Another Argument for Hard SF

  • by Gitabushi

I just finished reading “The Martian”, by Andy Weir.

martian.jpg

Great book.  GREAT book.  Must read. Go buy it or check it out from the library.

FWIW, the book adds some depth and explanations to what you see in the movie.  One big change that actually makes the book more scientific than the movie (thank goodness).

And this is the point.

In a story, you have to have conflict and obstacles. If the story is just “Hero wants treasure, and finds it. The End” no one is going to enjoy it. So you add in an obstacle, like a monster.

“Hero wants treasure, finds it, but has to kill a monster to get it. He kills the monster easily. The End” is not much better.

A good story has lots of obstacles that the hero must overcome in a believable manner.  If overcoming the problems is too easy, the protagonist is a boring Marty Stu/Mary Sue.

To make a good story, the protagonist has to struggle, and has to learn something.

This is one of the weaknesses of game-based stories: “You can almost hear the dice rolling.”  The main characters have battles, but it’s just swing and miss until the bad guys collapse.

One of the biggest challenges to writing is creating obstacles that seem realistic to the readers, that aren’t overcome too easily, and that don’t make trivial tasks seem difficult just to add drama.

In science fiction and fantasy, you are introducing concepts that break the rules of current reality. That makes it even more difficult to create a coherent, believable system of obstacles.

“The Martian” is so good *because* the author researched everything, did all the math, and ensured that every obstacle and every solution were as close to real-life as possible.

This is probably why it got a movie treatment, as well.

It’s Science Fiction, but only barely.  It’s the hardest of hard science fiction, but without getting too caught up in numbers, or the author showing off how much he knows.

Everything that happens to Mark is realistic, and every solution he comes up with is realistic, as well.  That adds to the greatness of the story.

Now, that doesn’t mean every story should be hard science fiction. Not at all.  It just means that if you avoid hard science fiction to avoid sticky problems of math, you create a different set of problems for yourself.

There is no good or bad choice in this.  But awareness by the author of what your goal is, and what is needed from you to reach the goal, is key.

I’m now reading “Artemis” by the same author.
 
Good book so far. Hard SF, again. And the better for it.

I am sowing

Sheesh – soon I’m going to have to rename this place the Gita Bushi blog.

Just wanted to pop in to throw up another “I live!” post. The fact is, I don’t have much time for myself these days…which means I don’t have much time or material to share here or at Bushi SFF.

I’m still paranoid about being outed and flogged for my impolitic opinions and beliefs and trolleries, so there’s not a ton I can reveal right now, except to say that after my pickle empire necessarily crumbled to ruins, I started up another small business. It’s been a lot of hard work, and being an entrepreneur in addition to being a husband, father, and working a full time job leaves little time for amusements.

But we’re building a foundation, and I hope the venture will grow into a family business over time. We’ve been at it since about February/March, and have a few thousand buckaroos that we didn’t have before.

My guilty pleasure these days is a little Dota Underlords in the fragmented moments between toil and dream and…toilet. I’ll end on that TMI note.

-Bushi

bushi

Arcade/MAME Project, Pt IV

 

  • by Gitabushi

Previous installments here: Start (Pt 1), Update I (Part II), Part III

I ended up buying a few pre-made cards that included a crapton of roms off of eBay.

The first one had 18,000 games installed. You aren’t supposed to buy these, because while some games are abandonware or otherwise public domain, a bunch of them aren’t.  They are bootlegged, hacked, copied, or otherwise not legal copies.

Retropie insists you do not purchase pre-imaged cards.  The software is available for download for free.  There is no reason to buy a pre-imaged card.  Unless you want the games that are, at best, a gray area to own.

So I don’t recommend doing it.

My goal was to just to have something to play, while waiting for my own downloaded free RetroPie image to get tweaked up, and then I’d transfer the roms, or just use the roms I already have.

Except nothing worked.

I couldn’t extract the roms from the purchased card. I couldn’t keep the WiFi hooked up. I could connect a bluetooth keyboard, but a conflict with a pre-installed PS3 bluetooth controller messed up the stack so the keyboard was unusable.  Learning to configure the controller was a pain. Configuring a second controller inevitably resulted in glitches making the 2nd controller useless. When an emulator didn’t work and I tried a second suggested emulator, the system prevented me from changing it back or trying another.  I couldn’t seem to add Mame4All as an alternative emulator option. Even adding the roms to my self-imaged card didn’t work.

