Software Development Debate: Design vs Profile

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2015 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: software development

This is article is a bit different from what we normally post, so be sure to give your opinion in the comments if you want to see more of this (or not). You will most often find these types of software development rants on a programmer's personal blog, but I find them interesting so here we go.


There are two camps in software development regarding optimization, each with diehard advocates. One side argues for software to be strictly designed, with decisions needing to be coherent and performance-minded. The other viewpoint claims that optimization should be done after profiling, because you could spend weeks making a fairly useless chunk of code purr like a kitten, and ignore the turkey that's using 99.99% of your resources.

Both sides can also point to situations that validate their opinion. The latter, “don't premature optimize” crowd can show examples where time is wasted because the engineer didn't look before they leaped. One such story comes from Chandler Carruth of Google. One of his first tasks at the company was to review code from Ken Thompson, a “very senior engineer” who created Unix and defined UTF-8. It solved rule-matching with about a 20-fold increase in performance over what they were currently using. When Chandler went to integrate the fix, his colleague mentioned “Yeah, turns out our use-case overwhelmingly hits a single rule, so I just check it first. It's now 100x faster.”

The other crowd says that, even if you can find exactly where poop stinks, you're still polishing a turd. One issue that is commonly pointed to is garbage collection. In memory-managed languages, this process scans through your application to delete unused chunks. Its goal is to remove memory leaks without users needing to carefully manage allocation themselves. The problem is that it necessarily freezes basically every thread and often takes several frames worth of time to complete. As such, you can either live with the bad user experience in real-time applications, or you can carefully design your application to avoid leaking memory. If you take the time to design and architect, it allows you to either choose a framework without garbage collection, or sometimes reduce / eliminate how often it triggers.

So the argument is over-thinking wasting time versus under-planning painting software into corners. As it should be somewhat obvious, both are correct. It's a bad idea to blindly charge into development, and it's good to think about the consequences of what you're doing. At the same time, what you think means nothing if it differs from what you measure, so you need to back up your thoughts with experimentation.

The challenge is to coast the middle for the benefits of both, without falling into the traps on either side.

Rdio Slowly Shutting Down Starting November 23rd

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2015 - 12:35 AM |
Tagged: rdio

I say slowly shutting down because the service will remain active for a little while, letting users finish their subscriptions or use the free option. As of now, the only announced date is that Rdio will no longer renew subscriptions (or accept new paying customers) on November 23rd.


The company recently filed for bankruptcy, after trying to raise more capital and find other ways to keep the business running. Pandora will pay $75 million for the remnants of the service, although that could change if a better offer surfaces or an issue arises in bankruptcy protection. The press release states that “many members of the Rdio team will continue to shape the future of streaming music, applying our tradition of great design and innovative engineering on an even larger stage with Pandora.” It further states “Pandora is not acquiring the operating business of Rdio,” but rather just “the technology and talent.”

Rdio has not given a date that their service will end. This news is disappointing for me, because Rdio was the first music streaming service in Canada, at least that I found out about, which led me to choose it.

Source: Rdio

Should you fear SilverPush?

Subject: General Tech | November 20, 2015 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: security, silverpush, fud

SilverPush has been around for a while but was recently reverse-engineered so that it could be investigated by anyone with an interest in their phones security.  It is software that is often bundled in advertisements or streamed media that takes advantage of your phones the far greater range of audio sensitivity and the fact that you can communicate information via audio signals.  This could allow an app to communicate with your phone without your knowledge, to collect data from your phone or even to provide contextual ads on your phone.

However as you can see from the list of apps which The Register links to, there is not much likelihood that you have an app which has SilverPush enabled installed on your phone and that is the real key.  If you do not have an app which is listening for audio signals on those frequencies then you will not suffer the effects of SilverPush.  The moral of the story is that your phones security starts with you, if you download random free apps and allow them full access to your phone then you should not be surprised by this sort of thing.


