Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Archive for March, 2008

Marathon 2

Posted by Michael Dickens on March 21, 2008

Remember Marathon 2? That game I always beat you at? Well, here’s a video of me beating level 14 (“If I Had A Rocket Launcher, I’d Make Somebody Pay”), which is considered to be the hardest level of Marathon 2. I beat it on Total Carnage, the hardest difficulty. It took hours of practice to achieve this level.

Sorry for smallness, it wouldn’t upload otherwise.

WARNING: If you are prone to seizures or do not like rapidly moving objects and lights, do not view the above video.

WARNING: Awesomeness of this video may cause temporary loss of vision. But not really.

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MTGAP's Guide to the World of Warcraft Auction House (and money)

Posted by Michael Dickens on March 11, 2008

There are many people out there who are better at making money in the Auction House. But it always pains me when I see people *gasp* FARMING for mount money!!! Before level 60, it’s very difficult to farm anything. The only way to truly make money (that I know of) below the high 50’s is the Auction House. I may not be as good as some at working the Auction House, but at least I always have had money when I needed it, without ever farming.

Go to and download the Auctioneer Addon. It’s very useful for using the auction house.

Level 1 of the Auction House: SELLING GOODS

You don’t have to work the Auction House to make money, although I find it very effective. Create a new character, and take him to any major city. For Horde the Undercity is best: it’s not too crowded. I don’t play Alliance, but the equivalent of the Undercity is where you should go probably (I would guess Darnassus). Whenever you get ANY WHITE ITEM OR HIGHER that you aren’t using on one of your main characters, send it to your auction character that you have planted at the major city. Then you can sell it. ALWAYS sell things for the longest period of time.
I will assume that you have the Auctioneer Addon. If you do, you can use Appraiser to sell stuff. The appraiser tab automatically lists every item in your inventory. Click something, and Auctioneer will suggest a price. You can accept the price, or decide to change it if you think it should be higher or lower. If you’re really unsure of the price and Appraiser doesn’t know how to price it, you can search for the item on and it will suggest a pretty accurate price.

I would suggest that if an item doesn’t sell after 3 tries, and it’s not equippable, lower the price by about 10%. If it still doesn’t sell, lower it by about 10% again. Continue to do so until it sells. The thing with equippable items is that people are less likely to want them, so if they don’t sell at first, be patient. But if you can’t sell something after 5 or 6 tries, start to lower the price.

If you want to buy something, Auctioneer gives you a percentage. This is what Auctioneer thinks it’s worth based on that item’s average price. For instance, if it says it’s 50%, it’s costs 50% less than its estimated value. Warning: that’s not always right. Remember to use common sense. Don’t always trust Auctioneer. But in general, if you see something that’s less than 60%, buy it, and then resell it for more. You can also turn on Bottomscanner (in the Bottomscanner tab) and it will automatically ask you if you want to bid on or buyout things.

