Incoherent ramblings

Raccoons vs. Cake: “Oh, come on kids, …, it’s still good!”

January 10, 2021 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

Life comes in cycles, and here’s an old chapter replaying itself.

When I was a teenager, we spent weekdays with mom, and weekends with dad. Both of them lived a subsistence existence, but with the rent expenses that mom also had, she really struggled to pay the bills at that stage of our lives. I don’t remember the occasion, but one hot summer day, she had saved enough to buy the eggs, flour and other ingredients that she needed to make us all a cake as a special treat. After the cake was cooked, she put it on the kitchen table to cool enough that she could ice it (she probably would have used her classic cream-cheese and sugar recipe.)

That rental property did not have air conditioning, and the doors were always wide open in the summer. Imagine the smell of fresh baked cake pervading the air in the house, and then a blood curdling scream. It was the scream of a horrific physical injury, perhaps that of somebody with a foreign object embedding deep in the flesh of their leg. We all rushed down to find out what happened, and it turned out that the smell of the cake was not just inviting to us, but also to a family of raccoons. Mom walked into the kitchen to find a mother raccoon and her little kids all sitting politely at the table in a circle around the now cool cake, helping themselves to dainty little handfuls.  What sounded like the scream of mortal injury, was the scream of a struggling mom, who’s plan to spoil her kids was being eaten in front of her eyes.

From the kitchen you could enter the back room, or the hallway to the front door, and from the front door you could enter the “piano room”, which also had a door to the back room and back to the kitchen.  The scene degenerates into chaos at this point, with mom and the rest of us chasing crying and squealing raccoons in circles all around the first floor of the house along that circular path, with cake crumbs flying in all directions.  I don’t know how many laps we and the raccoons made of the house before we managed to shoo them all out the front or back door, but eventually we were left with just the crumb trail and the remains of the cake.

The icing on the cake was mom’s reaction though. She went over to the cake and cut all the raccoon handprints out of it. We didn’t want to eat it, and I still remember her pleading with us, “Oh come on kids, try it. It’s still good!” Poor mom.  She even took sample bites from the cake to demonstrate it was still edible, and convince us to partake in the treat that she’d worked so hard to make for us.  I don’t think that we ate her cake, despite her pleading.

Thirty years later, it’s my turn. I spent an hour making chili today, and after dinner I put the left overs out on the back porch to cool in the slow cooker pot with the lid on. I’d planned to bag and freeze part of it, and put the rest in the fridge as leftovers for the week. It was cold enough out that I didn’t think that the raccoons would be out that early, but figured it would have been fair game had I left it out all night in the “outside fridge”. Well, those little buggers were a lot more industrious than I gave them credit, and by the time I’d come back from walking the dog, they’d helped themselves to a portion, lifting the lid of the slow cooker pot, and making a big mess of as much chili as they wanted.  They ate quite a lot, but perhaps it had more spice than they cared for, as they left quite a lot:

Judging by the chili covered hand prints on the back deck I think they enjoyed themselves, despite the spices.

When I went upstairs to let Sofia know what had happened, she immediately connected the dots to this cake story that I’ve told so many times, and said in response: “Oh come on kids, it’s still good!”, at which point we both started laughing.

The total cost of the chili itself was probably only $17, plus one hour of time.  However, I didn’t intend to try to talk anybody into eating the remains.  It is just not worth getting raccoon carried Giardia or some stomach bug.  I was sad to see my work wasted and the leftovers ruined.  I wish Mom was still with us, so that I could share this with her.  I can imagine her visiting on this very day, where I could have scooped everything off the top, and then offered her a spoonful, saying “Oh come on Mom, it’s still good!”  I think that she would have gotten a kick out of that, even if she was always embarrassed about this story and how poor we were at the time.

Final thoughts.

There were 4 cans of beans in that pot of chili.  I have to wonder if we are going to have a family of farting raccoons in the neighbourhood for a few days?

