Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Linux, Gentoo, and the Random Reinforcement Schedule

I'm an avid fan, and former hater, of Linux. The only reason I like Linux is Gentoo. I used to be an avid Windows fan, and I still am, but I rarely use Windows any more. There is the odd task that Linux just can't handle without a day or two of fiddling, and so a bail to Windows is the obvious solution.

That given, I just figured out why I like Linux so much, and Gentoo in particular. I tried all the other distros and couldn't stand them, but Gentoo, I fell in love with right away. Partly it was just that Gentoo's configuration file arrangement made sense to me, mostly it was the portage tree and "emerge" being super ass kicking over whatever it was that Fedora offered.

I just now realized what really pulled me in: The random reinforcement schedule. You know, that thing with the cat in the box. No, the other thing, the one where the cat has a button, and if the cat presses the button, then food or some other stimuli is given to the cat. There was the question, of course, since researchers always have to ask lots of questions, of how can they maximize the number of times the cat will press the button in any time period? Do they give the cat food every time? Well, probably not, because a satiated cat won't press the button. How about once a day? Might work, or maybe the cat will find something else to do. Once a minute? Once an hour? Turns out the optimal button pressing to reward ratio occurs when they used the random reinforcement schedule.

They also figured out that people, persons, or whatever, will fall for the random reinforcement schedule as well. The dumb and fat ones who enjoy sitting on their kiesters smoking and drinking do anyway. Then you can get them to pump all their money into slot machines using this phenomenon.

Well, it turns out, with all due respect to Berkeley Breathed, that I'm not so far removed as I'd like from the fat-kiestered atheists pumping their money into slot machines. It seems that any time you need something to work in Gentoo, or Linux in general, that it's a little bit hit-or-miss. But that's not all. There are many things you can do or at least try to do, to make whatever it was you wanted to use in Linux, but that wasn't, work. And there it is, the random reinforcement schedule. You never know how long, nor how many fixes you'll have to try, before your problem is fixed and you're back in open-source heaven. Savvy?

There, that was a good use of my time. :p


Blogger mikej said...

Read this.

8/28/2007 2:34 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

Ah, computers.

All OSes work the same, btw, in that regards.

They all suck, just some more than others.

8/29/2007 1:45 PM  

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