Once you get your flying mount, you get a wide variety of daily quests. Here’s my review of them.
SHA’TARI SKYGUARD: These guys are in the southeast of Terokkar Forest. You can get two quests from them: Fires over Skettis and Escape from Skettis. (I’m not going to explain how the quests work, that’s what is for. I’m just going to give my opinion on which are best for money.) Escape from Skettis is pretty fast, but sometimes it takes a while to find the actual guy. If you find him, do it, or get a group for it. It only takes one person, but people usually get groups. That helps you find it faster. You should always do Fires over Skettis because it’s very easy.
OGRI’LA: You have to get attuned for these, but it’s worth it. There are 4 quests: Banish More Demons, the bombing quest that I can’t remember the name of, Wrangle More Aether Rays, and The Relic’s Emanation. The first 2 can be done at the same time, and you can do them faster with a group. If you do them at the same time it’s an efficient way to make 20g, plus you can get some loot. The Relic’s Emanation takes about 2 minutes, but you have to pay attention while doing it. It’s probably the most efficient daily quest. The Aether Rays one takes a bit longer, and if I can’t play for very long, I don’t do it.
Go to Ogri’la and do The Relic’s Emanation, or do Fires Over Skettis.
Go to Ogri’la and do Banish More Demons and the bombing quest.
Get attuned for NETHERWING DAILIES. These take longer, and you get the same amount of money, but you get to kill stuff so you get money from that. I recommend these if you have skinning; you get TONS of knothide leather from the Nethermine Flayers. These quests also have a pretty big payoff when you remember that you’re playing this game not to make virtual gold, but to have fun: WHEN YOU GET EXALTED, YOU GET A REALLY COOL MOUNT. Not only is it cool, but it’s a bit of a symbol of “look at me, I’m rich, and exalted with Netherwing, aren’t I great.” Getting exalted with Netherwing takes a while, so it’s a real treat when you finally get your mount. Plus, you get money along the way.
The thing about Netherwing dailies is that I lied when I said it wasn’t efficient. You can do 4 quests at once: the one where you kill Nethermine Flayers and Ravagers, the one where you collect Netherwing Crystals, the gathering profession one, and the one where you get boxes, plus a repeatable quest to get Netherwing Eggs, but those are pretty rare. It’s actually pretty efficient because you can do 4 quests at once, but it takes 1 to 2 hours to finish them, depending on drop rate and how fast you kill stuff.

Well, that’s my guide to making money. I currently have 1500g on my auctioneer and 2500g on my level 70, and I bought my epic flying mount a couple months ago with 1000g left over. (I actually got the 5200g required, then borrowed 800g from a friend so I’d have 800g to buy auctions with, and I made money quickly and paid back my friend within 2 weeks.) I’m no gold farmer, but I’ve never been unable to afford my repair bill.

Thanks to Phandra for loaning me 800g. (He is the one person I know who’s better at making money than I am.)

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Extensive Research Into The Area of Keyboarding: Improved Dvorak

Posted by Michael Dickens on March 10, 2008

Here’s Dvorak.

‘ , . p y f g c r l
a o e u i d h t n s
; q j k x bw mv z

But there are some problems. Changes are in order of importance.

-I is more common than U, so why do you have to move to hit I?

Change #1: (changed keys are caps)

a o e I U d h t n s

-C is not as common as R and L, so those three should re-arrange.

Change #2:

‘ , . p y f g R L C

-Since y is more common than p, p and y should switch. P is not very common.

Change #3:

‘ , . Y P f g R L C

-Letter frequency of the least common letters is B V K J X Q Z (with W a ways up from that), so why are both W and V on one side and J and K on the other? Since these are all uncommon, this change doesn’t make much difference, and you have to move a lot of stuff, but it is better.

Change #4:

; q j W x b m V K z

New Dvorak:

‘ , . y p f g r l c
a o e i u d h t n s
; q j wx b mv k z

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Extensive Research Into The Area of Keyboarding: A Look At The Many Layouts

Posted by Michael Dickens on March 7, 2008

All comparisons involving letters are on QWERTY, because I assume that’s what you’re using. You will switch to Dvorak eventually, but you haven’t yet.

HERE is a piano player who has an interesting look on keyboarding. He claims that it’s easier to type freestyle, instead of staying on the home row. He also says it’s easier to do a run of keys (asdf;lkj) than to alternate hands (a;sldkfj). Most new keyboards base a lot on alternating hands. But he is partly wrong. Asdf;lkj is easier than a;sldkfj, but a;sldkfj is a lot easier than stewardesses (as far as I know the longest word on one hand). So runs on one hand are good, but since you can’t have all straight runs on one hand, you should alternate. Another person in a different place suggested that it is easier to do 2 keys with one hand before switching, which makes a lot of sense. By the way, here are the most common digraphs, as a reference point. I got this from 2 sites, who each said different things, but that is probably due to different areas of research. They were similar enough, so I averaged them. Sources: site one site two


Oh, I forgot! You need to know letter frequency! Here it is. From Wikipedia.

