Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur

May 19, 2002

Rumors and lies

How much do you trust the news media? (Or any medium?) How often are they simply wrong? (Fun game: read an article about something you’re familiar with, and look for cases where the reporter clearly doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.)

The problem, of course, is that checking facts is time-consuming and often difficult, so people don’t bother checking things they “know” are true. Unfortunately, many false things seem true because they’re said so often.

A recent example involves the politics of the late Pim Fortuyn, who is commonly described as “right-wing” and “racist”. Is he? Read Adam Curry’s article before you give your final answer.

Many have complained that the Internet surrounds us with misinformation and makes us “dumber faster”, but these are not new problems. People always trust new media more than they should. The same systems that make it easy to spread hoaxes and lies also makes it easy to debunk rumors and give eyewitness testimony (although that, too, is imperfect). Sadly, you can’t have the second without the first. #

Another useless idea

Apple’s decision to call the tenth version of their operating system Mac OS X (as in “ten”, not “ex”) has caused some predictable problems. Foremost, is how do you refer to updates? Mac OS X.I? X.1? Mac OS X 1.1? Will the next version be Mac OS XI?

It’s difficult to predict. Apple has taken to referring to updated versions of the OS as Mac OS X 10.1, which then raises the question of how you read that aloud. (“Mac oh-ess ten ten-point-one”?)

Anyway, I bring this all up because I recently discovered a way to refer to modern three-part version numbers in Roman numerals. By “three-part”, I mean the typical “1.2.3” style, consisting of major, minor, and bug-fix versions. Typically, software is released first as version 1.0, then some bugs are fixed in 1.0.1, then eventually it’s extended somewhat with 1.1, and so forth until a major change is made and the version is increased to 2.0. (At least, that’s what happens when marketing doesn’t control the numbering. They’d much rather increase the major verison as often as possible, to make people believe that the update is important.)

This particular style of numbering is difficult with Roman numerals, as they lack a zero. That makes a designation like 1.0.1 difficult to express. (Unless you’re willing to write “I..I”, or something.)

Here’s my scheme. Indicate major versions with capital Roman numerals (“I”, “II”, “IX”, and so forth), minor versions with lower-case Roman numerals (“i”, “ii”, “ix”, and so forth), and bug-fix versions with lower-case Roman numerals in parentheses (“(i)”, “(ii)”, “(ix)”, and so forth). When a particular number is zero, omit it.

Thus, version 1.0 becomes “I”, 1.0.1 is “I(i)”, 1.1 is “Ii”, 1.1.1 is “Ii(i)”, and instead of writing “Mac OS X 10.1.4”, we can write “Mac OS Xi(iv)”.

Neat, huh? Kinda makes me wish it had a point. #