Elementary OS: First Impressions

There are only a few families of Linux distributions. Debian, Red Hat, Arch, a few others, but there are a lot of “downtrace” distributions based on those. Ubuntu is a Debian based distro, and Mint is an Ubuntu based distro. This is all good and normal in the Linux world as every distrubution tries to improve on something.

So enter “Elementary OS” which is an Ubuntu based distro, and is advertised as having a pretty slick user interface. So I paid the developers 5 dollars on the “pay what you want to download” model they have, as I figure 5 bucks is worth it for me to support anyone trying to make free and open source software more useable.

The good: full drive encryption right there in the installer as an option. This is a very nice feature to have.

The bad: The graphics settings are pretty limited, no stock options for tweaking image size to account for bezels covering a part of a screen. I used an older Radeon 460 graphics card, which is new enough that driver compatibility is kernel deep, so there’s no excuse for not being able to change the graphics to match the monitor I’m using. Also, no sound despite the OS picking up the HDMI out connector on the graphics card and saying it was in use, this lack of sound is pretty common for Debian based distros, so I’ve dealt with it before (in Ubuntu and Linux Mint). Still it’s annoying, and if you aren’t familiar with the command line can be a beast to fix.

The interesting. After letting the system idle to the point is “locked” I logged back in and the top menu bar was missing. No idea why it was missing, but it’s not a good first impression. I had to open a terminal and issue the “shutdown” command to turn the computer off since the power button was completely missing.

So my final thoughts…. Elementary OS has a lot of promise. The graphics are nice, tame, and it has the right amount of user controls for someone who isn’t a power user. However even with a hex core Ryzen 5 and 16 gb of system memory and a Radeon 460 with 2 gb of video memory, the system lacked the “snappy” feeling that Ubuntu or Mint generally gives you, as if there were some efficiency problems in the coding.

Now, would I recommend Elementary OS? Not to someone new to the Linux world, that recommendation still goes to Linux Mint or straight Ubuntu since there’s loads of support for them and you are unlikely to encounter a problem that hasn’t already been identified and solved. Elementary OS would be absolutely great for someone who has the tech chops to set the system up correctly so that everything works, and then pass that on to someone who just wants to browse the web, write some documents, maybe use some publishing photo editing software. It’s obvious they’ve put in the work to make it a very friendly interface, it’s better than the base Ubuntu distro (especially if someone is used to Macs).

Summary 3 out of 5 stars. Solid install loader, full drive encryption, and gorgeous user interface. One point off for sound not working out of the install, and one point off for losing the menu bar on coming out of idle.

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The Urban Exodus

New York City, New York, and San Francisco, California, are now experiencing the largest exodus of productive citizens in recent memory. To call this “unprecedented” would not be an understatement.



There are lots of reasons “why” this is happening now, such as COVID-19, the availability of extremely reliable telework software combined with high speed, high bandwidth internet access, to even a cultural shift that views telework as normal rather than an accommodation.

But the bottom line is always going to be economic. New York City and San Francisco have essentially priced themselves out of the current market. I mean if you can’t go to the opera, museum, or ballpark you might as well not go to those places in Raleigh or Boise or any of the other lower cost cities with more economic opportunity (due to “red state” politics).

Why do I say this? Well the state of Illinois is dominated politically by one area, the city of Chicago. Due to this dominance, the state of Illinois has been losing people for the last six years.

https://www.npr.org/local/309/2020/01/08/794320135/five-charts-that-show-who-s-leaving-illinois-and-why (note this article is from January 2020, before the COVID economic crisis)

You can’t blame the urban exodus from Chicago on COVID, although it would be quite logical to assume that the reactions to the pandemic accelerated the exodus, you have to come away with the same conclusion that people are largely leaving for economic reasons. Chicago simply costs too much, although if you are the “social justice” side of the political aisle, “racism” is the real reason.

Vox and Quartz both wrote very long articles on “white flight” and self segregation along racial lines: https://www.vox.com/2017/1/18/14296126/white-segregated-suburb-neighborhood-cartoon and https://qz.com/1251974/white-people-leave-diverse-neighborhoods-for-racial-reasons-not-economic-ones/

Whether you buy into the “racism” angle the truth remains that there is an economic cost to “diversity.” People choose to live in places where they maximize their comfort within their economic means. And when the “emotional labor” of having neighbors that don’t look like you, or have common cultural values that you do, makes you uncomfortable, then changing your situation to one where you are more comfortable is likely to be considered a healthy emotional choice.

