* Posts by John H Woods

3532 publicly visible posts • joined 14 Nov 2007

AI agents can copy humans to get closer to artificial general intelligence, DeepMind finds

John H Woods Silver badge

Surely the real ethical problem with AGI ...

... is less the threat to us (mediated by limiting its access to weaponry, manufacturing, etc) and more the concern that we will have created an enslaved sentient being.

I don't think there's anything magical happening in an animal brain, it's just enough neurons, well enough connected, for consciousness to arise. So sooner or later, with enough farting around with neural nets, we're going to create conscious beings.

Brits turn off Twitter, although teens and tweens keen on generative AI

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Wot!

Hitler was far Right. The rest of your list is spot on but including Hitler in it suggests you are not a serious person.

Tesla sues Swedish government after worker rebellion cripples car biz

John H Woods Silver badge


Yes, I'm not one of Sunak's biggest fans but the way Musk treated him at the AI thingymajig was incredibly disrespectful to the UK

Ransomware-hit British Library: Too open for business, or not open enough?

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: It security

I'm always saying it, but accountants who work in the IT sector should at least have an actuarial bent, if not be actual actuaries. So much of IT cost is about accurately assessing (or at least somewhat accounting for) risk. There is literally no other way to justify a back-up or business continuity system: on the bottom line it just looks like wasted money. And there's no way to properly cost a project without considering risk, either.

Logitech's Wave Keys tries to bend ergonomics without breaking tradition

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: The absence of backlighting

Ctrl should be extreme bottom left IMHO. I love Stinkpads and Macbooks but the first thing I do is a Fn<->Ctrl swap. Unfortunately they are almost never the same size so you can't usually swap the keytops.

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: The absence of backlighting

Absolutely with you. I have an Arabic keyboard in my T14 because it was a cheap way of getting a backlit kb. No Idea what any of the symbols on the keys mean, but at least I can see where to put my fingers when I open it in the dark. I type Dvorak anyway so almost none of the keyboards I possess have the "correct" tops on the keys.

John H Woods Silver badge

Ergonomic ...

... anyone remember Dvorak, or has it fizzled out?

Revival of Medley/Interlisp: Elegant weapon for a more civilized age sharpened up again

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: You /what/ Liam?

I may be weird, but the nice clear syntax of Smalltalk beats everything else I have ever seen for readability. Although it is possible, as with anything, to write it badly, the syntax would fit on a postcard. The only gotcha is left to right (no-precedence) of binary expressions but the only problem that has ever caused me is making me think twice about "Facebook maths test" problems.

If you want to have a quick play, I heartily recommend pharo

John H Woods Silver badge

Not that keen on diesels, even the great ones, but ...

... Emacs is probably one of the first things I put on any computer where I'm allowed to install applications, and has been for 30 years. There's even a tick box to use Ctrl-X-C-V-Z like the rest of the operating system :-D

User read the manual, followed instructions, still couldn't make 'Excel' work

John H Woods Silver badge

Who amongst us has never clicked a screenshot? :-D

Was amused to see my two year old niece trying to pinch-to-zoom a photograph in a (physical) magazine tho ...

How to give Windows Hello the finger and login as someone on their stolen laptop

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: The linked (thank you) article is great ...

The supposed etymology is "Not On Normal Community Exercise" as in prisoner who is likely to be attacked in the exercise yard by other inmates.

This may, of course, be a backronym.

John H Woods Silver badge

The linked (thank you) article is great ...

...beautifully explained with nice easy diagrams.

I do wish our US English cryptobrethren would stop using the word "nonce" though.

Long-term space missions may make liftoff harder for male astronauts

John H Woods Silver badge

Greenpeace calls out tech giants for carbon footprint fumble

John H Woods Silver badge

Never been convinced they are that sensible: their anti-nuclear approach seems totally at odds with their mission.

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Greenpeace is irrelevant and so is carbon dioxide

The idea of a green gravy train, let alone one potent enough to buy yachts, compared to the financial power of the fossil fuel industry ... oh, I'm wasting my time.

No more staff budget for UK civil service, but worry not – here's an incubator for AI

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Ooh ... so could we have an AI in the cabinet ?

Herd immunity is inevitable in the end as long as there's vaccination.

We didn't know what 'anything like Covid' actually was.

