22 Comments

  1. Thanks, Pete, I hadn’t noticed that change. It’s still not funny, but at least I don’t find it quite as pointless.

  2. This one again… We never did figure out if the cartoonist thought people dreamt about finding money on the streat or with this was a frustration dream that the money would vanish, did we?

  3. Mitch4: unfortunately, in IT, trying the same thing again and expecting different results is *not* insanity.

  4. @ Bill – Given the way threads here tend to drift, either one of these two could have ended up discussing the price of peas in Peoria.
    P.S. I dithered on whether to include the “s” or not, and (of course) made the wrong decision. The ideal solution would have been to express the dithering typographically: “In(s)anity is posting the same…“.

  5. I don’t think that action can be called inane. The calling it “inane” may be inane.

    (The OED does have “inanity” as a word, for those who, like me, can’t remember ever hearing it. The complete version gives the pronunciation as having a short “a”. I was thinking that the word “insanity” might have been biasing my choice. (The Concise OED doesn’t give a pronunciation.))

  6. What’s inane is dreaming of finding a single bill. Use some imagination! Dream of finding a brinks truck in your driveway with your name on it and the keys in your mail slot.

  7. Chak: That would indeed take a lot of imagination for me, since I don’t have a driveway or a mail slot. (I don’t think I have a Brink’s truck either, but I haven’t looked in the garage yet today, so that part is a little more believable.)

  8. In math and computer science there is a concept called “idempotence.” If a function always returns the same output for a given input, it is idempotent. If it does not, it is not idempotent. A random number generator is not idempotent. Neither is CIDU, because when I access it on Monday I get something slightly different from what I got on Sunday. So the insanity thing only applies if everything is idempotent.

  9. That’s not idempotent; a function is idempotent if applying it multiple times gives the same value as applying it once. So a function that returns 0 when given an even number and 1 when given an odd number is idempotent, since reapplying it gives the same value. In computer science, what you describe would be a pure function.

  10. Terminology aside, the point is that it is often reasonable to try the same thing multiple times, because the conditions under which you’re trying it have often changed. Actually they’re pretty much always changed in some way, but with computers, they’ve quite often changed in ways that are significant for the issue in question.

  11. Well, with computers the real trick is determining where the conditions have changed, because that will more than likely explain why the results changed.
    Now, as to random number generators, my experience with them is that given the same input (seed), you will get the same output, I.e. the same series of pseudo-random numbers. I once toyed around with an encryption/decryption program that relied on that to work.

  12. guero points out: Well, with computers the real trick is determining where the conditions have changed, because that will more than likely explain why the results changed

    And in desktop tech support, if you may have some responsibility for this user at this workstation going forward, there can at times be some tension between the goals of getting them going again quickly right now, and trying to diagnose the cause more precisely so as to reduce future failures. That is, if you see a half dozen things you want to adjust, you can switch them all and be happy it gets things going again right now, or fix them in alternation or sequentially, and come up with the one crucial thing to warn the user about. (You also then for good measure change the other things you noticed,)

  13. If you power up as normal, and the first thing you run doesn’t work, you shut down, power up again, and run it, and it probably works. By definition, something changed. But it’s not something you have control over, and it’s not something you’re likely to figure out.

  14. Conditions (of everything) always change with time, even if the time is measured in microseconds; just as you can’t step in the “same” river twice, you can’t perform the “same” action on the “same” computer twice, surely?

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