Using standardized SI prefixes - Debian

This is a discussion on Using standardized SI prefixes - Debian ; Le lundi 11 juin 2007 à 19:56 -0500, Mark Reitblatt a écrit : > That's not "consistent". Kilobyte has always meant 2^10 bytes. No, it has never. Kilo has always meant 10^3. Full stop. End of story. Bye bye. People ...

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Thread: Using standardized SI prefixes

  1. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    Le lundi 11 juin 2007 à 19:56 -0500, Mark Reitblatt a écrit :
    > That's not "consistent". Kilobyte has always meant 2^10 bytes.


    No, it has never. Kilo has always meant 10^3. Full stop. End of story.
    Bye bye. People didn't invent the SI just so that a small group of
    hackers decide that suddenly it is 2^10 just because it is more
    convenient. SI units are *universal*.

    There is a world outside computing, you know. Just ask anyone outside
    your small world how much bytes they think a kilobyte is.

    > "kilo" in "kilobyte" is not an SI prefix.


    "Kilo" is always a SI prefix.

    > SI prefixes only apply to SI measurements


    No.

    > There is no confusion;


    There seems to be in your mind.

    > the only place where a kilobyte != 2^10 bytes is in hard drive
    > manufacturer's advertising materials.


    No. A kilobyte is 10^3 bytes everywhere. At least, in all countries who
    use SI units.

    > This is the way it has been for
    > decades, and it is a perfectly acceptable and desirable standard.


    It has never been anything but a gross imprecision introduced by people
    incapable of following rigorous standards.

    --
    .''`.
    : :' : We are debian.org. Lower your prices, surrender your code.
    `. `' We will add your hardware and software distinctiveness to
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  2. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue, Jun 12, 2007 at 09:20:30AM +0200, Josselin Mouette wrote:
    > Le lundi 11 juin 2007 Ã* 19:56 -0500, Mark Reitblatt a écrit :
    > > That's not "consistent". Kilobyte has always meant 2^10 bytes.

    >
    > No, it has never. Kilo has always meant 10^3. Full stop. End of story.
    > Bye bye. People didn't invent the SI just so that a small group of
    > hackers decide that suddenly it is 2^10 just because it is more
    > convenient. SI units are *universal*.
    >

    Really? Because there is no history of words being co-opted and being
    assigned new meanings? Pirate? Hacker? It is a fact that, lacking a
    better work, people will take a word that is a close approximation in
    some way and use it. The kilo ≈ 2^10 is not the first, nor will itbe
    the last.

    >
    > It has never been anything but a gross imprecision introduced by people
    > incapable of following rigorous standards.
    >

    It has never been anything more than people defaulting to a close
    approximation. Language is imperfect. People make do.

    Regards,

    -Roberto

    --
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    http://people.connexer.com/~roberto
    http://www.connexer.com

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  3. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    Le mardi 12 juin 2007 à 03:29 -0400, Roberto C. Sánchez a écrit :
    > > It has never been anything but a gross imprecision introduced by people
    > > incapable of following rigorous standards.
    > >

    > It has never been anything more than people defaulting to a close
    > approximation. Language is imperfect. People make do.


    You'll tell that to a court if there is such an "approximation" in a
    contract.

    --
    .''`.
    : :' : We are debian.org. Lower your prices, surrender your code.
    `. `' We will add your hardware and software distinctiveness to
    `- our own. Resistance is futile.

  4. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    Miles Bader wrote:
    > Magnus Holmgren writes:
    >>> No it doesn't.
    >>>
    >>> The "SI binary prefixes" are an abomination.

    >> Why - besides pronunciation?

    >
    > Well among other things, the end result of this whole mess will likely
    > be to _increase_ confusion, rather than lessen it:
    >
    > Until now, in a typical computer app, "900K" had an unambiguous meaning:
    > 900*1024.


    How often must we repeat it: it is not unambiguous. When you buy a hard
    drive 500G does not mean 500 * 1024³ (please note: one context [size],
    two different meanings for "G").

