* Posts by Filippo

712 posts • joined 24 Nov 2007

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Sick of Java and C++? Google pours a cup o' Kotlin for Android devs

Filippo
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Re: static vs dynamic typing

Finding a name that could actually be pronounced, instead of "ECMAScript", would have helped a lot.

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Sorry, Dave, I can't code that: AI's prejudice problem

Filippo
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Re: Transparency...

"To derive a description of my credit rating from all the data about me, the program/filter/macro/neural net/AI must have followed a finite number of steps of sequence, selection and iteration."

Yes, and you can log them. However, there is only a single step. That step is a function call that takes as parameters your profile data - plus several thousand numbers that represent the network's weights. Those are the problem. The function's body is relatively simple; it just does some fairly trivial math on all of those parameters, producing a new set of numbers (which may be larger or smaller than the one you started with). This math is done in a single chunk; no divide and conquer here. This is iterated a small number of times; the final output is your credit rating.

The function does not encode the "reasoning" that brought the decision. That "reasoning" is encoded in the network weights, the thousands of parameters. Unfortunately, those parameters are nameless and have no semantics attached, because no human set them; they were set by the network itself during training. That would already be enough to make the process inscrutable.

But it gets worse. Not only you don't know what each of those parameters mean - they don't even *have* an individual meaning. There isn't one or a few weights that encode "prejudice against black men"; there isn't one parameter that is the weight given to your age. Rather, that information is encoded as relationships between weights. You don't know which ones, or which relationship. Which means that if you try to change one of them and run the function again in an attempt to see what your change did, you will find that the output is different for *all* possible inputs, because by changing a single parameter you have changed the relationship it had with *all* of the others.

Basically, yes, you can log everything the network does, and you can track the calculation, but this gives you absolutely no information on *why* it does it.

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'No deal better than bad deal' approach to Brexit 'unsubstantiated'

Filippo
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Re: AC

"A "no deal" situation based on WTO terms might be bad for the UK, but it will also be bad for those in the EU we trade with. It's a situation no sane person wants, unfortunately there are some within the EU who will push their political agenda over what's best for the economy of the EU."

Right. So if the EU offers the basic "four pillars" deal like it does to everyone else, and May refuses because her voters don't want Polish plumbers, picking WTO terms instead, that's perfectly rational, and absolutely not a political agenda.

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Boeing details 'Deep Space Gateway' for Mars mission staging

Filippo
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It's good that people are at least talking seriously about staging. IMHO, until we get serious about staging, going anywhere will remain too costly and difficult to be done usefully.

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Trump sets sights on net neutrality

Filippo
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Re: I'd equate Trump to Hitler but...

Won't work. If you somehow destroyed both major parties, they would be replaced by something absolutely identical at the first election. Maybe at the second election, but not later than that. There are reasons the winning parties are what they are; they are neither insane nor aliens. Nothing will change much until those reasons are somehow addressed.

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Astroboffins stunned by biggest brown dwarf ever seen – just a hop and a skip away (750 ly)

Filippo
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Re: It's quite a small object

You're not just missing the point. You're missing the point's entire existence. Nobody is inventing new particles, or anything else; dark matter is not a particle. Or maybe it is, we don't know, and that's the actual point. Conceptually, "dark matter" is a question, not an answer. It's short for "the galaxies are slower than the theory predicts, but we haven't figured out how to change the theory to fit that yet... all we know is that the problem behaves a bit like oddly-shaped mass, except we can't see any."

The idea of dark matter as an *answer* comes from sci-fi, junk science, and the occasional anti-science troll who thinks that by misrepresting the scientific method hard enough, maybe he can justify his existance.

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King Battistelli's swish penthouse office the Euro Patent Office doesn't want you to see

Filippo
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Interesting to see that most comments to this article have a single downvote. Makes you wonder if Battistelli reads The Register.

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Large Hadron Collider turns up five new particles

Filippo
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Re: Er, "new" particle?

Ah, but the two cars running bumper-to-bumper _are_ bonded, in a way, aren't they? The one in the back will constantly try to match speed with the one in the front. So they don't touch, okay, but they do stick together. That's a kind of bond, and it makes the two cars behave as a single object in some aspects. And you can call that a particle if you want. After all, the bits inside things we agree are particles don't really touch either.

