Son of Devil's Advocate, January 2002

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Son of Devil's Advocate

Stan Kelly-Bootle

Picture of Stan Kelly-Bootle

Not Another One?

It seems unfair to strike a sour note as one old year flips yet- again into a new. Forgetting the fact that our calendar is rather Christo-Western-centric, there is a general, global feeling that as this arbitrary odometer clicks from 12/31/yy to 01/01/yy+1, some startling fresh dynasty will emerge.

After all, we are each aware of our previous 12-month downfalls and are firmly resolved not to repeat them, especially our failure to keep earlier New Year resolutions from yy-N.

The ending year sees me with longer, browner teeth (must praise Kaiser-Delta Dental and sue R. J Reynolds), with the usual balance of increased wisdom and senility.

So what's new apart from the obvious ongoing e-com decline. Wish I could cc: you with several years of e-mail investment hype. While my modest funds remained safe in chicken IRA-SEP money- markets, there was no end of scoffers claiming obscene paper gains in e-tulips.

I resisted the quick-wins having studied the old von Mieses theorems which essentially prove that regardless of dynamic gaming strategy switches the House eventually wins.

There are endless anecdotals that continue to suck in the sucker, but by definition the House does have the prior, expected statistical long-term positive expectations.

Note for non-mathematicians: "expected value" does have a precise definition, given "Les Regles du Jeu", the rules of the game.

The terribly formal axioms of games-theory enumerated by Von Nuemann and Morgenstern/tein remind me of the refutable tale that when Einstein and Go:del were on their way to secure American citizenship, Kurt noted some inconsistencies in the US Meta-Constitution. Al, they say, kicked Kurt with a hush.

Take a recent, rare trip to Las Vegas (aka Lost Wages) when I went with a major subset of my family absent the distraction of Comdex. We parked our huge RV-RV at Circus-Circus and explored the capital of stochastic exploitation.

My "virgin" daughter Michele sat by an idle machine. Her neighbour said "Put the Quarter thus and Press thus."

Out poured $100 of the sweet silver darlings.

Xmas SODA 2001 Quiz

Entries are still dribblng in. Will delay prize-givings until my Feb 2002 SODA column.

Acronymic Update

A3D2 stands for Age Activated Attention Deficiency Disorder.

It's never bothered me, indeed, it's never bothered me. Furthermore, I've never been bothered.

Typical A3D2 contra-signs are when you write a prog statement and can't remember if it should end with a "}" or a ";"?

Worser still: you don't give a syntactic shit which satelitte lands where if at all? Some billions lost via FOTRAN for-next confusions, others through "simple" ISO units mis-conversions, and total Frog horror, an expensive arithmetic overflow!

Age-related Web Content

  FOXY LADY: Sexy, fashion-conscious, blue-haired beauty, 80's, slim, 5'-4"
(used to be 5-6), Searching for sharp-looking, sharp-dressing companion.
Matching white shoes, and belt,  a plus.
  LONG-TERM COMMITMENT:  Recent widow who has just buried fourth, husband
looking for Someone to round out a six-unit plot.   Dizziness, fainting,
shortness of breath, not a problem.
  SERENITY NOW: I am into Solitude, long walks, Sunrises, the Ocean, Yoga and
Meditation. If you are the silent type, let's get together, take our hearing
aids out, and enjoy quiet times.
  WINNING SMILE:  Active grandmother with original teeth seeking a dedicated
flossier, to share rare steaks, corn on the cob, and caramel candy.
  BEATLES OR STONES?  I still like to rock, still like to cruise in my Camaro
on Saturday nights and still like to play the air guitar. If you were a
groovy chick, or are now a groovy hen, let's get together and listen to the
'BOSS' collection of eight-track tapes.
  MEMORIES:  I can usually remember Monday through Thursday. If you can
remember Friday, Saturday and Sunday, let's put our two heads together.
  MINT CONDITION: Male, 1932, high mileage, good condition, some hair, many
new parts including hip, knee, cornea, valves. Doesn't run but walks well.

15 Long Years Ago

UNIX Review - Devil's Advocate January 1987 - Stan Kelly-Bootle

Looking Well Ahead

Yet another January column from the house of ushering, and time for still even more reckless prophecies! My first such "saw in" 1985 (of which more later), leaving me to ponder if my so-far-so-good luck will survive this thirteenth year of diabolical advocacy. My devil has the best tunes, but for sound predictions I must consult the angels. Where better to look than at the company known as Oracle and at its oracular, charismatic leader, Larry Ellison? [ref 1] The (London) Times Interface supplement for September 25, 1996 reports the Paris launch of Ellison's NC (Network Computer) box under the catchy banner, "Rivals cast doubt on the new Oracle." Needless to say, Bill Gates casts the first stony doubt: "People won't go back to o 3 having less power. Users don't want that." This reaction, of course, ignores the basic NC concept. It's not a question of the amount of power available to the user but where that power should physically reside. I suspect that Bill actually said "I won't go back to having less power." Presumably, Gates' [ref 2] ideal user yearns for expensive, quarterly, shrink-wrapped extensions (formerly known as bug fixes) to Microsoft Office and the hardware upgrades needed to support them.

