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SIGBOVIK 2022: Harder Drive (30 Apr 2022 at 21:35)
This month was SIGBOVIK 2022, and I did a project called Harder Drive. There is a paper but as usual the premium experience can be had in the video version:

Harder Drive video thumbnail

Also as usual with these ambitious ones I was quite sick of the project at the end. Video editing is just such a grind. So I was relieved that many people liked the video. The algorithm seemed pleased too, and I got well past the 100,000 subscriber mark. This qualifies me for a free commemorative plaque. It is not guaranteed to grow in value, or even retain its value.

I added a few items after the initial post. There's now a torrent file with all my ping data and a viewer program for windows, which I'll keep up for a bit longer (it's just too big to host permanently; somehow disk space is always so limited on these cloud linux servers??). I also put up MP3s of the title card themes ("ringtones") over on the Tom 7 Entertainment System land of Musical P3s. Completionists may also be able to see a hurried live-recorded version of the talk on the SIGBOVIK Twitch account, which reportedly has a hilariously malfunctioning auto-camera (perhaps due to my face-detection-thwarting over-the-top tyvek body suit and mask). Although I can't seem to find the full video now so maybe it expired; I dunno, I don't understand how Twitch works. Anyway, you're not missing that much; the official video is much better. There were only two live talks this year (from two old guys, one being me) but there was an astonishing amount of content. The proceedings are 350 pages (I'm pretty sure this is the longest ever) apparently without even any funny business like dozens of pages of portmantout, and there were are a lot of well-done videos from around the world. I haven't dug into the papers much yet (I am still waiting for the printed version) but it was heartening to see so much participation. In Feburary it sorta looked like it wasn't even going to happen!

Speaking of CDC, I'm going to bed right now (okay, maybe a touch of Elden Ring first) to wake up early tomorrow for the Pittsburgh Marathon, which is back! I don't have a costume; I'm just going to try to run it like a regular 42-year-old. I have been running basically every day, but it's pretty unpredictable recently whether I'll feel great or medium or bad when I go out to run (probably a combination of overtraining and allergies or allergy medication). So I'm not sure if it's going to be good conditions to try to run it hard. But I haven't run a real race in a few years, so I'm looking forward to this as an opportunity.
Categories:  videos  sigbovik (3 comments — almost 5 months ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2021 and other things of April (30 Apr 2021 at 18:25)
Yeah! Several newsy things from April. First up is my SIGBOVIK project, published on the first of the month (that's right, at Tom 7 Radar you can find out about the newest Tom 7 Projects a mere 29 days after they are announced in other venues!). This year's conference was virtual again, although they mercifully allowed for both audio and video in the submissions. From me the main artifacts are the 24 minute video Uppestcase and Lowestcase Letters and the 18-page paper of the same name. The project site also has some additional downloads. I'll let them speak for themselves! For SIGBOVIK, the presentations were limited to 5 minutes, so there's a highly truncated/ruined version of the video (not recommended unless for some weird reason you gotta catch 'em all) and a "double-blind" Q&A afterwards in the SIGBOVIK 2021 recording. There are some other good parts in there from friends and strangers; I especially liked Jim's "Dada" presentation (29m05s mark).

As usual I was feeling fairly sick of the project as I completed it, so it's nice encouragement that upon completion, it seems that others were not yet sick of the project and were willing to spend 24 minutes on it. It's not like the video is a viral hit at 73k views, but it was nice that it found an enthusiastic audience, and I definitely feel like it was successful. I've come to realize that I get a much bigger kick out of a viewership who is smart and "gets" the technical stuff and strange form of humor more than I do from simply making the numbers go up. Hopefully I can keep up the mood/momentum and finish a few more nearly-complete projects soon.

Speaking of momentum, I got my second vaccine shot, again driving to a Rite-Aid in a tiny town in Ohio for it. Possibly inspired by these two driving day trips but probably more a directly a consequence of cabin fever from staying at home for a year, I ended up buying a car! I've owned a car before (for example Van 7 and Van 7 2) but always a crappy car that was nearly dead, like for example before I donated Van 7 2 to NPR it could only be entered or exited through the back sliding door, and when the car was on it would always and forever play the one CD that was stuck in the CD player at slightly-too-loud volume because the CD player's faceplate was malfunctioning, which at least would cover up (for the unwise passengers and driver) the various scraping, shimmying, and structural unsoundness sounds that the van would make whenever it moved. Among other things. This time I got something that I thought would be fun to drive (we will pretty much only use this thing irregularly for trips or for picking up things at the hardware store that are a bit too large to carry home running, but nonetheless not too big to fit in the actually quite tiny back seat/trunk) and got a Mini Cooper convertible that looks like this:

