* Posts by 96percentchimp

188 publicly visible posts • joined 11 Jan 2012


Voice assistants failed because they serve their makers more than they help users


Google Home has got worse since 2020

I have a brace of Google Homes that I mostly use as smart speakers, timers, lighting controllers and occasionally for answering questions when neither I nor Mrs Chimp wants to get their phone out. They're certainly useful when your hands are full or you need to set a timer with hands too wet or dirty for a phone, but for about two years they've been getting worse, not better. Voice commands are misunderstood more frequently, with a particular case that there's a 50/50 chance of what will happen to the lights when I ask Google to turn them "out" instead of "off". They might go off, they might stay on. This is not a system that's learning my speech patterns. My partner's Irish accent fares even worse.

I thought it might just be us, until I discovered the Google Home subreddit. It's full of users complaining that the performance of their devices has declined. Reports from the Alexa camp suggest that it's more responsive, but too frequently tries to sell you things based on your queries.

As for answering questions, it's fine if you want to know basic facts, but if you try to ask any sort of nested or conditional question, the best you can hope for is instructions to look at a link on your phone. Which is exactly what I don't want to do, or can't do, when I'm asking the question.

If Google can't make money off these things, then its history suggests that it will withdraw investment, performance will decline, users will abandon the product and they'll be consigned to the great Google Skip. Perhaps that journey has already begun.

European watchdog: All data collected about users via ad-consent popup system must be deleted


Ad blockers are as immoral as tracking

I don't use an ad-blocker because I've worked as a journalist/content monkey and I'm aware of how difficult it is for organisations like El Reg to make enough money to pay the monkeys a decent handful of nuts (trust me, you get fewer nuts/word than you did 20 years ago, and that's without accounting for inflation).

If you want free content - and most people do - then there has to be a compromise between your desire for an ad-free experience and paying the people who produce it; otherwise it's theft, and as a by-product it encourages the ad-slingers to invent ever-more pernicious ways to target you.

Feds charge two men with claiming ownership of others' songs to steal YouTube royalty payments


YouTube copyright enforcement: extra judicial and surely illegal?

I've been involved at both ends of YouTube's copyright enforcement. It's effective for creatives, who frequently see their work stolen. You can pay someone to trawl for copies of your work and file for takedown.

But automated content ID systems will fail, and the appeals process is too heavily biased in favour of copyright owners, with harsh penalties if your surreal is rejected. I'm surprised it hasn't been challenged in court somewhere.

China plans to swipe a bunch of data soon so quantum computers can decrypt it later


Presumably you can tell whether something has informational value by analysing its structure, even if it's encrypted, in the same way that linguists analyse animal communications to compare their relative information density. So your junk files would have to look like something interesting to be worth decrypting (unless you started to disguise rich content as weak sauce to make it look innocuous...).

Now that's a splash down: Astronauts spend 8-hour trip to Earth in diapers after SpaceX capsule toilet breaks


Before SpaceX it would have been diapers all the time

There were no spacecraft with toilets on board before the Space Shuttle, and there hasn't been one since. Soyuz has never had a toilet. Arguably, this is a return to standard space plumbing, although it sounds like SpaceX has already fixed the problem for future flights.

As someone else pointed out, Boeing didn't even put a toilet in Starliner, although maybe that's because they never expected it to fly.

Apple seeks geniuses to work on 6G cellular modem before it's even shipped own 5G chip


But how will they upgrade everyone?

Now we've all got Bill Gates's 5G chips in our bodies from the Covid vaccines, does this mean we all have to be upgraded?

Ah, so that's what the booster programme's all about.

How not to train your Dragon: What happens when you teach an AI game sex-abuse stories then blame players


Re: These are the Beginnings

I've got Google Nest Hubs around the house, partly because I'm lazy, and partly because their stupidity has become its own entertainment.

They are fucking morons. Speech recognition is erratic with anything other than clearly-enunciated RP English, on top of which they frequently respond - unprompted - to unasked questions based on a misunderstood sentence that contained something sounding a bit like "Google". When they do answer a question, it sometimes takes several iterations to get an answer with the correct context.

