* Posts by Alan Johnson

174 posts • joined 1 Sep 2008


Hubble 'scope camera breaks down amid US govt shutdown, forcing boffins to fix it for free

Alan Johnson

I think this is very disingenuous - yes building a wall was a signature campaign promise but so was a promise that Mexico would pay for it. The main reason to oppose the wall is that it will be a huge waste of money having little effect and therefore the cost to the US against campaign promises is a very cogent and appropriate reason to oppose it.

Dark matter's such a pushover: Baby stars can shove weird stuff around dwarf galaxies

Alan Johnson

Re: Alternate theory

Yes I hate the terms dark matter and dark energy because they are explanations for apparent conflicts between observations and current physical theories. At the bottom they are anomolies in the dynamics of very large objects dark matter is simply an incomplete hypothesis as to the origin of one of the anomalies.

I find the idea that there is a something which is simultaneously cold and collisionless and can be kinetically 'heated up' and moved around". seems to be stretching plausibility quite apart from the absence of any direct observations of any dark matter. Maybe you can tune a model so it is sufficently weakly interacting to be cold and collisionless but still interacts enough to allow it to heat up and be moved around but it seems awkward and implausible to me but I am not at all qualified to comment. If I was in the field I would be seeking some model which explained both phenomena as it seems quiet a coincidence to have two different types of anomaly in the dynamics large scale objects.

However calling these things dark matter and dark energy is misleading. Something is missing or wrong in our physics but we have no assurance that it is dark energy or dark matter.

Apple blew my mind – literally, says woman: MagSafe plug sparked face-torching blaze, lawsuit claims

Alan Johnson

Not Apples fault

I am no fan of apple but it is not safe to use any electronic device in an oxygen rich environment unless it has been speciifcally designed for that environment. The design guidelines to ensure safety or alternatively the test procedures are far beyond ordinary safety standards. Quotes I remeber from testing is 'You know that fire proof tape - It is not fireproof in oxygen', "There is literally nothing left in the test chamber everything burnt''. It is down to the manufacturer of the oxygen concentrator to warn about this in the instructions for use, labels etc, which I am sure they did. It is not at the stupidity level of the classic issue that the user of the oxygen concentrator decides to have a smoke while using the system.

The reality is that sympathetic individuals (sick, old lady) can sue and win against a big company solely on the basis of sentiment whatever the evidence or logic and who can blame a jury for thinking that apple can afford $75000 and it would make a big difference to the women. It is a however a real problem when trying to design products that will not be subject to product liability lawsuits.

Who's watching you from an unmarked van while you shop in London? Cops with facial recog tech

Alan Johnson

Re: False positives

OK but it still makes it worse than useless for what appears to be the intended purpose.

Alan Johnson

Re: Funding cuts lead to this

Why would cuts lead to spending money on continuing trials of technology with this dismal a performance? Even if it accuracy by a factor of ten so its false positive rate was around 80% it is not clear it would reduce workload so much as increase it with a string of false positives or more likely consume money and simply be ignored.

Here's 2018 in a nutshell for you... Russian super robot turns out to be man in robot suit

Alan Johnson

Re: good margin

The merit and strength of first past the post is that successful parties have to have broad appeal and therefore can't be focusse don single issues but address most issues and the trade offs between them. The public vote based on these compromise positions and understand at least broadly and most of the time the general approach and platforms concerned. In PR systems, and this is worse the more faithfully proportional the system is, mainstream parties more or less draw and the power is given to minor often single issue or group focussed parties who are often quite unpopular. The decisions about broad policy are taken as part of coallition negotiations with the result often being directly against strong public opion with policies supported by as little as 5 or 10% of the population becomming the price for forming a coallition. It is not so bad when systems prevent very small minority parties getting representation but these are by definition not proportional systems. True PR is a democratic nightmare handing power to small minorities, encouraging political fragmentation and discouraging any real debate about priorities and trade offs.

US Homeland Security installs AI cameras at the White House, Google tries to make translation less sexist

Alan Johnson

Meaning of Bias?

The supposed bias in google translate is the second time i have read stories about gender 'bias' in google AI projects an in both cases there was no bias just an unwillingness to accept what he statistical data was telling the developers and the 'solution' introduced bias.

