Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Online poker cheating scandal

Slashdot is reporting that a scandal has broken out around Absolute Poker involving a backdoor that exposed players hole cards to cheaters.

Now, since Internet poker began, poor players have always groused that the only explanation for their losses was that the sites were dishonest. Heck, it's been that way in meatspace since Poker was invented. It only takes a few moments of thought before it becomes completely obvious that a site has far, far more to gain by attracting players to a scrupulously honest game and far, far more to lose if any whiff of scandal surfaces. It's nothing short of astonishing that a poker site would throw away its reputation so easily.

I'd be quite surprised if this doesn't completely end Absolute Poker. I do hope that the more mainstream sites (Full Tilt and Poker Stars, in particular) at least make some hand-waving to reassure the playing public that their sites are secure. I'm actually quite sure that their sites are secure, but it would be nice for them to go through the motions of some sort of external audit (perhaps some auspicious body like Card Player magazine could oversee it) to bring it out into the open.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The financial crisis - what's old is new again.

Once upon a time, a song was written to commemorate a government bailout of a public company. I still like that song, and in the situation where we find ourselves today, it is still applicable. Just a few words in the chorus need to change.

All together now!

I am changing my name to WaMu
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I will tell them all as well, man
That what they did for Alan Fishman
Will be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to WaMu
I am headed for that great receiving line
So when they hand a million grand out
I'll be standing with my hand out
Yes sire I'll get mine

P.s. Yes, I know that Washington Mutual has been (largely) acquired by JPMorgan Chase rather than being directly bailed out by taxpayers, but of all of the banks that have been mentioned, WaMu fits into the meter of the lyrics the best. Arlo Guthrie has been singing it lately changing Chrysler to Fannie Mae, but I'm not sure how that would work. Besides, it's not really his song, anyhow.


Full Tilt Poker Game #_: $33 + $3 Sit & Go (Turbo) (_), Table 1 - 100/200 - No Limit Hold'em - 5:46:27 ET - 2008/09/29
Seat 4: (3,095)
Seat 6: villain (3,100)
Seat 7: (2,095)
Seat 8: hero (2,400)
Seat 9: (2,810)
hero posts the small blind of 100
Seat 9 posts the big blind of 200
The button is in seat #7
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to hero [Jh Js]
Seat 4 folds
villain raises to 3,100, and is all in
Seat 7 folds
hero calls 2,300, and is all in
Seat 9 folds
villain shows [9s 9c]
hero shows [Jh Js]
Uncalled bet of 700 returned to villain
*** FLOP *** [6d 2c 4s]
*** TURN *** [6d 2c 4s] [Qh]
*** RIVER *** [6d 2c 4s Qh] [9d]

You know, I don't think I ask for much from this game. I really don't. If I get my money in with the 2nd best hand, then so be it. But I think that having your opponent down to two outs on the river (for those of you following the math, that's better than 20 to 1 odds) really ought to come through.

It's been one of those nights. Every coin flip comes up tails, every time I have AK, I run up against AA. And then there's hands like this. I finally get a big pair that isn't an under-pair, and it still ends me.

At the boot camp they talked about good players and bad players both having A games and F games, but that for good players, the F game is not much worse than the A game (in contrast to the bad players). Fine. My F game is not so hot. I can admit that. But anyone who doesn't truly understand this game can't know the anguish of playing an A+ game and being punished for it.

villain shows three of a kind, Nines
hero shows a pair of Jacks
villain wins the pot (5,000) with three of a kind, Nines
nsayer stands up
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 5,000 | Rake 0
Board: [6d 2c 4s Qh 9d]
Seat 4: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: villain showed [9s 9c] and won (5,000) with three of a kind, Nines
Seat 7: (button) didn't bet (folded)
Seat 8: hero (small blind) showed [Jh Js] and lost with a pair of Jacks
Seat 9: (big blind) folded before the Flop

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Football season next year is going to be AWESOME!!!

You've heard me bellyache before about the situation football fans face in the San Francisco bay area. The NFL's rules say that whenever the home team is playing, no other in-market TV station may air any out-of-market games. For us, that is tres suck, because we have two teams. The Sunday morning game is usually the 9ers and the afternoon game is the Raiders, or vice-versa. The only time we get to see potentially 3 games is when either team plays on Thursday, Sunday or Monday night or has the week off.

