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Comment You need the "golden unicorn" distro (Score -1, Flamebait) 482

Linux that works without constant under-the-hood tweaking (ala early Windows flavors, 3.1, 95/98). Does such an OS exist? For the record, I am not an IT tech. I just need something to work with the mechanical equipment it controls. Any recommendations?

In short, there isn't one and will never be one.

Linux distributions are based on the assumption that there will always be someone, somewhere, who can interpret the misleading, technically dense, and often incomprehensible data, conditions and messages that Linux: both the O/S and the applications it runs, constantly throws at its users.

The best possibility is to find a version of Linux that does what you want it to, install it, then keep it far away from any and all internet connections. That is the only hope you have that it won't try to update itself, install new versions or discover that external stuff it expected to find has mysteriously been moved or deleted by the notional owner.

Comment Re:Our Future. - non-stick companies (Score 1) 270

corporations are some of the worst entities when it comes to actually paying taxes

The real problem is that corporations can easily move to countries where the tax burden is lighter. And if their entire operation: whether manufacturing, services or simply annoying people by phoning them up - is automated, it becomes even easier. These corporations are not "sticky": they are not bound to a specific geography, unlike people who tend to put down roots, dislike disrupting their kids' education by moving school, dislike moving to other countries where they don't speak the language and generally dislike change in general.

So for those companies, they can effectively play one tax-collecting country against another: getting deals, moving to the lowest tax-rate region, engaging in "creative" practices. There is already a question among economists of why corporation taxes are already non-zero (ans: probably because political stability, low corruption, "friendly" laws and lack of a nearby war are attributes worth paying for). It would seem reasonable that companies would seek to minimise any robo-tax they were subject to. Especially as it would be difficult for a single country to implement - they'd just see all roboticised industries leave.

I suppose the next thing would be for corporations to buy their own, independent, islands and set themselves up as sovereign states.

Comment Re: Machines replacing bank tellers? process-drive (Score 5, Insightful) 270

The Moravec's paradox of jobs

This is just another aspect of de-skilling. Since the 1990's the fad has been for people to perform "processes" rather than jobs. The idea being that so long as you adhere to the "process", all your actions will be of the same high quality as your co-irkers. Ha!

But as soon as you are able to write down a formal description of your job, you have effectively written a computer program for doing it. So the most easily replaceable jobs will be the ones that require little judgement, little experience (esp. when there is no possibility of having to deal with exceptions) and simple interfaces to other "cogs" in the great machine.

So if you can replace a personnel officer with a computer, then companies will do it. Just feed in the parameters for the sort of people you wish to hire. Merely give the machine stock replies to the most common workplace complaints. Give it an algorithm for employee assessment - and let it it do its thing. It won't replace the entire personnel dept. But if it can perform the mundane operations, it should considerably cut the number of actual people required to support the company.

And it it this reduction - rather than complete replacement - of mid-level and managerial posts that is where the job losses will occur.

Comment Re:Any chance of working wifi on OPiLite? (Score 1) 55

it works on precisely zero of the distros I tried

Yesterday I d/l'd Armbian Jessie (v 5.25). Installed it on a good quality micro-SD card. Connected the board to a good quality power supply and it came up first time and every time since then.

Almost all the problems with these boards are due to lousy power supplies and the rest seem to be due to crappy SD cards. But I do agree: all the distros seem to be stuck on 2 or 3 year-old software, with little support or interest from the suppliers. If all the wannabe *-Pi manufacturers invested time and effort into easing people's experience they would wipe RPi's off the map with their lower price and better on-board facilities such as eMMC and (compared to the RPi Zero) availability.

Comment Re:I'm using an Orange Pi - me too. (Score 1) 55

Can't really comment on the quality of the hardware

I have a few of these (just purchased a couple of OPi-lite) and they seem to be just as good, hardware-wise, as the Raspberry. I also have a few NanoPi Neo's and the same applies to them.

If either of these two suppliers had software and the support for it, that matched the build quality of their hardware, they would be right up there with the RPi in terms of adoption, popularity and units sold. That is the RPi's only real advantage: its community of volunteers and the ecosystem those volunteers have built around the hardware.

Comment Countering cheap threats (Score 1) 318

So what is the $200 equivalent of a Patriot missile (ans: one developed for the commercial sector, rather than on military - bottomless pit - budgets)?

