* Posts by Filippo

758 posts • joined 24 Nov 2007

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Brit startup plans fusion-powered missions to the stars

Filippo

Re: Quite a bit of nuclear fallout

"I think the most recent analyses suggest that a big Orion (say, something big enough to put an entire self-sustainable colony on Mars in a single voyage, supplies and all, maybe a 25,000-tonne ship) could be launched for the statistical "price" of one or two extra cancer cases worldwide."

That's really interesting. Do you have a source for that? I'm fervently pro-nuke myself and I'd love to have that in my, ahem, arsenal.

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Internet overseer continues wall-punching legal campaign

Filippo

Re: Doesn't bode well for a UK out of the EU then ?

Something that most of this new wave of nationalists around the globe seems to be missing is that you can be in your own jurisdiction, your own nation, your own planet, whatever, but if you want to do business in my house, you have to follow my house's rules. Dropping international treaties doesn't mean that you suddenly get sovereignty over *other* nations.

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Self-driving cars will be safe, we're testing them in a massive AI Sim

Filippo

Re: L5

Indeed. If I could get a car that can drive itself unsupervised on a motorway, I'd buy it in a flash, even if it doesn't drive itself in a town centre or rural road. Unfortunately, I suspect that even that degree of automation is pretty far away.

There are plenty of cars that can drive themselves on a motorway even now, but none of them can be trusted to do so without a human driver ready to take the wheel within a few seconds. That degree of autonomousness is useless to me, because I can't safely do anything else with that time anyway, so I might as well be driving.

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The cybercriminal's cash cow and the marketer's machine: Inside the mad sad bad web ad world

Filippo

Re: Outsourcing advertising and GDPR

I wouldn't mind paying a reasonable fee, either as subscription or with microtransactions, in order to read The Register, because The Register does actual journalism. Unfortunately, most people would rather read regurgitated press releases and opinion pieces written by people who have no idea what they're talking about, than pay even a single penny. And there will always be a plentiful supply of those - with online publishing, the barrier to entry is just too damn low, and if it won't be funded by ads, it'll be funded by interested groups, which may be even worse.

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Google weeps as its home state of California passes its own GDPR

Filippo

Re: Legitimate business interests

If a new law is passed, and some "business need" is in violation of it, then that "business need" is NOT legitimate. That's literally what "legitimate" means.

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Pwned with '4 lines of code': Researchers warn SCADA systems are still hopelessly insecure

Filippo

The "4 lines of code" attack, as described in the article, relies on physically hooking up a fake PLC to the targeted plant. I'd argue that if you have hostiles able to add a PLC to your plant undetected, then network security is not really your main problem.

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Your F-35s need spare bits? Computer says we'll have you sorted in... a couple of years

Filippo

Logistics software?

Here we have a device that's full to the brim of so much cutting-edge tech that it costs very nearly too much to be actually used, and they trip on logistics software? A problem that, while admittedly hard, gets handled by tens of thousands of companies worldwide every day, and has been for decades?

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You should find out what's going on in that neural network. Y'know they're cheating now?

Filippo

That's the first thing I thought. This is yet another instance of the good old caveat: a computer does what you say, not what you want.

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We 'could' send troubled Watchkeeper drones to war, insists UK minister

Filippo

Reducing the likelihood?

"Reducing the likelihood" of a software flaw doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Does this mean they don't know how to fix it?

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'Well intentioned lawmakers could stifle IoT innovation', warns bug bounty pioneer

Filippo

I was wondering why that was considered a "warning" as opposed to "hope". Although I do realize that for a "bug bounty pioneer", IoT means job security.

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How machine-learning code turns a mirror on its sexist, racist masters

Filippo

Re: Mathematical modelling of sterotypes?

We didn't become particularly more or less arrogant than we were at any other time. Every age assumes that its beliefs are absolutely correct.

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Brit MPs chide UK.gov: You're acting like EU data adequacy prep is easy

Filippo

In which scenarios does the UK retain Access to the single market?

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More power to UK, say 'leccy vehicle makers. Seriously, they need it

Filippo

Re: Batteries are a stupid solution for EV's anyway...

You don't get to call a solution "stupid", unless you have a better one on hand, which you don't.

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NRA gives FCC boss Ajit Pai a gun as reward for killing net neutrality. Yeah, an actual gun

Filippo

Re: We have the clueless leading the blind...

Actually, banning cars *would* drastically reduce car-related deaths, both accidents and homicides. The claim that "banning autos or guns won't stop evil people" is ludicrous; if you ban cars, car accidents won't disappear, but they *will* plummet to nearly zero and I can't imagine the amount of willful obtusity it would take to dispute that.

The difference between cars and guns is that cars have extreme usefulness besides killing people, so much so that it outweighs quite a lot of accidents. It's difficult to make the same claim about guns.

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Boffins: If AI eggheads could go ahead and try to stop their code being evil, that'd be great

Filippo

Re: phishing mails

The Prince of Nigeria knows English fine.

