Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl 50

Things that happen when your city hosts a Super Bowl:

  • There's a fair amount of extra traffic on the roads.
    The one-hour trek on Highway 101 down the Peninsula to the South Bay might stretch to two hours next week. The Embarcadero and Market Street closures near Super Bowl City, the fan village, are causing painfully slow trips around San Francisco's Ferry Building. Already-jammed BART and Caltrain parking lots could fill by 6 a.m. And 600 or more charter buses will be used to carry fans to the Feb. 7 game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
  • Everybody is visiting San Francisco, even though the game isn't played there.
    While the game is in Santa Clara, nine days of activities leading up to the game are in San Francisco. That means transportation impacts from January 23 to February 12. Whether you're visiting, working or a resident, plan ahead, pack your patience and take transit, bike or walk where you need to go.
  • There are special events, both free, and paid, which you can go to.
    Super Bowl City presented by Verizon is the Host Committee’s free-to-the-public fan village designed to celebrate the milestone Super Bowl 50 and to highlight its unique place in the Bay Area.

    The NFL Experience driven by Hyundai, pro football’s interactive theme park, will be hosted by the Bay Area during Super Bowl Week. To be located at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the NFL Experience celebrates the sport’s history and electrifying atmosphere of Super Bowl.

  • Some of the events are so popular that you can't get in.
    San Francisco police turned away thousands of people from Super Bowl City late Friday when the event reached maximum capacity.
  • It's hard to find a hotel room.
    "We're starting at $1,500 for the regular rooms, suites go up to $10,000 a night and we have a four day minimum that we require," said Roger Huldi, the General Manager at the W Hotel.
  • But maybe you can rent somebody's spare bedroom, cheap.
    There are simply too many rooms and not enough guests. "You get a flood of people listing their places and nobody looks at it," says Ian McHenry, a co-founder of research firm Beyond Pricing, which sells rental hosts a service to help calculate how much they should charge. "There’s way too much supply in the market." Of the nearly 10,000 currently active Airbnb listings in the Bay Area this weekend, around 60 percent are still available, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
  • There's been a significantly-noticable increase in the number of private charter jets flying in and out.
    Private jet companies say this year's game could near or top records for previous Super Bowls, given the attractive location, large number of private jet airports in the area and the excitement over the game.

    Companies say business is up between 10 and 20 percent over last year. And while consolidated numbers are hard to come by, experts estimate between 1,000 and 1,500 jets could arrive at Oakland, San Jose, Hayward and other California airports.

  • But, uhm, don't try to fly your drone.
    “Temporary Flight Restrictions will prohibit certain aircraft operations, including unmanned aircraft operations, within a 32-mile radius of the stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on game day,” reads a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Everyone who's anyone will be there: Jet-setters swooping into Bay Area for Super Bowl 50.
    Usually, about a half-dozen private jets might use Panico’s facility at any one time. This weekend, there could be as many as 200. While their owners are attending the modest little sporting event just down the Nimitz Freeway, the planes will be parked wingtip to wingtip. So many $50 million jets will be slumming it in Hayward that the airport will shut down one runway and turn it into a temporary parking lot.
  • The weather cooperates, and is just unbelievably nice.
    Plentiful sunshine. High 73F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.
  • There's plenty of other entertainment. (My co-worker's son is the drummer for the Latin Youth Jazz Ensemble!)
    For the musically inclined, there are several acts lined up in the Bay Area to get you ready for the game. Performing at the City Stage in San Francisco on Sunday will be the Latin Youth Jazz Ensemble (3 p.m. ET), John Brothers Piano Company (3:45 p.m. ET) and the Glide Ensemble (5 p.m. ET).
  • All the media companies have been busy crafting their advertisements.
    Super Bowl ads are practically an event unto themselves. And when they unfold on the screen this Sunday, viewers will see a reflection of America's diversity.

    While Hollywood faces a backlash over an all-white slate of acting nominees for this year’s Oscars, several of the TV spots airing during the big game will feature actors, athletes and characters who represent a range of ethnicity, generations, and sexual orientations.

  • The Goodyear Blimp spends all week flying around the area.
    "We're getting the beauty shots for the networks," said the photographer. "You know, downtown, sunsets."

    And what do they get in exchange? Priceless advertising seen by millions of fans from the ground and from their living rooms.

  • And, of course, at some point during the day there will be a football game of sorts.

Have fun, everyone! I think I'll be reading my newspaper and grilling ribs, although I'm sure I'll tune it for the ads.

Friday, February 5, 2016

It's not just a game, ...

... it's LARPing at Moszna Castle: The Witcher School

The Witcher School is a LARP for adults inspired by "The Witcher" series and the fantasy book series by Andrzej Sapkowski.

During the game you will become an apprentice going through a rigorous witcher training: you will learn fencing, archery and alchemy; you will hunt monsters, unveil secrets and intrigues; and finally, you will face tough choices and discover the consequences the hard way. You will move to Moszna Castle in Poland, redecorated for our needs and transformed into a real witchers' abode where you will meet famous characters known from "The Witcher" books and games.

