CAN I BE OF ASSISTANCE?
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Wednesday, September 20

Geek

Daily News Stuff 20 September 2023

Talk Like A Parrot Edition

Top Story

  • Intel announced its Meteor Lake 14th (?) generation laptop chips, due to launch December 14.  (AnandTech)

    Meteor Lake is a laptop-only design; on desktop we're getting warmed-over 13th generation designs this year.

    The laptop chips are built on Intel's new 4nm process - at least parts of them are.  Each CPU is made up of four smaller chiplets, which interestingly is something AMD does with its desktop CPUs but not with mainstream laptop parts.

    They come with new CPU cores - both the Performance and Efficiency cores have received updates - and a 33% larger GPU, which will move it from half the speed of AMD's current chips to two thirds.


Tech News



Disclaimer: On second thought, scratch all the ideas, I'm going to lunch.

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Tuesday, September 19

Geek

Daily News Stuff 19 September 2023

Volcanic Irruptions Edition

Top Story


Tech News

  • Speaking of sense in unexpected places, the CDC doesn't have any:
    Updated COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older and will be available by the end of this week at most places you would normally go to get your vaccines.
    But Australia:
    For younger people or older adults without severe immunocompromise who have already had a dose in 2023, no further doses are currently recommended. Their baseline risk of severe illness is low if they have already been vaccinated, and particularly if they have also had prior infection.1Therefore a further 2023 dose will offer little additional benefit even if it has been more than 6 months since their last dose.
    Australia's Department of Health doesn't recommend an additional booster for adults under 65 unless they are severely immunocompromised, or for children under any circumstances.

    You have to wonder how two health organisations can look at the same set of data and come to two so widely diverging opinions.


  • Tonga is filling up with scrap.  (ABC)

    With a booming economy comes garbage, and with a small island comes nowhere to put that garbage.

    You might be thinking, wait, doesn't Tonga have an active volcano?  Build a trebuchet and problem solved.

    Well, yes, it does, but (a) it just exploded and (b) the caldera is about 500 feet under water.  Perhaps not insurmountable issues but that does make it harder to recoup costs by making it a tourist attraction.


  • HyperDX is an open source alternative to DataDog, which is to say, a flexible monitoring platform for complex server environments.  (GitHub)

    I discussed DataDog briefly a while back after finding that the monitoring client was a 250MB download - 750MB installed - that included an entire Python runtime and who knows what else.

    After seeing that monstrosity I took at the matching client for StatusCake, which while somewhat less comprehensive was a single shell script that I could and did audit in under half an hour.

    The entire HyperDX codebase is a 5.6MB download.


  • AMD has announced its Epyc 8004 Zen 4c low-end server CPUs, codenamed Siena.  (AnandTech)

    "Low end" now goes up to 64 cores, it seems.

    These start at around $400 for an 8 core chip, which isn't bad considering they have six memory channels and 96 lanes of PCIe 5.

    But they also run at around half the clock speed of Ryzen desktop chips, so just to match a 16 core 7950X (around $600) you'd need a 32 core Epyc ($1900) and things don't get interesting until you get to the 48 core model ($2700).

    We'll have to wait and see what the pricing is like on Zen 4 Threadripper workstation parts, but since clock speeds will be higher I wouldn't expect prices to be lower.


  • Elon Musk has again floated the idea of charging a small fee for all Twitter users.  (Tech Crunch)

    He's focused on bots again, reasonably enough; they're a plague.  And charging any sort of monthly fee would eradicate them.

    Presumably these bots aren't using the official APIs and work by faking a web user, because the official APIs have already moved to paid plans (and absurdly expensive ones at that).

    The problem is, charging a monthly fee would eradicate the bots, but it would eradicate Twitter too.


Disclaimer: Did I say "problem"?  What I meant was...

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Monday, September 18

Geek

Daily News Stuff 18 September 2023

ChatGPT Or Not ChatGPT Edition

Top Story

  • ChatGPT is not coming for your programming job - unless you are a very bad programmer.  (Wired)

    Programming is hard.  Or rather, programming well is hard.

    It's rather like painting: Anyone can pick up a brush and do a quick doodle, but Rembrandts are far and few between.

    It's actually worse than painting: A painting just has to be pleasing to the eye to be passable (it requires more to be great, of course).  A program has to work.  And a program of even moderate complexity can be a machine with half a million interoperating components, every one of which exhibits non-linear response.
    FORTRAN was supposed to allow scientists and others to write programs without any support from a programmer. COBOL's English syntax was intended to be so simple that managers could bypass developers entirely. Waterfall-based development was invented to standardize and make routine the development of new software. Object-oriented programming was supposed to be so simple that eventually all computer users could do their own software engineering.
    None of that happened, because programming is a fairly specific skill.