And only about 1/3 of the games i wanted to play worked.

So I went back to eBay and put in a lowball offer on a card that promised *curated* games. But the offer was so low, I figured it would get rejected and so put in another lowball offer on another.

Then they both got accepted.

The first card was 18k games on a 128gb card. The 2nd was 14k on a 32gb card, and the 3rd (hasn’t arrived yet) is 22k on a 64gb card.

The 2nd card arrived yesterday. And it has a RecalBox program rather than RetroPie. I didn’t immediately realize there was much of a difference, because the appearances were similar. I had a little difficulty getting the controller configuration menu opened and navigated…the controller had a default button configuration, and once I figured that out, it configured easily and I was able to intuitively add favorites, tweak the system (reducing the default overclocking), and try out some games. Every game I tried, worked.

This morning, I looked into what the difference is between RetroPie and RecalBox.

The question “What’s better?” isn’t really answerable, because the answer is “it depends on your skill level and what you want.”  But if you just want to know the difference, the expert in the video says that RetroPie gives you more control over all the details, but RecalBox is easier to set up and use for newbies.

That certainly was my experience.

The 3rd card arrives on Friday.  It is a RetroPie image, but it claims that all the games are curated (checked to be sure they work), so we’ll see if it is as frustrating.

But at this point, I’d recommend downloading RecalBox (also free) to set up your retro arcade player on a Raspberry Pi.  And then acquiring games by whatever method you feel is appropriate.
Next up: I finally figured out what I want out of/from/in a controller.  The standard setup isn’t it.

If I were a POTUS Candidate

  • by Gitabushi

Here are a few of the planks of my platform:

Socialism requires 100% participation to work. If anyone is exempt, there is no equality, and someone is exploiting the system. However, the basic nature of humanity is to disagree. Different values, different goals, and different experiences result in a wide variety of opinions on any topic, and on all topics.  In fact, some people will disagree with the majority just to assert their individuality.  Therefore, there will never be 100% support for Socialism. Which means that enacting Socialism can only be done by force.  As such, Socialism is antithetical to the principles, norms, standards, institutions, and traditions of the United States. I will work with the finest minds in the nation to find ways for you to attain the sense of security you falsely think Socialism provides.

Socialism is a poison pill in a candy shell. Unnecessary and untimely death accompanies its ascendance into any government.

Capitalism, for all its flaws, harnesses the power of selfishness to improve everyone’s lives. The free market cannot sidestep the laws of physics and supply/demand, but the combination of Capitalism and Free Markets have lifted more people from poverty than any other system, by several orders of magnitude.

Free Market Capitalism offers you choices.  You may not like the choices. The choices you want might not be currently available to you. But with Free Market Capitalism, you always have choices for the mix of effort, comfort and risk you feel comfortable with.

Free Market Capitalism’s biggest failures occur when someone manipulates information to deceive. Failures also occur when the government picks winners and losers.

I will work with the finest minds in the nation to use government power only to ensure you have the most accurate information possible, and not make decisions for you.

Abortion is a tragic and unnecessary act that results in the death of a unique human being.  Nevertheless, a vocal minority in the United States considers it a vital right, and the US political system is designed to protect minority rights. I will work with the finest minds in the United States and abroad to create a society in which no one feels abortion is necessary ever again. Until that day arrives, I will work to limit abortion to comport with reasonable standards of responsibility and accountability.

Taxes are an unfortunate necessity.  However, centuries of history demonstrate that rather than raising taxes to provide services, governments provide services as a pretext to raise taxes. It is a simple fact that government wastes money. Merely paying the salaries of bureaucrats lowers the value of tax revenue spent in services, and most of the services provided by government would be better accomplished if the money had not been taxed in the first place, and for expenses individuals cannot afford, via charity.  I will work with the finest minds in the United States to cut spending to create surpluses that pay off our debt, and then can lower taxes.  My eventual goal is the elimination of all income taxes, so that all the federal government requirements are funded through corporate taxes and some necessary tariffs. Although the federal government should not interfere in State processes, I will work with states to eliminate property taxes, to fulfill the American Dream of owning property, rather than just renting it from the local government.