Sabine Hossenfelder’s “Lost in Math”

December 27, 2020 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , , , , ,

“Lost in Math” is a book that I’ve been curious to read, as I’ve been a subscriber to Sabine’s blog and youtube channel for quite a while.  On her blog and channel, she provides overviews of many topics in physics that are well articulated, as well as what appear to be very well reasoned and researched criticisms of a number of topics (mostly physics related.)  Within the small population of people interested in theoretical physics, I think that she is also very well known for her completely fearlessness, as she appears to have none of the usual social resistance to offending somebody should her statements not be aligned with popular consensus.

This book has a few aspects:

  • Interviews with a number of interesting and prominent physicists
  • A brutal take on the failures of string theory, supersymmetry, theories of everything, and other research programs that have consumed significant research budgets, but are detached from experimental and observational constraints.
  • An argument against the use of beauty, naturalness, and fine tuning avoidance in the constructions of physical theory.  Through the many interviews, we get a glimpse of the specific meanings of these words in the context of modern high level physical theories.
  • Some arguments against bigger colliders, given that the current ones have not delivered on their promises of producing new physics.
  • A considerable history of modern physics, and background for those wondering what the problems that string theory and supersymmetry have been trying to solve in the first place.
  • Some going-forward recommendations.

While there were no equations in this book, it is not a terribly easy read.  I felt that reading this requires considerable physics sophistication.  To level set, while I haven’t studied particle physics or the standard model, I have studied special relativity, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and even some introductory QFT, but still found this book fairly difficult (and I admit to nodding off a few times as a result.)  I don’t think this is really a book that aimed at the general public.

If you do have the background to attempt this book, you will probably learn a fair amount, on topics that include, for example: the standard model, general relativity, symmetry breaking, coupling constants, and the cosmological constant.  An example was her nice illustration of symmetry breaking.  We remember touching on this briefly in QFT I, but it was presented in an algebraic and abstract fashion.  At the time I didn’t get the high level view of what this meant (something with higher energy can have symmetries that are impossible at lower energies.)  In this book, this concept is illustrated by a spinning top, which when spinning fast is stable and has rotational symmetry, but once frictional effects start to slow it down, it will start to precess and wobble, and the symmetry that is evident at higher spin rates weakens.  This was a particularly apt justification for the title of the book, as her description of symmetry breaking did not require any mathematics!

Deep in the book, it was pointed out that the equations of the standard model cannot generally be solved, but have to be dealt with using perturbation methods.  In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised me, since we generally can’t solve non-harmonic oscillator problems in closed form, and have to resort to numerical methods for most interesting problems.

There were a number of biting statements that triggered laughs while reading this book.  I wish that I’d made notes of more of of those while I read it, but here are two to whet your appetite:

  • If you’d been sucking away on a giant jawbreaker for a century, wouldn’t you hope to finally get close to the gum?
  • It’s easy enough for us to discard philosophy as useless — because it is useless.

On the picture above.

I like reading in the big living room chair behind my desk that our dog Tessa has claimed as her own, so as soon as I get up for coffee (or anything else), she will usually come and plop herself in the chair so that it’s no longer available to me.  If she was lying on the floor, and my wife sits on “her” chair, she will almost always occupy it once Sofia gets up.  Ironically, the picture above was taken just after I had gotten to the section where she was interviewing Chad Orzel, of “How to Teach Quantum Mechanics to your Dog” fame.

On pet physics theories, Scientology, cosmology, relativity and libertarian tendencies.

December 26, 2020 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment , , , , , , , , , ,

In a recent Brian Keating podcast, he asked people to comment if they had their own theory of physics.

I’ve done a lot of exploration of conventional physics, both on my own, and with some in class studies (non-degree undergrad physics courses at UofT, plus grad QM and QFTI), but I don’t have my own personal theories of physics.  It’s enough of a challenge to figure out the existing theories without making up your own\({}^{1}\).

However, I have had one close encounter with an alternate physics theory, as I had a classmate in undergrad QMI (phy356) that had a personal “Aether” theory of relativity.  He shared that theory with me, but it came in the form of about 50 pages of dense text without equations.  For all intents and purposes, this was a theory that was written in an entirely different language than the rest of physics.  To him, it was all self evident, and he got upset with the suggestion of trying to mathematize it.  A lot of work and thought went into that theory, but it is work that has very little chance of paying off, since it was packaged in a form that made it unpalatable to anybody who is studying conventional physics.  There is also a great deal of work that would be required to “complete” the theory (presuming that could be done), since he would have to show that his theory is not inconsistent with many measurements and experiments, and would not predict nonphysical phenomena.  That was really an impossible task, which he would have found had he attempted to do so.  However, instead of attempting to do that work, he seemed to think that the onus should fall on others to do so.  He had done the work to write what he believed to be a self consistent logical theory that was self evidently true, and shouldn’t have to do anything more.

