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Bouncing screensaver

July 31, 2013 1:59 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

We’ve all seen the bouncing screensaver. And we’ve all watched, hoping it would fall into the corner. Oh, you haven’t? Well, watch this documentary footage of the adventure you’ve been missing.

The screensaver isn’t mysterious. It moves in predictable ways, meaning we can calculate how often it’ll hit the corner (and if it will hit a corner). So let’s start with some assumptions.

  • The bouncing object is smaller than the screen.
  • It starts in the upper left hand corner.
  • It moves at a 45 degree angle.
  • It bounces perfectly (i.e. it always is moving at a 45 degree angle).

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LearnedLeague Computing

July 18, 2013 1:42 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I just finished creating and presenting a Computing trivia MiniLeague for LearnedLeague. It went really really well, and I wanted to share the questions to a wider audience. Beware: it’s HARD.

  1. During World War II, British cryptographers at Bletchley Park created electromechanical proto-computers to help crack Germany’s Enigma code. What were these machines called, a reference to the ticking sound they made when they were in operation?
    Answer: BOMBES
  2. In 1996, Intel introduced a technology allowing its processors to do math on large sets of numbers extremely quickly. This technology was widely marketed, and had a well known three letter acronym, but it didn’t actually stand for anything. What was that acronym?
    Answer: MMX
  3. The original Unix timestamp is stored as a number of seconds since January 1, 1970. This timestamp will exceed 231 in what year, breaking any computer systems that have not been updated to store the timestamp in more than 31 bits?
    Answer: 2038
  4. (more…)

March madness bracket

March 20, 2013 8:32 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Assumptions:

  • The quality of a basketball team, at the highest levels, depends more on the the ability of players to work together than their innate skill.
  • The ability of players to work together is roughly proportional to the amount of time they spend practicing together.
  • Competitive basketball is largely — and in fact was purposely invented to be — an indoor game.
  • Players are more likely to spend more time playing an indoor game when the weather outside is worse.
  • The perception of “bad” outdoor weather is roughly proportional to the temperature difference between summer and winter.

Therefore, if we took a list of all of the colleges in the NCAA college basketball bracket, established the August (start of the school year, usually warmest month of the year) and March (during March Madness and close to the coldest month of the year) average temperatures, we’d be able to fill in a bracket that would be as accurate (to a close approximation) as if we actually knew anything about college basketball. (As a tie-breaker, I’m using the school with the colder temperatures. If I need another tie-breaker, I’m picking arbitrarily.)

So that’s what I’ve done. Here is the raw data, and here is my bracket. (Yes, this is almost completely tongue-in-cheek.)

I cancelled my MLB.TV

January 11, 2013 9:41 am Published by Leave your thoughts

For the past two years, I’ve subscribed to MLB.TV. It allowed me to stream baseball games to my computer and my TV, and was a way better value proposition than getting the expensive cable package that would have provided me with NESN (the Red Sox’s local network). But I will not be subscribing for the 2013 season. It’s not because I’m no longer a Red Sox fan. It’s not because I’m not interested in watching their games. It’s because I’m sick of jumping through hoops to avoid their stupid blackout restrictions. If I was a Phillies fan, I could watch all of their games (except when they were playing the Red Sox). If I was a Red Sox fan from California, I’d be fine, too (unless the Sox were visiting the Giants or some such).

But because I live in the Red Sox’s “home television territory”, I’m unable to watch any of their games, both at home and away, without resorting to using proxies. Paying nearly a hundred dollars a year for the right to not get to watch any of the games I care about is very stupid. These are based on ancient cable contracts, I’m certain, but MLB has the upper hand in these negotiations. Are the networks really going to say “nevermind, we won’t show your games” if MLB insists on allowing paying customers to watch even local games online?

Until Major League Baseball joins us in the 21st century with their blackout restrictions, I’m not going to be paying for MLB.TV anymore. I’ll just have to enjoy the game at a bar, where Major League Baseball will get none of my dollars.