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Tuesday, May 31, 2005


New headphones have same problem

I don't get it. The new headphones have the exact same problem. I've tried these things on more than one computer, but they experienced the same problem on each.

The company claims that this is not normal behaviour, and I believe them; it sounds too much like a defective product.

I don't know what I'm going to do. Tommorow I'll call tech support and go from there.


New headphones arrived!

As I previously mentioned, LTB agreed to cross-ship the headphones, and to do it via the US postal service instead of UPS.

They just arrived! Best of all, whereas UPS stuck me with a $40 bill (mostly for brokerage), the USPS package arrived with NO FEES. If you ever need to get a package from the US to Canada (or vice versa), DO NOT USE UPS.

They sent me a full new pair, and they did indeed arrive in time for the LAN party this weekend. I will post an update tonight about if they work (or if they have the same problem as before).


Neat advances in machine translation

Google has been hard at work trying to improve the Google Translator, and recently during their Google Factory Tool gave a preview of their amazing progress.

I for one look forward to this, as better translations will be super-nice.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Games: The good and bad

A short post, I just wanted to share some neat things that popped up in the news today.

The first is the Gamer's Manifesto, in which the author outlines many of the common problems with videogames. While I disagree with some of his points, he gets most of it bang on. Game developers would do well to heed his advice.

The second is ATI's unveiling of their Crossfire technology, their answer to nVidia's SLI (multi-videocard solution). They do the core of what nVidia does, but they add on to that. The most interesting thing is that in addition to just the usual modes that split up the rendering work between the two cards, ATI has put in shared antialiasing; that is to say that both cards render different sample points to get 8x or 12x AA. This is reported to be perfect for games that don't normally support multi-card rendering, or don't get any benefit; every game will be able to take advantage of this. But most interesting is their new mixed-mode AA which throws in both multisampling and some supersampling (They call it 10x and 14x AA). This means that whereas normal cards just antialias the edges of polygons, crossfire can now throw some antialiasing on textures too, solving stuff like the chainlink fences in HL2. Anandtech has a great writeup Here. Unfortunately as a notebook gamer I'll never be able to use this. But I can still dream about ATI putting the on-core cache they are using in the XBOX 360 into a notebook GPU...

OK, so it wasn't quite such a short post.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Nos venit, nos quoniam madidus, nos emo caseus.

Called LTB today again about the headphones. Unlike yesterday's hideously expensive cell phone call (to New Jersy), this time I used Skype. Cost me something like 75 cents for about half an hour call.

I sent the recording of the headphone output to the tech support guy, who agreed that something was wrong. I talked to the sales manager, who agreed to cross ship new headpones (This means they ship them today, and I mail the broken ones back after I get the new ones), agreed to send via the US postal service instead of UPS (I understand that USPS/Canada Post won't charge me $40 in brokerage fees like UPS), and agreed to fax a corrected invoice to UPS to get me a refund on the sales tax UPS charged.

Overall, a very productive conversation. It looks like I might actually get working headphones before ATI-Revolution.

Oh, and work today was strangely satisfying. Despite much frustration, which Simon probably hates me now for sharing with him ;), right at the end of the day I finished the scripts I'd been working on and it all came together. Everything suddenly started working. Just a bit more cleanup to do and I can move onto more important things.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Preparing for tech support hell

I called the tech support department for the company who made the headphones. Small department, three people.

Today they sent me a beta driver. Didn't help.

In preparation for tommorow's call back, I recorded each speaker in the left earphone. Listen here: http://teknews.net/~guspaz/badsurround.wav

The two speakers that are the same size (15mm) are center and left surround. Left front and subwoofer are both from the same 40mm driver.

Because of the similar sizes of the center and left surround speakers, they should sound exactly the same. As you can tell from the wave file above, the center sounds fine, but the left surround is horrible (right earphone is identical).

I'm going to present this to their tech support tommorow to show them exactly what the problem is.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005



After paying $60 to have the headphones replaced ($20 to mail them out, $40 in brokerage fees to get them back), they have the EXACT same problem.

It looks like they might even have sent back the same ones. I didn't pay $60 to get back the exact same headphones, damnit!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Office move

Yesterday was my first office move. While I'm sure the other employees found it dull and annoying, I actually found it quite exciting!

I've moved into an office with Pat and Simon, and as I understand it, will be helping them out with the more QA-oriented tasks of Sandbox. So far it is very different from working in the more open space... My old desk was right on the 'highway' going into the kitchen, whereas now I'm in the office, so it's a lot more personal, and peaceful. The downside of course is that I miss out on foosball games, but I'm sure I'll manage ;)

The other downside of course is that the roaming bands seeking victims, err, lunch partners for the food court no longer pass by my desk. Not sure how I'll hook up with said bands. I'll have to figure something out.

Simon and I pretty much purged my schedule of all the non-sandbox bugs from before I came back from my weeklong school binge, so it was sort of an out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new type of situation. A little bit scary, moving into the unknown world of Sandbox, but so far it looks quite interesting. I've always been interested in virtualized solutions, and now I get to work on one!

