Bill Gates’ Thumb

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Today has, in fact, been hell. For those that do not already know, I work for a company that tests for compliance against various standards. It is kind of like an internet version of the dude that goes around and makes sure the scales at the butcher shop weigh properly and the gas at the gas pump gets dispensed in the right amounts. After all, you would not want to pay for a gallon of gas and only get half that. In reality, we test for things a little more complex–more like two people are speaking the same dialect of the same language. If Company A wants to requisition something from Company B, they have to both have a mutual understanding about how the language they are speaking works, otherwise they cannot talk or somebody ends up shortchanged or some third party can screw with the system.

So what happens when the Official Specification for how people talk is ignored, and worse: ignored by a gigantic company that has been ignoring it for so long that everybody follows it, even though it is wrong and not actually documented somewhere. It would be as if Microsoft suddenly decided a centimeter was the width of Bill Gates’s thumb and everybody believed it and followed it, but nobody had the faintest idea of how big that actually was. Everybody has a general idea. His thumb is probably not much bigger or smaller than mine, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty details and want to order 300 centimeters of gold chain, it is hard to tell exactly how much you get.

This is basically what Intel has been doing for years. There is a specification for how businesses talk to one another (RNIF 1.1, for those that care) that “the follow.” Only they don’t. They say they do, but when you look at the specification, they are not following 1.1, but a bastardization of it. A large number of other companies (that talk to Intel every day) are also under the delusion that they also speak RNIF 1.1, but they are mistaken.

So, when you are a company that checks that people talk the right talk and walk the right walk, what do you do? Do you follow the official spec and say that everybody is wrong, including Intel and all of their partners? Do you just kind of make up a new spec and hope you have properly documented everything Intel is doing? Even worse: what do you do when you have to give a live demonstration to Intel tomorrow? You want to get them sold on the whole compliance thing, so they can bootstrap new partners with minimal headache and trouble, but your “official RNIF 1.1” testing center will not actually talk to their systems. You are kind of stuck between shit creek and a paddle, without a rock.

Annual Flu-Related Deaths (in the United States only, 1999; source:CDC): 45,817
Number of SARS-Related Deaths (worldwide, this year; source: ABC News): 318
Annual SARS-Related Deaths (extrapolated): 1,272

I am not sure I see what the big deal with SARS is. The US flu deaths are much higher, and the total flu deaths I would expect to be MUCH higher when you add in 3rd world countries. I say we quarantine the flu victims! I say we forbid travel to any country with a reported case of the flu!

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