* Posts by aenikata

10 publicly visible posts • joined 21 Apr 2017

Fear the Reaper: Man hospitalised after eating red hot chilli pepper


It's not masochism

The endorphin rush of eating hot food is well established - chilli eaters get a high of sorts from it.

People have all different levels of tolerances. Not many dare try the 9 Million Scoville 'Psycho Slayer' chilli extract, even in microscopic portions. For most Instant Regret chocolate is well named (and truly fierce). But there are those of us who find most Habanero sauces 'fairly mild' and treat a 200,000 Scoville BBQ sauce as a regular condiment. Having reached those levels eating a few Carolina Reapers isn't that silly a feat. Assuming you're hard enough to take something way hotter than you've ever had before while also trying to out-eat a bunch who may be better prepared i. But competition is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, pushing your limits, in chilli eating as well as sports. There's much more stupid things around (like the tide pod challenge).

Maplin shutdown sale prices still HIGHER than rivals


Paying over the odds for less protection than normal...

If you guy from a company that's going out of business then I doubt you'd have much joy with the Consumer Rights Act - when that expensive gadget fails you won't have a seller to return the item to for a refund or repair.

There's various things that they stock that I'm interested in, but they've long been relatively expensive for such items even compared to stock available for next-day delivery, meaning that I was mainly likely to buy from them if I needed something that same day. If their prices were closer to competitive then impatience may have won out more often, or confidence in returns, but really they lost their place in the market through not making it compelling to use their stores despite higher prices.

The problem with their approach for clearing stock is that people are going to be wary of buying knowing they'll get no after-sales support at all, so charging the going uncompetitive prices just leaves things unsold. Given how fast tech stock depreciates it's just throwing away the significant value of that stock. Presumably while the liquidators running that fiasco are pocketing premium fees for their oversight... someone's getting a decent amount out of the assets of Maplins, and you can bet it's not the suppliers and other existing creditors.

IBM: About those agreed voluntary redundancies ... we were just kidding


Re: How many will now leave anyway.... and miss out on redundancy?

That's contracts for you, though. I've had a contract run out, get stuck at home for a couple of weeks before they sort out new paperwork, then it's a short contract, then because my agency isn't on the approved supplier list then despite having agreed my work is good, rates, etc, then it's just left to run out, and another time I've had a new contract agreed, rates, duration, etc, then it runs out and the paperwork still isn't there... the project funding is still up in the air and people are now away from holiday and there wasn't really so much a point they told me it wasn't being renewed as I found something else and waited to hear about the other contractors being canned from the project, too.

I'm OK with that uncertainty, to some extent - it may not be very professional, but you take the rough with the smooth as a contractor.

On the permanent side you'd expect better. Withdrawing an agreed redundancy arrangement tends to sound like a breach of contract, so you'd wonder whether they're leaving themselves open to losing employment tribunals - even if the person left if they'd been with the company for 2 years they could look at a tribunal case to say that IBM had agreed it and therefore owed them. I'm not a lawyer, but on the face of it I'd hope the legal system would be on the side of the staff in that situation.

What do voters want? An IRL Maybot? Sure, give that a whirl


Would it also have a submarine function, like the existing Maybot?

Skynet it ain't: Deep learning will not evolve into true AI, says boffin


Current systems, perhaps

The public does need to understand the difference between a sophisticated but specific AI and the concept of General AI. Currently the latter is very limited, although there are researchers looking specifically at this, such as projects like OpenWorm to simulate a Nematode worm.

However, it may be that a more general intelligence actually doesn't act in this way. Some of the more sophisticated systems use a blackboard approach where discrete subsystems process some data and return the results to a shared space where other elements can then operate on it. Games-playing systems may be added into such a blackboard, picking up data from other systems. Creation of a more general intelligence may involve some kind of overall prioritisation system that selects which systems to run, chooses (perhaps with some randomness) which of the tasks or goals to pursue out of the ones available, and simply aims to maximise its score overall. Learning wouldn't necessarily involve researchers, there could be sharing of successful networks. While a network that can play Go isn't directly useful for playing Chess, there may be scenarios where parts of a network can be re-used - this is known as Transfer Learning. A sophisticated system could try to identify networks which might be similar to a new task and try various networks that take some of the deeper elements of the other network as a starting point - it wouldn't necessarily be 'good' immediately, but it may have some ability to recognise common patterns shared with the existing tasks it can do.

