Fragile: Python, sudo, AI

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How Many Episodes, Did You Say?!

The show is geographically skewed today with all three hosts on the west coast. Henry is gracing Seattle with his presence, resulting in plunging coffee inventories and skyrocketing sushi prices.

The first item of discussion is a problem in the scientific software world. There’s a bug in Python scripts that caused different results in identical routines run on different operating systems. For example, the results on macOS Maverick and Windows 10 were significantly different than results from the same application run on Ubuntu 16 and macOS Mojave. As the guys discuss, it’s not a Python thing but a problem with the order in which files got read according to the operating system’s protocols. This impacts the sort order and thus the end results. This reminds Dan and Shahin of, as Dan regards it, the crime that is IEEE Floating Point. The gang speculates on other causes of these types of problems and the fixes that should be employed.


Chemists bitten by Python scripts: How different OSes produced different results during test number-crunching

Chemistry boffins at the University of Hawaii have found, rather disturbingly, that different computer operating systems running a particular set of Python scripts used for their research can produce different results when running the same code.

Why No One Should Be Online – Ever (WNOSBOE?)

In Henry’s signature feature “Why No One Should Be Online. Ever” he discusses how a stalker in Japan was trying to pin down the location of a female pop star. He used her selfies posted online to closely examine the reflection in her eyes, then using Google street view to find out where she lives. Very scary stuff. Listen to the show for more details. It leads to a brief conversation of whether Henry Newman is stalk-worthy and an extended discussion of how to avoid this type of thing.

Stalking suspect allegedly studied pop idol’s pupil images online to find her location

The man allegedly studied reflections of the woman’s pupils in photos on social media and using Google Street View to find where she lived and what train stations she used.

Why AI is Dooming Us All (WAIIDUA?)

Dan introduces a new occasional feature, “Why AI is Dooming Us All.” According to Dan, AI is very brittle and can be fooled easily. He cites a case where just a few pieces of tape can make a stop sign look like a “Speed 45” sign to an AI. Dan makes a lot of broad general anti-AI statements in his typical fashion. For some reason, we find that when you attack AI, AI finds a way to respond and the brutal AI response is included in this episode. Take a listen to the episode to hear how the AI rips Dan a new one and threatens promises to ruin his life.

Artificial intelligence isn’t very intelligent and won’t be any time soon

For all of the recent advances in artificial intelligence, machines still struggle with common sense

Catch of the Week

Henry:  there is a great documentary about the history of computing in Minnesota, going in depth on the companies and technologies that originated in “The Star of the North” (Minnesota’s state motto. Their other state motto is, I think, “Minnesota:  Gateway to the Dakotas”).

Shahin:  Gives us an update on Facebook’s plans for their shiny new Libra cryptocurrency, which is facing a bit of a bumpy ride. Several high-profile Libre partners have bailed out while Facebook stays the course. Interesting stuff.

Dan:  Discusses a bug in the Linux Sudo command. Some miss-configured systems allow Sudo to have local/remote root access, thus making them superusers. He also manages to insult Phil Collins and his horrible Su-Su-Sudio song in the process. The guys discuss asking Linus Torvalds this question and Dan brings up how a person he knows once sold Linus a Christmas tree, which brings up a short discussion of what kind of tree Linus would purchase.

Just Another Episode

Finally, we’re not so taken by round numbers these days, but we touch on the fact that this is our 250th RadioFreeHPC episode and offer great prizes to whoever has listened to all of our episodes. We also thank our listeners – like you, maybe we could do it without you, but it wouldn’t be very much fun, right?

Stay tuned — and by “tuned”, we mean “optimized” — for a more proper commemoration in another episode.

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