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

* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

3549 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Boffins offer to make speculative execution great again with Spectre-Meltdown CPU fix

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Oh woe is me!

Could be some newbies

0
0

The hits keep coming for Facebook: Web giant made 14m people's private posts public

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Facepalm

A phrase springs to mind

"Don't be sorry, be careful!"

3
0

Mailshot meltdown as Wessex Water gets sweary about a poor chap called Tom

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Do they have a sysadmin named Simon?

Just curious

7
1

'Moore's Revenge' is upon us and will make the world weird

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Mob-mentality

Remember Pratchett's Law for Mobs: "The IQ of a mob is the IQ of its most stupid member divided by the number of mobsters." Extending this well-known fact to the swarm of IoT widgets with limited intelligence to begin with does not bode well. They could make Sirius Cybernetics' GPP feature look like a pretty neat idea (like digital watches).

I'll get me coat.

Doffs hat (grey Tilley once more) to the late great Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.

25
0

Boffins quietly cheering possible discovery of new fundamental particle: Sterile neutrino

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Re: This is not making physics any easier

Quantum physics has always been batshit crazy. Even general relativity is seriously weird, for that matter (both still make more sense than current politics, or most of what goes on on FaceBook and Twitter, and the like). Doesn't mean quantum physics and relativity are wrong, however. We just happen to live in a batshit crazy and seriously weird universe. Once you realize that, it makes life a lot easier

25
1

RIP to two 'naut legends: A moonwalker and a spacewalker

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Two more childhood heroes gone

I followed all the Apollo flights, and the first Space Shuttle launches as well. Exciting times. Almost all my classmates in primary school wanted to become astronauts back then. Fingers crossed new heroes step up to get kids looking up from their smartphones and out into space again.

I'll raise a glass in their memory, thanking them for all the good memories they gave me, and all they did for mankind

9
0

Meet the real spin doctors: Scientists tell H2O to chill out so they can separate isomers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

And anyway, the correct way of looking at homeopathy is using quantummechanics, as I showed in my paper in Annals of Improbable Research years ago: It might work, as long as you don't look (pdf pre-print here)

5
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Re: Deuterium-free Parafresh or Orthofresh

Whichever is preferred by brewer's yeast.

I'll drink to that

5
0

Cyber-stability wonks add election-ware to ‘civilised nations won’t hack this’ standard

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Facepalm

Sounds like a useful declaration

just like that one from Munich, way back when

1
0

Softbank's 'Pepper' robot is a security joke

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Facepalm

Password == root???!!!

My gob is thoroughly smacked!

8
0

BOFH: Their bright orange plumage warns other species, 'Back off! I'm dangerous!'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coffee/keyboard

Absolute classic!

Superb episode!!

9
0

You know that silly fear about Alexa recording everything and leaking it online? It just happened

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: And that....

You don't need to have friends called Alexa. You might just like the Billy Joel song "The Downeaster Alexa" (one of hist best, in my personal opinion). I don't have any such device, but I am very curious to see what would happen if you repeatedly played that song to 'Alexa'. They should have chosen a rarer name, like Hig Hurtenflurst, or a nice word like "ekki-ekki-ekki-ekki-ptang-zoom-boing-mrow"

Sorry, I'll get me coat

15
0

Microsoft gives users options for Office data slurpage – Basic or Full

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

GDPR compliance?

Methinks the EU may well cry foul over this one. I'll stick with LibreOffice and LaTeX, thanks all the same

21
3

Astroboffins, get in here and explain Saturn's odd-shaped balls

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Only spheroid moon?

Apart from Iapetus, the moons Titan, Mimas ("Death Star"), Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, and Rhea are close to spherical. All are further away, and out of reach of (too) severe tidal disruption (i.e. outside the Roche limit).

15
0

Intel CEO Brian is a man living on the edge

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

He's NOT the messiah!

Sorry, couldn't resist. However, his message is not a universal truth. We still need to throw stuff away, even without GDPR. Many instruments generate such a massive load of data you cannot possibly store all of it, even with cheap storage. I work both on data from astronomical instruments and nuclear accelerators, and the data rates of the new generation of instruments, like SKA (but even for existing LOFAR) means we must reduce the data at the source, and throw most of the raw data away. This is on the one hand anathema to scientists, but it has to be done. Most collisions in accelerators yield nothing of interest, and can be discarded. It is just the rare events that need to be stored. So he is right that we want more data, but we don't want to store indiscriminately, or we will drown in a see of uninteresting stuff.

He is of course right that we need more processing grunt (and storage), but that is pointing out the bleeding obvious

6
0

LESTER looks up, spins its wheels: The Register’s beer-butler can see ...

