[Fri Mar 24 13:44:49 CDT 2017]

Here is one of those pesky little things that may make you scratch your head for a while:

$ git stash show stash@{1}
fatal: ambiguous argument 'stash@1': unknown revision or path not in the working tree.
Use '--' to separate paths from revisions, like this:
'git  [...] -- [...]'
The problem is the shell itself interpreting the square brackets. Just quote the argument like this:
$ git stash show "stash@{1}"
{link to this entry}

[Thu Mar 23 17:43:06 CDT 2017]

I believe I have brought up this issue over here several times before. In any case, this article on why kids truly cannot use computers is a good read. Yes, I know. We all hear over and over again that young people these days are "digital natives" and "they know more about computers than their teachers and their parents", but it is not true. Yes, they may use digital devices of all sorts all the time, but that doesn't mean that they know how they work or how to solve any problem they may run into. Far from it. As the author states:

If you teach IT or Computing, this is a phrase that you'll have heard a million times, a billion times, epsilon zero times, aleph one times. Okay I exaggerate, but you'll have heard it a lot. There are variants of the phrase, all espousing today's children's technical ability. My favourite is from parents: 'Oh, Johnny will be a natural for A-Level Computing. He's always on his computer at home.' The parents seem to have some vague concept that spending hours each evening on Facebook and YouTube will impart, by some sort of cybernetic osmosis, a knowledge of PHP, HTML, JavaScript and Haskell.

The truth is, kids can't use general purpose computers, and neither can most of the adults I know. There's a narrow range of individuals whom, at school, I consider technically savvy. These are roughly the thirty to fifty year-olds that have owned a computer for much of their adult lives. There are, of course, exceptions amongst the staff and students. There are always one or two kids in every cohort that have already picked up programming or web development or can strip a computer down to the bare bones, replace a motherboard, and reinstall an operating system. There are usually a couple of tech-savvy teachers outside the age range I've stated, often from the Maths and Science departments who are only ever defeated by their school laptops because they don't have administrator privileges, but these individuals are rare.

Anyways, it's a good read. As usual, most truisms are simply not true. {link to this entry}

[Thu Mar 23 17:33:26 CDT 2017]

An interesting rant on why password rules don't work and what to do about it. {link to this entry}

[Thu Mar 23 17:18:24 CDT 2017]

I have been meaning to write for a while now about a news article published by Business Insider sometime ago explaining that a new form of AI at Google learned to become "highly aggressive" in stressful situations:

The Google team ran 40 million turns of a simple 'fruit gathering' computer game that asks two DeepMind 'agents' to compete against each other to gather as many virtual apples as they could.

They found that things went smoothly so long as there were enough apples to go around, but as soon as the apples began to dwindle, the two agents turned aggressive, using laser beams to knock each other out of the game to steal all the apples.


The researchers suggest that the more intelligent the agent, the more able it was to learn from its environment, allowing it to use some highly aggressive tactics to come out on top.

"This model ... shows that some aspects of human-like behavior emerge as a product of the environment and learning," one of the team, Joel Z Leibo, told Matt Burgess at Wired.

"Less aggressive policies emerge from learning in relatively abundant environments with less possibility for costly action. The greed motivation reflects the temptation to take out a rival and collect all the apples oneself."


And while these are just simple little computer games, the message is clear —put different AI systems in charge of competing interests in real-life situations, and it could be an all-out war if their objectives are not balanced against the overall goal of benefitting us humans above all else.

That's some scary thought. Here is a short video showing the agents in blue and red, the apples in green, and the laser beams in yellow:

{link to this entry}

[Thu Mar 23 17:16:10 CDT 2017]

Now, this is sort of cool. As it turned out, the OpenBSD folks also release the artwork and a matching song with each new release. Who ever said that hackers are not creative? {link to this entry}

[Thu Mar 16 15:41:21 CDT 2017]

Here is an interesting news piece I read on Computer World: according to the NSA and the DOE, China's supercomputing advances are putting the US lead at risk. Among other things, the article explains:

Advanced computing experts at the National Security Agency and the Department of Energy are warning that China is "extremely likely" to take leadership in supercomputing as early as 2020, unless the U.S. acts quickly to increase spending.

China's supercomputing advances are not only putting national security at risk, but also U.S. leadership in high-tech manufacturing. If China succeeds, it may "undermine profitable parts of the U.S. economy," according to a report titled U.S. Leadership in High Performance Computing by HPC technical experts at the NSA, the DOE, the National Science Foundation and other agencies.


Indeed, the report says that "assuming status quo conditions, the meeting participants believe that a change in HPC leadership was extremely likely, with only minor disagreement on the timescale; many suggested that China would be leading the U.S. as early as 2020."


The report makes three overarching observations about China's Sunway TaihuLight system, which at 93 petaflops, is ranked first on the Top500 list of supercomputers.

The TaihuLight supercomputer is "homegrown," and includes processors that were designed and fabricated in China. The Chinese chip design "includes architectural innovations," and was designed using "a true co-design approach" where the applications are tuned to take advantage of the chip design, the report said.

The machine "is not a stunt," the report notes, meaning China didn't develop this system for bragging rights. The machine "is being used for cutting edge research," and three of the six finalists for the Gordon Bell Prize, the top research award in HPC, were the result of Chinese efforts.

To me, one of the issues that amazes me the most is how, in spite of all the evidence, we continue firmly believing here in the West that the free market is the only (and the best) way to organize an efficient economy. Simply put, that is not true. Neither the US nor Europe ever had a pure free market economy. Or at least they haven't in many decades (if ever!). And, to make it worse, both Russia and China are clearly proving that it is possible to run a powerful economy with a strong intervention from the government. As a matter of fact, it's about the only way to do it if you care about the long-term. The market forces, truly, only pay attention to the short term gains. Yet, we appear to be thoroughly convinced by our own propaganda from the Cold War. Oh, well. {link to this entry}

[Thu Mar 16 15:20:13 CDT 2017]

I recently had to do this, and thought that it might be useful to other people. Here are the directions to move the music files from Amazon to an SD card on an Android device. {link to this entry}

[Wed Mar 15 09:50:24 CDT 2017]

I was recently toying around with the Tor browser on Debian 8 (jessie), and ran into a scary signature veritication failure message. It's a bug. The following command fixed it:

$ gpg --homedir "$HOME/.local/share/torbrowser/gnupg_homedir/" --refresh-keys \
 --keyserver pgp.mit.edu
{link to this entry}

[Wed Mar 15 08:41:40 CDT 2017]

Now, this is an interesting weather service in plain ASCII mode. Yes, you can view it on your browser. However, the nice thing about it is that you can also use the service from the command line (and, therefore, add it to your own scripts). For example, run:

{link to this entry}

[Wed Mar 8 08:50:06 CDT 2017]

There are days that truly feel like April Fools Day, even though it is not. So, today we read that Microsoft has decided to put ads in the Windows 10 File Explorer. As a friend said upon hearing about it, the interesting (and non-intuitive) thing is that the operating system one pays for now includes ads, while the ones that are free (e.g., Linux, or FreeBSD) do not. Interesting paradox. {link to this entry}