The problem for google translate is that it does not work as a human translator understanding the original text and context and then creating text with the equivalent menaing in another language but via machine learning looking at combinations of words and how they are most commonly associated with words in another language. There is no understanding and therefore the translation can be completely wrong. The further the languages are apart in structure and grammar the mor elikely errors including gender errors are. In english if the subject is singular and the sex is nt known or not relevant the pronoun is most commonly 'he', in modern english in order to preserve neutrality about sex it might be 'they'. The latest translate gives options of both 'he' and 'she' but she is never right if it is intended as a neutral pronoun so the translation has become worse and will only be right occasionally by chance. A deliberate introduction of a bias not present in the original machine learning algorithm or data has been introduced. We could just be grown up an recognise that machine translations have many flaws and the issue of gender in traslation is by no means the worst. We can use google translate because of speed or lack of cost but we have to accept it is not a human translator.

The other case of bias is when google trained an AI to help filter CVs for job applicants and discovered that it was preferentially selecting male candidates whcih again was described as 'bias'. What had actually happened was that the training data showed that the best performing employees were more likely to be men than women and the algorithms naturally incorporated this into its algorithm. We can speculate about why this is but it is well known that on average women work substantially fewer hours and take long career breaks. A human interviewer cannot ask a female candidate in her late twenties if she plans to start a family and take time off but a machine learning algorithm cannot help but incorporate the probability of this into its behaviour. In both cases it is not bias which is the problem but the fact that in certain areas it is politically convenient for people to ignore reality. When a machine learning algorithm makes it hard to ignore then the result is described as bias.

Blighty: We spent £1bn on Galileo and all we got was this lousy T-shirt

Alan Johnson

Re: Well, who'd have thought it?

"Actions have consequences, so suck it up."

The issue is I didn't vote for it and the consequences so far seem likely to be inline with what I expected - The deal we can negotiate is manifestly far worse than being in so we will be unable to agree a deal and will leave without one. Leaving without a deal will be worse than leaving with the deal we could negotiate so we will get the worst possible outcome.

I remember many of the Brexiteers saying how strong the UK negotiating position was and how easy it would be to negotiate a favourable deal. Davis I seem to remember said it would be 'one of the easiest in human history'. Complete fantasy and obvious that Farage and others who distance dthemeselves from any involvement in delivery knew it. Davis and Johnson only realised once they were involved and jumped ship when it was clear that what was promised could not be delivered.

'Pure technical contributions aren’t enough'.... Intel commits to code of conduct for open-source projects

Alan Johnson

Re: re: Still, if it makes you happy to call people bigots, have at it.

Its not Codes of Conduct in general its this one which is explicitly anti-meritocratic and therefore implicitly racist and sexist.

Which scientist should be on the new £50 note? El Reg weighs in – and you should vote, too

Alan Johnson

Re: Ada Lovelace

"he invented the hardware, which was not all that hard, but she envisioned programming, a real revolution."

Is this a wind up? He invented the concept of a digital programmable device and then did the detailled design. He must have envisioned programming well before her as otherwise the invention made no sense at all. You can't accidently create the worlds first programmable computation device. He clearly communicated the concept to her to him and she provided an example program. Promoting her contribution as greater than his is crazy.

Alan Johnson

Much nonsense about Franklin.

"Once she was dead the two esteemed gentlemen could not be bothered citing her work while collecting kudos and laurels. Do not even get me started on what is called not citing your source in science."

Nonsense the key paper in Nature specifically mentioned her. the idea she was treated unfairly makes a good story but isn't actually true. She was a very good experimentalist working at the forefront of her field who happened to be beaten to a key discovery by soemoen else. The story about the key photgraph 'stolen' by Crick and Watson ignores the fact she had publically announced these results and therefore Circk and Watson were perfectly entitled to use those results, as they did, with due credit, which they gave.

Alan Johnson

The problem with Ada Lovelace and Rosalind franklin is thatthey are rightly overshadowed by others.

Conraray to teh mythology Rosalind Franklinw as not screwed over her experimental work was as was Wilkes but here preferred model of DNA was wrong and Crick and Watson had the insight she did not have. She was a significant scientist but it doesn't make sense to honour rather than those who actually did discover the structur eof DNA rather than help in doing so.

