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Wednesday, September 1 12:00 AM ET

BBspot Mailbag

Now you too can enjoy my Inbox without the annoying spam. Every week I get some amazing e-mail. Some amazing because of the sheer cluelessness of the sender, some because of the time and energy that went into crafting them and some are just simply amazing.


Inversely Proportional

In last week's Mailbag a reader wrote in expressing his theories on building computers and injuries. Many readers wrote in to correct the fact that he meant "directly" instead of "inversely." Andrew made a more in-depth analysis though...

From: Andrew Hicks
Sent: Wednesday, August 25, 2004 8:58 AM
To: briggsb@bbspot.com
Subject: Inversely proportional?

One of your mailbag contributors recently suggested that the success of any computer upgrade is inversely proportional to the number of injuries sustained; whilst it's good that people are being introduced to important mathematical concepts such as "proportionality" and "inverse" in this context this statement yields a surprising result.

Let 'S' be the success of a computer upgrade; a dimensionless quantity - fractional increase in GHz for example. Now let 'I' be the number of injuries sustained during the upgrade. If the stated relation is correct then S = k/I, where 'k' is a constant of proportionality to be determined.

However, this suggests that in fact the success decreases with the number of injuries sustained, which also makes more practical sense - getting blood on the heatsink or dropping a PC from a great height on one's foot tends not to do the components a lot of good. However the most surprising result is that as 'I' tends to zero, 'S' tends to infinity! This is fantastic news
- should the person building the PC sustain absolutely no injuries whatsoever the fractional increase in computing power, say of a CPU or GPU, is infinite!

This ties in with recent speculation that Intel and AMD are working not on sub-nanometre scale production techniques to break through the elusive 10 GHz barrier, but on training their manufacturers to build PCs without harming themselves in the slightest. Some radical thinkers have even suggested a computerized production line for the assembly of computers! Of course, even with the greatest care in the world it's impossible to avoid minor injuries such as wear on your fingers and ageing, so the hypothetical I = 0 solution is not physically possible. Instead I believe that a solution of the order of I = 0.0001 would be sufficient to break the 10 GHz barrier, though of course this does depend on the experimentally-derived value of k. Should k turn out to be very small then this places a limit on what speeds are achievable through non-injury means.


School Supplies

Some readers wrote in about this week's Poll of Favorite School Supply....

From: Kristian
Sent: Friday, August 27, 2004 11:37 AM
To: BBspot (briggsb@bbspot.com)
Subject: Favorite school supply

Back in high school I really did have the school mainframe password ... sort of. This was in the days of DOS and Win3.11, and the LAN ran Novell.

I had read somewhere that Netware SUPERVISOR passwords had to be at least six characters long. The "IT infrastructure" (though we didn't call it that) was delivered by a company whose name was exactly six letters. When I realised this I thought "surely not" but tried it anyway. It worked.

We had fun sneaking around the servers for a few days, but then we got greedy and they changed the password. Alas!

Ah, the good old days.

From: Bruce
Sent: Friday, August 27, 2004 11:53 AM
To: briggsb@bbspot.com
Subject: Favorite School Supply

What about beer? The 3rd grade would have seemed like 10 years if it hadn't been for beer. In fact, I only spent 4 years there.

Maybe I should change the "Satire for Smart People" tag line.


Transformers Quiz

One reader wrote in about how the Transformer or Prescription Drug quiz frightened him...

From: JAG
Sent: Monday, August 23, 2004 9:10 PM
To: briggsb@bbspot.com
Subject: Drugs V. Transformers

My sister who is a Nurse Practitioner only got 14/17!

Very scary when the meds sound like the toys (or vice-versa).

Yes, that is scary. Just think what would happen if she accidentally gave someone a Decepticon!


Transformers Quiz

We linked to a page about fire diving and one reader wanted to make sure we knew it was a hoax...

From: Shannon
Sent: Friday, August 27, 2004 12:05 PM
To: briggsb@bbspot.com
Subject: Fire Diving

These guys are almost as clever as you are at satire. (I said ALMOST, oh master of the art.) But I didn't see anything on their site (while yours does have it) stating that it is satire/humor.

So, just FYI -
There is of course the urban legend of the SCUBA diver accidentally picked up and dumped on a forest fire. Blah, blah...
My wife informed me that in real life, there's technology in both bucket and scoop-style water bombers to make sure no one gets taken up with a load of water.

"The intake of the largest helibucket is a one-foot ring. Although 10,000 gallons of water can be carried in the largest "bambi bucket," it all gets in there through that one-foot opening, an aperture far too minuscule for even a small person to be pulled through, let alone a typical-sized one dressed out in scuba gear."

" Bombardier water bombers typically have two intakes, but both are 4 inches by 10 inches, far too small to get a diver through. Further, these intakes are protected by grilles."

"Helitankers (choppers bearing a fixed tank) suck up water through a hose known as a "donkey dick." The opening to this hose is only a couple of inches in diameter."

P.S. - Sorry, I know I should have e-mailed you with "How do I join this club, AND get Esenam Ayele to finance my membership?"


That's all for this week!

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