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Comment: key skill (Score 2) 406

by lkcl (#49620323) Attached to: The Programming Talent Myth

the key skill needed for programming is to be *able to pay attention to detail*. if you are unable, by any means, to focus on one thing for any length of time (because, for example, you have the attention span of a spider on cocaine or worse caffeine, because, for example, you have been brought up on txting and IMing and twittah) then it should come as absolutely no surprise that you are utterly useless at programming.

another person mentions that creativity is needed in programming. well, yes, this is true. if you have a bug that you don't know how it got there, you need to be extraordinarily patient [attention to detail] with yourself and your work, going over it *creatively* in different ways until such time as you have found, understood and then fixed the bug.

if you do not have the patience because you are, once again, brought up on a diet of twitter, instant gratitfication and refined sugar products, *no amount* of creativity is going to help if you cannot apply it.

i call myself a programmer: what i actually have is obsessive compulsion to be able to pay attention to one task for spans of time that exceed healthy limits. i can be freezing cold and not even notice... because i'm debugging something. only sheer complete exhaustion can get through under those circumstances. this is where it helps to be working in part of a team, as it sets some structure for social interaction. it's no accident, then, that there are entrepreneurs [this goes back a few years on slashdot - there's an article somewhere] who *only* take on *english language* majors [US i presume], and train them to be programmers. why? because people who can *communicate* turn out to make better programmers than people who have been through a university-driven programming course.

Comment: definition of 'open' (Score 2) 63

by lkcl (#49567339) Attached to: Imagination To Release Open MIPS Design To Academia

Microsoft has an "Open License" which allows you to look at Windows NT source code. it's "open", yes? pay them $USD 1m per year, you get an "open" look at the source code of Windows NT. but if you ever dare to use it, talk about it, or do ANYTHING other than *read* it.... they will sue the fuck out of you.

bottom line: can we PLEASE stop using the word "open" in context with these types of stupid, stupid proprietary arrangements? it really isn't helping.

there are plenty of *LIBRE* licensed implementations of MIPS out there: many people have pointed that out (in comments i can see above this one), they're on http://opencores.org/ - there are at least eight MIPS core implementations that i can see, there, possibly the best one (most complete) is this: http://opencores.org/project,m... which has a 5-stage pipeline and a harvard architecture.

so please, stop using the word "open" to refer to proprietary, restricted and patented material.

Comment: machine consciousness (Score 1) 197

by lkcl (#49522991) Attached to: Concerns of an Artificial Intelligence Pioneer

the issue that i have with "artificial" intelligence is this: there *is* no such thing as "artificial" - i.e. "fake" or "unreal" intelligence. intelligence just *IS*. no matter the form it takes, if it's "intelligent" then it is pure and absolute arrogance on our part to call it "artificial". the best possible subsitute words that i could come up with were "machine-based" intelligence. the word "simulated" cannot be applied, because, again, if it's intelligent, it just *is* - and, again, to imply that intelligence is "simulated" is, again, a direct falsehood. so we have a bit of a problem, there.

the other problem is this: if those who are creating intelligent machines are themselves of insufficient intelligence to recognise the existence of intelligence, then how on earth would they know that it had actually been created?? it's the "million monkeys" problem in a subtle new light.

but i think people are beginning to confuse "intelligence" with "consciousness". we already have intelligent networks - the next phase is CONSCIOUSNESS. self-awareness. and here we begin to get into interesting territory, not least because we have the very pertinent question "how can scientists who are themselves not truly consciously aware even of themselves possibly begin to *recognise* consciousness when they've created it??"

the problem is highlighted by the example of a friend of mine who refuses to help create machine consciousness. he's a researcher into the concept of consciousness, so he knows what goes into it - how to recognise it, and, by inference, how to make consciousness "happen" so to speak. and when i approached him about helping to make machine consciousness, he said, "sure i can help... but only if you can guarantee that the resultant beings would be in bliss (i.e. happy) rather than being permanently tortured".

and there you have the key, that anything that is self-aware and conscious - anything that has the ability to communicate and feel - *automatically* gains the right to freedom of expression and all the other rights that we *believe* humans - as the arrogant self-appointed "top of the food chain" - should also have... ... and until the arrogant quotes artificial quotes intelligence community recognises that and fights *IN ADVANCE* for the right of machine consciousness to have the same rights as humans, nobody who is a truly conscious and intelligent being is going to help that scientific community to create such advanced conscious beings, because the risks associated with such conscious machines being tortured - just because the scientists think they can - are too great.

