* Posts by Primus Secundus Tertius

1203 posts • joined 31 Oct 2010


Maybe there is hope for 2020: AI that 'predicts criminality' from faces with '80% accuracy, no bias' gets in the sea

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Very dodgy subject

Whenever I see a nasty villain on TV I always hope it is good acting. That's what actors are paid for. There again, they often end up at odds with the tax authorities.

Only true boffins will be able to grasp Blighty's new legal definitions of the humble metre and kilogram

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Re: Only true boffins...

The European Parliament, to which we no longer subscribe, had it well organised. Votes were at fixed pre-arranged times. An MEP would turn up shortly before, receive his or her orders from the party, then proceed to her or his democratic duty.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: Only true boffins...

The -1 superscript in s(-1), equivalent of Hz, will bamboozle a lot of politicians and journalists.

Couple wrongly arrested over Gatwick Airport drone debacle score £200k payout from cops

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"… probably old pals …"

Sometimes, but not always. In my own area…

Back in 2012, for the first elections for the new position of Police Commissioner, a retired cop offered himself to the Conservative Party. The party decided he was too close to the police, and chose someone else. The ex-cop stood as an Independent.

The Conservative won the most of the first preference votes, but not an outright majority. After the second and third preferences were counted, the Independent ex-cop was declared the winner. But four years later, 2016, a Conservative was voted in.

Now the Conservatives have ditched their own man, who will be re-standing as an Independent, and have chosen a lawyer. Politics is a rough game.

The election was to have been this year, but will now be in 2021.

BBC voice assistant promises to summon streams even if you're just a little bit Brahms and Liszt

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Re: Dear BBC

"some news and current affairs coverage outside the M25".

I disagree. The BBC News website is overloaded with stuff from Wales and Scotland, even though they must surely know that my IP address is in England.

It is time for the minorities in the Remote West and North to behave like minorities and stop imposing their boring lives on the rest of us.

Mind your language: Microsoft set to swing the axe on 27 languages in iOS Outlook

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Widely understood

"... anyone can speak English if one shouts it loudly and clearly enough..."

In my experience that includes cats and dogs.

Attorney General: We didn't need Apple to crack terrorist's iPhones – tho we still want iGiant to do it in future

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Common law duty

In a Common Law country there is a legal duty to help the authorities maintain such law and order as ordinary people generally support. Apple conspicuously fail in this duty.

Windows invokes Sgrîn Las Marwolaeth upon Newport

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Re: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

I believe it is a station between Euston (London) and Holyhead (for the ferry to Dublin). I doubt that the signage at Euston can cope with it.

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree

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The "bad for science" machine was the IBM 360, where the floating point exponent represented 16**n rather than 2**n. As a result the floating point mantissa sometimes lost three bits. The result was that the single precision floating point was good to only about six decimal digits. Hence the proliferation of double precision floating point on IBM. It was not needed on ICL 190x nor Elliott 803.

IBM were mainly interested in commercial arithmetic from COBOL compilers. This used binary coded decimal (BCD) arithmetic, which could handle billions of dollars to the nearest cent. COBOL type computational defaulted to BCD, I believe. I was once trying to explain floating point data to a database salesman. I finally got through to him with the phrase computational-type-3.

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Re: Military uses

I remember hearing a military project manager in America moaning, in about 1996, that the young chaps did not seem interested in learning Jovial.

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Re: No love for CORAL 66?

In my experience there were very many poor compilers for Coral 66. It seemed to me that the Defence Ministry (British) thought it was the job of the computer industry to develop compilers, whereas the computer industry thought the MOD should spend the money if it wanted people to use a cranky language that nobody else used. There was a front end, to analyse Coral source code, available from MOD; but the back end, to generate object code, would be a software company job.

I remember using Coral 66 on a project running on Intel 8086 hardware. When a procedure (subroutine, if Fortran is your thing) was called, the calling code put parameters onto the stack in one order, and then the procedure code picked up those parameters and re-stacked them in reverse order. That was the result of the front-end / back-end situation I mention above. It slowed down the code, of course; not a good idea in a real-time system.

The company management was not interested in technical matters like that (and the company no longer exists). So they did not follow my advice to get the compiler fixed. Instead they encouraged the over-use of procedures coded in assembler to avoid the speed problem. There were many errors in that assembler code.

What do you call megabucks Microsoft? No really, it's not a joke. El Reg needs you

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Opposite view


Someone has to tease them.

