* Posts by RobLang

151 publicly visible posts • joined 16 Jun 2020

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Microsoft seeks Rust developers to rewrite core C# code

RobLang

Rust is a good fit for some services where you don't want to have an always on API and instead want something that starts up really quickly. If you're using functions-in-the-cloud like AWS's lambda, that start up time matters and C# + .NET Core is slow to load. I think it's the right tool for certain jobs.

RobLang

Re: Quite a statement of intent

Java is still very much alive and I believe C# (or the CLR) was created not to kill Java but to make building Windows apps easier by abstracting away the Win32 API. Strangely, they've never really managed to succeed - I imagine C# is used more on web servers than for Windows apps.

No link between internet use and poor mental health, according to Oxford boffins

RobLang

Socialising, sleep and exercise

Time and again they find out that socialising, sleep and exercise are the core three benefits to well-being. Over and over they find those three things and yet they're still looking. Does radio impact it? No, only socialising, sleep and exercise. Does TV impact it? No, only socialising, sleep and exercise. Does the internet impact it? No, only socialising, sleep and exercise.

Perhaps I could pick something random and be paid £40k... what about... Cliff Richard? Does Cliff Richard negatively impact well-being? Then find out that... wait a minute... I've found that Cliff Richard doesn't impact it, only socialising, sleep and exercise do.

It should be easier than this: "Is thing X on the list socialising, sleep and exercise? No? Then it has minimal impact on well-being"

Atlassian buys 'asynchronous video' outfit Loom for almost $1 billion

RobLang

Video bugs

While little videos of a thing going wrong is handy, I don't need someone's face explaining it. Some people have enough trouble giving steps to reproduce in text as it is without video waffling.

I imagine they are chasing the golden ticket of "total business tool" like Microsoft has with teams.

Google Bard can now tap into your Gmail, Docs, more

RobLang

Your definition of intelligence is your own; I prefer the one in general use found in the dictionary, which has nothing to do with consciousness. Apology accepted.

I don't think it is out of order to use a trained neural network in this way. Once a deep learning neural network is trained, it becomes a fixed series of numbers. Much like a statistical word model that used in autocorrect, predictive text or even search. Once the model is fixed, it does not process the data for anyone but the person owning the data. In the same way the predictive text does need to analyse what you've written so that it can work out the next (statistically) best word for to suggest. The trained model, while open to abuse at the point of training, once it is in use does not change its model based on the content it's working. A neural network trained to recognise cancer growth in an x-ray does not learn from the x-ray it's operating on unless explicitly retrained to do so.

It's not the AI search part that's the concern here. It's the surrounding infrastructure and inbuilt AI bias that's a problem here. However, without seeing the architecture it's difficult to know. I don't get angry about this. I'd rather direct my anger at the abuse of technology by people who really don't understand its limitations (such as governments). I can level a lot of complaints against Google but that isn't one of them.

RobLang

Began 1999, completed 2007, Cybernetics dept, Reading University UK (yes, Captain Cyborg). The best paper to find is The Plastic Self Organising Map (2002), with the same name as my Register username. Still not interested in deep learning, much prefer self organising maps and nonstationary environments.

Apologies for my vague comment.

RobLang

While I'm deeply aware (have PhD in AI) of the difference between using a trained model and training one, I'm still not convinced that Google can deploy this tool without a risk to privacy. I'm going to need to see the precise boundary between my data and the trained data, what gets cachced, what's an old-fashioned-index-search (like you'd use now for viewing an email), what metrics get reported (although not personally identifiable, surely they're collecting something about it's veracity?), how the training set was validated, etc. Google don't have any kind of trustworthy history on this front and while many will just use it blindly, I think that's a bad thing.

Unity closes offices, cancels town hall after threat in wake of runtime fee restructure

RobLang

CEO contempt of users ends badly as predicted

The very idea of charging per install is lunacy. No-one with any technical knowledge cleared that as a good idea and Unity saying that they "have proprietary tech" for dealing with it is essentially implying they've solved the problem with privacy. Not to mention Xbox game pass installs (who foots that bill? Microsoft?). Although I've been working on my game for 4 years in my spare time, I'll be moving away from Unity with great sadness.

Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox open to all: Now websites can tap into your habits directly for ads

RobLang

Why can't we just be explicit about choices?