    1Mbit/s usually means 10^6 bits per second in the context of data
    transfer rates. How is this unambiguous for you?

    > Now that a bunch of people are all in a misguided frenzy to "correct"
    > things (which weren't broken), there will almost certainly be cases
    > where some silly fool will change the _calculation_ but not the label
    > (e.g., in a case where space is at a premium) -- e.g., they'll keep "K",
    > but change the calculation to "/ 1000", because that's "correct".


    Nope, it's more likely that *if* we take action, we would chose the
    binary suffix notation to avoid this confusion.


    --
    Bastian Venthur http://venthur.de
    Debian Developer venthur at debian org


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  5. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue, Jun 12, 2007 at 09:36:34AM +0200, Josselin Mouette wrote:
    > Le mardi 12 juin 2007 à 03:29 -0400, Roberto C. Sánchez a écrit :
    > > > It has never been anything but a gross imprecision introduced by people
    > > > incapable of following rigorous standards.
    > > >

    > > It has never been anything more than people defaulting to a close
    > > approximation. Language is imperfect. People make do.

    >
    > You'll tell that to a court if there is such an "approximation" in a
    > contract.
    >

    What are you talking about? We all know that the *precise* meaning of
    kilo is 1000. The point is that the term was also co-opted, since there
    was not a better term. If you are talking about a contract, I would
    expect that the *precise* meanings of words are being used, along with
    definitions of any words where there could be ambiguity.

    Why do you think that the marketing materials for most hard drives
    include the note that 1 GB = 1 000 000 000 bytes? If the SI prefixes
    only ever held their *precise* meanings, then such clarifications would
    not be necessary.

    Regards,

    -Roberto

    --
    Roberto C. Sánchez
    http://people.connexer.com/~roberto
    http://www.connexer.com

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  6. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    Le mardi 12 juin 2007 à 03:43 -0400, Roberto C. Sánchez a écrit :
    > What are you talking about? We all know that the *precise* meaning of
    > kilo is 1000. The point is that the term was also co-opted, since there
    > was not a better term. If you are talking about a contract, I would
    > expect that the *precise* meanings of words are being used, along with
    > definitions of any words where there could be ambiguity.


    When I use a computer program, I don't want to wonder whether it uses
    precise units or approximate ones. A computer is a damn stupid machine
    and it will never know whether I need precision. Which is why it should
    *always* do things the precise way.

    > Why do you think that the marketing materials for most hard drives
    > include the note that 1 GB = 1 000 000 000 bytes?


    Maybe because they are sold in the US, one of the 3 countries where SI
    units are not standard?

    --
    .''`.
    : :' : We are debian.org. Lower your prices, surrender your code.
    `. `' We will add your hardware and software distinctiveness to
    `- our own. Resistance is futile.

  7. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Mon, 2007-06-11 at 19:56 -0500, Mark Reitblatt wrote:
    > On 6/11/07, Alex Jones wrote:
    > > Fine. Stick with Kilobytes, but strictly define it as 10^3 bytes. Just
    > > choose one over the other and be consistent.

    >
    > That's not "consistent". Kilobyte has always meant 2^10 bytes. "kilo"
    > in "kilobyte" is not an SI prefix. SI prefixes only apply to SI
    > measurements, of which "byte" is not a member. There is no confusion;
    > the only place where a kilobyte != 2^10 bytes is in hard drive
    > manufacturer's advertising materials. This is the way it has been for
    > decades, and it is a perfectly acceptable and desirable standard.


    It's all not as simple as you write it.

    Bit rates have been usually measured in 10^(3x) bit per second, e.g.
    kbps or kbit/s. So when talking about transfer rates, kilo meant
    thousand. However, when talking about file/memory sizes, kilo meant
    1024. But then again, a lot of people aren't aware of this difference
    and there are a lot of programs which present e.g. download speeds in
    2^(10x) bytes per second (_bits_ per second are more common to be used
    in "lower levels", but there are also programs which use 2^10 _bits_ per
    second as transfer speed units).

