* Posts by ocratato

67 publicly visible posts • joined 19 Mar 2013


AI really can't copyright the art it generates – US officials


Re: The tool isn't important; the person wielding the tool matters

"The artist, if you can call them that, is the person using the tool to generate the picture."

With our current AI this is true. A human probably selected the image from a large set based on how they reacted to it emotionally. On that basis it should be possible to copyright the image, but that human has to be the "author".

I can imagine some future where it turns out Mr Thaler is actually an autonomous AI running a business and there was no human involved at all. Then, like everyone else, the AI's will need to fight for their rights, including the ability to hold copyrights.

Fancy a steaming portion of Kentucky Fried Bork? A fingerlickin' flub that's pure poultry in motion


Re: Urghh

There is a KFC a few hundred metres from where I live.

I did try it once, about 30 years ago.

Briny liquid may be more common on Mars than once thought, unlikely to support life as we know it


That is exactly the problem. If you found a microbe on Mars you then have to determine if its indigenous or did it come along on your space craft (or some one else's space craft). Knowing that these places cannot support Earth microbes means that any that you find are more likely to be Martians.

Japanese airline ANA spins out telepresence-bot startup for virus-avoiding medicos and fearful tourists


Just the Start

This is the VIC-20 version of telepresence.

The end state is depicted in the Bruce Willis movie "Surrogates", though I don't think we will get there any time soon.

Using the latest robot technology, such as from Boston Dynamics, and a modern VR system for controlling it we could almost allow manual workers to work from home.

Self-driving truck boss: 'Supervised machine learning doesn’t live up to the hype. It isn’t C-3PO, it’s sophisticated pattern matching'


Pattern matching is not intelligence

Not too many years ago it was thought that finding patterns was something that was too difficult for software and would be something that humans would always have to do.

We now have software that is often better than humans at finding patterns, though it is often still in specific domains.

What this company has discovered is that complex activities like driving require more than just the ability to recognise patterns. It can be enough in a well regulated environment to use this as part of a control system, but it cannot provide a human like response on real world roads.

The missing ingredient is the ability to "understand" the world around it. We use our pattern matching ability to recognise things, but we then use that information to build up a model of our surroundings. That model has all sorts of data that we have learnt in a life time of experience attached to the objects in that model.

It does not seem to be an impossible task to build a software system that could build such a model and thus have something approaching an understanding of the things it can see. Then we might have autonomous vehicles that won't be a danger to everyone.

BOFH: Here he comes, all wide-eyed with the boundless optimism of youth. He is me, 30 years ago... what to do?


I was once passed over for a job. The reason given was that I was too cynical.

I found this rather strange since the job involved spending all day on the phone talking to sales people.

Tech can endure the most inhospitable environments: Space, underwater, down t'pit... even hairdressers


Cement Dust and Storemen

I once worked in a team installing computers into warehouses.

One of the warehouses was quite new.

After the computer was in operation for a few weeks we made a visit to see how it was going.

We noticed there was quite a bit cement dust about, so we checked inside the computer.

Yep, caked in several mm of cement.

The software was also quite interesting. The idea was for all the shelves, and the bins on them, to have bar codes.

The storemen would then record where they collected the items using a hand-held barcode scanner.

I had the job of designing the software for printing the barcodes.

The trick was to avoid 0,O, 1 and I since the storemen were unaccustomed to keyboards and could not

understand that they were actually different things.

Beware the Friday afternoon 'Could you just..?' from the muppet who wants to come between you and your beer


Re: My reputation precedes me

I was quite good at that.

Used to call it "debugging by intimidation".

Oi, Queenslander who downloaded 26.8TB in June alone – we see you


A secure link ?

By padding out the data an eavesdropper cannot distinguish actual data from padding noise.

Open-source companies gather to gripe: Cloud giants sell our code as a service – and we get the square root of nothing


SaaS is not in the spirit of open source

The thing that irks me is how SaaS manages to use open source software to completely defeat the point of open source software.

The original idea was to make the source code available to the end user so that they would not be locked out of their own data or systems when a program failed or was withdrawn from the market.

Software As A Service not only makes the software unavailable to the user, in many cases it also removes their data as well.

