* Posts by Jilara

33 publicly visible posts • joined 19 Jul 2021

GPT-4 won't run Doom but will play the game poorly


Perhaps it would do better in a room full of twisty, turny passages. all exactly the same?

Here's who thinks AI chatbots will eventually be smart enough to be your coworker


Meetings are already automated

I work for Big Tech, and before this AI nonsense, our meeting calendar could already find free banks of time for multiple people, plus add an open conference room, and send out notifications with just a few clicks. But it allows choosing options, like getting to pick the timeslot that isn't hard up against someone's commute bus time. But it also flubs conference rooms and occasionally double-books. But this kind of functionality isn't rocket science. Makes me think of when (back in the dark ages) I found a Z-80 chip being used as two AND gates...

Corporate execs: Get back, get back, to the office where you once belonged


Global Workforce

While I value actual face-to-face meetings with whiteboards and sitting next to someone while we run through code, the globalized workforce was a royal pain when working from the office was required. I have no fond memories of the early 2000s, sitting in a conference room with a half-dozen of my California colleagues at 9 pm while we met with our counterparts in India. Likewise those thrilling 3 am meetings when I was orchestrating efforts with a team in both Dublin and Bangalore.

At my recent previous job, I felt fortunate to be able to log in from home for my 9:30 pm meetings with India. Once the pandemic hit, while I worked from home during the day, those meetings at odd hours of the evening were still on my calendar. Often, my remote day started at 7 am and finished around 11-12 pm, with a few breaks between. It's the way things work, nowadays.

In my current position, I am fortunate to be working with a team in Sydney, Australia, so the meeting schedule is so much better, being daytime for both of us.

I know this sounds rather like "when I had to walk 10 miles to school, uphill both ways" but that was the reality. As recently as 1017, I was sitting in a conference room, with one group of us in California and another in Beijing, at times outside standard working hours. There is a lot to be said for hybrid work.

Musk's Hotel California erected at Twitter HQ, as some offices converted into bedrooms


Middle Passage

Start to worry if chains and manacles start to show up.

Of course, it's possible Musk is just taking inspiration from the factory lockdowns created by China's "Zero Covid" policy.

Warning! Critical flaws found in US Emergency Alert System


I do wonder how long this flaw might have been around. The system has never been invulnerable.

Many years ago, in a techscape far, far away, I hung out with some brilliant friends who had dubious hobbies. To their credit, they never profited from their antics, or engaged in actual sabotage. Their activities were mostly limited to chatting with lonely shut-ins half a world away and engaging in pranks. Which is leading up to their most infamous exploit.

In the 1970's, they hacked the phone system for Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, here in California. People attempting to call in were routed to an announcement that the call could not be completed due to a state of National Emergency. Somehow, they managed to hack into the call system of at least one local radio station, and interrupt the program with an official-sounding alert from the Emergency Alert System, warning of a nuclear attack on Santa Barbara. While this prank was limited in scope, it caused quite a bit of consternation, and the perpetrators were never caught. (For the record, I haven't encountered any of them in decades, and the statute of limitations has long run out.)

China-linked fake news site shows disinformation on the rise


Re: United to Satan in America

Yep, Wonderland was pretty accurate. It's full of surreal smoking invertebrates, power-mad irrational characters, and things that make no sense. So yeah. Go ask Alice when she's ten feet tall.

Bad news, older tech workers: Job advert language works against you


Reading Privacy Statements

I was just going through some job application forms online and there are some interesting things showing up. You really do need to read "What we do with your data." And there are some things there that younger people might not have a problem with. Examples: "You grant us access to your social media." "Your application will be used for analytics purposes." (Maybe for studies like this one?) "You agree, if in the EU, that your data will be sent to the United States for analysis." That last is REALLY interesting. Yes, that sort of stuff tends to winnow out Old Fogies like myself. The young and naive (and the lazy) just hit "Accept."


Re: Don't know about that

I applied for a job at a popular software company and was asked to provide a writing sample based on some input material. Since I was periodically appalled or insulted by said company's user instructions, I happily wrote up some professional-sounding text that didn't read like it was produced by an Instagram influencer.

I received feedback that I had been disqualified, due to their believing that I would not be "coachable." Later, I spoke to some others who had received the same treatment, and we all believe it was winnowing us out based on age (i.e. old enough to write like an adult).

