08-31-08 - 1

So I installed Media Portal and the initial thought is that it's way better than Media Center. It's way more configurable and actually has display modes that show your music in usable ways. Like it actually lets you use your directory structure, and it has various list modes including ones that show a decent number of tracks. It lets you build ans use M3U playlists pretty well, etc.

MediaPortal is a hacked together mess and it's an absolute bitch trying to figure out how to do things with it. The documentation is minimal and what's there is way out of date. Tons of plugins for it are for old versions and no longer work any more and to figure it all out you have to just go searching around the forums which are a total mess. (BTW this idea that just having forums to document your software is okay is totally false; forums are an okay way for people to interact during development, but they do not provide a useable way for new people to learn about something because you can't figure out what information is still true or not).

MediaPortal starts up really slow by default, but you can go into the settings, turn on expert mode, and disable lots of stuff like animations and all the plugins you don't want.

Setting up MediaPortal for a remote is a huge bitch. The best way with my system seems to be to set MediaPortal for generic HID input, which makes it take key presses, and then set the iMon thing up to output the right key presses. There are config files for iMon -> MediaPortal floating around the net, but none of them is "official" so you just have to randomly try some and then tweak things yourself. Media Portal's key mapping functionality is also semi-broken, you can't access all the functions from keys and you can't make them context-sensitive.

Oh, I also found out Requiem needs to be run from the machine where you authorized your iTunes; apparently iTunes does some encryption using the MAC address of the machine. Also there's some weird thing with an "SC Info.txt" file that you can search about if Requiem gives you trouble. It also makes zero output so it's hard to tell when it's working or not, and it just crashes if you give it bad args. But it's still the only decent un-DRM solution.

If you want to make an HTPC and have it Just Work you probably have to go all-MS. Buy a Windows MCE Remote from MS, use the IR receiver that comes with it, disable the IR in the case, and just use Media Center as your player, and put all your content in My Documents. Don't bother trying to make your case's LCD or IR work and just go with what the MS stuff can do and it should all work okay. While I found MS's Media Center to be ass for music, it does seem pretty nice for TV if that's what you want.

Anyhoo, the HTPC with Media Portal is now sort of mostly working. The LCD doesn't work yet, but fuck it, it sucks anyway. AMD's Cool & Quiet doesn't seem to be working, but fuck it, it's cool and quiet enough already. UltraVNC does work with MediaPortal so I can remote that way. The default MP skin is ugly and the other skins I tried are broken, but whatever, fuck it.

In theory MP is open source so I could build it myself and fix the things I don't like. I've never had success with building one of these big messy open source apps before, though, so I'm very scared.

A few big todos remaining :

1. I've got a big problem with the music mirrors on our laptops. Ali and I both have our old copies of music and we may download new stuff in the future; I need a way to get that stuff into the share easily. The problem is I've already renamed a bunch of stuff on the share machine and deleted our duplicates, so I can't just xcopy. Yucky bleck.

Really the whole interface with exposing the share to her iTunes is yeck. When she gets new stuff I need to copy it to the share, and possibly change the file names to regularize because fucking music file names are randomly broken (the same band will be given slightly different names - for example you would have "AC-DC", "AC DC" and "ACDC"). I need to remember what was copied so that I don't copy it again. To expose the share, I need to get it into her iTunes, but without duplicating the stuff she has locally. And when I add new stuff to the share I want it to get into her iTunes quickly without doing a full dir scan. Ass ass ass fuck. There are some apps that do some of these things - Dupe Eliminator and iTunes Library Updater but they're both ass in various ways. I've used iTLU on my local machine and it's slow as all fuck, and you have to manually run it to get your new music in. Bleck, better solution is needed.

2. I want a figure out a way to just send playlists from other machines. I want to be able to browse the music share from my laptop and pick some files and click something on my laptop and have it start playing on the HTPC. The HTPC remote interface is okay for playing one album, but if you want to put together a playlist you really want your computer with a desk and a mouse. I'm sure I could do this pretty easily myself if I could write a Plugin for MediaPortal. This is relatively easy if I'm making playlists in WinAmp on my machine that directly refer to files in the Share, and the just sending the M3U file over the net to the HTPC machine; I'm sure I could rig that up pretty easily. It's much harder to rig so that Ali can make playlists in her iTunes and get those to play; for one thing her iTunes may refer to local copies of a song that is also on the music share. Like I said before there's still the possibility of just beaming your audio out from your machine to the HTPC, but that's not ideal because you'd like to be able to fire a playlist off and then do other things on your laptop and have the music keep playing. You know, like a fucking CD does.


08-30-08 - 4

God damn one of my great computer pet peeves is when I start up some big batch process to run over night, then I wake up and check on it, only to find that 15 minutes in it decided to put up some fucking prompt and stop running. Fuck you. I've written before about how you should always try to check all your possible failure cases and prompt the user right up front, but it occurs to me there's another pattern that people fail to do : defer questions to the end. When you hit a case that you need to prompt about, defer it to the end, keep processing as long as you can until you have to prompt. That way the user can walk away and then handle all the prompts at once.

Let me use a big dir copy as an example. Say I want to copy a big dir over to some other spot. First you should gather the file list and immediately check for things you might want to prompt - overwrite questions or make dir questions for example. Immediately prompt those at the beginning. Now go ahead and start doing the copy. Since you are not holding an exclusive lock on the drives, the files could change as you're copying, and unexpected situations might arise that require more prompting. If they do - defer them to the end. Finish all the copying you can, and then you might have a few little prompt cases at the end to wrap it up.

The Windows install is like the fucking devil for this. It takes almost an hour and it just randomly pops up prompts throughout, so you have to sit and watch it the whole time.

08-30-08 - 3

I'm seeing some really weird shit with DOS and backslash. Apparently in "cmd" the backslash works as an escape character. Not for normal characters, like \X for any alpha X is not an escape, but \" and \\ are special. \" is a quote char, and \\ is a single backslash. Also, the DOS 'echo' command is special in that it doesn't do any fancy processing. I'm not sure if this escaping is being done by the cmd environment, or if it's being done by the MSVC runtime before it gets to argc/argv.

In particular, I made a little program called "echoargs" that just outputs argc & argv. It makes the following output :

c:\>echoargs "hello world\"
argc : 2
1:hello world"

A more full line :

c:\src\chuksh>echoargs "hello world\" stuff\\" crap
argc : 3
1:hello world" stuff\

WTF this is seriously screwy. Supposedly the escape char in DOS is the caret ^ , but it's doing some escaping with backslash !? WTF

I can sort of hack a fix for my shell apps by looking for a single quote char in the middle of args and guessing where that came from, but seriously !?

08-30-08 - 2

Fucking Avira has smart extensions on but it still thinks it needs to scan all my fucking MP3 files. No, there is not a fucking virus in my music data, and even if there was it wouldn't be executed DUCY !?!

In other news Alissa had a virus on her iPod in the autorun.inf ; Windows is so fucking retarded that it by default runs the autoruns on any removable storage device that's plugged in, so if you plugged the iPod in any random machine - blammo infected. We haven't detected it because of course it happens to be not plugged in when the scheduled virus checks run. On a similar note, Windows handling of cached writes to removable storage is ass bad. Caching writes is on by default, and that very quickly leads to corrupt storage. On my machine of course I have cached writes off for removable devices, but if I plug in to some random machine they're on and my disk can get hammered. Yay.

BTW, the many ways cached writes are fucked in windows : it doesn't flush the writes even after sitting idle for minutes, so you can quite sensibly pull the disk minutes later and not have complete files; it doesn't flush before going in to standby, and then doesn't wake up slept disks when it does try to flush; the "remove this device" icon dealy to tell it to flush often just refuses to work, saying some app is still using the disk when that's damn well not true (which leads you to always ignore the warnings to not remove a device since they're so often false you get in the habit of just pulling it anyway).

08-30-08 - 1

I'm trying to copy all our music to the HTPC over the net and it's going outrageously slow. Alissa's 50 G has taken about 12 hours. Obviously I'm not using Explorer's copy, I'm using XCOPY which is supposed to be max speed. I'm also using mapped network drives which is supposed to help. I turned off all our Firewalls which was slowing things down, but it's still nutso slow. I also turned off various file info displays in Explorer and turned off the scheduled tasks discovery. Still slow.

This is stuff I've already done : Slow network browsing in Windows XP , Speed up Windows 2k/XP network , Hide the Scheduled Tasks and Printers folder in the network share view , InfoCellar XP Home Networking Problems

Part of the problem may be that the music folder has many thousands of files in it, and the MS network file system may have some kind of retarded N^2 thing. I am already hitting that fucking NTFS stupidity on the HTPC machine in which NTFS just fucks up completely on large directories (the directory B+ tree gets scattered around in fragments).

It's possible Windows network use is just retarded, like it sends 10X as much net traffic as the number of bytes you want to send.

BTW robocopy is pretty cool; I like the syntax of (from dir) (to dir) (file filter).


08-29-08 - 4

My new computer came and I spent half of yesterday putting it together. It's been a really long time since I put together a computer completely from scratch, and it's not too much fun. The Taiwanese case/mobo manufacturers could really learn something about assembly and instructions from Ikea. I spent almost an hour puzzling over how to hook up the "power sw" cables. The front panel hookup instructions consist solely of one loose sheet of paper that has this confounding diagram on it. The actual inside front of the case looks like this . I eventually figured out the diagram was of the inside front of the panel, but upside down, and with all the metal of the case removed. So it looks nothing like what you see. And even then I was like, okay, WTF, A to A-prime !?

