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Comment: Re:We aren't even close to A.I. (Score 1) 408

by ledow (#49767229) Attached to: What AI Experts Think About the Existential Risk of AI

I often find myself explaining quite how far away we are from even the basics of this.

People say "Ah, but Siri", "Oh, but look at Deep Blue", "What about this clever bit of programming", etc. and they miss the point. Without human-handholding throughout it's entire creation and use, it's useless.

We have heuristics, that's it. Programmed, adjusted and honed by human minds to accomplish a particular task and - in general - useless for anything outside that scope. We can do very clever things, but we can't make a device that can learn.

All the stuff we have is programmed heuristics. Even if they're heuristics which then hone some other program, the heuristics are still limited, fixed, unchangeable and can't "learn" anything new.

AI is decades, if not centuries, away in even the smallest of capacities. Much more dangerous is simple automation and progress - when it takes seconds to guess every possible combination (brute-force passwords etc.), when huge amounts of data can be naively processed by a malicious human, etc. that's much more of an impact than anything that an AI can do.

Comment: Re:Greece is not Running Out of Money .. (Score 0) 734

by ledow (#49767161) Attached to: Greece Is Running Out of Money, Cannot Make June IMF Repayment

Greece ran out of money before any of those options ever arose.

To demand that, in order to get BILLIONS of Euros, they implement some kinds of measures to ensure the money isn't pissed away isn't unreasonable. Did you see how much waste and unnecessary payments were made to their own local politicians, etc. before? There's no point lending people that amount of money only to fill THEIR own coffers at the expense of Greece in general.

It's not in any creditor's interest to bankrupt a country that owes them money, nor is it in their interest to implement a measure that means they cannot repay the loan. Not on this scale. You can't just slap a tiny fine on the interest for failure to repay when you're talking about an entire country, and hope they'll have to pay back a bit more.

What they're trying to do is make sure Greece can afford the next payment. Sure, the country is absolutely in the shit - this is no surprise. But to push it further in the shit for a backhander when there are BILLIONS owed to you already that you'll never see if you piss about is conspiracy-theory-gone-mad territory.

The country is in the shit. If it doesn't implement austerity measures, it will be deeper in the shit. The first payment missed means no more money will be forthcoming. At all. You won't be able to pay the police, or the army, or anyone else. And that's the death of a country. That's quite literally anarchy.

To pay that, they have NO MONEY except these loans - that they AGREED to. To continue to get that money, they have to make the payments, and abide by the creditor's terms (which are focused in the interest of paying the creditors back - by avoiding bankruptcy and anarchy as part of that).

Greece are stupid to not realise this. They are quite literally on the brink of complete nationwide dissolution. Who's going to care about the security of the country when nobody is being paid? High unemployment? Wait until it's 90-100% unemployment and those people decide to riot or take the country over for themselves.

Greece are in deep shit. Always will be for the next decade at least. But not complying, and not paying, just puts them in MUCH DEEPER shit. When the creditors just say "No", Greece is dead. Any other country can walk in and take it. The populous will flee. It becomes an empty country with no value. And that all those things that they hold dearer than having to cut back on services and raise taxes? They're gone. Forever.

Comment: Re:Extort rather than Fix (Score 0) 241

by ledow (#49762445) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Because a lot of it was profit-shifting.

Starbucks UK would send all its profits to a European arm, and then claim that the amount of licensing paid to that European company to "use the trademarks", etc. was EXACTLY the same as their profit each year.

It's hard to legislate against that without another such scheme popping up almost instantly.

The blanket tax/law is designed to be a catch-all - we don't care how you did it or what clever workaround you find... if you think you're still doing this, we'll charge you more tax that ordinary corporate tax. This stops people finding clever loopholes, stops the government wasting time legislating over those loopholes (and that costs a LOT, takes a long time and means you're still losing that money in the meantime), and means that if you're in any doubt you can charge them 25% and then they can argue in court later - but you have their money FIRST and then they have to argue later to get it back if they find a loophole that allows them to.

Given that Amazon et al were collectively making BILLIONS of tax fly out of the country, this law has already paid for itself, and more, and any hassle they might get if the law is challenged. It's such a seriously huge amount of money for the country as a whole that this law is going to affect the way these companies do business in the UK almost instantly and people were actually scared that many such businesses would disappear entirely.

But, then, if we're not seeing tax from them, that's not a big deal - putting any similar-sized company in their place paying even 1% tax is an improvement over the current situation where they're paying almost zero tax. The odd lawsuit can easily be funded and put off for decades with those billions of pounds owed.