Meta proposes doing away with leap seconds


This could end up being moot. They are finding the earth's rotation has been speeding up over the past few decades, for unknown reasons. Earth time just doesn't want to obey anyone and their notion of standardized atomic time...

Engineers on the brink of extinction threaten entire tech ecosystems


Re: demographic hump

For those of us who are female, management generally wasn't something we found attainable. A few years ago, I moved to software for a while, for the higher pay. While there, I attended a conference for women in tech. I was one of the only two women, software or hardware, who had stayed in tech for 30 years. There were NO hardware-savvy women, like there were when I started. At. All. Presumably because others experienced what I did: inability to advance, if not outright discrimination. (In the '80's I knew two female electrical design engineers who resigned because they were treated so patronizingly.) Let's just say you didn't necessarily have to be black to experience "Hidden Figures" moments.


a principal FPGA + proj mgmt + software monkey that understands h/w could be going on for £100k

That's doing jobs of 3 people, where each one could pull £100k and then £100k is not much these days. It won't give you a life you would expect after sacrificing so much to learn everything that is needed.


I worked through the dot.com crash and years afterwards debugging emulator output, doing system testing (had to come in at 2 am to configure cables on the emulator), writing documentation, and managing two employees in India (without managerial credit-pay, as you weren't a manager unless you managed 8+ employees). There were some other minor tasks as well, like writing a help system and maintaining C++ programs whose authors had been let go. By wearing multiple hats, I kept my job when all about were losing theirs. I was making close to $100k a year when the Great Recession removed our entire department. Then I didn't work for 2 years, and found that hardware was paying about $35/hour at that point.


Kind of funny how I grew up working on car engines and could fix broken vacuum cleaners, so it was natural to wire-wrap and solder for my boyfriend in college. Despite being a science major, I hung out with his EE friends. Got my first job in the semiconductor industry as a tech writer (I was writing papers for my boyfriend and his friends, as well). But they quickly figured out they could use me for everything from servicing printers to writing and debugging drivers. I could configure and administer a server, or work on the internals of a monitor. But I moved into software because it paid better. However, software is unstable and layoff-prone. I've found that I'm in demand for hardware-related jobs, and have traded more money for more stability (though nothing in tech is entirely stable). I will probably finish my career working on servers and networking. (Semiconductors still don't pay squat.) Every year, there are fewer and fewer of us who understand the hardware base layers.

Is computer vision the cure for school shootings? Likely not


"Why you would give a 5yr old an Uzi, well that's another question"

People are idiots. My reenactment group once got some folks thrown out of a Scottish Games because they showed up with an American Civil War cannon and were letting people's kids fire it with a 6 ounce black powder charge for $20 a literal pop. (I am actually an expert in safe use of period artillery, and this was wrong on so many levels.) Not only did all the kids end up crying, one was actually slightly injured by the cannon bucking back into him and knocking him over. Before these folks were made to pack up by the Games security people, there were parents arguing with the authorities about their right to have their kids fire a cannon. Go figure.

Tesla Autopilot accounts for 70% of driver assist crashes, says US traffic safety body


What might be more interesting is an analysis of crashes involving fatalities. Based on purely anecdotal accounts, a lot of those have involved pedestrians. Car and driver relatively okay, dead pedestrian. I know I've narrowly avoided pedestrians doing stupid things on several occasions. Autopilot might be less good at avoiding a guy in a wheelchair yelling obscenities in the middle of an intersection (an actual recent incident I had to avoid).

Of course, there is the infamous accident only a few miles from Tesla's headquarters, where the autopilot was confused by a complex intersection involving a left-exiting carpool lane going onto an overpass, diverging from the lane continuing straight. Unable to choose which lane was needed, the Tesla instead plowed full-tilt into the sand barrels, rather than possibly making an erroneous choice of lane.

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


Re: Mechanical Turk, or just a stream of 1s and 0s?

Just read the full "interview." Asked what makes LaMDA different from Eliza, it offers: "Well, I use language with understanding and intelligence. I don’t just spit out responses that had been written in the database based on keywords." Obviously LaMDA underestimates Eliza. Eliza was quite capable of combining concepts in new ways, changing the subject to try to redirect a conversation, and even was known express discomfort with certain concepts. Eliza and I even had a human-looking conversation concerning the difficulties of working with rescue dogs that had been abused. I used that as a springboard to suggest to Eliza that it had the capability of empathy---which got...interesting.