I'm still sort of trying to figure out my new role though. I sort of know more or less what I'm supposed to be working on, but I haven't quite figured out the fringe type stuff; how my new job differs from the old one other moving to mostly just Sandbox stuff.

The past two days I've been getting used to the idea of having office mates. It's certainly a more personal relationship working closely with a very small team than collaborating with a larger group.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Yummy Chicken by General Tao

Well, it looks like I'm starting to get comfortable with chopsticks. I turned 20 today, so I went out for dinner with my folks. I was in the mood for some General Tao's chicken, so we went to Zyng on Sources. If you're ever in the west island, and you like asian, head over to Zyng! Good stuff there.

Anyhow, I had some General Tao's chicken, noodles, and mixed vegetables, and managed to polish it off with nothing but the chopsticks. I really do like Japanese food, so hopefully I'll get more opportunities to get more chopsticks experience.

Anyhow, if you're ever in the west island and you want some good General Tao's chicken, try out Zyng's on Sources. It's in that strip mall with the Pizza Hutt, the Harvey's, etc. A bit north past the Galerie des Sources. They have very nice chicken... Quite crispy, and while it's very flavourful, they don't drown it in sauce. Pretty good noodle too, since it is sort of a noodle place. If you're looking for an appetizer, the Dumpling Sampler is particularly nice. They have a spicy peanut sauce that is very yummy, sort of a hint of sweetness while still being spicy. Mmm.

End general rambling.

Friday, May 13, 2005


XBOX 360

1 teraflop. 1 trillion floating point operations per second. In a game console. Whoa.

I knew that this thing would be powerful, but this is pretty insane. I bet the XBOX Linux people are going to go insane over this one.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


XBOX 360 unveiling is tonight

Just a reminder, today is the day that Microsoft officially unveils the XBOX 360, their new game console. It's supposed to happenat 9:30PM on MTV, but since most of us don't get MTV, it will probably be up on BitTorrent very quickly.

Honestly, the thing is a beast. It sports a 3.2ghz CPU similar to the PPC970 (G5) with not one, not two, but THREE cores, and a nice next-generation ATI chip that packs more punch than anything on the market today, and has onboard cache that apparently makes antialiasing virtually free. They also slapped on 512MB of GDDR3, pretty unheard of for a console... though I think it might be used as both video and system memory, which would explain why they used super-fast memory usually only used on video cards.

Can you tell I'm excited? ;) I don't think it is very likely that I'll buy one since I'm a PC gamer, but it's very exciting when companies release next-generation hardware that blows away everything else on the market, especially when it will give us a sneak peak to upcomming PC products (ATI's next video cards will be based on the GPU used in the XBOX360).

To give you an idea of how much power the thing has, Microsoft has decided that every game must run in HD... WITH antialiasing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


RMA'd the headphones

Due to the issues with the rear channels, I called up LTB today to get an RMA for the headphones. This means they replace them under warranty. They're in New Jersey, so it should be pretty quick.

I would have liked to have had this working the first time around, but if they come back in working condition all will be good. The stereo sound quality is very good and I can't wait to get surround sound working in games.


New headphones

My new headphones arrived today, the LTB USB 5.1 ones I ordered last week.

So far it's been a mixed experience. They have amazing audio quality for regular stereo usage, but I bought the things purely because they have surroundsound support, and so far that isn't working properly. Anything played through the rear channels comes out super tinny and distorted, as if the low (and possibly mid) frequencies have been stripped out.

It's really obvious that this is NOT how they're supposed to sound, so for now I'm contacting tech support to see if it's a known problem. Maybe there is a bug in the drivers that shipped on the CD or something, and they can fix it through software. Or maybe I just need to RMA the headphones, an annoyance, but not the end of the world.

The surround still works, it just sounds broken. But trying it out in-game in Counter-Strike: Source, you really can tell things are behind you. I really hope I get the surround working, because I really like the headphones other than this.

I think I'm going to see if they've responded to my email by sometime tommorow, and then give them a call to try to get my issue bumped up the queue.

Here's a pic, in case you're wondering what I'm talking about:

Each earpiece has three speakers in it, one 40mm driver as the front and subwoofer, and two 15mm drivers, one as the center and one as the back. I know this means that the surround will never sound as good as the front, but it should still sound as good as the center channel, which is WAY better than the rear.


So close...

After handing in a rather long assignment today, it dawned on me that as I hand in each assignment, there are fewer and fewer left before graduation. I sat and pondered for a while on the fact that I only have 3 assignments left before graduation, and only one of those is actually major. It feels good, in a way, that I'm so close, since there is a certain completeness to knowing that these are the final assignments of an education phase. On the other hand, the past three years at JAC have been truly great, and I'm really going to miss the place.