    What did happen is that programmers could use these new tools to accomplish more complicated tasks more quickly.
    We've introduced more and more complexity to computers in the hopes of making them so simple that they don’t need to be programmed at all. Unsurprisingly, throwing complexity at complexity has only made it worse, and we're no closer to letting managers cut out the software engineers.
    ChatGPT - or its open-source successors, like ArbitraryCamelid-7B7 - could make a difference in certain areas such as feature tests and pen-testing.  But LLMs won't and can't by their nature replace programmers, because they don't understand what they are doing in the first place.

    The LLMs, I mean.  Often the programmers too, but the distinction is, not always.

    We'd require a different, older, and harder form of AI to do that, and right now nobody is even looking in that direction.


Tech News


Disclaimer: Bleah.

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Sunday, September 17

Geek

Daily News Stuff 17 September 2023

Hidash, Lodash, Everywhere You Go Dash Edition

Top Story

  • We're in a productivity crisis according to 52 years of data and things could get really bad.  (Medium)

    Really?
    Author Note: This article was written over 60 hours with love and care using the blockbuster mental model. If you want to create high-quality viral content using the blockbuster approach, I have two programs to help you.
    That doesn't answer my question.
    Heavy weight: I personally lead a year-long, small-group training. The 6th cohort starts in September 2023. To learn more, fill out this application.
    Or...  Does it?
    Light weight: With my Blockbuster Blueprint newsletter, you receive a daily 5-minute video lesson from a famous thought leader along with an easy way to apply it.
    Yeah, starting to get the picture here.
    I spent over 500 hours researching and writing this article. Those 500 hours were spent reading through dozens of books/studies in 10+ fields (history, economics, technology, philosophy of science, manufacturing, management, sociology, investing, innovation). I spent so much time because the topic was both much more interesting and complicated than I originally thought. And, as is the case with all of my writing on Medium, I use the blockbuster philosophy. This means I don't click publish unless I think it is one of the best articles that has been written on the topic.
    Yep, you're an idiot.

    The article itself can be summarised as: Trends that can't continue forever, won't.

    Which is a variation of Stein's Law, though expanded from six words to a few thousand (with diagrams and pull quotes) because as I noted, the author is an idiot.

Tech News

Disclaimer: Direct orbits into the Sun are surprisingly energy-intensive, but in this case the expense is worthwhile.

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Saturday, September 16

Geek

Daily News Stuff 16 September 2023

Developers Reacting Badly Edition


Top Story

  • After hiring a CEO from Electronic Arts, five time winner of the Most Hated Company in America, former beloved underdog Unity looks set to take the title itself: Developers react to new Unity pricing model. (The Verge)

    To say they are not happy is an understatement.


  • Are they even allowed to do that? (Ars Technica)

    Unity previously sent its customer base into an uproar with unwelcome license changes, and at the time they took steps to reassure users:

    • They added a clause to the effect that if a new license was detrimental to your company, you could continue working under the license in effect at the time the version of the software you are using was released.

    • They added a GitHub repo to publicly track any license changes so that you could see what changed and when, and which licenses were available to you.

    So...

    First they removed the GitHub repo so nobody could see what was going on.

    Then they removed the clause allowing you to remain on older licenses.

    Then they retroactively changed the license to add royalties to existing customers on perpetual royalty-free licenses.

    Who are, to nobody's surprise except apparently John Riccitiello, the aforementioned CEO from the Worst Company in the Universe, now preparing a class-action lawsuit.


  • Godot smiles.  (Godot Engine)

    Competing game engine Godot is released under the MIT License, which says, essentially, do whatever so long as you include the text of the license.

    How do they make money?  They have a donate button on their home page.

    Who is going to bother to donate?  Thousands of game developers just learned the difference between free-as-in-speech and free-as-in-the-first-dose.

Tech News

  • The tyranny of the marginal user.  (Nothing Human)

    If you put all your energy into attracting new users, your existing users will leave.

    Of course, if like Unity you put all your energy into alienating your existing users without attracting new ones, the same will happen, just faster.


  • No sacred masterpieces.  (Basta)

    Or, I built Excel in a web browser and my company ripped it out after a week.


  • Airtable is laying off 27% of its staff, after laying off 20% last December.  (Forbes)

    Airtable got its start - literally - by building Excel in a web browser.