I don't know if Alexa is any better, but I'm reassured almost daily that if Google can't get this right, then AI is not going to take over the world any time soon. Or it might be a feature designed to lull me into a false sense of security. Damned cunning, these AIs.


Re: I

So it's better to normalise pedophilia by creating it harmlessly? I cannot see that having any adverse consequences.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the BBC stage a very British coup to rescue our data from Facebook and friends


BBC R&D - worth the Licence Fee on its own

It's good to see some coverage of BBC R&D, a little-known bit of the Beeb that punches well above its weight and constantly delivers benefits both to consumers and the creative industries. It's also a powerful force for global collaboration in those industries, helping to create open standards that have made things like HDTV more accessible than if they'd been dominated by proprietary tech.



And that's a good thing, IMO. If pro-woke means being against libertarian ideologues who think they have a right to be an arsehole without suffering any consequences, then I'm all for it. They're a cancer on civil society and we'd all be a lot better off with less of their bad-faith contrarianism.

Royal Navy will be getting autonomous machines – for donkey work humans can't be bothered with


What's the end result of incresingly asymmetric warfare? More terrorism?

"we must have the ability to create an overwhelming burden of cost and complexity on our adversaries"

What worries me about this philosophy is that it's all very well to engage in a cold arms race with the new bad, Emperor Xi, who's happy to escalate, but elsewhere it encourages said adversaries to move their confrontations away from the battlefield towards softer targets - civilians and infrastructure, whether via traditional terrorism or the cyber variety. Retaliation, as we've seen in the Yemen, Palestine/Israel, and Afghanistan, is inevitably directed towards the civilian targets among whom our adversaries shelter. Tsar Putin rattles his sabre, but conducts his war online with impunity (unless Russia is also suffering unreported cyber assaults).

Warfare has become increasingly something that militaries inflict on civilians, rather than each other. This might be better for our warfighters, as they like to call themselves these days, and for above-the-line military expenditure, but is it really an improvement over confrontations limited to a traditional battlefield?

A developer built an AI chatbot using GPT-3 that helped a man speak again to his late fiancée. OpenAI shut it down


Re: Sad

As a widower, I think Open AI acted responsibly, although they should also be a lot more transparent. Joshua Barbeau's story indicates that he'd have become addicted to the Jessica bot if it hadn't been given a limited lifespan, even though it was very clearly not Jessica.

And that's the problem: grief harms your ability to think rationally. If you'd offered me this when my wife died, I'd have been tempted but I think I'd probably have said no. I've read and seen too much SF to know that it wouldn't end well, either for me, the bot or humanity.

I suspect it's simply too tempting for people like Joshua, who are in the kind of deep, persistent grief that doesn't ease off over time. Maybe it could have a role in therapy that enables people to say goodbye to loved ones they can't let go, and that's where I think Open AI should be more transparent and engage with professionals.

As for the notions of 'soul' that the SF Chronicle reporter so uncritically embraces, I took the opposite view: if an AI with obvious flaws can convincingly simulate a soul or self-awareness, then they're either very flimsy constructs or they're a lot less than the 'hard problem' that AI critics use to insist that AI consciousness will never be achieved.

Boston Dynamics spends months training its Atlas robots to perform one minute of parkour almost perfectly


Re: It's difficult to overstate their ability to balance

For the military, they'll be the ultimate drones - highly capable remote-guided weapons platforms with just enough autonomy to get from A to B while the operator maintains situational awareness. It's the ultimate in boots on the ground without risk to life, and even better if one operator can control the coordinated actions of an entire platoon.

For exploration, it's the ideal telepresence platform - cocoon your humans in a safe orbital station around Titan or a ground habitat on Mars and send the bots into the hazardous environment.

We seem to have materialized in a universe in which Barney the Purple Dinosaur is designing iPhones for Apple


Ping, ping goes the luggage belt

So that's something new to dread when we're allowed to travel again...all the iPhone users pinging their AirTagged luggage in the baggage hall. Of course, no-one will be able to tell which ping is coming from their luggage, except that being iPhone users, they'll be the ones with the overpriced designer bags.

