* Posts by WilliamBurke

42 publicly visible posts • joined 14 May 2015

Study: AI can predict pancreatic cancer three years ahead of human doctors


Science fiction vs reality

Once a week, we read reports that scientists present, promise or propose a breakthrough to save our lives from fiendish diseases. At the same time, you don't get a doctor's appointment for problems that have been understood and curable for a century, for lack of doctors and money.

The first real robot war is coming: Machine versus lawyer


Re: LLM. All your works belong to us.

If you can't play the ball, attack the player!

The legal question is: is the "learning" from copyrighted material equivalent to human learning, or is it data collection? The Reg article actually places it in the latter domain, despite arguing for the opposite outcome.

Biden proposes 30% tax on cryptominers' power bills


Re: How?

If you have one GPU heating your basement, nobody will notice or care. Once you have a commercial operation, the authorities will take an interest not only in how much you earn, but also where the money comes from.

Russia-pushed UN Cybercrime Treaty may rewrite global law. It's ... not great


Re: UN

To be replaced by what?

Time to buy a phone as shops use discounts to clear out inventories


Re: Who needs a new phone?

It does need repair, but that's not forthcoming. Long story... And no, it doesn't have a screen, wifi, or anything smart in it.


Who needs a new phone?

Mobiles have now reached the point where PCs have been for a while: They do the job for a long time, and further technological improvements are only of interest to enthusiasts or showoffs.

As for brands, I had the pleasure of dealing with Samsung customer support lately and will never buy anything from them again. It was a fridge, but I'm not going to wait until I need another one of those...

The new GPU world order is beginning to take shape



The problem in high performance computing (using GPUs for scientific simulation) is that everybody is using CUDA, which locks them into NVIDIA, giving the company a monopoly in this market. It's nice that OpenACC exists, but porting to a new platform is a major effort, and the scientists just aren't doing it.

Musk tries to sell Tesla's Optimus robot butler to China


Duplicated effort

Developing AI and robots for China and Homeland Security as separate products? I suggest the "Terminator" prison guard robot, whose AI interprets any activity, including breathing, as resistance and terminates the culprit. There's a huge market world-wide. From the current corporate care home interpretation of "care for the elderly", surely the necessary algorithmic change is minimal.

US CHIPS Act: Getting the funding is just the start


Re: It's strategic

From your lips to god's ear. But who are "we"? Europe and the US are on the same side until they elect another nutcase. Modi quite likes Putin, who is firmly tied to China. Taiwan might suddenly, ahem, become less accessible. Other dangers available on request...


It's strategic

After a period of globalization, the world is again fragmenting into hostile blocs, who, even if not at open war, will try to make each other's lives difficult through trade restrictions and artificial shortages. The big players (USA, China, EU; not sure where to put India or the rest of east Asia) all try to have a full supply chain under their control. Not sure if this is a good or a bad development (probably a bit of both), but the doctrine of peace through economic interdependence seems to have stopped working with war in Europe and funny games around Taiwan.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio: Too edgy for comfort?


Moving pictures in article

Can you stop that? It's irritating!

AI's most convincing conversations are not what they seem

Black Helicopters

Moving target

Since we can't define what sentience is, we can move the goalposts whenever necessary. It's not that long ago that women or the members of "lesser races" were considered not having the mental capacity required to have full citizens' rights (still the case in some countries). The age at which a child passes that threshold differs massively between cultures and jurisdictions. And I'm not 100% sure that everybody who has the right to vote would be able to discuss the Entscheidungsproblem (or act more intelligently than the Amazon returns chatbot, for that matter :-)).

No, I don't think that LaMDA is sentient. But it worries me that this sort of thing is developed in secret inside a company that is no longer not evil...

US nuclear submarine bumps into unidentified underwater object in South China Sea


... or how I learnt to love the torpedo

Ever Given? You may find that if a military vessel of one nuclear power sinks a military vessel of another, one of them nuclear, the disruption might be a bit stronger than that of a stuck container ship. And "oops, it was an accident" may or may not be believed by the other side.