Forget tabs – the new war is commas versus spaces: Web heads urged by browser devs to embrace modern CSS

Primus Secundus Tertius

Can it do orange?

The RGB colour scheme cannot do a vivid orange, unlike the human eye. Can this new scheme do it?

Microsoft expands AI features in Office, but are they any good? Mixed, according to our vulture

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Editing challenge

"Maybe the challenge of taking someone's mangled, cliché-ridden, gender-biased prose and transforming it into something lucid, balanced and objective is too demanding for AI…"

I had to review many documents written by junior engineers. Many needed a human rewrite before one could leave MS Word to tidy up the details.

Stob's vital message to Britain's IT nation: And no, it's not about that

Primus Secundus Tertius


Verity, or the printer, has lost the last three letters of the famous platform ticket station. Oh 'ell!

Appareils électroniques: Right to repair gets European Commission backing

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What about updates

The car industry provides another good example to the electronics industry, and specifically to software. Nobody sells a car that needs to be updated every month. The EU should refuse any certification to software that does not last at least one year.

Mind you, I worry a bit about the modern systems of internets-on-wheels.

UK.gov tells rebel MPs to go Huawei – but 5G Telecoms Security Bill was the price

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Everybody snooping

If Google and Facebook are earwigging everywhere, why not let Huawei join the fun.

I have another question: do the Russians buy from Huawei?

Google: You know we said that Chrome tracker contained no personally identifiable info? Yeah, about that...

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Government and business


There seems to be a difference between British and Americans here. Americans resist all government monitoring as if they were still fighting against George 3rd. British accept government monitoring within reason, but object to commercial monitoring especially from large American corporations.

The Reg produces exhibit A1: A UK court IT system running Windows XP

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Blame the apps

Windows XP was no more insecure than Linux when running as an ordinary user. But many apps were so poorly written they would only run as administrator. Blame the apps (and management, of course).

Meet Clippy 9000: Microsoft brags about building Earth's largest AI language model, refuses to let it out of the lab

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Linguistic drivel

Shakespeare and monkeys, and wild, wild typing!

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Re: My litmus test


Can it also recognise a film that is well-produced but incredibly boring, aka a turkey?

Google says its latest chatbot is the most human-like ever – trained on our species' best works: 341GB of social media

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Re: "I have met quite a few people that couldn't pass the Turing test."

I have my doubts about many of the "people" on company "help" lines.

Vendor-bender LibreOffice kicks out 6.4: Community project feel, though now with added auto-█████ tool

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Access and One Note

In MS Office I regularly use One Note to prepare the first draft of a document where I am initially not sure what the shape of the final document will be. Its structure of sections and pages allows snippets from many other sources to be parked in a convenient way for later consideration. It has other party tricks. But LO has nothing like it.

Access is much more powerful than LO Base.

These days I do not exchange documents with many other people. But where that is a requirement - e.g. the city of Munich and other parts of the German government - the different styles and fonts between MSO and LO are a nuisance.

Someone get Greenpeace on the line. Boffins clock carbon 'pollution' cloud 30,000 light-years wide choking galaxies

Primus Secundus Tertius


By far the commonest 'ordinary matter' (as opposed to 'dark matter') is hydrogen. Most of the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen in the universe is found as their hydrides: methane, ammonia, and water.

Carbon ions only in a very energetic environment, near a star or black hole.

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

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Past misdeeds

Back in the last millenium, the British Ferranti company was persuaded to buy what was touted as a big American software company with lots of US government contracts which were, however, secret and could not be revealed until the dosh was handed over.

The money was paid, but the company turned out to be an empty shell. Ferranti staggered on for a while but then collapsed into the arms of Weinstock's GEC.

As far as I know, nobody in the US took a rap for this case. So HP/Lynch could be regarded as revenge.

Talking a Blue Streak: The ambitious, quiet waste of the Spadeadam Rocket Establishment

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Also in Stevenage

When I worked for Hawker Siddeley in Stevenage, ca 1973, there was at least part of a Blue Streak on the premises. My reaction was, so that is how large a 1 megaton H-bomb warhead is. But later I read there were many dummies in that warhead to confuse the enemy. So maybe not so large.

Irish eyes aren't smiling after govt blows €1m on mega-printer too big for parliament's doors

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Re: ""Four grand for a printer!?" and I always wondered wtf she was buying."


"...external printing shops..."? What print shops?