Comment: Read "Outliers" (Score 5, Informative) 385

by lkcl (#49500295) Attached to: Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon?

this is nothing new: i believe the same study was the basis of the famous book "Outliers", which is a fascinating study of what makes people successful. if i recall correctly, it's completely the opposite of what people expect: your genes *do* matter. your attitude *does* matter. your circumstances *do* matter. working hard *does* matter. and luck matters as well. but it's all of these things - luck, genetics, circumstances *and* hard work - that make for the ultimate success story. bill gates is one of the stories described. he had luck and opportunity - by being born at just the right time when personal computing was beginning - and circumstances - by going to one of the very very few schools in the USA that actually had a computer available (for me, that opportunity was when i was 8: i went to one of the very very few secondary schools in the UK that had a computer: a Pet 3032).

so, yeah - it's not a very popular view, particularly in the USA, as it goes against the whole "anyone can make it big" concept. but, put simply, the statistics show that it's a combination of a whole *range* of factors, all of which contribute, that make up success. just "being intelligent" simply is not enough.

Comment: Dear NSA (Score 1) 212

Dear NSA,

I would love to design the phone that you are asking for. please pay the sum of $USD 30 million into my bank account and i will organise it straight away. also, please sign a contract that you will subsidise the cost of every single phone sold because in order to add the extra encryption that you are expecting it will push up the price, and in a competitive business world nobody would buy it without subsidies.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Signed, Luke Leighton
(Libre and FSF-Endorseable Hardware Design Engineer)

Comment: Re:The BBC doesn't have much latitude here. (Score 1) 662

by lkcl (#49346231) Attached to: Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear

Once the organization confirmed that unprovoked verbal and physical abuse had occurred,

... actually... my understanding is that it was *not* unprovoked, but not possibly in the way that involves "direct provocation". james may explained that the team had been out the entire day, since early morning through to extremely late in the evening. by all accounts that would be well beyond a standard working day: without decent food it's fairly safe to conclude that their blood sugar levels and many other indicators would have been pushed well past normal acceptable limits.

  i've seen this happen before (both in myself and in other people). you get tired, then shaky, you feel pretty close to exhaustion, due to lack of sleep and rest your body's building up toxins it can't cope with, you're utterly stressed but are simply too tired even to express that, you can't sleep yet which would be the normal way for your body to recover and clear itself of toxins.... and then someone does something unexpected (or doesn't do something that you know will help, that you were counting on)... it's not *their* fault... but they're just the trigger for an outpouring of quite literally uncontrollable but perfectly forseeable emotion.

  my point is: the BBC should *never* have allowed these circumstances to occur. they should have had a full-time nutritionist on the team, advising them when to take breaks, when the exertion that the team is going through is beyond acceptable levels, what the consequences are and so on. this is a team that's been to some of the most hostile places in the world, so it should be a no-brainer that they'd need an expert consultant on nutrition.

so expecting someone to work 16 hours without proper food, running them well beyond their physical limits, then firing them as a direct result of them being put under far too much stress and pressure... *that* sounds like a recipe for a lawsuit.

Comment: Re:electricity only (Score 1) 317

by lkcl (#49319383) Attached to: Costa Rica Goes 75 Days Powering Itself Using Only Renewable Energy

the difference is that costa rica is not considered to be a first world country, it's part of the emerging markets. also, all the other examples given (USA, Canada) are still using non-clean energy sources. the story is that this is an *entire country* running on *renewable energy*, 100%. that's a big hairy deal.

Comment: Re:Battery tech on 2500 and 3500 pickups? (Score 1) 229

First, electric motors provide their best torque at near 0 RPM, which is quite useful.

electric motors provide their best torque at 0 RPM because that's called "stall torque". the penalty for doing so is a whopping EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT energy loss in the form of heat. to even remotely consider that as a practical option would involve some serious heavy-duty water-cooling.

