Kaboom, the “cruel, but fair” Minesweeper variant

I recently stumbled across “Kaboom” which is a really interesting take on the classic Minesweeper. Rather than the board being set up randomly, the game plays antagonistically against you. That is, based on what you’ve revealed so far, if you click to reveal a space that could have a mine on it, it does have a mine on it. The exception (making it winnable) is that if you have cleared all spaces where you could infer with certainty from what’s revealed that there isn’t a mine there (that is, you’re forced to guess), then your guess is guaranteed to be safe.

It turns out there aren’t nearly as many scenarios where you’re forced to guess as I would have thought. It turns Minesweeper from being a little time-waster with some logical deduction into being completely based on logical deduction. That is, every game is winnable, and the only way to lose is if you haven’t cleared all possible-to-have-known-were-empty spaces before moving on to might-be-empty spaces.

I’m now curious if there were other classic games you could do this kind of idea with.

Significant Figures

I have been curious for quite some time, if the calculation of the US National Debt is the quantity with the most significant figures that’s regularly used. It’s currently at 16 digits, and is calculated each and every business day. Their FAQ states that “daily accounting is still the most effective, efficient, and accurate way to account for the debt.”

Most physics constants don’t have anywhere close to 16 digits of certainty.

Insert obligatory reference to Feynman’s quote on economical numbers here.

acme-lambda-renewal

I’d been looking for a way to renew my Let’s Encrypt TLS/SSL certificates via AWS Lambda (using DNS authentication by updating Route 53) rather than web authentication. This project started since I wanted to separate out my mail server from my web server, and while I suppose I could run Apache (or whatever) on the mail server just to be able to request certificates it seems kind of silly, and this sort of automatic run-a-piece-of-code-occasionally scenario seemed like the perfect chance to use AWS Lambda.

I expected this to be a common & solved problem, but in my searching around the Internet I didn’t really see exactly what I was looking for. There were some solutions out there, but they seemed overly complicated for just “renew my certificates every two months”, and some were out of date (not even updated to the ACME v2 protocol). So I figured I’d need to write at least some code myself.

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Are you sure?

Status

I wish that when computers ask “Are you sure?” that there were a response available for “No, I’m not sure, but I’d like you to proceed anyway. But thanks for asking!”

Tip of the Day: Dust is bad for computers

When your computer’s fan seems to be louder and come on more often than usual, it probably means it’s a good idea to open it up and blow the dust out.

Our main living room HTPC, an Intel NUC6i7KYK, was seeming really loud, even when not under load. Looking back, it was clearly one of those things where it must have been getting steadily worse over time, but so gradually that I hadn’t actually noticed just how much louder it was and how much more often the fan was at high speeds than when we first got it. Opening it up and blowing the dust out (and it really didn’t seem like that much dust at the time) substantially improved things.

The CPU was running around 70°C even with no load, and pushing 80°C with the fan on full speed when under load. After blowing out the dust, it’s now around 50°C or even less, and even under load I haven’t seen it over 60°C and the fan is still quiet enough to not really be noticeable. It’s just such a small computer that even just a bit of dust can make a big impact. I clearly should have been monitoring it more carefully, I just hadn’t even thought to do so until it had gotten so bad that we noticed a problem and I started taking measurements.