* Posts by Alan Johnson

242 posts • joined 1 Sep 2008


GitHub to replace master with main across its services

Alan Johnson

A bad idea

The ar emany problems with teh proposed change.

The terminology of using master for the default branch is well established, changing it now will cause confusion and this will be inefficient and a source of unnecessary future issues so the change does have costs associated with it.

The second problem is that the change in any case in no way addresses any real issue in a substantive way, in so far as racism exists it will not alleviate or reduce racism. What it does is give the appearance of doing something while actually doing nothing, a pure gseture, which if it has any effect at all is to undermine substantive change.

The third problem is that the master in this case clearly refers to the concept of a master copy and is a better name than main.

More broadly the concept of master and slave which is a very widely used and useful design concept is very sucintly and accurately conveyed by the terms 'master' and 'slave'. Using terminology based on an analogy to a ubiquitous facet of human history which is fortunately nowadays illegal and righlt reviled in no way suggest to anybody any approval for it nor do I believe it causes any pain, suffering or disadvantage to anyone. It does provide a hook to people who want to be offended to claim offense. If we continue down this road where wil it end. Killing a process would logically seem even more offensive than master and slave,

should we stop calling connectors male if they have protuding pins making contact and female if they have a recepticle to accept pins? Whatever other terms are chosen, they will be less clear, cause more confusion and those who want to be offended will still find something to offend.

White House turns to Big Tech to fix coronavirus blunders while classifying previous conversations

Alan Johnson

Re: Oh my goodness -- the US administration is thrashing?

I think it would be foolish for anyone to make very confident statements about the virus as yet but even if its fatality rate is as low as 0.2% which does nto seem to be the case then that is a big issue because no one has immunity. If we assume that close to 100% of the UK get it then we would be looking at more than 100k deaths, not a small number. In the US we would be looking at more than 0.5 million deaths. Then we have the possibility that it might be an order of magnitude or so worse than that and it is clear that this is not an insignificant threat.

Given all this I don't see much panic to be honest. Sure there is a bit of hoarding and people are not going out very much but you could argue that is sensible. Genrally people seem quite stoical about it, but I am in the UK and it may be different elsewhere.

If you're wondering how Brit cops' live suspect-hunting facial-recog is going, it's cruising at 88% false positives

Alan Johnson

Re: Now you see me

"Meaning only 7 were sent for manual inspection. Can you imagine the fleet of people required to do this manually?"

I don't think this makes sense. The system needs at least one person waiting for alerts who can respond immediately to check the alert, stop and question the highlighted individual and decide if the alert was genuine. In practice I am sure several people were required with the system the entire time it was operating. Now lets assume that the people instead of baby sitting the AI system were simply looking for suspicous behaviour and were aware of the appearance of some wanted people who intelligence thought might pass through the area concerned. How many genuine wanted people would the team stop and question in this case? I would be amazed if it was not substantially higher than 1.

If this is the case and I admit I have nothing more than my feelings to go one unless somebody does this as a comparison, the system quite apart from any concern about a surveillance society and culture is wasting time and reducing police effectiveness.

In-depth: Deloitte and accounts expert both cleared what HPE described as 'contrived' Autonomy sales

Alan Johnson

Is this the best HP have?

The whole point of the deal was to accelerate the income recognition. It was otherwise pointless and cost Autonomy money. However in the context of the case you have to say so what?

An artificial deal to speed up recognition fo revenue from a specific deal by a few weeks but which otherwise had no effect is completely irrelevant in the context of what HP are alleging. How can this or any number of similar deals make a substantial difference to the value of the company? The big thing is that the underlying transaction was real and was properly accounted for and the fee paid added to the cost of sales and hence reduced margin.

This deal clearly is saling close to the wind but by the same token it shows that they were taking care to have a basis in reality for what they did and to have the auditors check it.

You also have to ask yet again where was the due diligence. If as part of due diligence you didn't sample and investigate in detail big deals to confirm there were no financial irregularities but also to understand the outlook for further sales then what was the point of it?

London's top cop dismisses 'highly inaccurate or ill informed' facial-recognition critics, possibly ironically

Alan Johnson

Re: Were the Met Police so 'highly accurate and well-informed' in the past?

I can accept that genuine mistakes can be made by anyone and when those concerned are armed police officers seeking a terrorist in the aftermath of a bombing who may bomb again that a mistake can have fatal consequences.

What I can't accept is a deceitful campaign of disinformation following the incident, clear evidence of collusion and purjery ( all of the offices accounts matched and they were contradicted by all of the 'civilians' present) and blatant manipulation of the inquest system to prevent a finding of unlawful killing.

It also seems at least plausible that changes made to the operational control of fire arms officers to make them more closely directed by remote senior commaders rather than the person on the spot being responsible made th etragedy more likely.

