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Comment I suggested training on sims to Alain a decade ago (Score 1) 49

I worked with Alain Kornhauser about thirty years ago, first taking his robotics course as an undergraduate, later managing his robotics lab as an employee, and then again even later (briefly) as a grad student tangentially as part of a group doing self-driving car research focused mainly on a neural networks approach. I had also been hanging around Red Whittaker's group making the first ALVAN (Autonomous Land Vehicle) around 1986 before going back to Princeton to work as an employee.

While I did not contribute much of significance to that self-driving car group (I had other interests), I had suggested we train cars to just drive one specific route based on videos from driving that route a variety of times. I guessed that most daily commutes are just along the same route and so that could be a big win. But he dismissed that idea for some reason I'm still not sure I understand. Still think it made a lot of sense though for the resources we had at the time.

About ten years ago I suggested he get his PAVE students to write software to drive Gran Turismo as a challenge. Not much response from him on that then though. Glad to see his is finally doing that -- although with much better game/simulation software now.

I also suggested he could make PAVE the free and open source software hub for self-driving vehicle software to address some concerns I outlined back in 2001 in the essay to the Markle Foundation:

From the email I sent Alain in 2007-02-02:

"Glad to read of your group's successes with the Grand Challenge. I've long thought a fun project for your students would be to write software that takes visual input from a a PlayStation 2 driving game like "Gran Turismo"
(direct via video out to video capture, or even through a camera focused on a TV) and processes that image to drive the simulation via a USB hookup into the PlayStation. Not quite the real thing (and Red Whittaker might rightfully scoff at that approach as ignoring much of the challenge of making real hardware survive in a tough environment :-) , but it is cheap, easy, and safe to do in an undergraduate lab with limited supervision. And the racing game simulators just keep getting more and more realistic. And if that challenge becomes too easy, you can then add noise to the video signal to make it harder... Or introduce lags or noise in the USB steering. And then start working on controlling ATV Off Road Fury or the the Snowmobile racing games, and so on. Or have kids write software to control one game and then give them only one day to make it work for another... Probably lots of good science and engineering and education to do there on a (relatively) small budget."

I mentioned that idea again to him in 2011-06-18 when I was looking for jobs:

"Or maybe you need someone to do more work on cars that drive themselves, which sounds like more fun? :-) Except that PAVE stuff is all student run, and good for that approach, so I can see you probably won't need someone for that. I still feel getting students interested in writing open source software to process images from the latest driving simulator games is a good (safe) project that might advance the state-of-the-art in automotive intelligence in a very positive way. :-) I'm sure it would at lead to lots of funny press though ("Students at Princeton are seriously playing with video games", and so on). Whether that is good or bad depends on your point of view, perhaps."

Anyway, glad to see that idea finally getting some traction. :-)

While he did not take some of my ideas that seriously, I did not take his idea of the self-driving car stuff that seriously myself back then. Not that I objected to it -- I just did not see the urgency for it and was more interested in robot manipulation (being a fan of the "Silent Running" drones).

But Alain saw the value in self-driving cars decades before most other people. He explained how they could save lives by being safer -- as well as reduce expenses and reduce pollution by being more efficient.

Alain is a brilliant guy and a nice person too (they don't always go together) -- wish I had made more of my time working with him. Looking back on it, I think, wow, what if I had just been excited to do a project to make a self-driving golf-card for the Princeton campus for alumni or for the annual P-rade? That would have been a great place to start and I'm sure we could have been successful enough on a limited scale with a limited budget to move onto grander things.

Back in my early 20s I just did not appreciate what a great opportunity working with him was. Working with him as an employee for a year in his robotics lab was where I learned so much about 3D graphics which made it possible to write a garden simulator and also PlantStudio software (for breeding 3D botanical plants). Best job working for someone else I ever had. Thanks Alain!

Submission + - Second parchment manuscript copy of Declaration of Independence found (

Okian Warrior writes: Two Harvard University researchers announced Friday that they have found a second parchment manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence in a tiny records office in southern England.

The only other parchment copy is maintained by the National Archives in Washington, D.C., researchers Emily Sneff and Danielle Allen said in a statement.

The newly discovered document — which the two have dated to the 1780s — was found in the town of Chichester archives, and is believed to have originally belonged to Duke of Richmond who was known as the “Radical Duke,’’ for the support he gave to Americans during the Revolutionary War, the researchers said.

Comment That would sorta defeat the purpose (Score 1) 129

what's on offer here is Microsoft's cloud backup service & Skype, which were free with certain standalone copies of Office. Offsite backups of your Spreadsheets is a big deal for some users, especially small businesses. And if you're non-technical the monthly fees are made up for in less downtime and not paying the local tech to periodically recover lost data.

