* Posts by Kristian Walsh

1412 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007

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Nikola Tesla's greatest challenge: He could measure electricity but not stupidity

Kristian Walsh
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Re: More scientists on banknote.

I don't suffer from migraines, except those times I had to handle banknotes in Switzerland...

The internet tells me that I'm referring to the pre-2005 Series 8 notes, but photos don't really do them justice: why waste 10chf on LSD when you could just stare at the money itself...

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Ada Lovelace

Anyone bigging up Ada could do well to read: ...

That article perpetuates two myths: the first myth is that strong mathematical ability is necessary for someone to be a programmer (i.e., Ada wasn't a good mathematician, therefore Ada could not have been a programmer), and the second that Ada Lovelace's place in computing history was earned for being "the first programmer"*. Both are mostly untrue.

Lovelace's insight was much deeper that just writing out code, and was probably one that only a "failed undergraduate mathematician" with a penchant for the arts would have had - the other people connected with Babbage's machine seemed to be too enamoured with numerical methods to have made the leap outside of Mathematics that Lovelace did**. Basically, she is the first person to have stated the idea that the mechanical and mathematical processes, as used by the Babbage machine, might have application to things that were at the time considered to be the domain of Art, not of mathematics.

Here's the gist of it: If you assign numeric values to things that are not in themselves quantities, they could be manipulated by a machine like Babbage's to produce results that, once decoded from that numeric form back into their real-world equivalents, would have meaning. This is such a fundamental idea in computing that most programmers barely even think about it (and one major operating system family, Unix, conflates the concepts of text and binary data to such an extent that developers often make errors in handling them that only become clear when they have to translate their applications into a different human language)

__

* she was definitely the first writer of developer documentation, though; the "programs" published under her name are much clearer than the equivalents in Babbage's own notes, and the written correspondence (and occasional arguments) between Babbage and Lovelace would be familiar to anyone who's ever had to write sample code for a new system.

** Even a leap to another area of Mathematics would have been world-changing. George Boole, of "Boolean" fame, narrowly missed collaborating with Babbage - they didn't follow up on what seems to have been a very cordial meeting at the Great Exhibition of 1862, and Boole died (young) just two years later. Babbage adapting his Engine to use Boole's two-state arithmetic rather than decimal calculation remains one of those great "what if's" of history - there's no doubt that it would certainly have simplified the design enough for it to become feasible with the technology of the age. As it was, Boole's ideas on logical computing didn't get realised until 1937..

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Noted scientists

As the lower-denomination notes are the most seen, surely placement there is the real honour?

Three of the eight Deutschmark notes featured scientists (DM 10: Gauss; DM 200: the Nobel laureate Paul Erlich, DM 500: the entomologist Maria Sybilla Merian), a fourth celebrated an architect (50: Balthasar Neumann). Three writers, a poet and one musician rounded out the set.

... Yes, that comes to nine people, because (and in case you still labour under the misapprehension that Germans have no sense of humour) the DM 1000 note featured the brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, famed purveyors of fairytales

The most surprising thing about this DM 1000,- note was that it actually saw real circulation: I received one in a pay-packet once in the mid 1990s, and I was able to spend it in a shop - okay, that took a bit of checking with the manager first, but for what was effectively a £350 note, it was relatively easy to use.

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AI's next battlefield is literally the battlefield: In 20 years, bots will fight our wars – Army boffin

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Top. Lel.

... Mr Dick revisited this a few times. I came here to provide a link to a different, more optimistic, take on the same subject matter:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Defenders_(short_story)

Like much of Dick's early work, this is now out of copyright, so you can read it here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/28767

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Bloke gets six months for fixing up Russia's US election trolls with bank accounts, fake identities

Kristian Walsh
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Non-residents often have need of US bank accounts, given how expensive, unreliable and cumbersome it is to transfer small sums in and out of the US banking system (and by "small", I mean under $10,000).

And while the US does indeed continue to tax its citzens who no longer live in the USA, non-citizens are fine: if your home country has a tax treaty with the USA, you simply sign the declaration that you are not a US citizen, and IRS won't touch your account. They will, however, gladly report it to your home country's tax authorities if asked.

There's nothing very onerous in place to prevent a non-resident opening a US account, but-- and this is where nashi druzya hit their personal roadblock-- you do need to provide a fair amount of documentation to prove your identity. Honest actors will already have such ID, of course. The difficulties with this system occur when you want to open an account without revealing who you really are... which is fair enough, as that's precisely why the checks are there in the first place.

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Watch Series 4: What price 'freedom'? About as much as you'd expect from an Apple product

Kristian Walsh
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Re: cutting down gratuitous phone use

Andrew is onto something here by identifying freedom from the annoyance of ones iPhone as the best feature of an Apple Watch, but let's come at that from another angle:

How about taking all that "the essential features of your smartphone" call and notification functionality, and put it into a form-factor like the old Nokia 8800 Sirocco, with that kind of "jewellery" build-quality. (I had an 8800, and as a physical object, it's still by far the nicest phone I've ever owned), so it can be carried in a jacket pocket, or a small purse or clutch.

Add a WiFi hotspot to the LTE modem, as there'd be enough internal volume to allow a decent battery and properly-spaced antennae, and it allows either a small tablet or laptop to take over the "detailed browsing and apps" role of the phone.