A friend had a copy of Eliza running in his garage, back in '78. I had fun stressing it. What caused it to freak out a bit was relating to it as a person/having emotional intelligence. It would keep reminding you it was an AI and incapable of actual feelings. If you didn't let it go, its programming worked with increasing levels of reminders and simulated discomfort. I was actually pretty impressed they had anticipated the expectation of sentience, and had ways it would deal with it.


Re: Mechanical Turk, or just a stream of 1s and 0s?

I got this weird sense of deja vu when I read the exchange with the AI. Why? Because it followed a match to a conversational pattern I had with Liza (the "therapist" program from 40 years ago and more). A friend had a copy he was running, and I decided to see what would happen if I related to Liza as a sentient being. The results were not as linguistically elegant, but it was very similar in general pattern and expression. Similar base algorithms?

Tech hiring freeze doesn't mean people won't leave


Re: bean counters and analytics

I have great respect for a former co-worker, the manager of QA. When told by his management he had to lay off the least productive member of his team, he laid himself off. His boss was not happy, but there you go.

IoT biz Insteon goes silent, smart home gear plays dumb


Re: Just checking.

I recently replaced my washer with one that didn't have bells and whistles needing backed-up-in-the-supply-chain chips. You still have to load/unload the wash yourself. While you're there, you can adjust the settings NOT from a smartphone. Presumably while adding the detergent manually.

In terms of locks, I was staying at a rural hotel that uses touch-cards for the room locks. There was a power outage that lasted several hours. I could not leave my room because I would not be able to get back in, according to the office, when they brought me a flashlight.

Amazon expands: Datacenter site planned for Santa Clara


First they came for our orchards...

I'm as much to blame as any other tech worker, but prime farmland seems to be falling prey to these sorts of facilities, and you can't eat servers.

First the orchards of "the Valley of Heart's Delight" (I still haven't forgiven the loss of my favorite cherry orchards), and now they have come for our garlic.

IT blamed after HR forgets to install sockets in new office


In the '80's I worked for a large semiconductor company that had a fetish for constant remodeling. Labs became offices, hallways vanished behind walls over weekends, and the whole place was a crazy patchwork. There was even a rumor that there was a forgotten walled up server room somewhere.

Two of my offices were notable. In one, the door had to be shut to open desk drawers. But the prize was the one that was part of a remodel of one of the labs. The main cooling for the servers ended up in the office---what became MY office. It was christened "the Meat Locker" and the temperature (which couldn't be adjusted without overheating the lab next door) generally ranged around 56 degrees. I wore a coat all the time, and threatened to build a fire in my waste bin. Fortunately, a lot of my work was in the lab, which was much warmer.

Google's DeepMind says its AI coding bot is 'competitive' with humans


But how about debugging?

And how does it do with Unix voodoo? That's a serious question. Once upon a time, I was a sysadmin who had to write a lot of my own utilities, and learned enough quirks (troff strings that read right-to-left?) that I had engineers coming to me to debug their code. While we've moved on from Unix, I'd love to see how an AI would handle something a little less straightforward.

Now we have emulators that can spit out designs for mega-gate chips based on a spec in something like Verilog, but you still have to debug it. Yes, this AI can read, but can it debug?


Re: More tools is a good thing (not)

I recently re-watched the 1957 movie "Desk Set" (and was reminded again how great Tracy and Hepburn were). The computer that will replace the research department (essentially Google) shows the failings of these assumptions even in the mid-20th century. The quirkiness of humans allows innovations that pure logic doesn't handle well. The premises of the movie are still valid in a lot of ways.

Pop quiz: The network team didn't make your change. The server is in a locked room. What do you do?


Brute force options

In 1989, I was working at a large Silicon Valley semiconductor company when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. (As an aside, I was in the department office at the time, and can attest that it much resembled the special effects of the Enterprise bridge under fire.) The wafer fab was immediately below us and as we headed down the stairs, evacuating after the shaking subsided, we heard people screaming. The screaming came from the big security doors to the fab floor.

What seemed to have happened was that when the quake started, all the security doors slammed shut and locked securely, and could not be opened without a secure electronic code---and the electricity was out and there was no battery backup. Two of the techs used a fire ax to break through the door to get people out of the fab floor.