(Yes, I know that the reactor of a nuclear submarine and a nuclear bomb are different things)

Biggest takeaway from pandemic lockdowns for Microsoft? Teams stopped talking to each other


I see the problem

I don't miss the commute and will probably hang on to WFH as long as possible. But working in an academic environment, I must admit that many of my collaborations started at lunch in the canteen with "what are you up to these days", with people who are not my "natural" collaborators, and no very obvious reason to ask for my input.

UK's Surveillance Camera Commissioner grills Hikvision on China human rights abuses


Re: "why not trial by wombat?"

...but I would not engage the wombat

in any form of mortal combat.

Ogden Nash

OpenAI shuts down robotics team because it doesn't have enough data yet


Weasel words

"proprietary machine-learning models said to be capable"


proprietary: We won't show you the source code. Probably 200 lines of Python.

machine-learning: We don't actually want to understand the process; otherwise we might be held responsible.

said to be: If all else fails, we only said that somebody said it. Don't remember who.


Re: Does it matter ?

Good point. If I have expressed (in writing) "and obviously the earth is flat", you can voice this in my most grave "I have a PhD in Physics, how dare you doubt me" voice (*), or with an implied "yeah right" before and "you moron" afterwards.

Anyway, ethics shmetics, as soon as it's available, Facebook will be full of it. David Attenborough railing against vaccines. Hilary Clinton suggesting to shoot gun owners. Bill Gates asking for more Tabasco for his child blood cocktail.

(*) Pointing to your degree to back up an argument is nearly as bad as "I spent 12 years researching this" in triggering a crank alert, btw.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G: Sub-$600 midranger makes premium phones feel frivolous



Does the mention of two different chargers mean that I can't just plug it into any old USB adapter?

When software depends on a project thanklessly maintained by a random guy in Nebraska, is open source sustainable?


Individuals vs companies

This is a rehash of a 30-year old discussion, when "you need commercial support" was the paradigm. Not that FOSS precludes commercial support.

TBH, a FOSS project needs a certain critical mass to be secure. I have seen many 1-person projects retire with the single maintainer. A bus factor of > 3 helps. Linux will survive without Linus, and emacs without Richard Stallman. What gets me REALLY worried is when a project is "adopted" by Google. Then the countdown to abandonment starts ticking immediately.

God bless this mess: Study says UK's Christian beliefs had 'important' role in Brexit


Re: God bless this mess:

Massacre at Béziers (1209)


Re: AKA: People

We are dealing with it! We are moving on from Project Fear, via Project Told You So, to Project Rub It In. Enjoying a bit of gloating is the least we deserve!

Biden projected to be the next US President, Microsoft joins rest of world in telling Trump: It looks like... you're fired


What is the golf handicap of Edward Snowden?

Just asking for a friend. He considers retiring in a country that doesn't extradite, but not being fluent in Russian, he is looking for somebody to play the odd round and have a natter about the good old days back home.

Thunderbird is go: Mozilla's email client lands in a new nest

Thumb Down

Hands off!

I don't want flexibility and agility (i.e. a different UI every three months), and I certainly don't want to be offered "products and services" when reading my email. I have been running Thunderbird on Linux and Windows and wouldn't know what to do without it. Works fine with my employer's Office365 server (whose abysmal UI I occasionally have to touch when somebody sends one of those Calendar invites without mentioning in plain text where and when).

As for focusing on the browser: I don't see the fuss. I generally use Firefox, but don't see any noticeable difference when occasionally using Chrome or Edge. As long as there is a way to switch off autoplay and block ads, they are all the same.

Why is a 22GB database containing 56 million US folks' personal details sitting on the open internet using a Chinese IP address? Seriously, why?


Re: "foreign adversaries"

The problem is not that they are commies (they aren't, btw; they are a crony-capitalist one-party dictatorship), but that they are after our wealth and our jobs.

That China is not currently known for using private data to meddle in other countries on a large scale may just mean they are better at hiding it, and they could ramp it up any time. Russia is doing it quite openly, without any obvious consequences. "The wronged nation can fight back"? So far they don't.

Of course the abuse by FB, Google and friends is just as bad or worse, but that there are murderers out there doesn't make common assault any more acceptable.

Chemists bitten by Python scripts: How different OSes produced different results during test number-crunching


Re: Why the down votes?

