* Posts by Chris Miller

3524 publicly visible posts • joined 6 Apr 2007

ChatGPT can't pass these medical exams – yet

Chris Miller

If I were allowed unlimited time and free access to the Internet, I suspect I could pass this exam (or almost any written test), even though I know nothing about gastroenterology.

NASA's electric plane tech is coming in for a late, bumpy landing

Chris Miller

Re: Any scientists left at NASA?

Yes, I'm surprised so many Reg readers are fans of magical thinking rather than science. But then Greens and virtue signalling ...

Chris Miller

Re: Any scientists left at NASA?

And we're going to get people to build those plants how exactly?

When the lights go out, minds will change - and when the bills come in. Coming soon thanks to Nut Zero.

Chris Miller

Any scientists left at NASA?

You don't need more than a school level qualification in a STEM subject to work out that practical electrified aircraft (other than small puddle-jumpers) are an impossibility. OTOH we know how to make hydrocarbon fuel from water and CO2 - just add (lots of) energy, if only we had a worldwide system of nuclear plants to provide it. And there's already a worldwide distribution system for it and propulsion systems that can use it.

No more feature updates for Windows 10 – current version is final

Chris Miller

Re: Truly, certainly not

There are several small apps (some free) that will emulate the Win7 Start menu in Win10.

Pentagon super-leak suspect cuffed: 21-year-old Air National Guardsman

Chris Miller

IF (big 'if') these really are highly classified documents, one has to ask why such a junior person even had access to them. 9/11 led to accusations that the various elements of US intelligence operations failed to 'join the dots', and as a result many of the partitions between secure data were removed. This was one of the factors that allowed Manning (an equally junior operative) to access and copy so much classified information.

Investment bank forecasts LLMs could put 300 million jobs at risk

Chris Miller

There's no timescale given for this (put me down for the 12th of Never), but in a healthy, advanced economy ~10% of workers will change jobs every year (either voluntarily or not). So while 300 million sounds a lot, it ain't all that.

Turing Award goes to Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of the Ethernet

Chris Miller

'Legend' is an over-used word, these days, but Bob definitely is one.

Humans strike back at Go-playing AI systems

Chris Miller

I think it was Gary Kasparov who observed that you need to relearn how to play against a computer. It's not like playing a strong human opponent, where you might be thinking something along the lines of "it looks like he's planning to strengthen his queen's side, so I'll attack on the king's side", the computer doesn't have a 'plan'.

It's been 230 years since British pirates robbed the US of the metric system

Chris Miller

At any French market, people cheerfully buy and sell vegetables and other produce in 'livres' (500g), ditto Germany and pfunde. And French TVs and monitors are sized in pouces (inches, literally 'a thumb'). You can buy a 5x10cm length of wood, but measure it carefully and you'll find it's a 2x4".

Bringing cakes into the office is killing your colleagues, says UK food watchdog boss

Chris Miller

It appears Susan Jebb watched an early episode of Brass Eye and concluded it must be a documentary.

Haiku beta 4: BeOS rebuild / almost ready for release / A thing of beauty

Chris Miller

Re: I wish them well

I remember J-LG showing it off at Demo96 in Indian Wells. BeOS was running multiple video windows on a Pentium 200MHz with 16MB (?) of memory. Very impressive, but (of course) there was no software for it.

TSMC said to be considering first European semiconductor plant

Chris Miller

Depends how big a bribe subsidy they're prepared to offer.

Massive energy storage system goes online in UK

Chris Miller

Re: Per home usage

Or, even less impressively, power the national grid (~40GW before all the new cars and heat pumps come on stream) for 18 seconds. My understanding (possibly out of date) is that the site is currently 98MWh, with capacity for expansion to 196MWh, so that would be just 9 seconds. Contrast that with the cold, still, dark period we experienced last February for two weeks.

Still, if we follow Hunt's suggestion and wear an extra jumper, I'm almost certain we'll be able to keep the lights on. Probably.

Chris Miller

Re: Peak power consumption

And that 's before all vehicles are electric and all heating provided by heat pumps (scheduled for the 12th of Never).

California wildfires hit CTRL+Z on 18 years of CO2e removal

Chris Miller

But all the carbon in the CO2 produced by wildfires, like the CO2 and CH4 emitted by domesticated livestock, must have been originally captured from the atmosphere by photosynthesising plants (part of the carbon cycle, which some of us learnt about in school geography, unless we were taking part in a klimastreik that day). It's not directly comparable to emissions from fossil fuels, which are what ultimately increases CO2 in the atmosphere.

Boeing to pay SEC $200m to settle charges it misled investors over 737 MAX safety

Chris Miller

Re: Outrageous

The article (and the fine) are about misleading investors, not corporate manslaughter. It certainly hasn't "all gone away".

Chris Miller

Re: "Reimbursing investors"

Such charges are not the responsibility of the SEC. How many people died in Tupolevs and Ilyushins, I wonder? Free market capitalism is the worst possible system, except for all the others.

AI detects 20,000 hidden taxable swimming pools in France, netting €10m

Chris Miller

Re: Chemicals & Services

French* workers (that includes local government officers) need to be 'bribed' if you want them to do any actual work. It doesn't have to be a brown envelope full of notes, a nice bottle or even a homemade cake will work wonders - you're apologising for the inconvenience you're putting them to. But Brits aren't aware of this culture, and get rotten service.

* applies equally to most of southern Europe.

Australian wasps threaten another passenger plane, with help from COVID-19

Chris Miller

If the aircraft is static on the ground, the correct reading will be zero. It's only when you're flying and it's still zero that you know there's a problem. Handling "unreliable airspeed indication" is pilot 101, unfortunately some Air France pilots seem to have missed that module.

Businesses should dump Windows for the Linux desktop

Chris Miller


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

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.


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

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

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).