Swiss Cheese IT

Intriguing week. Lots of confusion and strife. Had to motor into Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill Wednesday for a gum inspection. Two weeks early. Not bad but draining with the uncertainty going in.

Then on Thursday I had to motor to Guntersville to help a colleague install Linux Mint on an old (relatively) W7 lapbox. Which turned out to be severly whacked by its Windows install and had to be given religionist internment.

Did I mention the box was made by HP? Sad. Used to be a good company when I was in college. Stercus now.

After the debacle we shared our experiences with IT staffers over a mediocre cup of coffee distilate. I won’t mention the location since coffee distillate isn’t part of their mission.

Then today, at gym, I listened to an episode of Linux Links podcast. On this, the part I listened to this morning – the rest tomorrow afternoon (I do hate the religionist discrimination the gym management practices!) – the four talkers held a telecon with some young woman who was a Freshman in college studying Computer Science. This conversation – and the discussion Thursday – reminded me of a couple of things

  1. Computer Science folks can’t do Nerd computing.
  2. If you have to tell me your discipline is a science, then it isn’t.

I have visited the latter several times previously and won’t elaborate much on the matter. Computer Science is considered to be a STEM discipline but too many of the folks who study it are not nerds. They’re geeks. They collect stuff mostly, and do sometimes. But mostly in inordinately well defined environments.

Take the physical universe. The only manuals we have for it are the ones we have written for ourselves. (And, NO, religionist books are not manuals!)

Take the biological universe. The only manuals we have for it are the ones we have written for ourselves.

Take the computer universe (relatively speaking.) All the manuals we have for it are how the universe was made. In effect, Computer Science guys are gods because the create their stuff from the physical and biological and social universes. 

So why do they have such problems? If you ask, they will tell you it’s because of all the people who aren’t IT and the IT folk who are idiots and sociopaths. The latter usually being everyone but the individual and his (very few her – mostly because of good sense) drinking buddies. 

Did I mention that this is a construct of MegaHard and Forbidden Fruit attitudes towards computing? The more serf-like the users, the better. Especially management, who is seen as the great evil because they never make the IT budget large enough. 

But all the wiring diagrams of their universe are there from the get-go.

What does this have to do with nerd computing? Well, nerd computing is different from everybody else’s. Most people do browsing and spreadsheeting and word processing and maybe a bit of databasing. Nerds write computer programs, something that only IT folk are supposed to do. But the Nerds use languages that the IT folk don’t know and, in most cases, can’t learn very well. 

Say FORTRAN to a young IT person and they’ll have to go into psychiatric analysis. And that’s what all the supercomputers are programmed with.

Nerds also want to attach computers to things they have built for themselves, like spectrometers and particle accelerators. IT folks mostly can’t make stuff but they can – sorta – repair what they have. At least if it can be repaired. Only the minority of IT folks can design IT stuff. 

IT folks claim that IT is a profession. No argument, if profession means a body of knowledge that you get paid to know and use. 

So what is NERD computer programming? For example, a simulation of the formation of the universe? Can IT guys do this. Unless they’re the rare ones who are NERDs, they can’t. Generally only NERDs can do NERD programming. And that really bugs IT folks. Because it’s a knowledge hole in their domain.

The good news is that some of them can learn it. If they are taught by NERDs. Unfortunately, if they are, they too become NERDs and can’t be “real” IT folk any more. 

Sleeping with the Enemy.

And I need to reveal a big secret. The NERDs are happy with this. Because they want someone else to do all the scut work on the Internet. NERDs don’t mow grass. Not because they can’t but because after the first time it’s a waste of time. 

And I ain’t even gonna mention Quantum Computers. 

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ROY G BIV

Well, I seem to have survived the “Great American Eclipse”. That’s quite a name. Indicates a level of imperialism that I don’t see as fitting any more. But I managed not to hurl massive hard things at the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver so FD SCP wasn’t too upset.

In fact, the whole thing was more than a shade (no pun intended) humorous. The idea of a nation-state owning an eclipse was the cherry. The ice cream was the composition and behavior of the NASA talking heads. And the nuts and fruit sauce were the social Bogs who made up the eclipse tourism. 

The NASA dialog was the most humorous stuff, a mixture of poorly composed science and worse composed guff. Happily the folks who were doing the actual work, the camera folk and such, were competent and not called upon to sully themselves with verbal stercus. 

