* Posts by Michael Wojcik

3893 posts • joined 21 Dec 2007

Travel back to the 19-Z80s this weekend

Michael Wojcik
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I have one of those dual 5.25" / 3.5" drives in the basement just in case I want to get content off old floppies some day. Of course finding a controller is now probably difficult - though I wouldn't be surprised if someone has a USB-to-IDE converter out there that would work. I should pick one up just in case.

(I think I have a PC Card IDE adapter, but PC Card slots are getting hard to find too.)

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Security for those who know they can't win the security war

Michael Wojcik
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Re: I'm tired already just reading it

for example, "Lesson well and truly learned: most laptops that are stolen are by opportunistic thieves." A single sample study?

Agreed. What it should have said is "In the studied sample (N=1), a majority (1.0) appear to have been stolen by opportunistic thieves (p < 0.5)."

Of course, even then the methodology is bogus. The anecdote, unless I've misread is: Laptop goes missing. Laptop tracking software later reveals it to be probably in London (assuming the user isn't employing a VPN or other mechanism that confuses IP geolocation). User's activities (including installing something called "MattLab", which I suppose is like MATLAB but for simulating people named Matthew rather than performing numerical computation) suggest the user is a student. From that we leap to the conclusion that the laptop was "stolen by [an] opportunistic [thief]" - which doesn't appear to be any better supported by the evidence than, say, that it was deliberately stolen, scanned offline for corporate secrets, and then sold to a student.

The article's a collection of anecdote and idle musing. It's not terrible but it doesn't have much substance.

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Glaring flaw in Apple car hype-gasm: The iGiant likes to make money

Michael Wojcik
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No one said anything about an expensive car. The thesis was that cars won't sell at high profit margins.

Ferrari profit margins appear to be around 15%, according to various online sources. Among performance-car brands, Porsche seems to do better - about 18%. Still less than half of the 40% this article claims as Apple's typical or desired margin.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: "Drive on the left" signs

But that is exactly why I will never drive in the UK - I would be deathly scared of injuring someone (or worse) because my reflexes have been conditioned by more than 30 years of driving on the right.

Just drive when it's snowing. A few flakes in the air and traffic in southern England, at least, slows down to a speed where you're far more likely to perish from dehydration and exposure than be injured in a collision.

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Perhaps the AIpocalypse ISN'T imminent – if Google Translate is anything to go by, that is

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Messe

Maybe the addition of "a" or "een" signals that the verb should not be used.

Think of the input as an N-dimensional vector pointing into an N-space of possible translations. Each complete word adjusts that vector. Google shows you the data point in the translation space that's closest to the end of the vector.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Google Translate? It's actually useful/usable if you know what you're doing

I've had it completely reverse the meaning of a sentence - I've no idea how.

Not at all an unexpected result if you do a bit of research into linguistics and machine translation, particularly the huge-corpus approach used by Google.

You take some corpora in various languages that have been annotated by human judges - parsed, basically, into part-of-speech and phrasal grammatical structure. You train some ML model (Google likely use NNs, because they have an unnatural affection for the things, but you could use HMMs or MEMMs or various others) based on those inputs. Presto, you have a probabilistic model for parsing the language.

Then you take your huge corpora of texts that you have versions of in multiple languages. Remember when Google indexed the web and scanned all those books? Yeah, that. You use that to build probabilistic maps from language A to language B, for various pairs {A,B}. You can use longer chains (A->B->C) to add more information to the model, but you have to weight it lighter because successive translation introduces more noise, so there's a point of diminishing returns.

When you get fresh input to translate from A to B, you first check to see if you already have a translation of the whole thing, or of big chunks (sentences, say). If not, you parse the input into phrase-level chunks, using a model from the first set, and then translate those chunks, using a model from the second.

This sort of approach, with a bit of tweaking and a really big set of corpora to train from (which is what Google have) has a pretty good success rate - somewhere in the 90%-95% range on typical inputs.

What about the sentence-meaning-inversion thing? Natural languages have many, many ways to invert meaning at the phrase and sentence level, and language users keep coming up with new ones. Often this can hinge on the presence or position of a single word, or punctuation, or context from other sentences in the text - consider sarcasm, for example.

