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Comment Bare bones OS (Score 1) 132

The Pi is really nice for "soft" realtime projects - but running a full OS like Linux means that you can't ever get really solid realtime performance.

The hardware is now down cheap enough to replace Arduino's in the role of "bare to the metal" devices - and it sure would be nice not to have to have two families of boards in my hardware supplies box.

So how about a bare-to-the-metal OS - with nothing beyond the ability to download an executable and boot/run it and all of the hardware exposed...or perhaps some means to lock away one CPU core to run a hard-realtime task while Linux runs on the other(s)?

Comment RealSense == 3D camera. (Score 2) 55

At first sight, it looks like this is a horribly overpriced tiny-Linux gizmo - but what I think people here are missing is the important fact that it includes an integrated RealSense 3D camera...over 300 bucks for a $10 computer is a lot - but the RealSense 3D camera was selling for over $100 a few months ago - and that was a gigantic thing compared to this.

So, while I think they should be selling this for $50 to get more people interested in using it - I don't think it's surprising that they're asking so much as a "dev kit". The original RealSense dev kit (just the camera) was (IIRC) $200 - but included support from Intel engineers for serious developers.

Comment But my PC is already modular. (Score 1) 122

I have an ANCIENT (>10 years old) Dell XPS desktop machine - and last week, the motherboard failed. Went to Fry's paid $65 for a new motherboard and $120 for a new CPU (which included a new cooling fan). My RAM modules were too ancient to run in the new motherboard - so I spent another $60 for a couple of RAM modules. To my surprise, the original power supply, graphics card, hard drive, DVD drive and case all fitted perfectly - and a simple reboot got me back into Ubuntu as if nothing had happened - I was back up and running in an hour.

Sure, the CPU socket had changed - and my decade-old DDR-2 memory wouldn't work in the DDR-3/4 motherboard - but aside from that, modularity worked 100% perfectly. I could have chosen from a dozen different CPU's and a similar number of RAM suppliers and any one of a dozen motherboards - and the outcome would have been the same. None of the replacement parts were made by Dell. The screwholes for the motherboard matched up perfectly, the cutouts in the case for the connectors and graphics card lined up nicely and even the connectors for the buttons and USB ports on the front panel plugged in perfectly. The various blanking pins on the connectors prevented me from plugging in the various wires into the wrong connectors...I could have done it without the instruction books.

So the desktop PC "standard" is already an incredibly modular system. The problem is that (by modern standards) it's physically huge.

For small systems like IOT devices, the cost of "the computer" including graphics, networking, RAM, long-term-storage is down to $10 or less...so modularity at that scale is just pointless - increasing the cost by adding connectors between the parts is just silly.

For systems at the scale of a cellphone, modularity is a tough sell because the physical form-factor has to fit perfectly with the shape of the battery and screen and heat management is a big issue - so making a *usefully* modular phone is challenging.

The real issue is modular laptops. It's a real pain if you screen gets cracked or your motherboard or power supply fails. But you don't need modularity at the electronics level - it's all about modular cases and connectors. You could take pretty much any laptop design and simply declare that to be "THE STANDARD" and manufacturers could come up with replacement electronics, storage, screen and keyboard units.

It doesn't take clever design, it takes the political and commercial agreement of a gazillion manufacturers to pick a form-factor, connectors and other interfaces AND STICK TO IT for a minimum of 15 years.

Simply coming up with a new laptop design and declaring it to be "THE STANDARD" is useless unless you can get a lot of very large companies to sign up to it...and that ain't happening. This isn't a matter of technical innovation - it's all about the politics of those big businesses.

Software has been relatively "modular" for a very long time. You can buy software, download free software or write your own - and it's pretty simple to make it work on the trifecta of OSX, Windows and Linux - and trivially easy if you can make it web-based. But it's very evident that the business model of most companies these days is to lock you in to buying music/video/apps from their "app store"...that's where the $$$'s are...so expect to see more moves like MS's efforts to lock down Win-10 so you have to buy apps through their store.

Comment Re:I don't believe the claim (Score 1) 265

The problem is that as cars get better and better at doing this - it's going to become almost impossible NOT to fall asleep (or at least zone-out to the point of total inattentiveness to the road). If we can't make these systems sufficiently foolproof to allow people to do that - then we're going to cause accidents that wouldn't have happened had the car not had those safety features. The trick here is to build only those safety features that save more lives than they cost. As a society, we're going to have to accept that "Driver-fell-asleep and car-AI-hit-truck" accidents will increase - but "Reckless driver ends up in the wrong lane" accidents will decrease - and that the net result is an overall improvement in road safety.

The problem with that is that as a society, we're TERRIBLE at statistics. People are frightened of flying in planes - even though they are vastly more likely to be killed in a 30 minute drive to the airport than on the 8 hour flight they take when they get there. People will go to any lengths to prevent terrorists from killing a dozen people per year - but refuse to drive at the speed limit, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths per year. People switch to LED lightbulbs in their homes in an effort to stave off global warming - not understanding that removing 10% of the beef from their diet would have a much bigger effect.

Given that mindset - I suspect that as the number of prominent AI-induced car wrecks (inevitably) increases - public outrage will take over without anyone understanding that human-induced car wrecks are going down more steeply.

Tesla are trying to buck that trend with this press release - which is probably a wise and necessary "big picture" thing to do - but statistically, what they're saying is clearly bunkum.

Comment Re:Never go to be work "as is" (Score 1) 265

Perhaps not embedding stuff in roads - or beside the roads - that's horribly expensive and it requires governments all around the world to invest heavily and to have common standards. In remote areas, getting power to those sensors and computers could get difficult. There are problems when they all get covered in 3 inches of water or a foot of snow.