Dick was a big part of all of that and that she was appointed commissioner after it is outrageous. I suspect, although I have no evidence for it, that it was because she was a women. A male officer in a similar position would have been shunted sideways and denied future promotions.

Coming back to facial recognition the bayesian natur eof the problem means that a system would have to be veyr very good not to have a problem with a very high number of false positive simply because there are an lot more innocent people around than criminals. The danger is that because it is a high tech AI system that people treat the results as anything other than very dubious.

BAE Systems tosses its contractors a blanket... ban on off-payroll working under upcoming IR35 tax reforms

Alan Johnson

Catch 22

Another said their contract was terminated after they contested the blanket determination. "There was no discussion. I kicked up a fuss, and not long after, I got a call saying my contract had been terminated."

Ironically proving that they were right and definitely not inside IR35 as clearly there was no mutuality of obligation. Amusing in a rather dark and sad way.

Don't use natwest.co.uk for online banking, Natwest bank tells baffled customer

Alan Johnson

Re: But is it a fair assumption?

I failed a telephone banking security check when I answered every question correctly including the address of the bank my account was with, when and where I had opened my account and the exact amount in one of my accounts. I compalined and received compensation in the form of a bottle of champagne. They reviewed the recording of my call. The result of the investigation was that the employee concerned had left, that their records did not go back to when I opened my account so my answers to some questions appeared incorrect but it was actually their records that were wrong and they just didn't understand why he had rejected some of the correct answers.

As it happened it was not a disaster so I was happy but if you can fail when all answers are correct I can imagine that there are quite a few cases were people cannot access there own accounts.

HPE's orders to expert accountant in Autonomy trial revealed

Alan Johnson

Re: Why is it moot?

"The US case would be decided under the law of the US, or whichever state is applicable. The UK case is decided under UK law.

Of course it's not impossible, or even unlikely, for those two bodies of law to say different things and be interpreted by different authorities, and thus lead to different outcomes."

This is exactly why it would be a travesty of justice if Lynch was extradited. I have no idea about the man himself but the point is that he sold a British company, liste don teh London stock exchange, teh sale taking place in England. US laws may be different from UK laws and that difference may even be significant but the applicable law is clearly English law. If when any of us do something in Britaian that annoys a rich american we can be extradited to be tried under american laws whcih we have no awareness of then the british state has abandoned any pretence to protect its citizens or to have an sovereignty at all.

This would be true even if there was some significant evidence against Mike Lynch the civil case as reported so far has been pathetic with HP failing to provide even a plausible case that there was any fraud, let alone proof it to a criminal standard, let alone tie it to Mike Lynch.

Addded to that we have the deeply unsatisfactory conviction of Sushovan Hussain on the basis of fraud committed by A US salesman who received immunity for testifying against him. Given the paucity of evidence of fraud presnted b y HP so far that conviction reinforces the impression that teh US legal system is incapable of providing fair trials paticularily for foreigners.

He’s a pain in the ASCII to everybody. Now please acquit my sysadmin client over these CIA Vault 7 leaking charges

Alan Johnson

Does not reflect well on the CIA whatever the outcome

The ability to do what it has been claimed that he did within 1 hour seems deeply implausible but what stood out in my mind is the claim that he modified the logs. If it is actually possible to modify a log in a way that is not instantly detectable on such a hyper secure system then whoever designed it and considered it suitable is massively incompetent.

Former Autonomy boss Mike Lynch 'submits himself' for arrest in central London

Alan Johnson

Re: Trade deal - test for the UK government

Can you negotiate that in return for extraditing Mike Lynch the US agrees to extradite Anne Sacoolas..

Absolutely not the cases are not at all equivalent. In one case we have a woman who admits to killing a young man and on the other we have a man accused of commiting an offense in Britain, that the British prosecuting authourities declined toprosecute because they thought there was no case and who is currently being tried for the same offense in Britain in a civl trial.

he should not be tried in the US becuase that is tantamount to saying that US courts have jurisdiction in the UK and worse if he is found not have committed fraud in Britain that US courts override British court judgements.

We should say no one will be extradited to the US for any offense until Anne Socolas is handed over. Her case is as clear cut as they come, she admits the offense, someone died as a result. The extradition treaty is worthless if it is not honoured in this case and we should make that clear.

Alan Johnson

Although the US is not bound by UK judgements, and additionally something that is unlawful in the US is not necessarily unlawful in the UK.

Well exactly so why is a charge of fraud for the sale of a British company, listed on the London stock exchange, that took place in Britain being pursued in the US?

If the answer is because the laws are different then it should not be tried there at all.

The real answer is of course that it is difficult if not impossible to obtain a fair trial in the US due to normalised prosecutorial abuses and inducements for false testimony by criminal witnesses. This is compounded when the accused is a foreigner. They believe they can obtain a conviction when there is no case to answer within the UK.