These wouldn't necessarily be 'intelligent' in the sense that some people think, but such a system could potentially transfer what it knows to related subjects, have likes and dislikes (in terms of what it has given a higher scoring to from previous success) and could communicate with other such systems to share and improve its knowledge, and you're then heading a long way towards a system that could interact in a manner that seems increasingly intelligent. After all, if it can recognise people, talk, understand enough of language to at least beat a young child (it can be useful while still naive in its understanding), recognise emotions, play a range of games, learn new things and express its own preferences, how general does the intelligence need to be?

Home Sec Amber Rudd: Yeah, I don't understand encryption. So what?


Apparently we've still had enough of experts...

What bothers me is that when you're in charge of a significant area of policy-making, not just for an SME, but for a major world power, that you don't think it's important that you have a very firm grasp of the subject, or that if you don't (because if the scope is too broad you can't be an expert on everything) that your opinion shouldn't be to defer to the experts.

With all the talk from Gove about us having all had enough of experts and dismissive responses from this to ignoring the advice from their own experts on changing drugs policies, it's clear that many of the current politicians, however bright and well educated, don't have sufficient grasp of how much they don't know, or care more about winning votes and pushing populist policies regardless of mounting analysis indicating that their preferred policy is not in the best interests of society as a whole.

Clearly, I'm in favour of ensuring that our front bench politicians have some knowledge about the areas they're in charge of, but when that's not the case (i.e. most of the time), then they should be expected to set up expert groups with a specific agreement that they won't only listen when it fits their policies.

Why you'll never make really big money as an AI dev


There's plenty who haven't made good money. However, the primary assertion is that the technical architects make all the money. They tend to get good pay, but there's plenty of developer jobs around that pay well above average salaries without being architects.

The downside for Machine Learning is trying to communicate why what you're trying to do is hard, and make people understand what you can do (as well as can't do). Given the limited understanding of statistics in general, it's a challenge to get people to move from the Operational business information systems that provide basic dashboards and KPIs on to Decision Support systems that can help with future planning and higher level decision making. Both are valuable, but the former is much more commonly used than the latter.

All that is focused on business operations, though. It ignores that the last 15 years have seen huge improvements in the state of the art for driver aids (and partial autonomy), speech and image recognition and many other areas, to a point where we assume that Facebook will recognise our friends in photos better than we do, and that we can ask Alexa to play some obscure band and it will (generally) understand what you asked for. In a noisy room, even. These are the areas where people can see the potential, not business planning.

Those are also the areas where the architects who don't understand AI can't help much. They can't really help turn your also-ran system into one that has an edge over the competition. There's some pretty serious knowledge requirements for architecture planning, too - scaling to handling streams of data that you can't reasonably store.

The point is, though, that if you look in the right places and work hard there are opportunities in many niches, and well paid ones in all areas of IT. And if the rates aren't good enough for you, then maybe you need to work at getting on the BBC highly paid list as a presenter instead. But the real money, the big money, goes to those who have an idea (and there are many untapped uses for AI) and who go out and build and sell that idea for themselves, not someone else. They're the ones that make the rich lists, not the architects.

Virgin Media admits it 'fell short' in broadband speeds ahead of lashing from BBC's Watchdog


Had just the same issues

In London I had a service which was supposed to be 100Mbit, even shortly to be upgraded to 150Mbit. The problem was that at peak times (the main time I wanted it), I couldn't stream, I could hardly get basic web pages. My lodger even ended up getting his own ADSL line installed, he was so fed up with it. This was an ongoing issue for more than a year. Finally, running speed checks I established that I did get full speed at certain times (like when engineers visited during the early daytime), but that it consistently dropped off as the afternoon went on - like when some get back from school and then others get back from work, until my 100Mbit was more like 1Mbit with high latencies and packet loss.

