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Comment: Re:Ever glass of tap water in LA. (Score 1) 330

by Antonovich (#46803639) Attached to: Why Portland Should Have Kept Its Water, Urine and All

My understanding was also that a healthy human's urine was pretty much sterile. The Russians (and probably others in the Russian East) have a traditional cleansing routine where they drink their own urine too (with a very specific diet while doing it). It is supposed to have stuff in it that once put back in the body, causes the body to start cleansing toxins naturally. I was assured it was a great, "natural" way to get rid of kidney stones, and a lot besides. The problem is that it needs to be drunk neat, and quick before the bacteria start multiplying... Getting it straight back in is ideal :-).

Comment: Re:To little, too late. (Score 1) 167

by Antonovich (#46749701) Attached to: Anyone Can Buy Google Glass April 15

If the evil Beta monster hasn't killed /. then I'll see you back here in 6 years then :-).

I worked with a guy who came to work occasionally with empty frames. I was working (in Ops!) at a marketing agency though... I also have a Chinese friend who used to wear glasses with zero correction to look smarter (that is definitely a widely held belief). The desire to headbutt was strong with me... But ok, one or two examples does not a fashion make.

This has got to be the coolest music video in the world though

Comment: Re:To little, too late. (Score 1) 167

by Antonovich (#46749069) Attached to: Anyone Can Buy Google Glass April 15

I'll make a random prediction then - by 2020 smartphones will be a "thing of the past", or at least we'll be in the phase of massive growth of eyewear and decline of smartphones, like dumb vs smart today. It might take till 2024-5 but I seriously doubt it. Huge numbers of people already wear glasses, and the Hipsters (TM) even wear them with empty frames. Immersive AR will blow phones out of the water when we get rich 3D interfaces (Minority Report styles). We'll need to be able to concentrate on text/video for long periods with little/no eye fatigue before we drop phones but I think that'll happen pretty fast, like by 2020.

Comment: Re:u can rite any way u want (Score 2) 431

by Antonovich (#46745811) Attached to: Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

Fast forward to today and a part of me believes that if an educator is actually teaching words and meanings to students that their should be actually definitive meanings for terms when given the chance. We know that written language is derived from verbal communication which is why we used phonetics in the first place.

While this is clearly what most lay-people in the West think, a reasonable number of linguists (the Roy Harris' Integrationists, among others) and historians (particularly of the "Toronto School") think looking at it this way gets us into a whole lot of trouble. Before the printing press there was very little standardisation, particularly for "real" languages. Latin doesn't count for the middle ages because virtually no one actually spoke it day-to-day, so any standardisation came from it being an artificially devised and maintained *code*, rather than "a representation of speech". Before printing most writing had virtually no punctuation and didn't even separate words. Writing was a *memory aid*. Reading was always reading *out loud* - everyone realised that the writing did *not* "correspond to" or "represent" speech as there was so much missing (intonation, stress, pauses, etc.) and could only be used as an aid to help you *remember* what the author *actually* said. The problem is that since then alphabetic literacy (reading and writing, and the offshoots in mathematics) has become so fundamental to all scholarship that it becomes almost impossible to understand the world without using it as a model. It is so deep in our culture that alphabetic literacy has become a moral imperative - it is immoral not to read and write, so anyone who can't can be ignored as morally repugnant, deprived or defective. Those who suggest we try and look at human communication without using alphabetic writing as a model are treated as lunatics, and safely ignored. Writing is now a quite different kind of activity to speech - it is highly standardised and highly political. What's worse, highly literate (so pretty much everyone who has wealth or any sort of power) people have strongly standardised their speech *because* of writing (and other factors, like mobility) - the more educated you get, the more it *seems* your speech is standardised, the more we equate this with "pure" language. That's not how real-time, face-to-face communication works between real people in the real world though.

Why is this important? Quite apart from the virtually invisible but clearly relevant moral issues, there are practical issues for natural language processing and other related fields (like AI). That's what I'm interested in. The rest is just untestable philosophising. If we take the model of language being made up of sounds (phonemes) being grouped into meaningful words (morphemes) and the sentences (clauses), and then try and use computers to decipher *real human interaction* (so trying to interpret natural speech between two humans), then it fails miserably. I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago (AISB50) and an NLP researcher (Roger K. Moore) was complaining that they have plateaued at 75% accuracy, and any small increases (10ths of a percent he was saying) come with large increases in processing power and training corpora. The models haven't changed and it's now looking highly unlikely that even with massive super-computers we'll ever get close to human recognition capacities, at least if we stick with the current model.