Ada Lovelace's contribution is massively overblow and exageratted clearly Bababge had to have had all the ideas about programming and have example programs he wa susing a stest cases and input to the design of the thing itself. Again she may well have been impressive but why honour her when her part is necessarily far less than Babbage's.

Now Noether. She is a worthy recipient but probably not considered as not British.

My favourite, head and shoulders above other in my opinion, is James Clerk Maxwell.

This revolution will not be televised – but it will be sanctioned: Googlers walk out over 'sex pest' executive scandals

Alan Johnson

Have Google done anything wrong?

None of the protestors or commentators as far as I know have any inside knowledge so all we know is that some men have allegedly been accused of sexual harassment and thse same men have left with reasonably generous exit packages.

We don't know if they actaully did sexually harass anyone and we don't know how strong the evidence was. In this situation the company has to make some decisions based on what information it has. If there is strong evedence making it clear what happened that is easy but if the evidence is weak and contested what do you do? If you sack the accused employee then you will probably be taken to court by the employee and lose being forced to pay compensation, if you ignore the unproved complaint you may well be subject to a lot of negative publicity and possibly staff unrset. What you do is negotiate an exit deal and confidentiality agreement. You do this whether you believe the accused is innocent or guilty of what he is accused of. It does not mean the accused was actually guilty of sexual harassment nor does it mean that the company is soft on sexual harassment just that in the real world we often have to deal with situations that are very unclear and there is no perfect solution.

The protestors are just being naive and childish.

Neutron star crash in a galaxy far, far... far away spews 'faster than light' radio signal jets at Earth

Alan Johnson

Relativity is unique and solid

Yes given some sensible symmetry assumptions (the laws of physics are time, location and velocity independant). You either end up with Galilean relativity or special relativity. There is a derivation of this in 'Wolfgang Rindler; Essential Relativity: Special, General and Cosmological'. I think he also describes this as being shown by an earlier authour but I read this book when it first came out and it is a long time ago now. Not only theoretically but observationally there is a massive weight of evidence for special relativity.

It would be very very surprising if future physics was not locally minkowskian at least on time and distance scales which are observable.

Medical device vuln allows hackers to falsify patients' vitals

Alan Johnson

Not as big a problem as suggested.

It is impossible to asses the ipact of this without an understanding of the intended use of the device but it is almost certainly the case that if it is being used as a vital signs monitor it will have a local audible alarm and alert feature. These must be there because the network/wireless communications cannot be relied upon. Yes misleading information could be fed into the remote monitoring system and this might be a factor in misleading clinicians but the same clinicians will still use visual observations and information from many other sources. In addition advice from the manufacturers will certainly include sensible security measures on the hospital network.

Tesla fingers former Gigafactory hand as alleged blueprint-leaking sabotage mastermind

Alan Johnson

Plan crashing into nuclear reactor fear

"what if nuclear power stations had been targeted by Al Qaeda during 9/11 instead of the Pentagon, the WTC and the failed attack on Capitol Hill ? Hate to think of a plane crashing into a sodium cooled FBR and the subsequent sodium fire."

The design specification is for the containment building to survive an airliner crashed directly into the containment building whether it is sodium or water cooled doesn't really matter.

WannaCry reverse-engineer Marcus Hutchins hit with fresh charges

Alan Johnson

Re: What is it... @Shugyosha

"I didn't know about the significance of triple parentheses until now (in fact, I don't recall having seen it before), but I had downvoted GumpenKraut based on what seemed to be unwarranted anger. I've corrected that to an upvote, and thank you for giving me an opportunity to learn something."

Please do not upvote GrumpenKraut. The original comment was in no way anti-semitic simply referring to american exceptionalism with no parenthesis. GrumpenKraut misattributed it and misrepresented it by adding brackets to falsely claim it was anti-semitic for motives which are his own but are possibly to supress criticism of american attitudes.

We should not allow a triple bracket to become associated with anti-semitism as opposed to a rather over the top way of emphasising a word or its previous coventional use as representing hugs. I have never seen this use before.

Boffins quietly cheering possible discovery of new fundamental particle: Sterile neutrino

Alan Johnson

"Gravity acts on light, which is massless but has energy - so would also act on massless neutrinos."