Vanity license plate idea: POOPERS
Vanity license plate idea: POOPERS


Actually that lens angle makes it look bigger than it is. It is a tiny, silly car. And it is more fun to drive than the minivan indeed. We'll see whether it ultimately ends up being a foolish idea, but it should at least let us see family and do some safe outdoor activities as we try to mentally survive through the extended coda of the pandemic.

You know what else was annoying? A few weekends ago I tried rebooting the server that hosts various of my websites including this very blog, and it just failed to come back (dashboard just says like "ERROR" with no diagnostics) and none of the standard things gave me any information about what was wrong. Emergency console gives some internal error. Backup images wouldn't load either. I spent an hour+ on the phone with Rackspace support, who finally concluded the server was "just too old" to turn on. I had been upgrading the OS in place for many years, so this was a pretty annoying outcome (like they could have warned me at some point that the container image or whatever was going to fail to come back?). I never particularly liked Rackspace anyway (they bought the hosting company that I had started with), so I used the "opportunity" to switch to DigitalOcean, which is probably faster and a better deal and their website is certainly way better. So, it was a weekend down the drain, but spacebar.org has a new exoskeleton now. I think that I've gotten everything restored, but partly because some people have nicely sent me bug reports (e.g. muddle was behaving as though no boards had any words, because it couldn't find the dictionary file). So if you see anything amiss, please do lemme know.

I also took the "opportunity" of struggling to get my decades of legacy software running on a new system again to rewrite some of the guts of Escape to separate the UI from the server components a bit more. Now there is a subset of the game that can easily be compiled as standalone standard C++ (e.g. for the server-side components) without needing SDL, which is nice. The main thing I need to do with that before doing another release is to make it compile again for Mac OS and for the new ARM chips, which is somewhat daunting, but I left it in a reasonable state for the next time I have such energy, at least.

Current programming project is something between a game and an overly-complicated technology demo; we'll see how it goes!
Categories:  videos  sigbovik (7 comments — almost 2 years ago)   [ comment ]
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My SIGBOVIK 2020 papers, lovingly aged one month (30 Apr 2020 at 23:25)
Well, April felt simultaneously short and long! I should have just posted these at the beginning of the month, my SIGBOVIK papers from 2020:

Is this the longest chess game? is another needless chess paper, here trying to figure out the longest possible legal game. There are several rules that make sure games can't go on forever, and some surprisingly subtle details/ambiguity to those rules. The whole game is of course included in the paper (17697 moves), but I was far from being the largest waste of space in this year's proceedings, as one provocateur had a paper with 150 pages of citations. Mathieu made a 5-hour video of the chess game I computed for his companion blog post.

What is the best game console? A market-based approach is a silly idea taken too far. It was a year in the making (mostly waiting) and didn't quite turn out the way I was expecting due to world events, but that's part of the "fun" I guess!

Conditional Move For Shell Script Acceleration was another collaboration with Jim (mostly his doing, but I like to lather on an additional patina of absurdity).

This month I have mostly been trying to keep sane and healthy during the shelter-in-place order. It's been harder than usual to find the energy to be creative, but I have had some spurts. I basically only leave the house to run (not going anywhere near other people). But I have been doing that pretty regularly, so between that and the prohibition against going out to bars and ice cream, I'd say I'm currently in the best I have been in ~6 years. Yesterday I claimed some course records for some Strava segments in my neighborhood! I also finished up Doom: Eternal, which was good but you pretty much already know what it's like and I'm playing Animal Crossing and haven't yet gotten sick of that. The timing for the release of that latter game couldn't have been more perfect, huh? Sometimes I need something with a little challenge, so I just started Nuclear Throne. I'm liking it but not sure if I have decided whether it's good enough to invest the time in to win (I almost always play games to the end but these randomized roguelikes demand a certain kind of potentially infinite investment. Like I never did beat the last boss in Wizard of Legend, and even in Dead Cells, which I loved, I had to settle for some modest personal criteria for "winning.") Any other recs? Could use a good Metroidvania perhaps?
Category:  sigbovik (6 comments — almost 3 years ago)   [ comment ]
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30 Weird Chess Algorithms: Elo World (31 Jul 2019 at 18:26)
OK! I did manage to finish the video I described in the last few posts. It's this:

30 Weird Chess Algorithms: Elo World
30 Weird Chess Algorithms: Elo World


I felt pretty down on this video as I was finishing it, I think mostly in the same way that one does about their dissertation, just because of the slog. I started it just thinking, I'll make a quick fun video about all those chess topics, but then once I had set out to fill in the entire tournament table, this sort of dictated the flow of the video even if I wanted to just get it over with. So it was way longer than I was planning, at 42 minutes, and my stress about this just led to more tedium as I would micro-optimize in editing to shorten it. RIP some mediocre jokes. But it turns out there are plenty of people on the internet who enjoy long-form nerdy content like this, and it was well-received, which is encouraging. (But now I am perplexed that it seems to be more popular than NaN Gates and Flip-FLOPS, which IMO is far more intetersting/original. I guess the real lesson is just make what you feel like making, and post it!) The 50+ hours programming, drawing, recording and editing did have the desired effect of getting chess out of my system for now, at least.

Since last post I played Gato Roboto which is a straightforward and easy but still very charming "Metroidvania." Now I'm working my way through Deux Ex: Mankind Divided, which (aside from the crashing) is a a very solid sequel to Human Revolution. Although none of these games is likely to capture the magic of the original (one of my all-time faves), they do definitely have the property that you can play them in ways that the developer didn't explicitly set out for you, and as you know I get a big kick out of that.

Aside from the video games, I've picked back up a 10 year-old project that I never finished because it was a little bit outside my skillset. But having gotten significantly better at electronics and CNC, it is seeming pretty doable now. Stay tuned!
Categories:  hacks  videos  sigbovik (13 comments — 6 days ago)   [ comment ]
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NaN Gates and Flip FLOPS (30 Apr 2019 at 23:41)
I was hoping to have a few things to write about in this month, but the only thing I finished was this video for SIGBOVIK, right at the beginning:

NaN Gates and Flip FLOPS
NaN Gates and Flip FLOPS


There is also the paper which has some merits but I submitted that before actually finishing the project, so I think the video is the definitive version. Either way this one is really aimed at trolling computer scientists, and so may be impenetrable if you don't have the background; sorry about that!

Allergies and various things have got me down recently but it's also getting nice out, which should provide a burst of energy!! This weekend is the Marathon in Pittsburgh, which I intend to run. No costume plans but sometimes I get last minute inspiration / compulsion. Feel free to taunt me with your ideas.
Categories:  hacks  video  sigbovik (4 comments — almost 4 years ago)   [ comment ]
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CHESSBOVIK (31 Mar 2019 at 21:49)
Well, here we are on the eve of SIGBOVIK 2019. I'm in the midst of a long day of video-making for one of my projects, but I can get 2 for the price of 5 by posting now about four of my papers. This year I've been on a chess kick, which I think I've successfully gotten out of my system by writing all these (previous posts alluded to there being five, but one of them didn't really go anywhere and/or just became part of the other(s)). They are sort of intertwined:

Survival in chessland is about how to stay alive if you are being a chesspiece to the death

Color- and piece-blind chess is about, among other things, playing chess without being able to tell what the pieces are (only where they are)

Elo World, a framework for benchmarking weak chess engines is about exploring the full spectrum of computer chess play

CVE-2018-90017117 #KingMe is just a short joke, but based on a true story


My last paper is on a different (maybe even weirder?) topic, and I'm putting together a video for it now, so I should be uploading that tomorrow some time. It's been a bit rough going, though, since I replaced my computer a few months ago and forgot that I hadn't actually set stuff up for this kind of work; I'm experiencing small problems like custom key commands aren't set, and bigger problems like audio drivers acting crazy. Looks like I will be able to finish with some vacation time, at least.


Speaking of vacation, this month we also went to Belize, which was pretty cool. The highlight for me was swimming/scrambling 1km into a cave ("Actun Tunichil Muknal") to access an approximately 1000 year-old Mayan site where they performed human sacrifices; it's remarkable because almost all of the artifacts are still in situ, including a number of calcified human skeletons. Was pretty wild. I got some good running done, found some New Haven-style pizza (!?), and wrote papers about chess (?!).
Categories:  sigbovik  hacks (3 comments — almost 4 months ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2018 (31 Mar 2018 at 22:39)
Hi team,

Thursday was SIGBOVIK 2018, held on April -2, the earliest it has ever occurred, due to various holidays and weekends. I don't have any grand project this time, but I did write one paper and coauthor another. The latter was with the SIGBOVIK elder Jim McCann (and was mostly his work); it's The fluint8 Software Integer Library for processors that only have floating point instructions. My other paper was a basically real (but not that rigorous) analysis of a huge database of academic papers to demonstrate that authors with alphabetically earlier names get more citations. That one's called Academic Advancement Advice: Author Articles as A. A.. It also contains some other related study, like the title words most and least likely to get you cited. I wish I had finished some more things for the conference, but on the other hand it is nice that it has so much independent momentum!

My neck has been getting better so I've been doing some running and physical-universe projects, which are not too interesting to describe here. But I have also some fun stuff underway, in particular for two speaking engagements in Seattle in May: PoCSci which is like UW's version of SIGBOVIK, and Deconstruct which is a more serious—if still tolerant/encouraging of weird stuff—event. The project is going well so far but it's a bit stressful, since you never really know if it will even be possible until you're knee deep in it, you know?
Category:  sigbovik (5 comments — 4 years ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2017: ABC (31 Mar 2017 at 12:34)
Hello my bloggies! I back-dated this post because even though I was all set up to post about my SIGBOVIK accomplishments, which this time conveniently occurred in the month of March, I then celebrated SIGBOVIK so thoroughly as to go to bed without actually posting here.

This year's invention is a strange artifact; if you want to experience it with fewest spoilers and have some time, then check out the paper version. I also put together a youtube video, since I like doing that:

SIGBOVIK 2017: Compiling C to printable x86, to make an executable research paper, by tom7
Click for nerd-talkin'


Despite the possibly misleading thumbnail, the video is mostly live-action, as I it after a popular YouTube series called Numberphile. The project doesn't lend itself too well to video, so my feelings won't be hurt if you don't sit through this one. :) I did my best to make the ideas and puzzles fun for people that don't have deep knowledge of this stuff but are interested.

SIGBOVIK was also live-streamed, so for the first time we have a mediocre recording of all the talks if you want to tune in after the fact too. My talk's at 1:22:00, and it's more bite-sized than the above.

Also, I must say: The conference this year was excellent, perhaps the best ever. The conference hall was packed; the overall quality of work was very high; the proceedings is thick with really interesting stuff (interspersed with the requisite juvenilia), and the talks were well-prepared and didn't drag on, thanks partly to the new timer system. It's pretty crazy how this conference has a life of its own now; almost nobody from the original group is organizing or even writing papers for it. We may even be getting to the point where we have to be selective about what we print..???
Categories:  hacks  sigbovik  video (17 comments — 4 years ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK 2016: Snacks, 3D Zelda (02 Apr 2016 at 12:57)
Sup team! Yesterday was SIGBOVIK 2016, and as usual I had some entries that were more work than warranted by a joke conference.

The minor work was Reordering the Snacks is Effective and Just, which concerns an operational and ethical question in office snack behavior. Probably not worth it unless you go for the deep cuts.

The thing I poured a month into is The glEnd() of Zelda, which is a hack to automatically emulate NES games in 3D. I spent a lot of time crafting a video demonstration and explanation with my typical non-SAG "acting", which even seems to go over well with non-nerds:

Click here for Automated 3D NES
Click here for Automated 3D NES


I sort of ran out of time on this one, so I hope to have some more refinements to the code and to then post a download in a more user-friendly form. But you know how these things go!
Categories:  sigbovik  hacks  video (11 comments — almost 6 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Portmantout: A portmanteau of every English word (30 Apr 2015 at 22:59)
Oh, wow, that was dumb. I actually have at least three good posts saved up, but for some reason I thought I already posted in April. So I backdated this one. It's really May right this second. But it concerns April work:

Portmantout video!
Portmantout video!


This is a video I made for my little hack about "Portmantout". Portmanteau is a stringin'-together of two words (like caviar + armpit = caviarmpit), and Portmantout is when you do that for all of the words in English! I did the work and wrote the paper for SIGBOVIK but the video is part of my slow attempt to make an entertaining Youtube channel. It's a lot of work to put together these videos but I'm happy with how it came out!
Categories:  hacks  sigbovik  drawings  video (4 comments — almost 8 years ago)   [ comment ]
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