Saturday, September 22, 2007

A senseless waste of time

  1. You get in your car and press the start button. A small screen on the dashboard displays “Starting…”. Two minutes later you can drive off.
  2. You turn on the TV. The screen displays “Starting…” Two minutes later you’re watching TV.
  3. You pick up your electric toothbrush…

Why does it take 2 minutes for my computer to turn on?

Nobody would stand for this kind of inconvenience from an everyday device like a toothbrush, TV, or automobile. There aren’t any accurate statistics on this, but from my experience the average computer takes over 100 seconds to boot up. That time is spent accomplishing several important tasks. This includes the hardware BIOS boot time (about 22 seconds), loading the OS, loading device drivers, connecting to the network, and starting programs like anti virus scanners. Apples are somewhat faster, and Linux computers are slower.

There’s a story that Apple’s Steve Jobs once delayed release of the Macintosh to reduce boot time by ten seconds. Ten seconds! His rational for this was interesting: multiplying 10 seconds for five million Mac users yielded one and a half years (per day). By reducing boot time by ten seconds Apple could save lives!

There are approximately 700 million PC users on the planet today. Each PC takes about 100 seconds to boot. That means a staggering 2200 years of human life is wasted waiting for PC’s to boot every day. Given an average human lifespan of 67 years - over 33 human lives are squandered every single day.

“Microsoft should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.”

The BART from San Francisco to Oakland goes directly underneath the San Francisco bay. At its deepest part, the tunnel is approximately 150 feet underwater. I took my very first trip on the BART in September 2004 with my cousin Ed who lives in Oakland.

It was around 6:00 PM and the train was crowded. I didn’t even think about traveling under the bay until the train stopped unexpectedly. My fellow passengers groaned, but didn’t seem too upset. After a couple of minutes the lights flickered and we were plunged into darkness. Now people were getting nervous. Ed had a small flashlight, and so did a few other passengers.

“This happens all the time, right?” I asked.

Ed said no, this was his first time. A nearby passenger chimed in, “I’ve been riding for 25 years, and this is the first time.” We started looking for the emergency exit.

Just then the conductor came on the intercom:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the inconvenience. We’ve had a malfunction in the trains braking system. To fix the problem we have to power down the electrical system and reboot the computer. The lights will be off for approximately five minutes.”
© 2008 Raoul Rubin