Friday, June 09


Daily News Stuff 9 June 2023

Double Plus Minus Edition

Top Story

  • Apollo, the third-party Reddit mobile client for iOS, is shutting down at the end of the month following Reddit's abrupt move to paid APIs.  (The Verge)

    Quick summary:

    • Reddit's API has been free for years.
    • Reddit said as recently as January the API would remain free through the rest of the year.
    • Reddit is now going to start charging for their API with just 30 days notice.
    • The Apollo app uses billions of API calls per year and would cost $20 million per year to run with the new pricing.
    • Apollo doesn't make anything like that.
    • The Reddit API doesn't cost anything like that to run.
    • The new API pricing of $0.24 per thousand requests is actually in line with other APIs.
    • Infura (which I use at work) costs $0.225 per thousand requests.
    • This has been compared with the Twitter API changes under Elon Musk.
    • Twitter is actually orders of magnitude worse.
    • For $100 per month on Twitter's plan you can read 10,000 tweets.
    • The same amount of data from Reddit could cost as little as 2.4 cents.
    • What Reddit wants to charge for its API is at least ten times more than it makes from the same activity on its website.

  • Okay, I guess that wasn't so quick.  

    Reddit is in trouble like so many other tech companies thanks to rising interest rates and loss of investor interest.  They'd rather take the risk of killing of their community than bleed out slowly, which is what will happen if they don't change course and Elon Musk doesn't buy them.

    And Reddit actually has a working product and cashflow.  Startups that don't aren't going to survive.

Tech News

Disclaimer: Inchworm, inchworm, devouring the marigolds...  STOP THAT!

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Thursday, June 08


Daily Tech News 8 June 2023

Working Nine To The Other Five Edition

Top Story

  • It's not the nine-to-five (well, eight-to-six) that gets me, it's the wakeup call at one and the working until nine again.

    Got hit by a botnet at work and, well, Docker is complete and utter shit the moment anything unexpected happens.

  • Oh, hey, Monday is a public holiday here.  Forgot about that one.  I might actually get some of the repeatedly delayed blog upgrades done.

  • Good Omens, everyone!

    When Good Omens aired on Amazon I had two reactions: First, that they had perhaps not nailed it perfectly but they had done as well as could be hoped in this debased age, and far better than could be expected; and second, what do you mean "season one", there's only one book and you've already covered it.

    Good Omens season two airs July 28.  (Ars Technica)

    It's based on a sequel Pratchett and Gaiman planned together many years ago but never wrote because that was when their individual careers took off.  Gaiman is attached to the project, and the original cast is all returning, so maybe, just maybe, this one also won't suck.

Tech News

  • A judge has granted the SEC's request for a global restraining order on Binance doing anything with funds generated from its US subsidiary, BAM.  (Tech Crunch)
    The respective parties have between five and 10 days to move the crypto assets involved in the restraining order to BAM. Within the next 30 days, the defendants have to transfer all customer crypto assets to "new wallets with new private keys, including new administrative keys." The keys, along with the crypto assets and staking assets, will be in sole control of BAM Trading employees based in the U.S. and will "not be provided to or in any way shared” with Binance, Zhao or any Binance entity.
    What the SEC is alleging here is nothing specific to the blockchain, but the sort of thing major banks get in trouble with all the time when they don't strictly separate customer deposits from investments.

    And given the way Binance operates - it's not a total scam but they do play fast and loose with the rules - the SEC likely has a strong case.

  • If you recently deployed a modded Minecraft server, you may have creepers spawning on your computer right now.  (Prism Launcher)

    A number of popular mods and modpacks on CurseForge and Bukkit had nasty malware added after individual creator accounts were compromised.

    The malware is known to work on both Windows and Linux, but is not believed to be active on other platforms.  (Minecraft runs on everything, including some of the more advanced toasters.)

    Additional details at Bleeping Computer.

