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Comment Re:tautology ontology (Score 1) 68

The rest is people projecting their own emotions onto inanimate objects

How do you tell if the object is animate or note? Are you animate? Or am I just projecting my own emotions onto some entity making a post to slashdot? Perhaps 'projection' is the way we understand other humans... Is it ever useful to project onto entities other than humans (animate or not)?

Comment Re:Microsoft Windows only (Score 1) 143

The term "security through obscurity" is usually defined to refer to obscuring the design of a system, not to key secrecy. The difference is that the secrecy of keys provide a measurable barrier to brute force attacks. This is fundamental to the design of encryption systems, since we want to formally distinguish what must be kept secret from what is revealed.

I agree with your point about minimizing attack surfaces.

Comment Re:C=128 (Score 2) 167

The problem with the 6502 was that if you were writing code for someone else's environment then your use of Page 0 (which many of the index-based instructions used intensively) was restricted because the OS often took up most of that space.

Yes, there was a mindset problem when programming the 6502. In hindsight, page 0 RAM should have been treated as a working space register set, whereas at the time it was treated mostly as a fast RAM littered with persistent variables.

Comment Re:Headline, summary, and article are wrong (Score 2) 136

Indeed. Not only that, but it was the man in Turing's experiment that was replaced with a machine, not the woman. Makes me wonder if the author only skimmed the first page of the twenty-eight page article.

While it is interesting that the analogous experiment that Turing starts with is about gender identification, he does this to make the point about separating physical characteristics from the intellect. He hopes that the reader will accept his premise that a man could pretend to be a woman under the condition that the interrogator can only ask questions remotely. If a reader can accept this, it clears the air a little about the conditions under which we could define a machine as "thinking" in the same way as a human does.

Comment Re:Ellsberg forgets a couple of things (Score 4, Insightful) 519

patriot: A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.

Snowden has been consistent in explaining his motivation as exposing the misuse of government power against American citizens. Whether or not you agree with his method of doing so, it is hard to see that it was unpatriotic (unless your particular definition of patriotism is an unquestioning allegiance to his employer).

Anyway, you have to understand that from the point of view of the rest of the world, we don't really care whether or not Snowden is a patriot. What we care about is that NSA have been working to undermine systems of trust, whether those are the encryption of communications, or even the relationships between friendly countries. And much of this done without significant goverrnment oversight, let alone public discussion. You are naive if you think that the trial of a whistleblower is more important than these subversive actions of the NSA.

Comment Re:Standard Deviation is Important (Score 3, Insightful) 312

I'm a little surprised at Nassim Taleb's position on this.

He has rightly pointed out that not all distributions that we encounter are Gaussian, and that the outliers (the 'black swans') can be more common than we expect. But moving to a mean absolute deviation hides these effects even more than standard deviation; outliers are further discounted. This would mean that the null hypothesis in studies is more likely to be rejected (mean absolute deviation is typically smaller than standard deviation), and we will be finding 'correlations' everywhere.

For non-Gaussian distributions, the solution is not to discard standard deviation, but to reframe the distribution. For example, for some scale invariant distributions, one could take the standard deviation of the log of the values, which would then translate to a deviation 'index' or 'factor'.

I agree with him that standard deviation is not trustworthy if you apply it blindly. If the standard deviation of a particular distribution is not stable, I want to know about it (not hide it), and come up with a better measure of deviation for that distribution. But I think the emphasis should be on identifying the distributions being studied, rather than trying to push mean absolute deviation as a catch-all measure.

And for Gaussian distributions (which are not uncommon), standard deviation makes a lot of sense mathematically (for the reasons outlined in the parent post).

Comment Re:Good start, now.... (Score 2) 90

You'll find that the academic system is not as elitist as you would think, at least not in countries where the barriers to entry are low. It only takes a few years to work through a basic degree, and if you have any ability, you can soon move beyond that to real research and contributions.

The reality in academia is that you can put up any ideas at all, and the peer-reviewed journals have a huge diversity of contributors. Sometimes the strongest papers are those that argue an idea to its logical extreme; although reality is usually shades of gray, this diversity of ideas all add insight.

