* Posts by Primus Secundus Tertius

1496 publicly visible posts • joined 31 Oct 2010

Probe reveals previously secret Israeli spyware that infects targets via ads

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How to pay

If people were willing to pay upfront for internet services, the ad industry would hardly exist.

UK civil servants – hopefully including those spending billions on tech – to skill up in STEM

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Re: An amusing way to waste public money.

No politician could do a statistical analysis of said rats. Indeed, not every scientist could.

Scared of flying? Good news! Software glitches keep aircraft on the ground

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Design for errors

Designing systems to cope with errors, i.e. raw user input, is difficult. To give constructive error messages you have to parse a range of inputs that include error cases, not just the perfect working case. So system design is a bigger and more expensive task, not always appreciated by techies let alone by beancounters.

Farewell WordPad, we hardly knew ye

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Just the text

I prepare documents in Word. But sometimes, when distributing my files to friends, I run them through Wordpad to reduce their size (typically from 15KB to 4KB), and to remove the serial number of my copy of MS Office.

BOFH: What a beautiful tinfoil hat, Boss!

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Disposal unit

"There's a tractor beam which draws them through the multiverse to our company."

I thought BOFHCO was a disposal unit for the people the agencies don't want on their books.

Grant Shapps named UK defense supremo in latest 'tech-savvy' Tory tale

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Re: Not a popular appointment

I have heard him speak at Tory party functions. I despair whenever I see him appointed to any government post, or indeed to anything else.

Last rites for the UK's Online Safety Bill, an idea too stupid to notice it's dead

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Re: The Reg goes all EFF, yet again


During WWI and WWII the police, or someone equivalent, did open letters. Not every letter, but if the suspicion was there...

These powers ceased after WWII under democratic norms which never applied to the State Security Service of East Germany.

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Re: The Reg goes all EFF, yet again

Well said, sir. There are problems with criminal behaviour on the internet which are obvious to ordinary people even if the computer nerds deny that. Law enforcement needs powers that ordinary folk don't have.

We do need some checks and balances against the abuses of power that will inevitably happen occasionally, and against the misunderstandings of the PPE graduates in our establishment. These checks and balances need constructive negotiation, as against the dismissive whining of this and many other articles.

AWS: IPv4 addresses cost too much, so you’re going to pay

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Re: Without comment

tracert www.theregister.com

Tracing route to www.theregister.com []

over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 4 ms 3 ms 3 ms

2 * * * Request timed out.

3 14 ms 16 ms 19 ms glfd-core-2a-xe-801-0.network.virginmedia.net []

4 * * * Request timed out.

5 * * * Request timed out.

6 14 ms 14 ms 15 ms tele-ic-7-ae2-0.network.virginmedia.net []

7 15 ms 13 ms 14 ms 2-14-250-212.static.virginm.net []

8 14 ms 14 ms 30 ms

9 41 ms 16 ms 13 ms

Trace complete.

NASA mistakenly severs communication to Voyager 2

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Re: Off topic

300 baud was adequate in the days when people communicated with grown-up text rather than childish pictures. But not so good for downloading large software packages.

OpenAI pulls AI text detector due to it being a bit crap

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No worse than the average human

One might almost think that AI writing is no worse than average human writing. Far too often we flatter ourselves.

Microsoft kicks Calibri to the curb for Aptos as default font

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Re: ...Segoe, the font of the Windows 11 system UI

Segoe script is a useful font if you are printing a document and you don't want it copied by OCR. Its joined up characters defeat all the OCR programs I have tried.

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I like serifs

The traditional word processor font was Times Roman: a serif font both elegant and compact. Then people started moaning about "boring Times Roman", so in Office 2007 and 2010 the default became Cambria. The sans options were Arial with Times, and Calibri with Cambria.

Then, to my regret, the default in 2013 became Calibri.

After Germany abolished the old gothic (fraktur) fonts in 1941, Germany preferred the sans serif fonts. But Britain prefers serif fonts.

Oh spit, I guess we shall have to set up our own styles with our own preferences.

Tesla plots entry to Britain's stagnant energy market

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Reminds me of China

Battery and solar cells in every household? Madness! It reminds me of Mao Tse Tung's infamous schemes for a blast furnace in every house to make steel.

The real solution for a high-energy Britain is nuclear power, lots of, and an adequate distribution grid.

