* Posts by Primus Secundus Tertius

1364 posts • joined 31 Oct 2010


AI's most convincing conversations are not what they seem

Primus Secundus Tertius

Re: 180 Turing

I have wondered, when in touch with so-called help desks, whether the response is from a man or a machine.

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Re: Sentience? Meh...

Yes, humans can use intelligence without using words. For example, when playing ball games or riding a bicycle. Cats and dogs can play ball games, and some dogs have been seen to ride bicycles. I have seen dogs with traffic sense: running between cars without getting run over and thereby causing chaos.

Open source 'Office' options keep Microsoft running faster than ever

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Re: Office schmoffice...

Maybe that works if you speak Network Standard US English (their equivalent of the now forgotten trad BBC English). But not in the Rest Of The World.

How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus

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I once transferred an accounting spreadsheet from OpenOffice Calc to MS Excel. Then I had that same problem with the unchanging totals. The transfer had copied the cell values but not the cell formulae.

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Excel is not amused.

Spreadsheets for data entry ought to be, but sometimes are not, set up to validate fields to check for that.

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Two spaces after a full stop was standard practice in the days of typewriters and monospaced fonts. Even now, if one creates a document in Courier font. Which one might do if sending out paper copies which later will be OCRed. Courier comes through OCR fairly reliably.

'Red-rated' legacy IT gets refresh in UK as US battles theirs with bills

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Re: "Digital Boot Camps"

To be effective, the lessons would have to be framed in Latin or Ancient Greek.

Meteoroid hits main mirror on James Webb Space Telescope

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Starships doomed

This incident demonstrates that one cannot expect to send starships through the galaxy at speeds near or above light. A collision at that speed would release the energy of an atomic bomb. E=mc^2, as any fule kno.

Google calculates Pi to 100 trillion digits

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Re: Measurement creep

"Calculators often lie..."

I have a test for calculators, spreadsheets, etc.

x = 355/113 - PI() = 2.667E-07 on my calculator. So the six most significant digits have been lost.

Then 1/x = 3749531.309, which is seriously wrong.

Excel yields 3748629.088.

An old Quattro Pro also yields 3748629.088

Windows 7 calculator: 3748629.093

An online 30-digit calculator yields 3748629.093

Japan's asteroid probe reportedly found 20 amino acids

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Which amino acids?

The 20 or so amino acids used by life on Earth are just a fraction of the possible amino acids, most of which are not used. E.g. we use only alpha-amino acids, with the amino (NH2) group attached to the same carbon atom as the carboxyl (COOH) group. Then there is the question, are the ones found 'left-handed' or 'right-handed' stereoisomers?

Version 251 of systemd coming soon to a Linux distro near you

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They call it progress

So Linux is as impenetrable to the average nerd at home as is Microsoft Windows. Professionalism, one might say; other remarks are not fit for a civilised general readership.

Elon Musk 'violated' Twitter NDA over bot-check sample size

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You are right that the standard deviation is ~sqrt(5) or 2.2 approx. But this means any one sample may show between 1 and 9 robots, i.e. a divergence of up to 2 standard deviations. A sample size of about 1,000 is needed for a sensible result.

OpenVMS on x86-64 reaches production status with v9.2

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Re: I wonder how many people still remember how to use it?

What choked off a VAX I worked on was the Common Data Dictionary, that somehow got larger every time we did something I have now forgotten involving Datatrieve, DEC's query language for various types of files and for their relational database.

Various types of files: serial, sequential, indexed sequential. And various types of text: implicit CRLF, explicit CRLF, and indexed text accessible by a line number part of each record.

But at least it was all ASCII, this was before the days of UTF-8, UTF-7, UTF-16LE, UTF-16BE.

UK watchdogs ask how they can better regulate algorithms

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Solar power is in short supply every night. There again, do politicians understand that?

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Re: "but there's also a problematic side to algorithms"

Algorithms are just a small part of the problem when considering programs which are data-driven. Who is going to review gigabytes of training data? Another algorithm? Or Britain's arts graduate civil servants?

Uni team demo algorithm to shield conversations from eavesdropping AI

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Re: How does it work?

Indeed, any reasonable British accent will defeat these American speech "recognition" programs. That is my experience, anyway.

How to democratize ML? More public data, says MLCommons

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Re: Heavenly Help or a Diabolical Plot via AIdDevelopments?

I am not sure that I understand Mr Mars correctly. Is he talking about a Turing test for machines, so they will know whether they are speaking to another machine or to a mere human?

COVID-19 contact tracing apps were suggested as saviors. They sometimes delivered

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Re: Turn Bluetooth off...

