* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3397 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Dark matter drought hits older galaxies: Boffins are, rightly, baffled

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: re: Many, many phenomena in physics were predicted long before they could be detected

It does look like a bodge though. Calling it "amending the model to fit the data" sounds better as long as you don't think about it for too long.

Better than amending the data to fit the model, isn't it? The cyclic process of observation/experiment -> derive theories that explain the observation/experiment -> design observations/experiments that can falsify the theory -> back to step one, means that as we develop and refine theories, they evolve into forms that explain more and more. For example, Newtonian gravity explained far more than Plato's or Aristotle's idea of gravity, which was essentially separate from their model of planetary motion. Newton unified it, and explained the elliptical, rather than circular orbits put forward by Kepler. What it couldn't explain was the precession of the perihelion of Mercury. Einstein's general relativity put forward a single framework that explained both Mercury's odd, and the other more regular orbits, plus a whole lot more.

Replacing general relativity may well be called for to rid ourselves of dark matter/energy, but at the same time the replacement must explain all previous stuff as well.

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Oxford Uni boffins say internet filters probably won't protect teens

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Anon for reasons - Basically to avoid the SJW'ers

It really is as simple as teaching your kids that's ok to come and speak to you if they are unhappy with the content.

Absolutely right. And anyway, what I find hypocritical (if not downright disturbing) is the focus on blocking sexual content. I find violent content far more upsetting than sexual. After all, sex is a natural experience which aims to be pleasurable to all sides involved (if it doesn't we are talking violence again), whereas violence might be natural, but certainly doesn't aim at being pleasurable (unless some seriously deranged people are involved). I still would prefer talking about violent content (which could simply be news footage from war zones) with my kids than blocking it.

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User lubed PC with butter, because pressing a button didn't work

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Emacs?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Sounds all too familiar

"A real BOFH would have simply tipped off the Police..."

Or used a high-power, fast-working laxative instead of vodka

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AMD does an Italian job on Intel, unveils 32-core, 64-thread 'Naples' CPU

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Very interesting

Currently testing a new MPI algorithm for seriously big images (max 38.6 Gpixel and growing) on our cluster, and getting some pretty good speed-up up to 64 and even 128 and 256 processes (reaching rates of >300 Mpixel/s for a complex image processing task). A cluster of beasts like this would be very nice to test this on further.

Very nice indeed

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IBM has cloud access to quantum computer 400 times smaller than D-Wave system

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: How does it work

Sounds like you are in a high-magic surroundings.

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BONG! Lasers crack Big Ben frequency riddle BONG! No idea what to do with this info BONG!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Did they find any bats in the belfry?

Sorry, I'll get me coat

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Clouds can compete with HPC, say boffins

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting, but ...

1: "The researchers believe the biggest determinant of scalability is the interconnect in place"

Well, well, well. Who would have thought? I finally understand why a distributed-memory set-up with Infiniband interconnect is better than an old Beowulf-style cheapo Ethernet interconnect. </sarcasm>

2: Speed-up isn't always the best measure: I might achieve near linear speed-up, but without knowing the performance on a single machine, I still know little about actual performance.

3: Linpack is ubiquitous, but it doesn't necessarily reflect real-world applications (although much code is written on the back of Linpack. I am sure some of our code would not necessarily run well on the cloud (we are testing it)

4: 32 nodes is not huge by HPC standards, unless each node is really massive in terms of numbers of cores. The Edison system has 5586 nodes. Scaling computation over those numbers is a very different ball game.

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The Register's guide to protecting your data when visiting the US

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Timely advice

I am going to see the eclipse, as I had booked tickets already. I am wondering what they will make of all the kit I will be carrying to record the event, but in my experience the response to carrying telescopes and the like is generally that you get put into the category "Harmless nerd". I'm OK with that, although "Mostly harmless" may be more accurate

The advice on remaining polite is important. I have only once had a really grumpy customs officer in the USA, and remaining polite got me through that (unpleasant) experience without much trouble. All the other times I was treated with courtesy.

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University DDoS'd by its own seafood-curious malware-infected vending machines

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Seafood curious?

The IoT devices caught the crabs?

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Pulsating white dwarf described as a 'dynamo' found, no, not in the back pages, 380 LY away

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Earth's location is mapped

"No-one asked my permission to share location data."

