"Philosophical habits of mind do not come quicker through fiber
optics. Clear thinking is not aided by better dot resolution.
Understanding ourselves and feeling for others does not come
with a software upgrade." -Linda Ray Pratt
BBB III TTT SSS BBB Y Y TTT EEE SSS ONLINE EDITION:
B B I T S B B Y Y T E S =THE ELECTRONIC
BBB I T SSS AND BBB YYY T EEE SSS =NEWSLETTER FOR
B B I T S B B Y T E S =INFORMATION
BBB III T SSS BBB Y T EEE SSS =HUNTER-GATHERERS
Volume 3, Number 1 (January 9, 1994)
EDITORIAL : =
================: Bits and Bytes: What's in store for 1995 =
PARITY BITS : =
================: Developing a Personal Information Strategy; =
: Infoliteracy; Just Another Electronic Wiggle; =
: The Empire of the Useless; Transparent Interfaces =
NEWS BYTES : =
================: Biocomputer Update; OS Wars: Warp Factor X; =
: How About that Pentium Chip? =
NETIQUTTE 101 : =
================: How to be Annnoying Online =
KULTCHER KORNER : =
================: Beware the Cyber-Weasels; Frank Zappa Update; =
: Telecommuting on the Rise =
SOFTWARE REVIEW : =
================: ClickBook =
EDITORIAL: BITS AND BYTES -- WHERE WE'VE BEEN AND WHERE WE'RE HEADED
This issue marks the beginning of the third year of Bits and Bytes
Online Edition, the electronic newsletter for information hunter-
gatherers, here in the early days of the age of information. I
thought I'd take a moment and outline some of the changes you'll be
seeing in future editions of B&B. First off, a word about the year
just past. You may have noticed my publication schedule was a little
erratic. I'll be blunt: 1994 was not a banner year here at B&B
Central. Life in all its splendour kept throwing some rather nasty
curve balls my way -- personal, professional, and otherwise. But the
worst is behind me (I hope) and B&B will be published at least once a
month this year, possibly more often. (Really!) I'll be experimenting
with a variety of formats. You'll notice, for instance, that this
issue has very few reviews and access to internet resources. Look for
those in the next issue, dated 1/24/95, which will consist almost
exclusively of that kind of material -- a roundup of my favorite net
resources, books and magazines. It's not meant to be exhaustive, I
just want to acknowledge the sources that I find useful and
interesting in my travels through the dataverse.
B&B has about 3500 subscribers right now, and that number is growing
daily. Another favor I'll ask of you is to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE
unsubscribe your funky selves from the list when you change email
accounts or (gasp!) go offline. It is a major hassle for me to deal
with bounced mail. The easiest way to handle it is to send an
'unsubscribe bits-n-bytes' command to the listserver
(firstname.lastname@example.org) from your old address, but if it's too late,
just email me with the particulars at: email@example.com
and I'll take care of it. Please write and let me know what you think,
what you know, and what you might like to see in future editions. Now,
without further ado, here is the first issue of Bits and Bytes Online
Edition for 1995. Happy new year everybody, and THANKS to everyone who
has supported the Bits and Bytes project.
DEVELOPING A PERSONAL INFORMATION STRATEGY (Arno Penzias)
Even though a computer's actions sometimes mimic human intelligence,
such machines are fundamentally different from brains. While computers
afford humans much valuable help in processing massive amounts of
information -- as in refining the design of a jetliner's wings, or
keeping the books of the Social Security Administration -- they offer
little serious competition in the areas of creativity, integration of
disparate information, and flexible adaptation to unforeseen
circumstances. Here the human mind functions best.
Unlike machines, human minds create ideas. We need ideas to guide us
toward progress, as well as tools to implement them. As with any other
set of tools, the real power of information techology comes from the
human ideas that create and focus it.
The following notions may serve as helpful guideposts as you begin to
develop your personal information strategy. Remember:
1) Computer ownership doesn't guarantee computer literacy.
2) Logic is cumbersome; that's why humans rarely use it.
3) Computers don't contain "brains" any more than stereos contain
4) Machines only manipulate numbers; people connect them to meaning.
5) An inexact number is almost always good enough.
6) Computers are just fast calculators pushing their own buttons.
7) Digital information travels better, like mailing cookie recipes
instead of cookies.
