Diecast #217: July 4th, Google Drive, Raytracing

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 9, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 42 comments

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Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 July 4th

For you non-Americans: Obviously you don’t observe American Independence Day, but do you have some other holiday where fireworks are a major part of the celebration?

10:12 Google Drive, Photos, Backups, and Grief

I talked to my wife after recording this show, and she had the same problem Paul and I did. So now I’m curious if anyone out there finds the Google Drive behavior to be intuitive.

48:36 Mailbag: Raytracing

Hello Paul, Shamus, Isaac

At the GDC 2018 nVidea and Microsoft promoted the upcomming “new thing” in game technology: Raytracing

They will update their APIs and Unity, Epic and Dice promised support.

What is your take on that shiny, new and expensive technology? Will it improve anything, that isn’t already accomplished? Will you try messing with it (after Pixel City Redux is completed/abandoned)?

Best Regards


Here is a demonstration of real-time raytracing in action:

Link (YouTube)


From The Archives:

42 thoughts on “Diecast #217: July 4th, Google Drive, Raytracing

  1. Olivier FAURE says:

    For you non-Americans: Obviously you don’t observe American Independence Day, but do you have some other holiday where fireworks are a major part of the celebration?

    14th of July in France, I guess (Bastille Day, which is basically French Revolution Day).

    1. Gresman says:

      In Austria there is no fireworks on holidays (as far as i can recall) except for New Year’s Day.

      1. ColeusRattus says:

        Dunno why, but I always thought I was the only Austrian here… Servas!

        And concerning fireworks: they’re banned in the city I am at (Graz) due to air pollution. And I for one don’t miss it, being owner of pets and raiser of toddlers.

        It’s not like there’s no fireworks at all, but the amount, and thus both the noise and smell, is much less.

        1. Gresman says:

          Yeah even in Vienna it is way more enjoyable at New Year’s since the ban.
          Some ppl are still firing but it is less than it used to be.

          I was mostly thinking of public fireworks displays and less of private stuff.

          As a sidenote now I would be interested if Shamus knows how his readers are distributed around the globe.

    2. MarcoSnow says:

      Here in Canada we have two federal holidays which involve fireworks shows: Victoria Day (in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday, of all things) and Canada Day (July 1, commemorating Canadian Confederation). Fireworks are also a part of Saint Jean-Baptiste celebrations, although this holiday is specific to the province of Québec.

    3. Zekiel says:

      And in the UK we have Bonfire Night, 5th November, in which we remember the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes and some other dudes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot. (All to do with Protestant vs Roman Catholic stuff which is very much swept under the carpet and ignored in the celebrations!) These days it is very much an excuse to have bonfires and set off fireworks rather than actually a celebration of anything.

      It traditionally involves burning in effigy of Guy Fawkes, who may optionally be replaced by [an effigy of] some unpopular political figure.

    4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Except that it’s not “Bastille day”, we just call it “le quatorze juillet” (14th of july). I have no idea who came up with “Bastille day”, but we sure didn’t.

    5. Redrock says:

      In Russia, Victory Day (May 9th) usually has big fireworks displays, with the artillery used for those being tied to the overall military theme of the holiday. However, people usually don’t launch fireworks by themselves. Personal fireworks are most present on New Year’s Eve, which in Russia is the main winter holiday instead of Christmas.

    6. 4th Dimension says:

      Well, over here pretty much during any bigger celebration, (Chrismass, New Year, “Serb” New Year (New Year according to old Church Calendar), wedding, birth etc.) someone is likely to bring out fire arms to fire in air.

      As for fireworks, that’s mostly reserved fro New Year, since private citizens tend not to buy actual fly into the sky fireworks.

      What instead is done is kids get a SHITTON of firecrackers to the point that during the above mentioned celebrations, and especially during weeks around New Year there will constantly be someone setting them off.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Also whenever a sportsball team wins at sports.Youll hear a lot of fireworks,firecrackers and firearms then as well.

  2. Joe says:

    We have Australia Day, 26 January. Actually, word has it that there’s fireworks someone in my city every weekend of the year. I can leave my flat and go out to the park area if I want to watch the local ones. My cousin has an even better view from her balcony. But mostly, I don’t want to. I prefer sitting inside playing games, funnily enough.

