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 Kill Yr Idols - Donald Knuth

 Author: jsm  Topic: Gnu/Linux  Posted: Sep 21, 2001  Comments:
Donald Knuth. Donald F'ing Knuth, geek idol, computer scientist and gift to anagrammatists everywhere. Yet another of the secular saints of the Eric Raymond crowd, and writer of TeX and Metafont, the typesetting and font design programs which lie behind half the computer books in existence (specifically, the poorly typeset half in the ugly fonts). Writer of the as yet unfinished meisterwerk of algorithm design, "The Art of Computer Programming". The avuncular figure who gave many of today's prominent "hackers" their big break. An example to us all.

Hooey. While some might think it a little poor for us to be picking on a man in the autumn of his years who has done little actual direct physical harm to others, the raison d'etre of adequacy.org is to puncture overinflated reputations, and Knuth's is one of the windiest. Every single plank of his rickety edifice seems to be based on the massive intellectual inferiority complex of the geek nation; their belief that because they don't understand something, it must be difficult. Put it this way; in our opinion, the main reason that the Art of Computer Programming remains unfinished is that when the truth gets out about Knuth, the fact that he hasn't finished his book is the only reason anyone will want to recusitate him.

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TeX and Metafont

According to the Jargon File, "Knuth began TeX because he had become annoyed at the declining quality of the typesetting in volumes I-III of his monumental "Art of Computer Programming" (see Knuth, also bible). In a manifestation of the typical hackish urge to solve the problem at hand once and for all, he began to design his own typesetting language. He thought he would finish it on his sabbatical in 1978; he was wrong by only about 8 years."

I'm sorry. Readers who are sane, or who have sane acquaintances, or who are not familiar with the wilder shores of computer programmers and their personality diseases, may not quite have taken in that last passage. For their benefit, I'll repeat it, in bold, and with a hyperlink to the source so that they can independently verify that I didn't make it up to slander Knuth.

So in other words, Knuth is the kind of guy who would rather spend eight years locked away in a stinky computer lab, than pick up the phone once to complain to his typesetters and tell them to do it properly. Rather than trouble himself with five minutes of human interaction, he spent eight years snivelling over a keyboard. That's the calibre of individual we're dealing with here.

It completely beggars belief. For reference, here's how I would address this problem; brrring brrring, hello, typesetting department, jsm here, could you sort out the typesetting in my book please it's a disgrace, certainly sir, goodbye. Total time taken, five minutes max. By my calculations, this method is approximately 2,522,880 times more efficient than Knuth's. I say "approximately" because I didn't allow for leap years. I didn't allow for leap years because it's completely unimportant and a purely illustrative statistic in any case. That's an example of a "proportionate amount of effort", by the way; spending eight years correcting a typing error isn't. Not that you can do something so simple as correct a typing error in TeX without first committing an 800 page manual to memory. It's a Turing-complete language, you see, highly useful for people who want to solve the Halting Problem every time they need to change their line spacing, but how many of those do you meet in a typical day? None, unless you quite literally live in the computer lab

And furthermore, the finished product shows beyond a scintilla of doubt that those eight years were largely wasted (that is, assuming that Knuth was actually writing the program during that time; if he spent most of the time like a typical "hacker", drinking Mountain Dew and masturbating, they weren't entirely wasted). TeX is, relative to its reputation, the worst typesetting program ever invented:

• It is ugly. The output of TeX comes in a special TeX font, which appears to have been specially designed to make people think that their printer is running out of toner. The spindly letters clash wonderfully with their bulky, overbearing bold versions, while the typesetting puts an extra pica or two into the line-spacing, guaranteeing that no matter how polished a TeX manuscript, it will always look like a rough draft that's been printed out double-spaced for editing. TeX is the program of choice for people who have produced extremely bad PhD theses, and want them to be as painful to read as they were to write.
• It is unusable. TeX boosters optimistically try to claim that "Because one need not worry about the document layout, one is free to concentrate on the content". Which is true in a way; if one doesn't give a fuck what the finished product looks like, one is free to concentrate on the content, although quite why something which is also true of daubing shit on prison walls should be held up as a unique feature of TeX is perhaps another matter. TeX is a lean, clean algorithmic machine, designed to take massive, unwieldy input files and convert them into massive unwieldy output files, the difference being that the input files are full of bizarre counterintuitive syntax and the output files look like shit. And of course, if you want one of the many features unsupported by TeX (like, for example, page numbering starting on a number other than 1), you are free to dive into nine megabytes of uncommented C code and make the necessary "hacks" yourself. Ah the wonders of Open Source.
So in other words, Knuth produced a product that gives you results that look distinctly worse than if you'd used MS Word, while forcing you to learn a massive amount of practically useless contorted macro language. No wonder the self-styled "hackers" love it. The main purpose of TeX is as an indicator of books that can safely be ignored forever; as soon as you see the spindly characters march across the page, with their lines too far apart, you know that the piece of paper you are looking at was produced by a grade A wanker, who has enough spare short-term memory to learn TeX and wants the world to know it. Such people never have anything interesting to say.

Bluth managed, however, to anticipate the "Open Source Development Model" (whereby a weak product is innoculated from criticism by giving people free access to the source code, so that anyone who points out that the fucking thing doesn't work looks like a curmudgeon for carping about the problem instead of fixing it), by giving away $2.56 each to the legion of TeX sufferers who wrote to him complaining of bugs. He chose the amount of$2.56 because 256 is the eighth power of two. This counts as a joke in Open Source circles.

The Art of Computer Programming

The first work to be typeset in the then-new and then-horrifically buggy TeX was, of course, Bluth's own book, "The Art of Computer Programming". Again, we at the adequacy.org Reputation Destruction Squad have a number of issues with this product of Knuth's wayward genius:

1. It isn't. Art, that is; it's a book of mathematical formulae with no art whatever in it. Knuth, a talented animator in his spare time, clearly knew a thing or two about art, so quite why he chose to bring the word "art" into the title of a wholly non-artistic computer manual is beyond me.
2. It isn't all that good. Apart from being shot through with weak humor, TAOCP is a book that is almost exclusively loved by those who haven't read it. Like the other great compendium of cut'n'paste algorithms for people who don't quite understand what they're doing, Numerical Recipes, Knuth's book is the toolkit of a bodger; a jack of all trades, master of none, and written in a private language, unintelligible to anyone but its creator.