8) Computers are like cars -- they're great for speed, but you have
to steer them.
9) People run too many errands for their machines, especially if they
think they have to.
10) If you don't want to be replaced by a machine, don't act like one.
After all, I have no doubt that the world's most powerful information
tool will continue to be the human mind.
[From the introduction to _Ideas and Information_ by Arno Penzias,
1989 Touchstone Books]
INFOLITERACY I (Peter Drucker)
Most CEOs still believe that it's the chief information officer's job
to identify the information he requires. This is, of course, a
fallacy. The information officer is a toolmaker; the CEO is the tool
CEOs must accept that if the computer is a tool, it is the tool
user's job to decide how to use it. They must learn to assume
information responsibility. Which means asking, What information do I
need to do my job? In What form? When? The information specialists can
then say, Look, you can't get it in this form, you can get it in that
form. The answer is relatively unimportant and technical; it is the
basic questions that count: What information do I owe? To whom? In what
form? When? Unfortunately, most people still expect the chief
information officer or some other technologist to answer those
questions. This won't do.
The first step is to take information responsibility: What information
do I need to do my job? In what form? The information specialists can
then say, Look, you can't get it in this form; you can get it in that
form. The answer is relatively unimportant and technical; it is the
basic questions that count: When do I need it? From whom? What
information do I owe?
The moment you examine these questions, you realize that the
information you need -- the really important information -- you cannot
truly get from your information system. Your information system gives
you inside information. But there are no results inside a business.
Let's take a look at that endangered species, the American department
store. Nobody knew more about their customers than did these stores.
Until the 1980s they held onto their customers. But they had no
information about noncustomers. They had 28 percent of the retail
market, the largest single share. However, this meant that 72 percent
didn't shop at the department stores. And the department stores had no
information on these people. And they couldn't have cared less. Thus,
they were unaware that new customers -- especially the affluent -- do
not shop in department stores. Nobody knows why. They just don't. By
the end of the 1980s, though, these noncustomers had become the
dominant influence group. They began to determine how all of us shop.
But nobody in the department store world knew this because they had
been looking at their own customers. After a time, they knew more and
more about less and less.
(SOURCE: "Infoliteracy", Forbes ASAP 8/29/94, p. 104)
==> CHICAGO FORECAST: EXPECT DELAYS. Microsoft has announced that the
next version of Windows, Windows95 (formerly known as Chicago),
will not ship until August of 1995. The delay is needed, explained
MS executive VP Steve Balmer, to help ensure a feature-rich and
bulletproof product. The major snafu at this point is the much
anticipated Plug-and-Play feature, which will automagically
recognize and configure printers and other equipment to work with
Windows. Well, there are a lot of third vendor products out there,
and right now Windows 95 doesn't handle enough of them gracefully.
So it's back to the drawing board for the boys and girls at
Redmond. I will say that it's good to see that Microsoft is taking
the time to ensure a (reasonably) bug-free first release. (SOURCE:
InfoWorld 12/26/94, p. 1)
==> OS/2 3.0. Meanwhile, IBM has just unleashed this major upgrade to
it's OS/2 operating system. Codenamed Warp, the product has been
designed to be more user-friendly, and in an attempt at greater
market appeal comes bundled with a suite of software applications
including an interface to Compuserve and to the Internet featuring
a World Wide Web browser, TCP/IP and other networking tools. The
current release installs on top of Windows, but early this year a
standalone version will be available that can run Windows apps
without the need to have Windows installed. Advance word on the
product has been generally good, and the memory requirements are
not outrageous. If you have need for a true multitasking operating
system, you may want to give Warp a look. (SOURCE: Informationweek
9/12/94, p. 15)
HEARD ANY GOOD PENTIUM JOKES LATELY? (Jay Machado)
I guess by now you've all heard about the recently discovered flaw in
Intel's top of the line Pentium chip. Without going into a lot of
technical detail, the error will only occur in certain floating point
mathematical calculations and really won't affect the average user.