    Another "historic" example is a floppy-MB:
    A 1.44MB floppy disc can store 1,474,560 Bytes, that is 1440 KiB and
    1.40625 MiB or approximately 1475KB or 1.48MB with kilo=10^3 and
    mega=10^6.
    However, these floppies were known as "1.44MB"-floppies. (MB meaning
    1000 times 1024 bytes). Very consistent!

    Your example of hard drive manufacturers is a another good example why
    we actually SHOULD have unambiguous prefixes. Advertising always tends
    to abuse ambiguities. When SI prefixes were used consistently, it would
    have been clear from start that you cannot fit 100 GiB of data on a hard
    drive advertised as having 100GB free space available.

    Just because something has been done wrong for a long time doesn't make
    it right. People who know the inconsistencies get used to them and do
    not want to change it because it may be inconvenient for them or it
    simply sounds stupid to them (what an argument!).
    However, this means that _every_ new generation of students and
    hobbyists has to go through learning the inconsistencies if we change
    nothing. Hooray, confusion till the end of times!

    But if we pushed the use of SI-prefixes, the computer-gurus would have
    to get used to the new system but following generations would profit
    from having a consistent unit system. In my opinion this is something
    that is worth the effort. The problem with such big changes is that a
    critical mass is needed to benefit from this new system and the faster
    it is achieved, the shorter the confusion-period will be.
    I think that the open source community should participate since
    consistent and unambiguous conventions are a good thing (TM).

    Christof Krüger

  8. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue, 2007-06-12 at 09:37 +0200, Christof Krüger wrote:

    > Another "historic" example is a floppy-MB:
    > A 1.44MB floppy disc can store 1,474,560 Bytes, that is 1440 KiB and
    > 1.40625 MiB or approximately 1475KB or 1.48MB with kilo=10^3 and
    > mega=10^6.
    > However, these floppies were known as "1.44MB"-floppies. (MB meaning
    > 1000 times 1024 bytes). Very consistent!
    >

    The difference is a sufficiently small percentage, that most users will
    not care. In fact, the only people who ever seem to care enough to know
    that a 1.44MB floppy disk is actually 1.48 Million Bytes are geeks.

    I don't think it's the differing scale of units that confuse people,
    changing KB to KiB everywhere where you don't use kB -- I think it's the
    reality of having differencing scales in the first place that's
    confusing.

    Changing the unit prefixes is just a geek "precision" gratification that
    will confuse everybody who is used to talking about "kilobytes", "and
    gigabytes"...

    "My computer has two gigabytes of RAM!"
    "Aha! No it doesn't!"
    "It says two gigabytes."
    "No, you mean two gibibytes! A gigabyte is ten-to-the-nice
    bytes, whereas a gibibyte is two-to-the-thirty bytes!"
    *punch*
    "Ow! You broke my nose!"

    Scott
    --
    Scott James Remnant
    Ubuntu Development Manager
    scott@ubuntu.com

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  9. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On 12/06/07 15:37, Christof Krüger wrote:
    > Just because something has been done wrong for a long time doesn't make
    > it right. People who know the inconsistencies get used to them and do
    > not want to change it because it may be inconvenient for them or it
    > simply sounds stupid to them (what an argument!).
    > However, this means that _every_ new generation of students and
    > hobbyists has to go through learning the inconsistencies if we change
    > nothing. Hooray, confusion till the end of times!
    >
    > But if we pushed the use of SI-prefixes, the computer-gurus would have
    > to get used to the new system but following generations would profit
    > from having a consistent unit system. In my opinion this is something
    > that is worth the effort. The problem with such big changes is that a
    > critical mass is needed to benefit from this new system and the faster
    > it is achieved, the shorter the confusion-period will be.
    > I think that the open source community should participate since
    > consistent and unambiguous conventions are a good thing (TM).
    >
    > Christof Krüger
    >
    >

    Until you wrote these two paragraphs I was not particularly interested.
    Your email prompted me to read some more. Now I'm happy to be counted in
    the camp of those that chant "standardise". (Of course now I'll be
    laughed at because of using "kibibytes", but you get that

    To be fair, I suspect that the use of kibibyte in spoken language would
    be phased out over time. Perhaps the IEC did pronounce them out aloud so
    we would all be embarrassed into using the SI units

    And just in case anyone else was as confused as I was, wikipedia cleared
    it up for me:

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibibyte
    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibi


    (Ironically, my spell-checker had never heard of a kibibyte

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  10. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    Le mardi 12 juin 2007 à 09:24 +0100, Scott James Remnant a écrit :
    > Changing the unit prefixes is just a geek "precision" gratification that
    > will confuse everybody who is used to talking about "kilobytes", "and
    > gigabytes"...