Notes about letter frequency: E has far more than anything else (with 13% to T’s 9%), and etaoins makes up slightly more than half of everything.
As I was researching, I realized I needed to know the frequency of punctuation to really make a proper keyboard. So (with help from Bilfo of course) I (we) made a widget that counts characters. So I gathered a bunch of documents I had on my computer and stuck them into a 2000-page file. Here is the letter frequency I got from that, with characters included.

space E T A O I N S R H shift L delete (4% error rate) D C U M G Y W P B . , return V K ‘ tab X J Q Z

Very close to what said, so I can assume that this is an accurate assessment.

A few people who were striving to create a keyboard to beat Dvorak created a genetic algorithm. THIS GUY created an improved version of QWERTY, an improved version of DVORAK, and his own layout, which looks like this.


Sorry, the letters are different sizes so they don’t want to line up.

This is a pretty good keyboard. He kept X, Z, C, and V on the bottom row because those are used for cut, copy, paste, and undo. He is supposedly is not finished, but it looks like he was doing this in 2005, so I think it’s as far as he’s going to get.

If you want his code (it’s C++), you can get it at his website HERE.

His algorithm contains certain restraints. That’s a good idea, since there are 30 factorial (30x29x28…x1) possible layouts. That number is 265252859812191058636308480000000 by the way.
RESTRICTIONS: ETAOIN are automatically on the home row. S, R, H or D usually get the 2 remaining spots.
X,C,Z, and V remain on the bottom for reasons I already stated.

Here’s the rest of the algorithm, where lower scoring keyboards are better.

+5: reach to the center column without switching hands before
+5: reach to the center column without switching hands after
+5: changing row on one hand (i.e. going from A to W, not A to O)
+50: using same finger twice in a row (i.e. A Q) (this is really really bad and is just about the hardest thing to do, short of placing a key on the moon)
+30: jumping over the home row, but only +10 if this jump is VE, VW, NI, NO, MI, MO because those are easier according to this guy
-4: using adjacent keys on the same hand and not reaching to a center column(i.e. A S)
-3: using keys on the same hand
If there is a space between 2 keys, the penalty is reduced by 50%.

This guy bases a lot of his work on the original Genetic Algorithm Keyboard guy, P.M. Klausler. If you look at his website, he is an extreme geek. HERE is his genetic algorithm. The idea is that 2048 keyboards are generated, and tested. The half that do worse are dropped, and the better half are mutated, and then re-tested. (Each layout has a 50% chance to switch 2 keys, a 25% chance to switch 3, a 12.5% chance to switch 4, etc.) This continues until one keyboard layout is the consistent winner. He did this whole thing because he used Dvorak, but a couple things about it annoyed him and he wanted to see if he could make it better. He not only uses letter and digraph frequency as input, but he uses word frequency. I do not want to copy and paste them all here, but the top ones (not surprisingly) are: the of and to in a I that. Other word frequency sites say slightly different things, but they are all basically the same. Klausler goes into detail about this on his site, linked above.

He ended up with this:

k , u y p w l m f c
o a e i d r n t h s
q . ‘ ; z x v g b j

Stupid crooked letters. Anyway, it ended up very close to Dvorak, which is:

‘ , . p y f g c r l
a o e u i d h t n s
; q j k x b mw vz

Stupid crooked letters again.

He tried his evolved layout for a while, and didn’t like it as much as Dvorak. Oh well. Maybe my genetic algorithm design will work better.

EDIT: By the above phrase, I mean these are layouts made by people who did not think Dvorak was good enough, and wanted something better. I am not saying they attempted to beat Dvorak and failed; they each have different priorities, for instance, the Arensito layout doesn’t focus so much on hand alternation, but wants to make sure that the same finger is never used twice in a row.

There are 2 big keyboards that are attempting to beat Dvorak that are actually available for use. (You can actually get Michael Capewell’s layout, but he’s not heavily recommending it.)These keyboards are Colemak and XPeRT, found at and
COLEMAK was designed in 2006, and attempts to beat Dvorak. Here’s what it looks like.