What irked many was Intel's careless handling of the matter, it's
disregard for public perception. It should be noted that public
outcry, much of it from the Internet, was largely responsible for
Intel finally capitulating and offering replacement chips to anyone
who desired them. A sobering hint of the power of the net. It should
also be noted that the error was not a computer error -- rather, it
was a human transcription error, some transposed numbers in a hard
coded lookup table residing somewhere on the chip. Intel has set up
a toll-free number (800/628-6868) for people who wish to replace their
Pentium chips, but try contacting your computer vendor first.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of all the controversy were
countless Intel jokes that made the usual rounds on the net. I'm
taking the liberty of reprinting some of my favorites. Stop me if
you've heard this one before...
TOP 10 REASONS TO BUY A PENTIUM
9.9999973251 Your old PC is too accurate.
8.9999163362 Provides really good alibi when the IRS calls.
7.9999414610 Attracted by Intel's new 'You don't need to know
what's inside' ad campaign.
6.9999831538 It redefines computing -- and mathematics!
5.9999835137 You've always wondered what it would be like to be
4.9999999021 Current paperweight not big enough.
3.9998245917 Takes concept of floating point to a whole new level
2.9991523619 You always round off to the nearest hundred anyway.
1.9999103517 Got a great deal from Jet Propulsion Laboratory!
And the number one reason to buy a Pentium:
0.9999999998 It'll probably work!
Q: What's the new name for the 'Intel Inside' sticker?
A: The warning label!
"You know what goes great with those defective Pentium chips?
Defective Pentium salsa!" (David Letterman)
Q: What do you get when you cross a Pentium PC with a research grant?
A: A mad scientist.
Q: What algorithm did Intel use in the Pentium's floating point divider?
A: "Life is like a box of chocolates."
(SOURCES: LaughWeb (URL:http://www.misty.com/laughweb/), various net-
humor files, and InformationWeek)
NETIQUETTE 101: HOW TO BE ANNOYING ONLINE (Chip Rowe)
Make up fake acronyms. On-line veterans like to use abbreviations
like IMHO (in my humble opinion) and RTFM (read the freaking manual)
to show they're "hep" to the lingo. Make up your own that don't
stand for anything (SETO, BARL, CP30), use them liberally, and then
refuse to explain what they stand for ("You don't know? RTFM").
WRITE YOUR MESSAGES IN ALL CAPS AND DON'T USE PERIODS OR RETURNS SO
THAT EVERYONE HAS TO SCROLL ACROSS THEIR SCREENS TO READ EVERY LINE
ALSO USE A LOT OF !!!!!!!! AND DDOOUUBBLLEESS TO SHOW THAT YOU'RE
EXCITED ABOUT BEING HERE!!!!!!!!
cc: all your email to Al Gore (firstname.lastname@example.org) so
that he can keep track of what's happening on the
Join a discussion group, and tie whatever's being discussed back to
an unrelated central theme of your own. For instance, if you're in a
discussion of gun control, respond to every message with the
observation that those genetically superior tomatoes seem to have
played an important role. Within days, all discussion of gun control
will have ceased as people write you threatening messages and
instruct all other members to ignore you.
(SOURCE: Spy Magazine, Aug. 1994, reprinted in UTNE Reader #66,
Nov/Dec 1994) <<>>
JUST ANOTHER ... ELECTRONIC WRIGGLE (John Updike)
It seems to me the book has not just aesthetic values -- the charming
little clothy box of the thing, the smell of the glue, even the print,
which has its own beauty. But there's something about the sensation of
ink on paper that is in some sense a thing, a phenomenon rather than
an epiphenomenon. I can't break the association of electric trash with
the computer screen. Words on the screen give the sense of being just
another passing electronic wriggle.
(SOURCE: Atlantic Monthly September 1994, p.61)
INFOLITERACY II (Peter Drucker)
We need outside information, and we will have to learn. But it is
complicated because most businesses have two information systems. One
is organized around the data stream; the other, far older one, around
the accounting system. The accounting system, though, is a
500-year-old information system that is in terrible shape. The changes
we will see in information technologies over the next 20 years are
nothing compared to the changes we will see in accounting.
At present, these two systems are separate. They will not be separate
for our grandchildren's generation. Today's CEOs still depend on the
accounting model. I don't know of a single business that bases its
decisions on the data processing stream. Everyone bases their
decisions on the accounting model, even though most of us have learned
how easy this model is to manipulate.