I'm hoping to convince someone to let me do a phd to show that we need to change models on Thursday :-).

Comment: Re:To little, too late. (Score 1) 167

by Antonovich (#46745585) Attached to: Anyone Can Buy Google Glass April 15

Be fair. I think Google are just trying to get their shit in everyone's faces so we don't get a repeat of the iPhone situation (possibly even with Apple). What did Apple do? They took ideas that everyone had been working on for decades, put it all together pretty nicely and the marketed the bejesus out of it. Jobs realised that the base tech had finally got to a point (or would by shipping) where it would all work together in useful ways. Being so dominant, he was able to make the process work without the ridiculous infighting at Nokia or silly arrogance of RIM. Then they started suing other companies for their "inventions".

Google just wants everyone, including the lawyers, to know (actually to think) that *they* are the ones doing the inventing, and if anyone's going to be suing, it's them. The tech probably still isn't there but they aren't going to wait around this time, they'll just keep pushing vaporware till it is. Are they actually pilfering stuff left, right and centre? Of course, that's how real innovation works (and f'n Jobs proclaimed loudly!). I'd like to think they won't start suing people for other people's inventions though - time will tell.

Comment: Re:Steve Jobs' culture (Score 2, Interesting) 267

by Antonovich (#46744761) Attached to: Apple's Spotty Record of Giving Back To the Tech Industry

This is too long, sorry I can't help myself...

Ok. I'll assume you are an Actually Interested Person and not just a fanboy in disguise. Maybe you can clear up a possible misunderstanding I have with some facts, or at least give a compelling alternative interpretation. I was a fan of Apple until a little after they really took off. Yes, I'm a fan of FOSS, and let's face it, I'm a bit of a Google fanboy. I don't need to hate everyone though, and Microsoft was doing a sterling job of being my pinup demon.

Then I read about about Guru Steve's Mercedes Manoeuvre. While I didn't grow up with rich parents in a privileged area, I did grow up in a highly educated family in the West, and the only thing I wanted for was the most expensive Reebok's or latest gadgets. While I'm not particularly beautiful, I am physically fit and healthy, have white skin, am male and heterosexual. In the grand scheme of things, I've got it pretty damn good - I don't suffer from any discrimination and all the doors are open for me. I believe that all people should be treated equally but I also believe that some people have not had the same cards dealt to them I have. I think that society as a whole benefits when we make the lives of those who haven't had such luck a little easier - the more productive people there are, the better for all, including me personally.

So, many people have heard about Steve's Mercedes manoeuvre - California law allows owners of new vehicles to drive them around without number plates for 6 months. Steve strikes an agreement with a company (a dealership?) to change his new Mercedes every 5 months and 29 days, so in reality he can drive without ever having a number plate. Why would he do this? One reason could be he doesn't want people to know who owns the car. Possible, and I don't know how common it is in California, but I would have thought not having a number plate would draw considerably more attention than having one, and Steve definitely wasn't stupid. Then you look a little and you start seeing pictures around the web of a Mercedes with no number plate in handicapped parking spots. And yes, Steve was regularly seen getting in and out of said Mercedes.

Having worked for several years for a company owned by a non-profit whose sole purpose was to give handicapped (of all sorts) people a chance to get some confidence in the workplace by giving them a job with enough support that they could gain valuable skills, this needed some explaining. Why would he do this? I read that he simply wanted to save time. Ah.... WTF? So Ok, you want to save time. I can accept that. You are a multi-millionaire, and then you are a multi-billionaire, what do you do? You get a driver. Very simple. What does Steve do? He parks in handicapped parking spots. Now this is my interpretation and I don't know how it works in California but my further assumption was that the lack of number plates meant that he would avoid getting parking fines. It might just be so that it's impossible to tow, which would fit nicely with the time thing. Even the possibility that it was to avoid getting fines has meant that Apple has been firmly off my shopping list. Whether it was to avoid the fines or just the towing, I can't find a remotely passable excuse for what he did - I find it completely morally repugnant.