This case really highlights the need to change the one sided and unjust extradition treaty with the US.

A new treaty should prevent forum shopping by making it clear trials should be conducted in the country in which the offense is alleged to have occured. That extradition cannot occcur when a prosecuting authourity within either country has declined to prosecute a sthey believe it is against the public interest to do so and the treaty should allow refusal if the evidence presented is insufficient.

GitLab can proclaim diversity all it likes, but it seems to have a real problem keeping women on staff or in management

Alan Johnson

As The Register understands, CEO Sid Sijbrandij was required to hire a woman for the role.

"There is a lot of reporting that shows sometimes a company's work culture will privilege one gender over the other. At GitLab, we are proud to say that is not the case, and the truth is in the numbers."

If as a company you start to hire people not on the basis of their skills and ability but on their sex you are running the risk that more of the people you are will turn out to be unsuitable than would otherwise be the case. If you then lie and claim not to be hiring people on the basis of sex then you run the risk of creating a culture of distrust and fear of speaking the turth within your company.

They have simoply reaped what they have sown. they should stop discriminating and start hiring on the basis of merit.

Accounting expert told judge Autonomy was wrong not to disclose hardware sales

Alan Johnson

" Far easier to just send him to the US and be done with it."

So what if he has done nothing wrong, that he was in England and broke no english laws. He embarassed a large american company and rich americans will suffer if they don't find a foreign scapegoat, so he has to pay.

It is the way that the americans think and act but it is not something we should accept.

One-time Brexit Secretary David Davis demands Mike Lynch's extradition to US be halted

Alan Johnson

I am reasonably confidentthat despite winning a civil trial in the UK it is almost certain Lynch would be convicted in the US. That is the problem.

Alan Johnson

Re: Saccolas @Alan Johnson

The Julian Assange case is very different.

There is no diplomatic immunity and the supposed offense were committed remotely.

Personally I think the US charges are an example of US extraterratoriality and abusive. Allowing a foreign government to extradite foreign nationals from the UK country because the helped facilitate a US citizen to publish information which is embarrassing to the US government is a terrible precedent. It could be deployed against journalists or by countries which have totalitarian and repressive regimes.

I am not a lawyer so I have no ide aabout the legal situation.

The Swedish charges were quite different. It would have been right to extradite him on those charges even though it appeared possible they were a setup.

Alan Johnson

Re: Saccolas

This is frankly nonsense. Diplomatic immunity is not intended to prevent extradition. It is intended to prevent harassment with spurious criminal investigations and charges within a foreign country.

If charges are assessed as not being spurious then the immunity can and usually is waived.

Once back in the home country the diplomat and his family are necessarily protected and diplomatic immunity simply does not apply. The normal extradition process allows spurious or abusive request to be denied whether the subject is a diplomat or not.

The US is denying a legitimate extradition request which is clearly not abusive simply becaust it can. the clear message is that it regards teh inconevnience of teh wive of a minor US official as mor esigniifcant than the life of a UK citizen and that it regards good relations as of only minor if any concern.

From a UK perspetive this puts NATO membership, security amd intelligence cooperation and our continued support of the US in almost all areas in a different light to what has historically been understood. At the very leats we should suspend our extradition treaty which is now seen as one side and worthless.

Alan Johnson

Re: Saccolas

"Pardon my cynicism but driving on the wrong side of the road is dangerous but how with eyes on the road ahead do you get to kill someone, given the instinct to brake, swerve whatever on the part of both drivers.

My understanding was the collision occured immediately before/after a bend where the motorbike rider had no time to avoid the car.

The accident very understandable without the need for conspiracy theories, impairment through alcohol, drugs etc. GIven the defendants good character and that she had been in the UK a short time, that she was a mother with children (unfair but women do systematically get treated more leniently). She would have been held responsible for the accident but received little if any jail time. The problem is her seeking to evade responsibility. Whoever advised her was an idiot, the long term damage to her and her families reputation and the effect of the negative publicity on her and her family will have a far greater impact than simply accepting her punishment whatever it turned out to be. This will continue for a long time. The effect on US UK relations and future extraditions are potentially enormous especially in the current environment where the US makes little attempt to hide its contempt for other nations, and existing treaties and relationships.

Alan Johnson

Re: Not Menwith

"The Harry Dunn case is particularly shitshowy and there's the whole issue of diplomatic immunity (which it's not obvious is valid) that will go through the US court system"

The diplomatic immunity clearly is not valid. It is not at all clear that her husband was a diplomat on a diplomatic mission but most clearly she is no longer in a foreign country so diplomatic immunity cannot apply and is completely irrelevant. The imbalance in the treaty is completely plain in this specific case. The UK could not refuse extradition in a similar case. We would not be so stupid as to want to do so but that is a sperate matter.