Perhaps we need an open source license that insists that it is the end user of the program that has the rights, not some remote service provider.

Baffling tale of Apple shops' 'non-facial' 'facial recognition', a stolen ID, and a $1bn lawsuit after a wrongful arrest


A Good Counter Argument ...

to the old "If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about" argument in favour of installing these systems.

I have always said that the main problem is not being identified as a miscreant, but being mis-identified as a miscreant.

NASA's first all-woman spacewalk outside ISS cancelled – due to lack of spacesuits that fit


Basic Logistics

I am surprised, and a bit concerned, that they got as far as announcing the space walk before discovering they did not have the necessary stuff to do it.

I would have thought NASA would know of every item on the ISS and such a shortage should have been flagged almost instantly.

Reliable system was so reliable, no one noticed its licence had expired... until it was too late


Identical Experience

This story freaked me out.

Reading the article, I had to double check that it wasn't about the project I spent 12 years on.

It too was an OCR project for a government department (but in Australia).

We had an almost identical experience with the license.

Our first task when we took over the maintenance (from one guy working from his shed) was to do the Y2K fix. This was quite surprising as the software had been written in about 1995.

For the entire time we spent maintaining it the department was trying to find a replacement.

During that time we had fixed the many bugs, and the software would run for months, and handle far more work than it was originally designed to do.

Eventually our contract expired and we had to move on.

A few years later I got a call from the department asking if I would mind being contacted if the software needed fixing.

Last I heard it was still doing work that the replacement couldn't handle - still running on '90s vintage HP workstations.

RIP 2019-2019: The first plant to grow on the Moon? Yeah, it's dead already, Chinese admit



Obviously experiments in growing stuff on the moon are going to be important if we ever want to set up a lunar base.

However, this experiment seemed doomed to a rapid failure.

Why would you include such an experiment when it would be displacing any number of other experiments that were probably put forward by China's universities?

NSW government finally released 'net vote system review, says everything's just fine


A Lack of Trust will be the Problem

It won't take too many articles like this, and similar threads in social media to destroy the public's trust in electronic voting. If the people lose trust in the voting system then they will have no trust in the political system (or even less than there is now).

While it may be possible to build a secure voting system it will have to use some complex encryption techniques. Good luck explaining them to the public so that they trust the system.

My hoard of obsolete hardware might be useful… one day


Re: True story...

I don't know about the guy in Melbourne, but I have had dealings with a similar company in Adelaide that used to buy and sell stuff to/from what was then known as the Weapons Research Establishment.

WRE's problem was that we were either trying to buy stuff before it even got onto the market, or alternatively, was so well tried and proven as to be totally obsolete.

Astroboffins spot one of the oldest, coolest stars in the universe lurking in the Milky Way


Re: "could we visit it?"

It would not be a very interesting place to visit. If it has any planets they would be just balls of hydrogen.

This is unfortunate as it would be a great place to set up home once I become immortal.

That scary old system with 'do not touch' on it? Your boss very much wants you to touch it. Now what do you do?


The Spaghetti Has Escaped

“In your greenfield you can introduce a microservice architecture so that the developers and new applications can use the latest technologies, build tools, frameworks, and methodologies to help the business innovate and adapt quickly.”

Once upon a time we programmed computers using a tangle of patch cords.

Then we had a tangle of JMP statements in assembler, and GOTO statements in early programming languages.

Then we had a tangle of functions accessing common data.

Then we had a tangle of interacting objects in OO programming.

Now we have a tangle of processes on the network.

I think I am seeing a pattern here.

Machine learning for dummies: You needn't go back to uni to use it


Missing Link ?

"my recent articles on Tensorflow and word2vec"

The two links lead to the same article - is that what you intended ?

Your software hates you and your devices think you're stupid


Re: There's an island somewhere...

I quite like the dial on my toaster:

1 does nearly done toast

2 does burnt toast

I've never tried 3,4,5 or 6

I assume 6 is for testing the smoke alarm.

First SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket lobs comms sat into orbit


Re: 190,000lb of thrust?

That would be 190,000 for each of the 9 engines.

