Every computer has a clock that beats out the working cadence of the CPU and the components that feed it. Each time the clock ticks - 2.26 billion times per second before Sylvia stepped on the gas - the CPU spits out another calculation. The quicker the clock goes, the quicker the computer runs. A pumped-up PC perks up any application. More to the point, it smokes the competition in a first-person shooter like Quake, which is really what this is all about. No one risks frying his CPU for a zippier spreadsheet.
A chip's rated speed isn't a hard-and-fast limit; it's just the clock rate at which the manufacturer guarantees optimal performance. Before Taiwanese motherboard maker ABIT released its IT5H board in 1997, however, tweaking that rate meant unsoldering a machine's original clock and installing a new one - a tricky operation that daunted even skilled technicians. The IT5H let you accelerate right from the keyboard. By typing a few instructions during the PC's boot cycle, you could change the front-side bus multiplier - the parameter that governs how fast the CPU communicates with main memory - and shunt more voltage to the processor.
ABIT's board appeared at an opportune moment. Soon afterward, Intel split its product line between the high-speed, high-ticket Pentium and the cheapo Celeron. Suddenly, users who mounted Celeron chips on ABIT boards could create a "virtual Pentium." The convergence of easy hacking and affordable hardware turned an obscure geek hobby into full-bore macho mania. Once they're hooked, overclockers kiss the budget good-bye as the compulsion to put the pedal to the metal smashes the usual restraints of time and money.
As Spider-Man learned, with great power comes great responsibility. The more electrical current a chip draws, the hotter it becomes. Without a cooling system, an overclocked CPU's delicate microlithographed circuitry burns out. Thus, cooling is an obsession among overclockers, who trade tips and post benchmarks at online hangouts like HardOCP.com (the Hard Overclocker's Paradise) and Futuremark.com.
Be sure to read Michael Kinsley's column on the Democratic opposition to Bush judicial nominee Miguel Estrada (either at Slate or today's WaPo, your choice).
Obviously, Estrada's real reason for evasiveness is the fear that if some senators knew what his views are, they would vote against him. However, this kind of high-minded bluster is a powerful weapon in the ongoing judicial wars. Over the past couple of decades, talk like this has intimidated many a senator who aspires to a reputation for thoughtfulness. And it does sound swell. Until you think about it.
Potential judges should not reveal their views on legal issues because a judge should have an open mind? Hiding your views doesn't make them go away. If the problem is judges having views on judicial topics, rather than judges expressing those views, then allowing people to become judges without revealing their views is a solution that doesn't address the problem. And if the problem is judges who fail to put their previous views aside, rather than judges having such views to begin with, then allowing judicial nominees to hide those views until it's too late is still a solution that is logically unrelated to the problem.
[T]he problem is how to keep a judgeship candidate's opinions hidden until he or she is safely confirmed for a lifetime appointment, and the phony issue of "prejudging" is a strategy for doing that.
...Judgeship nominations bring out the hypocrite in politicians of both parties, but the Republican hypocrisy here is especially impressive. When Bill Clinton was appointing judges, the senior Judiciary Committee Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch, called for "more diligent and extensive . . . questioning of nominees' jurisprudential views." Now Hatch says Democrats have no right to demand any such thing. President Bush fired the American Bar Association as official auditor of judicial nominations because the ABA gave some Republican nominees a lousy grade. Now Hatch cites the ABA's judgment as "the gold standard" because it unofficially gave Estrada a high grade.
The seat Republicans want to give Estrada is open only because Republicans successfully blocked a Clinton nominee. Two Clinton nominations to the D.C. Circuit were blocked because Republicans said the circuit had too many judges already. Now Bush has sent nominations for both those seats. Hatch and others accuse Democrats of being anti-Hispanic for opposing Estrada. With 42 circuit court vacancies to fill, Estrada is the only Hispanic Bush has nominated. Clinton nominated 11, three of whom the Republicans blocked.
Democratic Senators have begun a filibuster to block Estrada's appointment, and good on them, I say. It's quite simple, really...when Bush appoints conservative justices whose opinion isn't too far outside the mainstream--and who don't attempt to conceal their judicial philosophy--they generally get confirmed. The Senate's role is to advise and consent, not rubber-stamp every ideological nominee to a lifetime appointment.
The superb P.L.A. has spent this week examining Bush's record in light of his declaration that he represented a new era of repsonsibility in government, and the results are far from pretty. Dwight Meredith criticizes Bush's record of hypocrisy responsibility regarding:
And, of course, responsibility in general ("The Republican Era of Responsibility is quite easy to understand. No one except Bill Clinton is ever responsible.")
