You know when grown-ups tell you everything's going to be fine, and you think they're probably lying to make you feel better?
Everything's going to be fine.

Saturday, January 24


On Being The Wrong Size

There's a problem with the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies: The scale doesn't make sense.  Little things, like the fact that the town of Dale is about as big as Minas Tirith.  And big things like the dwarves' attempt to drown Smaug in molten gold.

If we assume that the volume of molten gold is about the same as an Olympic swimming pool (and frankly, it looks larger), then we're talking about 2.5 million litres of gold.  That would weigh close to 50 thousand tons - 50 billion grams.  Gold in our world is currently runs about $40 per gram.

That's two trillion dollars worth of gold right there.  And never mind the hoard itself, which is much larger.

It's possible that gold is more common in Middle Earth than on Earth, but that just means it's less valuable, since it has little practical use in a pre-industrial economy.  (It doesn't corrode, which is good, but it's soft and very heavy.)

And the dwarves pay Bard in silver, not in gold, and yet that is enough for him to risk his life to smuggle them into Esgaroth.  Either the values of silver and gold are inverted - in which case the dwarves wouldn't be hoarding gold - or the economy of Middle Earth is bigger than Earth's - which isn't possible; they have nothing we'd even recognise as a city in the modern sense.

Of course, this particular part is Peter Jackson, not Tolkien, and The Hobbit is a children's story (and canonically, is told by Bilbo, who is not an entirely reliable narrator).

Still...  Where is everybody in the Lord of the Rings movies?  The world seems to be utterly depopulated.  It's the movie equivalent of a Bioware game.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 04:48 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Wednesday, January 21


Samsung U28D590D Review

TL;DR: Oh my God, it's full of stars.

Tech Specs

Resolution: 3840x2160
Input: 1 x DisplayPort 1.2, 2 x HDMI 1.4
Output: 1/8" audio jack
Power: External power brick

The Samsung U28D590D is a 1.5th generation 4K monitor.  Early 4K screens were targeted squarely at the professional market, with prices upwards of $3000.  Second generation 4K screens, showing up now, are priced under $1000, still use high-quality IPS panels, but forego some high-end features like colour calibration.

The U28 sits below those, as a high-end consumer model, for consuming rather than producing high-resolution content.  And it's priced appropriately; I paid A$499 for mine on sale; regular online prices range upwards from $549 to $699.

Out of the box it takes a few minutes to attache the stand (you'll need a large-bladed screwdriver, either plus or minus) and get it plugged in. The default settings are retina-searingly bright; I have the brightness and contrast turned down to 60 currently and it's still on the bright side.

This is a subjective review; I have no measurement equipment.  But there are no static colour or brightness inconsistencies significant enough to notice (and there were on my old Dell U2711, a professional monitor), and no visible dead or stuck pixels (though at 4K they might not be easy to find).

Colours are vibrant and text is very sharp.  It's not quite perfect - I'm judging it against my 2560x1600 Nexus 10 - but it's very good indeed.

The stand isn't as solid as it could be, particularly compared to the Dell, which is rock steady.  I'd feel comfortable leaning on the Dell if I needed to climb on the desk to change the light bulb (and have); I'd never do that with this monitor.

This is a TN panel, so there is going to be some colour shift if you view it from an angle.  Good news is that the horizontal viewing angle is as good as any monitor I've seen, including expensive IPS screens.  Bad news is that if you stand up and look down at a 45 degree angle, white turns to blue-grey and other colours take on a distinct blue shift.

Both my desktop with its Radeon 7950 and my notebook with its Intel integrated graphics (Haswell CPU) recognised the monitor immediately and worked flawlessly over HDMI, albeit at 30Hz.    What didn't work so well was connecting my 7950 over DisplayPort.

On one of the two mini-DisplayPort outputs on the card, the display shows graphical glitches on random horizontal bands every 10-30 seconds.  On the other port, the whole screen goes black and then restores itself every 20-60 seconds.

Adjusting the resolution to 2560x1440 stops the problem, but that doesn't look particularly great.  On the HDMI port at 30Hz, the display is rock solid.  I suspect this is an issue with my DisplayPort cable - my card has mini-DP, and the included cable is full-size, so I picked up a mini-DP to DP cable from the corner computer store.  I suspect it might be an older cable only rated for DP 1.1, and so not able to reliably carry the 4K@60Hz signal.  I'll order another cable online and test that again.

Right now I'm running quite happily at 30Hz; you can notice the difference, but for work, watching movies, and light gaming it's not a really problem.

The remaining question is Windows 8's scaling.  It's a bit of a mixed bag.  I'm having more luck (for some reason) on my desktop than on my notebook (a 1080p 13.3" screen, so basically the same DPI as this).  I'll report back on that aspect in a few days.

The on-screen display is driven by a little joystick on the back of the monitor; you can easily reach it from the front - it's just behind the lower right corner.  It works quite well, and has all the usual amenities.  I haven't yet tried features like picture-in-picture or picture-by-picture, but I have little use for them anyway.

Overall, it's a good monitor for its target audience, and at this price, a good buy.  The big selling point is not this monitor in particular but 4K and high-resolution displays generally. : It's like washing the mud off your screen; everything is suddenly so clear.  I'd find it hard to go back, and I've only had it a day.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 11:08 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Tuesday, January 20


4K Or Not 4K

Guess the answer is 4K.  Dick Smith has the Samsung U28D590D on sale for $499 right now, and even had it in stock at my local store, so I trotted over there at lunchtime and got one.