Of course, this doesn't matter, as TAOCP is a coffee-table book, designed to be owned as a status symbol rather than ever read. Anyone who cares about algorithms uses more specialised manuals, and anyone who takes Knuth seriously is too stupid to read him. Frankly, they could have all but the first ten pages completely blank and less than a per cent of owners would ever know (this would also get rid of those pesky typesetting problems).

3. It's half a fucking product. Like Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and Dickens' "Mystery of Edwin Drood", TAOCP's reputation is dependent on its half-complete status. It is judged, not on the basis of the book that actually exists, but rather as the Platonic, perfect compendium that exists in Bluth's pipe dreams. Of course, anyone wanting to know what Donald Bluth thinks about "Combinatorial Algorithms" and "Syntactic Algorithms", let alone "Compiler Techniques", has been shit out of luck for the last twenty years, but hey, writing TeX was more important.
Face it. The "Art" of Computer Programming will never be finished. Like Harold Brodkey, Donald Knuth's reputation rests completely on not finishing it. And in tribute to his unique method of finding a place at the pinnacle of the geek pantheon, this review essay

 Jealous twit (1.00 / 1) (#16) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 03:14:45 PM PST You're just mad because he's known for creating something useful and you just post vitriol-filled articles at a third-rate blog. What bothers you is his resolve, creativity, and philanthropy. You wish you could accomplish a tenth of the things he does. Enjoy the rest of your life steeped in mediocrity.

 Useful? (5.00 / 1) (#19) by Peter Johnson on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 03:28:29 PM PST How can a program that has been completely obsolesced by FrameMaker be considered useful? I'm sure you have a plausible answer.--PeterAre you adequate?

 Cost (1.00 / 1) (#20) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 03:41:13 PM PST Adobe Framemaker (from their site) $799 Tex$0

 You get what you pay for (5.00 / 1) (#21) by Peter Johnson on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 03:43:05 PM PST Truer words were never spoken.--PeterAre you adequate?

 Define pay? (1.00 / 1) (#22) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 03:50:35 PM PST How about the hours and hours of work Knuth put in to create the software? All that is meaningless because the app is free? Simply because there's no pricetag doesn't mean it has no worth.

 the myth of labor (5.00 / 2) (#25) by Peter Johnson on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 04:10:38 PM PST Spoken like a socialist. Suppose I decide to build armadillo shaped clocks. I put a huge amount of effort into making them. They look perfectly lifelike except for the clock face. It's a labor of love for me. Then I find out that there's just no market for armadillo shaped clocks. Even my family won't buy them. Does the amount of effort I've expended in building something that's worthless suddenly make it valuable? I would say no. The worth of a thing is what people are willing to pay for it.--PeterAre you adequate?

 It really depends... (1.00 / 1) (#26) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 04:19:24 PM PST Are the armadillo clocks harder to use than ordinary clocks?

 Spoken like a socialist (1.00 / 1) (#29) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 04:49:04 PM PST Better than an elitist like yourself whose mind cannot comprehend the very notion of someone creating something and then give it away for free. What you call socialism, I call philanthropy. Better call these guys and tell them to stop giving away money for free. After all, they're promoting socialism.

 Oh, and one more thing (1.00 / 1) (#30) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 05:12:23 PM PST How can giving away your software for free be socialsm? The government isn't forcing him to do it. He isn't demanding every programmer on the face of the earth to give their stuff away for free. When you use words with more than two syllables, do you bother to look up what they mean before saying them?

 Charming (none / 0) (#34) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 05:45:10 PM PST When you get into an argument, do you always start insulting your opponents this quickly, or does it usually take longer for your logical basis to evaporate?

 My basis was so strong (1.00 / 1) (#38) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 07:44:28 PM PST He had to fall back to the ne plus ultra of arguments: the vaunted armadillo clock fallacy. Besides, I felt like it. What's it to you?

 If it's false... (none / 0) (#41) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 07:48:03 PM PST Prove him wrong.

 Already did (1.00 / 1) (#44) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:05:03 PM PST His argument is that if it's free, it's worth nothing. Thousands of people download Linux distros every day. They install it and use it to play games, write letters, send email, surf the net, program, etc. Since an OS is necessary to run a desktop computer, how can something that allows you to get things done be worthless? The more you do with it, the more it's worth to you.

 Irrelevant (none / 0) (#47) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:13:00 PM PST What does all that have to do with what you called "the armadillo clock fallacy"?

 That was a joke (nt) (1.00 / 1) (#51) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:50:16 PM PST

 So he's right? (none / 0) (#55) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:59:37 PM PST Thanks for the clarification.

 No I'm right (1.00 / 1) (#58) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 04:47:54 AM PST And you don't understand the thread.

 Actually, I do. (none / 0) (#62) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 05:47:12 AM PST All you've done so far is demonstrate that people will use linux when it costs nothing. All this indicates is that linux is correctly priced at 0 dollars. If you want to prove it is worth something, you'll have to find some way of proving that a statistically significant number of people would still use it if it cost money. This is the way we determine how much things are worth in capitalism, otherwise known as a free market.