I wouldn't mind explicitly checking boxes that gave my advert preferences. It's the under-handed, data-gatheringness that bothers me.

I appreciate that ads give revenue that makes the world go round. Marketing is about finding people who want your product already and doesn't know it exists. That's fine. However, there's no point in showing me ads for puzzles because I bought some for my mum last year for Christmas and the page cookie banner didn't work properly.

Let me tell you explicitly what I want to see and what I don't. Then we can do away with all this sneaky tracking nonsense and I can be shown things I might actually want.

IT needs more brains, so why is it being such a zombie about getting them?

RobLang
Alien

Re: hallucination-prone text predictor

"Billy! Run to the word processor!"

RobLang

Exams only really test your ability at doing exams and they cease being useful in the real world. Even long before the internet, if you were under pressure to get something difficult right, it would be rare that you would be so totally isolated from information or other people and if you were then that's a failure of the organisation. Even in the cockpit these days, annual checks are more about teamwork than they are about understanding the nitty gritty of the aircraft's systems.

I've seen fabulously talented people do terribly in exams. There needs to be another way to assess aptitude.

RobLang

Re: IT needs brains

BTW - the first degrees in Computer Science were in the 1950s. There were lots of UK universities teaching computer science in the 1970s but they weren't prevalent. They aren't prevalent now either, to be fair!

Make sure that off-the-shelf AI model is legit – it could be a poisoned dependency

RobLang

Before you do data science, do data engineering

Models should come with a validation and bias assessment based on the training and validation set. Every training set has limitations and that needs to be known by the users. Some are obvious "ChatGPT can't deliver facts, just arrives as probabilistic based on the user and the model" but some are more subtle, such as the use of language or inherent social/geographical bias built into an older training set.

A lot of that training set understanding is data engineering. It's good old fashioned stats. Reliable, repeatable stats. Knowing what you have before you train and validate the model. Or as my AI Prof/mentor used to say (in the 1990s, mind) "Shit in, Shit out".

Meta's data-hungry Threads skips over EU but lands in Britain

RobLang

Re: Eh?

While I completely agree that the ICO wanted to go further - the UK could have implemented a more strict version even under the EU law that we were in the process of departing from. GDPR has always been a baseline that member states could exceed. It's difficult to know why the government didn't follow the advice at the time. When GDPR was finalised in 2018, Theresa May was in government and trying to negotiate a Brexit deal but the core ideals were pretty much agreed in 2015 (way before the Brexit vote). So Cameron's government could have planned an extension to it but didn't.

I think criminal liability for board members in many industries is the only way to go. Otherwise responsibility is never really owned - board members might resign publicly but in 6 months they're in a new C-level role elsewhere and all is forgotten.

Europe’s biggest city council faces £100M bill in Oracle ERP project disaster

RobLang

Re: What value!

Scale of ERP is pretty enormous. You'd need a big team to get all that functionality in - even making best use of external systems.

Oracle's examplar win over SAP for Birmingham City Council is 3 years late

RobLang

Feel sorry for the BAU team

The BAU team are going to get nailed: the council will at some point refuse to keep pouring money into the migration and BAU will be left with an unfinished system that is worse than what they had.

CEO sorry after telling staff to 'leave pity city' over bonuses

RobLang

Classic non-pology

"I'm sorry it landed in a way I did not intend"

"I feel terrible that the rallying cry seemed insensitive"

Best of class non-pologies that demonstrate a thin veneer over contempt for the workforce.

Wannabe space 'superpower' UK tosses £1.6M at eight research projects

RobLang

An idea to boost that funding...

How about the Reg commenters have a whip-round and see if we can raise another couple of grand? I've got a fiver in the penny jar.

The Great Graph Debate: Revolutionary concept in databases or niche curiosity?

RobLang

"Most of the same use cases"

What use cases? Dynamic graph traversal is easier in a graph database. You can do it in RDBMS but then you'll have to code a bunch of views and functions. Why do that when a graph database does it already? At risk of sounding like my Dad: right tool does the job right. This debate feels like engineering conflict where there isn't any.

Make Linux safer… or die trying

RobLang

Re: Technology & Economics

Can confirm, parents were the Betamax King and Queen because my engineer Dad knew it was the better format. Little video rental round the corner had about 4 Betamax tapes and one of them was a ballet.

