* Posts by breakfast

1359 posts • joined 24 May 2007


GitHub courts controversy by suspending Tornado Cash developers and reneging on cookie commitments


Re: What a confusing country...

This is more like the gun than the car in that this is a piece of software which is designed only to be used for a specific task, and that task is money laundering. Even in America, if someone released a new kind of gun that could only be used to do crimes, there's a chance that the authorities would clamp down on it.

Report slams UK plan to become 'science superpower' by 2030


The principle that they can govern entirely through media management is infuriating and they deserve to suffer for it as much as they have made our citizens and friends suffer, but of course they won't, will they?

Too little, too late: Intel's legacy is eroding


Re: "Diversity will destroy this company"

The error you're making here is that assuming that people will hire the best candidate for the job based entirely on impartial judgement of the person's skills and abilities. Study after study has shown that this is simply not what people do- the same CV with an Indian-sounding or European-sounding name often get quite different responses. Interviewers will ignore a more skilled candidate who doesn't look or talk like them - there's no shortage of data on this.

The reason companies are willing to invest in diversity programmes is because they tend to balance out some of that bias and mean they have a better chance of *actually* finding the best candidates. Any wider benefits to society are entirely co-incidental; a more diverse workforce is good news for shareholder value.

DuckDuckGo says Hell, Hell, No to those Microsoft trackers after web revolt



Disappointed that MS were using bat.bing.com when badda.bing.com was right there.

Claims of AI sentience branded 'pure clickbait'


Turning tests

One real takeaway from this, and not one that is novel to anyone serious about the field, is that the Turing Test is not that great of a way to determine sentience. It makes a good talking point but it shows you that a machine has achieved sentences, not sentience.

Student crashes Cloudflare beta party, redirects email, bags a bug bounty


Preparing for a postgrad course with the University Of Life

Although I was educated entirely in the UK, I still consider myself an alumnus of skive college.

Pull jet fuel from thin air? We can do that, say scientists


Re: What an achievement ... in hyperbole

As a counterpoint, how many important scientific achievements started out by offering the best possible results that the technology could offer? Hyperbole aside, this seems like an interesting starting point and there may well be something of value to come from it.

US regulators set the stage for small, local nuclear power stations


We do need to survive, though

So what is your solution to the problem that fossil fuels are going to kill us? It's all very well to complain that renewables are cheaper but your bills are still going up (two things that are true) but whinging that energy generation that won't kill us exists seems like it's not really helping anybody. While the price of fossil fuels keeps rising and we're partially reliant on fossil fuels for energy, the price per unit of energy will rise regardless of how it's generated. That's capitalism.

If you give up on the cheaper part of power generation so you're only generating power the expensive way, how does that lower prices?

David Holz, founder of AI art generator Midjourney, on the future of imaging


The challenge of source data

It does mention this, but I have seen a few artists observing that by taking their work and incorporating it into the source model for the AI it's a kind of diffuse copyright-theft. Without their art, the AI would be worthless, but the outcome of the AI is likely to be losing them work and offering no benefit to them.

Also what happens as we have more AI generated art online? Do we end up with AI just recycling AI produced-images on a slowly entropic path, as we're starting to see with text generation online?

Trees may help power your next electric car


It's just lignin about the place.

Apple forgoes cooling systems in M2 MacBook Air


I don't mean to suggest you don't know jack but...

*Looks quizzically at two Apple computers on desk, neither of which has a headphone jack.*

I can see a use for a headphone jack if this is being used to do video editing, as bluetooth often adds enough latency to put the audio out of sync and although a pro at their desk is likely to have a standalone audio interface, one would hope that it would be possible to use a computer at this price and performance level without external hardware being essential.