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Collision waver

And a BOFH-modded cattle prod should be in there somewhere (along with a recording of a metallic voice screaming "EXTERMINATE")

9
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Or even Talisker Skye thinking.

I'll raise a glass of Talisker (Port Ruighe, in fact) to Lester's memory, and the success of LESTER once the latter has served its first beer

5
0

New Monty Python movie to turn old jokes into new royalties

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

The jokes may be old, but many are immortal

just like the Black Knight really (OK, let's call it a draw)

4
0
Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Don't forget the other two holy words

Eki eki eki patang zoo poing zzraazrroohhhh...

Nice word isn't it?

I'll get me coat (and the helmet with the stag antlers on, please)

10
0

MacBook Pro petition begs Apple for total recall of krap keyboards

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: "We also asked a brick wall"

If the Reg had listened carefully, they may have heard a slight echo from the brick wall. Not very helpful, but better than nothing

1
0

if dev == woman then dont_be(asshole): Stack Overflow tries again to be more friendly to non-male non-pasty coders

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: If dev == woman then...

Why use a conditional statement in this case anyway? Just call the appropriate dontbe(asshole) method directly.

Having worked as a developer for many years before going into academia, I know that a combative way of debating pervades the entire field (IT devs and CS academics alike). As a group, we are not very tolerant of our own errors, knowing what problems a few misplaced characters can cause, and maybe therefore react harshly to mistakes of others. There is also the issue of "tact-filter theory". The idea is that every person is born with just one. For most people, the tact filter is on the output, filtering out inappropriate or socially unacceptable language, and transforming it into something more tactful. Nerds develop a different strategy (due to receiving much abuse from non-nerds), and have their tact filters on the input, filtering out any abusive content their ears may receive. This does however mean that they blurt out anything, without much thought about how it will be received. A non-nerd will find many nerds breathtakingly rude, whereas a nerd listening to a non-nerd will probably wonder why the other doesn't come to the bloody point.

Now this theory is of course a bit of a caricature, but there is an element of truth in it, and it does pay to check whether you are not being too harsh. It is better to help people towards a solution than only to point out where they went wrong, and even the latter can be done politely (although some people can't stand even the politest criticism). Whenever giving feedback to students who clearly have made an effort, I will moderate my tone considerably (although sometimes hoots of laughter do escape me at funnier mistakes). Of course, those who haven't even tried, or have just cut and paste stuff from Stack Overflow (and they are always stunned we have found them out), might get treated more bluntly.

11
0

‘I broke The Pentagon’s secure messaging system – and won an award for it!’

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Re: “I almost felt guilty.”

Well, after all, "No good deed ever goes unpunished", according to one of Murphy's Laws, so why should a blunder not be rewarded.

9
0

Leave it to Beaver: Unity is long gone and you're on your GNOME

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: More evidence that the Gnome crowd have the Win10 problem:

When a new version of Ubuntu was rolled out at work, I spent some time checking out different desktop options, because KDE which I was used to (not a HUGE fan of, just used to it from long experience in SUSE) wasn't made available any more by our sysadmins. I fiddled around a while and ended up using XFCE, which does the things I need efficiently on a pretty ancient desktop machine. It is so "invisible" that I actually had to look up which one I had chosen just now. I like desktop environments you don't really notice are there. Being able to chose the tools that best fit into your way of working is a big plus in Linux. Most of my colleagues use GNOME, and seem happy with that. Each to his own.

1
0

Windrush immigration papers scandal is a big fat GDPR fail for UK.gov

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

"I can't do that because of data protection"

is a new entry in the BOFH excuse calendar, or soon will be

4
0

Incredible Euro space agency data leak... just as planned: 1.7bn stars in our galaxy mapped

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Thumb Up

It is a good thing

the GDPR doesn't cover Vogons, Poghrils, Haggunenons, Dentrassis, etc, so no privacy rules are broken.

More seriously, very good work indeed, which I am proud to say our university was involved in (professor Amina Helmi of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, to be precise). I contributed absolutely nothing I should hasten to add. I will be having a go at algorithm development for analysis of these data.

2
0

Astroboffins peep at the largest orgy of galaxies banging into each other

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Galactic rush hour pile-up?

Oy! Watch where you drive that galaxy!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

I'll get me coat. The one with Arp's Catalogue of Peculiar Galaxies in the pocket, please

13
0

Good news: AI could solve the pension crisis – by triggering a nuclear apocalypse by 2040

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: "Id like to see their definition of AI"

If you think the current form of "AI" is bad, wait until the computers get the GPP feature!

