nav search
Data Center Software Security DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3453 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Black hole munched galactic leftovers, spewed stars, burped

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Occam's Razor: If the first one was a burp going southwards...

Maybe the black hole's meal was heavy on beans, always produces a lot of gas...

I'd also better be going

1
0

BOFH: Buttock And Departmental Defence ... As A Service

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coffee/keyboard

And then some people wonder why I insist on quality keyboards

waterproofing, in particular is important.

although I also like the heft of the ancient IBM PC keyboards. Excellent for knocking sense into certain users, or percussive maintenance in general

15
0

No wonder Marvin the robot was miserable: AI will make the rich richer – and the poor poorer

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Marvin the robot? Shurley Shome Mishtake

Indeed:

"Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper. Call that job satisfaction, cause I don't"

Worse still, we'll probably end up with a load of self-satisfied doors and over-enthusiastic computers named Eddie, not to mention the drinks dispenser which always produces a cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

8
0

Boffins closer to solving what causes weird radio bursts from space

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Megaphone

If they are aliens

<LOUD>

THEY ARE APPARENTLY TRYING TO COMMUNICATE IN BRIAN BLESSED'S STYLE

</LOUD>

9
0

Mine all the data, they said. It will be worth your while, they said

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Adding more hay does not make finding needles easier

as I have often said to students in Pattern Recognition. A very good magnet is called for instead. Same principle applies here

4
0

Meltdown, Spectre bug patch slowdown gets real – and what you can do about it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

What about device drivers?

I have heard of device drivers for certain cameras working under ASCOM being borked by the fixes to WIN 10, quite apart from any performance hit incurred by what can be very I/O intensive work during capture and processing of astronomical images. Are there other instances of device drivers failing?

2
0

WD My Cloud NAS devices have hard-wired backdoor

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

NASty

Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll get me coat. The one with "Get thee to a punnery" in the pocket, please

5
0

If Australian animals don't poison you or eat you, they'll BURN DOWN YOUR HOUSE

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: But how do they spread fires?

Black kites are very, very adaptive (much like buzzards). I have seen them scavenging in Tokyo and Kampala, but also catching fish in a lake near mount Fuji. They seem to be highly opportunistic and intelligent, so I wouldn't put it past them to have learnt how to spread fire to increase their chances of an easy (or even cooked) meal.

20
0

Cloud-building alien space rays altered Earth's climate – boffins

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Science is awesome...

Jack Daniels is a Tennessee sour mash whiskey (it says so on the bottle). As I heard it, when whisky making in Scotland changed Irish and American distillers wanted to distinguish their product from what they saw as an inferior way of making whisky, by adding an 'e'. Personally, I all for single malt whisky, but that may just be me,

2
0

Facebook: Who needs millennials? The cops love us more than ever!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

In defense of Facebook ...

...

Nah, never mind, can't be bothered, or think of a really good reason, for that matter

1
0

Fridge killed my baby? Mag-field radiation from household stuff 'boosts miscarriage risk'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: study highlights major issue

Very good points. I find the fact that they find a threshold effect very curious. That is not what I would expect from simple physics. I am also always deeply suspicious of binning data into groups (<2.5mG; 2.5–3.6mG; 3.7–6.2mG; and ≥6.3mG). Why these groups? The ranges are not evenly distributed, which makes me wonder if they were chosen to have the same number of subjects in each group. Did this lead to one group differing fro the others? Were there other life-style differences between the groups? Why not do regression analysis?

I am not saying there is no effect, but I do wonder about the way the analysis has been done. I have had many run-ins with medics about their tendency to classify things into distinct groups, when in reality there is a continuous spectrum. It took me a while to convince dermatologists I was working with that hand eczema should not be classified into 6 distinct classes ranging from 0 (clean) to 5 (very severe), but that it is a continuous scale, so I should not design a classifier for them, but do regression analysis instead (which might indeed say the severity was 4.5).