Satellites, space debris may have already brightened night skies 10% globally – and it's going to get worse


Re: It doesn't actually get dark here.

That's all very well for you, but no help to the professional astronomers located as far as possible from terrestrial light pollution, or indeed, for amateurs who have travelled to a dark sky location (Britain has at least two).

What could be worse than killing a golden goose? Killing someone else's golden goose


Re: Management featherbedding

Maybe he was wasting money that could have been better spent on making shareholders wealthier, but I bet the 100 people who this manager kept employed didn't see his intervention as wasteful. They might not even have been aware that he was all that stood between them and being "streamlined".

Delayed UK digital border system was only stable enough to be used by 4% of intended users, MPs say


Re: hostile environment

About a year after the Brexit vote, my partner, who's Irish, attempted to help an elderly white woman in our local tube station who was having trouble with her Oyster card. The response was a volley of ingratitude which ended in "bloody foreigners" and "go home".

I'm white, I was brought up in the Midlands and I've lived in South London, places where people of all ethnic backgrounds rub along to get through life, but in the past decade, other white English people have become a hostile foreign culture that I no longer understand or want to be a part of.

Starlink's latent China crisis could spark a whole new world of warcraft


Re: This is why Oneweb gives UK leverage

OneWeb has all the makings of another Boris white elephant, not least the massive cost of using one-shot Russian launchers to build and maintain the constellation, instead of owning a fleet of reusable launchers like SpaceX. On top of that, the need for cooperation with the Russians means that OneWeb will only be able to play where Putin says it can, and probably do whatever Russia's new Chinese best mates want as well.


For all its popularity, Bitcoin etc is only useful if you can use it to buy items in the real world, like food. If China doesn't want people to use Bitcoin, then it simply has to make the process of laundering it into Yuan too long-winded for most people to bother.

Ever felt that a few big tech companies are following you around the internet? That's because ... they are


Obligatory reminder that even Reg hacks don't work for the glory


Facebook bans sharing of news in Australia – starting now – rather than submit to pay-for-news-plan


Re: Interesting take on this

The news organisations' argument is that Google & Facebook place advertising around your search, so they make money from it that doesn't go to the news publishers. Google also controls the market for on-page advertising (arguably because the publishers allowed it because they lacked foresight a decade ago, but that's another story) so they get paid again when readers follow the link. FB gets is where people will stay to comment on a story, so they build community (and make money) off the publishers' content.

Euro privacy watchdog calls for end of targeted advertising plus a squeeze on the processing of personal info


Re: No advertising

"How are you marketing your product to the legions of people like me who don't see your ads?"

What legions? You don't watch telly and you have a couple of layers of shields to prevent ads reaching you. In all likelihood, you represent such a tiny fraction of any market (except for anti-ad shields) that it's not worth trying to reach you, despite your wealth. On top of that, you're media-savvy, so it's probably not worth marketing at you because you're highly resistant to most kinds of marketing.

Google OS, phone home: Leaked Android 12 screenshots suggest new design, privacy features


Stop killing apps with battery optimisation

Is it too much to hope that Google will calm down the fashion for over-aggressive battery optimisation? It's becoming a major PITA for fitness apps which need to track location, but can't access the function even when it's been enabled by the user. I accept that there's a balance between maintaining function and zapping greedy apps, but IMO it's swung too far away from functionality, towards manufacturers claiming long battery life by killing anything that needs to use background functions. And strangely enough, it doesn't affect the bloat that the big brands still stuff into their devices.

Terraria dev cancels Stadia port after Google disabled his email account for three weeks


Re: The State of Play

"Sadly the majority of the users simply don't care about this."

I don't think that's true. Most users aren't Regtards and even if they know that Google et al are evil, they don't know how to disentangle themselves from their tentacles and they consider them to be ubiquitous and/or necessary parts of living in modern society. They probably also have more pressing issues to deal with, and Google et al's evils are sufficiently remote that they're all hoping someone else will do something about them.

