It’s all right, I said it was

DOJ sez: “…the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk.”

“Raise.”

“Okay.”

“Damn. I’m out.”

“I’ll see that, and raise you five.”

“Um… bleah. Let’s see ’em.”

“Pair of Spies.”

“Three Torturers.”

“I’ve got bupkiss, just some prisoners.”

“Heh. Justice of Wiretaps, Queen of BlackOps, King of Lies, ahnnnddd…”

“I don’t believe it.”

“…and the Ace of Righteousness.”

“Hey, wait a minute, I have that right here.”

“What?”

“The Ace of Righteousness. Right here in my hand. What are you doing?”

“You had that hidden!”

“No I didn’t.”

“Cheater! This guy cheats at poker! Jesus.”

“I do not cheat at cards.”

“The hell you don’t.”

“I had my lawyer specifically make a finding about that. I made sure that the right people knew about it. It’s to protect you and your fellow players, and I couldn’t tell you about it because that would have endangered you. You see the burden that I have on my shoulders.”

“Oh.”

“Well, I guess that makes it okay.”

“Man, sorry about that.”

“Yeah. It’s not obvious when we’re being protected. That’s real important.”

“So … you guys want another hand?”

bore ed

A short summary of the pickle that W may be in [lesson: If you must squander your ‘political capital’ on junk food, at least have some bunkers that you can retire to]. (I’ve been reading political blogs and drinking high-octane coffee this morning, a bad combination).

“Rez Pls”

I just figured out one thing about the world of the World of Warcraft that’s been bugging the heck out of me. In a normal ecology you have a massive pyramid of critters that eat other critters; at the bottom you’ve got eensie weensie buggers barely making a living at turning photons or maybe ionic energy sources (e.g., oxidation of iron) into forms of stored energy (ATP, carbohydrates, etc.); there’s nothing lower than these fellas, and they have to work like hell to make a buck. Then you have somewhat larger critters that munch on the first guys, and so forth, until you finally have the beasts who are specialist carnivores. It takes a lot lower-pyramid fodder to keep a single meat eater happy. Typical numbers for the earth are acres or maybe square miles per large predator.

In WoW the beasts are packed far tighter than this. How is this remotely possible? In fact, most of WoW is populated by carnivores. What are these guys eating? There are nowhere near the number of cattle-like beasts required to prop up that many meat eaters, even if you give the thorny-pig guys and some other humanoids the benefit of the doubt as omnivores.

Fortunately the answer is right in front of us: To heck with photosynthesis or funky chemical energy sources, the biological engine behind WoW is pretty clear. They’re eating adventurers.

Think about it. Your average player dies like a thousand times (well, I have) making it to level 60. Figure that a hefty Paladin weighs in at 250 pounds of edible tissue, average that with gnomes and you get maybe 180 pounds per death.

Between deaths (~180 pounds of food provided to the system) a player might kill several hundred beasts, which at first doesn’t seem anywhere near enough for break-even. But players don’t eat beasts, they just leave them behind, so it’s reasonable to assume that the corpses are being consumed by other carnivores, and that we’re really looking at a system that has an embarrasment of energy, a surplus to get rid of. My guess is that Mana is ultimately the product of decay.

And no, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know where all the poop goes.

Geeks

You know you’re in a building full of geeks when you overhear a break-room conversation containing: “… the tree has really good branch structure,” and they’re referring to an actual conifer, not a data structure.

—-d-i-g-i-t-a-l—s-o-u-l—~~~a=n~a=l~o=g~~~b=o~n-e=s=~~

Back in the days when I worked on the Atari ST, the hardware engineers were proud of their insight into the behavior of DRAM chips. “Most designers treat them as digital devices, we treat them as analog devices.” Thus squeezing a few, maybe a couple tens of nanoseconds of cycle time out of them. You know, for performance. The competition didn’t seem to have the same insight into the analog cheating that Atari was doing, and shipped slower systems. [Ultimately it didn’t matter, and Atari flopped again].

Most CS texts treat ones and zeros as your basic, cute onsies and zerozies, too simple for much more discussion, onward to higher abstractions! The horrible, analog truth of what happens inside memory chips and over modern, fast busses would send Lovecraftian shivers of horror down the spines of software undergrads, namely that those comfortable, stable onezies and zorches are anything but nice and well-behaved down there. The strategies for dealing with noise on DRAM chips are astoundingly disturbing, and I last read about those maybe ten years ago. Things have gotten much more frugly since then.

Here’s an amusing FAQ on the bringup of the various busses and so forth on the PowerPC 970. My favorite quote follows several pages of quite horrifying instructions on tuning and seeming blind mucking about with timing and voltage parameters until things appear to work –

“Once all of the above is completed . . . [you will be] effectively at the same point you would have been 5 months ago, had this been a standard 750 bringup. [Things] from this point should be very straightforward and follow established methods.”

Link. It’s all analog down there, and getting more analog with each generation of hardware.