Anyway, after much googling I found others had the same problem. Many people in fact shorted out their front panel display by hooking things up wrong. If anybody tries it, here's what you do :

1. Look at the inside of the front panel from behind. On your left is the HD area, on your right is the DVD area. There's a bundle of cables coming from the left, such as "reset", "hdd led" and "power sw".

2. The "power sw" cable from the left is black and white. Run that power cable over to the right side through the little hole at the bottom, and across the DVD area and up to the top right corner - there's a little exposed spot with two pins to plug the cable in to.

3. From the right side, there is a smaller bundle of cables coming out of the panel. One is red and black and labeled "power sw" just like the black and white one. Run this one through the hole by the power supply and over to the power button on the motherboard's F_PANEL pins.

4. Also from the right side there's a thick black cable with a USB adapter in the middle of it and a 5-pin head. It took me a minute to figure this out (again there's zero directions for this thing). Obviously it's a cable for external USB converted to internal USB. The USB pins on your motherboard are 2x5 blocks that normally hook up two USB cables, we're going to put this thing on just half of one of those. The motherboard pins have one missing pin and the 1x5 head on this cable has one blocked so it's obvious how to put that in.

I also had one fuck of a time getting the Scythe Mini Ninja cooler on. The socket AM2 cooler attachment is supposed to be really easy, but the Scythe wasn't set up for the right depth, so you have to take the clips off (they come in the shallowest of 3 settings) and move them to the middle setting.

Other random notes for anyone actually trying to build one of these things : Make sure to install the chip and cooler before you put the mobo in. Also install the right plastic air blockers before you screw in the mobo, it's impossible to change them once screwed in. See silentpcreview for HD mounting - it should have the top facing the mobo and be closest to the mobo. The little metal cable clips on the inside are designed to be bent in order to release and secure cables, you don't have to try to wiggle cables onto them without bending them like I did. The PSU is supposed to have a black and blue cable to control its fan; mine doesn't have one, whatever.

To get Windows to install I had to unplug the front panel USB and set the SATA drives to IDE mode. (apparently there's a well known BSOD crash in the Windows installer if you have drives in AHCI). Once Windows installs successfully, you can install the Mobo and Panel drivers and then put the hardware back.

I made a few little mistakes with the build. I got a SATA DVD drive solely for the thinner cable; I've read in reviews that getting an IDE cable around this case is a bitch, and in fact I see that would be true. However, the PSU only has one SATA power out cable, so I don't have enough SATA power for an HD and a DVD. D'oh. Easy fix with a Molex-SATA adapter cable. I also probably should've gotten a WiFi card so I don't have to run a cable across the living room (and a wifi card is like the same price as a cable these days!).

The biggest problem for me is that this mobo (AMD 780G) doesn't support any analog TV out, only digital. Apparently the majority of AMD/ATI cards do support composite/svideo/whatever output through their VGA or DVI port with just a cable adapter, but this one doesn't. A note on those cables : there are lots of things like the ATI DVI to Component Adapter or VGA to Component Cable which seem like they might help. These cables are not converters, they are just dumb electricity re-routers. The normal signal coming out of a DVI-I or VGA wire does NOT work with an analog video TV. What these cables do is let your video card output a special analog TV compatible signal through the DVI or VGA pins. Your video card must be able to the conversion internally and it just re-uses the same pins to send a different signal. The brilliant people at AMD didn't include that circuit in the integrated graphics, presumably to save some money, even though this an HTPC-intended part and lots of people still have TV's that don't have any digital inputs. Yay.

So my first thought was just fuck it I'll buy a new TV, but then I calmed down and realized I should just get a $30 video card with TV out. Anyway, I'm pissed about the lack of analog out because the whole idea was to build a super minimal cool quiet cheap machine, and part of that was not having a fucking video card which blocks air flow and makes a bunch of unnecessary heat. One thing to note, if you put in a video card, the onboard video output (VGA, DVI, HDMI) is disabled, so you must get a video card that has all the outputs you want.

Also, WTF, all these hardware review websites are kind of pissing me off. Search for something like "ATI 3450 review" and you will find about 100 web sites, every single one of them copying the Tom's Hardware style, every one doing a shitty job of it, none of them actually understanding the hardware well, just running all the same benchmarks, not looking at things like features or compatibility. Stop it. Go back to playing Starcraft and pretending you're a 1337 HaX0r

I was thinking if I'm going to get a video card I may as well get a TV tuner, but there seems to still be some major fuckup with HD TV tuner's that's scaring me. The ATI All-In-Wonders for example apparently only work in Vista, not XP. Windows Media Center apparently won't record HD. It seems to all be related to some fucking ass licking DRM bullshit which is fucking retarded. My original plan was to not get a TV tuner until that shit was settled down a bit, but now my hand is being pressed. Urgh!

On the plus side, the Scythe fans kick major ass, they feel like they blow a lot of air to me and they are super quiet. Also the WD drive in the rubber grommets is almost silent. The only time I hear it is if I put my head close to the case and listen for it parking after a few seconds of idle, it makes a little tick sound.

On the minus side of the quiet front, the DVD drive is loud as hell. I did a little searching for "quiet DVD drive" and didn't turn up anything, they all seem to be super loud. Also the activity lights on the case are pure evil for watching video, but that's easy to fix with a piece of black electrical tape. It would be ideal to have a software toggle for the activity lights.

08-29-08 - 3

Mercedes and Audis are symbols of prosperity specifically because they are such horrible values; if they were more reasonably priced or higher quality, they wouldn't be status symbols, they would just be expensive reasonable choices. Their status comes from the fact that only someone filthy rich could care about money so little to make such a poor purchase. This kind of thing is the white person's version of "bling" - retardedly overspending on highly visible items to make yourself seem more prosperous than you really are. I guess you could toss fancy AV equipment in there and lots of other things.

08-29-08 - 2

I've been doing some architectural history investigations walking around Seattle. Just by looking at the buildings in the neighborhoods, it's evident that Seattle was really prosperous around 1900-1925. There are lots of huge mansions from that time, and the old apartment complexes are really high quality, all brick with lots of nice architectural details, leaded glass, etc. Also around that time the city built a public transit system, re-graded the whole downtown area, raised Pioner Square up 15 feet, and built the city park system. Olmsted was called in to do the parks, which is sort of equivalent to hiring Frank Gehry to build you something today - it's a way for the up & coming podunk towns to show off.

You can also see that were was a big crash after that. There's almost no construction at all visible from 1930-1960, and then there's a bunch of really awful stuff from the 60's and 70's. You can be walking down a nice street full of old houses from the 20's and suddenly there's a ramshackle apartment complex from the 70's. That's a clear sign of an economic collapse, the families living in the houses bailed out for some reason and shitty apartments got built.

08-29-08 - 1

So far this fucking media PC is a giant frustration. It kind of amazes me that so many people out there build their own computers. It's still just such a cluster-fuck of incompatibility and broken ass drivers and Windows bugs. I would've really struggled if I didn't have another computer to use to get on the net and google about these problems, and if my google-fu wasn't so fucking advanced I never would've made it.

Apparently Windows XP SP3 has a well known crash bug, it fails to boot if you have a firewire drive hooked up. Yay MS. So I have to remember to unplug my external drive every time I reboot or it hangs.

The fucking LCD front panel is worthless; the hardware is terrible, it's too bright and the contrast is awful and the visible angle range is like one degree. The software for it is even worse, I have yet to succeed in actually getting it to show the media information like it's supposed to.

MS's Media Center app is no good. It's sort of okay for video I guess, but it's totally broken for big music collections. Just opening up "My Music" it stalls out for 60 seconds, and browsing around is just impossible with how slow & badly designed the GUI is (it shows 9 albums per page). Plus it does the fucking evil iTunes thing where it thinks it knows how to organize my music better than I do. JUST SHOW ME MY FUCKING DIRECTORY STRUCTURE!! Those 5000 songs I have randomly downloaded and stuffed in a folder called "misc" , no I do NOT want those to get all mixed in with my purchased music when you sort by artist or song title. Urgh.

So now I get to try some of the other media center apps, like MediaPortal. Or I could just write my own. It's a pretty fucking trivial app. Take remote control commands, browse playlists, play music, yay.

If I can't find better software to run this thing it's going to wind up being just a disk server + networked audio player. So like we can use our laptops to pick songs and tell it to play remotely and it will output to the stereo. Actually I want that kind of interface no matter what, so I'll have to find an elegant way to make that work. The ugly way is just to remote desktop to the media pc and set up plays there. Another ugly way is to use something like PulseAudio to beam your laptop's audio out to the media pc.


08-27-08 - 4

So Alissa's got all this music she bought from iTunes long ago with the evil DRM shit in it. I want to put it in the music share but I don't want the fucking devil program that is iTunes to get anywhere near my media PC. So I started looking around for un-DRM solutions.

There are a whole host of retarded solutions out there. "NoteBurner" uses a virtual CD device so that you can go into iTunes and burn to CD and writes the raw audio to the virtual device and then it encodes from that to MP3. "TuneBite" actually hooks the wave output of any app and can encode it; to convert audio it plays the DRM music through a decoder device and reads the output. Another popular one is "dbPowerAmp" which uses a similar method (I'm not sure which exactly). These might be useful if for some reason you couldn't access the actual music data bits, but of course they are totally retarded when you have the music file sitting right there and all you need to do is pull off the DRM tag.

The real solution is "Requiem", created by the HYMN project. It's no longer available from their main servers but it can be found around the net. It can crack all your files in like 1 second because it isn't actually playing and re-encoding them like all the "legal" dumb solutions. And it has a simple command line interface. Yay.

08-27-08 - 3

Seattle SODO does a weird zig and there's a spot where 2nd and 3rd Ave intersect . That also happens to be where Armandino's Salumi is located. I always think of those weird impossible street intersections as a stitch in the space-time-continuum. Hopefully the Enterprise won't come by and fire any Tachyons at it, they would ruin the portal to the Salumi planet.