(car crash comments in 3, 2, 1...)

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Europe will fine Twitter, Facebook, Google etc unless they rip up T&Cs

Filippo
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Re: Long overdue

"Their only option is to become not free, to require paid subscription. If there is a financial arrangement with users, then there is a strong link to the user's identity too. Users wanting to post dodgy material are going to think twice about it, or wind up in jail.

That'll put a dent in their business model."

Well, yes. Too bad? If it turns out that there is no way to run Facebook without causing massive widespread infractions of the law, then Facebook dies. There are a gazillion business models that would be very profitable if not for those pesky environmental or safety laws, what are we going to do about that?

The government has the duty to force business models to include externalities. If at that point they die, it means they weren't sustainable business models to begin with. They can even run successfully for decades and be very liked by users before anyone notices, but that doesn't change anything.

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House of Lords: Drone vehicles are more than just robo-cars, mmkay

Filippo
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Re: Oxymoron alert.

Sort of. In this context, I take "autonomous" to mean "unsupervised", i.e. connected, but not to a human.

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Apple empties gas can, strikes match, burns bridge to hot-patch apps

Filippo
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Re: Yeah

Rolling out flawless code is not technically impossible, but there are strong diminishing returns. In the time it takes to create a flawless application, your competitors will have released a crashing piece of crap software, that people have bought en masse, because your application was not released yet and even crap software is better than no software.

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Engineer who blew lid on Uber's toxic sexist culture now menaced by creepy 'smear campaign'

Filippo
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Re: Technically the smear campaign has not begun

Sort of. As a business, you can protect yourself against your ISP failing by getting insurance and/or a second ISP.

Protecting yourself against a major bank failing is a whole lot harder. You can get insurance and/or arrange loans from a second bank... and then, when the sith hits the fan, find out that both the insurance company and the second bank were major creditors of the first bank, and its failure will take them down, and *that* will take *you* down. Or maybe you managed to avoid this trap, but half of your customers didn't, and won't pay their debts towards you, and then *that* will take you down. Or maybe your suppliers fell for it, and won't be able to supply you any more, and *that* will take you down. You get the picture.

That situation can and does become exacerbated to the point where it's obvious that if the bank fails it will take down a disproportionate chunk of your entire national economy with it, most of it people who did nothing wrong, nothing that could reasonably be considered to be risky, and never even thought they had anything to do with that bank.

The smart thing would be to simply forbid by law such situations from happening. The smart thing, unfortunately, was not done; in fact, quite the opposite. The next-best thing is to bail the bank out so that the situation doesn't go nuclear, punish the people who knowingly set up that situation, and THEN forbid by law such situations from happening again. Guess which part of that got done, and which ones didn't.

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New UK laws address driverless cars insurance and liability

Filippo
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Re: failed to "install software updates to the vehicle’s operating system - hmm

That all depends on how exactly the bit that states that insurers can seek compensation from manufacturers work.

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Motorola's modular Moto Z: A fine phone for a weekend away

Filippo
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Wait, does this mean that if I just get the battery mod and leave it on, I'll end up with a phone that is reasonably thick and has awesome battery life? 'cause that sounds more interesting than mods.

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'Hey, Homeland Security. Don't you dare demand Twitter, Facebook passwords at the border'

Filippo
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Re: A nuisance, an imposition but not the end of the world

The thing is, if you have a Facebook account, and tell them you don't, you may be fine. Unless they find out that you actually do have a Facebook account, and told them you didn't. At that point, you are in deep carp for lying to them, which is itself a serious crime. So it's quite risky.

Re changing your passwords, sure, but that will only protect any new content you make after leaving the airport. Forensic software can quickly download everything on your account within minutes of you givine the password.

Personally, if I had to travel to the USA, I would be concerned... I have a Facebook account, but I only made it because a game required it for online backups, so it has literally no content. Same for Twitter, I only made that account because there was one feed I wanted to follow years ago. That has to be mighty suspicious.

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Suffering ceepie-geepies! Do we need a new processor architecture?