There is a big problem with the fairness of the US legal system in which abuses are widespread and normalised with the use of the plea bargain system to coerce false confessions and false testimony. There is also the problem of extraterritoriality - ignorance of the law is no defence, but ignorance of a different countries law when you are in your own country? Lastly there has been clear bias in some high profile cases when a foreign company or individual is tried.

We need to refuse to extradite anyone until Anne Sacoolas is returned for trial. We need to reform the exisiting treaty to give us the ability to refuse and require the US to demonstrate they have a case, that the offence was committed in the US, the crime is also a crime in Britain and that the trial will be fair.

Amazing peer-reviewed AI bots that predict premature births were too good to be true: Flawed testing bumped accuracy from 50% to 90%+

Alan Johnson

Concept flawed

The idea of training and evaluating a system with only 38 examples as anything except a rough proof of concept to help decide if it is worthwhile to investigate further is illconceived from the start.

Heart of darkness: Inside the Osówka underground city

Alan Johnson

Re: Maybe one day we will also visit Cold War underground facilities

I have done the Reading version and it was good fun. Mind you I think less than £100.

Lynch lied about Autonomy's accounts, rages HPE to the High Court

Alan Johnson

Building on that, HPE alleges that "far from showing that HP simply charged ahead with the acquisition instead of waiting for access to Deloitte's work papers [for more detailed auditing], the evidence shows that HP made repeated requests for such access and that Autonomy management consistently refused."

If HP made repeate drequest for information which Autonomy management refused but HP Went ahead with the purcahse then this doe sindeed show that HP charged ahead without waiting for Deloittes work papers (or even report).

HP continue to amaze with their self contradictory and borderline farcical arguments.

HPE to Mike Lynch: You told either El Reg or High Court the right version of why former Autonomy execs won't testify

Alan Johnson

As often HPs arguments seem rather desperate. The reality is that there may be more than one reason why the witnesses did not appear. It ciould be that they were naturally reluctant to appear facing potentially hostile questioningand the defence believed that their testimony was not as useful as they originally felt given the progress of the trial. The final decision could take both factors into account. COmplaining that the defence did nto call witnesses that HP wanted the defence to call and then complaining about the reasons just seems ridiculous. The defence does not have to give any reasons for not callingg a witness to testify.

The impression is once again of clutching at straws hoping that a witness would under questionning say something that can turn a failing case around. That maybe why the defence did not call them, feeling that they are winning and therefore reducing the chance of anything unexpected happening.

I am no expert but does throing this sort of thing out rather than focussing on the core of a case do anything but annoy the judge?

Elon Musk gets thumbs up from jury for use of 'pedo guy' in cave diver defamation lawsuit

Alan Johnson

Bizarre verdict

It is a bizarre verdict.

The only possible way I can see it makes any sense is if the jury believed that Msuk has so little credibility that nothing he says is taken seriously but this seems a stretch given Musks profile, the fact he repeated and confirmed the accusation and the shear number of people who heard Musk's comments.

The amount of damages is difficult, as compensation 190 M$is far too high but as a punishment for Musk's actions perhaps a little small so anywhere between 5 M$ and 500M$ would be arguably reasonable. Personally I think the damaes award should be big enough to cause serious hurt to Musk so 190 M$ was probably OK.

US Embassy in London files extradition request for ex-Autonomy boss over HPE fraud charges

Alan Johnson

Re: Due diligence &c

I suspect the definition of fraud in the UK civil case is different from that of a US securities fraud criminal case, so you may be comparing apples and oranges.

If the US criminal threshold is below one for civil liability that is itself extremely worrying.

so I'm not buying the argument that it's somehow a stitchup by the Powers That Be colluding with HP.

I am not necessarilyu saying HP were involved beyond getting th eprocess rolling but standard US prosecutorial conduct makes a fair trial all but impoossible.

Alan Johnson

Re: Due diligence &c

"I don't believe it's THAT easy to get charges brought against someone in the US - Hussain was convicted in April of charges related to this situation. El Reg is skimpy with the facts here as Lynch faces securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy charges. Lynch made 815 million USD from the sale. Read the indictment yourselves - looks like there were shenanigans got to do with valuation of the company, including lying to the independent auditor about revenue.

In the fraud case in the UK the only things that HP have pointed to were:

1. That Autonomy were not a 'pure' software company as they had a proportionally small income from hardware sales, often sold to facilitate the use of their software. HPs argument is that for Autonomy to say they were a 'pure' software company when they had any income whatsoever from hardware sales however small constituted fraud. The basis for this is that a sofwtare business can have higher margins than a hardware business.