Some have complained that Bush skeptics like to use the term "responsibility" as a rhetorical club. I would submit that the fact that Bush himself insisted on the term--and his implication that he represented a higher standard of responsibility--makes it appropriate not only to judge him in that light, but also to apply the highest possible standards. If Bush's supporters don't like the way he looks in that light, I suggest they have no one but Bush himself to blame for setting a standard that he apparently wasn't willing to live up to. It's a pity that more Bush supporters aren't willing to re-evaluate their opinion of him in that light, but that's a matter for individual decision.
I disagree with some of this WaPo analysis of Bush's tax strategy--for example, that his insistence on eliminating the inheritance tax "sounded reasonable"--but one key paragraph absolutely pegged it with regard to the Shrub administration:
Had Bush run on a platform to eliminate all taxes on investment income and to make America safe for inherited wealth, we'd be discussing the budget proposals presented last week by President Gore.
That statement applies to so many of Bush's proposals. Had he run on his current platform, he'd have been toast in 2000. And I think people are starting to catch on:
Just 38% approve of the way George W. Bush is handling the economy--– the lowest percentage since he has been in office.
BUSH’S RATING ON HANDLING THE ECONOMY Approve: Now 38% 1/23/02 [Ed: I think that should be 03] 44% 2/2002 54% 3/2001 55%
Disapprove: Now 53% 1/23/03 49% 2/2002 37% 3/2001 28%
I also liked this description of Bush's tax plan:
[L]ook at the president's proposals taken together, and you see what's going on. He's trying to make income from investments tax-free, which would radically transform the cherished notion of a progressive system -- that people who have done better, thanks to what this country has to offer, should pay taxes at a higher rate than the less fortunate. People get that nice glow contemplating how much this plan or that plan would save them, not realizing that the warmth they feel is the water temperature rising.
Let me rephrase that: Bush's policies revolve around the concept that if you work for your money, you owe taxes, but if your money works for you, you don't.
I sure didn't vote for this. Most of the people who voted in 2000 didn't vote for this. And now some of those who voted for Bush the first time around are realizing what they really voted for.
So this could be described as … enlightened? After all, it shows a lesbian couple overcoming fear and reproach. Perhaps there's something positive about the world's youth learning to embrace non-heterosexual pop stars.
But the story of t.A.T.u. and their sexual inclinations turns out to be even more mysterious than the capitalization and punctuation strategy in their name. The original creation myth went like this: The two girls, who are now age 17 and 18, are childhood friends who, in early adolescence, fell in love. They performed together in a teen band, then auditioned for one Ivan Shapovalov, who is billed as a filmmaker and former child psychologist. Shapovalov then packaged the pair for mass consumption, first in Russia, then Europe, and now the United States. (They recorded in Russian when they started out in 2000, but last year recorded a couple of songs in English, working with producer Trevor Horn on "All the Things She Said" and other tracks on the mostly English-language version of their album, 200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane.)
More recently, reports began to surface that the girls are not actually lesbians at all. Shapovalov was quoted by the British press referring to t.A.T.u. as an "underage sex project" and saying that he got the idea for the band after looking at porn sites. "At first, the idea was just underage sex," he told Blender, the music magazine, adding that he came to realize that this by itself wasn't enough. "Every time, the audience needs new images—for this project, new images were lesbian teenagers." In other words, t.A.T.u.'s place in the pantheon of breakthroughs in mass acceptance of gays and lesbians falls somewhere between a Howard Stern bit and the current Miller Lite "catfight" ad. Could you ever believe such a perfect surprise?
But the story of the Lolita couple's rise only becomes truly perverse when you consider how obviously flimsy the lesbian packaging is: Shapovalov and his charges have hardly bothered to persuade anyone that they're on the up and up. Even the band's official bio comes off as a parody of the Svengali manipulator formula that recurs through pop history.
...Even Malcolm McLaren would be impressed at the Great Lesbian Pop Tart Swindle.
It's Valentine's Day! My lovely wife and I plan to celebrate by going out for sushi for dinner (don't worry--we will pay), and perhaps a movie. But we've already begun observing the festival of love this morning. My wonderful bride baked me some chocolate-cherry muffins...mmm! For my part, I continued a tradition I began a few years ago...I'd bought a box of those kiddie paper valentines (Hello Kitty of course...neko neko! kawaii!), and I scattered a bunch of them about the first floor for the girls and Crystal to find. Cecilia really enjoyed looking for them, and she was very good at recognizing the ones addressed to her.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A new computer worm has surfaced that purports to contain revealing photos of Catherine Zeta-Jones and other celebrities but actually installs a backdoor program that could allow someone to take over the computer, anti-virus company Sophos said on Thursday.
