I.T. Humour

Elements of truth underlay all good humour. Information Technology is no different.


Evolution of the System Administrator

Given that there is a lot of discussion about whether or not our LAN really does have a System Administrator, and given that no empirical evidence of the existence or non-existence of the System Administrator is exact, I thought it would be helpful to have a frank and open discussion about the issues surrounding the concept.

Here are some popular arguments:

Argument from Design
One looks at a simple computer, and sees evidence of intelligent design.
One looks at a Sun Sparc 20 and… um… well… Okay, One looks at a DEC Alpha and sees evidence of intelligent design.
It is therefore likely that something created them.
One looks at the network and sees evidence of intelligent design.
It is therefore likely that something created it. That something is the System Administrator.

If you think the network implies intelligent design, you haven’t seen *our* network.
Even assuming this proves the existence of a System Administrator, there’s no evidence the System Administrator is intelligent.

First Causes Argument
When my computer comes on, it is because I turned it on. My computer cannot turn itself on.
When I turn my computer on and connect to the network, the network is already there waiting for me.
I know I did not activate the network.
Therefore, something must have caused the network to exist.
That something could be the Router, but then what installed the Router?
That something must be the System Administrator.

So what caused the System Administrator?
Still doesn’t prove the System Administrator is intelligent.

The Argument from Popularity
Almost everyone believes that the System Administrator exists. Those who don’t believe He exists are in the minority.
Many respected people claim to have received email from Him.
In almost any company since the dawn of the Computer Age, there has been some form of System Administrator myth.
Given the universality of the myths, it is unlikely that such myths are based on truth.

Most users are clueless morons who need to believe in the Great Benevolent Super-User, and that He protects and watches over their data.
So who’s to say it’s the System Admin that HR claims to have hired? Why not Brian Kernighan or Cliff Stoll, or Zeus, or Thor or any other such mythical creature?

The Argument from Authority

Management insists that the System Administrator exists.

a. HR insists that they hired Him
b. Accounting claims to have PO’s signed by Him
c. MIS has the The Big Book of Documentation, written by Him or His disciples.

Since when has Management known what they were doing?
Using the Big Book of Documentation as proof that the BBoD was written by the System Administrator is circular. It could be a fabrication.

The Cartesian Argument
No user can create a more Super account than he himself possesses.
No user can grant greater system privileges than he himself possesses.
All users have heard of the root account, and that the root account is omnipotent and possesses all privileges.
Since the concept of the root account is greater than the accounts possessed by the users, the users cannot have created the concept of the root account. Therefore the concept of the root account must come from something that possesses those privileges.
There is an entry for ‘root’ in /etc/passwd.
The root account can only have been created by the Super User, the System Administrator.

Statement 1 is a dubious premise.
The existence of the root account is not proof that anyone ever logs into that account.
Still doesn’t prove that the System Admin is intelligent.

The Ontological Proof
Given: The property of existence is more Super than the property of non-existence.
The SysAdmin is defined as “a user, than which no more Super User can be conceived”
No matter how great a Super User you can conceive which possesses the property of non-existence, you can then add the property of existence and make the Super User even more Super.
Therefore, the System Administrator exists.

Rests on a dubious definition of what is and is not Super.
The concept of a Super User is nowhere near analogous to the Super User itself. I can conceive of something, but that’s only the concept of it, not the thing itself.

The Spinozist Argument

The System Administrator is defined as the most perfect user possible.
The property of necessary existence means that anything which possesses it must necessarily exist.
If existence is better than non-existence (see the ontological proof), then necessary existence is better still.
Any perfect user must possess the property of necessary existence.
Therefore the System Administrator must necessarily exist.

Being perfect, the System Administrator cannot make mistakes, delete the wrong account, trash the root directory, mess up a tape load, etc.
Being perfect, the System Administrator can not be capable of goal-directed action, because such action would imply that the network is somehow less than perfect in its current state.
Therefore, the System Administrator is really more of a force of nature within the system.
Arguably, then the System Administrator *is* the system itself.

None, since the System Administrator has been defined to the point where it is a totally useless concept, there’s no point in arguing.

At least this resolves one of the major issues: the Spinozist argument proves that *if* the System Administrator does exist, it cannot be intelligent.

August ’96



The Bill Gates Computers Vs Cars

At a recent COMDEX computer show, Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated:
“If automotive technology had kept pace with computer technology over the past few decades,” boasts Gates, “You would now be driving a V-32 instead of a V-8, and it would have a speed of 10,000 miles per hour. Or, you could have an economy car that weighs 30 pounds and gets a thousand miles with a gallon of gas. In either case, the sticker price of a new car would be less than $50.”

In response to Bill’s comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever your car would crash twice a day;
2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road you would have to buy a new car;
3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, restart and drive on;
4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine;
5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought “Car95” or “CarNT” but then you would have to buy more seats;
6. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would only run of 5% of the roads;
7. The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single “general car fault” warning light;
8. New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt;
9. The airbag system would say, “Are you sure?” before going off;
10. Occasionally for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lift the door handle, turn the key, and grab hold of the radio antenna;
11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither need them or want them. Attempting to delete this option would immediately cause the car’s performance to diminish by 50% or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department;
12. Every time GM introduced a new model car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car;
13. You would press the “start” button to shut off the engine.