Maker of crowd-sourced coronavirus spread tracker app sues Apple for 'arbitrary and capricious' iOS store snub


Re: There are 2 things to take into account

I suspect that the British app they're referring to is the Covid-19 Symptom Tracker, produced by health science company ZOE to support research led by Professor Tim Spector at King's College London. It was instrumental in tracking the early spread of the pandemic in the UK (I don't know about its USA usage) and lead to the identification of several unusual symptoms as well as the emergence of 'Long Covid'.

OTOH, the company behind Coronavirus Reporter sounds extremely shady. Apple might indeed be capricious in the way they enforce their App Store rules, but I don't think this was a bad call.

Bye-bye Bridenstine: Outgoing chief leaves NASA in good shape, though Boots on Moon by '24 goal looks doubtful


Re: Lost leadership

Artemis is a white elephant, a pointless flag-waving exercise in wasting money that would never deliver a permanent presence beyond LEO.

It looked increasingly like Bridenstine was keeping it on life support because of its political value, while new space developed the capability to do everything the SLS is supposed to do but for a fraction of the cost, with reusable hardware. It's just a shame that Blue Origin didn't step up as well as SpaceX and create a robust commercial space ecosystem that Boeing/ULA's pork barrel oligopoly couldn't crush. I think Bezos might regret dragging his heels.

The big risk is that Biden will use manned spaceflight as a trading chip in the House and Senate, and waste the progress towards making manned spaceflight a commercially-sustainable and affordable reality.

IMO, Bridenstine is the only Trump appointee that Trump-haters like myself will miss.

US gov sets up the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office at the last minute before Trump's presidency ends


Re: "The National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office"?


I like the idea of Bill Clinton wandering the Whitehouse, personally removing W keys from the keyboard (while playing saxophone and smoking a cigar), although it sounds more like something that Trump would do (but I am biased). Most likely it was Clinton's staff, but it also sounds like a tradition that goes back several administrations.

Bush Jr, to his credit, seems to have put a stop to it for the Obama handover.

Unauthorised RAC staffer harvested customer details then sold them to accident claims management company


The ICO needs 3. Sufficient staff to conduct these investigations.

If they're like any other regulator or ombudsman I've known, they never have the resources to keep up with the number of complaints, and your case could tie them up with endless searches for enough data to identify the company at fault, let alone the individual if it's a leak like the one in the original story.

UK comms regulator: Could we interest sir in a bespoke broadband speed estimate?


You get what you deserve

Given that your posting history displays a rabid streak of right-whingery, I'd say that you're getting exactly what you deserve in your low-regulation neo-liberal kleptocratic wonderland. Suck it up!

What does my neighbour's Tesla have in common with a stairlift?


Re: White Oil

Or did Dabsy copy-and-paste when he saw his deadline screeching towards him?

SpaceX Starship blows up on landing, Elon Musk says it's the data that matters and that landed just fine


Merkin news only knows how to do "Woo hah!" and "Boo sucks!". In Britain we have a thing called nuance, you should give it a try.


Re: re: Go SpaceX

We're reaching the limit of what you can do with robots. NASA just spent a year trying to get a robotic drill to go more than few cm into Martian soil. The combined NASA/ESA Mars sample return mission will take almost a decade to deliver a few kg. SpaceX (and currently it's the only player on the pitch) will very likely have people in situ by then, able to do more science than every rover humans have ever sent.

I'm not wild about the idea of full-scale colonisation before the scientists have had a good look around, but if we're going to do more than take pretty pictures, we need to start sending people to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Frenchman who wanted to 'smash a guy's face in' fined €135 – despite correctly filling out paperwork stating why he left home during lockdown


Re: Bore-out compensation

It's not entirely clear, but if you were so depressed you couldn't talk, then you would probably be in line for sick leave, urgent attention from your GP and a bit of counselling/therapy to help you manage it (mental health issues never really go away, do they?).

Your employer's response strikes me as a fundamental lack of care, but it sounds like there's a lot more going on if there are lawsuits etc involved.

I hope the chainmail bashing helped you through it!