THE EMPIRE OF THE USELESS (Critical Art Ensemble)
"Here then are the two sides, forever in opposition. Today the two
antithetical opinions continue to manifest themselves throughout
culture. Corporate futurologists sing the praises of computerized
information management, satellite communications, biotechnology, and
cybernetics; such technological miracles, they assure us, will make
life easier as new generations of technology are designed and produced
to meet social and economic needs with ever-greater efficiency. On the
other hand, the concerns of pessimists, neoluddites, retreatists, and
technophobes ring out, warning that humanity will not control the
machines, but that the machines will control humanity. In more
fanciful (generally Hollywood) moments, the new dystopia is envisioned
as a world where people are caught in the evil grip of a self-
conscious intelligent machine, one that either forces them into
slavery, or even worse, annihilates the human race.
These are the two most common narratives of social evolution in regard
to technology. For the utopians, the goal of progress is similar to
the vision of Rene Clair - technology should become a transparent
backdrop that will liberate us from the forces of production, so that
we might engage in free hedonistic pursuits. For the dystopians,
technology represents a state apparatus that is out of control - the
war machine has been turned on, no one knows how to turn it off, and
it is running blindly toward the destruction of humanity."
[The Critical Art Ensemble(CAE) is a collective of six artists of
different specializations committed to the production of a new genre
art that explores the intersections among critical theory, art, and
technology. This is reprinted from the VPIEJ-L mailing list]
==> NEURAL NET WEAVING 101. Researchers have recently isolated two
proteins from the spinal cords of chicks that direct the growth
and movement of axons (the main communications link for nerve
cells) along the spine. Cells specially engineered to secrete
Netrins placed in petri dishes containing pieces of rat spinal
cord caused axon tips -- called growth cones -- to reach towards
the Netrin-secreting cells. Other substances have been found to
repel axon growth. Similar mechanisms may play a part in the
growth and development of human brain pathways. Two papers in the
August 12 issue of CELL describe the proteins. Little by little
we're figuring out the mechanics of inner space. How long before
we try to "tweak" brain pathways for more efficient functioning.
This is already being done somewhat with some of the so-called
smart drugs that appear to improve brain function, but research
along these lines will eventually yield a more "engineering-
oriented" approach, an effort to design more efficient brain
structures from the ground up. (SOURCE: Science News, Vol. 146,
No. 9, 8/27/94, p. 135)
==> TUNING UP YOUNG BRAINS. A study conducted at the University of
California's Irving campus suggests that music lessons may improve
spatial reasoning skills employed by preschool children. Early
musical training may strengthen communication among brain areas
involved in music as well as activities like complex mathematics,
sculpting, and navigation. More research must be conducted to see
if the effects are permanent, and if older children respond
similarly to music lessons. The children studied ranged in age
from 3-5 years old. (SOURCE: Science News, Vol. 146, No. 9,
8/27/94, p. 135)
==> IN OTHER NEWS...Matthew Geraci recently suffered severe brain
damage in a 1989 automobile accident, from which he has largely
recovered except for two conditions: (1) He sometimes stares
aimlessly at things for hours at a time, and (2) he has suddenly
acquired an artistic sense after a lifelong passion for
nonartistic endeavors such as math. Geraci, 35, recalls his
first flash of artistic insight, during a 1992 therapy class: "I
had eight colored pencils, and I just started to draw. . . . what
I saw in my mind." A University of Washington neuropsychiatrist
said there is "nothing in the [medical] literature" to explain
Geraci's condition. Geraci's show of "colorful, abstract" fish
opened recently in a gallery in South Bend, Wash. (SOURCE:
Dayton Daily News-Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7-14-94 via News of
TRANSPARENT INTERFACES (Mike Gordon)
At a recent Poynter Institute conference on new media, Chuck Carter,
the art director for Myst, called the audience's attention to a key
fact about the user interface for the popular CD-ROM game: "It's
invisible." No buttons, no scroll bars, no dialog boxes. While Myst
and the morning news have all too little in common, the underlying
truth remains: The more transparent the interface, the more brightly
the content shines through. (SOURCE: ONLINE-NEWS, 10/27/94)
==> BEWARE THE CYBER-WEASELS. I've heard that a few new businesses
have been using hired shills to mention products in newsgroups and
BBS forums. Nothing blatant, as that is likely to be frowned upon
(and its originator vigorously flamed), but the subtle dropping of
names and products in suitable forums -- that might go unnoticed.