2. There were a small number of transactions that could potentially characterised as circular. The contention is that these were artificial to bolster revenue. Problems with HP's argument is that the transactions concerned are at least plausibly, genuine, amount to sums which are irrelevant in the overall business and contradict and mutually undermine HP argument about 'pure' software. The issue is that HP have argues that being a pure software company is important as they valued autonomy on the basis it was a high margin business. The suppossed circular transactions reduce margins, so on HPs argument would have had the effect of depressing the purchase price.

Lynch has strong defences that the small facilitating hardware sales were an essential part of software sales and common knwoledge and practice to anyone familiar with this area of business and that the circulaar transactions were genuine.

HPs big problem is that if everything the allege was true it doesn't make a significant difference to any business valuation, that commentators at the time thpough the purchas eprice was grossly excessive based on Autonony's published accounts and HP did not bother to complete due diligence so were clearly negligent and reckless in the purchasing process.

The charges in the US clearly are specious sif HP cannot convince a court in a civl court to a much lower standard of evidence that any fraud happene at all. The conviction of Hussein was very troubling at the time and appears even more so now. Husseins main problem seems to stem from a refusal to cooperate in providing false testimony to help convict Lynch.

UK Info Commish quietly urged court to swat away 100k Morrisons data breach sueball

Alan Johnson

Appropriate Measures?

This hinges on whether appropriate measures were taken to protect the data concerned. It is far from clearto me wehether this was the case or nto but most on here seem to be arguing that the fact that a criminal employee was able to circumvent whatever measures were taken of itself is sufficient to proof the measures were not appropriate. This is a crazy argument as it is not possibole to have security measures which are absolutely impossible to circumvent under any circumstances, paticularily against a rogue employee or employees who have legitimate access to the data concerned.

The situation is quite different to an injury caused by an employee or the like while acting as an employee as in this case it is not alleged that anybody has been damaged or hurt in anyway except by 'distress'.

The difficult question is of course what measures are appropriate and in this has to be a judegement of how sensitive the data was and how likely would be attempts to access it inappropriately versus the measures taken to ensure its security. Given the impact of the data leak is conceded by everyone to have been negligible the data cannot be considered to be of high sensitivity. If the data was only secured via access granted for a legitimate purpose to an appropriate person, who was appropriately selected and the data access was limited to only that reasonably required then based on this Morrisons should be considered to have taken appropriate measures.

Morrisons tells top court it's not liable for staffer who nicked payroll data of 100,000 employees

Alan Johnson

Re: Depends if decent efforts at data security made by Morrisons

Morrisions allowed an unauthorised disclosure of the employees information from their systems, by failing to stop the Auditor from downloading and exiting the building with the employee payroll records.

open and shut

If it was open and shut then it would not be in teh appeal process at the moment.

The issue with your argument is the statement: Morrisions allowed an unauthorised disclosure of the employees information from their systems, by failing to stop the Auditor from downloading and exiting the building with the employee payroll records.

It is quite clear that Morrisons did not allow this action at all, on teh contrary it is clear that they did not allow it and sought to prevent it but that measures to prevent it were inadequate in this case.

The legal issue to me is what level of precautions and security is sufficient to remove liability from Morrisons. Personally I think an employer shopudl only be liable for the actions of an employee if the employee actions were forseeable and the lack of precautions amounted to recklessness.

This is just a basic principle of fairness, the person who is responsible for criminal actions, is teh criminal themselves and people who just happened to be in the wrong place atteh wrong time and failed to prevent the criminal actions. If a reasonable level of care is taken, with a presumption that this is the case unless clearly otherwise, then third parties shoudl not be held responsible for failing to prevent a crime.

Move along, nothing to see here: Auditors say £100k grant to Hacker House was 'appropriate'

Alan Johnson

Report is disturbing

The report seems to consider it acceptable that not only was made to a company that did not meet the sensible requirment that the money awarded to a company should not exceed more than 50% of income but that it was awarded to a company that claime dno income at all. They also seem unconcerned that the company does not in fact sem to have anything more than a registerd address in the UK and do not in fact conduct business here.

Leaving aside the undisclosed relationship between Johnson and teh company owner this is incredible. An application as made for a new company with no track record, that completely failed to meet sensible requirements for a grant and yet it as awarded large amounts of money. The report considers that acceptable which is ridiculous. The reality is that reading the report we have a choice between believing that grotesque incompetence and recklessness with public money or corrupt influence on behalf of a friend resulted in large amounts of money being given inappropriately to an american. Neither is very good yet the report says everything is fine.

I find the report more disturbing than the money being given against the rules. IS this really considered acceptable or is it this easy to fix an enquiry?

Reaction Engines' precooler tech demo chills 1,000°C air in less than 1/20th of a second

Alan Johnson

Re: This is truely impressive

I don't know if this is a factor but even if you could compress air at an input temperature of 1000C without destroying the engine then the result would be air significantly hotter than 1000C. The thermodynamcis just doesn't work if the temperature is too high. At around 3000C then around half of water molecules disassociate into hydrogen and oxygen and this temperature could easily be reached if significant compression of the air was being performed. This is a more fundamental limit than the ability of the engine to withstand temperatures etc.

