HDR photos

In a few years (5 to 10?) we’ll look at current color photos and think of them like we think of black and white photos now. “Real” pictures will be High Dynamic Range pictures.

That will be nice.

The new Canon A650IS takes away the shakes, has enough pixels (12meg), and handles low light ok, so now I find the limiting factor is dynamic range.

The Great Oil Crisis of 2008

A couple things seem interesting about the recent oil price spike:

  1. Where is the “Oil Crisis”?
  2. Where is the mention of the trash-by-the-freeway effect?


  • Consider #1. If it were 1973 or 1979 (gas-line years in the States), buckets of ink and hours of heavy-breathing news anchors would have beaten the “oil crisis” in to us. Why not this time? Is it because Nixon and Carter aren’t president? Not literally “because” of them, perhaps (though a silly argument could be made for that), but rather, is the mind-set that yielded Nixon and Carter as presidents no longer with us – even in the media!

    (Just to be clear, a “crisis” is what we have when someone wants to “do something”. If you don’t know what that means, wait a few years and watch the results of a few “do something-ings”. Hint: The guy who wanted to “do something” will never, ever mention it until they have successfully shifted the blame.)

    Or is this “oil crisis” missing to only me simply because I’m not exposed to these media guys. Every few nights, does NightLine lead off with a dramatic graphic mocking The Onion’s “War for the White House”, followed by talking heads wringing their hands and pronouncing this week’s events a turning point in the history of mankind and proof that there is no end to the “crisis”. …Uh. … Ah. … Is NightLine still on TV? … Whatever.

    My bet is that there is a different attitude out there from the one that was prevalent in the ’70s. The air’s simply been cleared. We don’t breath that stench any more.

    Consider what a true and beautiful thing that is, oh you who bemoan today’s world.

  • #2: A queue or flow system flowing near a critical density will crystalize from the occasional, tiny distraction. Think of how a piece of cardboard blowing slightly toward the traffic lane of a packed, fast-flowing freeway can cause a 1 hour traffic jam. You have driven through such a big slowdown but have seen no cause for it.

    The was no “cause”.

    Such slowdowns are a natural characteristic of dense, flowing material in this universe.

    The way I understand the world’s oil system is that it’s a flow of material from underground muck to hot air thousands of miles away. The “oil” changes hands many times. It’s a huge system and highly, highly optimized. There are predictable elements to it – both on the source end and on the sink end. But, it’s so leanly built that the predictability is optimized out of the system. Leaving a classic, saturated, queue/flow system.

    Which leaves us with “This will happen. You can’t predict it.”

    That is not satisfying. … Hence, we have plenty of left-brains ready to supply an explanation for why the coin, this year, came up heads.

    There is actually a reason why I’m guessing that a large part of the oil price spike was simply a traffic jam. I looked all around and found no information that accurately filtered from the “price” of oil the effect of the dollar’s drop against other currencies. Of course, there are calculations out there, but they sure looked like horseshoes and bombing. If the effect of the kahuna of “explanations”, the dollar’s value, is a wild guess then one might suppose that the oil guys who were stuck in the traffic jam simply didn’t know when that jerk right ahead of ’em would get off the d****d phone and move, for Christ’s sake!

    Quick argument against this: Where are the traffic jams in food? It’s an old story that “major cities only have 3 days of food; we’re all gonna starve; blah, blah, blah”. The food chain is very evolved and optimized. Where are the (mathematically) catastrophic spikes in the system? Answers I can think of off hand:

    1. Major cities have a lot more food stocked than 3 days’ worth.
    2. There are many alternatives to each type of food. This makes the system robust in the same ways that non-deterministic packet switching systems are robust compared to older systems, and in the same way that traffic flow is more robust through a grid-pattern city than through a more modern, flow-controlled, tributary-to-artery system.
    3. Hey! Remember the toilet paper “crisis”? Well, toilet paper’s kinda like food.
    4. And, panicing lunatics played the OH MY GOD! ALL THE RICE IS GONE FROM COSTCO! card this year.

      So, maybe there are serious traffic jams in the food system.

Scattering MegaSystem to Ubuntu/XP – Part 2

Lots of particular lessons learned.

Here’s the latest:

If Ubuntu’s System Monitor program and the Linux “top” program are to be believed about CPU and RAM usage, then modern computers are not memory or CPU bound.

They are disk bound.

After 30+ years of being RAM bound.