    The confusion lies in the current situation. Bringing precision doesn't
    bring any confusion.

    > "My computer has two gigabytes of RAM!"
    > "Aha! No it doesn't!"
    > "It says two gigabytes."
    > "No, you mean two gibibytes! A gigabyte is ten-to-the-nice
    > bytes, whereas a gibibyte is two-to-the-thirty bytes!"
    > *punch*
    > "Ow! You broke my nose!"


    We're not talking about spoken language here. Nobody cares about
    gigabytes / gibibytes when discussing how much RAM / disk / horsepower a
    computer has. We are talking of fixing computer programs with incorrect
    or confusing display.

    Of course, I don't usually care that file sizes in my browser window are
    displayed in kibibytes and mebibytes. Not until I select some of them,
    see the total size, and ask myself whether they fit on a DVD.

    --
    .''`.
    : :' : We are debian.org. Lower your prices, surrender your code.
    `. `' We will add your hardware and software distinctiveness to
    `- our own. Resistance is futile.

  11. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue, Jun 12, 2007 at 11:40:46AM +0200, Josselin Mouette wrote:
    > Of course, I don't usually care that file sizes in my browser window are
    > displayed in kibibytes and mebibytes. Not until I select some of them,
    > see the total size, and ask myself whether they fit on a DVD.


    If you want to figure out whether they fit on a DVD, you want the number
    of bytes in your total anyway, not the amount of kilobytes (regardless
    of whether that's 10^3 or 2^10)

    --
    Home is where you have to wash the dishes.
    -- #debian-devel, Freenode, 2004-09-22


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  12. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue, Jun 12, 2007 at 09:53:32AM +0900, Miles Bader wrote:
    >
    > No one is actually confused.
    >
    > This "standard" doesn't actually solve a real problem.


    unit confusion can be very serious, eg: the mars orbiter

    Regards,
    Paddy


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  13. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue June 12 2007 01:20:30 am Josselin Mouette wrote:
    > > "kilo" in "kilobyte" is not an SI prefix.


    It is not even a prefix.

    > "Kilo" is always a SI prefix.


    In computing the "K" stands for "kilobyte", not "kilo" + "byte", and a
    kilobyte has always been the number of memory locations addressable by
    the A0-A9 bits on the address bus of a bytewide system... that's 1024
    possible addresses, not 1000.

    IOW, it is not just shorthand for an enumeration (as the SI prefixes
    are) or a mathematical constant, it is the name of a physical constant.

    "Kilobytes" naturally became the measure of capacity, (sadly) it may
    also be natural that Marketing twisted its ambiguity with the SI prefix
    in an attempt to get marketshare.

    "1024" will go away when we stop using binary computers.


    - Bruce


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  14. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue, 2007-06-12 at 09:24 +0100, Scott James Remnant wrote:
    > On Tue, 2007-06-12 at 09:37 +0200, Christof Krüger wrote:
    >
    > > Another "historic" example is a floppy-MB:
    > > A 1.44MB floppy disc can store 1,474,560 Bytes, that is 1440 KiB and
    > > 1.40625 MiB or approximately 1475KB or 1.48MB with kilo=10^3 and
    > > mega=10^6.
    > > However, these floppies were known as "1.44MB"-floppies. (MB meaning
    > > 1000 times 1024 bytes). Very consistent!
    > >

    > The difference is a sufficiently small percentage, that most users will
    > not care. In fact, the only people who ever seem to care enough to know
    > that a 1.44MB floppy disk is actually 1.48 Million Bytes are geeks.