Honestly, they are taking the piss and fighting the 25% tax law against just paying 20% tax legally? One of those is so much easier a option that companies with BILLIONS of pounds of lawyers available will cave and pay the tax legally, especially in the face of public opinion.

Comment: Sigh (Score 4, Insightful) 225

by ledow (#49760351) Attached to: Google Developing 'Brillo' OS For Internet of Things

"as little as 32 MB of RAM, for example"

I'm getting old.

My first full PC had 2MB of RAM.

My first computer had only 48Kb of RAM.

Hell, I have an "computer" next me to capable of connecting to the Internet (even to act as HTTP server, DHCP client, NTP client, etc.), controlling relays, performing some computations, etc. It has 32Kb of Flash, 2Kb of SRAM and 1Kb of EEPROM. It's called an Arduino UNO.

By comparison, then, 32Mb is over 1000 times more than needed for IoT crap.

Comment: Re:This isn't a question (Score 1) 612

by ledow (#49760291) Attached to: Ireland Votes Yes To Same-Sex Marriage

Marriage pre-dates religion.

And we'll force them to comply with the law. If they want to "marry" people (I know churches in the UK generally DO NOT, that's for the marriage registrar, not the church), they have to comply with the law.

In the same way that just because a religion believes it can stone adulterous women still can't do that if the law says it's not allowed.

However, as noted above, churches do NOT marry people. They perform a religious ceremony that some people call a wedding. That's very different to an actual "marriage".

Hint: Most people who disagree with religion or who do not want some religious arse telling them whether or not they can marry, they won't be going to that church or wanting that dickhead to ruin their day anyway.

However, that said, recently an Irish company was sued for failing to produce a cake promoting gay marriage. They lost. The argument was that they were a business and a business can't be religious or discriminatory - even if the owners are. That's the shape of the future for you.

Hey, did you know that Mother's Day was supposed to be to celebrate your Mother Church and nothing to do with your biological mother? Things change. And slowly religion stops being relevant.

Comment: Re:This isn't a question (Score 1) 612

by ledow (#49760269) Attached to: Ireland Votes Yes To Same-Sex Marriage

First reaction to your post: Ahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahaha!

Second reaction:

"never define marriage as anything but between a man and women."... or a man and several women. Or a man, several women and a "boy". Whose purpose was... buggery, basically. You really need to pick up a history book sometime.

And even if "every" civilisation in history had condemned this - THEY ARE FUCKING HISTORICAL CIVILISATIONS. Until a couple of hundred years ago (yes), people were still shitting in the corner of the room in some countries, and shirt-tails were to wipe your arse on.

Welcome to modern civilisation. Where we look at shit and don't necessarily just do it "because my ancestors did". It's not perfect either, but hopefully our kids will look at our own cock-ups and say "Fuck doing that, just because my predecessors did, it's obviously fucking moronic."

Comment: Re:Reality desensitizes. See enough, you go nuts. (Score 2) 96

by ledow (#49759499) Attached to: Death In the Browser Tab

I disagree entirely.

We've been systematically exposed to murder, rape, fraud, theft, and every other crime imaginable since the day we were born. Tom and Jerry, Wile E Coyote, etc. used to "kill" each other with mallets, dynamite, whatever was to hand. Games have gone from pixels touching to realistic 3D representations of killing prostitutes while the in-game characters whine about how they got in their way, "bitch".

And yet STILL, roughly the same percentage of people ever commit those kinds of crimes. Still, in some countries, crime figures are going DOWN per person, not up.

My grandfather's generation witnessed wholesale murder and genocide the same as I do - they were sent to deal with it, unprepared and unaware, and many of them never returned from battle the same. The same could be said of their grandfathers. And the same could be said of the war in Iraq, the war on terror, Vietnam, whatever war you want to pick.

Death is a horrible, but inevitable, part of life. Witnessing death may allow you to cope with further death more easily, but it does not turn you into a murderer on its own. I'd hate to know that a kid who lead a sheltered life and never experienced violence throughout it is suddenly thrown into even a street mugging without knowledge of how that might go. It can destroy people - I've seen it happen.

Yet those who suffer the most gory of horror films, witness the worst of the Internet, actively plough through it and seek out something that others might find abhorrent? They are not automatically immune to the effects of such things happening in real life yet can cope with it much easier if it happens.

