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“The US is 9 trillion dollars in debt. That’s 9 teradollars!”

– someone at the belated Giraffe Labs opening party last night

I don’t remember who said that, but once they did, the magnitude of US debt suddenly fit somewhere in my mind. It went from “it’s some really big number that I can’t even conceive of ” to “I can compare that to several different things I actually use”.

My generation (and especially my career) deals with file sizes on a daily basis. I am practically familiar with exactly how different a kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, and terabyte are. I have no practical experience of the difference between $1,000,000, $1,000,000,000, and $1,000,000,000,000 dollars. I have made one financial transaction in my life over $10,000 (a Prius – totally worth it, btw).

The way we traditionally write large dollar amounts seems to me to be inefficient and confusing. Attempting to subdivide a 13 digit number into chunks I can understand is very difficult, and my guess is that most people don’t even try. So we have a government racking up debt on a scale that we can’t fit into our minds.

From now on, when talking to tech folks, I am going to make a concerted effort to talk about kilodollars, megadollars, gigadollars, and teradollars. It makes more sense, and if we all start using it, perhaps the impact of our financial decisions will be understood more clearly.

Interesting fact: The term “teradollar” currently comes up with 2,740 hits on Google, so clearly some communities have adopted it.

Posted by Sarah Davies, filed under economics, netiquette, overheard in Seattle, politics. Date: July 27, 2008, 8:57 am | No Comments »

My Inbox. Yum!
In meatspace, bacon is sort of like spam. I would even say it’s a little better than spam. But it’s still bad for you.

Likewise in cyberspace, bacn is sort of like spam. Spam comes from people you don’t know who are intentionally trying to deceive you. Bacn, however, are those pesky messages sent by well-meaning people who don’t recognize the difference between responding to one person, and responding to hundreds of people.

Take this example from the NTEN-Discuss mailing list:

I have a huge bag of 5.25″ floppies from which I would love to recover whatever data I can. Does anybody within comfortable driving (or public transportation distance) of Brookline have a working drive connected to a computer with the appropriate drivers that I could use to help recover this data?

It’s questionable whether or not this request could be considered bacn. Every message on the list gets sent to 1,197 nonprofit professionals internationally. This was clearly directed at a very small percentage of people. However, there is an argument that the person in question could not have solved the problem any other way. These two responses, however, are another story:

you would be looking for an old pentium 90 or 100 with an ISA slot or older 386’s or 496’s
The 386’s or 496’s had 5.25 standard . Most colleges or IT training schools may have a couple lying around or any PC recycle place may have a few..

Well, you really shouldn’t need drivers or cards to install a 5.25” floppy. Current motherboards still have floppy connectors on-board, and it’s the same connection for 5.25” as 3.5” floppy drives. What you do need is a 5.25” drive, an available 5.25” bay (same as a CD drive), and the older-style (card edge) floppy connection cable. With internal 5.25” floppy drives going for about $10 on ebay, if you are comfortable doing basic computer component installation this seems the way to go.

I don’t know about you, but I get much more email everyday than I would like to. My guess on the number of people on the list to whom this information would be useful is one, the person who originally asked the question. That means that 1,196 people got their email boxes stuffed with two more irrelevant messages, two more pieces of junk to sift through to find the message that their kid needs to get picked up from school early.

Fortunately, I found out from lifehacker today, that there is a polite way to respond to such people to tell them that their email etiquette is rude without having to personally confront or offend them. Behold

The person who sent you the link to this page really likes you but wants to help you use email in a more effective manner.

You may not realize it, but you clicked “Reply All” when composing your response to an email that had multiple recipients or addresses in the “To:” or “CC:” fields. By recieving this link, a repient of the email feels that they did not need to be sent or included in your reply. If you didn’t hit “Reply All”, you may have replied to a mailing list. This has the same effect as “Reply All.”

Hallelujah! Maybe I’ll send them a link to Miss Manners’ proper netiquette too – just to be safe.

Photo by shawnzam

Posted by Sarah Davies, filed under bacn, netiquette. Date: May 22, 2008, 2:30 pm | No Comments »