And then there are sentences which are simply ambiguous in language A but can only be translated into one of a set of non-ambiguous sentences in language B, for example because of grammatical inflection in B. (All natural languages admit all sorts of ambiguity, of course, but they have different constraints on its particular forms.)

Meaning inversion is a very easy trap for blind-translation models like Google's to fall into, because a given phrase often has inverted-meaning local maxima in its probability distribution.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Google Translate? It's actually useful/usable if you know what you're doing

No its utter crap.

At least it knows the difference between "its" and "it's".

It's very successful at doing what it was designed to do. You're asking it to do what it's advertised as doing, which is quite a different thing.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: What should have been looked at

Who said AI has to understand the world using human language?

The people who want to use it for Natural Language Processing.

I suspect someone will say Turing did, thereby demonstrating a complete failure to understand Turing's point - which was essentially a rejection of metaphysics over pragmatism in developing an epistemology of mind.

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Krebs: I know who hacked Ashley Madison

Michael Wojcik
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Re: salted duplicate check

In any case, you need to store each user's salt value in plaintext so that you can use it when the user logs in. From this point of view, it is irrelevant if it is the same database, or a separate one for the salts. So all the salt values are available if you want to check if the user's candidate password is already in use by someone else.

All true, but this is precisely what should be infeasible once you have a substantial number of password verifiers. The security value of rejecting a "too common" password - which is very small, if there's any at all - doesn't justify throwing a bunch of computational resources at hashing the candidate password with every salt in the database. That's a dumb use of resources to achieve a pointless objective.

Password-strength restrictions are already a sign of failure: it indicates that users aren't willing to comply with security mechanisms because they see those mechanisms as too expensive for the value they provide. So the user experience is broken or the user doesn't have a clear view of what's at risk (or the risk is perceived as an externality). You have either a user interaction model problem or an economic problem.

If you aren't able to address that issue in any way other than a password-strength restriction (ie you're admitting failure), there are much, much better checks to use than "gosh, a whole bunch of other people used that password".

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Michael Wojcik
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The system would simply reject passwords that too many people already had.

It should be infeasible for the system to determine this. If it isn't, then the password storage mechanism is vulnerable to offline attacks.

The password verifiers should be cryptographic hashes with substantial salt, which would make it computationally infeasible to compare a candidate (plaintext) password against many existing verifiers in a timely fashion.

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Android in user-chosen lockscreen patterns are grimly predictable SHOCKER

Michael Wojcik
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Re: I wasn't aware the lock pattern was for security!

It also keeps out about 80% of family and friends on a night out.

And if you lose the phone and some random ne'er-do-well picks it up, it will likely be enough of a hassle to stop him (or her) from using it, in the window before you have it disabled. Even if you don't keep sensitive information on the phone, it's likely worthwhile putting up a bit of a barrier just to prevent that annoyance.

I've never lost a phone myself, but I know a few people who seem to make a habit of it.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Errm...

That's a HUGE amount of information you just gave out.

Still has about 56 bits of entropy, which is a big search space if you can't mount an offline or fast online attack.

If you're in the position to mount an offline attack, you probably already have read access to the data in the phone, so that possibility is not interesting in most cases. Maybe there's encrypted storage on the phone with potentially interesting data and the best attack on that is to brute-force the password, but we're talking about a pretty narrow case there.

The device could have protection against fast online attacks, and the cost of creating the necessary equipment to mount them is likely to be significant.

Sure, his description reduces the search space significantly. Does it reduce it usefully? Not under most sensible threat models, I'd say.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Tapping in pin in cinema

This is precisely why I haven't been in a movie theater in years.

Not because I'm worried someone will shoulder-surf my phone password - all the idiots on their phones. In my experience, most of them can't stay off the damn things while the film is playing either.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: PIN generation

I just entered my RSA token into an online password strength checker. The result was "It would take a desktop PC about 0.00025 seconds to crack your password". I realise that you're talking about a phone pin but that's a solved problem now. The pretty much only thing preventing the cracking time being achieved is the physical input.

Congratulations on successfully comparing apples to oranges.

Actually, "oranges" is too generous. Let's call it apples to giraffes.