Who can you trust in the mad dance of the spindoctors? (SOURCE:
ORA.COM, 4/94, Computist's Communique)
==> FRANK ZAPPA NEWS UPDATE. First off, Frank's been nominated for
induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for 1995. Secondly,
Rykodisc has acquired (for a mere 30 or 40 million bucks!) the
Frank Zappa catalog from Gail Zappa (Mrs. Frank) and the Zappa
Family Trust. The deal encompasses virtually the entire body of
Zappa's officially recorded and released work (over 60 albums),
including two new albums that he produced prior to his death in
1993. In addition, Rykodisc has secured the exclusive rights to
market and distribute future releases that are to be issued from
the Zappa archives. "We believe that Frank Zappa will be regarded
as the preeminent composer of the late 20th century," stated
Rykodisc President Don Rose. "His recorded works are testament to
that, as well as to his intelligent, uncompromising, and, in many
ways, prescient musical vision. The Zappa catalog is nothing less
than a national treasure." Gail Zappa adds that "We are delighted
to have been able to realize Frank's wishes concerning his masters
-- that they be sold to a company that would honor and preserve
the integrity of both the works and the catalog itself."
(SOURCE: Press release on Rykodisc's forum on Delphi)
==> TELECOMMUTING GROWS. In 1990, there were an estimated 2 million
telecommuters in this country. That number has increased to 7.8
million this year . And by the year 2001, there will be an
estimated 30 million telecommuters. (NBC Nightly News)
"A big office building in a central city will be the buggy whip of
our time." (Venture capitalist Joe Schoendorf on the changes wrought
by the online economy, quoted in InformationWeek 11/21/94, p.10)
SOFTWARE REVIEW: CLICK BOOK (Jay Machado)
Click book is one of those programs you didn't know how much you
needed till you went out and got it! Are you with me on this? Wanna
buy a copy of Bits and Bytes Wallet-Sized Edition? No problemo. Click
Book does one thing and one thing only, correction, it does the *hell*
out of one thing, and that thing is to print up your documents (text
files, word documents, etc) as booklets. A wide variety of formats are
at your fingertips. Perfect for printing documentation in a concise
format, or for putting out your own mini-digests... the possibilities
are endless. And yet, using ClickBook is a remarkably brain-free
process. Create your document like you normally would using your
favorite Windows application, and before you print it out set your
printer driver to be the clickbook driver. That's all there is to it!
Add paper, scissors, staples, and follow the magic footprints.
Available at fine software vendors all over this proud land of ours.
ClickBook, from Bookmaker Corporation! I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!
INFOLITERACY III (Peter Drucker)
If you are not computer literate, do not expect anyone in your
organization to respect you. The young people in your businesses take
it for granted; they expect at least literacy from the boss. My five-
year-old granddaughter would have no respect for me if I told her,
"You know, I'm afraid of the telephone." She wouldn't even believe me.
Times change, and we must change with them. We are moving from minimal
computer literacy -- knowing little more than the ABCs and
multiplication tables of computing -- to the point where we can really
do something with computers. That will be an exciting and challenging
prospect for the years ahead.
We are just entering that stream. It's going to be a fast one.
### ADMINISTRIVIA ###
NEXT ISSUE. Next issue's theme is: My Favorite Things. And we ain't
talking raindrops on kittens here. More reviews and resources than you
can shake a stick at. Information Overload here we come! And what
about... "Bob"? Look for B&B v3 #2 in your in-box on 1/24/95.
HEY SYSOPS! If you are archiving B&B on your BBS, please drop me a
note. I'd like to mention your BBS in B&B.
LETTERS. We welcome submissions and commentary. All mail sent to the
editor or to B&B will be treated as a "letter to the editor" and
considered printable, unless you tell me otherwise.
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BITS AND BYTES ONLINE EDITION is the electronic newsletter for
information-based lifeforms, and is printed using 100% recycled
electrons. We use only the finest American electrons here at Bits and
Bytes, handpicked by specially trained technicians and beechwood aged
for extra smoothness.
THE LEGAL BITS. Bits and Bytes is copyright (c)1995 Jay Machado.
Unaltered, electronic distribution of this file for non-profit
purposes is encouraged. Please contact the editor for reprint
permission. The editor is solely responsible for the editorial content
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=============== End of Bits and Bytes Online V3, #1 =================