"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. ."
-Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) Politician. President of the United States.
PC Error Probability
Jan 23, 2013 Why is it that sometimes software fails to install properly?
The reason can be explained in probability. There are hundreds of programs running in synchronicity. The Operating System controls networking, memory, file, security, data, verification, clock, speed etc. Upon it we have layers of personal software that intersects, interleaves and rides upon these kernals, checking what each one is doing and trying to act symphonically.
When we load and unload a variety of programs to a PC we leave traces of the code and these affect programs in ways that we can't tangibly see. Sometimes you're delivered a surprise.
To see why this is so common, let's take a look at the probability of a 52 card deck and keep in mind that there are many more 'cards' at play in a PC increasing probability of an unusual hand by orders of magnitude.
Add in wild cards and the frequency increases. In the computer field wild cards are databases, vpn's, 32/64bit and the like.
Frequency of 5-card poker hands as depicted by Wikipedia.
The following enumerates the (absolute) frequency of each hand, given all combinations of 5 cards randomly drawn from a full deck of 52 without replacement. Wild cards are not considered. The probability of drawing a given hand is calculated by dividing the number of ways of drawing the hand by the total number of 5-card hands (the sample space, five-card hands). The odds are defined as the ratio (1/p) - 1 : 1, where p is the probability. Note that the cumulative column contains the probability of being dealt that hand or any of the hands ranked higher than it. (The frequencies given are exact; the probabilities and odds are approximate.)
The nCr function on most scientific calculators can be used to calculate hand frequencies; entering nCr with 52 and 5, for example, yields as above.
The Juggling Act
Jan 22, 2013 Here's a story out of the popular book Peopleware:
Circus Manager: How long have you been juggling?
Candidate: Oh, about six years.
Manager: Can you handle three balls, four balls, and five balls?
Candidate: Yes, yes, and yes.
Manager: Do you work with flaming objects?
Manager: ...knives, axes, open cigar boxes, floppy hats?
Candidate: I can juggle anything.
Manager: Do you have a line of funny patter that goes with your juggling?
Candidate: It's hilarious.
Manager: Well, that sounds fine. I guess you're hired.
Candidate: Umm...Don't you want to see me juggle?
Jan 21, 2013 We're a bit like a lobster in a pot oblivious of the incremental environmental change.
The world is bobbing in a rolling boil, but the UX (user experience) is normalized, perhaps if anything, tepid. For example, < 7% of US-based websites have been upgraded to allow smartphone users to get an enhanced mobile experience.
Yellow Page and Adwords campaigns can be maximized by the mobile apps that can be written for under $500; -the attractive upside are the new client sales; as opposed to a paltry expense and a ridiculous reason to lose revenue to start-ups.
Earning Possession Status
Jan 20, 2013 Giving away something of great value is not easy because it's stressful for the person receiving it. They have to accept responsibility and become indebted. People do not like change and you've challenged the status quo.
It's a better tack to take on difficult challenges and earning valued possession status that way because it's even harder to take away something of value once they think of it as 'theirs'.
Caveat Emptor for the iPad Buyer
Jan 19, 2013 Over the years I have found that Apple customers have purchased older units than they thought they were buying. These products should be referred to as NOS (New Old Stock), meaning the product is new (never-sold, but an older version), but instead some shady dealers sold them as 'new'. In one case a customer procured two generations behind believing they were buying bleeding edge. Needless to say, they paid more than they had to.
Now Apple is apparently misleading and confusing buyers by not differentiating between two generations of the iPad as it was reported by mouseprint.org:
'iPad “3″ for only $399.99 — $100 off the regular price. [Hint: if you run to Micro Center, you might get one. Ends 12/12.] MrConsumer’s friend who had just purchased an iPad 2 for the same price was not too happy, but he wondered how in the world this chain could be selling the iPad “3″ for $100 less than the full list price knowing that Apple closely controlled advertised retail prices.
As it turns out, Apple had recently discontinued the iPad “3″ and had quietly introduced an iPad “4″, which might explain the discount. Much of the confusion, however, has to do with Apple’s decision not to explicitly name each new iPad by number. There was the original iPad, then iPad 2, then iPad (no number, but referred to by retailers as “third generation”), and now iPad with Retina Display (again no number, but referred to by retailers as “fourth generation”).
