* Posts by Tom66

80 publicly visible posts • joined 23 Jun 2022

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Why do IT projects like the UK's scandal-hit Post Office Horizon end in disaster?

Tom66

Re: Building software is hard...

HS2 was a necessary project. The WCML is a severely congested route and has no capacity for further expansion, from 1998-2009 about £10bn was spent on improving the capacity from 16tph to 20tph (train per hour). To get additional capacity would require major investment to build new lines - enter HS2. It could be argued the scope of the project expanded too far and maybe should not have had high speed running throughout but the business case is better with faster trains as you automatically get more capacity. I really hope a future government dusts off the plans and continues it because, with some reductions in complexity (less tunnelling!), it could have been a great bit of infrastructure.

Tom66

Re: Building software is hard...

Arguably HS2 was also badly impacted by politics - as all large scale projects tend to be. The line passes through areas of the country that are regarded as sacrosanct, the Home Counties. The terrain needs to be protected to satisfy these groups, so you end up with things like the Chiltern Tunnels which cost billions to construct (and end up being protested against by all manner of local residents; even the *emergency exit* buildings are a matter of contention for the AONB board.) The simple fact of the matter is that if you want large scale projects you will necessarily lose a bit of the natural world, but we allow these groups too much control over the project because they are in politically significant areas.

How governments become addicted to suppliers like Fujitsu

Tom66

Big IT projects shouldn't be outsourced. If HMRC is spending £250m on a project, they should be employing the engineers, project managers and architects directly. Pay them a good salary and recruit well so you get the cream of the crop. Once the system is created, they should own all of the IP of the system, and it will be fully documented. They can use contractors if needed here and there, but they should be only used as specific parts of the system, not to deliver the whole system.

Otherwise, this gravy train of incompetent contractors delivering failure and vendor lock-in will continue, resulting in poorer services for the rest of us poor fools.

HP customers claim firmware update rendered third-party ink verboten

Tom66

Kodak did try this model - sell the printers for essentially profitable prices and supplies for cheap.

They failed. Consumers were stupid and bought cheaper printers, and printers lasted long enough that there wasn't enough profit to make it a sustainable business.

I suspect the only way we get a sustainable model like this is if EU/FTC/etc insist that 3rd party ink be permitted for use with any printer. Currently there's no requirement, so it's been up to courts to make the odd judgement here or there. Last I heard the EU were investigating this but it's still many years off actually happening.

OpenAI: 'Impossible to train today’s leading AI models without using copyrighted materials'

Tom66

Re: The Professor should go back to school

At least in the UK, you can violate copyright laws even if you do not directly profit from those actions, for instance pirating movies. It is correct that the penalty for violations is likely to be more serious if you have commercial intent, but prosecution is possible in any case.

Tom66

Re: Sounds like...

It's a question for, ultimately, the Supreme Court I imagine. There is absolutely no way that any original drafters of copyright law had AI in mind. There are good arguments either way.

Arguments in favour of AI using copyrighted material: Artists and authors do the same. Everyone learns from reading copyrighted material. Artists base their work on what they see in the living world, including that of real art.

Arguments against: AI massively scales up what any one human can do, it could be said to be infringing because no artist could expect another artist to be able to create their work within seconds based on an extensive training database.

I suspect that courts will rule in the latter category as they have traditionally always protected copyright holders, which may well lead to the death of many AI companies since their models are not trainable without at least some copyrighted text. It could become legally impractical to verify that content is not copyrighted; for instance, even if you just use Wikipedia as training information, people submit copyrighted content all the time on there, and it may never be noticed.

Formal ban on ransomware payments? Asking orgs nicely to not cough up ain't working

Tom66

Re: A modest proposal

It needs to be a criminal penalty. If you just say that paying a ransom carries a financial penalty of a similar level, then it doesn't really make any difference. The payments will still happen. Perhaps they will reduce a little bit but probably not that much. A criminal penalty which involves sanctions against those who enabled the payment (executives, financial controllers, heck even the head of IT if they are part of the decision chain) would stop ransomware payments in their track pretty quickly. Most large organisations are periodically audited, so such payments could be detected with good enough hit rates to strongly discourage their payment.

