Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Another Game: Elder Scrolls Online

Have been waiting a while for circumstances to line up properly before acquiring this. MMOs aren't really my cuppa. Played Guild Wars for a while, some years back. That seemed to have a slightly better aspect about forming an adhoc group.

I waited until I could have my games PC on a really good internet connection (I have 175 MBits), and the price was good ($10 on Steam summer sale).

So here's a couple of pictures taken on my phone because I don't know how to screen-snap the game and deal with it afterwards (I know, not hard, I just haven't tried).

Here's something funny, and not even slightly new:



Bethesda has been making games for a long time. Their 3D is excellent. But they still have a few issues--either that or their mages can float everywhere. Granted, this IS Morrowind, and the mages DID fly there. Or, as Doc Brown said once "Is there something wrong with gravity?"

Here's a another classic:



What do you know? Somebody feels a disturbance in the force...Vivec: "that would be me"

The setting is still the island of Morrowind, and it's WAY prettier than I remember...and it's WAY more dangerous, too. The mudcrabs aren't all angry and can be ignored, but virtually everything else wants to kill you.

Party formation is weird, it's simpler to do the routine of wandering wherever, wait for others to show to kill things you don't want to fight, grab the target loot while they're fighting, and run away. (Guild Wars was better about the party formation...there were meet points where you could find others waiting like you, and agree to go somewhere together. Once that was done, you were back at the meet point.) That way you weren't stuck with a group where folks couldn't agree on what/how to do.

I haven't tried talking to anyone here yet. You can just join in a fight, get credit for the kill, grab the loot, and move on, without even talking to anyone. Did that yesterday.

A stupid, but interesting tactic...work a task solo, grab the loot, then let yourself get killed...you get to respawn at a waypoint that is somewhere away from danger. I did this today and got out of a cave place where I didn't see how to escape and it was jammed full of opponents. That probably cost me something, but I don't remember what. Probably now I need to get armor repaired.

This game takes place before Dagoth Ur arrives, but the Red Mtn is leaking lava. No ash storms yet. Lots of giant mushrooms. I'm playing as lizard-man again, because of the water-breathing attribute. That has always been very useful.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Things that aggravate me in computer games...


Well, it's probably just one, really.

It's the situation in a game where the creators force you to play it *their* way, as opposed to allowing me to go at it *my* way.

Especially bad when you don't even know what you're doing at first. 

Cases in point:

Because I'm leading up to playing Wolfenstein 2...on Xbox:

1) Wolfie: New Order -- I played up to the point where you come back from the moon, and end up facing Mr Stompy. This is an arena fight, your ability to aim and do some other funky controller things that I am not good at, really it's the run+slide+shoot = too many things at once. So that's where I had to stop. My patience for these things is getting lower. I did, however, play through this successfully on the PC a few years ago.

2) Wolfie: Old Blood: You have to fight Jager, in the tavern. It's another arena, and it's tiny. Jager is in power armor. It turns out that you have to shoot the blue power nodes on his shoulders a few times; he powers down for a short bit, you have to go pry a piece of armor off while he's in that state. Then you have to do it again, several times. There's really not enough cover of significance to work with, the power armor seems to have dual-wield miniguns with infinite ammo, and he's in motion all the time. And this is after he smashes down the front door, but it's still blocked so you can't run outside where there's better cover--because you know he's going to come after you: you killed his dog.

3) Wolfie: Old Blood: Just before Jager, you fought the big mechanical dog out at the end of the bridge. This is really contrived, because you have to either be doing run-n-gun as soon as he shows up, or you have to find the one hiding place where he doesn't attack (except for the part where he does, and can hurt you *thru the walls*. I watched a couple youtube videos about this, and it turns out (at least on super-easy) that it takes two measly shots with the kampfpistole (which is essentially the single-shot grenade launcher). But I had to try various weapons a bunch of times to figure that out.

4) DOOM: there is the spot where, even on super-easy, there are two of those great big demons, it's an arena fight...

5) on PC: Wolfie: Return to Castle W: I'm in this cathedral thing, have to climb a ladder up a tower, and there's a grenade-girl at the top who is going to kill me before I get in position to aim at her. It's basically an arena except that it's really a tube, and the cover works against me.


OK, you get the picture, it's these arena fights. The arena is *always* a "locked room" and it won't unlock until your opponent(s) is dead. Mostly what I'd prefer is to be able to draw the opponent's attention and then run away. 