UK chemicals multinational to build hydrogen 'gigafactory'


Re: Bet

The upside of green hydrogen is that it can be produced at the edge of the grid, close to your offshore wind farms when the weather is right for renewables but grid demand is low, and then shipped to where it is needed. It isn't tremendously efficient to produce this way, but when the energy is basically free and there's not a pressing need for it elsewhere, inefficiently producing hydrogen lets you keep a significant amount of the energy you have produced stored up for when and where it is needed.

Dev's code manages to topple Microsoft's mighty SharePoint


"The Platform is more like an operating system"

I have worked for some companies that specialised in Sharepoint tooling and I think I can honestly say that it got slightly less bad over time. I remember being on a call with some very senior Microsoft Sharepoint people where one of them said "the Sharepoint Platform is more like an operating system" and that felt extremely bad to me, like this mediocre file-sharing tool packed with barely-working features is like an operating system? Now I don't want to use any of your operating systems either.

Last time I worked with a Sharepoint-based platform, we found ourselves step-by-step moving the product off Sharepoint and every time we did, it got a little better. By the time it was a standalone product that could access Sharepoint for some things it was endlessly faster, tidier, and more reliable.


Re: Exchange

There is a maximum folder depth on Sharepoint, too, although I'm only aware of this because of automated tooling that tended to create extra folders and sometimes got into a recursive loop until it made Sharepoint die. A mercy, in some regards.

Someone may be prepping an NPM crypto-mining spree


Re: NPM is astonishing

NPM is the Visual Basic of our time - it gives you a huge amount of tools and components that allow you to pull together something that looks impressive and works well in a minimal amount of time. Unfortunately the ecosystem does lean shonky and a lot of the packages end up needlessly fat because they incorporate a huge number of small modules that do relatively simple things. That's the trade-off, and whether it matters to you or not is very much down to what you value as a developer. Often quick results that work consistently are worth more than a slimmed down and efficient library, even though the latter is far more satisfying as a developer and less wasteful.

The Javascript security model is far more effective than ActiveX ever was and running code in a working sandbox rather than the "can basically do what it wants on your PC" model of ActiveX is a very different degree of access, but it can absolutely use your system resources to do whatever it feels like within that sandbox and keeping users safe from that is part of our duty as developers. NPM does not make that easy.

Crypto lender Celsius in Chapter 11 deep freeze


Avoiding negative effects

Perhaps Celsius could avoid going below zero in future by rebranding themselves as Kelvin?

Good news: Twitter fell over. Bad news: It's working again


Everything green, nothing working

Not specific to Twitter, but any organisation that has green checks on the dashboard while their service is not working should have to pay me, personally, a significant fine. It's just super-irritating. You're not deceiving anyone, you're just showing that your dashboard is shit. Make it better.

More than $100m in cryptocurrency stolen from blockchain biz


Presumably we can look forward to a decrease in the amounts of money stolen in these scams as the value of dunning-krugerrands falls closer to zero.

GitHub's AI code assistant Copilot takes flight. And that'll be $10 a month, please


I don't like it, but it's probably the future

I think a consequence of ubiquitous AI will be lots of tools like this that do an alright but not amazing job. Programming will become more about designing a specification that can be turned into code by AI system. Like many automated systems the average will be passable, normalised - we will lose both the worst and the best, leaving a sort of programmatic stodge that works fine for most people.

Maybe that is alright, maybe it frees up those of us who are really interested in the craft of programming to work on more interesting projects.

With a lot of these AI systems what this is really doing is treating an existing resource (in this case GitHub user contributions) as a free source of data to effectively crowdsource code from without credit, in the same way the art tools everyone's going crazy for are crowdsourcing art without giving the original artists any credit, arguably a form of deniable mass copyright theft. I'm interested in what happens as the outputs of these tools end up becoming part of their source corpus- are they going to generate ever more generic code or start synthesising techniques based on the system's own work? Is it -and its usefulness- going to flatten out as the proportion of human-generated content declines until it is effectively almost entirely recycling its own content?

RISC OS: 35-year-old original Arm operating system is alive and well


Good and yet a little disappointing at the time...