Anyone for a quick game of ‘Halma’, or space battles? Wouldn't that be fun!?

Doffs hat (grey Tilley today) to the late, great Douglas Adams. I'll get me coat

1
0

UK 'meltdown' bank TSB's owner: Our IT migration was a 'success'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Sounds vaguely familiar...

I was thinking more along the lines of Reacher Gilt. He would have us all agree it was a success (and he would be right, for a given value of "success")

I'll get me coat. The one with "Going Postal" in the pocket, please

0
0

ICANN takes Whois begging bowl to Europe, comes back empty

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Facepalm

Sounds like a "the dog ate my homework" moment

What total incompetence on ICANN's side. What excuse do they have for apparently sitting on their hands for two years after approval of the law? If a student were to come to me, asking for an extension for the deadline for an assignment he'd known about months in advance, at the last minute there had better be a very good excuse (illness, accidents, death (one grandmother per year, max!), etc). This is just pathetic.

38
0

Astroboffins build AI to chase galactic blue nuggets in space

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Just had a look at the paper

What stuck me as odd was that at first glance they seemed to be training a deep neural network (because most CNNs are employed in deep networks) on just 9000 images, which is usually way too little, but then looking at their architecture, it is just 5 layers, or so, which is hardly deep. Indeed the authors clearly state the shallow architecture was chosen because of the low number of example images. As the authors state, more data are needed, but I would suggest a comparison to other, feature-based approaches might be nice as well, just to see if CNNs really work better than other ML approaches in this case.

5
0

Massive cyber attack targets mid-Atlantic nation 'Berylia'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

An attack on the Duchy of Grand Fenwick will be dangerous, as they apparently are in possession of the only Q-bomb (and have a standing army of a score of longbow archers in rusty chain mail). Better try the Kingdom of Lancre instead (and face Shawn Ogg (unless he is on butler duty))

I'll get me coat

6
0

Your AI pet project is only as smart as its garbage training set

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Spot on!

I have seen quite some papers on deep learning methods that reach 99+ % scores, but in many cases all that means is that the network is much better at faithfully reproducing the errors made by the person or persons drawing up the "ground truth". Getting reliable ground truth data sets is very hard indeed, especially for the hundreds of thousands of examples needed by deep learning in particular. Note that this does not mean that deep learning is the wrong approach per se, it is just that it is much harder to get a reliable ground truth if you need many, many examples. Simulation can certainly help, but it can be hard to simulate all of the deficiencies of your imaging system.

The kind of feedback suggested could take the form of a curation process by which ground truths themselves can be amended when new data come out. We have sometimes found that methods for blood-vessel detection were penalised by finding faint vessels missed by the doctors drawing up the ground truth. What is needed is a process by which an expert reassesses the ground truth and after due process adds the missing features. I haven't seen any agreement on such a process for existing data sets, in the scientific community, but it is certainly needed. Part of this reticence may stem from the fact that changing the labelling of an existing ground truth would mean having to re-run old experiments, which should be possible, but is an unwelcome chore.

4
0

LESTER gets ready to trundle: The Register's beer-bot has a name

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Re: In loving memory

He would have loved both building the bot and using it in practice, no doubt. Very fitting tribute! Let's all raise one to Lester's memory today

19
0

BOFH: We know where the bodies are buried

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Neat!

Although I wouldn't have opted for a mere chicken dinner. Something more upmarket (lobster anyone?) should have been on the cards for such an epic arse-saving effort

9
0

Supreme Court punts on Microsoft email seizure decision after Cloud Act passes US Congress

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

And the real winners are:

the lawyers!!

No surprises there then. They tend to come out of everything smelling of roses (or formaldehyde, in the case of Mr Slant)

8
0

US, UK cyber cops warn Russians are rooting around in your routers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Pint

Re: What we need to do to counter this threat is .......

Brilliant! Have one on me.

Now where is my one time pad?

13
0

Torvalds schedules Linux kernel 5.0, then maybe delays 'meaningless' release

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Go away or I will taunt you again!!

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!!!

Sorry, I'll get me coat. The one with the Holy Grail in the pocket please

On a serious note, I feel "meaningless" means less work, and "meaningful" means more work for those updating to the latest kernel. I am all for meaningless!