    As for hearing loss, yes. It’s terrible. I’m not kidding, everyone. Look after your hearing. Tinnitus is annoying. What’s even more annoying is spam promising a cure. I’d like to strap the spammers down with some death metal playing full volume straight into their brains.

    Finally, Google. I won’t use their backup service, I think. Thanks for the warning. But seriously, why did they go so downhill?

    1. If you’re willing to go full Dark Side and have access to time traveling and genetic engineering, may I suggest implanting a genetic disorder that causes the death of the nerves that allow you to hear in one of the spammer’s parents? My mom may have this (she didn’t see the point in the genetic testing as she knows she’s going deaf and has been since I was a small child), but it certainly ramped my terror of going deaf up to a 10 (I already was scared of it, and had been since I’d seen my mom struggle since I was really little). I have a 25% chance of having it, I believe, and my insurance certainly won’t pay for me to see a specialist to find out( I checked, repeatedly).

      I already have tinnitus (despite my avoidance of any and all loud noise I can avoid), but it’s occasional and is just hearing a tone. I file it with the occasional auditory hallucination (nothing like being woken up by someone yelling your name at 3 am but no one did!) as annoying but can’t be helped.

      1. Kathryn says:

        My older son inherited my progressive hearing loss. Once we got his specific diagnosis, we did manage to (with help from the genetics clinic) get insurance approval for testing my younger son (who has no signs of loss) – but if we hadn’t gotten approval, the cost to us for his test would have been a couple hundred bucks. So, if your mom will reconsider getting tested and if her insurance will cover it, once they do know what they’re looking for, it shouldn’t be as expensive to test for that one thing as it is to test for every single possibility, and it sounds like the peace of mind might be worth it to you even if you still can’t get approval. (I do realize a couple hundred is not chump change – but it’s better than the thousands a full assay for all possible conditions would cost.)

        Also, assuming simple heritability, statistically, your chance of having this condition is probably lower than 25%, like maybe 5% (well, it could be 50%, as it is for my kids, but that’s unlikely). If you want to know more or if you have other questions about genetic testing for hearing loss, you can leave a comment on my blog (linked in nic), and I will email you.

  3. Ninety-Three says:

    When you’re talking about Paul’s Google disaster, there’s a slight hum in the background, and I kept finding myself thinking that it sounds like the opening note of the Sad Music that Mass Effect loves to use. Kind of appropriate really.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I’d love to say that was intentional, but it’s probably the fan that keeps me from suffocating in the recording room. It’s this little room, though I hadn’t put the fan in yet when I made the video.
      I’d like to get some better sound isolation set up before doing an update.

  4. Chris says:

    When I heard about raytracing I thought “wasn’t that what they used in wolfenstein 3d, why is this new?” then after the podcast I looked it up and its called raycasting. Now I feel stupid.

    That said, I’m ready for the new Crysis-like. A lush jungle where light passes partly through leaves giving off a green hue. It’d probably take 20 years before a PC is capable of running it at 60fps, but im a patient man. Heck, a vietnam shooter that has you patrol through a suffocating jungle with those kinds of graphics would be a dream.

  5. Echo Tango says:

    Paul’s story about Google had me hanging my head in dismay. Making software easy to use is not synonymous with simply removing information. Removing unnecessary information and clutter is useful, but obfuscation only works if you assume everyone will use your software exactly as predicted. Even if your goal is to make “simple” software, basic questions like “are my files on this computer, or on that computer, or on the internet on Google’s computer?”, or “how do I synchronize files between computers?” are totally valid questions, which can be answered, and can be answered without jargon or confusion. Google’s needs to rework their backup software to not be so ridiculous. :S

  6. evilmrhenry says:

    Before listening to the Diecast, (so you might have said exactly this) I’m going to say that real-time raytracing is going to be hurt by the move to VR. VR needs a lot of power, since it needs to render the scene twice, at a high framerate and resolution. Tossing that on top of a raytracing engine doesn’t sound like a great idea. I suspect this will turn into a feature where a single light in a scene can be marked as “ray tracing enabled” or something, and give really good reflections, or be a moving light source or something. The real-time render needed a monster system.

