* Posts by Derek Jones

32 posts • joined 22 Jan 2009

Academics tell Brit MPs to check the software used when considering reproducibility in science and tech research

Derek Jones

and then ignore email requests for the data

And when you email asking for the data, the researchers don't reply, or at least 30% of them don't:


However, the situation with regard to data being made available on sites such as Zenodo is getting better.

Derek Jones

Re: Career development disguised as science

The other issue is that many of those writing the software are new to programming.

This post generated a lot of discussion of the research software mailing list:


Everyone cites that 'bugs are 100x more expensive to fix in production' research, but the study might not even exist

Derek Jones

Of course reviewing code finds coding mistakes; the question is whether this a cost-effective approach to software product development.

Yes, mistakes fixed in later phases will involve more effort; some evidence: http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2020/08/23/time-to-fix-when-mistake-discovered-in-a-later-project-phase/

but would it be more expensive, on average, to have fixed these mistakes earlier?

Products have a finite lifetime; some evidence: http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2018/11/28/half-life-of-software-as-a-service-services/

Some coding mistakes are never experienced as faults by customers before the product is withdrawn; some evidence: http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2020/12/20/many-coding-mistakes-are-not-immediately-detectable/

Figuring out the most cost-effective approach is very hard.

What's this about a muon experiment potentially upending Standard Model of physics? We speak to one of the scientists involved

Derek Jones

Particle physicist touting for funding

The Large Hadron Collider did not find any new physics, despite all the claims that it find lots of interesting new physics. Now physicists are desperately talking up minor issues to make it sound like exciting discoveries will be made, provided they get funded.

A more detailed discussion of the 'discovery':


See Sabine Hossenfelder's book: Lost in Maths, for an explanation of how particle physicists have lost connection with reality, and are still asking for huge projects to be funded.

Foundation thrillogy: Rust programming language gets new home and million-dollar spending account

Derek Jones

Rust has had its 15-minutes of fame.


Google AI ethics co-boss locked out of work account while probing controversial ousting of colleague

Derek Jones

Timnit Gebru is a member of "Black in AI", blackinai.org. Is that a racist organization, or is whiteinai.org an OK group to start?

It's in their DNA: Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to pioneers of the CRISPR gene-editing tool

Derek Jones

There is a great summary by Derek Lowe: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2020/10/07/a-nobel-for-crispr

Apollo 11 @ 50: The long shadow of the flag

Derek Jones

The moon orbits the Sun

The moon orbits the Sun and is heavily perturbed by the Earth, i.e., the gravitational pull of the Sun on the Moon is twice as great as the gravitational pull of the Earth on the Moon.

Bipartisan Kumbaya: President Trump turns Obama's open govt data policy into law

Derek Jones

Wot, evidence-based software engineering?

No need to panic, software people, there's not a lot of evidence to worry about: http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2018/12/28/foundations-for-evidence-based-policymaking-act-of-2017/

New Python update slithers into release

Derek Jones

Python 2/3 usage and transition (or not)

Most developers are still working in a Python 2/3 compatible world (where is a billionaire, to fund continuing support, when you need one).


Microsoft commits: We're buying GitHub for $7.5 beeeeeeellion

Derek Jones

Register reader predicted this 2 years ago

One of my list of predictions waiting to become true, has become true. I have added a new one to the pending list:


Someone's phishing US nuke power stations. So far, no kaboom

Derek Jones

NRC does not want its inspectors to need to know technical stuff

My one experience with dealing with the US NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) is that they want the software to be so easy to use that its inspectors don't need to know anything technical:


From drugs to galaxy hunting, AI is elbowing its way into boffins' labs

Derek Jones

Clueless button pushing

Machine learning can be a very useful tool, but the flip-side is that clueless button pushers can use it to produce seemingly interesting output: http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2015/11/23/machine-learning-in-se-research-is-a-bigger-train-wreck-than-i-imagined/

Uber's Movement dumps data on city planners

Derek Jones

The authors unquestioning copying of Uber press releases needs to be tempered with som background reading:


GitHub gets all grown-up with better code review, project management, etc

Derek Jones

Getting ready to be bought by Microsoft

"...contain your entire history of work on GitHub,..." is just the kind of feature that will make them even more attractive to Microsoft to combine with the Linkedin purchase.

Linkedin+Github is Active directory for the Cloud.

Schrödinger's cat explained with neutrinos

Derek Jones

Neutrons change flavor but Leggett cannot contain fewer gs

In my universe Legett-Garg contains 4 instances of the letter g.

A month to save cryptocurrency Ethereum?

Derek Jones

The code is the definition of behavior

Ethereum's 'smart contracts' are essentially programs whose execution is intended to have a contract-like nature. Existing programs, err contracts, include lotteries and other fun stuff.

Of course a new language was needed for the new age of smart contracts. Solidity is its name (essentially C plus extras that were thought to be a good idea from Python and other languages that presumably the Ethereum people have used). God forbid anyone would design a language with reliability in mind: http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2015/03/15/ethereum-is-it-cost-effective-to-create-reliable-contracts/

Of course the key to code reliability is following the Ethereum smart contract coding style guide, which of course the majority of people don't seem to be doing: http://hackingdistributed.com/p/2016/06/16/finding-unchecked-send-in-live-ethereum-contracts/

The site has not been hacked. The terms of service quite clearly state that what the code does is the definition of the system. Somebody simply put the time into understanding what a 'smart contract' did and executed it appropriately.