So, now I've got something that I can use to receive notifications and phone calls on (with the bonus of not looking like I'm starring in some some sort of low-budget Dick Tracey fan-flic whenever I take a call) - plus I can use it to give my laptop or a tablet 4G connectivity wherever I am*. Plus it won't look out of place in the few times I've got to dress up.

Oh, it also seems that I've made the actual "smartphone" redundant in the chain. I could live with that too.

I know there are solutions out there (the Punkt phone reviewed a day after this), but I'm comfortable enough in myself to admit that I'm sufficiently vain to want something that is beautiful, and not just functional.

(* I'm aware that you can get LTE-equipped laptops and tablets, but as network operators have chosen to not implement the "multiple SIMs, one account" feature of GSM, having another device means a new account, and basically paying twice for the same low data usage)

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On the seventh anniversary of Steve Jobs' death, we give you 7 times he served humanity and acted as an example to others

Kristian Walsh
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Disabled parking

Jobs never used the disabled parking spots at the Apple campus.

...they were too far from the main entrance, so the Beloved Leader parked blocking the "Fire Department Only" area instead, as that left just a short, straight walk into the atrium of IL1. Upside: the car was visible, so you'd know to be on the lookout; downside: if there'd been a fire, you'd have had a greater chance of dying.

I believe it was Pixar's disabled parking spots which were regularly abused, and this is referenced in a scene in "Toy Story 2" where the villain is seen driving across the road from his home to his store, and parking diagonally across the only two disabled parking bays...

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Apple macOS Mojave: There's goth mode but developers will have to wait for the juicy stuff

Kristian Walsh
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Re: "I blame The Matrix for starting all this off, by the way."

There is a reason it was green or amber on black, and not vice versa.

Yes, to prolong the life of the CRTs and reduce power consumption, but mainly to preserve the life of the tubes.

Secondarily to that, an full screen of "inverse" video on a terminal of that era will clearly show the scanlines that make up the display, which is visually distracting.

Whether text is more legible as black-on-white, or white-on-black depends mainly on how thick the strokes are: lighter typefaces work best as white-on-black; bolder ones work best as black-on white. As an example of this, the road signage used in the UK uses two weights of the same typeface (imaginatively called "Transport Medium" and "Transport Heavy"): the "Heavy" weight is used for black lettering on white-backed signage, and the "Medium" weight is used for white lettering on the green and brown-backed signs. Visually, it's hard to notice that there are two different weights used, which is precisely the point.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: "Unified" apps are unlikely...

I'll happily sing the praises of Qt for as long as you'll let me, but the existence of Qt doesn't do anything for the vast majority of iOS app developers whose codebase was created in XCode and so contains a mix of Objective-C, C++ and Swift, all running an Apple UIKit user interface that is largely set out in absolute "pixel" distances for a portrait-oriented screen (I blame the use of graphic tools like Sketch for this, as they guide developers towards directly copying dimensions out of a drawing to get a "pixel perfect" copy of the designer's UI concept, rather than thinking about how the UI is logically laid out).

Qt apps tend to work better because simply by choosing to use Qt in the first place, you've demonstrated an understanding that the world of application development is not limited to one maker of phones. Also, as the quickest develop/test cycle with Qt is to build your mobile app as a desktop Qt app (rather than deploying it to a device simulator or a real phone), you quickly get a feel for what would need work if you were targeting both desktop and mobile users.

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Kristian Walsh
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"Unified" apps are unlikely...

This is not going to work at all unless Apple introduces some kind of Mac with touch support. Even then, I suspect it'll be like running iPhone apps on an iPad - functional, but not up to the aesthetic standards that mac users pretend are higher than other people's..

Anyone who's ever written a mobile app can tell you that operating a touch UI using a mouse or trackpad, as you do in the device simulator, is a horrible user experience - it's not the scrolling, but the layout of items that's a problem. Also, the "one fixed-size screen that's completely filled" nature of mobile apps allows designers much more leeway than a windowed environment does: there's precious little visual consistency between iOS apps , and that's something that will make a Mac desktop look just as messy as the bad old days of Windows 95, where every application producer insisted on using a custom window design because they could.

Apple surely must have been looking at what has been happening with Windows 10*, and how hard it has been for developers to design touch+desktop applications that work adequately for both platforms - and that's on an OS with a sizeable number of touch-screen devices already out there. The problem isn't a technical one, but rather a higher workload being placed on designers. iOS really doesn't ask much more of a designer than "draw nice screens in Sketch". Simply introducing resizeable windows destroys almost all of the design assumptions underpinning iOS apps, so dealing with such flexible layouts means raising the bar considerably. Then there's the problems of different viewing distances to consider: a layout that's clear and legible on a phone has far too much whitespace when viewed on a screen.. this is the persistent complaint against Windows "Metro" apps, but it's not caused by the framework, but by the designer simply settling to use a compromise layout and sizes that look equally not-good at both viewing distances, rather than designing a loose (tv, mobile) and tight (desktop monitor) one, and having the app dynamically choose at runtime.

I suspect the goal will be to allow direct code porting between iOS and macOS, rather than the more ambitious approach of a single executable that adapts its UI to suit the host's capabilities, as Microsoft took with UWP. While I think UWP's is the right approach, I also accept that few professional developers are given the planning time needed to do things right, as the mobile-app dev cycle is easily summed up as "screw the architecture, we need something running tomorrow".

(* ironically, the only significant UI change in this release, the light/dark UI switch with accent colour choices, is cribbed from Windows 10.)

