1998 posts • joined Wednesday 10th June 2009 11:28 GMT
I firmly believe that NSA will (if they haven't already) crack quantum computing long before the private sector. When they do, they won't tell anyone.
I'm quite sure that they haven't already.
You may be right as of some near future, but the consequences of that will be greater and faster and stranger than you imagine. "The Laundry" plays this idea for (very uneasy) laughs, but I expect laughs would be the last thing on our minds. The result would be more like Skynet going active crossed with the Stargate sequence from 2001.
I don't expect the singularity to arrive this way, because I don't believe nature will support quantum computing work for numbers of qubits sufficient to break strong cryptography ... but I don't have any particular hotline to the future and may be proved wrong. In which case, may the Eschaton be merciful. Cracking cryptograms for our amusement will be the last thing on its mind.
Could be worse
The dead maniac might have made a very dangerous convert.
Or it could have been reality imitating fiction. In "Iron Sunrise" Charles Stross imagined a place where they studied Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot an examples of leaders who were excessively lenient.
Re: Somewhat ironic....
Not ironic at all. A simple case of "that's OUR job not YOUR job", or just "YOU do what WE say".
I'd be far less concerned about Google if I could be assured that governments could never get their hands on Google's data. Because there are no rules at all as to what a government can do. It's the government that MAKES the rules (and usually exempts itself from them).
Re: but do they still burn
Titanium. With a big enough magnifying glass, probably rather better than you expected. Rather an oops, requiring immediate retreat, and I hope you are outdoors. Sand won't put it out, and adding water would be like throwing petrol at an ordinary fire. Think Aluminium (thermite) on steroids.
Re: There's no way an app can be written to run on any Windows device
Which is why the UI on an iMac is not the same as the UI on an iPad and neither is the same as the UI on an iPhone. THREE classes of device, three different UIs. Not one size fits all, nor two sizes fit all. If Apple is smart, there's considerable amounts of common code underlying them, but the user doesn't care one way or the other. He just cares about having the right UI for the device and work to hand.
The mark for how badly MS has fscked up, is that I'm starting to sound like an Apple fanboi!
Apologies seem to be completely out of fashion. Especially prompt and sincere ones.
I would have hoped that the guidelines would suggest there's a major difference between someone who apologises once it becomes clear he's caused offense, or who retracts something that's both hurtful and inaccurate, and someone who refuses to and instead reiterates or reinforces his original post.
Re: The article is about PC makers problems, not MS's internal problems
How does anyone how many desktops and laptops thre are out there running Linux? It's not as if you have to buy Linux from anyone. I burn a distro DVD for anyone who asks. Most of the hardware that is running Linux, has got a paid-for Microsoft license key glued to it, so it's being counted as a Windows sale by someone. Some started being used with Windows, and were then re-purposed. Some dual-boot. Some run a Linux VM in Windows (good way to start a personal migration) and some run a Windows VM in Linux (which can be faster than running Windows natively on the same hardware!) Some were nuked to Linux out of the box, and the Windows sticker represents a tax levied by a monopoly which you cannot avoid short of building your own PC from components. (Technically-minded Linux users do self-build far more often than Windows users, because they avoid paying the Windows tax that way, but it's not an option with a laptop).
I've seen more Linux laptops in our students' hands this year than I can remember in previous years. That's nothing compared to the increase in the number of Macbooks, though. Tablets of any sort less so - in a university, you tend to need a keyboard. Wouldn't be surprised if the better-off students also have a tablet back home. Just like me. And unlike me, they all seem to be toting smartphones, mostly Android or iPhones.
Forever is a long time
There's a huge difference between 25 years and forever, or even just 250 years. I'm sure back in Faraday's time, the majority view was that electricity would never be of much use to anyone ... and of course, the famous quote that there might be a world market for a dozen or so computers.
A billion years of forever gave us self-replicators that didn't even need printers. (Or sex, for that matter ... sex was new in Life 2.0, or maybe 3.0 or 3.1)
I thought it was the Kiwis that had the giant insects, and the Aussies that had the small but deadly ones?
