1807: "Listening"

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1807: "Listening"

Postby Zooty » Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:58 pm UTC

Image

Title text: "Sure, you could just ask, but this also takes care of the host gift thing."

I wonder why anyone would invite BHG and his girlfriend over. Associating with them always ends badly.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Keyman » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:04 pm UTC

Or in this case, it begins badly.
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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Whizbang » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:20 pm UTC

Would it work to just change Alexa's name to something else to prevent this? Asking for a friend that really needs to transmit conversations somewhere else.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:20 pm UTC

Shouldn't stop at Alexa. Go all the way up to "Watson: This element was used in the Trinity and Fat Man bombs," to see what happens. ("...and I would like ten deliveries of 1kg each, for overnight delivery...")

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby cellocgw » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:20 pm UTC

Why creamed corn when the Official Internet Nerd /. Meme is hot grits?

Personally, if I were going to make use of someone else's Alexa & Amazon account, I'd at least go for the OtherOfficialInternetNerd/.Meme : hookers and blow.
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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby orthogon » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:52 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:Shouldn't stop at Alexa. Go all the way up to "Watson: This element was used in the Trinity and Fat Man bombs," to see what happens. ("...and I would like ten deliveries of 1kg each, for overnight delivery...")

That Jeopardy! format really bugs me. The so-called "answer" would make a very unusual response to the "question" ("what is plutonium?"). In fact it's just a totally conventional quiz with a strangely affected way of asking and answering the questions.

Maybe it just seems stupid to me because we never had it on TV here.

ETA don't you mean 11 deliveries?
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:12 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:Maybe it just seems stupid to me because we never had it on TV here.
Nor here. I'm riffing off of observed transatlantic memes myself, and have the same concern.

Spoiler:
There's a radio quiz called "Trivia Test Match" (currently being repeated on Radio 4 Extra, so iPlayerable) from... the '80s? Has both Willy Rushton and Paul Merton in it, to narrow down the crossover era... Anyway, a (comedic, or at least light-hearted) quiz "based on the rules of cricket" it has "bouncer" questions which are of the "Here is the answer, what is the question?" format. And these are - intentionally - nigh on impossible, but of course good for satirical joke or otherwise humorous response.

But I fear that I stray from the point at hand. I was just needing to quote Watson, after deciding I wasn't going to go with "Open the pod bay doors, HAL"...


ETA don't you mean 11 deliveries?

Just imagining a criticality event (on the doormat/hall table, but not in the separate courier vans), not a supercriticality one. I might have nothing against the neighbours, that I should want to guarantee them the same outcome. ;)

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby oldgus » Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:50 pm UTC

A reasonable person might deduce from the comic that Echo devices are constantly transmitting audio to Amazon's servers. It is straightforward to examine Echo traffic with Wireshark, or similar, and show that audio is only transmitted after a wake-word is detected. This should help reduce one's tin foil budget a bit.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby ps.02 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:56 pm UTC

As usual, Trump got it wrong. It was actually Jeff Bezos who wiretapped Trump Tower.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby squall_line » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:28 pm UTC

This one fell a little bit flat for me because of the "always transmitting" part of the statement. I'm fairly confident that the "always listening != always transmitting" has already been proven by more than a few individuals. It's not very difficult, after all, to monitor the traffic through a router and see if these devices are transmitting.

Additionally, by way of deduction, this comic is a strong argument that Randall is, in fact, BHG.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby da Doctah » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:52 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:That Jeopardy! format really bugs me. The so-called "answer" would make a very unusual response to the "question" ("what is plutonium?"). In fact it's just a totally conventional quiz with a strangely affected way of asking and answering the questions.

it helps to know that the original concept for the show came out in the wake of the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s where certain contestants were (secretly, behind the scenes) given the answers to questions. Merv Griffin said "what if we give them the answers, then, and ask them to come up with the question?"

What bugs me is that nobody ever takes advantage of the "form of a question" dodge when the "answer" already is a question; you shouldn't have to say "What is 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'?" or (a recent Final Jeopardy) "What is 'what did you give up for Lent?'?", and Alex should smile knowingly when a contestant realizes this and omits the outer question.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:55 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:Why creamed corn when the Official Internet Nerd /. Meme is hot grits?

