Zorba the Hutt (zorbathut) wrote,
Zorba the Hutt

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There's this book I'm reading which happens in far-future Einsteinian potential reality. (note: I have a rather elaborate classification system that I have never described in full, but which can be used to explain scifi universes quite nicely. far-future means multi-thousand years, presumably at the point where we have colonized multiple planets - to the point where people don't memorize all the planet names. Usually spanning quite a few star systems. But still small enough that one reasonably *could*. Einsteinian means no faster-than-light travel, no hoverfields, nothing that they can't base in known science. Potential reality means that it could be a branch from our timeline, but it also might be quite different - the past isn't alluded to enough for it to be a certainty. In this case, it's on the border between potential reality and full reality, due to some remarks about the past. Star Wars, btw, is far-far-future superscience potential reality, and Star Trek is far-future non-Einsteinian full reality. Anyway. Back to the presentation.)

So there's this book I'm reading :) They're commenting about the software systems all their ships run on, and they're talking about how it's layers upon layers upon layers upon layers, with legacy code millenia old. One of the highest professions is - get this - "Programmer-Archeologist". Someone who can find the relic code that's buried deep inside your terabytes (petabytes?) of storage that almost certainly does what you want, make sure it works, and integrate it. Because it's going to be there. We're talking five thousand years of accumulated computer programs. If you happen to need a program to, say, calculate breeding habits of cockroaches, *someone* wrote it once, and stored it away, and it's there. You just gotta find it and figure out how to modify it for your needs.

And the thing is that this happens already. There are already dozens of layers, and big attempts made to circumvent the layers. Livejournal here runs on Windows. What's Windows? It's this insane amalgam of the Win32 API, Internet Explorer, the other Explorer that nobody mentions, Win16 API (legendary code from the days of the 386, which still runs), DirectX, COM, ActiveX, DOS . . . yes, Windows still runs under DOS. It pretends it doesn't, but it still does. (This will change for real in the next few years.)

And really, all these layers will just keep expanding on top of each other, more and more. Livejournal here. Ever thought about what happens when you hit Post?

I'll tell you.

The client connects to the Livejournal servers and uses its toplevel protocol to send your journal entry to their databases.

Sounds simple, huh?

Let's break it down a bit. Their protocol is an extension of HTTP POST standards. HTTP runs over TCP/IP streams. Those run over IP itself, or do they run over TCP? I forget. Anyway, that particular layer runs over whatever transfer system is being used on the physical layer. And *that* protocol is usually wrapped one layer further. At the very lowest level, somewhere, this data is probably being broken up into packets of a constant size, and sent over fibre-optic cable. Do we care? Nope. Not even the people who programmed the Livejournal client care. If they were using a high-level enough library, they just send an HTTP POST request to the appropriate server, give it the info, read the data back . . . no mention of the countless thousands or ten-thousands (or more!) of person-hours that went into programming the underlying protocols.

It's pretty staggering when you think about it. Deep in your computer could be some person's signature - BOB WAS HERE - despite the fact that Bob died ten years ago . . .

One other note: there can be bugs in any of this, and they could be just sitting there, waiting for the accidental combination of data that reveals them and causes your computer to crash. Tink. Just like that. And it might be the interaction of ten programs or drivers that reveals the bug, perhaps for the first time ever, on your computer.

Keeping that in mind, is it any wonder Windows isn't so stable? Really, we should be marveling that it works as well as it does, because it's mighty impressive that *anything* can run a billion calculations a second, written by hundreds or thousands of people, for hours at a time before making a mistake.

And here I am, totally avoiding the fact that the person who was talking about all this (in the book) found his true love who eventually betrayed him. I don't even know how she betrayed him yet, it hasn't said, but it said she did . . .

Disadvantage to going to North Seattle Community College: the bus I take to go home goes



And she hasn't replied to my ICQ message . . . whether because she doesn't care, or hasn't gotten it, or just hasn't gotten around to replying, I don't know. Jude said that maybe I needed someone to scream at. Maybe she's right . . . maybe I need to pin my ex down and force her to see what she's done to me. So to speak. oh, probably not.

I'm gonna send her another message, I think, basically saying "look, if you don't care you don't care and that's fine, I'll live, but let me know or something, because I can't handle not knowing if you do or don't care, and at the moment it looks like you don't." And she'll probably get angry at me for that also, but . . . bah. Screw it. It ain't important anymore.

wish I could get my money and my scifi collection back though . . . *sigh*

any comments on the wiseness of sending such a message? I'm wondering if I'm just being crazy.

No, scratch that, I'm wondering if I'm just being crazy and *wrong*.
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