 Still don't (1.00 / 1) (#70) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 10:17:25 AM PST All you've done is regurgitate Shoeboy's comment that if it costs nothing it's worth nothing and wrapped it in some fancier words. Here's an example of a Linux company selling products. Considering their stock price, they don't sell a whole lot, but they do sell. Support, enterprise products, and even simple desktop distros. You want Red Hat Database? If you're a company, that'll be $3k or so. Of course, you can still d/l it for free with no install or tech support.  Can you read? (none / 0) (#83) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 09:09:42 PM PST I said "statistically significant". A few measly sales, from a company going out of business do more to harm your case than support it. No company can survive by selling linux, because nobody wants to pay money for it. Supply and demand at work.  circular argument, moron (1.00 / 1) (#99) by Anonymous Reader on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 09:28:13 AM PST Just because you can't make a profit selling something that is available for free, that does not mean that something that is available at no cost is worthless. Your "supply and demand" measure of worth breaks down when cost of production falls to zero. Screwdrivers have worth, they exist in our free market, and are sold for a price, and a profit. Now, imagine there was a magical portal that produced and endless supply of screwdrivers, dispute the price approaching zero, the worth, or usefulness of the screw drivers remain constant. That's a metaphor for free software. Dumbass.  Your argument is fallacious (none / 0) (#100) by iat on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 09:58:22 AM PST Your supposition of a "magical screwdriver portal" and attempt to justify free software by means of a metaphor are fallacious and do not prove your argument. In the real world, there is no such thing as a "magical screwdriver portal". Similarly, it is not possible to reduce the cost of production to zero in the real world. Everything has a finite cost of production and "free" software is no exception. If the cost of production were to equal zero, then accepted economic theory would need to be reappraised. Fortunately, there is as much chance of this happening as there is of someone inventing a perpetual motion machine. Supply and demand is a useful and generally accepted indicator of worth, since it is rational and objective. Your argument is clearly ridiculous. Is it any wonder that you are too embarrased to post logged-in when you insist on posting such uninformed drivel? Please desist with infantile insults like "moron" and "dumbass" - Adequacy.org is a site for adults and your attempts to drag the discussion to high school levels are unwelcome.Adequacy.org - love it or leave it.  I was just thinking... (none / 0) (#105) by elenchos on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 09:42:05 PM PST We don't have a magical screwdriver portal but, if you think about it, we do have something similar. I guess it was just because I was stopping to consider the psychological makeup of a person who thinks of screwdrivers shooting forth from a portal of some kind in an attempt to imagine unlimited supply of something useful. What we do have is an unlimited supply of something even more valuable: sex! Think about it. What is more useful and valuable than sex? Nothing, not even adequacy.org. And we can have as much as we want! That's the metaphor that should be used for free software. I wonder why all those free software advocates never thought of this. Just say, "Hey, we get all the sex I want -- sometimes more than we'd really like, if truth be told -- and it costs us nothing! Pretty good deal, right? Well, we could have just as much good quality software as we have good quality sex! It's true! Come on, try it, ok?" See? Maybe if they just used the right metaphor, people could understand this free software concept better.I do, I do, I do--Bikini Kill  Free software is like sex? (none / 0) (#106) by T Reginald Gibbons on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 11:32:03 PM PST It's all so clear now.  Ok (none / 0) (#111) by Anonymous Reader on Mon Oct 1st, 2001 at 07:32:56 PM PST In a hundred years, these legendary "Armadillo clocks" are considered priceless- if nothing else, as a prime example of absent-minded oversight. Thank you, have a nice day.  A short history lesson (5.00 / 1) (#76) by Logical Analysis on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 03:04:43 PM PST The GPL license was created by the self-proclaimed anarcho-communist Richard Stallman. Under the guise of "software freedom" and "free software" he and his associates are attempting to undermine the U.S. and world economy. How? By encouraging unsuspecting programmers to develop software and give it away for free. This devalues the labor of programmers industrywide. As a result, commercial programmers and the computer industry as a whole are being harmed financially. For evidence one merely needs to look towards the current state of our economy. When faced with the onslaught of free software, our great nation must make a decision. The choices are as follows: An outright ban on economically-damaging free software. State sponsorship of all computer programming under the free software model. If programmers are to continue to be able to put food on their tables, one of these choices must be taken! You may note the unquestionably socialist tone of the second option. While I am not the author you are replying to, perhaps this is what is meant when free software is called socialism.  he he he (none / 0) (#108) by Anonymous Reader on Wed Sep 26th, 2001 at 04:34:41 PM PST good satire. thanks.  don't be an idiot (none / 0) (#31) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 05:13:45 PM PST charitable tax shelters are a fundamental capatalist institution. Viral Ideologies (that undermine capitalism) like the GPL, are not at all conducive to my God Given Right to earn a living.  Another who desperately needs a dictionary (none / 0) (#32) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 05:32:51 PM PST >>Viral Ideologies (that undermine capitalism) like the GPL, are not at all conducive to my God Given Right to earn a living No one is forcing you to release your software with the GPL license. If you despise the GPL license, don't use it. Use something more in tune with your delicate capitalist sensibilities.  you are very wrong (5.00 / 1) (#35) by momocrome on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 05:58:44 PM PST the tendency to release half baked software under the GPL definately undermines the commercial software industry. Why should anyone pay for my tightly coded app when they can nearly get by with an underfeatured, interface stealing amalgam of ameteur coded pseudo-equivelence app offered for free? Now can you see how the state of the art suffers (as bad coding spreads like wildfire), the consumer choices suffer (as commercial app vendors fail in the face of such hideous 'competition') and the world is set back untold years of advancement with the diversion of so many resources. The GPL is obviosly a cancer eating at the core of the tech sector. Belief in anything other is obvious delusion. I'd offer my sympathy, but frankly, I see you as the enemy.  you are very wrong (none / 0) (#36) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 06:05:00 PM PST the tendency to release half baked software under the GPL definately undermines the commercial software industry. Why should anyone pay for my tightly coded app when they can nearly get by with an underfeatured, interface stealing amalgam of ameteur coded pseudo-equivelence app offered for free? Now can you see how the state of the art suffers (as bad coding spreads like wildfire), the consumer choices suffer (as commercial app vendors fail in the face of such hideous 'competition') and the world is set back untold years of advancement with the diversion of so many resources. The GPL is obviosly a cancer eating at the core of the tech sector. Belief in anything other is obvious delusion. I'd offer my sympathy, but frankly, I see you as the enemy.  Very relevant (1.00 / 1) (#37) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 06:12:27 PM PST As a result of releasing TeX for free, Knuth put out of business another programmer who was selling a typestting programmer similar to TeX. Knuth himself has said that he regrets this and would not have released TeX for free, had he known this would be the outcome.  One wonders... (5.00 / 1) (#43) by elenchos on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:02:58 PM PST If Knuth had no clue that giving away his software would result in less paid work for those making similar software, and if Knuth is in fact the paradigm of geekhood, then what does that say about the ability of those like Knuth to function in the world? Any normal five-year-old could have seen what would happen, yet the cleverest of geek gods was oblivious? What does that tell you about the ability of these people to make intelligent choices outside of a purely abstract computer-related context? Is it any wonder they have led so many credulous investors to ruin?I do, I do, I do--Bikini Kill  Welcome to capitalism (1.00 / 1) (#45) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:08:21 PM PST His software competed with someone elses. His became more popular. So much so that the other guy went out of business. This scenario happens every day in many different industries. Why should the software industry get special protection?  It doesn't (none / 0) (#48) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:16:20 PM PST What Knuth did is what's known as predatory pricing. It's considered anti-competitive behaviour. If MS did it, they'd be on trial for it. Oh, wait...they are.  No (1.00 / 1) (#52) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:51:11 PM PST They're on trial for forcing extra restrictive licenses on OEM computer builders.  Really? (1.00 / 1) (#54) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:57:35 PM PST Unlike you, I remember the findings of fact. One of the items of evidence against them was the anti-competitive practise of attempting to price netscape out of the market.  Huh? (1.00 / 1) (#59) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 04:50:40 AM PST Netscape was and has always been free for download. How do you do better than that? A check for$50 with each download of IE?

