* Posts by Chris Miller

3528 posts • joined 6 Apr 2007

Businesses should dump Windows for the Linux desktop

Chris Miller

Re: FUD

OK, "Not within the lifetime of anyone now living." Will that do?

Chris Miller

Re: LibreOffice is not as good as MS Office

Sure, only 20% of Office features are used by everybody, but everyone uses perhaps a further 20% of its features and (the important bit) it's a different 20% for every user. I guarantee that every single one of the other 80% of features is used by somebody, and if you're in a large organisation and threaten to take any of them away, you'll be deluged by "but I need that feature to do X which is essential for my work".

It isn't as simple as you seem to think.

Post-quantum crypto cracked in an hour with one core of an ancient Xeon

Chris Miller

Re: Just say no...

As with all security issues, it all depends on what you're trying to protect and how valuable it is. I don't think anyone is suggesting that it would be a good idea for most people or organisations to replace their existing cryptography by one of these proposed standards (let alone a second tier standard, like this one) - and 99% of sys admins would have no idea how to go about doing so, even if they wanted to.

I agree that a working large-scale QC, capable of breaking what are currently considered strong crypto systems, is probably at least a decade or two away. Few individuals or organisations need to worry that data they're encrypting today might be readily cracked in 20 years' time. But intelligence agencies (to take just one obvious example), very much do have such data, and I'd be very surprised if they weren't at least working towards deploying quantum-proof cryptography.

This particular example is simply another case of "Schneier's Law": Anyone, from the most clueless amateur to the best cryptographer, can create an algorithm that he himself can’t break.

What do you mean your exaflop is better than mine?

Chris Miller

Re: How many values in FP8?

The usual format seems to be a (sign, exponent, mantissa) format of (1, 5, 2) bits.

AI's most convincing conversations are not what they seem

Chris Miller

There was a great takedown of this (based on GPT-3, which is publicly accessible, unlike LaMDA) by Douglas Hofstadter (a strong proponent of the possibility of AI, if not AGI) in The Economist. Instead of asking it "Are you self-aware?", he asked questions such as "What is the world record for walking across the English Channel?" and got the answer "6hrs 55 mins" proving - to his satisfaction (and mine) - that the system has no real 'understanding' of the questions being asked. Note that the leaked transcripts are edited not verbatim.

US, UK, Western Europe fail to hit top 50 cheapest broadband list

Chris Miller

Re: Chalk and cheese

International price comparisons of anything are pretty meaningless unless done on a PPP basis (or use the Big Mac Index, if you must). You're unlikely to see prices of $50 pcm in Bangladesh, say.

Where are the (serious) Russian cyberattacks?

Chris Miller

Colleagues still very active in UK cybersecurity report probes from Russia (and Ukraine) are down. Way down. They're probably both too busy squaring up against each other.

Volcano 'shredded' submarine cable, vastly complicating repair job

Chris Miller

When I was on Bali (mid-90s) the only international telecoms was a telex line to the mainland (Java). How times change!

Regulations and compliance are 'a curate's egg' for digital transformation, say IT pros in finance, telecoms and public sector

Chris Miller
Headmaster

Curate's eggs

It's modern usage that connects this expression to something that's a mixture of good and bad. Very few today will have encountered a 'bad egg' (I never have in 60 years of eating boiled eggs), but if you're unfortunate enough to do so, you'll be left in no doubt that there are no 'parts that are edible'', unlike say an apple where a small soft part can be cut out. It should (pedantically) be used to refer to a situation where one bad part ruins the whole.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curate%27s_egg

The robots are coming! 12 million jobs lost to automation in Europe by 2040 – analyst

Chris Miller

Scary numbers #1682

12 million jobs sounds a lot, until you realise that this projection (aka wild-ass guess) is for 18 years time, in Europe, where out of a population of ~450 million, over 30 million change jobs every year. Still sound scary?

Autonomy founder's anti-extradition case is like saying Moon made of cheese, US govt tells UK court

Chris Miller

Am I wrong to hope* that both sides lose?

* Actually, this is by far the most likely outcome of any trial - only the lawyers win

Planning for power cuts? That's strictly for the birds

Chris Miller

Re: I say it's plausible

The rule is: if you haven't tested it, it won't work.

Windows 11 in detail: Incremental upgrade spoilt by onerous system requirements and usability mis-steps

Chris Miller
Headmaster

Not a pangram

The fox must jumpS (not jumpED) over the dog.

Apart from that, meh.