Toshiba may also gain a lot of reliability by using SLC. The other manufacturers are presumably confident that they can detect failing blocks in MLC and retire them without any detriment to the end-user, but SLC is intrinsically thousands of times more reliable as well as faster. And 1000x more write cycles means the firmware can be more aggressive (or responsive) about replacing blocks in the flash cache.
BTW it's possible that thinner actually confers some sort of advantage to the electromechanical parts n a single-platter drive. Perhaps head aerodynamics? Or that the shorter spindle down the middle is more rigid? Or maybe it's just that it'll find a home in new ultra-thin designs where the fatter drives can't venture.
AMD - Intel dynamics
I really wish I could be privy to Intel's boardroom's view of AMD.
My theory is that Intel regards AMD as an asset because Intel fears becoming a monopoly. That would mean (a) government interference and regulation, and (b) nothing to stop it increasing margins by decreasing R&D ... short-term gain ... until it missed something radical from a company that was completely off its radar. At that point it would be unable to respond fast enough, because its R&D would by then be a shadow of its former glory.
So AMD gets to play with exotic CPUs, while Intel gets to say it's not a monopoly because folks can buy from AMD instead. Some do, as proof thereof. Most don't. Intel has an intrinsic advantage from its process technology and scale. It does boring mainstream stuff extremely well. It can follow wherever AMD shows there is a serious new direction to move in (like x86-64, for example). As long as it keeps its process technology advantage, its designs only have to be 2/3 as effective to benchmark as equals, and it can improve on 2/3 x 3/2 on its next design iteration. In short, AMD keeps Intel on its technological toes without making a serious dent in its profits. Intel for its part keeps AMD in financial distress, but not terminally so. It could kill AMD with a price war, but doesn't want to.
Intel could probably also put AMD out of business through the courts for patent violations, but doesn't want to. Intel probably believes that it can get away with copying anything AMD has patented, because in a nuclear war between patent lawyers, the company with the deepest pockets will win even when it loses.
Well, that's my theory. Thoughts?
Re: My solution - elephant in the room is Windows.
The masses are not buying Mac.
their old PC running XP or 7 breaks down and they go down to a box-shifter on the high street and walk away with a new PC. They may see "Windows 8" as a mild positive if they are clueless. They get it home. They hate it. Their money is gone, so they are stuck with it.
When they have enough money to be able to buy again, what are they going to buy? "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on ME".
Re: It's not that hard to see the problem
No, the OS is NOT irrelevant.
It's true that the PC market is a replacement market, and that people are now only buying new PCs because their last PC has broken down.
But this particular PC user does NOT want Windows 8. To me, its value is NEGATIVE, in other words I will pay more in order NOT to have to struggle with its numerous deficiencies. If I didn't have access to corporate downgrade rights (ie Windows 7) I would buy something from Apple. Or something running Android. Or install Linux onto a PC that came with Windows 8, if that remains possible and if I cannot find any alternative.
Microsoft is blind to this, and every day that goes by without Windows 7 or Windows 9-like-7 returning to Joe Public's marketplace is another day that Apple (in particular) eats further into Microsoft's home-user market. Folks DON'T NEED a new PC immediately, and they DON'T WANT one running Windows 8. Two different facts.
Re: Theory v Practice
I'll have a go. (If your question is WHY is quantum reality like (or somewhat like) this, no-one has the faintest idea. It's like asking why gravity exists. At present, just assume that $DEITY thought it was a good idea).
A quantum bit is in both states 0 and 1 at once, with a probability of 50% that when it is observed, it will be a 1 or a 0.
Entangled bits are in a state where their properties are mathematically correlated, so for example two qubits represent 0,1,2 and 3 at the same time. Call an ensemble of entangled quantum bits a quantum register. Start so that its N bits represent all humbers in the range 0 to (2^N)-1, with equal probability of 1/(2^N), at once.
Now perform arithmetic operations on your N-bit quantum register. For example if you add a quantum register to itself and then observe it, you are guaranteed an even number. The self-addition operator causes bit 0 to assume a zero probability of it being a one. So far, somewhat trivial.