"SilverPush's software kit can be baked into apps, and is designed to pick up near-ultrasonic sounds embedded in, say, a TV, radio or web browser advert. These signals, in the range of 18kHz to 19.95kHz, are too high pitched for most humans to hear, but can be decoded by software."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #376 - Intel Speed Shift, CPU Coolers from Noctua and DEEPCOOL, Broadwell-E Rumors, and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 19, 2015 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, noctua, Deepcool, Gamer Storm Gabriel, Intel, speed shift, amd, R9, fury x, trixx, Broadwell-E, kaby lake, nvidia, shield tablet k1, knights landing, asus, chromebit

PC Perspective Podcast #376 - 11/19/2015

Join us this week as we discuss Intel Speed Shift, CPU Coolers from Noctua and DEEPCOOL, Broadwell-E Rumors, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:19:22

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:32:10 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­
  3. News item of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Two new SDKs aimed at VR performance join NVIDIA's GameWorks

Subject: General Tech | November 19, 2015 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: gameworks vr, designworks vr, virtual reality, NVIDA, sdk

There is something about this phrase which describes a feature of NVIDIA's newly announced VR SLI that excites the kid in me "multiple GPUs can be assigned a specific eye to dramatically accelerate stereo rendering".  Maybe you can't afford two GPUs per eye but the fact that it would work if you could manage it is rather impressive.  NVIDIA has announced new SDKs specifically aimed at VR design and performance, GameWorks VR and DesignWorks VR.  Epic has announced that Unreal Engine 4.3 will support these new tools and you can grab them from NVIDIA's developer website right now if you so desire.  You can read more about specific features and optimizations these SDKs will provide at this article on The Inquirer.


"The company said at the release of version 1.0 of GameWorks VR and DesignWorks VR that the SDKs will solve the power-guzzling problems associated with complex, immersive VR graphics processing."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: The Inquirer

Logitech's Artemis Spectrum headset; 7.1 audiophile quality?

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2015 - 05:28 PM |
Tagged: logitech, G633 Artemis Spectrum, 7.1 headset

Logitech talks big about their G633 Artemis Spectrum gaming headsets, with audiophile-like quality and seven adjustable audio channels along with the good old .1 bass channel.  They do have a history of producing quality audio products and so Techgage set out to determine how well Logitech did on these headsets.  The software allows you, among other things, to choose between DTS Headphone X and Dolby Surround modes, with each channels volume being adjustable in Dolby mode; effectively from what Techgage could hear when gaming.  In the end the $149.99 MSRP and audio quality nowhere near the levels an audiophile would want prevented Techgage from loving the G633 but for atmospheric gaming these are a decent choice for the well off gamer.


"When Logitech announced its Artemis Spectrum gaming headsets, it said that they would deliver “audiophile-like” sound. Now, that’s a lofty promise. The company sent us the wired version, the G633, for us to review. Does it live up to its divine name and ambitious promises, or does it fall short, leaving us mere mortals still hunting for a god-like audio experience?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Techgage

Hard West is here; get your eldritch western fix

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2015 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: hard west, Unity, gaming

If you backed the Kickstarter then you have had a chance to watch Hard West evolve from a single silent map to the recent update which added significant content and changed the beginning of the game significantly.  You are a dead gunslinger, brought back to an undead state in a western setting which incorporates not only natives and townsfolk but dark supernatural creatures and powers as well.  The game plays like the recent XCOM releases, with a similar turn style and cover system but also incorporates unique features such as the ability to ricochet bullets of some items on the map to shoot around corners and a shadow system designed to give you hints about who might be standing around a corner.

Nighttime changes the game dramatically and the optional permanent injury system is the exact opposite of the recent Warhammer games, severely injured members your posse will suffer negatives in the short term but possibly gaining strength once their wounds have fully healed.  You can see what Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN thought of the game here or just pick it up on Steam for $22.

"“Wild West XCOM” is about as good an elevator pitch as you could wish for. After a short delay, as of today we can find out whether Hard West can possibly live up to its glorious high concept. I played an earlier build a few weeks back – some thoughts, plus a launch trailer, below."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:


Meet the Boltzmann Initiative, AMD's answer to HPC

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2015 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: amd, firepro, boltzmann, HPC, hsa

AMD has announced the Boltzmann Initiative to compete against Intel and NVIDIA in the HPC market this week at SC15.  It is not a physical product but rather new a way to unite the processing power of HSA compliant AMD APUs and FirePro GPUs.  They have announced several new projects including the Heterogeneous Compute Compiler (HCC) and Heterogeneous-compute Interface for Portability (HIP) for CUDA based apps which can automatically convert CUDA code into C++.  They also announced a headless Linux driver and HSA runtime infrastructure interface for managing clusters which utilizes their InfiniBand fabric interconnect to interface system memory directly to GPU memory as well as adding P2P GPU support and numerous other enhancements.   Check out more at DigiTimes.


