Monday, March 31, 2008

Sir Michael's chill-out album

This is one the weirder bits of news I've stumbled on for a while. While checking out the news on the William Orbit website, I saw William interviewed Sir Michael Caine about his recent entry into the music buisiness.

Yes, you read that right... I must admit to not having heard of Sir Michael's album, Cained, until now. It's a collection of "chill-out" tracks from various artists. I might have to give it a listen, assuming Napster has it...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wrongly correcting people's English

I had an interesting experience yesterday flying back from a quick visit to San Francisco... A Chinese woman was seating in the aisle seat, next to another woman, and I was in the window seat, so I could easily hear the conversation beetween the two women.

The Chinese woman struck up a conversation and quickly moved on to a question: "Is it incorrect to say 'speak wrongly' in English, for example: 'People in America don't correct you when you speak wrongly' ?"

It turns out the Chinese woman was in San Francisco for an English class and had chatted to someone earlier that evening while waiting for the plane. She had lamented the fact that people generally don't correct non-native English speakers when they make mistakes. People are too polite or forgiving and let things slide, assuming they understand the gist of what the non-native speaker is saying. The other person, thus encouraged to be critical of her mistakes, had told her "You can't say 'speak wrongly', that's not correct English. You should say 'speak wrong'..."

So, fast-forward to the conversation next to me in the plane, and the Chinese woman has just posed the question to the American woman next to me. "Yes, that's correct. Wrongly isn't a word", she said. I could tell the Chinese woman was puzzled and trying to make sense of this - she had been using wrongly for several years. (I should add that in general her English was good, with a fairly heavy Mandarin accent though).

The Chinese woman seemed to have a superior grasp of English grammar and asked the other woman "But isn't wrong an adjective? Can you use it as an adverb too? 'Speak wrong' means that wrong is an adverb, right?" The American woman seemed a bit confused at this and admitted that English was never her strongest subject in school, so the academic discussion ended there.

It should be obvious that I was squirming in my seat and wanting to butt in, but I wasn't sure how to enter the conversation and not make the woman in the middle of us feel bad, plus I would then be talking over her to the Chinese woman, possibly for much of the rest of the flight... So I stayed quiet.

Needless to say, wrongly is a word and can be replaced by "incorrectly" in the Chinese woman's original usage: "Speakign English incorrectly". I hope she does a check in her dictionary when she gets home, or asks her English teacher. Then she can confidently correct people when they tell her she's "speaking wrong" in future! :)

Using RED for fair bandwidth usage

George Ou recently wrote an article titled "Fixing the unfairness of TCP congestion control" which starts off (my emphasis added):
Bob Briscoe (Chief researcher at the BT Network Research Centre) is on a mission to tackle one of the biggest problems facing the Internet. He wants the world to know that TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) congestion control is fundamentally broken and he has a proposal for the IETF to fix the root cause of the problem.

All this is quite topical given Comcast's attempts to throttle peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic on their network, the FCC's involvement, and Comcast's recent promise to "stop meddling".

Nate Lawson wrote two great blog posts to address George Ou's article - effectively saying that the TCP/IP stack does not need to be swapped out and we don't need a complex new protocol to deal with the congestion problem. A simple option is to use RED (Rapid Early Discard) and Nate goes on to explain why this would work. Nate's 2nd post addresses Check the out here:

Thursday, March 06, 2008

3D graphics in Excel

Cutting-edge computer games use different graphics subsystems -- so-called 3D graphics engines. Source (used in Half Life 2), Unreal Engine (Unreal Tournament), idTech 4 (Doom 3), CryENGINE2 (Crysis) or Clever's Paradox engine are well-known among the players and the game industry experts.
It's time to learn a new 3D game engine name: Microsoft Excel.

See the full article here, and be sure to check out the movies too.

My hat is off to you, sir!