Filippo
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Re driving, I would far prefer for the machine not to have the ability to "get creative", and that kind of responses to be well-defined, programmed in advance, predictable and reliable.

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Nokia's 3310 revival – what's NEXT? Vote now

Filippo
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"Laughable by today’s touchscreen, full-colour, apps-driven, high-density standards"

Right, but today's smartphones are laughable by yesterday's battery life and toughness standard. I wouldn't mind a smartphone that won't die in less than a day (even after I've had it for a year or so), and won't break if it falls from pocket height.

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Watch how Google's starving DeepMind AI turns hostile, attacks other bots to survive

Filippo
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You make a game where the optimal strategy is to hit the other player, drop an AI in it, the AI finds the optimal strategy. This says more about the game than the AI.

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Forget quantum and AI security hype, just write bug-free code, dammit

Filippo
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I suspect that creating AI and quantum cryptography is easier than writing demonstrably bug-free code. If anything, because nobody is going to fling megabucks at you when you say "I'm going to write code that doesn't suck!"

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WTF is up with the W3C, DRM and security bods threatened – we explain

Filippo
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Attempting to legally block people from investigating your system is moronic. Anyone who wants to study your system for illegal purposes won't give a carp about whether the study is legal or not, because they are going to break the law *anyway*. All you're doing is hampering the guys who are actually trying to make your system *better*.

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UK prof claims to have first practical blueprint of a quantum computer

Filippo
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Re: Still looking for that elusive QC paper.

In fairness, the very first attempts at building a "traditional" computer were also quite hard to program.

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Stick glue on a drone. Fly it into a flower. World hunger solved, bee-lieve

Filippo
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Re: Good Freekin' Lord...

Obviously a planet of finite size cannot support an infinite population, and therefore there is an upper limit for population. But the boundary set by that argument is so high as to make that argument useless.

The actual limit would be more or less determined by how much food we can produce, and *that* is a whole lot harder to estimate because it depends on many things including future technological advances, something that is notoriously hard to predict. It could be that the limit is ~10 billions or lower, in which case we're screwed, but it could be significantly higher. It could very well be that it's high enough that we'll bring everyone at a western standard of living, with its associated stabilization of growth, long before that. Or maybe not. Believe what you will; there is really no way to predict this. But discussions about infinity don't really prove anything interesting.

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Welcome to my world of The Unexplained – yes, you're welcome to it

Filippo
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Movable GUIs...

...like everything else, have their target audience. That is not "everyone".

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Web-standards-allergic Apple unveils WebGPU, a web graphics standard

Filippo
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Re: Goodbye to annoying capcha systems?

Automatically defeating CAPTCHAs would be... good, in your world? Are you even aware of the purpose of CAPTCHAs, or do you think web site administrators just like to annoy people?

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Teach undergrads ethics to ensure future AI is safe – compsci boffins

Filippo
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Well, yeah, but we're not talking about proper AI here. We're talking about what marketing calls AI, but is actually just a set of obscure statistical inference algorithms. People-ethics don't apply to that.

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Hard numbers: The mathematical architectures of Artificial Intelligence

Filippo
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Re: Srsly!?

That's a bit like saying that nuclear physics is all about burning cities. Statistics is a fine, rigorous discipline. It's also complex enough that the general populace does not understand it. Which allows some people, politicians and journalists mainly, to make misleading statistical claims all the time without getting called on it. It's also very useful to get people to believe that statistics is an evil discipline, so that they fail to understand it *even more*, and can get bullshitted *even more*.

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EU whacks first nail into mobile roaming charges' coffin

Filippo
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Freedom of movement of services is supposed to be one of the four cornerstones of the EU free market.

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VPN on Android means 'Voyeuristic Peeper Network' in many cases

Filippo
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Re: How do you think those "free" VPN services pay for it?

What we would really need is the ability for a third option for each app beyond "allow" or "deny". The third option would be "provide dummy values". Sure, nosy app, you can look at my SMS history, phone status, and emails - only, you'll find I have never received or sent an SMS, my address book is empty, my phone is never used and never rings, and I have no email accounts. I don't think you'll stop working because of this.

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NASA brews better test to find ET in cosmic cocktails

Filippo
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Re: One of those small, tough, building blocks in building a system to search for life.