The "Design Document" goes on to elaborate:

Up to this point, you could only read about this or see this on the screen of your TV or PC. But here... if you want to slash your enemy with a sword you do not have to imagine doing that, or push a button on your controller. What you have to do here is to do it for real. You will learn how to brew potions using real ingredients, and what gestures are needed to use witcher signs. And these are only a few of the things you will be able to learn. You will be an integral part of the live action. This will be an opportunity to immerse yourself in a well-known setting of The Witcher and live your own unforgettable adventure.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Some links on large object support in git

  • Storing large binary files in git repositories
    there are multiple 3rd party implementations that will try to solve the problem, many of them using similar paradigm as a solution. In this blog post I will go through seven alternative approaches for handling large binary files in Git repositories with respective their pros and cons.
  • Git Annex vs. Git LFS
    my experience with Annex is that it’s full-featured and a bit less focused in its approach. It’s easy enough to check in files and sync them among various locations, but there are also testing tools, a web-based GUI, and lots of options you can use in different situations. The git-annex project site reveals a lot: plenty of features, updates, discussions, and enough threads that some sort of trail off.

    Git LFS is at the other end of things: a bit nicer-looking, a bit more straightforward, and significantly simpler. Tack it on to your repository, tell it what kind of files to watch, and then pretty much forget about it. If you check in a file (with a normal git add whatever.mp4), the magic happens via a pre-push hook where LFS will check your watch list and spring into action if needed. It otherwise blends in after minimal configuration.

  • git-annex v6
    This new unlocked file mode uses git's smudge/clean filters, and I was busy developing it all through December. It started out playing catch-up with git-lfs somewhat, but has significantly surpassed it now in several ways.

    So, if you had tried git-annex before, but found it didn't meet your needs, you may want to give it another look now.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Stuff I'm reading, early February edition

If the groundhog were to look today, she would DEFINITELY see her shadow, at least here in my neighborhood.

  • All Change Please
    The combined changes in networking, memory, storage, and processors that are heading towards our data centers will bring about profound changes to the way we design and build distributed systems, and our understanding of what is possible. Today I’d like to take a moment to summarise what we’ve been learning over the past few weeks and months about these advances and their implications.
  • High-Availability at Massive Scale: Building Google’s Data Infrastructure for Ads
    While most distributed systems handle machine-level failures well, handling datacenter-level failures is less common. In our experience, handling datacenter-level failures is critical for running true high availability systems. Most of our systems (e.g. Photon, F1, Mesa) now support multi-homing as a fundamental design property. Multi-homed systems run live in multiple datacenters all the time, adaptively moving load between datacenters, with the ability to handle outages of any scale completely transparently. This paper focuses primarily on stream processing systems, and describes our general approaches for building high availability multi-homed systems, discusses common challenges and solutions, and shares what we have learned in building and running these large-scale systems for over ten years.
  • Immutability Changes Everything
    It wasn't that long ago that computation was expensive, disk storage was expensive, DRAM (dynamic random access memory) was expensive, but coordination with latches was cheap. Now all these have changed using cheap computation (with many-core), cheap commodity disks, and cheap DRAM and SSDs (solid-state drives), while coordination with latches has become harder because latch latency loses lots of instruction opportunities. Keeping immutable copies of lots of data is now affordable, and one payoff is reduced coordination challenges.
  • To Trie or not to Trie – a comparison of efficient data structures
    I have been reading up a bit by bit on efficient data structures, primarily from the perspective of memory utilization. Data structures that provide constant lookup time with minimal memory utilization can give a significant performance boost since access to CPU cache is considerably faster than access to RAM. This post is a compendium of a few data structures I came across and salient aspects about them
  • POPL 2016
    Last month saw the 43rd edition of the ACM SIGPLAN-SIGACT Symposium on the Principles of Programming Languages (POPL). Gabriel Scherer did a wonderful job of gathering links to all of the accepted papers in a GitHub repo. For this week, I’ve chosen five papers from the conference that caught my eye.
  • NSA’s top hacking boss explains how to protect your network from his attack squads
    NSA tiger teams follow a six-stage process when attempting to crack a target, he explained. These are reconnaissance, initial exploitation, establish persistence, install tools, move laterally, and then collect, exfiltrate and exploit the data.
  • Amazon’s Experiment with Profitability
    Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has spent more than two decades reinvesting earnings back into the company. That steadfast refusal to strive for profitability never seemed to hurt the company or its stock price, and Amazon’s market value (now about $275 billion) passed Wal-Mart’s last year. All the cash it generated went into infrastructure development, logistics and technology; it experimented with new products and services, entered new markets, tried out new retail segments, all while capturing a sizable share of the market for e-commerce.
  • I Hate the Lord of the Rings
    A software developer explains why the Lord of the Rings is too much like work, and why Middle Earth exists in every office.
  • Startup Interviewing is (redacted)
    Silicon Valley is full of startups who fetishize the candidate that comes into the interview, answers a few clever fantasy coding challenges, and ultimately ends up the award-winning hire that will surely implement the elusive algorithm that will herald a new era of profitability for the fledging VC-backed company.
  • Startup Interviewing is (redacted)
    Silicon Valley is full of startups who fetishize the candidate that comes into the interview, answers a few clever fantasy coding challenges, and ultimately ends up the award-winning hire that will surely implement the elusive algorithm that will herald a new era of profitability for the fledging VC-backed company.
  • Inverting Binary Trees Considered Harmful
    he was like - wait a minute I read this really cute puzzle last week and I must ask you this - there are n sailors and m beer bottles and something to do with bottles being passed around and one of the bottles containing a poison and one of the sailors being dishonest and something about identifying that dishonest sailor before you consume the poison and die. I truly wished I had consumed the poison instead of laboring through that mess.
  • "Can you solve this problem for me on the whiteboard?"
    Programmers use computers. It's what we do and where we spend our time. If you can't at least give me a text editor and the toolchain for the language(s) you're interested in me using, you're wasting both our time. While I'm not afraid of using a whiteboard to help illustrate general problems, if you're asking me to write code on a whiteboard and judging me based on that, you're taking me out of my element and I'm not giving you a representative picture of who I am or how I code.