The good news, at least for us here at chez Sayer, is that next February, they turn off the analog TV stations and we go 100% digital. What does that have to do with anything? Well, KCBA-DT is on (RF) channel 13, and we should be able to get that with our VHF-hi beam pointed to Fremont Peak! We get it today, except that it gets co-channel interference from KOVR-TV in Sacramento. Fortunately for us, since KCBA is in the Salinas/Monterey market and is a Fox affiliate, they're going to air the Cowboys game opposite KPIX's coverage of the Raiders. Now, since the Raiders are playing the Chargers this week, I'll probably watch that game, but if it turns into a laugher, I have somewhere else to go... except for the fact that KCBA probably won't come in today over KOVR. But this at least proves the point that if you can pull in KCBA (or if you could pull in the Fox or CBS affiliates from Walnut Grove), you'll once again get your choice of 3 games.

Of course, if I could pull in KION-DT (the CBS affiliate in Salinas/Monterey), then I'd have a choice potentially of 4 games, but unfortunately KION is UHF, and even if I had a UHF antenna pointed the right way, I probably couldn't pull in a signal good enough for a digital tuner to decode. Oh well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My favorite iPhone apps

Here's what's on my phone:

  • Texas Hold'Em $
  • AIM
  • TouchTerm $
  • Showtimes
  • SolFree
  • Speed
  • Here I Am
  • ICE $
  • StillInTune $
  • Remote
  • VNC $
  • PayPal

I actually paid for the apps marked with the $.

As well, I've got links to Bejewled (you can play on the web for free instead of buying the full app in the store), iCalTrain, iMineSweeper, and BattleFleet on the home page.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I'm moving the blog to being hosted at blogspot. It turns out that there are more things you can do with your blog by having them host it than you can do with the FTP style of hosting.

I could have set it up with a custom domain, but I couldn't think of a name that was any good.

If you're reading this, then you probably already figured out that things have moved. Good! If you know someone who hasn't yet figured it out, then first, tell them the new URL is http://nsayer.blogspot.com/, and then tell ME what URL I've managed to miss redirecting.

Good news on the ATSC front

It looks like the go-to guys for DTV hardware are the SR Systems folks in Germany. I traded some e-mail with them, and it turns out that their minimod system does null-stuff the transport stream to 19.38 MB/s, so their 8VSB modulation should be tunable by the HD HomeRun. Very exciting!

I traded some e-mail with their software guy, and while he didn't promise anything, it seems like it wouldn't be too much trouble to add a set of static PSIP tables to the transport stream. If they were able to add support for even a low bit rate monaural AC3 audio stream, then that would make their system completely compatible with ATSC! That would be a win!

In other areas, I think I did the math wrong the first time. Their minimod puts out 107 dBµV, which at 50 ohms is about 0 dBm. Feeding 0 dBm into a DEMI 60 watt 900 MHz amp would yield about 15 watts of output. That may not sound like a lot, but the really good news is that that level of output would be squarely inside of the amplifiers linear response range. One of the things that's absolutely required for DTV is that the power system be absolutely linear. When you drive an amplifier to saturation, it stops being perfectly linear, and that would trash 8VSB.

15 watts of output into a 12 dBi antenna winds up being over 100 watts of ERP. If you can count on the receive stations having 15 dBi of gain in their antenna systems, then that's likely to be a 20-30 mile (line of sight) service area. That's not bad!

Of course, it's all just predictions and hot air until you actually get hardware. But at least the predictions and hot air don't cost anything.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How not to play Kings

What is it with dumb-asses slow-playing big pairs pre-flop lately? Did someone send out a particularly stupid memo without telling us all?

For the record, a big pair is a made hand, but is particularly vulnerable to suckouts. If your opponent(s) hit the flop, you have at best two outs to catch up. That's an 8% chance after the flop and a 4% chance on the river. That's assuming, of course, that a set will win. If you raise or re-raise with your big pair and take it down pre-flop, that's still better than letting your opponents catch some stupid bizarro two pair and end you.

Full Tilt Poker Game #_: $14 + $1 Sit & Go (Super Turbo) (_), Table 1 - 20/40 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:26:39 ET - 2008/09/19
Seat 1: (570)
Seat 2: (540)
Seat 4: (330)
Seat 6: (330)
Seat 8: villain (690)
Seat 9: hero (240)
Seat 1 posts the small blind of 20
Seat 2 posts the big blind of 40
The button is in seat #9
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to hero [Qd Js]
Seat 4 folds
Seat 6 raises to 80
villain calls 80

I'll end the suspense. The villain has kings.

And he just calls? Doesn't he know what that'll start?

hero calls 80
Seat 1 calls 60
Seat 2 calls 40

The button and blinds here are getting the right odds with just about anything, despite the rather early position pre-flop raise (which, by the way, was not big enough).

His kings, at this point, are actually going to win less than 50% of the time against four random hands.

