A brain does not work like a computer chip

mybrainhurtsAccording to the BBC, a processor is the brain of a computer, but it seems that the hardware has neuroscientists baffled.

A paper published in PLOS Computational Biology wondered if more information is the same thing as more understanding. Eric Jonas of the University of California, Berkeley, and Konrad Kording of Northwestern University, in Chicago, who both have backgrounds in neuroscience and electronic engineering, reasoned that a computer was a good way to test the analytical toolkit used by modern neuroscience. However they had to admit that they were wrong.

They took an MOS Technology 6502 chip which was first produced in 1975 and famous for powering, among other things, early Atari, Apple and Commodore computers. It has 3,510 transistors and is simple enough to create simulation that can model the electrical state of every transistor, and the voltage on every one of the thousands of wires connecting those transistors to each other, as the virtual chip runs a particular program.

The simulation produces about 1.5 gigabytes of data a second—a large amount, but well within the capabilities of the algorithms currently employed to probe the mysteries of biological brains.

But brain science and electronic science started to diverge in the test. For example if you damage part of the brain you know what is going to be stuffed up. A chip though comes up with false positives.

Disabling one particular group of transistors prevented the chip from running the boot-up sequence of “Donkey Kong but allowed it to run other games.

If it were a brain you would think that transistors were thus uniquely responsible for “Donkey Kong” but the reality is that it is just part of a circuit which implements a much more basic computing function that is crucial for loading one piece of software, but not some others.

The bofins  looked for correlations between the activity of groups of nerve cells and a particular behavior but when they tried to apply this to the chip, the researchers’ algorithms found five transistors whose activity was strongly correlated with the brightness of the most recently displayed pixel on the screen.

Jonas and Kording know that these transistors are not directly involved in drawing pictures on the screen and they are only involved in the trivial sense that they are used by some part of the program which is ultimately deciding what goes on the screen.

Jonas said that neuroscience techniques failed to find many chip structures that the researchers knew were there, and which are vital for comprehending what is actually going on in it.

In fact, all the neuroscientists’ algorithms could detect in the chip was the master clock signal, which co-ordinates the operations of different parts of the chip.
In short, computers and brains have got as much in common as a packet of crisps has with the Empire State Building. This means that the BBC will have to find a new simile.

Mark Zuckerburg becomes the evil land magnet

railway trackIt appears that social notworking magnet Mark Zuckerburg has been watching a few too many black and white melodramas and has cast himself as a bad-guy with the big black mustache.

Zuckerburg owns 700 acres of land in Hawaii which he thinks isn’t enough, but has decided he wants more and has filed a lawsuit to force owners of several small parcels of land to sell to the highest bidder.

Now, these property owners are completely surrounded by Zuckerberg’s land holdings and therefore have lawful easement to cross his property to get to theirs. Landowners such as these came to own their land when their ancestors were “given” the land as Hawaiian natives.

Many of these land owners have held their land for generations, Zuckerberg does not want them around and he has piles of cash to make sure they don’t.

If successful in his “quiet title” court action, Mr. Zuckerberg will finally have his slice of Hawaii’s beaches and tropical lands without having to deal with the pesky presence of neighbours who were on his land before he owned it.

The court is a much better tool than having to tie a woman to the railroad tracks to get you way.

3D telly dropping fast

Tigre-3DThe last two telly makers to support the standard are giving up on 3D this year

LG and Sony have decided to kill off the standard this year. None of their TVs, including the high-end OLED TV models, will be able to show 3D movies and TV shows.

The 3D feature has been offered on select televisions since 2010, when the theatrical success of “Avatar” in 3D helped encourage renewed interest in the technology.

Despite enthusiasm at the box office and years of 3D TVs being available at affordable prices, the technology never really caught on at home.

There are plenty of 3D Blu-ray discs still being released, such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” but if you want to watch them at home you’ll need a TV from 2016 or earlier — or a home theatre projector.

Sales of 3D home video gear have declined every year since 2012. According to data from the NPD Group, 3D TV represents just eight percent of total TV sales dollars for the full year of 2016, down from 16 percent in 2015 and 23 percent in 2012. Native 3D-capable Blu-ray players fell to just 11 percent of the market in 2016, compared to 25 percent in 2015 and 40 percent in 2012.

The big problem is that while people like 3D they never use it because of the arsing around with glasses.  Higher quality pictures using 4K have made the picture good and most people are happy with what they see.

Going to the movies and seeing 3D is a different concept and people are happier to have that experience.

