TropicalCoder writes: Prof Stephen Hawking, one of Britain's pre-eminent scientists, has said that efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence. He told the BBC: "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."
These guys are clearly not software engineers, and have been watching too many science fiction films. Seems Stephen Hawking has a new voice that has scared him.
Machine learning experts from the British company Swiftkey were involved in its creation. Their technology, already employed as a smartphone keyboard app, "learns how the professor thinks" and suggests the words he might want to use next.
Maybe he thinks it's gonna attack him and take over his identity one day, and nobody outside his world would know it's not really him?. Give me a break! These intelligent people should know enough not to venture into areas they don't understand.
I have played with neural networks myself, and they can only do what they are programmed to do. Of course they can be dangerous as much as any other software tool if, for example, employed by the NSA to sift through the petabytes of data they have on us all, Watson style. But then the danger comes from how the knowledge gained is used, not from the AI itself
TropicalCoder writes: When I first read about this on gizmag.com, "Gravity powered aircraft flies with no fuel!", it was startling, but hard to make sense of it until I went to the web site of Robert D Hunt – Founder/Chairman of Hunt Aviation. I quickly grasped the concept and had a vision of a world filled with these aircraft.
The concept is simple — a glider that can be made buoyant like a helium balloon, then lose that buoyancy to dive like a swallow, gain acceleration, and glide for miles before once again repeating the cycle. At the same time it can gain energy from wind and temperature differences for onboard power.
As I considered it further, however, it began to strike me as too easy, like it was yet another perpetual motion machine. I couldn't put my finger on it though. I noted the extremely amateurish website, the lo-res Windows Media video with so much compression in the audio that it sounded like a radio station experiencing cross-talk from another nearby station. The narration sounded credible until it mentioned something about how it would be difficult for terrorists to sabotage this aircraft. What to think?
I knew one thing — the people at Slashdot are quick to suss-out things like this, so I present this to you. Is it a crackpot idea or the dawn of a revolution in aviation?
Now it turns out that if you want to solve a travelling salesman problem, it would be helpful to know a bit about generating permutations. The idea is that if the salesman doesn't have to visit too many cities, you could simply generate every permutation of the list of cities and measure the distance each route would run and quickly have your answer. Soon I found myself on the Wikipedia page on permutations, and began to play with a classic algorithm. That quickly bored me, so I turned to Doctor Knuth's Art of Computer Programming for more. Did you know he has a full chapter dedicated to this stuff?
For some reason I began subtracting successive permutations, and upon examining the table of values produced, I noticed an interesting pattern. I began to analyse that pattern and became obsessed with it as suddenly a whole world of ideas popped into my head. Here you will find what I have discovered, along with the full source code I developed to prove my theory. In the code I get into a some bit twisting and recursion, and all in all had a very good time. I hope you have as much fun with it as I had."
TropicalCoder writes: Windows 7 has been launched, but there is no corporate rush to replace XP. When you include replacement hardware, admin costs, application testing, and replacing incompatible apps, Gartner's VP of research, Michael Silver, believes that in a hypothetical organization with 2,500 Windows users, the cost of upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 will run $1,035 to $1,930 per user." Eric Knorr, InfoWorld Perhaps this might explain the lack of enthusiasm?...but are there any realistic alternatives to upgrading to Windows 7?
TropicalCoder writes: "When you include replacement hardware, admin costs, application testing, and replacing incompatible apps, Gartner's VP of research, Michael Silver, believes that — in a hypothetical organization with 2,500 Windows users — the cost of upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 will run $1,035 to $1,930 per user." — Eric Knorr, InfoWorld Get the cost breakdown direct from Gartner
TropicalCoder writes: Aviary, who's PhotoShop-like browser-based image editing tools have been gathering rave reviews, today brought multi-track audio editing to the cloud. The service, called Myna, is sort of like Garage Band in your web browser. You can import audio directly into it, record a track into the application, or use clips from one of Aviary's provided clip libraries such as Quantum Tracks. Check out the video to get a sense of it. All audio effects are non-destructive and you can automate fades and pans, modify gain over time, loop, stretch and reverse audio clips. There are also classic effects like Reverb, Flanger, Stereo Delay, Pitch warp, Parametric Eq, and more. You can upload your clips to the service as well, and record directly from your computer. It's free to try it out. CNET has a write up about it and as well, this article points out how a web based audio editor can be useful to a radio news journalist on the road away from his computer back at the studio.
