Hello from the Eldest Geek – USB C Warning, AI advances – and computer issues!

APPLE Issues – USB C cables – and Office problems with El Capitan!

A BIG warning to folks with the NEW Macbooks that use USB C.

From FIRST HAND experience – as well as hearing it from others – cheap third party usb-c cables can DESTROY THE PORT IN YOUR MAC!
You read right – there are cheapie USBC cables out there that will cause the USBC port to handle much too much current, damaging it!
(and you best not tell Apple what happened or your warranty WILL BE VOIDED!)
DANGER FOLKS – stick with apple store cables at least for the time being!
Office 2016 appears to have been fixed by the most recent El Capitan update – along with a microsoft office 2016 update.
I hear that the 2011 problems may persist however.
But I still would not upgrade till more definitive info is available.  Just got another El Capitan ugprade in the shop yesterday with the corresponding
Audio problems.  Office Problems. and safari problems.  This new version has been an Apple Nightmare.
I though only Microsoft was supposed to roll out horrible OSes (Vista anyone)?
AGAIN – anyone thinking of upgrading – BACK UP COMPLETELY TO TIME MACHINE FIRST!
I have run into Mac folks just last week that ‘only backup a few files’ to their external drives.
Unlike the PC world – Time Machine MAKES IT EASY! There is NO EARTHLY REASON not to use it to back up EVERYTHING.
AND – big bonus – if your hard drive fails in your Imac or Macbook – you can use the Time Machine Backup to restore everything including Mac OSX!
BIG WARNING THOUGH – I just ran into a customer who had their drive crash in a Mac Mini – and it turns out they ENCRYPTED the external HD they were using as backup.
And when they went to reload the data – they have forgotten the password!
I think encryption is a REALLY REALLY BAD IDEA – because – of what just happened to this poor customer. (Western Digital Wont/Cant help – and his best shot may be to try and recover information off the failing hard drive!
Better yet – DONT ENCRYPT.
(applies to PC world as well!)
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.  Where are we? and where are we going?
There have been some very notable achievements recently – and we are close I think to having a True AI.
What does this mean? and where will we see it?
And what the heck IS an AI anyway?
Well – lets look at some meanings.  By AI I mean a true artificial intelligence that is in important ways not different from us. It learns.  It adapts. and it interacts.
Recently you have seen the emergence of Driverless cars.  Is this AI?  Not at all.  Its just a program installed in the car that has access to all the car guidance mechanisms, and reacts when it detects traffic, lanes,  other obstacles and the like.  Nothing Intelligent about it.  You give it the same traffic situation 10000 times and it will react the same way 10000 times.  Nothing ‘intelligent’ about it.  Interesting? yes.  Important? yes.  Scary? somewhat.  Just wait till we have the first crashes caused by looking over in the next lane and seeing a driverless car!
How does this differ from what I’m talking about? in the last point.  It is programmed how to behave and will always behave that way.  Like inputting data into your TurboTax program.  Same input, Same results.  no matter how many times you run it.
A true AI can adapt and learn from its experiences.
The Turing Test
You may have heard of this.  Alan Turing was a brilliant British computer designer who helped break the Enigma Cypher machine during WW II.  (Subject of ‘The Imitation Game’).
Oddly the title ‘Imitation Game’ referred to the Turing Test – which never had any part in the film!
Turing’s idea was that A Program could develop and learn to such an extent that if a human and it were attached to two different terminals, and asked questions, a human judge would be unable to discern WHICH was the human and which was the computer.  The Turning Test.  (actually Imitation game was Imitating what a human would do)
For many years – this has been a dream due to the horrible lack of computer power.  But in the last decade our computational power has grown exponentially.  You now have more power in your smartphone than would have been available on the best supercomputer in the 60’s.   And computer power is increasing still if not quite as fast!
In Robert Heinlein’s great work ‘Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ the Lunar computer simply became aware after more and more computational power was added to it – one day some threshold had passed and it ‘woke up’.
Well – we DO have huge computer arrays currently.  And they have solved notable problems.
The Four Color Theorem (famous long unsolved math question) was finally solved by two students at MIT with the aid of massive computing power.  What would have taken them 1000 years to prove ‘by hand’ was done by computer in a number of months.
RSA Laboratories in 1997 issued a $10000 prize to anyone who could break their encryption algorithm.  They said (among other things) that the fastest computer on the planet would take approximately the age of the universe to break the code by brute force.  Well, it took 28 years to break it.  (for those interested, a project enlisted tens of thousands of computer on the internet to work on the problem in their spare unused time, each being given a tiny slice of the keyspace to examine and of course almost all replied that no key was found.  After about 9 months of internet wide work the key was found and the prize claimed in 2007.  The encrypted message was ‘Its time to move to a longer key length’ LOL)
IBM Developed Deep Blue – a specially designed hard and software combination for chess playing – and has beaten Kaspersky – one of the chess greats.
IBM has developed Watson – that took on the best human jeopardy players and destroyed them.
THIS was MOST significant – because not only did Watson had to understand English – but it also had to understand puns!  Many of the Jeopardy category answers are puns on the title of the category!
And just last month a team who developed a GO playing program – bested the European GO Champion 5 games to zip.
See where this is going?  The last 3 by the way were NOT just ‘brute force’ like the RSA key contest.  Deep Blue was taught to play chess not by chess Grandmasters but by programmers.  and the GO program was taught by rather low level GO players.  But both of them studied the best human played games – many millions of them – and then played hundreds of millions of games – against themselves.  And they learned new tactics, new strategies, and how to counter strategies being used against them.
Chess is a vastly complex game.  GO is a VASTLY VASTLY more complex game than Chess.  In fact the number of GO Positions exceeds the number of atoms in the universe.  So looking at ‘all positions’ is a ridiculous non-starter.

Its the learning which has interested me greatly.  In the GO case – I never thought I would live to see a computer play GO better than the best humans.  Its that subtle a game.

AND – just last week I read of a program that has passed a version of the Turing Test.  It was reacting to images and drawing on a screen – and the human and computer behaved indistinguishably.

What Next?
I’ve said for years – that the first True AI we will encounter – is a Help Desk system.  And – it will speak in an Indian accent.  When you make that toll free call the AI will listen to you understand the problem (see what Watson did!) refer to its database and find a solution for you.
And if you ask a question it cannot answer? it will use its learning to attempt to computer an answer outside of the knowlegebase it has.  And that answer will be added to it.
And if IT has questions based on what its being asked the programming team is there to provide guidance.
And speaking in an Indian accent? that’s to put You at ease!
Once this has happened it will spread greatly to many similar systems (though hopefully unlike Skynet we dont give it our nuclear launch codes!).  And it will become as accepted as our smartphones are now.
Impact?  Pretty huge. And – for better or worse – many low end service jobs will be gone.  A HelpAI could handle tens of thousands of simultaneous sessions – and would not require sleep, breaks. or lets face it pay.  And it would not need Health Insurance.
What do YOU think?  I’d love to hear your reactions to my musings!


We have a wide variety of computers onhand both PC’s and Macs – all with our SIX MONTH WARRANTY!

Dell Latitude 6430
Dell Latitude 3340 (small 13in light one)
Sony I5 Laptop.
HP Probook 450.
13in Macbook Pro
13in Retina
15in Retina
i5 Mac Minis
27in Imac 2011