    Don't get me wrong, whiteboards can be a great interview tool. Some of the best questions I've been asked have been presented to me on a whiteboard, but a whiteboard was used to explain the concept, the interviewer wrote down what I said and used that to help frame a solution to the problem. It was a very different situation than "write code for me on the whiteboard."

Sunday, January 31, 2016

What software is installed on my PC?

Somebody asked me:

How can I easily get a list of all installed software?

I didn't know how to do this, but I got lucky searching. At least, it seemed to work for me:

  1. Open a command prompt.
  2. Input WMIC and press Return. You will see a prompt that looks like this:
  3. wmic:root\cli>
  4. At the new prompt, execute the following command:
    product get name
  5. Then "quit".

This will generate a list of installed applications.

Here's a nice article with more fun ideas about how to use wmic: WMIC: the best command line tool you've never used

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The creeks are rising!

As January draws to a close, the effects of the month's rains and snows are clear in these charts of the water levels for the 3 massive reservoirs in far northern California: Lake Shasta, Trinity Lake, and Lake Oroville.

Check out those dramatic changes in just the last 2 weeks! Trinity Lake is now 25% full, Lake Oroville is now 40% full, and Lake Shasta is now 50% full!

And it's not just been rain; the Snow Pack report is solid, too. The Northern Sierra snowpack, which actually the most important, is at 124% of normal; the Central Sierra snowpack is also above normal, and even the Southern Sierra snowpack is close, at 93% of normal.

And it's raining again, at least in Southern California: El Nino-driven storm to blast California, southwestern US with rain and snow.

Interestingly, although the headline of that story would deny it, most weather observers seem to agree that this winter has NOT been the "El Nino" year that many expected: Comparing El Nino 1997-1998 vs. 2015-2016 to date for Los Angeles

We all know that this year's El Nino has been compared to 1997-1998 in strength and as a benchmark of what it may bring. I have documented as late as last week that so far this rainfall season has not been typical of strong El Nino years.

This winter was supposed to be dry in the Northwest, but precipitation amounts are 30 to 60 percent above normal. It was to be a wet year in Southern California, but rainfall so far have been 30 to 40 percent below normal.

30 to 40 percent below normal, of course, is a LONG way from the 85 percent below normal that we saw the last two years. But, it's certainly not been a record-breaking wet year, so far.

Clark also writes: Possible reason for unusual rain pattern this El Nino

Easy to spot are the very warm waters around the equatorial Eastern Pacific with our current strong El Nino. There is also a core of warmer-than-normal water from Asia to the West Coast of the U.S. between 20 and 40 north. In between, however, is a core of cooler-than-normal water running much of the Pacific between 10 and 20 north.

Well, as the great Yogi Berra noted, "predictions are hard, especially about the future."

But, for now at least, the creeks are rising, and the snow is falling.

Which is good news.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bruce Dawson articles on Windows Performance Tools

This looks like a really nice tool. Maybe I can find the time to get it set up on my system?

  • ETW Central
    Over the last few years I’ve written over forty blog posts that discuss ETW/xperf profiling. I’ve done this because it’s one of the best profilers I’ve ever used, and it’s been woefully undersold and under documented by Microsoft. My goal has been to let people know about this tool, make it easier for developers and users to record ETW traces, and to make it as easy as possible for developers to analyze ETW traces.
  • Xperf Basics: Recording a Trace (the ultimate easy way)
    If your Windows computer is running slowly – if a program takes a long time to launch, if a game has a poor frame rate, or if an idle application uses too much CPU time – the best way to investigate is to record an Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) trace. An ETW trace records a wealth of information (CPU sampling, context switches, disk I/O, custom data, and much more) that allows most performance problems to be understood by a trained expert. If you’re not a trained expert then you can still record an ETW trace, and then share it with somebody who is.
  • UIforETW – Windows Performance Made Easier
    This is a tool that records ETW traces, works around ETW performance bugs, allows configuration of trace recording options, works as a trace management UI, and more.