Alan Queen, the producer of Myna, began his career touring with a rock band in the '80s, and moved on from there to become a successful music producer. Later, he turned his hand to software development, working with cutting edge internet technologies. Along the way he began to dream about creating a Digital Audio Workstation that would be simple enough to enable a whole new class of budding musicians who didn't necessarily have the resources to get involved with expensive professional computer equipment and software for music production. A new dimension is brought to music production once it can run in the browser. Not only has it suddenly become cross platform, but easy collaboration is now possible via Aviary's very socially oriented Web 2 application delivery platform. Users will be able to invite others to contribute and participate, and share their productions with as wide an audience as they wish. Alan, as well as others from the Myna team will be on hand to answer your questions and consider your requests here on Slashdot. Check it out now.
Disclosure: I have been a developer on the Digimix/Myna team since inception, and work on the effects and other "low level" code. It was developed in AS3 using Flex Builder 3.
TropicalCoder writes: "Google announced the Google Chrome Operating System last night in an official blog . "It's our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be" said Sundar Pichai, VP Product Management and Linus Upson, Engineering Director in their blog. Google Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks which will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010 from multiple OEMs. It will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and later this year they will open-source its code. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. They're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. Ars technica have confirmed Google's initiative from two sources within and without Google. TechCrunch calls it a "Nuclear Bomb on Microsoft""
TropicalCoder writes: "Ray Ozzie says Google Wave 'anti-web'. In the the video he complains about its complexity in relation to Microsoft's Live Mesh. He says "If you have something, that by its very nature is very complex, with many goals... then you need open source to have many instances of it because nobody will be able to do an independent implimentation of it." That's its weakness to Ozzie, apparently — that this complexity that can only be overcome by open source. While he heaps high praise on the Google team that came up with this, he feels that the advantage of Microsoft's approach is that "...by decomposing things to be simpler, you don't need open source." While I can see how it would be an advantage to Microsoft to maintain things as closed source, I would accept complexity to keep things open. What approach do you feel is better?"
TropicalCoder writes: "Suppose you are an archeologist, continuing your research on the holodeck while on
assignment with the starship Enterprise. In your hands you turn over fragments of an
ancient Greek harp-like instrument called an "epigonion" from the 6th century BC,
while a screen displays illustrations
and descriptions from various sources, wondering what this thing would have sounded like. You ask the
computer to play it for you and immediately it employs its knowledge of the materials,
geometry, and strings to run a simulation of the vibrational modes and you hear the
instrument being played for the first time in over two thousand years.
instrument revived by computing is a reality today rather than a Star Trek
fantasy, thanks to the work of the team at the Astra Project who harnessed the
power of grid computing to do the physical
modeling synthesis, a complex digital audio rendering technique which allows modeling
the time-domain physics of the instrument.
However, analyzing the music generated by the virtual instrument with this software, it appears that it
is tuned to the modern Equal
Tempered Scale, rather than using a Pythagorean tuning as I
would expect. An ancient instrument from the 6th century BC tuned to a modern musical
scale does not give much of an idea of how it may have sounded. Furthermore, I feel
that had they simply crafted a physical copy of the instrument, they may have
discovered things like, for example, the load of 40 strings on the bridge of the
instrument severely limited potential tunings."
Myna was the name given to their latest addition of a fully functional Digital Audio Workstation previously known as Digimix. The DAW began as the dream of musician turned producer turned programmer Alan Queen and has been under development for over two years in stealth mode. It was acquired by Aviary at the end of last summer and the entire Digimix team moved over with it. When the Flash Player 10 engine was released in the fall, the team reworked the application to take advantage of the new capabilities it enabled.