It is difficult to fully comprehend how he would have arrived at such certainty about his Aether theory, when he did not have the mathematical sophistication to handle the physics found in the theories that he believed his should supplant.  However, in his defence, there are some parts of what I imagine were part of his thought process that I can sympathize with.  The amount of knowledge required to understand the functioning of a even a simple digital watch (not to mention the cell “phone” computers that we now all carry) is absolutely phenomenal.  We are surrounded by so much sophisticated technology that understanding the mechanisms behind it all is practically unknowable.  Much of the world around is us is effectively magic to most people, even those with technical sophistication.  Should there be some sort of catastrophe that wipes out civilization, requiring us to relearn or redevelop everything from first principles, nobody really has the breadth required to reconstruct the world around us.  It is rather humbling to ponder that.

One way of coping with the fact that it is effectively impossible to know how everything works is to not believe in any consensus theories — period.  I think that is the origin of the recent popularization of flat earth models.  I think this was a factor in my classmate’s theory, as he also went on to believe that quantum mechanics was false (or also believed that when I knew him, but never stated it to me.)  People understand that it is impossible to know everything required to build their own satellites, imaging systems, rockets, et-al, (i.e. sophisticated methods of disproving the flat earth theory) and decide to disbelieve everything that they cannot personally prove.  That’s an interesting defence mechanism, but takes things to a rather extreme conclusion.

I have a lot of sympathy for those that do not believe in consensus theories.  Without such disbelief I would not have my current understanding of the world.  It happens that the prevailing consensus theory that I knew growing up was that of Scientology.  Among the many ideas that one finds in Scientology is a statement that relativity is wrong\({}^2\).  It has been too many years for me to accurately state the reasons that Hubbard stated that relativity was incorrect, but I do seem to recall that one of the arguments had to do with the speed of light being non-constant when bent by a prism \({}^3\).  I carried some Scientology derived skepticism of relativity into the undergrad “relativistic electrodynamics“\({}^4\) course that I took back around 2010, but had I not been willing to disregard the consensus beliefs that I had been exposed to up to that point in time, I would not have learned anything from that class.  Throwing away beliefs so that you can form your own conclusions is the key to being able to learn and grow.

I would admit to still carrying around baggage from my early indoctrination, despite not having practised Scientology for 25+ years.  This baggage spans multiple domains.  One example is that I am not subscribed to the religious belief that government and police are my friends.  It is hard to see your father, whom you love and respect, persecuted, and not come away with disrespect for the persecuting institutions.  I now have a rough idea of what Dad back in the Scientology Guardian’s Office did that triggered the ire of the Ontario crown attorneys \({}^5\).  However, that history definitely colored my views and current attitudes.  In particular, I recognize that back history as a key factor that pushed me so strongly in a libertarian direction.  The libertarian characterization of government as an entity that infringes on personal property and rights seems very reasonable, and aligns perfectly with my experience \({}^6\).

A second example of indoctrination based disbelief that I recognize that I carry with me is not subscribing to the current popular cosmological models of physics.  The big bang, and the belief that we know to picosecond granularity how the universe was at it’s beginning seems to me very religious.  That belief requires too much extrapolation, and it does not seem any more convincing to me than the Scientology cosmology.  The Scientology cosmology is somewhat ambiguous, and contains both a multiverse story and a steady state but finite model.  In the steady state aspect of that cosmology, the universe that we inhabit is dated with an age of 76 trillion years, but I don’t recall any sort of origin story for the beginning portion of that 76 trillion.  Given the little bits of things that we can actually measure and observe, I have no inclination to sign up for the big bang testiment any more than any other mythical origin story.  Thankfully, I can study almost anything that has practical application in physics or engineering and no amount of belief or disdain in the big bang or other less popular “physics” cosmologies makes any difference.  All of these, whether they be the big bang, cyclic theories, multiverses (of the quantum, thetan-created \({}^7\), or inflationary varieties), or even the old Scientology 76 trillion years old cosmology of my youth, cannot be measured, proven or disproved.  Just about any cosmology has no impact on anything real.