That permission setting wasn't available in Android, iOS, OS-X, Window, or even Linux when Voyager was launched. Astonishing really, what were they thinking

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Last Concorde completes last journey, at maybe Mach 0.02

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I once spotted one of these at Schiphol

Magnificent plane, so radically different from all other airliners. Hopefully some day something as astonishingly elegant will carry passengers again

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A non-Standards Soviet approved measure of weight? Sod off, BBC!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I am still quite fond of a "snailpace"

being a furlong per fortnight, for measuring slow progress.

Not an El Reg unit, but certainly in the same spirit

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2016: Snapchat loses $515m... 2017: Snapchat rips veil off $3bn IPO

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Apparently, profit is so twentieth century

OK, I am in no way an economist or financier, but I am good at mathematics. The only "rationale" I can see to buy shares that do not promise to yield any dividend (due to lack of profits) is to gamble that the share price will go up. This assumes that there are more people that will prepared to make that gamble, because that is the only rationale to buy these shares. The moment people no longer assume the share price will go up the value will automatically come crashing down. This suggests that like with a pyramid scheme, only the initial investors have any chance of making money. Of course, it is not a pyramid scheme per se, but it is getting close, and I wouldn't touch these shares with a 20 foot pole

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'Mafia' of ageing scientists, academics and politicos suck at picking tech 'winners'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Industrial policy versus science funding

@Shultz

Very good points. We see a similar trend in the Netherlands: science funding of big projects, preferably with industry. This can and does produce some good science, and the odd bit of new product development. However, there is less and less funding for fundamental science, and in particular the smaller "what if?" projects for just one PhD student who can work on some weird idea of their own or their supervisor. In such projects you often end up solving totally different problems than we set out to do along the way. They rarely fail in their entirety, for even if the original goal isn't reached, the serendipitous discoveries along the way, and the insights gained on why something didn't work are still valuable in their own right. Not necessarily valuable in terms of money (what price do we put on the Schroedinger equation?), but valuable for other scientists to build new ideas on, and not least in having trained another intelligent person with an inquiring mind. Money spent of research projects is very much money spent on education, after all. Besides, many scientific breakthroughs only bear fruit much later, and often in unexpected areas. If we hadn't gone into the weird world of quantum mechanics, we would probably not have developed the transistor, which would be a pity, as I am quite a fan of the transistor.

This is not to say collaborations with industry should not be encouraged. I get a lot of ideas from problems facing such industrial partners as I have, and in computer science in particular, the distance between theoretical concept and practical application is small. I might develop the theory of some new image processing tool in the morning, develop an algorithm in the afternoon, and have a working prototype the next day. In e.g. material science, this is unthinkable.

Science is an evolutionary process, with ideas mutating and recombining in new ways, and being submitted to selection by experimental validation (or more properly, ideas survive as long as we cannot falsify them), and by allocation of funding. In any evolutionary process, we can easily get premature convergence on suboptimal solutions by applying too much selection pressure. By funding a few, big projects in narrow fields, we run precisely that risk.

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Felted! AI poker bot Libratus cleans out pros in grueling tournament, smugly trousers $1.8m

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: But...

Or it might present us with a cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea

Sorry, couldn't resist. Mine's the one with the cassette tapes of the HHGTTG in the pocket

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Cassini sends back best ring-shots yet en route to self-destruct dive

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Lovely shots

Will follow the swan song of Cassini with great interest. The whole Cassini-Huygens mission has been a great success. Excellent teamwork from NASA, ESA and ASI!

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God save the Queen... from Donald Trump. So say 1 million Britons

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

I actually quite enjoy shouting at the telly from time to time. A bit of a variant of punching a sack of potatoes like the Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax, as an alternative to the healthy and natural channeling of aggressive instincts in deeds of senseless violence.

Doffs hat (roo leather Barmah today) to the late, great Douglas Adams

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Devonians try to drive Dartmoor whisky plan onto rocks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Slàinte mhath

Maybe they should have offered the inhabitants the a free tot or two. Might have helped

Mine's a Talisker Port Ruighe, please

BTW, unlikely places are making good whisky nowadays. I had some very nice Taiwanese whisky (Kavalan) recently. Not bad at all

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Naughty sysadmins use dark magic to fix PCs for clueless users

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: "Mechanical Sympathy" and magic

This is just one specialised example of Murphy's Law, called the Inverse Demo Effect (IDE). The Regular Demo Effect (RDE) states that the chances of a program being demoed crashing is a steeply increasing function of the number of people watching, potentially weighted by the Embarrassment Factor (EF) which increases the chance of a crash with the importance of the event, or pay check of those watching. Conversely, the IDE states that the chances of a bug or crash occurring is inversely proportional to the number of sys-admins or developers watching

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Chinese bloke cycles 500km to get home... in the wrong direction

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: How Many Trolls ???