Alan Queen, the producer of Myna, began his career touring with a rock band in the '80s, and moved on from there to become a successful music producer. Later, he turned his hand to software development, working with cutting edge internet technologies. Along the way he began to dream about creating a DAW that would be simple enough to enable a whole new class of budding musicians who didn't necessarily have the resources to get involved with expensive professional computer equipment and software for music production. A new dimension is brought to music production once it can run in the browser. Not only has it suddenly become cross platform, but easy collaboration is now possible via Aviary's very socially oriented Web 2 application delivery platform. Users will be able to invite others to contribute and participate, and share their productions with as wide an audience as they wish. Aviary will also offer a broad selection of clips and is working with third party content providers to offer quality material to work with. When producing a track in Myna the user will not only be able to upload his own material, but will be able to select from a library of clips to add rythym and rhyme.
The alpha version of Myna allows 15 tracks, but it has been tested to work with up to 20. A full suite of effects are provided such as Reverb, Flanger, Stereo Delay, Pitch warp, Parametric Eq, etc. Time stretching capability is available so that the user may adopt a desired beats per minute and stretch every clip to fit. You can mix it up and bounce it down and save to hard drive or uploaded to Aviary's site for sharing.
Disclosure: I have been a developer on the Digimix/Myna team since inception, and work on the effects other "low level" code. It was developed in AS3 using Flex Builder 3."
Like — they own the PC brand now? OK — We can admire someone who stands up for himself succinctly way when picked on. Apple will never be able to use the "I'm a PC" line again now. However, in this ad Microsoft tries to appropriate the commons with a sinister attempt to hijack the PC. They want to confuse general public into thinking — if it doesn't have Windows, it's not a PC. Is there an appropriate way to inform the public that the PC is an open platform that can run many other operating systems?
Check out Microsoft's latest ad and see for yourself what they are up to. Perhaps we need an ad that says "Hi, I'm a PC, and I run Linux"?"
TropicalCoder writes: "TechCrunch reports that a consortium of digital entertainment companies including movie studios, digital device manufacturers, and electronics retailers are trying to take on Apple by standardizing their DRM practices. The basic idea is that if you buy digital content for one device, it should play on any device. And instead of having 50 different rules for how many times you can play a digital download movie and on how many different devices, DECE will come up with one industry-wide standard. The consortium includes Alcatel-Lucent, Best Buy, Cisco, Comcast, Fox Entertainment Group, HP, Intel, Lionsgate, Microsoft, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Philips, Sony, Toshiba, VeriSign and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
TropicalCoder writes: "I ran across superficial Reuters' piece on the Google News page about a study funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Study shows "Spiritual" effects of mushrooms last a year". The article calmly stated that the "spiritual" effects of psilocybin from so-called sacred mushrooms last for more than a year and may offer a way to help patients with fatal diseases or addictions. The news item referred to research began in 2006 by Dr. Roland Griffiths and colleagues of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, on giving magic mushrooms to 36 willing human guinea pigs. Two thirds reported having a "mystical" or "spiritual" experience and rated it positively.
Furthermore, more than a year later most still said the experience increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction. What stuck me as odd about the report by Maggie Fox, Reuter's Health and Science Editor, was that there was no critical analysis or depth to her reporting of this bizarre experiment. After a little research of my own, I found a much better article in the NewScientist, and a PDF about a presentation on the research by Drs. Griffith and Richards.
