votes
  19. Comment on Linux bans the University of Minnesota for sending intentionally buggy patches in the name of research in ~comp

    whbboyd
    Link Parent
    I find bullet 4 of their response to be mind-boggling. I'm assuming the CS department is essentially passing on a statement from their IRB, but their claims are straight-up directly at odds with...

    I find bullet 4 of their response to be mind-boggling. I'm assuming the CS department is essentially passing on a statement from their IRB, but their claims are straight-up directly at odds with the regulations they themselves cite. To break it down:

    • The definition of a human subject in the regulations is concise. I broke it down somewhat in my earlier comment. I'm not sure how they came to the conclusion that "the maintainer did/did not detect the vulnerability in this patch" is not "information about" the maintainer. My guess is that the IRB—or whoever wrote that statement—still does not understand the implications of the research in question.
    • The study is certainly not exempt. I didn't do this breakdown before, but I'll waste the bytes on it now, just for you, UMN! There are eight exemptions under which human subject research does not require IRB approval, and they are:
      1. Research in educational settings regarding educational practices. Obviously inapplicable.
      2. Requires the use of "educational tests", surveys, or interviews, which obviously does not apply.
      3. Requires prospective agreement of the subject, and therefore does not apply in this case.
      4. Secondary research on preexisting data. Obviously inapplicable to this novel experiment.
      5. Specific exemption for certain research by federal agencies on public benefit programs. Does not apply here.
      6. Taste testing. While kernel development probably would be made more desirable if researchers handed out free food, that's not what happened here.
      7. Requires broad consent from the subjects, making it inapplicable.
      8. Also requires broad consent from the subjects.

    I am certainly curious about which inapplicable exemption UMN's IRB believes this research falls under.

    8 votes