Powers of Ten (so to speak)

June 29, 2009

I am not sure if you are old enough to remember the 1977 IBM movie Powers of Ten (trippy version, without narration) [also at the IMDB and wikipedia], but that’s a movie that sure put things in perspective. Thinking in terms of powers of ten helps me sort things out when I am considering a design problem. Thinking of the scale of a problem in terms of physical scale is a good way to assess its true importance for a project. Sometimes the problem is the one to solve, sometimes, it is not. It’s not because a problem is fun, enticing, or challenging, that it has to be solved optimally right away because, in the correct context, considering its true scale, it may not be as important as first thought.


Maybe comparing problems’ scales to powers of ten in the physical realm helps understanding where to put your efforts. So here are the different scales and what I think they should contain:

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First Impression Fail (part II)

October 12, 2008

So I downloaded the current ISO for Solaris but it still won’t install correctly in VMWare. The install starts, but stalls at the stage where it decompresses the windowing system. But it stalls in a very peculiar way. The VM doesn’t freeze, as the terminal remains responsive, but the CPU time goes to zero as if it were waiting for something to occur. After googling for tips, implementing a few of them; Solaris still stalls at the same step in the installation process. Is it some interaction between VMWare and Solaris? I don’t know.

A few years ago, being unable to install an OS like that would have driven me crazy. Because at that time, I was an apologist: making excuses for bad software. If it doesn’t boot, it’s surely because I did something wrong. The fact that the install procedure requires many manual steps (most of them improperly documented) that depend in some weird way on the current hardware is normal, is it not? Or is it?

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