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Submission + - First Elon Musk, now Steve Hawking warning us about evil AI. Should we be afraid ( 7

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

Submission + - Fuel-Less Gravity Powered Flight - Crackpot or Visionary? ( 1

TropicalCoder writes: When I first read about this on, "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?

Submission + - A Permutation on Combinatorial Algorithms (

TropicalCoder writes: "I don't know what exactly got me obsessed with permutations this past week. I think I was bored and thinking about the Traveling Salesman Problem. I was considering playing with a genetic algorithm to solve it.

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."


Submission + - Did Vista break the upgrade treadmill? (

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?


Submission + - Windows 7: The $1930 Upgrade (

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

Submission + - Myna: Garage Band in Your Web Browser (

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.

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