Friday, September 30, 2016

The internet really is like a series of tubes

The then-United States Senator Ted Stevens, in a speech made in 2006 criticizing an amendment to a bill on internet neutrality, made the analogy that the internet "is a series of tubes" (that can be clogged when too much data is sent.)

Of course I'm 100% pro net neutrality, and I fervently oppose any laws, in any country, that would undermine it. However, that analogy got a ton of ridicule and mockery, and I really can't understand why.

It might not be the most technical analogy in existence, but I don't see what's wrong with it. Internet transmissions have an upper limit to how much data they can transmit. It's called bandwidth. And the data being transmitted is, in fact, on some cases being compared to the flow of a liquid. Heck, there's a reason why it's called "video streaming", for instance.

The analogy might not be flawless, but it isn't all that far off either. If you try to put too much stuff to go through a series of tubes, they are going to become congested and clogged. There's a maximum capacity that a tube can carry. In the same way, there's a maximum capacity that an internet connection can carry.

Ever experienced lag when watching a video online? Well, something along the way got clogged, for one reason or another. Maybe it was a technical malfunction, or maybe too much data congested some server.

The analogy is not that far off. So why all the ridicule?

Capitalism vs. corporatism

For some reason the term "capitalism" has a really negative connotation in our modern world (although this actually goes way back, several decades in fact, maybe even a century). Not very surprisingly especially the modern regressive leftist social justice ideology hates and opposes capitalism with a passion, and would want to tear it completely down (and replace it with, usually, communism, or some other kind of Marxist system.)

The very word "capitalism" immediately gives people the mental image of fat corporate magnates in old-fashioned suits smoking a cigar (bonus points for an old-fashioned monocle), running huge megacorporations that exploit poor third-world countries, exploit consumers, tear forests down and pollute like there is no tomorrow.

The thing is, what people, especially the social justice warriors, oppose is not capitalism, but corporatism. Uncontrolled capitalism can lead to corporatism, but they are in no way synonymous.

Capitalism is defined by the dictionary as:
an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.
The core feature of capitalism is who owns and runs the corporations: The government, or private individuals and entities. It's essentially a question of ownership.

The vast majority of the world uses a capitalistic economic system. While the government regulates what corporations are allowed to do (in an optimal system to stop corporations from abusing their powers and exploiting people), the corporations are nevertheless privately owned, not government-owned. The government does not own the corporations nor their wealth; it simply regulates their activities to ensure fair non-exploitative behavior that optimally benefits everybody (ie. the citizens, the government and, ultimately, the corporations themselves.)

Corporatism, however, happens when the government is unable or unwilling to control and restrict corporations strongly enough, and they are allowed too much leeway, which in turn almost inevitably leads to corporations abusing their powers and exploiting people and the system. Corporatism is, essentially, these private corporations being allowed too much power and too much control, often even control over the government itself. When private corporations have too much influence on the government (rather than the other way around), that's when things can get ugly. That's when the system has become corporatist.

This is what people, including SJWs, oppose. The vast majority of them just don't understand it, and instead just think it's "capitalism", and throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Open letter to Johnathan McIntosh

Mr. Johnathan McIntosh.

You are currently making a video series about "masculinity in media". Let me just cut to the chase: I would argue that you are the least qualified man on this planet to talk about masculinity. I would even go so far as to say that at least 90% of women on this planet are more qualified to talk about masculinity than you are.

You see, in order to talk about masculinity, you have to understand it. I know that the term emasculation is quite over-used, and even misused, but in this particular situation that word applies perfectly to you, Mr. McIntosh. And that pretty much excludes you from being a qualified person to talk about masculinity. It would be like a person who has never drunk any alcohol talking about the experience of being an alcoholic. It would be like a marriage counselor who has never even dated, much less been married. Or, perhaps closer to your ideology, it would be like someone who has never been raped talking about being the victim of rape.

You, Mr. McIntosh, may biologically be a man, but that doesn't make you qualified to talk about masculinity. Being masculine entails more than just having the chromosomes. A person who has been so radically emasculated as you are, is just the completely wrong person for that job.