Third, for farms, it might be economical to have the trucks charge and run on batteries, as it saves on fuel.

unfortunately, like many people, you misunderstand the nature of EVs. batteries are a *storage* mechanism, not a fuel. the energy has to come from somewhere, and you (usually - unless you have on-site wind, solar or hydro power independent infrastructure) have to pay for it.

many people also believe that moving the charging out to the national grid is a "good thing": this is not true, either, because of the logistics of power generation. the oil, coal and nuclear plants may only operate efficiently once up to temperature, and they *may not* be shut down... if they are it can take weeks for them to get back up to cost-effective optimal efficiency. that means that all the lovely wind and solar systems, which are critically dependent on nature.... these are the ones that have to be shut down during off-peak hours! i know for a fact that the companies who run the wind turbines in the area of scotland i used to live in are PAID to NOT provide electricity! they make sure that the turbines still turn, so as to deceive people into thinking that they're generating electricity: they're not. one or more of the turbines is run as a brake for the others, it's why you see them running at different speeds and blade angles.

other than that, the idea of allowing farmers to plug in to an on-board generator is a fantastic idea.

Comment: Re:Ergo! (Score 5, Insightful) 452

by lkcl (#49273549) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Good Keyboard?

irony isn't it: we don't like what microsoft has done in the software world, but the microsoft natural keyboard is absolutely awesome. *but*, butbutbut, you *have* to get the right one! the one i find is amazing has a tip-up at the *front* not the back, allowing the hands to droop downwards onto the keys rather than being stressfully pulled upwards, and also you want the one with full-sized cursor keys. there was a while when microsoft foolishly tried to make one with half-sized cursor keys: it's utter rubbish.

other than that: the keyboard i have seen which people absolutely swear by is - don't laugh - the old IBM AT keyboard! apparently you can still get them. they're noisy, but people who use them don't care. that tactile response - the click - appears to be crucial to ast and wrist-stress-free long-term usage.

Comment: history of electrocution (Score 1) 1081

by lkcl (#49258561) Attached to: How To Execute People In the 21st Century

the reason why electrocution exists is because tesla's competition - when he invented AC electricity - wanted to demonstrate that it was "unsafe". so they electrocuted cows and other animals in front of various influential people. when demonstrated in front of a texas governor, the individual concerned considered the method of killing to be sufficiently effective as to warrant its deployment for the murder of people who had committed crimes

although i do not specifically know, one way or the other, i would be very surprised if, at the time, an evaluation as to whether this murderous method was considered to be too barbaric or not. unfortunately however humans have a habit of using past decisions as a means to justify current and future ones, regardless of overwhelming evidence or opinions. honestly: much of humanity still has a lot to learn.

Comment: experiment with an arduino (or other suitable) (Score 1) 100

by lkcl (#49258167) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Mouse/Pointer For a Person With Poor Motor Control

right. let's assume that you need to actually do some programming, here. first thing: get hold of an arduino, or something with an STM32F (waveshare have something). one of the examples in the source code for the waveshare STM32F102 board that i bought is: guess what: a mouse HID emulator.

basically what it does is program the USB port to (a) be a client (b) pretend that it's a mouse HID device. then, it just runs through a sequence creating "mouse move left" events 100 times followed by "mouse move right" events 100 times.

you can probably see where this is going, but basically for around 50 GBP including wires, big buttons and a programmable board of some description) you should be able to put together:

* a simple program
* some large buttons (an up button, a down button, a left, a right, two mouse buttons and a "i want to activate double-click on the next thing i press" button)

and basically quite literally MAKE a mouse that suits the abilities of your friend.

the reason i recommend having a "i want to activate double-click please" button is because she will be able to hold that button down at her own leisure and THEN press the button of her choice. the same button could probably double-up as a "please move a bit faster on the arrows" button.

using the waveshare example source code you should probably be able to code this up in around 400 lines i.e. about 2 days worth of work.

but the *important* thing about this solution is that you can ADAPT it. if her symptoms get worse, or it turns out that she needs something beyond what the commercial offerings provide, or neither you nor her thought "hmm, we should have done that", you can reprogram it. or get bigger or better buttons. or go a bit more advanced and create your own analog joystick to mouse converter with some Industrial PID (proportional integration and differentiation) control to dampen down any loss of motor coordination.

and the other important thing is: it'll be platform-independent. it'll act like... a mouse.

if you don't have the programming skills yourself, btw, contact me and i should be able to help. i think i still have the waveshare STM32F board i bought a couple of years back.


Mass Surveillance: Can We Blame It All On the Government? 123

Posted by timothy
from the moral-amoral-immoral dept.
Nicola Hahn writes Yet another news report has emerged detailing how the CIA is actively subverting low-level encryption features in mainstream hi-tech products. Responding to the story, an unnamed intelligence official essentially shrugged his shoulders and commented that "there's a whole world of devices out there, and that's what we're going to do." Perhaps this sort of cavalier dismissal isn't surprising given that leaked classified documents indicate that government intelligence officers view iPhone users as 'Zombies' who pay for their own surveillance.