 No, it hasn't (none / 0) (#61) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 05:43:07 AM PST It has always been free to certain people (students, charities). Prior to IE's release, Netscape cost money. All the releases up to and including Netscape 3 weren't free.

 good for the goose (none / 0) (#80) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 06:26:34 PM PST anti-competitive practise of attempting to price netscape out of the market Yeah, by giving away their browser for free. Effing hypocrites.

 Knuth the cagey capitalist (none / 0) (#91) by johnny ambiguous on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 09:25:30 AM PST If Knuth had no clue that giving away his software would result in less paid work for those making similar software, and if Knuth is in fact the paradigm of geekhood, then what does that say about the ability of those like Knuth to function in the world? By that criterion, if Knuth is an idiot savant and a failure as a foresightful adult, then so is Bill Gates. Knuth gave away TeX free. It seems this hurts his competitors, or so you yourself claim. Microsoft gives away Internet Explorer free. This hurts Microsoft's competitors; that's a matter of public record, and the judgment has been upheld by an appeals court. Knuth spent eight years of effort inventing and polishing TeX, only to hand it out for no profit. Microsoft spent at least $300-million to develop Internet Explorer, and it has never made a cent selling it. For Microsoft, did this make sense? Indeed it did; Microsoft is not in the business of selling browsers, but instead they sell operationg systems and office software. As a result of their marketing techniques, which include the use of "loss-leaders" like Internet Explorer, Microsoft has attained a position of market dominance; it is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. What is Mr. Knuth's business? Is he a vendor of page layout software? No, he is an author! Is he successful? Answer that yourself: how many copies of The Art of Computer Programming has he managed to sell? And the fact that it's officially unfinished is an even nicer touch, because not only did he sell all those copies of the work-in-progress thus far, but that means that he'll probably be able to sell most of the same buyers a second pricey edition when he decides to call it a "finished" book. Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.netGetting into my Chevrolet Magic Fire, I drove slowly back to the office. - L. Rosen  You answer your own questions (1.00 / 1) (#42) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 07:59:39 PM PST >>Why should anyone pay for my tightly coded app when they can nearly get by with an underfeatured, interface stealing amalgam of ameteur coded pseudo-equivelence app offered for free? If your app truly is of much higher quality, plus you offer tech support, then many people will buy it over the free app. I have both GPL and purchased software on my machine. With each app I had to decide if the commercial version is worth the money or not. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It's called competition (aren't capitalists supposed to like that?). If your product is better than everyone else's, you stand a better chance of succeeding. If you get put out of business by a free GPL'd app, then maybe your program wasn't so good.  re: you are very wrong (none / 0) (#50) by clumma on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:38:06 PM PST Don't you love it when capitalism is selectively applied? If my GPLware puts your payware out of business, _that_ my friend, is capitalism. You were not competitive in the market. Your argument that this process degrades the quality of software may be accurate, but your tacit plea to make it stop is the most socialist idea in this thread. Fortunately for you, while socialist government generally sucks rat ass, an idea that is the most socialist in a given thread may be perfectly okay. There's nothing in your post that even begins to constitute an argument that the open source industry lowers software quality, though. What says it isn't payware that has been bringing code down, and open source or some hybrid model won't eventually improve things? The only thing that is sure is that two decades of what we have has produced software that generally sucks rocks. The distribution method is not really at fault, though, if you ask me (and you haven't). Writing software is hard, for humans. Something like Papert's vision of programming in elementary school will likely be key. Even if we never rally the common sense and mild wherewithall to implement such a thing, the average user will probably be writing his own once compilers and libraries and abstraction in general are powerful enough... a new literacy. Or, software will become the most valuable commodity in the world, in a dark re-hash of the Middle ages, when the masses were literally ruled by the literate. I hate to venture which outcome you'd prefer... Anyway, to sum up: market forces are great, but give results strictly bounded by the stupitity of the agents implementing them. That's bad, considering what we're working with, and it's why some sort of stepping-in is necessary for now, no matter if this constitutes a wart intolerable to the purist's sense of fashion. -Carl  this sucks (1.00 / 1) (#53) by clumma on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:52:56 PM PST Good Thing I didn't mention that our particular Collaborative Media box runs on open source -- fuking piece o' shit Preview is worthless, since it isn't savy to the partabular situation the post is going into... and being duped by hard returns is inexcusable in the first place. -Carl  hmm... (1.00 / 1) (#71) by clumma on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 10:19:43 AM PST And today it looks fine. Go figure.  honesty about cost: (none / 0) (#23) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 04:03:22 PM PST Adobe at least has the decency to charge for their incredibly useful, intuitive and user friendly app up front. The myth of Free Software having$0 cost comes into play here: the intense learning curve and difficulty in finessing a good design make TeX cost $Millions more than Framemaker, in the long run. By releasing suc crap into the GNU domain, anyone duped into using it will pay far more at the end of a project than$799, in salary alone.