I believe the 12ft came from the need to move the rockets over public roads, and that is the limit for such vehicles (without a lot of red tape)

IT systems still in limbo as UK.gov departments await Brexit policy – MPs


Comedy or Tragedy

The good news about Brexit is that we will have a supply of Pythonesque comedy scripts that will last for millennia.

From my distant vantage point Brexit appears to be the best comedy on the planet.

Then I realise who will end up paying for it all, and a tear comes to the eye.

Australian Signals Directorate won't become domestic snoops


The sad thing is that ASD are the perfect group to do stuff to improve cyber security in Australia - something that seems to be lacking from .gov.au down.

Unfortunately, now that they have been dragged into Dutton's Super Security Department no one will trust them.

Programmers! Close the StackOverflow tabs. This AI robot will write your source code for you


The real problem that the AI researches will have trying to create something that writes programs is that they need designs not code. This project has demonstrated what can be done based on just source code - I might get better with more training, but it does appear to produce rather average code that could easily have subtle bugs that a casual review might not pick up.

Since very few companies have vast libraries of designs, and there are precious few on SourceForge or GitHub, it may be quite a while before programming is done effectively by AI.

New algorithm could help self-driving cars scout out hidden objects



Its hard to see how a system that depends on precision optics is going to work for very long in the real world of vibrations, temperature variations, and impacts from various insects.

I note that the researchers want to reduce the processing time down to seconds. You can travel quite a distance in a few seconds - they need to get it down into the millisecond range for it to be of any use for autonomous vehicles.

IPv6 and 5G will make life hell for spooks and cops say Australia's spooks and cops


Satellite Networks

If they are worried about IPv6 and 5G just wait till Musk and others get their LEO satellite networks up.

Whizzes' lithium-iron-oxide battery 'octuples' capacity on the cheap


A bright future for batteries

As usual for this sort of article it gets a heap of comments along the lines of "Wake me up when I can buy one". However I think most of us can distinguish between an article announcing a new product we can buy from an article on some preliminary research.

What I find interesting is that there is still a lot of potential for improvement in batteries. This article shows that there is potentially at least eight times the power density available. It may take a lot of engineering effort to realise that potential, but we now have an idea where we might end up.

'We think autonomous coding is a very real thing' – GitHub CEO imagines a future without programmers


More than Code

Building software of any complexity requires a design process. It may be a huge set of documentation, or a few notes on a whiteboard or some ideas floating around in someone's head - but it always exists, and in my experience it is rarely visible on GitHub or what ever repository the code is placed on.

An attempt to use deep learning AI to create an AI-programmer from the GitHub repository will not produce something that can take a set of requirements and produce a program.

Before we can use AI to do the work, we need to build repositories of designs for the AI to study.

'There has never been a right to absolute privacy' – US Deputy AG slams 'warrant-proof' crypto


Pick One

Either you can have

1/ Financial transactions over the internet


2/ Encryption that can be decoded by law enforcement

Please choose.

White House plan to nuke social security numbers is backed by Equifax's ex-top boss


Confused identification with authentication.

The basic problem with the USA's SSN is that it confused identification with authentication.

They should keep the SSN as an identifier, but introduce something new for authentication - something that can be revoked or changed when it becomes compromised.

The best answer from the point of view of security would be something based on public-private keys. However the hard bit is finding a way where everyone can safely and securely manage and use their key(s).

The axeman strikes again: Microsoft has real commitment issues



MS has been steadily shedding employees for a few years now.

Managing a shrinking company is much harder than managing a growing one. The main problem is that your best people are actively looking for somewhere else to work, and when they leave they take a lot of the corporate knowledge with them.

Management will try to slice off entire departments in order to find the numbers that are to be let go. Otherwise the important bits end up getting hollowed out as the best people leave. This would leave the entire company in difficulty.

Australia commits to establish space agency with no budget, plan, name, deadline …


Re: True but largely irrelevant

Yes, its not about launching things.

It would be more likely about building satellites or other space technology.

Adelaide has a history of high tech stuff. Apart from supporting Woomera they had some quite advanced weapons research work, and things like over-the-horizon radar.