*** FLOP *** [Jh 8c 6s]
Seat 1 checks
Seat 2 checks
Seat 6 checks
villain checks


You're going to give that straight-threatening board a free card?

hero bets 160, and is all in

Top pair and an over with 400 in the pot? Damn right, skippy.

Seat 1 folds
Seat 2 folds
Seat 6 folds
villain calls 160
hero shows [Qd Js]
villain shows [Ks Kd]

Fuck me.

*** TURN *** [Jh 8c 6s] [7h]
*** RIVER *** [Jh 8c 6s 7h] [Ts]
hero shows a pair of Jacks
villain shows a pair of Kings
villain wins the pot (720) with a pair of Kings
hero stands up
The blinds are now 25/50
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 720 | Rake 0
Board: [Jh 8c 6s 7h Ts]
Seat 1: (small blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 2: (big blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 4: didn't bet (folded)
Seat 6: folded on the Flop
Seat 8: villain showed [Ks Kd] and won (720) with a pair of Kings
Seat 9: hero (button) showed [Qd Js] and lost with a pair of Jacks

Monday, September 15, 2008

The difficulties of ATSC

It's a bit surprising where the difficulties of Amateur ATSC TV lie.

It turns out that getting MPEG encoding gear isn't going to be very difficult after all. Part of this is due to the work of European hams, who have been transmitting digital TV using European standards for years now. North American ATSC standards, however, are more challenging.

At first I thought that I'd be able to simply take the output of the MPEG encoder and feed it into the 8VSB modulator, but it appears that the result, though it would be a valid MPEG 2 transport stream, would not be good enough for ATSC. There are three issues remaining that I've identified:

1. The audio has to be Dolby AC3. ATSC doesn't support any other audio format, and AC3 is heavily patent encumbered, meaning there are no low cost encoders for it. You can encode it with open source software, but now you're using a PC as your encoder, with all of the complications and reduced reliability that entails.

2. ATSC requires a constant 19.39 MB/s data rate. You're supposed to stuff the channel with null packets to make it so if your data is less than that.

3. The dreaded PSIP. PSIP is a complete waste of time and effort for amateur TV, but if you want the thing to decode properly with consumer grade tuners or receivers, you've got to generate at least a static set of PSIP tables.

On top of all of that, one other ham I've talked to who is extremely experienced with ATV says that 900 MHz and 1.2 GHz in the bay area are more or less useless due to heavy interference. And if that weren't enough, there's 8VSB's sensitivity to non-linearity in the RF chain, which has implications for the design of your power amplifier.

European hams have had success with DVB-T, which doesn't have these issues, but you can't use ordinary North American consumer equipment to decode it, which makes it (at least here) just another specialized ham-only mode. The value of attempting to transmit ATSC compatible video is that just adding a downconverter to a standard consumer system is the only change required, which expands the potential receiver pool exponentially.

This is looking less possible daily. :(

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ATSC for ATV? Yes!

Well, maybe. For the acronym challenged, ATSC is the standard for digital television broadcasting in North America. One of the aspects of amateur radio that I have toyed with of late is ATV, or amateur television. Although ATV using broadcast compatible analog transmitters is relatively commonplace, no one that I know of has attempted to transmit digital ATV using the ATSC 8VSB modulation standard. I aim to try to be the first.

I will attempt this by setting up a repeater. The repeater will receive standard analog FM ATV on the 1.2 GHz band and retransmit it using ATSC on the 902 MHz band (hopefully). I sent some mail around and believe I can get tower space on Mt. Chual (near Loma Prieta), which will have excellent coverage of the South Bay.

So to do this, I need to get all the pieces: a receiver, a controller, an MPEG encoder, complete with SMPTE 310M transport stream output, an 8VSB modulator, a custom 900 MHz upconverter, amplifier, mask filter and antennas.

Of all that stuff, probably the most expensive will be the MPEG encoder. I have a potential line on the 8VSB modulator, and the rest of it all is pretty standard stuff. Thankfully, putting pieces together like this should not be a problem, since FCC type acceptance is not required for amateur equipment.

So how will anyone receive it? Well, they would need a downconverter and an ATSC tuner. The downconverter can be easily has from P.C. Electronics. Model TVC-9S would do nicely. You're not supposed to use the government issue ATSC tuner coupons to buy ATSC tuners for amateur radio operations, but if you happen to use them to get yourself an ATSC tuner, there's nothing to say you can't use it for amateur TV reception. :)

It's even possible that in the future multiple encoders could be set up to send on subchannels. But you have to walk before you can run.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

More YouTube: Fun with dry ice

No, it's not the coolest or most fascinating dry ice related video on YouTube, but I thought it was pretty cool.