 I'm amazed you knew that word (1.00 / 1) (#24) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 04:08:37 PM PST Learn. Gee, I have to learn how to use software? What a concept! BTW, do you have any sources saying that it costs millions more to run Tex instead of Framemaker? Probably not. Next.

 Have you ever published a book using TeX? (none / 0) (#27) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 04:20:57 PM PST I am editing a book with submissions from more than 10 authors, all written in TeX. Believe me, it is hellishly difficult, and we would have saved a lot of time (= money) if we went with a professional solution like Framemaker.

 Can the authors afford Framemaker? (1.00 / 1) (#28) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 04:36:35 PM PST If the publisher is serious about reducing time, maybe they should be the ones to spring for the copies of the software. However, $799 times x number of authors times x number of books adds up real quick.  You get what you pay for... (1.00 / 1) (#67) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 09:11:59 AM PST Adobe Framemaker (from their site)$799 Tex $0 Free software is only free if you don't place a monetary value on your own time. While this model makes sense for college students and the unemployed, the rest of us are happy to pay a few bucks to get a working solution. At the end of the day it is all about solutions, and Linux and Latex are really problems rather than solutions, and therefore will never gain mainstream acceptance. Perhaps the open source zealots should give up their quest for desktop domination, they have lost that particular battle. Thanks again for a brave article, its about time some of these 'open source heroes' were taken down a notch or two!  probably off topic but... (none / 0) (#94) by Anonymous Reader on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 05:00:40 PM PST Linux literally heaps solutions upon you, but these solutions are atomic in nature and often some assembly is required. For those who feel that their time is wasted with Linux, I'm sure its better that you spend your money. Additionally, you have to understand that Linux has its strong points, as does Windows. If your demands are simple, there is absolutely no need to use Linux, unless you're truly looking for lowered costs and do have the time. Now granted, time is money, but its not quite as bad as the good folks at Adequacy make it out to be. If you are of the calibur of Adequacy's target demographic then, yes, your time will be wasted severely, because Linux is indeed going to be too demanding of your skill level. This is where Windows shines, it has a wizard for all of your needs (as long as your needs are relatively simple). But once you have to do something not anticipated by the good folks at Redmond, its good to have Linux available as it heaps tools upon you in the tradition of the Unix community. Of course, if you have enough money, you can get unanticipated things done in Windows too. But if you have a few skills, and a few extra minutes, Linux is a great tool to have on hand.  So what? (4.50 / 2) (#86) by jsm on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 06:21:10 AM PST Costs: The Art Of Computer Programming:$200 Adequacy.org: $0 What's your point?... the worst tempered and least consistent of the adequacy.org editors... now also Legal department and general counsel, adequacy.org  Homage (none / 0) (#63) by Platypus on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 06:39:49 AM PST FrameMaker would not have existed if TeX had not existed first (and InterLeaf second). Hence, FrameMaker's existence is a tribute to, not a refutation of, TeX's importance.  Framemaker is junk for some purposes. (none / 0) (#87) by claudius on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 06:46:16 AM PST As one who has used both Framemaker and TeX quite alot, I would comment that mathematical typesetting in Framemaker looks hideous, is woefully incomplete, and the Framemaker equation editor is a good example of how to force your end user to wank for hours micromanaging the whitespace between equation symbols instead of generating meaningful content. Hardly an improvement over {\partial \over \partial t} \int y \, dy if you ask me. I gather from your comment that you likely never typeset mathematics beyond a simple "x squared" or "B sub i," so I am not surprised that you do not appreciate Framemaker's inadequacies for these purposes. Not everyone cares about being able to typeset mathematics, granted, but those of us who do need something beefier than Framemaker's "click indefinitely on a baroque interface until you get an expression that looks like crap but you put up with anyway because you have a deadline and can't afford to care about getting things to look good." That being said, putting up with the fine-grained control over everything in TeX feels alot like doing a 19-point vehicle inspection, rotating the tires, and then lugging the shop vac out to clean the dog fur off the seats every time I wish to drive my truck. The best thing to ever happen to TeX was LaTeX, where 95% of the most tedious macros have been condensed into human-parsable form. Those of you who are ranting about TeX's fonts do know that you can change fonts from within TeX, don't you?  I'll suspend judgement here. (none / 0) (#33) by elenchos on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 05:35:30 PM PST My computer-science professors say all sorts of nice things about Knuth, but perhaps they have never read him. I certainly haven't, and how can you know what to believe just going by what other people say? I'd almost take issue with your high opinion of Knuth's ability as an animator, but there again I'm in no real position to judge. Sure, I've seen Ameriacan Tail and The Land Before Time, but in both cases the versions I saw were dubbed, and so naturally I thought they sucked. Perhaps if I saw them sub-titled I could form a more fair opinion. I wonder why there was no sub-titled version available, anyway. Perhaps some problem with putting the words up on the screen to Knuth's satisfaction...I do, I do, I do--Bikini Kill  Too true... (5.00 / 1) (#39) by error27 on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 07:45:26 PM PST Computer people are always doing stuff the hard way. My theory is that at one point they may have known there was a better way to do things, but they wanted to find a harder way so that they could compete contests of nerdiness. Then after a while they get so used to doing things the hard way eventually they forget the better way. I know this one kid in my dorm who thinks he's so smart because he spends all day on the computer. When I bought my Gateway computer, his reaction was, "Ha Ha! You are so dumb. I build my own computer from bits of wire and used tooth brushes. And I spent$50 less than you did!" I basically just want to punch him in his face. The thing is though, that the computer which I bought from Gateway actually works. His computer is crap. I tried to read my hotmail from his computer and it didn't work. So he is all smug, "Oh, I don't like cookies so I have them turned off." So he fiddles with his browser and tries again but it STILL doesn't work. So he screws around with it for another 5 minutes and he's finally like, "Ah see? You just have to turn java on." The thing that he doesn't seem to notice is that it just took him 10 minutes to do something that is instant on my computer. But somehow he thinks he is smarter than me? I'm no Spock, but I would say that doesn't make sense.