08-27-08 - 2

There's a Sushi place in Seattle called "Imo". I have to go just so I can write a review that says "Imo is meh, IMO".

08-27-08 - 1

This apartment has really old bouncy wood floors that squeak when you walk around. The problem is, when I play music with any bass even at moderate volume it makes the whole floor vibrate like a giant drum head. Currently I've got some 3M Bumpons on my speakers which gives them a little bit of vibrational decoupling from the floor, but it's not great. I'm not sure how much of the floor shaking is coming from the direct contact with the speakers and how much is coming just from the sound waves, which is unfixable.

The only better idea I've got is to get a thick piece of acoustic damping foam (something like this ) and put it under the speakers.

BTW I fucking love the 3M Bumpons; they're awesome for lifting up your electronics a little to get better air flow between your components, and they do provide a nice little bit of vibrational decoupling which makes things like your external hard drives quieter.


08-26-08 - 6

Wierd public restroom behavior :

Guys whistling or humming. Yes, we know you're uncomfortable, be quiet.

The stand back and pelvis thrust. This is when the guy stands like two feet back from the urinal and then leans back and thrusts his pelvis way forward.

The both hands on the hips. Like the guy is trying to tell the urinal who's boss. Actually this is usually done by business-douche type guys. Maybe they have their hands permanently affixed to their hips to indicate their importance. A much more rare variant is the both hands behind the head position, aka the "urinal is giving me a blowjob" position. Both very creepy. Keep a hand on your hose at all times folks.

The no-unbutton. This is when you leave your pants buttoned and feed your weiner through the trap door in your underwear. Are you Hasidic or a Never-Nude ? No? Then stop it.

The talker. This is such an obvious social deviance that I hardly need to even mention it. There is absolutely no talking of any kind in a public restroom until you are both at the sink washing your hands. If there's some emergency and you need to talk to someone who's at a urinal, stand directly behind them, do not walk around to the side of them. If you are inside a stall you must never initiate conversation except for toilet paper emergencies. I've had several bosses that would break this rule; again it seems to be common among boss types who lose touch with social norms due to their inflated self-worth. I would get a call on my office phone like "hey I've got a question about blah blah can you come talk to me?" I say "okay, where are you?" , "in the can" , oh no no no you cannot call me for a meeting when you're in the bathroom.

08-26-08 - 5

I bought an Ultimate Power Shower Head for our bathroom here. It's okay if rather overpriced for how cheaply it's made. It's definitely better than the P.O.S. adjustable massaging thing that was on there. Those massaging shower heads are absolutely worthless for the purpose of showering, they have a million settings and every single one of them makes worthless weak or sparse stream patterns. The only thing they're actually good for is female masturbation. But I digress. The big improvement really came from taking the old head off and cleaning out the gunk that had gathered in the pipe, there was a huge mound of detritus piled up right behind the shower head, and of course the ancient shower head was 75% clogged by dirt and hard water deposits.

It made me think of a bunch of little shit you should always do when moving in to a new place -

Replace shower head, clean out pipe. Similarly if the sinks are running with bad flow this is often just gunk in the aerator; you can take off the nozzle and clean it out or replace it for $1.

Just replace screens on vents; of course replace any air filters if possible.

Replace the toilet seat. Ours was broken (like everything in this place), but hell it's only $10 for a toilet seat and god knows what diseases the previous resident had, don't bother cleaning it, just buy a new one.

I'm sure there are some other good little things to do that cost almost nothing and take little time and make a big difference. I've replaced most of the light bulbs too just because the previous ones had no concept of good lighting design; eg. a compact flourescent is great for the kitchen but not anywhere else, any bulbs with direct line-of-sight exposure need to be soft white, but bulbs behind shades generally should not be soft white, etc.

08-26-08 - 4

I remember now why I didn't get out in nature that much when I lived here before. There's tons of great camping around, but I rarely did it. It's because I fucking despise camping in the rain. And it's always fucking raining up here. It's such a tease, it's like seeing a hot naked girl and not being allowed to touch.

08-26-08 - 3

I'm trying to get over my love of IKEA and start buying better stuff; "better" being purely defined by how you snobby pricks judge me for having IKEA stuff. I still think most of their stuff is wonderfully fuctional; it's simple and practical and well designed for actual use. But you all associate it with poor college kids and scoff when you walk in my door, so I'm trying to change. (I'm mainly talking about bookcases and shelving stuff and desks and kitchen stuff here; obviously their couches and whatnot are junk).

Anyhoo, I have not lost my love of the Galant desk ; it's the most perfect desk I've ever seen. It has a very thin table top which lets you get your keyboard very close to your knees, and it's height adjustable which is absolutely mandatory in a work desk IMO. Years ago I went shopping for desks with no price limit, just trying to find the best thing I could, and all the supposedly fancy desks were all garbage, with no height adjustment and way too much wood between lap and hands.

I just bought a new one and took my old one in to work. Unfortunately, they have changed it a bit since I got my old one some 8 years ago. The old one had just one big piece of tubular steel down the middle for support. It was far enough in that your knees never got to it. The new one has a box frame of much thinner steel tubes, but one of them is quite close and my knees do reach it.

08-26-08 - 2

I just randomly found this really nice 2+2 Poker learning Anthology that somebody made (it's an index of posts on a poker learning web forum). If you're seriously trying to learn poker (in particular, online no limit hold'em) this is a great place to start.

08-26-08 - 1

Any bakery that sells frosted cakes with writing on them definitely sucks. Any bakery that sells cupcakes probably sucks. Any bakery that offers a whole bunch of types of breads (from challah to pugliese to brioche) probably sucks. Good places do just a few things and do them masterfully.


08-24-08 - 1

AC-DC adapters with the brick directly attached to the plug are the fucking devil.

It's kind of weird that I'm happy to shell out $1500 for a couch but I won't spent over $700 on a computer. Part of it is because I know computers so much better and it's so much easier to find out about products and comparison shop and all that. Furniture is one of the great scam markets. That and cars and gyms are some of the scummiest sales businesses around. Pretty much all furniture is listed at a 100% markup or more, and they all do their damndest to keep you from comparison shopping or getting real product information. For example, the majority of furniture and mattresses are actually made by only 3 or 4 major manufacturers. It's all the same product, but they stick different corporate names on it and give them different product names, and try to hide the true origins of the product so that you can't trace them back. (for example, Simmons and Serta mattresses are actually made by the same people, the same is true of sofas).


08-23-08 - 1

How to make sandwiches more yummy :

Make sandwich as usual, with sliced untoasted bread. Heat frying pan and butter very liberally. When hot, put sandwich in pan and cover with lid. Flip when brown. Do not burn butter.

The result is crisp buttery bread on the outside and nice warm sandwich in the middle. Pure yum. This is the deluxe conclusion of something I've been doing a long time - when you make a sandwich and toast the bread, butter the bread on the *outside* not on the inside. Butter on the outside means you taste it more when you eat the sandwich because it's the first thing to hit your tongue. This works great for hamburger buns too. There's no need to put butter on the inside, the filling is moist enough, but a nice coat of the butter on the outside enhances the flavor and texture of the initial attack of the bun.


08-22-08 - 2

I want to get a terabyte disk for us to put all our music and videos and stuff on, but then I was thinking hey maybe I should make it a network device so we can both access it more easily. Then I was thinking, hell if I make it a network device, maybe I should just get a little machine and make it a server. Then if I make a disk server machine, I may as well make it a media center machine and hook it up to the TV so I can just watch video off it directly and play MP3's from it to the stereo.

So I started looking into that a bit. Doing some kind of simple RAID would be pretty sweet, but that seems to still be outrageously expensive (just a good RAID controller is like $500). TV out cards are cheap as hell these days; TV in might be fun too, I could make it a DVR. I'd love to use a quiet mini case, but all the super mini PC's (like the AOpen or Shuttle) don't take full size hard drives (and probably don't have the juice to play 1080p video anyway).

I guess there could be some value in running Linux on it, but I have zero experience with that. I wonder how good MS's XP authenticity checks are these days. I suppose eventually this box should also be my Blu-Ray player but there's no rush to that.

Any advice or experience appreciated.

I found this Mvix thing; it's a pretty sweet deal, it's all ready to go, but I don't like the fact that it's not just a computer. I gather it's running a custom version of Linux and there's some bruhaha because they're not releasing the code they're supposed to under GPL.

It's pretty sweet that people are making good home-theater style PC cases now. I really like the look of the Antec Fusion which apparently was designed with the help of the SilentPCReview guys. The case prices are pretty outrageous; you can get whole computers for the price of one of these HTPC cases. For example this Visionman system for $469 is almost ready to go.

If you're a money-is-no-object kind of guy the EndPCNoise mCubed is close to perfect. It's 100% fanless; it uses the solid aluminum case as a big heatsink with heat pipes hooked to the CPU; I've been dreaming of systems like this for a long time and they are finally here, albeit with an outrageous $2500 price tag.

Addendum : So I spec'ed a machine and made a Newegg Wishlist with all the parts. $662 for the whole thing. Some notes on the parts :

The Antec Fusion case is partly designed by the SilentPCReview guys. It's got good air flow and vibration-damping mounting brackets. Cool. It has an IR Receiver and front display panel for song info and whatnot.

The Scythe Mini Ninja CPU cooler was also designed by them specifically for this case. It has horizontal vanes so that transverse air flow will cool the CPU. Most CPU heat sinks have vertical vanes and are designed for a fan to be mounted on top. The Antec case is specifically designed to have air flowing across the chips, so putting a vertical vane cooler in would wreck it.