Simplistic password strength checkers are only marginally useful, since they rarely say what threat model they're addressing - online or offline attack? does the attacker know the hash algorithm? are hashes salted? if not, does the attacker have precomputed rainbow tables? And so on.

But in any case, it's obvious from the response that it's testing something completely unrelated to any sensible model that applies here. If you're in a position to brute-force a phone PIN with negligible delay between attempts, then it's pointless to talk about "strength". If you're not in such a position, then there's no hash to find a preimage collision against, and again it's pointless to talk about "strength".

Any way you look at it, it's a meaningless result.

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The Raspberry Pi is succeeding in ways its makers almost imagined

Michael Wojcik
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Re: This mirrors the real software world

Today we actually [write] very little original code.

True in many domains, but not all of them. I've written thousands of lines of original code in the past year - and I really do mean original, not adapted from exemplars. In some cases I was reimplementing algorithms from scratch because flaws in the existing implementations were too extensive to make refactoring worthwhile; in others I was implementing new functionality.

I'm happy to use libraries, frameworks, and suitably-licensed open-source code where appropriate, and they do supply a lot of the low-level functionality - basic data structures and algorithms; but for the kind of work I primarily do, there's plenty of original code that needs to be written as well.

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Michael Wojcik
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she has decided that my tablet I bought last year is her's though... not a major issue only a cheap hudl 2.

My granddaughter was quite interested in a tablet from about 1 1/2 years old to about 1 3/4 years old. Then she went back to wanting to spend as much time as possible either playing outdoors or building things with Duplo blocks (junior Lego).

I imagine she'll get interested in tech again at some point, but right now - she's 2 1/2 - she wants to manipulate physical objects.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Log in

If they actually cared they would reject such an obvious date as 1-1-1900

Great, another anti-vampirist promoting discrimination against the undead and differently-aging.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Made My Day

Just curious but would you have had the same reaction if your kids were saying this or that landscape looks just like something they'd built in Lego? Or something they'd seen in a documentary on TV? Or something they'd seen described in a book? Because I see little difference.

Yes, god forbid the little ones learn to draw comparisons and make analogies. Who knows what's next - critical thinking? This must be stopped!

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Michael Wojcik
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Smalltalk; an, or rather the, OO language that puts almost everything that came afterwards to shame

You mean the OO language designed (in its first public incarnation) to be unusable to people who are red-green colorblind? Yeah, good thinking there, tying the language to an IDE with ill-considered UI controls.

Other implementations were thankfully divorced from the IDE.

The IDE aside, Smalltalk suffers from the same problem all conceptually-pure programming languages suffer from. As a computer scientist, I like Smalltalk's purity and elegance. As a professional developer, I recognize that it's useless for nearly all of the problems I get paid to address, because it can't quickly and cheaply be integrated into a huge corpus of existing code, and it would necessarily introduce certain inefficiencies in resource-critical systems.

That doesn't mean there aren't problem domains where conceptually-pure languages like Smalltalk aren't well-suited - I'm just not (often) working in them. Or that there aren't existing systems that wouldn't be better off rewritten in Smalltalk or another pure language (so much truly abysmal C++ out there...) - but no one's going to fund that.

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Devs are SHEEP. Which is good when the leader writes secure code

Michael Wojcik
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Re: @Vic: ROFL

Thanks for the link, cognitive biases, and there relation to creativity/problem solving is one of my fave subjects.

Then you should definitely check out David McRaney's blog youarenotsosmart.com, much of which was collected into his book of the same name (which I prefer to the blog, personally). Nice brief descriptions of common fallacies that have been substantiated by methodologically-sound research, with citations. I don't know of a better primer on cognitive bias.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: ROFL

Either of you downvoters care to tell me *why*? I didn't think this was a particularly controversial post...

Who can say? Maybe for the generalizations about "management". Personally, I wouldn't downvote someone for that - I generally wouldn't even bother arguing about it, even though I think it's a false and pointless generalization - but maybe it struck a nerve with someone else.

Around these parts, a few downvotes often give a post a bit of credibility. If it doesn't get any downvotes, its information content may be low.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: ROFL

I worked with a guy not so long ago who refused to use any sort of static code analysis tools, then complaines when his code failed review. Frequently, it wouldn't even compile

Well, a compiler is a static analysis tool, so at least he was consistent.