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Windows 10 1809: Now arriving on a desktop near you (if you want it)

Kristian Walsh
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Re: pseudo tty's

It seem you're in luck.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/console/createpseudoconsole

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Microsoft resurfaces Surface kit alongside Windows 10 update

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Underwelmed

To add more details: They are indeed 4-core parts in the Surface Laptop 2.

i5 (Consumer) = Intel Core i5 Mobile 8250U 3.4 GHz, 4-core

i5 (Business) = Intel Core i5 Mobile 8350U, 3.6 GHz, 4-core

i7 = Core i7 Mobile 8650U 4.2 GHz 4-core

That i7 is the exact same part used in last year's Surface Book 2, which is probably strong sign that the Surface Book 2 itself will see a refresh soon.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Could you at least pretend to be writing for a UK website

Better yet, I'd hoped they would have followed the links on Microsoft's own online hardware store, and found the info. To save you the click, here it is:

Surface Pro 6 from £879 (128G i5 Platinum only; the black option only joins the range the £1149 256G SSD model)

Surface Laptop 2 from £979 (128G i5 "Platinum" colour only; again, other colours only available from 256G, which is £1249)

Delivery on both is from 16 October onwards, which is the same date as for US customers. I guess that Microsoft is very slowly learning that a product launch should be global. (Australians are also offered the same 16. October delivery date, incidentally)

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Underwelmed

The Surface Laptop 2 uses the latest, 8th generation, CPUs. No detail yet as to the part numbers, the specs page says only "Intel® Core™ 8th Gen i5 or i7". My reading of the Register article's "the same CPUs" comment suggests that the Laptop is now upgraded to 4-core CPU; the previous model used dual-core parts. I'm sceptical, but it would be a pretty big upgrade in performance if true.

It's still USB Type A because the laptop is still running a USB 3.0 controller - there's no reason to use a Type C connector unless you offer USB 3.1, and implementing USB 3.1, particularly the charging function, would need far more changes to the laptop's internals than are justified for a mid-cycle refresh (which is what this is).

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Going back to Thinkpad

same general memory and processor options,

Memory, yes, but not processor. The "New Surface Pro (5)" model used 7th-generation CPUs, while the "Surface Pro 6" uses 8th generation parts. That's a significant improvement in power consumption .. or performance, depending on the system designer's priorities.

Battery life is quoted the same, 13.5h, but the "battery life" test that everyone uses really only measures display and video decoding, so performance on more representative workloads could be very different

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Windows 10 passes 700 million, Office Mobile in a coma and Intune, er, cracks time travel

Kristian Walsh
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How is it underhanded?

Those updates are not tested against your newer CPU, because that product is not supported on your CPU. Why would any company ship a release that they knew with 100% certainty had never been formally tested on a configuration. (Usual suspects, please resist the urge to look like a fucking idiot...)

Most likely the updates will work, but maybe they'll screw your system performance too. Remember, most of the fancy low-power and clock-speed regulation features in the latest CPUs are completely invisible to Windows 7's kernel: you're basically running with whatever Intel/AMD sets those registers to at reset time.

I understand why someone would prefer Linux to Windows 10, but then Linux is a modern, supported OS. Windows 7 isn't anymore. It's time to move on.

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Microsoft liberates ancient MS-DOS source from the museum and sticks it in GitHub

Kristian Walsh
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Re: apple keyboard

The # symbol is inconsistently present on Apple's UK keyboard layouts across all products. There wasn't any particular date at which it arrived, or left, as the company regularly had some products with it, and some without, with no logic to which is which. The only vague pattern is that "Pro" in the name tends to correlates with "#" on the key-cap, but it's not a guarantee.

My own recent experience: Pro 15" (2015) - yes, USB Keyboard (2010) - no. Pro (2010) - yes. Pro 13.3 (2012) - no.

Consistency. It's what they're known for.

(Placement of # , ~, " and ` is the one thing that still catches me when I move from Mac to Linux/Windows. Objectively, the "PC" key placements are more programmer-friendly, but I have decades of muscle-memory telling me to type Option-3...)

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WWII Bombe operator Ruth Bourne: I'd never heard of Enigma until long after the war

Kristian Walsh
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That little-publicised German invasion of Kent... [Re: Cribs from touch]

... Of course I meant to type "Calais" there, rather than Dover, but you get the idea :)

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Cribs from touch

This was part of Gordon Welchman's work that revolutionised military signals intelligence: Previously, everyone concentrated on the message content, but Welchman is credited with being the first to realise that what is said in a message is only part of the information that can be extracted from it. The identity of the sender and recipient impart information, as does the schedule of transmissions, the transmission power, and the attitude of the sender: a good Morse listener can't just recognise a "fist", they can also hear how relaxed or stressed that sender is, just a you can tell how relaxed someone is by their voice.

So, if you recognise an operator in Hamburg's keying style and know he sends lazily-keyed confirmations to messages about fuel supplies every morning, usually to other operators in the Baltic, but suddenly he's responding to stations in Dover and Rotterdam as well and with more urgency than his usual lazy fist, then it suggests that there's something happening along the Channel that might be worth sending a spy-plane to look at. And you discovered this without having to decrypt a single message.

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Enigma message crack honours pioneering Polish codebreakers

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Another book

Also recommend - good read on the subject. Hugh's brother Simon Sebag Montefiori, is also a historian.

The Sebag Montefiori family (no hypens, old bean) was the previous owner of Bletchley Park, selling it to a property developer in 1938. Admiral Hugh Sinclair of the Secret Intelligence Service was so convinced that it would be a good location for a codebreaking centre in the event of war that he bought the house for £6,000* from that developer out of his own money, after being unable to convince HM Government of its value.