The AMD 780G mobo is perfect for HTPC right now. It's got plenty fast integrated graphics to do HD H.264 decoding without pegging the CPU. It also includes all the good video outputs. At idle it's actually cooler than the older 690G mobos, but at full load the northbridge with the GPU in it gets very hot. Hopefully will be okay.

Hard drives you have two options depending on your planned use : the Sumsung F1 is very fast and cool and quiet and cheap. The WD GP is slower. I went with the GP for my build because I imagine this machine will be sitting on but completely idle a lot, and the GP will park its heads in idle which will extend its life and also reduce noise & power when not in use.

For CPU I went with the 4850e which is the fastest chip at 45W, which hopefully will be cool enough to run with no fan on the heat sink. If you want to put a fan on the CPU there are various good 65W choices.

The Scythe SFF21D is the quietest case fan available; it doesn't push much air though, so hopefully it will be good enough for this build. BTW make sure you install the fans to blow out of the case not into it.

My reference material :

Visionman DTA-1A7800 Slim Desktop PC - AMD Athlon X2 4200, 2GB DDR2-800, 500GB SATA II, DVDRW-LS, Radeon 3200 Onboard, Gigab
SysOpt.com - A Case for the Ultimate Media Center Antec Fusion Review
Scythe Ninja Mini CPU heatsink silentpcreview.com
MvixUSA Revolutionizing Portable Entertainment - Mvix Multimedia Centers Mvix (MX-780HD) Wireless HD Media Center [wHDMI]
MATX Computer Cases, ATX Computer Cases, HTPC Comptuer Cases TigerDirect.com
How To Build A High-Class Media PC With Antec's Fusion Media Center Case - Personal Technology - Network Computing
Build It A Living-Room Media Center PC - Solutions by PC Magazine
Build a Quiet, Efficient Home Theater PC - Motherboard ASUS M2NPV-VM - How To by ExtremeTech
Brian's Media Center Edition - Introduction
bit-tech.net Review - AMD's 780G integrated graphics chipset
Asus M2A-VM HDMI AM2 mATX motherboard silentpcreview.com
Antec NSK2400 Fusion Media PC Case silentpcreview.com
AMD Cool & Quiet replacement
AMD Athlon 4850e & 780G as HTPC Platform TweakTown
AMD 780G Best Ever Integrated Mainstream Chipset silentpcreview.com

BTW my link lists like this are autogenerated from a bunch of .url files in a dir. I run the following batch file :

call spawnm -i url2href *.url >> r:\hrefs.txt

spawnm and url2href are programs in the ChukSH distribution.

08-22-08 - 1

My TV signal quality sucks here; I always split my cable twice, once off to the internet, then again to split to the TiVo and TV. I cannot fucking stand watching live TV through the TiVo, the latency of channel switching is infuriating (for similar reason I will never buy a "fancy" digital TV that takes like 3 seconds to change channels; WTF back in the 50's they had the technology to flip through channels instantly!!). Anyway the result of all this splitting is a lot of noise. Each splitter introduces 3.5 dB apparently; I'm not sure why it's necessary for the splitters to introduce so much noise. You can get good quality RF splitters, but they cost like $500. I can't really figure out a solution, I guess I just live with shitty TV.

Addendum : I'm smoking crack. The problem apparently is noise right at the receiver device (the TV or whatever). I'm not sure exactly where the noise is coming from but it seems to be a constant power noise source. The problem is that splitting cuts the signal power in half, so that makes this external noise 2x higher in a relative sense. The 3.5 dB on these splitters comes from the fact that 3 dB is about a factor of 2x. (10 dB = 10x in log scale, so 2x = 10*log10(2) = 3.0103). Anyway you can solve this by just amplifying your signal before you split. You can get a 10 dB amplifier for like $30 so I'm trying that.

Final result : I bought a signal amp and it fixed the bad signal quality. Yay.


08-21-08 - 3

Basic fucking courtesy when you live in an old building with wood floors :

Put felt pads on your furniture so it doesn't make that horrible scraping sound when you move it, the wood-on-wood squeal is like nails on a chalkboard.

Wear socks or slippers in the house; certainly never wear hard-soled shoes or high heels.

Try to walk with a shuffling step, not a stomp. You can pretty easily just slide your feed and not make any impact sounds at all.

08-21-08 - 2

God damn fucking fuck. Have I mentioned our landlord is the devil? He's supposed to come do the grout Tuesday. He just doesn't show, no call. I call him Wes to tell him I'm just gonna do his work and empty out the garage (in which the previous tenant left a fucking car engine), he says he'll come do the grout Thursday. Thursday he shows up and clears our stuff out of the kitchen and then discovers he's out of grout. He says he'll be back Friday some time. WTF WTF.

I hate fucking bills that require you to put a stamp on to pay them. I mean I guess these days you have your online pay and credit cards and whatnot so it makes some sense to not include postage, but back in the day it was fucking retarded. Just put a fucking postage paid on it and stick the cost in the bill for me. It's fucking better for both of us, it saves me the trouble of dealing with a stamp, it's cheaper because you get the bulk rate, and it makes it more likely you get your bill back promptly.

Fucking Picasa is not a normal web page, so I can't middle-click photos in the gallery to open them in tabs, and the fucking gallery takes an hour to load when I hit the back button. Also fucking Yelp does some retarded as thing where it stalls out really slowly when you *close* a page. Urg. Actually Yelp does a lot of retarded ass shit, like when you click on the "show me stuff near this address" and it first spends a bunch of time loading a page not related to that address, and then after it's done loading it posts your request and then spends a bunch of time loading that. Urg Web 2.0 can bite me.

08-21-08 - 1

So I'm in a war with our upstairs neighbor already. Yesterday some courier came to the house and banged on the door; I was like, yo, WTF? and he was like "hey I have this letter for someone can I drop it off?" so I let him in. As soon as I let him in, it occurred to me that this smelled a lot like a summons, having previously encoutered that when a violent wierdo acquaintance was trying to dodge being served divorce papers by his wife and he asked me to not answer the door if someone with papers was standing outside. Anyway, that was yesterday, and last night the guy in E comes home and stomps around an awful lot. Then at 2 in the morning he wakes up and bangs and stomps all over. I was just about to go up and talk to him when he quit it. This morning when I went out in the hall I found the summons papers balled up in front of my door. Ah, the upstairs neighbor has left a turd of wrath on my doormat.

On the plus side it let me read his summons. Apparently he defaulted on some loan and some property of his is being foreclosed. The summons is for somewhere in New York, and amusingly, he apparently has had some 25 aliases. Apparently this guy is one of those scammers who goes around taking different identities, pretends to be rich, gets loans purportedly to start a business or whatever, then runs away around the country.

This would all be just rather amusing except for the fact that he lives above us, which means he has the great strategic advantage of higher ground in this war. I guess I'm going to go apologize tonight so that he'll quit this stomping.


08-19-08 - 3

I want a voice recorder for commuting; I always have tons of ideas in the car and forget them by the time I get to the office; sometimes I try to grab a pen and paper and write things down which is pretty insanely hazardous. It seems kind of retarded to buy a voice recorder these days when you could just use your iPhone or whatever.

It's sad that the speech-to-text movement has died. It definitely has died. 5 years ago it was very high profile, IBM was bragging about Dragon, MS was bragging about this big name research group they were assembling, lots of voice recorders advertised their automatic text capabilities. Now the voice recorders don't advertise that at all, they just present themselves as audio recorders, and in fact a whole mess of listen-and-type-along software has popped up in the wake of the dying speech-to-text behemoth.

The first voice recorder I had years ago came with a light version of the IBM speech-to-text engine, and it was indeed worthless. I spent about 30 minutes reading the training text into it (you read 5 minute chunks, and it kept telling me insufficient recognition, train more), and after that it proceeded to mangle the recognition so badly as to be useless. I had thought that some errors would be no big deal, presumably they would be phonetic errors and I would still get the gist of it and be able to fix it or see what I meant, but in fact the mess that came out was so bad it took minutes of trying to figure out WTF I meant.

08-19-08 - 2

Our landlord is a fucking disaster; he's one of those people who just never has his shit together and is always an hour late to everything and rushing to the next thing, and doesn't do what you tell him unless you keep calling and reminding him, and shows up really late to appointments. I really fucking hate dealing with those people, they inject massive amounts of stress into my life. They make everything seem way harder than it really is, I hate having one in the office.

It's one of those relationships that I really hate. I really want to just fucking bitch this guy out, he's flaked and fucked up so bad on our place, but I need him to do a bunch of repairs and take care of the place, so I want to be on his good side. At the moment I've resisted telling him off but it hurts me.

08-19-08 - 1

The abbreviation for Land o' Lakes butter at QFC is "LOL BTR" . LOL indeed.


08-18-08 - 4

I haven't met any of our apartment neighborhors yet; I spotted one going into the garage to get his bicycle when I was sitting on the front stoop, but he avoided eye contact and dodged me. We've been making a hell of a racket moving in, and the walls and floors here are really thin, I feel guilty.

08-18-08 - 3

Homeless are like pigeons; yes, they're an annoying dirty infestation, but you can't really blame them - it's the people who feed them that are to blame. It's really the exact same kind of problem; you rarely see it, but there are retarded weirdos who come out and dump masses of bird seed to the pigeons, and they just multiply to fill the available niche; there must be a parallel for the homeless; we need a "Please don't feed the homeless" ad campaign.