Happy recollections of our Acorn A3000 from my teenage years only slightly tempered by the recollection that in spite of being a better computer by any technical metric, all the good games were on the Amiga and Atari ST. Everyone else talking about R-Type or Shadow Of The beast and we were stuck with the 4th Dimension knock-off - and fair play to the 4th Dimension, I think they were the only reason we had any games on the Arc at all.

We did get the best version of Elite in the end, though. That was a win.

Plot to defeat crypto meltdown: Solend votes to seize, liquidate whale account


Re: These are the arbitrage scams I was talking about in another article

There really is something to the saying about the crypto markets doing a speed run of the history of financial fraud and the reasons for regulated financial markets...

Coinbase CEO cuts 1,100 jobs, warns of 'crypto winter'


Re: The cryptobro lie

From what I can gather as someone with only marginal interest in the whole crypto world but enjoys awful people facing a degree of comeuppance, the current situation was partly triggered by some whales starting to migrate.

Google engineer suspended for violating confidentiality policies over 'sentient' AI


Turning tests around

As statistical text-analysis type AI gets better at chaining words together in statistically plausible orders we need to move away from the Turing Test as having any significant indicator of interacting with an intelligence. All we learn from the Turing Test is that our testers are bad at recognising a human under very specific conditions.

Interesting, though, that Google suspend an employee for raising concerns.


Re: Conversations

Almost certainly they got their consent somewhere around page 200 of the terms and conditions most of us didn't bother reading when we signed up for Gmail.

Whatever you do, don't show initiative if you value your job


Re: "So was James truly the guilty party?"

I feel like describing this in Swiss cheese terms is perhaps a little generous, seems like the configuration was basically all holes, with maybe a couple of very thin cheese strings stretched across here and there.

Meta slammed with eight lawsuits claiming social media hurts kids

Black Helicopters

The other part of autopilot safety...

From what I can gather the other reason the Tesla autopilot is showing up as safer appears to be that it switches itself off if it realises an impact is unavoidable, so it is not *technically* driving the car when the collision takes place. If you realise there's a problem and try to correct but fail, you took over so as far as Tesla are concerned you're still responsible.

Just feels a tad shady.

Reg hack attends holographic WebEx meeting, blows away Zoom fatigue


Re: Again?

Either quite a few people would be excited to don Exoskeletons for their jobs or the entire history of mech anime has been a massive lie.

I already have to hamper myself with glasses to do my job (although it's not so hampery as I do also wear them the rest of the time) so I think I could get by. Likewise a lot of people have to wear gloves to do their jobs - gardeners, builders and the like often have to wear a whole lot of specific gear and they don't seem to mind too much, so I guess those of us who work at a computer could manage it at a pinch. They would have to offer clear value, though, and I have yet to see anything convincing on that front.

AI-designed COVID-19 drug nominated for preclinical trial


Re: ROTM anyone ?

Machines have been making the drugs we designed or found for a very long time and that seems to have worked alright. Anyways, we've been designing things to put into machines for ages, so it only seems fair.

Beware the fury of a database developer torn from tables and SQL


Re: Know your audience.

Alright but I feel like if I was a customer who knew Klingon and saw code comments in Klingon I'd be happy enough to finally have a use for the language that it would balance out the content of the actual comments...

Mozilla opens testing for Manifest v3 extensions in Firefox


The inevitable fate of the most popular browser?

Every day in every way Chrome becomes a little more IE6.

Seriously, you do not want to make that cable your earth


Re: Bee-sting ?

Are you sure you're not just making these up? Because both of these sound like the kind of names people would make up.

Will this be one of the world's first RISC-V laptops?


Been this way before

I feel for whoever has this - we had an Archimedes when I was at secondary school so I understand how knowing your computer was built on a RISC based architecture and technologically superior does very little to compensate when your friends are all talking about the cool games they can play on their Atari STs and Amigas, none of which ever came out on the Arc.

