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A text editor that doesn’t work like it’s 1976 • The Register

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Friday FOSS Fest Tilde is a plain text editor for the Linux console. The difference is that even if you’ve never seen it before, you already know how to use this one.

Tilde

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One type of software where the world of Unix-like OSes has a positive embarrassment of riches is text editors. The problem is that too many of them are weird arcane things from the 1970s, with phenomenal cosmic power, but itty-bitty user interfaces. Sad to say, but even supporting WordStar (1978) keystrokes counts as modern and friendly in this world.

Of course, hardcore Linux types don’t see this as a problem. It’s worth learning some Byzantine editor because it gives you a big advantage editing code. It has even become a badge of pride to be proficient in some of the really complicated ones. But what if you don’t edit code and don’t need syntax highlighting and all that jazz? What if you just need to occasionally tweak a config file?

What if you don’t edit code and don’t need syntax highlighting and all that jazz? What if you just need to occasionally tweak a config file?

The DOS world used to be very similar. In the bad old days of WordStar, WordPerfect, DisplayWrite, MultiMate, Arnor Protext and so on, every app had a totally different UI.

This was partly because they all came from different original platforms, partly because such things weren’t standardised yet, and partly because once someone had mastered one company’s program, it made them very reluctant to switch to anything else. WordStar, for instance, offered original WordStar, WordStar 2000 and WordStar Express, all with totally different UIs.

But then the Mac came along. All its apps looked and worked much the same, because in 1987, Apple published a big, detailed book [PDF] telling programmers exactly how MacOS UIs should work. IBM followed suit with its CUA standard and gradually PC apps fell in line.

Windows and OS/2 both followed CUA, as did Motif on UNIX, and for a few decades harmony mostly reigned. GNOME 3 threw a lot of this out of the window, but even now most Linux graphical desktop and apps broadly follow the system: a menu bar, with File and usually Edit menus, a Help menu at the end, Ctrl+S to save, Ctrl+O to open, and so on. You may never have heard of CUA, but you know how to use it.

There have been a few Linux editors that tried this approach, but all are long-dead from bitrot. SETEdit was pretty good, but doesn’t support modern distros. FTE was another, forked into eFTE, both long unmaintained. Xwpe lasted a bit longer but isn’t stable on recent distros.

Tilde, though, is modern, has few dependencies, and it’s in the repos of recent releases of openSUSE and Debian-family distros. Just type sudo apt install tilde and you’re done.

The only issue your correspondent has encountered is that it doesn’t pick up the text Git auto-inserts on commit, so for that, I use Midnight Commander’s mcedit, but it’s clunky by comparison.

Fans of original gangster editors may well mock something that sets out to be easy rather than powerful, but that hasn’t stopped one heretic trying to bring the hoary old Emacs editor into the 1990s. The effort is called ErgoEmacs, and it’s available as a package.

It’s significantly harder to install than Tilde, and it only does a little to tame the beast that is Richard Stallman’s personal project. Unfortunately, although its developers occasionally discuss how to modernise the “thermonuclear word processor“, the changes are too much for the old school to ever consider. Anyway, if you want something decadent like on-screen help, GNU offers Nano.

So in the meantime, if you want the mountain to come to you, try Tilde. You might be pleasantly surprised. If you install GPM as well, it even supports a mouse. Luxury. ®

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Edwards Lifesciences is hiring at its ‘key’ Shannon and Limerick facilities

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The medtech company is hiring for a variety of roles at both its Limerick and Shannon sites, the latter of which is being transformed into a specialised manufacturing facility.

Medical devices giant Edwards Lifesciences began renovations to convert its existing Shannon facility into a specialised manufacturing centre at the end of July.

The expansion will allow the company to produce components that are an integral part of its transcatheter heart valves. The conversion is part of Edwards Lifesciences’ expansion plan that will see it hire for hundreds of new roles in the coming years.

“The expanded capability at our Shannon facility demonstrates that our operations in Ireland are a key enabler for Edwards to continue helping patients across the globe,” said Andrew Walls, general manager for the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

According to Walls, hiring is currently underway at the company’s Shannon and Limerick facilities for a variety of functions such as assembly and inspection roles, manufacturing and quality engineering, supply chain, warehouse operations and project management.

Why Ireland?

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Edwards Lifesciences established its operations in Shannon in 2018 and announced 600 new jobs for the mid-west region. This number was then doubled a year later when it revealed increased investment in Limerick.

When the Limerick plant was officially opened in October 2021, the medtech company added another 250 roles onto the previously announced 600, promising 850 new jobs by 2025.

“As the company grows and serves even more patients around the world, Edwards conducted a thorough review of its global valve manufacturing network to ensure we have the right facilities and talent to address our future needs,” Walls told SiliconRepublic.com

“We consider multiple factors when determining where we decide to manufacture – for example, a location that will allow us to produce close to where products are utilised, a location that offers advantages for our supply chain, excellent local talent pool for an engaged workforce, an interest in education and good academic infrastructure, and other characteristics that will be good for business and, ultimately, good for patients.

“Both our Shannon and Limerick sites are key enablers for Edwards Lifesciences to continue helping patients across the globe.”

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Meta’s new AI chatbot can’t stop bashing Facebook | Meta

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If you’re worried that artificial intelligence is getting too smart, talking to Meta’s AI chatbot might make you feel better.