Confusion at Gare de Rennes as Windows shuffles off for a Gauloise

Chris Miller

TGV software woes

I was once on a TGV Est (returning from Strasbourg). We were bowling along, when we began to decelerate and coasted to a gentle stop, where we stood for about 15 minutes. We were getting slightly anxious about our Eurostar connexion home, but then all the train lights and electrics went out. After a few nervous seconds power came back on and, shortly thereafter, the train set off again, as normal. My guess is that the driver had been talking to the SNCF help desk and they'd asked whether he'd tried turning it off and then on again.

Measuring your carbon footprint? There's no app for that

Chris Miller

Re: So much

If you allow me four free parameters I can build a mathematical model that describes exactly everything that an elephant can do. If you allow me a fifth free parameter, the model I build will forecast that the elephant will fly.

John von Neumann (1903-1957), a man who knew a bit about computers and mathematical modelling. How many free parameters are there in a typical atmospheric model?

NSA: We 'don't know when or even if' a quantum computer will ever be able to break today's public-key encryption

Chris Miller
Joke

If a QC could churn out billions of bitcoin, that would be interesting.

Google says Pixel 6, 6 Pro coming this year with custom AI acceleration

Chris Miller

?

Who uses a paper clip 'for scale'? I assume they are available in different sizes in the US, just as they are in the UK.

Giant Tesla battery providing explosion in renewable energy – not as intended

Chris Miller

Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

So, 42656e4d203239 (may I call you 4?) you believe batteries actually generate additional energy. Can I interest you in this perpetual motion machine?

Jobs are a cost - and if they're used to do something pointless and unproductive by gummint, that takes money from the economy that could be used to create jobs doing something actually useful. You sound like a believer in Corbynomics.

Sorry to rain on your parade.

Chris Miller

Re: Smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

"to boost the state's energy reliability, drive down electricity prices and support Victoria's transition to renewable energy – as well as creating local jobs as we take steps towards a COVID normal."

Boost reliability - how's that working out so far?

Drive down prices - so spending huge sums on a project that will generate zero new energy will reduce the cost of a unit. Clearly arithmetic works upside down in the antipodes.

As well as creating local jobs - jobs are a cost, not a benefit of doing something.

Great reset? More like Fake Reset: Leaders need a reality check if they think their best staff will give up hybrid work

Chris Miller

Re: Wrong site?

You're assuming a conflict which doesn't necessarily (I would say, usually) exist, between the wishes of employer and employee on this topic. WFH means not having to maintain a large office in an expensive city centre, instead you can just rent flexible, serviced office space (from Regus, or someone else). One major financial services organisation that I'm still close to (but no longer work for) has already closed two large City offices on exactly this basis.

To be clear: some jobs can't be done from home (e.g. plumber, or hardware-related IT roles, if you prefer), some people won't want to work from home even though they could, because they miss the human contact (although they could easily work from their nearest coffee shop, rather than pay thousands to spend several hours a day with their noses pressed into somebody else's armpit), and almost everyone will need to meet in a central location from time to time (one or two days a month, perhaps).

The net result is going to be a lot fewer commuters. I've seen documents from train operating companies that project passenger numbers eventually getting back to 80% of 2019 levels. I think that's a significant over-estimate.

Mountains on neutron stars are not even a millimetre tall due to extreme gravity

Chris Miller

Re: Dragon's Egg

Thirded. Forward was also a research physicist, so the science is highly accurate. He wrote several SciFi novels, including a sequel to Dragon's Egg (Starquake), but the former remains his best, I think.

Happy 'Freedom Day': Stats suggest many in England don't want it or think it's a terrible idea

Chris Miller

Just back from the local supermarket - I'd say 99% of shoppers were wearing masks. The only exception I spotted was a MAMIL who'd popped in to buy a sandwich, he was very apologetic.

United, Mesa airlines order 200 electric 19-seater planes for short-hop flights

Chris Miller

Re: I wonder

The trouble is that rail doesn't run to the start or end point, thanks to Beeching. In N America there's a huge amount of container (they call it 'intermodal') traffic, because it makes perfect sense to truck it by road for 200 miles, transfer it to rail for 2,000 miles and then run it on road another 200 miles to its destination. Hardly any UK journeys are longer than a couple of hundred miles.

Nvidia launches Cambridge-1, UK's most powerful supercomputer, in Arm's neighbourhood

Chris Miller

"Brexit-stricken", rilly?

You've had 5 years for chrissake. Time to blow your nose, dry those tears and move on, like a real grown-up.