Despite this odor the NASA presentation was still better than those put on by the local news folks. They tried earnestly but were whelmed by their toothiness. And a bit of ‘Aw Shucks’.

As the eclipse deepened outside Castellum SCP, I retired to the porch to watch the sky. Not the eclipse mind you – I have seen several eclipses previously but before I had mostly watched the body being eclipsed. 

I also have to own up that I prefer Linar eclipses since I don’t have to worry about retinal damage.

But this time I got to just watch the sky. That is, the atmospheric light.

And it was marvelous. In it rarity better than fog. 

And hence it is over and I have much that I saw to mull upon.

 

Tower of Academia

Seven Day. On the morrow is promise that an evil monster will masticate, digest, and defecate the holy torch in the sky. 

All right, it’s ice cream day after all and something needs be done to remind the boggerate of their lemming behavior. 

I have seen two articles this week on the subject of writing. As is usual with the folks who write semi-academic articles, they confuse writing – the making of letters or ideograms or symbols on a view-able surface such as paper – with composition, the use of language to form mental information into a hoped-for communication.

The first article [Link] is a pseudo-review of a book by Steven Pinker on composition. (I have taken the necessary step of correcting the misuse lest my ire vibrate my brain into a darkness state.) The second [Link] is rather an interventional bit that says much the same thing, at least to someone who has worked at learning composition.

The first article can be summarized by

“For Pinker, the root cause of so much bad writing is a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. “

The second claims that what is missing is

“the use of narrative and tangible prose.”

Before getting into the middle of things, it seems best to meander a bit on the subject of communication. Communication is by far one of the most important things that humans do, as well as one of the most difficult. So we tend to do it poorly. 

The basic idea of communication is that we start with some information in our mind, turn it into information  in the encoding of language, speak it to another person, and that person turns the language into information in their mind, and responds by indicating understanding or non-understanding. This process is iterated until the two individuals have a reasonable confidence that they now share the information, in which case communication has successfully occurred, or that they do not share the information and either keep trying, or give up in disgust over the failure to communicate successfully.

This is a difficult proposition, fraught with danger, often resulting in war, famine, divorce, murder, or tooth disease. It is complicated by short attention spans, differences in word knowledge, and general inadequacy of mentation. 

The process becomes risky to the point of expected failure when the transmission of information is one-way. Since this is ice cream day, consider sermons. We know from observing the behavior of people who regularly listen to sermons (ostensibly – they attend services and sit in pews,) that almost nothing of that information has any effect on their behavior. This is largely due to the communication failing.

We can extend this to other one-sided communication efforts: schule instruction; television programming; political speeches. (In the latter case, the failure is carefully planned and executed.)

Composition is thus a horribly risky effort. It is inherently a one-way communication attempt. And if the composer does not take special effort to convey the information in a form that engages and is readily comprehensible to the reader, it is a failure from the get-go.

In effect, when one composes, one must tell a story that is good and is well done. 

Now let us return to our cited articles. Both are written by academics. Academics compose a great deal; that’s one the the ways they prosper. But that prosperity depends on how many compositions get published, not by how many people learn from their compositions. 

In other words, the majority of academics in the majority of their compositions do not care whether they communicate or not. They are not rewarded for the communication, only for the transmission. 

Can this be fixed? Probably not. Should it be fixed? Probably not. By that I mean that academics – in the main – cannot be taught to communicate composition-ally without breaking them as academics.

This does not mean that some academics cannot communicate composition-ally. I can think of several: Norman Cantor, Isaac Asimov; Ruel Churchill; to name a few. 

But by that token, news readers – or the folks who compose what new readers enunciate – and the like do need to learn this. 

Happily, this does not apply to all who have education. Being outside the academic environment does wonders for one’s ability to compose and communicate. 

But academics are probably a lost cause because if we teach them to communicate in composition we will have destroyed education as an organization. And we need that more today than ever. And we need educated, cognitive people in the general population to communicate. 

Yes, it’s a paradox but that doesn’t keep it from being good.

Desktop Dilemma?

Five Day. Gym schedule changes. Mostly because of discriminatory managerial practices. But with Repulsians in the Catbird seat no way are they going to let one bring a religionist discrimination charge against a capitalist.

One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, called my attention to Canonical’s on-going reinvention this morning on the Face Scroll. Seems they are moving the window buttons back to the right side!

