* Posts by Combat Epistomologist

38 publicly visible posts • joined 25 Apr 2018

ML suggests all that relaxing whale song might just be human-esque gossiping

Combat Epistomologist

It's probably something about "murder monkeys"...

How to coax ChatGPT into making better predictions: Get it to tell tales from the future

Combat Epistomologist

What I read from this article is that the Oscar committee is no better at recognizing actual talent than a large language model.

When are we going to end our love affair with stochastic parrots?

404 Day celebrates the internet's most infamous no-show

Combat Epistomologist

It figures

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the FT misrepresents socialism... ironically, their misrepresentation — "you can't have it because somebody else didn't get it" — is more closely aligned with the kind of small-minded conservative thought that screams about forgiving student loans because they didn't go to college.

(Incidentally, my site 404 page is CGI-generated using one of seven randomly chosen templates, from The Prisoner to Star Wars to the Goon Show to ninja monkeys.)

Mozilla CEO quits, pushes pivot to data privacy champion... but what about Firefox?

Combat Epistomologist

"Firefox did not keep up with the market and what people really want. A lot of hardcore Firefox fans are now happy Chrome users."

Well, Mozilla DID keep killing off its users' favorite features, force unwanted UI changes, and not once but TWICE nuke its entire add-on ecosystem from orbit. It's almost as though they were deliberately trying to kill off the Firefox userbase.

This raised the question: With Thunderbird spun off, if Firefox dies on the vine, what the hell is Mozilla even FOR?

I detest and despise Chrome. It's a horrible browser with terrible habits that phones every damn thing I do home to the mothership. I refuse to use it unless absolutely necessary, like I refuse to use Google search when I have an alternative. But at this rate, soon there will be no alternative. Unless you do everything on a fruitphone, it'll be Chrome, Chrome, Chrome, or, well, Chrome.

But that's not a monopoly. Honest.

Mozilla's midlife crisis has taken it from web pioneer to Google's weird neighbor

Combat Epistomologist

Supernova - seriously, WTF?

I just got suddenly exposed to the Supernova UI this weekend. Dear gods, what were they thinking? The customizable toolbar is ABOVE the menubar. In fact, I'm given to understand they actually consider it the titlebar. A search box in the titlebar? WTF?

And that seems to be the ONLY place you can add controls. So, here I am, reading a message, and in my preferred layout here's the message, halfway down the screen with my inbox contents above it, and here in the messages pane are all the usual reply, forward, junk, delete buttons ...

But not 'redirect'. THAT button is sitting up in the titlebar. The only place I'm allowed to put it.

Seriously, Mozilla, WTF?

I can't help wonder if what's REALLY going on with this "supernova" UI, behind the scenes, is "Only mobile matters. Everyone else can go pound sand."

Combat Epistomologist

Re: Self-reinforcing

My bank "upgraded" their site this year. The new site has KNOWN problems with Firefox. Lots of people (myself included) have found that you can't log in using Firefox. They don't seem to care. As long as it works in Chrome, they're happy.

US Supreme Court allows 'ghost guns' to fall under federal purview

Combat Epistomologist

Re: "suspected ghost guns"

There's a couple of important details here.

First, the entire gun is not 3D printed, except in a couple of rare cases that don't actually work very well. The typical application is to 3D print the frame or lower receiver, which is (A) the part that is required to have a serial number if you buy one, and (B) a relatively unstressed part. A 3D printed frame or lower receiver, especially if painted, can look almost indistinguishable from a machined one.

You then build up the rest of the firearm using commercially purchased spare parts — barrel, bolt, trigger group etc — that are not required to be serial numbered. The 3D printed frame may wear out quickly, but it's cheap to print another one.

The other way of doing this is to buy what's referred to as an "80% receiver", i.e. an 80% finished lower receiver that you need to perform the final machining on (typically drilling holes etc) yourself. Under ATF rules, if it's 80% complete or less it is not considered a firearm yet and does not require a serial number.

These are both ways of exploiting BATF regulations that were originally intended to make it legal to build a firearm yourself from scratch, making all the parts yourself, to prototype a new design for example, with the proviso that any such firearm can never legally be sold UNLESS you put a serial number on it and get a license to manufacture.