In my opinion, the future of diversity in the united states will be the multi-racial household. People who love each other as individuals across ethnic divides have only become more and more accepted across the US social landscape. The data is pretty clear, the trend of multi-racial marriages is rising steadily https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/05/18/1-trends-and-patterns-in-intermarriage/ although there is backlash to the point where “black males who betray their race” is viewed as a “trope” within black literature: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2692&context=dissertations_2

So where does this leave us? Well rent in New York City and San Francisco can only get more reasonable for people who for their own reasons stay in those locations. The suburbs are likely to get more “blue” voters who claim to support diversity despite the actions moving them to “more segregated” neighborhoods than those they left in the dense urban areas. The time is now to evangelize these internal migrants to the values of liberty, economic freedom, and individual accountability as the keys to economic success rather than the leftist values of coercion, economic control, and group punishment.

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Thoughts on Apple Silicon

The announcement that Apple would be transitioning to an all ARM ecosystem has been met with derision, applause, analysis, and disbelief. Of all of those reactions, it is the analysis part that has been most useful.

Apple has been designing its own ARM based systems on chip (SOC) for a decade now, and improving on each generation in a blistering release per year cycle. To put it in another way, the 8086, 286, 386, 486, Pentium, Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium 4, Core 1 series and core 2 series represents ten generations of mainstream processors from Intel. The 8086 became available in 1978, and the 2nd Gen Core processors in 2011, so 33 years to develop ten generations of general purpose, commodity processors for the x86 instruction set. Apple essentially built the ARM64 instruction set, and iterated 10 generations of improved ARM based processors for iPhone and iPad in a third of the time it took Intel to go 10 generations.

Why? Well there is a fundamental difference in how Intel has to design and manufacture chips, and how Apple can design and manufacture chips.  Intel has to meet industry standards for compatibility and ensure their chips work with third party motherboard manufacturers.  Apple does not, and by bringing the whole product into the pipeline can get very tight integration with software, something that neither Microsoft can do with Windows, nor Linux can do unless you get serious about kernel customization.

The other huge difference is that Apple isn’t into the server CPU business. Intel utterly dominates the data center, although AMD and ARM are making inroads (again) into that space, and SPARC and PowerPC are still hanging on by the thinnest of percentage points. Apple, quite rightly, doesn’t give much of a hoot about the data centers as they are static, machine oriented, and have essentially no efficiency constraints for electricity. Apple’s products are human oriented, and largely dependent on batteries, and are therefore immensely interested in efficiency. This means that on top of the basic ARM instruction set, Apple has been baking in it’s own functionality right onto the chips, things like hardware decoders for streaming video that much more efficiently use electricity to display a YouTube video you might be watching.

The other thing Apple announced for the next generation of Macs is the inclusion of a “neural engine” in a configuration I’ll call a “processor cluster.” Now there are two ways to go about making a good neural engine, use an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) or field programmable gate array (FPGA). Both of those options are known for high computational performance at low cost. The advantage of the fpga is that you can reprogram it to do different stuff, and the advantage of an ASIC is that they are highly optimized for one workload. It will be interesting to see which choice Apple makes, and why. My guess is that it will be an ASIC as they are, in theory, likely to be more efficient for better battery life.

One of the things that gave me pause is the recent push by Apple back into the “serious workstation” realm for people doing large movie editing, effects, etc. This move to an ARM ecosystem might prove to have a hiccup for those users if their x86 software suffers a bad performance hit when switched to ARM. But, people have been capturing, editing, and publishing videos straight from the iPhone and iPad for years now, so at least that workload seems to be pretty safe.

Secondly, given Apples aggressive development timeline, the feedback from a “neural engine” could give Apple circuit designers exquisite data on the use cases their users actually need to increase the performance and efficiency of the next generation of processor clusters. The clusters will include some high efficiency cores, some high performance cores, some GPU cores, and the neural engine of course.  Although adding functionality to the processor cores kind of defeats the design ethos of the reduced instruction set core (RISC), Apple can essentially create a peripheral on chip and glue it all together with microcode or other software solution.

So, I think that the next generation of Macs will be like the Amiga, a highly integrated computer with amazing performance compared to the competitors. I also think that this might cause an initial dip in Mac sales, as I’m not sure that a public which associates ARM based computers with Chromebooks will react with the same enthusiasm as when Apple released the super powerful Mac Pro Workstations. Time will tell of course, as Apple isn’t infallible in their business strategies, but they are interesting.