(BTW I'm talking about your Haight Street/Capitol Hill type of homeless here; it's a very different flavor of homeless than say your Tenderloin homeless. The Haight/Cap homeless are mostly kids and drunks who have opted out of jobs because they got off track, but could get back on; if you stopped giving to them, they wouldn't die (mostly), they could get it together. The Loin homeless are another story, they would wind up eating each other or quietly wasting away)

08-18-08 - 2

If you Google "Trader Joe's Madison Seattle" it gives you the one in Queen Anne, not the one on Madison. WTF Google. How did you expect me to work for you when you do retarded shit like that?

08-18-08 - 1

I know I'm going to ripped a new one for this, but I think SF has better coffee than Seattle. I know, I know, that's hitting you right in the mommy-daddy buttons. Let me clarify; I think Seattle probably has better roasters (meh?), and Seattle definitely has far better trained baristas, and much higher average skill at making espresso drinks like caps and lattes and whatnot. But I believe the true expression of coffee flavor is in drip coffee, and Seattle just hasn't even woken up to that fact yet. I don't mean the normal shit drip coffee that you still get in Seattle, I mean single-cup hand dripped coffee like I've been doing at home for years, and you can get at Philz or Ritual or Blue Bottle or John Campbell's in SF. (also BTW IMO the Clover machine is not the best drip coffee; it's interesting, but the coffee it makes is too light and fruity; I prefer the strong Philz-style filter-dripped "turkish style" coffee).

BTW despite all the Seattle ripping, I'm really mostly liking it up here. Our neighborhood is pretty super convenient for nice walking. We have two cool parks for hanging, lots of coffee shop, groceries, decent eating, clubs, and the quiet residential streets are a nice change from the constant noise and dirt of SF.


08-16-08 - 1

I am now officially moved to Seattle.

Moved rants to oldrants6. Recent actual techy highlights :

SmoothDriver page

GoldBullion poker AI here

New tabview in ChukSH ; Casey's tabview was like a perfect minimal bicycle, light and fast and elegant; I strapped a noisy inefficient polluting lawnmower engine to it. But mine goes faster ;) (also a bunch of unicode utils in ChukSH)


08-15-08 - 6

Household tips from Charlene : turn your pajamas inside out every other night; this keeps your stale body oil off your skin longer. Put your aloe sunburn lotion in the refrigerator; that way it's nice and cooling on your skin when you need it.

Tip from Annoyances on how to turn off the system Beep using the hidden devices list in Device Manager. My laptop does this when I plug the power cord in, it's very annoying. better version of the instructions

08-15-08 - 5

There sure are a lot of fat ugly people in Seattle; it's almost like the midwest or something. It's worse the farther you get from the hip city center here; I stopped in some podunk towns on the way up here and it was like a land-whale parade. SF city is full of gorgeous young caucasians. I have to be demographically specific like that because it's such a weird mix, the young kids are all wealthy and new arrivals, but they're mixed in with a bunch of old asians and just the older local characters who still wear 49er jackets, and those people are crazy gross.

08-15-08 - 4

There are a bunch of web sites out there about the amazing power of the true squat. Now, I'm a big fan of the squat, but this and this are going too far IMO.

08-15-08 - 3

I really hate phone texting, I'm slow at it, and why the fuck would I text when I have a keyboard !? I should be able to just send texts to people's phones from my computer. They make those soft paper keyboards, you could get one in your shirt like over your belly, upside down, so that it's right side up when you look down at it. So you just look down and stick your belly out (or recline) and you have your hands right on a keyboard and you can type away.

08-15-08 - 2

Seattle still has a real working class ethos. Not that long ago, this was a very blue collar city. Before Microsoft totally transformed the east side, and the realnetworks and starbucks and safeco and all that, even in the 70's, maybe the 80's (?), it was a shipping and logging town. It was a place where people wore flannel and knit caps without irony or affectation. A lot of the architecture still invokes that era; there's a lot of low-slung brick buildings that feel really east-coasty to me. I like all that.

Of course that's going down the tubes just as fast as developers can put up condos.

Often when writing posts like this, I don't realy know WTF I'm talking about, but it's way more interesting if I just fill in all the details with what I think is probably true. My guesses are right like 90% of the time anyway, so whatever.

08-15-08 - 1

Is using a public WiFi actually a security risk? I mean I know it's a potential security risk, but is there an appreciable probability of someone snooping your connection?


08-14-08 - 8

It's sort of a curse for people to have too much success with their natural abilities. They never learn to hustle and make the most of situations. This applies to smart kids in school who figure out that they can skate by with A's and B's without studying at all, and they never really learn how to work hard and study. It applies to people getting jobs, if you fall into pretty good jobs out of school and make decent money you never really learn how to look for job, and how to get a better job, and how to maximize your earn. Of course it also applies to dating - people who are pretty good looking have some early success finding dates and never really learn the skills of how to meet the people they want to meet and hook it up.

All of these can be measured by your "Game". I define Game as your acheived level of success in a given field, divided by the level that you should achieve naturally with your inherent qualities. The total level of success in a given field is zero-sum over the population and each person has a certain natural level they should be operating at. If one person with good game does better, it means others do worse.

For example, your Salary Pulling Game is just your salary divided by what you really should be making for your talent level; good hustlers might have a game factor as high as 2.0 ; people with no game who just rely on their natural abilities and hope they get paid fairly might be running as low as 0.5

Just because you have some success at something doesn't mean you are doing well; the right way to measure success is your game factor, whether or not you are beating expectations.

08-14-08 - 7

Our place in Seattle is pretty close to the new Capitol Hill Station ; apparently construction starts in early 2009 but god knows with Sound Transit. We're far enough from it that I don't think we'll get noise or trucks going past, but it will certainly affect our neighborhood. For one thing a whole block of shops is taken out, and that whole area will be undesirable for walking; it will cut a massive hole right out of the middle of our perambulation/procurement zone. Construction will also be right next to the cool park which is sad; already the really cool Vivace coffee location that looked out on the park closed.

I'm particularly scared because I imagine they'll take 500 years to finish the damn thing. Also, after they tear down the street-level buildings and put in the underground terminal the plan is to put in some 5+1 mixed development buildings above it, which I'm sure will house horrible people and horrible shops.

08-14-08 - 6

The forces that made Europe so interesting and diverse are gone forever. The great variety of food products and specialties and local crafts came largely from isolation, little communities with very little communication with the outside world. People there would hone their skills and pass it down through the generations; even if there were books on the topics, the people in the little towns didn't read them. Occasionally some information would be exchanged through trade.

It occurs to me that this is a lot like the way evolution works on a diverse population. Let's say each little town's cheese-making technique is one genotype. Over time, the cheese makers in that town try things slightly differently - this is the random variation of genome reproduction. Those variations are selected for by the townspeople, the fitter ones succeed and the cheesemakers adopt them and make more of them. Occasionally trade brings two genotypes together and they exchange ideas - this is the "crossing over" and allows for big changes and lucky random variations to get out into the rest of the population.

Contrast to how things work now; we have the huge advantage of rapid communication and recorded knowledge, which means that there's far less variation. You no longer have pockets where people don't have access to the "world's best cheese recipe". If some certain technique is selling the best in towns, everybody adopts that. If you look at American food production, it developed in the age of technology, and you can see the destructive effect of all the producers chasing the most popular product.

Now with the craft movement we have some improvement, but it's still not really a healthy evolution-like system. Crafters tend to be amateurs with money who get into the field; they start by learning from some resource, and then if there is some big improvement in technique, it gets out on the internet and everyone copies it. It's this instant spread of changes which is actually not good for evolutionary development. All the craft agents are not really working independently making their own variations and developing their own favorite method over time.

08-14-08 - 5

If you have some shit to get done Friday, and you find yourself bored with free time on Tuesday, get your shit done right now!! Then you can relax and have just as much free time. You never know what will come up in the next few days and prevent you from getting your shit done easily. People say "oh I'm lazy" , no you're not lazy, you're fucking retarded. It's *less* work to do it early when you can.

08-14-08 - 4

I got to my new place in Seattle today after much insanity (as always in a move). The I5 in Oregon was closed due to a fire. Apparently a truck carrying a load of hay caught on fire and caused great chaos. It was backed up for at least 8 miles and closed for about 12 hours. For those that don't know, the I5 in central Oregon is just about the *only* way to go north-south. When I got into the back end of the jam and heard about it on traffic radio, I decided to bail out and just get a hotel to wait it out. I took the Prelude across the grass median, and she barely made it.

And the moving truck broke down, and the apartment here was locked when it was supposed to be open, and my landlord is on vacation and it's hard to get a hold of him, blah blah yadda yadda.

Anyway, I'm fucking pissed and depressed. Our apartment here is absolutely filthy. The previous tenants just bailed out and left a ton of their crud behind and didn't clean it at all. It especially pisses me off because Alissa and I did such a damn good job of cleaning the place I just left. It's way cleaner than when I moved in, hell it might be the cleanest apartment I've ever seen; we scrubbed everything, from roof to floor, I rented a steam cleaner and did the carpets, it's immaculate; you could lick any surface in the apartment and be happy about it. And I get here to this filth. The landlord promises to get it cleaned, but it's too fucking late, I'm already here, and the movers come tomorrow, the great chance to really clean it when it's empty has passed. And I've been paying rent since Aug 1 so he had plenty of extra time to take care of it and didn't.

Everyone fucking sucks. If you want anything done you have to do it yourself. Fuck.

If you can't take car of your shit, okay, that's fine, you know I kind of expect you to fuck up and not take care of your shit. But please tell me about it soon enough for me to do it myself. Don't just wait until it's too late and let me discover that you couldn't handle your shit.