If the combat space is going to be filled with $200 drones and $100 wheeled equivalents, then this sort of "asymetric warfare" needs an effective and cheap counter. But then, how do you prevent your adversary fom deploying the same cheap and effective technology against your expensive, offensive, weapons?

Comment The past is not always a good guide to the future (Score 4, Interesting) 68

Artificial intelligence is highly adept at spotting patterns and making predictions that are much too small and subtle for humans to pick out

But all the patterns that AI extracts are historical. They all assume that the events in the future will be caused by, and will act out, the same things that happened in the past.

We have seen this with computerised trading: that all they can do is find a past pattern of actions and try to fit that to what is happening now and will continue into the future. AIs have no ability to understand when the rules have changed, or when new and previously unseen conditions need to be applied.

The UKs electricity generation often runs very, very, close to its limits in the winter. Mainly due to cost-cutting: why spend money on maintaining plant and excess capacity when it won't be used?

To employ AI to shave further percentage points and thereby run even closer to the limits simply reduces the margin for the unexpected. And being unexpected, you can't blame an AI for not spotting those patterns in the past.

A dangerous game.

Comment Freely given and mostly worthless (Score 1) 147

Tim says we've "lost control of our personal data." This is not entirely accurate. We didn't lose control; it was stolen from us by Silicon Valley. It is stolen from you every day by people farmers;


People gave it freely. They do not (still) consider it to have any value - maybe because a lot of it is completely fictitious. Whether that turns out to be mistaken or not has yet to be determined. Apart from the few cases where there has been actual theft, everyone who filled in their personal details for access to social media sites did so without duress. The overwhelming majority seem to have gone far beyond volunteering the bare minimum and some of the stuff that people post is startling in its intimacy.

It could be argued that "the people" don't understand what their personal data means. Why others want it and how it will be used. There is some small truth in that. However, website accounts can be closed, new ones opened. Email addresses are easily changed and online personas bear little resemblance to the actual people they purport to represent.

Comment On being the "hero" (Score 1) 188

Our industry seems to value "cowboys

Yes. I have lost count of the number of times people have been praised and rewarded for fixing some "disaster" or outage. But without anybody ever asking how the problem occurred - frequently at the hands of the very same hero who then "saved" the company.

There seems to be the view in upper management that problems just happen: like earthquakes and floods. There is usually so much relief when the lights come back on (metaphorically) that everything leading up to an outage gets forgotten or forgiven. I even know of some individuals who, if not exactly creating problems, are very happy when there is an issue. Not just because it gives them the opportunity to be a "star", but because all the process-driven and procedural restrictions get tossed, and they have free rein to fix things by any means necessary.

Comment Oh dear, the next logical step is ... (Score 1) 185

... to make people watch an advertisement before writing a comment. Though the sneaky way to do it would be to let people write the comment and then require them to watch the advertisement before they could commit it. But I expect by then. many would have forgotten what the article they were commenting on was about.

Comment Only available 1 per order (Score 4, Informative) 138

In the UK there is one place that sells them - if they haven't sold out. But they only permit Pi Zero (W) to be ordered 1 at a time.

Since these devices are component level products, limiting their availability (presumably because of limited production runs) makes them next to useless. I don't want a single unit to merely flash a few LEDs. I want one in EVERY hobby device I build. Selling them singly and then having none available for months makes them useless to me - as close as it's possible to get to vapourware without actually being non-existent.

Comment Fear sells (Score 1) 156

A third reason is that as time has progressed, more content has been pushed only on the internet, not through print media. For web pages to earn their keep they have to attract attention - clicks. We know that fear is a great motivator and with the more "stuff" that people have, the greater their fear of losing it. It also seems likely that since 2001, the western world has been on a fear-driven agenda, which drives out good news.

So simply to compete, websites will promote FUD, warnings, threats. And the race to the bottom goes on with more shrill headlines and reports and more and more FAKE NEWS.

A possible fourth reason is that pre-2000, most tech reporting was intended for technically literate individuals. Ones who implicitly recognised dangers and didn't need them spelled out. But since "tech" has become mainstream, there are far more clueless idiots trying to do stupid things with technology. Maybe the negative articles simply reflect the (far) lower levels of competence among the audience for technology content?

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