My (very wild) guess would be that aminoacids created by non-biological processes can be expected to have an even mix of chirality, while aminoacids synthesized by life forms are likely have a dominant chirality. This should be true even if it turns out that there are bi-chiral aliens, because the two forms would not have the same function and so would be unlikely to have the same concentration.

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Naughty sysadmins use dark magic to fix PCs for clueless users

Filippo
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Users are already inclined to think that computers are magic, right now. Now, imagine adding a few tens of thousands more years of stratified software and hardware layers. I think computer engineers will be renamed Techpriests of the Machine God way before that.

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Northumbria Uni fined £400K after boffin's bad math gives students a near-killer caffeine high

Filippo
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The Caffeine Diet - it WILL make you thinner, and it might not kill you!

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I'LL BE BATT: Arnie Schwarzenegger snubs gas guzzlers for electric

Filippo
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"Electric car specialists Kreisel Electric claim the electrified Mercedes G350D comes with a 300-km (185-mile) range and a maximum speed of 183km/hr (114 mi/hr). It can be charged to 80 per cent of its capacity in just 25 minutes and will go from 0 to 100km/hr (62mi/hr) in just 5.6 seconds. In each case, this beats the original gas-powered version of the vehicle."

In each case this beats...? Are they saying that the original gas-powered version of the vehicle had less than 300km range and took over 25 minutes to have its tank filled to 80% capacity?

Wait. This is a case of alternative facts, right?

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Machine-learning boffins 'summon demons' in AI to find exploitable bugs

Filippo
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Very true; "AI" is fundamentally different from traditional software engineering and should never be used to attempt to solve the same problems. You can never rely on the answer of an "AI" system in the same way that you can rely on the answer of a classical algorithm. And this is not something that can be fixed; it's a fundamental property of how such systems work.

That said, the "AI" system should at least not crash outright or allow arbitrary code execution when encountering weird input. Those are traditional bugs and should be fixed as such.

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Trumping free trade: Say 'King of Bankruptcy' Ross does end up in charge of US commerce

Filippo
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These movements get backed by openly racist groups. It is not a coincidence.

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Auto emissions 'cheatware' scandal sparks war of words between Italy, Germany

Filippo
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"companies are more-or-less separate to the state"

Not in Italy, they ain't.

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Brother-and-sister duo arrested over hacking campaign targeting Italy's bigwigs

Filippo
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Re: Excuse me?

At the network speeds we get around here, it's probably faster to ship 87 gigabytes by plane than by wire.

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Maps and alarm clocks best thing about mobes, say normies

Filippo
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Actually, polling 20000 people by contacting them online would result in a far _worse_ poll.

2000 is already a very good sample size and increasing it tenfold would have basically no effect on accuracy. On the other hand, doing most of the contacts online would grossly skew the sample towards people who respond to Internet polls, and I'm pretty sure that has correlations with smartphone usage.

Hint: when it comes to polls, size is nearly irrelevant, randomness is everything. Statistics is not that hard, but it IS extremely counterintuitive. That's why its results get constantly abused.

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Peace-sign selfie fools menaced by fingerprint-harvesting tech

Filippo
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Re: For the 1,000th time

True, it depends on what's being secured and against whom. Fingerprints are not secure enough to be used to launch nuclear missiles, but they are also not secure enough to be used to start my car. They are not secure enough to be used to access my bank account. They are also not secure enough to be used to unlock my phone, if my phone contains any data worth stealing.

The problem is that they are being used for all of that and more, where in reality they are only good enough to access low-impact services for which the main defense is that nobody really cares about impersonating you.

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Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death dead in latest Windows 10 preview

Filippo
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I'd normally not bother answering, but if you really are genuinely curious - the name of the file where the fault occurred, the name of the error, and the error code are actually very useful. Several times, they allowed me to pinpoint which bit of hardware was faulty or which driver was buggy.

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You have the right to be informed: Write to UK.gov, save El Reg

Filippo
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Re: re. Quadsys

Under the rules described in the article, it's easy. They just need to file a lawsuit.