It gets really interesting if they can make a quantum register with a large number of bits, and perform operations on it such that the probability of it representing any number that is not a factor of a specified much larger number is zero. If the specified number is the product of two large prime numbers, when you observe the quantum register you will obtain one factor or the other. The probability of any other number (pattern of observed bits) is zero. Suddenly not nearly so trivial!
You obtain your other factor, and also check that the quantum entanglement had not failed during your quantum computation, by conventional long division on a conventional computer. Entanglement failure during a quantum computation is akin to a hardware failure in a conventional CPU except far more likely and (on the positive side) not irreversible. For the factorisation application (i.e. cracking N-bit PK cryptography) even an unreliable quantum computer is useful, just as long as it occasionally spits out a right answer with a much higher probability than 1/(2^N) (i.e. guesswork).
Last time I read up on it, they'd managed a four-bit quantum computer and were able to factorize 15 (in other words, when observed after mathematical operators applied, their 4-bit register almost always said 3 or 5, rarely anything else). Of course that's trivial, but a 2048-bit quantum computer would be anything but. I don't know what's the latest N qubits? 30-plus would start getting practically very useful, and probably very secret.
My money is on quantum computing breaking down somewhere between four bits and 2048 bits, and that this will prove to be a gateway to some new physics. (Hopefully not of the Laundry variety, involving a takeover of our universe by beings best not even thought about). Philosophically, I'm not prepared to take on board the implications of a working Megabit quantum computer (or Giga - Tera - Zetta- ...!)
BTW if you are doing research in this field and make a sudden breakthrough of huge magnitude, your only chance of staying alive and at liberty is to spam the details to as much of the world as you can as fast as possible. There are also some mathematical theorems (unproven but believed true by almost all mathematicians), for which a disproof would have similarly vast real-world implications.
It's called chaos, or sensitivity to initial conditions. And also, you are comparing chalk to cheese. The black hole model is attempting to model possible behaviour of gas (plasma, surely!) in that environment, and to deduce some average properties such as its temperature. Weather forecasting is an attempt to predict exactly what state the atmoshere will be in tomorrow or next week, given observations of what state it's in today. A black hole type model simply tells you that it's possible that somewhere on the planet you will find a square mile where the air temperature is 40C and the humidity is high. And that nowhere will you find such a square mile where the temperature is 80C.
The weather forecast model is chaotic, or sensitive. You can't measure the atmosphere's current state with complete accuracy. The measurement errors grow with simulated time, to a greater or lesser extent, until the model is wholly erroneous when compared to the later reality. (It still represents possible weather, just not the correct realisation thereof). On the bright side, your forecast for a week out is useful maybe two times in three, and that for two weeks out is a waste of computer time. In the worst case, the not-quite-hurricane that is going to devastate northern France in six hours' time does a sudden right-angled turn and devastates Southern England instead. (Michael Fish, you are forgiven).
Re: Yeah, its about protecting your stolen phone - seriously?
No, that can't be it. If they believe that a phone is going to be used as a trigger for a bomb, all they have to do is ask (or require) the phone company to disconnect that phone number (or better, for evidence-gathering, to divert the phone number to their evidence-gatering facility). If they can't do this today, it's a relatively uncontroversial bit of legislation to fix it so they can.
On the other hand I can see why they might want to permanently kill every phone within 100m of a demonstration at which police brutality was happening. Other things like that. And of course, it's completely impossible that some hostile foreign government might get its hand on the kill switch for every mobile phone in the USA. Isn't it?
Re: Quality of life
Really FIX them? Or just work out how to steer the lusers around the rocks?
I don't know the details of what exactly the supremes did allow them to patent. As I said, if it's the novel lab or field techniques that allow testing for the BRCA1 gene, that may be fair enough. But if it's the complementary DNA sequence itself, that's really no different to patenting the BRCA1 gene (which the supremes disallowed).
An analogy might be a court saying that you aren't allowed a patent on the 23rd page of "Wuthering Heights", but letting you obtain a patent on the same with all occurences of the words "The" and "A" deleted. Complementary DNA is the original DNA with sequences known as introns deleted.