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The most tragic thing about the Ashley Madison hack? It was really 1% actual women

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Why the percentage shock?

This post coming directly from the 19th century is the proof!

Alas, sociobology is alive and well. It's a convenient refuge for a particular type of sophomoric thinker who wants to ascribe simple, foundational causes to human behavior and sweep both complexity and ethical responsibility under the rug. Now that scientific racism is a harder sell,1 sociobiology is a great way to put a pseudoscientific gloss on your own bad behavior (or the bad behavior you aspire to).

1Though by no means dead. It has yet to regain the limelight it briefly enjoyed with Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve, much less its dominance of the days of naive Darwinist imperialism, but there's no shortage of tiresome small-minded bullies still promoting it.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: No Dick Left Behind Act of 2015

does that mean that use of AM cannot be used in court as grounds for divorce, since it's way below the threshold for even suspicion of having an affair, never mind proof?

Obviously this would depend on jurisdiction. No-fault divorce is now available throughout the US and in many other countries, so you don't need a reason - but in some jurisdictions (not sure about whether this is still true of any US states) that's only if both parties agree to dissolution.

Prior to no-fault divorce, I expect that demonstrating a concrete attempt to commit adultery could have been argued as equivalent to successfully committing it. But who knows? Maybe one of our friendly legal bloggers will look into the matter.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: How Many Men Actually used AM?

I wouldn't be surprised if these stats mirror those on Match.com and other such sites

I will note, purely anecdotally, that I personally know several women who say they've used Match, and a few who've mentioned using other sites such as OK Cupid.1 I suspect, but have no sound evidence to support, that some sites - particularly Match, which has a massive PR and advertising campaign in the US2 - are somewhat more appealing to women and thus have somewhat less lopsided ratios.

If it's possible to get hold of reliable data, no doubt someone's done a study. But that's a big "if".

1Am I the only one who finds it nearly impossible not to refer to that site as "OK, Stupid"? Maybe it's just me.

2Certainly no other site matches their TV advertising spend in these parts. I've seen a few adds for Chemistry.com, which were based around a clever campaign explaining they were the site for people rejected by Match.com. Tempting!

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FBI probed SciFi author Ray Bradbury for plot to glum-down America

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Brian Aldiss

Probably they were conflicted, after Isaac Asimov declared that the New Wave would destroy Science Fiction. Couldn't decide if the cure was worse than the disease. (As it happened, of course, Asimov got over his worries and US SF proceeded along quite happily, even getting into the New Wave game a bit.)

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: What does liberal mean

What does "liberal" actually mean when used by Americans?

Depends on the American, and on the era. What it meant to some FBI pencil-pusher in 1968 is only distantly related to what it might mean to any random US citizen today.

Broadly it's meant to indicate that someone advocates at least one of a wide range of positions that are seen as being vaguely on what passes for the left in the US. But other people may advocate the same position and be branded differently. For example, reducing mandatory prison sentences is favored by some "liberals" and some "fiscal conservatives".

The US is a big place with a huge range of subcultures. In politics, much of that difference is concealed by the de facto two-party system, which creates all sorts of strange and uneasy bedfellows.

What "liberal" generally does not mean, in the US, is what it means as a term of art in political science - i.e., a broad belief in individual civil rights, freedom, self-determination, and limited interference by government. In terms of the total political spectrum of global modernity, both the US parties are firmly in the liberal camp in this sense. Both also have large contingents in favor of limiting some or other rights, but on the whole they're distinctly liberal. They differ only in the exceptions they favor. But, of course, saying "everyone in the US political mainstream is a liberal" doesn't help when you're trying to stir up antagonism.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Seems to me the FBI itself has been trying to "glum down" the USofA ...

They seem perfectly sane to me, just unethical. They've gotten precisely what they appear to want, which is a big pile of money and the occasional opportunity to stick the boot in.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: FBI sponsored?

Niven and Pournelle busy stoking the McCarthyism fire with book after book about invading aliens and 'ordinary Americans' taking up the struggle and winning

In Footfall the "ordinary Americans" fail miserably. It's the military that actually defeats the invaders, and even that's at high risk and cost.

