alt.fan.pratchett : The Best Of AFP

Luser Physics and APEs


Date: 03 Dec 1997
From: Gideon Hallet

Folks, a thought has just occurred to me, I'd like to bounce it off the scary devils and anyone else in range:

Energy as a measure of cluefulness.

If we take the average brain and observe it in action (or inaction) it can be seen that the act of thinking uses up energy. Fairly obvious: concentrating on code for 28 hours leaves you drained. Could we assign a unit of thought and define it in units of energy?

If we were to assign one APE (Autonomous Psionic Energy) unit to describe the amount of Joules used in the production of one thought, we might be able to see the following benefits to users and sysadmins:

  1. "Low APE people" (management, droids, lusers in general) to be given low spec machines. This will free up powerful machines for important tasks (like the New Improved Message-of-the-Day Generator).

  2. Luser behaviour can be ascribed to low APE levels. The obvious cure to this is to apply energy to said luser to provide a booster to APE levels. The advantage of this is that the energy application can take many forms, depending on the most convienient energy source.

Let us examine a few typical methods:

The Kinetic Method.
Syadmin takes a piece of 2' x 4', applies energy to it and connects it with luser, transferring energy to said luser, hopefully raising the APE level. Advantages are that this is a truly simple and portable method, easy to set up and tidy away. Disadvantages are that, according to the conservation of energy, the sysadmin loses as much APE or more than the luser gains. Too much of this can cause the sysadmin to "go APE".

The Electrical Method.
This method involves transferring APE energy to the luser from the mains via a suitable method of propagation. Easy and simple, but be careful not to use too large an A.I.R. (APE Input Rate) as this can damage the luser beyond repair. The major disadvantage of this is that it requires a handy power source - in most cases, this goes with computers, but the "lusers with laptops" scenario is a notable exception. Still the preferred method of many sysadmins as it requires no more energy than flick of a switch and can yield spectacular and amusing results.

The Thermal Method.
A subtle method. Involves sabotaging the air-con to "Polar Blizzard". Has the bonus side-effect that luser will find it more difficult to go to sleep or speak (or anything but compute) whilst in the room. Luser's internal energy source goes into overdrive, causing an incidental increase in APE. Not a terribly spectacular method, requires equipment and is slow, but is a proven worker. If said luser tries to counter the effect by wearing jumpers, tell them that artificial fibre/natural fibres cause static which can corrupt hard drives. If they start to use the term "Faraday Cage" use the Kinetic or Electrical Methods.

An extreme and experimental variation of this was the Furnace Method, as pioneered in the Russian Revolution. It has since been judged a failure on two counts; firstly, raising the temperature causes a decrease in APE production and secondly the method is cumbersome and destructive of test subjects, making the setting of a benchmark more difficult. Not recommended.

FUD Method.
This method involves changing access permissions at random, appearing to delete home drives and other general minor unpleasantnesses to the luser. This will have the luser living in a perpetual state of FUD as to whether their unfinished dissertation still exists, causing an increase in brain activity and thus APE production. This method is not as effective as the others on its own, but is nearly undetectable in the vagaries of an operating notwork. It does involve more "work" on the sysadmin's part than most methods, and is usually most effective used in combination with one of the other methods.

Some lusers may be unsuitable for this method - on finding that their account has been suspended they enter a panic state, in which vast amounts of APE is produced, but none of it is coherent, and is thus effectively useless.

Other methods will not be discussed here until the blood has been cleaned off the walls.

We can therefore see that associating energy with thought (and knowledge with power) can result in positive benefits for the user population and general increase in clue. What other implications does this theory have?

"APE death of the Universe".
Clearly, as computers become more and more widespread, a vast increase in lusers is a logical corollory. This will result in clue being spread more and more thinly until the average user subscribes to AOL and uses Micro$oft for everything. At this point, the computer boom will have reached a stall, as no one has enough clue to code anything any more except for a small handful of people.

"Stimulated APe Production Entailing user Reading (SAPPER)"
Clearly, the greatest advances in computing were made prior to the advent of Windoze. This is now being stifled by luser-friendly OS's like Great Satan of Redmond's. The remedy is to ensure that all newbies are given dumb terminals with timesharing and no Windows. The mental effort required to do anything with these boxes will ensure that future users are given the equivalent of physical training before doing exercises with Real Computers. It may seem cruel, but it's the only way to stop the move to Luser Central. In fact, in an extension of this, HP calculators could be first tools in the learning curve.

I look forward to the shared thoughts of AFP on this.

Gideon


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