So if you are looking for the latest “iPad”, you might wind up with either the “iPad 3″ or the “iPad 4″ because they are both just called iPad (sans number). What is the difference between the two? You have to look at the fine print.'
'They both have the same gorgeous Retina display. The primary differences are three for the iPad 4: the Facetime camera is better, the processor they say goes twice as fast, and iPad 4 has that new obnoxious connector that makes all your old i-accessories obsolete.
So, if you are shopping for an iPad, and you pick up a box, how do you know if it is an iPad 3 or 4? You have to look at the tiny label to find the model number.'
'One 16-gig white iPad 3 has a model number of MD336LL/A for example, while a similar iPad 4 has a model number of MD513LL/A.
In our view, Apple made a big mistake to not clearly identify iPads after the iPad 2 by number to avoid consumer confusion.'
Jan 18, 2013 If there is one piece of advice to give about computers it would be to install an antivirus program before doing anything. Keep it current. Scan files that you download before opening them. Everything else is not a big deal. Antivirus is.
SOHO Library Science
Jan 17, 2013 In the 19th century Thomas Jefferson's library at Monticello classified books by subject rather than alphabetically. They had to because there were thousands of books.
There's no need to elaborate on library stewardship except to point out that large archives of information require preservation and management yet few of us curate beyond alphabetical or by date. This makes retrieval problematic.
There are three file categories of great import to most of us, yet little thought is put into archival. They are:
Photos and video media which are usually stored by date (because there are usually too many to name each with any detail), so when we're searching we try to estimate circa and sift. If we have taken the time to name sub-folders (i.e. 2012/NewYearsCelebration), then we have made the archive searchable to a degree. Unfortunately, if the majority of the data is not entered into the system, then finding these files would be like finding a book in the Library of Congress if only 10% of them had a Dewey Decimal Sticker on them. Biggest problem: Slow.
Email typically defaults by date, but clients such as Gmail or Microsoft Outlook allow us to use a wide variety of search criteria to recall. Biggest problem: Slow.
Data from database oriented software such as Quickbooks®, Quicken®, and Act!® is easy enough to search but retrieval is less than ideal when thousands if not millions of tidbits of useful information is within documents such as Word®, Excel®, PowerPoint®, pdf's, and text documents. To further compound the issue is non-standardized naming conventions, lack of cross-referencing or tagging. It's a chore at best, until you are aware and until you are trained. Biggest problem: Slow.
A subset of the data category is post-it/scrapbook/ad hoc notes. Where are you saving them? Did Einstein and da Vinci have organized desks? How many non-contextual ideas get swept into the dustbin?
When faced with correcting critical PC failures, I am constantly told these are the three most important user data concerns, yet most of that data, as important as it is, will never be retrieved. Not because it isn't critical, but for the reason that there's no methodology implemented to efficiently find it. There is no reason for this, short of ignorance which there is no shortage of in this aspect of computing. I see many smart people who don't recognize this significant loss.
I can't imagine a life like this. I can find anything that I am looking for (we look for things that we know, not what we don't know) in a millisecond. Not on Google because that would be like doing the same work fourscore. Instead, I cull from my own private personal search engine and database of stuff that I have knowledge of already, that I've already vetted from a wide range of sources.
We all know more about many disciplines than any generation before us. So much so, that we forget more than we retain. We can't remember every detail without reference. Our minds are taxed to the limit (at least for the curious at heart) and this is why your knowledge depository has to be indexed.
We have read, seen and heard more than Leonardo da Vinci or Mozart; -but our dendrites can't parse the overload, lest we become rain men. Since mental bandwidth is limited we need to feed the machine our personal data and train ourselves to access in real-time so that we can factor all the great advantages of our time into genius. This technology is not expensive yet few businesses are taking advantage of it.
You might think that library science is dead, but it's a field that each of us should become experts, or be left behind by those that do. Our capacity for excellence across many knowledge domains depends on it.
Other important questions are:
- Are your children being taught how to archive/manage all the useful knowledge that they encounter?
- What happens to our knowledge access if Google or SOPA or RIAA legislation forces a pay model?
- If knowledge is power, shouldn't the KnowledgeFortress be defended by our own embattlements?