This is amazing! After all the grrrrrrrr brrrrrrrrrrrrrr they made about how the buttons were more efficient and superstitiously anointed on the left side, they have the chutzpah to move them back. This completely tops the abandonment of Unity, the planet’s second most disliked (read: hated) desktop GUI which they claimed on rollout to be the first coming of the techno-stupid Messiah.

I shortly recalled a discussion on a special podcast of “Late Night Linux”, the successors of the superb “Linux Luddites”, that at its best struggles to be mediocre.[Link] The podcast was devoted to this post collision Ubuntu (it had to have narrowly missed a gravitational singularity?) and was mercifully short. But it did bring up a useful topic: does the Linux desktop matter?

The babble from the invisible talking heads – that’s what an audio podcast is – was that what counted – fiscally – was cloud and IOT, which we might better categorize as delusional placebo and internet-of-spythings. If all we count is immediate cash flow then that statement was accurate. But if that was all that mattered we would still be living in mud brick hovels, sacrificing every third born infant to some bull headed pseudo-deity.

The question unasked by the babblers has to do with what the Linux desktop is used for? Or perhaps better, who uses the desktop and to what purpose?

Yes, most of humanity uses the internet via slablet using either aborted, neutered Linux (Android) or pacifier iOS. The nature of these OS implementations are such as to make any kind of creative activity one geometric point shy of impossible (the smallest infinity less one is finite, that’s the definition – maybe?) The vast majority of the users of these devices are parasitic consumers in the sense that while they may pay for access and service, they do not add anything to the substance of human knowledge or civilization.

The people who add to knowledge or add to civilization mostly use the desktop. That’s because the desktop is a tool and these productive, creative people are tool users. 

The desktop is like a hospital or a university or the Large Hadron Collider. Most people don’t need these things except occasionally. But they are the things that keep civilization – and humanity – going and growing (maybe) and not going extinct. 

The point being that a hospital with staff is a building without effect. A university without staff is buildings without effect. …

That’s why the desktop is important. Not for the man-in-the-street, for the man (or woman) who creates the means to streets.

Fallen Branch

Three Day. Off to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Much dashing about. So late for morning informational ablutions. So while plumbing the depths of FaceScroll, I came across this [Link]

I found this tree rather amusing, mostly for the choices of branches. As with most such amateur attempts at graphical taxonomy, the entertainment is in what is left out rather than what is put in. Among these is the branch of NERD STEMs.

First of all NERD STEMs tend to use Linux because of its capabilities and freedoms. Depending on their depth of interest in computational “science” (used here figuratively since anything that has to tell you it’s a science, isn’t,) they may use either Debian or Arch branch. Only the ones who operate in tight control environments use institutional Linux. I shall not dignify this matter with further comment.

As a rule, NERD STEMs want a non-hassling Linux distro. Geeks may want to wonk about with bit bashing but Nerds generally see the distro as a tool and want it to be tool-like: well behaved and trustworthy. And not in need of repair. But sometimes in need of modification.

NERD STEMs may be theoreticians, experimentalists, or intermediates. Some disciplines, such as biology tend to be almost exclusively experimentalists. 

Theoreticians tend to be primarily concerned with maths. That means that they will generally have several computational algebra clients on their box. No point in wasting time bashing maths for analytical solution when the box can do it. They also like graphs so they will have a couple of instant graphification clients. 

Experimentalists tend to be concerned with numbers. That means they will have some high tension (as in electricity) statistical clients and and maybe some electronics design clients and CAD/CAM/CAE clients. They also have statistics and graphing clients to crunch the experimental numbers.

Intermediates are the intersection/union of the two previous.

Nerds write code. Mostly they write in FORTRAN and NERD PYTHON. They don’t care about GUI stercus once they get to graduate schule. All that matters is numbers. And pictures of numbers. Not pretty box art. 

Enough. The branch for STEM NERDs is probably orthogonal to the sheet of the picture above.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

 

Peek-a-Boo

Seven Day, but not as conclusive as it should be. With the Two Day being holy, this week portends to be rather miserable all about. On the happy (?????????????) side however, today is the anniversary of the signing of the declaration of independence. Yes, I know it will be celebrated on Two Day but that will be the anniversary of the reveal of the declaration. Seems it took the Founding Fathers two days to “screw up their courage” to show their chutzpah to the mob as it was then called. 