16
1

Another AI attack, this time against 'black box' machine learning

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

It is curious how these (otherwise very successful) deep-learning-based algorithms fail in ways that are radically different from methods based on hand-crafted features (which have their own set of problems), or for that matter the human observer. This suggests to me that deep learning as it is implemented now is not a very good model for the way humans learn, because the adversarial examples shown in the paper would never be mistaken by humans. In the human brain there are structures that where selected for over hundreds of millions of years of evolution (itself an optimization or learning process). This selected an architecture which in turn allows adaptive learning of features. It will be interesting to see how we can learn or design better architectures for these deep networks, or in general machine learning algorithms

10
0

Sigh. It's not quite Star Trek's Data, but it'll do: AI helps boffins clock second Solar System

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

But at least most of us ...

don't think digital watches are a pretty neat idea

Doffs hat (black fedora, once more) to the late, great Douglas Adams

9
1

Engineer named Jason told to re-write the calendar

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

I am surprised ...

Nobody asked: "Is it safe?"

I'll get me coat

3
0

Google boffins tease custom AI math-chip TPU2 stats: 45 TFLOPS, 16GB HBM, benchmarks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Single precision?

For bigger matrix multiplications single precision floats often lead to unacceptable accumulation of round-off errors. I am surprised no double-precision figures are given. I would also be very interested in the power drain of these TPUs. In robots with a limited battery capacity, you really need to think hard about power draw from the computers (and yes, I know these won't be available for us any time soon). There are some excellent deep-learning based stereo methods, but they do require a GPU, so we are looking at hand-crafted methods which hopefully give similar accuracy, whilst running on a Raspberry Pi (not sure that will work, of course, but if successful it will seriously reduce power issues).

1
2

NASA says New Horizons' next stop might have a moon

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Wonderful stuff

NASA, ESA and all those other organisations just keep on producing such exciting stuff!

8
0

Millions of moaners vindicated: Man flu is 'a thing', says researcher, and big TVs are cure

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Bowmore is very nice, but I am also quite partial to Talisker's Port Ruighe. Slightly gentler on the throat, which might be beneficial. Some smoked Scottish salmon to go with it (only for the correct balance of omega fatty accids, of course) would go down nicely as well

23
0

Boffins show off speedy quantum CNOT gate - in silicon

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

We certainly live in interesting times ...

especially with our growing ability to control uncertainty

Sorry, couldn't resist. The one with Erwin Schrödinger's "What is Life?" in the pocket (fascinating read), please!

3
0

Language bugs infest downstream software, fuzzer finds

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

This is a perennial problem

I wonder why this is news, as this issue has been known under many guises for a long time. My own code might be provably correct, but what about the compiler, libraries or even the OS it is running on? For that matter, what about the hardware (Pentium floating point bug, anyone)? I remember having to create quite a few workarounds for compiler and run-time library errors in image processing software I developed in the past. The problem with workarounds is that they might actually bork the code when the error in compiler or library is fixed. Luckily these were DOS systems not connected to the internet, so the attack surface consisted mainly of floppies thoughtless users inserted into the system, but the fundamental issue remains: The security of your code depends on that of many others.

8
0

Oregon will let engineer refer to himself as an 'engineer'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: UK had IEE not IET

The IEEE is a world-wide organisation. I am a senior member (which essentially means you have worked in the field long enough for them to send you a brass plaque, not that you have done anything really special), but have never lived or worked in the USA. I don't tend to call myself engineer, so could safely go to Oregon, I suppose.

3
0

Opportunity rover survives Martian winter for eighth time

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Brilliant stuff!!

I remember pointing out Mars to my boys years ago, explaining how they could tell it was a planet because it wasn't twinkling, and how to recognize it was Mars by its red colour. A thought struck me and I told them two robot cars (Spirit and Opportunity back then) were driving around on that little dot in the sky, and their jaws dropped. They were already well beyond the 90 days at the time. Amazing to think Opportunity is still going strong. Excellent engineering!