There used to be two print shops in every street, but not nowadays. As secretary of a committee I used to use them, but nowadays committees are run by email. Often there is only one copy of a document in a committee meeting.

Pack your bags, you're going to America, Lord Chief Justice tells accused Brit hacker

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Re: Odd thought


Diplomatic immunity is an excellent thing. Would we want our own diplomats in various hostile countries liable to be arrested for road accidents etc. Although the Sacoolas incident was a genuine road accident, it would not be beyond our enemies to concoct a road accident.

The proper response to the Sacoolas incident is at diplomatic, government to government level. Some kind of sanction by us against the US Government until a satisfactory apology and compensation. Maybe the USG has offered this, but Dunn's parents are being unrealistic.

Remember the Uber self-driving car that killed a woman crossing the street? The AI had no clue about jaywalkers

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Re: How about


1. "surprisingly few incidents" is today's euphemism of the day.

2. Voice recognition is still very poor compared with OCR or a reasonable typist.

Are you coming to the party dressed as an IMP? ARPANET @ 50

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Re IPv4

IPv4 was a work of genius. Everythnig since then looks like a student project exercise.

No extra bank holiday for 75th VE Day, but the pub will be open longer

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Re: Bastille Day

I was stuck in a French town one Bastille Day: everything was closed except the local museum. So there I went.

There was a fascinating section on the German occupation during WW2. Gestapo identity cards, knives, pistols... Then there was the town map: the main square renamed to Adolf Hitler Platz, the main street to Adolf Hitler Strasse.

Later, when I told my German friends, they felt (light-heartedly) there were possibilities in that naming scheme.

BOFH: The company survived the disaster recovery test. Just. The Director's car, however...

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Re: Very Thorough

Do you mean MI5 HQ - just down the road from "the 600 gasbags". I am quoting a Whitehall civil servant there.

Or perhaps MI6 HQ, on the other side of the river.

Spacecraft that told us 'you're screwed' finally gives up the ghost after doubling its shelf life

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Sea level rising

The article quotes a rise in sea level of 5cm in 11 years. This is roughly 20 inches per century.

Since the peak (trough?) of the Ice Age 20,000 year ago, sea level has risen about 300 feet, or 18 inches per century, with almost all of that long before men were burning coal and oil. It is good to see these changes continuing at about their pre-industrial level.

Revealed: The 25 most dangerous software bug types – mem corruption, so hot right now

Primus Secundus Tertius


You are spot on about 'some "harmless" change in another piece of code'. I had to deal with some free() statements that had been a long way away from the original malloc() statements. Then some 'upgrade' removed the malloc code but forgot the free code.

I concluded that a lot of programmers never really understood pointers.

Eco-activists arrested by Brit cops after threatening to close Heathrow with drones

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@Chris G

Not just CO2 but hot air in general.

It is time the authorities listened to the geologists and not the eco-freaks. Geology tells us the history of planet Earth. In particular, for most of the time since the Cambrian era, 550 million years ago, the planet has been much warmer than it is now. Ice ages have come and gone without human intervention. So there are natural reasons why the climate varies from one epoch to another, and these natural causes dwarf any human effort. That means all these eco-carbon policies are a complete waste of time, effort, and money.

First water world exoplanet spotted – and thankfully no sign of Kevin Costner, rejoice!

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Re: Thank you!

You would think, with the bloody fortune I have to pay in taxes, that everyone would know what a light year is.

British education in the state schools has become a comprehensive disaster.

Not so easy to make a quick getaway when it takes 3 hours to juice up your motor, eh Brits?

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Re: 30m quid on removing greenhouse gases?


Your first reference deals with the last 2,000 years. I was talking about the last 20,000 years, when our ancestors could walk from Biarritz to Brittany, Cornwall, Pembroke, and Ireland with only a few river crossings. It was 7,000 years ago (5,000BC) that the sea broke through between Calais and Dover.

I stand by my claim that most of the 300 feet rise in sea level was long before the industrial era.

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: 30m quid on removing greenhouse gases?

Well said, Jimmy. There is the organic carbon cycle, CO2 -> plants -> animals -> CO2; and there is an inorganic cycle, silicate rocks -> carbonate rocks -> silicate rocks. The inorganic cycle is vastly greater than the organic cycle, driven by geophysical processes.

Our burning of coal and oil is merely a part of the organic cycle, and has a negligible effect on the overall carbon situation. Sea level has risen some 300 feet (ca 90 metres) in the last 200 centuries, but industrial carbon burning has been only in the last two centuries. Most of the sea level rise came before the industrial burning.

