Friday, October 19, 2007

PS3 Gravity Grid

Wired is running an article about an Astrophysicist who has successfuly combined the power of multiple PlayStation3 units to create a computer cluster that can handle the same complex computations as a supercomputer.

Dr. Gaurav Khanna is employing his so-called "gravity grid" of PS3s to help measure these theoretical gravity waves -- ripples in space-time that travel at the speed of light -- that Einstein's Theory of Relativity predicted would emerge when such an event takes place.

The Sony PlayStation 3 has a number of unique features that make it particularly suited for scientific computation. To start with, the PS3 is an open platform, which essentially means that one can run a different system software on it, for example, PowerPC Linux. Next, it has a revolutionary processor called the Cell processor which was developed by Sony, IBM and Toshiba. This processor has a main CPU, called the PPU and several (six for the PS3) special compute engines, called SPUs available for raw computation. Moreover, each SPU performs vector operations, which implies that it can compute on multiple data, in a single step. Finally, its incredibly low cost makes it very attractive as a scientific computing node, that is part of a cluster. In fact, its highly plausible that the raw computing power per dollar that the PS3 offers, is significantly higher than anything else on the market today!
Thanks to a very generous donation by Sony, we have an eight PS3 cluster in our department, which we call PS3 Gravity Grid. Check out some pictures of the cluster here: 1) the PS3's arrive; 2) the rack arrives; 3) front view of the cluster; 4) side view of the cluster.
Looks like someone has finally found a good use for them.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Young Bae's photonic laser thruster

TUSTIN, Calif., Sept. 7, 2007 -- An amplified photon thruster that could potentially shorten the trip to Mars from six months to a week has reportedly attracted the attention of aerospace agencies and contractors.

Young Bae, founder of the Bae Institute in Tustin, Calif., first demonstrated his photonic laser thruster (PLT), which he built with off-the-shelf components, in December.

The demonstration produced a photon thrust of 35 ┬ÁN and is scalable to achieve much greater thrust for future space missions, the institute said. Applications include highly precise satellite formation flying configurations for building large synthetic apertures in space for earth or space observation, precision contaminant-free spacecraft docking operations, and propelling spacecraft to unprecedented speeds -- faster than 100 km/sec.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Dark Side of the Internet

There is a dark side to the Internet these days in the form of Malware; Spyware, Viruses and Trojans. Some of the worst Trojans will download and install even more malware making the infection that much worse. The majority come either in email or as free downloads from the Internet. Trojans are programs that appear to be friendly until you install them. Some pose as Anti-Malware tools or screen savers.

In the old days, we'd always just reformat the drive of the infected system, but now a reformat can add up to a lot of wasted time.

There are several useful tools for cleaning an infected system. The first line of defense is a good anti-virus program. Most of the better ones have an auto protect feature that prevents viruses from doing any damage. Anti-Virus progams typically won't stop a Trojan so you need another tool for that. Some Trojans like Vundo require specific tools to remove them. You can often find them on the internet as free downloads from companies like Symantec and McAfee. Another method is to use a program like HijackThis that can scan and remove anything from your system. It does require a little more know-how on the part of the user. The rid your machine of spyware, you have more choices. The top three anti-spyware tools are Spybot Search & Destroy, AVG Anti-Spyware and Lavasoft's Adaware program. Most anti-virus makers are also including anti-spyware tools as part of the package.

After you have removed all the nasty stuff off of the infected machine you might still notice some oddities because some of the system files could have been damaged. The easiest way to repair this is to insert the Windows XP CD, click Star Run->CMD then type sfc /scannow. This will scan and repair any system files that were damaged by the malware. SFC is the "System File Checker" It has other options such as /scanonce which will do the scan on the next reboot.

You should also run windows updates after cleaning an infected system. The majority of the updates these days are security updates. They'll help prevent the system from getting infected again. Also, be sure to download the latest drivers for your hardware.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Live Earth Concerts

Don't miss the Life Earth concerts broadcast that will be going on over the weekend. You can find more info on their website

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword

Take2 has announced Beyond the Sword for the Civilization IV.

Civilization is one of those classic turn based strategy games that really stands out from the crowd. The whole Civilization series has been a huge success. There are still people playing Civilization II and III on a regular basis. It isn't surprising that we now have Civilization IV. There will probably be a 5th installment at some point. It is a popular game to play in both single and multiplayer. The AI is challenging enough for even the most hard-core gamer and you can always find an opponent online. The civilization community's various fan sites run monthly competitions where players test their skill level against others. There is even an online Hall of Fame over at the Civilization Fanatics Center. It looks like BTS will take civilization to a whole new futuristic technology level.

If you ever get bored with MOO, this is probably the game for you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

First habitable Earth like planet outside Solar System discovered

Munich, Apr 23 : An international team of astronomers from Switzerland, France and Portugal have discovered the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date.

The planet has a radius only 50 percent larger than Earth and is very likely to contain liquid water on its surface.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mastering MOO2 updated

I made some corrections and added sections on spying and ethics.

Here's the download link.

Sometimes, you have to hit refresh a few times for it to download.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mastering MOO2 (a work in progress)

Here's my first draft of a strategy article that I'm writting for this blog. The file is in adobe pdf format.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Brain Games

One good way to kill some time and exercise your brain is by solving puzzles in Interactive Fiction.