08-14-08 - 3

It's really weird to me how Seattle pedestrians wait at red lights. I find myself stopping here just because everyone else is, and then I realize WTF not a single car is coming, why am I waiting? Nobody in SF waits at lights. Partly it's because people in SF commute by foot, and waiting at lights greatly lengthens your commute, but it's also kind of a safety thing. Walking in SF I've learned to basically ignore the lights and just watch the cars. A green light does not mean it's safe to go - there are people turning with no signal, people running lights, etc. So you ingore the greens and reds and just watch the cars and go when it's safe.

Biking in SF I learned the trick of watching the people inside the cars. I've long known the trick of watching the car's posture - you can see them accelerate, deccelerate, people edge to one side or the other before turning, you can see which way the wheels are pointing, etc. - but in SF for the first time I really started looking through car windows to see the people inside. You don't trust anything, you don't rely on the lights or your own obeying the law to keep you safe. This often leads you to break the law, because your obeying the law has little to do with your safety.

08-14-08 - 2

Yeah, okay. I try to be tolerant, but nah. Dogs are evil and should not exist. Last night at the fucking Holiday Inn some old bitch had her dog in the lobby barking away. The halls smelled of dog. The hotel Liss and I stayed at in Oregon smelled of wet dog to high heaven. In San Fran you are constantly dodging dog shit, and in my beloved Dolores you are usually lying in small particles of it, and smelling big pieces of it. Of course you only notice the dog shit when the dogs playing there aren't stomping on your blanket or running past you barking. Tonight I discover there's some barky dog near our new apartment. Fuck you barky dog, you should not exist, and perhaps if I succumb to my evil side you won't much longer. Sure out in the country where dogs are meant to be, go nuts, have dogs all you want, but in the city they are a massive annoyance to everyone else. Getting a dog in the city is just extremely selfish and inconsiderate; it's a violation of the golden rule or the social contract or some such thing. Dogs are like guns - in theory they might be alright if you could gaurantee the owners were 100% perfect people who were safe and considerate and mindful of the obligations of ownership, but you cannot gaurantee that, so they should just be illegal.

08-14-08 - 1

I'm amazed by the free goods exchange in San Francisco. A lot of people use the Craigslist Free section, but there's a huge trade of stuff just put out on the street. People put things out, others take them. I think I already told the story of how when we first moved to SF I put out my houseplants on the curb to water them, and went back an hour later to bring them in and they were all gone. Well I learned. It's actually quite beautiful. When you want something, you take it off the street, when you don't want it, you put it out, people help each other.

The thing that makes it amazing is nobody is violating the spirit of the free exchange. If people put out loads of junk it would break down. I mean in most cities if you just set up an area where people could leave things to give away, the fucking redneck scum would show up with pickup trucks and dump their broken washing machine. It would instantly be overwhelmed with garbage and nobody would ever go to take things away, just to dump trash. In SF people don't put out much junk for the most part.

The underclass of "scourers" also helps. The scourers swarm onto the streets when the gentry retreat into their mansions; they collect all the recycling, and they take any left over free items on the curbs and gather them to sell and make some money. The scourers are like a benevolent parasite, like cockroaches that scurry out to pick up the crumbs dropped from the cows fat on the riches of society.


08-13-08 - 1

Platitudinous advice : do something with long term benefit every day. Metaphorically put some of your daily energy into a long term growth fund that will keep paying you back forever. Don't just take care of short term "todo" items, try to do things of lasting value that improve yourself or build towards something in your life. If you just keep taking care of things, you never make any progress; it's like you're bailing out a boat that keeps filling up with water. If you build something, even a tiny bit each day, it keeps adding up and adding up and it leads to real life changes.

This is obvious of course, but make it a philosophy. Apply it to everything. Don't just read something that amusing you, read something that educates you, or pushes your taste limits. Don't go to the same restaurant again - go somewhere new and add to your knowledge and experience. Want to lose weight? don't just diet, add muscle.


08-10-08 - 2

So I finally did the thing to isolate my cubic lerper into one .h and I made a page for it : SmoothDriver page

As a process experiment I consider this a disaster. The code is now in a form that is impossible for me to update. If I make fixes to my libraries they won't get into this code. It contains crippled versions of my library functions which I don't have confidence in because they aren't as heavily tested as the library functions I use all the time. It's a lot harder to read IMO sticking everything in a header and it's not as clear what are little generic helpers vs. what is the actual driver code.

08-10-08 - 1

I claim you can't tell whether or not I use lighter fluid on my charcoal. I give you a blind taste test. If you just guessed randomly, you would be right 50% of the time, which means a bet at 1:1 is total freeroll for you. Let's say you can actually distinguish them P of the time, and the rest of the time your guess is random. That means you get the right answer F = P + (1-P)*.5 of the time = .5*P + .5 = (P+1)/2 ; the odds we should make depend on what P you claim to have. You should pay out F / (1-F) = (P+1) / (2 - 1 - P) = (P+1)/(1-P) . If you claim to be able to tell 50% of the time, you should pay 3:1 on the bet. If you claim to be able to tell 75% of the time, you should pay 7:1 ; for 90% confidence you should lay 19:1

BTW I agree if you retardedly put on way too much lighter fluid, or if you put it on after the initial lighting, you will in fact taste it. Also if you put the meat on the fire too soon before the coals have grayed and the fluid has burned off, then you might also taste it. But if you actually use it right, then you will not taste it. Especially not on a steak or something, you might taste it on something super bland and absorptive like unflavored barbecued tofu. Anyway, lighter fluid was just intended as an example of how to make odds for casual prop bets like this. Many people naively just make a 1:1 bet which is retarded free money for the guy claiming to tell the difference.


08-09-08 - 1

When I move I like to use it as a time of cleansing, throwing off detritus and keep-sakes, things that tie me to a past that I have trouble letting go. When I moved from SLO to SF I finally gave away all my old Amiga stuff that I had been clinging to for many years without ever touching. This time the big cleanse is my past in physics. I have stack upon stack of photocopies of physics papers, and notebook upon notebook of my own writing. I used to print out or photocopy every research paper I read so that I could have it for my files, and write notes on it. I kind of imagined I was building my permanent collection for my office as a professor. Now I look at those papers and I can't even figure out what the *title* means. I was way off in esoterica, I was looking into quantum gravity, spin networks, topological field theories, all the work by Kauffman on discrete physics, stuff by Coleman and Preskill on the quantum mechanics of black holes, and tons of stuff about supersymmetric low-dimensional field theories, shit like that. I haven't looked at any of it in 10+ years now.

I did some really ridiculous stuff to myself back then. When I went to Europe for a few months after college, I took Weinberg's Quantum Theory of Fields. As I rode the rails I would work through it. When I "worked through" text books to teach myself stuff, I would make myself do most of the homework problems to make sure I was really learning it. I would also keep parallel notebooks and write down all my thoughts, basically writing like lecture notes as if I was going to teach the subject. Any time I thought there was a gap in the textbook, I would work it out. Like when he would say "from equation 12.4 we can derive ..." and I would think "WTF how does that follow?" I would force myself to work it out, so I have pages and pages of just doing work to prove things he states in the books. Of course now I wish I was just drinking and chasing girls then.

I was unbelievably pompous. I guess I still am (see, for example, "how to cut a bell pepper"), but at least now I'm aware of it, and it's sort of tongue-in-cheek now. Hell, the paper I wrote on PPM is called "Solving the Problems of Context Modeling", I'm sure the reviewers who read it did some serious eye-rolling. The funniest thing is just the way I would title things. I would write little notes to myself on thoughts, stuff like "Finding Fermi Statistics in Lorentz Group 360 Degree Rotations" , in big letters like that at the top of the page, and then I would always include "by Charles Bloom". As if some day it would be in some library archives somewhere for future students to admire.


08-08-08 - 2

The new "Dry Creek" Cabernet at TJ's is pretty amazing. I know snobs never buy discount cab, but the $9.99 TJ-brand wine would be $40-50 on its own brand at a restaurant, so just pretend you're paying that. It opens with a nice subtle mellow fruit, proceeds into a soft tannin, it's far more balanced and subdued and than you normally get in discount wine.

The book "Once in Europa" was beautiful. It's definitely better than "Pig Earth". The poetry is awful, just skip it, and it sort of loses steam near the end of the main story, but somewhere in the middle the prose takes flight and carries you away.

08-08-08 - 1

Identity theft would be so freaking easy to prevent, but there seems to be no real action on it. I haven't even thought about it much, the solutions are just so obvious it doesn't even seem worth thinking about.

For example, one solution would be to let you change your account numbers whenever you want. This is just a number in a computer database, it's not like it costs them anything to let you have a new number. The old number would still be in your credit report, so it's not like you could hide your financial sins. So like the old numbers stick around but become read-only keys, and only the new number has write access to your finances (eg. getting new credit cards, taking out loans etc. requires the new number). This should really apply to your social security number too.

That reminds me, you should be able to make all your information require approval. For example, credit queries should require your approval. You should get a notice saying so and so wants to see your credit report, do you approve? Y/N. You should be able to do the same for ACH electronic bank transfers, etc.

The other obvious thing you could do is temp proxy numbers. Instead of putting in your real credit card number to buy something on a web site, you generate a temp Id Number from your credit card company which is only authorized for that one transaction. Again this would be super easy and make you super secure.

I'm not even considering methods that require a central safe clearing house for identity verification. If the government actually got involved they could make a safe id number trivially using something like a public/private key system where you only ever give out your public key to others, but I presume that won't happen, so I'm just mentioning things that the private sector (banks, credit card companies, etc.) can do within the current system.