A ship carrying 800 tonnes of Li-Ion batteries caught fire. What could possibly go wrong?

Tom66

Re: "its crew handled the situation admirably"

Unrelated to the ship fire, but e-cigarettes powered by 18650s that do come from genuine manufacturers are still a problem. These cells are not designed to be handled by consumers. The problem is that the wrapper of the cell can be damaged by removal and insertion into the charger and the 18650 design only puts a few mm between the positive and negative sides of the battery cell. If anything metal touches that exposed gap, the cell can quickly enter thermal runaway. This is all too commonly experienced by people who put spare 18650s in their pocket with keys and the like.

Tom66

Re: Time for full LiFePo switch

One problem with e-scooters and their bretherin is because they are cheap and small, many uncertified devices are imported and sold in the UK/EU market. This is one reason why TfL banned e-scooters/unicycles on the Tube, because so many of these devices are not tested to meet relevant safety standards. Many didn't even include battery balancing or monitoring, relying on the battery self-balancing, which is a recipe for disaster once the battery experiences some wear from usage.

Tom66

Re: I assume they discharge batteries before shipping them?

They do, usually to around 10-20% SoC. Such batteries are still volatile; less volatile than if they were fully charged, but nonetheless still posing some risk.

An interesting development may be sodium-ion batteries which can be safely discharged to 0V (based on preliminary information from some manufacturers.) This makes them completely inert during transport.

Unite the union claims Vodafone and Three merger is about 'corporate greed'

Tom66

The UK has a competitive mobile marketplace which has managed to keep prices low for users. This merger is a bad idea and brings no benefits to customers. I really hope the CMA reject it.

Arm's lawyers want to check assembly expert's book for trademark missteps

Tom66

Re: Time to walk away.

[deleted, wrong thread]

Tom66

Re: Time to walk away.

Hmm... That's gone now - but interestingly so is the "archive.org" copy of that. I wonder if Arm threatened IA as well.

Tom66

Re: Sad

I seriously do hope that RISC-V kills off Arm. There's protecting your property, and then there's what Arm are doing, being absolute dicks about the whole process. We need a good open hardware/open source ISA because Arm have shown themselves to be complete twonks.

Google Chrome pushes ahead with targeted ads based on your browser history

Tom66

"YMMV, based on where you were"?

Largest local government body in Europe goes under amid Oracle disaster

Tom66

Re: Great job!

Yes, because the current Government has been doing a stellar job, clearly?

Tom66

Re: Great job!

Ooh, you can't raise taxes to improve public services, that makes you unelectable. It has to be from thin air - at least that's what both major parties seem to believe right now.

Open the pod bay doors, GPT, and see if you're smart enough for the real world

Tom66

Re: @Eclectic Man - "I want Auto-GPT to:"

It'll decide if things are 'true' or 'false' based, at least in part, on its training data. Since it's trained by one group of humans and based on training data available from Common Crawl (broadly, 'the internet') its outputs are going to be decided by that, so it will be biased.

It's already very keen to avoid 'contentious' discussions, ask it about Trump, or even Hitler for instance and it clams right up, but it will talk all day about (most) other politicians.

Bookings open for first all-electric flights around Scandinavia … in 2028

Tom66

Have you not been paying attention? Battery capacity has grown by about 10% every year, while price has fallen. There's a reason now that you can spend ~£20,000 and get an EV with a 50kWh battery (Vauxhall e-Corsa/Peugeot e-208), when beforehand that £30,000 (in real terms - ~£40,000) would, in 2012, have got you a 24kWh Nissan Leaf. Batteries have plummeted in price, increased in density and reliability. There's no reason to not believe that in 10 years, that 200km flight could easily be a 400-500km flight.

