Everyday Computing, Features

Reasonable Numbers

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

THE Prime Minister has recently been criticised for misquoting and misrepresenting some figures, regarding the number of criminal deportees dumped on our island. Later analysis, assisted by a prompt rebuttal from US authorities, suggested that the actual figure may be much lower than the one quoted; a modest eight, instead of a massive eight hundred.

Although the scale of the difference is an astounding two orders of magnitude, the underlying message, of the harmful impact of deportees on our policing and safety, remains. Given the sizeable difference, this incident also raises the issue of what constitutes a reasonable number.

From the perspective of a computer system, there are surprisingly few reasonable numbers, despite their impressive ability to represent large numbers. Computers are limited by their hardware when representing numbers. For example, a 32-bit computer can easily count numbers up to 4 billion (10 digits long), while 64-bit computers may count numbers up to 18 billion-billion (20 digits long). Despite this wide range of numbers that can be represented by computers, there are basically three reasonable numbers, namely:

* Zero — Representing that something is logically false, or should not be allowed. For example, being denied access to a protected file.

* One — Indicating that something is logically true, or may only occur once. For example, an ATM dispensing your requested cash.

* Infinity — No limit, except as imposed by your machine’s hardware. For example, the number of files stored on a server.

All other numbers are simply customary, psychologically acceptable, or conveniently chosen, based on external factors. You may encounter some of these limits on a regular basis. Ever wondered why you are only allowed three (3) opportunities to enter your password before being locked out? Maybe you have noticed that menus and lists are usually restricted to nine (9) items. Perhaps you have already observed that the minimum length of your password is set to eight (8) characters. Why not five or six instead?

Understanding the reason for choosing a particular number, is a very small part of the training and skill-set of your IT staff. Within reason, these limits should be applied in a holistic and judicious manner to avoid compromising your ICT systems, or falling foul of your policies.
\To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The Voice.

About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and capacity building.

1 Comment

  1. The fact remains that many of the criminals who are deported to the Caribbean countries by the American government were raised in that society as kids. Basically they migrated to the USA at a very young age. There they did most of their schooling, watched television shows that constantly depicted violence, associated with peers in deviant behaviors because the manner in which the system is structured many minorities are written off at an early age because the system does nor cater or address the needs of these individuals, so they begin to get involved in a life of crime at an early age for numerous reasons.
    At some point due to numerous arrests and a failed judicial system that somehow promotes further criminal exposure of these young minds by housing these young individuals with seasoned criminals who physically, psychologically and mentally further abuse these young minds into becoming seasoned criminals through association because the criminal system offers not form of rehabilitation, these petty criminals are ready to be released back into society as better clever criminals, where they unleash their upgraded learning of better criminal behaviors by the very institutions that were designed at one time to rehabilitate them.
    The US government, miserably failed in performing its civic duties in offering these young minds some form of better alternative, sees deportation as the easiest way out rather than accept responsibility that their system has failed in providing a stable environment in allowing these individuals to become productive citizens rather than hardened criminals.
    If the Caribbean islands learn that these criminals are air bound to their countries, their government SHOULD DISALLOW these individuals from disembarking from the planes and be redirected back to their point of origin.
    By virtue of not allowing them to place their feet on their soils, these criminals are still considered as foreigns and should return like the aircraft to its original destination.

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