Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Working with computer terms

| December 12, 2010 8:00 PM

Dear PropellerHeads: My boss keeps asking me if I have enough "spare cycles" to work on new projects. I know what she's asking, and I know this is a computer term, but where does it come from?

A: In what can only be described as Dilbert cartoons come tragically to life, your boss is joining millions of other technical managers across the country in misappropriating computer jargon for use in non-technical situations.

A computer CPU measures time in clock cycles - when it has spare cycles, it has free time. You might also respond that you have plenty of bandwidth to take on new projects. Bandwidth, you see, refers to the amount of information that can flow through an Internet connection during a given span of time.

IT managers also like to say they'll ping someone, because "ping" is an Internet tool for sending messages to servers and seeing if they're available. Particularly loathsome is the suggestion that a discussion be taken offline, indicating that it should be held outside of the current meeting. Cute, huh?

I can't imagine other professions are guilty of this annoying habit. I'd be surprised if auto mechanics talk about fueling up around lunchtime, or if doctors excuse themselves from conference calls to flush their kidneys. Likewise, pester an attorney about his weekend plans and see if you're accused of badgering the witness. My guess is not.

So, as lowly IT workers, how do we rebel against this ridiculous usurpation of our own special moon man language? Let me speak in pseudocode for a moment. The answer to our problem is denial-of-service attacks. That's right: we flood the network with so many stupid misuses of computer speak that our managers start losing packets and can't keep up. To help you get started, check out www.netlingo.com.

So hibernate tonight and reboot. Tomorrow morning, FTP yourself into your manager's office and overflow her stack with all the keywords you can instantiate. Tell her you'll be 404 for a few cycles while you telnet to the restroom for a core dump before switching context back to work. Don't worry about making a syntax error - with enough throughput, she won't catch a single bug in your output.

Maybe you'll get a job upgrade. Or maybe, just maybe, your boss will start asking if you have enough time to work on new projects. When was the last time you heard something at work that made so much sense?

When the PropellerHeads at Data Directions aren't busy with their IT projects, they love to answer questions on business or consumer technology. E-mail them to questions@askthepropellerheads.com or contact us at Data Directions Inc., 8510 Bell Creek Road, Mechanicsville, VA 23116. Visit our website at www.askthepropellerheads.com.

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