You can send tens of millions of phishing emails easily, but when someone takes the initial bait, the scammer then needs an actual person to reel him in. That's a limited resource.

So, untargeted phishing emails are purposefully hard to believe in order to ensure that only utter morons respond. Those are the targets you want.

Anyone who is smart enough to figure out that a badly misspelled email from a hotmail address has to be a scam, is someone that's unlikely to fall for it all the way to the bank. A well-written email from a credible spoofed sender could easily net thousands of those; no scammer can handle all of them. It's much better to select only the choicest cretins.

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Flying on its own, Thunderbird seeks input on new look

Filippo

My prediction: they are going to introduce a worse UI, remove features, and introduce bugs. After that, there will be a very long period of time during which the UI will get gradually improved, features will get gradually re-added, and bugs will get gradually fixed. This will be called Progress and will be hailed as a Good Thing, because the Product is Not Stagnant Any More.

Sigh.

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Russia claims it repelled home-grown drone swarm in Syria

Filippo

So their electronic warfare specialist managed to hack half of them while they were flying in? That's actually pretty awesome. Saves a pretty penny too, given that I'd wager the anti-aircraft missiles outcost the drones by at least three orders of magnitude (which is the whole point of this kind of attack).

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Whizzes' lithium-iron-oxide battery 'octuples' capacity on the cheap

Filippo

Re: Nevertheless...

If battery tech improves so that capacity is increased by 50%, you are not going to get phones that last 50% longer. Instead, you are going to get phones that consume 50% more, owing to more powerful CPUs that run more crap in the background, more powerful GPUs that run pretty animations, and more radios running for more time. Either that, or they'll just make them another fraction of millimeter slimmer. The actual duration of the battery seems to be a pretty low priority.

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The healing hands of customer support get an acronym: Do YOU have 'tallah-toe-big'?

Filippo

Praise the Omnissiah!

My standard explanation in these cases is "you've offended the Machine Spirit". This often seems to work just as fine for the end user as the technical answer, if not better.

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Republican tax bill ready to rescue hard-up tech giants, struggling rich

Filippo

Re: I don't get it

But it's not 2.2% more income for everybody; not sustainably. Not even nation-states can create money from nothing.

In a few years, in order to prevent the deficit from exploding, they will have to raise taxes again or cut something or both. At that point, if you are in the groups which get hit by the tax hike and/or public spending cut, then the net consequence of this tax reform will likely put you in a far worse situation than before.

Or, of course, they could just let the deficit grow; this will push the problem on to the next generation and make it much worse.

Unless the tax cuts result in such a big GDP increase that they pay for themselves, but that's crystal-ball logic. You can believe it, or not, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

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5 reasons why America's Ctrl-Z on net neutrality rules is a GOOD thing

Filippo

Sorry, you honestly believe that deregulation can *improve* a monopoly scenario? Are you from some alternate dimension where the laws of economics are different? Monopolies are a textbook example of something that requires government intervention.

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Sloppy coding + huge PSD2 changes = Lots of late nights for banking devs next year

Filippo

Re: Microsoft’s .NET, Java

I'm also very suspicious of this. Generally speaking, with any sort of automated code analysis, I would be very wary of making comparisons across languages, especially those that come with their own runtime such as Java or .NET. Differences in how the analysis is done would make any comparison irrelevant.

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Lap-slabtop-mobes with Snapdragon Arm CPUs running Windows 10: We had a quick gander

Filippo

Re: Emulation ?

Parts of the .NET runtime use Win32 calls under the hood. There are subsets of .NET runtime that don't, if you target those then it should run with no emulation.

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Voyager 1 fires thrusters last used in 1980 – and they worked!

Filippo

Re: Ancient assembler code checked out

True, but the specific bit of assembler that commanded those specific bits of hardware was probably never called with these specific parameters before.

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Expert gives Congress solution to vote machine cyber-security fears: Keep a paper backup

Filippo

Re: Why vote anyway?

If you get a headache, do you cure it with decapitation?

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Filippo

Re: open votes please!

Open votes would allow putting pressure on voters. Pressure makes a vote every bit as fake as altering the ballot, and would be far harder to prevent.

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Filippo

Re: open votes please!

Papers are easier to fake individually, but nearly impossible to fake at large scale. Because elections are a fundamentally statistical process, some localized fraud is bad, but not critical. Electronic voting, on the other hand, has the potential to allow large-scale fraud, which would be critical.

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Filippo

Re: Anonymous - why?

"So you have to choose which is more important: a FREE vote or a TRUE vote."

Arguably, they are both the same problem. Applying pressure to the voter or modifying the ballot after voting are both ways to tamper with someone's vote, making it neither free nor true, in both cases.

The point is that mitigating ballot fraud, while a significant challenge, is way easier than mitigating voter blackmail in absence of anonymity. Basically, introducing attribution is a cure that's worse than the disease.

Note that I say "mitigating" because you can never completely eliminate election fraud; the process is just too big. That's one of the reasons why it's important for as many people as possible to vote, even when they dislike every candidate. Reduce the statistical impact of fraudolent votes.