More likely is to design a distributed system where cars can talk to each other - an "Internet of Cars" if you like.

If the car in front of you can tell you exactly where it is, it's speed and direction from GPS and it's short-term intentions - then your detection of its gets a whole lot easier. If a big-rig truck can tell you about an incipient problem that it's detected but you can't see because it's in the way - then you have more information than a human driver has - and that's a good thing.

Think about the "Kid crossing in front of a parked schoolbus" problem. The schoolbusses sensors can see the kid standing in front of it - moving across the road. The car in the adjacent lane can't see the kid - and radar doesn't help. But if the bus can transmit "Human being at location X,Y,Z, currently moving at dX,dY,dZ" to anyone within 50 feet of it - then that's a massive win.

A distributed network of cars would greatly improve other things too - such as how to decide when to cross an intersection - or when it is safe to change lanes. Don't you just wish you could tell drivers in the adjacent lane that you need to pull off at the next junction and to please form a suitable gap for you to merge into? All you have right now is one blinky red light - and pulling that from an image in a camera is painful.

Comment Re: FUD ....the problem with radar (Score 1) 265

The problem with adding radar is that when 100 cars around you are also using radar. Distinguishing your reflected radar pings from those of another car nearby - or an oncoming car starts to get exceedingly difficult. We know it's possible because an entire swarm of bats can echo-locate together - but that doesn't make it an easy task. Worse still, to do it right requires careful attention to the frequencies and waveshape of the RF chirp you use...that's fine if one company designs all of the autonomous car radar transmitters - but not so good if every car manufacturer develops their own system in secrecy as seems to be happening right now.

If radar is to be a part of the answer - there need to be standards. Ditto for lidar and acoustic techniques.

If it's possible to make this work safely using only a couple of cameras (which is the way humans drive cars) - then I think that's a more robust solution for the longer term when there are many, many more cars on the road with these kinds of features.

Comment Statistics gone wild. (Score 1) 265

So far, it seems that there are reports of one death and one rollover incident - which could easily have become a death if circumstances had been different in ways that were not related to what decisions the car made.

Two incidents isn't a valid statistical sample from which to extrapolate to half a million deaths...perhaps just one person got lucky one day - if they'd died then Tesla would only be able to claim that their system is no worse than people driving without assistance. Perhaps the one person who died was exceedingly unlucky and Tesla would save very nearly everyone who used their software.

The fine details of what happened in those two wrecks (and more importantly in the unknown number of very-very-nearly wrecks) is what matters here and that won't be known until Tesla's have been driven under these conditions for ten times as long as they have to date.

What we know from the Tesla data right now is that their system isn't a total disaster (we haven't seen 100 deaths) - but predicting half a million lives saved isn't good statistics. The correct conclusion from what we know is: "We don't know yet".

Comment What if cars can talk to each other? (Score 1) 364

The problems get very difficult when the cars' choice of actions are determined by the interests of the car manufacturer (and possibly with the insurance company - if those are still different entities) rather than by the occupants.

For example, it seems likely that when there are a reasonable percentage of autonomous vehicles out there, they will be able to communicate with each other - that's a handy thing for negotiating who goes first at intersections and for crash-avoidance.

So now there are a whole raft of other moral dilemmas at levels far below "How many people die?":

* Should the car that knows that its owner is late for work go first at intersections?
* Can you pay more for a car that gets preferential treatment at intersections?
* On a freeway, can cars choose to slow down to save gas or speed up to get there faster? How does this work when cars are "drafting" to save gas? In a "road-train", who gets to decide the speed of the train?
* Are cars allowed to lie to other cars?

Then there are issues about low level accidents - where no humans are harmed:

* In the event of a choice between a fender-bender with car A and car B - can your car figure out which one will cost the least to repair? Will this result in more crashes with cheaper cars?
* Will insurance companies insist on cars choosing outcomes that minimize their liability?

And when humans are harmed:

* From an insurance perspective - it can be cheaper to have the occupant of a vehicle die than having lifetime health issues caused by the accident. If volkeswagen will fake emissions figures and indirectly cause a bunch of people to die as a result - who's to say that some car company/insurer won't bias the AI's parameters to save them money?

It's naive to assume that accidents will cease altogether when AI drivers take control - cars are complicated machines - and parts break unexpectedly all the time. If your brake line suddenly ruptures, then the AI's expected stopping distance is shot to hell - and someone can still die. The AI will need to make life and death decisions as well as broken-rib-versus-crushed-ankle and my-insurance-pays-versus-his-insurance-pays choices. Only now we add safety-reputation-of-my-manufacturer versus safety-reputation-of-competitor decisions too.

This is going to get difficult! Lawyer up!

Comment The Internet is a place. (Score 1) 211

In common usage, the Internet is a place. "My wife and I met on the Internet" is no different than "My wife and I met on Earth".

When it's not being used as a place, by all means down-case it, "I had a hard time getting internet access at my hotel" versus "I had a hard time getting onto the Internet from my hotel".

Comment So leave WIkipedia, not the entire universe. (Score 1) 379

Sure, everyone gets pissed at the Wikipedia community from time to time.

The answer lies on the following line of options:

1) Pick a less contentious set of articles to edit...politics is toxic either with or without Wikipedians.
2) Take a "Wiki-break" - simply leave the site for a month and do something else.
3) Delete your Wikipedia account - treat Wikipedia as a read-only medium.
4) Boycott Wikipedia altogether.
5) Disconnect the Internet to your house. ....
27) Go live on a far distant island where the word "Internet" is unknown. ...
999) Kill yourself.

Personally, I'd want to get up through at least the first couple of options before jumping to the last one.

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