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Invicta 9937OB Watch: Initial Impressions

I have two Invicta Pro Divers with the NH35A movement, both picked up on Amazon Prime day for cheap. One has been modified to be “retro milsub” and the other has not, but I plan on giving one to each of my sons as they mature into manhood. I found that Amazon had “refurbished” Invicta 9937OBs for about 150 dollars off the normal retail price, making it an even 208 dollars for a watch that is superficially the same as a Glycine Combat Sub (avaialble at Costco for just shy of 300 dollars). Since I’ve wanted a sub style Swiss dive watch for a while, I pulled the trigger and am now the owner of a watch that was obviously never worn, but was returned by someone else without all of the paperwork for the watch. I’m not going to complain at all about the discount.

I will complain that the watch displayed on Amazon showed the model with “SWISS MADE” clearly printed on the dial, and I received a model with “SWISS MOVEMENT” printed on the dial. Legally the watch has to meet a pretty strict standard of how much value of the total watch was put into the watch in Switzerland to be labeled “Swiss Made” and there is no legal requirement at all for labeling a watch “Swiss Movement.” However, for 208 bucks this is pretty much still a bargain as a Selitta SW200 movement will set you back half that at least, and the case, crystal, and bracelet can easily add up another 80 bucks easy, not counting assembly time. So getting a watch assembled in Malaysia (my best guess) with a Swiss movement put into Chinese (best guess) case and crystal, for 20 bucks over the cost of doing all the work yourself is a pretty darn good deal.

So, I had to remove two links to get the bracelet sized down to my wrist. This is normal as almost no one has a wrist big enough for a standard bracelet straight from the factory. The watch I was wearing, a Seiko Orange Monster (second gen “sharks tooth” dial), seemed almost twice as heavy in comparison. I don’t know if the bracelet is using hollow links, or what, but the Invicta 9937 is much lighter on the wrist than the Seiko Monster.

Second, the SW200 movement is 28,800 bph, hacking and hand winding, and is essentially a clone of the ETA 2824-2 with an added jewel. However the hand winding was significantly stiffer than even a brand new Seiko. My Gruen Swiss dress watch with ETA 2824 movement easily hand winds, so I find the stiffness a bit concerning. However the additional 2 beats per second really does give the second hand the smooth sweep associated with Swiss automatics.

Third, the bezel is tight, and feels stiff. This is good as it means you are less likely to add time to a dive, but it subtracts from the feel of quality generally associated with Swiss watches (even though this is a Chinese/Malaysian watch powered by a Swiss movement).

Final thoughts. The watch wears very well, and at 208 dollars is a good value. I would not recommend this watch at the 350 dollar normal asking price off of Amazon, and would instead recommend picking up a Glycine Combat Sub when they drop below 300 dollars at Costco or a group buy website. Since the Invicta Group owns Glycine, they are essentially the same watch with different branding, although Glycine should come with the “SWISS MADE” written clearly at the 6 o’clock position on the dial. So if you are interested in this sort of “budget Swiss watch” styled after the Rolex Submariner, the Invicta Group has a few options for you.

Now, in this price range, Seiko produces objectively better dive watches in terms of value, warranty, easy of reading the time in low light and under water. So if you just want a dang good watch, it’s really hard to say no to a Seiko (or Citizen, or Orient, also seriously good value purchases for tool watches). But you won’t get a high beat movement at that price point, if the slightly smoother second hand matters to you.

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Liberty Creek Pinot Noir

Odds are good that if you buy a bottle of California wine for under 10 bucks, regardless of the “brand” it’s likely a Gallo wine. If you don’t believe me, there’s a nice list of Gallo brands here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E_%26_J_Gallo_Winery

Comparing Liberty Creek Pinot Noir to Yellowtail Pinot Noir is a bit like comparing a Ford Crown Victoria with a Lincoln Town Car.  Essentially everything is the same except the details, which is not surprising given that Southeastern Australia and California are similar in climate so raising the same type of grape should result in similar wines.

So I purchased a bottle, as I’d never tried it before, and made braised beef short ribs. My opinion as a cooking wine? It works, does the job nicely. My opinion as a drinking wine? Seems perfectly acceptable, and obviously pairs well with beef. In fact it paired so well with beef that I made pot roast (from bottom round), with a half cup of the wine, quarter cup of marinara sauce, and quarter cup of water as the liquid to ensure it didn’t get all dried out in its three hour soak at 310 degrees F. The pot roast is now resting in cling wrap in my refrigerator for lunch tomorrow, and the potatoes cooked with the pot roast are in a ziplock bag.  Unfortunately for me, microwave reheats are generally the rule, as I don’t have time to actually cook a full meal over my lunch break.