Self-Defense is the most basic, fundamental right that underpins all the benefits of liberty in the United States.  As such, I will work to remove many of the infringements made on the Second Amendment that actually work to make individuals and society less safe.  We will move cautiously, to ensure that citizens of all races and economic levels are able to peacefully exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Citizenship is a valuable status, and should be seen as such by all residents in the US.  I will work to reform the Permanent Residence system to discourage de facto dual citizenship. I will work with the finest minds in the United States to emphasize and strengthen the benefits of citizenship to encourage every resident of the US to seek citizenship as soon as possible. For example, perhaps income taxes could be levied only on Visa holders and Permanent Residents, but not US Citizens.

Illegal Immigration will be halted. I will use every power available to me to end and reverse illegal immigration. E-verify will be mandatory, I will work with Congress to pass laws encouraging collection agencies to seek repayment of education and medical costs incurred by illegal aliens, illegal aliens will not be able to obtain driver’s licenses, and we will halt the unConstitutional practice of Illegal Alien Sanctuary Cities.  The IRS will be ordered to take action against stolen identities and Social Security Number fraud. This will result in increased prosperity and employment for US Citizens.  Once our borders are secured and illegal aliens are unable to live comfortably in the US, I will work with the finest minds in the United States to increase legal immigration and guest worker programs that serve the needs of the poorest Americans.

Medical Care is a source of worry and instability in all societies. The demand for medical care is unlimited, but supply is finite. No one will ever be able to obtain the quality and quantity of medical care they want. Most government medical care systems provide an illusion of care by lowering the quality of care to increase the quantity.  The bottom line is, to the government, you are a statistic. Your life has the most value to you and to your loved ones.  The decision for medical care for you and your loved ones should be a decision made only by you, with the input of your doctor, based on what you can afford.  If you include an insurer in the process, you potentially can afford more care, but you also subject yourself to the restrictions of what the insurer will improve, and they will always attempt to limit their costs.  This is even more true if the state or federal government is involved, with the added burden of administrative waste.

It is painful to recognize that you cannot afford all the care you would like to have. It is painful to have someone close to you die when there is treatment you cannot afford.  However, there is no solution that doesn’t involve gross inequality, or allow the politically-connected better care at the expense of everyone else.

As such, your medical care can only be based on what you can afford. If you want more care, you need to save more. If you cannot save more, you must earn more by working harder. If you cannot earn more by working harder, you must find ways to increase your value to employers to earn more. If you cannot increase your value to employers, then you must develop rich relationships with family, and decide among yourselves how to pay for the care your family wants.

If these solutions are not acceptable, then you must rely on charity or insurance.

There are no solutions, only trade-offs, and you will not be able to get all the quality medical care you want.  It is better to understand that now.

I will work with the finest minds in the United States to establish a nationwide, true Catastrophic event insurance that provides a defined level of care (i.e., generic drugs and cost-scaled treatment).  I will also work with Congress to provide incentives for corporations and universities to research new medicine, techniques, and technology, and to ease the rules for voluntary experimental medical care. The rich will continue to underwrite experimental medical treatment for the benefit of all.

 

Okay, that’s all I can think of right now.  What can I improve?  What other topics should I address?  Maybe future installments of this will address Free Speech absolutism and National Defense.

Must-Read Philosophical Books

  • by Gitabushi

The following are all the books on my Must Read List.

These are the books that had the greatest impact on my understanding of the world, that taught me the most about how the world works, that contain the ideas, paradigms, and methods that I still use almost daily.

UPDATE: I guess I should explain why I chose these books.

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, Richards J. Heuer, Jr.

https://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Intelligence-Analysis-Richards-Heuer/dp/B0016OST3O/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=psychology+of+intelligence+analysis&qid=1574439241&s=books&sr=1-1

This book really teaches you how to reason, how to recognize your tendency to bias, and ways to minimize the impact of bias on you.  Great book on how to think.

Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do And Why They Do It, by James Q Wilson

https://www.amazon.com/Bureaucracy-Government-Agencies-Basic-Classics/dp/0465007856/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=bureaucracy+wilson&qid=1574439466&s=books&sr=1-1

The study of bureaucracy is really the study of humanity, the study of unexpected consequences, of revealed preferences, etc.  None of us is as dumb as all of us, and this book explains why.