    However, listening to the video, this seems aimed at least partially at the TV/film industry. Being able to do CGI in real-time or near real-time with this quality could be really interesting, and they wouldn’t mind spending a few thousand dollars on a system when it’s the replacement for a render farm.

    1. Mephane says:

      ’m going to say that real-time raytracing is going to be hurt by the move to VR. VR needs a lot of power, since it needs to render the scene twice, at a high framerate and resolution. Tossing that on top of a raytracing engine doesn’t sound like a great idea.

      One big thing about raytracing is how it scales performance-wise. Basically, the cost of having more polygons in a scene rises faster with our current conventional rendering methods, than with raytracing. If a scene contains a sufficient amount of geometry, raytracing will end up being more efficient while also looking better at the same time. This is the primary reason why major companies are looking into it, they are preparing for when we reach that point and the switch to raytracing will happen primarily as a performance optimization.

      Also, there are raytracing systems that even now would work quite well for games, for example path tracing. There, the algorithm is given a predefined amount of time (i.e. the interval between two frames, e.g. 16ms at 60fps), and it will render Monte-Carlo-style until the time is up, and produce whatever it has managed to do in that time. As a result, the image becomes grainier as the load gets heavier, while the framerate remains smooth.

      For example:


    2. rabs says:

      It depends how it’s used in VR, but ray tracing is a solution to a lot of problems and can be combined with foveated rendering.

      There is a great article about NVidia research here (part 1 explain current state, interesting too):

      I’ve read that article months before E3, so I was only surprised that they were already ready to do big stage demos.

  7. ccesarano says:

    On the other side of Pennsylvania from you, if you’re crossing from New Jersey on the Commodore Barry Bridge on 322, there’s a giant billboard advertising fireworks sales. When you’re heading back to Jersey on 322 there’s always a billboard for a Gun Show in Oaks.

    Fireworks sales are illegal in NJ and gun laws are certainly more lax in PA than NJ, so both billboards are strategically placed.

    There’s always people setting off their own personal fireworks during holidays around here. It’s farmland, but even farmland is getting more and more encroached upon by developments and McMansions. It just seems silly doing your own fireworks when you can go to any local park and see them being done professionally.

    I’ll have to see about YouTubing fireworks in the rain, as that sounds like a rather cool effect.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The lesson of “never get attached to anything on your computer” is a harsh one indeed.Lucky for me,I learned it when I was a teen.Some….wow,almost 20 years ago…damn I feel old now…

    ANYWAY,almost 20 years ago I was a teen gleefully riding the innovation curve and I got myself a new hard drive.Faster and more spacious than the old one.Except,it had some inbuilt flaw.And some malicious people were eager to exploit that flaw,so they wrote a virus.And I got my brand new hd infected by the virus.And,as a lazy teen,I did not want to bother with thoroughly cleaning it because “eh,Im gonna update windows soon anyway”.Until one day,the hard drive got bricked.And I dont mean that it was just garbled,it was physically ruined.So all the songs I painstakingly collected over a few years,all the photos I started collecting in this new digital age,all the musings and writings,…everything was gone forever.Luckily,it was all just teen crap and nothing of real import,but it mattered to me back then.So it taught me to never,ever,get attached to digital things.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      For me, the lesson is have a backup; Preferably, you have two backups. Our society at large is moving to an all-digital future, so we need this to be less convoluted. We also need backups to not be tied to any single company; If Backup Company X goes out of business, you don’t want to be out of luck. I suppose you’re could have two companies provide backups, to protect against any one failure.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The thing is,all digital storage methods are flimsier than any physical storage.The only way to keep your digital data protected for long is to constantly copy it(say,by using it regularly).And sure,if you back it up by two cloud storage companies,they will likely do that for you.But its not a certainty.