"The terms of The DAO Creation are set forth in the smart contract code existing on the Ethereum blockchain at 0xbb9bc244d798123fde783fcc1c72d3bb8c189413. Nothing in this explanation of terms or in any other document or communication may modify or add any additional obligations or guarantees beyond those set forth in The DAO’s code. Any and all explanatory terms or descriptions are merely offered for educational purposes and do not supercede or modify the express terms of The DAO’s code set forth on the blockchain; to the extent you believe there to be any conflict or discrepancy between the descriptions offered here and the functionality of The DAO’s code at 0xbb9bc244d798123fde783fcc1c72d3bb8c189413, The DAO’s code controls and sets forth all terms of The DAO Creation."

Weight, what? The perfect kilogram is nearly in Planck's grasp

Derek Jones

6.022 140 82x10^23, plus or minus 180,000,000,000,000,000

Some might say that an error of plus/minus one hundred and eighty million billion atoms is not that accurate.

Well YES, Silicon Valley VCs do think you're a CRETIN

Derek Jones

Re: Long tail licensing

Not-Spartacus, you are right. While storing large amounts of data in the block-chain is frowned upon, there is not a lot stopping people storing whatever they like. There are various projects using the blockchain to store a key-value pair:


Derek Jones

Long tail licensing

One use of the block chain is low cost licensing, as implemented in a recent hackathon (http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2015/02/16/long-tail-licensing/).

Toasters might not want to license IP, but TVs might.

Perhaps your fridge will be able to order supplies when it detects items have been removed. But would you trust cryptocurrency based contracts to work as advertised


Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source

Derek Jones

These people should be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority

Would the claims being made by these researchers stand up to the same level of scrutiny from the Advertising Standards Authority that a soap power advert has to survive? I suspect not.

There is a group in France working in formal verification that I think would also have trouble getting their claims published in a Soap power advert.

EMC on XtremIO SSD brickup ballsup: Its lifetime downtime is under 3 minutes

Derek Jones

A sample size of 200 with 1 failure?

Lets see, we have:

"...we have shipped hundreds of XtremIO X-Bricks to customers..."

"...less than 32 Seconds of unavailability in a year,..."

"...field-measured to be 922,240 hours, or 105 years."

which suggests they have sold just over 200 units in 6 months, one of which developed a fault.

Not the most statistically reliable of claims.

Mozilla accuses Gamma of dressing up dictators' spyware as Firefox

Derek Jones

Re: Where can we download the source?

I imagine that Gamma would like to be covered by that clause, but arn't they just a commercial company with no special privileges?

Derek Jones

Where can we download the source?

Firefox is distributed under the Mozilla Public license, https://www.mozilla.org/MPL/2.0/, which as I understand it requires distribution of "... any Modifications that You create or to which You contribute, must be under the terms of this License."

Where can I download the source code of the changes and updates Gamma has made?

Second Higgs possibility pops up in CERN data

Derek Jones


A detailed discussion of why there is really only one Higgs boson here:


How are we going to search our hard disks now?

Derek Jones

Possible alternatives

Some possible alternative to consider:

RECOLL http://www.lesbonscomptes.com/recoll/

and for the more technically oriented

Sphinx http://sphinxsearch.com/about/sphinx

Southampton Uni shows way to a truly open web

Derek Jones

Bus routes and vending machines

Drilling down to the actual data I find information on bus routes, vending machines and a short list of other stuff already available on the Southampton web site, hardly worth a fawning two page article on El Reg. Come on guys where is your customary cynicism?

Java daddy says Sun engineers ran 'goofiest patent' contest

Derek Jones

"mixed mode" patent is potential JIT killer

While it may be possible to design around what you refer to as the "mixed mode" patent the workaround may have a sufficiently large overhead that JIT compilation is not worthwhile on Dalvik. See a a blog posting of mine, http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2010/08/15/oraclegoogle-java-patents-lawsuit/, for more details.

Chinese go beyond binary with ternary molecule

Derek Jones
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Base-4 is good enough for humans

Base-3 is closest to the most efficient encoding representation which is base 2.718..., but fractional bases are not possible in practice. Heat dissipation is a major problem for chip designers and base-3 would enable them to use a lot fewer components (assuming the power consumption of a base-3 device was comparable to a base-2 device), so there could be a major cost/performance incentive in years to come to use base-3 devices.

Us human are are derived from a base-4 encoding, i.e., DNA.

Hacked climate Prof stands aside

Derek Jones

They should now release all of the source

The leaked files do not include the makefiles needed to build executable programs (I'm assuming that these do exist) and so it is proving difficult to get this right manually (at least for the Fortran code). I think the CRU should come clean and release a complete development snapshot. Of course if they would rather that people not have the ability to actually run their data analysis software they might not want to do this.

Uni students invent 'radiation-proof' cloth for Moon tents

Derek Jones
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Win your Darwin award here

If this material were lead it were 1cm thick incomming gamma radiation would be reduced by 50%.


Perhaps they should be invited to wear a cloak of this material inside a nuclear reactor (along with the gullible journalists), at least they could get a Darwin award for their troubles.

C dominated 2008's open-source project nursery

Derek Jones

Lots of ways to measure popularity

Measuring language popularity is a difficult task, quality data is hard to come by and what exactly is meant by popularity are some of the issues.



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