So…in this recent journey of cheap wines, what have I learned? Well I probably can’t taste the difference between a Winking Owl, Barefoot, or Liberty Creek branded wine of the same variety in a three way blind taste test. For all I know they are all the same wine put into different bottles and sold to different markets, as only Aldi carries Winking Owl, and I picked up the Liberty Creek and Barefoot at a convenience shopping location. It is possible that Gallo actually has different manufacturing facilities, but given the price point of these wines I think it is more likely they use a centralized high efficiency system for fermentation, filtration/clarification, and bottling in order to absolutely minimize the costs of production. And I’m totally fine with that, as the consumers benefit from an obviously quality product at low cost, hitting the “high value” mark nicely.

Now, what you won’t get with these “high volume/high value” wines is the unique vintage flavors of lower production vineyards with less efficient processing. If you want reviews of those wines, there are plenty out there, but probably not any coming from me any time soon.

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What Cultural Appropriation Actually Looks Like.

This tweet by singer “SUCH” has been making the rounds:


I was intrigued, and so went looking for her biography. I found this on her official website:

Growing up the daughter of Haitian immigrants, her life was centered around faith and family.

Well, there’s your problem, second generation immigrant. Had her family stayed in Haiti she would definitely be doing worse than had they come to America. The fact that she BOUGHT HER HOUSE is pretty damn good for a second generation off the boat.

But, I have to ask, where does she live? Well, according to this press release, it’s Denver. You know, Denver, Colorado, the city founded in 1858, all of 162 years ago. Clearly white people had a 400 year head start in DENVER.

Now, what follows is guesswork, but it is like that….

Given SUCH’s celebrity status she wanted a home in a nice, safe, upscale neighborhood. In doing so she found a nice, safe, upscale, majority white neighborhood in or near Denver. The lender she chose to deal with was probably the preferred lender for the real estate agent who worked the neighborhood she wanted to move into. And it is likely that lender is used to dealing with rich folks, regardless of color, who ask the normal questions for the neighborhood she wanted to live in.

What is galling is that SUCH has the audacity to claim that white people have a “400 year head start” when many “white Americans” are still able to trace their family back to the boat as well, and maintain enough ethnic identity to say “Scandinavian American” to the census takers.

For those who aren’t in the know, the “400 year head start” is reference to the 1619 project, referencing the year 1619 marking the start of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Note, that less than 320,000 African slaves were brought to the 13 colonies, and that importation of slaves became illegal in 1808, and the Civil War ending slavery fought later that century. But the “400 year head start” makes good “bullshit” in that it takes more words to factually refute than say (see Brandolini’s Law).

In short, daughter of legal Immigrants makes it big in the US, claims oppression. If that isn’t cultural appropriation, I don’t know what is.

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Russian/Soviet and Finnish Sniper Ammunition

I’ve covered various US precision rounds before, for both 5.56 and 7.62 families, but today we will look at the Soviet and Russian 7.62x54r sniper ammunition. To make a long story short, over the course of the Russian/Soviet/Russian empire, there have been only two major fieldings of dedicated “sniper” rounds in 7.62x54r, the 7n1 and 7n14 which were specified for the SVD sniper rifle and successors.

Case: Steel
Primer: Russian milspec
Powder: 47.5 grains ( close to IMR-4895 in burn rate)
Bullet: 151.2gr Boat Tail FMJ spitzer type ( 0.498 G1 BC)
Velocity: aprox 2,750 fps

Case: Steel
Primer: Russian milspec
Powder: ?
Bullet: 151.2 gr Steel Penetrator BT FMJ Spitzer ( 0.498 G1 BC)
Velocity: 830 m/s (2,723 fps, close enough to the 2,750 fps most people get when testing)

It should be noted that the PU and PE Sniper rifles built on the M91/30 platform were intended to use “Light Ball” of which 7n1 and 7n14 rather nicely duplicate, although light ball usually had a flat base rather than boat tail.

The Finns, also having purpose built sniper rifles in 7.62x53r (generally with a .309 nominal bore rather than .311 of the Russian/Soviet/Russian rifles and ammunition), have chosen the excellent Lapua D166 as their precision load for the TKIV 85 sniper rifle.