        1. RFS-81 says:

          Nothing is certain. If my data-loss risk is lower than the risk of being struck by lightning, that’s plenty for me.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          Physical storage is more durable, but the density is atrocious. I can fit all of Wikipedia (minus images) on a single palm-of-the-hand-sized disk; Including a laptop, it could all be in a small briefcase. The paper encyclopedia in my mother’s house takes up two entire rows of a bookshelf – an order of magnitude larger! Plus, that paper encyclopedia is more difficult to mkake future copies of, and is slowly rotting over time.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Eh, it just depends on the physical medium. Print it on DNA and you could probably fit Wikipedia several times over in a single bacterium!

          2. LCF says:


            Is it in a wet storage?

      2. RFS-81 says:

        My approach at the moment is to have a backup HD in my apartment and another one at my parents’ place in case of fires, burglaries or whatever. I usually visit them for a weekend once a month and update it overnight.

        I’m thinking about adding some cloud storage to the mix, because I can update that more frequently.* I’d like to be able to just access it via SSH/SFTP, not some program that tries to be smarter than me, like in that horror story from the podcast. Any suggestions?

        Rsync (the company, not the program) looks like it delivers that. Though it seems more geared towards businesses, and it’s more expensive than other providers (4 cent per GB per month), so it’d be nice to have an alternative.

        * Don’t worry, that won’t stop me from visiting my parents ;)

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Backblaze for personal use is $5 per month, or $50 per year, with no size limits.

          1. RFS-81 says:

            That’s only Mac and Windows though. For Linux you’ll have to buy their generic cloud storage (B2). That’s also a pretty good deal, though. Thanks!

        2. rabs says:

          My current strategy:

          – desktop and laptop with directories cross-synced quite often, with versionning in some case
          – HDD stored in the basement storage, synced a couple of times a year
          – HDD stored off-site, synced about once a year

          I’m mostly using a script (listing cases) with rsync, but I think about also using rdiff-backup for some non-versionned data.

          Those are my previous desktop HDD though, so one may fail.

          HDD and laptop are encrypted, I also have a couple of copies of the key in other locations and a copy of the passphrase in another location.

          I had accidents that led me to do improve my backups:

          – In the early 2000 my main computer fried, including all attached hardware (crappy PSU problem). Though I had no real backup plan, most of my data were also on an old HDD and on another computer. That’s when I noticed RAID is not good enough. Anyway I never set that up at home, even if I thought about it.

          – A few years ago the flat next to mine burned down. I was lucky mine didn’t catch fire, but I’m living in a 6 stories building with good walls. Fortunately it wasn’t below me, though.

          – A couple of mistakes on non-versioned files. I got a previous state from backup.

  9. John says:

    I grew up in California in the 80s. When I was very young, certain small fireworks were still legal. All the families on our block used to set pinwheels, fountains, and the like. There were no rockets and no firecrackers. If you wanted those, you had to go to the public show at the local high school or to Disneyland or something like that. By the time I was in junior high, all fireworks were illegal and the public show was the only game in town. Nobody in our neighborhood set off illegal fireworks. I’m not sure where they would have gotten any, to be honest. Tiajuana, perhaps. But that would’ve been a two to three hour drive (one way) with an international border crossing and it was probably just way too much trouble for the amount of amusement and the criminal penalties involved.

    I live in Chicago now, and certain small quasi-fireworks are legal here: smoke bombs, snakes, and such. However, on July 4, it seems as though everyone in the city sets of rockets and firecrackers from something like 8 pm to midnight. I don’t mind the free show, but the smoke is terrible. It’s all illegal of course but no one is ever arrested as far as I know, possibly because there are just too many people setting off fireworks to arrest them all. In this case, however, I know exactly where all the fireworks are from because there are billboards for fireworks super-stores all over the interstate as you approach the Indiana border.

  10. Karthik says:

    In India fireworks are a major part of the Diwali, the festival of light. There are at least two independent mythological stories being celebrated (depending on where you are). To me it’s mostly the week when the air quality is so bad you can’t breathe for a couple of days.

    1. Redingold says:

      I’m in the UK, not India, but my city has a large Indian population, so Diwali is a big event in terms of fireworks. We actually have some of the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India.