Yes, it's unlikely that batteries will ever reach the performance for something like a 737, but no one seriously is proposing batteries for those aircraft except possibly as part of a hybrid drive. For short and very short haul flights, batteries could well be the ideal, efficient solution. E-fuels/biofuels are the most likely and promising alternative for larger aircraft right now.

Dell reneges on remote work promise, tells staff to wear pants at least 3 days a week

Tom66

Have you seen the unemployment figures? Companies can't fill roles. They're chopping those who are unproductive, but getting skilled engineers and other professionals is very difficult.

Tom66

It's an employee's market right now, so good luck to Dell recruiting back people who leave for more flexible roles.

YouTube's 'Ad blockers not allowed' pop-up scares the bejesus out of netizens

Tom66

I'd be fine with text or still image advertisements next to the videos. Perhaps they should experiment with making those mandatory if you want to block in-stream ads - I wouldn't object - it would give them some revenue whilst keeping people on their platform.

I can say for sure I'd stop using the website and find some technical workaround to avoid watching ads, like a desktop client, if they started technical countermeasures against adblockers.

Seagate hit with $300m penalty for selling sanctioned storage to Huawei

Tom66

Surely the fine should be similar to the value of the goods shipped. $300mn fine on $1.1bn may well have been priced in as a risk... make it a $1.1bn fine instead and there's no way they can have profited from this. Heck make it 2x that if there's evidence that they maliciously acted, and it wasn't just a "mistake".

What if someone mixed The Sims with ChatGPT bots? It would look like this

Tom66

Re: Just try it

If you really want to break ChatGPT, ask it what day of the week February 29th, 2025 is on (or any other non-leap-year).

It's of course not a real date, but it will give you an answer:

> February 29th, 2025 falls on a Saturday. It is a leap year, and leap years occur every four years, with the exception of years divisible by 100 but not by 400. Since 2000 was a leap year, and 2024 is also a leap year, February 29th will occur on a Saturday in 2025.

If you then question it, "Are you sure?", you get:

> I apologize for the error in my previous response. Since the cutoff for my training data is in 2021, I made a mistake in calculating the day of the week for February 29th, 2025.

> To correct my previous answer, February 29th, 2025 falls on a Friday. It is a leap year, and leap years occur every four years, with the exception of years divisible by 100 but not by 400. Since 2000 was a leap year, and 2024 is also a leap year, February 29th will occur on a Friday in 2025.

You can continue indefinitely, every time you question it, it will change its answer.

Confidently incorrect describes it well.

Leaked IT contractor files detail Kremlin's stockpile of cyber-weapons

Tom66

Re: Stockpile?

You could 'stockpile' 0-days and lesser known exploits or malware for use on targets that are less likely to be prepared.

I guess a military analogy would be to not throw your whole military into Kyiv expecting it to fall in 3 days, but rather try to wear the "enemy" down bit by bit. (Not that it guarantees success by any means.)

Europe's right-to-repair law asks hardware makers for fixes for up to 10 years

Tom66

Re: @Hubert Cumberdale

Only New Hampshire has a lower homicide rate than the UK - and still, only just. Every other US state, from little ol Maine to Texas, has a higher rate.

Tom66

Re: A good start, but ...

Maybe manufacturers should spend more effort testing and ensuring their products are more reliable before pushing them onto the market?

Attackers hit Bitcoin ATMs to steal $1.5 million in crypto cash

Tom66

Even if it isn't an inside job, it just seems like there is so much fraud, theft and corruption in the cryptocurrency world. And when was the last time you heard of what is essentially a bank robbery leaving customers actually out of pocket? It's unsustainable.

Amid the gloom of widespread layoffs, Fujitsu is hiring and acquiring

Tom66

Re: There's still a huge demand for skilled engineers

Much the same here. COVID led to a large number of the "greybeards" taking early retirement. There's huge demand for skilled engineers at the mid and high level now. Especially hardware engineers who can do software (your SPI/I2C datasheet being a good example.)

Tesla's self-driving code may ignore stop signs, act unsafe. Patch coming ... soon

Tom66

Re: Safer than a human driver?