Chocks Away was good, though, fair play.

Elon Musk puts Twitter deal on hold over bot numbers claim


Alternative sources

Looking at Bot Sentinel's numbers here ( https://botsentinel.com/stats/platform-stats ) they classify around 24% of users as 'Disruptive' or 'Problematic' - obviously this is very finger-in-the-air, I've seen some plausible accounts in the 'Disruptive' category (but also many probable bots in 'Satisfactory') - but if we imagine that there's some bias towards Bot behaviour in the accounts it is asked to analyse and it still seems plausible that we're looking at something closer to ~20% of users being bots.

A 2017 study -more rigorous than my guesswork but less current - suggested it was in the region of 15% at that point. ( https://arxiv.org/pdf/1703.03107.pdf )

Whatever the source, it seems everyone outside Twitter is estimating significantly more bot users than Twitter are, which may explain a lot about why the hellsite is so full of goddamn bots.

Smart contract developers not really focused on security. Who knew?


Re: Quicksand vs Ponzi

It's very unfair to say these projects are all Ponzi Schemes. The ecosystem is far more diverse than that, incorporating Pyramid Schemes, Rug-Pulls, classic Pump-And-Dump scams and traditional fraud. Pretty much any trick a nineteenth century swindler might have tried before financial regulations were put into place to protect people is likely to be alive and well in the Wild West of Web3.

Elon Musk set to buy Twitter in $44b deal, promises stuff


Re: Journalism vs. Copy & Paste...

Counterpoint, I have never got news so quickly as happens on Twitter. For events happening in real time, nothing else matches up. For more detailed reporting you need something long-form, but that's always been the case. Most breaking stories are really a tweet's worth of information wrapped in a few paragraphs of speculation and goodness knows you can get the latter on Twitter fairly easily.

Beanstalk loses $182m in huge flash-loan crypto heist


"So what exactly was the crime?"

"Well, officer, these despicable thieves used the systems we build and the rules we implemented to do something we didn't want them to."

Intel ships mystery quantum hardware to national lab


Going to be hard to track that delivery

They'll be able to tell where the delivery truck is or how quickly it is going, but not both.

Why the Linux desktop is the best desktop


I keep my laptop dual-boot (Ubuntu rather than Mint these days) and when I was running Mint as my main desktop OS it worked fine when it worked but trying to get anything new working on it was always a matter of days tracking through every forum and linux related stack exchange site trying to figure out which information was still relevant. It felt like walking on the ice of a deep lake- smooth and easy, but if you fell through a hole of wanting to get your video card working (maybe it's better now but when I was using it routinely the drivers for laptop 3D accelerators were really hard to configure) or wanting to use an ASIO soundcard you ended up in deep water very quickly. After a routine grub update somehow overwrote my boot sector and made it impossible to do my job for a couple of days I realised that the benefits of feeling vaguely morally superior as a Linux user weren't worth it compared to the sheer amount of time it took to configure things that work automatically on Windows.

Now Windows is my main OS again, although the operating system is nowhere near as good, the sheer amount of tools I can run on it more than compensates. I can run games without having to spend hours figuring out how to get the OpenGL driver to work and having weird random crashes! I can write music and use the many thousands of VST synths available! VSTs sometimes work on WINE but with the complexities of Linux audio you can spend a lot of time not even knowing whether they're working or not and good music tools are expensive - I can't afford to invest in something I can't use. I like Linux and I would love for it to be a practical day-to-day OS but I simply cannot do the same things with it that I can on Windows and for me having a computer is about the things I can do with it.

If you fire someone, don't let them hang around a month to finish code


This makes me very glad I got into programming after this kind of thing stopped being necessary for most software. Having to make code worse to make it work feels bad to me.

114 billion transistors, one big meh. Apple's M1 Ultra wake-up call



All this talk of nostalgia for 2001 and yet nowhere in the comments did someone recommend we 'imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these things.' Truly we are a fallen civilisation.