I'm not saying the book isn't a chest-thumper, but it's hardly the sort of paean to organic exceptionalism you're claiming. Contrast something like Battlefield Earth (if you dare).

In terms of this particular thematic arc, Footfall is closer to John Carpenter's classic Tripods trilogy: there, too, the protagonists end up working as part of a substantial organized resistance movement with a (para)military organizational structure.

Meanwhile Phil Farmer just wanted big tits in everything

Yes, but to be fair he wanted all of his characters to be substantially developed in the chest. Zelazny's introduction to World of Tiers described it as "muscular fiction", and I'm not sure that was a metaphor. (Hmm. Come to think of it, the love interest in Dark is the Sun is explicitly described as having small breasts. So Farmer had some range.)

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Free country?

Oh please, read your history books - the NSA has been in the surveillance business for years before Dubya ascended to power

Indeed. I'm no fan of George II, but the Clinton and Obama regimes quite happily stomped on civil rights, including privacy, in many areas. Putting multiple domestic spying agencies under the umbrella of Homeland Security was a completely unnecessary bureaucratic boondoggle, but it doesn't mark W's administration as especially reprehensible in bulking up the US police state. He was pretty much par for the course.

And as bad as things are now, I'm very dubious of claims that they're worse than in the days of HUAC and COINTELPRO. That doesn't mean we should be content with the status quo, of course, but arguments that show some historical perspective are more persuasive.

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Still 3D printing with one material? We can use TEN, say MIT eggheads

Michael Wojcik
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Give away the razor

Sure, the printer costs $7000. But the replacement cartridges are like a million bucks apiece.

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Michael Wojcik
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Thats a lot of money to print a replica of your junk.

Depends on what you can sell it for.

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Net neutrality: How to spot an arts graduate in a tech debate

Michael Wojcik
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Re: "How you spot an arts graduate in a tech debate"

Ha. I have degrees in both the humanities and the sciences, which is why I secretly control everything.

But perhaps I've said too much.

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Using SQL techniques in NoSQL is OK, right? WRONG

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Spark and Hadoop are not in any way equivalent

Not the Spark core, but Spark SQL is in part about providing structured data and table joins on top of Spark. Of course, that's still not really "table joins across NoSQL DBs", except in a pretty vague sense.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: A couple of things.

There is nothing new here, just Old Skool 2.0.

Ever the cry of those who can't be bothered to learn about what they're commenting on.

Yes, there have been non-relational databases for a long time - since before relational databases, of course. There are hierarchical databases and network databases and object databases. There are even key-value databases that long predate the "NoSQL" moniker, such as Model 204 (which I incorrectly called "Model 200" in another post; memory isn't what I remember it being).

That doesn't mean that nothing has changed with non-relational databases since the 1980s. Much of what's in NoSQL DBMSes - particularly the high-level concepts - may be reinvention, but there has also been considerable innovation.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Interesting, but

I've also never encountered a situation where "eventual consistency" was deemed acceptable

Never?

"Have you seen the Reg comment from BigAndos?"

"No, and it's not showing up for me."

"Check again."

"OK, there it is."

There are any number of real-world situations where eventually-consistent is acceptable.

There are even some in business situations where, at first glance, always-consistent would be necessary. Consider an online retailer like Amazon, and their inventory system. You could make many inventory updates eventually-consistent. Sometimes someone goes to buy something and is told it's out of stock; well, you've lost or postponed a sale, but that's not the end of the world. Sometimes someone buys something that in fact you've already sold to someone else: you email them a "Sorry!" note and refund their payment (or don't deduct it in the first place until the item's ready for shipping). The vast majority of consumers will tolerate that sort of thing, as long as it doesn't happen too often and the rest of the shopping experience is convenient.

Consider an example I mentioned in another post, where you're gathering telemetry data from many sources for later analysis. This can be very much eventually-consistent - you're not planning to look at the data at all until well after the consistency window closes.

Or say your'e the NSA, scraping text from online conversations and emails and whatnot...

That certainly doesn't mean that anything can be eventually-consistent; most of the things we have traditionally wanted to be always-consistent should stay always-consistent (and use a DBMS that provides that), or you just push nasty problems into the application. But there certainly are many situations where eventually-consistent or even inconsistent data works just fine.