  11. Echo Tango says:

    Re: earplugs

    Shamus, you can get the cheap foam earplus at any home hardware / tools store, and you can get custom earplugs for a reasonable price, from places that make hearing aids. Not sure about USA, but up here in Canada my pairs cost me about $100 each, and have lasted for at least 8 years.

  12. I’m happy with Dropbox for now – but I’ve been seriously tempted at times to get an S3 container, hook it up with s3cmd on Linux, and use rsync to sync it. But, turns out – above 500GB, it’s cheaper just to use Dropbox (and it works on my phone). That said – like $0.023c/Gig of storage. If you’re not in the hundreds of gigs – it’s cheap as chips, but for a bit more complexity (albeit, with predictability)

  13. 4th Dimension says:

    Ohh Google Drive.

    They offer the best price per storage space, yet the application is FUCKING TERRIBLE.

    I have Google Drive and I’m STAYING AS FAR BACK as I can from ANY of it’s other “syncing” services that aren’t Google Drive specifically. That means I have ONE folder where I’ve told it the Google Drive stuff will be and I have explicitly told it to FU** OFF from anything else. No I don’t want my documents or pictures or whatever synced unless I put them into the Google Drive.

    This might be less than it’s capable of, but it also MASSIVELY simplifies it’s problems.

    Also, I guess Pail is aware that it’s actually syncing the computers with the server, not comp to comp? Because if there are files missing it should always be instructive to check the google drive browser app to see what it has done with the files. Because up there you should see how GOOGLE sees your files.

    Second thing, Google is REALLY finicky if you ever decide to move your folder. Or for example reinstall the computer and copy the files from another drive or something. You pretty much are better off letting it download them than copying because it’s likely to confuse itself and choke at some point. Oh and yeah, I have had cases that when it chokes it will DIE COMPLETELY without telling you which files are problematic.

    Also beware of google locking down your files. I have some PSD (Photoshop) files in google drive and half the time when I open them and try to save Photoshop will claim it can’t overwrite the old file. Which is a pain.

    Pretty much the only reason I’m staying with it is because I’d need to pay MUCH more to Dropbox for the same amount of space as I’m leasing from Google. Well that and Google Documents can be neat when you need to cooperate on a document.

    1. bubba0077 says:

      I do pretty much the same thing, because the stuff I want backed up I also want to sync between computers. I moved all the folders I want to sync to the Google Drive folder, then created symbolic links (mklink /d on Windows) for those folders in my Documents folder.

  14. 4th Dimension says:

    How can you confuse the Google Documents which is a cloud service with something local?!?
    Like even if there is an icon on the desktop for them, it still leads you to the web service, right? I don’t think there is any actual offline app at all.

    And documents themselves are kinda obviously just links given how TINSY they are. They are the smallest size a document can be.

    I didn’t follow, but did Paul delete the documents from the laptop while disconnected?

    As long as this change is not SYNCED with the main server all the documents should still be online! Open the google drive using the browser.

    SECOND: Google Drive also has it’s OWN trash, which AS EVERYTHING ELSE is cloud not local based, and might have the deleted files still.

  15. Will says:

    Way back in the late 90s, I remember fiddling around in UnrealEd and getting a first taste of how things worked under the hood of a video game. It was pretty neat what you could achieve with just ambient zone lighting and point lights. The point lights did have some animation effects like disco ball and torch flicker which got baked in to the level during building. But any moving level geometry was stuck with whatever lighting its default position generated.

    The one thing that baffled me was the heavy impact putting red light in to a level had on building time and run time performance. Glide just did not seem to like red light.

  16. rabs says:

    I’m not sure Google Sheets and Docs can really be backed-up. I avoid those tools as much as possible.

    When I had to use them, I did exports to OpenDocument formats, but lost a few information in the process. I don’t remember exactly what, in simple cases maybe only version history and some metadata.
    Still better than nothing, but I didn’t see a way to do real export/re-import without losing something. Or even if there was a “native” Google format.

    It was in the context of a collaborative hobby project with non-computer literate, otherwise I would have used git and tagged text, or at worst LibreOffice.

    BTW, we also had UI confusion using Drive. Some people didn’t browse the storage the same way as others. I used a kind of classical tree view, but some had a higher level organization and didn’t understand what was where.

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