Now, spring is a modern, dual core Intel with 8 gig of memory. The CPU is rarely busy to any extent. Memory use doesn’t go above 3 or 4 gig after running for a couple weeks – with the XP VM running, remember. And lots of other things running (including throwing away those 20-30k emails every day).


But, the cursor freezes – especially in the VM. And there are long delays in routine operations while the disk drive is busy, chattering to itself.

Test it yourself: rsync a 400 gig drive’s contents to your main drive. Don’t expect things to work well while this is going on. Programs will spend a lot of time in hourglass mode, whether they show the 11th century timepiece of not. It’s bizarre how the VM’s XP’s cursor goes in to mondo-lag mode, too. Huh? What’s going on? Is the cursor location cached to disk in a blocking thread?

This is interesting because of the current transition in mass storage.

Let’s review.

1) The optical guys muffed the transition up from DVD. Yeah, you can’t beat the media price of optical. 10x under hard disk. But that boat left the dock and they missed it futzing around with Blu-Ray/HDVD/whatever wars. It’s over. The gamers and Hollywood might use these things to pack better quality stuff and more content on ’em. But the computer world simply doesn’t have any need for cheap storage in the 10-100 gig range. Maybe not even in the 100-1000 gig range! Hard drives are too cheap and they don’t have the insert-the-11-teenth CD problem. Hard drives provide the bottomless bucket in which to put stuff now. Thumb drives and CDs satisfy the sneaker-net need.

2) NAND flash has plummeted in price. It’s possible to get a working drive for a couple hundred bucks and that will drop in a year.

The latter, I figure, is the reason why the drive manufacturers’ stock prices look like buggy whip companies. The Wall Street guys may all be running flash drives in their laptops already.

I have also figured a couple of things:

1) You can’t have too much storage. You’ll fill it with video and the like. And dupes. And backups. And history of everything ever done on your system, or seen or heard by your system, or whatever.

2) Hard drives are still staying 10x cheaper than flash.

And wondered, can a hard drive with some brains and a few gig of cache look like a terabyte flash drive?

The predicted death of disk drives (caused by bubble memory) was my key, early lesson to ignore hysteria-hype. Since learning that lesson I’ve only bought in to two hysteria-hyped things (with, by definition, no false negatives):

  1. The internet.
  2. Leave #2 for another time.

Heck, I even backed off predicting the death of CRT tubes for all these years. By the time it finally happened, it had been hashed over so many times that it was, “Uh. Yeah. Finally. … So, how ’bout them Ducks?”.

So, that’s it. Time for a fast hard drive.

Scattering MegaSystem to Ubuntu/XP – Part 1

Email stopped coming in.

I dropped the 11+ year tranzoa.com web hoster. What I said to the guys at AZC.com: “You don’t shut off someone’s email without telling them, dictionary spam surge or no. And, you don’t tell them to use gmail. Not on a $33 a month service … in 2008.”

So, poor asuka (aka tranzoa.net) almost worked its aged, 128meg, 200mhz Pentium II heart out hosting tranzoa.com.

gina (aka bran) overflew its 1 gig system disk and floundered its powerhouse, dual Pentium II 250mhz, 512mb trying to process email to the tune of 20k – 30k spams a day. It’s amazing what a 9 year old, $100 Boeing Surplus machine can do in a pinch.

The old ViewSonic 21″ secondary monitor faded to dark.

The replacement box, spring, took a week to find a working motherboard from Fry’s and had a hard disk failure in a month (power outage – maybe not something to even notice except that it failed on some data needed to boot).

To get spring running I managed to toast MegaSystem’s motherboard. This was not well timed.

For perhaps good reasons, perhaps not, spring’s OS is Ubuntu H 64. The new Megasystem XP runs in a VMWare box. That’s the theory. In practice, I have spent a boatload of time moving much of my personal computing operation to spring’s Ubuntu. Browser, email, IM, picture editing and much of the housekeeping stuff built over years.

This would be the fun part of computing if I were a computer person. Remember the verified, 70’s observation: “Normal people expect computers to treat them badly. Computer people demand it.”

I am not even a normal person. Computers exist for me, not the other way around. At 10 years old, I claimed as much while half-stepping arithmetic homework. And, I claimed right.

This has not been the fun part of computing.

Ah, well. I lied. There was one fun part. Since MegaSystem was dead, its 3 gig of RAM fit rather nicely in Scott’s old “tara” box with the Auburn VO stickers and all. So, to keep the status quo, asuka is still running on antiquated hardware. It’s just running on 10x the CPU and 20x the RAM. Makes a difference. Doesn’t take 5 minutes to deliver a web page, for instance.