Agree, except for the "maths packages". Scientific simulation code is generally written in Fortran or C/C++, with 8-byte Reals, compiler-optimised as far as possible without breaking the test set, and may still run for weeks on hundreds of cores to produce a result.

Trump blinks again in trade war bluff-fest with China: Huawei gets another 90-day stay of US import execution


Re: national security

You mean he lied about the security bit? Never!

Tesla's autonomous lane changing software is worse at driving than humans, and more


Either it's autonomous or not

While I am fully in control of everything that goes on in my car, shifting manually between 6 gears, etc. etc., I am sometimes struggling not to doze off. Giving the impression that the car takes care of itself is a surefire way of sending people to sleep. Not to mention that it is an invitation to watch movies, surf the internet or have animated skype discussions. Yeah I'll keep an eye out for the traffic, I promise. The autonomous car will come, but before it is exactly that, including the legal responsibility (1), I'll give it a pass.

(1) That will also come, believe it or not. From an insurance perspective, its simply a question of probability. Once the computer is a better driver than the AVERAGE customer, they will encourage it. With money. But that will be 20 years from now.

Daddy, are we there yet? How Mrs Gates got Bill to drive the kids to school


It's not about getting paid, but about using your time for unpaid duties. That's OK if it's evenly distributed, but 90% of childcare and household chores in most societies are done by women, even if they have a job. They have less time for paid work, so stay behind in their career, which re-enforces their role as the one who will make further career sacrifices, so it's self-perpetuating.

Croydon school rolling in toilet roll after Brexit gift deemed unfit for the Queen's Anus Horribilis


Re: Grow your own

While I agree with your sentiment, Grouse shooting was of course not the reason for the deforestation. This was done to blast the natives of foreign lands into oblivion (for which you need ships). And then put sheep at the heart of British agriculture, which not only prevented the forest from re-growing, but allowed to get rid of the rural population as well (up here they call it the Highland Clearances, but it probably happened down south as well).

Adi Shamir visa snub: US govt slammed after the S in RSA blocked from his own RSA conf


Re: So where would they move it to?

Barcelona is untypical for Spain. It has had a crime problem sine the Olympics in 1992, and a terror attack in 2017 didn't improve the general feeling about security. Even so, the worst that may happen is that you get pickpocketed or your bag snatched. I'd prefer being out at night there over any US city above half a million inhabitants. And the rest of Spain is lovely and safe.

Here come the riled MPs (it's private, huh), Facebook's a digital 'gangster' ('disingen-u-ous'). Zuckerberg he is a failure (on sharing data)


Re: Setup a platform tax!!!

Well, SOMEBODY has to finance public services. At the moment it's you and me. Not FB, Google or Amazon.

Apart from this, it would probably be easier to stick to current methods of corporation and income tax, but stop them from relocating profits to their favourite jurisdiction. And criminal behaviour should be prosecuted under criminal law: don't just fine the companies. Go after the directors and managers who are responsible for breaking the law.

Have I been pwned, Firefox? OK, let's ask its Have I Been Pwned tool



An article that could tenuously be connected to foxes is headed by a picture with a caption about tiger cubs, showing a red panda? You frgot to include birds, fish, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.

Clock blocker: Woman sues bosses over fingerprint clock-in tech


side effects

In the early noughties I worked for a company where we had fingerprint scanners at the doors. More for show than for real use (we were some kind of demo lab, and the parent company tried to sell them). They didn't really work if your fingers were dry or cold. So we learnt to blow at our finger before we entered. At least I thought we had learnt that, until one winter morning I entered behind a guy who stuck his finger into his mouth before pressing it on the glass. I don't remember if we all got the flu at the same time...

Googlers revolt over AI military tech contract, brainiacs boycott killer robots, and more


Too late

Killing people has always been the prime candidate for outsourcing. Despite practicing for millenia, we are not very good at it. You happily massacre away, and suddenly end up with PTSD. Or let an enemy slip away, just because she's three years old. Can't have that. And easier to deny responsibility. Waddayamean there were civilians in the area? They had two hours to leave. OK, the flyers were dropped at midnight, and we only had the Swahili version, but it's accepted best practice!