Launched on Friday, BlenderBot is a prototype of Meta’s conversational AI, which, according to Facebook’s parent company, can converse on nearly any topic. On the demo website, members of the public are invited to chat with the tool and share feedback with developers. The results thus far, writers at Buzzfeed and Vice have pointed out, have been rather interesting.

Asked about Mark Zuckerberg, the bot told BuzzFeed’s Max Woolf that “he is a good businessman, but his business practices are not always ethical. It is funny that he has all this money and still wears the same clothes!”

The bot has also made clear that it’s not a Facebook user, telling Vice’s Janus Rose that it had deleted its account after learning about the company’s privacy scandals. “Since deleting Facebook my life has been much better,” it said.

The bot repeats material it finds on the internet, and it’s very transparent about this: you can click on its responses to learn where it picked up whatever claims it is making (though it is not always specific).

This means that along with uncomfortable truths about its parent company, BlenderBot has been spouting predictable falsehoods. In conversation with Jeff Horwitz of the Wall Street Journal, it insisted Donald Trump was still president and would continue to be “even after his second term ends in 2024”. (It added another dig at Meta, saying Facebook “has a lot of fake news on it these days”.) Users have also recorded it making antisemitic claims.

BlenderBot’s remarks were foreseeable based on the behavior of older chatbots such as Microsoft’s Tay, which Twitter users quickly taught to be a racist conspiracy theorist, forcing the company to apologize for its “wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images”. GPT-3, another AI system, has also delivered racist, misogynist and homophobic remarks. A South Korean startup’s chatbot, designed to resemble a 20-year-old college student, had to be suspended after it rattled off racial slurs and anti-LGBTQ+ remarks.

Given the cesspool that is the internet, Meta appears to have expected similar things from its own service. Before logging on, users must acknowledge that BlenderBot is “likely to make untrue or offensive statements”. As Vice notes, Meta researchers have described the AI tech behind the bot as having “a high propensity to generate toxic language and reinforce harmful stereotypes, even when provided with a relatively innocuous prompt”.

“Everyone who uses Blender Bot is required to acknowledge they understand it’s for research and entertainment purposes only, that it can make untrue or offensive statements, and that they agree to not intentionally trigger the bot to make offensive statements,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

My own conversation with BlenderBot did not veer into that territory, but it did highlight another flaw in the service: its utter inanity.

The bot began by asking me what subject I liked in school. The bot is open about which “persona” it is using in the conversation; our discussion involved a persona it described as “I like to read. I went to college.” When I asked it tough questions, such as which colleges accepted AI bot students, it offered nonsensical replies (“in some ways, aren’t we all chatbots?” No) and offered further reading by saying, “Here’s the link”, without providing a link. It also kept steering the conversation back to chatbots.

It did, however, maintain its firm stance against its own creators. When I said I wasn’t a fan of Facebook’s ethics, it wholeheartedly agreed: “Me too! That is why I stopped using it and just stick with reading books instead.”



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Midwest universities unite to support US chip industry • The Register

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A dozen US midwestern research colleges and universities have signed up to a project intended to bolster the semiconductor and microelectronics industries with combined research and education to ensure work for their students in high-tech industries.

The “Midwest Regional Network to Address National Needs in Semiconductor and Microelectronics” consists of a dozen institutions, made up of eight from Ohio, two from Michigan, and two from Indiana. Their stated aim is to support the onshoring efforts of the US semiconductor industry by addressing the need for research and a skilled workforce.

According to Wright State University, the network was formed in response to Intel’s announcement that it planned to build two chip factories near Columbus, Ohio, and followed a two-day workshop in April hosted by the state.

Those plans, revealed in January, are to build at least two semiconductor manufacturing plants on a 1,000-acre site, with the potential to expand to 2,000 acres and eight fabs.

At the time, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said he expected it to become the largest silicon manufacturing location on the planet. Construction started on the site at the beginning of July.

However, the university network was also formed to help address the broader national effort to regain American leadership in semiconductors and microelectronics, or at least bring some of it back onshore and make the US less reliant on supplies of chips manufactured abroad.

Apart from Wright State University, the 12 institutions involved in the network are: Columbus State Community College, Lorain County Community College, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, Sinclair Community College, University of Cincinnati, University of Dayton, University of Michigan, and the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

The president of each institution has signed a memorandum of understanding to form the network, and the expectation is that the group will expand to include more than these dozen initial members.

The intention is that the institutions taking part will be able to make use of each other’s existing research, learning programs, capabilities, and expertise in order to boost their collective ability to support the semiconductor and microelectronics industry ecosystems.

Challenges for the network include developing mechanisms to connect existing research, and training assets across the region, and developing a common information sharing platform to make it easier to identify opportunities for joint programming and research across the network.

University of Cincinnati chief innovation officer David J Adams called the announcement a game-changer. “This highly innovative approach illustrates that we’re all in this together when it comes to meeting industry workforce and research needs,” Adams wrote in a posting on the University of Cincinnati website.

The move follows the long-awaited passage of the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act at the end of last month, of which $52 billion of the total spend is expected to go towards subsidizing the building of semiconductor plants such as Intel’s, and boosting research and development of chip technology. ®

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