Hybrid working? Buckle in, there's no turning back as survey takers insist: You can't make us go back

Chris Miller

How soon we forget! Are the roads as quiet as they were 12 months ago? Obviously not. Are they busier than 2019? I don't think so.

Chris Miller

The future will obviously be a mixture - not every job can be done from home, and most jobs will require occasional presence at a central location. But even people keen to work in an office alongside familiar faces may be dubious about the value of paying thousands of pounds a year in order to spend 2-3 hours a day with their face pressed into another's armpit. And if company's what you need, you can do your homeworking from a shared office location or your local coffeeshop without the commute.

Businesses have already seen the advantage of dispensing with expensive city centre locations. I'm retired now, so my contacts aren't as extensive as they once were, but I personally know of two major financial services operations in the city that have been able (because the timing of their lease worked out for them) to close offices with hundreds of desks and replaced them with serviced accommodation for 40-50 seats.

I'm not sure how all this will pan out - buy shares in Regus?* But train operators are wondering whether peak passenger volumes will eventually recover to 75% of 2019 levels, or only 50%. I think it's worse than that, because even people who do need to commute will find the roads significantly quieter, reducing further the demand for train travel. Remind me, why are we spending £100++ billion on a new train set to 'relieve congestion'?

* this should not be taken as financial advice

China reveals plan to pump out positive news about itself. Let's see what happens when that lands with social media fact-checkers

Chris Miller

Re: Pushback against decades of propaganda might be futile

Marx originated a particular school of economic theory. It wasn't particularly novel or radical at the time (1840s) but the his analysis of the relationship between capital and labor is as valid today as its always been.

Indeed it is, if by "valid" you mean "completely false and based on no evidence whatsoever". The 100+ million dead (and still counting) directly caused by those following Marxist precepts, is merely an incidental bonus.

Security is an architectural issue: Why the principles of zero trust and least privilege matter so much right now

Chris Miller

Re: Buzzword-based networking

It's not simply the hassle, it's the time and money costs of security, too. "Security", for most people/businesses, is "that which prevents me from doing my job/prevents us making money". There are organisations where absolute maximum security is a valid goal - mostly in government, where the inevitable inefficiencies matter less - but for commercial organisations security is always (and should always be) a trade-off. The first question is always " how much security do we need (or can we afford)?"

The argument of the security professional is: "if you think security is expensive, try having a breach". Our role is to help organisations identify threats and the appropriate mitigation measures (which in some cases may be "do nothing").

That Salesforce outage: Global DNS downfall started by one engineer trying a quick fix

Chris Miller

Re: "We have taken action with that particular employee"

Deputy Heads will roll.

More than 1,000 humans fail to beat AI contender in top crossword battle

Chris Miller

Re: One of those US crosswords

Let alone the Listener (now in the Times).

I've got the power! Or have I? Uninterruptible Phone-disposal Stuffup

Chris Miller

I love the local US airports that brand themselves 'International' because there's one flight a week to Canada (or Mexico if they're in the south).

Wi-Fi devices set to become object sensors by 2024 under planned 802.11bf standard

Chris Miller
Joke

You're a day early with this April Fool.

Hey, maybe we should all be cat-faced eco-warriors on our daily video chats

Chris Miller

Carbon 'tax' on Bitcoin transactions

Have you seen the cost of doing a Bitcoin transaction at the moment?

How do we combat mass global misinformation? How about making the internet a little harder to use

Chris Miller

It's like someone has never heard of Google Scholar for searching academic results.

Transcribe-my-thoughts app would prevent everyone knowing what I actually said during meetings

Chris Miller

Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

And so while the great ones depart to their dinner,

The secretary stays, growing thinner and thinner,

Racking his brain to record and report

What he thinks they will think that they ought to have thought.

Arthur Bryant

AI clocks first-known 'binary sextuply-eclipsing sextuple star system'. Another AI will be along shortly to tell us how to pronounce that properly

Chris Miller

Thousands of them. The odds that a pair of stars circling in a randomly aligned orbit will appear to eclipse when viewed from Earth is over 1,000:1 (much the same is true for detecting planets in this way). It's not really known whether there's any tendency for the orbits of widely separated stars to align (say, with the plane of the galaxy), which might improve the odds somewhat.

What does my neighbour's Tesla have in common with a stairlift?

Chris Miller

Re: Charging

You can't use 'fast charge' all the time on EVs - it knackers the battery. Tesla's Superchargers keep track of how many times each vehicle uses them, and if you use them too often, you'll get a 'computer says no'.

Now that's a Finnish-ing move: Finland offers free 90-day tryout of Helsinki tech scene with childcare thrown in

Chris Miller

There are just 15 places available

Wow! Must be the cheapest advertising campaign ever.