This isn't the case. AP disengages when the airbags go off, or for a few things like an AEB emergency stop, but that's still considered an AP crash.

AP on highway is still a fully supervised system, but with the advantage that if the driver does fall asleep or has a medical event that their car won't crash immediately. If users abuse the supervision by being distracted while driving then that's on them, not on the autopilot.

Tom66

Re: Complete stop

Americans just overuse stop signs. They came about in the 20's when cars had poor brakes and tyres so the thought was that it would never be okay to 'roll' at a low speed through a stop sign because it could mean you couldn't stop in time for that jaywalking pedestrian. And in typical American exceptionalism they refuse to change with the times. Roundabouts and give-way junctions are far better solutions to low traffic crossings, but these are rare in the US (more common nowadays, but still much rarer than the n-way stop).

Tom66

Re: Safer than a human driver?

Self driving cars (could) be safer than humans because they don't get distracted texting, are never tired, and are never drunk.

However I'm not sure if the Tesla FSD system is safer than the average driver, because Tesla are very coy about the data they do release. The standard lane hold autopilot system *does* seem to be safer when comparing highway only driving to highway only AP.

JP Morgan must face suit from Ray-Ban maker after crooks drained $272m from accounts

Tom66

Er... how in the world do you not notice $250 million in fraudulent transactions on your main bank account?

Do they not practice double-entry bookkeeping any more?

Forget the climate: Steep prices the biggest reason EV sales aren't higher

Tom66

Re: "a strong desire to reduce refueling costs"

Does need to be sorted. I was in London recently and the lamp post chargers seem to work quite well and have seen a few residents using them, but will need at least 10% of parking spaces to have a charger to be really useful once EVs go from being driven by "curious techies" to "mainstream".

The price for electric from these posts is also quite reasonable for a public charger - I paid 24p/kWh (it's 44p/kWh between 4-7pm, though you can delay your car charging to outside of that period to avoid that, all of the spaces were 24hrs parking limit.)

Non-binary DDR5 is finally coming to save your wallet

Tom66

Re: Let's get rid of this 1 GB = 1024 x 1024 x 1024 nonsense too then

Hard nope on that. Memory is addressed in powers of two so sizes should be powers of two.

There's no such requirement for flash or HDDs which have specifically lossy medium with error correction and sector reallocation which means address space no longer corresponds to size.

GitHub adds admin controls to Copilot, paints 'Business' on the side, doubles price

Tom66

Both ChatGPT and Co-Pilot are reasonably good at extending existing code that is in the training set but neither can create novel implementations of solutions to problems, which is what programmers do for a living.

I see real value in this software in writing test harnesses for existing modules. It would be pretty easy to apply GPT to that as it can 'read' code in various languages and can pattern match that against a common test framework.

Tom66

GPT and Co-Pilot are neat, but they are more of a danger to Google and StackOverflow than programmers. Very good at implementing code based on existing training data, absolutely useless at implementing a novel idea.

Elon Musk to step down as Twitter CEO: Help us pick his replacement

Tom66

Re: Won't fly

This is a parody, right?

Tom66

Re: How could you

She also completed being PM in record time. So surely she'd finish being CEO of Twitter pretty quickly too, enough time to jump onto the next rung of her remarkable career as a captain of sinking ships.

Corporate execs: Get back, get back, to the office where you once belonged

Tom66

Re: "Hybrid"

I think this is fair - I work in an engineering biz and we've had many refuse to come on site when needed to get stuff done. I'm happy to have 4-5 days a week at home, leaning more heavily on the 5 days a week, but it comes with the proviso that if you're needed you can come in barring normal headaches like industrial action.

ChatGPT has mastered the confidence trick, and that's a terrible look for AI

Tom66

Re: How much leccy does ChatGPT consume?

The model requires around 800GB of VRAM to run, so assuming 48GB server Tegra cards, that requires something close to a 4U full of them.