ACH bank transfers are ridiculously insecure at the moment. Basically anybody who's seen one of your checks can instantly pull any amount of money directly out of your bank account, because they've got your account number and bank routing number. The best way to protect yourself at the moment is to have a "private account" and a "sandbox account". You keep most of your money in your private account and you never give out the number from that account to anyone - which means you do not even write checks from it. You keep a little bit of money in your sandbox, that's the account you hook up to ACH's and write checks from. Every so often you transfer from your private to your sandbox as necessary. If you get a leak, worst case you lose what's in the sandbox. You can also be more secure by closing the sandbox periodically and making a new one.


08-07-08 - 3

I guess I never posted this - the place I'm going to work in Seattle is "RAD". They are rad. I'm gonna work on some new products for game dev that will kick major ass.

It's weird, right now a ton of people that I know are moving to Seattle (or Olympia, WTF boy?). Most of my favorite people in the industry are up there now or will be in the next few months. That's pretty sweet, though it would be better if we were all congregating somewhere with more sun.

08-07-08 - 2

I think I'm going to post my poker AI program "GoldBullion". I'm a little worried about the consequences, but fuck it. I don't think the poker sites can come after me in court since they're all illegal offshore operations. Plus the code is hard enough to dig into that probably nobody will ever look at it.

I really like a lot of the stuff I did in there. Some is very generic programming stuff :

One trivial thing worked really well - I generated reports in HTML. On each poker spy window you can click a button to see the recent hand history. I write an html file then just pop a browser pointed at it. This is so much nicer than all the custom GUIs people do because a browser actually has nice layout and fonts and all that. Plus, it means the user can just copy-paste out HTML of hands to share with friends or whatever. It's also smart about what it shows. It doesn't dump every single hand, it just dumps the last few hands, and then also the very significant hands in the past. This makes it much easier to scan and find the information you really want.

Another that worked nicely was the way I did my database. The hand history database is kept in two files - one a raw journal of every hand seen in a very complete flexible format; this never goes out of date. The other file is a flat baked memory dump of the cached player stat structures, so it can be loaded very fast. The journal only ever gets appended to, and I also used a special temp append file to make the appending crash-safe so that you never corrupt your journal. Anyway, the part I really liked is that when the cached data structures change or whatever, the program detects it and loads the journal instead automatically and regenerates the fast version. While developing I never have to worry about my fast structure being backwards compatible, and I never have to run a "database fix" program, I just keep running GoldBullion, usually it starts up instantly, and sometimes it detects a bad cache file and takes a while to start up. Very nice IMO.

Some of the debugging stuff was also very cool. Checking on the bots is not trivial because there are so many situations they can be in, and many of them are trivially easy, you can't really just give them a regression test that you can step through and verify they're working - they might look good on 100 hands and then do something weird on the next; it's also really hard to define what right or wrong behavior is. But there are things you can do. For one thing having the old fixed-function TTH bots was a nice baseline. It lets you play your research bot against them and not worry about them being buggy or changing. Just letting the bots sit and play against each other was very good; I would use it in 2 ways - 1. I could log the hands generated and make statistics on the players just like I could on live players, and then you can look at the stats of how your bot is playing over 100,000 hands and see flaws in things like the aggression numbers or the continuation bet %, and 2. I could use the same tools I used on real histories to filter for the very interesting hands and manually examine how the bots played those hands. This leads to the next cool debugging tool - I could make the bots replay any hand history, and have them log a bunch of info about what they're thinking at each step. I could also output the 13x13 bitmap image of the bayesian hand probabilities and see them change over time visually.

08-07-08 - 1

I really hate nagging and being passive-aggressive and making people feel stupid, and I've been trying for a long time to cut it out or at least reduce it, but the fast is it's one of the few ways to make people actually change. If you just nicely say "hey I don't really like this thing you're doing, can you stop?" they may listen and try to cooperate, but they won't. People's natural tendencies to do something are very strong and they don't change easily. You need a strong force to fight it, and one such strong force is embarrassment. For example, if an employee or student of yours makes a mistake, you can make them feel stupid, like the mistake is so dumb and obvious, they will feel embarassed, and try very hard not to make a similar mistake again. Similarly with nagging. Nagging works just because it's so annoying and unpleasant, that if you constantly nag about some item, people will give in just to make you shut up. If you just ask nicely once, you're ignored. It's not the actual asking them to stop - it's the fear of future nags which makes someone actually behave differently. Both of these work even stronger in a group situation; if a group uses nagging and mockery to create embarassment, it can cause changes in behavior very quickly. I believe this is tapping into some fundamental monkey group behavior genes, where we naturally don't want to stand out and want to be accepted by the group and go with the flow and all that.

Most peer groups of hyper-intelligent guys teach each other this way. 2+2 is very heavy on the mockery, which is very useful on a public web forum because it makes the dumb people shut up so the posts tend to be high quality. Like if you just tell people "please read the FAQ" they don't do it, but if all the smart guys you admire go "wtf are you retarded? that's so basic it's in the fucking faq" then you shape up. Caltech was similar; not that you would be openly mocked, but you just had the feeling everyone was judging you and laughing inside if you asked a stupid question, so you tried to be very careful.

Of course the bigger issue for me is probably not *how* I try to change people but rather simply the fact that I do try to change people.


08-06-08 - 2

Ugh. All I want is to be able to sleep in peace. Is that too much to ask? Fuck this city and this fucking building and my asshole fucking neighbors. I don't want to live in apartments any more. It's not just the waking up tired that's killing me, it's the waking up angry and sad, all my good spirit and optimism crushed out of me before I even get out of bed.

I'm really not looking forward to commuting. Commuting starts my day off all sour and cranky. I really like to put the unpleasantness near the end of the day so I can work out and get drunk and go to sleep and forget about it. The morning should be slow and calm and peaceful, a time for hope, when you still think of the world as good and full of possibilities, you're excited about all the things you can accomplish. I like to nurture that energy and get some good thinking and work done before I get frazzled.

08-06-08 - 1

Stuff that is over :

Talking on your cell phone in public. This is so 1990's valley girl. It's completely uncouth and shows a complete lack of manners and refinement. It's roughly equivalent to cutting your nails or picking your nose in public. Bluetooth conversations are even worse.

Showing off your hi-tech gadgets. Gadgets are no longer cool. Technology is not amazing. If it's an effective tool for helping you live better, then use it to live better. The gadget is no longer and end in itself, it is a means. Are you going to show off how amazing scissors are next? Get over it.

Talking about Myspace or Facebook or pretty much anything on the internet. ZOMG you do stuff on the interweb? What's that? How fascinating and unique. Oh wait, no it's neither fascinating nor unique. Yes we all have fucking blogs and we read blogs, but we don't talk about it. This is akin to recounting the plot of your favorite TV shows. It's a mindless pleasure that you can indulge at home alone.

Snarky comments making fun of others. Your attempts at humorous condescension just sound like bitterness and pessimism; they aren't as funny as you think, and we've all thought of it before. In the rare case that you actually capture les mots justes to really skewer someone, then go ahead, but you probably didn't. We're all ridiculous, they're just trying to live.

Complaining about Windows or C++ or the US government or how dumb the populace is. Yeah yeah, it sucks, whatever. That's not interesting. If you'd like we can talk about concrete practical ways that we can improve our programming environment despite the suckitude of Windows and C++, or we can talk about how we can improve America despite our broken system.

Making lists of stuff that's over. Also, writing douchey things but then mocking yourself to try to absolve the sin.


08-04-08 - 3

During this time of unemployment it's been a whole new world of Chill Charles, but I can already feel the Manic Me creeping back in. Just with the moving shit I need to get together, I start getting crazy. When I have a todo list of shit that needs to get done, I just want to knock it out, and anything that slows me down pisses me off, and I become 100% focused on the tasks, such that I literally don't even hear people that are talking to me. I find myself going "uh huh, yeah" and then fifteen seconds later I go "wait, what did you say?".

One thing I've realized from unemployment is that a lot of what makes bohemian kids cool is just their complete lack of anything to do. They're very chill because they have no todo list. They're up for getting drunk or high or partying whenever because they don't have to do anything tomorrow. They have lots of free time and energy and they're bored, which lets them do art projects and make crazy outfits. They wander around the city and go to bars a lot which make them familiar with everything and friendly with proprietors which make them seem in the loop. Basically all the attributes I thought of as admirable stem from just being idle. (of course there is something admirable about them - they're having fun with their idleness, not just being pure layabouts like the traditional white trash drunkard).

08-04-08 - 2

Holy crap Ticketmaster is the fucking devil. I mean they always have been, but it seems worse than ever. I just bought 2 tickets, $22 each, total charge : $73. That's almost a 100% service charge. I would love to boycott them, but I have no choice, if I want to see these shows I have to use them. They do the standard fucking devil cock-muncher thing of splitting up the charges into meaningless distinctions too so it doesn't look so bad to morons (phone companies love this one).

ADULT Tickets					US $22.00 x 2
Total Convenience Charge(s) 	US $9.05 x 2
Total Building Facility Charge(s) 	US $2.00 x 2
Order Processing Charge 	US $3.36
TicketFast� 	US $2.63

VISA Total billed :
US $73.01

There have been 16 class action suits against Ticketmaster, but none have produced anything that I can tell. I'm not sure why they aren't subject to antitrust or anticompetetive laws.

08-04-08 - 1

I just saw the ad for "Star Wars : The Clone Wars" ; at first I thought it was an ad for a new video game. I was thinking "hey, the LucasArts guys finally got their shit together and made a decent looking video game", and then I realized it was a movie. It looks really shitty for a movie. And it's sad that video games are not at that level.


08-03-08 - 1

ZOMG lol. Our new landlord is this wacky wild man who rides his bike everywhere, towing his tools and such in a bike trailer. Turns out he's the frontman of the bicycle-touring band aptly named "bicycle" ; see CNN article . Crazy wow.