We (in the UK) got through the first wave of covid without wearing masks. But later, we were all forced to wear masks, and phase 2 came back very powerfully.

So wearing masks spreads covid.

HCL and HP named in unflattering audit of India’s biometric ID system

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Cases elsewhere

"…475,000 Aadhaars with the same biometric data used to describe different people."

The Onion, a satirical American publication, once reported on the doctor who used the same magnetic resonance scan for all her pregnant patients.

Google talks up its 540-billion-parameter text-generating AI system

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Re: Able to explain jokes?

Can it explain itself, then?

UK spy boss warns China hopes Russia will help it take over tech standards

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Use your intelligence?

"intelligence is only worth collecting if we use it".

Plausible, but dogmatic. Depends what you mean by 'use'.

Microsoft backtracks on lack of easy Windows browser choice

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Re: There are *many* other, and better OS options

I don't use Windows to do my work, I use apps. Principally MS Office, including Word, Excel, and OneNote. But not PowerPoint, an utter waste of space. On my "other computers" I use Libre Office, but LO does not have anything comparable to OneNote. I occasionally use Access, much better than the database software in LO.

OneNote is superb for the first version of new documents, for which I am not always certain at the beginning how they will work out.

Supercomputer to train 176-billion-parameter open-source AI language model

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Re: A 176-billion-parameter NLP

I once constructed a list of the words I use, to support a spellcheck program. I was using about 5,000 root words; with plurals, verb forms,etc, that became about 20,000 words.

Select 5 from 20,000 and that is a lot of short sentences, most of which are impossible. The fun starts if you want to guess what the possible ones might mean, for purposes such as translation, indexing and filing, and customer service.

I suspect the current brute force approach is running out of steam. For example, machine translations are less worse than they were, but still not up to a standard anyone would pay for.

Android's Messages, Dialer apps quietly sent text, call info to Google

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Re: That rogue programmer again

I always thought the VW scandal began in a genuine way. Code was put there for debugging purposes and was never intended to run in a milestone test or final delivery.

But mistakes happen, and so a milestone test passed brilliantly, to the astonishment and delight of VW management. When the techies said, "Er, there's a problem here", the management answer was, "You are not going to be difficult about this, are you?".

Equinix cuts $705m check for Chilean, Peruvian datacenters

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I saw the headline and wondered. Did they mean a verification, or a bill of exchange payable on demand. At least a British spelling would be unambiguous.

Unable to write 'Amusing Weekly Column'. Abort, Retry, Fail?

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Impossible messages

For six months the website of The Spectator has refused to speak to me. Their help department is utterly useless. Their latest gem: "Please login with a new account and new email address". I have been telling them for six months that I cannot get their front page or login screen.

Saving a loved one from a document disaster

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Rather computers than cars

Just imagine what our roads would be like if people had he same problems with their cars as with their computers. But for some reason that does not seem to happen. It is not as if cars are idiot-resistant, far from it.

Canonical puts out last update to Ubuntu 20.04 before 22.04

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Compare cars and computers

I'm glad my car does not need gigabytes of updates every year.

Er, gulp! Should I be that confident?

Your app deleted all my files. And my wallpaper too!

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Re: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

One day, ca 1990, the computer operators told me they had done a trawl for the word 'experience'. Some interesting results.

UK's National Savings & Investments bank looks for new IT partner in £172m deal

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Ernie's real purpose?

I always wondered if the real reason for building ERNIE was to generate random numbers for encrypting government messages.

Use Zoom on a Mac? You might want to check your microphone usage

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Re: "it looks like it's safest to only run Zoom while on active calls"

I even log out and shut down after using the computer, rather than just closing the lid.

We kick the tires on Qubes 4.1.0 and indeed, it's still a 'reasonably secure' OS

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So the only security problems are PEBCAK ones.

Tesla to disable 'self-driving' feature that allowed vehicles to roll past stop signs at junctions

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Re: Not a "bug"

We the people show little regard for speed limits. Anyone who sticks to the limit on motorways is regarded as an obstructive road hog, except where the b*st*rds have impose average speed limits and snoop cameras.

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Re: Not a "bug"

In England the attitude is that the authorities make the law but we the people decide whether to obey. The French are similar. Germany and the USA are different.

I have always wondered why the US chose to adopt the German attitude to the law.

Microsoft to block downloaded VBA macros in Office – you may be able to run 'em anyway

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Re: ... Office's current defense strategy is somewhat lacking

I thought .docx did block macros. If you want macros, use .docm.

Same with .xlsx and .xlsm.

So my office files don't use macros. The blame lies with Other People.

