Remember the Turing Test? That was Alan Turing's famous test of computer intelligence, first published in 1950. Essentially, a computer will pass the Turing test for human-grade intelligence when it answers questions in a way that is fully human—that is, indistinguishable from answers given by a human being.
The search-engine business lives entirely outside Turing's shadow. Stupid answers are just not a problem—they're a standard. The more, the better. Case in point: the very popular and well-promoted site, Ask Jeeves (http://www.askjeeves.com/).
Jeeves is a bald and dapper cartoon that insists, like the game Jeopardy, that you frame your search in the form of a question. Here is a recent “dialog” I had with Jeeves:
Doc: Who is Linus Torvalds?
Jeeves: I think you may have misspelled something. Did you mean: Who is Linus Travelogs? Travelled? Traveled? Travailed? Travolta? Trivets? Trifocals? Travelogues? Gravitas? Traffics? Groveled? Grovelled? Gravelled? Graveled?
Jeeves: Where can I read the chapter from Bulfinch's mythology about Orpheus and Euridice, Aristaeus, Amphion, Linus?
Doc: Uh. Let's click on Ask! again.
Jeeves: Linus was the instructor of Hercules in music, but having one day reproved his pupil rather harshly, he roused the anger of Hercules, who struck him with his lyre and killed him.
Doc: Thank you. —Doc Searls
It used to be flying toasters, tanks of fish and kittens cavorting on black backgrounds. But that was, well, very eighties. The most stylish new screen saver for Windows comes, of course, from Italy—pippo.com, to be exact. It defaults your idle screen to something much more Finnish or Antarctic or Linuxish, anyway. It's called “That Linux Feeling”, and it gives your Windows box that Linux look. To check out the latest, visit http://howto.linuxberg.com/saver/.
Apparently, the rumors are true. According to a report in ZDNet UK, Adobe's John Warnock recently caught wind of a planned company upgrade to Windows NT and overturned it in favor of Linux, which he describes as “a perfectly viable alternative to NT”. But he also said,
I want to pay for an operating system from a vendor with a contractual relationship that gives me recourse if things go wrong. Some people who have this utopian view that everything should be free don't understand the necessity for governments or corporations.
Of course, we wouldn't want to include Caldera, Red Hat or Linuxcare among those utopians. They're just corporations which deliver exactly what Mr. Warnock wants.
Who says Linux isn't for desktops? Ask the guys who get the service calls.
In the second quarter of this year, Linuxcare noticed a 27% increase in the number of desktop incidents, while service calls for file, print and web servers went down. Linuxcare co-founder David Sifry told us:
This industry is really quite interesting. The number of desktop incidents we get has surprised us. Many people are using Linux as desktop workstations for software development, VLSI design, and in financial services, among other things. And we have no idea where it will go next.
Here are the numbers:
Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal
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