Your feminism makes you deeply, deeply biased. It makes you a dogmatic ideologue with an agenda. Moreover, feminism has completely and absolutely distorted your views on masculinity, and yourself. You cannot talk about the subject when your own masculinity has been so completely stripped off, destroyed and distorted beyond recognition by such an ideology. It would be like a totalitarian dictator talking about democracy. It would be like a member of the KKK talking about black people. It would be like Ray Comfort talking about the theory of evolution. It would be like David Icke talking about NASA.

You, Mr. McIntosh, simply cannot have a healthy, unbiased perspective on masculinity. And that's why you are simply not qualified for this job. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is.

And on another tangent, your lack of self awareness sometimes reaches outright hilarious levels. You say in your introductory video how "the last thing that these guys want to have is a serious discussion". You are describing yourself here, Mr. McIntosh. You, and your feminist buddies. You are the one who disables comments. You are the one who blocks people for simply having a differing opinion from yours. You are the one who accuses them of "harassment" for simply disagreeing. You are the one who does not want to have a discussion. The only thing you want is to preach from your pulpit and have the congregation be silent and never present a dissenting opinion.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

VR adoption crawls to a halt. Surprises nobody.

VR adoption among Steam users has crashed to a halt.

"The number of new HTC Vive owners on Steam grew only 0.3 percent in July and was flat in August, according to a survey (via Reddit) of customers that use Valve’s distribution network. The Oculus Rift headset from the Facebook subsidiary saw similar stagnation of 0.3 percent in July and 0.1 percent in August. At this point, only 0.18 percent of Steam users own the Vive and only 0.10 percent own the Rift."

So after the early adopters, who have too much money to spend, rushed to buy the headsets, how many other people are now buying them? Next to none.

And how many people are surprised by this development? Not me, at least.

When you price your toy at almost 1000€ (which is what the HTC Vive costs here), plus when you have really hefty hardware requirements, often requiring expensive upgrades (sometimes even requiring the purchase of an entirely new PC), what do you expect?

I think it's safe to say that HTC, Valve and Oculus VR are retards. Even a child can see that you don't make something popular by over-pricing it. It doesn't matter how fancy and expensive the technology put into it may be, it won't sell if your average consumer can't afford it. The average consumer doesn't even have a PC that costs that much; they are not going to spend more money on a toy than their entire PC is worth.

Price your VR headset at 200€, and we'll start talking. I don't know nor care how you do it, but that's when you'll start seeing boosted sales.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

De facto monopolies

Sometimes a company, or service, becomes so immensely popular, that it effectively kills or at the very least overshadows all competition, even without the company having to do anything in particular in order to achieve that situation. In other words, that company or service becomes a de facto monopoly in that particular market.

Valve's Steam service is the quintessential example of this. There's nothing stopping other companies from creating their own content distribution / online shop of video games for the PC, and some have tried. However, the fact remains that Steam holds effectively a total monopoly status in this field. If you want easy access to an enormously wide range of video games, often for very cheap, completely legally, Steam is pretty much your only choice. (Other similar services by other companies do exist, but they tend to be significantly narrower in their range of games, and are significantly smaller in terms of their customer base.)

I have never heard of Valve having achieved this status via questionable tactics, so they have achieved it simply because they became popular with the PC gaming public.

Google's web search service is another major example. Again, there is nothing stopping other companies from offering their own search services (and many do), but Google just overshadows them almost to oblivion. It is pretty much the de facto web search service which everybody uses for pretty much everything. It's so ubiquitous that the name has even entered vernacular, in the form of "to google" to mean "to make a web search". The two have almost become synonymous.

YouTube is arguably another example (although possibly not as radical as Steam or Google's web search). There are many free video publishing and streaming sites out there, but nothing can compete with YouTube in terms of size and popularity. While in this case there are viable alternatives, nevertheless YouTube overshadows them quite severely. (Although arguably Twitch is the de facto monopoly on live video game streaming, as well as other types of online content streaming related to not just video games but also other relatively similar events.)

