Monthly Archives: July 2015

Featured Song: Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)

I felt like featuring something a bit different this time.

Arcade Fire is an indie rock band hailing from Montreal. I discovered them in my teenage years, I think as a result of them being featured on the morning radio show I would wake up to.

I really only like a few of their songs, but the ones I do I find quite unique and moving. Today’s selection is “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)” from their debut album Funeral, named so because it’s the first of a series of four “Neighbourhood” songs.

This song has been variously interpeted as a love song, a song about growing up, a song of nostalgia, and socio-political commentary. (I’d say it’s probably all of the above.) There’s quite a lively discussion about it at SongMeanings, worth reading if you’re into that sort of thing.

However you wish to interpret it, I think it’s quite a magical song!



Featured lyrics:

Purify the colours, purify my mind
Purify the colours, purify my mind
And spread the ashes of the colours
Over this heart of mine

Enjoy!

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It’s official: the Concepts TS has been voted for publication!

I mentioned in an earlier post that the C++ Concepts Technical Specification will come up for its final publication vote during a committee-wide teleconference on July 20.

That teleconference has taken place, and the outcome was to unanimously vote the TS for publication!

With this vote having passed, the final draft of the TS will be sent to the ISO head offices, which will complete the publication process within a couple of months.

With the TS published, the committee will be on the lookout for feedback from implementers and users, to see how the proposed design weathers real-world codebases and compiler architectures. This will allow the committee to determine whether any design changes need to be made before merging the contents of the TS into the C++ International Standard, thus making the feature all official (and hard to change the design of).

GCC has a substantially complete implementation of the Concepts TS in a branch; if you’re interested in concepts, I encourage you to try it out!

Featured Song: The Siren of the Woods

I introduced Therion a while ago when I featured “Lemuria”, a song I’ve liked for a long time. Today, I’d like to share a more recent discovery from their corpus, “The Siren of the Woods” from the 1996 album Theli.

Mostly an instrumental song, it does contain a few vocal passages, sung in the extinct Akkadian language. The translation, which can be found in a comment on this lyrics page, hints at mythological themes, as is par for the course for Therion.

10 minutes long, the piece starts off very chill and low-key, and actually stays relatively mellow throughout, but it does come alive a bit over time with the gradual addition or orchestral and choral elements and electric guitar. Not an epic in the conventional sense, but still deserving of the name, I think!

Here it is, artfully set by a fan to clips of majestic nature scenes:



Enjoy!

Adventures in DIY computer repair

In spite of being a programmer, I’m not much of a DIY person when it comes to computer hardware. For example, I’ve never built a computer from parts, or performed maintenance more complicated than a RAM or hard drive upgrade.

One thing I’ve been doing that has a DIY air to it, though, is cleaning the dust from the inside of my desktop computer using a can of compressed air – a habit I picked up from one of my first-year university roommates.

The first time I did this, I was very hesitant, afraid that I would break something. It went smoothly, though, and I continued cleaning my computer this way regularly (about once a year) without any trouble.

Until last weekend, that is.

After last weekend’s cleaning, my computer booted up fine, and everything seemed OK, but a short while after booting it up, I stepped away from it to talk on the phone, and returned to find it mysteriously powered off.

Powering it back on led to more strangeness: the computer itself powered on fine, but the monitors were receiving no signal, just as if the computer were off.

I powered it off again, and opened the case back up to inspect the internals, thinking that perhaps the cleaning loosened or dislodged a connector; however, everything seemed to be in order.

Powering it on one more time, the monitors were working again, and everything seemed fine. I was ready to write down the mysterious symptoms as a fluke and move on to other things, but within 20 or so minutes, the computer suddenly powered off again.

This time, though, I was sitting in front of it when it did, and I got a fraction-of-a-second glimpse of a Windows dialog opening up before the power-off. I didn’t get a chance to read what it said, but it made me realize that rather than the power-off being a pure hardware failure, it could be something triggered by the OS for some reason.

So I powered on again (monitors working fine this time), and took a look at the Windows system event log, and indeed, there were “Error” entries whose times matched the sudden shutdowns. Most of the event information was pretty cryptic, but once I realized you can double-click on the event to get more details, there was a descriptive message: “System shutdown due to graphics card overheating”.

That explained why the computer was shutting down after running for a short while, and also why the monitors weren’t engaging that one time I powered it back on (the graphics card must not have had a chance to cool down enough). It also gave me a direction to continue investigating in.

I researched the problem of graphics cards overheating a bit, and found that the problem was commonly caused by a fan malfunctioning, or airflow being obstructed by dust.

So I powered off again, opened up the case, and inspected the fans. I saw two, a case fan, and a CPU fan (and possibly one inside the PSU but that was enclosed so I wasn’t sure); the graphics card didn’t appear to have its own fan. The fans seemed to be in order; to be sure, I powered the computer on with the case open and verified that the fans were spinning fine. Nor did I detect any obstruction to airflow.

Nonetheless, the overheating and subsequent shutdown recurred.

I downloaded a program to monitor the internal temperatures of the computer, and verified that the graphics card did indeed get very hot – while the CPU temperatures remained around 40-45ºC, the graphics card’s temperature would slowly rise over time, reaching close to 110ºC, which seemed to be the point where the shutdown was triggered.

Determined to get to the bottom of the issue, I opened the case again and decided to try to remove the graphics card and inspect it more closely; I never got around to removing it, though, because in the process I discovered the cause of the problem.

It turns out the graphics card did have its own fan: a small one, oriented horizontally, built into the bottom of the platform that held the card. You had to be looking at it from underneath, which I didn’t do before, to see it.

This fan wasn’t spinning, and it was readily apparent why: there were large clumps of dust in it, that were too clumped together to have been disloged by the compressed air. In fact, most likely the compressed air treatment caused additional dust from further above to collect there, pushing the fan over the edge to the point where it couldn’t spin any more.

Cleaning out the dust with some tweezers, the fan started working again, the graphics card stayed cool, and all was well.

This sort of problem and diagnosis is probably very trivial for a lot of tinkerers, but for me it was exploring new ground. I’m glad that I persisted in fixing the problem myself and didn’t resort to bringing my computer in to a repair shop.

Featured Song: Storms of the Sea

This is another post inspired by a song being stuck in my head for several days 🙂

The Murder of My Sweet (TMOMS) is a band I discovered very recently (through a YouTube artist whose cover of a Delain song I featured a few weeks earlier).

Unlike most bands where it takes a few listens for me to really get into their work, I dug TMOMS pretty much from the get-go. Described as “cinematic metal”, their music manages to be dramatic while staying catchy and accessible, and they pull off this combination while sounding authentic (unlike, say, Within Temptation in their attempt on sound more “mainstream” in their last two albums, which I was less impressed by).

Here’s “Storms of the Sea” from Divanity:



Lyrics can be found here.

C++ Concepts TS could be voted for publication on July 20

In my report on the C++ standards meeting this May, I described the status of the Concepts TS as of the end of the meeting:

  • The committee’s Core Working Group (CWG) was working on addressing comments received from national standards bodies.
  • CWG planned to hold a post-meeting teleconference to complete the final wording including the resolutions of the comments.
  • The committee would then have the option of holding a committee-wide teleconference to vote the final wording for publication, or else delay this vote until the next face-to-face meeting in October.

I’m excited to report that the CWG telecon has taken place, final wording has been produced, and the committee-wide telecon to approve the final wording has been scheduled for July 20.

If this vote goes through, the final wording of the Concepts TS will be sent to ISO for publication, and the TS will be officially published within a few months!