* Posts by Mungo Spanner

9 publicly visible posts • joined 15 Jun 2016

More layoffs at Microsoft: What's really going on here?

Mungo Spanner

Re: MS Needs Broken Up

I think Boeing needs to stop breaking up

What's with AI boffins strapping GoPros to toddlers? We take a closer look

Mungo Spanner

This was the exact subject of my PhD 25 years ago...

Modelling language acquisition on the neurological and perceptual development of infants was the core of my thesis - and it worked well on a '486 - but I didn't have a cloud of GPUs to scale it up (and I wasn't strapping Go-Pros to toddlers) -


China's Mars rover hibernates for a scarily long time

Mungo Spanner

Predictable problems invite solutions

If dust gets the better of all these rovers, why have none of them tried a mitigation?

For example the ability to rotate a panel upside down so some of the dust falls off.

Or if it has a robot arm, add a brush element on the back of it and a pre-defined sequence to brush at least one panel every month, or something.

Even if success is speculative, there comes a point where trying it is better than a dead rover.

It's not rocket science :)

AI's most convincing conversations are not what they seem

Mungo Spanner

Re: The real issue

We can distinguish LaMDA because we understand its architecture completely. Structurally there is no scope for self-referentiality and hence self awareness. If you take, as the crudest definition of *any* self awareness, that we are what our brains remember about themselves from a second ago, then this requires a circularity (and abstraction/reduction) process that is simply not present in LaMDA, as opposed, for example, to what we see in our hippocampus.

RIP Sir Clive Sinclair: British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81

Mungo Spanner

Re: Literally a legend

Yep, me too - wouldn't be where I am without having wasted (or possibly not) a large proportion of my teenage years on a Sinclair Spectrum. I'll be raising a glass tonight.

It's National Cream Tea Day and this time we end the age-old debate once and for all: How do you eat yours?

Mungo Spanner

Obviously you spread the jam on first - it's easier to spread a thick layer of cream on jam than a thin layer of jam on cream.

And just dumping it all in a pile in the middle doesn't count!

Return of the audio format wars and other money-making scams

Mungo Spanner

Proof reading phishing attacks

FTA: "What worries me is that one day it will occur to an online criminal that it might be worth hiring a proofreader. This small act would likely bring about the end of all civilisation as we know it."

Actually, no - there was an excellent Microsoft paper about this:

The initial email blitz has almost no cost to the scammer, but subsequent follow-up emails to people who bite take considerable time. Anyone responding to the first email, but subsequently smelling a rat, is therefore costly to the scammer.

The scammer therefore does not want to be convincing enough to initially fool moderately smart people who will drop out after any genuine investment of time has occurred - they want to catch the truly naïve or foolish.

The rubbish emails we get are done deliberately to filter out 99.99% of people, but with 500,000,000 to choose from, that still leaves 50,000 rich pickings who, though this approach, identify themselves to the scammers.

Big Cable unplugs Cali's draft net neutrality protections yet AGAIN

Mungo Spanner

Re: I was about to berate the Americans for going against the will of the people...

Funny - I don't remember the Brexit voting slip saying 'Let Teresa May, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg stuff up the country however they like without any accountability to the democratically elected parliament of the UK' - maybe it was on the other side of the piece of paper.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to have the Lords push back on the Government and try to make them accountable - god knows, Labour haven't.

Patent trolls, innovation and Brexit: What the FT won't tell you

Mungo Spanner

I am a Patent Attorney...

...and I cannot count the number of errors in this article.

Firstly, the UPC will apply to Unitary Patents, which patentees will have to opt into, and 'normal' European patent bundles (and EP paten grants and forms a number of national patents) - but the patentee can opt out of the UPC free of charge for at least the next 7 years.

So for most patents, the UPC will not apply.

Secondly, all the panic in the article is based on something called 'Bifurcation' - a German court practice where patent infringement is decided before patent validity. It's bonkers and it's hurt German firms and patent attorneys throughout Europe have been discussing this for the last couple of years, and the Judges for the UPC have all confirmed it will not be used.

Thirdly, there is the question of the business model for patent trolls. The US does not have a 'loser pays' system for court fees, making patent trolling a comparatively low risk exercise. The UPC is fully aware of trolls and the cost structure is set up to make the process less attractive for trolls.

Fourthly, the existing European patents almost always cover the UK, France and Germany (you can choose the countries you want), since these cover the most European GDP for the least cost in terms of patent renewal fees. So UP/UPC won't change the number of patents we are 'subject' to.

So - is the UPC a problem for European firms? Not if it's the European firm that has the UP patent and is using it to stop imports of dodgy Chinese knock-offs into the resale market through whatever port in Europe they are trying to use, and not if British innovators want to reach out to their economic backyard in a cheap and efficient manner.

Meanwhile, does the UPC help Trolls? It ups the stakes in that if they win, they win big, but if they lose, they lose everything - at the moment, they can have multiple bites of the cherry by picking on certain countries (e.g. Italy) with slow legal systems and forcing EP businesses to settle out of court.

In any event, it does not warrant the Brexit hysteria and BS coming from the article.

The real damage would be done if international firms moved headquarters to Europe because that's where they could get relevant IP rights, and the skilled workers from across 26 countries needed to generate the IP in the first place.

Don't kid yourself that if we vote out, the airports of Germany won't be packed with German businesspeople the next day, flying to every corner of the globe to tell our customers that we are no longer reliable or relevant in the European market - and many of them will believe it.

My little 2p'orth for accuracy in reporting, and remaining in Europe.