IF statements
Image of Line Break

Editor’s Note:
This is a heavily-revised version of a list that’s been doing the rounds for a long time. Enjoy.

If IBM made toasters…
They would want one big toaster where people bring bread to be submitted for overnight toasting. IBM would claim a worldwide market for five, maybe six, toasters. DB2/Toaster will ship within 12 months.

If ParcPlace made toasters…
Their OO building block system would be called EGGO.

If Oracle made toasters…
They’d claim their toaster was compatible with all brands and styles of bread, but when you got it home you’d discover the Bagel Engine was still in development, the Croissant Extension was three years away, and that indeed the whole appliance was just blowing smoke.

If Sun made toasters…
The toast would burn often, but you could get a really good cuppa.

If Novell made toasters…
With most of the NetToaster market, they feel incredibly secure. Then they purchase ToasterPerfect…

If Netscape made toasters…
They don’t actually make shipping toasters, they just allow you to download successive beta versions of ever-better toasters.

If Oracle, Sun, Netscape and Novell made toasters…
They’d re-engineer the old fashioned ‘dumb toaster’, rename it the Network Toaster (or NT) and hope like hell.

If Hewlett-Packard made toasters…
They would market the Reverse Polish Toaster, which takes in toast and gives you regular bread.

If Tandem made toasters…
You could make toast 24 hours a day, and if a piece got burned the toaster would automatically toast you a new one.

If Thinking Machines made toasters…
You would be able to toast 64,000 pieces of bread at the same time.

If Sony made toasters…
The ToastMan, which would be barely larger than the single piece of bread it is meant to toast, can be conveniently attached to your belt.

If Intel made toasters…
Their ever-popular Complex Toaster Chip Set (CTCS) would double in power every 18 months, whilst still remaining compatible with the original 2-hole drop-sided toaster. Each toaster now requires its own individual exhaust fan.

If Motorola made toasters…
Motorola’s Reduced Toaster Chip Set (RTCS) provides infinitely faster processing of each individual toast instruction. However, it toasts only two molecules per instruction. The PowerToaster (see below) should be a huge step forward.

If Lotus made toasters…..
Lotus’ GroupToaster is designed to allow all the folks on your street to share the toast-cooking duties. Your allocated toasting day is Wednesday.

If Computer Associates made toasters…
CA recently acquired the ultimate toaster. They will be re-releasing it in two years as a washing machine.

If Symantec made toasters…
They don’t actually make toasters, but can provide you with toast compression, debugging and backup tools.

And finally, two views of the classic argument:

If Microsoft made toasters…
Every time you bought a loaf of bread, you would have to buy a toaster. You wouldn’t have to take the toaster, but you’d still have to pay for it anyway. Toaster’95 would :

* weigh 15000 pounds (hence requiring a reinforced steel countertop),
* draw enough electricity to power a small city,
* take up 95% of the space in your kitchen,
* claim to be the first toaster that lets you control how light or dark you want your toast to be,
* and secretly interrogate your other appliances to find out who made them.

Everyone would hate Microsoft toasters, but nonetheless would buy them since most of the good bread only works with their toasters.

If Apple made toasters…
It would do everything the Microsoft toaster does, but 5 years earlier.


If Microsoft made toasters…
All the other toaster manufactures would complain because, whilst their toasters might produce better toast in a given situation, they don’t have the ability to sell their toasters as well as Microsoft does. This really isn’t a problem because virtually no-one really wanted to use these toasters anyway. Eventually Microsoft will ship a full 32 crumb clean toaster for the kitchen benchtop market, but they are waiting until the home cooking market starts buying bigger benchtops. The BackBench toasting group has developed a great toaster, but cooks complain because it is too easy to use and this implies that business kitchens don’t really need these highly paid toaster administrators.

If Apple made toasters…
The toaster would be really easy to use but it would cost 3 times as much as the equivalent Microsoft toaster. Apple toaster users would continually bleat that their toaster came out first, and is far better, whilst stuffing a loaf of bread into those people who mention Xerox as the actual people who developed the technology. Apple toasters can be used by virtually anyone but they are very slow, and depending on the bread you use, you will be required to have the right version of ToastOS (white bread requires whilst brown requires – unfortunately this breaks white bread but it will be solved with the delivery of the PowerToster based version).

August ’96

On a more serious note which helps you put things into prospective.

A Compressed Look at the World…Lets put in perspective.

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be:
57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south and 8 Africans.
52 would be female, 48 would be male
30 would be white, 70 would be nonwhite
30 would be Christian, 70 would be non-Christian
89 would be heterosexual, 11 would be homosexual
6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
50 would have never have made or received a phone call
1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.

The following is also something to ponder… If you woke up this morning with more health than illness…you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation…you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death…you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep… you are richer than 75% of this world!

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace … you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are still alive and still married … you are very rare, even in the United States and Canada.

If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

Someone once said: What goes around comes around. Work, like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching. Sing like nobody’s listening. Live like it’s Heaven on Earth.