Being run over by a truck is rare. UK mortality rate is low. Anyone who tested positive and then died shortly afterwards was much more likely to have died of Covid than anything else. Of course this counted non-Covid deaths: but an insignificant number and possibly less than actual Covid deaths that were missed.

I couldn't be arsed reading the rest of your conspiracy fantasy drivel.

Tesla, Musk likely aware of Autopilot deficiencies behind Florida fatality, says judge

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: While Not An Engineer

I think this is the essential problem with the Tesla approach. If you are trying to do it with visual spectrum cameras you are almost already trying to build a better than human brain to interpret the images, when (albeit more expensive) sensors are available that can literally measure the difference to an object in millimetres.

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Stating the obvious

Here's something else obvious.

A lot more people know the term "autopilot" than fly planes or know what it really does. There's even a colloquial use of the term "on autopilot" and I CBA right now but I'm sure a quick search would suggest the colloquial use is actually far more common than the aeronautical one. Hardly anyone knows what the autopilot in a plane does, hence the joke in Airplane!

I'll tell you what Tesla DID know --- what most people understand by the term 'autopilot' --- even if they are technically wrong. Whatever Tesla do or don't claim about the technology, they had already started the deceit by using that name.

Net privacy wars will be with us always. Let's set some rules

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: But what about obvious, prior work-arounds?

Does Qubes help with this?

Your password hygiene remains atrocious, says NordPass

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: What about sites that force you to make it easier?

Same with the National Cyber Security Centre in the UK.

Don't enforce regular password expiry

Regular password changing harms rather than improves security. Many systems will force users to change their password at regular intervals, typically every 30, 60 or 90 days. This imposes burdens on the user and there are costs associated with recovering accounts.

Forcing password expiry carries no real benefits because:

* the user is likely to choose new passwords that are only minor variations of the old

* stolen passwords are generally exploited immediately

* resetting the password gives you no information about whether a compromise has occurred

* an attacker with access to the account will probably also receive the request to reset the password

* if compromised via insecure storage, the attacker will be able to find the new password in the same place

SpaceX celebrates Starship launch as a success – even with the explosion

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Self destruct

If you take SpaceX, Tesla and X/Twitter as three data points, it seems to indicate that the degree of success may be inversely proportional to his degree of hands on. Maybe entrepeneurship and management aren't always the same skillset.

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Self destruct

Absolutely. He's doing what NASA would never be allowed to do, rapidly progressing launch technology through testing prototypes. It's only politics that means this has to be down by a private company, the actual individuals doing the work would be the same talented Tefal-heads whoever employs them.

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean AI's not after you

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Horses *did* protest

Lost a lot of them in WWI. The Cleveland Bay nearly went extinct.

John H Woods Silver badge


As a horsey person...

I can thoroughly recommend Ulrich Rauff's beautiful book "Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship" to anyone who is interested in this bit of history.

Also let me know if you want to buy a two star Eventer.

EU lawmakers scolded for concealing identities of privacy-busting content-scanning 'experts'

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Numbers.......and bigger numbers!

Indeed, not even enough space in the universe to store them all digitally.

UK may demand tech world tell it about upcoming security features

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Hmmm

If they pass it we should notify them of each and every instance of increased security. Or even changed security. Password changes? Or even a new key exchange every time you browse to an https site.

John H Woods Silver badge

I imagine I wouldn't be the only person to have become a monarchist overnight if he had.

GhostBSD makes FreeBSD a little less frightening for the Linux loyal

John H Woods Silver badge

You may not have to go without your favourite Linux Apps...

... have a look at BSD's linuxulator

World leaders ink AI safety pacts while Musk and Sunak engage in awkward bromance

John H Woods Silver badge

Not Sunak's biggest fan, but ...

... I thought it was astonishingly disrespectful to a head of state (and therefore to the state in question) for Musk to stride out leaving him scurrying behind.

NB: Yes, I know C III is THE head of state, but Sunak's the one who wrote the letters of last resort.

CompSci academic thought tech support was useless – until he needed it

John H Woods Silver badge

"a supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

I'm a little worried that this might be me!

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

<pedant_mode>A little learning is a dangerous thing</pedant_mode>

FTX crypto-villain Sam Bankman-Fried convicted on all charges

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Whats wrong with crypto


Exactly. And ultimately that backing is the use of force: something more within the reach of governments than a disparate group of investors.