Why is Bitcoin fscked? Here are three reasons: South Korea, India... and now China clamps down on cryptocurrencies


What's it good for?

I never understood what crypto-currencies are good for. So you have a currency that's difficult to trace. Great if you are an extortionist, drug dealer or tax evader (other crimes available). Sooner or later governments will cotton on to this and crack down.

A side effect that seems to have taken over as the main purpose is that you can speculate in it. Because it's new and relatively small in total volume, fluctuations in BC are larger than in other currencies, allowing for larger gains and losses in a short time. But you may as well bet on or against the Zimbabwean Dollar if you want to play this game.

History shows why geeks will never, ever, ever... get along


constructive antagony

Despite the foaming at the mouth of some of the more ardent supporters of one side or the other, the old wars (vi/emacs, Fortran/Pascal, C/C++) actually drove innovation on both sides. The anger always comes out of a hidden envy: Dang, they ARE better than us in this respect. We better do something about it!

Where it goes awry is when this healthy "look over your shoulder, they are catching up" turns into an outright inferiority complex. That's what happened when every Linux desktop tried to copy every single folly of Windows, and hid the command line away as far as possible, because it might frighten the poor dumb user.

You better explain yourself, mister: DARPA's mission to make an accountable AI


“It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too.”

Eugene Wigner

Accept for a second that robot surgeons exist. Who will check they're up to the job – and how?


Bright new world

Once they are cutting you open, you are in $DEITY's hands, no matter if it's a human or a machine. What frightens me most in this article is the mention of "a care assistant robot at level four". Good thing I'm old enough to die before this happens. The current underpaid and over-managed care slaves are bad enough.

Brit twitchers a-tizz at bearded vulture sighting


Bloody immigrants

Nothing good ever comes from this continent, I tell ya! Those versed in the German language can find an early study demonstrating the nefarious ways of the laemmergeier here: http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/flederm-5684/5

PayPal freezes 400-job expansion in North Carolina over bonkers religious freedom law


Re: America

And Russia. And pretty much all of eastern Europe, the Middle East, all of Africa and most of Asia. TBH it's less than 50 years in Blighty (and most other European countries) that orientations other than the default are legal. Outright outlawing of discrimination came much later.

Uncle Sam's boffins stumble upon battery storage holy grail


We should have stayed on the trees

Or, come think of it, it was quite comfy in the water.

Why is on a technology site, frequented by those working towards a brave new world where computers will solve all our problems, every new invention greeted with a howl of "this will never work"? Some prototype built by researchers is not competitive with the established technology, which has hundreds of thousands of man-years headstart. So what? There was no network of petrol stations when the first cars were built. Nor was there a need for private cars, because everybody obviously lived in walking or riding distance of their workplace. It took decades to get electricity to every household. The first owners of a phone had nobody to call. And yet it happened.

Technology take-up follows a pattern. First it's a interesting toy for enthusiasts or showoffs with more money than sense. As the teething problems are ironed out and the prices come down, slightly less rich showoffs are trying it out. Large corporations start to use it internally because it makes sense for one specific use case. And suddenly the infrastructure is there, and it's a commodity that everybody has. I don't know if the electric car falls into this category, but wouldn't rule it out. Maybe the Google-owned self-driving electric taxi will replace the personal car, first in the cities, then further out. Who knows?

Self-STOPPING cars are A Good Thing, say motor safety bods


Re: The mind boggles.

Since accidents happen all the time, there are obviously loads of people who can't drive. At least not good enough in that particular situation. And while some people enjoy driving (I do, but not always), for many it's a means of getting from A to B that's more convenient than public transport and cheaper than a taxi.

The self-driving car is inevitable. It's not quite there yet, but it will end up like playing chess: technology can improve, while humans have reached the pinnacle of their abilities. Sooner or later we are beaten and left behind. 50 years from now, a human-driven car will be seen like a car driven by a drunk. It's obviously risky. At some point this risk was considered acceptable, but it isn't anymore. If we go the whole hog at once (as Google tries), or give more and more autonomy to "normal" cars will be decided by the markets and the media.

Pint icon, because then I can drink again...