Lane Blocked

Yesterday was a joyous day of drudge in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. It started with me rushing about rather madly to get time critical things done culminating with me arriving at the dentist’s office unlate. Then I got to endure the Listerine experience of tooth cleaning, which is an euphemism for taking the same tools that archaeologists and paleontologists use to unearth fossils and artifacts from the body of Tellus and using them to remove all the gibble that has accumulated on my teeth since the previous iteration three months ago. The discomfort is multidimensional and never really crosses the boundary into actual pain but there are times when I should express myself except for my mouth being encumbered with at least two hands, two tubes, and an instrument of intense discomfort.

The individual involved is a superbly competent technician and human of wonderful temperament. Her greatest fault is abiding me. On the positive side however, I have not, to my knowledge, ever bitten her. And the mundane medicalist bits – the absence of cancer and the proper shortness of distance between bone and gum edge were substantiated, much to my relief. When I was a kid I dreaded to be told that I had cavities because of the filling process. I should have been happy with that little if I had been told of the joys of gum treatments.

After that, I wobbled my way out to my motorcar. The dental treatment chair is the world’s most expensive furniture lacking ANY lumbar support and after the better part of an hour with my legs clenched against pain and bladder, it takes a bit for the cramps and wobbles to work out. And off to the organic supermarket for all sorts of goodies. Also the intense joy of driving across Nawth Alibam’s Shining City of the Hill – in the words of Andy Griffith – “withing getting knocked down, or stepping in something” at least in motoring terms.

Needless to say after such an excursion little was done yesterday afternoon so I ended up with several emails asking me to do something expeditiously. Disappointments issued like ration packs. And this morning I finally got to read an article on the desktop by a fellow named David Lane. [Link] Mr. Lane writes that he predicted a couple of years ago that the desktop would be the cell phone. I find the statement unpleasant and even odious. For several reasons.

First of all, I have a desktop. It is located on top of my desk, which is a piece of furniture. My cellular telephone is not a piece of furniture. I am not sure what it is, but it is not furniture. Mostly it is an appliance that masquerades as a tool. Sadly, many bogs, and a few geeks, apparently including Mr, Lane, think a cellular telephone is a tool.

I have several desktop computers. I do not really like the name but I put up with it. It is a box with electro-mechanical widgets inside. That I like better. Hence deskbox. A monitor is connected to the deskbox via a video card, the former an electro-optical widget and the latter an electro-mechanical widget. The OS, via the widgets, displays a thing called a desktop on the monitor. It is not a desktop. It looks like no desktop that I have ever used but the computer oligarchs at MegaHard dubbed it a desktop and it has become part of the language. I suspect this image on the monitor is what Mr. Lane is describing.

My deskbox is also a container of tools and some appliance thingies. They include things like browsers and LaTeX editors and symbolic algebra engines and compilers and …. I use these things on the desktop on the monitor to do what I need to do. I do not know how I would use them effectively on my cellular telephone. The screen is too small and my monitor is too large for me to carry about, even if I wore BDU trousers with balloon pockets. The cellular telephone screen is also too small for my old eyes to read well, and it does not do all the fonts I need for maths and such. And its keyboard is a mental torture.

So in any of several usages of the term desktop I find that I, personally, disagree with Mr. Lane. He has been, however, gracious enough to leave me an out so that I may continue to appreciate his wit and writing. I quote:

“I argue that in a typical enterprise environment, the 80/20 rule applies when you look at application use and processing power. 80% of the people are using only 20% of the computing power in their machines. If you have any experience in large enterprises you are snorting because it is unlikely they are even using 20%, but let’s use this for illustration. The majority of worker bees are doing simple tasks. They are writing documents, whether in a word processor or in email, they are preparing or delivering presentations, which really is only specialized word processing. They are surfing the web, administering systems, working or submitting tickets, or reading. None of these tasks is particularly computationally taxing.

The other 20% are doing tasks that are computationally taxing. Advanced data analytics, audio/video/graphical composition, CAD/CAM, data or event modeling, even some local compilation to ensure builds will work. These people have need for some serious horsepower.”

I am not sure what a “typical enterprise environment” is but I suspect it is not a Yankee government R&D center with 0.8 STEMS and 0.2 admins. So in that regard Mr. Lane’s ratio is reversed in the workplace I frequented for 32+ years. This does not matter. The ratio of states is not immediately relevant except to complicate Mr. Lane’s pontifications. What does matter is that the workplace is a mixed state.

And the conclusion that follows from it is that the enterprise bogs, the ones who are wasting CPU cycles playing Solitaire or whatever wasting of the organizational substance it is that they are doing, can indeed get by with a lesser device. And if we can make their cellular telephone that device then we can get them out of sight and maybe out of building. So they aren’t detracting from those who do real work. On deskboxes.

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