(* £6000 in 1938 pounds is about £250,000 in today's money, but the better comparison is that the average house cost around £500-600)

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Kristian Walsh
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Yes, they do.

Jerzy Różycki, Henryk Zygalski, and Marian Rejewski are the men in question. All three ended up working for the Allies after the fall of Poland, although none worked on Enigma.

It was Zygalski came up with the idea of using punched sheets to quickly reduce the possible key-space. Because with some (about 12%) initial rotor setups, enciphering the same letter at a known distance could produce the same ciphertext on both occasions, and because, prior to 1940, the plaintext messages tended to begin with a repeated preamble identifying the sender, it was possible to construct a set of "can never occur" sequences for each possible start position, which allowed the majority of possible keys to be discarded quickly by visual inspection. The remaining possibles would then be fed into the Bombe for brute-force decryption.

The use of the term "female" for these same-letter matches in ciphertext comes from Zygalski's original Polish term, but in general the origin of the techniques used were kept from the operatives at Bletchley, largely for security reasons (the name "Zygalski" certainly would not have been common in 1940s Britain, and would have stuck in the mind of workers at Bletchley; if overheard later by enemy spies, it could have tipped off the German intelligence services that the Allies were a. actively attacking Enigma, and b. starting from the attack previously used by the Polish)

Zygalski and Rejewski eventually enlisted in the Free Polish Army (based in UK), but were not given access to the Bletchley group, and were instead set to work on far simpler cipher traffic. Rozycki had died in 1942 when the ship carrying him from France was sunk, presumably as part of a German operation, as the passenger-list included other ex-members of the Polish Cipher Bureau.

Despite the three men never working there, there's a plaque to their memory at Bletchley, which clearly acknowledges the debt owed to the Polish services in cracking Enigma.

(All three men have reasonable summary articles on Wikipedia, and searching the names will find you a number of other articles on the subject of Polish Enigma-breaking)

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First 'issue-free' build of Windows 10 October 2018 Update arrives

Kristian Walsh
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Re: No, I will not switch out the lights.

Another W10M hold-out here. I'm genuinely at a loss as to what to buy when it finally dies: friends' Android feels like a really shoddy OS compared to W10M and using iOS is basically like signing up for Scientology. A voice-phone with built-in 4G dongle and a small laptop looks the most likely thing.

But, about apps...

WP8.1 to WP10 actually is a recompile (with a bit of search/replace), unless you'd used Silverlight (WP7) to write the app, in which case it's a lot of search/replace.

The problem is that just doing a port of a WP8.1 app to Windows 10 doesn't allow you to use the big feature of UWP: a single executable that works (not just "runs") on desktop, tablet and mobile.

Mobile-phone apps are easy to design because the size of the display doesn't change dynamically. Desktop apps aren't because it does: grab that window-sizer, and see the UI designer flinch. Add in the different interface choices to accommodate both mouse and touch input, and it becomes a significant amount of work to make something that will work properly on different devices and isn't crap.

To get that working, you have to redesign your UI pretty much from scratch to make fewer assumptions about the screen aspect, resolution, viewing distance and the input methods used.

It's a lot of work, and Microsoft's lack of a mobile platform makes it not a lot of gain for that work. (Not many apps make sense on both XBox and PCs).

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Microsoft adds Windows module support to PowerShell Core while Amazon unleashes it on Lambda

Kristian Walsh
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@"Two reasons:" Re: How come they can't learn bash, perl ?

"2. Bash is too primitive for Windows admins" would be closer to the truth.

I've spent almost all of my career on non-Windows systems (MacOS, embedded Unix, Linux, etc) but I had to do process automation stuff in Windows in one job, and after that, I can say that PowerShell is, without doubt, the best shell programming system I've ever used for actually getting shit done quickly (and being able to understand it again six months later).

At least 20% of any Bash script seems to be spent parsing out the results of other commands using a witches' brew of sed, awk and grep, then squirting that into other commands either as arguments or input. This is lot of effort with near zero value-add, and it's famously error-prone too (and there's also the security implications of using commands like 'eval' on what is basically free-form text*).

PowerShell does away with pretty much all of that: when you put a PowerShell command into a pipe, the output isn't text, but rather structured data (imagine that it's JSON, even though it's not). You can select or format or re-package the data any way you want, and pass it on along the pipe. If, like me, you've spent any amount of time writing shell scripts, PowerShell is like stepping into the sunlight.

( * no, I woudn't either. But I've had to take it out of a lot of scripts written by people who did... )

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Python joins movement to dump 'offensive' master, slave terms

Kristian Walsh
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Re: from __future__ import snowflake

I feel compelled to point out that, like pretty much all of the "sanitised" proposals, those terms also do not describe a Master/Slave relationship in the meaning it has in computing... unless you really expect the Pimp to directly attend to the carnal needs of clients, and then replay them later, blow for blow (as it were) on the unfortunate Ho.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: re: removing the colour black and using the hex code for it?