 Example "power user" idiocy. (5.00 / 1) (#56) by error27 on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 10:12:56 PM PST This is an actual quote from an email that I read today. "I'm now masqueraded my dekstop over a wirless GPRS link via irda on the laptop [GRPS is flat rate in Italy :) ] so it's quite dogslow at the moment, I cannot read emails and RTT over GSM is of the order of 1 second (but I can send emails and slowly browse the web)." Compare this to the following: "I clicked on the AOL icon and was able to surf, read email, and chat with friends at lightning fast speed" Do you see what I'm saying? This so called "power users" thinks he is so much smarter than us but in the end you and I are able to read email and he isn't. Retarded doesn't begin to describe it.

 You're missing the point... (1.00 / 2) (#60) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 05:01:55 AM PST Believe it or not, there was a time when the Internet was not as user-friendly as it is today. The power users, or pioneers went out and took technology that no 'normal' person would want to use and refined it, and refined it, and then gave it to people like you to use. Meanwhile we're all off refining the technologies you will be using in another 5 years like e-mail and direct connectivity to your home machine over GPRS or 3G networks. You'll thank us one day. You would certainly noticed if we stopped doing this mad trickery. :-)

 Ha Ha. (5.00 / 1) (#74) by error27 on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 12:23:07 PM PST I think it is you who is confused. The point is that we're talking about life in the _real_world_ and not on some wierd paralel universe where geeks think they can get dates. General Packet Radio System was good back in the day when we had to use the Aloha network to communicate. But with the advent of ISP's no one uses the Aloha network anymore. If GPRS was some modern network protocol then I could understand. But it's not. It's a crappy old Aloha under a different name. It's just like this Linus stuff that everyone keeps talking about. Linus is basically just Unix under a different name. There is a reason why Unix is everyone stopped using Unix you know. Don't try to explain that to a geek though... He thinks he is the smartest person in the world because he can type at his DOS prompt... Meanwhile the rest of the world is using advanced operating systems and watching DVDs or playing mp3s.

 you'll eventually be using UNIX :) (1.00 / 1) (#77) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 04:31:59 PM PST There is a reason why everyone stopped using Unix ... Meanwhile the rest of the world is using advanced operating systems and watching DVDs or playing mp3s. The reason that you do not have UNIX on your home computer is not because everyone stopped using it or because microsoft makes a product that is more advanced. The reason you don't have it is because it is expensive and so is the hardware it runs on. Lately, free UNIX compliant OS's like linux and *BSD have developed in an attempt to bring the power of UNIX to the average consumer. The biggest challenge has been the "desktop" -- the user interface. UNIX historically didn't have a need for a "dumbed down" graphical interface, as the only people who needed to use systems running UNIX can accomplish much more using the "shell" ( yes, you can get a lot more done a lot faster if your hands never leave the keyboard and you know all of UNIX's archaic commands and regexes instead of pointing and clicking ). Anyways, if you've been paying attention to the industry, you'd see that Apple's lastest "advanced operating system" is UNIX with a user friendly interface!!! BTW, I've been playing mp3's on linux for years (four, actually)...mike-d@@mike-d.org

 Time is relative (5.00 / 2) (#79) by Peter Johnson on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 05:19:15 PM PST UNIX historically didn't have a need for a "dumbed down" graphical interface, as the only people who needed to use systems running UNIX can accomplish much more using the "shell" ( yes, you can get a lot more done a lot faster if your hands never leave the keyboard and you know all of UNIX's archaic commands and regexes instead of pointing and clicking ). Back in the heyday of Apple, back when they actually gave a damn about usability, back when they were revolutionaries instead of using picture of revolutionaries in their ads, back when Apple was redefining human computer interaction, they spent hundreds of millions on user interface testing. This included multiple studies of keyboarding vs. mousing. What Apple discovered was that users always report that using the keyboard is faster than using the mouse. The stopwatch, however, always reported that the mouse was faster than the keyboard. See Ask Tog for details. The reason for this is simple. Remebering utility names, switches and (god forbid) regexes gives the brain a workout. You don't get bored. Dragging the mouse OTOH doesn't take much brainpower at all. So it seems slow, but is actually faster and allows you to focus on what you're doing rather than how you're doing it. While there are certainly circumstances where the flexibility and power of the various unix utilities combined with pipes and the bourne or korn shells can be a tremendous time saver, for the routine tasks of directory traversal, web browsing, email and word processing and such the gui inteface is faster. It's also easier to learn and use. Finally, the idea that a graphical user interface is "dumbing down" the computer is laughable. Graphical interfaces are much more complex and require substantially more advanced development disciplines than cmdline utilities or server programs. If you attempt to approach a graphical interface without a sound design and sounder methodologies you end up with excrement. The failure of the *nix community to develop quality GUI environments testifies to a lack of focus and intelligence on the part of the programmers, not the users.--PeterAre you adequate?

 GUI vs. CLI (none / 0) (#110) by frosty on Sun Sep 30th, 2001 at 09:13:43 PM PST Finally, the idea that a graphical user interface is "dumbing down" the computer is laughable. Graphical interfaces are much more complex and require substantially more advanced development disciplines than cmdline utilities or server programs.GUI's are nothing more than eye candy. And they are a dumbed down version of their command line counterparts. Most, if not all GUI tools are graphical representations of command line utilities, with mostof the options removed to make it less imposing for the average user. The only thing more complex about them is sugar coating command line utilities so you can run them with a mouse."Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger" -J.R.R. Tolkien

 Uh... what?? (1.00 / 2) (#112) by Anonymous Reader on Mon Oct 1st, 2001 at 07:51:04 PM PST "I clicked on the AOL icon and was able to surf, read email, and chat with friends at lightning fast speed" "Lightning fast"? "read email"? Are you sure you're talking about AOL, or are you talking about some other- you know- real ISP?

