[conspire] GiB/TiB vs. GB/TB - SI vs. binary, etc.

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Apr 4 20:52:34 PDT 2010

Quoting Michael Paoli (Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu):
> Opinions may and will differ :-) ... but my opinion/perspective is that
> when referring to binary units, use the binary terms/abbreviations, e.g.
> KiB, MiB, GiB, TiB, etc.

It's been over ten years since 1999 when the International
Electrotechnical Commission invented and tried to popularise those
coinages, with a pretty much total lack of success, which is not
surprising as they are an epic failure as coinages and obvious

> May take some getting used to (and things like TebiByte still don't
> roll off the tip of my tongue)....

Hah hah.  You keep telling yourself that.

> ...but I think in general it's better and avoids ambiguity.

We _had_ a lack of ambiguity, Michael -- ever since Gene Amadahl's 1964
article on IBM System/360 used 1K to mean 1024, establishing the
convention that "kilo", etc., referred _within computing_ to obvious
power-of-two qualities.  That convention worked great, and was utterly
devoid of ambiguity until some idiot in the hard drive industry
corrupted the memespace.

> Such ambiguity can be especially significant as one gets into larger
> realms.

Ah, you must be one of those computing people who refuse to understand
that words have meaning only in context.  Yes, we have a lot of those.

> I also note that many programs/utilities, including and perhaps
> especially in Open Source, are tending towards using and explicitly
> stating binary units.

I'm curious:  Why do you capitalise "open source" in a context where it
isn't a proper noun?

> Thanks also, for pointing out the UK vs. American English billion,
> trillion, etc. (at least historic) differences - I wasn't aware of
> those.

Well, you presumably weren't raised in the British school system in the
1960s.  ;->

> Yielding or adjusting to plurality opinion/usage isn't always "best",
> but it's often the more practical option.

I think it's perfectly charming that you seem to think users of
USA-style English word choice and (presumably) spelling outnumber those
who speak the several closely related Commonwealth variants.  Ambrose
Bierce once said that 'War is God's way of teaching Americans
geography.'  I _had_ thought that we'd recently had enough war to put a
few rays of sunlight through the miasma of ignorance about the world,
but perhaps I've been guilty of optimism.

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