Photons have no rest mass but they have mass proportional to their momentum/frequeny. Anything with no rest mass must move at the speed of light.

With general Relativity gravity does not act on anything but rather distorts space and time in a way that we interpret as a force.

The fact that neutrinos oscillated and therefore must have mass has been known for a long time. Sterile neutrinos may or may not be the explanation for the experiment described but this sort of thing is beyond my level.

Blood spilled from another US high school shooting has yet to dry – and video games are already being blamed

Alan Johnson

Attitude to Bullying a Factor

It is too early in this case to say anything but was bullying a factor to go alongside gun culture and lack of gun control?

When I lived in the states there seemed to be not just a tolerance of extensive bullying in schools but a tacit approval and encouragement of it in popular culture, and perhaps even in the teaching staff especially in the sporting area. Kids should be taught to be independant and stand up for themselves but they also need to be taugh to respect others and I did not see that.

Many of the mass murders seem to have been performed by bullied, socially awkward teenager who have become desperate, That is no excuse or justification but I am surprise dthat this is not more ideally discussed as a factor. Perhaps there is a wish not to be seen to justify the attacks or blame some of the victims. The gun culture excaserbates this becaus of the message that the way to stand up for yourself, gain power and respect is to use a gun which is ubiquitous in the US.

Alan Johnson

Re: Early information- anti-gun paranoia on display

"The Texas shooter, BTW, didn't use one of those dreaded "assault rifles" (a term invented by the anti-gun movement);"

Gun control paranoia showing here. The term Assault rifle was not invented by the anti-gun movement but by Adolf Hitler 'Sturmgewehr' for the first assault rifles which were created in WW2 and this has been the common term for this sort of weapon ever since. I claim an exception for this comment to Godwin's law that it is relevant and accurate.

Incredible Euro space agency data leak... just as planned: 1.7bn stars in our galaxy mapped

Alan Johnson

Re: You know you're old when...

I had a much read children's encyclopedia when I was young which described the luminiferous aether theory of light propogation replaced by Einstein's theory of special relativity in 1905 (but not in children's science books) and had many other anachronistic entries which even I as a child noticed. One entry I remebered in paticular was for aeroplanes which stated something like 'two types of aeroplanes exist biplanes and mono planes for most practical purposes biplanes have been found to be far superior'. I think it was published in the 30s.

I guess I am old too.

Virtue singing – Spotify to pull hateful songs and artists

Alan Johnson

dangerous policy

Banning recordings based on the content - fine in principle, care needs to be taken with satircal works etc but OK as long as rules clear and applied even handedly.

Banning recordings by people with criminal convictions - Not a good idea. Reformed criminals and works unrelated to the crimes will be affected, but morally defensible if they had a fair trial.

Banning recordings by people accused but found not guilty of crimes - Terrrible idea, completely wrong in principle, mob justice, completely unjustifiable.

Mike Lynch's British court showdown v HPE pushed back to 2019

Alan Johnson

Caveat Emptor

The problem with HPs case is the principle of caveat emptor, the extensive due diligence performed by HP and that everyone at the time thought that Autonomy was hugely overpriced.

How on earth was did the due diligence process fail to unearth the supposed level of over valuation. Part of this must have been a look at actual sales, actual income and actual expenditure. No one outside of HP thought the value was anything like what was paid so how did the due diligence come to the conclusion that the company was worth what was paid?

Naturally Autonomy said they were worth more than they atually were, that is what a seller does but how can HP be successful sueing when the most major and obvious cause of their problems is massive incompetence by HP?

Industry whispers: Qualcomm mulls Arm server processor exit

Alan Johnson

Re: Why should ARM Holdings help?

Cost is a factor, as is support/infrastructure, familiarity and perceived risk but the costing model you are talking about is far from reality. A high end server processor must have a price measured in hundreds of dollars. An embedded processor especially in high volume is going to be a dollar or two at most and exists in a market place overflowing with viable alternatives and cut throat competition. The embedded processor is vastly different from the server processor.

The issue any ARM based device faces is the difficulty of displacing/competing with an established dominant supplier. A small technical/commercial edge is not enough in this situation, a sustained and major advantage is needed to vercome the infrastrcuture, support and familiarity issues.

