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Comment AI researchers should be more modest (Score 5, Insightful) 271

It's like a XV century man trying to simulate a PC by putting a candle behind colored glass and calling that a display screen. People often think AI is getting really smart and e.g. human translators are getting obsolete (a friend of mine was actually worried about her future as a linguist). But there is a fundamental barrier between that and the current state of automatic german->english translations (remember that article some time ago?), with error rates unacceptable for anything but personal usage.
Some researchers claim we can simulate intelligent parts of the human brain - I claim we can't simulate an average mouse (i.e. one that would survive long enough in real-life conditions), probably not even it's sight.
There's nothing interesting about this 'dreaming' - as long as the algorithm can't really manipulate abstract concepts. Automatic translations are a surprisingly good test for that. Protip: automatically dismiss any article like that if it doesn't mention actual progress in practical applications, or at least modestly admit that it's more of an artistic endeavour than anything else.

Comment Re:Cycle my ass ... (Score 3, Insightful) 167

And, if you're in extreme denial, you can see evidence of a cycle yourself, if you've got the patience to take a look at the sun (filtered/projected) and note the spot number for ~20 years. There's data since 1750. Sunspots are correlated with auroras, so it's also within the reach of a human with no modern equipment to check the effects of sun activity.

Comment Re:Every baby I know of gets a prick on the heel (Score 1) 544

-many posts up there are getting "insightful" for predicting that we'll turn into Gattaca if there's a law that allows storing 26 numbers from everybody's DNA
-actually (partly since 1960?), law requires storing the full specimen for a period of time and in some states allows to keep it indefinitely
- (which those insightful prophets, while being extremely cautious, seem to ignore)
- it's not like we're turning into an abominable dystopia now
I'm sorry, sincerely I don't understand. Could someone explain this to me?

One Quarter of Germans Happy To Have Chip Implants 170

justice4all writes "If it means shorter lines at the supermarket, a quarter of Germans would be happy to have a chip implanted under their skin. The head of Germany's main IT trade body told the audience at the opening ceremony of the CeBIT technology exhibition that one in four of his countrymen are happy to have a microchip inserted for ID purposes."

Comment Re:Dr. Zen's answer (Score 1) 951

In my opinion more users would benefit from a message like
File operation failed - please check permissions and try closing other programs that use the file. [Retry] [Cancel]

1. If the user understands what file permissions are, he'll immediately know what to do, instead of reading what the 'preferences file' is.
2. If he doesn't and wouldn't read the long message, now at least he might get an idea.
3. If he doesn't and would read the long one, he'll have to call tech support now. I don't believe he wouldn't anyway.
4. The number is of no use for the user - send it automatically (there are exceptions of course). Placing it in the first sentence is just distracting the user.
5. Usually the routine that fails at some file operation has no way of knowing it's the 'application preference file'. You could throw/catch exceptions, but you'd have to predict all possible errors and write a message for all of them.

If you really have time for writing the "more information", you'd better write a function that checks what permissions are missing and what locks are held.

Have you ever written messages like that in a real application?

Comment Re:Dr. Zen's answer (Score 1) 951

They're going to see the scary number, click "Ignore error", retry and tell you that there was some error... something about 'technical support'... If you ask them to retry and note the scary number, they won't understand the purpose. Even if they read it, they'll only remember that their "file system is damaged", thinking about buying a new computer. I'm serious, I had similar experiences. Your approach may be good for more advanced users (who had contact with 'security permissions' and 'file systems'), but I believe it's not worth the effort to maintain such messages.

Directed Energy Weapon Downs Mosquitos 428

wisebabo writes "Nathan Myhrvol demonstrated at TED a laser, built from parts scrounged from eBay, capable of shooting down not one but 50 to 100 mosquitos a second. The system is 'so precise that it can specify the species, and even the gender, of the mosquito being targeted.' Currently, for the sake of efficiency, it leaves the males alone because only females are bloodsuckers. Best of all the system could cost as little as $50. Maybe that's too expensive for use in preventing malaria in Africa but I'd buy one in a second!" We ran a story about this last year. It looks like the company has added a bit more polish, and burning mosquito footage to their marketing.