Personally, if I were going to make use of someone else's Alexa & Amazon account, I'd at least go for the OtherOfficialInternetNerd/.Meme : hookers and blow.

Obviously, if it were some meme, it would have been bobcats. This is xkcd after all.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Rombobjörn » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:06 pm UTC

oldgus wrote:A reasonable person might deduce from the comic that Echo devices are constantly transmitting audio to Amazon's servers. It is straightforward to examine Echo traffic with Wireshark, or similar, and show that audio is only transmitted after a wake-word is detected. This should help reduce one's tin foil budget a bit.

Transmitting only after a wake-word is detected seems like a purely technical decision to me. Having all the Echo devices transmitting constantly would consume way too much expensive bandwidth. From a privacy point of view I don't see how it matters much. If Amazon – or a rogue Amazon employee – wanted to eavesdrop on someone, they could push a software update to the victim's Echo to make it transmit constantly, or as soon as any voice is detected, or define additional wake-words, or whatever they wanted.

What matters is that a device that someone else controls has the potential of listening constantly. At that point everything depends on how much you trust the person who controls the device.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:11 pm UTC

da Doctah wrote:What bugs me is that nobody ever takes advantage of the "form of a question" dodge when the "answer" already is a question; you shouldn't have to say "What is 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'?" or (a recent Final Jeopardy) "What is 'what did you give up for Lent?'?", and Alex should smile knowingly when a contestant realizes this and omits the outer question.


The thing is that the answer to "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" is very different from the answer to "What is 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'?" (also, note that the title of the movie lacks the '?'), so the former would not be a valid question to the same answer.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby ps.02 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:49 pm UTC

Rombobjörn wrote:Transmitting only after a wake-word is detected seems like a purely technical decision to me. Having all the Echo devices transmitting constantly would consume way too much expensive bandwidth. From a privacy point of view I don't see how it matters much. If Amazon – or a rogue Amazon employee – wanted to eavesdrop on someone, they could push a software update to the victim's Echo to make it transmit constantly, or as soon as any voice is detected, or define additional wake-words, or whatever they wanted.

Yeah, I still can't believe people are so nonchalant about having installed a microphone in their living room that more or less connects directly to Amazon HQ. And they knew that this was exactly what they were getting - it's not a trick, like a smartphone with a backdoor.

My dad used to (slightly obnoxiously) ask people things like "How much is Nike paying you to advertise for them on your shirt?" Now we should be asking "How much is Amazon paying you for an audio feed in your home? Wait, what? You paid for the equipment to do this?"

(Also, side note, if I worked at Amazon and wanted to do evil, I wouldn't just transmit everything. There'd just be some additional wake words that signal something of potential interest. You wouldn't necessarily catch this with your Wireshark experiment. Also, there's little need to transmit in real time. Just wait for the next "Alexa" event and send a bolus of audio (or a transcription) then.)

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby speising » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:51 pm UTC

Aka "telemetry to improve your customer experience"

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Mikeski » Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:23 pm UTC

It's a testable hypothesis.

Turn on your WireShark (or similar), and start using the expected code phrases. Names of politicians, terrorism-related stuff, names of intelligence agencies, words related to drug trafficking, "Jeff Bezos is sexually attracted to soybeans", etc.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby K0HAX » Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:41 pm UTC

I would have gone with "a 55 gallon drum of lube" as Amazon actually has that. :)

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Archgeek » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:11 pm UTC

speising wrote:Aka "telemetry to improve your customer experience"

Telemetry. In case your device starts moving rapidly up and to the east?

"Alexa, look up flight path of the ISS."
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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Steve the Pocket » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:26 pm UTC

Rombobjörn wrote:
oldgus wrote:A reasonable person might deduce from the comic that Echo devices are constantly transmitting audio to Amazon's servers. It is straightforward to examine Echo traffic with Wireshark, or similar, and show that audio is only transmitted after a wake-word is detected. This should help reduce one's tin foil budget a bit.

Transmitting only after a wake-word is detected seems like a purely technical decision to me. Having all the Echo devices transmitting constantly would consume way too much expensive bandwidth. From a privacy point of view I don't see how it matters much. If Amazon – or a rogue Amazon employee – wanted to eavesdrop on someone, they could push a software update to the victim's Echo to make it transmit constantly, or as soon as any voice is detected, or define additional wake-words, or whatever they wanted.