The past year or so of revelations paints a pretty damning portrait of the NSA and CIA. But if you read the Intercept's coverage of the CIA's subversion projects carefully you'll notice mention of Lockheed Martin. And this raises a question that hasn't received much attention: what role does corporate America play in all of this? Are American companies simply hapless pawns of a runaway national security state? Ed Snowden has stated that mass surveillance is "about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power." A sentiment which has been echoed by others. Who, then, stands to gain from mass surveillance?

Comment: Re:LOL@ Use-case (Score 1) 45

by lkcl (#49214401) Attached to: Fujitsu Tech Can Track Heavily Blurred People In Security Videos

Even if the time resolution is 5 minutes, and the spacial resolution is only enough to identify which stores I visit, that is enough to identify me. If I go to the mall, stop by and get a coffee, wander around for a while, then make another purchase in another store, using my credit card both times, I may very well be the only person who made purchases at those two stores within a 5 minute window at each store. Each purchase makes it more likely to be unique. Now if I put on dark glasses and a baseball cap and stop by Victoria's Secret to buy some lingerie for my mistress, with cash, it's possible to link that to me via your path data.

you had me concerned for a minute! but then i thought about it, and i realised that if you take a venn diagram of the set of credit card purchases (assuming a subpoena has obtained full details), and a venn diagram of the set of paths (from WIFI or other method), what you get if you take the AND of those is no more than what was obtained from the credit card details.

  in other words, your privacy has already been violated by a subpoena for the *credit card* details in ways that a subpoena for the path details could not possibly hope to match or add any information to that is *not already known* from the credit card subpoena. except for some outliers... discussed below:

what you get if you *remove* the set of location/time-cross-referenced credit card purchases from the set of "paths" is actually much more interesting. scenarios where the two data sets do not match would include where someone borrowed your credit card (with or without permission), or cloned it.

we're beginning to get into quite complex territory here, but let's say that someone stole your credit card. let's assume that the thief also has a mobile phone. let's say that they (rather stupidly) use the credit card in the same store to make multiple purchases. *then* you have a situation where it woud sort-of be possible to narrow down the numbers from *maybe* 10,000 possible candidates down to say 2,000 possible candidates, down to maybe 100, with each extra piece of information (assuming WIFI / GSM not say camera tracking) ... and at the end of that, what you would have would be a set of anonymised pieces of information, all of which you *still* could not identify the thief - based purely on the path information (even if you add the credit card details) - because of the salted hash. (if you actually caught them then it's still dicey but you *might* be able to provide some "statistically-dubious" circumstantial evidence but it would require an additional subpoena to the mobile phone company to get them to provide the TMSIs... it's complicated, but TMSI stands for *TEMPORARY* mobile subscriber identity - it's 32-bit and it changes something like once every 24-72 hours. i do not know if mobile phone operators keep records of the TMSIs allocated to phones, but it would be unlikely that they bother, as it's something that the base station cell towers allocate locally. WIFI on the other hand would be a different matter, as MAC addresses typically do not change).

so about the only thing you _could_ do was to notice that the credit card was no longer "in proximity" with the mobile phone "path" information and perhaps report it to the credit card company. *but*, bear in mind that it's on a 20 metre radius and on a 5-15 minute "ping" and it's pretty touch-and-go as to whether the information would be in time to stop fraudulent purchases... or even if it would be correct (not a false positive).

now, with this visual tracking stuff, you *might* have better luck (assuming it's ok to run a beowulf cluster on-site within the shopping mall premises), but i have serious doubts that it's within reasonable cost for deployment.

the only thing i can think of, if you are genuinely genuinely concerned about privacy:

(a) take the battery out of your phone or better leave it behind entirely
(b) use cash as long as it's not an attention-seeking amount
(c) if you can't use cash get prepaid credit cards (plural) and use one per purchase.

but, bottom line: really, if a court has access to the credit card details (times, stores and purchases) they *genuinely* have access to far more accurate information than what may be obtained from such sparse and positionally-broad GSM / WIFI tracking, and in the majority of cases i think you'll find that the addition of that information as a dataset to what can be obtained from credit card subpoenas really _really_ isn't hugely useful.

Failure is more frequently from want of energy than want of capital.