"The Boltzmann Initiative leverages HSA's ability to harness both central processing units (CPU) and AMD FirePro graphics processing units (GPU) for maximum compute efficiency through software."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Asus Chromebit CS10 Runs Google's Chrome OS Anywhere for $85

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2015 - 12:47 AM |
Tagged: SFF, hdmi stick, hdmi, chromebit, chrome os, asus, arm

Small form factor PCs are big this year, and Google is about to get into the game with its own HDMI dongle PC running Chrome OS. Google has partnered with Asus to release the Chromebit CS10 which is now avaialble for $85.

Asus Chromebit Mini PC.png

The small stick PC weighs 75 grams (2.6 ounces) and will come in black, orange, and eventually blue colors. The Chromebit is about the size of a flash drive with an HDMI port on one end, DC power input on one side, and a single USB 2.0 port on the other end. A removeable cap protects the HDMI output. It is small enough that you can toss it into a bag or tuck it behind a monitor or kiosk permanently. Asus includes an AC power adapter (18W, 1.5 amps) and a flexible HDMI connector (or a short extension cable depending on the region) along with velco stickers in the box.

The Chromebit CS10 is powered by a quad core Rockchip 3288-C SoC featuring four ARM Cortex A17 CPU cores and a Mali T624 GPU. The SoC is paired with 2GB of LPDDR3 memory and 16GB of eMMC storage. Connectivity includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios along with the USB 2.0 port. Users can hook up a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and use the USB port for extra storage, or hook up even more devices using a USB hub.

So far, reviews are positive and generally state that (for example) while the Rockchip ARM processor is no racehorse, it is good enough for basic web browsing, media streaming, and document editing.

Of course, the Chromebit runs the Chrome web browser, but it also can run any of the apps from the Chrome Web Store including Netflix, Office, and any number of free games. Asus is aiming the Chromebit at digital signage, kiosk, thin clients for schools, and for on-the-go travelers.

The Chromebit CS10 is available soon (it is listed as out of stock on Newegg and has not shown up on Amazon or other sites yet) for $85 in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Taiwan. Business customers can further purchase the ability to use the Chromebit in a locked down single-app kiosk mode for $24 per user, per year from CDW.

Also read:

Source: Asus

Microsoft Updates Privacy Statement (via Ed Bott of ZDNet)

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2015 - 08:55 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Privacy, microsoft

UPDATE (Nov 19th, 12pm EST): Ed Bott emailed me to clarify a few points. First, PINs for BitLocker are not required and will not be backed up to OneDrive. I knew that PINs were not required, but I was trying to say "would there be a way that a user could use BitLocker without giving all the necessary bits to OneDrive". Apparently, using PINs is one of those ways. He also claims that you can manage your own keys by changing them and storing them locally.

He also commented on the HIPAA remark. He claims that Windows 10 is HIPAA compliant, and the reason why it was not included in the statement is because the question wasn't asked. Again, if applicable, check with your vendors and other support.

Okay so one of the major concerns with Windows 10 is how it handles your private data. I gave my thoughts on the topic a couple of weeks ago, which was a bit critical of Microsoft. I said that there are definite concerns that should be disclosed, but it is not enough of a concern to stop using it and switch to Linux or something. At least, not yet.


Image Credit: Wikipedia

Since then, Ed Bott of ZDNet discussed Microsoft's new privacy policy, which clarifies a few points. It looks like he ran the two versions of the EULA through a text-difference tool to highlight all changes, and took a few screenshots of key moments.

The foremost change is that Microsoft specified that only OneDrive, Outlook, and Skype files and content, private or public, are subject to disclosure to law enforcement. The previous wording looked like it applied to all files on Windows 10. Full access to all files sounds like something the law enforcement would want, but Windows 10 does not provide it.

Another change involves BitLocker. Recovery keys are synchronized to OneDrive “to allow recovery on personal devices”. I am not sure if this also includes PINs, for devices configured to use those, but it would be crappy if it did. Regardless, the privacy statement now says “Microsoft doesn't use your individual recovery keys for any purpose.” This raises two concerns: Why did they specify “Microsoft” and why did they qualify “recovery keys” with “individual”? My assumption is that this is just an awkward trait of the English language, but it could exempt sending batches of keys to third parties, such as governments, especially if it counts as a OneDrive personal file. Again, it is probably just an awkward wording though.

A final point for me is that Telemetry, when set to “Basic”, satisfies FINRA, SEC, and FTC regulations. Oddly they don't specify HIPAA, but you probably shouldn't be listening to tech reporters (yes including me) for advice about securing health insurance and patient data. You should have more reliable channels for that sort of inquiry.

Source: ZDNet