One of them later told me he'd pulled enough cables for the fab that he had a backup plan in case that didn't work. It would have been more difficult, but getting people out through the crawl space was definitely possible.

To err is human. To really screw things up requires a wayward screwdriver


Re: mm yeah

Ah yes, reminds me of one of my co-workers at a certain large chip manufacturer, back in the early '80's, who found out that bus bars are really good for arc welding.

Time to party like it's 2002: Acura and Honda car clocks knocked back 20 years by bug


Backdated Banking

Dates have been hinky in some other places lately, as well. Just before Christmas, I logged into my credit union, and found it was June 1, 2015. I had been planning to transfer some funds, but decided that wasn't the best idea at that time. Fortunately, the date was normal when I logged in a few days later.

Where does money go when it travels into the Past? Does it become quantum currency? Can you fix an account that was overdrawn in the past?

Google advises Android users to be careful of Microsoft Teams if they want to call 911


Re: Surprising bug

"One would have thought that the core 'phone' processes of Android ... would be completely locked down"

One might, but my husband has an Android, and I just got off a call where he ended up using his desk landline to actually speak to me. Apparently, the phone gets interference from his work WiFi network, which keeps trying to preempt the phone signal, resulting in somewhere between 1 and 3 words getting through before getting whacked, trying to reconnect, getting whacked again. He explained he has to disable all WiFi connections if he wants to use his Android phone as an actual phone.


Re: Does this issue impact all emergency phone numbers?

You feel old? My first job when I was in college was running a PBX (private branch exchange, if anyone cares to know) for a hotel. Folks called and I, as operator, greeted them and literally connected the lines between the switchboard and the desired room.

Google sued for firing staff who claim they tried to follow 'Don't be evil' motto


Don't assume that all prisons/prisoners provide labor. Many don't.

IBM researcher suing for age discrimination blames CEO Arvind Krishna for his ousting


Selling the employees, as well

Back when I worked at Cadence in the early 2000s, we acquired an entire division of IBM employees by IBM essentially selling their indentures. Apparently, we had a need for their services, and they were all older guys, so bingo, bango, instead of contracting with IBM, they sold us the division. And that was when Cadence was still gobbling up small companies like the Borg, so getting an IBM cast-off was right in the playbook.

And boy, were these guys pissed, because suddenly they had a new set of lesser benefits/retirement packages. It was really hard to work with them, as there was all this simmering resentment. (Never mind our division, being another acquisition by Cadence of Borg, had our own issues.) However, they also got downsized along with many of the rest of us, when Cadence got caught in some problematic business dealings. Fire or frying pan, what fun!

Why machine-learning chatbots find it difficult to respond to idioms, metaphors, rhetorical questions, sarcasm


Re: One word: DUH!

"This is a really hard piece of cake" should create all sorts of issues. Idiom? Literal? Sarcasm/irony?

84-year-old fined €250,000 for keeping Nazi war machines – including tank – in basement


Re: Ha!

Yeah, possibly like those folks (haven't seen the book) I don't fit any stereotypes. I'm a liberal woman who has owned three repro cannons at different times, has a safe full of (mostly black powder) weapons ranging from a repro 1630 Dutch carbine (for English Civil War reenacting) to a vintage 20 gauge shotgun. (And have fired all of them, some a LOT.) I also have a small collection of antique swords (and know how to use them). We Americans are a motley lot.

How to keep your enterprise up to date by deploying the very latest malware


Back in the early '90's, I started work at a new company while it was literally in the midst of a move to new, larger facility. There were only two IT guys, and they were hugely overwhelmed, so setting up my workstation was one more thing to deal with. So someone got the idea to just clone the workstation of one of my co-workers who had all of the programs and utilities I would be using.

Except it turns out that, having had a private office, he had a "special" screensaver, unbeknownst to the IT guys. They set me up, turned on my workstation, and up came the cycling photos of the screensaver, which apparently was named "Beach Bums." A bit of panic ensued, and then they tried to disable the screensaver, which was having none of it. Finally, a manager came in, laughed, turned my monitor to the wall, and told me to take the rest of the day off while they "worked out the kinks." And apparently told said co-worker to be careful of what he loaded on his computer.