24
1

Russian rocket snafu may have just violently dismantled 19 satellites

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Kerbal Space Program

I thought it was a Kaotic ABort Of Orbit Manoeuvre

9
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

"It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes."

As the Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax could tell you

Doffs hat (black fedora again) to the late, great Douglas Adams

7
0

iPhone X Face ID fooled again by 'evil twin' mask

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

DynamicFaceID a.k.a. Haka-ID (TM) anyone?

As a variant on Face-ID and drawing a complex pattern, why not require users to pull a face or sticking out a tongue (like the faces pulled at the end of the All-Blacks' Haka) to unlock their phone. It would combine user name (the biometric of face recognition) with a password (the complex sequence of movements). Should be a lot safer than just boring old face-ID.

The best bit of course would be seeing people pulling weird faces and sticking out their tongues to open their (no doubt very expensive) phone.

I wonder if I can get a student to develop something like this as a thesis project.

0
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Good iris recognition systems are pretty secure. You can easily test the presence of a real eyeball in two important ways. If it is a printed digital image of an iris, the regular printing pattern will leave easily detected spikes in the Fourier spectrum. This doesn't work on old-fashioned prints from negatives. However, briefly raising light levels (e.g. using the flash) will make the pupil contract, which is fairly trivial to detect. I also wonder whether the saccade-fixate motion of the eye can be detected as evidence of a real live face, although that might be mimicked easily.

2
0

You live in the right galaxy: Milky Way to eat Small Magellanic Cloud even sooner

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Very interesting stuff

We may actually start developing software to handle these large images from ASKAP and later SKA in the near future, in a collaboration between the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute and the Johann Bernoulli Institute of the University of Groningen. In particular, we want to develop automatic methods for finding interesting faint objects in the huge mass of data. Huge challenge, and therefore great fun!

9
0

Military test centre for frikkin' laser cannon opens in Hampshire

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Perfect climate

Perhaps they aim to conquer only those regions with a perfect climate, and settle there.

Maybe that is their cunning plan

2
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

A pity Megalodon is extinct

It might have been the right fit.

On second thoughts, it is perhaps a good thing that Megalodon went extinct. Even though they were probably deep ocean sharks, a predator with a mouth that fits six humans with room to spare could put people off bathing in the ocean.

2
0

BOFH: The trouble with, er, windows installs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coffee/keyboard

Sheer genius!

Lovely Friday treat. Especially after a week in which you feel like implementing a number of database normalization warnings yourself.

18
0

Crewless dinghy signs to UK Ship Register for Middle East mission

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: I'm going to suggest (@Cederic)

and maps to shit creek? or are those only free without the paddle option?

0
0

576-megapixel 'Zwicky Transient Facility' telescope sees first light

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Open data!

Will certainly have a go at applying tools we develop for BIG images (Gpixel to Tpixel range) on those. Great first-light image too.

5
0

Boffins on alert: Brace yourselves for huge gravitational wave coming within a decade

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

So how many points do you score in intergalactic bar billiards if you pot one supermassive black hole into another?

I'll get me coat

13
1

UK Home Sec thinks a Minority Report-style AI will prevent people posting bad things

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: She's deluded

"Poor bloody AI doesn't stand a chance."

Not sure about that. A rule-based system could learn rules like

IF (post.poster.name = "Boris Johnson") OR (post.poster.name = "Amber Rudd") THEN

REDIRECT(post, "/dev/null")

But somehow I think they don't want that kind of AI

1
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Count me unimpressed

Whenever I buy some product, most recently a 6V sealed led acid battery for my telescope, all these "AI" methods from Amazon and the like keep trying to flog more sealed led acid batteries. Same with the tumble dryer I bought online: endless tumble dryer adverts. Same again when I bought a 100-400mm zoom lens: they keep trying to flog more of exactly the same type of lens. Now, if the AI had suggested lenses complementary to the 100-400 (and not the 18-55 kit lens, which someone with a 100-400 zoom either has, or has already replaced by something better), that would show a modicum of intelligence. As it is, I am not impressed.