 

Galileo’s clocks are a bit broken

salvador-dali-persistence-of-memory-clocks-meaningOnboard atomic clocks that drive the satellite navigation signals on Europe’s Galileo network have been failing at an alarming rate.

Half of 18 satellites now in orbit have seen their clocks stop working.

Three are traditional rubidium devices; six are the more precise hydrogen maser instruments that were designed to give Galileo superior performance to the GPS network.

A decision must now be made about whether to suspend the launch of further spacecraft while the problem  is investigated.

Prof Jan Woerner, the director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), told a meeting with reporters: “Everybody is raising this question: should we postpone the next launch until we find the root cause, or should we launch?

“You can give both answers at the same time. You can say we wait until we find the solution but that means if more clocks fail we will reduce the capability of Galileo. But if we launch we will at least maintain if not increase the [capability], but we may then take the risk that a systematic problem is not considered. We are right now in this discussion about what to do.”

Each Galileo satellite carries two rubidium and two hydrogen maser clocks. The multiple installation enables a satellite to keep working after an initial failure.

All 18 spacecraft currently in space continue to operate, but one of them is now down to just two clocks.

Most of the maser failures (5) have occurred on the satellites that were originally sent into orbit to validate the system, whereas all three rubidium stoppages are on the spacecraft that were subsequently launched to fill out the network.

Esa is also in contact with the Indian space agency which is using the same clocks in its sat-nav system. So far, the Indians have not experienced the same failures.

It is possible that the failures are linked to probable short circuits, and possibly a test performed on the ground.

Tosh takes another kick in the nadgers

Toshiba Corp President and Chief Executive Officer Hisao Tanaka attends a news conference on panel to examine accounting issues in Tokyo May 15, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Troubled tech giant Toshiba saw its financial crisis deepen as reports suggest that it might have to  book a bigger-than-expected $6 billion writedown on its U.S. nuclear business.

The fear is that any restructuring it does, including the sale of a stake in its chip business will be sufficient to address fix the company. Toshiba has also approached government-backed Development Bank of Japan (DBJ) for help which is a bad sign.

Toshiba executives will sit down with representatives from its main banks to discuss possible support. Things might not be that bleak. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking told a briefing the lender would like to support Toshiba as much as possible. The other banks have not commented.

Tosh was battered by an accounting scandal in 2015, and assaulted by write down cost overruns at projects handled by a newly acquired US nuclear power plant construction firm. All that remains is for the company to be liberally covered in vinegar and will have had its chips. Actually it will have to sell its chips which makes the whole fish and chip analogy redundant.

Sources familiar with the matter had previously flagged the size of the expected charge at more than $4.4 billion. Kyodo news agency and other domestic media said that estimates had now ballooned due to unfavorable currency rates.

 

Samsung boss goes free for now

 downloadA South Korean court dismissed an arrest warrant against the head of Samsung amid a graft scandal that has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

Jay Lee, 48, may still be charged as the special prosecutor’s office said it could pursue the case but at the moment he is not looking like he will have to go on an all porridge diet. The South Korean system means that once you have been arrested you are locked up until your trial.

The judge said in a statement on his ruling that an arrest was not necessary – for now.

“After reviewing the contents and the process of the investigation so far … it is difficult to acknowledge the necessity and substantiality of an arrest at the current stage,” he said.

If the special prosecutor gets its way Lee will face the same charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury, just will not try to lock him up before the trial.

The special prosecutor’s office said it would be continuing its probe but had not decided whether to make another arrest warrant request, and the setback would not change its plans to investigate other conglomerates.

Spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said the prosecution was unconvinced by the Samsung chief’s argument that he was a victim of coercion due to pressure from Park.

The spokesman also said Samsung Group Vice Chairman Choi Gee-sung had been classified as a suspect on suspicion of bribery, but did not elaborate further. Two other Samsung officials, Choi’s deputy Chang Choong-ki and Samsung Electronics executive Park Sang-jin, were also under investigation.

The office has accused Lee of paying multi-million dollar bribes to Park’s confidant, Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the heart of the scandal, to win support from the National Pension Service for a controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung Group affiliates.

The merger helped cement Lee’s control over the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals business empire. He has denied it all.

Samsung said in an emailed statement that it appreciated “the fact that the merits of this case can now be determined without the need for detention”.

However, the case has highlighted the sharp division between how the system treats big business people and how it deals with the great unwashed.

The public is muttering that the law is not equal for all and if you run a big corporate you can get away with anything.

Dutch web developer back-doored his own websites

13.-Hacker-1-696x464A Dutch developer accessed the accounts of over 20,000 users after he collecting their login information via backdoors installed on the websites he built.

