Artificial Intelligence – Debunking Myths

Exploring around the interwebs, I came across this article by Rupert Goodwins in ArsTechnica about debunking myths about Artificial Intelligence. 

HAL 9000 in the film 2001.

It is a good read and it you have a few minutes to spare, do give it a go.

Rupert addresses the following myths:

  1. AI’s makes machines that can think.
  2. AI will not be bound by human ethics.
  3. AI will get out of control
  4. Breakthroughs in AI will all happen in sudden jumps.

It is true that there are a number of effort to try to replicate (and therefore understand) human thought. Some examples include the Blue Brain project in the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. However, this does not imply that they will get immediately a machine such as HAL or C3-PO.

This is because the brain is fat more complex than the current efforts are able to simulate. As a matter of fact, even simpler brains are significantly more complex for simulation. This does not mean that we should not try to understand and learn how brains work.

Part of the problem is that it is difficult to even define what we mean by “thought”— the so called hard problem. So finding a solution to the strong AI problem is not going to be here soon, but we should definitely try.

So, once that myth is out of the way, the idea that a Terminator-like robot is around the corner is put into perspective. Sure, there are attempts at getting some self-driving cars and such but we are not quite there yet. All in all, it is true that a number of technological advances can be used for good or bad causes, and that is surely something that we all should bear in mind.

Changing date/time in Ubuntu virtualbox

I was a bit puzzled by the fact I could not easily change the date/time in an instance of a virtualbox as used by the High Performance Scientific Computing Coursera course run by Dr. Randall J. LeVeque via Coursera.

I tried using the simple date command but I kept on being told that

date: cannot set date: Operation not permitted

I tried updating the Ubuntu distro, but no luck. Eventually I found a solution using a symlink to localtime:

$ cd /etc
$ mv localtime localtime_original
$ ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/London ./localtime

You will have to use the correct zone for your location. Et voilà!

Ubuntu-Desktop
Ubuntu-Desktop
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Getting Gephi 0.8.2 to work with a Mac

Facebook Network Visualized with Gephi
Facebook Network Visualized with Gephi (Photo credit: yaph)

Ever since the previous Java update for the mac, my Gephi installation was not happy. I resorted to uninstalling version 0.8.2-beta and going back to 0.8.1. Not a bad version, but definitely not one with the latest updates. Well, at least it worked, did not freeze or panicked when trying to click on the menus. :D

I am very pleased to say that I have managed to get my installation of Gephi 0.8.2-beta working and here it is how:

Edit the contents of the package located in

/Applications/gephi_0.8.2-beta.app/Contents/Resources/gephi/bin/gephi

To do so you can right-click on the Gephi application and open “Show Package Contents”. You can then navigate to the location mentioned above. I used Aquamacs to edit the file, but you can use your favourite plain-text editor.

Towards the beginning of the file add the following line:

jdkhome="/System/Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/1.6.0.jdk/Contents/Home"

Save the file and start Gephi as usual. This did the trick for me. I would like to credit the GitHub page for Gephi were I ended up connecting the dots.

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Aquaterm plotting issue with Octave and Gnuplot (Mac)

Octave Mac

I recently updated my version of Octave using Homebrew and something went a bit eerie… Nothing major except that instead of plotting to the Aquaterm terminal, Octave and Gnuplot were only happy with X11. Not the greatest of issues, but I really prefer the look of graphs in Aquaterm and here are some steps I followed to get things sorted:

First I uninstalled gnuplot from Homebrew using:

brew uninstall gnuplot

Just in case the problem was with AquaTerm I re-downloaded it and installed it again. You can obtain AquaTerm here. I then reinstalled gnuplot just to realise that some symlinks were not created. You can check them thy typing:

ls /usr/local/lib/libaquaterm*
ls /usr/local/include/aquaterm/*

If they do not, you can set them up by typing the following commands in your shell:

sudo ln -s /Library/Frameworks/AquaTerm.framework/Versions/A/AquaTerm /usr/local/lib/libaquaterm.dylib

sudo ln -s /Library/Frameworks/AquaTerm.framework/Versions/A/AquaTerm /usr/local/lib/libaquaterm.1.0.0.dylib

sudo ln -s /Library/Frameworks/AquaTerm.framework/Versions/A/Headers/* /usr/local/include/aquaterm/

That did the trick for me. I hope you find this helpful.

Disabled bundles for Mail in Mavericks

I have just updated a previous post with some of the UUIDs for using some plugins with Mail.app. The correct strings for Mail 7.0 in Mavericks are:

<string>0941BB9F-231F-452D-A26F-47A43863C991</string>
<string>04D6EC0A-52FF-4BBE-9896-C0B5FB851BBA</string>

For instructions on what to do with the strings above, please refer to this post.

Mail icon
Mail icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Command Line: a few tips

Terminal icon in OS X

In various posts in the past, I have given some tips using the Terminal and some comments have arrived about how complicated they may seem. Nonetheless, I still think that the flexibility offered by the tools provided are what make the UNIX/Mac environment so good. So in this post I would like to share some useful tips to use the terminal. Let me know what you think!

1. Download a File from the Web & Watch Progress

If you know the URL of a file that you need to download from the web you can use curl with the -O command to start downloading it:

$ curl -O url

Be sure to use the full URL. Also, remember to use the upper case ‘O’ and not the lowercase ‘o’ to keep the same file name on your local machine.

2. List Directory Contents by Modification Date

You can indeed take a look at the graphical interface, but if all you want is a quick list of the files in a directory showing permissions, users, file size, and modification date, with the most recently modified files and folders appearing from the bottom up then simply type the following:

$ ls -thor

3. Search Spotlight with Live Results from the Command Line

To do that you can use the mdfind command:

$ mdfind -time findme

This can go awfully quick depending on the specificity of the searched terms, but if you see a match hit Control+C to stop looking.

4. Kill Processes Using Wildcards

Simply use the pkill command. For example, if you want to get rid of all the processes that start with “Sam” just type:

$ pkill Sam*

5. Re-Run the Last Command as Root

The bang is you friend (!) In order to re-run the last command typed but as root type the following:

$ sudo !!

6. Get the Last Occurrence of a Command Without Executing It

Once again, the bang is your friend. Use the following command, where “searchterm” must be substituted by the command you are looking for:

$ !searchterm:p

For example, to find the last full command that used the prefix “sudo” you would use:

$ !sudo:p

7. Instantly Create a Blank File or Multiple Files

All you have to do is “touch” the file…

$ touch filename

You can list out multiple names to create multiple files too.

Do you have any favourite commands or tips to use the command line? Let me know.