The reason why academia may reject certain ideas is not because the ideas are radical (there are a myriad ideas in the university context), but because those ideas have not been thought through. There is no substitute for years of developing an idea and a coherent presentation of it.

I don't want to gild the lily here; there are many contexts which make it hard for someone to participate in academia, whether for economic reasons or time commitments. But that's a social reality. If many people don't have "a room of one's own" as Virginia Woolf put it, then we have to push for more than changes in the academies; we have to push for fundamental social reform.

Comment Re:You've gotta be kidding me (Score 1) 169

My understanding is that the password in the exercise is used as a seed to generate the 'gotcha' images. So yes, you then have to match these up to descriptions after entering the password. The aim is to slow down brute forcing of the password.

So for each password try the AI then has to come up with reasonable permutations of the images as compared to a set of descriptions. Only if it can restrict the permutations enough can it run fast enough to brute force the password/permutation hash.

I don't feel the solving gap between humans and AI will be wide enough. Some of the descriptions are too vague for humans to solve: words like 'alien', 'thing', 'guy', 'woman', 'face' don't convey enough visual information, and fit most of the images. Other descriptions are clues for a bot: color words narrow down the permutations (especially since they usually refer to blobs near the centre line); and common placement words like 'head', 'nose', 'eyes', 'mustache' can be linked to particular areas of the image. Clearly a human will do this more easily, but it is doubtful that a human will find only one permutation, and a bot may be able to narrow it down enough.

I can't imagine wanting to attempt this challenge unless I was convinced that humans could select close to the correct permutation for each of the puzzle sets. If a human cannot do it reliably, then it would be unreasonable to expect a bot to have any chance at all.

Comment Re:Pardon my ignorance but... (Score 3, Informative) 273

This isn't a recent change; component distributors such as mecanique (see used to on-sell blocks of PIDs from their VID many years ago, but the USB-IF started cracking down a number of years ago. Likewise, was threatened with legal action (see

For some projects, you can obtain a PID from the manufacturer of a USB chip (eg, but this generally means using the manufacturer supplied driver, and doesn't really help if you want to customize things more.

There doesn't seem to be a reasonable solution for small runs beyond the prototype phase. So in effect the USB-IF is motivating hobbyists to simply reuse VID/PID pairs from similar devices, which is only going to lead to compatibility headaches in the future.

I can understand that they wish to have an orderly process so that operating systems can have automatic device recognition and driver installation, but it is short-sighted not to provide an opportunity to licence a much smaller address space at a reasonable cost.

(For futher information, the prototype VID is 0x6666 and many known VID/PID pairs in

Comment Re:You're an idiot... (Score 1) 444

I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse - the disturbing aspect to the ozone measurements wasn't so much the finding of a hole, but that the levels were reducing markedly from year to year.

The cookies are disappearing from the jar. The typical red-face response is "it wasn't me". You go further and say "the cookies weren't ever there". Yet day by day the cookies continue to disappear.

Comment Re: Oh, I totally agree... (Score 5, Insightful) 791

The difference being that Apple makes it very difficult for third party manufacturers, while the USB consortium are keen to get broad industry support. For Apple the patent seems to be used to exclude competition, while the USB patent holders and USB manufacturers are engaged in reciprocal and royalty-free licensing arrangements.

From a libre point of view, a patented standard is not the same as a patent-encumbered standard; the difference lies in the licencing.

Comment Re:Until it's ubiquitous, it's still a no go... (Score 1) 161

I don't get the argument "It's not universally supported yet". It's a compiler, not an operating system. Unless perhaps you are trying to share a code base across extremely diverse systems. And even then, the backward compatibility is such that it just means you have to be careful about restricting certain features in the shared part of the code base. Most developers can cope with working on multiple dialects of a programming language, even, astonishingly, multiple languages! It doesn't make sense to not use language features when you can (unless you think those features are bad or buggy). And we have been working with compilers that don't have full compliance to any standard for a long time now!

I can understand some caution in adopting a new compiler, but the C++11 features have been around in nascent form long before the standardization happened. It isn't like the committee doesn't take time to make decisions...

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