* Posts by Filippo

634 posts • joined 24 Nov 2007

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UK copyright troll weeps, starts 20-week stretch in the cooler for beating up Uber driver

Filippo

DUI is less reprehensible than assault, and shoplifting is less reprehensible than DUI, and yet they both result in harsher sentences. I don't remember the name of the rhethorical figure here, but it works.

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Autonomous vehicles inquiry set up in the UK

Filippo

We've had driveless vehicles in space for quite a while.

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Apple seeks patent for paper bag - you read that right, a paper bag

Filippo

Does "post-consumer" mean it's made of people?

Also, looking forward to when one breaks, spilling all of its content on the floor, and it turns out it's because the customer was holding it wrong.

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Pluto's emitting X-rays, and NASA doesn't quite know how

Filippo

Mi-go nuclear reactor?

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Ransomware scum infect Comic Relief server: Internal systems taken down

Filippo

@Jemma

Do you really think that by not voting you are absolved of all responsibilities? Inaction is also a choice with consequences. There is no "safe" option in an election, ethically speaking; whatever you do, you get part of the burden.

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Pass the 'Milk' to make code run four times faster, say MIT boffins

Filippo

Re: I have no knowledge...

That's all true in the general case, however there are particular cases where you have a lot of threads that spend most of their time waiting on data; think massively parallel algorithms where simple operations are done on large data sets that don't fit in neat blocks. In those cases, if you can engineer a situation where some threads have to wait a bit more, but many other threads have to wait a lot less, you are gaining.

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That Public Health study? No, it didn't say 'don't do chemo'

Filippo

Of course people die from chemo. But if you had a 20% chance of dying of chemo or a 90% chance of dying of cancer, which would you get?

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Astronauts sequence DNA in space for the first time

Filippo

It's unlikely that microgravity affects DNA. But it might affect the sequencing method. That's useful information.

Also, it's good to test for unlikely things too; sometimes you get lucky and find something weird.

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Deep inside Nantero's non-volatile carbon nanotube RAM tech

Filippo

Re: It sounds good

It's an extrapolation of observable properties, using a model for how heat affects molecules over time. In a direct sense, it's a useless figure; any given bit of NRAM will probably get lost or destroyed in some random accident on that time scale, unless you are extraordinarily cautious with it - in which case you'll have backups anyway.

In an indirect sense, though, it may be useful as a comparison with other technologies, as everyone is probably using the same model anyway.

Mostly, though, it's a marketing-friendly way of saying "it doesn't spontaneously lose data".

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Net neutrality activists claim victory in Europe

Filippo

If they ban zero-rating (and similar crap) while preserving the ability to do QoS, then good work.

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Microsoft to overhaul Windows 10 UI – with a 3D Holographic Shell

Filippo

I can think of a decent list of useful applications for VR/AR

...but operating systems ain't on it.

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If you use ‘smart’ Bluetooth locks, you're asking to be burgled

Filippo

Seriously? These guys make *locks*. Security is literally their core business! What the hell are they thinking?

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Render crashing PCs back to their component silicon: They deserve it

Filippo

Switching setting

Your cogitator has a temperamental machine-spirit, and your wife probably angered it by not performing the proper technoarcane rituals.

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Tesla's Model S autonomous mode may have saved a life

Filippo

Re: PR stunt

Yeah, the human maybe was driving too fast. That only serves to further prove the point that the autonomous system saved someone in conditions where the human wasn't able to. Whether this was because the human was breaking a rule, or because he was genuinely unlucky, is irrelevant. Attribution of responsibility does not change what happened.

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Filippo

Re: FF22

By that logic, accusing Autopilot of being unreliable because of a few accidents and one fatality is just a PR stunt, because human drivers cause accidents by the tens of thousands and fatalities by the thousands every day.

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Filippo

Re: Did its job

No it doesn't. It only has to do, statistically, a better job than a human. Which is nowhere close to 100%.

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Microbe drives tropical butterfly species to a male-killing frenzy

Filippo

Microbes ARE part of the environment.