Second, the article mentions full-auto sears can be bought (for some firearms). This is true, but the important part it doesn't mention is that to legally buy a full-auto sear you MUST have a $200 permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, because that sear ITSELF is legally considered a "machinegun" or machinegun part. Even if you don't put it into anything, it's illegal to possess one that is not registered with the BATF and does not have its tax stamp, and it's illegal for a dealer to SELL one to you without seeing proof that you have the tax stamp (the dealer's license can be revoked if BATF finds out). So, yeah, it's a thing, but it's not really a common thing. You can't just go down to the corner gunshop and say "Yeah, I want to buy a full-auto sear for my [fill in the blank]." (Well, OK, you can, but the gunsmith will laugh at you.) The fact is, virtually all full-auto firearms used in crimes were obtained illegally in the first place or illegally modified.

The whole controversy around "bump stocks" arose because idiots seized on them as a way to have a similar EFFECT to making a full-auto firearm, without actually having to have any controlled or technically illegal parts, and this end-run is why the BATF then decided they should be illegal. The people who buy them don't really care that accurate fire with a bump stock is extremely difficult. Personally I think they're a stupid idea, but there are a lot of people in the US who buy fundamentally stupid things Because They Can, especially if you tell them that by doing so they're somehow putting one over on the government or Owning The Libs. (Like "truck nuts". Dude, seriously, what are you trying to compensate for?)

Tesla steering problems attract regulator eyes for second time this year

Combat Epistomologist

Re: Emergency breaking?

Yeah, looks to me like breaking in an emergency was precisely the problem.

Tesla's Autopilot boasts, safety probed by California AG

Combat Epistomologist

"The Register has asked Tesla for comment."

Eggplant emoji incoming in 3... 2... 1...

What does Twitter's new logo really represent?

Combat Epistomologist

No, no, really ...

All those other meanings are sheer coincidence. Twitter's new logo represents nothing more than Elon Musk's obsession with the letter X.

Artificial General Intelligence remains a distant dream despite LLM boom

Combat Epistomologist

"If you don't agree that AGI is coming soon, you need to explain why your views are more informed than expert AI researchers."

If you think that the current fad for LLMs mean that AGI is coming soon, you don't understand the problem. It should come as no surprise that the foolish statement above comes from a professor at Yale's MANAGEMENT school.

TSA wants to expand facial recognition to hundreds of airports within next decade

Combat Epistomologist

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Has anyone, ANYWHERE, EVER heard of a facial-recognition-for-enforcement deployment that DIDN'T go terribly wrong?

Report reveals US Space Force unprepared to counter orbital threats

Combat Epistomologist

Honestly, the idea of just "tossing a satellite out of orbit" is completely silly. It doesn't work that way. It's not like yanking your kid brother's model airplane off the piece of fishing line that suspends it from the ceiling of his room. No mechanical arm on a satellite is going to be able to "toss" another satellite with the kilometers per second of delta-V necessary to de-orbit it in any realistic amount of time. It would be like trying to derail an oncoming freight train by tying a piece of string across the railway line.

Inclusive Naming Initiative limps towards release of dangerous digital dictionary

Combat Epistomologist

Perhaps "jump the shark" should be on that list somewhere...

Some of these language changes are quite reasonable. From saying master/slave to primary/replica (or in mechanical contexts, primary/repeater) for example. No problem there.

But can't say 'segregate'? Can't say 'sanity check'? This is rapidly descending into Pythonesque silliness.

"Saying 'yes' is unfair to sufferers of oppositional disorders." "Talking about the seven-layer OSI model is offensive to Thais and Chinese! Seven is an unlucky number!"

"You're not allowed to say 'not allowed'. It is freedom-restricting language. You're nicked, mate."

"Can't say 'nicked'."

"Alright then, off to jail with—"

"Can't say jail."

"Right, I'm detaining you at Her Maj—"


"Oh, sod it. I'm off to the pub."

"Can't say 'sod'!"

"You can't say 'can't'. It's ableist."

"Oh. Well, bugger this lark, then."

Laid-off 60-year-old Kyndryl exec says he was told IT giant wanted 'new blood'

Combat Epistomologist


> "It's unclear why a business with internal data about the age of its employees would choose not to publish that information, when doing so might help prevent or resolve allegations of age discrimination."

Unless, of course, they already knew that it would be highly incriminating...

Samsung's Galaxy S23 Ultra is a worthy heir to the Note

Combat Epistomologist

Handwriting, schmandwriting

Yeah, yeah, OK, the ability to do handwriting annotation (and even handwriting recognition) using the S Pen is nice if you like that sort of thing, and it CAN BE faster than trying to type on a mobile device, but really that's only because trying to type on a mobile device is such an excruciatingly horrible experience. (Which is a whole separate rant.) The thing that I love the S Pen for is because it makes it so much easier to TYPE on a touchscreen soft keyboard, since my fingertips are, bizarrely, not 3mm in diameter. Even more shockingly, this seems to be true of many other humans too. One might be forgiven for cynically wondering whether actual real-world human anatomy was taken into account when designing mobile devices at all.

