Thursday, September 28, 2006

Computers: Can't Live With and Without Them

Below is a post that eminently readable. The gentleman posted it to another list and I am keeping his name confidential, but his thoughts are certainly worth sharing.

Here it is:
I am a System Administrator by trade, and I just have to chuckle a little bit at this current discussion about mailing list etiquette. First of all, I totally agree with X that since this is Y's e-mail list, she gets to decide how to run it, regardless of any misconfigurations or technical foibles that may or may not exist.

I also think that innovative people like M, who are allowed to thrive in a *truly* free market will help us all with their brilliant technical innovations, as well as when they remind us gently to RTFM.

That being said, the reason I chuckle is because I spend pretty much my entire day, every day, trying to match the unreasonable expectations of human beings with the unbending behavior of computing devices. Someday far in the future, when computers are as complex as the human mind, my job will go away and computers will know how to adjust to the expectations of unreasonable human beings. But as I said, that day is far far away in a distant galaxy...I will be dead before it happens.I use two analogies for my user community. In the first, I call computers shovels. That's all they are, a dumb tool.

Do you feel a religious passion for the hand trowel you use to aerate the earth around your nasturtiums? Probably not. But try to remove the religious passion from an ardent Mac lover, a devoted Windows MCSE, or a blackhat linux anarchist, and you'll know what it must feel like to live in Jerusalem. I still call it the dumb shovel, regardless of OS: it operates on ones and zeros, only knows "yes" or "no." "Maybe" is to what we aspire in the computer world.

Not there yet.Human beings, on the other hand, spend their entire lives adjudicating the world of "maybe." This is the primary reason humans and computers have such a hard time getting along with each other.The second analogy I use is the auto industry. When using a computer, imagine this is 1910 and the computer is a car. The Big Three don't exist yet, most of the hardware comes out of people's loving garages, and if the thing actually works, it's a flippin' miracle. Actually, that was more like 1995. I have adjusted my analogy so that today it is more like 1925--the Big Three are beginning to emerge, but the hardware still smokes and belches, standards are still wavering, and now these new-fangled devices are actually life-threatening.

Can you say "blue-screen" during your open-heart surgery? Can you say "the battery caught fire on my Dell laptop and it caused the oxygen masks to drop in the 737 I was flying in?"So, we will muddle through. The most important thing is that we do our best to be kind to each other while we curse the shovel.And hopefully we will not have to wait until 2050 for the industry equivalent of the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission to come into being. The first thing to attack is the dreaded EULA: "OK, so I don't own the software, I'm kinda renting it, but not really since I am only licensed to use it "as is," but if there is something wrong with it, that's entirely my problem and I am SOL, and if it chops off my arm I am also SOL."

You have more clout buying a toaster at WalMart than you do buying a $20K software program from XtraSpecialSoftware.Com. That needs to change ASAP. Under Sharia, your mileage may vary.Finally, I had to laugh a few weeks back when Michael Chertoff with the DHS came on the TV and implored all of us System Administrators in the U.S. to immediately install Microsoft's latest critical updates in order to protect the nation's water and energy supply. Sorry M, I'm just the guy with the shovel hanging around behind the elephant. If that phucker stampedes, I don't have enough fingers to plug the dike.

Be very afraid...Nah, screw that. Be ebullient, and dance the madagascar.

End of quote I changed the names to protect the innocent.

Grapeshot

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