Microsoft veteran Raymond Chen explains:
The 64-bit version of Pinball had a pretty nasty bug where the ball would simply pass through other objects like a ghost. In particular, when you started the game, the ball would be delivered to the launcher, and then it would slowly fall towards the bottom of the screen, through the plunger, and out the bottom of the table.
Games tended to be really short.
Two of us tried to debug the program to figure out what was going on, but given that this was code written several years earlier by an outside company, and that nobody at Microsoft ever understood how the code worked (much less still understood it), and that most of the code was completely uncommented, we simply couldn't figure out why the collision detector was not working.
We had several million lines of code still to port, so we couldn't afford to spend days studying the code trying to figure out what obscure floating point rounding error was causing collision detection to fail. We just made the executive decision right there to drop Pinball from the product.
Chen's blog often goes into technical detail that many people might find off-putting, but he's a good person to read if you want to know more about how Microsoft works.
Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams finds a comparison for Congress:
I've never wanted to run for Congress until now. The job looks boring, but I'm attracted to a system that punishes total strangers for my bad performance. I assume this is some sort of "best practice" that our government is borrowing from a successful system elsewhere. So starting today, if you tell me you don't like my blog, I will pay a stranger to kick another stranger in the nads. If Congress is right about the trigger concept, you should see a big improvement in my blogging performance. I'm all about incentives.
There's a Wally-esque genius to this budget trigger concept. It actually solves Congress' biggest problem, namely that doing anything that is balanced and appropriate for the country renders a politician unelectable. Republicans can't vote for tax increases and get reelected while Democrats can't cut social services and keep their jobs. But don't cry for Congress because this isn't the sort of problem that can thwart a building full of lawyers. They put their snouts together and cleverly invented a concept - called a trigger - to take the blame for them. This way, both sides can screw their supporters while still blaming the other side. No one has to take responsibility for anything.
He might have a point.
Japan has thrown out its government and restored the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (yes, that's right) to power:
the dominant view of Sunday’s vote was that it was not so much a weakening of Japan’s desire for drastic change, or a swing to an anti-Chinese right, as a rebuke of the incumbent Democrats. They swept aside the Liberal Democrats with bold vows to overhaul Japan’s sclerotic postwar order, only to disappoint voters by failing to deliver on economic improvements. Mr. Abe acknowledged as much, saying that his party had simply ridden a wave of public disgust in the failures of his opponents.
“We recognize that this was not a restoration of confidence in the Liberal Democratic Party, but a rejection of three years of incompetent rule by the Democratic Party,” Mr. Abe, 58, told reporters. Now, his party will be left to address deepening public frustration on a host of issues, including a contracting economy and a teetering pension system.
In the powerful lower house, the Liberal Democrats held a commanding lead with 294 of the 480 seats up for grabs. That would be almost a mirror image of the results in 2009, when the [incumbent center-left] Democrats won 308 seats.
And while the President leads a vigil in Connecticut tonight, House Speaker John Boehner appears to have relented to the facts and is conceding that income taxes have to rise on the rich:
Public opinion strongly favors it. President Obama just won re-election campaigning more strongly on the tax issue than on any other. Federal revenue as a share of the economy is near a 60-year low. Washington faces a $1 trillion annual deficit.
Yet even as some party leaders and intellectuals urge them to concede the point, most rank-and-file House Republicans refuse. That is why Speaker John A. Boehner has moved so gingerly, finally offering late last week to raise rates only on incomes of $1 million or more, despite calls from Senate Republicans for a deeper concession.
What Mr. Boehner has proposed is allowing the top rate to revert to 39.6 percent for income of $1 million and above, and to raise his total for new revenue over 10 years to $1 trillion from $800 billion, according to a person familiar with his latest offer. That rate increase would raise far less revenue than Mr. Obama’s plan, which would affect many more taxpayers.
I believe the White House response to that will still be "go fish," but it's a good start.
Like James Fallows, I'm a member of the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which has a rigid, give-no-ground policy against aviation user fees. Fallows draws a parallel to the NRA, and notes the key difference:
The merits of the user fee debate are not my point right now. (Summary of the AOPA side: non-airline aviation activity already "pays its way" through the quite hefty tax imposed on each gallon of airplane fuel, plus providing all kinds of ancillary benefits to the country. I agree about the benefits and that the American aviation scene is the envy of the world.) Rather it is to introduce a comparison between AOPA and the real NRA. This comes from my friend Garrett Gruener, a successful Bay Area entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is also a longtime pilot. In the 1990s he even took an around-the-world trip, with his wife and daughter, in their turboprop airplane. He writes:
The difference is the overwhelming focus on safety. I feel that AOPA is the FAA's partner in trying to reduce the number of fatalities in aviation, while the NRA never gets beyond "guns don't kill...".
What Gruener says about the AOPA rings true to my experience. The only thing the AOPA talks about more than user fees is safety, and the individual and system-wide changes that can reduce the accident level.
