CPUs And GPUs Of Game Consoles

Outside Fred Myer's there is head scratching scene right now: there are about 16 people, mostly middle edges or elders, in their sleeping bags and chairs planning to spend the whole cold foggy night. We asked them and as we had guessed, all of them are waiting for XBox to take home!

The physiology of these kind of people is interesting to me. After all, why can't they walk in the store at 9 AM and buy then? Even if they are out of stock, the rules of economy would dictate that demand would meet the supply pretty soon. So why, just why, they would take out their sleeping bags and spend cold night outside the store?

It turns out, they are not bunch of psychos. They are not even hard core gamers who just can't wait a day longer. Hack, most of them aren't even there for themselves! They are there for their teens and kids. And reason their teens and kids wants Xbox so badly is because tomorrow that would be the talk of the class and they would have to face the question from everyone they know: "Did you got it?". There would be great divide in the school: Those who has it and those who don't - i.e. the uncool ones. Lines at Cosco is even bigger because they are going to have 96 of them to sell while Fred Myer only 16! Ironically, the sign where the line begins says: Xbox 360 - The wait is over ;). From all that can be seen, Microsoft has essentially won the Console market game.

Apart from this, I'd always been sceptical about the hardware power of consoles and haven't quite digested why they even exists? Most newer PCs are extremely powerful compared to measly specs of far more cheaper consoles. For instance, Xbox 360 has triple core Xenon CPU but each without guts and advanced features such as OoO. The main advantage of triple core CPU is that you can actually have up to 6 hardware threads resulting in smooth performance. But, surprisingly, most compilers and tools currently used for game development rely on mostly single threaded architecture and heavily depend on GPU power instead. The most new game titles ends up treating the console as if it had single core CPU and thus giving less throughput than the desktop PC. It is being speculated that after a year or two game developers would update their tool set to use two cores so they can match the desktop performance. Sony with their Cell processor does even worse with PS3. AnandTech has cool article on Xbox 360 and PS3 CPU and GPU with very interesting discussions like collision detection in games. Not surprisingly, Xbox and PS3 hardware costs lot more for Microsoft and Sony to manufacture and they are sold at net loss with the hope to recover price from licenses sold to game developers. Result? It's closed developer environment. Customer pays lot more for game than its actual cost. They buy less numbers of games and they finally get to run them on comparatively less powerful hardware than what they already own. Sony, in my view, is definitely to blame for not promoting PC gaming, make it more versatile with new PC compatible accessories and instead create this whole console mess mania.

Simple Sharing Extension

Unlike breakthrough ideas in physical sciences, the breakthrough ideas on Internet are in general so simple that they don’t require you to be genius, just not being stupid is often enough. And yet SSE specs from Ray Ozzie is truly something that I can go crazy about and has definitely reignited my cravings for starting a new project for building a dream version of Groove. As someone who has spent 2 intensive years in turning a real world large scale application in to almost-magic collaboration app despite the frustrating state of Groove, I can’t over judge the delights and simplifications the SSE can bring to you.

The SSE could be essentially viewed as lightweight simplified version of Groove dynamics riding on RSS. What can you do with it? For any app that deals with some kind of data, you can enhance that app to publish the modifications to that data, accept modifications from someone else and merge them using well defined rules. For most real world applications, this won’t be enough. You would never want your data to be blindly overwritten by someone else’s changes. You had rather want an ability to view those edits as conflicts and resolve them. This needs more than SSE: You will need to enhance your existing XML/RDBMS schemas to allow for versions, new capabilities for UI elements to display conflict and resolve them and in-between middle tier to incorporate conflict state in to your business logic. Still this simple thing, SSE is a huge start and can essentially turn almost any application in to a collaborative powerhouse instead of something that runs in dark isolation on your local box.

While I can’t yet comment on finer points until I actually build something that talks using RSE+SSE, my feeling is that we have yet to see SSE specs getting matured. You can easily see the hack for ordered list to accommodate OPML which otherwise could have been modeled using additional item elements describing relationships between other items and reusing the mechanism developed for ordered item. But that probably would end up in endless discussion than just adding a hack to make DaveW happy. However the major grip is about using RSS as a carrier for sync info. This isn't unusual, as I'd noted in my essay, it is often easier to ride on RSS popularity to gain acceptance rather than hopelessly debating technical merits of your ideas in truly useless meetings with everyone you ever knew. The scarifies is that now instead of using structures that may well fit the data structure you have, you gonna stuff your stuff into RSS item tag. Apart from this, each endpoint will have to maintain history to detect conflict when version attribute is same and also (optionally) maintain list of conflicts along with item which would be republished to other endpoints. I wonder if there exist an algorithm to eliminate/further simplify this.

15 Questions On Leadership

These are interesting questions if you were pursuing an acadamy degree on management/leadership. I do have the answers but don't have enough room here to write it down (Fermat R.I.P.).