Children who have NEVER been exposed to swearing form their own. Swearing is as natural an outburst of suppressed frustration as crying. People who do not swear are, in my head, either a) lying or b) scare the absolute fucking shit out of me.

People who aren't exposed to rudeness cannot understand that it's possible, or how to deal with it, or why they should play the game that others - now demonstrably in front of them - have never.

People exposed to violence are no different. I grew up not in a ghetto with bullets whizzing past my head, but in a rough area of London. I grew up with fights in the playground, and outside it, as a natural part of childhood (for that area). I, however, am a well-adjusted adult. I work for schools (and, therefore, have not committed these kinds of things as an adult). I can sit through the goriest of movies (whether it's actually just gore, however, and boring as fuck, or the gore is just part of the otherwise-good movie is a bigger question to my entertainment of it). And I've seen violence.

The thing it does is allows you to deal with it. It does not numb you to it. And, to be honest, I'm probably one of those people who could quite easily be numb to it - I'm probably high up on the autism scale and, as my friends and family would agree, it's so obvious I don't need to go and be diagnosed as such. But, still, real-life violence is abhorrent and scary to me, even if "fake" violence in movies and games is - actually - quite humorous and blasé to myself.

Yet, when there's blood, and violence in real-life, it's me that ends up phoning for help, stepping in, acting with a clear head. Everyone else is too shocked to do anything about it in time and just wants to get away from it. A good survival tactic, maybe, but not the way to handle it.

As stated for everything from your parent's smoking (my mother smoked incessantly basically from her pregnancy with me to today), parent's drinking (my father worked in a brewery and used to be paid in beer tokens so we were never without alcohol), your friend's jumping off bridges, your video games depicting violence, your movies trivialising abhorrent crimes, etc. JUST BECAUSE YOU SEE IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU WILL DO IT.

You have to be seriously maladjusted for something you witness to cause you to perform that same, or similar, acts as an adult. Children, possibly, but that's why we insulate children from these things and clarify the boundaries of real life versus what's acceptable in video games. However, seeing it can make you deal with it much better - in the same way that going on a first aid course will NEVER prepare you for your first blood-soaked granny lying on the ground. But see enough of them, and it becomes "just another patient".

Humans can be fucks. They can also possess empathy like no other species is capable of. No other species will organise and rally round after a single member of theirs is captured by an "enemy" in order to return them to freedom, no matter how many years it takes. No other species.

Humans, by their greatest power and possession, have the ability to reason through situations and distinguish reality from falsehood. Swearing in front of child does not make it a swearer - you know what does? Acting like it's the worst thing in the world that they've picked up a word they don't know the meaning of. THAT's what gives them the knowledge that it has power, and will encourage them to use it.

For millions of years, humans have done all these things. Never before have we ever had so many humans, so close together and so little crime (proportionally). Because we are now able to simulate situations to such an extent that we don't have to imagine the consequences, we can see them for ourselves. And that same horror translates into our brain as it would after the first PHYSICAL viewing of such events, which gives us a headstart.

Seriously, blaming the media is an easy target. The real culprit is "humans" however, and you're one of them. There are parts of that to be ashamed of, sure. Inevitably. But people watch these things because their minds want to watch them. And people have gloried in the macabre and obscene since they first learned to walk. But it does not make them murderers, attackers, rapists, violent or insensible. It just helps them deal with those who are.

Comment: Re:Plant? (Score -1, Troll) 382

by ledow (#49749831) Attached to: How Java Changed Programming Forever

Because Chrome is turning Java off and they're trying to make sure other browsers don't follow suit.

Seriously, I see no NEED for Java any more. I probably have more Silverlight things I like to use than I do Java, and neither are vital any more.

And the sooner we get out of the mindset of ancient-java-plugin being accepted as "more secure" for banking etc. the better. Hell, I remember the early days of the secure web where if you couldn't afford SSL, you pushed the transactions through a "secure" Java app.

What do you NEED Java for nowadays? What do you NEED enough of it to justify a control panel icon, background services, etc.? Basically nothing. As such, Java is dead in the water, and a major browser ditching it could be the end.

However, as some of the comments on here show, it won't be missed.

It does make me wonder, however, quite what Oracle have left - Java is dead, MySQL is dead, OpenOffice is dead, etc. Seems like they bought these things, did nothing with them, then let them all die (some quite publicly) and gained nothing by it.

I can only imagine they thought there was a lawsuit or patent in there that was worth billions. Maybe that was the impetus for the whole Java/Dalvik thing? All that did was kill off Java and its derivatives even more.