Maybe he should have tried Zen navigation (following someone who seems to know where they are going).

Doffs hat (black fedora today) to the late, great Douglas Adams once more

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President Trump tweets from insecure Android, security boffins roll eyes

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Douglas Adams nailed it

Those who most want to rule people are ipso-facto those least suited for the job. If anyone is vain enough or stupid enough to get himself elected president, he must at all costs be prevented from wielding any real power. Thus, the president's job is to draw attention away from power.

We clearly urgently need to find some harmless recluse with a cat he calls "The Lord"

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Congratulations – you're looking better than ever this morning!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Interesting stuff

Might this new technology be able to spot a load of surplus hot air around the Washington DC area?

On a more serious note: great work by the engineers. The high speed and resolution open up interesting possibilities to do high-spatial resolution time series analysis at decent temporal resolution.

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'It will go wrong. There's no question of time... on safety or security side'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Formal proofs have their limits too. I have used formal methods to prove algorithms correct, but the correctness proof very often (if not always) has a set of preconditions. If the actual input means the preconditions are violated bets are off. Besides, even if my algorithm is correct, I must then show that my implementation is correct, and that my compiler is correct, and that the CPU is correct (remember the old Pentium bug?). I found (ages ago) that in MS Pascal the statements

current := current^.next^.next;

and the code snippet

current := current^.next;

current := current^.next;

had a very different outcome, even when used (correctly) in a linked list with an even number of nodes. The first version caused a crash of the program, the latter worked flawlessly. Both are formally correct, but the compiler apparently didn't handle the double indirection correctly.

This is not to slag off formal proofs, just to say they are not the full answer

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NASA fires first shot in plan to bring a chunk of asteroid down to Earth

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Mushroom

missing icon? -->

;-)

More seriously: fascinating stuff! Great work by the rocket boffins!

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Blockchain: A digital 'golden section' that's the 'gestalt of its pieces'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: the logo is a gestalt of its pieces

You're being harsh. I think the logo has interesting rhythmic devices that counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the ...

oh, forget it, it is a load of old blocks

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Euro space agency's Galileo satellites stricken by mystery clock failures

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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... the other will put punters off by 100's of km if this is not fixed.

Which in turn might cause said punter to be late, as in "the late Dentarthurdent"

Sorry, couldn't resist. Mine is the one with the book on fjords in the pocket

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Japan's terrifying techno-toilets will be made foreigner friendly, vow makers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Translations aren't always helpful I have found

Engrish can be most confusing (just google "Engrish" for some prime examples).

Still, in my visits to Japan I have found the people most helpful, and the toilets (and everything else really) absolutely spotless (and the food excellent)

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Now that's a Blue Screen of Death: Windows 10 told me to jump off a cliff

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Maybe the tablet, sorry, "surface" was feeling depressed

what with the pain in all the diodes down its left side.

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Terry Pratchett's self-written documentary to be broadcast in 2017

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: A man is not dead

And so Sir Terry lives on in the overhead, bouncing from one end of the Grand Trunk to the other,

and in also in L-space of course, or wherever else orangutans say "Ook",

and in the hearts of all his wit, and deep humanity touched.

...

And now will have to go and get a new handkerchief. I'll raise a glass once more later

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Peace-sign selfie fools menaced by fingerprint-harvesting tech

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Welcome to the future.

Not really. I have this book with large friendly letters on the cover

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Iris scan

It can in principle, and identifying people in photographs using their iris patterns has been done (the famous Afghan refugee girl featured on the National Geographic magazine is a well-known example). To gain access using a photo could be done, but a good iris scanner can (or rather should) check it is a real iris. Any digital print usually shows a very fine regular pattern that stands out hugely in the Fourier spectrum of the image, besides, changing illumination levels causes a real iris to contract. This can be detected easily. Note that iris scans are preferably done in infra-red, so when printing the captured iris, you may also need to get the right reflection in that band as well (certainly possible, not perhaps trivial in your regular ink-jet printer), and indeed capture may need to be done in IR (some DSLRs allow that).

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Oh ALIS, don't keep us waiting: F-35 jet's software 'delayed'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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ALIS?

who the f*** is ALIS?

Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll get me coat. The one with Jane's All the World's Aircraft in the pocket please

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Anti-smut law dubs PCs, phones 'pornographic vendor machines', demands internet filters

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Facepalm

How would such a filter even work?