Comment Follow the funding and experts (Score 1) 30

What is so special about the east and west coast?
Network distance and ping to Asia and the EU? Some collection of international networks in and out of the USA?
A local US finance sector that needs really fast network speed?
Lots of free state and federal funding for a few of the best academic locations in the USA that still grade on merit?
A lot of optical networks thanks to the needs US gov and mil?
The lifestyle and wealth of the local people with cash to invest in the ideas? The parts of the US they want to live in and support ideas in?
The politics, weather and wealth on the US west coast?
Other states just cant in pull decades of mil, gov, telco, state and federal academic funding that people with cash like to build their new ides on?
The location of ex and former NSA, CIA, mil staff and expert legal teams that can work with the US gov and have the contacts and can help with any gov/mil bids?
Other states might have lots of cheap fast optical and low power cost at some new locations but cant bring in legal, funding, gov, ex mil, education, city and state gov support.
Their city or state gov is too poor, too focused on decades of pension issues, has no working budget for tech issues, the city issues with cheap power, lack of real network options, strange local tax rates that might get lowered for some type of investment.

Local education is passing failed students with no skills.
City and state governments then demand all the "passed" failed students get high tech jobs as part of tax cuts and other support to attract new jobs.
A company then has to look after failed students and support them into the role of below average staff and keep hiring.
Other city and states are not worth the local staffing risk even with new fast networks, cheaper power and less tax.
A small tax cut does not cover the huge costs of having to hire lots of new local staff with no skills.

Comment Re:Systemd! (Score 2) 230

The problem here is that the systemd-people are trying an MS-like strategy to make it impossible to swap it out: They try to replace everything else they can get their hands on and they try to sabotage whatever else they can so it does not run without systemd anymore. If these were decent people and they were just providing an alternate init-system, I would have absolutely not problem with this and just ignore it. But this embrace-extend-extinguish approach is utterly evil and marks this as a hostile takeover that will benefit nobody. There are not even any good technical reasons for this. I can only guess that they want their stuff to be the one true "does everything" because of pure ego.

Comment Re:Why am I denied choice ? (Score 2, Insightful) 230

"If it is not broken, do not fix it." That and KISS is something the systemd-team is too stupid, too inexperienced and too arrogant to understand. Or they are just riding over it because they believe they are god's gift to Linux. They are not. They are a force of destruction, exactly because they fight choice, compatibility, simplicity and reliability. Sure, in some situations their approach may make sense, but that means systemd should be a specialized init-system (and nothing else) for specific situations. If anything, the systemd strategy reminds me strongly of all the ways Microsoft is now trying to push Win10.

Comment Re:Irony of ironies (Score 1) 167

Which is worthless if the payment terminal is compromised, because the card can't know it the payment terminal is sending out messages on its own behalf or on behalf of another hacked payment terminal on the other side of the country.

Transaction log:

  • Terminal 1 gets a chipped card that it recognizes as "special". It contacts a C&C server and finds Terminal 2.
  • Terminal 2 reads the card number from some poor sucker's card and sends it to Terminal 1.
  • Terminal 1 relays the response to the card provider.
  • The bank sends back transaction info.
  • Terminal 1 relays that to Terminal 2.
  • Terminal 2 sends it to that same poor sucker's card for signing, gets the response, and sends it to Terminal 1.
  • Terminal 1 relays the signed response to the card provider.

As far as the card provider is concerned, the card physically present in Terminal 1 was actually used in Terminal 2.

Comment Re:Debian has more "init freedom" (Score 1) 230

The problem is that you cannot fully get rid of systemd in Debian. At the moment, this is not so much an issue, but given the history of aggressively destroying and replacing anything they can get their hands on, it is a good guess that the systemd-mob is not done yet and that they will attempt more sabotage of infrastructure that used to work fine.

Comment Excellent (Score 1, Informative) 230

While I have used current Debian mostly decontaminated from Poettering-infestation up to now (the broken startup process is easy to remove, but some cruft is still around), I think I will move completely over to this. Why people fall for "new = better" even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is beyond me.

Submission + - Yesterday's Broad Power Outage Likely Caused By Geomagnetic Storm (

schwit1 writes: Yesterday, a massive US power grid failure was seen across the entire United States in one simultaneous fashion. San Fransisco, New York, and Los Angeles were the three main areas that were hit the hardest. Each of the areas experienced challenges or shut downs in business commerce. Also, basic infrastructure such as communication networks, mass transportation, and supply chains experienced challenges. To many this seemed apocalyptic with anaylst citing possible cyber attacks amid mounting geopolitical turmoil across the globe. We're shocked that mainstream media didn't revive the failing Russian narrative for another round of fake news to confuse the masses. Personally, I don't think it was a cyber attack or the Russians, but more of a Space Weather Event.

Space weather refers to the environmental conditions in Earth's magnetosphere, ionosphere and thermosphere due to the Sun and the solar wind that can influence the functioning and reliability of spaceborne and ground-based systems and services or endanger property or human health.

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