Friday, August 22, 2014

What "good" looks like

Here are two queues, which are attached to programs I wrote that do things in response to reality. You actually don't need to know the details, merely observe the graph of "stuff waiting to be done"...

Heartbeat erratic but strong...

He's dead, Jim.

One of those is a "good queue" with low latency, and it's pretty obvious which. The numbers help quantify just how bad, but the shape alone tells you which queue you'd rather join.

The thing is, I've seen that shape elsewhere in my readings this week.

Those are 'neuronal spike patterns' in human cortical columns. You'd be surprised how large an overlap there is in the math used to analyse correlations among spiking neurons and, for example, doing security intrusion detection using logfile events.

I'm not making any deep claims about the equivalence of computers and brains... I know better. I'm just pointing out that it's interesting that, when both information systems are working well, they create graphs with similar shapes. Probably for similar underlying reasons to do with good engineering.

In essence, it's better to sit around with nothing to do most of the time between bursts of activity. Such systems can weather storms that tend to bring more consistent and 'globally efficient' systems to their knees - at exactly the time they are most needed. Especially if there's any dependance on shared resources.

In other words, the blinky lights shouldn't just stay totally on. That's almost as bad as completely off. We all know this, which is why we like blinky lights.

Then again, earthquakes and avalanches follow much the same log-law pattern. Don't read too much into it. It's probably just the universe itself infusing into our data, unstoppably shining through it. Or, as we generally call it: 'the noise'.

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