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Tesla whacks guardrail in Montana, driver blames autopilot

Filippo

Obviously, one should be paying attention to the road even while autopilot is engaged, in case the car encounters something the autopilot can't manage. The problem is, it's already fairly difficult for a lot of people to pay proper attention to the road when *they're* driving. But just sitting and staring, for hours on end, without losing focus? It's just not going to happen - not reliably, anyway. It's going ot be tricky until autopilots are good enough that we're actually allowed to sleep through the trip.

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Here's how police arrested Lauri Love – and what happened next

Filippo

Re: AC Although the burden of proof lies with Love

"Expecting criminals to remember the passwords they encrypted their most important information with!"

Nope, but I get the confusion. That's what the law is like on Matt Bryant World. On Earth, what that law means is that everybody is required to remember the passwords to everything they encrypt, no matter how irrelevant, forever. Wanted to hide some pr0n from mum back when streaming wasn't a thing? Hope you remember the password to that dust-covered drive in the back of the closet, or you're screwed. Wanted to test an encryption tool, so encrypted some random crap with a random password and then forgot about it? You're screwed. Used to keep an encrypted text file with all your passwords, then switched to using a password manager, but didn't delete the file in case the password manager malfunctioned? Hope you remember the key to that file, or you're screwed. Deleted that file, but it's still recoverable with forensic tools? Guess what, you're screwed.

This without going into the many and varied conditions under which you're screwed even though it's not even your data, you've never known the password at all, or it's just something that looks like encryption, but there's actually no data at all.

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BAM! Astroboffins now have a second way of picking up black holes' collision super kicks

Filippo

Re: "remnants of the black holes..."

How is it possible for a black hole to break up anyway? Wouldn't the speed of the fragments need to exceed the speed of light?

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Rejoice, fatties: Giving chocolate electric shocks makes it healthier

Filippo

That could be differences in the laws on ingredient lists.

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Astroboffins discover rapid 'electric winds' blowing on Venus

Filippo

I keep getting awed by how weird stuff in space can be. And this is just the stuff we can see from here.

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Developer waits two years for management to define project

Filippo

I once wrote a bit of code for an industrial device that controlled access to a factory. It was basically a CPU with some relays that could activate bars and semaphores and whatnot. Everything works in test, the guys install everything, and soon I get called with complaints that the software frequently crashes after completing an entrance operation - the bar opens to let the truck through, and then the program crashes.

After some fruitless attempts to diagnose the problem by phone, I get there and start trying to figure out what's wrong. To avoid stressing the bars' engines unnecessarily, and to let trucks through without delay, we disconnect the bars, and start debugging. A sizable chunk of the day is spent attempting to reproduce the problem, which seems to have mysteriously vanished. We think of the bars, but all we've done is disconnect them from the relay; the software cannot possibly be affected by that.

Or can it? Bonus points if you guessed the solution by now. We reconnect the bars' engines, and the issue shows up, big way. Every time the program completes an entrance operation, it then proceeds to explode spectacularly. The effects look a bit like a massive buffer overflow, with random garbage ending up everywhere, but we can't see any way for any buffer to go anywhere it shouldn't. Then I get a suspicion, build a little test thingy that just opens the bars, and have the suspicion confirmed.

Every time the bars' relay switched with the engines attached, it let loose an EMP that traveled up the relay controller and scrambled the CPU's registers. I bet readers with some electrician background have been sneering at me for a while now, but what can I say? I do software!

Installation of filters fixed the issue, and AFAIK the system has worked perfectly for the last 10 years or so.

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Boffins send encrypted quantum messages to spaaaace – and back

Filippo

Re: That's clever.

I know that physicists currently believe that although the two particles influence each other instantaneously, this cannot be used to transmit useful information. I don't know why this is the case, though.

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Why everyone* hates Salesforce's Marc Benioff

Filippo

Re: Why is Hillary election propaganda being posted here?

The article is actually not at all vilifying to Trump voters, if you read it without being in defensive mode to begin with. What the article says is that Trump voters actually have valid concerns, and that although their solution looks gut-driven and naive, the tech industry is not coming forward with ANY solution at all. The tech industry bangs on the mantra that the problem will solve itself because new tech always creates new jobs to replace the ones it destroys - but since they're the ones reaping the profits, they can't be trusted because they have an obvious conflict of interest. Overall, it looks like a fairly balanced piece to me.