The problem on my end is of course that (1) *I* am not quite good enough to do this their way, and (2) the xbox controller isn't either, and finally (3) I have to play left-handed for RSI reasons. That's less an issue on xbox, actually, b/c there IS NO left-handed-ness...on Windows, well, that's an imperfect modified key-mapping (but at least you can do that, which wasn't always true in the past).


This results in my preferring the RPG vs FPS Bethesda games, where I can fight and run away. 


The current situation with Wolfie is that I'm done playing those games. And not coming back to them later. Which is too bad, because I was near the end of (1), but not even halfway through (3) and (5).

Wolfenstein 2 is coming up, but I'm not sanguine about my chances there--it seems entirely too likely, in advance, that there will be some of this arena-battle stuff that I can't get through.

I played all the way through all of these things (exc Doom) on my PC when they came out. Mostly that was a few years ago and now I'm older.

Related to the "have to do it *their* way is the "I want to climb up to *right there*" but I can't. In (2), you're in the tavern, there is clearly a "trap-door" up some stairs to the second floor, but it's locked. (actually, it isn't even a door that *could* be opened, it's a visual decoration).

The visual aspect of "town" in (2) and (3) is fabulous--this is some really good-looking surface texture art.

-----

Later that night: played Wolfie 2 some. After the point, still on the flying platform, where you get the super-suit, you end up in an arena battle against *something* that is big, clearly tough, has dual-wield *something* that looks like big laser or railgun (well, not railgun, really seemed energy weapon, has a charge time with an associate noise). I've no idea how you take this one out, but it seems fairly stupid, and it certainly isn't fast--easy to outrun, but there's not really a safe spot. (OK, this is the "laser cannon", kinda like the minigun, you can't keep it). You need this weapon to burn a hole in a wall, so there's no way out of this battle. (At least it's not Jager in the tavern again). Ah, apparently there's a second one, a little later, before you get to leave the airship.



There's a play-style dichotomy in this game (as with the predecessors):
"You will see some icons with numbers appear on the screen. They indicate the positions of special enemies - the commanders - who are able to call in reinforcements. You should always prioritize these targets (preferably take them down quietly) first to avoid troubles."

This game is about killing nazis. Why would you want fewer of them? 

Monday, June 04, 2018

European Economies and Economics

(cutting to the chase:) apparently it DOES take an Advanced Degree (tm).

Stardate: May 2018

A few years back Greece was having a real serious economic problem. Spending was out of control, government revenues were inadequate for debt service, yadda yadda. Heard it before.

All true, but not new. And still there.

The real issue was NOT that spending was out of control, but rather than federal tax revenues were inadequate to pay for services spending and debt was increasing to cover the gap.

Why were tax revenues inadequate? Why was spending so high?

Well, the spending was NOT so high. The revenues were short, for sure.

Why inadequate tax revenues? That is the real problem and question.

Citizens weren't lazy bums (altho others elsewhere certainly said so).

The problem is this: the gray-market economy is as large as the "real economy" (the reported economy). They don't trust the national government to be/do the right thing, to be honest and not corrupt, so the Greeks treat tax-evasion as a national pastime.

First off, what's gray market economy? ("black market" is illegal/stolen goods sold; white market is the regular market we participate openly, and is reported openly.)

Gray market economy is unreported financial transactions. Transactions that are handled as swaps, or all cash, un-reported as taxable income. You hire someone to cut your lawn, pay them in cash, they don't list that as taxable income anywhere, no one knows about it.

There is gray-market activity like this everywhere. You, as person hiring a lawn-cutter, do not know that the employee here is not going to report the income. You pay in cash, it's untraceable.

So of course no one knows the size of the gray market--it's not reported so it can't be measured. The *estimate* I've seen is that Greece's gray market is the same size as its white market. So if the gray market all moved to white, the tax revenues would be sufficient to meet national spending needs.

Everyone was worried about Greece at the time, but Greece is tiny. Problem not solved, apparently, but not in the news. GDP/debt ratio is bad.

-----

So that same problem exists in Italy now. Same origin, same reasons, same issues. You read about the problems here and there, will Italy remain in the EU? Can it? No one talks about the source issue. They talk about the Euro, as though unified currency is the problem, versus being able to devalue their own currency in the market. (Well, that might help, for a little while, but it's a terrible idea.)