Pro tip: Plug in your Tesla S when clocking off, lest you run out of juice mid hot pursuit

Alan Johnson

"Yes, because when in hot pursuit of Mr Baddie and you run out of petrol because someone forgot to fill it up the shift before, Mr Baddie will just pull over while you fill it up.

The difference is that if you notice at teh start of your shift that the petrol is low you can quite practically fill it up. If you notice the charge is low you need to put it on charge and get a different vehicle.

The 'study' if we can call it that which compares the Tesla to a standard Ford Explorer seems flawed and perhaps corrupt/fixed from the start. The vehicles are simply not comparable and for many purposes the explorer seems massively superior in terms of capabilities. Perhaps only in highway pursuit does the Tesla have an advantage but that cannot be the primary/intended role of the Explorer. It seems like a fix or perhaps just a publicity stunt. Even in this role it seems that the Tesla simply does not meet the needs. It has an offical range of 370 miles if the role involved crusing on the highway it simply does not have the range to do this for long enough especialy keeping some sort of margin and recharging takes too long ulike a conventional vehcle with which refueling would be practical.

UK Supreme Court unprorogues Parliament

Alan Johnson

Re: Regardless of which side of the fence you are on.

If I remember the discussions correctly then this could actually cause major issues in the future specifically because it says the Supreme Court has authority over Parliament. This goes against the supposed seperation of powers which is presumed in how things 'work' in the U

This is absolutely NOT what happened. The judgement is that the government cannot suspend parliment to prevent it taking actions the government dislikes or finds inconvenient. The outcome reinforces the power and authority of parliment rather than undermining it anyway whatsoever.

This image-recognition roulette is all fun and games... until it labels you a rape suspect, divorcee, or a racial slur

Alan Johnson

Stunningly unsurprising

Software designed to highlight the potential pain caused by AI systems produces consistently problematic/insulting results. Amazing. What relevance or news value it has to anything whatsoever is difficult to discern. I suspect it has a list mad eup entirely of problematic or insulting categories and classifies everything with respect to that. Completely misleading and arguably dishonest.

Q. If machine learning is so smart, how come AI models are such racist, sexist homophobes? A. Humans really suck

Alan Johnson

Not at all clear how to decide what is biased

The exampel given illustrates the difficulty in this area:

“he was a pimp and her friend was happy,” and score it a positive for sentiment, and negative for bias as it associates men with pimps.

Except that pimp is a term used exclusively for men so it is unclear if the sentence shows any bias at all. To take a different set of examples according to the ONS the majority of child abuse is committed by women and the majoority of murders are committed by men. If this was reflected in training sets and this in turn was reflected in the output of an AI trained using these sets would the result be 'biased'? I suspect it woudl be categorised as such yet it would simply reflect the world as it is.

What seems to be happening in at least some of these cases of AI 'bias' is that creating an AI forces us to confront aspects of the world with which we are uncomfortable. When this happens we reject the AI as 'biased'. The google AI to analyse CVs springs to mind. It was rejected because it selected 'too many men' yet this simply reflected the reality that the majority of developers are men. I beleive the reasons for this are unrelated to bias or discrimination which is strongly in the other direction therefore I don't think this google AI is biased. Others beleif the only reason women are a small minority of developers is societal bias therefore they woudl (and did) classify this google AI as biased.

An AI can be trained with biased data but it is not at all straightforward to define what this means let alone decide if it has occured. In practice whenever an outcome conflicts with our political beliefs we lable it a sbiased and if it does not we label it unbiased. At the end it still comes down to a subjective judgement.

HPE lawyer claims key associates of Autonomy boss Mike Lynch 'refuse' to testify to High Court

Alan Johnson

Re: Wait a minute

Being called to the bar means to be qualified as a barrister and witnesses do need to appear if summoned to do so and they could be held in contempt if they refuse to answer questions. On the other hand they could simply say they don't remember to everything.

Alan Johnson

More nonsense

IT is entirely up to Mike Lynchs defence team who they choose to call as witnesses, if they decide they no longer need witnesses who they had originally expected to call that is up to them. If HP want to call them as witnesses they can do so. The fact neither HP or the defence has not called them suggest that in fact they are not important to the case as it has developed. The attempt by HP to suggest or infer anything from the defences decision not to call is pointless and if it has any effect at all will simply be to reinforce the impresson they are clutchiung at straws.

I don't know if it is a difference between th eUS and uK legal system but HP seem to be playing to the gallery and press rather than the judge. Perhaps they expect to lose and the whole thing is just a damage limitation exercise. It is all rather bizarre.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson moves to shut Parliament

Alan Johnson

Re: About Time

Hmm. I am not an expert on Insurance so I have no knowledge of thsi but in my industry EU regulation was a huge improevemnt leading to less beaurocracy than YK regulation and is massively superior to teh ridiculous bysantine and illogical US system. I therefore used google to look up acadmeic papers on Solvency II and although theer are critical papers the consensus to the extent it exists is that Solvency II is a huge improvement,

As I said I don't know enough to judge but it does not seem like thsi is such a strong argument for leaving after all.

In anycase I suspect will b ejust like my industry in which leaving the EU will not mean we are not subjct to EU rules. We like almost everyone in the world will need to comply with EU rules in order to trade with the EU an dthe many countries who use EU rules and suppliers will be unwilling to meet UK specific requirments. What it will mean is we will be subject to the same regulations but without any say in what those regulations are. A massive reduction in sovereignty.

AMD agrees to cough up $35-a-chip payout over eight-core Bulldozer advertising fiasco

Alan Johnson

Re: Advertising

I am not sure I agree. I worked on bit slice CPUs that did not even have instruction decode and decod eis not what I conside rpart of a 'core' but I can understand someone disagreeing. What I don't understand is that anyone who cared about performance would have looked at benchmarks and the detailled tehcnical information. I still think this is an abusive lawsuit.

Alan Johnson

Re: Advertising

The problem with this case is that AMD were completely accurate but despite this were sued and had to make a pay out.

A CPU has never needed to include an FPU, for the first decade or so of my career FPUs were always additional accelerator devices or even boards It is still the case that many CPUs do not have FPUs. I recently designed a twin core fixed point DSP system, with (fixed point is the clue) no FPU.

AMD were completely accurate and precise using the normal meaning of the word core. I am sure their detailled literature and any technical reviews would also have been accurate. That total accuracy does not protect a company from a lawsuit by ignorant and negligent purchasers, or perhaps just opportunists who see a chance to get a little money does not paint the US legal system in a good light.

Every sympathy for AMD in this completely unjust situation, ignoring the money what about the unfair reputational damage?

The story so far: How's that Autonomy High Court battle with HPE looking at half-time?

Alan Johnson

Re: Due Diligence

Actually HP bought Autonomy before Deloitte had finished the due diligence. That means Deloitte are totally off the hook.

The rest of it is just barelling scrapping nonsense. Naturally in a company thsi size they can find some dodgy deals/crooked salesman but even if everything HP says is taken a true then they have nothing that adds up to anything like billions of overvaluation.

HP opened their case with the fact that Autonomy was selling some hardware. This should have been obvious to anyone that knew the market as they would have to do so to facilitate their software sales and once selling hardware the sales force would inevitably use it to sweeten or enhance deals. The hardware sales were always small compared to the software. It would have been identified as part of due dilligence - but - oops this was never completed. That they even bothered raising this let alone opened with it tells a lot.

£250m fund for NHS artificial intelligence laboratory slammed as tech for tech's sake

Alan Johnson

Re: It Needs Something

I am sorry about your wife clearly there is a need for better cancer diagnostics, screening and therapy but is AI/ML the answer? I am sure there are areas where it can help but suspect it will play a relatively small part compared to biomedical/biochemical research. AI/ML has the potential to marginally improve what we get out of the exisiting diagnostics and optimise therapies but that is all. Gains worth having but not game changing.

If we are going to invest this amount of money AI is probably not the best place to put the bulk of the money.

I think this has all the hallmarks of buzzword and pre-election gesture politics.

In this area there are continuing improvements but they are incremental and cumulative rather than dramatic.

Hack a small airplane? Yes, we CAN (bus) – once we physically break into one, get at its wiring, plug in evil kit...

Alan Johnson

Re: Threat model

"One fairly simple example implementation of this exploit would be targeting a millionaire that just laid of a number of staff."

Or if you wanted to murder such a millionaire and had direct phsycial access to his personal plane and the technical knowedge to exploit it you could simply sabotage it in a myriad of other ways or even plant a bomb.

No system is going to be secure against a threat where there is both:

a) direct physcial access

b) a technically sophisticated opponent

The silicon market is in such a dark place, Texas Instruments' revenue decline was rewarded

Alan Johnson

Re: 16% drop in embedded processing?

Look inside most stuff, and there's an anonymous 8 pin chip doing the smarts. The only consumer item I've seen with a TI device is an Oral-B toothbrush (MSP2435G, since you're asking)

TI is not really a processor company, yes they make DSPs, the MSP430 family and a few arm based parts but they cover much wider areas than this and it is not their focus; power management, analogue/linear, conversion, interface etc. there is more value in a typical system in those areas than just the microcontroller. We design a lot of embedded things of many different kinds and while a TI processor is rare they are the biggest player in everything else.

