Month: September 2014

USA TODAY: Hunger pains: U.S. food program struggles to move forward


Hunger pains: U.S. food program struggles to move forward

After more than 60 years of feeding the world’s hungry overseas, the U.S. Agency for International Development is scrambling to overhaul the world’s largest government food assistance program. The U.S. spends more than half of its international food aid budget transporting life-saving commodities through a tangled system of special interests and government bureaucracy – more than $9 billion in taxpayer dollars over a recent 10-year period, finds a Medill/USA TODAY investigation. Virtually every other aid-giving country and the United Nations, which helps coordinate them, use a flexible system in which critically needed grains, oils and other commodities are purchased as close to a crisis or famine zone as possible. When appropriate, many also give cash transfers or vouchers instead of sacks of food, saving money and precious time getting aid to the young, the elderly, the sick and families in crisis.

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Very concise but lengthy article on why an Ebola drug didn’t make it to market

This article should be required reading for anyone in the Executive Branch of the US Government. It chronicles every failure ZMapp encountered in the quest to be a frontline vaccine against Ebola.

Framerates ( FPS ) in Neverwinter MMO on a Laptop


Higher FPS on Neverwinter MMO by Tweaking Settings

Many of us are transitioning from desktop to laptop, and are running into the problem of underpowered CPUs and GPUs. AMD and Intel promise us a good gaming experience for around $700 dollars, but consistently fail to deliver on their promises. This becomes a serious problem when your desktop is no longer available, but fortunately you can sacrifice some eye candy in-game for a better experience. Every game is unique, but some settings changes are common across different games. Here I will be looking at Neverwinter, the mmo by Hasbro.

There are three main settings that need to be attended to when configuring Neverwinter to run on slower hardware, and another option which much be enabled every time the game is started or you alt-tab to the desktop and back, making this an unusual game.

The first setting is to enable Direct X 11 as the API that the game uses. This setting will not only speed the game up significantly, but will give you more eye candy, counter-intuitively. The second setting is to turn off SSAO, by doing this you will see a significant improvement. The same level of improvement can be had by turning off post-processing, the third major option.

Other minor options are in the advanced settings, and are fairly straight-forward. Limit CPU and GPU use is obvious. Selecting the memory bank size the game uses requires knowing the amount of RAM allocated to the video card, or in the case of dedicated cards, the amount of RAM that ships with the model. A quick tip I can give is that the Radeon GPU on the AMD APU tends to default to 512MB. Other settings can be found in the video.

The fourth major change you need to make is to ensure the game is running in Fullscreen mode. Simply changing it once during a game is not sufficient as any drop to the desktop or even some loading screens in the game, will change it back to windowed mode. I would say the game is twice as fast on desktop as opposed to windowed, so it is worth keeping an eye out for this.

I have an AMD A10-5757m with a dedicated 8750m Radeon in crossfire, and the game is difficult to run, so I can only imagine the pain some of you are going through to play. If my system can’t keep up with defaults, most sub $1000 laptops don’t have a chance. I hope this helped, see you in-game!

American debt and the consumer economy


 I feel that the government, by promoting a “spend” mentality instead of a “savings” economy, has effectively doomed us to a debt crisis. It takes true willpower to enforce a savings plan, and stick to it, in our personal finances, but when individuals are prodded into spending verses saving as a government goal, we all suffer.

The next iPhone, the new tablets one MUST have, the second car, that house that you can barely afford, all add up, and in the end create a debt based economy. A debt based economy means that to keep up with the Jones family, both you and the Jones’ have to be constantly paying off credit cards, mortgages, cell phone bills,  and so on, never really saving up for any sort of emergency. Replace iPhone with a tank, and you see our governmental policy in a nutshell.

Oddly enough, the emergency may well turn out to be the inability of the  Federal government to service its own debt, which as of this writing is over 100% GDP. This number itself is hotly debated, as the actual debt the Government owes far outstrips the monies owed to sovereign countries. The US government owes trillions to the Social Security Fund, among other enforced savings plans whose balances were never meant to be spent, but rather saved so as to be used for the purposes intended by the enacting of those funds.

In short, we as Americans have a monumental task ahead of us: Pay off decades of misused funds and debt, while keeping our economy going as well as it can. And this is entirely doable, as the better our balance sheet, the more likely we are to be able to loan monies in the event of a disaster.

