10 things that I liked in 2017

Written on 24 December 2017, 12:01am

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Time to look back at 2017 and put together a few things that I enjoyed.
You can read the rest of this post while playing the song below, one of the things that will remind of 2017:

1. A book: Sapiens: A brief history of humankind, by Yuval Harari.
If you want to explain to an alien who we are and what’s our story on Earth, this is probably your handbook. A lot of insightful ideas and explanations, but one that stuck in my mind was how evolution doesn’t care about the individual:

The Agricultural Revolution left farmers with lives generally more difficult and less satisfying than those of foragers. Hunter-gatherers spent their time in more stimulating and varied ways, and were less in danger of starvation and disease. The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum total of food at the disposal of humankind, but the extra food did not translate into a better diet or more leisure. The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud.
The evolutionary success of a species is measured by the number of copies of its DNA. If a species boasts many DNA copies, it is a success, and the species flourishes. From such a perspective, 1000 copies are always better than a hundred copies. This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions.
Quote from the book on goodreads.com

2. A photo editing tool: Photolemur. It promises to edit all your photos in one click, with the help of artificial intelligence. I like taking pictures, but I was never really into photo editing. So I am happy to leave this part to AI πŸ™‚
And the results are not bad:

Click the image for the entire Flickr album

3. A place: Tuscany. One of the most amazing places in Italy, which is in turn one of the most amazing places in Europe. I spent there a full week last summer and I enjoyed every day of it!

Click the image for the entire Flickr album

4. A game: Really Bad Chess One of the very few games I play; really smart and so addictive that I’m playing it daily. The classic rules of chess apply, but you play with random pieces (ex. you can start with 3 queens and 4 towers).

5. A movie. I did not watch too many movies in 2017. But I watched again (after 8 years) Inglorious Basterds, and I believe that the way Christoph Waltz is playing the German detective is a masterpiece. I could watch it over and over again:

6. A learning tool. I am trying to constantly learn new things. Learning how to learn is one of them. Brainscape helps me create flash cards on my laptop and study them on my phone, whenever I have a few minutes free. Highly motivating.

7. A blog: waitbutwhy.com. Even if I know it for a couple of years, it’s in 2017 when I spent lots of time reading it. The series of posts about Elon Musk are really entertaining, but you have to see them as small novels instead of blog posts. Tim Urban (the author) has a funny way of zooming out and showing you things from a higher perspective.

8. An event: In 2017 I was lucky to attend a number of interesting sports events. I went for the first time on Anfield to watch Liverpool play in Champions League, I saw Ronnie O’Sullivan winning the Snooker Masters in London, and was present to the amazing comeback of Simona Halep in the quarter finals of Roland Garros.
But the live event that I enjoyed the most was no doubt the summer Coldplay concert in Brussels. The sport events have their own way of making you feel the moment, but once it’s over there’s not too much left. But a music concert is different. The way the songs make their way into your mind turns the entire experience into something close to magic and create long-lasting memories.

9. Writing In line with one of the resolutions for 2017, I tried to write a bit more. I had a few guest posts about snooker, football and analytics on anglofil.ro and doubled the number of posts on this blog. Turns out, writing is one of the experiences that I enjoy πŸ™‚

10. A picture: Romanian protests in Bucharest, February 2017. To be continued in 2018…

A post where football meets science again πŸ™‚ This time, it’s about probabilities.
On 11 December 2017 the UEFA Champions League draw will take place. There will be 16 teams which will be drawn one against each other. There are some restrictions:
– 8 teams are seeded, the other 8 are unseeded. A seeded team can only be drawn against an unseeded team
– teams from the same country cannot be drawn against each other
– teams that already met in the previous round cannot be drawn against each other
Based on these elements, I wanted to calculate the associated probabilities, or other words to reveal the question marks in the matrix below:

(first column – seeded teams, first line – unseeded teams, greyed cells – teams cannot be drawn).

Try 1: Thursday night

I make a quick PHP script to calculate all the possible permutations (8!=40320), then I eliminate the invalid options and find that only 4238 permutations are possible. I count all the possible team pairings as below:

I calculate the associated percentage for each pair (example for Liverpool-Real it’s 799 out of 4238=18.85%) and, after half an hour spent choosing a color scheme, I put everything in the matrix:

Then I realize that the numbers are slightly different from the ones circulated on social media:

Try 2: the entire weekend

I get a very nice explanation on Twitter from the author of the tool above:

Then I start to realize that my approach was incorrect.
In fact, my numbers were only valid if the draw process consisted of a single step – somebody picking up a random number from 1 to 4238 and then showing up the 8 pairings behind that number.
But in fact, the draw process consist of 8 steps or 8 events, each one depending on the previous one. We speak in this case of conditional probabilities, which are represented using a probability tree. The probability tree for a subset of 6 teams looks like this:

And indeed, the tree simulates the real draw process and reveals the same numbers as the ‘official’ ones:

Since the draw is in less than 12 hours, I have no time to make another script that generates the full tree (that would also be too big to put in a picture). But I trust the numbers from https://eminga.github.io/cldraw/ are correct πŸ™‚


TV connectivity round-up

Written on 2 December 2017, 09:33pm

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A short reminder about the ins and outs (pun intended) of the nowadays TV sets and their connected peripherals.