That includes a lot of "big data" applications, where the value is in the aggregate data, not so much individual pieces, and you expect it to have a significant noise rate anyway.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Pick any two: fast, reliable or quick

I think you mean "NoSQL is there for inflexible data where joins will never be required". The reality is that for any reasonablly mature application, then they will be required.

This simply is not true, unless you have a very special meaning of "reasonablly [sic] mature application". There are many, many applications which are not dealing with data that needs to be always consistent or reliable. Logging telemetry information from lots of sources (whether those are simple sensors or something much more complicated), for example, can often tolerate quite a lot of data loss and errant points.

And there are many, many "mature" business applications which use non-relational databases that don't support joins. There are a huge number of hierarchical IMS databases still in use, for example. And we still see occasional queries from people running more-obscure old databases, such as Model 200 (basically a very early key-value database plus a bunch of other stuff).

In short, you don't seem to know what you're talking about, either. But at least Charlie posted under his own name, rather than as AC.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Lesbos Transactions? No....

Paxos is more like 4-phase commit with collision detection and retry. I suppose you could consider classic 2PC a reduced version of Paxos, though it discards most of the interesting features of Paxos. (With classic 2PC, the only allowable quorum is the entire set of participants and there's no provision for collision or retry.) And that's just "basic" Paxos - there's multi-Paxos (protocol is repeated on a regular basis to maintain agreement), Byzantine Paxos (some nodes may defect), etc.

But yes, Paxos is definitely not lightweight. I don't think anyone uses Paxos as originally described by Lamport in practice; various optimizations are always employed. If memory serves there's a good Google paper on applied Paxos - might be the whitepaper on Chubby.

(And there's no reason to write it in block caps - it's the name of an island (or of the fictional legislature of an island), not an acronym.)

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Seems obvious.

The right tool for the right job.

Exactly. Relational DBMSes are the right tool for many jobs. Why would it be surprising that they aren't ideal for every job?

And conversely key-value and other NoSQL1 DBMSes are useful for some jobs, where data needn't be always-consistent and in fact data integrity is not so terribly important.

The problem is cheerleaders for either side2 who think their preferred paradigm is the correct answer to any question. That doesn't include the curmudgeonly types who are taking the occasion to do useful new work in database design, like Michael Stonebreaker.

1This is usually where someone insists on pointing out that "NoSQL" has been backformed into "Not only SQL", and some NoSQL DBMSes also support relational databases with SQL. Utterly irrelevant to the discussion, but thanks anyway.

2I'm sure someone here has already provided the link to "MongoDB is Web Scale", so I'm not even going to bother looking it up.

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Prof Hawking cracks riddle of black holes – which may be portals to other universes

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Cite

Hipster science?

"I was into black holes before they were shown to have a thermal Planck spectrum!"

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Ex-Prez Bush, Cheney sued for email, phone spying during Olympics

Michael Wojcik
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Re: No Chance (You're Right!)

the Olympics require this level of security as the event attracts the worst kind of terrorists

Namely, the imaginary kind, who are the worst because they can be used to justify any idiocy, in perpetuity.

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Yet another Android app security bug: This time 'everything is affected'

Michael Wojcik
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Re: flaw vs. floor

since “scourge” is already used with mosquitoes

You do know this whole collective-noun nonsense is just a Victorian parlor game, right? There's no law that prevents reusing one of these middlebrow witticisms.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: But where's the attack vector?

thumbs down for 'cyber' as a collective noun

Yes. Could we please, please, please stop abusing the "cyber" prefix? It meant something when Wiener coined the term "cybernetics". Now the idiots have largely ruined it, but that's no justification for participating in this particular barbarism.

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Activist pens pirate's map to 'liberating' academic journals

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Time for universities to say enough is enough

journals make high profit margins

Some - prominent journals published by commercial publishers in certain fields - do. The vast majority do not.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Time for universities to say enough is enough

Isn’t the actual printing of journals a relatively cheap thing to do nowadays?

God, no - at least if you're talking about print journals, and in many disciplines it's hard to get the same readership for online journals. That's gradually changing, but among a lot of audiences e-pub still just doesn't carry the same weight.