Bill was no doubt stung by Larry's statement that "there would be no role for Microsoft in the development of the NC." Big fat chance! As the number of NC contenders multiplies (Philips, IBM and Apple have already pre-announced) any "unity" in the current anti-Microsoft camp is bound to disintegrate. Bets-hedging Gates is already poised to exploit the NC market, if such there be, with his CE operating system, a stripped down, stark ballad-naked OS for the basic WP and internet chores. Echoes of the XENIX/UNIX/NT saga, perhaps, except for the time scale. The Times quotes a remarkable Ellison prophecy: "There will be more NCs than PCs in the world by the year 20000." Yes, I double-checked the number of zeroes! This is The inerrant Times of London, not the typo-ridden Graudian [ref 3], so we must accept the teasing mix of optimism and pessimism in the forecast as reported. Predicting so far ahead is clearly hazardous, but difficult to gainsay. My geologist friends tell me that several ice-ages will have been and gone by 20,000 CE, and any survivors will have better things to do than tally PCs and NCs. In any case, the inventory poses a taxonomical dilemma: can we distinguish low-end PCs from enhanced NCs? o73

What Bomb Scare?

More germane to our fair trade is the looming date-bomb horror show, due to appear on a screen near you shortly after midnight, December 31st, 1999. My clients, of course, will escape the agonies of 1/1/00 and bills that are minus-99 years overdue. As a real-ancient, true-legacy consultant, I have the advantage of having tackled similar problems in 1799 and 1899. Included in my bomb-defusing package are the words to my song, "Should auld year-nybbles be forgot..." Also, my fix is guaranteed to work at least until the year 20,000.

Code To Swear By

There's a new slant on the predicate "industrial-strength," often applied to compilers that have, one assumes, been properly bolted together, subjected to high-pressure hosing, and swabbed down with oily rags. Last week, an English soccer player was sent off (shown the red card and "taking an early shower") for bad- mouthing the referee. His offence was reported as "resorting to industrial-strength language." Eiffel users should be forewarned.

Kirwin's Riddle Finally Resolved

New readers need to know that Peter Kirwin (passim a drink, like) asked for words that flip semantically when their initial letters are capitalized. Although I've reported diverse solutions in three previous columns, including Peter's own "[hH]yperboran," readers are still responding. Without wishing to curtail your creativity, I must report what may be the ultimate suggestion. Both Bob Wise and Joe Perrot point us to the ineffable pair "[gG]od." Bob writes "The existence of God denies the existence of gods, and vice-versa. What do you think?" What I think is that a new mbox-filling thread has been loosed. Now that we have a firm, stop-messing-about C++ ISO standard, there will be many amateur theologians out there with idle hands. I expect letters explaining that the Hebrew elohim can be read as "gods" or as the majestic plural for the one, true God.

Doryphore's Delight #596

From Jeffrey Archer's latest disaster, The Fourth Estate: "'Les jeux sont faites. Rien ne va plus,' the croupier said..."

Jeff has been misled by "Faites vos jeux," an entirely different kettle of grammar. "Jeux" being masculine, alas, the best frog croupiers say "Les jeux sont faits..."

ref 1: A recently uncovered folio has Shakespeare's villains plotting in vain, "After the lawyers, we'll kill all the charismatics." You can nail the individual Baakers, but there's no defence when the combined charismas of Ellison and Jobs hit the fan. o73

ref 2: The Chicago-style bible not only specifies the proper rules for killing your enemies on Valentine's Day, it also tells you how to form the possessive of personal names ending in "s." Thus, "Jones's," and "Dickens's." The exceptions are "Moses'" and "Jesus'" to which I have taken the liberty of adding "Gates'."

ref 3: The poor Guardian newspaper has improved its spelling since it moved from Manchester but cannot escape the satirical title given it by Private Eye in the 1960s.

Stan's bio:

Liverpool-born Stan Kelly-Bootle has been exposed to computing, on and off and vice-versa, since 1953 when, after graduating in Pure Mathematics at Cambridge University, he switched to impure post-grad work on the wondrous EDSAC I. After some trenching with IBM and Univac in the 1960s and 70s, Stan opted for self-employment as a consultant, writer, folk-song revivalist, after-dinner entertainer, and cunning linguist.

His monthly DA ("Devil's Advocate") column ran and ran in UNIX Review (aka Performance Computing) from 1984 until January 2000 (a date that will live in infamy) but lives on as SODA ("Son of DA") via the homepage devoted to UNIX performance.

The latest of his umpteen books are "The Computer Contradictionary" (MIT Press) and "UNIX Complete" (Sybex). More on his biblio- and disco-graphy can be found on soon due for its millennial update.

Stan welcomes reader reaction:

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Portions © copyright Stan Kelly-Bootle 2002.
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