Youtube has made some interesting recommendations, I must say. It's latest one of The Dead South (In Hell I'll be in Good Company) did put a smile on my face

1
0

BOFH: But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Lovely episode

Needed that after a tough week. Need one of those too -->

But that can wait a little longer

5
0

IBM's next turnaround tool is ... a new open-source font?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Maybe they can turn things around if they get just the right, hyper-intelligent shade of blue.

Doffs hat (black fedora, once more) to the late, great Douglas Adams

15
0

Brit moron tried buying a car bomb on dark web, posted it to his address. Now he's screwed

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Bomb Testing

My thoughts exactly. However, on second thoughts, you could test the ignition circuitry detached from the detonator quite safely. Otherwise it would indeed be a matter of "here and there he rests in pieces"

6
0

Evil pixels: Researcher demos data-theft over screen-share protocols

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

I wonder if filtering the screen data sent (or adding some noise) would scramble the data sufficiently to block this attack.

2
0

Guy Glitchy: Villagers torch Openreach effigy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

OpenREACH?

Why does Reacher Gilt suddenly spring to mind?

Sorry, couldn't resist. The one with Going Postal in the pocket, please

12
0

KFC turns Japanese bath tubs into party buckets

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

I'm with Marvin

"I'll think you'll find reality is on the blink again"

And this is indeed what we find

Must rush, the one with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cassette tapes in the pocket, please. Doffs hat (black fedora today) to the late, great Douglas Adams.

8
2

Hells door-bells! Ring pieces paralyzed in horror during Halloween trick-or-treat rush

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Mushroom

If somebody gives me a "smart doorbell" for Xmas

I will unfriend them with extreme prejudice

Ring is like an earthly outpost of Sirius Cybernetics, by the sound of it

6
0

First iPhone X fondlers struggle to admit that Face ID sort of sucks

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

You're biting it wrong!

Bite marks are also distinctive, and biting can be a healthy and natural channelling of aggressive instincts in deeds of senseless violence (perfectly natural behaviour for a Vogon), especially when it refuses to open by facial recognition.

Sorry! I really should get me coat.

3
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

May I suggest

the iSmell ID option?

On second thoughts, maybe not

6
0

NASA reveals Curiosity 2020's 23-camera payload

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

I will just point at this collection ...

if ever my missus complains I have too many cameras. Hey, I have just 2 regular DSLRs, one astro-modded one, and three different planetary CMOS cameras (one monochrome of solar H-alpha, one monochrome hi-res for solar Ca-K and white light, and lunar, and one colour for planets).

I could also just count her shoes again

16
1

Health quango: Booze 'evidence' not Puritan enough, do us another

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Whether it's news or not

I'll drink to it

Sorry, couldn't resist

6
0

Comet 67-P farted just as Rosetta probe flew through the gas plume

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

So now we have to go back, and to other comets. Don't we?

Of course we do, but bring a thermos of hot tea, it's cold up there

Seriously though, marvellous boffinry!

8
0

BOFH: Do I smell burning toes, I mean burning toast?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Epic episode!

Loved the use of the "Beware of the Leopard" bit. Interesting rhythmic devices that counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor ..

I'll get me coat

Doffs hat to the late, great Douglas Adams

50
0

Boss put chocolate cake on aircon controller, to stop people using it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Where's Simon when you need him?

Clearly a situation that calls for a BOFH-modded cattle prod, or a stairwell accident, or something weird happening to the elevators, or a freak Halon incident (triggered by a cocoa powder sensor an Arduino and some actuators?), or any solution involving quicklime and a roll of carpet.

11
1

The UK's super duper 1,000mph car is being tested in Cornwall

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Fingers crossed for all their runs

otherwise the term "terminal velocity" might get a different meaning

Big thumbs up for the attempt

4
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Cool, but why?

I am certainly going to show this to my kids, if they haven't found it already. One is definitely into engineering and will love the outrageous fuel pump, all by itself, the other is more into football, but can be impressed by other things

11
0

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing