* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

4081 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

BOFH: But soft! What light through yonder filing cabinet breaks?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coffee/keyboard

Superb episode!

"In my peripheral vision I can see the PFY reaching for the workplace accident report form, but I shake my head slightly and take the Boss into the server room."

Priceless. I must say I was mentally reaching the same conclusion as the PFY

Here boy! Making the Sample Fetch Rover that'll collect soil from the Red Planet

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Thumb Up

Amazing boffinry

Very complicated mission indeed. Ten years is a long time to keep your fingers crossed

BOFH: Where there is darkness, let there be a light

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Flame

Re: Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

"Mice, keyboards, headphones, cables - all consumables."

Absolutely, and all are readily consumed by fire

BOFH: Here in my car I feel safest of all. I can listen to you ... It keeps me stable for days

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Thumb Up

Brilliant, just briliant

Simon is on form these days!

DARPA nails cash to project 'FENCE' — a smart camera that only sends pics when pixels change

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Potential problems: trees, leaves, wind and sunshine (or clouds)

This bears a striking similarity to a traffic camera system produced by a local IT company I visited a decade or so ago at least. The aim was to let traffic cameras only record the passing cars, and stay shtum when there was no traffic. So a simple image differencing method was implemented, and if the sum of absolute differences between consecutive frames was sufficient, the system started sending a burst of frames, until the situation became static again.

Some traffic cameras, happily transmitted continuously from sunrise to sunset, especially on windy, sunny days, when the pattern of the shadow and light caused by the sun shining through the trees along the road caused loads of pixels to change, without any actual vehicle or person passing by the camera. Rushing clouds could trigger similar problems, as could snowflakes, hail, or rain. In the end they had to do far more advanced object recognition, in particular recognizing license plates to make the system robust (pedestrians and cyclists were not of interest in this system).

No doubt the boffins and DARPA will have thought of this

Radioactive hybrid terror pigs have made themselves a home in Fukushima's exclusion zone

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Re: If Marvel taught us anything

So we can order a bucket of BBQed piglet wings shortly?

Study finds crayfish treated with antidepressants become more outgoing, adventurous

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coat

I wonder ...

Would this work on elevators sulking in basements?

Surely these researchers are gunning for an Ig Nobel Prize. If they aren't shortlisted already, I might nominate them

Hubble’s cosmic science is mind-blowing, but its soul celebrates something surprising about us

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

best of the best bodgerissimae

A phrase to cherish. Fingers crossed someone has an uber-smart idea to fix Hubble one more time

BOFH: Oh for Pete’s sake. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Happy

Stupidity Cancelling Headset

I want that!!

BOFH: When the Sun rises in the West and sets in the East, only then will the UPS cease to supply uninterrupted voltage

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Happy

Re: Poor cyclist

Depends on which size catapult you use

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coffee/keyboard

Poor cyclist

"The year Richard was born I set a company record for how fast a VAX 11/780 would roll down the road from our building. I could've got a world record if it hadn't been for that cyclist."

I did my MSc thesis work on a VAX 11/780. Big hulking beast, and everyone complained their vi or emacs editors slowed to a crawl whenever I was running thermal simulation software on it. I actually found my shiny new 80386 at 25 MHz with a Cyrix 387 co-processor and a whole 8 MB of RAM outpaced the big hulking beast by quite a margin.

Lovely episode. It was inevitable Dick was going to go for the practical exam

BOFH: Despite the extremely hazardous staircase, our IT insurance agreement is at an all-time low. Can't think why

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Happy

That's a nice insurance policy you have there

it would be such a shame if something happened to it

Simon can really make you an offer you should not refuse

BOFH: I'm so pleased to be on the call, Boss. No, of course this isn't a recording

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Happy

Brilliant!

Excellent ideas for surviving zoom meetings there. Must start recording some footage, and learn to play guitar

BOFH: But we think the UK tax authorities would be VERY interested in how we used COVID support packages

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Thumb Up

Stairwell or Elevator

it could only end one way

Yep, the 'Who owns Linux?' case is back from the dead

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coffee/keyboard

Re: The question of who?