This throw it all out point of view of cosmology is probably a too cynical and harsh treatment of the subject.  It is certainly not the point of view that most practising physicists would take, but it is imminently practical.  There’s too much that is unknowable, so why waste time on the least knowable aspects of the unknowable when there are so many concrete things that we can learn.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The closest that I have come to my own theory of physics is somewhat zealous advocacy for the use of real Clifford algebras in engineering and physics (aka. geometric algebra.)  However, that is not a new theory, it is just a highly effective way to compactly represent many of the entities that we encounter in more clumsy forms in conventional physics.

[2] Hubbard’s sci-fi writing shows that he had knowledge of special relativistic time-dilation, and length-contraction effects.  I seem to recall that Lorentz transformations were mentioned in passing (on either the Student hat course, or in the “PDC” lectures).  I don’t believe that Hubbard had the mathematical sophistication to describe a Lorentz transformation in a quantitative sense.

[3] The traversal of light through matter is a complex affair, considerably different from light in vacuum, where the relativistic constancy applies.  It would be interesting to have a quantitative understanding of the chances of a photon getting through a piece of glass without interacting (absorption and subsequent time delayed spontaneous remission of new photons when the lattice atoms drop back into low energy states.)  There are probably also interactions of photons with the phonons of the lattice itself, and I don’t know how those would be quantified.  However, in short, I bet there is a large chance that most of the light that exits a transparent piece of matter is not the same light that went in, as it is going to come out as photons with different momentum, polarization, frequency, and so forth.  If we measure characteristics of a pulse of light going into and back out of matter, it’s probably somewhat akin to measuring the characteristics of a clementine orange that is thrown at a piece of heavy chicken wire at fastball speeds.  You’ll get some orange peel, seeds, pulp and other constituent components out the other side of the mesh, but shouldn’t really consider the inputs and the outputs to be equivalent entities.

[4] Relativistic electrodynamics was an extremely redundant course title, but was used to distinguish the class from the 3rd year applied electrodynamics course that had none of the tensor, relativistic, Lagrangian, nor four-vector baggage.

[5] Some information about that court case is publicly available, but it would be interesting to see whether I could use the Canadian or Ontario equivalent to the US freedom of information laws to request records from the Ontario crown and the RCMP about the specifics of Dad’s case.  Dad has passed, and was never terribly approachable about the subject when I could have asked him personally.  I did get his spin on the events as well as the media spin, and suspect that the truth is somewhere in between.

[6] This last year will probably push many people towards libertarian-ism (at least the subset of people that are not happy to be conforming sheep, or are too scared not to conform.)  We’ve had countless examples of watching evil bastards in government positions of power impose dictatorial and oppressive covid lockdowns on the poorest and most unfortunate people that they supposedly represent.  Instead, we see the corruption at full scale, with the little guys clobbered, and this covid lockdown scheme essentially being a way to efficiently channel money into the pockets of the rich.  The little guys loose their savings, livelihoods, and get their businesses shut down by fat corrupt bastards that believe they have the authority to decide whether or not you as an individual are essential.  The fat bastards that have the stamp of government authority do not believe that you should have the right to make up your own mind about what levels of risk are acceptable to you or your family.

[7] In Scientology, a sufficiently capable individual is considered capable of creating their own universes, independent of the 76 trillion year old universe that we currently inhabit.  Thetan is the label for the non-corporal form of that individual (i.e. what would be called the spirit or the soul in other religions.)

 

Just watched Cloonie’s “Midnight Sky”

December 26, 2020 Incoherent ramblings 4 comments , , , , , ,

I just watched George Clooney’s “Midnight Sky” on netflix.

