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Comment: Re:Question... -- ? (Score 1) 215

by PacoSuarez (#47332961) Attached to: Exploiting Wildcards On Linux/Unix

While that is indeed the solution, it is also true that it is too easy to forget. Perhaps one could modify all commands to require the use of the "--" separator, or to warn if it's not present, at least if some environment variable is set. That could be very helpful for people trying to write more secure code.

Science

How Concrete Contributed To the Downfall of the Roman Empire 384

Posted by samzenpus
from the huff-and-puff-and-blow-your-civilization-down dept.
concertina226 (2447056) writes "The real reason behind the downfall of the Roman Empire might not have been lead contaminating in the water, which is the most popular theory, but the use of concrete as a building material. Dr Penelope Davies, a historian with the University of Texas believes that the rise of concrete as a building material may have weakened ancient Rome's entire political system as Pompey and Julius Caesar began 'thinking like kings'. Concrete was used to build many of Rome's finest monuments, such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Tabularium, which have lasted the test of time and are still standing today."
KDE

KDE and Canonical Developers Disagree Over Display Server 202

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-meeting-of-the-minds dept.
sfcrazy (1542989) writes "Robert Ancell, a Canonical software engineer, wrote a blog titled 'Why the display server doesn't matter', arguing that: 'Display servers are the component in the display stack that seems to hog a lot of the limelight. I think this is a bit of a mistake, as it’s actually probably the least important component, at least to a user.' KDE developers, who do have long experience with Qt (something Canonical is moving towards for its mobile ambitions), have refuted Bob's claims and said that display server does matter."
IBM

IBM's Watson To Be Used For Cancer Treatment 46

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the emh-version-zero dept.
Beeftopia (1846720) writes "The New York Genome Center and IBM will investigate whether Watson can be used to parse cancer genome data and then recommend treatments. The trial involves 20 to 25 glioblastoma patients with poor prognoses. The article states, 'It should theoretically be possible to analyze [genomic] data and use it to customize a treatment that targets the specific mutations present in tumor cells. But right now, doing so requires a squad of highly trained geneticists, genomics experts, and clinicians. It's a situation that can't scale to handle the [number of] patients with glioblastoma, much less other cancers. Instead, that gusher of information is going to be pointed at Watson... Watson will figure out which mutations are distinct to the tumor, what protein networks they effect, and which drugs target proteins that are part of those networks. The net result will be a picture of the biochemical landscape inside the tumor cells, along with some suggestions on how clinicians might consider intervening to change the landscape.'"

Comment: Re:Good! (Score 1) 279

by PacoSuarez (#46498839) Attached to: The Billionaires Privatizing American Science

Please compare the supermarket shelves in the USA with those in Venezuela or North Korea and then come back here and tell me why big government controlling the means and distribution of production is a good idea, compared to the free market, with people providing each other with services in return for a token of exchange (currency).

I'm not saying that there isn't an element of truth in what you are saying, but you have to pick comparable countries or the comparison will mean nothing. So looking at North Korea versus South Korea is fine, as is comparing Venezuela to Colombia, or Cuba to Dominican Republic. If you want to compare the U.S. to anyone, perhaps Sweden would do. But Sweden is pretty darn nice. :)

Comment: Re:15 years? Try 200. (Score 1) 294

by PacoSuarez (#46432839) Attached to: Why Robots Will Not Be Smarter Than Humans By 2029

This idea that in order to achieve intelligence you need to understand how the brain works is preposterous.

We don't understand how grandmasters play chess, and yet we can build machines that play chess better than any grandmaster. The same thing will happen with more and more skills, and we'll get to a point where it will be clear that machines are more intelligent than humans.

2029 sounds optimistic to me, but the arguments in TFA are very weak:
* "What exactly does as-smart-as-humans mean?" It means "as good as humans at most tasks". The precise definitions won't matter when you actually see the machine in action.
* "Human intelligence is embodied." But artificial intelligence need not be embodied. If we can make a machine as smart as Stephen Hawking, I think we have done OK. I don't think his embodiment is a key part of his intelligence.
* "As-smart-as-humans probably doesn’t mean as-smart-as newborn babies, or even two year old infants." Of course not, but there is no reason a machine would have to learn at the same pace we do, or from the same sources, or in a similar fashion. Going back to the computer chess analogy, a grandmaster requires years of experience to learn how to play well, while a program can parse a large database of games and learn from them in a matter of hours or days.
* "Moore’s Law will not help." This is retarded. The paragraph goes on to acknowledge that it will help, but computer power is not the whole story. Of course it's not the whole story! But it will certainly help.
* "The hard problem of learning and the even harder problem of consciousness." Machine Learning is a very active discipline, with many recent successes. I don't think learning is a serious obstacle. I don't see a problem of consciousness anywhere. "Consciousness" sounds like a new name for "the soul" to me: It's likely to be an attribute that we assign to people as part of the theory of mind, not an actual thing we need to produce and insert into our machines. In any case, it has very little to do with intelligence.

It won't matter if we know what makes humans intelligent, or what intelligence is, or what consciousness is: The proof will be in the pudding. When you see machines that surpasses humans at most tasks we think of as requiring intelligence, we'll have intelligent machines. And philosophers can continue to argue about definitions all they want.