So they have to find some news to keep the name of the language alive.

Comment: Re:If that's possible, then it isn't encryption. (Score 4, Informative) 92

by ledow (#49749751) Attached to: Factory Reset On Millions of Android Devices Doesn't Wipe Storage

Indeed - the whole point of full-disk encryption is that "reset" really consists of "zero the place where the master key was stored, which was encrypted by the user passphrase".

Do that, and do that effectively, and you don't have to touch ANYTHING else - it all becomes random gibberish without a valid key. It could literally mean just keeping a couple of hundred bytes of RAM in an EEPROM and then destroying it on "factory reset".

For convenience of detection, however, you may want to zero the first few sectors of the storage so that filesystem probes see it as "no filesystem" rather than as random gibberish. But that's got zero impact on the data that WAS within it.

There's a reason that everything before 4.4 was third-party encryption and untrusted. There's a reason that proper, system-level full storage encryption (including SD card encryption) required changes to the OS. Since then, however, you just need to make sure nobody has your passphrase to stop them getting into your device. Then make sure that nobody has the passphrase-encrypted key blocks at the beginning of the disk (usually) and the data is nothing more than random gibberish.

About the only thing needing a complete wipe of all data is really if you're put into duress to provide a key (which would obviously then provide the data) or if a key is discovered and someone wishes to prove that you DID hold the key / data (by provably decrypting with that key to show that it must have been the right one and, maybe, therefore that you had knowledge of it).

Wipe the key-block, and the encrypted data is basically undecryptable. Same way TrueCrypt etc. work. And even though your passphrase may only be 10 characters, the key block might well be hundreds of bytes long and THAT's what actually has to be decrypted first in order to get the real key to decrypt the rest of the data.

Comment: Re:Cost (Score 1) 134

by ledow (#49749397) Attached to: Pre-Orders Start For Neo900 Open Source Phone

Erm.... yes?

A quick Google just now shows that just about any Samsung device from the Galaxy Fit to the Ace to the main phones has ALREADY had some distro retro-fitted to it. Android IS Linux, it's just that the interface isn't Gnome or KDE and the application format isn't ELF binary but Dalvik etc.

It's just an ARM device. As such, running a mainstream distro on a Galaxy device is probably orders of magnitude EASIER than pissing about trying to build a board that fits into an old case... and gives you the same result if you bother to tinker with it (or if there's a single project in the world that's already tinkered with it for you to customise to phone).

In the same way, I can emulate almost any Android phone with VirtualBox etc. setups on my PC - they are just standard ARM Linux devices at the end of the day.

The iPad? I'm completely anti-apple but there's no reason why not, but I imagine it would be much harder work.

But running a Linux distro on a Samsung phone?

1) You already are, it's just been pared back to the phone basics.
2) Yes, you can already do exactly that.

One Google it took and DOZENS of projects popped up that have done exactly that.

Comment: Unintended consequences (Score 5, Insightful) 94

by ledow (#49749305) Attached to: NSA Planned To Hijack Google App Store To Hack Smartphones

And, since then, almost every Internet service I use has started bringing their stuff out of the US. Not saying that makes us "hack-proof" (not least from our own intelligence agencies) but businesses can't do business with other governments or even large corporations if this kind of thing is suspected to be going on.

Every week or so, another large company tells me that they've pulled all their EU users and their data to their Ireland datacentre so that only the US people's data can be "collected" by the US authorities and otherwise the NSA are just the same as any other foreign hostile entity trying to get into their systems.

DropBox was the latest one I got an email from. The government and education services already do everything in-EU anyway because of a lovely thing called the Data Protection Act (which the US really needs to start adopting its own version of), and now even people's photo-sharing sites are doing the same because they just don't want this kind of stuff reflecting on them because they happen to do business in the US too.

Tell me, people, if China were doing this everybody would be up in arms. But because it's the US, it's okay?

All they've done is made everybody go from "Maybe the NSA could do this if they wanted" to "We have to assume they are doing this, all day, every day, no matter what the law says", move their data abroad, and massively increase awareness of security and encryption.

Hell, I'm now suspicious of Elliptic Curve, especially if it relies on published curve parameters rather than them being an inherently configurable part of the exchange (like Diffie-Helman - agree on a curve that nobody has used before but has certain properties and then use that as the basis for encryption) - I have a feeling that all the push to move on COULD be a cleverly orchestrated move to something such agencies "approve" of in secret even if they say it causes them problems in public.

When you think the trick is happening, maybe it's already been done...