One of the more difficult IF games is, "Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus" by Dan Shiovitz and Emily Short. It was selected as the winner for the Spring Thing 2003. One of the coolest things about it is being able to switch between characters when they are together. You can download it from the IF Archive along with some helpful hints. You'll need a TAD3 player to read it. Some of the puzzles can get frustrating. If you get stuck, you can always refer to the hints. I found some areas where Doris is easier and others where Max is stronger. One good way to get unstuck is to restore back to a point when they are together and switch to the other character before proceeding. There are a few glitches but the entire thing is playable to the end. It took me about 7 hours to finish.

Another good Sci-Fi IF game is "The Elysium Enigma" by Eric Eve. It won the prestigious XYZZY award for best game in 2006. There is a walkthrough but I suggest trying it on your own first.

If text-based games aren't really your thing you might try Samorost 1 and Samorost 2. These are point and click flash games. Samorost2 is shareware but it's worth registering.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MOO2 Using RAMDiskXP

I discovered a way to get slightly better performance by installing the game to a RAM Disk (logical drive that uses memory instead of a hard-disk), but it does take up a lot of memory.

The setup is pretty simple. First install MOO2 to your hard-drive in the usual way, patch it and setup it up for using the DOS version. I assume most mooniacs are already using dosbox, so I won't go into the details here. You can refer to Siron's guide if you need to.

Next, Download and Install RAMDiskXP. Use RAMDiskXP to create a large enough drive to store all the files in the Microprose/Orion2 directory. It took 365MB on my system.

Use explorer to copy the entire Microprose\Orion2 directory to the RAM drive (I: on my system) and edit the orioncd file to change the path to point to the new Orion2 folder.

Next, edit your dosbox configuration to mount the new directory. Run whatever version you normally do. That's about all there is to it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

UFO accounts suggest Human-looking Extraterrestrials

Cool stuff.
A University of Mexico tenured medical professor who met with an extraterrestrial, posing as an ordinary civilian, helps corroborate claims of Human Extraterrestrials living among us. This professor was also a senior member of the Mexican Atomic energy Commission. The Professor used the pseudonym of ‘Prof Hernandez’ and worked with a Mexican journalist, Zitha Rodriguez to release details of his contact in the early 1970's.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Galactic Avenger

"They're everywhere! They've taken over the skies! They're coming for earth! They're ..."

You can download this little gaming gem from Paul Hsieh's website.

It runs just fine in DosBox.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Master of Orion 2 Intro Cinematic

Never gets old does it?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Space Empires V Demo

Tonight, I decided to try out the demo for Space Empires V.

It isn't quite as fun as MOO II but it isn't bad. The UI does take some getting used to. It looks like each game could go on for a long period of time in typical space opera fashion.

There does seem to be a lot of community activity and developers have released a series of patches that helped to solve some of it's problems. There are several mods available for it.

Click to Enlarge Screenshot

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Creative Strategy for MOO2

In Moo2, I've been trying out a new quick-pop creative strategy where you try to leverage having both cloning and soil with the aquatic pop modifier. Your food planets won't need many farmers so you can dedicate more citizens to research and production. It seems to work but it is a bit slow at first compared to a strong production race like Unification-Tolerant-Production+1.

The key seems to be finding enough wet planets to hold the population until you are able to expand.

Custom Race:

Large Home world
-20 Ship Defense
-10 Ground Combat

Tech Order: Research Labs, Reinforced Hull, Auto-Factories, Biospheres, Soil/Cloning, etc.

Try to maximize expansion and use of your first colony ship. Scout the surrounding planets first to find the largest wet planet to colonize. The ideal first colony is a huge ocean planet with abundant minerals with a few medium sized rich planets in the same system.

Your population will grow extremely fast once you have clones so you need to start building colony ships soon after having auto-factories built. You also will need a lot of freighters to move your citizens to new colonies.

You need to pre-build well in advance for your research labs and auto-factories because you won't have any production bonuses until you build auto-factories.

Don't bother with building colony bases for tiny, toxic, and radiated planets. This waste too much time.

In the early game, build Cloning Facilities only on your housing planets and do Soil Enrichment only on your food planets. It would waste too much time to build soil where you aren't farming and clones where you aren't doing housing.

Remember that housing planets only need one citizen building housing. With this method your housing planets should produce a new citizen about every 3-4 turns. Move them to another colony the turn they appear to maximize growth.

Once you have established 2-3 new colonies, it’s time to start thinking about your defenses and eventually going to war.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

GalCiv2, SotS, SEV: a 4X Comparison

A good summation of 4x space games that were released in 2006.

GalCiv2, SotS, SEV: a 4X Comparison
After the fiasco of Master of Orion 3, which certainly didn't do any good for the genre of Space Strategy games (or 4X games), three new titles finally appeared this year: Galactic Civilizations 2 (GalCiv2), Sword of the Stars (SotS), and Space Empires V (SEV). Among these, two are obviously sequels and this ratio can easily be taken as the magic formula which is currently the trend in gaming industry: No more than one third true innovation. The aim of this comparative review is to give anyone interested in such games an insight into what are the weaknesses and strengths of each so that he can vote with his money. However, I think that anyone truly interested in the genre will end up with all three of them, simply because each one is far from being the disappointment MOO3 was.

X-COM: UFO Defense

Recently, I have been playing another old favorite.

There is still plenty of community activity surrounding this game.

The sequels weren't all that hot but the original is still a lot of fun to play.

It does have the annoyance of the random crash to desktop bug.

There have been many attempts to clone it but none have truly succeeded yet.