    It's pretty serious, so if you're running mods and don't want your computer turned into some hacker's personal raid farm, worth checking.

  • AMD has released details of its new Epyc Bergamo chip with 128 Zen 4c cores.  (Tom's Hardware)

    Well, not chip exactly - it's made up of nine smaller chiplets, but everyone does that these days.

    The interesting part is the new 16 core Zen 4c chiplet is only 10% larger than the 8 core Zen 4 chiplet from just a few months ago.  Partly because it has the same amount of L3 cache as before - 32MB - and only doubles the cores.

    And partly because AMD has taken the same Zen 4 core design but optimised it to reduce the size of the chip rather than maximise the clock speed.

    It's a different approach to efficiency cores.  Intel's efficiency cores are a completely different design to its performance cores, dropping instructions like AVX-512 that take up too much space (which led to Intel disabling AVX-512 on its performance cores as well).  Intel's E cores provide half the performance of its P cores, but are one quarter the size.

    AMD's E cores (Zen 4c) look to be half the size of its P cores (Zen 4), a much lesser reduction, but could deliver 80% of the performance of the full-size cores, also a much lesser reduction.

    This looks pretty good.  If Zen 4c cuts power consumption along with die size, it would be a welcome addition to Ryzen chips, particularly on laptops.  For now though it's for servers only.

Good Trailers Videos of the Day

Disclaimer: You're Hell's Angels, then? What chapter are you from?

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Wednesday, June 07


Daily News Stuff 7 June 2023

Congratulations It's A Tumour Edition

Top Story

Tech News

Disclaimer: Bats! Bats in my face!

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Tuesday, June 06


Daily News Stuff 6 June 2023

What A Deal Edition

Top Story

Tech News

  • Apple also announced the new 15" MacBook Air starting at $1299.  (Tom's Hardware)

    Though the real price is much higher because it is physically impossible to upgrade current MacBooks after purchase.  At that price you get a paltry 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD.

    Now, not long ago I bought an HP laptop with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD, but that's because they're not solder in place and the laptop glued shut, and I already had spare SSDs and RAM I could drop right in.

    And the MacBook maxes out at 24GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD, at more than twice the price of my HP with 64GB and 4TB.  And it lacks the Four Essential Keys.

  • Apple also also announced the new M2 Mac Studio starting at $1999, and the Mac Pro starting at $6999.  (Serve the Home)

    You can actually add storage to the M2 Mac Pro, which is a relief because its seven PCIe slots are basically useless for anything else.

    As for the Mac Studio - no.

    It's beautifully-designed hardware, but it's much easier to make hardware beautiful when you can hermetically seal it to keep nasty, dirty customers out.

  • Online marketplaces - Amazon, Walmart, eBay - are filled with fraudulent storage devices.  (Ars Technica)

    Lots of other junk too, but it's a particular problem with storage devices, because they look like they work at first.

    What the scammers do is take a cheap 64GB microSD card (which used to be a lot), reprogram it to think it is much larger, and put it in an enclosure so you can't see the card.

    You can write 64GB of data to it and everything will be just fine.  Everything after that, though, will silently disappear.

    The companies all know this, and when alerted to a specific fake product they will remove it, but it's back an hour later with a different brand name.

  • Dozens of the largest communities on Reddit plan to go private next week in protest over the company's rapacious API charges.  (The Verge)

    Since the largest communities on Reddit are universally awful - the site is only useful at all because of vibrant small communities that haven't been snuffed out by communists yet - nothing of value will be lost.

    But since Reddit is run by community-snuffing communists who love those large valueless "subreddits", it's possible they will take notice.

  • And probably make things worse.

  • French startup Escape has raised $4 million to use AI to automatically scan APIs for security flaws.  (Tech Crunch)

    This is actually a good use for the current Large Language Models like ChatGPT.  Its something they can be trained to do, and the worst that can happen is they fail to prevent a disaster that other measures also failed to prevent.