"Actually, the RGB triplet is inherently prejudiced: it codes black using the lowest value possible, while white is coded as the highest possible - a blatant example of the white-centered hegemony (that allowed someone of my limited thinking skills to acquire an the expensive college education I'm now wasting on such trivialities)

Of course, as befits an activist of my calibre, my indignation on this issue isn't sufficiently-well informed to have looked at, say, the CMYK colourspace" < / sarc>

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Boffins bash Google Translate for sexism

Kristian Walsh
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Re: The reverse problem exists, too

If you're translating from French (or German, Italian or Spanish), do yourself a favour and use DeepL... If DeepL doesn't have your language, use Bing Translator in preference to Google. Google is a really dumb pattern matching engine, whereas those two use more sophisticated linguistic analysis (DeepL is in a class above Bing, though)

Google Translate was cool a decade ago, but is a very poor tool by today's standards. Sadly, its ubiquity makes people think it's in some way representative of modern machine translation.. an error this paper's authors have helped to perpetuate.

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Microsoft takes a pruning axe to Skype's forest of features

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Dear MS

It's worth noting that Peter Skillman was only appointed to take over Skype design duties a mere five months ago (according to his LinkedIn bio). I'm a big admirer of his previous work both at Palm (webOS) and Nokia (N9 Harmattan, Asha Fastlane), so I'm hoping that he can do something to simplify the way Skype works, which is the problem it still has, rather than simply simplifying the way it looks, which is how Microsoft got into this mess.

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Microsoft takes another whack at killing off Windows Phone 8.x

Kristian Walsh
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Strawman.

VS2015 is the last version to support Windows Phone 8.1 - the community edition is still free. You can use it to build personal apps. They run just fine once installed.

What you cannot do is distribute those apps to users who are not developers, because the platform is dead.

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The Death of the Gods: Not scared of tech yet? You haven't been paying attention

Kristian Walsh
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Re: --->Götterdämmerung.

Sorry for pedantry, but "Götterdämmerung" is not the death of the gods, but rather their twilight. The difference is important, because the words "twilight" and "Dämmerung" mean both the dim light after sunset and the dim light before sunrise. That double-meaning produces what is an unusually subtle title for Wagner.

Tolkien was often asked about Wagner's operas in his lifetime, and despite his famous answer that "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases", the idea of the ring itself being the instrument of power, and of it corrupting the soul of its wearer are both points that are hard to find evidence for in the mythology until after Wagner's operas. Maybe this reluctance to acknowledge the influence could be because, by the time LoTR was published, the use of Wagner's work by the Nazis would have been fresh in the memory of potential readers.

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EU wants one phone plug to rule them all. But we've got a better idea.

Kristian Walsh
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Re: EU Standard plug

That happens when you let Germans design a plug

SCART = "Syndicat des Constructeurs d'Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs", so I think you might be pissing on the wrong bank of the Rhine, there.

For a standard developed in 1970, it proved to be extremely far-sighted: particularly in standardising a method for direct RGB input to TVs, something which only became useful in the late 1980s for home computers, and really only hit the broader consumer market in the late 1990s when Digital TV and DVD became popular.

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Talk about left Field: Apple lures back Tesla engineering guru

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Tesla has plenty of problems...

Short-selling is not dubious, it's not bad, it's not "evil". I'd expect a whole lot better from technical people than just spouting someone else's ideologies without investigating the reasons why the phenomenon exists.

Consider a stock market as a control system for pricing (Economists, forgive the errors and simplifications). The "proper" price of a stock is what people think it's worth (not the intrinsic value of the company, and certainly not what the company owner thinks its worth) . That "proper" price is the set-point of your control system. What's listed on the exchange is the output of the system (the offer-price). The error signal is the difference between the "proper" price and the offer price. The feedback mechanism is the difference between purchase prices (accepted bid-prices) and the offer-price.

Now, if you've done any control systems theory, you'll see there's a problem with that outline: it has unequal resistance. Sellers rarely accept bids below the current listed value, so you can only buy at the price offered, or wait until it falls naturally. However, if you want to buy at higher than the offer price (i.e., inject positive feedback into the system) you can do so immediately. This resistance to negative movement, if unchecked, produces a market where stocks become overvalued, and then collapse catastrophically once the offer-price drifts so far away from the "true" value that buyers stop buying.

In a phase of price growth, short-selling is a stronger downward adjuster of stock prices than merely not buying. As an example, an investor holds 100 shares of Stock T, but believes that it's over-valued, but also wishes to retain, or later increase, their shareholding in T (i.e., they have confidence in the company, but concerns that its stock price is ballooning). Simply selling the stock that they believe to be overpriced at market value actually injects positive feedback into the system - someone buys it, and the price finds a new, higher, perceived floor. Selling the stock at below market value doesn't have effect as long as other sellers keep selling at the highest price they can get (the rational behaviour).

The answer to this problem is to short-sell. Sell half the stock, but sign a contract to buy it back again at whatever market price is a month from now. If the price isn't lower by then, you've lost. If it is, you gain. Either way, you, as the investor, have provided a strong feedback signal to the market that the current price of the stock is above its "proper" value, and done so in a way that doesn't force you into irrational behaviour (selling at lower than the best price available)

For companies, like Tesla, that are sold on the promises of the company itself, short-selling is the only safe corrective mechanism available to stop the price creating a bubble. Earnings reports won't depress prices the way they do with established companies, because Tesla is sold on the basis that it's not going to make money for a long time. Without short-selling, the only corrective measure is a cessation of buying, which causes a dramatic price crash, just as an overrunning control signal eventually hits a safety limit and shuts down the process under control.

If someone is childish enough to think that a company's stock price is a measure of personal approval for, and judgement of, its CEO, then that person is certainly going to be upset with short-sellers.