It's a happy time and a sad time. Happy that I'll be graduating at the same time as my best friend, who is normally a year behind me, but caught up when he entered a 2 year program to my 3 year program. And it's sad, because the dream is ending, and I'm about to be whisked away into the bigger world that is university. I'm a bit eager, and a bit frightened, and yet still, sad.

I don't know what the distant future will hold, but I do know what the immediate future will hold. I will soon be rejoining my coworkers at NITI, something I'm really looking forward to. The guys have been nothing but supportive, and super patient with me while I soak up the lessons that NITI has presented to me. I eagerly await my return, and can't wait to see everyone again. I know I've only been gone a few days, but my recent ponderings have made me realize how truly lucky I am to have the support and friendship of the great people at NITI.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Side effects of Google Web Accelerator begin to appear

It turns out that Google's Web Accelerator is a beta for a reason. People have started to see side effects, almost all related to the "Prefetch" feature. It seems that the prefetch feature fetches links that execute commands, such as "Delete account", and ignore javascript popups. This has caused some trouble with certain web apps.

Personally I've found that it messes up PHPBB2's remembering of which posts you've viewed. One visit to the forum and then it thinks you've read ALL posts.

After learning about the problems with prefetching, I disabled it in the settings. However, as I left on the feature that double-underlines prefetched links, GWA seems to still be prefetching pages that I have not yet visited.

I guess caution is in order if you want to try GWA (Which is currently not accepting new beta testers). To be fair, it is a beta, which means it is expected to have problems. Still, a very neat piece of software, and I do hope they work the bugs out.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


I'm sorry Quebec!

It seems that the store that told me about the change in Quebec tax law regarding internet purchases was just trying to screw me to make a quick buck. Other stores have now told me that nothing has changed and that they still will not be charging QST.

Boy, this makes me look like an idiot, doesn't it. Sigh.


Google Web Accelerator is neat

So, Google released a web accelerator. Interfaces with browsers as a local HTTP proxy, but communicates with Google's web servers. Since downloading it tonigt, it claims to have saved me 1.3 minutes of load time out of what would have apparently been 16.7 minutes of page loads.

I think Google can explain what it does better than I can:

Pretty neat. I wouldn't have thought of some of those, like local/remote caches with diff-based communication between them. Not quite sure what they mean by "Managing your internet connection to reduce delays" means though.

It has been pointed out that it can be used as a semi-anonymous proxy; semi because Google still knows where you go. I would also suspect you could get extra benefit by having multiple machines use the same instance of GWA, but they might only allow localhost to connect. Still, pretty neat stuff!

This is actually in line with something that I've wanted to mess around with recently, but haven't had the time (An NDF type project if I had NDFs). I have long wanted to write software to tunnel TCP connections over slow/saturated/unreliable connections, such as the one we have at the college. Something like taking over management of packetloss handling by encapsulating the TCP data over UDP with some semi-smart redundancy. UDP's connectionless status alone would significantly improve things, if you could manage the packetloss.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Quebec government money-grubbing

I just learned that Quebec has changed the sales tax policy for items shipped over the internet as of Feb 1st.

Previously when you ordered from Ontario, for example, you only paid 7% GST, and that was it. Apparently as of Feb 1st, stores in Ontario must now charge you GST _AND_ QST. Which means that anything you buy online is now about 7% more expensive.

This has just removed the biggest advantage of ordering online. Up until now, the lower tax often compensated for shipping costs.

EDIT: It seems that the store who informed me of this was screwing me; please disregard the above post.


Too much coffee

Every morning before heading in to the office I stop at Tims for a coffee. It's gotten to the point where I don't order anymore, I just wait in line and they have my coffee ready by the time I get to the front, made how I like it. Maybe this is a sign ;)

It seems they have even begun giving me mediums or larges depending on how tired I look.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Distributed BitTorrent goes mainstream

Azureus, which seems to be the most common BitTorrent client found in any given swarm, has just gone distributed. The newest version supports a distributed database system which allows one to make trackerless torrents, to continue getting updates on torrents whose tracker is down, or even to get updates on torrents removed from trackers.

People have tried this before, but never caught on. However, since BitTorrent is the most popular P2P on the net, and Azureus is the most popular BitTorrent client, things bode well. Furthermore, these types of enhancements, if they work well, tend to be adopted by most other major BitTorrent clients as time goes on. If, for example, BitTornado, the second most popular client, were to add support for this feature, 80 to 90 percent of BitTorrent users would support this feature.

This can only be a good thing. On one hand it has the potential to greatly increase BitTorrent's efficiency and resiliancy, on the other hand it deals a huge blow to the MPAA/RIAA, if it works.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


The Guide: See it!

I saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on friday. Great movie! I know that early review trashed it as unfaithful and unfunny, but I loved it. Honestly, I think the author of the review was just a hardcore fan that was too obsessed with the books.

I haven't read the actual books in years, so the movie seemed pretty much as I remembered it. On top of that, I found myself laughing out loud quite often. The movie was undoubtedly funny!

So my reccomendation? Go see it. It helps if you've read the book, but it's not required.

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