So far, more than 24 hours after the killings in Newtown, Conn., the NRA hasn't said a peep about it.
I think it's time for this, so we don't have to watch more children die:
28th Article of Amendment
1. Notwithstanding the second Article of Amendment to this Constitution, the Congress and the several States shall have the power to regulate the keeping and bearing of arms to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare of the People.
2. Nothing in this Article shall prohibit the manufacture, sale, importation, or possession of arms within prevailing community standards.
3. The right of the States to form and arm well-regulated militias shall not be abridged.
4. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This language wouldn't prohibit people from owning guns; in fact, it explicitly requires states to allow people to own whatever guns their community believes is appropriate. Federalism, right?
It would, however, allow states and cities to prevent people from owning .223-caliber assault rifles. And it would allow states to prohibit concealed carrying.
On the same day a demented man killed 18 children with a gun in Connecticut, another demented man slashed 22 children in China. Do you think for one minute if the guy in China had access to guns he would have hesitated to use one?
I'm outraged. Absolutely outraged. And I'm not willing to accept 9,200 gun murders per year as the price of keeping around a 223-year-old law whose author could not possibly have imagined what happened in Newtown today.
Is England (41 gun murders) or Canada (173) really that much less free than the U.S.? Do we need 270 million guns in civilian hands? Or can we end the insanity?
This caught my eye as I walked to work from the El this morning:
History buffs and Chicagoans may recognize this spot as the place where the Great Flood of 1992 started.
Last night I continued reducing local computing costs by turning off my home desktop PC. The old PC has a ton of space and a lot of applications that my laptop doesn't have, plus a nifty dual-DVI video card. But a couple of things have changed since 2008.
First, my current laptop, a Dell Latitude E6420, has a faster processor, the same amount of RAM, and a solid-state drive, making it about twice as fast as the desktop. Second, Dell has a new, upgraded docking station that will drive two big monitors easily. (Sadly, though the docking station can drive two DVIs, my laptop's video chip can only do one DVI and one VGA.) Third, the laptop uses buttloads less power than the desktop. Fourth, portable terabyte drives are a lot less expensive today than in 2008—and a lot smaller. And finally, I take my laptop to and from work, meaning I have a minor hassle keeping it synchronized with my desktop.
Here's my office about three years ago (January 2010):
A few months later I got a second 24-inch monitor (November 2010 photo):
Notice the printer has moved to make room for the second monitor, but otherwise the setup remains the same. The monitors connect to the desktop under the desk to the left, while the laptop has its own cradle to the right.
Now this afternoon:
The printer has landed on the floor directly under where it used to sit (I print about 3 pages per month, so this isn't the inconvenience it seems), the laptop has moved over to the printer's old spot (and has connected to the monitors), and the old desktop machine sits quietly consuming 225 fewer Watts per hour. I also replaced the 10-year-old, no-longer-functioning 2+1 speaker set with a more compact set. The round thing between the keyboard and the laptop near the center of the photo is a speakerphone that I use with Skype.
I think everyone knows the dog under the desk by now, too. He's not happy that I rearranged his favorite sleeping cave, so I might get a couple of weeks without mounds of dog hair under my desk until he decides the printer is harmless.
So far today I have been unusually productive, whether because of the novelty or because I have a fire-under-the-ass deadline at work. So back to it.
Cranky Flier analyzes the surprise Delta-Virgin merger in terms of JFK–LHR:
Of course, British Airways and American have the strongest position in London by far. Delta would have been hard-pressed to grow a position itself considering the slot restrictions at the airport along with the already ample capacity on these routes. With this deal, Delta becomes more relevant in London, but more importantly, it becomes more relevant in places like New York, from where London is one of the most important business destinations. This simple chart showing daily flights each way from all New York airports should make it very clear.
I told you it was a simple one. Today, Delta is an afterthought. If its schedule fits a loyal traveler’s needs, then people will take it. But more often than not, that probably won’t happen. Combined with Virgin Atlantic, however, there is a very respectable schedule that now also covers the other side of the Hudson in Newark. Delta becomes relevant.
Whatever happens, I just hope there are at least three airlines left standing. That's enough for real competition on popular routes, and none is more popular for trans-Atlantic travel than New York to London.
All right, all right. It's 12-12-12 everyone! Happy?
Save time; call it 12³.
Possibly in mourning, as the last Hostess Twinkies hit the shelves in Chicago today:
Jewel-Osco said Monday that the final shipment of Hostess Brands baked goods, including Twinkies, will be delivered and sold at Chicago area Jewel stores Tuesday morning.
About 20,000 boxes of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and other Hostess products will be placed on store shelves at different times of day at different stores. Jewel lists the store locations and estimated times of delivery on Facebook, facebook.com/JewelOsco.
All is not lost, of course. The Sun-Times notes, "Hundreds of potential buyers, including at least five major retailers, have expressed interest in Hostess’ brands, recipes and some of its factories." But if you wanted to get one, last Twinkie, hurry to da Jools right now.