Inspector Knacker of the Dutch Yard said that he will be on the blower to the victims about the crook’s actions.

He was arrested on 11, 2016, in Zwolle, the Netherlands, and police proceeded to raid two houses the crook owned, in Leeuwarden and Sneek [surely sneak.ed].

Police say they received the first tips regarding the crook’s actions in November 2014, when a user complained about finding purchases someone else made on his behalf.

It looked like a cyber-fraud investigation but after two years of gathering data and expanding the investigation’s scope with the addition of digital forensics experts in the spring of 2016, realised what the crook was doing.

The 35-years-old suspect was hired to build e-commerce sites for various companies. After doing his job, the developer left backdoors in those websites, which he used to install various scripts that allowed him to collect information on the site’s users.

Police say that it’s impossible to determine the full breadth of his hacking campaign, but evidence found on his laptop revealed he gained access to over 20,000 email accounts.

The hacker used his access to these accounts to read people’s private email conversations, access their social media profiles, sign-up for gambling sites and access online shopping sites to make purchases for himself using the victim’s funds.

The suspect has been in jail since his arrest, and his pre-trial proceedings started last October.

 

Assange caught out on another bluff

Julian AssangeJulian Assange has back tracked on another bluff he made with the American government.

Assange said that if the US let Chelsea Manning go, he would turn himself in.

At the same time, it made him look like Assange cared about Manning, despite mostly ignoring the person who made him and Wikileaks famous. He was on safe ground with this promise.  He thought that the US would never let Manning go in a month of Sundays.

Yesterday though, President Barak Obama reduced Manning’s sentence to the point where she will be out in May. This is a 120 day transition period, which gives people time to prepare and find somewhere to live,

But Assange is using that lag to once again avoid facing the music on his rape case.

Assange’s lawyers initially seemed to suggest that promise would be carried through  but it appears now that Assange will stay inside the embassy where it is nice and safe and no-one will charge him with rape.

Barry Pollack, Assange’s US-based attorney said that while Assange welcomed the announcement that Ms. Manning’s sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought.

“Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.”

Since this is physically impossible, the whole “I will be extradited if Manning is let go” was all a PR stunt in which Assange once again tried to milk Manning’s bravery as a whistle-blower to draw attention to himself.

Julian Assange has been inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since summer 2012, refusing to meet prosecutors in Sweden, where he is wanted on a rape allegation. He has said that he fears that if he leaves he will be extradited to the US on espionage charges.

However, Assange does not face extradition to the US. Authorities and Wikileaks lawyers have refused to state whether such an extradition has requested, and this threat is entirely in Assange’s own head. If the US had wanted Assange gracing its cells it would have got an extradition when he was in the UK. If anything, Sweden is less likely to grant the US an extradition under those circumstances than the UK.

FTC sues Qualcomm for antitrust antics

monopoly (1)The US Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm saying that the outfit had used “anticompetitive” tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones.

The FTC said that Qualcomm used its dominant position to impose “onerous” supply and licensing terms on smartphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors.

Qualcomm said in a statement that it would “vigorously contest” the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips to collect unreasonable licensing fees.

The action is the last under current Democratic Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, who will step down soon after President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump takes office.

Trump will name Republican Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen as acting FTC chairwoman and will fill three vacancies that will reshape the agency. She has previously said that the lawsuit was based on a “flawed legal theory … that lacks economic and evidentiary support”.

In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and entering an exclusive deal with Apple.

“Qualcomm’s customers have accepted elevated royalties and other license terms that do not reflect an assessment of terms that a court or other neutral arbiter would determine to be fair and reasonable,” the FTC said in its complaint.

In February 2015, Qualcomm paid a $975 million fine in China following a 14 month probe, while the European Union in December 2015 accused it of abusing its market power to thwart rivals.

 

AT&T kills off first iPhone

apple_iphoneIn an end of an error (surely era Ed.), AT&T has shut down its 2G service and finally killed off the first-generation iPhone.

The 2G shutdown has been planned for a few years  and judging by the lack of outcry from Apple fanboys when the network stopped working there can’t be many people still able to get Steve Jobs’ pivotal shiny toy to go. To be fair it is ten years and Apple normally expects people to replace their phone after one.

AT&T notes that the 2G shut down will free up resources and spectrum bandwidth for the network to use for future rollouts of more advanced wireless solutions like 5G down the line.

Of course, the Apple fanboy could move to Blighty, where 2G is still going. In fact some remote areas are only covered by 2G because it is reasoned that some coverage is better than nothing.

Even within more urban and populated areas that have substantial 3G coverage, there is still a large dependence on the reliability of 2G.