 Gateway Computers and the alleged moon landing (none / 0) (#107) by claudius on Tue Sep 25th, 2001 at 05:00:32 AM PST I have alot of respect for Gateway Computers after seeing the Fox shockumentary about the moon landing hoax. Not many technology companies would be willing to risk advertising on something so controversial. I gather they don't sell many desktop machines to NASA?... "You watched that horrible, horrible show?" "Watched it? Hell, I taped it."

 The myth of an unfinished project (5.00 / 1) (#49) by John Milton on Fri Sep 21st, 2001 at 08:27:12 PM PST This is why nothing constructive ever gets done in open source. They have this ridiculous idea that not finishing anything means that you've taken on a Herculean task. That's not true. It could just mean that you're a pretentious wanker who would like to imagine themselves as struggling towards an insurmountable goal when their really just wasting everyones time and jacking off.-John Milton

 There is no such thing as a finished product (1.00 / 1) (#85) by uchian on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 05:51:46 AM PST If there was, then Microsoft wouldn't bring out a new version of Office every year, Linux and Windows wouldn't be going through continuous development, Adobe Premier wouldn't have needed to go past version 1.0, The gimp would not be having a re-write to tidy up it's code, KDE wouldn't be going through a maintenance stage to make it work with QT 3.0, QT wouldn't have needed a QT 3.0 or even a 2.0, Slashcode wouldn't be still in development even though it's alreeing used on many sites, including this one, the first Code Red would have wiped out the internet, but of course, because all software running the internet would have been finished products and thus bug free, it wouldn't have been able to. I think I've made my point. Jason

 You've made your point... (none / 0) (#88) by Anonymous Reader on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 08:22:19 AM PST ... that you're incapable of reading. Slashcode wouldn't be still in development even though it's alreeing used on many sites, including this one Hello? Can you see the logo at the bottom of every single page that says "powered by Scoop"? How can Adequacy be running Slashcode if it's running Scoop? Your attempts at sounding intelligent just make you sound foolish.

 If it _really_ bothers you that much: (1.00 / 2) (#93) by uchian on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 04:37:16 PM PST Change it to: "Slashcode, scoop and other similar discussion frameworks wouldn't still be in development even though they are already being used on many sites, including this one" I've corrected another spelling mistake, which I'm sure you would have flamed me for if I hadn't, since you seem to be that kind of person. With the now corrected version of my post, do you care to comment properly, or does rational discussion elude you? Is this the reason that you can only knit-pick at what I say, rather than taking the meaning of my message and arguing against it?

 That should be "nit-pick" (5.00 / 2) (#95) by Anonymous Reader on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 05:23:18 PM PST No need to thank me.

 Knuth is a wanker. (none / 0) (#57) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 01:09:54 AM PST Sorry, but in reality he cannot program his way out of a paper bag. Just because you wrote a crappy text processing system and copy/pasted some algorithms does not make you a good programmer. Plus, TeX is a horrible, horrible program; it is quite possibly the single most improperly-written piece of software I know. The design of it makes me quite literally sick. (I won't even go into his books; any programmer knows that data structures are far more important than algorithms, and writing an 8-tome work about algorithms is shortsignted to say the least.) Seriously, if you want a real example of high-quality programming, look at the GIMP and GTK+. (Note: I'm not talking about the quality of the end product, just about the quality of the coding. The design methodology is top-notch -- possibly one of the best.) P.S. Sorry for the rambling tone, I'm in a hurry.

 rather than jump into a thread (3.00 / 2) (#64) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 07:03:20 AM PST Just a couple of points. - If Windows was all the market needed, nobody in their right mind would write a completely free replacement. - Commercial software has revenue production as its primary reason for existence. Not much else to say about that, except that most of the current ills of the computer world can be traced to this one fact alone. - Many people know and admire Knuth. Nobody knows the author of this article. Given what was written, the author will remain unknown. Goobers don't get famous, unless they take gooberdom to perviously unheard of levels. The author is just a run of the mill goober tho.

 I agree totally (4.00 / 3) (#65) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 07:11:41 AM PST ...with your first point. "nobody in their right mind". Well said. I didn't bother to read the other two. I expect that they are likewise insightful.

 To the editors of adequacy.org (3.33 / 3) (#66) by T Reginald Gibbons on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 07:30:21 AM PST You appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that you have the right to criticise and comment upon any person, no matter how famous, or how poorly your relative fame measures up. I assure you this is unacceptable. In polite society, the right to criticise stems from two bases. You must either be as or more famous than the famous person you are criticising, or you must be at least as equally accomplished in the same field. To comment without first meeting the prerequisites is to commit a fallacy of the most contemptible order, to whit, speaking out of place. It is inconsiderate and presumptuous for people as insignificant and anonymous as yourselves to even attempt to form an opinion on a person so staggeringly famous as Donald Knuth. Your intentions may be entirely noble, but I assure, to pursue the course of action you have is behaviour fit only for the lowest form of oik. You should be ashamed. Of course, according to this system, Michael Jackson is virtually above criticism from everyone except the pope.

 comments (none / 0) (#72) by clumma on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 10:27:18 AM PST How did you come up with this? I've never heard such rubbish. The merit of criticism should be based on its content, not the parties involved. The Michael Jackson paradox is only one instance of the 'The Emperor Wears No Clothes' problem, though it alone should have been enough to convince you never to post your ill-conceived drivel. -Carl

 Hee hee *snicker* (3.66 / 3) (#73) by John Milton on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 10:55:48 AM PST It is inconsiderate and presumptuous for people as insignificant and anonymous as yourselves to even attempt to form an opinion on a person so staggeringly famous as Donald Knuth. Thanks for making me laugh. I asked my postman if he'd ever heard of Donald Knuth. I had to explain to him the Donald was a really big star among virgins. He thought that was funny, but he couldn't understand why he should care. Go buy some real software. You'll be more productive and you won't end up like Donald Knuth, sitting alone in a computer lab for eight years jacking off to an unfinished, unreadable, completely worthless tome of self-aggrandising shit.-John Milton

 Nerd bashing and lusers (1.00 / 1) (#68) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 09:35:58 AM PST This is "news for grownups"? Sounds like a bunch of out-of-touch, technology-ignornant middle-aged WASPS that are still salty about the fact that the "nerds" they picked on in high school actually *did* make something of their lives... sounds like bitterness over a complete lack of real knowledge of computers... sounds like people bashing others 'cuz they know they will NEVER, in a million years, if they devoted their whole lives to it, be even 1/10th as smart as the "nerds".