Is this collection of facts incorrect? What about my interpretation? Did he secretly donate millions to handicapped charities? Something else I might be missing?

Comment: Re:Who cares? (Score 1) 117

by Antonovich (#46740459) Attached to: Linux 3.15 Will Suspend & Resume Much Faster

Hey, thanks heaps for that. The X240 looks pretty much exactly like what I am after, and Lenovo (here in France) seems to let you mix and match upgrades which is seriously cool. What upgrades did you make with your system to get those numbers? Did you up the RAM to 8GB? Do you have an SSD (on top of the cache disk)? What proc do you have? How much extra weight does the larger battery pack add? 12.5" will be noticeably smaller than my current 14" - how do you find the screen?

Comment: Re:Who cares? (Score 1) 117

by Antonovich (#46738857) Attached to: Linux 3.15 Will Suspend & Resume Much Faster

I tried powertop a few years ago but never had much success, though that was probably v1. I'll give it another try, thanks for the heads up.

A friend dropped the laptop about a year ago (it was an "accident", though he was drunk...). It didn't seem to make a difference for the first 8-9 mths but it weakened the lid/screen joint and with 12 mths of opening/closing has started to degrade seriously. I could spend many hours to try and patch it up but I've never had much success with anything more complicated than building/rebuilding basic desktop machines (stuff with wood is a different story). It's also now 3 yrs old, and with the time spent to fix it and expense in getting a better battery, I was thinking it was better to simply upgrade. With Moore's law supposedly operating, I was expecting to get something considerably better for the same price, or considerably cheaper for the "same" specs. If I am going to fork out top dollar (or rather euros), then I at least want something with great battery life, hence my whinging...

In terms of the OS, abandoning Linux (or even Ubuntu) is not something I'm seriously contemplating. I've worked professionally and personally with Windows and Linux pretty much equally over the last decade. At this stage in my life, my goal is to spend as little time on solving OS and OS-application level problems as possible. Been there, done that and it's not particularly inspiring any more. I have found I spend considerably less time maintaining Linux boxen (laptops, desktops or servers) for the same level of tidiness, security and performance. I want it to "just work", to know how it's "just working" and to spend the least amount of time achieving that. Ubuntu seemed to be the winner on this front for a long while (I've been on 12.04 for the last two years and it's what I've been installing everywhere for the last two years), though the shenanigans with upstart, mir, unity, etc. have made me wary. I'm a big kde fan when a UI is justified - and more importantly it's what I've been using for the last 10 years so I usually get shit done quicker for UI tweaks. I probably pay for that on several fronts - I regularly see various kde components munching cpu... If reasonable, I'll always try and do stuff on the CL or conf files but again, just because it's quicker and that means I know better what's going on.

Mac would mean learning an entirely new (*nix-based but still) system, which would be hard to justify in terms of time. They are also usually top shelf, so it means paying top dollar. I could probably justify the initial time and expense if it meant that in the long run I'd achieve my goal of spending less time for a performant and secure system. Unfortunately, it is going to be a long time before I can disassociate Apple products with Steve Jobs. I worked with handicapped people for several years and Jobs' parking spot manoeuvre may well have taken Apple products off my shopping list for good. Governments don't seem to be punishing companies or people for "doing evil" so I'm reduced to doing it with my wallet... (and yes, I know he's dead... but Apple could have stopped/punished him for being a "bad ambassador" for the brand).

Roaming within Europe is fast becoming free (included in the standard, 20-25€/mth unlimited everything subscriptions) for us here in France, so a Chromebook is becoming a viable option. I have a couple of personal dev servers (hurrah for 10€/mth physical servers!), and never really do proper dev on trains/planes/mountains anyway, so that part is fine - vim over ssh is virtually indistinguishable from local for my usage. The time needed for finding solutions for the 1-2 other desktop apps is now really the only remaining obstacle...

But anyway, if I solved all the problems myself there would be nothing to bitch about on /.! :-).