The first "smart" phone I ever used was actually a work-issued Crackberry. I hated the cursed thing, not least because its keyboard buttons were so tiny and so densely packed that my fingers covered three or four buttons at once and it was never certain which button (or buttons) it would register the press on. Admittedly I have rather, let's say, robust hands. But not freakishly enough so to make me some kind of bizarre corner-case when it comes to using a human interface device.

Dyson moans about state of UK science and tech, forgets to suck up his own mess

Combat Epistomologist

In related news,

"Nobody warned me that the face-eating leopard would eat MY face!!!" — James Dyson

Remember those millions of fake net neutrality comments? Fallout continues

Combat Epistomologist

Cheap at the price

"Three digital marketing firms have agreed to pay $615,000 to resolve allegations that they submitted at least 2.4 million fake public comments to influence American internet policy."

How much did the telcos and cablecos pay them to do it? I'll bet it's in the millions.

Boffins interrogate sodium ion battery stability mystery

Combat Epistomologist

Sodium ion...?

Never mind sodium iron, the battery chemistry I'm interested in is aluminum ion. The chemistry is non-flammable, the material is cheap as dirt, and it offers up to three times the charge density of lithium-ion or sodium-ion batteries, because the aluminum ion is 3-valent vs. the 1-valent lithium and sodium ions. The aluminum ion chemistry was invented by John Goodenough, the same guy who invented the lithium-ion battery, so, y'know, can't say the dude doesn't know what he's doing.

The end of Microsoft-brand peripherals is only Surface deep

Combat Epistomologist

Natural what?

The Microsoft Natural Pro is still probably the most comfortable keyboard I have ever used.

...So of course, Microsoft discontinued it and never replaced it with an equivalent model. No Microsoft keyboard since has been as good, culminating in the wretched Natural Keyboard 4000, the final victor in the race to the bottom of the quality barrel.

If Microsoft were to re-release an updated Natural Pro today, made to Natural Pro standards — especially one with mechanical keyswitches — I would very seriously consider one. But a cheap Chinese-made keyboard with a membrane switch and screen-printed keycaps? Fuhgeddaboudit. Kinesis gets my money, for now.

Online Safety Bill age checks? We won't do 'em, says Wikipedia

Combat Epistomologist

"Sir, I exist!", declared the [politician].

"Indeed," replied the Universe, "but that does not induce in me any sense of obligation."

Politicians are uniformly reliable in their expectation that reality should conform to their will in any number of technically infeasible things, and what is more, expecting it to conform post-haste, and at no cost to the public purse! Reality, if it deigns to notice at all, simply sniggers behind its hand and goes on exactly as it was.

You can cross 'Quantum computers to smash crypto' off your list of existential fears for 30 years

Combat Epistomologist

"The longer and more secure the keys the better[,] she opined."

What we need isn't *longer* keys. It's *better/stronger* keys. A 521-byte ED25519 key is enormously stronger than a 2048-byte RSA key.

This StackExchange response is 7 years old, but the truth is nothing in it has substantively changed yet:


Yes, there is a lot of *chatter* about quantum computers. Decoherence continues to be an almost insurmountable problem. Recently there was a "major" advance in the field, which was this: Someone devised a scheme for quantum error correction that *introduced slightly fewer errors than it fixed.* Think about that for a minute.

Quantum computers, ON PAPER, have enormous capabilities. Quantum computers with limited numbers of qubits have been deployed in certain extremely narrow niche applications. But there is no real sign on the horizon yet of overcoming the difficulties of scaling them to be generally useful at real-world problems. The death of conventional cryptography is a long, long way away yet. It is definitely time to be *prepared and aware*; but it's not time to panic, and if you think that the solution to your (or anyone else's) problem is a 4096-bit RSA key, then you don't understand the problem.

Metal-rich stars inhibit chances of life on their planets

Combat Epistomologist

Wait a minute ...

One has to read the referenced paper with a grain of salt. A VERY LARGE grain of salt, upon which are written the following words:

"Keep in mind that a star having *no* 'metals' has no possibility of life on its planets at all, because in astronomer-speak, 'metal' means 'any element heavier than hydrogen and helium', and nobody has ever come up with an even remotely possible mechanism for life to evolve in a planetary environment where ONLY hydrogen and helium are available."