The fundamental problem goes unspoken. Basically: the citizens are crooks. Well, that sounds harsh: they are tax cheats; they all know it. If you confronted one of them, you'd get an earful. Is/was the same in Greece.

The pure-cash/barter economy allows a lot of tax cheating.

I can't do it in my business, I need the proper openness of white market. But I see plenty of gray market around me. Participants drive around with snakes on their plates.

Italy's economy is 10X bigger than Greece. Had Greece folded, there'd have been much hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing, but the fallout would have been pretty small. Italy has a problem? That's going to be a bigger splash.

-----

This is a flaw in the economic models you hear about: why Alan Greenspan's view of economics was inadequate: the black and gray markets are things they can't think about, and are bigger than they imagine. When half the annual economic activity is unreported gray market, well, the white market has problems. The government cannot pay its bills.

And it's not like gov officials there don't know about it. The problem is that EVERYONE participates.

No, I don't know how to fix this. Well, get rid of cash. All transactions are electronic/online, therefore traceable. Otoh, that pushes people towards crypto-currency, which I'm not convinced is safe/secure.

-----

Later: this gray-market activity is also knows as "underground economy". All off-books, no-taxes-paid.

Monday, May 28, 2018

New Thinking in AI

I found this interesting:

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/05/machine-learning-is-stuck-on-asking-why/560675/

(For those not knowing/remembering, he's also the father of Daniel Pearl, journalist who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan)

He invented a really good technique back in the 80s. We used it on the project I worked on 86-90. It's a good statistical basis for probabilistic reasoning, called Bayes Network. It worked.

Now he's talking about the reality of cause and effect. This is a good thing, and working it out probably requires...yes, you guessed it...

An Advanced Degree (tm). Let's start the process.

(I don't disagree with him, per se, and certainly he's been thinking the right thing, but I think there's a logistical failure)

I was working this problem too, mid-80s, for an activity called "Failure Modes and Effects Analysis". or FMEA (often pronounced feema).

An FMEA for a system (and a simulator to do the actual analysis) would require you to exhaustively describe all the failure modes (i.e., "causes") at the level of detail you want (or more properly "can afford"), and the possible "effects" that would occur.

The problem is that it's really really hard to do this to the detail depth that would be adequate to produce a valuable result. You need a really serious model of parts. So it's really expensive to do, time-consuming, and generally skipped.

And it isn't the most obvious failures that you really want to understand, it's the weird ones, like how leaving a wrench in the wrong place inside a 60s space capsule leads to a fire that kills astronauts.

Pearl is thinking about a larger problem, wants cause/effect descriptions, and complains about what he calls "curve-fitting", which is more or less about finding a limited model that describes a dataset, and allows a little bit of prediction outside that dataset (I suspect, really only accurate for first-order behaviors). He poses a couple of questions as examples: "what if I had finished high school?"

Well, there's no possible way to answer that, except by use of statistics data that we already have, and of course you only get an averaged answer (which continues to be speculative): you probably would have earned more money in your life. If you want more detail than that, like "you would have gotten a scholarship for UMD, graduated and then found a cure for cancer when you were 43 years old", how large a model would it take to do that? How many assumptions about random events would you have to make?

If you're into AI enough to know the historical aspects, recall Doug Lenat's work on Cyc. Remember what that was? They were trying to produce a knowledge base of some sort that was really a massive ontology.

Ontologies are hard. REALLY hard. Mostly you fail, or acknowledge that incompleteness is unavoidable. Generally what I've found is that creators try to do WAY too much, it becomes unwieldy and misses the target. (Pretty sure that was a blog topic a while back, but if not: micro-ontologies are the only thing that can work ok.) Remember SUMO? You can't put enough into it to make it usable without making it unusable.

So how will humans do what Pearl says, when we haven't already done it? I grant you, computers are bigger/better/faster/etc than Lenat had access to 30 years ago, but that probably just makes it possible to get too big sooner.

Back to the FMEA thing: although I was making an attempt at it, I was almost for sure going to fail because the amount of detail necessary to succeed wasn't going to be creatable. Why? Because it's not the obvious failures that you need to find, it's the really weird ones. And I was working in Lisp, where you work with symbols rather than numbers, so you can't run into the computational exhaustion of too many numbers. FMEA is pretty much never done because of the cost, and while a computerized version would be some faster, it'd be hard to create--the real benefit would of course come from being able to reuse component models, but you casually lead yourself astray by eventually thinking those component models are complete.