  1. What a good leader should do when a majority vote is different then his/her strongly held belief?
  2. If you must make a choice between hurting your team's goal or ethics, what a good leader should choose?
  3. Say your boss wants you and your team to do something that isn't good for your team's goals. After lots of arguments, your boss does not change his/her mind. How would you handle this situation?
  4. How a good leader should treat his/her equals in the team? What can you do to harness his/her abilities without producing conflicts in leadership or ego-clash?
  5. How a good leader would pass the unpleasant news to the team without hurting the morals and motivation?
  6. In certain phase of a project you need your team to heavily overwork for a some period. What are the good things to do to keep the team alive and motivated in such times?
  7. Some members of a large team may end up doing boring, repetitive and otherwise uninteresting work. How a good leader would recruit them? How to keep them motivated?
  8. Statistically 90% of the projects goes over-budget and over-deadlines. Say if you did fell in to these 90%, how would you keep your boss and your team keep going?
  9. Communication is of atmost important to the team. But is it good or bad to have lots of discussions?
  10. What are the good rules of thumb for good signal-to-noise ratio for team brainstorming sessions?
  11. A very capable and essential team member of yours asks you for a raise but you do not have funds. How would you keep him/her?
  12. Say you lead a large team and you can't recruit every single team member personally any longer. What are the general good recruiting policies a leader can set up avoid the weak nodes in your team?
  13. If you had to choose between following two candidates, what job attributes you would consider for the best match? enthusiastic but inexperienced college grads and less passionate but highly experienced professionals.
  14. How a good leader should respond when he/she finds certain team members does not respect or have a belief in him/her?
  15. Lets say you came to knew that you might soon become the target for certain mishaps, which weren't really your fault. What would be your exit strategy?

StarWars Weekend Marathon

We planned back-to-back original StarWars trilogy marathon over the weekend. I got to watch them in sequence for the first time and it made lot of sense and gave me a new perspective about this whole “religion”. Some observations…

  • First StarWars wasn’t really advertised as Episode IV. That tag came later.
  • After watching first StarWars anyone could see that Princes Liea and Luke were going to be a couple. All indications are that, Lucas changed his intentions for V and VI for God knows why.
  • From the story point of view, IV remains the coolest. The V is a head twisting story and VI looks like a patch work to justify what V did. This is, of course, not to mean that these movies aren’t still some of the coolest.
  • Lucas didn’t asked for more compensation for making first StarWars but instead rights to make sequel. He took the loan from the bank and made the sequels from his own money. This is strikingly unusual and highlight of the confidence on what he believed in (especially when sequels are such a huge gamble that no one in the industry invests their own money to make them). Before I watched the marathon, my impression for Lucas was a person who knew how to maximize cash from popularity. While this hasn’t changed much, I’ve gained new appreciation for him.
  • I'm your father” was a last minute story edit. Even the director who was hired by Lucas to make V wasn’t aware of it. It seems that Lucas who had been buried under big lone from the bank, severe over budgeting and schedule slippage decided to use typical tactics of putting a huge “surprise” that would make people wanna come for the sequel.
  • The biggest asset of StarWars is probably the background musical score. Initial edits of first StarWars without this musical score looks like a B grade sci-fi.
  • Times has published a long article about StarWars apparently with tons of praise for Lucas and without a single critic for Episode I and II which universally believed to be “sucked”. You can tell Lucas has hired some really deep reach PR firm :).
  • The Gold pack is the re-released (digitally retouched) version of the movies which means it looks really cool and young. My wife pointed out that at the end of the Episode VI when Luke sees his father along with Yoda and Obi-Van, the original actor has been digitally replaced with the one who appears in I & II! Obviously, Lucas hadn’t planned it all along 🙂

Places I Found On Google Maps

After Google Maps included a link for satellite views, I ended up spending a night in finding all kind of places. Yeah, this is not new but not it is so much more cleaner, convenient and faster.

[Partial List]

Most of these "sightings" has been reported to Google Siteseeing. More are at Google GlobeThrotting

Buying And Selling Broadway Show Tickets

When it comes to buy Broadway show tickets these days, scene is really the worse. Few years ago, you only had to deal with idiotic Ticketmaster and now the pain is extended to 100s of brokers that have mushroomed to somehow "lawfully" buying off all the nicest seats and later sells it with the price tag of 2X or more. No wonder shows like Wicked and Lion King are now suddenly sold out for next 8 months or so. These guys even have their "national association" and just makes me wonder what they did to the system so as to make their whole thing a perfectly "legal business".

This entire anomaly could be blamed on this worst ticketing website of the World. Not only they charge "convenience fee" of $5 per ticket for using their annoying website but unlike anything else on the Net, they have absolutely no returns policy! I think they are the good subjects to study how to force customer to knowingly pay more then they should, how to have no returns policy, worst possible customer service and still maintain almost a monopoly.

Anyway, if you get in to buying/selling Broadway show tickets, here are some tips:

If you are buying at last minute, try eBay. However if you are after those popular shows, don’t rely on "manual" bidding. It doesn’t work. You may quickly realize that most bids on such auctions occur in the last 60 seconds of auction (known as "bidding war"). The bid prices literally go twice for these tickets during the last few seconds. This is courtesy of the automated programs (robots) called snipers which bids on your behalf in last few seconds before the auction closes. The one web-based sniper that I used and which reliably worked was eSnipe. But there are tons of others out there. Other place to look out is Craig’s list and stub hub, especially if you wanted to sell your tickets at the last moment.

Overall, let’s all continue to hate and investigate how Ticketmaster manages to stay alive (and use that knowledge to kill it one day).

Voyager Is Missing

Star Trek Voyager is off-air since past few months. So I went to Netflix, my DVD subscription, just to find that Paramount hasn't produced DVDs yet. So I went to Amazon to buy VHS version, just to find that the video cassets are one episod per casset (consider having 150+ episodes). So all these have almost ruined my hopes to get back to Voyager, just when I needed the most. As my last resort, I looked up in Kazza and found some of the cool episodes floating around but it gonna take days to get them. Moral of the story: If it is still on-air in your area, watch it while you still can. Don't mess with your luck.