The movie is visually striking, set on a space ship and on an apocalyptic Earth in +30 years.  Some sort of unspecified radioactive disaster has pretty much wiped out all livable space on Earth.  The movie focuses on the attempt of a sick astronomer to communicate with a space ship that has been off exploring a newly found habitable moon of Jupiter.   They have been out of communication with Earth for a couple years.

I really didn’t understand the foundational premise of the movie.  We have been able to receive communications from satellites that we’ve sent to Jupiter, and a quick google says it’s only ~22 light minutes between Jupiter and Earth.  If that distance is the closest, let’s suppose that it’s a few times that at maximum separation — that’s still only a couple hours separation (guestimating).  Why would the ship have gone completely out of communication with Earth for years while they were on their mission?

There were lots of other holes in the movie, and I wonder if some of those missing pieces were detailed in the book?

Incidentally, the astronomy facility looked really cosy and comfortable for a something located in Antarctica!  There was mention of the poles late in the movie, but early on there was the famous picture of the explorer Scott with his four companions on the wall, which I assumed was meant to give away the location (I recognized that picture from Brian Keating’s book, “Loosing the Nobel Prize”.)

Brian Keating’s “Losing the Nobel Prize”

December 24, 2020 Incoherent ramblings 2 comments , , , , , , ,

I’ve just finished “Loosing the Nobel Prize”, by Brian Keating.  I’d heard the book mentioned in episodes of his “Into the impossible” podcast\({}^1\).

This is a pretty fun and interesting book, with a few interesting threads woven through it:

  • his astronomical and cosmological work,
  • a pretty thorough background on a number of astronomical principles and history,
  • rationale for a number of the current and past cosmological models,
  • how he got close to but missed the Nobel target with his work,
  • discussion and criticisms of the Nobel nomination process and rules, and
  • DUST!

I had no idea that dust has been the nemesis of astronomers for so many hundreds of years, and will likely continue to be so for hundreds more.  This is not just dust on the lenses, but the dust and other fine matter that pervades the universe and mucks up measurements.  It will be a fitting end for his book to end up dusty on bookshelves around the world once all the purchasers have read it.

The author clearly knows his material well, and presents a thorough background lesson on the history of cosmology, starting way back at the Earth centered model, and moving through the history of competing narratives to the current big bang and inflationary models that seem to have popular consensus.

I’ve never thought much of cosmological ideas, as they go so deep into the territory of extrapolation that they seem worthless to me.  How can you argue that you know what happened \( 10^{-17} \) seconds into the beginning of the universe \({}^2\), when we can’t solve a three body problem without chaos getting into the mix?  The level of extrapolation that is required for some of these models makes arguments about them seem akin to arguing about how many angels fit on the head of a pin.

What’s kind of sad about cosmological models is how little difference they make.  It doesn’t matter if you subscribe to the current big bang religion, cyclic variations of bang and collapse, steady state, multiverses, or anything else: none of the theories have any practical application to anything that we can see or hear or touch.  I don’t think that my preconceived ideas about the uselessness of cosmology has been changed much by reading this book.  However, I do have a new appreciation for the careful and thorough thought, measurement, and experiment that has gone into building and discarding various models over time.  This book details many of the key experiments and concepts that lie behind some of the models.  It would take a lot of work to fully understand the ideas that were outlined in this book, and that’s not work that I’m inclined to do, but I did enjoy his thorough overview.

Okay, that’s enough of a rant against cosmology.  Don’t let my distaste of that subject dissuade you from reading this book, which is well written, entertaining, informative, and thoughtful.

As a small teaser, here are a couple of selected lines that give a taste for the clever wit that is casually interlaced into the book:

  • Trying to interest others in astronomy: “If you can imagine teaching music appreciation to a class filled with tone-deaf students, it was like that, only more disheartening.”
  • “It was all worth it, he assured me: because there was only going to be one sunset and one sunrise in the next year at the South Pole, he would take home $75,000 for a single night’s work!”
  • “By the time I arrived at the Pole, it was chilly for summer: -30 C (-25 F).”

Footnotes

[1]  I have not worked through all of his back episodes, but his line up of recent guests (Penrose, Susskind, Wilczek, Glashow, …) has been pretty spectacular.

[2] I am probably wrong about the precise levels of granularity that is claimed to be known, but do recall from my teenage reading of Hawking’s Brief History, that he insisted we “know” what happened down to insane levels of precision.