Games Workshop once again battles scariest monster of all: ERP gone wrong

RobLang

Quite right. The real oil in the machine is often the staff who are just trying to get through a working day in spite of the hodge-podge of processes.

Oh, no: The electric cars at CES are getting all emotional

RobLang

Tag line gave me a chortle

Excellent tag line, thank you El Reg.

Also, another vote for buttons here. I've tried touchscreen buttons and they're distracting compared to tactile buttons. I can reach around the cockpit of my car without looking.

Just 22% of techies in UK aged 50 or older, says Chartered Institute for IT

RobLang

Re: hmmmm

Quite right! I'm mid-40s and I've been learning new technology every year since I was 8.

Massive energy storage system goes online in UK

RobLang

Agreed. When I read that, I thought Mr Buss had never had to use one in anger.

His linkedin profile confirms that. https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewbuss/?originalSubdomain=uk

Perhaps get out of the consultancies and into the sharp end before pronouncing efficacy of technology?

Tired: Data scientists. Wired: Data artists

RobLang

Data engineers are needed first

In my experience, the largest part of "data science" isn't training neural networks, producing beautiful infographics or pushing back the boundaries of the field. It's understanding what data is there and what the limitations of it are. You have to do that before you do any "science", let alone art.

Collating, mapping, defining, filtering, adjusting, understanding data is more like an engineering task than a science one. You design your process based on known methods, carry it out, investigate deviations and repeat. That's more like engineering. The article hints as such. You don't want to invent anything particularly clever to do that, often it's best not to. Good old fashioned dependable statistics should be applied first. Do you fancy modeling once you are certain you know what you've got. To do that, you need to talk to the experts.

I'm also suspicious of simulated data - I've seen stats and ML models performed on simulations that overfit the simulation itself and aren't effective in the messy, ugly real world.

Inventing a new term sounds more like Gartner trying to stay relevant rather than offering anything helpful.

Minecraft's 'first luxury goods collection' features real-world $3,000 Burberry coat

RobLang

Re: F2P shit

I still play Minecraft the way you describe, started in Alpha before mobs too. When my son was old enough (and I had enough spare parts to cobble together a second desktop) we play together. We've not seen any death-by-a-thousand-cuts in the game we play. When my daughter stops trying to steal the mice to pet them, she'll probably play too. It's a touch more expensive to buy and there is lots more to do but it's otherwise much the same game.

From the Great Resignation to demand for more overtime

RobLang

1000 workers isn't much of a US sample size

1000 workers across all industries doesn't tell you much about motivation and it certainly isn't broad enough to give you causation over correlation when the stats are 57%. So I don't think the title of the article is born out by the data (to which the article doesn't directly link). Albeit this is an "Offbeat" article, not all industries are behaving the same way since the pandemic, especially IT, where there has been a shortage of technical people for years.

Microsoft and Meta promise facehugger PCs piping cloud desktops into VR headsets

RobLang

Not this but I can imagine similar

If I could wear glasses that are just as comfy as my glasses that wirelessly connect to a local machine and project information into the world I already sit in then I would do away with monitors and have some nice pictures on the walls instead. I could do that. I have to look through glass as it is for anything to be in focus. Fully enclosing myself in VR isn't appealing, I don't want to be completely shut off from reality more than I am.

Is it time to retire C and C++ for Rust in new programs?

RobLang

Entirely anecdotal evidence

Initially learnt Rust by recoding some personal pet algorithms to see if I could make them as fast as my optimised-over-many-iterations C99. Almost made them as fast; got close enough. It took longer than I expected because new terms for old concepts slows me down. I'd prefer libraries to be called libraries, for example. That's not unique to Rust but with each language I try, I live in hope they're sensible with terminology.

Second project was small contract-work-for-a-friend to split up a C tool that had got too big into separate C tools. The majority was just moving code around, so I finished with time to spare. They asked me to rewrite one smaller chunk in Rust so that they could compare in house and it went OK - I found (well, the Rust compiler found) two edge case memory issues while converting over. Arguably neither were dangerous as they both required an impossible state to be reached but it was interesting. Today's impossible state might be tomorrow's feature.