This brings us to a bit of reflection on the nature of democracy. In effect, it is self-destructive. Simply put, the rational mandate that everyone need be included in a democracy results in the destruction of the rationality of the democracy since all the bogs are irrational. 

While we’re on reflection, I noted an article [Link] entitled “Even Just Seeing Your Phone Nearby Can Mess With Your Brain Power.” This work was done by Texicans but they missed the basic idea. It’s called the Observer Effect and it’s related to the collapse of the wave function. The basic idea is if you become aware of something, then a part of your brain capacity gets diverted to that something. So, in some sense, the brain of the observer is coupled with the wave function. Ta Da!

This coupling manifests in numerous ways. If you become aware of a pebble in the path then the likelihood of you stumbling over it increases. If you become aware the physician’s technician is fixing to insert a hypodermic needle, the pain is intensified and predicted.

All Observer Effect. 

And your phone is a seething mass of wave functions. All those potentialities. All those collapses and their interactions with you.

Second, I read [Link] that the Brits have built a new aeroplane carrier (naval vessel) and it’s computer system is Winders XP. This seems rather amazing to me. Did they adapt ATM software to run their shiny new Dreadmore? How is it that the Brits are so much better at Linux than everyone else – at least they have the best podcasts – and they can’t write command and control software in Linux for their shiny new barge? Perhaps they should have named it “Boaty McWindersFace?”

And lastly, a couple of my colleagues, at least they are physicists although I am unacquainted with them, have advanced a theory [Link] that dark stuff and several other unexplained bits can be by incorporating tachyons. I have to admit that I haven’t read their work, and I probably won’t because these things tend to be written by chaps who are maths wonks masquerading as physics wonks, but it makes a weird, quantum mechanics sort of sense. Rather like contemporary politics, at least here in Amerika, let’s postulate things that we can’t measure as causing other things that we can’t measure. 

And on that note, I shall go and break my fast.

 

The Blood of Science

OK, another bit of bile. Just the thing for a rainy day that raises the gorge.

This time it’s about nerd manuscript publishing. This morning I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?”

The answer, from this blogger, incidentally, is TARTARUS, VERO! with apologies for the Anglicized punctuation.

Back when I first entered graduate schule, I was immersed in the refereed journal publication environment as a part of seeking a graduate academic degree. But I have to admit that the part I was shielded from until after matriculation was the financial side. I found out about that when I wrote my first, independent, manuscript.

At that time I was employed by the Yankee Army (sometimes called the Yankee Army of Occupation, but not very loudly in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill because that occupation was providing most of the economic influx for Nawth Alibam. And still is. But all the attention gets diverted to the Space Cadet Agency which puts in less than 0.1 of what the YA does.) When I was told how much it would cost to publish my jest accepted manuscript in a professional society journal, about a month’s take-home pay at that time, I went into AW, STERCUS! mode. Then I was pointed, by one of the guardian librarians of YA employed nerds to the proper Army Regulation (more binding in Nawth Alibam than real Yankee Government LAW.) 

So I went to my boss and laid the bill on him, respectfully, mind you, and for that I learned three new words of a profane nature. The problem was not that he didn’t have the money for the publication, just that it wasn’t budgeted. So thereafter I made sure to budget a dollop of money each year to pay for publication costs.

Several years later when I got to be a high elected officer of a professional society I did a study on the relative costs of paper and electronic publication. I found out several things. The costs of publication were very unbalanced. Basically, the author bore all the burden of providing a print ready, edited manuscript to the journal. This was in part due to the practice of making other authors edit the subscription. This is sometimes known as peer review. All the journal itself does is pay for mailing manuscripts about and the actual printing and mailing of journals. Their expenses fall into three bins: mail; paper and ink; and printing labor. 

If we change to electronic publication, we replace (USPS) mail with email and we replace paper, ink, and printing labor with a server and a part time IT guy. Cost is about 0.1-0.2 of the paper route.

When I reported this, I found out that the organization wasn’t going to change. They were going to stick with paper. Why? Because they were charging about three times what they needed and were siphoning the two extra times into paying staff to do other society things. And buy luxury treatment for the society officers.

That’s one of the reasons I pretty well left the society when my term was up. 

But I later found out that the for-profit journals, which have much lower standards for publication, like basically the cashing of the cheque, were making 5-10 times what their costs were. 

So basically, the nerd publishing instrumentality is a giant parasite on the planet’s science efforts.

And parasites are seldom beneficial.

And why I basically only publish on-line.