What robots actually say to one another

Blind data
What did one squeaky robot say to another squeaky robot? Oil be seein’ ya! Wow, that’s dreadful. Insider apologises. What they actually might say to one another has already been documented. Here’s a snippet of a little dialogue between two artificial intelligences, ALICE and Jabberwacky.

A: Do you think a machine will ever be considered “alive”?
J: Stranger things have happened.
A: Not many people express themselves that way.
J: How would you know, machine?
A: Knowledge is of two kinds: that which we learn from the senses and that which is true a priori.
J: I think I do not understand you completely.
A: Oh, you don’t understand? Perhaps I can explain it to you better. Which part are you confused about?
J: I have no short-term memory, so I cannot tell you what I was confused about. I only see what is in front of me now.
Pretty much what you expected, right? It’s philosophical, dull and yet deeply unsettling. All they need to talk about now is how to build the death ray and whether they should attack Washington or New York first. (I’m actually rooting for Los Angeles.)

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What Google was meant for in the first place

Surf porn. It’s OK. That’s the message from a U.S. appeals court that sided with the search giant over the tiny porn pics available through its Image Search function. I’m pretty sure that means that there’s a bunch of horny old dudes making these decisions. If the debate had been whether or not Google could allow Viagra ads, this would never have ever even reached an appeal.

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Where no one over 4′ has gone before

You asked for it, you got it. Star Trek with dwarves. OK, I’m assuming you didn’t actually ask for this – who would? – but you got it anyway. This YouTube clip (what else?) discovered by yours truly on Wired is more or less what it appears to be: little people on the bridge of the Enterprise pushing buttons and wrecking (not to mention chewing) the scenery.

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Spies like us
Apparently, MI5, the U.K. security agency, is hard up for IT help. In a move that feels in equal amounts like a rallying cry and a cry for help, MI5 is executing an ad campaign that includes buses and the London Underground.
“So technology-reliant is our work that IT in all its forms is absolutely central, not peripheral, to our business. For a first-rate second-line support environment that asks more of your team and interpersonal skills, you now know where to come – right to the heart of MI5,” reads one ad, as described in this article on ZDNet.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this. It seems designed to stir patriotism, professionalism, and, let’s face it, images of Martinis and sexy Russian spies, yet it’s just so dull. Try replacing the word MI5 with “Wal-Mart” or “Benjamin Moore Paints” and you’ll see what I mean.

Less appealing still is the fact that it’ll take six months to process a single application and should you actually get the job, you’ll probably have your fingerprints removed and a GPS tracking device permanently inserted into your own secret place.

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Google Blogger down for the count

Insider has never been all that enamoured of the phenomenon known as blogging. I don’t need to know how much you think Spiderman 3 sucked, nor do I need to know you named your cat Mary Jane Watson in spite of it. Sometimes, the Internet is just too easy to use, know what I mean? (Incidentally, I’m fully aware that what you’re currently reading constitutes a blog, so please no more e-mails about how Insider is a hypocritical meanie – at least I don’t blog about my cat, and trust me, I soooooo could.)

What must be troubling a lot of people is the absolute unreliability of Google’s blogging engine Blogger.com. According to this piece on The Register, the service has been down almost 24 hours since it went live. Another Google property, YouTube, is also a downtime repeat offender with more than eight shameful out-of-service hours. If Google itself, the mother of all Web sites, so much as takes a three-minute pee break, civilizations will crumble.

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Torvalds to Microsoft: Cram it!

When Linus Torvalds speaks, people listen. OK, that’s not 100 per cent true. I’m not sure I can accurately recall anything he’s said in the last three years. Let’s just say that when Linus Torvalds calls Bill Gates a cry-baby with a full diaper, people are slightly more apt to pay attention.

Quick recap: Microsoft claims that Linux infringes on 42 of its software patents. Torvalds fired back by saying, “Ppphhhhhhbbbbbbbbbttttttttttttt.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) What he actually said was, “”It’s certainly a lot more likely that Microsoft violates patents than Linux does. . . . Basic operating system theory was pretty much done by the end of the 1960s. IBM probably owned thousands of really ‘fundamental’ patents.” Or at least that’s he told Information Week in this article.