Shock news: NASA lunar ambitions might be a bit too... ambitious


Mars Insight shows that space exploration needs boots on the ground

Unmanned probes are wonderful for surveying the solar system, taking incredible pictures and making remote measurements, but the failure of Mars Insight's mole tool has shown the harsh limitations of robot exploration. The mole had barely penetrated the Martian surface when it started to bounce out, and NASA's very smart engineers have spent the rest of the mission trying to make it dig.

More than 600 days later, they've succeeded, but it's hard not to think that astronauts equipped with a variety of equipment and 3D printers could have rapidly worked through a range of solutions and got to work much faster. The same thing is going to happen with further robotic exploration on the Moon and ambitious plans for Europa, Titan and Enceladus. The Mars Sample Return mission could absolutely be crippled by a similar unforseen problem.

Manned spaceflight will always be risky and more expensive than robots, but people can do science that robots can't, and if you want to see real geology or xenobiology, humans will need to be living on site in a well-equipped facility. Access to space is already getting cheaper, and that trend is going to accelerate, making the cost argument against human spaceflight increasingly irrelevant. The rest of it is an engineering challenge, and the only way to overcome that is to get out there and see what works.

Test tube babies: Virgin Hyperloop pops pair of staffers in a pod, shoots them along 500m vacuum tunnel


Re: Logistical Challenges

I don't think this is intended for commuter rail or metros - it's intended for medium range travel between urban centres that's not practical or economic for short haul air transport, such as Boston-New York. On a European scale, it might cover TGV-style distances like Paris-Amsterdam or even a next-gen Channel Tunnel.

BBC makes switch to AWS, serverless for new website architecture, observers grumble about the HTML


Re: Lost opportunity

The Beeb is a great innovator, but its resources are tiny in comparison to the likes of Amazon, Google, Microsoft etc, and heavily scrutinised because it's funded by the public, so it has to be selective about where it spends the R&D pennies (and they are pennies, in comparison to total budget and the commercial sector).

Some of it's right at the cutting edge (HD/4K/8K) and often in collaboration with other forward-thinking state broadcasters like NHK or through the EBU; developing the technology to support what the viewers/listeners/readers see, like DVB-S2 or DVB-T2 for HD broadcasting. Some of it's supporting the production sector or creatives (take a look at the experimental writing tools at https://www.bbc.co.uk/makerbox).

The BBC's remit obliges it to make most of its R&D freely available, so commercial providers like Sky can gobble up all the groundwork, launch a service like Sky HD, and crow about being the technology leaders. (I'm not saying Sky doesn't innovate, but they build the house; they don't make the bricks or lay the foundations.)


Re: If performance is an issue React is your problem.

I'm not sure the BBC's charter would allow it do that, even if it wanted to. Then you have the (intentional) Balkanization of the BBC's divisions, most notably the commercial/public service content, JV's like BBC America, and the difficulty of securing global rights to content which is often produced by third parties for the BBC, with their own distribution deals for different territories/media.

And even if the BBC managed to wrangle all of that into a global content platform, they've got existing commercial agreements with existing commercial platforms, they'd have to charge for content consumed outside the UK or by non Licence Fee-payers (but not all of it, e.g. news and radio), and be very careful not to rouse the ire of the commercial sector at home, which would immediately run bawling to its tame Conservative MPs and media barons to complain that "Auntie Beeb is being nasty again".

Japan testing sandwiches that discount themselves as they age


Sandwiches were in every convenience store I visited on my last trip to Tokyo. None of them had crusts. What happens to those? And do the Japanese have a chronic fear of their hair going curly?

Google Safari Workaround case inspires campaign to sue Facebook in UK's High Court over Cambridge Analytica app


Re: Class action in the US

It feels like a very long time since that golden age.

Not only would you need a government willing to prosecute its chums at the dinner party table/in the private sector, you would also need government or its regulatory agencies to be large enough and sufficiently well-funded to take on the corporate offenders - and such big government is very much against the neoliberal spirit of the past 20+ years (both New Labour and Conservatives).