Users of the Kazaa file-sharing service and IRC instant messaging are at risk, although there have been no reports of infections yet, U.K. Sophos Plc. said.
The worm-infected file claims to contain compromising photos of female celebrities including, Zeta-Jones, Britney Spears and Shakira. Once the file is opened, a backdoor "Trojan horse" is downloaded onto the victim's computer.
The use of Zeta-Jones' name comes as she and husband Michael Douglas are waging a legal battle against a U.K. tabloid over unauthorized wedding photos, the company noted. Zeta-Jones was also recently nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her sultry role in the film "Chicago."
Update: My lovely wife chided me for not recognizing her regular reading of this blog. I looked to my referral logs for inspiration for that list, but I'm truly embarrassed and chagrined not to have mentioned her, and I hasten to correct that oversight forthwith.
Marque Perry scored five of his 25 points in the final 13 seconds and maneuvered inside for the game-winning layup with 3.2 seconds to go as host Saint Louis upset second-ranked Louisville 59-58 Wednesday night.
Reece Gaines scored a season-high 28 points for the Cardinals.
This was by far the lowest scoring total for Louisville, which is averaging 84 points.
Personally, I felt that FF IX was the best of the PSX/PS2-era Final Fantasy games.
The overwhelming angst of the main characters in FFVII and VIII got really weary, and X was thoroughly uninspiring. FF IX was a sendoff to the 'old school' FF games, and there was a lot of heart in that game.
I thought that VIII was the best of the PSX Final Fantasy games. It had the most interesting character development. They're all good, tho.
Personally, I tremendously enjoyed FFVIII; although I have only scratched the surface of VII, I expect I'll enjoy it as well. The only other Final Fantasy game I've played on the PlayStation is Final Fantasy Tactics, which I'm also enjoying. I've suspended playing for now, but that has more to do with the fact that my lovely wife gave me a PS2 than any fault in the game.
Speaking of Final Fantasy, it's possible to play the original Nintendo version on your PC via an emulator. c00L!
And if you're a Final Fantasy fan, be sure to check out the funny Web comic 8-bit Theatre.
Last night was a special occasion for my lovely wife and myself. I fixed a special dinner, and then we got out to see The Lion in Winter at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. I'd never even seen the movie, but I really enjoyed the play. Followign the show, we had coffee and dessert at a restaurant downtown. It was a delightful date.
We've actually been planning to lay in a couple days' worth of supplies anyway, although it's more a sensible precaustion against the vastly more likely prospect of a natural disaster (a blizzard, of course, seems the likely candidate these days). My wife, for example, expressed some skepticism that duct tape and plastic sheeting would be an adequate defense against a poison gas attack, and while I don't know, I would tend to agree.
It's hard to say exactly what the right course for the government is; as I've said before, I certainly fault the Bush Administration for failing to prevent the 9/11 attacks, despite the warnings that they initially claimed they didn't have. But despite the constant--and dishonest--effort for Bush to link his coveted war on Iraq with the war on terrorism, developments like this are a stark reminder what the most immediate threat to US security is--al Qaeda, of course. This warning also raises questions about the effiicacy of antiterrorism operations in general, especially given the enormous amount of attention the US is devoting to Iraq. US resources, while vast, are not infinite. Every intelligence analyst devoted to finding a justification for a US invasion of Iraq is one not devoted to nailing every last al Qaeda operative. And since the war against terrorism is primarily an intelligence game, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Administration's obsession with Iraq is indeed distracting it from the mission it should be fighting.
Update: According to an interview with a Red Cross official I heard on NPR, plastic sheeting is effective against poisonous gas, if a room can be sealed in time. The official said the precautions recently urged by the government are similar to those the Red Cross advocates for people living near chemical plants and other potential hazards. So there you go.
I know there isn't a lot of sense in complaining about the weather, so I haven't been noting every time it snows. (I didn't mention yesterday's light dusting, for example.) But the three extra inches we got early this morning proved to be just in time to make everyone's morning commute an ordeal. Bleah.