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Funnily enough, no, infosec bods aren't mad keen on W. Virginia's vote-by-phone-app plan

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Could I vote?

The story says "Government Issued ID", but neglects to mention that this definition includes a Drivers License ("S"-spelling because that's the name of the document, don't bug me)

Anyone who's spent time in the USA will know how often people are asked to show this document, and it's commonplace for background-check services to request (and receive) scans of it. So, there's the first hurdle down: I've got someone's ID photo. Now If I project that image onto a balloon, and let the app's phone camera grab it, can I vote for them? I bet I can. Hell, why don't I just run the app under a rooted phone with debug enabled, and simply bypass or fake the validation step. Expensive, yes, but a State Governorship is worth more than a few million dollars, if campaign budgets are any judge.

The way around this nonsense is simple: Vote in person, make a mark in a box printed on a sheet of paper using a pencil. By all means use computers to assist in the counting of those ballots (and in the first-past-the-post electoral system used across the USA, it is trivial to count ballots optically), but the initial input needs to be handmade.

All mechanical and digital systems for recording votes are vulnerable to undetectable ballot-stuffing. X-in-a-box systems can at least be subjected to graphological analysis if there's suspicion, but a hole in a card, or a row in a database has no trait that can reveal that it was created in bulk by a single person.

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It's a phone with a peel, but you'll have to wait a bit more for retro Nokia

Kristian Walsh
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Yes.. that was my thought: if someone really managed to get Symbian running on any post-2011 chipset, their talents are seriously wasted at a fake phone-maker.

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Basic bigot bait: Build big black broad bots – non-white, female 'droids get all the abuse

Kristian Walsh
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Re: And that's probably why...

First bite... Haul him in!

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Facebook deletes 17 accounts, dusts off hands, beams: We've saved the 2018 elections

Kristian Walsh
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Seventeen "Patient Zero"s (was: Re: Hey!!)

(Don't take any of the below as an apology for Facebook. They're not doing nearly enough, and they know that tackling this problem reduces their revenues, so they let it slide like the amoral pricks they are)

I don't use Facebook anymore (for reasons below) - I'm before the three million who dumped it after the Cambridge Analytica story, but the reasons were similar: as time went on, more and more of the feed was being filled with garbage political and marketing posts, blindly forwarded by a handful of people whom I was actually friends with, so didn't want to block.

But, if your spend any amount of time on Facebook, and you'll see that it most of the shite you see is in the form of forwarded articles, and when you dig into it, you notice that the person who forwarded it to you didn't get it from the original publishing account, but from someone they knew.

Seventeen accounts. If 100,000 people followed those original malicious accounts (it's not clear if the followers figure was aggregate, or per account), then that's 100,000 channels for the information to reach a like-minded idiot. It's not fair to say 100,000 like-minded idiots, because a common technique is to set up a page for a popular, broadly-supported social issue, gather followers that way, and then silently change the page name and content to fit the real agenda.

Those like-minded idiots then spam the hundred or so people who know them (the average size of a Facebook "friends" list is 100 - seach "Dunbar's Number" for a good theory of why this is so). Within that hundred, there'll be at least one more who'll inflict the same post on his or her friend-list either by commenting on it, liking it, or re-posting it. And so it goes on, until millions have at least seen the message. But the real reason why Facebook is the political activist's wet dream is that when you see the story they post, it's not labelled as "{Political pressure group} says:", but rather as "{Person you know} read this" - which many, many people blindly take as "{Person you know} believes:" Add to that Facebook's habit of auto-inserting stories from an account, simply because some friend of yours has read other stories from that account, or commented on them (even if that comment is "you are the scum of the earth"), and it's easy to see why it's the vehicle of choice for disinformation campaigns.

(It could be worse: Facebook-owned WhatsApp doesn't even label forwards as "Forwarded by", a practice that has caused a spate of murders in India, where WhatsApp is used as a de-facto social media platform, because a series of urban myths warning about child-abductors, when forwarded around rural villages, ended up being interpreted as "I saw two strangers here this morning in a green car, who were trying to steal young boys" rather than the correct "I was sent this story about two strangers somewhere ...")

What's second striking about these posts is that they come from a very small number of sources - few people have the spare time and inclination to write this kind of garbage. There are far more than seventeen, absolutely, but I'd say it's far less than a thousand.

So, seventeen isn't nearly enough, but it's a lot more than it looks like.

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On Android, US antitrust can go where nervous EU fears to tread

Kristian Walsh
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Google's competitors include Facebook, but you seem to have left out a major competitor: Apple.

Apple may not be operating on the same commercial model as Google, but every customer Apple draws into the iOS ecosystem is a pair of eyeballs that will spend less time providing Google with profiling information on Android.

This competition for audience is similar to how the BBC and ITV compete in the UK television market despite BBC not carrying advertising*

You can have a monopoly even with if it looks like there's competition: taking the TV analogy, ITV used to have a monopoly on all television advertising in the UK, despite having a non-monopoly 40-60% of the television audience. That was a bad situation for advertisers, and for viewers, and it was changed as a result.

Google has a monopoly on app distribution for Android and it uses it to make device manufacturers use Google's other services, even where better products exist. Apple has a similar monopoly on iOS, but Apple skirts the anti-trust issue because it doesn't sell iOS to other manufacturers. (For what it's worth, I think Apple engages in anti-trust activity too, in a different way, but we're talking particularly about Google and Android).

