enitharmon: (Default)
A database file fell into my hands this week.

Let's just say that it emanated from an agency of the state; that it contains information which is not in the least confidential, nor a threat to anybody's privacy; that each individual record contains information that is easily obtainable in itself, but that there is a very large number of such records: every one in the country in fact. And that this information in bulk is very useful to me in my work, and to the small businesses who are my clients, but the prices charged for the bulk information by the said state agency put it beyond the means of most such businesses.

It struck me that, not very many years ago, I would not have been able to handle this file on my home computer. It is a simple text file of comma-delimited records with its non-numeric records enclosed in quotes. In its compressed form it takes up 19 Megabytes of space - that's almost twice the total disk capacity of the first hard-disk-equipped computer I had at home and would have almost filled the disk of the shiny IBM PC-AT that arrived on my desk in 1985, the first such prestigious PC in the whole of a major international bank's London operation. It's also 600 times the core capacity of the first mainframe computer I ever worked with professionally: an NCR Century 100 that had a whole air-conditioned building to itself on an industrial estate in Hull.

Uncompressed, in a format that can be worked with, it takes up a whopping 240 Megabytes. The computer I happily worked with up to 10 years ago would have struggled to hold that much data along with the operating system and associated applications.

Oddly enough, by removing all the quote characters, which are redundant, and incidentally substituting all the comma delimiters with tab characters, I have shaved a whole 55 MB from the size of the raw file without degrading any of the data. That's an awful lot of data space wasted. Even compressed, the modified file is now only 11 MB, a saving of 8 MB (nearly a whole original IBM PC-XT's worth. And a number of Sinclair Spectrums I don't even care to think about.

This might all seem geet-talk to many, but it contains much food for thought about how we are all profligate with abundance in whatever form it takes, and forgetting to appreciate how our wastage is the loss of others not so fortunate as to live amongst abundance.
enitharmon: (Default)
I had to replace my mouse this morning. Its left-click action had been getting a tad spongy over a period and I realised today that it needed something close to brute force to work. It was a three-button Logitech mouse that had done sterling service since the computer before last, and it only cost GBP 3.99 to replace so I can't complain.

The new one does its job fine. But there's something I feel unhappy about.

The first thing I noticed was how light it was. It doesn't have that chunky feeling in the hand that the old one did,as if it was meant to snuggle into my palm. Its plastic cable is still springy from being coiled up in the box, and when I let go of the mouse the cable drags it under the desk. And it doesn't have a ball, it has an annoying red light instead. I liked mouse balls, they had a nice, old-fashioned, mechanical feel to them and so long as you looked after them (and didn't smoke endless roll-ups at the keyboard) they did a fine job.

Forgive me if I sound like a dinosaur, but I can't get my head round the idea that everything these days should be as small as possible, have as few moving parts as possible, and preferably involve electronics and coloured lights. Hey, I like moving parts. I like chunky knurled knobs and ratchety things to turn, and levers. One reason why I have been so reluctant to go over to fully digital photography is that I love using my old Nikon, with its rings and buttons and manual rewind lever and the satisfying clunk when you take a picture. I liked playing with Don's Mamiya TLR too, with its crank on the side. I can't afford to collect antiques, but if I did I'd go for Victorian scientific instruments. All that polished wood and brass; all those intricately interconnecting cogs and wheels. Heaven!

Am I a sad git, or what?

Valhalla

Oct. 6th, 2007 11:03 am
enitharmon: (Default)


After extensive testing by our team of inspectors, for robustness, functionality, effectiveness, edibility, sleepability and potential for hidey-holes, Valhalla is now in action.

Don't you dig the funky goth colour scheme?

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