D166 Precision Load (Best civilian equivalent)
Case: Lapua
Primer: Lapua Large Rifle
Powder: N140, 40 gr (lot adjusted for velocity)
Bullet: Lapua D166, 200gr bottlenose boat tail spitzer
Velcoity: 2,350 fps

As far as I know, these are the only three “sniper loads” for 7.62x54r or 7.62x53r ever adopted by a national military force. All of them really putter out at 800 meters or so, even if the Soviet sniper scopes have hold over stadia on the reticle which goes beyond that.

What this can tell us is that the Soviets/Russians view the 7.62x54r sniper weapon systems as a “maneuver support sniper capability” and reserve “dedicated sniper mission” to the more capable 338 Lapua sniper rifles. The Finns essentially have the same doctrine, but with much more accurate ammunition from their TKIV-85, sometimes referred to as TAK-85s. To be quite fair the original M24 sniper system also had an 800 meter limit for planning, and was also a “maneuver support” capability in doctrine, even if it was handled quite differently in practice.

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Meritocracy in a world where life isn’t fair.

Three years ago, in 2017 one of the cadre at the US Army War College wrote that meritocracy in the Army is a myth, at best an aspiration or ideal to work towards.  The author, a white male US Army Colonel and white female now Ph.D., listed several very good reasons why the officer evaluation system is subjective, rather than objective. No disagreement from me. They also listed several references to bias, group identity, and cultural expectations. It is actually a well written piece of persuasive argument, and probably worth the time to read it.


Unfortunately the authors screw up royally in the logic department. If the US Army is not a meritocracy, because minorities have a hard time competing against a white majority, then the National Basketball Association is not a meritocracy involving skill at playing the game of basketball to entertain paying customers. The product of the US Army is death, destruction followed by stabilization and rebuilding. In fact, in the Command and General Staff Officer’s Course there is an entire module dedicated to “The Western Way of War” by which historically they mean Russian, Prussian, French, English, and Swedish. The “western model” of warfare was adopted wholesale by the Empire of Japan, and even the modern military of the Communist Chinese is based on the “Western Model” for training, equipping, and operating.

So the question then naturally becomes, are the “bloodthirsty Europeans” who created the entire field of modern mechanized warfare going to be inherently over represented in the military of a western power? It seems that such would be a logical conclusion.

Secondly, a meritocracy is not without culture or context. The authors continually hammer home “The hyper-masculine, White male dominated Army presents an environment where marginalized group members experience challenges that others do not.” Yes, that is the culture of the US Army. The broad category of “White” make up a majority of the population, and the narrow category of “male” makes up the largest portion of those volunteering to serve. This, for better or worse, make the prevailing culture of the US Army one that values decisiveness, physical fitness, and personal charisma over intelligence, wisdom, and conflict resolution. If you want to be a diplomat, join the State Department.

Lastly the authors fail to make the argument for any actual benefits to do things their way, essentially “begging the answer” of the assumption that increased diversity is by some measure “good” while at the same time claiming that the current subjective system is subjective. There are no benefits to increasing diversity that directly deal with making the US Army more capable to fight Russia or China, the current threat pacing nations.

The US Army has promoted minorities to the highest ranks in the past, and they have been exceptional people. General Officers are by nature, exceptional people. Ironically, data indicates that at the Field Grade officer ranks, white females are promoted above white males by a few percentage points. However, women will continue to be under represented at the senior ranks simply because the ones who thrive in the culture are always going to be a distinct minority of the larger US population.

So we end up in a situation where we could implement every solution proposed by Hosie and Griswald, and still have no real difference in the outcomes of promotion boards by race and sex. Unequal outcome is not proof that the system is or is not a meritocracy either way. There are very well documented difference in IQ breakdown by “race” or “ethnicity” and whether or not you believe IQ has any relevance to actual intelligence, IQ numbers do correlate very well to potential for success in the US Army. Don’t worry, at least one academic has already started the dialogue about “cognitive privilege” (ironically also in 2017) https://dailyiowan.com/2017/07/25/williams-what-is-privilege-and-what-do-we-do-with-it/ .

So where does that leave us? Well, if there are no differences between ethnic groups and genders, then we may expect any difference in outcomes to be problematic. However since there ARE measurable differences between ethnic groups and genders (which is why the NBA under represents non people of color, and Jews are over represented for Nobel prizes in science) then finding disparate outcomes in the data shouldn’t be alarming at all. It is very unpopular to say that measurable differences exist, but it doesn’t deny the reality that they do. The argument whether those differences are environmental or genetic is well beyond the scope of this article, and also well beyond the scope of the US Army that seriously interacts with potential Soldiers and Officers in their teenage years at the earliest. If the US Army can’t change the culture that creates its feed stock, it is unlikely to change the disparate outcomes that result from that feed stock at the other end of the processing pipeline.