HDMI 1.4 vs 2.0

Official specifications of the HDMI 2.0 standard:

* Enables transmission of High Dynamic Range (HDR) video
* Bandwidth up to 18Gbps
* 4K@50/60 (2160p)
HDMI 2.0b does not define new cables or new connectors. Current High Speed cables (Category 2 cables) are capable of carrying the increased bandwidth.
The newer HDMI 2.1 specifications add support for a range of higher video resolutions and refresh rates including 8K60 and 4K120, and resolutions up to 10K. Dynamic HDR formats are also supported, and bandwidth capability is increased up to 48Gbps.

Two notes:
1. HDMI 2.0 is a hardware update, and both ends must have a HDMI 2.0 compatible chipset
2. In order to enjoy the benefits of the HDMI 2.0, the HDMI cable must be able to sustain the 18Gbps bandwidth
See more in the troubleshooting section below.

What do ARC and MHL mean?

On the back of your TV set, next to the HDMI ports you will see these 2 labels:
ARC – Audio Return Channel – enables the TV to send the audio data to the receiver. All HDMI cables support ARC by default; for TV and receivers compatibility look for the port label and/or user manual. Even if the TV has all the HDMI ports ARC-compatible, only one of them will be used at a time.
MHL – Mobile High Definition Link – allows to connect and mirror smartphones and tablets (both Android and iOS) to the TV.
On some TV sets you might also see HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) which implements a form of digital copy protection.

HDR standards: HDR10 vs Dolby Vision

You know how virtually all the TV producers brag about their newest models being HDR? Well, there are more standards that apply: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log-Gamma, SL-HDR1, etc.
For instance, Apple TV 4K supports the following standards:

4K Standard Dynamic Range (SDR): Used for 4K televisions that don’t support HDR10 or Dolby Vision.
4K High Dynamic Range (HDR, aka HDR10): Used for 4K televisions that support HDR to display video with a broader range of colors and luminance.
4K Dolby Vision: Used for 4K televisions that support Dolby Vision HDR to display video with a broader range of colors and luminance optimized for your television.

To see which HDR standard your TV supports, look at the fine print in the user manual (they should also indicate which HDMI port supports these HDR standards):

4:2:2? 4:2:0?

Here things become a bit more complex. If you’re not interested in the details, remember just that the higher the 3 numbers above, the better. As Apple says in the Apple TV 4K menu, “4:2:0 provides high-quality picture that is compatible with most TVs and HDMI cables. 4:2:2 improves quality, but requires high-speed cables“.

There’s a tradeoff between video quality and bandwidth. With 4K resolutions, 60Hz refresh rates, full 36-bit color depth, HDR capabilities and 32 audio channels, the bandwidth can reach incredible numbers. And as we saw above, HDMI 2.0 is limited to 18Gbps (48Gbps in HDMI 2.1). The solution is to compress the video signal exploiting the limitations of the human eye.
To make the explanation simpler, meet Chroma and Luma:

Chroma is the signal used in video systems to convey the color information
Luma represents the brightness in an image
Digital signals are often compressed. Since the human visual system is much more sensitive to variations in brightness than color, a video system can be optimized by devoting more bandwidth to the luma component (Y’, brightness), than to the color (Cb, Cr).

Below you can see how the original image is de-composed in Luma component (black and white – brightness only) and Chroma (color). The Luma is un-altered, but the Chroma is compressed (except for 4:4:4). Depending on the compression type, you can have 4:2:2, 4:2:0 or other subsampling systems (no 4-4-2 system though πŸ™‚ ):

The bandwidth savings are impressive: the 4:2:2 sampling can reduce the necessary bandwidth to 12Gbps, while 4:2:0 further drops the requirement to 9Gbps.

Troubleshooting guide

Knowing all this, if you still have trouble getting the most of your peripherals and TV, here is a quick troubleshooting guide:
– can’t select 4:2:2 chroma: HDMI 2.0 supports 4:2:0 natively, but in order to benefit from 4:2:2 you have to upgrade your HDMI cable. Here is a decent one: Belkin Ultra High speed
– can’t select 4K HDR @60Hz: check your HDMI connectors, some manufacturers only accept HDR on HDMI1 and HDMI2 ports.
– my TV says it’s HDMI 2.0, but it’s not: well, it might be that only the port HDMI1 supports HDMI 2.0, while the others only support HDMI 1.4. That’s sad, but it can happen to older TV sets; just read the manual
– my TV won’t turn on/off when I turn on/off my peripherals: make sure you enable CEC in your TV menu. It can be named differently depending on the TV manufacturer: Bravia Sync for Sony, Anynet+ for Samsung, VIERA Link for Panasonic, EasyLink for Philips, SimpLink for LG.
– I can’t control the sound of my TV from my Apple TV remote: make your Apple TV ‘learn’ the TV remote.
– …but I have a Sonos Playbar linked to my TV: then go to your Sonos settings and pair your Sonos system with the Apple TV remote. However, be aware that a single remote can be paired with the Sonos system.

Image: https://www.dolby.com/us/en/brands/dolby-vision.html