Mythbusters: Video Games Special

Discovery's Mythbusters Video Games special logo made to appear like an old-school 16-bit video game menu. The fonts are mostly mono-spaced and using terminal-like fonts. About one-quarter from the top is the title "MYTHBUSTERS" in large, bold, yellow, mono-spaced type with red outline around each of the characters. Hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are represented by 16-bit game caricatures where their heads are covering the title and their hands are folded across their chests. Under the title and hosts is bold, red text with a large red outline reading "VIDEO GAMES" and in white text at the bottom is "Press Start." The background is black space filled with white plus-shaped blue and white stars and a dark blue gradient that becomes opaque at the bottom.
Discovery’s Mythbusters Video Games Special Title Screen

This preview of next week’s new episode of Mythbusters on Discovery previews host Adam Savage sneaking through rooms setup like the DOOM video game complete with old-school growls, plasma guns, and chainsaws. Next week Jamie and Adam will be taking on video game myths and will be interesting to see what they come up with and could possibly be plausible or confirmed in a world design to be pure fiction…

[Unfortunately because Discovery’s video embeds do not support loading on an encrypted page you will need to follow this link to see the video preview.]

WiFi Traffic Management Algorithm reports on a new algorithm developed by a doctoral student at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) that changes frequencies and bandwidth usage based on the type of data packets being sent and received. Many routers today are set by default to use channel 6 of the 2.4 GHz frequency which causes a build-up of WiFi traffic on that channel. The problem is that many other channels overlap and use much of the same frequencies. In fact, while there are 14 total channels made available in the 2.4 GHz range, many countries ban the use of some of those frequencies. In the United States (US) channels 12 through 14 are not able to be used yet are the ones with the greatest frequency gap between channels. In effect, because the frequency bands overlap you can argue that there are really only 3 available spaces to transmit data in the 2.4 GHz WiFi band.

Visual representation of the 2.4 GHz WiFi frequency channels. Each channel is represented by a dotted half-circle representing 22 MHz of bandwidth. The half-circles representing the 3 front channels (1, 6, and 11) have solid outlines. The others overlap behind and between the front 3 channels except for channel 14 which only overlaps the edges of the 12th and 13th channels.
Visual representation of the 2.4 GHz WiFi frequency channels and how they overlap (22 MHz channels). Creative commons licensed image by Michael Gauthier on Wikimedia Commons.

The graph above shows the frequency channels for the 2.4 GHz WiFi range and how the channels overlap. Most routers are set to channel 6 by default and while they may change channels depending on availability they generally pick a channel and stick with it. In addition, many routers will use up to 8 of these channels at the same time. The problem is that this rather small range gets filled up in areas where many routers are being run and essentially cause a traffic jam of data. The other problem is that because routers will often stick with a set channel other may actually be open and unused.

The new algorithm would determine the bandwidth requirements of the data being sent and received and would select an appropriate channel and width. It essentially removed the idea of “channels” and instead divvies up the available frequency range into “lanes.” Some of the lanes are specialized similar to having a carpool or bike lane. As an example, if all you did was check your e-mail and browse a few websites you don’t need much bandwidth. The new algorithm would utilize a small amount of bandwidth – say within channels 1 and 2 – for just website browsing and email. Videos such as Vimeo and YouTube, which require much more bandwidth, may get a large chunk of channels 6 through 10 to use, and the remaining could be used for various other purposes such as websites with larger images, chat programs, and cell-phone updates. It spreads out the use over the available bandwidth and specialized certain areas for things like low-bandwidth data such as web and email, cell-phone updates, and high-bandwidth videos. The developer claims that it could increase typical router throughput by up to seven times (7X).


Agriculture Boosted By Low Fuel Prices

Rusty orange and gray fuel tanks sit on a covered wooden platform with labels such as "car gas" and "diesel."
Farm fuel tanks with labels such as “car gas” and “diesel.” Creative commons liscensed image from Eliot Phillips on Flickr. reports on how not everyone is being hurt by lower gas prices. In addition to giving middle-class America a well-deserved break on rising prices, farmers and ranchers are reaping the benefits of low gas prices and finally refilling the fuel tanks they have kept near-empty since prices soared a number of years ago. Farmers have been sticking with lower-maintenance crops to save on fuel are planning on planting more higher expenditure crops such as corn and rice since the cost to cultivate, plant, rear, harvest, and deliver are not eating into their pocket books as deeply as in recent years. Similarly for ranchers, the cost to raise and feed cattle hinges a lot on fuel prices as it takes many farm vehicle hours (tractors, balers, planters, fertilizers, sprayers, trucks, etc) to feed, move, and deliver farm animals as well as to farm the hay, silage, and grains that they consume. [quote align=”right” width=”40%”]”However, the other side of the coin is that while we have had a collapse in the oil market, we also have had a collapse in the grain market.”[/quote]

High gas prices and low crop prices in recent years have eroded profit margins for farmers and have lead to price increases at the supermarkets. Even though consumers won’t see lower food prices it will likely mean the price increases may slow in the midterm. It’s also noted that transportation cost only contributes a small percent to food prices. Much of the cost comes from the cost of recent natural disasters such as droughts, frost, and flooding that occurred in farm areas. Disasters and market price fluctuations along with production costs (which include fuel used on the farm) make up the bulk of the cost of food.


New Website

Screenshot of dark gray and black responsive WordPress theme featuring a customizable large featured image and two smaller images to the right above a set of four columned text areas with icons.
Screenshot of “Website” Responsive WordPress theme by kubasto from ThemeForest

After going without a website for quite a while I finally put up a new site that I will use for public posting of items just in general as well as for technology posts (instead of just spitting out status updates on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn). I did not (and still don’t) have much available time but I am going to add updates when I can. I also struggled to figure out what design I wanted to use. After putting together a number of crummy simple themes that I was never happy with I finally came to my senses. I am not a designer. While I can put together themes using SEO enhancement, interactive elements, and database-driven applications I can not make them look good. So I purchased this theme to use after digging through thousands of various themes I finally settled on this one. It has a good combination of enhancements and design options that I like; It is the “Website” (yes, a very generic name but it fits) theme by kubasto.


Another reasons is to start showing showcasing some of the small side-projects I am working on. I work on a number of large projects over time as well as help others out both online and IRL (in real life) as well as contribute code, bug reports, and fixes to open-source and freely available repositories from time to time. I have my own git repository with a couple of small JavaScript libraries on BitBucket that I will add to as well as my Stack Overflow account I am using to help people out with smaller scripting and database issues. I will also post my own thoughts on various topics in life as well as science, technology, programming (along with some code snippets), and possibly a few others from time to time. Finally I also plan to feature and show off a few projects from time to time which this theme seems to support rather well.

So check back as there will be a number of updates and changes to this site in the near and long term!