Confronted with information saying that day in, day out the service was good earlier in the day then unusable in the evening, they admitted not only was it down to the network being over capacity, not only was it going to be at least months before it was sorted out, but they had known my specific installation had issues for more than 8 months but hadn't acknowledged it to me.

Initially they offered just a discount on the broadband for the next few months because the service would be more limited, but I argued that when they knew there was an ongoing issue they wouldn't be able to fix, they should have let me know and given me the option of cancelling my contract (as I would definitely have switched had I known). They had to admit they failed on this (which is something they're obliged to do) and therefore offered money back on the service going back to that date.

Since I'd upgraded to the Superhub 2 to try to resolve these problems and had similar issues going back a few years, this wasn't necessarily a full compensation for the issues, but it took a lot of pushing to get them to even provide any refund for service not provided to date, and it really shouldn't have.

Their representatives stated that it affects people differently, some may not notice issues. I call shenanigans on that - some may not realise they aren't getting the service that they're paying for, but everybody in my area would have been affected - just because they're not technically literate enough to identify and complain about an issue didn't mean there wasn't a fault that Virgin should have been compensating their customers for. They should be forced to contact ALL customers in affected areas and offer appropriate compensation (e.g. if they only provided 10% of the advertised speed at peak times, consistently, they should be refunding 90% of the broadband charges for the period, automatically). Only with them held to account to refund the majority of affected customers would it remove the incentive to keep treating customers in such a disrespectful and dishonest manner.

Aside from this, they don't even let existing customers get the prices advertised online - look for the best bundle deal as an existing customer, ignore the introductory discount, and ask them to provide the ongoing price, and at least in some cases they'll say that's not available. I had that last Christmas when they refused to honour their advertised pricing for a full TV bundle, wanting to charge £15/month more than the ongoing price listed because I was an existing customer, and refusing to provide full 'existing customer' pricing so I could compare packages for myself. So it's not just on the broadband that they're shady...

Men charged with theft of free newspapers


Re: Nothing is 'free'

You could say there's a victim, the problem is defining it as a crime. Not all actions with undesirable effects are (or should be) crimes. If you declare something free and present it for people to help themselves, then I see little scope for declaring a crime if someone takes more than one, unless you have specifically indicated a '1 per person' limit. The real winners here, as always, are the lawyers arguing each side of the case.

Not the droids you're looking for – worst handsets to resell


May lose less in relative terms and more in absolute ones

Firstly, iPhones are generally rather more expensive than Android phones. If both depreciate by, say, £100, it's a higher proportion of the Android phone cost than the iPhone one. In opportunity cost terms, though, you make the same loss, having tied up a larger sum of money (or committed to a larger contract) initially. Samsung are also relatively premium products, and lost a lower proportion of value than generally cheaper makes of handset.

Secondly, durability is an additional question. Most items, if they were hard-wearing, would tend to keep their value well. However, because a tech becomes increasingly obsolete, this effect is limited. The opposite effect may dominate, that of scarcity. If phones are easily broken (and I've seen countless people using iPhones with cracked screens on the Tube), then getting a good condition example after 6 months may be much less likely, so those that have had 'one careful owner' will face much less competition on the market, leading to a higher resale price. As a result waterproofing on many Samsung phones may not improve the resale value.

Finally, the Samsung chart shows a significant drop then increase in value that seems likely to have been the result of negative media commentary surrounding the Note debacle rather than providing any useful information about iPhone vs. Android resale value trends, so it should probably have noted such substantial external factors.

Many should probably stick with somewhat less expensive phones - whose entire purchase price would be comparable to the drop in value of many iPhones. If you want the latest and can afford it, I doubt you're overly worried about the resale value anyway, even if your phone lasts that long. If I'm locked onto a 2 year contract I don't really care what the resale value is after 6 months