They cannot win, because, as you notice, the journalist is just repeating public documents. But they don't need to win. With the new rules, the journalists will pay the legal fees even if the suit is obviously frivolous. So, they just need to rack up enough legal fees to cripple the journalists.

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Amazon files patent for 'Death Star' flying warehouse

Filippo
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I'm hereby establishing prior art for fulfillment centers in geosynchronous orbit, armed with drop-pods.

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Microsoft scores nearly $1bn non-compete contract with US military

Filippo
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Re: Might want to check...

"I'm curious is DOD is compiling the code or just glances over it."

Knowing how this sort of stuff tends to go, my bet would be neither.

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White House report cautiously optimistic about job-killing AI

Filippo
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Self-service checkouts are slower than human checkout. I really don't see how it could be any other way. At a self-service checkout you're doing exactly the same operations that the human employee would do, except that the human employee is a pro and will always do those things with near-maximal efficiency, while a customer will always waste time searching for barcodes and reading what's on the screen.

The only way self-service checkouts, as they are designed now, can be better for the customer is if you put so many of them that queuing times are drastically reduced.

Now, if they ever figure out how to let people pay without taking objects out of the cart and scanning them individually, that would change things.

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Filippo
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Re: Welcome to the future!

What? That *did* happen. I do industrial automation; my last job was at a factory that can be operated at full efficiency by 2 people, but even just 1 can do in a pinch. Re farm jobs, I have software that makes food for pigs out of raw materials and feeds them according to nutrition requirements and schedule, can be operated by 1 person leaving time to spare. At another place, where I just automated some data stuff, integrating some systems that used to only talk via paper, eyeballs and keyboards, the owner outright told me that he was cutting the size of that office from 5 to 3. Just to be clear, these are not outliers; most companies in those fields are like this. There's no way in hell any of that could have happened in the 1950s.

Sure, there are a lot of jobs that computers didn't take, and AI hasn't really done anything yet, but stating that "none" of the computers ran away "any" of those low-skilled workers since the 50s is a statement that sounds positively surreal to me.

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Blue sky basic income thinking is b****cks

Filippo
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Re: He missed the point

I pay tax, and violence will happen if I don't pay tax. Also, I don't steal, and violence will happen if I steal. Jailing thieves is not immoral, and enforcing taxation is also not immoral.

Maybe you think taxation is implicitly immoral. That's an interesting opinion. Regardless, you don't get to pick which bits of the social contract you subscribe to; a social contract is kind of an all-or-nothing deal. And most of the good ones currently feature taxation; you can get some with no taxation, but they tend to be really bad in other areas.

Attempting to get only the bits of a social contract you like, while ignoring the ones you don't like, is in itself an action that warrants punishment. Just like for any other contract.

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Botched Microsoft update knocks Windows 8, 10 PCs offline – regardless of ISP

Filippo
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quick fix

It's not a UK-only problem.

I've found that the easiest way to fix this over the phone is to hold SHIFT while doing a system shutdown. This will force a non-fast boot, which clears the issue. Not sure if the fix is permanent, though.

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Busted Windows 8, 10 update blamed for breaking Brits' DHCP

Filippo
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Easier solution

There is an easier solution. Hold down SHIFT while doing a system shutdown. Then restart the machine. This will clear the issue.

It's slower than netsh because it requires a reboot, but it's WAY easier to describe over the phone to a clueless user.

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Renewed calls for Tesla to scrap Autopilot after number of crashes

Filippo
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98%

Uhm, so 2% of users do NOT understand that they are supposed to maintain control of the vehicle at all times? That's quite a lot of people. No wonder there's a number of crashes.

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Vegans furious as Bank of England admits ‘trace’ of animal fat in £5 notes

Filippo
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Re: Fighting your way to the top of the food chain?

All of those things are only "inefficient" in the context of one very specific and arbitrary definition of "efficiency". The truth is indeed far more complicated than that.

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Emulating x86: Microsoft builds granny flat into Windows 10

Filippo
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I don't think being able to run legacy x86 code on phones is that important. Those legacy line-of-business applications were designed for desktop PCs; nevermind binary compatibility, they won't work on a phone because they weren't designed for phones. I don't think that many people have *real* use cases for this.

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