Microsoft proposes type syntax for JavaScript


Re: Jusding from a lot of the Typescript I've seen

In fairness people who can't be bothered to specify a relevant type may also be too lazy to run their code through a linter...


What you're saying here is that you wouldn't trust any developer under 50, which is your prerogative but it's going to make it hard for you to work with younger colleagues as you constantly sideeye them.

Having to bit-shift unsigned integers is an old-people thing now (and embedded systems, but that's quite an old-people field) and honestly that's fine. Interpreted languages are productive and developer cycles are more expensive than processor cycles, so let's use the approaches that allow us to do the important work and allow our compilers and runtimes to handle the bitwise arithmetic for us.

Don't get me wrong, I'm old and can remember when we had to build our own compilers out of plywood uphill both ways in the winter, but our field has changed, as all things must. The truth is a younger dev getting their head down and writing a few lines of javascript will get more done than an old man spending the same amount of time yelling at a cloud.

Wi-Fi not working? It's time to consult the lovely people on those fine Linux forums


This has reminded me of the existence of the EEPC, what a convenient little computer that was.

Fujitsu claims world leadership in headache management


Re: Oh ah, Fujitsu-ooooo-ooooo!

The Postal Service album is a classic of its time!

Fibre broadband uptake in UK lags behind OECD countries


Why not tell people when it's planned for their area?

I got a notification that BT were now offering FTTP here, which should be great but after years of 2 down and 0.8 up on our copper line (unless it was raining) we have moved to a radio system which is way faster but also quite unreliable and we're on a contract for that for a while. Maybe if they'd indicated that they were ever going to do anything to improve matters here, we might have waited a little longer but the first clue anything was going on was an Openreach van parked in the drive for a few days and even then it was ages before BT actually told us they were adding a more brisk connection.

Unless that was an MI5 surveillance van, of course, in which case their job would have been even more boring than usual.

English county council blasted for 'inept project management' in delayed SAP replacement


Re: Changing the requirements after coding complete...

Precisely the kind of thing an agile process is supposed to help with, but you can't say an agile project will hit "finished" by a specific deadline because you don't know, so a lot of more conservative organisations won't touch it. What they don't appreciate is that the difference with agile is that it's honest about the unpredictability, not that that other approaches are predictable. Real life organisations benefit more from being able to adapt software to their needs as they understand them than they do from having something that doesn't match what they need delivered before the end of the fiscal year, but try explaining that to a finance director.

Can't help but feel if they had employed a small dev team of their own- even if they were paying them very competitively- they'd have ended up with better results, under better control, sooner, for far less money.

FBI seizes $3.6bn in Bitcoin after New York 'tech couple' arrested over Bitfinex robbery


Re: A Real Name

Also a famous knight, as I heard it.

Flutter flits onto Windows, declared fit for production


Re: How long before Google abandons this?

It's hard to incline oneself strongly to a language or platform that you know will suddenly be abandoned and have all support withdrawn.

At least Microsoft have shown a certain dogged persistence with a bunch of technologies over the years- Xamarin seems to have been around for ages. Google seem to delight in whimsically declaring something no longer useful, dropping it and walking away leaving anyone unlucky enough to have adopted it far behind.

You can only do that so many times before you have burnt the majority of your potential users, certainly enough to warn everyone else what is likely to happen if they adopt your tools.

Crack team of boffins hash out how e-scooters should sound – but they need your help*


The difference being that your bike (hopefully) travels on the road and is governed as road traffic, whereas scooters are on the pavement and fall more under pedestrian rules.


An opportunity to create spontaneous art

Every brand should be allocated an instrument and just have an hour or two of free-jazz improvisation on that instrument as the sound. As different scooters approach and pass one another new and unique moments of combined music would be created.

Also it would have a positive effect on traffic, crowded public transport and house prices as everyone aside from extreme free-jazz afficionados would be driven out of the city pretty damn quick.



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