The current state of politics cannot and will not be able to enforce a debt reform package substantial enough to get the job done. Republicans wish to cut taxes drastically, while cutting entitlement programs that keep those in poverty housed, clothed, and fed. Cutting taxes at the expense of the poor just won’t put much money in the coffers, and will stress society to the breaking point. Not only that, but the GOP is always starting wars. For example, our most recent war has cost us over 3 trillion dollars, most of which I hazard to guess was borrowed from China and other, more economically sensible principalities. The Democrats have just the reverse problem: increase taxes to pay for increased entitlements, which is a zero sum game when it comes to paying down the debt. They also have a penchant for spending much more than there is money in the coffers, borrowing copious amounts of money, that when spent, has little long term investment potential. Neither party has substantial debt reduction as a major plank in their rhetoric.

Significantly increased taxation, and reduced spending is the only visible way forward in reducing national debt, however that road is fraught with seemingly intractable differences, with both major parties unwilling to compromise on core spending platforms, and a lack of desire to reign in pork barrel items passed as legislation.

” In general, debt held by the public increases as a result of government spending and decreases as a result of government tax or other receipts, which fluctuate in the course of the fiscal year”  – Wikipedia

It is a simple calculus: The more that is not spent, and the more revenue that comes in, results in less debt, since there is a surplus to pay said debts.

It is high time we as a nation stopped our credit card mentality and started focusing on maintaining a sound fiscal policy. If we don’t save when we can,  there is no way we will be able to borrow when we will need to. Seven years of plenty is nearly gone, and there is no grain saved.

My new Nexus 5


This is my new Nexus 5 32 GB phone, using Ting, a Sprint MVNO as my provider.

I found the phone to be well made and filled with decent hardware. Stock Android 4.4 Kitkat is a breeze to navigate,  without any lags or freezes, and the combination of a Snapdragon 800 and a Vanilla OS makes it a dream even with the most demanding apps. 2 GB of memory helps keep things speedy as well.

I didn’t get a chance to try the 802.11ac WiFi yet, but the n protocol zips along fast enough in my apartment better than any of my other devices except my Acer laptop.

The Nexus 5 has proved to be a bit of a mixed bag in terms of usefulness. Near an outlet it is the best phone I have ever used, hands down… As long as there is an A/C outlet to charge the battery, that is. Google really needs to stop trying to be Apple and start paying attention to actual usage scenarios, such as a power user who wants to put the Snapdragon 800 CPU and 2 GB of RAM to proper use. In such a case you need a battery that can keep this massive powerhouse fed, but that is exactly what they did not do, effectively making this a non-mobile smartphone for anything more than voice calls and a minimal app load, if you need to get through a day without charging.

Other than the smallish battery, this phone is stellar. The Snapdragon 800 is overkill frankly: there is no app this phone cannot handle. The 1920×1080 screen is a delight, and the 2 GB of RAM is good enough that I can be a little bit sloppy when it comes to app management. This is something only my Nexus 7 let me get away with up until now, and I am happy with that since the whole point of a smartphone is apps!

I chose the 32 GB version fortunately, since Google Play Music All Access stores albums and songs in a data heavy format. The lack of an SD card is felt when I want to store more than a few albums for offline listening, which is every time I walk away from my WiFi. Google needs to stop treating SD like an ugly stepchild and realize that the micro SD card slot is considered a feature by most, and not a detractor. Again, trying to be like Apple too much for my liking.

I can’t really knock this phone in any way except for the battery and the missing SD card, everything performs flawlessly, and the design is quite sexy. Now that we know the Nexus 6 is only going to have a 5.2 inch screen,  there is little reason other than fashion to upgrade this year. I had been toying with the idea of upgrading due to a larger battery inherent with a larger screen, but now that the specs have leaked there is no compelling reason to upgrade. If you are reading this after the new phone is released, consider stepping down to the Nexus 5, which at your point in time will likely be had for a steal.

A 2.26 GHz quad core processor, 1080p 5 inch screen, 32 GB ROM and 2 GB of RAM for $423 after taxes plus shipping was too good a deal for me to pass up, honestly. Now to figure out how to make the battery last longer…