Math

How To Hack Subway Fares Using Fare Arbitrage 240

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the saving-pennies-the-hard-way dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Arbitrage is a way of making profit by exploiting price differences for the same asset. In capital markets, traders aggressively seek out and exploit these market 'inefficiencies.' Now one data scientist says it's possible to do the same with metro fares and has studied the fare-arbitrage potential of San Francisco's subway system, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The idea is to swap tickets with another commuter during your journey to reduce the amount you both pay. BART has 44 stations which allows 946 different journeys and 446,985 unique pairs of trips. Of these, over 60,000 have arbitrage potential and commuters can save at least $1 on 4,666 of them. But there are good reasons why cities might want to maintain price differences for certain journeys — to encourage people to live in certain areas, for example. What's more, it's possible to imagine a pair of commuters who each travel from one side of a city to the other at considerable cost. But by swapping tickets in the city center, they could both pay for a short commute in each others' suburbs. But is that fair to other commuters?"

Comment: Re:Standard deviation BAD, but mean GOOD? (Score 1) 312

by PacoSuarez (#45982059) Attached to: Why Standard Deviation Should Be Retired From Scientific Use

I am not sure how I feel about that measure. If we were to use the median absolute error and try to be consistent, we would have to use as the central measure whatever minimizes the median absolute error. That would be a point somewhere between the 25th and 75th percentile, in the "flatter" part of the distribution, in some sense. I don't know if that central measure has a name, but I suspect it's not very relevant in practice.

Comment: Standard deviation BAD, but mean GOOD? (Score 4, Interesting) 312

by PacoSuarez (#45970275) Attached to: Why Standard Deviation Should Be Retired From Scientific Use

Perhaps non-mathematicians don't have a problem with this, but it rubs me the wrong way.

What makes the mean an interesting quantity is that it is the constant that best approximates the data, where the measure of goodness of the approximation is precisely the way I like it: As the sum of the squares of the differences.

I understand that not everybody is an "L2" kind of guy, like I am. "L1" people prefer to measure the distance between things as the sum of the absolute values of the differences. But in that case, what makes the mean important? The constant that minimizes the sum of absolute values of the differences is the median, not the mean.

So you either use mean and standard deviation, or you use median and mean absolute deviation. But this notion of measuring mean absolute deviation from the mean is strange.

Anyway, his proposal is preposterous: I use the standard deviation daily and I don't care if others lack the sophistication to understand what it means.

Comment: Re:Totally flawed model (Score 1) 169

by PacoSuarez (#45968329) Attached to: Why Transitivity Violations Can Be Rational

They don't claim to have a realistic model of the situation: They showed a very simple model in which the rational behavior contains an apparent violation of transitivity. And they didn't need to introduce a variety of nutrients to obtain it. This makes their model better, in the sense that it is simpler.

[Sorry, I posted as AC earlier.]

Crime

EV Owner Arrested Over 5 Cents Worth of Electricity From School's Outlet 1010

Posted by Soulskill
from the charged-for-charging dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "It seems you can be arrested in Georgia for drawing 5 cents of electricity from a school's outdoor receptacle. Kaveh Kamooneh was charged with theft for plugging his Nissan Leaf into a Chamblee Middle School 110V outlet; the same outlet one could use to charge a laptop or cellphone. The Leaf draws 1KW/hour while charging which works out to under $0.10 of electricity per hour. Mr Kamooneh charged his Leaf for less than 30 minutes, which works out to about a nickel. Sgt. Ernesto Ford, the arresting officer, pointed out, 'theft is a theft,' which was his argument for arresting Mr. Kamooneh. Considering the cost of the infraction, it does not seem a reasonable decision when considering how much this will cost the state in legal funds. Does this mean anyone charging a laptop or cell phone will be charged with theft as well?"
Earth

Indonesian Erruption Forces Evacuation of 1300 36

Posted by timothy
from the evacuation-seems-like-a-good-plan dept.
ABC News reports that "A volcano in western Indonesia erupted again Sunday, unleashing volcanic ash high into the sky and forcing the evacuation of villagers living around its slope. Officials raised Mount Sinabung's alert status to the second-highest level after the 2,600-meter (8,530-foot) -high mountain erupted early Sunday, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. Authorities were working to evacuate residents from four North Sumatra province villages located within the mountain's three-kilometer (two-mile) danger zone, Nugroho said. About 1,300 villagers have been relocated to safer areas so far. It was the volcano's second big eruption since late last month, with its Oct. 24 explosion prompting the evacuation of more than 3,300 people." This video of Sinabung's 2010 eruption gives some clue about what to expect.

Comment: "The chance of an impact will certainly drop"? (Score 1) 142

by PacoSuarez (#45167753) Attached to: No, the Earth (almost Certainly) Won't Be Hit By an Asteroid In 2032

> Bottom line: we do not have a good orbit for this rock yet, and as observations get better the chance of an impact will certainly drop.

What is that supposed to mean? It should get closer to 1 or to 0. It will get closer to 0 with probability .9999998, and to 1 with probability .0000002. So it will not "certainly" drop.

Comment: Re:Redundant keys (Score 3, Informative) 665

by PacoSuarez (#44960011) Attached to: Bill Gates Acknowledges Ctrl+Alt+Del Was a Mistake

There is no Right Alt key.

Err... I just looked down at my [US] keyboard and there is a key labeled "Alt" immediately to the right of the space bar.

The Compose key is a much better way to handle extra symbols. Sun keyboards used to have a key with that name, and on Linux you can assign one of those useless keys to the right of the space bar (I use "Window") to act as a Compose key. Compose = E to get €, Compose ' e to get é, Compose / l to get , Compose ~ n to get ñ, etc.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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