The authors of the research appear to have neglected the question of whether life on planets around their "metal"-poor stars is even possible at all. We don't have enough data points yet to establish what alternate biochemistries to our own are possible, but it is a pretty safe bet to make the general statement that a certain threshold level of chemical complexity is *required* for the development of life. ANY form of life is going to need to be able to build at least somewhat complex molecules. And that means "metals" need to be available. We don't know for sure what that minimum required chemical complexity *is* ... but I can flatly, iron-bound, copper-bottomed guarantee you it's more than 'hydrogen and helium'. And they need to be present in sufficient quantities to, y'know, get together and react. Or there won't be any life, or even any complex chemistry, happening at all.

Techie fired for inventing an acronym – and accidentally applying it to the boss

Combat Epistomologist

I like "Layer 8 problem", myself...

Google datacenters use 'a quarter of all water' in one US city

Combat Epistomologist

Keeping it in perspective

One should probably remember that The Dalles only makes it to "city" status because of weird American municipal-government technicalities. "City" in the US doesn't mean what you probably think it does. By anyone else's standard, The Dalles barely makes it to "small town" with its population of 16,010.

US Dept of Energy set to reveal fusion breakthrough

Combat Epistomologist

Re: Not even close

Exactly. Sure, they got, what, 3.12MJ out from 2.05MJ of laser energy delivered to the hohlraum ... but it took over 300MJ to generate those laser beams. This is only over break-even by an exceedingly narrow definition. OVERALL, they achieved 1% efficiency. (Which, *in context*, isn't bad.)

But the thing that has to be remembered is that the Livermore fusion research center is the national Ignition Facility, and it is not intended for the purpose of developing practical fusion power. It's not even intended to do RESEARCH towards fusion power. The *purpose* of the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore is fundamentally to validate that the mathematics used in SIMULATED testing of fusion warheads — because the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty prohibits *actually* testing them — actually represents the reality of what happens in a fusion reaction with sufficient accuracy to make those simulated tests usefully more reliable than a couple of nuclear weapons engineers doodling on a napkin, nodding to each other, and saying, "Sure, looks good to me."

The gripping hand is, while technical ignition is a definite milestone (at last) for the national Ignition Facility, it is disingenuous at best for the US Department of Energy to suggest that this actually represents any kind of progress towards any kind of practical fusion power development. It is scarcely even RELEVANT to fusion power generation. That's not what the NIF is for in the first place.

Twitter layoffs were bad but Meta's mass ejections could take the cake

Combat Epistomologist

The Meta cake is a lie.

Amazon 'punishes' sellers who dare offer lower prices on other marketplaces

Combat Epistomologist

Earwormed again

Super California did something worthy of notice

And the Register has its headline firmly locked in focus

Now I can't stop humming music utterly atrocious

Won't somebody please free my brain from this evil locus?

In a time before calculators, going the extra mile at work sometimes didn't add up

Combat Epistomologist

£sd doesn't make sense?

Sure it does. It makes PERFECT sense. You just need the historical, and I mean REALLY historical, context.

£ (a stylized L), s, d. Librum, solidus, denarius. Roman money. "Pound" and "librum" still refer to the same unit of weight, the Roman pound, and in Roman times, a 'librum', in money terms, was a pound of silver. The librum was divided into 20 solidii, each divided in turn into twelve denarii, making 240 denarii to the librum. In the Holy Roman Empire the solidus became a gold coin of 1/72 pound weight instead of a silver one of 1/20 pound, and eventually became (by a long and convoluted path) a shilling (from Dutch, schilling), and the place of the denarius was eventually taken by the penny, but the L, s, d symbols for British currency remained long after the names of the original Roman coinage were forgotten by everyone but historians.

And then of course came metrication, which finished the job of breaking any obvious connection between the £ and Roman coinage.

Fedora starts to simplify Linux graphics handling

Combat Epistomologist

Theory and practice

`But as Yogi Berra said: "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is."'

He was quoting Albert Einstein, then.

Waterfox: A Firefox fork that could teach Mozilla a lesson

Combat Epistomologist

The comment about copying Chrome is very much on the mark. Just like Gnome trying to copy the feel of Windows, copying someone else is trying to compete on someone else's home pitch by their rules. It's doomed to lose. You can never be "a better Windows than Windows" because Windows defines what Windows is, and you can never be a better Chrome than Chrome because Chrome defines what Chrome is. Success comes from doing YOUR OWN thing and dancing to YOUR OWN drummer.