Comment: Who cares? (Score 2) 117

by Antonovich (#46735981) Attached to: Linux 3.15 Will Suspend & Resume Much Faster

Tell me when they can make my laptop last for more than an hour without mains and I'll be happy. I need to upgrade but battery life under Linux is so woeful I can't justify spending the ridiculous prices they are asking these days. To get a similar laptop to the 3 yr old one I have (at least in terms of size, weight, memory and disk) I would have to spend the same amount today as back then. Where is Moore's law again? Even though I can't afford one, I was looking at the Dell XPS 13 but for a couple of hundred more (for similar specs) I could get a macbook air and have *double* the battery life with osx. I would even consider it if I could run Linux on it and get similar battery life to osx... But alas, I read it sucks just as much as on all other machines.

Comment: Re:He's right! (Score 1) 581

by Antonovich (#46732301) Attached to: Michael Bloomberg: You Can't Teach a Coal Miner To Code

Maybe I'm being arrogant, but I'm guessing coal miners chose that life because they weren't suited for much else. I'd wager that most of these guys are below average intelligence, where as most programmers are above average intelligence.

You've obviously only had experience with a certain type of company. People code for many and various reasons and not everyone does it because they are good at it, not even if they do it full time. Without getting into a debate on what "intelligent" means, I can ensure you that I know a lot of fulltime coders that would not get the "intelligent" label from most. The code is often monstrous. Even if they eventually get convinced to do something else, like project management, many people who are not "intelligent" code and many who are "intelligent" do not. I'll never forget one classmate from when I was around 13-14 who was easily the second best in our class at maths (after me :-)). Unfortunately, he was from a poor, ethnic-minority background and ended up leaving school at 16 and working on the line at the local mill a while later. Others, even those struggling to pass but from white middle-class backgrounds, ended up in successful high-paying careers, sometimes in tech and often with large tech components. Expectations and hard work/interest usually play a far greater role than intelligence. Making people believe they can, and that it's worth it to try, is an excellent way to improve people's skills. You shouldn't fill people with false hope that somehow the "brainy switch" will get flicked and tech work will somehow get easy but that is not the same thing as showing people they can do something if they work at it. I am far from brilliant but massive amounts of work and a dedication to producing elegant (so highly maintainable) and performant code and systems, even if I spend my evenings and weekends on it, means the results are often not too dissimilar to those of a "brilliant" techie. That's got everything to do with my expectations and work culture/ethic, and nothing to do with any supposed aptitudes or intelligences though.

Comment: Re:Translation (Score 1) 84

by Antonovich (#46668135) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: the State of Open CS, IT, and DBA Courseware in 2014?

You're posting as AC so this is probably a flamebate, but I'll bite. Jesus, rationalist much? You obviously have a layperson's view of what science is, though admittedly many "scientists" also do. There has always been a good number of (real) scientists that let the so-called masturbaters spray them with a little of the good stuff. Susan Stepney (former engineer, now Prof of Comp Sci) gave an excellent talk at the AISB conference that just ended on this - science is about creating models of the world (and engineering is about turning the models back into the world). But there is always, always a mismatch/error (the epsilon as she calls it) between the abstract theoretical model and the actual world in any given REAL situation. Most laypeople (and unfortunately some scientists) have the romantic notion that they are "discovering truth" and not, in fact, creating models of the world. The use of highly complicated formalisms makes it look like there is something "truthy" about it but unless you are actually a "philosopher" then you need to take the real world into account. This kind of approach and current models are very good for simple "physical" systems but break down, sometimes badly, when complicated things like human beings get involved.

