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Programming

Submission + - The Struggles of Developing StarCraft (codeofhonor.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Patrick Wyatt led production efforts for several of Blizzard Entertainment's early games, including Warcraft 1 and 2 and StarCraft. Wyatt has just published an in-depth look at the development of StarCraft, highlighting many of the problems the team encountered, and several of the hacks they came to regret later. Quoting: 'Given all the issues working against the team, you might think it was hard to identify a single large source of bugs, but based on my experiences the biggest problems in StarCraft related to the use of doubly-linked linked lists. Linked lists were used extensively in the engine to track units with shared behavior. With twice the number of units of its predecessor — StarCraft had a maximum of 1600, up from 800 in Warcraft 2 — it became essential to optimize the search for units of specific types by keeping them linked together in lists. ... All of these lists were doubly-linked to make it possible to add and remove elements from the list in constant time — O(1) — without the necessity to traverse the list looking for the element to remove — O(N). Unfortunately, each list was “hand-maintained” — there were no shared functions to link and unlink elements from these lists; programmers just manually inlined the link and unlink behavior anywhere it was required. And hand-rolled code is far more error-prone than simply using a routine that’s already been debugged. ... So the game would blow up all the time. All the time.'
Math

Submission + - The Mathematics of War

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Isaac Asimov's idea that the movements of masses of people can be predicted may not be quite so fictional after all as Markus Hammonds writes that researchers at the University of Edinburgh have constructed a statistical dynamic model that makes predictions on levels of violence in conflicts such as the recent war in Afghanistan. Their methodology is to analyze how a conflict unfolds by treating outbreaks of violence the way other researchers model the spread of infectious diseases modeling complex underlying processes in conflicts, such as diffusion, relocation, heterogeneous escalation, and volatility (PDF). The researchers first tested the performance of their methods on a WikiLeaks release which contained over 75,000 military logs by the USA military, describing events which occurred between the beginning of 2004 and the end of 2009 that provided a high temporal and spatial resolution description of the Afghan war in that period. "Remarkably, based entirely on written reports between 2004 and 2009, they were able to predict with impressive accuracy, what events would occur in 2010," writes Hammonds. "Even accounting for sudden changes, like the dramatic increase of US forces in Afghanistan in 2010, the predictions remained accurate. Evidently, events will continue unabated despite any large military offensives which may be taking place." In Baghlan province, for instance, the simulation predicted a 128 percent increase in armed opposition group activity from 2009 to 2010. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting aid workers in dangerous parts of the world, reported that activity in Baghlan rose by 120 percent from 100 incidents in 2009 to 222 incidents in 2010. "This kind of work offers some hope in resolving serious conflicts as quickly as possible", concludes Hammonds. "Whatever your feelings on it, the ability to predict violence in conflict situations the same way meteorologists predict the weather has some potentially very useful possibilities.""

Submission + - Hurricane Windspeed at Landfall Foretell Economic Losses (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: A hurricane's final price tag depends on a lot of factors. But after taking population growth, property values in afflicted regions, and inflation into account, it’s possible to roughly estimate the economic losses for a particular storm based on a single aspect of the storm: the wind speed when the storm first makes landfall. For every 1 meter per second increase in a storm's wind speed at landfall, damage costs rise by about 5%. Using the new method, the estimated economic costs of Hurricane Isaac, whose peak winds measured about 130 kilometers per hour when it made landfall as a Category 1 storm in Louisiana last week (image taken 28 August), are about $1.2 billion.

Comment Per Aspera Ad Astra (Score 2) 365

NASA has done a great job, they got us all to this point.
Now, NASA's strategy and role needs to change, their funding must change, it's way overdue, they know it, we know it.

To their great credit, they are doing it, they are adapting and embracing the change; it's hard for them, an era is ending.

Space is big, the opportunities are literally infinite, but science budgets are always way too small, efficiency matters.

So we cut the well known tech and commercially viable elements loose from the taxpayers dollar.

Let whatever NASA morphs into, fund and guide the basic research and science, spend more on that, less on vehicles.
That's the stuff NASA does well, the right stuff, basic research, initial exploration, the stuff that shareholders and businessmen looking at next quarters results typically do poorly.

NASA exploration vehicles and science packages can buy rides on whatever commercial launchers they need, at the going rate.
We buy planes and ships, trains and trucks from commercial vendors, shipyards, and aviation companies, so whats different?

Clear out the cold war, legacy buck rogers, pointy spaceship with fins thinking, and move onto real space-drives, profitable commercialization and real sustainable colonization.