It's time to mark six decades of computer networking

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Now forgotten

It is a lesson in history to see how the IBM System Network Architecture (SNA) and the Digital Equipment Corporation Decnet are now forgotten. In Tanenbaum 1st edition they were the major players.

California man jailed after manure-to-methane scheme revealed as bull

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Green investors

I guess they could be described as green investors.

If AI drives humans to extinction, it'll be our fault

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Conspiracy or cock-up?

The risks that blaze in plain sight are the risks of poor programming or poor training data. Given the history of computer programming over more than 70 years, the risks of B-team incompetence and poor motivation overshadow anything else.

Inclusive Naming Initiative limps towards release of dangerous digital dictionary

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Time to abort

Time to abort this masterpiece of nonsense that will cripple the language.

I do accept that an insult is different when you are receiving it rather than delivering it. Nevertheless, these ideas reflect an obsession with the appearance of language rather than its meaning.

Virgin Media email customers enter third day of inbox infuriation

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No advertising

I have had these problems with VM email many times. I get the impression they don't really care about email because there is no associated advertising revenue.

Election Excel blunder declared a 'low point' for Austrian social democracy

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Re: We wish it were true

Uncle Joe, and many like-minded politicians, have organised elections very successfully. As the old proverb puts it, those who count the elections win them.

CERN spots Higgs boson decay breaking the rules

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" … the 0.15 percent predicted by the standard Standard Model."

Is there a "non-standard Standard Model"?

IR35 costs UK Research and Innovation £36M – the same it spent funding tech projects

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Hire a contractor

I guess they need to hire one or two contractors to sort out this contractual mess.

Encoded 'alien message' will reach Earth today, but relax: It's just a drill

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Also cats

I have suggested to cat breeders that they develop cats which can talk and listen. This would take a while, though. Human throats and ears took some two million years to reach their current adaptations for speech and listening.

But it would introduce us to a non-human perspective on the world.

That Meta GDPR fine is €1.2B. Plus biz must stop sending EU data to US

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Re: Imagine if Facebook was a Chinese app/platform

I thought Google was the Internet branch of US Intelligence.

We regret to inform you Earth will not be destroyed by an asteroid within 1,000 years

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We are more likely to die of boredom from all these dramatic predictions intended to grab attention and attract research grants.

Large language models' surprise emergent behavior written off as 'a mirage'

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Layers of logic

A simple example of emergent behaviour is the existence of chemical properties arising from the behaviour of atoms. I prefer to describe it as a new layer of logic, with new laws, but relying on the lower level logic of atomic properties.

Whether a new layer of logic can arise in these huge computer systems is a serious question. The article basically says we need better analyses than those existing today.

EU's Cyber Resilience Act contains a poison pill for open source developers

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Re: Cui Bono.......Again!!!

Anyone who sells software has a contractual liability to the purchaser. If the purchaser is a private person, then in the UK that means the Sale of Goods Act, under which an item must be fit for purpose. If a promoter puts together a package of open source software and sells it, the promoter is liable.

Cisco: Don't use 'blind spot' – and do use 'feed two birds with one scone'

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Re: Scones

"… feed two birds with one scone"

The British coronation features the Scone of Stone, a Scottish relic made of solidified porridge and harder than granite.

Handwritten Einstein essay on theory of relativity goes under the hammer

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Photoelectric effect

Einstein's famous contribution to atomic physics was his discussion of the photoelectric effect. He got a Nobel prize for it.

Boffins rewrite the book on how Earth's oceans developed

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Not so elementary

"Magma is made up mainly of oxygen and molten silicon."

It would have been much more precise to say that magma is mainly silicate, oxygen and silicon combined.

Take a 14-mile trip on an autonomous Scottish bus starting next month

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Smashing opportunity

This project sounds like a smashing opportunity. Ordinary motorists beware!

Turns out people don't like it when they suspect a machine's talking to them

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Undue optimism

We foreigners are always criticising Americans for their absurd over-optimism. Maybe someone could do a comparison of American, Chinese, and Russian chatbots.

So you want to integrate OpenAI's bot. Here's how that worked for software security scanner Socket

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... also known as the Wibbly Wobbly Web.

Scientists speak their brains: Please don’t call us boffins

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Ask the dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary agrees that the origin of the word is not known. Its first citation with the meaning of 'scientist' is from The Times, 1945. It also alleges another meaning, which I have never met: 'elderly naval officer' dating from 1941.

