[linux-elitists] git and a sysadmin book

Karsten M. Self karsten@linuxmafia.com
Mon Jan 12 12:58:55 PST 2009

on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 10:23:15AM -0600, Jeremy Hankins (nowan@nowan.org) wrote:
> "Karsten M. Self" <karsten@linuxmafia.com> writes:
> > "Complexity is the enemy" is one of my buzzwords.  Another is "Large,
> > low-entropy pools are inherently dangerous".  They're the same side of
> > the same coin, and investigating the second in depth leads to some
> > provocative discussions.
> >
> > What's a "low-entropy pool"?  Anything with potential.  Jerry-cans of
> > gasoline, 110 story skyscrapers (or two sited next to one-another), CCC
> > centers (command, control, & communications), server farms, active
> > earthquake faults, fanatical fundamentalist religio-political
> > ideologies, spaghetti code, ...
> A nit: I don't think you're using the word entropy properly; you seem to
> want to refer to high potential energy rather than low entropy.  

High potential energy *is* low entropy.  Entropy is a measure of the
randomness, or unordered state, of a system.  A low-entropic system is
then:  non-random, highly-ordered, with high potential.

> Perhaps the notion is that something with high potential energy can be
> identified by the fact that it depends on low entropy for its
> preservation (i.e., introduce a bit of entropy to your gasoline and no
> more gasoline).  But a large stationary block of ice is quite low
> entropy as well.  

Not if it's embedded within a larger block of ice.

Now a system comprising of a large block of ice next to a body at a much
higher temperature, is a low-entropic system, as a net.  The temperature
gradient, however, is the source of the potential, not the ice itself,
and the energy to be obtained is extracted from the higher-temperature
body.  The ice itself is a sink.

> Low entropy is, all else being equal, desirable.

Low entropy is, all else being equal, a source of potentially useful
potential.  Also potentially harmful.  The useful/harmful dichotomy
depends very much on how the potential is managed and regulated.

> But you are quite correct to point out that a system that can survive
> high entropy conditions is even more desirable, and you're more likely
> to find such systems in conditions of high entropy.

Um, sorry, that's not entirely clear, typo?  Is the last phrase supposed
to be "high entropy" or "low entropy"?


Karsten M. Self <karsten@linuxmafia.com>        http://linuxmafia.com/~karsten
    Ceterum censeo, Caldera delenda est.
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