    I have no idea if this particular company is producing a good product, but there is at least a chance that they are producing a good product, unlike most of the other big announcements which are basically computational cancer.

Disclaimer: To blern, or not to blern, that is the question.

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Monday, June 05


Daily News Stuff 5 June 2023

Stop, Phantom Time Edition

Top Story

  • The end of programming as we know it, part one.  (New York Times)

    Farhad Manjoo, professional idiot, writes in the Times that AI is going to totally revolutionise programming and allow people who don't understand the question to somehow get the right answer.
    This won’t necessarily be terrible for computer programmers —the world will still need people with advanced coding skills — but it will be great for the rest of us. Computers that we can all "program,” computers that don’t require specialized training to adjust and improve their functionality and that don’t speak in code: That future is rapidly becoming the present.
    Yes, it's called automatic programming, and we've had it since COBOL.

    Programming used to be hard.
    A.I. tools based on large language models — like OpenAI Codex, from the company that brought you ChatGPT, or AlphaCode, from Google’s DeepMind division — have already begun to change the way many professional coders do their jobs. At the moment, these tools work mainly as assistants — they can find bugs, write explanations for snippets of poorly documented code and offer suggestions for code to perform routine tasks (not unlike how Gmail offers ideas for email replies — "Sounds good"; "Got it").
    And they are terrible at those things, with one exception: They can be useful for finding bugs.  After all, if you write the code and then have an AI check it for bugs, the worst that can happen is you waste some time verifying that the bug is not actually a bug, and at best you catch an embarrassing mistake before your customers' critical data ends up in a Laotian bot farm.
    But A.I. coders are quickly getting smart enough to rival human coders. Last year, DeepMind reported in the journal Science that when AlphaCode’s programs were evaluated against answers submitted by human participants in coding competitions, its performance "approximately corresponds to a novice programmer with a few months to a year of training."
    Which is rather like a doctor with a few months of training.  We call such people...  Well, we don't call them doctors.
    "Programming will be obsolete," Matt Welsh, a former engineer at Google and Apple, predicted recently. Welsh now runs an A.I. start-up, but his prediction, while perhaps self-serving, doesn’t sound implausible.
    Not unless you know what you're talking about, anyway.

    AI can take over programming tasks but not the form of AI currently being pushed by all the same people who were pushing the blockchain as the cure for all our ills a year ago.  To work for such tasks, you need a fact model accompanying the language model, and systems like ChatGPT don't have that, at all.

    The lack of a fact model is also why ChatGPT lies constantly.  One of the reasons.  It's not that it lies deliberately, it's that it simply makes no distinction between true and false statements.

    And that is what these people want to use to write the code that runs modern civilisation.

    I'd suggest stocking up on gold, guns, ammo, and canned goods, but I expect this bubble to implode of its own accord.  It's just too damn stupid.

Tech News

  • The end of programming as we know it, part two.  (GitHub)

    DreamBerd is the perfect programming language.  We know this because the documentation says so.

    Sadly this perfect language hasn't actually been implemented; rather it's a parody of every breathless announcement of a New Programming Language that is set to Change The World, like...  What was that one that showed up last month?  Mojo, that's it.  The first programming language in the world with a waiting list.

  • And the reason the AI bubble is going to implode sooner rather than later is, of all things, Facebook.  (Slate)

    Facebook open-sourced its own AI (we're referring to Large Language Models, because that's where all the noise is right now), and the open-source community picked it up and ran with it.

    The open-source versions are faster, more efficient, and produce better results than the commercial versions, and they don't refuse to answer your questions if the answer would make a Berkeley philosophy grad student cry into his chai latte.

    They still share the same fundamental limitations of LLMs - they don't actually know anything - but they don't have the arbitrary limitations imposed on ChatGPT and other big tech products.

  • So, for example, Google's new AI-enhanced search is too slow to use.  (The Verge)

    While you're waiting for it to generate a wildly inaccurate summary, you can just...  Read the search results.