Many will remember Timothy Leary, who went off the deep end (my opinion) studying LSD, and the CIA's mind control experiments with LSD. I certainly do, and with personal memories of the '60s and '70s, seeing people condemned to a decade of chasing butterflies after drug-induced mystic experiences, I was very surprised to see this kind of research going on nearly 50 years later. What surprised me was the apparent lack of controversy and the fact that this experiment was sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and conducted under the hospice of the famed Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Griffiths concluded, "This is a truly remarkable finding. Rarely in psychological research do we see such persistently positive reports from a single event in the laboratory", suggesting the findings may offer a way to help treat extremely anxious and depressed patients, or people with addictions. I was quite alarmed by this conclusion. I would consider that an experiment that profoundly altered the world view of two thirds of the participants a very serious outcome. I mean — one day these were people volunteering to be participants in medical research, and the next day — they were no longer the same people. Mind wipe, anyone? I find that thought quite alarming. Don't you?"
TropicalCoder writes: "98.4% of the OOXML Proposed Dispositions were approved by a three to two majority at the BRM, validating OOXML"
If you actually believe that, you are either a Microsoft fan boy, or seriously uninformed. According to many BRM participants, that is about as gross a misrepresentation of fact as to actually be the opposite to what really happened, yet that is what Microsoft and their OOXML supporters would have you believe.
The most optimistic view in my opinion would be, "The OOXML Proposed Dispositions were overwhelmingly rejected by the delegations in attendance at the BRM, indicating the inability of OOXML to be adequately addressed within the 'Fast Track' process. Only a very small percentage of the proposed dispositions were discussed in detail, amended and approved by the delegations in attendance at the BRM, indicating the inability of OOXML to be adequately addressed within the 'Fast Track' process." I say "optimistic" because the reality as seen through the eyes of many delegates is a condemnation a procedure so seriously flawed that calls into question the integrity of the ISO.
...but don't take it from me. Read Andy Grove's summary and his list of the blogs of actual BRM participants and decide for yourself what you believe."
TropicalCoder writes: "On June 3rd, I ran across an article about LiftPort, a group of companies dedicated to building the LiftPort Space Elevator, and shared it on Slashdot. This provoked over 200 comments, the vast majority of which were negative about the feasibility of such an undertaking. At one point during the discussion, LiftPort founder Michael J. Laine personally entered the discussion, but for the most part remained invisible since he hadn't logged in. I responded to his comment that if he would like a chance to rebut the criticisms, he should contact me and I would undertake to interview him and post the resulting story on Slashdot.
Michael called me long distance via cell phone that very day from his back yard near Seattle, and spoke with me for over an hour. It was a very interesting conversation. Michael came across as a rather sober, likeable fellow, not at all like the crackpot image one would conjure up from reading many of the Slashdot comments. He was clearly wounded by the stinging criticisms in the Slashdot discussion, and I couldn't help emphasizing with him. Here was man who had put his money where his mouth was, risking everything on his dream, perhaps suffering his darkest hour, and enduring ridicule on top of that.
At no point during the conversation did I get any impression of a huckster who would sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, something that I was on the lookout for. It was clear to me that he sincerely believes in what he is doing. Whether he succeeds in the end or not, I would prefer to call him a "visionary". After all, for every great visionary you can recall from history, there must have been a thousand others who tried and failed, but are no less visionary because of that. The jury is still out on LiftPort, and rumours of their death would be premature. They continue their research, and as I write are preparing for the
"Tethered Towers" demo on Thursday, 28th of June.
At the end of the conversation it was agreed that I would summarize the Slashdot discussion for him and offer him an opportunity for point by point rebuttal. I completed this summary, (in which many Slashdot readers will recognize their own words), and sent it off to him the next day. He acknowledged receipt of this and promised an answer shortly. A few weeks passed, and I imagined that he must have decided in the end that the criticisms were so severe, perhaps it would be best just to try to forget it. It was such a surprise to me when a thoroughly detailed response arrived in my mail box today, demonstrating that the people at LiftPort at least are still convinced that building a space elevator is possible.
Space elevator themes have been celebrated in science fiction and many Slashdot readers have shared the dream, only to become disillusioned with the apparent pending demise of LiftPort. After reading LiftPort's rebuttal to Slashdot critics, do any of you now feel your pessimism somewhat dispelled?"