This is one I considered and rejected before, because it's a TN rather than an IPS panel.  Having now had a chance to look at one up close...  Frankly, if they'd said it was IPS I probably would have believed them.  It doesn't have the characteristic colour shift of TN when viewed at a sharp angle, though there is a brightness/contrast shift.  I think it will do fine.

Also, at $499 for a 28" 4K monitor, I'm willing to forgive a few minor foibles.  Just 15 months ago the only 4K monitor for sale here cost $4200.
The stand does wobble if you poke it, which is the first thing every review comments on.  Samsung, spend another $5 on the stand for next year's model, okay?

Review later once I finish work for the day and have a chance to set it all up.

Update: The display glitches when I run it on DisplayPort at the full 4k@60Hz.  It doesn't glitch on HDMI running 4k@30Hz.  I'll try it with a different DisplayPort cable as soon as I can find one.

Running at 30Hz isn't a killer, but you do notice, so I'm really hoping that it will be happy at 60Hz with a cable swap.

Update: Some other people have reported these issues with this monitor and Radeon video cards, and the solution is to find a better cable.  So I'll do that.  Meanwhile:


Also on the plus side, I plugged it into my new notebook, and it worked immediately.  Only 4k@30Hz, but many notebooks have trouble running higher than 1080p for an external display, so I'm happy with that.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 02:25 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Monday, January 05


Next Problem

Most of my remaining errors were being caused by Windows Error Reporting.

This thing is awful if you're trying to run older software.  Turn it off and suddenly things work again.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 03:56 AM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Sunday, January 04


Ticket #12350 (New Defect)

Hardware Virtualisation support not detected if Hyper-V installed.

Which means I can't create 64-bit virtual machines in VirtualBox, which was kind of the point.  (And CentOS 7 is 64-bit only.)

It's something of a relief, though, as my first thought was a hardware or BIOS issue.

Update: So I turned off Hyper-V (which required two reboots, but was easy enough) and now it works.

And that's the hardest problem I've had with this install so far.

Why haven't I run into this before?  Because Hyper-V is only included in Windows 8 Pro, and I've only used Unpro before now.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:47 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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How Did We Cope?



Click.  Scroll scroll scroll.  Shift-click.



Disk Space Required: 406849 MB
Disk Space Available: 3131066 MB


Posted by: Pixy Misa at 06:31 PM | No Comments | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Saturday, January 03



So, my New Year's Resolution was to set up Kei, my shiny new Windows PC that has been waiting to be assembled and installed for...  More than two years.

And done.  Not perfect, but done.*  Finished about 3AM today.  

Since I had a lot of parts to play with, even though many are two years old, the result is pretty good: 8-core 3.6GHz CPU, Radeon 7950, 32GB RAM, 2 x 960GB SSDs, 5 x 2TB disks, and a Blu-Ray burner for burning all my Blu-Rays.  22 USB ports (8 x USB 3 and 14 x USB 2), and 12 x 1/8" audio ports for that perfect 16.2 mix.

Currently Kei is hooked up to a spare 1600x1200 monitor and I'm sharing the keyboard and mouse via Synergy, which works perfectly except that the Windows Do you want to allow this program to do stuff? dialog flicks me to the primary monitor on Nagi every time.  (Update: The solution for this is the obvious one - plug the keyboard into Kei and share in the opposite direction.  Works great now.)

Now I have a bit of an install party going on.  I built Nagi late in 2008 when the original Kei went flaky due to faulty memory.  So Nagi has everything installed.  Despite a few hiccups over the years, that adds up to 841 applications.

I'm hoping to whittle that down a bit.  Really, I just need my JetBrains IDEs, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, Visual Studio, Sony's creative software, Notepad++, Cygwin, VirtualBox, Chrome, Firefox, Firefox DE, iTunes, Clementine, Steam, Origin, Xshell, Xftp, Zoom Player, Python and Ruby and about a hundred libraries for each, uTorrent, Bryce, Carrara, Hexagon, Poser, virtual machines running CentOS 7 and Ubuntu 14.04...  

Hmm.  This might take a while.

The other thing I need to do is decide on a new monitor; my Dell U2711 is visibly declining.  Right now, my short list is either the Philips 40" 3840x2160 monitor or a couple of Dell's new U2515H 2560x1440 screens.  The Dell is about half the price of the Philips and has about half the pixel count, so it all balances out.  The only real problem with the Philips monitor is that it has a static television-type stand, where the Dell is height adjustable and rotates on all three axes.  Well, that and 40" is huge.

* As usual, the disk layout isn't what I wanted.  Windows 8.1 denies the existence of my motherboard's RAID functions, and it also denies the existence of either my Adaptec RAID card or my cheap dual-port SATA card, so after much messing around I'm left with RAID-0 for the local drives and one drive not doing anything at all.  Plus the SSDs aren't on the first two SATA ports, so it seems that Windows put a boot partition on one of the disk drives, so if that ever dies Kei won't boot any more.

But those minor issues aside, the dual SSDs, eight cores, and 32GB of RAM really makes a difference.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 01:56 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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Thursday, January 01


The Landauer Bound

We all know that while Moore's Law is still holding - just - Dennard Scaling failed in the early 2000s.  Clock speeds have remained unchanged for more than a decade.

What most don't realise is how fast we are approaching the thermodynamic limits of computational efficiency.  If Koomey's Law holds, we will reach perfect efficiency - the dreaded Landauer Bound - by 2048.

Mark that date in your calendars, boys and girls!  2048 is the year it all ends.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 11:19 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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