    If one wants to introduce new -- well defined -- prefixes, one first has
    to realize that there is a need for this step. There is a need if the
    existing prefixes had not been used consistently in the past.
    However, Mark stated that Kilobyte always had meant 2^10 bytes. My point
    is that this is just not true and I presented examples for it.

    The most important thing to notice is that we do not need unified
    prefixes in isolated worlds or communities like computer nerds,
    communication engineers etc., but in the intersections where these
    people cooperate and need to communicate unambiguously.

    > Changing the unit prefixes is just a geek "precision" gratification that
    > will confuse everybody who is used to talking about "kilobytes", "and
    > gigabytes"...
    >
    > "My computer has two gigabytes of RAM!"
    > "Aha! No it doesn't!"
    > "It says two gigabytes."
    > "No, you mean two gibibytes! A gigabyte is ten-to-the-nice
    > bytes, whereas a gibibyte is two-to-the-thirty bytes!"
    > *punch*
    > "Ow! You broke my nose!"

    Well, there are situation where it simply doesn't matter and if someone
    is pedantic about the use of GB or GiB in these cases... I could care
    less. You won't ever find 2GB memory bars right next to a 2GiB version.

    However, there will be situation where it matters.

    Let me give you an example from the real world:
    There was a bridge to build over the river Rhine connecting Switzerland
    and Germany. You have to know that sea levels are defined differently in
    both countries so if you plan to build a bridge you have to take it into
    account. Well, the engineers tried to, but they've substracted instead
    of adding (or vice versa) and so they had to lower the road 54cm on the
    other side to match the bridge. Read here:
    http://weblogs.elearning.ubc.ca/thie...es/005928.html
    This would not have happened if they had the same reference point for
    the sea level. I'm convinced that in the fast-paced computer world such
    a unification should be possible.

    Christof Krüger

  15. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tuesday 12 June 2007 08:54, Miles Bader wrote:
    > Now that a bunch of people are all in a misguided frenzy to "correct"
    > things (which weren't broken), there will almost certainly be cases
    > where some silly fool will change the _calculation_ but not the label
    > (e.g., in a case where space is at a premium) -- e.g., they'll keep "K",
    > but change the calculation to "/ 1000", because that's "correct".
    >
    > However it's _guaranteed_ that many apps will stick with "/ 1024".


    THe right way to do it, I believe, is to start out by changing the prefixes
    from k/M/G/etc. to Ki/Mi/Gi/etc. _where these units are used today_. Whenever
    you see a number followed by KiB, MiB etc., you can be certain of what it
    means. No confusion is possible. When you see a number followed by kB, MB
    etc., it can still have two meanings, just like today. However, until the IEC
    prefixes become commonplace, the SI prefixes shouldn't suddenly be used to
    denote powers of two where they previously denoted powers of ten (as in your
    example), unless the same piece of software also makes prominent use of IEC
    prefixes (in which case you can be pretty sure that if it *says* kB, they it
    *means* kB) and/or clearly documents the change (e.g. in a legend).

    So, just because some developers *might* do things wrong, that doesn't meanit
    will surely happen.

    --
    Magnus Holmgren holmgren@lysator.liu.se
    (No Cc of list mail needed, thanks)

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  16. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue, 2007-06-12 at 13:01 +0200, Christof Krüger wrote:

    > Let me give you an example from the real world:
    > There was a bridge to build over the river Rhine connecting Switzerland
    > and Germany. You have to know that sea levels are defined differently in
    > both countries so if you plan to build a bridge you have to take it into
    > account. Well, the engineers tried to, but they've substracted instead
    > of adding (or vice versa) and so they had to lower the road 54cm on the
    > other side to match the bridge. Read here:
    > http://weblogs.elearning.ubc.ca/thie...es/005928.html
    > This would not have happened if they had the same reference point for
    > the sea level. I'm convinced that in the fast-paced computer world such
    > a unification should be possible.
    >

    This is a strong advocation for using powers of ten everywhere, and
    abolishing the use of powers of two multiples altogether, no?