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Thoughts on CPU Power/Performance considerations

There are some interesting developments in the CPU and software world right now, and they are all linked to a power/efficiency problem. The first is CPU thread handling, more threads generally equals more performance. The second is power consumption, the trend has been that consumers have to choose whether to prioritize power of performance over electrical consumption and heat dissipation.

For years now we’ve had “CPU boosting” where at idle the processor dials down electrical consumption and runs cooler and slower, and when demand goes up the performance, along with electrical consumption goes up. This is a standard feature for Intel and AMD processors you find in servers, workstations, and laptops. This is a very good thing because it requires very little in the way of software changes to take advantage of the hardware.

Next up is the “big LITTLE” asymmetric processors. The idea here is that you don’t always need high performing cores sitting idle, when cheaper lower performance cores will do just fine. Having one or two high performance cores and two to four low performance cores in a “1 + 4” or “2 + 4” configuration can give you the power punch you need for a smooth user experience, but the long battery life necessary for a smart phone, tablet, or ultrabook. My experience with this configuration is limited to a “1 + 4” configuration for an Android smarthpone. When the high performance core is controlling the application, it’s obvious, but it is also obvious when the scheduler throws the workload through a low performance core. It is possible that a “1 + 4” configuration is just a bad choice, but I think it is more likely that Android hasn’t been optimized to prioritize threads by core performance in a way that takes advantage of asymmetric processor designs. Also, the additional overhead of having to be processor core aware has to come with its own performance hit. Honestly an older octa-core snapdragon ARM processor in my old Samsung gave me much better performance than the penta-core ARM in my “new” Nokia phone, but the Nokia has better battery life even with a smaller battery.

Last up, Microsoft’s new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) is a technology that offloads what was a CPU workload to the GPU. This is kind of like when we first saw “lavel 3 cache” show up on processors, no one really knew what sort of performance boost it would have and initially it didn’t have any because none of the software available could really take advantage of it. So people who have been turning on GPU scheduling haven’t really benefited from that feature, but it is quite possible to benefit from it in the future. Industry folks are talking about how in the future this may benefit mid to low end CPUs more than high end, getting back to that “power/efficiency” equation where offloading a demanding workload to a GPU specifically built for that workload eventually gives a boost in performance and lowers electrical consumption and heat generation.

Who knows, it is possible that ten years from now we see “logarithmic processors” where additional processing power is brought online by orders of magnitude needed for particular workloads rather than in a linear fashion.

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Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon

So here goes another Winking Owl two buck chuck review….

The Cabernet Sauvignon is generally the least rated of all the Winking Owl offerings, at least based on the reviews I could find. This is weird to me as I found nothing inherently wrong with the wine.  Good fruit and floral notes, a trace of tannins and sour on the finish, pretty well balanced for a table wine. That being said, there was nothing mind blowing about it either, so it fits in the realm of “properly cooked french fries” that could literally be from any restaurant, or your own kitchen. You don’t really care about where the potatoes were grown when it comes to french fries, so as long as they are cooked properly they are going to be pretty good, but definitely not a meal on their own.

Fresh from the bottle this is very drinkable. A good airing out, or decanting, will not likely improve this wine to a great wine, and if left too long would likely dull some of the floral notes. So this would be a good wine to pair serve with appetizers, starters, or finger foods at a mixer, or with any sort of beef or pork dish as a main course. Honestly it seems to be such a good match for cheese that even some pasta dishes would make a nice companion, although I’m sure some food snob would shudder at the thought of pairing any decent fettuccine alfredo with a cheap cabernet sauvignon, but the Winking Owl is light enough that I think you could get away with it.

The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are among the most widely grown wine grapes with a huge regional variation. From Canada to the middle east, South America to South Africa. There really isn’t a temperate to tropical region where these grapes won’t grow well, so I personally think that the skill of the grower knowing when to harvest combined with the skill of the winemaker in processing the fruit to beverage is the real hallmark excellence with this grape.  That you can get a bottle at Aldi for 2.98 that tastes rather good in balance and flavor is a testament to the Gallo brand. Gallo may not be the brand you reach for when you want to impress guests, but they’ve definitely set the bar for value as defined by quality at a price point.

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