08-01-08 - 5

I like ranting about how fucked up things are as much as the next person, but it gets tiresome. The rants are a brief expulsion of frustration, not a constant state of mind. Yes, yes, the world is lame, now fucking get over it and get out there and make the best of it. Boys only like you because you're pretty? Okay, yes, that's lame, rant, now fucking make yourself pretty and get out there. Every shopkeep's always trying to rip you off? Yes, that's depressing, now fucking try to rip them off.

For example, there are certain coders that will go off on the evils of C++ and Windows at the drop of a hat. Yes, yes, yes, they are fucked up, so what, we've all heard this a million times before, it's not helping anything, let's just use what we've got and make the most of it. A certain amount of frustrated ranting is fine but then you get down to it, you don't check out and refuse to play.

Of course many smart nerdy guys do exactly that with the social world. They say : god damn, girls are so dumb, they don't see how great I really am, they just judge people by the way they're dressed and how smooth their pickup line is, I see the girls being all gaga over these guys that I know are the scum of the earth; this game is retarded, I refuse to play.

My new philosophy for trying to be positive about the world is the "1% rule". 99% of everything is shit. That is not a complaint, and it shouldn't get you down or surprise you. When you go out and meet people, sure you're most likely to be running into the 99% that's shit. Keep trying. It just means you should really cherish the 1% that's great. The same goes for movies, restaurants, etc. Another generic mediocre experience? No surprise, no biggy, it's just part of the 99%. Something actually good? Wow, yay, I love it, what a treat!

08-01-08 - 4

I'm trying to clean up my hard disk a bit, and keep finding evil nonsense. There are a lot of programs out there that keep disk caches themselves and don't limit their size. ACDSee is one, it keeps a file metadata cache which just grows and grows. Visual Assist is a huge culprit. It keeps a history of your edits to help you get unsaved backups, which is cool and all, but there doesn't seem to be a size limit, so that thing was like 2 G. iTunes is keeping a ton of crud in "Application Data" that's worthless. The other big thing is there various "tmp" dirs scattered around, fucking people don't use the standard "%tmp" which I periodically wipe.

It's sort of a constant problem that as computers get bigger and more powerful, programmers get lazier. Programs are a gas, they expand to fill whatever space is available. To some extent that's reasonable, as computers are more powerful it's not wise to spend so much time on micro optimization, you should use that power to get your program done faster and with more features. However, people usually do this the wrong way.

Just because the computer is bigger and faster doesn't mean it's okay to use systems with bad asymptotic behavior. That is, your O() should still be right, but you can just be a bit more sloppy about the constant factor in front of that. Bad programmers instead get lazy and do things like use O(N^2) systems instead of O(NlogN). Similarly, just because you can use more disk space or more memory doesn't mean its okay to keep growing your disk cache without limit, or to have a memory leak and just never free things. Yes, you can be more bloated, but you can't be just plain wrong.

08-01-08 - 3

The more generic and obvious and trite an observation is, the more it resonates with people. This itself is a very obvious observation. Of course pop lyricists know this well - if you write some really generic song about how tough love is, lots of people will connect with it. It's also the master trick of astrologers - if you make a bunch of nonspecific predictions, people will find ways to adapt them to fit their own life. The converse is also true - if you make actually deep complex observations that are truly interesting and required some thought, those do not hit home, people might go "hmm" but they don't seep into their brains.

All the things you learn over time that really help you live tend to be these sort of trite one-sentence platitudes. Unfortunately, they are also things that you can't really learn from just by hearing; you have to go through some long personal experience, and then finally you see the wisdom of the little saying and it starts to actually affect how you behave.

Anyway, I've been thinking through this thing I learned about communication. People don't necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say, but they are trying to tell you something, so if you think about what made them say what they did, you can see what they're really thinking. The profound thing for me was actually the reversal - when you say something, people are not in fact just listening to your words, they're trying to guess what you really mean behind those words, or why you said that. So if you're trying to convey a certain message, you don't necessarily accomplish that by making words that contain that message.

When you listen to someone, there are many levels. First, there's the actual logical content of their words. Often, you should just ingore that. Then there's what they meant to say in their words. For example, somebody might ask a question badly, like "hey cbloom, why do you like boost so much?" , and if I was a retard I would go off about how I don't really love boost, I love the STL, but if I would listen to the question they *meant* to ask, I could just answer that, which is something like "why do you like standard libraries so much?".

Then on the next level you've got not just what they meant to say, but what message they meant to convey by saying that. This is where you think to yourself "why did they choose to say that?" and of course there's nonverbal communication as well. There are tons of examples of course, but a common one is just when someone tries to make chitchat with you. The actual words are garbage, but the real message is "hey, I want to talk to you, I'm trying to be friendly". If their chitchat was lame and you don't give much of a reply, you're saying "fuck off, I don't want to talk to you". If you want to encourage the chitchat you should reply in a nice way even if its not logical in purely verbal sense based on what they said.

It didn't really hit home for me until I studied PUA a while ago. There's a lot of evil stuff in PUA, but a large part of it is just about being aware of communication and what messages you're really sending and what messages other people are really sending.

Similarly you need to be aware that what you mean doesn't come across in your words. Don't just say the words that express your idea, because people are not listening to your words. Instead realize how people hearing will take those words, and say the words that create the impression you want. A classic one of course is with guys trying to show they're nice guys at a bar, you go up to a girl and say "hi" and then get into "a like your dress" ; you may think these words are conveying that you're a good guy and you're interested, but the message that's going across is "I'm a boring loser who's uncreative and timid and perhaps just wants to bed you".

In some sense this seems too analytical and manipulative, but it sort of has to be. If you just listen and speak naively, you will be miscommunicating all the time. One of the things that's always tripped me up is the whole line of questions like "does this make my butt look fat?". God, what a retarded question, if I just listen to the words, it makes me angry and not want to cooperate, but if you stop and listen to the real message, they're saying "hey honey, I feel insecure, compliment me", and that's a totally reasonable thing to say and you should respond well to that message, and just ignore the verbal text. Also I used to get sort of pissed at people for obviously sending subtextual messages like that - I would think hey just fucking say what you want - but of course that's ridiculous, for one thing people are shy, but for another thing, everyone is operating on a subtextual level, so if you just say what you really want people will hear the subtext. Like if you just went up to a girl and said "hey we're both hot, we should fuck", what she hears is the subtext "I'm a psychopath".

08-01-08 - 2

With my new programs "drives" and "tabdir" I'm forced to confront the question yet again of whether a kB is 1024 bytes or 1000 bytes. I'd like to go with 1000, since that's what drive makers use now. For example, my 250 GB drive is actually 233 GB in the 1024 sense. However, Windows explorer and such seem to use the 1024 kB. There's a certain merit to the 1024 as its a power of two so when you have your 32 byte objects you can fit 32 of them in 1 k, but for normal people doing file sizes and stuff 1000 makes a lot more sense, and lets you use decimals in a normal sensible way.

08-01-08 - 1

Audio compression is broken. Here's a very easy way to see it.

1 GB can hold 5000 novels. (1 M letters per novel at 0.2 bits per character)

1 GB can hold about 15 CDs. (10^9 / 192 / 1000 * 8 / 60 / 45 = 15.4)

I think it's intuitively obvious that 333 novels contains more real information than one CD.

Here's another way of seeing it : an entire human genome is only 0.8 GB. I can write the code to make a musician, and I still have 0.2 GB left over in which I can store 10,000 songs in sheet music, as well as detailed instructions on how to manufacture instruments. This is a program to produce music (the fact that we can't currently execute this code is irrelevant to the theoretical consideration, it is executable in principle). I just encoded 10,000 songs in 1 GB. (albeit with a lot of loss in a PSNR sense)

Basically audio is jam packed full of useless detail. For example, if somebody sits and tries to strum a chord on a guitar exactly the same way over and over, the raw wav data for every one of those chords will look vastly different, but to our ear they all sound very similar, and the differences are just randomness. If you had a chord generator that could randomly make a sound that was somewhere in that space of what he was playing, you could let the generator replace all those notes. In a raw PSNR sense they would be way way off, but the experience would be identical to a human listener.

Let me add a little more detail :

Anything that a compressor does not learn, it is transmitting. So, for example, text compressors are still not really learning grammar, which means they are implicitly transmitting the information about the grammar. That means within the 0.2 bpc output, a lot of that information is actually the rules of grammar.

A basic audio compressor is also obviously transmitting tons of things it's not learning about the music. It's not learning what sound comes from what instrument, what those instruments tend to sound like (eg. a waveguide simulation that reproduces that sound), what instruments are vocal and the throat simulation parameters of that vocalist, etc.

However, even if the audio compressor learned all that stuff it would still be really wasteful. The problem is there's just so much irrelevant nonsense in audio. As a simple example, a pretty decent model for audio is a bunch of synth wave packets with effects. A wave packet is some amplitude curve applied to some periodic wave shape. Each of these has various parameters that can change over time. Each step also has random noise on it. The parameters of the noise (mean & sdev) are important, but the exact values that come out of the noise are not. Also, the phase of the basic wave shape at the base of the synth is irrelevant to how it sounds. But if you regenerate the exact same sound again with different random noise on the params and different phase, it will come out looking totally different.

If for some reason you still disagree, here's another way to see this : you can go to [KONTROL] or something and download some techno DJ mix MP3's. These are generally around 80 MB an hour. However, obviously they can be reproduced from the original tracker data, which is note timing + effect parameters over time. The total data for all that is maybe a few MB, perhaps less - it's very tiny. Modern techno is not trivial like MIDI, they're running a ton of complex processing with parameters that change over time. Now obviously techno is simpler than some guitar song - but the actual information content is not several orders of magnitude different.

old rants