Perhaps we can marry it up with our mining expertise and build stuff for mining asteroids.


Re: Space port

I think you will find that the Woomera range is to the north west of Woomera. 2000Km to the east would just about overfly Sydney (not a good flight path for experimental rockets).

Boffins with frickin' laser beams chase universe's mysterious trihydrogen


Hydrocarbons and First Stars

I thought that the first stars were born from hydrogen and helium, and until those stars exploded there wasn't much of anything else - so why the interest in making H3 from hydrocarbons ?

Worried about election hacking? There's a technology fix – Helios



The problem with all the encryption based systems is trust. The general population has to be able to trust that the election was run fairly.

In order to trust an election system you have to have some understanding of how it works.

Try explaining public/private key encryption to the ordinary "man in the street".

Regulate This! Time to subject algorithms to our laws



There are two categories of algorithm that need to be distinguished in this discussion. The first is the traditional algorithm that uses a well defined set of steps to produce some result, such as an encryption algorithm. The second category is the ones using the new deep learning neural networks, as used by Google for image classification.

The first category is the software equivalent of a mechanical device - it does exactly what its user asks it to do (assuming no bugs). The second, which is what I think the article's author is concerned about, is more like the software equivalent of a dog - it can be trained to do what we want, but it is not entirely under our control.

While we can test, or even examine, the first category software, this is fundamentally impossible for the second. Its learning is distributed across a myriad connections that makes it impossible to examine for "correctness".

The solution, I suspect, is to test these programs in the same way we would test a living organism - by giving it an exam. An autonomous vehicle, for example, would need to be given a comprehensive driving test. Software for giving financial advice should also be put through tests similar to what a human doing the same job would need to go through. So, perhaps the author is correct - these programs need to be subject to the same sort of laws that apply to us.

White House report cautiously optimistic about job-killing AI


Telepresence Robots

One thing that is often mentioned is that manual labour tasks are unlikely to be replaced. I don't think that is going to be the case.

We now have quite good VR headsets and haptic feedback robotic hands as well as robots that can move around without falling overs. I expect that we will soon see tele-presence robots, initially for dangerous tasks, such as military and law enforcement, then for difficult manual tasks such as ditch digging, farm work or hospital porters, and eventually for household duties. (I'm not sure we will ever get to the situation portrayed in the film Surrogates, but it does give a hint of a possible future.)

The point is that these robots can be operated almost as well from Dhaka as they can from Sydney, and with significantly lower operator costs. Who thinks that businesses won't trade a person on local wage rates for a robot at $2 per hour?

Nope, we can't find dark matter either, says LUX team



My wild guess is that we will see some interesting recalculations about the amount of dark matter in the universe in a year or so when CERN's experiment to weigh some anti-hydrogen is performed and they find it falling up.

(Roughly - you fall down because the Earth's mass causes a small distortion in space-time that results in the time component having a small spacial component in the direction of down. Antimatter particles are equivalent to ordinary matter with the time dimension reversed, hence in the same gravity field their future is our past, and hence they fall up.)

As yet there is no convincing argument as to why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe, so perhaps the antimatter does exist, but is in the intergalactic spaces providing a pressure that allows the observed rotational distribution of stars in galaxies and might also explain dark energy pushing the galaxies apart.

Liberal MPs paid AU$2,500 a YEAR to donor for electoral software licences


Agree that $2500 annual license is not hugely expensive for what is possibly quite sophisticated constituent tracking software. However, since the company seems to have no other source of income and is able to make rather large donations to the Liberal party, it would seem that the price has been inflated as a means of directing taxpayer funds into the party's coffers.

'Impossible' EmDrive flying saucer thruster may herald new theory of inertia


Conservation of Energy?

This thing is supposed to produce some thrust from an input of energy. In other words it would have a constant acceleration as long as the power was provided. Since the kinetic energy of an object is proportional to the square of the velocity, it would eventually reach a point where the increasing kinetic energy was larger than the input energy.

US anti-encryption law is so 'braindead' it will outlaw file compression


Technocrat vs Bureaucrat

Its been my experience the bureaucrats and technocrats have fundamentally different understandings for the word "impossible". The technocrats understand the word to mean that there some mathematics or physics that prevents it from being done, while the bureaucrats think that it just too difficult, but that if enough money and effort is thrown at it then it can be still eventually be done.