Disaster Recovery For Haiti's Cell Phone Networks 139

spun writes "A disaster recovery team from Trilogy International Partners, LLC was among the first responders to arrive after the quake in Haiti. After seeing to the safety of their staff, they worked quickly to bring up emergency generators and restore service to the devastated country. Winners of a State Department medal for their previous work in Haiti, the company appears to be a model not only for proper disaster recovery response, but also for ethical corporate behavior. Their quick action has no doubt saved thousands of lives, but Haiti still needs our help." Keith Calder, who used to work on Slashdot ad stuff before we had big corporate owners, is now a film producer of last summer's Battle for Terra. They are giving away signed copies of the DVD to the first 100 people who make $25+ red cross donations. It would be cool to see generous Slashdot Sci-Fi fans make a difference. If you are curious or voyeuristic about the devastation, Google Maps has satellite photos.

Scientists Create First Functional Molecular Transistor 57

Dananajaya Ramanayake sends along this excerpt from Wired: "Nearly 62 years after researchers at Bell Labs demonstrated the first functional transistor, scientists say they have made another major breakthrough. Researchers showed the first functional transistor made from a single molecule. The transistor, which has a benzene molecule attached to gold contacts, could behave just like a silicon transistor. The molecule's different energy states can be manipulated by varying the voltage applied to it through the contacts. And by manipulating the energy states, researchers were able to control the current passing through it."

Gnome Switches Nautilus Back To Browser Mode 311

An anonymous reader writes "In one of the do-the-developers-actually-use-their-own-software decisions in the Linux Desktop World, back in 2004 Gnome switched to the 'Spatial' view by default with their Nautilus file manager opening a new window with each new folder viewed. Many derided the decision as poor design or as being different for the sake of being different. Well, after five long years the Gnome powers that be have decided to switch back to browser mode."

Comment Re:This is just stupid (Score 1) 187

Does it have to be repeated each time? 1. Making Opera popular makes Opera's mobile versions popular, profit. Making Chrome popular makes web apps popular, profit. Besides, anyone who coded web pages for IE feels a moral need to make it disappear, it's a pain I wouldn't wish on anyone. 2. It's the masses that are too stupid. It's not ok for Microsoft to profit from their OS's popularity (let's assume it's because it's good) to make their crappy browser popular. It's about monopoly, there's no simple small market analogy, but promoting competition (yes, through restricting someone's freedom) works. C. Because Notepad and Paint aren't a threat to competition. I know it seems they're all basic apps for doing basic stuff, so it's natural to include them with an OS, but browsing the web isn't basic at all from an economic point of view. That, and IE is making the web worse, Paint isn't making art or design worse.

Harsh Words From Google On Linux Development 948

jeevesbond writes "The alpha version of Google Chrome is now available for GNU/Linux. Google Chrome developer and former Firefox lead Ben Goodger has some problems with the platform though. His complaints range from the lack of a standardised UI toolkit, inconsistencies across applications, the lack of a unified and comprehensive HIG, to GTK not being a very compelling toolkit. With Adobe getting twitchy about the glibc fork and previously describing the various audio systems as welcome to the jungle, is it time to concentrate on consolidation and standardisation in GNU/Linux in general, and the desktop in particular?"

Qt Opens Source Code Repositories 230

sobral writes "Following the announcement of the LGPL license model, since yesterday the Qt source code repositories are open to the public together with their roadmap. The contribution model is online and will enable developers from the community to submit patches through a single click process, avoiding the previous hassle of sending in signed paperwork. The code is hosted at and an instant benefit of this launch is that Qt Software has been working together with Gitorious maintainers for the last four months to improve Gitorious and all these new features are already submitted upstream."

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Yet magic and hierarchy arise from the same source, and this source has a null pointer.