As for the shuttle.... well I am as jingoistic as the next fella, I admire their bravery just getting into the thing (i think i would be terrified, but i'd also go...)
However... continually launching the mass of 7 people crammed into a vehicle that has twice failed, killing the entire crew...

Empirically, it seems obvious that the efficient way to do successful science in space is, small fast vehicles, robotics and AI's; humans should only boldly go... when their is a proven and compelling reason to do so, and little expectation of them making it back alive if anything fails.
Spirit and Opportunity did more, for far less, for far longer... than any human crew could likely have done.

That's the kind of research I want my tax-money to fund. Efficient hard science.

So lets figure out how to mine and move asteroids, survive indefinitely in deep space, harvest the oort cloud, build CHON Food factories, go where the resources are available, easy pickings...

If we want to get off this unguided mud-ball, we must adapt to new strategies as necessary, however hard they may be.

http://youtu.be/zxsJeND_D-k

Comment What has been changed to prevent re-occurrance ? (Score 1) 449

I am not a pilot. I am a regular commercial airline passenger, a so called "frequent flyer", sometimes internationally; all of which often involves taking long night flights over ocean and into undisclosed/random weather.

I like the flying itself, but for the last few years I have avoided casual air travel for two reasons :
1. the airlines for their miserable attitude to passenger comfort and schedules
2. airport/security for their poor facilities, ludicrous security theater, cumulative irradiation and civil rights violations.

Reading this discussion, and writing simply as a passenger, I conclude that the equipment on planes and the capabilities of a regular airline crew are inadequate to prevent a modern airliner from simply flying into the ocean, given what seems to be a very common set of conditions. I appreciate that this is an interim report, fair enough, but are we simply hoping it does not happen again?

I now have a new reason to avoid flying - a credible, common, and yet apparently unmitigated risk:
3. A generic airliner (it's just another passenger vehicle to me), experiencing common high altitude flight conditions, with a nominal/average crew, may kill everyone on board, because the flight control protocols cause the crew to fly it into the ocean.

Is there any clear and credible statement by the airline industry as to what they are doing to prevent this from simply happening again? What have they changed so that more people wont die, the next time this set of circumstances occur ?

I am guessing many people will want to tell me I am wrong to be concerned; if so, that's a good thing, but please explain why, in simple terms a frequent flyer can rationally believe. IMHO, "The next crew won't do the same things..." seems a bit too optimistic and basically unprovable to me...
What has been changed to prevent this tragedy from re-occurring ?

Comment Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (Score 1) 1328

I accept your point that for some, faith and religion is an irresistible temptation; like a drug, it partially suppresses natural fears and loneliness.

Those that take advantage of human weakness to sell faith, the pushers of religion, the clergy, are the real evildoers in most human cultures.

When history records the worst abuses of the 21'st century it will not be the predatory sexual acts of priests that are viewed as the most horrible of religions crimes against humanity (terrible though they are), but rather the ongoing mental abuses, indoctrination and outright deceptions forced onto defenseless young minds, by many religious organizations.
"suffer the little children to come unto me" is both a mandated and abusive practice, and a terribly irony.
Amazingly, and a real cause for hope, many children survive and recover from these wicked mental abuses, and become Atheists, like myself.

Comment Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (Score 1) 1328

IMHO, Pascal's wager proceeds from the, unstated and unproven premise, that a god will both judge, and require a person to have belief (in that specific deity presumably).

That the premise is unstated, shows either a lack of logical rigor, or an intent to deceive on behalf of Pascal, which detracts from his argument.

That all the arguments premises are also unproven and unprovable, (which Pascal himself acknowledges of his stated premises) makes the entire argument worthless, as the proposition is unfounded.

Extraordinary claims (such as the existence of a god) require extraordinary proof, which Pascal and all religious believers decline to provide.

Another version might claim that a malicious (and arguably insane) deity, may well choose to send all "true believers" the faithful, martyrs, straight to some Dantean hell
simply for having faith, for holding an unconditional belief, for not demanding better proof prior to committing to a "belief".

Dante's hell, is of course a fate no Human could ever possibly deserve, no matter how evil or misguided their lives.

Comment Re:Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (Score 1) 1328

Mea Culpa, you got me, I used a red herring to make my point, as entertainingly and in as few words as possible.

Your logic is sound, there is no reason to subscribe to any specific rationale of judgment by a deity, because there is no deity.

I chose this particularly bloody herring, as a small homage to Socrates.

When he was sentenced to death, Socrates chose to die rather than give up Philosophy, because "The unexamined life is not worth living." I paraphrased (and partially disguised it) as 'choosing' or 'thinking for yourself'

Socrates considered philosophical self examination one of the "highest goods", and paid for that choice with his own blood.