Okta tells 5,000 of its own staff that their data was accessed in third-party breach

John H Woods Silver badge

Dear medium to large sized organizations

Manage your own identity systems. Yes it's hard. But is a smaller organization that cares less about your data going to be any better at it?

Qualcomm in recovery position following annus horribilis

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Low power is a differentiator

I'm sensing a mild buy signal?

It's been 25 years since NASA astronaut John Glenn's geriatric jaunt around Earth

John H Woods Silver badge

Challenger accident...

I personally find it more believable that PowerPoint is responsible: https://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard. I realize the example is Columbia, but I'm pretty sure that the lesson is the same.

Lenovo’s phantom ThinkPad X1 foldable laptop finally materializes

John H Woods Silver badge

I have become a fan ...

... of the portable monitor. I've got a fairly cheap 4k that is almost the same form factor as my Stinkpad, and you get a lot of extra screen estate (not to mention two screens).

I'm struggling to think of too many situations where you could unfold a big screen like this but not use a portable monitor ...

European Commission loves Oracle enough to sign six-year cloud deal

John H Woods Silver badge

My general feeling is that, the bigger the org, the less benefit someone else's cloud will provide. Cloud tech is great, but it isn't, despite what BigCloud wants you to think, synonymous with outsourcing.

Where do people feel most at risk of being pwned? The pub

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Who can afford to go to a pub these days

Who can afford to run one?

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: For those times when there's no mobile signal...

>presumably because they don't want their nefarious data-sharing practices revealed

Hanlon's razor suggests perhaps their webdevs don't know about RFC 5233 and they consider "+" an invalid character. I've even had companies where you can use + to register but it kills their billing system :-)

To prevent 'lost' nukes, scientists suggest storing them in a hall of mirrors

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Let's get on with

Exactly, having them is using them. In fact it's the only sensible way of using them.

Amazon workers are in a warehouse of pain, independent report finds

John H Woods Silver badge

"amongst the ones that bothered to work in school"

I'm at least as well-educated, formally, as you, but it never made me forget that people have to do these jobs for society to function.

Word turns 40: From 'new kid on the block' to 'I can't believe it's not bloatware'

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: four decades on ...

Exactly my thoughts. It's not quite as bad as the style:content ratio that PowerPoint encourages but I want my clients, employers and other organizations to dictate the layout, I just want to write content.

It doesn't have to be LaTeX, I'm quite happy to write markdown. But I think that word processors, which have always tried to unite content creation and document preparation aren't particularly good at either. I've been in IT for 30 years and I've very rarely seen nice looking documents produced entirely in Word.

John H Woods Silver badge

four decades on ...

... and it still usually produces the fugliest documents imaginable. I know how to turn off all the annoying "you changed this so let me quickly alter the whole document for you" stuff but I really wish there was an authoring mode with sensible defaults and templates that was almost completely locked down. I miss using LaTeX as part of my job.

Cisco to sell enterprise version of $400 Bang & Olufsen earbuds

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: B&O was the choice of fanboyz before fanboyz were born

All true, but upvoted mainly for the short guided tour down memory lane!

John H Woods Silver badge

More secure?

More secure is something that has no microprocessors, no wireless and ideally no USB - it just plugs into the mic and ear jack(s). If you're more paranoid, push to talk is probably also good.

There may be a good argument for equipment like this, but I'm sure security isn't it. Or parsimony, for that matter!

Does Windows have a very weak password lurking in its crypto libraries?

John H Woods Silver badge

Correct me if I'm wrong ...

but although it "doesn't mean that the library is using them as passwords" it does surely mean these hashes are stored unsalted?

Germany's wild boars still too radioactive to eat largely due to Cold War nuke tests

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Care?

"Man hasn't been making an appreciable impact on much of anything..."

This is simply false. Man and his livestock are 90% of mammalian landmass. Atmospheric CO2 ppm has gone up 50% since I was at school.

What happens when What3Words gets lost in translation?

John H Woods Silver badge

Nothing should be relied upon on its own. For instance, every single lat/lon grid ref has many matches that are "close enough to be believable but wrong enough to be useless" - the most obvious being transposition of 2nd and 3rd decimal places in either lat or lon.

John H Woods Silver badge

Re: Hmmm...

They're nearly 400 miles apart, there's little ambiguity here. In any sensible context of exchanging a W3W address there is some implicit shared context of approximate area.