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Filippo

Re: Chain of evidence

Can't video record. Even if it was made to just show the voter's fingertips, that would still compromise anonymity, which is fundamental.

Agree that if you're using paper anyway, you should just get rid of voting machines altogether.

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Fake news ‘as a service’ booming among cybercrooks

Filippo

"beyond geopolitical to financial interests"

Interesting sentence there. It's a sad state of the world, that financial interests are implied to be more important than geopolitical.

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Alexa, please cause the cops to raid my home

Filippo
Pint

Journalists at The Register actually bother to read the source, understand it, and write an article, as opposed to "journalists" on most of the web who just ctrl-C/ctrl-V as quickly as possible.

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Stop worrying and let the machines take our jobs – report

Filippo

Umm?

"recent trends showing a growth in equality"

Really? Where could I take a look at these recent trends?

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Australian senator Pauline Hanson wants devilish scam calls to flash '666'

Filippo

Re: I propose another use for 666.

Android's "flag as spam", and similar functions, are still vulnerable to spoofed Caller IDs. Also, the malicious caller can still just call someone else. Flagging spammers at the telecom level is another game entirely.

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BOFH: Oh dear. Did someone get lost on the Audit Trail?

Filippo

"I'm surprised the boss didn't have an accident with the shredder."

Give it time.

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Star Wars: Big Euro cinema group can't handle demand for tickets to new flick

Filippo

After 7, I would expect the characters to finally realize that the Force has galactic history stuck in a repeating loop, and *that* is the problem they need to solve, before they run out of planets.

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Amazon told to repay €250m in 'unfair state aid' from Luxembourg

Filippo

Also, the Commission is not "retroactively imposing taxes". There are treaties, which Luxembourg signed and agreed to, which state that you can't give preferential tax treatment to specific companies. Which means that this isn't a case of somebody making up a new tax and applying it retroactively; this is a case of someone *breaking the law* and getting punished for it. Which sounds absolutely fine to me.

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Home Sec Amber Rudd: Yeah, I don't understand encryption. So what?

Filippo

The policy algorithm

Ask something. If you don't like the answer, ask again. If the algorithm times out, complain about sneering experts.

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Forget the 'simulated universe', say boffins, no simulator could hit the required scale

Filippo

You don't run a simulation of every single electron. You run a gross approximation that's computationally cheap and good enough for the simulated humans' senses, and you only run the very fine simulations when you detect that some of the sims are performing quantum physics experiments.

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US government sued by 11 pissed-off travellers over computer searches

Filippo

Re: Searches, Searches...

If you're trying to argue that these searches are justified even in a free and democratic country, the comparison with China is not really helping.

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Auto-makers told their autopilots need better safeguards

Filippo

Re: It is easier to automate the damn highway

Just a quick note, I'd be fine with having a single automated lane per direction, implying that everyone goes at lorry speed, if I'm allowed to not look at the road at all. I'd rather spend three hours doing something productive or sleeping, than two hours driving.

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15 'could it be aliens?' fast radio bursts observed in one night

Filippo

Re: It's not aliens

They don't need that much output to communicate, true. They do need that much output to blow up their enemies' stars, though.

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Autonomous driving in a city? We're '95% of the way there'

Filippo

Thoughts

1) I like the "rate my driving" sticker. Can we get something similar for human drivers?

2) If you claim that you're "95% of the way there, but the remaining 5% is difficult", then you are using the wrong definition of at least one of those words.

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Germany puts halt on European unitary patent

Filippo

Re: Article 20 of the German Constitution strictly forbids ...

"The implication of Article 20 however, is far greater: It explictily forbids most of the EU organisations incl. the EU commission, the EU (fake-)parliarment, most the EU administrations etc. This is the real importance of Article 20."

Look, I get what you mean. But this is a political statement, not a legal one. If Art 20 really made the EU literally illegal, any number of nationalist organizations would have successfully challenged the EU on it. I know that calling something you don't like "inconstitutional" feels really good, but this is not really how law works.

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Filippo

Re: Article 20 of the German Constitution strictly forbids ...

That's not an obstacle. Germany just has to agree to enforce the decisions of the UPC. The enforcement would be done by Germans, thus respecting the Constitution.

You could argue that this violates the spirit of Article 20, but if you did, the same argument would apply to any number of international treaties. I don't think the courts would agree with you.

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Human-free robo-cars on Washington streets after governor said the software is 'foolproof'

Filippo

Total confidence is dangerous

So, mr. Governor is certain that the robocar is absolutely trustworthy. I wonder what will happen when a robocar inevitably runs someone over - because, statistically, the chance for this is 100% regardless of how good the software is.

Wouldn't it be better to just recognize that a robocar is successful not if it never causes an accident, but rather if it causes *less accidents than humans*?

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Windows XP crashed too much to spread WannaCrypt

Filippo

Relativity

I think XP was considered a very stable version of Windows - when compared to 95/98/ME.

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

Filippo

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

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

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

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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