The engineer lurking behind the curtain: Musical monitors on a meagre IT budget

Chris Miller

Flying Windows screensaver

Wot, no flying toasters?

Excel Hell: It's not just blame for pandemic pandemonium being spread between the sheets

Chris Miller

Re: I don't think the problem is Excel

A big +1 for education. 25 years ago, I was responsible for 2,000 desktops transitioning from Win 3.1 to Win95. We had three staff dedicated to training, going round the country teaching staff how to use Windows, Word, Excel etc.

There's an assumption that you can take a work experience bod, give them a copy of Excel and they can just get on with it. And the problem is that they probably can produce (after an unnecessary amount of trial and error) something that resembles a working spreadsheet. But they won't know that if you've a table of financial figures summed by row and column (imagine sales numbers divided by product and calendar month) that you should compare the sum of the sums of rows to the sum of the sums of columns, and if they don't agree something has gone wrong. And that's what education teaches you.

Instead we get moaning Minnies like the author of this article saying that Micro$oft is crap, when really the problem lies with management cost-cutting.

Wind and quite a bit of fog shroud Boris Johnson's energy vision for the UK

Chris Miller

Re: Or

Dinorwig is a great technical achievement, but it's good for 1.75GW for 5.25hrs. To keep the lights on for 4 cold, windless* days in February, you'd need well over 300 Dinorwigs. Where shall we put them?

Battery farms are even worse - the biggest in the world - Tesla's plant in S Australia - can deliver 100MW for an hour. So just 30,000 of those to solve the cold snap problem.

Magical thinking.

* or too windy. They're not called unreliables for nothing.

Big IQ play from IT outsourcer: Can't create batch files if you can't save files. Of any kind

Chris Miller

I'm surprised at an outsourcer swiftly implementing a change rather than responding with the standard: "This is not covered under our contract and must therefore be charged at our (outrageous) daily rate." But, this being the civil service, probably the conversation did take place and produced the response: "Don't worry, the taxpayer will cover it."

Singapore Airlines turns A380 into a restaurant, delivers plane food to homes

Chris Miller

Re: Among the odder products of the COVID-19 pandemic are “flights to nowhere”

Good joke, but if I'm flying to NYC, I greatly prefer EWR to JFK. Apart from flights being slightly cheaper, immigration is better (still crap, though), as are links into Manhattan.

It's the year of Linux on the... ThinkPad as Lenovo extends out-of-the-box Ubuntu support to nearly 30 machines

Chris Miller

Windows licences, after all, represent a not-insignificant chunk of any PC's retail price.

Do you think Lenovo (or any other manufacturer) pay list price for their tens of millions of licences each year? I'd be surprised if it's in double digits of £ per unit.

The Battle of Britain couldn't have been won without UK's homegrown tech innovations

Chris Miller

Polish Air Force War Memorial

If you look left from the A40, travelling into London, just after passing Northolt, you can glimpse the eagle on top of the Polish Air Force War Memorial. At the end of the war, many settled in England, there's been a thriving Polish Club in Amersham since the 50s.

US military takes aim at 2024 for human-versus-AI aircraft dogfights. Have we lost that loving feeling for Top Gun?

Chris Miller

Re: computers will be used for low-priority work

That example was stitched together (by a human editor) from half-a dozen attempts by the AI.

Happy birthday to the Nokia 3310: 20 years ago, it seemed like almost everyone owned this legendary mobile

Chris Miller

And a battery that would genuinely last for a week on a single charge. Try telling that to th' youth o' today ...

Um, almost the entire Scots Wikipedia was written by someone with no idea of the language – 10,000s of articles

Chris Miller

Re: "Ach ay tha noo"

"If ye can say it's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht, ye're a' richt, ye ken!"

A wee deoch-an-doris - Harry Lauder

Toshiba formally and finally exits laptop business

Chris Miller

Re: Toshiba commercial

In the UK they were advertised with "Ullo Tosh! Gotta Toshiba?", an adaptation of Alexei Sayle's greatest hit: "Ullo Joihn! Gotta new motor?".

Aviation regulator outlines fixes that will get the 737 MAX flying again

Chris Miller

Re: It's a Boeing

Whereas Airbus would never allow fully certified pilots to fly a completely airworthy aircraft into the sea, killing all on board. Air travel is (thanks to a lot of hard work by many able people) an incredibly safe mode of transport, but to claim that one manufacturer is far 'safer' than another is total moonshine.

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