Microsoft Windows has a de facto monopoly on PC operating systems. While Linux is nothing to scoff at, the fact remains that it just can't compete. In many cases you don't have a choice, as most software, which you might need eg. for your work, is made for Windows only. Also, while Linux can run some PC games, it just can't compete with Windows as a gaming system. If you are a PC gamer, you are pretty much forced to use Windows. There is no practical choice.

The problem with monopolies is that they can be detrimental to the customers. Having a monopoly status means that you don't have any competition. When you don't have any competition, it removes the motivation to innovate, to progress, and to keep your customers happy (with eg. low prices). Having a monopoly status means that you can abuse your customers (at least within the law) because there is little chance of losing them; since there is no competition, there is no danger that your customers will switch to one of those.

Often a monopoly means higher prices for the offered products. Since there is no competition, no alternatives, the company with the monopoly can set the prices as they see fit. Othertimes the problems arise in other ways, such as limited functionality (because the company has no motivation to innovate and progress), and abusing their customers, eg. in terms of their privacy. Biased censorship of ideas and expression may also become a problem.

In some cases many customers are actively creating monopolies with their purchasing decisions and even soft activism. As an example, in the "VR war" many people consider the HTC Vive to be the clear winner over the Oculus Rift, and are pretty much advocating for the former to be recognized as the sole option, and for the latter to die off.

This particular example is really obnoxious. These people do not understand that what they are advocating for is a monopoly, which will be detrimental to themselves. A complete monopoly of one single VR system means that its producer company can dictate anything they want, because there will be no alternatives, no competition. It will ensure that prices will remain high, and development will be strictly controlled by the company. The losers in this situation are these customers themselves.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

What could VR games look like?

I wrote previously a post about how crappy most of the current VR games available at Steam look like. And no, I didn't deliberately pick&choose the worst examples I could find. I took directly the top rated VR games on Steam, without any kind of bias.

When I comment about this online, many people jump to the defense, stating that VR is so resource-heavy that you just can't expect even a VR-capable PC to render modern games at the required resolution and refresh rate. After all, it has to render the view of the game twice, 90 times per second minimum. That's like almost triple compared to your regular games, right?

Well, no. For some reason these people seem to think that the game needs to render the game at full resolution twice (thus requiring twice the rendering speed), and at a significantly increased framerate at that (compared to the standard 60 fps.) In actuality the resolution for each eye is 1080x1200 pixels. That sounds like a rather high resolution, but it's actually just 62.5% of your standard 1920x1080 resolution.

The total amount of pixels to render for (current) VR is 2160x1200. This is 25% more than the standard 1920x1080. It's more resource intensive yes, but not by all that much.

So, I went ahead and did a small test to see what VR could realistically look like, taking into account how resource intensive it is. I performed the test as follows.

I do not have a monitor capable of VR resolution, so I had to rely on using the 1920x1080 resolution. However, since what matters is how many pixels per second the hardware is capable of rendering, 2160x1200@90Hz is roughly equivalent to 1920x1080@112.5Hz. (Well, mathematically they are exactly equal in terms of pixels per second, but in terms of rendering speed there are other variables in play as well, thus they are "roughly" equivalent.)

I think that it's pretty safe to say that if a min-spec PC is capable of rendering a game at 1920x1080@120Hz, then it will be capable of rendering it in VR. (Any additional CPU processing required for VR is more than accounted for in that extra framerate. After all, the higher the framerate, the more taxing it becomes for the CPU.)

My PC just happens to be perfect for this test because it barely meets the minimum specs recommended for VR: It's an i5-2500K with a GTX970 graphics card. (The minimum recommended spec for VR has a CPU that's just a tad bit faster than mine, so this is actually perfect. If my PC is capable of rendering a game at 1920x1080@120Hz, then an actual min-spec PC will also most certainly.)

So I ran some modern games with vsync turned off, and adjusting graphics settings if needed, with the goal of seeing if they could run at a minimum of 120Hz.

So, here are some screenshots of what VR games could look like (click on the images to get full resolution versions):

The Talos Principle:

Battlefield 4:

Alien: Isolation. (For some reason Steam's screenshot feature did not grab the MSI Afterburner overlay in this game, so you'll just have to trust me, but the framerates were well over 130Hz even at maximum graphical settings.)