Someone emailed me a link to this article comparing console and PC RPGs. Interesting stuff, and I basically agree with the dichotomy it lays out:
Console RPG's are mainly made by Japanese companies. The "meat" of these games is provided by character development and long convoluted plots. The games are very similar to anime, having similar plots and very similar art. Anime and Japanese RPG's are intertwined a great deal. Fans of one are generally also fans of the other. The development of plot-heavy and character-heavy content in these RPG's is easy to understand when it is examined alongside Anime.
PC RPG's are very different from the Anime-related console RPG's. They emphasize simpler plots with branching story options and complex gameplay. The reason for this disparity is easy to see when you look at the PC RPG's roots. PC RPG's developed mainly from two sources: computer strategy games, and pen and paper RPG's. One of the oldest genre of computer games is strategy games. Wargames especially have maintained the same format for many years. This gives the PC RPG its complex gameplay. The variety of encounters, the massive skill systems, and the arsenal of equipment in PC RPG's all stem from the link to strategy and war games. The emphasis on a non-linear plot that the player has control over is taken from pen and paper RPG's. Pen and paper games required the game master to have a general plot idea in mind and adapt based on player actions as the session progressed.
Today has been a busy day, so obviously I haven't posted anything yet. My apologies.
I did want to mention that I picked up Final Fantasy VII at FunCoLand over the weekend. It was one of the last PlayStation games I still wanted (another is the PSX dating sim Thousand Arms), and I figured if I didn't grab it soon, I wouldn't have the opportunity. Fortunately, I was able to pick it up for a mere US$15. I've only had a brief look at it, but it seems to have many of the same gameplay qualities that led me to enjoy Final Fantasy VIII so much. Speaking of which, I've been spending most of my time lately with the PS2 games Devil May Cry and Ridge Racer V, but I've begun to get a hankering to play FFVIII again too. And this time it'd probably only take me, oh, about four months to complete.
Space Simulator offered an amazing amount of detail for a game that came on a mere four floppy disks. It allowed the user to pilot a variety of spacecraft--lunar landers, the Space Shuttle, and even hypothetical interplanetary craft--in zero-G or gravity situations. One could compress time to fly to planets in the Solar System or distant stars, or simply pilot a spacesuit jet pack around the International Space Station. A mission system made it easy to simulate a lunar landing or an entire Space Shuttle flight, from takeoff to gliding in for a landing. Almost as an afterthought, it included a powerful observatory function. While Microsoft's Flight Simulator remains popular, Space Simulator didn't quite catch on, but I'm pleased to see this excellent program receive the recognition it deserves.
This Wired commentary makes an interesting point: While advances in computer science have tended to focus on processing speed, increasinly cheap and efficient digital storage has resulted in a situation where we save too much data.
There was an era when a mechanically captured memory was a rare and precious thing: a formal photo, a faint recording of someone's voice. Nowadays it's all you can do to avoid leaving a recording behind as you go about your day - especially as hard drives get bigger and devices more ubiquitous. The average American is caught at least a dozen times a day on surveillance cameras: at bank machines, above intersections, outside tourist spots, on the dashboards of police cruisers. Businesses log every keystroke made by their employees; help centers store audio of telephone calls, as does 911. DigiMine CEO Usama Fayyad, a computer scientist turned data mining entrepreneur, calculates that the data storage curve is now rocketing upward at a rate of 800 percent per year. "It makes Moore's law look like a flat line," he says. "Companies are collecting so much data they're overwhelmed."
You may know the feeling. Since Kodachrome made way for JPEG, pictures accumulate on hard drives like wet leaves in a gutter. If you wanted to, you could make a fair-quality audio recording of everything that reaches your ears for a month and store it on an iPod that fits in your pocket. Though, of course, you'd need another month to listen to it. Whence the rub: If life gets recorded in real time, it hardly counts as a record at all. It certainly has less impact, and in extreme examples it's self-defeating.
I can certainly relate to this phenomenon, because I'm something of a digital pack rat. My hard drive seems to always be perilously close to fullness (I still haven't gotten around to installing this L33t 40 gig drive...), yet I remain in this churn cycle in which I download pix, video, games, FAQs, and whatnot, burn it on to CD-ROM, and delete it off the hard drive, without necessarily playing, viewing, or reading everything I leech. I do get something of a charge out of simply having c00L stuff (as witnessed by my congruent tendency to by video games and DVDs faster than I can play or watch them), and I've learned that it's best to grab things off the Internet when I can, as they may go away by the time I return, but there's no question I'm collecting data at a faster rate than I can assimilate it.