Last updateFri, 29 May 2020 10am

Tech industry spawns confusion with its interchangeable language

As I write this I have just finished a telephone support call made all the more difficult by a failure to communicate.  I really want to blame this problem on an Englishman by the name of Peter Mark Roget, but in truth he did not create the problem in 1805; he just documented it and quantified it.  The real problem is that the English language has so many synonyms and there is no consistency or agreement amongst technical people as to how they should be used.

fixr.com: Most searched-for prices reflect pressing concerns of different nations

A site found on the World Wide Web is fixr.com on which anyone may search for building and remodeling prices.  The next time you need to know how much it might cost to wallpaper a room in Boston, this web site is a good place to start.  The programmers who created this web site obviously had to collect a lot of statistics to populate their database with information about what things cost and where; so in the process of doing this seem to have data-mined Google’s search history producing some results that are at once interesting, revealing, and even entertaining.

How an extra second could provoke electronic chaos

When you wake up  on the morning of Wednesday, July 1, if you discover some electronic device or another is not working, here is a possible explanation.  Tuesday, June 30 is going to be a longer day than the days before … by exactly one second.  Time kept by atomic clocks is constant, but the rotation of the earth is slowing down by about two milliseconds per day, so 25 times since 1972 there has been an extra second added to the length of the year in order to compensate.  This happens every year or two and every time this happens it seems to cause more chaos in cyberspace than it did the last time.

Getting to grips with your computer’s ‘default’ mode

A client asked me a question the other day, and much to my embarrassment the answer almost eluded me.  The question was “What is the meaning of the word `default’?”  Sometimes I have difficulty explaining things that are so common and familiar to me that I assume everyone else is equally familiar.

Internet muddles along on ‘best effort’ approach

In an earlier column I drew a comparison between the industry standards required for internet communications versus the construction codes enforced by building inspectors.  Both the Information Technology industry and the building industry have their “bibles” defining minimum standards, and they differ radically in their philosophy.  The approach usually taken by the Fire Marshal to their code is one of “zero tolerance” because they know that any variance from the code could kill someone.  By contrast, the approach taken by those who defined the standards for the internet was a “best effort” approach in which they accepted from the beginning that not all traffic was going to go through and a certain amount of death and dying was to be expected.  The contrast between these two philosophies has had a dramatic and sometimes deleterious effect on everyone using the internet.