Comment Atheism is always a Win Win Ethically (Score 5, Insightful) 1328

Being a moral atheist is a total win win, compared to being a mere Theist.

Version 1:

Dead Atheist: Oh!, um hi God..., didn't think you existed, oops!

Deity: No problem, it's not like I left any useful clues... Welcome to my heaven.

Dead Atheist: Nice... How come I qualify?

Deity: Because you were a moral and ethical being, because you lived by a code of ethics; you understood that love was the right thing to do even in a universe that you had good reason to believe was completely and utterly godless. You were moral because you chose to be, not because you "believed" in some silly magic book; or were too scared, or weak minded, to think for yourself.
You chose to do the right thing, even when you did not have to; you lived by a moral and honorable code, not by some mythical manifesto of terrorism and fear...

Dead Atheist: So what happens to all the myriad god followers, "believers", the Theists, martyrs, crusaders, suicide bombers, terrorists, etc?

Deity: Tricky one that! They are not really worth anything much, because they never thought for themselves ethically speaking... What do you suggest?
Anyway, no hurry, they can wait outside indefinitely while you decide what to do with them. Welcome to heaven!, go pick yourself out some virgins...
Etc...

Version 2:

Dead Atheist: Hello, Anyone There...! (nothing, nada, zip, zilch, silence, nope...)
Dead Atheist: Thought So! (vanishes in a sudden total existence failure)

So........

Looks like a Win Win to me!

Government

Secret Service Runs At "Six Sixes" Availability 248

PCM2 writes "ABC News is reporting that the US Secret Service is in dire need of server upgrades. 'Currently, 42 mission-oriented applications run on a 1980s IBM mainframe with a 68 percent performance reliability rating,' says one leaked memo. That finding was the result of an NSA study commissioned by the Secret Service to evaluate the severity of their computer problems. Curiously, upgrades to the Service's computers are being championed by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who says he's had 'concern for a while' about the issue."

Comment There are none so blind as... (Score 1) 257

those that refuse to see...

Some software lasts decades and has big side effects. Techniology management is ephemeral, with life-spans measured in months, rarely years.

Managers knowingly mandate stupid decisions, because there is no personal downside and a short term budget upside.

Y2K was because large organizations (or the incumbent management) repeatedly ignored technical advice to allow for 4 digit years, because it saved a few bytes storage for each date (which was significant back then) and they could argue "that problems still 15 years away, we will replace it", "that's still 10 years away, we may replace it", "that's still 5 years away, maybe we can fix it later", "that's still 2 years away, we are asking for a Y2K budget"...

Y2K? Oh Sh*t Fix that now..., then blame the developers!

Technology "management" typically refuses to see or respond to anything with an effect longer than their own Mayfly existence. At the same time mangers (as a group) are hypocritical and unethical enough to blame others, when the fertilizer hits the windmill... Couple that asshattery with a wilfully ignorant and fear mongering media, and you have the recipe for shifting the blame from chronic management incompetence to "the techies did it..." which is completely bogus.

There are few, if any, real technical issues remaining unsolved for most business purposes, and none that go completely unpredicted by systems analysts.

There are an enormous number of fundamentally incompetent CIO's and (worse) "Project managers", who should not be permitted the long term indirect technical influence they possess.

Their myopic decisions can cause potentially dangerous and expensive impacts on society, such as Y2K.

The negative influence, spin, and misleading media, continues; for example, the poor design of security in most commercial applications is directly attributable to short term "not my problem" management thinking.
Fortunately, we have better controls on building bridges than we have software, but the impact of some types of software is now much more serious and far reaching than mere mechanical and civil engineering.

Technology management needs a better professional accreditation and system of ethics, see acm.org for in depth discussions.
In particular, the ludicrous notion that you can manage construction of something you don't understand, (and don't attempt to understand) )by setting arbitrary dates and budgets, is commonplace in IT.

When the time comes to fix the next disaster, our failure to fix chronic management incompetence, will be the root cause.

Comment Re:In the fields of observation (Score 1) 51

I beg to differ.
How can chance, any truly random event, favor anyone ?
I have always wondered how odd little quote was ascribed to Loius Pasteur, I doubt that he meant it as it was translated.

Successful discovery, may indeed favor a knowledgeable and persistent observer.

Those ready, willing and able to say "That's Odd" because their preparedness allows them to know why some event seems anomalous...
Whereas other other, perhaps less knowledgable or persistent (or both), may fail to see an anomaly in the data and ignore the result.

It's human nature to ascribe the success of others to chance, especially when it reflects poorly on our own lack of knowledge and efforts.

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