As a person working in image analysis and computer vision research, I have to wonder how we are to identify "obscene images" from artistic nudes (although an algorithm to detect urns could help, according sgt. Colon), or even medical images.

Or do the legislators want to vet all the smut sites personally.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Move along, there's nothing to see.....

"Well get him his pills, then!"

Dried frog pills, I trust

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New Windows 10 privacy controls: Just a little snooping – or the max

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Big Brother

Hmm

"Engineers, with permission from Microsoft’s privacy governance team, can obtain users' documents that trigger crashes in applications, so they can work out what's going wrong, from people's machines running in "full" mode."

So what exactly is in place to stop an engineer from putting in a forged request to access a users files, and stealing important stuff? Microsoft’s privacy governance team? How do they set about checking the files are really necessary? How do they ensure the data are discarded after the problem has been sorted?

Why not ask the user for a file that triggered a crash of a program? Is that not actually far less work than going through some internal privacy governance team? It would also look MUCH more customer friendly. And of course the user has the chance to say that the data is confidential and they can go suck a neutron star.

Somehow I think "full" mode is out of the question for many, if not most professional users.

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NGO to crowdfund legal challenge against Investigatory Powers Act

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Just chipped in. This is certainly worth contributing to

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Done

Signed too. As I have said before, the dystopian future portrayed in "V for Vendetta" seems less and less a work of fiction

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NASA taps ESA satellite Swarm for salty ocean temperature tales

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Hmmm....

Well, the banning CFCs in the mid 90s seems to be bearing fruit for the ozone layer

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Uber's self-driving cars get kicked out of SF, seek refuge in Arizona

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Vampire link?

Otto von Chriek is from Uberwald

Coincidence??

But at least statistically speaking, simply given population density, a self-driving Uber vehicle is less likely to hit a human

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Apple sues Nokia's pet patent trolls

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I have just hooked out another box.

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Raspberry Pi Foundation releases operating system for PCs, Macs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Like!!

Well done Pi Foundation. Not only should this run nicely on an old laptop I have, it should run VERY nicely on newer stuff.

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Softcat centrefolds wrap up for charity

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Covered in wrapping paper

Or the BOFH choice: bin-liners secured with duck tape

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Oi! Linux users! Want some really insecure closed-source software?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Flash?

Aha! I take it you are not talking about the saviour of the universe.

I'll get me coat. The one with the cassette tapes converted to "Best of Queen" by storage in the cars glove compartment please

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Itchy-fingered OnePlus presses refresh, out pops value champ 3T

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting phone

May well consider one once my HTC One M8 wears out (still going strong though)

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NASA explains how 'Spiders' grow on Mars

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I for one ...

Oh, ... hang on ...

Sorry, I'll get me coat

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Beauty is in the AI of the beholder: Young blokes teach computer to judge women by their looks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Next up: AI for Retrophrenology!

This is not going to hurt a bit. (Honest!)

Doffs hat (black fedora today) to the late, great Terry Pratchett

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It's round and wobbles, but madam, it's a mouse pad, not a floppy disk

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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The age of floppy disks brings back memories of saving a couple of PhD thesis partially erased by storing them on top of a loudspeaker, or just shoddy quality disks. Using Norton's Utilities I managed to restore about 95% of the work. Not perfect, but it earned me a hug or two from distraught PhD students (I also pointed out to one of them that getting double spacing in text should not involve tapping "enter" twice, but that is another matter entirely). My own take on matters as serious as my PhD thesis was to make daily incremental backups on (reliable brand) 3.5" disks (in duplicate, and take one backup home), and make weekly full backups both on 3.5" disks (which went home) and on a (slow) tape unit we had. I never needed the backups, but they bought me a lot of peace of mind.

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

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Regarding fulfilling all desires

Bit of a red-queen-like problem: once all our desires are fulfilled we tend to make up more of them. We are very inventive in that way. Kids now "need" mobile phones. Never considered wanting one "when I were a lad"

I think it is therefore safe to say that the second case, i.e. there remain unfulfilled human desires will hold, rather than the first case

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I am not too sure people are willing to be submitted to a fully robotic doctor. There may well be a large "market" for persons translating expert system outcomes into a message palatable to the patients. After all, being a good doctor requires far more than being good at diagnosis and treatment. Suppose the computer states: you have a malignant growth. How would it be able to lend you the emotional support you need? Computers can be great tools for diagnosis (they are already so), but I doubt they will be able to give the same level of emotional support to patients us meat bags can. Today, they certainly cannot. Of course, quite a few meat bags aren't that good, but many are great.

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