Autonomy pulled wool over Brit finance panel's eyes, US court told

Alan Johnson

What happened to due dilligence?

I can't see how understanding the accounting practicies and paticularily revenue and costs/expenditure were not part of due dilligence. This case has home court advantage but still seems massive incompetence on HPs part.

More than 87m Facebook profiles farmed, says second ex-Cambridge Analytica witness

Alan Johnson


"If, on the other hand, it turns out that people were being manipulated wholesale in illegal manners then that's something else entirely and by all standards of common sense the vote should be nullified."

The problem with this is that the referendum was just advisory. The binding vote was in parliment and that was only indirectly affected by whatever happened. If you are paranoid then you could see this as planned, influence a non-binding vote illegally to cause parliment to vote for something it would certainly not have done so otherwise and be protected so if it comes out only the non-binding vote is affected. I think this was just accidental rather than a plot.

I am actually a remoaner in taht I think leaving teh EU will be permenantly damaging to the UK economy taking us back to where we were before we entered the EU - the sick man of europe, the big economy that bumps along performing worse than other comparable economies. However I see taking any action over what probably were campaign finance rules breaches by the brexit side very problematic. Were the rule breaches big enough to affetc the result? The vote was in any case purely advisory and the precedent of changing an election result on this basis would be such as to encourage legal fights and campaigns about irregularaties after every election. On the other hand doing nothing would make therules a dead letter and widely ignored eventually ending up with the US model of elections that are so costly no one who is not immensely wealthy or in debt to the immensely wealthy can be elected. The solution would be that if serious breachs are found senior politicians responsible for the campaigns are jailed. This will never happen even if legally possible which I doubt.

Don’t fight automation software for control, just turn it off. FAST

Alan Johnson

Re: We had crashes because the autopilot disengaged without the pilots noticing...

@ I ain't Spartacus

"This is a bit like the Air France flight 447 crash. Where the aircraft was "averaging" the inputs of the two pilots - whose cockpit discipline had broken down and were both trying to fly the plane at once"

This is not really true. One of the pilots caused the crash with a consistently incorrect control input for over 3 minutes. There was a time period when thr other pilot had a good control input but the problem wa sthat one pilot held teh controls in a completely in appropriate position for minutes despite (not continuosly present) appropriate warning messages from the aircraft and despite his training. It can't really be blamed on the averaging.

There is an argument that it was due to automation but a much more subtle one. Normally the pilots error would have been handled by the aricraft as it prevents a stall. However there had been a fault in the sensors which meant this level of protection was disengaged but the aircraft was still perfectly flyable. Some have speculated that the pilot concerned had become so used to the protection provided that under stress he defaulted to behaviour which was only safe if the protection was in place. I suspect something like this may happen with automatic cars that humans are put in place as fallbacks when the car goes wrong and therefore blamed by accidents caused when the automated systems fail unexpectedly putting the human driver in a dangerous situation with little or no warning and low situational awareness.

Uber self-driving car death riddle: Was LIDAR blind spot to blame?

Alan Johnson

Was LIDAR blind spot to blame? - No

To answer the question in the title of the article - No for at leats two reasons.

1. The predestrian and her bike cannot possibly have been in a blind spot for the LIDAR. They were large and tall objects exactly in locations where the lIDAR should be designed to look with nothing obstructing the view. If the LIDAR could not look in thes elocations there would be no point to it.

2. If the LIDAR is critial to safety then it should not be the sole sensor used. I have no idea how the vehicle is deisgned but the article mentions multiple radars.

It is much much more likely that something in the algorithms or the implementation of the algorithms was wrong and despite having input from sensors that picked up the women and bike the vehicle simply failed to brake or slow down in any way.

What is shocking about this incident is that it was almost ideal conditions. Long straight road without other vehicles and a clear unobstructed view of a predestrian for hundreds of yards who is slowly but consistently moving. Something that hits an object inder these conditions has serious flaws and you would expect multiple independant systems would be in place to prevent such a collision. The only thing worse would be to hit a stationary object. Some combination of dififcult conditions would make this understandable: a winding road with multiple vehicles, fog or smoke, and a predestrian who moved out from a location where they were obscured, a small child without a bike who was low to the ground, slippery surface that was difficult to brake on etc. None of this was present.