    Scott
    --
    Scott James Remnant
    Ubuntu Development Manager
    scott@ubuntu.com

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  17. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tue, Jun 12, 2007 at 04:21:58PM +0800, Onno Benschop wrote:
    > (Ironically, my spell-checker had never heard of a kibibyte


    Because it's not a correct word.
    English linguistic is a descriptive science -- what is correct and what is
    not depends on what people use. This stays in stark contrast to
    prescriptive languages like French where a government agency is entitled to
    ban the use of an established word and enforce using a made-up replacement.

    And what version is used is trivial to check. Oh, wait -- in this case not
    that trivial, when using the Google test "kilobyte" is so much over the cap
    that you need tricks like searching for "kibibite foo" and "kilobyte foo",
    using several words to avoid bias caused by a certain term.

    The results I got are: "kibibite" has below 0.3% use of "kilobyte".
    With such a crushing defeat, I doubt the whole "kibibyte" crap has much of a
    leg to stand on, regardless whether a self-imposed "Academie Anglaise" says.

    Please, stop this madness. s/KiB/KB/g at least in Debian.

    --
    1KB // Microsoft corollary to Hanlon's razor:
    // Never attribute to stupidity what can be
    // adequately explained by malice.


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  18. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Tuesday 12 June 2007 14:09, Adam Borowski wrote:
    > On Tue, Jun 12, 2007 at 04:21:58PM +0800, Onno Benschop wrote:
    > > (Ironically, my spell-checker had never heard of a kibibyte

    >
    > Because it's not a correct word.
    > English linguistic is a descriptive science -- what is correct and what is
    > not depends on what people use. This stays in stark contrast to
    > prescriptive languages like French where a government agency is entitled to
    > ban the use of an established word and enforce using a made-up replacement.


    You're arguing that since few people use an otherwise superior concept, Debian
    should not use it either -- a fallacy known as argumentum ad populum
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum). Again, if everybody
    waits for the majority to change first, no change will ever happen.

    > And what version is used is trivial to check. Oh, wait -- in this case not
    > that trivial, when using the Google test "kilobyte" is so much over the cap
    > that you need tricks like searching for "kibibite foo" and "kilobyte foo",
    > using several words to avoid bias caused by a certain term.
    >
    > The results I got are: "kibibite" has below 0.3% use of "kilobyte".
    > With such a crushing defeat, I doubt the whole "kibibyte" crap has much of
    > a leg to stand on, regardless whether a self-imposed "Academie Anglaise"
    > says.


    I get 59 500 hits for "kibibyte" and 1.5 million hits for "kilobyte". That's
    about 4%, not 0.3%. In fact, it's sufficiently widespread to earn a place in
    dictionaries, IMHO.

    --
    Magnus Holmgren holmgren@lysator.liu.se
    (No Cc of list mail needed, thanks)

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  19. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    On Wednesday 13 June 2007 00:36, Magnus Holmgren wrote:

    >
    > I get 59 500 hits for "kibibyte" and 1.5 million hits for "kilobyte".
    > That's about 4%, not 0.3%. In fact, it's sufficiently widespread to
    > earn a place in dictionaries, IMHO.


    It has already happened, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A471476
    Now there is a real authority

    Phil.

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  20. Re: Using standardized SI prefixes

    I demand that Magnus Holmgren may or may not have written...

    [snip]
    > Most of the time you won't have to say it. Spoken language tends to be less


    > formal than written language, and 2^10 bytes still is approximately a
    > kilobyte (and so on up to giga, where the approximation starts to fail). So


    > you only have to say kibibyte when you need to be precise.


    If I need to disambiguate, I'll say either "real kilobyte" or something like
    "marketroids' kilobyte". And as for the next step up, well, "gigabytes" is a
    given, and it's tempting to say "giblets"...

    --
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    | + Buy local produce. Try to walk or cycle. TRANSPORT CAUSES GLOBAL WARMING.

    Warning: do not confuse billion with billion. Thousand million or trillion?


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