If they've managed to keep a patent a single string of complementary DNA, then they've pulled a blinder on the supremes. I don't even work in life sciences, but I know that's a re-coding of the original DNA with some bits deleted. So it surely ought to be as un-patentable as the original human gene.
If they're the company that first worked out HOW to do this in a lab, perhaps they deserve a patent for the laboratory technique (though in principle, they're just using the same mechanisms that nature evolved).
ZFS is coming to Linux
ZFS is coming to linux - it escaped Oracle's control.
As usual for open source there's healthy competition between the ZFS port and that new kid on the block called btrfs. And as usual with filesystems, especially complex ones, it'll be a few years yet before either is ready for serious production work.
Re: Why the hell would they do that?
There are a lot of other problems that have to be solved to build a close-to-lightspeed starship, including an improbably large initial mass to payload ratio. Realistically, they'd need a MUCH longer lifespan, high radiation tolerance, and be happy to journey at 0.001c, so they're unlikely to be showing up for quite a few centuries yet.
But yes - the flaw in the strong anthropic principle is that the universe is NOT perfectly tuned for human beings, but rather for creatures that measure their lifespans in milennia. If such can exist ... otherwise it's not well-tuned for starfaring civilisations at all. We do have trees that have lived a few milennia, and funghi that have lived maybe twenty times longer ... and if the funghi were/are conscious, could we ever know it?
Then there's the possibilities for our Silicon AI children to clock slower than their parents rather than faster. At which point the Fermi paradox again kicks in. Where are the alien AIs?
Depends what you are simulating
It depends now much you need to experience the neural input of real life physics (kinetics, mostly). For piloting a large ship, a simulator is virtually the same as reality. For an airliner it's close, although there are situations close to disaster where kinetic forces can be felt and reacted to. For a fighter aircraft or racing car, it's far less close. And so on.
Re: re. "... electrons and positrons forced to interact.."
Created as positron / electron pairs by gamma radiation or high-energy electrons. Rest mass of an electron is 0.511eV, so anything much above 1MeV can do it. Electric potential of a thunderstorm is 100s of MV.
Re: Win 8.1 - It's not a shot in the arm
I was thinking knee. Or maybe groin. Head, if they EOL Windows 7.
"Can I buy one with Windows 7"
"Do you sell anything with Windows 7"?
"Oh" (looks disappointed, wanders off to look at the TVs or kitchen appliances).
For every technology, the market eventually becomes mature and saturated, and the result is that volume of sales decreases to the replacement level because New and Old are approximately equal if Old still works at all. Witness kitchen appliances. Automobiles. Audio systems.
PCs have reached this point. Previously they became obsolete in three years, now they become worn out in 6-9 years, so a 2-3 fold shrinkage in volume is completely predictable (and tough for manufacturers). In contrast tablets haven't yet saturated their market, neither are they a mature technology. Most folks have worked out that PCs and tablets aren't competing products, any more than a car and a bicycle are competing products. PCs are for creating content. Tablets are for consuming content. Many of us have both.
Re: +1 avoiding an upgrade
You have to make an image backup of the HDD to another HDD before you do a Windows swap, because Windows is perfectly capable of borking the disk into complete unrepairability if you try to boot it in a new hardware environment. Microsoft doubtless considers this a desirable feature, not a bug.
In contrast, I've yanked a linux disk out of an AMD multi-core system and booted it on an utterly different Intel single-core system with no trouble. I also had the assurance that linux / and /home are separate partitions, so / was expendable and /home wouldn't be mounted after commenting out its line in fstab.
Re: Classic Coke
Can't speak for Macgyver, but I have the same problem. The same hardware works perfectly fine when loaded with Windows 7. Install Windows 8, and it's fubar on the networking front. Repeat-tested on two instances of the same hardware.
Re: >"a few more minutes"
"The bad news is that it's dropped into the earth's core and is now irreversibly eating our planet. The good news is that it'll take the next three billion years, give or take a few million."
I fear no-one woud care much even if it were just three thousand years.