Printing text itself might not be so expensive - but images are more, and color images much more. Decent-quality paper has become quite expensive. Shipping and postage is very expensive.

In the humanities, the actual printing and distribution is the vast majority of the cost of a typical print journal. Nothing else even comes close.

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Michael Wojcik
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That reminds me, I really should get in touch and complain. It really pisses me off that possibly something I wrote might have been in the haul that drove Aaron Schwartz [sic] to suicide.

JSTOR was not responsible for Swartz's suicide. That responsibility falls on Swartz himself and the frankly vile behavior of Ortiz and the rest of the prosecution. The larger problem, of course, is the systemic, structural nastiness in the US justice system, which incentivizes excessive prosecution and grossly excessive punishment.

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Michael Wojcik
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I also think that people get pissed off that you have to pay for something that may well of been funded via taxes.

In the US, even most "public" universities receive little in the way of public moneys. And while some disciplines do get a fair amount in government research grants, they're by no means the sole source of funding. And research that's funded with public money often does have to be made available to the public. And at state universities, many materials are available to residents of that state.

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Michael Wojcik
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Re: Surely, restricting the publication and distribution of an academic work hurts the author

when you submit to a journal, you effectively hand over copyright control to the journal

Depends on the journal.

paid editors and reviewers at universities will be getting (a fairly small sum of) money

In many disciplines, editors and reviewers are not paid. The EIC of a journal may get some quid pro quo compensation, such as a course release or larger office (woo!). In the humanities paying reviewers is essentially unheard of, at least in the US. And in many institutions, editorial duties don't even count for P&T (promotion and tenure), or if they do only apply to the service category, which in research universities is typically weighted low.

Most journals are run out of universities, and they're effectively contracted out to publishers like Elsevier and SAGE

Perhaps most are contracted out - I haven't seen reliable figures - but many are published by university presses or by academic organizations.

the poor author gets next to nothing

"next to nothing"? I don't think I've ever seen anyone get paid for a refereed article. In the sciences, it's not uncommon for an author to have to pay publication fees (generally out of research funding).

most departments are of the opinion that you need to 'publish or die'

Generally true of tenure-track faculty at research universities. Not all faculty are tenure-track (not by a long shot), not all universities are research institutions, and even then there are exceptions.

This is contributing to the death of actual thought, as academics publish derivative works that present nothing new, in a format designed to please a narrow selection of peer reviewers, with results that can often be interpreted to mean something when in fact they lack any real significance.

Hyperbolic rubbish. While there's certainly a lot of crap published under the peer-review system, there's also a tremendous amount of novel, useful work - far more than at any other time in human history. Anyone with even a glancing familiarity with, say, the history of ideas would recognize "the death of actual thought" as a claim so mind-bogglingly unsupportable it throws the rest of what you've written into serious doubt.

Open access is a way out of this - but the costs of the peer review process are placed on the author and the institution

It's not the cost of peer review, it's the cost of publication. I've been party to debates over open access with a few journals, prominent and obscure, which do not pay reviewers and have modest editorial costs. For those journals, the vast majority of the budget goes to publication. Nearly all of that is print publication, and it is cheaper to do online-only; but even then it's very difficult to survive without subscription fees.

their own postgrads and postdocs (who produce about 70% of the research at any given institution)

Again, depends on the discipline, and on the institution.

It's amazing how many people think their experience of academia is universal.

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Samsung goes to US Supreme Court to wriggle out of paying Apple millions of dollars

Michael Wojcik
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Re: Delaying strategy

The strategy for Samsung is obvious: delay payment as much as legally possible. Once the money is in Apple's pocket, they'll have another legal fight at hand to get any of it back, even if Apple's patent is invalidated.

Yes, and inflation reduces the value of the award. Not by a lot, but hey, every little bit helps. (I'm assuming the terms of the award don't account for that - that there's no interest attached while Samsung are pursuing legal review. Of course I may be wrong.)

Samsung may also be betting that exchange rates will be better when they finally do pay, too.

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Bruce Schneier: 'We're in early years of a cyber arms race'

Michael Wojcik
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Re: It's funny...

That's just what he wants you to think he looks like.

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