Ther shoudl be a detailed investigation and a focus on risk management because on the face of it the accident suggests negligence.

Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, off you go: Snout of UK space forcibly removed from EU satellite trough

Alan Johnson

Re: The Swiss are in it

@ ToddRundgrensUtopia

"Free of un-elected bureaucrats. That's a starter for me"

In what world will leaving the EU leave us free of unelected bureaucrats?

The numbers are Bureaucrats employed by the EU 46k employed by the UK 332k. Thats right the UK has 7 times more bereaucrats than the whole of the EU. Many of the EU Bureaucrats will have no dealings or impact on the UK at all so once the UK adds civil servants to deal with things the UE dealt with there will almost certainly be a substantial increase over what we have now.

In terms of 'red tape' I can't point at numbers but I have had to deal with EU and UK regulations and the EU stuff is much shorter and more focussed on what is important and necessary rather than pointless , arbitrary and intrusive like typical UK stuff. The EU also changes and updates regulations less frequently than the UK.

The idea that leaving the UK woudl lead to a bureaucrat and red tape free nirvarna is total fantasy. The reality will be the opposite.

Uber's disturbing fatal self-driving car crash, a new common sense challenge for AI, and Facebook's evil algorithms

Alan Johnson

What will an inquest say?

Having seen the video then i think it is clear an average car driver woudl have stopped long before the women. The lighting and visibility was good. The road condition is good. Not even tight.

A poor driver who did not notice her coming across the road may or may not have ht her but woudl have slowed considerably when he finally notice her may 50 60 meters away. Forget the standard highway code stopping distance my car does much much better than that in an emergeny.

The only way a human would have hit her at speed is if the driver was both poor and inattentive.

The other thing is the difficutly of a human tasked with monitoring an autonomous car waiting to take over. When the circumstances necessary to take over arise, unless the monitoring driver is in a heightened state of alertness it will be far too late. If vehicle safety requires such monitoring then I do not think it is safe for anything other than very short journeys in which the necessary alertness can be maintained. It should not be allowed on the roads except for short well controlled trips.

Coming back to an inquest. It seems ot me Uber are culpable at least in not having an adequate backup system which recognises the monitoring roles dificulty. How long had the car been driving. What was the description of the task? What other task were they given?

The LIDAR thing seems a red herring. I think it liekly it got returns from teh women but did nto handle them correclt ybut if it is possible nto to get returns from a person and bicycle then it should not be relied on. The woman was visible for a long time, even with the unreasonably poor video without any action taken.

Fancy a viaduct? We have a wrought Victorian iron marvel to sell you

Alan Johnson

Re: Why a duck?

"Last time I checked the Romans didn't build viaducts per se. Aqueducts, yes."

Yes they did although they did not call them viaducts. At the end of the day a viaduct is just a bridge to carry a road and they made a lot more of them than they did aqueducts. There are many still standing and in use some very long.

New algorithm could help self-driving cars scout out hidden objects

Alan Johnson

Re: Vibrations

"yes, the real world is so different to a lab. Speed of processing data I think is always going to be key in the real world"

I suspect signal to noise ratio will be the key in the real world. Very few photons will be scattered around corners and then fewer still are scattered back to the detector. In the real world especially in daylight but also with other light sources providing noise I am sceptical enough photons can be gathered in a sensible time period to be able to reconstruct anything useful. OK you can take the difference between with the laser on and off but noise in the signal and noise in the environment will still add. Few photons mean noisy data. Reconstruction will if anything amplify the noise. This a much more fundamental limit than processing time.

Ever wondered why tech products fail so frequently? No, me neither

Alan Johnson

Test is part of engineering!

"Put this down to poor engineering if you like but that's too glib to be a full explanation. I prefer to blame inadequate prototype testing, where design flaws, manufacturing niggles or, in my UAT example above, a system's unsuitability to real-world requirements might be nipped in the bud."

Test is NOT The solution to all quality issues but test is part of engineering and the monitoring and control of build quality and consistency is part of production engineering so yes it is poor engineering somewhere whether it is design, implementation, production or shipping, unless it was a deliberate trade off of quality against cost which I doubt.