Re: basic science
What did (Prof. Sir. ) Neville Mott get out of studying the field effect in the 1930s? At the time it was just theoretical physics. It wasn't even the first sort of transistor we made ....
Curiosity has survival value, or at least always has done until now. If it hadn't, we'd have evolved out of it. (And I'm not even sure we're the most curious species. If there were a way to normalize curiosity by intellectual capacity, I'm sure cats would beat us).
Re: If you want to bash Positrons & Electrons...
Doesn't work. The trouble is that charged particles emit electromagnetic radiation when you change the direction they are moving. The higher the energy of the particles and the tighter the bend, the more they do it. You reach a limit where it's not feasible to pump in energy any faster than the particles are shedding it, and the only way around that is a bigger ring (or ideally a straight line for zero losses, which is where this discussion started).
By the way, the control codes at CERN really DO have to include a calculation of the phase of the moon. The earth suffers elastic tidal distortion, enough to change the alignment of the LHC to a significant extent.
The difference is that they're relatively small and rigid structures that can survive the gradual distortion of the ground they are built on bt anything less than a truly huge earthquake. Whereas a LINAC 10km long that has to be dead straight might end up bent out of alignment, which would ruin it.
A picture from California is worth a thousand words
Why not? It's no different to the everyday usage of "nuke it"!
Doesn't everyone know about natural cosmic rays up to10^19 eV, and the number of them that have interacted with the sun in the last 4 billion years? (Hint: the sun is BIG). If really high energy particles had any untoward effects on large collections of matter, we wouldn't be here to talk about it. (Or the fun alternative, maybe they once DID have dramatic effects on the pre-universe, and that's WHY we're here talking about it! )
Re: meanwhile in the texas desert
That's a bit like upgrading from a Bentley to a Bugatti, when you know that what you really need is a supersonic jet. Not a big enough advance to be worth paying that much for. The LHC is the biggest ring we'll build in any forseeable future.
Linear accelerators are the most obvious way we might get a really big advance. In outline ... an electric field of a million volts per meter, over ten kilometers, is 10GV. Subject a proton to that and because it's ~2000 times more massy than an electron, that's ~20TeV. Now work on higher field strengths ... none of this is impossible, it's just unknown territory in engineering terms.
For a rather further-fetched idea, look up PASER (and consider where we are today, starting from some theoretical 1930s papers on the field effect ... with a big detour via germanium junction transistors).
Re: Time to pack up and leave
those places will probably not give you the kind of lifestyle you are used to.
Switzerland looks good for a decade or two longer, if you can hack the exchange rate. Unfortunately, it's surrounded.
I find the omnipresent surveillance nightmare more troubling than any other SFnal visions of the near future. Soon enough, we will be living in a world where everything is networked, and everything has eyes and ears and a CPU, and no-one will be willing or even able to break the rules. I can't see a way past that trap. And then we'll be no more able to react to changing circumstances than insects, and the subsequent fall will be deeper than any previous fall in history. Especially if by the time it happens, there is no longer any place outside "the empire" to flee to or to be invaded by.
When the Roman Empire fell, the people left in England lost the technology of throwing pots on a potter's wheel. This, even without nukes and surveillance.
In most contexts the two are close enough to be treated as ~equal. In software documentation concerning (mostly) disk partition tables and related entities, they take care to get it right. Often, command lines use abbrteviations m for 10^6 and M for 2^20, rather than M for decimal and Mi for binary, but the documentation spells it out.
Scientists will also disagree, because M G T etc. are SI prefixes defined as powers of ten. The correct prefixes for 2^10 2^20 ... are indeed ki, Mi, Gi, Ti, ...
A 4k7 resistor was 4700 Ohms, and a "megohm" resistor 1,000,000 Ohms, before the word "byte" had been coined.
A very necessary skill on a starship crew ....
Re: likely to cost an attorney his law license
By the time this is over I expect they'll be looking for a career at the bar in front of them. But they'll have trouble buying a drink there, let alone landing a job.
@Lee D Re: Only a matter of time.