Let's take a real world example - natural language processing. It's something very topical, and very useful. The lay view (also shared by most "linguists" unfortunately) is that there are (abstract?) "ideas" in one's head/brain/mind that are encoded in a medium (like speech, writing, etc.) that are then transferred to someone else's head/brain/mind, decoded and voila, meaning transfer has occurred. It is thought that speech can be chopped up into sentences (clauses), words and then phonemes, so all a computer has to do is take a phonetic analyser, reconstruct the phonemes, words and clauses and voila again. The problem is that it doesn't work. If people speak like they are issuing simple commands then it works quite well but there are many situations where it fails miserably. It appears to be getting better to the lay person with things like Google Now/Siri because of the massive amounts of data being thrown at the problem now but there are still large swathes of natural language that fail consistently. Prof Roger K. Moore (again, engineer turned scientist because the models he was being given to implement just weren't doing the job) gave a very interesting talk at AISB on this yesterday. The problem is that the thought transference model just doesn't work very well, no matter how many resources you throw at it. It misses vitally important (so important in a real-life engineering sense) parts of how language works so fails. More and more scientists are turning to the jizz generators to see whether there might be insights they are missing and it appears there are. Natural language is not a matter of taking semantically invariant "meanings" and transferring them but rather a (extremely) complicated process of spatio-temporally coordinating actions between agents in (real) physical and historical contexts. Meaning is generated (or negotiated) in a highly context and history-dependent way, and if you try and abstract those away, you get the kind of asymptotic performance ceilings (around 75%, which is bordering on useless) that speech recognition has come up against. But many of the masturbaters could have accurately predicted these performance ceilings decades (centuries?) ago, no "hard logic" necessary. Is it possible to create a computer system (model) to implement these insights in the traditional way? In theory yes (with omnipresent sensors and some mega-hardware), in practice it turns out like predicting the weather, so it is much better to attack the problem another way. When you take the real world into account, natural language processing becomes almost intractable if you think about it in traditional reductionist ways.

Maybe it's better to think of it this way - the philosophers (and much of the humanities) work on the axioms, scientists use the axioms to create models, and engineers implement the models in reality. Engineers needs scientists and scientists need philosophers, or our next iThing will suck just as much as the current one.

Comment: Re:Do electric cars actually produce CO2? (Score 1) 330

Well, the consensus seems to be that at current fossil fuel consumption projections we'll cross the tipping point sometime this century, worst-case we may already have done so.

Given that some reputable scientists consider it possible we have already crossed the tipping point, as heating would still continue if we drastically reduced emissions starting today, and emissions are actually still *rapidly* increasing, I don't think there is much room left for hope of things happening without a bang. Even if we get some amazing new technology in the near future, with all the recently built coal-fired plants and those to come online within the next decade, no government is going to throw those investments away without recouping at least a good amount back. Most of that is also in places that are very important economically (like China and India) and relatively unstable, particularly if economic growth is threatened there. I seem to remember reading the gas infrastructure that would need to be replaced for a switch to electric amounted to well over a trillion dollars.

On the tipping points, my understanding was that there were several rough equilibria points but that might well be something dodgy I read a while ago or simply a false memory :-).

I do think that it is absolutely key to acknowledge that top scientists have been proposing reasonable solutions with existing tech for a while now and other top scientists have been screaming for ages about the phenomenal costs that will be incurred if we don't reduce emissions significantly now, let alone continue to increase them rapidly. Any change is painful but some of the economic work currently being done points to it being a dull throb if we act now as opposed to the carnage we are now almost certain to see. We really needed strong, joint leadership from both the US and Europe on this one, and the US has dropped the ball - big time. Conspiracy theorists and creationists ("God will save us") are simply far too powerful over there and there are far too many politicians that get re-elected with donations from lobbyists.

It won't get funky for a while though (and I very much enjoyed the record temperatures here in France at the beginning of the month, I even got a bit of a tan!), and I'm now placing my hope on bio/nano/AI-tech. It will be a bit of a case of Russian roulette but if worst case projections are borne out, then geo-engineering gone wrong might still be better.

Comment: Re:Do electric cars actually produce CO2? (Score 1) 330

All fair points. I'm definitely assuming masses of cheap autonomous vehicles. One advantage of not having people buy the cars, particularly in the US, is that they will only be as powerful and heavy as they need to be - we're not talking 4L SUVs. There would also be a very, very great push for fuel efficiency if it remained gas/diesel, with the manufacturers finally having the customers (robo-taxi companies) actually demand the vehicles consume an absolute minimum.

That's all about cost though - do you seriously still think there is even a remote chance of not crossing one, or several, climate tipping points? It's going to happen, and either we are going to have some serious AI to (try to) fix it or we are going to see some very "interesting" changes in the mid term. The world has undergone massive changes over the last hundred years and I see no reason to believe the next hundred aren't going to be just as monumental.