Aut-doh!-pilot: Driver jams 65mph Tesla Model S under fire truck, walks away from crash

Alan Johnson

Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

"Of course not, it only has to be better than humans, and as the article says, it's already 40% better than humans, a figure I expect to improve as time goes by."

At best the combination of human and Tesla autopilot is 40% better than a human alone.

Self-driving cars still do not exist even if we think they do

Alan Johnson

Re: They kinda do and kinda don't

I am not convinced we are very close to autonomity. Yes there are systems which drive by themselves but they require an attentive human driver to constantly monitor them and be available to take over when there is a problem the automatic system can't handle. That is pointless and arguably dangerous because when the human is required to take over it is quite likely to be in a situation where it is unexpected and they are unprepared. From my perspective the whole thing is a sham unless I can get in a car over the alchol limit or close my eyes and go to sleep.

To Puerto Ricans: A Register apology

Alan Johnson

Delusions of grandeur

Trump may or may not be treating well. I think he is an embarassementand damaging not just to the US but to the whole of western democracies in general. The story is however complete nonsense.

1. rate of repair

It would be extraordinary if the rate of repair did not slow down. The last cells to be repaired are going to be those which are difficult to repair for logistical or technical reasons. The curve will flatten out and the last cell to be repaired will be later than predicted.

2. Reporting interval

Reporting daily is crazy and smacks of micromanagement for a project expected to last months. The idea that reporting daily versus every two days makes a 30% productivity difference can only come from someone who has never worked in a real job. A lot of time will simply be sent collecting, checking, presenting and reviewing figures daily. If this was real then reporting twice daily would give even higher productivity, perhaps they should report the numbers hourly or perhaps every 30 minutes? If they reported evey minute perhaps they could get the whole project done in a couple of days?

3. The repair project was probably always planned to be performed in different phases. The first phase fixing all the easily accessible and high priority locations. The second phase to fix the rest. The change in teh rate of repair simply reflects this change.

At Christmas, do you give peas a chance? Go cold turkey? What is the perfect festive feast?

Alan Johnson

Re: Goose - Yorkshire - yes, yes, yes

Christmas dinner without yorkshire would be like christmas dinner without sprouts.

YouTuber cements head inside microwave oven

Alan Johnson

'I read somewhere that a study found the average IQ of generations declining, starting with the 80's'

Perhaps surprisingly the opposite is true:


I take the Flynn effect to be a comment on the difficulty of defining let alone measuring intelligence rather than the population if genuinely getting smarter.

Aviation industry hits turbulence as Airbus buys into Bombardier’s new jetplanes

Alan Johnson

"Your unbounded confidence in the EU is quite touching. But lets see how this pans out before being quite so sure. Airbus have never made much money, over the past decade their return on assets has bounded between one and two and half percent, indicating that they are barely viable"

Airbus' viability or not is irrelevant. The UK alone will be f*ck*d by the US whenever there is a significant advantage. The UK as part of the EU is a completely different prospect. I worked ina an industry essentially created in the UK, destroyed by completely overt US action which simply passed a law that permission was required to by non-american product. The end result was that a US companies bought the Britich companies and patents at which point the law was repealed. This was before the EU gave us enough muscle to deter this sort of thing. It may be that you thing that this is not relevant or important but it is dishonest to claim the UK will negotiate on an equal footing with the US with respect to trade. We will not.

Web uni says it will get you a tech job or your money back. So our man Kieren signed up...

Alan Johnson

Re: Mentoring/Peer Marking

'Honestly the peer-based marking system is pretty sane'

It makes sense as long as the mark does not contribute to the overall result. In this case it is an invitation for abuse.

Nadella says senior management pay now linked to improving gender diversity

Alan Johnson

Re: Symptom of bullshit job

Teaching not sexist?

"This certainly was my experience at school with a number of women teachers being quite openly sexist and making disparaging comments about boys in general."

I used to hear that kind of stuff in 90s/00s but not so much recently at College level. There is an awareness that boys/men are underperforming and there are attempts to counter that.

So teachers can make disparaging sexist commente to large numbers of children and nobody blinks an eye. If I said any such remark against women to a single adult let alone a roomful it woudl be worng and I would be in serious trouble.

The awareness of boys underpeforming may be wide spread but the NUT equality information only has information to support for women, LGBT, disabled and black as does the NASUWT web site.