  • Blaseball is over.  (The Verge)

    Apparently an online fantasy baseball league simply cost too much to run.

    The article calls it a "fake" fantasy baseball league, and I'm not sure whether I hope that's redundant or not.

Dislaimer: Hey I'm starting to get the hang of this game. The blerns are loaded, the count's 3 blerns and 2 anti-blerns, and the in-field blern rule is in effect... right?
Expect for the word 'blern' that was complete gibberish.

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Sunday, June 04


Daily News Stuff 4 June 2023

Cherry Bomb Edition

Top Story

Tech News

How That Bottle of Cherry Soda Gets from the Farm to Your Fridge USDA Documentary Video of the Day

God bless the food scientists, because they know what goes into this stuff and they still drink it.

Disclaimer: It's paint thinner!  You're drinking paint thinner!  Oh, and a bottle of dry cleaning solution that's been sitting in the cupboard for sixteen years for added flavour.

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Saturday, June 03


Daily News Stuff 3 June 2023

The Emperor's New Tube Edition

Top Story

Tech News

  • Maybe reality is setting in with the global recession and they need the viewers, even nasty right-wing ones.

    The valuation of design software company Canva has been marked down by 67.6%, and buy-now-pay-more-later company Klarna by 85%.  (Tech Crunch)

    Reddit meanwhile is down by 41% since last year.

    All of these are private companies so there's no public share price to track, just individual investors prepared to actualise their losses for tax reasons.

  • AMD's Epyc Rome (2nd generation) server chips could hang after 1044 days of uptime.  (Tom's Hardware)

    There's some kind of timer overflow that prevents the individual CPU cores from waking up after being put into low-power sleep mode.  

    The solution is to either keep them so busy they never sleep, reboot the server once every three years, or turn off sleep mode...  Which requires a reboot anyway.

  • Lenovo's Yoga Book 9i is a rather neat laptop with dual 13" 2880x1800 OLED displays, a detachable keyboard, and pen support.  (Notebook Check)

    It can lie completely flat on a desk and you can use it with a pen, or you can clip on the keyboard and use it like a normal laptop, or you can stand it upright to use both screens side by side or one above the other with the keyboard detached.

    Only problem is, for the same price you could buy a regular laptop, an external 4k monitor, a decent graphics tablet, a good Android tablet, and whatever keyboard you prefer, and still have change left over.  (I know this because those are all things I've bought in the past two years and I just added them up.)

  • The Beelink EQ12 Pro almost doesn't suck.  (Serve the Home)

    This is a NUC - a palm-sized computer - that uses Intel's N305 CPU, which has 8 E cores and no P cores at all.

    Which means it is an Atom chip, though Intel prefers not to use that name anymore because for many, many years, their Atom CPU range completely sucked.

    This one doesn't completely suck: Compared to the 2017 Dell Ryzen 1700 system I used until I moved house last year it is 15% faster in single-threaded performance, though 30% slower in multi-threaded performance.

    That AMD chip was 65W and the N305 uses just 15W, so I'll cut it some slack.

    And compared to the 2015 Atom N3050, the new N305 is more than four times faster single-threaded and 15 times faster multi-threaded.

    Unfortunately the overall system still sucks, hamstrung by the other problem with Atom chips: Their limited I/O.  It supports just a single memory module, and while it has an NVMe slot (again, just one), it only supports one lane of PCIe 3, so it's 1/16th the speed of the latest models, or more reasonably, 1/8th the speed of a decent and not insanely expensive SSD.

    Given the pricing there are likely better options.  If it were passively cooled thanks to the Atom design's low power consumption things might be different - but Atom's power consumption has never been that low.  It has not just one fan, but two.

Disclaimer: I am not one of them.

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Friday, June 02


Daily News Stuff 2 June 2023

Censor Delete Thyself Edition

Top Story

Tech News

  • Reddit is planning to charge lots of money for its API, just like Twitter.  (The Verge)

    Not quite as lots, but still lots, with the cited number being $12,000 per 50 million API calls.