Note to self: Don't read commentards' comments with a mouth full of tea.

On the plus side, it does rinse the nasal passages

Turns out humans are leading AI systems astray because we can't agree on labeling

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

I don't like saying i told you so, but ...

I frequently rail against claims made in AI papers that if the ground truth contains a percentage of errors, any AI system trained on them is likely to end up with a similar actual error rate. I have seen people claim an increase in performance from 97.6% to 98.1% (error bars not included) on data sets where there are two ground truths, drawn up by to medics, which are at odds with each other. In our own earlier work, we managed to get a sort of pareto optimum of 92.5 ± 0.6% on both ground truths, but were in places penalised for finding blood vessels the doctors had missed. It turns out, somehow ground truth 1 has been elevated to The Ground Truth, and the other demoted to "a human observer". And now AIs are better than the poor "human observer" simply because they have been taught to copy all the mistakes the other human has made.

If ImageNet contains up to 6% error, I will continue to take all claims of 99% or better performance with a considerable pinch of salt. Furthermore, if error bars ar not included, how can they claim to be better than an earlier method if the differences are sub 1%.

I am not saying deep learning and CNNs are useless, it is just that sloppy science does them a disservice.

Yes, there's nothing quite like braving the M4 into London on the eve of a bank holiday just to eject a non-bootable floppy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Happy

Must have been Fourecks, if it was clearly so terrifying

BOFH: Bullying? Not on my watch! (It's a Rolex)

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coffee/keyboard

"Not without write access to the HR archive they can't!"

Brilliant, I needed that

BOFH: 7 jars of Marmite, a laptop and a good time

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coffee/keyboard

Bloody briliant episode again

The marmite is a very nice touch indeed

You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right? Trust... but verify

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

Ever since I found a green and yellow wire carrying mains current, I have very little faith in wiring installed anywhere. I ALWAYS check everything myself

BOFH: Are you a druid? Legally, you have to tell me if you're a druid

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Thumb Up

Brilliant

Once the old robot in the basement was mentioned, it could only end one way

Windows might have frozen – but at least my feet are toasty

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

I did once blow up a 80287 co-processor inserted in the image processing "workstation", inserted there by our supplier. When I opened the case to inspect the damage, I noted the lettering on the chip: 80287-10, indicating it was a 10 MHz part inserted in a 12 MHz machine. Not a massive degree of unintentional over-clocking, but enough to fry the part after some time. I complained about the issue, and the company in question first stated I was wrong, after which I gave them my copy of the Intel data sheet on said component. I got an 80287-12 as replacement after that.

I actually inserted a home-made, hand soldered ISA-bus board to control both the exposure time on our cameras and the shutters on the fluorescence and phase contrast light sources on our microscopes. Switching the computer on after installing the experimental board was quite scary, but nothing shorted. Much to my surprise, it worked straight away (once my heart rate was back to something approaching normal)

BOFH: Switch off the building? Great idea, Boss

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coffee/keyboard

Simon is on form!

Brilliant episode, with a number of brilliant quotable phrases (including the albatross of responsibility)

Voyager 2 is back online after eight months of radio silence

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Pint

Good on ya mate!

Excellent! Really impressive pieces of engineering (both the antenna and Voyager 2)

Start Me Up: 25 years ago this week, Windows 95 launched and, for a brief moment, Microsoft was almost cool

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Re: it's infamous need to be rebuilt literally every couple of months

I skipped the 95 and 98 editions, and went from 3.1 directly to NT workstation edition on our home machine (in part so the missus wouldn't inadvertently "clean" some mess from the root directory (like config.sys or the like)). Rather liked its stability, even though it was quite resource hungry. Mostly used SUSE Linux on the machine, however.

Fusion boffins apply plasma know-how to building thrusters

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coat

One ring of plasma to rule them all?