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These big-name laptops are infested with security bugs – study

Filippo

Meh. The first thing I do with a new laptop is format and reinstall anyway.

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iPhone 'Error 53' plaintiffs say Apple not giving reimbursements

Filippo

Re: Suing?

You're reversing cause and effect. The manufacturer fixed it *because* of the legal action.

This is actually fairly typical. It doesn't look that way because, usually, manufacturers issue fixes without having to get sued. But the reason manufacturers do this is because they don't want to get sued. See?

For that to work, the implied threat needs to be valid, i.e. people need to actually sue when the manufacturer doesn't issue a fix of their own initiative.

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Want a better password? Pretend you eat kale. We won't tell anyone

Filippo

I would love to just use a string of a half dozen random words or so, in the style of horsecorrectbatterystaple - except that 90% of sites demand non-alphas+mixedcase+numbers and frequently have a stupidly low length limit. Resulting in massive password reuse.

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LinkedIn plays down '117 million users' breach data sale

Filippo
Facepalm

"For several years, we have hashed and salted every password in our database"

Wait, does that mean that there has been some point at which they *didn't*? More specifically, does that mean that they had a database of 117 million plaintext passwords in 2012?

If so, there's not enough facepalm in the world for that.

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Would we want to regenerate brains of patients who are clinically dead?

Filippo

Sounds like a new technology that will probably have some serious problems to work out. Just like every other new technology.

If you start working on the new technology despite the serious problems, eventually you fix the serious problems and are left with good technology.

If you don't start working on the new technology because you want the scientists to fix the serious problems first, the serious problems never get fixed and you never get the good technology.

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SHOCK: GM crops are good for you and the planet, reckon boffins

Filippo

I notice I'm getting thumbs down, but no answers. If GM seeds really are economically unprofitable due to the need to buy them again, then why do farmers use them?

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Filippo

Nobody is "forced" to buy anything. You can't just make more rare earths, but you *can* go back to traditional seeds whenever you want. If a farmer buys GM seeds, it's because he makes more money that way, even after paying for the seeds every year. Farmers are not stupid.

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Filippo

You know, that argument keeps getting trotted out and I still have to find someone who can answer my objection:

If farmers who use GM seeds are worse off, as you claim, then why do they do it?

I mean, economically, how does your claim make sense? Farmers are not stupid, and it's not like there's any barrier to using traditional seeds.

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Laser-zapping scientists will save the Earth from meteorite destruction

Filippo

Re: Odds

This reasoning leads to extending period three. Potentially indefinitely. Making something trivial necessarily implies attempting to do it while it's not trivial.

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Jaron Lanier: Big Tech is worse than Big Oil

Filippo

Re: Employment: well, yes and no.

I don't think most people think that industrial automation means no people are needed. That's patently false. But industrial automation does mean that less people are needed. Otherwise, factory owners would not automate.

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Windows 10 debuts Blue QR Code of Death – and why malware will love it

Filippo

Re: Penguin

In the past 10 years or so, every BSOD on my Windows machines was either because of faulty hardware, or because of dodgy uncertified drivers.

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Ever wondered what the worst TV show in the world would be? Apple just commissioned it

Filippo

show about developers

"Silicon Valley" isn't too bad.

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It's nuts but 'shared' is still shorthand for 'worthless'

Filippo

learning stuff

It sounds like someone never got the point of learning stuff in school. The point isn't to learn stuff. The point is to learn //how to learn stuff//. That's the skill you'll need later.

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'Boss, I've got a bug fix: Nuke the whole thing from orbit, rewrite it all'

Filippo

Screw cuteness

It doesn't have to be cute, it has to be readable and maintainable. If I see if(0), me and 99% of everyone else are going to assume it's not getting executed. We'd be wrong, sure, but are we here to lay clever traps for each other in some kind of free-for-all intellectual superiority deathmatch, or are we here to get a job done?