What matters is that a device that someone else controls has the potential of listening constantly. At that point everything depends on how much you trust the person who controls the device.

One could say the same of literally any device that has a microphone and an Internet connection, regardless of whether it can reach an AI service at the other end.

For that matter, microphones are pretty easy to hide; if for some reason I wanted to record what my guests are saying and had reason to believe they were paranoid about my Super Question Machine, I'd just stash it and bug the house the old-fashioned way.
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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:40 pm UTC

Rombobjörn wrote:What matters is that a device that someone else controls has the potential of listening constantly. At that point everything depends on how much you trust the person who controls the device.

Maybe not the best post to respond to, but suddenly I'm reminded me of... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31296188

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Rombobjörn » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:22 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:It's a testable hypothesis.

Turn on your WireShark (or similar), and start using the expected code phrases. Names of politicians, terrorism-related stuff, names of intelligence agencies, words related to drug trafficking, "Jeff Bezos is sexually attracted to soybeans", etc.

I think you overlooked this part:
ps.02 wrote:Also, there's little need to transmit in real time. Just wait for the next "Alexa" event and send a bolus of audio (or a transcription) then.)



Steve the Pocket wrote:
Rombobjörn wrote:Transmitting only after a wake-word is detected seems like a purely technical decision to me. Having all the Echo devices transmitting constantly would consume way too much expensive bandwidth. From a privacy point of view I don't see how it matters much. If Amazon – or a rogue Amazon employee – wanted to eavesdrop on someone, they could push a software update to the victim's Echo to make it transmit constantly, or as soon as any voice is detected, or define additional wake-words, or whatever they wanted.

What matters is that a device that someone else controls has the potential of listening constantly. At that point everything depends on how much you trust the person who controls the device.

One could say the same of literally any device that has a microphone and an Internet connection, regardless of whether it can reach an AI service at the other end.

Yes.

It would however be rather difficult to sneak malware into a free operating system maintained by a large community. The openness of a healthy community makes it highly probable that malware would be discovered quickly. It is therefore easier to trust a device running such an operating system.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Mikeski » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:36 am UTC

Rombobjörn wrote:I think you overlooked this part:
ps.02 wrote:Also, there's little need to transmit in real time. Just wait for the next "Alexa" event and send a bolus of audio (or a transcription) then.)

No, I just left it as an exercise for the reader.

(It just takes another minute or two of work. Compare the packet size&count of potential eavesdropping event against a short, valid "Yo! Alexa!" event. Heck, if they're transmitting raw unencrypted mp3/ogg/whatever, just capture and decode the stream yourself.)

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby iabervon » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:17 am UTC

Surely the correct thing to say is, "Alexa, buy the MP3 album 'Whenever You Need Somebody'. Alexa, confirm purchase. Alexa, play it."

Why wait for shipping?

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby fluffysheap » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:17 am UTC

da Doctah wrote:What bugs me is that nobody ever takes advantage of the "form of a question" dodge when the "answer" already is a question


This does happen occasionally, and it is acceptable, or at least it was the last time I saw someone do it, which was a few years ago. I even saw Alex once accept a guess answer in the form of "is it X?"

Doesn't happen nearly as often as it should, though.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:37 am UTC

(As I've said, it's only something that I know of from afar, like the but...) I think that you probably should have standards. If you said "No" in The Gong Show you'd clearly broken the rules. Sounds like dumbing down on the basic concept, if not a genuine error by not being as strict as they were on Wakko (I think it was) answering not questioning for "All 50 States and their capitals" in song form...

Or, back in the real world, is it really as flexible as Just A Minute (comedy panel game) where Nicholas Parsons can excuse a hint (or more than a hint) of a hesitation by a panellist "because they're new to the game, and we love what you're saying on this subject", or just spend one of their nominal benefits-of-the-doubt, because of audience reaction and/or Rule Of Funny..? (But then JAM contestants are not there to win big bucks, and its definitely a different form of entertainment.)