The feedback I heard at the time from their internal team was that they liked Rust and would consider using it for new stuff but only because the developers were already keen, not because they suffered from client-losing memory bugs (their test regimen was impressive). I know since that they're building the next version in Rust and the downside they have is that some libraries they depend upon in C/C++ don't have Rust counterparts (yet) so that makes for a more complex build and development cycle.

I don't think Russinovich's Tweet has helped anyone. I'd rather he hadn't tweeted that. Opinions are like bum holes. Everyone has one but you should take care getting it out in public.

Even robots have the right to learn from open source

RobLang

Microsoft didn't create CoPilot, OpenAI did

Disappointed with El Reg for this whopper:

"Microsoft has been industriously mining the code in the GitHub repositories and feeding it to an AI to train it in programming"

Is wrong.

CoPilot's AI engine is Codex, built by OpenAI (not Microsoft), a reduction of GPT-3, also created by OpenAI. Microsoft has the exclusive license for GPT-3. Codex is a reduction model of GPT-3, which is trained on the internet as a whole as a general language processor.

I would expect an article bashing Microsoft (which I'm all for) to include some basic facts. It wasn't Microsoft trawling the web, it was Elon Musk's OpenAI. Microsoft is licensing not embracing, enhancing and extinguishing - for once. Microsoft is monetising the resultant model but then so is OpenAI.

API rate limits at the core of Elon Musk’s decision to ditch Twitter

RobLang

While I don't understand the tit-for-tat legal wranglings of a billionaire and a billon dollar company, one statement jumps out...

"as he feels the number of dodgy accounts impacts the company's value"

In this way, Musk is following the markets. Most social networks are judged by the monthly active users (MAU) by the markets and therefore does set - in part - the share value of the company.

My feeling is that he should have become certain of the accuracy of the reported MAU long before letting his ego declare his intent.

Even more astounding is that Twitter are hell bent on having the deal *complete*. They want Musk to be their owner! That I don't understand. Why would you want to have an owner that intrinsically doesn't want any part of you? Surely that means that you'll be sold again, leading to more instability and uncertainty for the workforce.

Running DOS on 64-bit Windows and Linux: Just because you can

RobLang

Emulators and redistributions are really handy for people like me teaching my Zoomer offspring about what it was like. We're too far from NMOC and I can't figure out why the Speccy won't boot, so these emulators are the next best thing. My mum used Wordperfect 5 at work and dad used Wordstar at home, now I get to show the lad what that looks like. Hats off to those that got it all working!

RobLang

Well done you for helping out an old fella keep doing the thing that he loves. The shred is going to be tough; but he's happy doing his thing and you're helping. That's the good stuff.

Cookie consent crumbles under fresh UK data law proposals

RobLang

It's default opt-in.

RobLang

Re: Britain leading again (?!!)

Agree with this. GDPR is far from perfect and the cookie banners are annoying but the processing part and its impact on rights is the bigger issue.

The decisions that are made by the algorithms based on the data collected is the real problem. Not thinking of today but tomorrow when insurance companies profile you based on your browsing habits and adjust your premium automatically or the private hospital provider automatically refusing to engage you as a client because of your profile. They can't do it now because of GDPR, they can if the processing requirements are slackened.

RobLang

Re: Straightforward solution

No longer the case; most browsers have local storage, which can hold state but are not cookies because they cannot be shared to 3rd parties. You can pass authentication as a bearer token in headers without the need for cookies.

How did you mourn Internet Explorer's passing?

RobLang

Long overdue

We had to support IE until yesterday. Now there's going to be a huge library update-athon and burning of pollyfill code while the front page politely apologises to IE users. We've dropped it from our test process, filled the company Slack with memes and now looking forward at all the features that were going to be too hard to make work in IE.

IE 5.5/6 was a good browser, rightly nailing the slow Nutscrape to the wall but it should never had been delivered with the OS after XP, locking MS into having to bare-bones maintain it. They should have done this retirement process long ago.

Google engineer suspended for violating confidentiality policies over 'sentient' AI

RobLang

No, suspended for splurging onto the internet

It's perfectly fine to have outrageous ideas behind closed doors. His ideas should have remained internal conversations and personal opinion.

RobLang

We can't measure either sentience or intelligence

We don't have a reliable, verified, reproduceable way to measure sentience or intelligence. Philosophers are still struggling to pin it down in a way that science can then measure. So we're left with anecdotes, human bias and argument such as The Chinese Room still. That's not going to tell us if we've achieved either.