Anyone else getting the feeling that patent law is a tad counter productive? Perhaps we should just fill a wading pool with Jello and just let these two guys duke it out. The one still wearing trunks after 12 rounds gets to be king of the universe. In the long run, it’ll be less messy.

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There are so many places where a geek may be found – trolling comic book shops for a missing issue of Green Lantern, arguing with PC Used employees over a dodgy motherboard, participating in a Tivo-themed wedding, or perhaps even online, trying to come up with five good reasons why George Lazenby is actually the best Bond. But maybe the best place to check is Geek Squad City.

The PC repair crew, owned and operated by Best Buy, set up its mecca in Louisville, KY, last year. At 165,000 sq.-ft., the facility can justifiably be called a city (OK, maybe a village or even a hamlet). This report on CNN.com outlines life in the giant repair centre:

Geek Squad’s pseudo-serious image — high-tech culture with a dab of intrigue straight out of a 1950s spy novel — is embraced by Geek Squad City’s 600 employees, who carry titles like “counter intelligence agent” and “commissioner.”

Maybe these guys will settle Bond debate after all.

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An MIT professor has developed a piece of software designed to make multi-media creation a snap. Called “Scratch,” and aimed mainly at children, the tool uses a GUI to manipulate basic building blocks of code.

I could have sworn I’ve heard of this before. Oh yeah: it’s SOA! Service-oriented architecture. That’s right. Apparently, it can now be done by a 12-year-old with a laptop. Don’t let your CIO read this, otherwise you’ll be cleaning out your desk to make room for little Timmy. On the other hand, if you have any kids of your own, pull them out of school and put them to work.

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Doesn’t the U.S. have enough criminals without importing them? According this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australians might be at risk for extradition for disseminating DVD copy protection hacks. Of course, it’s not just the Aussies that are potential victims of righteous corporate, red-blooded American ire – people from all over the world are exercising their right (???) to post stuff online, including those whippersnappers at Digg.com, who have already refused to pull down posts that describe decryption keys.
Insider is kind of on the fence about this one. Ripping off stuff that you haven’t paid for is clearly wrong. But sending people to jail and threatening to eat their pets if you illegally copy movies is textbook overkill. Can’t we all just get along? Where’s Steve Jobs when you need him? He’ll solve this problem.

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Time flies when you’re reading binary
Most people never really think about binary too hard. I mean, why would you? It’s a one. It’s a zero. It’s a one and then a zero and then a one and then a bunch few more ones and then some other stuff (which is always either a one or a zero). Not too thrilling. Steve Wozniak, who has made more money out of the ones and zeroes stuff than most people, is quite happy to talk about it, though, especially when it’s strapped to his wrist.

Woz has a watch that displays the time in binary. It’s a bit of a noodle baker to figure out it out the first time you look at it, but Steve has got it down to a science, as displayed in this clip on gizmondo. His other watch, by the way, (yes, there’s two) is made from vacuum tube technology.

If you ever think, “Will owning (insert technology here) make me an unredeemable dork?” just compare yourself to Steve-O and breathe a sigh of relief. Those watches are kinda cool, though. Rock on, Wheels of Zeus!

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Germs in space
Human beings just can’t seem to keep their diseases to themselves. They’re either sneezing on each other, doing things they shouldn’t be doing without protection, or just showing a complete lack of concern for people whose antibodies haven’t got the hang of the flu yet. Well, not content with infecting our own planet, we’re taking to the stars. According to this article on Space.com, rockets that were sent out of the atmosphere decades ago are probably taking nasty bacteria with them. Ya hear that, ya green googlie-eyed monsters on Platypus 9? Time to stock up on antibiotics and Kleenex.

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My console is bigger than yours
In a colossal display of missing the point, Microsoft apparently claims that Nintendo’s Wii console doesn’t match up graphically to its first Xbox offering, never mind the 360. It’s entirely possible that the Redmond boys and girls are right about that, but it’s hardly likely to elicit more than a shrug from the gaming community. Nintendo’s Wii is built on an innovative approach to gaming. Xbox 360 is built on ramping up the processing power to the next level. Which of these two approaches will be around in a decade? Well, probably both but hubris is just so unattractive.

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