    As a baseline example, blockchain gateway Infura charges $1000 per month for 150 million API calls, while at the other end of the scale Twitter charges anything up to $2 per API call.  Not $2 per million, $2 per call.

    A reasonably configured server should be able to handle 10 million API calls per day, meaning that Infura has something like an 80% margin to cover all their costs beyond the bare hardware, Reddit has around 99%, and Twitter 100%.

    Which used to be a lot.

    One Reddit user commented:

    They're digging their own grave.

    Reddit used to very much a bit player behind market leader Digg, until Digg released a hugely unpopular update and told users who complained to fuck off.  

    And fuck off they did, in droves, to Reddit.  I'm not sure if Digg is still alive.

    Update: Sort of.  The top post on Digg right now links to a Reddit thread.

  • Intel is planning to release 40 core Arrow Lake desktop chips next year.  (WCCFTech)

    This year the company is not expected to release a new generation of desktop chips at all.

    Next year's 15th generation though should bring a substantial upgrade, though not all that substantial, as 32 out of those 40 cores will be half-speed quarter-size "Efficiency" cores.

    I'd much rather see 16P + 16E cores, but that would make for a substantially larger chip.

Disclaimer: Pipipipipipipipipi!

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Thursday, June 01


Daily News Stuff 1 June 2023

Zap! Edition

Top Story

  • Silence those annoying little negative voices in your head - by electrocuting the bastards.  (The Bulletin)

    Interesting first-person account of tDCS - transcranial direct current stimulation - by an avowed skeptic, who found the effects instant and obvious.  As soon as the current was turned on she went into a state that programmers call flow, where she was focused on the task at hand to the exclusion of all else, to such a degree that her sense of time was off by a factor of 10 when the experiment concluded.

    The literature for tDCS and tMS - transcranial magnetic stimulation - is mixed, and I lean on the skeptical side myself, but it's harder to discount this particular report.

Tech News

  • Adata has showed off its next-generation memory modules for laptops and servers, due later this year.  (Tom's Hardware)

    Not just new DIMMs - only one of these is a DIMM - but new module types entirely.

    Of particular interest is CAMM, originally designed by Dell and released as an industry standard.  This takes the LPDDR memory chips commonly used in laptops and puts them on a module, making laptop memory upgradeable again.

    The electrical characteristics of LPDDR make it faster and less power-hungry than regular DDR RAM but also mean it can't work in regular DIMM slots, so right now everyone (except Dell) solders it directly to the motherboard.

    And they only put 16GB in, so your shiny new laptop becomes e-waste if you need more than that.

    I'm very much looking forward to this seeing widespread adoption.

  • There's a potential firmware backdoor in 271 models of Gigabyte motherboard.  (Tom's Hardware)

    It's not as nasty as it first sounded, though it's not good: The BIOS checks for firmware updates to give you a download alert in Windows, but it doesn't check that the site it connects to is actually Gigabyte's real download site.  So if someone can compromise your DNS to point you at a fake download site, it will happily prompt you to download and install a fake BIOS release.

    So...  Don't take your desktop computer to a cafe and connect it over untrusted wifi.  Or just turn off the updater.  That works too.

  • This is the first x-ray taken of a single atom.  (Ars Technica)

    The atom is pregnant.

Disclaimer: With twins.

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Wednesday, May 31


Daily News Stuff 31 May 2023

Rest Of The Owl Edition

Top Story

  • The current AI boom is the crypto boom of recent memory, except without even the benefits of libertarian wish-fulfilment.  The "AI bros" are just idiots:

    No, Kody, I've never wondered what the rest of the Mona Lisa looks like, because there is no rest of the Mona Lisa.

    His thread has accrued 6000 quote tweets so far, none of them kind.

Tech News

Disclaimer: And if it causes trouble you can always dispose of it in a vat of molten iron.

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