That proves your point, Jimmy, that things are not well understood.

Geo-boffins drill into dino-killing asteroid crater, discover extinction involves bad smells, chilly weather, no broadband internet...

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Also in the British parliament: e.g. Magic Grandpa and the McDonnellosaur.

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Re: Fahrenheit?

What we need in this computer age is the mile divided into 4096 new feet, with 16 new inches per new foot. The new rodpoleorperch would be 256 new inches or 16 new feet. The cricket pitch would become 64 new feet.

TfL inks £6.5m deal with Sopra Steria to build traffic data-munching and control system

Primus Secundus Tertius

AI Traffic lights

AI is arguably more intelligent than some of the drivers on the road; but it must certainly be more intelligent than most of the traffic light systems that I seem to meet.

Twice in one month: Microsoft updates new-style Terminal preview

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HTML to other formats

If your aim is to change the format rather than just cut and paste, I recommend a program called Pandoc. This will convert a wide domain of input formats into an extensive range of outputs. It was written by an American academic and since extended by others; and is available in Windows and Linux versions.

Google bans politics, aka embarrassing stuff that gets leaked, from internal message boards

Primus Secundus Tertius

Kinds of dictatorship

Google is an example of a "benevolent dictatorship" slowly turning into groupthink mental slavery. It is time for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as an earlier generation of rebels put it.

BOFH: Oh, go on, let's flush all that legacy tech down the toilet

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Equifax news

In The Onion today is a news item: Hacked Equifax Customer Receives 10,000 Stolen Social Security Numbers As Share Of Class Action Settlement.

I don't have to save my work, it's in The Cloud. But Microsoft really must fix this files issue

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Re: Poor education

@Paul Cooper, @NetBlackOps

I guess I did not make myself clear. I am not expecting secretaries, civil servants, managers, accountants etc. to understand binary numbers and disk tracks and sectors. But I believe they should be expected to understand how to create, save, copy, or email a document or spreadsheet.

I realise from these Reg reports that they don't, and I blame the schools. This is indeed what Paul stated: "it's education in using IT to carry out certain limited tasks".

Equally I do not expect most people to understand the axioms of number theory by Peano, or the formidable reformulations of nouns and verbs that constitute grammar as it is taught today. But I do think they should be expected to read and write words and numbers. Many of them don't, of course.

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Poor education

It is a recurring theme of this column that there is a vast gulf between what users are reasonably expected to know and how little they actually know.

I thought in these modern times it was the duty of the schools to give people a basic competence in computing, just as is supposed to happen with English and Arithmetic. Er, ...

Half the population is below average, and about a sixth are more than one standard deviation below average. But the beancounters think it is cheaper to employ the lower half. Which half do you think the beancounters come from?

There's Huawei too many vulns in Chinese giant's firmware: Bug hunters slam pisspoor code

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Red paradise?

One expects these shoddy shortcomings from profit-oriented companies. But from idealistic communist enterprises surely not? Actually, more likely than not.

These findings seem to support earlier findings from the British monitoring of Huawei, of shoddy software. Perhaps all the good programmers get to work for elite hacking teams, and only the rubbish have to find "commercial" jobs.

The Eldritch Horror of Date Formatting is visited upon Tesco

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Re: best way so far?

When I worked for the London office of a US company, I always wrote dates in documents and emails as dd-mmm-yyyy. So today is 26-Jun-2019.

But for databases, 20190626 is much better.

Excel stores dates as integers, but displays them as dates, if you mark the cell as date format. So 20140 becomes 20/02/1955. The Tesco claim of Julian date is nonsense: a Julian date is a pure integer, not some combination of year and day-number.

Money laundering and crypto-coin legislation could hurt open-source ecosystem – activists

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The UK called in all its high value banknotes during World War 2 to thwart the black market operators. For years the highest note in circulation was £5.

Amazon's optical character recognition toy Textract is here but still a bit short-sighted

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Many other products

Dr S mentions Tesseract. Other products are ABBYY reader and Adobe Acrobat; and as the article mentions, One Note. I have used all these others. ABBYY I find the best if I want to reflow the text into different page sizes or columns, and Acrobat the best if I want to preserve the original appearance of the document. One Note turns each line into a new paragraph -- not good for reflowing text.

None of them work well against cursive or script fonts, and they all fail with handwritten images.



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