Forget general AI, apparently zebrafish larvae can count

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Awareness of numbers

Humans, several animals, and some birds can recognise small numbers at sight: three people or four flowers, for example. The next step is to associate a word such as three or four with those numbers. We are down to humans and fewer animals. The final step is to understand relationships, such as 1 + 4 = 3 + 2. Here we are at humans only, and not all humans at that.

Space dust that regularly hits Earth could contain proof of alien life

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From the galaxy

We now know that the galaxy contains a lot of simple organic molecules such as ethanol. But on Earth, DNA largely disappears from fossils after a million years, and so does protein. A speck of dust travelling at 1/10,000 of the speed of light would take 40,000 years to get here from proxima centauri, so a journey of 100,000 years would cover 10 light years. Therefore there is a faint chance we could find a trace of life in a galactic dust particle.

This does mean the first life on Earth could have come from within our galaxy, but other galaxies are much too far away.

Stanford sends 'hallucinating' Alpaca AI model out to pasture over safety, cost

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Re: Not surprising


Or as they say in German, man ist was man isst.

NASA spots first evidence of an active volcano on Venus – in a big pile of CD-ROMs

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Re: Old data new tricks

No, not AI. This is new stuff, totally unsuited for AI which only regurgitates old stuff.

Bing AI feels like ChatGPT stuffed into a suit – not the future

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Re: Agreed!

Yes, indeed. It is a pity that a Brit-based site faded away, probably for reasons of money. I now see a lot of former vultures writing for Telegraph newspapers.

Pentesters' fave Kali Linux turns 10 with version 23.1

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Re: Free as in Beer

It does not beg the question, it raises the question.

To beg the question means to assume in advance what you are purporting to prove, as opposed to simply asking.

Brit newspaper giant fills space with AI-assisted articles

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Subeditors lacking

"Reach CEO Jim Mullen said the machine-written articles are checked and approved by human editors before they're published online."

I doubt it. Newspapers long ago got rid of subeditors in order to cut costs.

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Re: Coffee is good for you, coffee is bad for you

And cycling. Bloody cycling; cycling should be banned.

Tech demo takes brain scan, creates a picture of what you're looking at

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After this, what?

So far, it is pretty pictures rather than sounds or smells.

If the picture is a page of text, can it produce a Word file of the result?

'Major' news: Microsoft slips Bing chatbot shortcut into Windows 11

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Re: Minutes taking

A literal transcript of a conversation is very different from a set of minutes. The minutes have to reduce a wandering babble to an apparently logical discussion, with decisions and actions clearly indicated. So real intelligence is needed, from a human or otherwise.

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Minutes taking

As someone who has minuted many meetings, I have dreamed of the day when a computer will listen to a meeting, and then five minutes after the meeting ends it will email a set of minutes to those who attended. The test will be how many objections will be raised to those minutes.

Building bits of brain in the lab will change our minds

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Get rich quick

This seems to have been stirred up by a recent academic paper, see https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/science/articles/10.3389/fsci.2023.1017235. I was led to that URL by an article (https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/whos-afraid-of-organoid-intelligence/) in The Spectator, a British weekly magazine of news and arts.

That paper does read like a begging letter for research grants. It says nothing about how early multi-cellular life evolved specialised brain cells, and how their mutual connections became useful control systems. AI/ML, and now OI, all look to me like get rich quick schemes.

Why ChatGPT should be considered a malevolent AI – and be destroyed

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Re: Quantum chat


"what comes after I think therefore I am?"

Thinking, thinking, thinking

Just keep them brain cells thinking


NASA finds crashing spacecraft into asteroids is a viable defence strategy

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Re: "we can prevent an asteroid impact with sufficient time, warning and resources"

The problem was, they were addicted to smoking - and to smoking weed at that. So they were stoned out of their minds before they got literally stoned.

If we plan to live on the Moon, it's going to need a time zone

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Re: Just set the entire moon to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC +0) ...


I propose that the date line be moved to the Atlantic Ocean, specifically to longitude 30W. It would be almost entirely a straight line, except for North-East Greenland and some islands off the coast of Brazil.

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Re: Just set the entire moon to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC +0) ...

As I understand it, any US citizen (which I am not) has to pay federal income tax wherever they are.