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Showing posts from 2008

Crazy Parallel Madness

This was originally sent to me from a friend who works on massively parallel medical imaging software:

I thought I'd take a little time out of my day to rail, once again, against the incompetency of those [software developers at Microsoft]. Consider the following innocent looking bit of code:

  #include <omp.h>
  #include <vector>

  int main(int argc, char* argv[])
    #pragma omp parallel
      std::vector<int> A(1024 * 1024);

For the OpenMP-uneducated, the inner code block will be executed
in parallel by one thread per CPU on your system. In my case that is 8 threads (dual quad-core). If you run this bit of code in VTune and look at which black hole your clock-cycles disappear down, you'll find an unusually large number of them being gobbled up by "ntoskrnl.exe". And, if you dive down into this file, you'll find that a good portion of those cycles are attributable to a kernel function named ExfAcquirePushLockExclusive().

What happens i…


I bought a BFG Technologies video card (GeForce 9800 GX2) which had an $80 rebate attached to it. So I sent in all of the required items, including the proof of purchase which mutilated my retail box.

Surprisingly, I received the rebate check numbered 16605458 drawn from Stearns Bank of Scottsdale, Arizona, USA, and deposited it. Much to my further surprise, the check was returned to me with a stop payment order! The void date on the check is 01/26/2009, and I deposited the check in November 2008.

Not only did this video card NOT fit properly in my Intel motherboard, but the manufacturer refused to pay on their retail rebate.

My list of acceptable manufacturers is growing shorter by the minute. BFG is yet another casualty in my quest to find a reliable hardware vendor.

Dell : Off the list (blown capacitor)
EVGA : Off the list (blown capacitor TWICE)
BFG Technologies : Off the list (snubbed)

Deadly Information

Remember back to 2006 when a young girl killed herself [1], [4] after being tricked and harassed by a faux boy she found on the Web using MySpace. The trial against the faux boy, an adult woman (Lori Drew), did not result in prosecution for the death of Megan, much to the dismay of many.

Yet, today we read about another trial where someone is being accused of second degree murder because they may have mentioned something slanderous about another person who was later killed by a hit man [2]. In this case, though, the person on trial is a former FBI agent who was working deep cover to infiltrate organized crime.

In both cases, someone released information to third parties that resulted in the death of another person. Neither defendant in either of these cases actually committed the act of murder, though.

In the case of the FBI agent, though, the murder charge is being taken seriously. Yet, in the MySpace slander case, the murder charge was not taken seriously. How are these two cases dis…

$18,048,000 Bill for China

Apparently Microsoft is being accused of abuse in China because it is cracking down on illegal copies of its software. [1]

One excerpt from the article sums up the mentality in China:

More than 80% of the 60,000 Internet users participating in an online survey conducted by Tencent, one of the largest Internet service portals in China, protested the campaign. They complained that it was the high price of a legitimate copy of XP that had forced them to turn to counterfeits. A genuine copy of XP Pro is priced at $376 (2,578 yuan) in the Chinese market.

So if you don't like the price of candy at the local grocery store, you should just steal it. Why should you pay their fair market price when you could just take it and then claim that they forced you to steal it.

China is the single largest offender of global information espionage and currency manipulation. On all of the computer systems that I monitor daily, the vast majority of elicit hacker activity originates from IP addresses in Chin…

Faster Climate Change

CNN reports that a WWF study has found that global climate change is happening faster than predicted in 2007 and that there will not be any arctic ice by 2013, or 2040. [1]

Then it goes on to say that global sea level will increase by 1.08 meters by the end of the century, which is 2100, 92 years from now.

Quite honestly, nobody really cares what is going to happen to the planet in 98 years. Why? Because in 98 years we (as humans) will either:

(1) Obliterate ourselves because God told us to do it.

(2) Eat eachother because there will no longer be any land available to grow crops and sustain living quarters for our 50 billion people.

(3) Suffocate because our planet will no longer smell nice thanks to 50 billion people producing lots of solid waste in our oceans.

(4) Leave the planet because there will no longer be enough fresh water to sustain our lives.

Wait a minute. Consider (4) for a moment. Where can we get an abundance of fresh water TODAY? Anyone? Yeah, the arctic! It's going to m…


Testimony today by Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has him quoted as saying there are "Grave threats" to our economy if we don't act on this $700 Billion dollar MBS purchase deal.

Let's go back in time when Ben Bernanke came into power. What was the first big decision he made? Raise interest rates. How many times did Ben Bernanke and his buddies at the Federal Reserve raise interest rates? Over 11 times! [1]

In mid-2004, when the US housing bubble was in full swing, the typical mortgage holder could get money for as low as 3.5% and banks were getting it for 1%. Many home buyers purchased mortgages with a variable interest rate and were told that the rate was unlikely to go up that much.

When Bernanke took hold of the purse, his only trick was to raise interest rates. He kept claiming that inflation was out of control and that raising interest rates would help contain raising inflation. Clearly, this myopic and sophomoric view of the US economy lead…


Today I heard that the US Federal Reserve is accepting stock as payment on loans to banks [1]. I am still not able to understand the reasoning behind this change of policy.

First of all, a single share of stock in a company is a share in that company's DEBT. It's not ownership in anything, it's not a guarantee of pay back, nothing. It's just a share of debt that the company thinks will be worth more than the strike price at some time in the future. That is, if you choose to purchase stock on the long. The difference in the stock price at sale versus purchase is the interest rate on that debt.

If I am the Federal Reserve and I am LOANING money to a company, then I have leverage on that company in terms of DEBT. This is the same thing that happens when a consumer gets a loan on a car or house. Yet, in the Federal Reserve situation, there is no collateral, so this is UNSECURED DEBT.