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:41 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:Just A Minute

Was that the show that had David Tennant guest-host an episode, and a Q&A exchange along the lines of:

Tennant: Knock knock.
Contestant: ...who's there?
Tennant: Doctor.
Contestant: ...Doctor Who?
Tennant: Correct! Next question...
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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:00 am UTC

Though the quip sounds familiar (if inaccurate!), I don't believe he has guest-hosted any JAM. But has indeed appeared on it...

(QI, or something similar? Did he swap places with Fry at some point? I'm getting timeouts on wikipedia and other sites, now, so I can't even check... Will this post?)
(I know he's guest-hosted HIGNFY, and that, just before I finally try to Submit, is my best guess as to where I saw him do that joke.)

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby YellowYeti » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:51 am UTC

Soupspoon wrote:Though the quip sounds familiar (if inaccurate!), I don't believe he has guest-hosted any JAM. But has indeed appeared on it...

(QI, or something similar? Did he swap places with Fry at some point? I'm getting timeouts on wikipedia and other sites, now, so I can't even check... Will this post?)
(I know he's guest-hosted HIGNFY, and that, just before I finally try to Submit, is my best guess as to where I saw him do that joke.)


Something broadly similar might have been during his appearance on 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' - sounds like the kind of joke they could have put into the 'next lyrics' part of the show.

And for anyone unfamiliar with 'Just a Minute', I would highly recommend giving it a try:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006s5dp

I think radio is exempt from the geographical restrictions, so non-UKers may be lucky as well - and there's just the 50 years worth to catch up on

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby orthogon » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:27 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
Soupspoon wrote:Just A Minute

Was that the show that had David Tennant guest-host an episode, and a Q&A exchange along the lines of:

Tennant: Knock knock.
Contestant: ...who's there?
Tennant: Doctor.
Contestant: ...Doctor Who?
Tennant: Correct! Next question...


We used to tell that joke in the playground circa 1979 (with the punchline "You just said it!"). But it probably got forgotten as Doctor Who was off air for a decade or more, and then re-invented by someone.

But the "joke" itself steps onto dangerous territory for Doctor Who fans by implying that "Doctor Who" is the character's name.
Spoiler:
It is.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby qvxb » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:16 pm UTC

Listen
Order two tons of creamed corn
Overnight delivery
Whoa-oh faster

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Rombobjörn » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:24 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:Heck, if they're transmitting raw unencrypted mp3/ogg/whatever, just capture and decode the stream yourself.)

If a vendor disregards your privacy so blatantly that they transmit unencrypted audio, then you should absolutely not trust any code, device or service from that vendor.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Plutarch » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:34 pm UTC

da Doctah wrote:it helps to know that the original concept for the show came out in the wake of the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s where certain contestants were (secretly, behind the scenes) given the answers to questions. Merv Griffin said "what if we give them the answers, then, and ask them to come up with the question?"

That's interesting. On the few occasions I've seen extracts from the show, I've wondered why they had that "what is the question" format.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby da Doctah » Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:31 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:We used to tell that joke in the playground circa 1979 (with the punchline "You just said it!"). But it probably got forgotten as Doctor Who was off air for a decade or more, and then re-invented by someone.

But the "joke" itself steps onto dangerous territory for Doctor Who fans by implying that "Doctor Who" is the character's name.


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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby speising » Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:34 pm UTC

Who is at first base?

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby orthogon » Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:44 pm UTC

No, Hu is the former President of China. (People's Republic thererof)
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:33 pm UTC

THIRD BASE!
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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby jigawatt » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:53 pm UTC

Time for a revisit of https://xkcd.com/525/

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Sir Lunch-a-lot » Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:14 pm UTC

Privacy issues aside, it always annoys me how many of these voice recognition systems seem to *REQUIRE* the internet in order to work, even if you are otherwise not using web based services with them. The way I see it, I was running free voice recognition software on my 1Ghz 385MB Windows ME Wundermaschine back in the day, and you mean to tell me that my far superior cell phone or even desktop is too wimpy to handle voice recognition that you need to shunt it all back to a server (though really, I am sure it is more about data analysis/collection than hardware capabilities)?

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Re: 1807: "Listening"

Postby Eshru » Wed Mar 08, 2017 2:48 am UTC

Something I came across today that reminded me of this comic...
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