Oracle closes $28.3b Cerner buy amid warnings of commercial challenges

RobLang

"move them to the Gen2 Cloud, which he said could be done quickly"

"Quickly" compared to? Glacial basal sliding?

EU makes USB-C common charging port for most electronic devices

RobLang

Re: The BS 546 Brexit connector next

Of course you'll be familiar with the fact that British Standard BS7671 for earth wires are yellow/green striped since 1977, so that no live or neutral wire could be misconnected. Also, red/green colourblindness in males is 8%, which isn't a majority even in post-Brexit-mathematics-land.

Mars helicopter needs patch to fly again after sensor failure

RobLang

I won't complain about patching a cloud server again*

* I will if it's Windows.

Bravo, NASA/ESA system engineers, bravo.

Behind Big Tech's big privacy heist: Deliberate obfuscation

RobLang

Re: For the Apple haters…

Apple and MS are under investigation; I can only find $10m to Apple from the Italian regulator but that isn't strictly the EU using GDPR because.. A Wired article^1 explains the one-stop-shop where Ireland is responsible for litigation against a dizzying number of big tech including Apple and MS. There is an incredible backlog by the looks of it. Details in the article.

I'd imagine that Apple and MS will come off well (but not perfect) because their business models aren't around advertising. Apple's brand particularly relies upon privacy and IMO they are bigger privacy regulators than many governments.

I wouldn't ascribe favorable MS bias to El Reg; MS regularly gets eviscerated - largely by their own hand!

[1] https://www.wired.co.uk/article/gdpr-2022

Elon Musk says Twitter buy 'cannot move forward' until spam stats spat settled

RobLang

Re: Definitions of spam are tricky

Thanks for the tip, Anonymous Coward, I'll give it a gander.

RobLang

Re: Definitions of spam are tricky

I agree that it works for email but how does that work for Twitter? If you are seeing posts retweeted by people you follow or appear in your suggestion feed because the Twitter algorithm has decided you would be interested, how do you judge the originator is a spam bot?

RobLang

Definitions of spam are tricky

In the early days, Twitter was touted as a human readable event feed and for some of the accounts I follow it's just that - automated news/weather/traffic that doesn't have a human directly typing tweets but are of value. So at what point is it spam? If my local hobby shop automatically posted new products and I followed that feed, is that spam? It's spam to some, not me. If UK members of parliament repeat the same text automatically to boost signal, is that spam? It's a human pressing the button but the text is copied is just like a bot.

I don't really care about what rich people do with their money or how they choose to behave but I am concerned that a tool I find handy might be cut to shreds so that I have to find another way!

Tech pros warn EU 'data adequacy' at risk if Brexit Britain goes its own way

RobLang
Meh

Probably more work for me if they go their separate ways

Right now our EU clients are relaxed about where our data centres are (UK or EU) because of the data adequacy agreement. GDPR isn't perfect (no law is IMO) but it's what a chunk of our clients use, so we do too. Any UK reform won't change that. If there is deviation and we lose data adequacy, I'm going to have to move some stuff out of the UK and (if the NI protocol is anything to go by) create extra paperwork to prove that we're still GDPR compliant. Not looking forward to that.

Google shows off immersive maps, AR-flavored search, Pixel 7, and more

RobLang

Glasses with eyes painted on them

Are we at the stage where Google can replace us with a virtual version that can nod sagely and offer platitudes like "take that offline" etc? A modern version of glasses with eyes painted on them.

OpenAI's DALL·E 2 generates AI images that are sometimes biased or NSFW

RobLang

The word "understanding" is problematic

Whenever I see people say that an algorithm "understands" something then my hairs stand up. Philosophers can't agree on what it means to understand a thing, except that humans can do it and other animals appear to too but only in certain circumstances and perhaps in a different manner.

An algorithm may apportion text to an image or vice versa but it doesn't "understand" what it means to cry. It just knows that humans use the word "cry" next to an image of a person crying.

So "Can AI express its understanding of the physical world with text?"

No.

Can humans measure whether something truly understands something? Also no.

Accenture announces 'Accenture Song' – not a tune, but a rebrand

RobLang

Do we know which song it is?

Perhaps the Reg commenters know? Is it the Birdie Song?

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