HPE has 'substantially succeeded' in its £3.3bn fraud trial against Autonomy's Mike Lynch – judge

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Re: Swap him for

First it was rumoured that she would appear by Zoom or equivalent. Then her lawyers said that there was no such agreement.

Assange can go to UK Supreme Court (again) to fend off US extradition bid

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Who pays?

Who is paying all the enormous legal fees for this extended abuse of legal options?

Meta trains data2vec neural network to grok speech, images, text so it can 'understand the world'

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Re: Dept of Corrections and Clarifications

'take over the world'

Amend that to 'take over the world and monetize it'.

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Re: Wow!!!! But wait a moment...

Re; tone and emotions.

I have toyed with two well-known sites that check one's writing: Grammarly and ProWritingAid. Both assess submitted texts on spelling, grammar, complexity, general readability, etc. They also judge the tone of the work: formal, semi-formal, casual, etc.

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Re: Given the input of an infinite number of Monkeys

Perhaps it will rewrite the Words of Zuckerberg to be even more obscure and evasive.

Arm rages against the insecure chip machine with new Morello architecture

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Pointers to failure

Pointers are fine when the right chaps use them. But a lot of programmers I met did not seem to understand them properly.

'Please download in Microsoft Excel': Meet the tech set to monitor IT performance across central UK government

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Ideal for data

Spreadsheets are ideal for data. But it is a pity they could not use a generic spreadsheet that will work equally with Libre Office, Google Office, Softmaker Office, ONLYOFFICE, or even good old Gnumeric.

When I was claiming Gift Aid tax rebates for a small charity, I downloaded the appropriate spreadsheet from HMRC. There was one version for Excel and one for Libre Office Calc. Other spreadsheets were unsupported. The problem seems to be the manic desire to incorporate macros within spreadsheets.

'IwlIj jachjaj! Incoming LibreOffice 7.3 to support Klingon and Interslavic

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Unique features

"the only language I've ever met with invisible diacritic marks, which aren't written but you must pronounce"

Every language has its own special features. Welsh is the only language I have met which, in some circumstances, conjugates prepositions.

No defence for outdated defenders as consumer AV nears RIP

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Failure of capitalism

Microsoft had virus protection in Windows v3, but in Windows95 they left it to the free market. Ten years later they had to accept that the free market had failed, and they reintroduced Windows Defender into XP.

Predictive Dirty Dozen: What will and won't happen in 2022 (unless it doesn’t/does)

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Re: AI transcription and translation improves massively

None of these transcription or translation computers "really understand" the words. They manipulate the words but basically they are just bluffing. And it does not take long to see that they are just bluffing.

You geeks have inherited the Earth, but what are you going to do with it?

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History is bunk

Not an article I can agree with.

"… it's impossible to imagine how the global pandemic would have played out without it [the Internet]".

Many of us remember the Asian Flu pandemic of 1957. People either stayed at home or got on with life. The Government did not make a fuss. Pity that was not remembered from 2020 onwards, especially now we have all had our arms pierced. 2020 vision, what a joke!

"… with power comes responsibility …"

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. The last is especially true in the computer trade, and greatness has been thrust upon many who subside under the challenge.

Boffins' first take on asteroid dust from Japanese probe: Carbon rich, less lumpy than expected

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No advance on 1953

In 1953 a famous experiment by a scientist named Miller showed that hydrides of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen could form simple organic compounds if in the absence of free oxygen they were exposed to sparks or UV light, etc. But that is a long way from the highly structured DNA or proteins.

That gap is yet to be bridged.

MPs charged with analysing Online Safety Bill say end-to-end encryption should be called out as 'specific risk factor'

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Re: It's OK, freedom of speech is a quintessentially British right

Freedom of speech is a right. But in Britain you have to accept responsibility for the consequences. This is fair and reasonable, unlike the USA where freedom of speech is a cynical shibboleth used to defend outrageously harmful words.

What came first? The chicken, the egg, or the bodge to make everything work?

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Out in the sticks

Back in the 1990s, I worked at a place out in the countryside. (One day I saw a fox stroll past the window.) Frequently we would arrive Monday morning to find the electricity had gone down over the weekend, and all our computers were 'resting'.

Our internal network had 'just grown', with many interdependencies. It took most of a Monday morning to restart the computers in the right sequence. Eventually we recruited an experienced network engineer to sort us out.

Big Tech's private networks and protocols threaten the 'net, say internet registries

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The so-called Splinternet is a real possibility, because some national authorities insist on censorship for political or religious reasons. Then there are the commercial interests discussed in this article.

The Old Internet was a tribute to American and academic idealism, But few others share those ideals.



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