I bet you get these mixed up all the time

Last week, I read the book Managing Gigabytes by Witten, Moffat, and Bell. It's about storing and retrieving huge repositories of data.

This week, I am reading Trilobite! (Eyewitness to Evolution) by Richard Fortey. It's about trilobites, the prehistoric critters.

This, of course, begs the question: What is the difference between a gigabyte and a trilobite?

  • A gigabyte is a K of megabytes--about 109 bytes. "Trilobite" sounds kind of like "A trillion bites", which in the US&A is about 1012 bites. Advantage: Trilobite
  • One half of a gigabyte is a giganybble. One eighth of a trilobite is like a trilobite over eight; and that is like a trilobite overate; which is more than a nibble, but much much less than a giganybble. Advantage: Gigabyte
  • A word-based Huffman encoding can compress a gigabyte of text into much less space. Intense geological pressure can compress a trilobite into a fossil. While this takes less space than the original critter, it is a very lossy transformation. Advantage: Gigabyte
  • Retrieving a gigabyte of information from storage involves a fast index lookup and also decompression. Retrieving a trilobite from the surrounding rock involves a hammer. Advantage: Trilobite

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Tech-Brain Candy

When I commute to work, I change buses close to the San Francisco main library. Tonight, I took advantage of this. During the ride from Mountain View to San Francisco, I'd been reading Managing Gigabytes, wrapping my head around algorithms for efficiently implementing an index for a full-text-search system.

My brain was full.

So it was nice to stop in at the library and pick up The Turk, a little volume about a mysterious fake chess-playing automaton. When 20th century* tech is too much to take, it's nice to just jump back a couple of hundred years.

* Yes, I know this is the 21st century, but the book was written in 1994, so back off.


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get on the bus

My bus was not full; that broke my plan. My first week at the new job coincided with the company ski trip. I knew a few people at the new job, but not many. Now, on the bus ride back to the bay area from Tahoe, I planned to chat with whoever was stuck sitting next to me. Maybe I'd learn something; at least I'd know one more person. But the bus wasn't even halfway full, and no one sat next to me.

So I finished reading The Storyteller's Daughter, a personal history of modern Afghanistan. And I remembered that there were people out there with real problems.


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location location location

As we waited to get into the puppet show, Tom and I made small talk. I told him that I'd finished reading Linda Greenlaw's Lobster Chronicles, about her adventures getting re-settled at Isle au Haut. Tom laughed. He'd read that book during his big road trip--the one from California to Nova Scotia and back. He'd read that book while in Maine, a ferry ride away from that Isle. So Tom reads a lot; and he reads with style and/or topicality.

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I was sitting on the streetcar and reading Martyr's Crossing by Amy Wilentz. A young lady sat down next to me and started reading Camus' The Stranger. And we rode on, a two-seat survey of literature about wrongfully-dead Arabs.

I made a mental note to read something cheerier soon.


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