Q W F P G J L U Y ;
Z X C V B K M , . /

(Apostrophe is off to the side)

This is a good layout. It is based on being easy to learn, as well as good. Z,X,C, and V are still in the same place. Many keys remain in their QWERTY positions, such as Q, W, A, and the entire bottom row other than K (what was N doing on the bottom row in the first place?). I just noticed, I use a lot of parentheses. The Colemak also has common keys on the home row, not too much emphasis on pinkies, a good arrangement, and is easy to learn. I haven’t used it, but I would guess by looking at it that it’s not quite as fast or simple as the Dvorak. But it’s easier to learn, and has benefits. For ease to learn, this is the way to go.
EDIT: I have researched this layout more. Currently it looks like the best layout for people who are coming from QWERTY. It is as good as Dvorak, better in some ways and worse in others. It isn’t as popular, but it has a strong following, and I will be very happy if it takes over QWERTY as the prominent layout. I would be equally happy if Dvorak took over as the main layout. As long as a better layout takes over, I will be happy.


; W C V B G M , . /

I personally am not a huge fan of this layout. It is designed for extreme ease to learn and a lot of hand alternation. Let’s check out the hand alternation.

TH: Alternate. Good.
HE: Not alternate.
IN: Alternate.
AN: Alternate.
ER: Not alternate.
RE: Not alternate.
ON: Alternate.
ND: Not alternate.
ED: On same line. That’s not good.
AT: Alternate.

That’s good alternation. Could be better, but it’s certainly good. What about their other selling point, it’s easy to learn?
Well, hardly anything changed from QWERTY, but enough to make it good. But why did they put X and P in the place of Q and W if they are trying to move as little as possible. I have a suspicious feeling that they were trying to spell something….
A great idea they came up with was to have 2 Es. E is very common. They left it where it was, AND put it on the home row. Great thinking!

Unfortunately, there are some big problems. First of all, they give no credit to the pinkies. Why is Q under the pinky home row? I think the best method for pinkies is to give them something fairly common. Not etaoin, too common–how about shrdl? Yeah those are the best for pinkies. Then give them something very uncommon up and down, so they rarely have to move. But Q on the home row???? That’s just crazy. Plus, I think it might work a tiny bit better to put T, I, O, and R (or at least 2 or 3 of those) on the home row, seeing as how they are very common and are still on the top row, especially T, in the hard-to-get upper middle area.

Not that I have anything against this keyboard, but it’s no Dvorak.


This one has an interesting look, and does a great job of ensuring that you never use the same finger to press 2 keys.

* q l , p $ f u d k
a r e n b g s i t o
w . h j # v c y mx

*: backspace
$: delete

Z is to the left of W, on a part that isn’t normally considered part of the actual keyboard. If you look at an image of the ARENSITO, it has secondary characters such as @ and numbers on the letters. It’s late and I’m tired, so maybe later I’ll review this one.

Okay, it’s the next morning and I’m back to finish. The Arensito does an incredible job of ensuring that you never use the same finger twice in a row. It has good alternation between hands. This is probably the weirdest keyboard. It does break some assumptions about which keys are the easiest to hit, putting less emphasis on the middle, with G and B, as opposed to I and D on Dvorak or D and H on Colemak. Also it puts H on the BOTTOM ROW!!! This keyboard is so weird that I think I’ll have to try it.

One thing he does do is place all the special characters on the keys for easy access.

Posted in Keyboards | 4 Comments »


Posted by Michael Dickens on March 5, 2008

Bilfo has requested that I give updates on my progress using LabVIEW. I hope that screenshot works.
Screenshot 1

Screenshot 2

Screenshot 3

Last screenshot for now

You can only see part of the images for some reason. I think they are too big. But that shows the basic progress of what I’m doing. The first images are of the front part, where you control everything. The one that looks different is the back part, where all the programming happens. I will upload more images soon. This program will make a graph.

EDIT: Now I have to figure out how to make images smaller. This next image includes a graph, if you can see it.screenshot 6

EDIT 2: It worked! Just click the link. Here’s some more.
Back to the back panel, with all the programming stuff.Screenshot 7

Last one for now.
Screenshot 8

EDIT 3: Here are pictures of the completed program.screenshot 9

And another: The final screenshot has now been updated. screenshot 15

Posted in Math | Leave a Comment »

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