When the company issues stock, it is releasing debt in micro amounts so as to amortize the co…


I like people who can talk straight and take it standing. There's not enough straight talkers in the world, and certainly not enough in the USA. It seems as though our opinions are illegal if they are not in-line with the normative line of acceptance. That truly seems Orwellian to me.

That said, though, this blog is more about race and ignorance than about the Thought Police. There does not exist a more sensitive and inflammatory topic than race. You should read the Wikipedia entry on race as it pertains to humans. It may enlighten you somewhat.

The USA has two presidential candidates in its 2008 Presidential race. One of them is sort of a pinkish-white color, and the other is something of a brown color. The pinkish-white one has an American heritage with clear ancestry back to Northern Europeans. The brownish colored one has an Indonesian heritage with some suspected ancestry back to Africa, although he also has European ancestry. Call them whatever race you want.

Where I have an ob…


Today I came into my office to find that my monitors were blank. Thinking it might just be Windows, I rebooted and waited for the friendly screen. Nothing, and no sync on the power button.

Fortunately, I had a spare ATI Radeon 2400 Pro hanging around, so I took out my EVGA e-GeForce 8600 GTS and put in the ATI Radeon. Guess what? Everything is happy.

This is the second EVGA component, out of two, that has fried on me. First it was the EVGA motherboard, which died after 2 months of nearly no usage at all (not even powered). Now, the EVGA video card is dead after a year.

This card is P/N 512-P2-N773-AR, serial 7067732006267. The QA sticker shows it was checked in 2007. Apparently, the EVGA QA department is drunk because this POS should not have gotten past any testing.

Words of wisdom for all of you self-building system makers, don't buy EVGA crap. Stick with what you know. I only buy Intel motherboards now, no matter what.

Binary Sort Bug?

I was forwarded a link today from a friend that explains a bug in a binary sort implementation.

Here is the blog entry

First it's important to note that the bug is not in the binary sort algorithm, but just in the short sighted implementations of binary sort that pervade the industry. When binary sort was first proposed as an implementation, we were using 8-bit processors and the only big iron systems out there were multi-million dollar systems that could barely process a million records, let alone 2.2 billion.

The bug, as pointed out in the blog entry, is in the calculation of the pivot. The implementations use (high+low)/2 as their pivot, which then fails when you are sorting billions of records because high+low quickly overflows.

The real simple solution is to use the arithmetic lessons we learned in the 3rd grade: pivot = high/2 + low/2. This will work because you're not adding the two out of range values together, so you won't have an arithmetic overflow during your pivot…

Commodity Misconceptions

The price of oil has been the hottest topic in the news for the last 6 months. Today, the Saudis are meeting to discuss the unacceptable high price of oil and ways of controlling that price. To this, many supposed experts in commodity pricing have claimed that the US dollar is the cause for the high price.

The claim that a currency is the cause of a high commodity value is absurdly parochial. The US dollar is freely traded on the open money market. Therefore, if more people purchase dollars instead of their own currency, then the value of the dollar increases. When currency investors realize their gains, the relative value of a currency decreases, much like a stock. In effect, currency is the stock of a country, and commodities are traded by trading equity positions in countries.

The price of a commodity is controlled by contracts, not supply. You don't purchase hard commodities on the open exchange [3][4]. Rather, you purchase the rights to a contract of a specific amount of that c…

The Spinning Brain

Intuition is a phenomenon of the biological brain that doesn't have any physical explanation. Many people experience intuition with varying degrees of success. There are a variety of theories regarding intuition [1] and some people regard intuition with much caution [2].

Yet, I am happily in the camp that has learned to respect my intuition as it has proven time and time again to be correct. Recently, though, I'd been thinking about intuition and soothsaying. There are many cases of people who claim to see the future, whatever that might be. Maybe there is something to be said about this mystical phenomenon. Maybe there is a real physical process at work that we just haven't thought of yet.

To this end, I am proposing a theory about human intuition. This theory, though requires some background in quantum mechanics. Specifically, quantum entanglement.

I'm not the only person who has theorized about quantum entanglement and its role in biological congnition and the conscio…

A Test for SETI

I am a big fan of SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. If you don't know much about the SETI project, then take a look at Buy some stuff there too so that you can support their mission, which is to find some proof that advanced life exists outside of Planet Earth.

How do we know that SETI is really doing the right thing, though? Can you possibly expect to detect any signal at all from 5 light years away using a planetary network of telescopes? One would think not because a radio wave gets wider (dispersion) as it travels farther. As it disperses, its energy dampens, and eventually the incident energy is slow low that it can not be detected above the background noise. Essentially, the noise we hear in the cosmic background, is made up of widely dispersed radio waves that have been bouncing around for billions of earth years.

Is there a way to test out the SETI thesis and make some use of their telescope network? Well, if you're a fan of the Pioneer space …

Time, Time, There is no Time.

I often wonder about time and what it really means. Some people think you can travel through time, as if it has some corporeal properties. I don't think this is so.

First off, all of our time measurements are based upon physical phenomena. A second of time is an arc second of planet movement. This is the equivalent of the Earth moving 1 arc second through it revolution about its axis. A year, keeping with the physical analogies, is just one revolution about the Sun. The Earth also moves about 139 miles per second through Space. Its movement in the galaxy is rotational, so those 139 miles are along a curved path. So really the Earth follows a curly path through Space as it travels through time.

Why is this important, you ask? Well, imagine that you can travel through time, like HG Wells would like you to think. Say you go back in time 1 second. In 1 second, the Earth has moved 139 miles from its original location, and it has moved 1 arc second about its axis. Where would you be?

If yo…