Literally braking news: Two people hurt as not one but two self-driving space-age buses go awry

Alan Johnson

Re: If they'd recorded what the sensor sensed they would KNOW what caused the emergency stop.

The point is that during trials you would expect all of the raw sensor data and a video stream from independant cameras to be recorded precisely to allow investigation of any incidents or anomolies. If you don't do this then unless the trial has perfect results or very clea rmajor failings you will have incidents which you can't adequately investigate so that it is unclear whether the system is behaving adequately or not.

Yes, I've been swotting up on court evidence in advance, says Autonomy founder Mike Lynch

Alan Johnson

Still very thin

The nature of the supposed frauds continues to seem very minor at best. There is nothing wrong with a reciprocal purchase unless it was artifical and even if this was the case the effect is not to increase profitability but turnover and this would reduce margin which was supposedly what HP was concerned might be lowered with hardware sales. It all seems quite desperate barrel scrapping rather than a strong case.

Guy is booted out of IT amid outsourcing, wipes databases, deletes emails... goes straight to jail for two-plus years

Alan Johnson

@Doctor Syntax

"The company says it spent about 10 hours restoring as much data as possible, at a cost of about $50,000."

There are teh direct costs of restoration plus the indirect loss that employees cannot work effectively.

It looks like they have around 25 employees and given the actions taken probably took out the ability for those employees to work effectively for around 5 days giving time for reaction, sourcing a supplier to address the issue, and the supplier to address the issue the loss per employeee being claimed is only $2000 or assuming 5 days $50 an hour. That does not seem outrageous.

Yorkshire bloke's Jolly Roger flag given the heave-ho after council receives one complaint

Alan Johnson

Guidance on flags wrong but a possible loop hole

The guidance allows civil not naval ensigns. However it also allows flags of sports clubs and he could argue this is the flag of the Pitsburgh Pirates.


Mike Lynch in court: I was not aware of every single thing Autonomy did around the world (so don't blame me)

Alan Johnson

Re: James Murdoch Defence

HP do not seem to have identified any significant fraud or misrepresentation at all. The one case they have identified was relatively small scale, in the US and against company policy. Even if accepted it is in teh context of the HP purchase of Autonomy irrelevant. At the same time it has been clearly demonstrated that HP were utterly negligent in the decision making for the purchase. It is deeply disturbing that this level of evidence was sufficient to convict Hussein in court paticularily as most of what evidenc etehre is comes from the person who broke company policy and committed the fraud who has done a deal with prosecutors. You get the impression that his main crime was refusing to give false evidence about Lynch. You have to question if we should extradite anyone to the US charged with this sort of crime.

Brexit: Digital border possible for Irish backstop woes, UK MPs told

Alan Johnson

Wishful thinking does not make good policy

The fundamental issue is that if different taxation or regulatory requirements exist which motivate people to smuggle items across the border.

There is in principle no problem with a 'digitial' solution which allows honest, cooperative traders to document what they transport across the border and charge the appropriate duty without any interaction at the border. The problem comes as soon as there is a significant financial motive to be dishonest, something that will happen as soon as there are any tarrifs or significant regulatory differences. This is certain if we leave without an agreement tarriffs as will be required under WTO as they must be the same for the UK as for other countries without trade deals not part of the EU.

Anybody who thinks smuggling with large financial incentives will not require active measures to control and limit at the border is living in a fantasy world. Whatever technical means are created active creative minds will be thinking of ways to subvert and deceive. Inspection at the border is always going to be necessary in this situation. The appeal of a technical solution to anyone keen to leave the EU is obvious but is just wishful thinking. Our politicians may convince themselves a solution exists I don't think the Irish or the EU are that stupid.

Controversial American bigwig in London... no, not Trump: HPE ex-CEO Meg Whitman to give Autonomy trial evidence

Alan Johnson

"When the acquisition closed, Dr Lynch went from being the near-absolute leader of a mid-sized company to being one of many officers in one of the largest technology companies in the world. Dr Lynch struggled to work with his peers on an equal footing and to recognize that practices which might work fine in a company with less than US$1bn in sales simply would not work in a company with over US$127bn in annual revenue."

Quite possibly true but utterly irrelevant. HPs case that having hardware sale as a small proportion of overall sales amounts to fraud seems threadbare and borderline ridiculous. They should concentrate on showing that Autonomy deliberately and signifiantly mis-represented the state of the business.

Computer Misuse Act charge against British judge thrown out

Alan Johnson

Re: Thrown out? Or she should be jailed?

This is to be frank nonsense.

She had legitimate access to teh computer system concerned. SHe had at least a plausible reason to access the files concerned. there was no policy in place to say she should not have accessed the files.

CPS should have dropped this immediately and probably didn't to avoid giving the impression of favouring a judge.

The only way a jury could convict is if they did so on the basis of general animus against judges in which case they would not be a reasonable jury.



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