I'd better be going. The one with a certain trilogy in the pocketses, pleasssse

This PDP-11/70 was due to predict an election outcome – but no one could predict it falling over

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

We tried that, but the RFI was still too strong.

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

I remember writing code for several PCs with different Matrox frame-grabbers and image processing boards (PIP-1024A or B, and the more powerful MVP-AT/NP boards). In software, the diversity was solved by cordoning off the diversity of hardware platforms in separate libraries that were linked as needed. This worked fine in the medical microbiology lab, where I developed the code. However, once the department of dermatology had got themselves a shiny new MVP-AT/NP in their lab, and wanted to run my code, things constantly crashed, or froze. It turned out, this happened only when using a huge beast of a power supply for their mercury vapour light source for their Leitz fluorescence microscope. Bit of a bummer, as the code was intended to capture and analyse fluorescence microscopy images. The power supply produced so much RFI that the MVP-AT/NP electronics borked if you used any of the hardware image processing accelerator electronics. In microbiology we used Olympus microscopes, with a much smaller, more modern power supply, feeding the same type of mercury lamp with no issues at all. I had to write a separate MVP-AT library that didn't use any of the hardware acceleration to get the code to work in the dermatology lab.

Putting the d'oh! in Adobe: 'Years of photos' permanently wiped from iPhones, iPads by bad Lightroom app update

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Re: Class action suit in 3... 2... 1...

Adobe should certainly shoulder much of the blame. After all, if this bug effects everyone on said OS, how on earth did this bug escape the testing phase? However, if your photos are so valuable, why on earth do you only store them on just one device? What if your device was lost, stolen, or broken beyond repair?

Single-line software bug causes fledgling YAM cryptocurrency to implode just two days after launch

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coat

Re: I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you!

Money in, garbage out covers much of the entertainment industry as well, with "reality TV" spawning the higher amount of garbage per unit of money spent

I'd better be going.

America's largest radio telescope blind after falling cable slashes 100-foot gash in reflector dish

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Happy

Re: Don't forget...

You are evidently too young to have seen the REAL definitive 007 in action: Sean Connery (Brosnan was good, I'll admit).

Why so salty, Ceres? Is it on account of your underground oceans and cryovolcanism?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Thumb Up

Brilliant stuff

Our solar system keeps throwing up surprises. Love this kind of boffinry

Uncle Sam says it's perfecting autonomous AI-powered drone, vehicle swarms to 'dominate' battlefields

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coat

Sounds thrilling

I suddenly have this image of a swarm of drones, overwhelmed by a much larger swarm of seagulls, as in the film "Birds". Spraying the drones with something like fish oil might do the trick

I'd better be going. Doffs hat (grey Tilley once more) to the late, great Alfred Hitchcock.

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Mushroom

Re: Next step: anti-drones drones

Alternatively, we could go old-school and use "a whiff of grape-shot"

Twitter says hack of key staff led to celebrity, politician, biz account hijack mega-spree

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

I see, there was "a coordinated social engineering attack", or in layman's terms: "some of our staff fell for phishing"

or should that be "some of our soon to be ex-staff fell for phishing"

It does make you wonder how sophisticated it was, how they are going to prevent this in the future, and of course how many heads will roll.

Someone recently asked me whether I was on Twitter. The answer was "no", and that doesn't look like it is going to change any time soon, not just because of privacy concerns, but I also have the El Reg Commentard section to vent my more unhinged opinions

Cool IT support drones never look at explosions: Time to resolution for misbehaving mouse? Three seconds

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Reminds me of the user claiming that since my last software update the mouse was consistently moving in reverse: pointer moving left as the mouse went to the right, or up as the mouse was moving down. I asked her to demo this, and noticed she was somehow holding the mouse with the wire (no wrireless in the early 90s) towards her. A quick 180 degree turn of the offending rodent solved it.

I honestly did toy with the idea of introducing a software option that would invert directionality of the mouse, preferably switching on or off at random intervals for seriously annoying users (complte with undocumented key combination that would kill that behaviour), but I thought the better of it.