The central issue with Android is that it's not a negotiable product. Lets' imagine that TomTom or Garmin wants to make a phone. They are navigation specialists, so would prefer to keep their navigation application as the default navigation service: that is the competitive advantage they're offering (but of course customers would still free to chose Google maps or another product if they want to). This reasonable proposition is not permitted by Google, because in order to use any of the Google applications, you must use all of them, and they must be defaults, and this condition cannot be negotiated. You cannot give Google more money for an Android license to gain the flexibility - Google uses the Play App-store to bully you into ceding every other aspect of the platform to them too.

That's called "Bundling". It was the core complaint in United States versus Microsoft, and it's still illegal today.

( * yes, many independent programmes commissioned by the BBC contain shadily-financed soft product placements that they really shouldn't, and yes, the BBC sells tie-in merchandise for its programming, but the point still stands because ITV output has those same options, plus direct advertising to viewers)

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Microsoft still longs to be a 'lifestyle' brand, but the cupboard looks bare

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Huh!

The pricing has to be right, which it is for Office, and isn't for Adobe Creative Suite (for example). I looked at the price to rent Adobe Illustrator, and decided to replace it with a €70 copy of Affinity Designer instead. (Seriously - you owe it to yourself to check this out).

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Official: The shape of the smartphone is changing forever

Kristian Walsh
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@Piro

... the film production industry does this, but film production had so many different source and intermediary aspect ratios that normalising them was the only way for people to stay sane. And as the final cinema presentation will always a fixed height, with variable width, it makes sense to normalise everything in terms of height being "1 unit" (it certainly makes it easier for a projectionist to work out how wide the curtains have to open to accommodate a 1.85:1 presentation)

But like it or not, when it comes to TV, and consumer electronics in general, the "-to-9" ratios are ingrained in the public's perception thanks to the billions spent in the late 1990s and early 2000s to launch 16:9 "widescreen" televisions and content.

And while most of the film-industry ratios are down to the mechanical details of film cameras, the TV ratios that correspond to them are actually a simple geometric progression:

31:41 = 3:4 = 1.33... :1, approx. the cinematic "Academy" ratio (1.37:1)

32:42 = 16:9 = 1.77 :1 approx. cinematic widescreen (1.85:1)

33:43 = 64:27 = 2.37:1 approx. "scope" ratios (2.35~2.39:1)

64:27 TVs do exist, and were sold in the past by Philips and others, but were advertised as "21:9" to make it clearer that they were a "super-widescreen" set. The problem with these wasn't the display, but the fact that they had to scale up existing 1080p content, with resulting loss of sharpness. But with today's streaming services able to (theoretically) deliver a native, unscaled 2.37:1 4k feed to consumers, I'm expecting a small renaissance in this aspect ratio at the high-end of the market.

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It walks, it talks, it falls over a bit. Windows 10 is three years old

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Windows 7 holdouts

They're not "hard coded". The newer CPUs have features that the kernel in Windows 7 doesn't support. Take the example of the new low-latency clock-speed adjustment features of Intel's Kaby Lake and later CPUs: the CPU will throttle its speed semi-automatically, but the kernel needs a method of knowing that this is happening, and overriding it when it isn't appropriate. Without those hooks, the hardware can't be used optimally - you get worse battery life, or slow performance. Windows 10 has these hooks, Windows 7/8 do not.

There's also the question of drivers for the support-chips on the board. Once Windows 7 stopped being sold as a pre-install, motherboard manufacturers no longer needed to write chipset drivers for it, or test their BIOS with it.

So yes, you could shoehorn Windows 7 onto one of these boards, but it wouldn't perform properly, and some I/O mightn't work.

It's not a conspiracy, and there are board suppliers who have solutions for industrial and commercial users who need Windows 7. You can go to them, but it won't be cheap, and you will not get the very latest CPU and chipset if you insist on running a six-to-ten-year-old OS that cannot properly take advantage of it.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Windows Update on 10

But even if you're updating the kernel, you know what you don't have to do? Reboot after the update. The new kernel won't get used until you reboot, but you can update your system then continue to use it until you're good and ready to reboot it.

That's the case with Windows too. Until you reboot, you have not updated the system.

This is a "can vs. should" question. The NT kernel architecture is perfectly able to do a no-reboot update - like macOS's mach, it's actually pretty easy to swap services in and out (and unlike Linux modules, they can be compiled independently of the kernel version being installed into). However: can you be sure that all of the innumerable userspace applications that run on the installed base of Windows systems would recover gracefully if that call that "always works" returned an error? Sure, you can "kill the clients", but that's taking an kernel-first view of the system, when the people who paid for the system only care about the applications it's running.

If your goal is system stability, a reboot is better than trying to show off and do it live. That holds true no matter what OS you're using. The best way to get uptime is through redundancy and hot-failover, not by juggling bits of the kernel while your application is running on it.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Windows 10 is a dog

Your NAS is using an old version of samba, and is defaulting to CIFS/SMB1, which is highly insecure.

To mitigate it, Windows 10 disabled SMB1 support by default. You can turn it back on (I'm not going to tell you how, because you shouldn't, but it's not hard to find the instructions), but you're better off to log into the NAS and change the samba config so that it defaults to SMB2 or later.