3
0

Holy helmets, Batman! Bane-like mask lets you 'talk' to computers without making a sound

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Not too sure

I told'em, I told'em, I told'em, millennium hand and shrimp! Buggrit, buggrem, I told'em, they'd only run out, doorsteps, millennium hand and shrimp

10
0

My Tibetan digital detox lasted one morning, how about yours?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Facetimers

Absolutely! Those idiots look they are going to take a bite out of their phone as if it is a sandwich

I once asked a young lady who was holding her phone horizontally in front of her mouth during a conversation (on speaker mode of course), why she held it that way (after she had finished). The answer was that in that way the radiation from the antenna wasn't as close to her brain.

I didn't suggest the radiation from the antenna:

a) might have hard time finding her brain, and

b) could probably do no worse damage than had apparently already been done.

I was sorely tempted, I will admit

77
0

Hubble sharpens measurement of distance to ancient cluster

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Nice one!

Great work tightening down the margins of error on the distance measurement (always hard in astronomy). NGC 6397 is actually a very nice object even in binoculars. I spotted it from down-under when I was a guest at the CSIRO in Sydney, back in May 2011. Would have loved to have brought the telescope, but even with binoculars, the southern skies are just fabulous

11
0

How machine-learning code turns a mirror on its sexist, racist masters

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Mathematical modelling of sterotypes?

How dare you suggest I discriminate! I hate everyone equally!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

More seriously: this is an interesting way to use machine learning to study changes in usage of language, and stereotypes. It does however remind me of one very early attempt at using computers to study literature. They basically counted the occurrence of words in the works of Shakespeare, and concluded that, given the frequent occurrence of the word, Shakespeare was incredibly fond of art. This might have been the case, but they failed to notice the fact that "art" in works of Shakespeare was more often that not a verb, not a noun.

10
0

What's silent but violent and costs $250m? Yes, it's Lockheed Martin's super-quiet, supersonic X-plane for NASA

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Yes after 6 decades they've come up with something slower than Concorde. But......

CYRANO?

BERGERAC?

I'll get met coat

8
0

For some reason, you lot love 'em. So here are the many ThinkPads of 2018

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Interesting stuff

Looking for a new workhorse laptop, also to demo stuff at conferences. The T480 ticks a lot of boxes, but I would like an option with a beefier nVidia GPU (1050, or 1050 TI) to run CUDA stuff at serious speeds (not for gaming, honest!). A good keyboard is of course also very important. Choices, choices.

1
0

Elon Musk's mighty erection fires sperm at orbiting space station

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Are they aiming for an Ig Nobel Prize?

Certainly ticks most of the boxes for a candidate. I do hope they treat every sperm with the reverence it deserves

I'll get me coat. The long brown one, please.

6
0

Linux 4.16 arrives, keeps melting Meltdown, preps to axe eight CPUs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: And so fairwell blackfin, cris, frv, m32r, metag, mn10300, score, and tile.

Tile64 and its kin were from Tilera, since acquired by some other company. Interesting 64-core design, with each core a MIPS-like processor, but I never spotted one in the wild.

8
0

Details of 600,000 foreign visitors to UK go up in smoke thanks to shonky border database

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Problems

How do you have a Dutch passport I thought you can't be a dutch citizen with more than one nationality?

It can happen, as I found out myself. When I was born (in Leyden, the Netherlands), I automatically got my father's British nationality, not my mother's (Dutch). Last year, what with Brexit looming, I decided I would explore the options of becoming Dutch, what with having lived here all my life (although at home I always spoke English, except when Dutch friends were around), and having a Dutch wife. It turned out, that for my case I could simply become Dutch, essentially making use of my birthright as a son of a Dutch mother. I asked whether I would have to get rid of my British passport, to which they answered "no", much to my surprise. I now have both nationalities (but only a British passport, and a Dutch ID card.

For my kids too, I had to choose a nationality when registring their birth. I chose Dutch, for practical reasons, but when we got the paperwork back from the town hall, it listed both British and Dutch citizenship. I didn't complain.

10
0

The Register Lectures tackle tractor beams and truculent tech

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Coat

Pity those acoustic tractor beams don't work in space, unless we finally manage to develop the sound-in-vacuum technology seen in SciFi movies.

Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll get me coat. The one with the copy of "Annals of Improbable Research" in the pocket, please

1
0

World celebrates, cyber-snoops cry as TLS 1.3 internet crypto approved

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge

Re: Round we go again

In cryptography you tend to assume that the adversary knows exactly what your encryption algorithm is. It should be (relatively) safe even then. Security through obscurity doesn't work for long

3
0

NASA fungus problem puts theory of 'Martian mushrooms' on toast

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Houston, we have a problem!

Homeopathy would require > 6 x 1023 dilution, so a mere 106 wouldn't qualify (although, unlike the homeopathic version, the latter might actually work, and not as a double-strength placebo)

9
0

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