Intelligence Analysis, a Target-Centric Approach:

https://www.amazon.com/Intelligence-Analysis-Target-Centric-Approach-2nd/dp/1933116935

Another “How to Think Better” book. It talks about how when you want to think about something, you have to think of a model of it, useful in the same way as studying a 1:10 scale model of an aircraft carrier can help you understand the whole more easily than studying a full-size aircraft carrier.  If the first book teaches you to avoid bias and know your blind spots, this book is about thinking with more skill about things.

Hellburner and Cyteen, CJ Cherryh

https://www.amazon.com/Hellburner-Questar-Book-C-Cherryh/dp/0446516171/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=hellburner&qid=1574439596&s=books&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Cyteen/dp/B007JQNCPI/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=cyteen&qid=1574439623&s=books&sr=1-1

Hellburner is another bureaucracy book, but not just bureaucracy.  It is a very unusual book in that there is no antagonist. There is a protagonist, but the obstacles come from people doing the right things for the right reasons, but with different skills and conclusions from the protagonist.  I mean, there *is* evil done, but it didn’t intend evil. And yet evil nonetheless results.  A great insight into how groups work.

Cyteen is the book that taught me that you can control your own thinking, and reprogram your emotional reactions if you don’t like what they currently are.  Lots of other stuff in there, too.  The nature of personality/identity/character. 

Inferno, Niven and Pournelle

https://www.amazon.com/Inferno/dp/B001PU0US6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=inferno+niven+pournelle&qid=1574439644&s=audible&sr=1-1

This is the book that really made me consider sin. Sin (being wrong and hurting others, and pride, etc.) was a concept that carried over into my loss of faith, throughout my agnostic period, and ultimately brought me back to faith.  This book explores a lot of that.

Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis

https://www.amazon.com/Mere-Christianity/dp/B0009NS97E/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3P2ZXP5TR4SLB&keywords=mere+christianity&qid=1574439735&s=audible&sprefix=mere+christianity%2Caudible%2C451&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Unknown-The-Screwtape-Letters/dp/B000ICM1G6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=screwtape+letters&qid=1574439717&s=audible&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Divorce/dp/B00JPJH18G/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+great+divorce&qid=1574439697&s=audible&sr=1-1

I really admire C.S. Lewis.  These books are all philosophy of life, and God, and our purpose, and sin, and why we hurt each other, and who we are, and what God’s plan is for us, and why we are farther apart from God than anyone wants to be.  This trio is well worth the read.

MAME/Arcade, Pt III

  • by Gitabushi

Here’s a good tutorial for the emulation part:

 

You can be very picky about your joystick and buttons. If you played arcades in the US in the 80s, you are most likely familiar with the feel of Happ devices.  If you want to get really good at playing the games (and why else would you be playing the games, except to get better?), then you should know that Happ prioritized durability over precision. Happ joysticks sometimes overcorrect when you release them (due to strong springs and heavy sticks), and you have to push them farther to get them to register the movement.  Happ buttons are concave and need to be pressed farther to register the push.  Japanese-style joysticks tend to feel looser (and so feel cheaper), but register your movement more quickly and don’t move as far. That makes them more nimble and more responsive.  Japanese-style buttons are concave, and register with lighter touch.  If you are playing a game where rapid presses are necessary for a better rate of fire, you want Japanese style.

And once you decide whether you want US-style or Japanese-style, you can decide to go name-brand or cheaper copy.

I’m going with the cheaper copy.  I figure if they wear out, I can always upgrade on replacement. Or the cheaper might be good enough, so why waste money on quality I’m not experienced enough to perceive.

Now, I’m still exploring what I want, and how I’m going to arrange it.  At this point, I know I want build a control board that can hook up to any TV.  This is more than partially because my wife opposes having an arcade cabinet.  But there are still things I don’t know about how the games will play, configuring the controllers, etc., so my current play is to buy a full set of controllers and temporarily install them in a cardboard box to test out locations. If it all works for the games I want to play, and once I’m satisfied with the location, I’ll build my box.

To that end, here’s the set I’m going to buy:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y47VDNS/?coliid=IRP3DVG12453D&colid=MQRQ4OPOI1FC&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

EG Starts gets good reviews, overall, even though this set is not yet reviewed. It is a Japanese-style copy. The buttons light up, which is cool, and will help if I play in the dark. It includes the joystick/button circuit board, so that’s one less thing you have to buy, and one less thing to figure out (good instructions are included).  Moreover, if you have LED buttons, you often have to be careful of the positive/negative input, but this one avoids that problem with a simpler installation that avoids having to worry about positive/negative poles.

Once I try them out, I’ll provide my review here.

So at this point, here’s what I have or have on the way:

Display (whatever TV I want to use)
Roms
All controller inputs (including player number and coin inputs)
MAME software

Now, I say I have MAME software, but what I’ve done is tried out the games I want to play on MAME32.  I have MAME33, as well, but I wasn’t able to immediately load up roms with it. Now, MAME32 is for Windows, and I’m going to use a Raspberry Pi 3B for my “brain”, which means Linux, which means the MAME32 won’t work.  However, many of the MAME32 roms will work with the Linux emulator MAME4ALL, running under RetroPie.  If not, I’ll figure out how to put a Windows XP OS on the Raspberry Pi 3B and use MAME32.

Instructions on how to install a Windows OS onto a Raspberry Pi 3B can be found in links here:

https://www.techrepublic.com/article/classic-windows-on-a-35-computer-how-to-fire-up-windows-3-1-95-98-and-xp-on-your-raspberry-pi/

I do happen to have an old computer I got at a garage sale that runs Windows XP. I bought it to be able to play old DOS games, but haven’t gotten around to installing them yet.  I should be able to get a disk image from that and install, if necessary.

But we’ll go the Linux and MAME4ALL route first.

So the input connects with an HDMI cable attached to the HDMI output of the Raspberry Pi 3B. The controllers connect to the included circuit board using pin connectors, and then those boards connect to the Raspberry Pi 3B via USB connectors.  The Raspberry Pi 3B has a mini-SD card slot, and I will download and install RetroPie (operating system) and MAME4ALL (program), plus all the Roms (program plug-ins) of the games I want to play onto the mini-SD card.

I’m having a hard time finding out exactly how big RetroPie is, but there is widespread agreement that 32GB is enough to install RetroPie, several emulators, and up to about 10,000 roms.  That should be plenty.

I have a bunch of 32GB mini SD cards sitting around.  I have no need to have 10000 games loaded onto one card, so  I’ll probably have one 32GB card with all my favorites, and a second 32GB card with games I want to try out to see if I want to move up to my favorites card.  That should prevent being confused by the number of choices on my main card.

Here’s a great description of how to get that up and running:

https://howchoo.com/g/n2qyzdk5zdm/build-your-own-raspberry-pi-retro-gaming-rig

And here’s another take on the same issue:

Retro Gaming on Raspberry Pi: Understanding ROMs, RetroPie, Recalbox, and More

So at this point, all I need to do is decide on a Raspberry Pi.  I’ll probably go with the Raspberry Pi 3B, as I said, but I’m open to the Raspberry Pi 3B+.

Wish me luck!

MAME/Arcade Project, Update 1

  • by Gitabushi

Okay, I’ve found where you can get the Pi Zero for $5. You have to go direct to dealers:

Raspberry Pi Zero

It seems like the best place for a power supply is still Amazon, at $8 for one with an on/off switch:

https://www.amazon.com/MUZOCT-Supply-Charger-Adapter-Raspberry/dp/B073JDFML5/ref=sr_1_15?crid=2PS7AK932JKAH&keywords=2.5a+power+supply+micro+usb&qid=1572536937&sprefix=2.5A+power+supply%2Caps%2C634&sr=8-15

You want the on/off switch, or else you can only reset by yanking the power cord out of the socket, and that’s very bad for computers.

The power supplies from the dealers are either more expensive than $8, or lack the on/off aspect, or both.

Also, note that you need the hdmi adapter and you have to solder a header on to use a pHat, but it looks like for an Arcade system, you don’t have to worry about that.

https://www.digikey.com/en/maker/blogs/2018/the-top-10-hats-and-phats-for-raspberry-pi

 

Still, you start adding in all the necessary extras, and the zero might not be worth its reduced cost.  I’ll find out or figure it out and get back to you.