Wish I could upvote that a hundred times over. Why, why, WHY do people see any advantage in a wireless "key" rather than a contact "key"? Same as paying more for notebooks lacking a wired network socket, I guess.
Driving a junker works well. Someone recently radio-unlocked my 12-year-old car - presumably the tech to break 12-year-old radio security is now available for less than the cost of a new key? Anyway, they couldn't find anything much worth stealing, neither car nor contents.
Re: Superabundant sulpher
Actually a major source of unwanted sulfur is the refining of crude oil and the purification of natural gas.
On the other hand, if the oil and gas industry didn't land us with heaps of sulfur to get rid of, gypsum (a common mineral) is Calcium Sulphate.
Re: Lucas Electric Vehicles,1980s called, your sodium-sulphur battery experience is needed
Are you confusing hydrogen sulphide? (which is about as toxic as hydrogen cyanide, except that you're more likely to notice the rotten-eggs smell in time to make a hasty escape).
Sulfur Dioxide isn't in that league, and there are many things much more toxic than cyanide.
Renewable energy storage
If the raw materials are plentiful and cheap, you don't need a large energy density. Imagine that you could make a battery out of (say) Silicon dioxide and Calcium carbonate. You'd just pile up enough of it to solve the problem. It's only if the battery has to move its own mass around, as in a 'leccy car, that energy density becomes critical.
Sulfur is cheap and plentiful, Lithium rather less so.
Re: But note it's only 2x better than Li ion. So...
The general problem with a battery is that it involves surface chemistry, but you need a lot of extra bulk material to give the surfaces some mechanical integrity. This is why having a reliable solid-electrolyte chemistry would be a big step forward. If the electrolyte is solid wlll add to the mechanical integrity of the whole.
For NiMH cells (whch I read up about), they are constructed much like a toilet roll. A long thin roll of charge-storage sandwich. You get a higher storage capacity by making the sandwich thinner, but thinner means greater charge leakage, and a law of diminishing returns sets in rapidly for an AA cell packing more than 2700mAh.
Re: Lucas Electric Vehicles,1980s called, your sodium-sulphur battery experience is needed
And you don't want to be in downwind proximity to a large pile of burning Sulfur. Not the most toxic of materials, but most definitely unpleasant ( S + air -> SO2 + water -> H2SO3 + more air -> H2SO4).
I read about a proposal to use sodium-sulfur batteries in electric cars in (I think) the 1980s, and I thought it was one of the craziest ideas I'd ever read. I thought, like putting a shock-sensitive detonator in a petrol tank. (Now they're talking about CNG ... at least a CNG cylinder can't not be tough).
According to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel%E2%80%93iron_battery
Due to its low specific energy, poor charge retention, and high cost of manufacture, other types of rechargeable batteries have displaced the nickel–iron battery in most applications
Lots more interesting stuff. No mention of Exide. The batteries are out there and in use, in places where the weight of the battery is less important than its reliability or ruggedness. They're under review for renewable energy storage. For automotive use, weight is important, as is energy retention (cars are left unused for weeks, occasionally months) and for a fuel-driven car the battery is dead weight except for the few seconds when you are starting the engine. Doesn't sound like a competitor for lead-acid to me.
Re: Where are the attacks...?
Just as long as it's not SO smart that one can't simply "forget" to connect it to the internet.
Of course, that's kind of begging the question of how much longer broadcast TV will exist. I suspect Digital TV may go the way of analogue TV within a couple of decades. Internet TV or no TV thereafter.
It's like bio-warfare. The Chinese(*) wrote it, but it escaped, and is now propagating itself beyond their ability to "recall" it. Scary.
(*) or anyone else, possibly including some near-autistic kid living in a council flat near you.
- Apple's spamtastic iBeacon retail alerts launch with Frisco FAIL
- Submerged Navy submarine successfully launches drone from missile tubes
- Cache in the Attic El Reg's contraptions confessional no.2: Tablet PC, CRT screen and more
- Pix Astroboffins spot HOT, YOUNG GIANT where she doesn't belong
- Developer unleashes bowel-shaking KILLER APP for Google Glass