In any case, I applaud Pearl's thinking, but...problem still untractable.

Why? The simplest way to simulate the universe would be to build it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Working with Ubiquiti wireless devices

Because of some other activities, been working with Ubiquiti (http://www.ubnt.com/) wireless devices.

Ubiquiti has an interestingly large range of devices. Would not pretend to understand them all just yet. If not an Advanced Degree(tm), you need advanced training and experience.

Had a heck of a time getting some things going. According to their documentation, you mostly just plug-n-play...or not.

Apparently it takes an Advanced Degree(tm) to figure this out.

The first problem is that the wireless connections are excruciatingly slow to operate. Spent hours wondering what the heck was going on. Finally I decided to attach to the wire--THAT works as you expect, and its properly fast. Problem is, that GUI doesn't quite do everything. There's no control for PoE.

The issues begin with the "airCube". The documentation says you can direct connect a PoE radio device to the PoE output on the Cube and power the radio device. Turns out this is not quite true--not at first--despite the documentation saying you can, incl the pictures.

AirCube appears to have PoE turned off by default, out of the box. You want to use it? Not so easy to do. Out of five units, they were inconsistent about PoE being on. Not sure what that means.

In addition, the AirCube does NOT respond to casual broadcast pings. I.e., if you try "ping X.X.X.255" it doesn't answer. If you try specific IPs (like X.X.X.22) it will if you hit the right one...?

How to do it: You need to use UNMS, or you need to use the your phone. In those GUIs, you can get to the control to turn on PoE. You can get to a management web-page on the device if you connect via the wire, but you CANNOT turn PoE on this way (post-firmware-update: that might have changed).

Or you need to guess the IP. Could get this via "nmap" (unix thing). Even so, changing PoE isn't on the service webpage.

Or maybe you run Wireshark and it tells you. Wireshark will pick up all traffic on the wire it's on, and show you all active IPs. A fully passive IP wouldn't be seen until it does something specific.

On top of all this, I don't think the units are consistent about what they are doing.

Once you have the device detected in UNMS, you can get it to do the firmware upgrade, that puts some new controls in front of you, one of which will be "turn on PoE". I did not, at this point, go look at the direct web-page to find a PoE button.

-----

The NanoBeams are far simpler to get going, they do the obvious thing with a known-in-advance IP address (.1.20). Wire straight to them, set to DHCP, reboot, they are on your regular network, can then config via webpage (altho you still have to track down the dhcp ip addr).

Will be back to this in a few days, make it more coherent, etc.

-----

And apparently if you use 'ssh' to get into the device, there are still more settings you can work with. They run a micro-linux. Amazing.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

HP Printers, LJ2300 in particular


I've been using Hewlett Packard electronics since 1976.

Never really had any trouble with them (except maybe RPN, way too weird).

Have an LJ6 here, still works fine, on USB. Seldom used now.

Replaced that with an LJ 2300 ~8 years ago. That works nicely, have probably printed 20K pages on it. Still in regular use.

Bought a second 2300 to have at work.

I also have a 9055 around, for 11x17 work. Very nice.

The 2300 has parallel (yeah, it's that old), USB, and can take an ethernet plug-in card.

The 2300 is really harsh on those ethernet cards. I haven't figured out why. I've had to replace the ethernet card in the first one about once a year since I got it. Fortunately they are available easily on EBay.

New one: I've had it only a few weeks, it came with a DOA ethernet card, I put one in since I have spares for this reason, that worked ok, but it has since died and I put another one in this morning. This new one is working ok...not sure for how long, tho.

So: word to the wise: if you have a 2300 you already know about this...if you don't, well, be aware.

The 2300 is long-since out of production, you can only buy one used. I guess I don't recommend it necessarily. Probably better if you got a newer one with wifi; printers didn't come with wifi when I got it.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Skyrim question for those in the know...or willing to test this


I was talking to another Skyrim player today, who asked if I had ever resurrected/re-animated a dragon.

No, I couldn't even imagine how such might be possible...right? You kill it, you take its soul immediately, no oppo to resurrect.

No, he says, there's a gap between the death and the soul capture where you might resurrect it. If your spell (and I guess your appropriate magic skill) is high enough, you can, he says.

I have not tried this? Any matching experience on this?

You do reach a point where you get to summon a dragon (Durnhevir or something like that). I haven't found it that useful.