 Ignorance is bliss (5.00 / 1) (#69) by Peter Johnson on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 10:04:35 AM PST Sounds like a bunch of out-of-touch, technology-ignornant middle-aged WASPS that are still salty about the fact that the "nerds" they picked on in high school actually *did* make something of their lives... Most of the time it pays to know just who you're talking to. JSM is a legend in the VAX/VMS community. This is the man who designed the 3 ball transaction monitor model used in DEC DTM and RDB. This is one of the men who worked 18 hours a day, 6 days a week for over two years to port VMS to the alpha processor. You remember VMS, right? It was like Unix only more powerful, robust and stable. And more feature rich. And faster. And with proper clustering years before *nix. Your friend,--PeterAre you adequate?

 VAX/VMS (none / 0) (#81) by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 22nd, 2001 at 08:31:58 PM PST Of course they don't remember this. What operating system was duplicated and cloned and otherwise used as an example of the right thing? VMS? Merely a memory of lost glory and the wrong path taken.

 this jsm - vms thug (none / 0) (#113) by Anonymous Reader on Tue Oct 2nd, 2001 at 03:00:53 AM PST You have to be joking! If your reading skills aren't as sloppy as your intelligence, please read jsm's article on mandrake and his answers to the comments. The guy is clearly a closed-mind idiot. Perhaps his unwillingness to learn is actually an inabillity.

 What utter bullshit (none / 0) (#114) by ucblockhead on Tue Oct 2nd, 2001 at 08:08:36 AM PST JSM did nothing of the sort. He merely had the good fortune of having a few good people working for him. Yeah, he took credit for the design of the 3 ball transaction monitor model, but all he did was sign the timesheets of the guys who actually built the damn thing. But work an eighteen hour day? What bullshit! Had he ever even bothered to work an eight hour day, VMS never would have made it to the Alpha. Thankfully, he was so rarely there that people were able to get actual work done. This is just another typical example of idiot managers who know nothing of the technology taking credit for something done by people who actually know something. And then he has the gall to post tripe like this as if he knows something. Feh!

 bait-n-switch (1.00 / 1) (#92) by pohl on Sun Sep 23rd, 2001 at 01:56:49 PM PST The title grabbed me, being a reference to an early Sonic Youth EP. I've read and enjoyed much of the content that Knuth has produced. Can't say the same about the author of this childish diatribe. Isn't adequacy supposed to have something to do with adulthood?

 Research is your friend (none / 0) (#101) by ucblockhead on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 05:11:30 PM PST You might want to actually read a bit of the books. At least, read the preface. Knuth talks about exactly why he called it the "Art of Computer Science". He is not using art in the "fine art" sense. Here's the definition of the word: Main Entry: 2art Pronunciation: 'ärt Function: noun Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin art-, ars -- more at ARM Date: 13th century 1 : skill acquired by experience, study, or observation 2 a : a branch of learning: (1) : one of the humanities (2) plural : LIBERAL ARTS b archaic : LEARNING, SCHOLARSHIP 3 : an occupation requiring knowledge or skill 4 a : the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced b (1) : FINE ARTS (2) : one of the fine arts (3) : a graphic art 5 a archaic : a skillful plan b : the quality or state of being artful 6 : decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter It should be obvious that writing computer programs is an "art" by definition 1, that computer programming is an "art" by definition 3, and that computer science is an "art" by definition 2. Unfortunately, a lot of people with a substandard vocabulary get all confused by that word "art" and think that saying computer science is "art" is the same as claiming it is a "fine art", or that computer code has esthetic value. Some of them are "hackers" and some of them are artists. The important point, however, is that Knuth himself talks about exactly this issue in the preface to Volume one, and says explicitly that he is using the word "art" in the sense of the word "skill", i.e. definition 1.

 Why obfuscate then ? (4.00 / 1) (#103) by dmg on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 07:17:44 PM PST If Knuth meant skill why not call it 'the skill of computer programming' ? Because computer people like to make things more complicated than they need to be.time to give a Newtonian demonstration - of a bullet, its mass and its acceleration. -- MC Hawking

 It isn't "obfuscation" (none / 0) (#104) by ucblockhead on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 08:23:55 PM PST What "obfuscation"? He used the word for exactly what it means. Just because some people are too ignorant to figure out what the 'A' stands for in that degree that reads " B.A. in Computer Science" doesn't mean Knuth has to dumb down his title for people too stupid to know what the word means and too lazy to read the preface. Or do you think that the point of Sun Tzu's The Art of War is talking about how war is esthetically pleasing? The use of the word "Art" to refer just to "fine art" is a relatively new definition for the word. That's the reason that the first three definitions listed in my previous post don't even mention esthetics. The much older meaning of the word is as defined in my previous post, or to put it more succinctly, an "art" is something that produces artifacts.

 I am mildly curious... (none / 0) (#102) by otak on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 05:11:41 PM PST ...why the website of such staunch opponents of the worthless software produced by ugly dateless propellerheads seems to be running on some sort of crummy `free' operating system, rather than Windows 2000 / IIS?

 Maybe they tried... (none / 0) (#116) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Dec 21st, 2001 at 03:14:00 PM PST ...and then found that the overly expensive "No-Thanks" or "Xtreme Problems" are too bloated, too unstable, and too dangerous for the site itself...

 Knuth or Bluth? (none / 0) (#109) by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 28th, 2001 at 03:02:00 AM PST Why hasn't anyone yet commented on the hilarious Knuth/Bluth switcheroo? Surely I can't be the only one who noticed!

 Troll (none / 0) (#115) by Anonymous Reader on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 06:43:54 AM PST This man is no man: he is a troll