    More recently it pivoted to codeless software, which is rather like wingless seagulls.

    Now it's pivoting to providing codeless software for large corporations, which are much slower to notice that the seagull they just purchased is unable to fly.

    Look for a pivot to government services within three years.


  • Looking for a small, silent computer with a decent array of ports?  The HUNSN (who?) BM34 is one.  (Liliputing)

    A quad-core 6W Intel N100 CPU powers the device - not fast but also not terrible, and it has 8 USB ports, two HDMI, two Ethernet (gigabit only), DisplayPort, two audio jacks, and built-in WiFi.

    It has room for one DDR4 SO-DIMM up to 16GB, two M.2 SSDs (one NVMe, one only SATA), and a 2.5" SSD or hard drive.  If you go with just SSDs it has no moving parts and will be completely silent.


  • Your computer didn't get slow.  Your operating system did.  (The Register)

    Running a twenty year old operating system on fifteen year old hardware is a revelation.


Disclaimer: Do not do what Unity do.

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Friday, September 15

Geek

Daily News Stuff 15 September 2023

Catch 2024 Edition

Top Story

  • California has passed its new right-to-repair legislation, the most stringent in the nation.  (Ars Technica)

    The legislation, backed by repair companies like iFixit and, uh, anti-repair companies like Apple, takes effect next July.  Products costing more than $50 will be covered for three years, and products costing over $100 will be covered for seven years.

    Staring on that date manufacturers are required to make available parts, tools, manuals, and software needed to repair devices sold after July 1 2021 - so it affects devices you've already bought as well as new ones.

    What's the catch?  Apple supports this, and Apple is the most aggressively anti-repair company in this or any other industry, so what gives?

    We won't see for a few months, but I can hazard a guess.  The law requires that replacement parts be made available, but it doesn't require that those replacement parts be in any way reasonable.

    "Oh, your MacBook's screen has failed and you need to replace a five-cent Hall effect sensor to fix it?  Here's a replacement lower case for $250, a replacement screen for $500, and a replacement motherboard because the other components are keyed to a chip soldered onto the motherboard for $1000.

    "Your laptop only cost $1099?  Too bad."


Tech News

  • The Khadas Mind Premium is a NUC for people with too much money.  (AnandTech)

    Who would probably buy a Mac anyway.  At $1099 I don't see them selling many.


  • Google has extended the update period for all Chromebooks to 10 years.  (Google)

    That's...  A lot better than it was before.  After 10 years laptops tend to be beat all to hell anyway, and much better options are available cheaply.

    I still don't trust Google, but it's a step in the right direction.


  • Loom's nightmare AWS outage.  (Overmind)

    It wasn't an AWS outage, but okay.

    They reconfigured their CDN and ended up caching API requests by path, ignoring parameters, leading to users getting responses meant for other users.

    Where have we seen that before?

    At my day job, we don't have a CDN in front of our API for precisely this reason, just a collection of firewalls and proxies that route and log requests but never cache anything.


  • Sony held it's PlayStation State of Play Event and announced...  Nothing.  (The Verge)

    Well, there are two new colours of the PS5, and you can't load your save game from part one of the FFVII remake into part two, but that's really it.


  • I've started watching Netflix's live action One Piece adaptation.  It's not bad.  Some of it rises to being genuinely good, but in these early episodes there's a lot of characters being introduced and it's a bit uneven.

    Technically it's mostly very good.  It is being made on a streaming budget rather than a movie budget, but that only shows here and there - imperfect compositing on a green screen shot, or a slightly awkward transition on location because they couldn't find a corridor and a corridor that matched up.

    The actors fit the roles, the story hasn't been hacked to pieces so far as I can tell, and they don't actively despise their audience.  8/10.  10/10 with rice.


Disclaimer: And it's gluten-free.

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Thursday, September 14

Geek

Daily News Stuff 14 September 2023

2FA Or Not 2FA Edition

Top Story

  • When MFA ain't. (Retool)

    MFA - multi-factor authentication - is when you need something you know (a password) plus something you have (a hardware authentication device) to log in to a critical piece of infrastructure.

    But hardware authentication devices are inconvenient, so we have authentication apps that run on our phones.

    And losing your authentication codes is inconvenient, so these apps sync to the cloud.

    And the cloud is where your email probably is, and where password reset requests go.

    Meaning that if you use the same cloud for your password resets and your authentication syncing, you don't have MFA anymore. Indeed, you have Sweet FA if someone gets into your email account.