We constantly hear about th3 need for more women in technology but nothing about men in schools. In technology there is little reason to think diversity directly relates to the quality of output whereas there is research suggesting problems with boys taught exclusively by women teachers. An OECD report showing strong gender bias by women teachers against boys being just one.

Yes the teaching profession has a serious sexism problem especially comapred to science and technology.

The future of Python: Concurrency devoured, Node.js next on menu

Alan Johnson


Yes - who write this stuff both are necessary and neither replaces the other.

I do not program in Python but the two concepts of event driven programming and multi-threaded or concurrent programming are seperate, do not address the same issues and are frequently complementary.

The problem with event driven programming is that the event loop must not be blocked for a significant (whatever that means) length of time. It is necessary and normal therefore to have event queues etc and multiple threads to handle operations which are long and do not make sense to break up into smaller sub-operations. If realtime matters then having a single event queue and processing is a major issue because it imposes FIFO scheduling on the system which is almost certainly not appropriate.

Mid-flight jumbo font smartphone text shock sparks kid abuse arrests

Alan Johnson

Re: Freedom of speech dies a little each day

"Frankly, if someone tweets a bomb threat about an airport it has to be taken seriously. Would you want to be the one responsible for dismissing a genuine threat as a joke?"

But it was very clearly a joke and very clearly not a threat. It was not interpretted by anyone as a threat, except for the purpose of prosecuting the guy, as evidenced by their actions. The author was arrested charged and convicted, even if the conviction was overturned on the tird appeal.

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

Alan Johnson

95% done or 95% of the work remaining?

95% of the way there.....

The saying when I started work developing systems was that the last 5% took 95% of the effort I suspect that it is an underestimate in this case.

Take that, gender pay gap! Atos to offshore hundreds of BBC roles

Alan Johnson

Help with pay gap

The pay 'gap' is not that women are paid different amounts for the same job but that the average/median pay for all women is less than that for all men ignoring differences in role, experience and hours worked. It has little if any signifiance but is strongly discriminatory in effect if a target of no gap is applied precisely because it ignores the differences in roles, experience and hours worked.

Outsorcing may well help this 'gap' by getting rid of skilled experiences and generally male IT workers but the metric is meaningless from a discrimination point of view.

Eggheads identify the last animal that will survive on Earth until the Sun dies

Alan Johnson

Re: the planet has billions of years to play with before the sun goes night-night

In the red giant phase the size of the sun is such that it engulfs the earth. That would then affect the earths orbit but it is then irrelevant.

Teen girl who texted boyfriend to kill himself guilty of manslaughter

Alan Johnson

Unwise decision?

She is a despicable person and I feel she should be punished but as a precedent does this make sense?

Does it make sense that manslaughter applies if someone tries to convince someone else to commit suicide but does not physically assist? Ultimately one person decided to take his own life. He may have been influenced by another but the decision was his. What if I publish a book in favour of euthenasia am I guilty for any subsequent suicides or mercy killings?

Logically how can it be involuntary manslaughter? The evidence was that her actions and the outcome were entirely volumtary, preplanned and what she intended.

Tech can do a lot, Prime Minister, but it can't save the NHS

Alan Johnson

Re: Money is the solution


as 'evidence' tht the NHSis not underfunded by comparison to teh health care systems of other similar european countries you produce a list of european countries which spend a higher proportion of GDP on healthcare, some substantially more and none that spend less. I am tempted to make a snarky comment but will leave it to other readers to consider which position your evidence actually supports.

Alan Johnson

Re: Money is the solution

I compared it to america because right wing politicians in paticular often hold up america as an example to be aspired to. Yes the various european systems are much better than the US which has by far the least efficient medical system in the developed world but the big picture is that the NHS is underfunded compared to say france and germany with only very slightly worse outcomes.

My main point is not that efficiency cannot be improved but that the only way that society will benefit from the full potential of increased medical technology is to spend more and that the efficiency of the NHS is not a significant factor in this.

PS. as an IT related aside Electronic Medical Record systems in the US for primary care typically have a feature which optimises doctors income by modelling insurance company algorithms that detect over/unneecessary treatment. They suggest extra services that doctors can be reembursed for to increase their billing but without triggering investigation/action from the insurer. Nice moral use of technology.


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