I agree with you about Candy Crush, but it was easy to delete.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Windows Update on 10

Most Windows updates don't need a reboot either, but anything that changes drivers or kernel services needs to reboot. You can't update the Linux kernel without a reboot, and you can't update linux drivers without updating the kernel. You can't do a macOS update without a reboot either.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: "time to step into the wonderful of world of Linux"

Give Microsoft and Apple two more years on their respective trajectories, and Windows 10 will be much better than MacOS. Apple had a pretty good, stable, if not particularly efficient, OS back at 10.9, but have been loading it down with bizarre UI mechanisms and endless iPhone integration features that forget that a computer screen is not as private as a phone screen (seeing a presenter's phone text messages pop up in the corner of the projector screen during their presentations is only funny the first few times it happens..).

I also wouldn't assume that macOS is sending less information, by the way. Quite a few macOS services send private data for remote processing; it's just that Mac users are less likely to notice it, given the smaller number of IT/network professionals in their customer base. There's a Mac app called "Little Snitch" that can be quite informative in discovering these, but to skip to the chase, here's a guide to turning off most of the offending services if you're worried about them: https://www.macstrategy.com/article.php?190 If you're unfortunate enough to own a Touch Bar laptop, you should pay attention to the "typing suggestions" setting in particular...

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Farewell then, Slack: The grown-ups have arrived

Kristian Walsh
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Re: I'd rather stick with Slack than trust Microsoft not to stuff it up

"relatively" reliable?

You know that, a couple of weeks ago, Slack went down across a huge chunk of the US for a whole day?

And it didn't make the tech news, because it was just another Slack outage.

As a company, Slack has shown over and over that it lacks the IT expertise to design and maintain a communications service.

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Your phone may be able to clean up snaps – but our AI is much better at touching up, say boffins

Kristian Walsh
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Re: How about the audio equivalent?

This system is a reconstructor for images. As it fills in pixels that have been obliterated in the input., you're never getting the original - all that you gain is the removal of signals that distract from what the original probably was.

Old recordings to have quite a lot of data, but masked by very high levels of noise. If you consider that an old phonograph was basically a cutting needle coupled to a drum with very little processing between, there's quite a bit of information that could be pulled out of it.

"Improving" the listening is all that's needed for academic study of old recordings, and certainly for entertainment purposes - I've listened to a few early recordings, and it takes a while for your ears to adjust to the noise and missing high and low frequency information. pre-processing with an AI could help bring these to a wider audience.

For more serious work, just like the medical imaging examples, the post-AI version is used to get an overview, but where there's doubt, the original pre-processed file is still available for detailed study. This already happens in historical research: historians normally work from transcripts and translations of old documents, but in special cases they will need to examine the original book to resolve a query.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Huh

I though that too, but looking at the text examples, there's so much defacement, and the text is so small, that it's basically another kind of noise.

I'd still like to see the output when fed a watermarked image, but my gut feeling is that it would leave it largely intact.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Am I the only one...

It's not AI, it's a computer. Dammit.

It is AI, because it's a computer.

This uses a trained neural network. That's pretty much the classical Artificial Intelligence approach to problem solving. I can't think of any other correct term for this approach (it's not "data processing" - that would only describe the deployment stage, where the already-trained network is applied to the input, noisy, images). Call it Machine Learning if you prefer, but the academic field that does it has been called Artificial Intelligence since the dawn of computing.

It's not the fault of people working in that academic field that its name has been hijacked by a generation of self-appointed "futurists" and bullshitters (same thing?) to describe their tech-utopian wet dreams.

The other problem that besets AI is that as soon as an application of it is working and doing something useful, those same loudmouths stop including it in their definition of "AI", so the general public don't appreciate that AI systems are a. not something new, and b. not something rare: OCR, that X-Box Kinect camera, voice control of anything, high-definition ultrasound imaging are all excellent examples of Artificial Intelligence deployments.

"Intelligence" here doesn't mean that the things can think. It means they can extract relevant information from a wide range of inputs that containing that information.

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You're indestructible, always believe in 'cause you are Go! Microsoft reinvents netbook with US$399 ‘Surface Go’

Kristian Walsh
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Re: US$399 “Surface Go” has a ten-inch screen

Other way around, as Microsoft's product was first by a good few years.

You can actually get compatible pens for Surface from about $30 if you want to try one out, and can do without tilt recognition. Search "n-Trig pen" and pick according to your budget. Not as accurate as the $100 one from Microsoft, and no tilt or eraser (I really thought this was a gimmick, but it's actually a brilliant idea in use), but you can at least get something cheap if all you need is "a pen".

For an iPad, your options are basically give $100 to Apple or do without, but that shouldn't be a surprise anymore to Apple customers.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: somehow $399 becomes €449, becomes £379

Official pricing starts at £379, for what it's worth: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/surface/8V9DP4LNKNSZ?activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab

That's cheaper than the Euro pricing, which is confirmed at €449

I'm not so sure about "underpowered" either. It's never going to be a gaming rig or a dev workstation, but based on benchmarks, the Pentium Gold CPU used in this isn't as bad as the name "Pentium" would suggest. In compute benchmarks it almost matches the more expensive Core m3 used by both Microsoft and Apple at the entry level of more expensive laptop ranges (but m3 has lower TDP and bigger caches). I have the Surface 3, with Atom, and that is underpowered when it comes to some web-browsing (i.e., the kind where you have to download a quarter megabyte of JavaScript just to read a 2,000-word news article), but this model's CPU isn't as far down the rankings as that one's was at launch.

The direct competition for this is the Retina iPad at £319/£409 (32/128G), which isn't exactly a powerhouse either - the iPad Pro is a huge leap up in performance, but at £619 for the 10" model, it's also £240 more expensive than the Surface Go.

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