Remember that black hole just 1,000 light years from Earth? Scientists queue up to say it may not exist after all

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Thumb Up

It's called rigour

This is why scientists always check each other's work, and don't take results posted by others at face value. More data are needed, as so often. Whatever the outcome, something interesting is going on. Either there is a black hole so close to earth (for a typically astronomical value of "close"), or a binary star system has been caught in the midst of a short (for a typically astronomical value of "short") evolutionary phase

Boffins baffled as supergiant star just vanishes – either it partially blew itself apart or quietly turned into a black hole

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coat

Two alternative options

1) a total existence failure due to misunderstanding of improbability physics

2) someone managed to set up a really big SEP field

I'd better be going. Doffs hat (grey Tilley once more) to the late, great Douglas Adams

With intelligent life in scant supply on Earth, boffins search for technosignatures of civilizations in the galaxy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Happy

Reminds me of a song

Especially the last line of the lyrics of this one

Check out the night sky in all its X-ray glory: Everything from hot gases to supernovas and massive black holes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Thumb Up

That is awesome

The universe is not the peaceful place we might think it is when looking up at the night sky (if it isn't cloudy (again), that is)

NASA scientists mull sending a spacecraft on a 13-year mission to visit Neptune's 'bizarre' moon, Triton

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Re: Faster!

I cannot recall Sputnik, but the moon landings are etched into my memories as the coolest thing I have ever seen on TV (first space shuttle came close). I hope to be around when Trident reaches Triton, nonetheless. Where is a warp drive when you need one (that or boosterspice)

HTC breaks with tradition to push out 2 phones someone might actually want to buy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Re: Audio specs?

I really liked the sound on my M8. It was my last HTC phone, but none of the phones I had after matched the sound of the HTC M8.

There's no accounting for TITSUP*: Beancounters bemoan Sage cloudy sync software outage

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Thumb Up

"Tottering Infrastructure Turns Some Users Purple"

TITSUP is turning out to be such a versatile acronym

Don't like Mondays? Neither does Microsoft 364's Outlook Exchange Online service

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coat

My missus keeps asking me to help with issues with her work e-mail (Outlook-based). I keep telling her I would rather have my tongue hammered wafer thin with a steak tenderizer and stapled to the floor with a croquet hoop.

(Doffs hat to captain Blackadder)

Overload: A one-way ticket to a madman's situation

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Happy

Brings back memories

of my first PC. Quite a beast it was in its day, sporting an 80386DX with Cyrix 387 floating point coprocessor, a whole 4 MB of RAM (later upgraded to 8), a graphics card with a whole further MB of RAM) and an Adaptek SCSI Controller with 88 MB disk! Cost quite a fortune at the time. Sped up my development work no end, and Windows 3.1 and MS-Office worked quite happily in 4 MB. I don't think that would do for the latest incarnations, would it now.

Oh crap: UK's digital overlords moot new rules to help telcos lay fibre in sewer pipes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coat

Gives an entirely new meaning

to the notion of quick and dirty code (or at least the dirty bit)

I'll get me coat

As Uncle Sam flies spy drones over protest-packed cities, Homeland Security asks the public if that's a good idea

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Re: I submitted my comment

Actually, it is considerably LATER in Europe than in the USA. Look up the concept of "time zone"

Yeah, great start after sacking human hacks: Microsoft's AI-powered news portal mixes up photos of women-of-color in article about racism

Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Re: It's a trifle early for the silly season, but ...

I know many a developer (including myself) that has yelled at his or her computer at some point in time. Indeed, yelling by itself doesn't solve the problem but:

a) it is good to blow off steam, and,

b) it did warn off users not to bother me with questions about a word processing package I never use, at that point in time, if they wanted to reach beer o'clock unscathed

Now where is that BOFH-grade cattleprod

The only way is bork for the UK's embattled rail travellers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Coat

I am confused ...

Is this the train to Preinst Aborted Central or does it go on Preinst Aborted Terminal as well?

Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll get my coat (not to go anywhere, of course, just as a matter of principle)

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021