This generally means that bureaucrats tend to win arguments - if its something they don't want to do (a bit expensive), they say its impossible and the technicians go away thinking that there is some physical reason which, of course, it's not sensible to argue about. Conversely, if the technicians say something is impossible they find it amazing that the bureaucrats will try to keep arguing their case.

US Congress locks and loads three anti-encryption bullets


Bureaucrat vs Technician

When a technician says that something is impossible they usually mean that the laws of physics and mathematics won't allow it.

When a bureaucrat says that something is impossible they usually mean that it too expensive.

I have seen some monumental stuff ups that have resulted from that different interpretation of "impossible" since each group interprets the word in their own way.

This is why telling a politician that something is impossible will just result in them asking you to spend more on getting to the solution.

Interestingly, the advances in technology just reinforce the view that anything is possible if you spend enough on it.

Reg readers battle to claim 'my silicon's older than yours' crown


Is 1973 old enough?

I have the chips (note plural) for a 1973 vintage Fairchild Semiconductor microprocessor.

It was a single bit bus, and unfortunately for them was overtaken by Intel's 4004 with its 4 bit bus before it got past the prototype sample stage.

Unfortunately they are little more than pretty gold and ceramic objects as there is nothing even vaguely like a data sheet for them.

You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors


Re: Welcome to the year 19100

I had to fix many instances of that in a system for an important government organisation. Annoyingly it had only been written a few years prior.

In our case the dates were often used for generated file names, and they were often placed into fixed size buffers. An extra digit would have caused a lot of buffer overflow errors.

I think about what might have happened every time some idiot says that Y2K was a beat up.

How to build a starship - and why we should start thinking about it now


Re: Coms

Try running the numbers on the power levels required to send a radio signal over interstellar distances - I don't think we will be getting a radio signal from our probes, we will need to wait for them to return with their data.

Hence, its likely that any such endeavour would not get any results in the lifetime of those that sent it. That would make it a fairly hard sell to get funding.

Robotic exoskeleton market to grow 40 per cent a year until 2025


Telepresence Robots

This might be OK for a start, but the real game changer will be when the operator doesn't have to be _in_ the device.

From working in space, to soldiers and emergency workers there will be a lot of demand for a walking drone that can do manual tasks under remote control.

Later the economic impact of having robots controlled by operators in low wage countries doing everything from domestic chores to farm work will be "interesting".

Volvo eyes kangaroo detection tech


Unsealed roads

I hope their system takes into account the road surface. Slamming on the brakes on a dirt road will just result in a quick visit to the nearest gum tree.

I was in a repair shop after hitting a roo, chatting with another customer. His vehicle had been damaged when a roo jumped on top of it from a cutting.

As others have noted they tend to lurk on the verge (the grass is greener there) and can be panicked into crossing the road when a collision is almost inevitable. Any automated system would have the car crawling along a 30KPH. As Allan George Dyer above noted this will get you flattened by a truck.

We can't all live by taking in each others' washing


Re: First time I have to totally disagree with you, Tim

"The only problem with that model is, who buys the stuff the business owners are making, if almost everyone is poor? I'm not saying they don't want to go in that direction, I'm saying that it isn't sustainable even in a mild sense, over a decade or so."

While it is not sustainable in the macro sense, there is no point for any individual business where employing a person is a better decision than employing a machine that can do the same work for less cost. This logic continues to apply even as the size of the market shrinks.

Did rock-hard aliens turn young Earth MOIST? New probe data emerges



Or, perhaps the lighter H2O has boiled/sublimated off more quickly over the last 4 billion years leaving a higher concentration of the heavier D2O.

Australia dumbs down: Chief Scientist says research performance lags the world


Too many multinationals

While we had good government (CSIRO) and university researchers until this government started to gut them the real problem has been at the business level where fundamental research is turned into products.

I think that as soon as an Australian company gets close to the size where it can afford to invest in R&D it is bought up by some overseas company that is only interested in doing R&D at its head office.