Throw in the revolving door between regulators/industry and parliament/industry, and you end up with a state which is unwilling, incapable and fundamentally compromised in its ability to regulate or punish the excesses of the private sector.

Another eBay exec pleads guilty after couple stalked, harassed for daring to criticize the internet tat bazaar


Re: Tactics

Hasn't it always been thus? Today it's corporations, before them it was the monarchs and aristocrats. I'm sure someone once said something apposite about power corrupting and absolute power...etc etc

A timely reminder of why we need independent press, regulators, judiciary, separation of powers, etc. And for every watchman, someone to watch them.


Re: I hope they throw the book at them.


UK's National Audit Office warns full-fibre rollout strategy is leaving rural Britain behind. Again


Re: How on earth is this prohibitively expensive?

"using some part of the nice profits from getting hundreds of subscriptions from one fibre laid into a London suburb to subsidize the laying of fiber into the Glenn".

That sounds like filthy socialism, and the UK voted firmly against any of that Corbynite nonsense (apart from London and Scotland, that is...). So it's the shires' own fault if they can't get decent broadband, and Scotland's for rejecting independence.


Re: OW

I play games that regularly receive 60GB updates - even if you buy a disc the first thing to happen will often be a massive patch download, effectively a new version of the entire game. 120GB is a lot, but I don't think it's that unusual, particularly for enterprise hardware where the vendor will assume the user to have good connectivity.

Mark Zuckerberg, 36, decides that having people on his website deny the deaths of six million Jews is a bad thing


Re: Morals and values?

@ShadowDragon8685 Would you include the USA's genocide of Native Americans within this amendment?

Brit here, so hands obviously filthy with our own moral failures (which continue today under the baleful gaze of Priti Patel).

Hydrogen-powered train tested on Britain's railway tracks as diesel alternative


Re: Masthead

Yes, but if you use uBlock (or any ad-blocker), the Reg loses income and the lovely Reg hacks won't get their beer tokens.

Not the Southern Rail of the stars: Rocket Lab plans frequent, regular trips to Venus from 2023


Re: satellite

Venus's atmosphere, IIRC, is only pleasant in comparison to the surface. Even at Earth-ish temp and pressure, it's still full of sulphuric acid so your airship/glider will need to be robust or chemically inert.

You'll also need a self-contained power supply, since solar is unlikely to work. Maybe a tether to harvest Venusian lightning?

FYI: Mind how you go. We're more or less oblivious to 75% of junk in geosynchronous orbits around Earth


Re: One wonders what the future of satellites and space explorations is going to be...

The problem isn't chemical rockets, it's the single-use paradigm which throws waste into space and makes launch incredibly expensive.

Hopefully, SpaceX is paving the way for reusable launchers which will make launches less messy and make it cheap enough to put debris-recovery systems into orbit. Of course, they'll also make it easier to put more crap into orbit...


Re: The debris can't actually be in a geosynchronous orbit

Not true. Geostationary satellites have to perform station-keeping manouevres to maintain their figure-8 box. Older satellites are often allowed to develop inclined orbits, which from the ground appear to oscillate above and below the equator. This saves fuel but can be tracked by suitable ground stations, and allows the satellites to communicate with ground stations in polar latitudes which are usually out of sight. Such debris would periodically cross the bounding box of a satellite on station at GEO.

Any event which creates debris is also likely to impart energy which would cause the debris to drift east or west around GEO, potentially affecting other orbital positions. Look up Galaxy 15, a rogue Intelsat bird which drifted around the belt for several months in 2010: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaxy_15.

England's COVID-tracking app finally goes live after 6 months of work – including backpedal on how to handle data


Unfortunately there's no gurantee that lower mortality is a function of mutation: the first wave significantly affected the most vulnerable end of the population, and there is a now an effective range of treatments which can reduce mortality.


Re: Et tu Domte

I tend to think that Johnson-Cummings is a symbiotic co-dependency. Cummings is a charisma-free brain leech; Johnson is a brain-free charismatic ghoul. Neither can progress without the other; together they are extremely powerful and dangerous.