In the same vein, I don't understand people who think that the shortest code is the most elegant, and write stuff that can only be understood if you know every obscure operator precedence rule and can mentally apply it to a dozen operands at the same time. What exactly is the beauty in that? Do you think you'll run out of brackets?

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Windows Phone devs earn double what poor Android devs pocket

Filippo

Re: Average?

I suspect those averages come out of averaging the <1% of developers that make tens of millions with the >99% of developers that make peanuts.

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Computers abort SpaceX Falcon 9 launch

Filippo

It's really rather nice to see that they *can* shut down the engines after they're started (without blowing up the rocket).

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Humans – 1 Robots – 0: Mercedes deautomates production lines

Filippo

Can't or won't

Upon reading the article, at first I thought that somebody at Mercedes needed to fire a few engineers if they were unable to program a robot to handle design variants. Then I thought about it a bit more, and figure out what's going on.

*Technically*, you can automate a lot of things and you can certainly automate picking the right type of seat cover for the customer, but *economically*, it only makes sense to automate tasks that you're going to repeat millions of times. The reason for this is that automating a task has a very large up-front development cost. A human won't do the task as quickly or reliably, but the up-front training cost is vastly inferior.

If you keep adding more and more options, each of which is produced in less and less copies, it makes sense that at some point the dev cost of building and/or programming the robot exceeds the total savings you then get from having the robot do the task instead of the human. You *can* program a robot to mount a thousand or so leather seats, but it's really pointless.

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When asked 'What's a .CNT file?' there's a polite way to answer

Filippo

Re: Christ

Those instructions are well beyond most of the people who call me for tech support.

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Hi, compsci undergrad. See that AI robot over there? It's your advisor

Filippo

Yeah, but do you know how many people can't be bothered to read the brochures, and want someone to answer their questions in person even though the same questions are there in the FAQ? Automating that scenario sounds like a good idea.

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You've heard of Rollercoaster Tycoon – but we can't wait for Server Tycoon

Filippo

Re: diversity

From what I read in the On-Call column on this site, not to mention BOFH, I get the feeling that sysadmin frequently IS about blood and gore.

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Swivel on this: German boffins build nanoscale screwing engine for sluggish sperm

Filippo

Evolution, shmevolution

It's irrelevant. Evolution takes at least tens of generations before it has any noticeable effect. We'll be fixing this sort of stuff directly with genetical engineering in a few decades. Maybe, if there is some sort of monstrous accident that causes deep, widespread and long-lasting public distrust of genetics, like it happened for nuclear power, it'll take a century or two. That's *still* irrelevant on an evolutionary timescale.

Seriously, Darwinistic evolution simply doesn't apply to Homo Sapiens any more. You can just stop worrying about who reproduces how much.

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Never mind the patent trolls. Here's a riddle: What about the inventors?

Filippo

Re: Patent Acquisition and Assertion by a (Non-Inventor) First Party Against a Second Party

Brilliant. They can now patent troll the patent trolls for patent trolling.

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Newspaper kills 'what was fake' column as pointless in internet age

Filippo

Re: long-term

That would give reason to hope, were it not for the fact that the vast majority of people, and the totality of politicians, do not care at all about long-term.

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Australian test finds robot essay assessors on par with human teachers

Filippo

Re: In defence of teachers

Hear hear. I guess you got downvoted by one of those people who are convinced that teachers only work while in class. Which makes just about as much sense as believing that farmers only work at harvest.

At the school where my SO teaches, 50+ hours work weeks are fairly regular and the current week looks like it could break 60. Yet there is no overtime pay at all, and a large part of that work is actually unpaid. If she could somehow trade the extra holidays (which, btw, aren't three months, not even close) for an enforced timetable, she'd do it in a heartbeat.

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Who owns space? Looking at the US asteroid-mining act

Filippo

Re: Really? Harmful contamination? Really?

Exactly. But that's also exactly the reason why the space treaties need updating. So that it's possible to "lay claim" to a particular asteroid, without being able to "lay claim" to entire planets. At the moment, everything is forbidden, but if we just break that without replacing it with something else, we'd end up with everything being allowed instead. That's even worse.

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