Comment: Re:Cost (Score 0) 134

by ledow (#49749099) Attached to: Pre-Orders Start For Neo900 Open Source Phone

0.5Gb internal storage. The Galaxy phone I point at can put a microSD in too - it's not quite the same as saying that it's got that as primary internal storage. And that Galaxy has 1Gb internal storage. My point is that YOU pay for the microSD. The device INCLUDE the internal storage in the price. And you get less with this device, for more cost.

And again, my point is cost. If you can get off-the-shelf components to do something similar for VASTLY reduced prices, then you have to wonder what you're paying for. If you can get a Samsung phone - with roughly the same makeup and components for 1/5th the price, and if you can build stuff with similar chips for similar purposes (even including LCD touchscreens, etc.) that use open-standards to communicate and no "hidden firmware" for a pittance - again, what are you PAYING for with this device?

This isn't how much things like this cost, clearly. Maybe the BOARD is more expensive, as it's custom. Maybe a PARTICULAR screen is more expensive as it's in limited supply. But the overall device? It's a bog-standard phone. Quite what "unfree" firmware does a commercial device like a Galaxy have once you've rooted the Android install on it? Pretty much the same as this device - the GSM chip will have a proprietary firmware to ensure radio compliance.

And if not, how much would it cost to replace, say, the GPS functionality on the Samsung with an "open" replacement? Again, nowhere NEAR the cost of this device (which is basically doing something similar by relying on the manufacturing for a previous device to provide the baseline).

In runs of one and tens, yes, maybe this price is reasonable. In runs of 100's and 1000's - no.. it's really not. Not in the age of ubiquitous fast low-power common-bus chips for all these functions.

This reminds me of the open-graphics-card initiatives. The time spent on starting from scratch (and inevitably relying on some closed piece of hardware at the end anyway) means that by the time it comes along few are interested, the costs are enormous, the parts are hard to obtain and the device quickly becomes obsolete (the project that springs to mind was still advertising PCI-only functionality just a year ago, not even PCIe). And it's based on FGPA's that you have to buy from a commercial vendor that doesn't publish their designs...

I'm a purchaser of niche products. I have a GP2X and some of its predecessors and successors, I programmed for it, it was built in tiny runs, cost more than equivalents, and was quickly obsoleted by commercial devices but it was "open" - it was ARM chips with a Linux install that you could code down to the bootloader.

5 times the cost of a (pretty expensive) commercial device that does the same and has the support of a major international company is a lot to ask for a niche product that doesn't do anything "special" (any Android machine, by definition, could run a plain Linux install if you so wanted to do that), is reliant on finding parts from old phones, and needs a tiny production run meaning you probably can never get the parts for it again if it goes wrong.

I'm not against the idea, here. I'm against the execution. There are cheaper phones that have bog-standard hardware that you can replace any firmware with open-firmware if you needed to (or even the entire functionality of that particular feature with another free equivalent) and put them in a case. In fact, here, the case is the CHEAP part. That's the part you could easily redesign to shove any board taken from a phone into. The electronics for a hobby project, however, is never going to get near the cost, reliability, even safety of a commercial product re-purposed.

The ideal isn't mine, particularly, but the execution seems incredibly poor is that's the closest you can get to price-point. Double-the-cost, maybe. FIVE TIMES is ludicrous.

Comment: Re: chalk? (Score 1) 387

I teach maths and have taught various subjects for over 20 years. Since I have worked in mainstream schools the last 5 years or so I have come to use the electronic whiteboard more and more. I have no problem teaching off the top of my head with a pencil and paper (or a stick and some sand) but all my planned material revolves around the use and functionality of the IWB (and other devices such as using mobile devices - ipads in our case - to access electronic material).

It is so much more useful in the long run. The students can have an electronic copy of the lesson (before and after), you dont waste time "rubbing stuff out", you can come back to items whenever you please and you can reuse material so easily from lesson to lesson, year to year.

That is before you consider the inbuilt (and other) functionality the electronic whiteboard offers. In our case we have built in transformation tools, on screen rulers, protractors, compasses, graphing facilities etc. Then when you branch out and use apps, websites etc the amount of interactivity and usefulness increases massively.

This never replaces good old fashioned teaching and knowledge and methods, but as an added bonus it can be massive.

However, at the end of the day, you cannot do proper mathematics without resorting to proper work on paper, with a pen or pencil and a bit of brainpower and a lot of patience. That will never be replaced electronically.

Money doesn't talk, it swears. -- Bob Dylan