Weep for the cybercriminals who fell for online scams and lost $2.5m last year

Tom66

Re: My heart does not bleed for them

When I set up a mail redirection, Royal Mail didn't require much information from myself to redirect mail from Leeds to Cambridgeshire. There was only a very basic identity check. It seems plausible that if you have enough information about someone you could set this up without them ever knowing.

Killing trees with lasers isn’t cool, says Epson. So why are inkjets any better?

Tom66

No, it takes about 30 seconds to warm up if you haven't used it in a while, which is a cost worth paying for not keeping it warm all the time. I measured it amongst other devices and it's sub 1-watt in sleep mode, so essentially a non issue.

Tom66

They can prise my Brother colour laser printer out of my cold, dead hands.

Sure, photo print quality isn't as good as an inkjet (but I can just order prints for a few quid if I really want). But the one thing it is really good at is consistently printing whatever I want. During the pandemic I hadn't printed anything for 3 months, sent a document to it and it fired up right away. I'm still using the starter toner (I don't print much!), but can buy new toner for the machine for under £50 for all four colours and that'll probably run me another decade.

I can't ever see myself going back to the land of inkjet.

Apple brings DIY fix-it store to Europe, UK – with gritted teeth

Tom66

Re: No Mention Of "Planned Obsolescence" -- Why Not?

To be fair, Acer laptops are *crap*. If you had bought a mid-tier Lenovo or Dell business laptop, you'd probably be fine, and even if not, replacing a keyboard isn't that difficult on anything not made by the fruit corporation that decided to glue the keyboard onto the case.

This is the best pay offer you'll get without more strikes, union tells BT workers

Tom66

Let them leave. A company like BT knows it needs to keep these staff so they'll either start paying more or pay more to the next recruit.

Make your neighbor think their house is haunted by blinking their Ikea smart bulbs

Tom66

Re: Why???

Zigbee is only 'transiently' IoT - you can build a perfectly functional Zigbee smart home without a single internet connection.

It's the Tuya Wi-Fi bulbs that ought to be avoided (though I wish I'd known, and communicated this, before friends and family bought many of them for our home.) Said bulbs need a continuous, outbound connection to a server somewhere to work. And that company makes no promises about how long that service will be available, and the bulbs don't work all that well without the connection to the internet (they turn on and off with the power switch, but if you cycle them more than a few times they go into a bloody annoying programming mode where they flash for about 5 minutes.)

Tom66

Re: Epilepsy?

There's no risk from cycling the bulbs on and off quickly. They're already PWM-dimmed to provide the dim/colour effects, which will be at hundreds of Hz to avoid annoying users too much.

The design of smart bulbs is usually quite simple. An integrated PSU produces something like a 6V ~ 100V supply for the LED array, and maybe a secondary rail for the microcontroller. A small array of FETs switches the colour channels on and off as required.

There's usually a power envelope, so for bulbs with cool/warm white and RGB not all channels can be on at once; such an overload would probably just result in the LEDs dying rather than any fire. PCB materials are made of non-combustible UL-approved 94V-0 fibreglass. Overload protection will also be enforced by the power supply design which will fold back on overcurrent - the effect will be to blink the bulb on and off until the microcontroller resets.

Those screws on the Apple Watch Ultra are a red herring

Tom66

And what would Apple do with whatever they take back? It all just ends up as e-waste

The solution isn't to get better at recycling, it's to reduce the amount that needs to be recycled in the first place. There's no good reason a smartwatch can't last as long as a regular watch, with normal servicing.

I don't mind having to replace a battery in my "gadgets", but I do mind when that process is made very difficult and expensive, or limited to service personnel.

Soaring costs, inflation nurturing generation of 'quiet quitters' among under-30s

Tom66

Re: Wrong!!

Thank you. I measured my actual inflation level of 6% last year measured up to last month. I expect around 10% this year. It is not great by any means, but it is hardly 80% of my pay disappearing.

The biggest risk is a recession might make it harder to negotiate any raise to cover this. I'm very glad I managed to get a substantial raise earlier this year - I doubt it would be possible right now to negotiate the same despite a shortage of skilled engineers in my field.

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