Mozilla forgot that. Firefox set out its own turf, then abandoned it to follow Chrome in some kind of vague hope that becoming more like Chrome would increase its slumping market share, failing to understand that by doing so, Mozilla was walking away from any reason to use Firefox. I'm one of those who switched to Pale Moon, but I abandoned it recently due to Pale Moon too ceasing to support most classic Firefox addons (including ALL of the most important ones I used), more and more sites not functioning properly in Pale Moon, and — to be honest — the incredibly toxic developer culture at Moonchild Productions, with the developers frequently screaming invective and abuse at people who are just looking for help or even TRYING TO help. The day came when Pale Moon had nothing **left** to offer me that was worth putting up with that level of abuse.

So it appears some of you really don't want us to use the word 'hacker' when we really mean 'criminal'

Combat Epistomologist

Re: ...-boffin

Hackers make things, fix things, invent things. Hackers create.

Crackers break into things, sometimes to steal, sometimes "for the lulz".

I don't know what we call the people whose only motivation is to smash anything they can reach.

Quixotic Californian crusade to officially recognize the hellabyte and hellagram is going hella nowhere

Combat Epistomologist

I still say we should go with lotta- and holotta-. But I'm totally good with bumping them up one level after hella-, to be 10^30 and 10^33.

Samsung: You see, what we did was we took the Galaxy Tab S6, right? Then we slapped some 5G on it

Combat Epistomologist

Re: Make what people want, not what marketing wants to sell.

7" by you is "stupidly huge"? I find my Galaxy Note's 6" screen just barely large enough to be more or less usable. If a 9.5"-10" tablet existed today that I could use as a phone on its own, WITHOUT having to carry a separate phone as well to "bond" it to, I would be all "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY."

Really, modern touchscreen smartphones are not phones. They are remarkably competent, almost stupidly powerful PDAs, that can be used as a phone in a pinch if you really have to, but honestly, they are SHITTY phones with godawful voice quality.

Combat Epistomologist


I will be interested in 5G/LTE enabled tablets upon the day that a major manufacturer releases one that major phone carriers will allow to operate AS A PHONE, so that I don't have to carry a tablet AND a separate phone against the contingency that somebody might call me or I might need to actually make a call. I can see no reason for continuing to not allow tablets to function as phones, except to force people who want or need a large screen (for instance, the visually impaired, or Parkinsons' sufferers) to buy two separate devices when it is perfectly technically feasible to do the job with one.

And honestly, 5G is mostly smoke, mirrors, and marketing buzzwords when it comes to real-world use in the first place.

What if everyone just said 'Nah' to tracking?

Combat Epistomologist

Two notes:

1. I wouldn't mind quite as much if they offered to share the proceeds. It's MY data; if they're going to use it, they should pay me for the privilege.

2. Advertising has totally run amuck and become the tail wagging the commerce dog. 99% — LITERALLY 99% — of the ads that I *do* still see are for shit I don't want in the first place. Bombarding me with invasive, obnoxious ads just makes sure that I'm going to boycott your product and never, ever buy it if I can find an alternative. Is all this advertising really WORTH it?

It's like spam. The real money in spamming has never been in sending spam. It's been selling tools and services to idiots who think that sending spam will make them rich. Modern advertising? The same damn thing, I'd bet. The money isn't in advertising the products. It's in selling the accursed advertising.

Yay, you've won your Fitbit lawsuit, folks. But, lawyers, about those filet mignon expenses...

Combat Epistomologist

Re: 'Plenty of notices'

The problem with the principle that ignorance of the law is no defense against the law, is that it worked fine when there were a few dozen or a few hundred laws to follow.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of laws. The US adds fifty thousand pages of laws and regulations with the force of law to the Federal Register every year. Lawyers have to specialize in a small field of law and STILL need a private law library and a staff of clerks to do legal research for them. When the volume of the law has grown this huge, it is utterly barmy to even suggest that any single person can NOT be ignorant of large volumes of the law — *most* of it, in fact. It has been fairly reliably estimated that every US citizen unknowingly commits an average of three felonies a day by technically violating laws, or regulations with the force of law, that they've never even heard of and had no reason to suspect existed. What is more, many of these laws are statutory offenses with no _mens rea_ requirement: You do not have to have any intent to violate the law to be convicted of violating it.

In a legal environment like this, the idea that ignorance of the law is no defense is utterly barmy, because *EVERYONE* is functionally ignorant of the law. Even *courts* frequently choose to ignore laws or rulings inconvenient to them. They know you'll win in the end, but in the meantime doing so will cost you a bunch of time and money, so they've still managed to punish you for your supposed transgression even if you were completely protected by the law.

This is just one of many ways in which our legal systems are breaking under the strain of the modern world.

Whoops! Google forgot to delete Right To Be Forgotten search result

Combat Epistomologist

So Google forgot to remember to forget...?