Comment: Re:Do electric cars actually produce CO2? (Score 1) 330

Maybe but I'm not so sure the situation is even that drastic in the US. While technology won't save us from everything, I think here is a good example where it will enable much greater efficiencies with relatively little modification of our lifestyles. How? Well what is wrong with public transport with the current organisation of US (Aussie, Canadian, Kiwi, and to be honest, much of Europe outside the major cities) cities? There are roads and not rails, and population density makes anything but cars or small buses completely unrealistic. People are also lazy, and want to just go out of their house and get in the car and go. So people use their own cars. Do we really need to work like this? What if we had taxis roaming everywhere? You want a dedicated taxi you pay extra, you are prepared to share with others, you pay less. Plenty of countries have systems like this today, and it works fine. But we can't have taxis everywhere, it would be far too expensive! What is expensive about taxis in the West? The drivers. But in the very near future drivers won't be necessary. We will be able to get even better utilisation than most cabs get today - 24/7 (with some automated maintenance) is pretty hard to beat. You open an app and you programme the time for pickup and the destination. With sufficient uptake there will be enough auto-taxis for it to be quicker than getting the car out of the garage. No parking when you get there either, you just get out and walk in the door (you pay automatically when you get out). With no parking needed, better passenger density, far fewer accidents and algorithmic driving, it will also be much quicker. As practical, as cheap and (much) quicker.

And it doesn't really matter whether they're electric or hybrid - you won't be filling up anyway. Now we just need to think what to do with all the people employed by the auto industry...

Comment: Re:And history once again repeats itself ... (Score 1) 551

by Antonovich (#46575543) Attached to: Russians Take Ukraine's Last Land Base In Crimea

While you are certainly right that the far-right is present pretty much everywhere, I think there is a bit of a difference in both context and content. France, and many other (all?) former empires, is selective in what they chose to remember and how they chose to present it. And it's not just stuff that the far-right cherry picks and puts in pamphlets or sprays on walls, it forms the basis of what all children MUST learn at school. We still live in a world of nation-states and if most modern Western democracies were to analyse and judge their previous actions and policies how they judge other countries/peoples today, everyone would be as guilt-ridden as the poor Germans are... not that they shouldn't be, just that everyone should be! Upon further thought, you might be right that though present, it's not key to modern right-wing movements. It just seems so central to much of the discourse...

But anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that whatever the size or angle of the right-wing, in former empires there is general acceptance of certain practices when it fits into the historical narratives these countries create for themselves. Apart from Germany, I don't think there are any exceptions to this, and Germany will probably rewrite its history in 50 years or so too. And what about Greece?!? 2500 years after their empire they are still insisting Europe shower them with money and forgive them all their trespasses!

Exactly zero of the examples of independence movements/annexations of the last few decades (Crimea, Israel, Kosovo, Taiwan/Tibet, Scotland/NI, Basque Country, Quebec, and all the rest) are clear-cut, black and white situations. When a former empire is involved then very often there is popular support for the side that best fits in to the dominant historical narrative, however "just" or "unjust" it might appear to those with different takes on history.

From the "Russian" point of view, their lands were invaded by the Tatars - some of the most "vicious" and "evil" criminals in all of history. The Georgian (NOT "Russian") Soviet Leader Stalin made a lot of questionable demographic choices but that changes nothing with regards to Russia today - blame Georgia if you must, not Russia. Crimea was taken from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century and has been a part of Russia ever since. The half-Ukrainian Khrushchev's "gift" of Crimea to (the) Ukraine had absolutely no practical implications back in the day, and it wasn't until the break-up of the Soviet Union that anyone even thought about it again. The initial confusion of the break-up didn't settle for a couple of decades (hence non-conclusive referenda) and even though Russia today is a far cry from a Western democracy, (the) Ukraine is about as corrupt and dysfunctional as countries come. (The) Ukraine has become increasingly hostile to Russia (and friendly to the West) - Crimea being part of (the) Ukraine now has serious practical implications and it was high time to free their Russian brothers and take it back. I don't know about anyone else but if that were the narrative I grew up with, I'd be cheering at Putin's actions, like millions of Russians are.

Chemist who falls in acid is absorbed in work.