    Good writeup by Retool in how they were hacked - and why their non-cloud customers weren't affected at all.

Tech News



Disclaimer: Or is it?

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Wednesday, September 13

Geek

Daily News Stuff 13 September 2023

The Lawsuits Must Roll Edition

Top Story

  • Intel has shown off its new Thunderbolt 5 controllers (though those won't actually arrive until next year) and announced details of the standard, most of which we already knew. (AnandTech)

    Also they lie about USB4, but what else is new?

    Thunderbolt 3 and 4 are the same speed - 40Gbps - and USB4 is based on Thunderbolt 3.

    Thunderbolt 5 doubles the speed to 80Gbps, and has a special mode for video where it can transfer 120Gbps in one direction and 40Gbps the other way. It has four lanes, and usually there's two in each direction, but if you're mainly using it in one direction it can dynamically configure itself as 3+1 instead of 2+2.

    With this you can run two 6k monitors from a single port.

    Other details I don't remember seeing previously are support for at least 140W power delivery, 64Gbps networking - though only really between two computers, since Thunderbolt network switches aren't a thing, and something welcome and a little surprising: It supports the new speeds on existing Thunderbolt 3 and 4 and USB 4 cables up to a distance of 1 metre.

    Beyond that you need active cables with tiny chips in them and those don't exist yet for Thunderbolt 5. The increased speeds are produced with the help of trinary encoding, while passive cables don't care that you're sending voltages of -1 / 0 / +1 instead of just 0 / 1, those tiny chips very much do.


Tech News

Disclaimer: Divided we stand, Unity must fall.

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Tuesday, September 12

Geek

Daily News Stuff 12 September 2023

Ice Ice Bagel Edition

Top Story

  • How ice is turning into an exotic and luxurious commodity.  (Axios)

    Ice?  What exactly do you mean by "ice"?  Obviously not frozen water, because even ignoring the polar ice caps, there's about 150 quadrillion kilograms of ice just sitting around in various glaciers.
    Ice — in exotically shaped cubes, boozy popsicles or suffusing your coffee —is having its moment in the zeitgeist.

    Why it matters: During a record hot summer when icebound places are melting rapidly, it makes sense that ice — a commodity we take for granted until it grows scarce — has turned chic.

    Oh.  You really do mean frozen water.
    By the numbers: More than 60% of Gen Z consumers ordered a cold coffee drink from a food service location in the first half of 2022, compared with 33% who ordered a hot coffee drink, says Mintel, the trend-spotting consultancy.
    Consuming nearly 0% of the world's non-renewable ice supply.
    At the same time, American tourists are getting scorned in Europe for their ice-loving ways. (In other cultures, ice is seen as taking valuable real estate away from the beverage at hand.)
    The European ice ration is two cubes per month, so this is not surprising.
    The bottom line: While the fancy ice trend is mostly about harmless fun, the growing prevalence of drought and water insecurity point to a future where ice will be at an ever-greater premium.
    Yeah, if you can't do first-grade level arithmetic.  And don't have object permanence, something that most babies develop by around six months.

    When you're talking to or otherwise dealing with journalists, treat them like an unusually stupid Cavalier King Charles spaniel that has recently been exposed to rabies and also sprayed by a skunk.

    They're certainly not human.



Tech News

Disclaimer: I draw the line at RPG II though.

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Monday, September 11

Geek

Daily News Stuff 11 September 2023

Amphisbaenic Edition

Top Story

  • Elon Musk is suing California over AB587, last year's content moderation legislation, alleging that the law amounts to censorship and violates the First Amendment.  (PC Magazine)

    The legislation does not directly mandate removal of any content, but does require social platforms to submit exhaustive reports of their content moderation policies and actions, broken down by the type of content (both the media type and the cause for the moderation), and the reporting mechanism (internal, community moderators, blatantly illegal government coercion, and so on).

    Is that legally censorship?  Let's ask the bill's author:
    California State Representative Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat and the bill's author, says that if Twitter has nothing to hide, they shouldn’t have any objections to the bill. "Assembly Bill 587 is a pure transparency measure that simply requires companies to be upfront about if and how they are moderating content. It in no way requires any specific content moderation policies – which is why it passed with strong, bipartisan support," Gabriel said in an emailed statement.
    He actually used the Nothing to Hide Argument?  Yeah, he's a communist.

    Does that mean Musk can prevail legally?  Don't know.

    Time to abandon California, Elon.  It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.


Tech News

Disclaimer: If it weren't for schadenfreude I'd have no freude at all.

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