koldfront

Weapons of Math Destruction (2016) #books #math

🕧︎ - 2022-10-01

I bought this book in 2018 and read up until half of the last chapter and the conclusion and then... uh... shelved it for a couple of years. I'm here to report that that is not the ideal way to read a book.

I seem to remember what I originally read was quite good, which a bunch of examples - and not much in way of specifics of how these machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data systems actually work.

Reading the remaining part of the book 4 years later it hit me that the conclusion is very USA-centric, which makes sense of course, but for me it felt a little narrow in perspective.

Printers and software #programming #free software

🕟︎ - 2022-09-24

It is remarkable how often printers¹ and high² quality³ output appear in the history of hacking (programming creatively) and free/open source software.

Here is the latest story I stumbled upon on The Unix Heritage Society (TUHS) mailing list, by Rob Pike:

Everyone was supposed to be working on their thesis and we had spent the weekend hacking. I was about to be in serious trouble for distracting the graduate students. But then he saw the output and completely changed his tune: "Can I use this to print out my new grant proposal?"

For context, consider this: I used the system for my 4th year optics project report. The professor was furious with me for copying someone's work. He did not believe it possible to create output like that (and to be fair, it wasn't possible almost anywhere else). I had to take him to the lab and show him how I did it before he would let me pass the course.

The Berkeley Distribution took the code and integrated it, removing the original copyright notice(!)

I didn't care so much about losing credit for the code, but the idea was 100% mine, and for a young punk the loss of credit was upsetting.

Read the full email: Re: Early BSD license thread

I guess making good output on paper was one of the first Unix/computer killer applications.

Improving security #email #security

🕘︎ - 2022-09-10

At work they have hired a company to improve IT-security by teaching the employees to spot and report phishing attempts.

This was also in focus way back when I was hired, where part of the general introductory course included somebody talking about "pishing" (completely missing the f-sound), which was phun.

Since then the company has decided that allowing Microsoft to modify every email with a link in it to go through Microsoft is a good idea - this makes it harder to see where a link is going - oops!

Now there is this phishing training going on. At first I didn't know why I had an automatic reaction of not liking it. Not until I described it in a blog-comment yesterday did I realize some of the problems.

The way this "training" works is that a company has been hired to send fake phishing emails to the employees, which employees are then supposed to report as phishing, and when we do that correctly we get a star! Who doesn't want to earn stars?!

The first thing that annoyed me was that due to the rewriting of every link, it is - in general - hard to do what I normally do with suspicious emails, check the link(s).

The second thing was that what you get points for reporting fake phishing mails. Should you be reporting things that are not really phishing? Also, while you get stars for every correct report, you don't get minus points for every wrong report (how would the training company know about those?) So you could just report ALL email as phishing, and get a perfect score. Hm.

I couldn't help sharing with my colleagues that if I was to try to phish somebody, I would certainly do that by pretending to be an anti-phishing training company!

I didn't like the whole idea, so I just did what I usually do with spam and phishing - moved it all to the spam-folder.

What I only realized when writing about the training is the third reason: what are the incentives for the training company, here? If phishing was eradicated, they would have nothing to peddle. So the thing they are providing training against is also what keeps them going. Hm, not a great setup, from a customer perspective.

So the uneasy feeling that this whole concept gave me is not unfounded, I think, and so I will continue ignoring it.

Self driving cars #language

🕥︎ - 2022-07-08

Apparently autonomous cars are about as autonomous as serverless computing is run without servers.

jwz: "Autonomous Murderbots are Going Great".

Dijkstra on stage #programming

🕒︎ - 2022-06-21

If you ever looked a graphs (in computer science) you've come across the name Dijkstra. He is also known for a paper that became sort of a proto-meme: "Go To Statement Considered Harmful", and a number of other papers and pithy quotes, like this:

"Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes."

and:

"I would therefore like to posit that computing's central challenge 'How not to make a mess of it,' has not been met."

Watching this video: A Programmer’s Early Memories by Edsger W. Dijkstra from The International Research Conference in the History of Computing at Los Alamos, 1976 make my toes curl - the contrast to e.g. Donald Knuth's or Konrad Zuze's stage presence is striking.

A less biased programming language #programming #language

🕝︎ - 2022-06-18

Many, most, programming languages use English keywords. That leads to a bias, I think.

How would you go about constructing a programming language without?

Another bias is that most programming languages are written left-to-right. I guess some asian languages are written top-to-bottom? So, left-to-right, right-to-left and top-to-bottom are out. That leaves bottom-to-top. Hm, or it could be "on the bias", i.e. diagonally.

Keywords must'nt be in English. So they are out. The latin alphabet is also out.

It feels like this thought experiment might very well end up as a variant of Whitespace.

(Inspired by this recently restored video from The International Research Conference in the History of Computing at Los Alamos, 1976: Early History of Programming Languages by Donald Knuth.)

Big Thief, Store Vega ★★★★☆ #live #music

🕦︎ - 2022-06-13

Warming up for Big Thief tonight was Tucker Zimmerman who I had never heard of before, so we arrived at the time the concert was announced, to hear him as well.

It was touching to see the band help Tucker Zimmerman (he is of 1941-vintage) on- and off stage - they also accompanied him on a couple of songs, including the encore.

I can't remember being at a concert where the warm up artist played an encore before :-)

It was quite fitting that this concert was my first since the SARS-CoV-2 lock down on March 11, 2020, as the early Big Thief concert that evening was the last concert before the lock down - the late concert got cancelled!

I still haven't heard any of their recorded music, so I know very little of it, but I also enjoyed this concert - which was sold out - and so did the audience, which seemed quite in tune with a very sympathetic band.

If Big Thief plays near you - next are Stockholm, Helsinki, Stavanger, Bergen, Oslo, Göteborg, Pilton, Cologne, Utrecht, Brussels, Belfort, Hamburg, Roskilde, Berlin and then Australia - go check them out!

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