More anti-lockdown signage

November 28, 2020 Incoherent ramblings No comments , ,

Not everybody wants to live in fear, have their jobs, savings and livelyhood taken away by zealous authoritarian tyrants that are desperate to appear as if they are doing something:

I haven’t checked out the website above, but like the sentiment.  If you want to be driven to substance abuse, or live life with all privileges doled out to you like a slave, then maybe lockdowns are for you.

Danger due to: Lockdown #2

November 27, 2020 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , ,

Somebody appears to have left a blank “Danger due to…” sign at a local construction site.

There’s two captions, both apt. The second is also likely also a true harbinger of danger, since I’m sure not enough sleep is also a significant source of on the job injury and death.

Public service announcement graffiti?

November 21, 2020 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , ,

On Wednesday night’s Tessa walk, I encountered a very large piece of public service announcement graffiti:

This is on a very wide pedestrian bridge, spanning the DVP in Riverdale.  I assume that bitchute is one of the uncensorable platforms like Dtube (a blockchain based video platform), but I haven’t actually checked it out.  I guess I’m not the only one that is annoyed that the big social media platforms have made it their policy to regulate the set of allowed opinions.  I wouldn’t have expressed myself with graffiti, but I guess that I’m not alone in my distaste for being told what I am allowed to think, or that some information is too dangerous for me to be allowed to look at it.

Pronunciation and origin of my name.

November 19, 2020 Incoherent ramblings 3 comments , , , , , ,

The question of how to pronounce my names is frequently asked.

Joot isn’t Dutch, but is Estonian.  I’m not sure what sort of linguistic crossover there is between the two languages, if any(**).

Dad was Estonian, and he wanted us all to have Estonian spellings of our names (Peeter, Krista, Erik, Karin.)  Dad pronounced my name with the standard North American pronunciation for Peter.  However, my Vanaema (grandmother) pronounced Peeter with enunciation of all the e’s in a way that I can’t actually vocalize myself.  Estonian words have lots of doubled vowels (google finds me Kuulilennuteetunneliluuk as an example (a nice long palindrome (*))).  Unlike doubled vowels in English, if they are there, it’s because they should all be pronounced.

If somebody named Peter says that I spell my name wrong, I rebut by calling them pet-er, since the long e requires vowel doubling per English spelling conventions (i.e. my name is spelled correctly, but their spelling is wrong.)

My last name Joot is pronounced as like “Yoat”, like oat. I can’t recall the subtleties of how Vanaema pronounced Joot, but I’m sure she also somehow enunciated both o’s.  When I was a kid, I was very inflexible about the pronunciation of my name, and insisted on “Yoat”, not “Jewt”.  That inflexibility was too much work, and I mellowed out considerably over time.  I now flexible and respond to anything that approximates any possible pronunciation that I can recognize, and no longer correct anybody.

People correct the spelling of names for me all the time, as they couldn’t possibly be spelled right as is.

 

(*)

Originally I thought I saw an article that said that kuulilennuteetunneliluuk also meant palindrome, but cannot find that anymore.  Instead, googling this word, I find it translated as “the hatch a bullet flies out of when exiting a tunnel“.  If kuulilennuteetunneliluuk actually meant palindrome, that would be the most amazing word for palindrome in any language!  I’m very sad that I appear to have gotten the meaning wrong.  My hope for the future of linguistics, is that Estonians will start using kuulilennuteetunneliluuk as a word for palindrome, giving it a second meaning through popular use.  If that trend can be started, eventually the Estonian language has the best word for palindrome in any language.

 

(**)

On the other hand, Dad said he could understand most of Finnish when spoken (but said that Finns couldn’t understand him.)  I’m guessing that this means Finnish was probably a root of Estonian, but dialect could also be a factor, as I’ve since met Finns that said they could understand some Estonian.  Dad talked about the dialect variation from Estonian town to town at the beginning of the 1900’s, which was apparently so bad that understanding somebody from a few towns away could be difficult.  By the time he was born, radio was starting to obliterate that dialect variation.  He also wouldn’t have heard that dialect variation first hand, since he escaped the Soviet invasion of Estonia with my grandmother when he was only 3.  His refugee journey started in Finland (who had a pact with the Soviets to kick out refugees after some fixed time (i.e.: the Soviet’s said “kick out refugees, or else we’ll invade you too!”)   After a few years in Sweden, Dad and Vanaema eventually landed in Canada.

A new computer for me this time.

November 5, 2020 Incoherent ramblings 2 comments , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been a long long time, since I bought myself a computer.  My old laptop is a DELL XPS, was purchased around 2009:

Since purchasing the XPS lapcrusher, I think that I’ve bought my wife and all the kids a couple machines each, but I’ve always had a work computer that was new enough that I was able to let my personal machine slide.

Old system specs

Specs on the old lapcrusher:

  • 19″ screen
  • stands over 2″ tall at the back
  • Intel Core I3, 64-bit, 4 cores
  • 6G Ram
  • 500G hard drive, no SSD.

My current work machine is a 4yr old mac (16Mb RAM) and works great, especially since I mainly use it for email and as a dumb terminal to access my Linux NUC consoles using ssh.  I have some personal software on the mac that I’d like to uninstall, leaving the work machine for work, and the other for play (Mathematica, LaTex, Julia, …).

I’ll still install the vpn software for work on the new personal machine so that I can use it as a back up system just in case.  Last time I needed a backup system (when the mac was in the shop for battery replacement), I used my wife’s computer.  Since Sofia is now mostly working from home (soon to be always working from home), that wouldn’t be an option. Here’s the new system:

New system specs

This splurge is a pretty nicely configured, not top of the line, but it should do nicely for quite a while:

  • Display: 15.6″ Full HD IPS | 144HZ | 16:9 | Operating System: Win 10
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-9750H Processor (6 core)
  • RAM Memory: XPG 32GB 2666MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM (64GB Max)
  • Storage: XPG SX8200 1TB NVMe SSD
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti 6GB
  • USB3.2 Gen 2 x 1 | USB3.2 Gen 2 x 2 | Thunderbolt 3.0 x 1 (REAR)| HDMI x 1 (REAR)
  • 4.08lbs

The new machine has a smaller screen size than my old laptop, but the 19″ screen on the old machine was really too big, and with modern screens going so close to the edge, this new one is pretty nice (and has much higher resolution.)  If I want a bigger screen, then I’ll hook it up to an external monitor.

On lots of RAM

It doesn’t seem that long ago when I’d just started porting DB2 LUW to 64bit, and most of the “big iron” machines that we got for the testing work barely had more than 4G of ram each.  The Solaris kernel guys we worked with at the time told me about the NUMA contortions that they had to use to build machines with large amounts of RAM, because they couldn’t get it close enough together because of heat dissipation issues.  Now you can get a personal machine for $1800 CAD with 32G of ram, and 6G of video ram to boot, all tossed into a tiny little form factor!  This new machine, not even counting the video ram, has 524288x the memory of my first computer, my old lowly C64 (I’m not counting the little Radio Shack computer that was really my first, as I don’t know how much memory it had — although I am sure it was a whole lot less than 64K.)

C64 Nostalgia.

Incidentally, does anybody else still have their 6402 assembly programming references?  I’ve kept mine all these years, moving them around house to house, and taking a peek in them every few years, but I really ought to toss them!  I’m sure I couldn’t even give them away.

Remember the zero page addressing of the C64?  It was faster to access because it only needed single byte addressing, whereas memory in any other “page” (256 bytes) required two whole bytes to address.  That was actually a system where little-endian addressing made a whole lot of sense.  If you wanted to change assembler code that did zero page access to “high memory”, then you just added the second byte of additional addressing and could leave your page layout as is.

Windows vs. MacOS

It’s been 4 years since I’ve actively used a Windows machine, and will have to relearn enough to get comfortable with it again (after suffering with the transition to MacOS and finally getting comfortable with it).  However, there are some new developments that I’m gung-ho to try, in particular, the new:

With WSL, I wonder if cygwin is even still a must have?  With windows terminal, I’m guessing that putty is a thing of the past (good riddance to cmd, that piece of crap.)

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