Tuesday, November 20, 2007

PC World: Technology Advice You Can Trust

IT Pornography: Is Getting It All Obscene?

Is our lust for what's hot in IT obscene?


Mark Gibbs, NetworkWorld

Monday, November 19, 2007

In a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court judgment concerning the prosecution of a cinema owner, Associate Justice Potter Stewart completely failed to define what is obscene by deciding that, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material [under discussion] . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it." In other words, pornography is - community standards notwithstanding - in the eye of the beholder.

A reasonable (to me) definition of pornography is "that which appeals to base human desires and is contrary to the established moral code of the society." It is with this in mind that I deem the IT industry to be pornographic.

Allow me to expound by starting with our greed. Greed is considered morally reprehensible in our society, is it not? Yet what is it that every year the computer industry demands and gets more of? Let's see; that would be - everything. There's more processor cycles, more memory, more electrical power - the list is endless. Every single one of those things follows Moore's law more or less: It doubles in size or capacity every eighteen months, but that hardly satisfies our greed.

Then there's lust: Tell me you don't long in a completely unwholesome way for a Mac Pro with two 3.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors and 16 gigabytes of RAM with 3TB of disk storage and an Nvidia Quadro FX 4500 graphics card with two 30-inch Apple Cinema displays (all yours for just over $15,500). Or how about bandwidth? Got T-1? You obviously need multiple T's. Have that? You must upgrade to T-3.

How about gluttony? You've got half a terabyte of storage? You need a terabyte. Got one of those, you need two. With RAID 5. Running on 10,000-rpm drives! Oh, and how about that duplicate system as a hot standby?

And it is not just for hardware and communications that we're gluttonous. Software engineers, particularly those who work near Seattle, keep consuming all those processor cycles and all that RAM, creating programs that use huge amount of disk space just to output "Hello World" to your now-totally-inadequate 60-inch plasma screen that you're using as your third monitor on your second PC at work (the one that's next to the laptop that uses so much power, they've turned off the heating system in your office - despite the fact that you're in northern Vermont and it's November).

Oh yes, and we mustn't forget that your office PC communicates with your house so you can keep an eye on your 16-node Beowulf cluster that is batch-processing fractal patterns that you'll print out in glorious color on your large-format printer. And of course, you have an iPhone, but you haven't gotten rid of your old cell phone yet. You also have your old PDA just in case the iPhone doesn't work out - which is the same reason you didn't dump your Daytimer (for which you still buy paper every year).

Then there's that closet full of floppy disks (both five and a quarter inches and three and a half inches) that you keep because there was lots of useful stuff on them, although the only thing you can actually remember is a pretty cool Tetris game you last played in 1992, and you're not actually sure where it is.

You see the picture I'm painting? Rampant greed, lust, gluttony - hallmarks of pornography if Associate Justice Potter Stewart and I ever saw them.

Now, how am I going to buy that Mac?