Proper Treatment 正當作法/ Miss Protocol
2010-12-20 19:58

Miss Protocol #0: Software can be acquired outside of Bloomingdale’s

Dear Miss Protocol,

I was recently invited to a wedding, and the couple (my cousin and her fiance) noted on the invitation that they were registered at Bloomingdale’s. Isn’t that considered rude? Compounding the shock was the fact that they had registered for a Linux kernel for their Alpha. How can I explain to them that they’re better off compiling their own, or just installing Red Hat via FTP, rather than asking someone to pay Bloomingdale’s $100?

Compliant Reader,

Consistent with Miss Protocol’s belief that the New Economy is all about employing powerful technology to do things exactly the way they were done before, Red Hat Linux is not the only item available from Bloomingdale’s that is definitely overpriced or possibly useless.

With respect to the definite overpricing, it is perfectly acceptable to acquire an equivalent item elsewhere and notify the registry that the item has been so acquired. Avoid technical terms such as “FTP” or “CD burner” when communicating with the registry; instead, just say that you bought it at Sears instead.

With respect to the possible uselessness, Miss Protocol is perplexed by the couple’s implicit assertion, by virtue of placing Red Hat Linux on their gift list, that Red Hat Linux would be useful in their family life after the wedding. Judging from her most recent experience installing and configuring Red Hat Linux, Miss Protocol considers shrink-wrapped Red Hat Linux to be more useful than online-downloaded Red Hat Linux only for people whose primary use for Red Hat Linux is to watch abstruse “[  OK  ]” messages scroll by. For those people, Red Hat Linux would be practically useless anyway. Perhaps it would be more appropriate for you to buy something else on the couple’s gift list and enclose download and compilation instructions for Red Hat Linux on a sheet of paper.

A final, non-normative note: When it comes to general wedding etiquette, Miss Protocol defers authority to Miss Manners and the Web, the latter containing the “lifestage/wedding FAQ”, available at This is because weddings, unlike XML-enabled e-business infrastructure transactions, have yet to be documented in open, non-proprietary standard specifications by innovative, non-monopolizing software company/ies.

—18 October 2000, reprinted at Landlubber

Miss Protocol #1: Don’t load punched paper in the default tray

Dear Miss Protocol,

Are white lies acceptable when directed towards printers or copiers?

Usually, the copy room at work is stocked with plenty of plain paper, a versatile medium suitable for a wide variety of printing applications. Recently, however, punched paper has been mysteriously infiltrating the copy room. On many occasions, only punched paper was available when a printer cried out desperately for refill!

Since my own print job would be perfectly acceptable on punched paper, I am tempted to place punched paper in the default tray so that printing may continue. The printer, however, states on its display panel that the default tray is dedicated to plain paper, and that I must refill the tray with plain paper. I would be deceiving the printer if I refilled the tray with punched paper. Would it be okay?

Compliant Reader,

It is okay to deceive printers or copiers, but you may not frustrate your fellow users with office supply surprises.

While some print jobs are acceptable on punched paper, others require plain paper. The former jobs are better printed on punched paper than not printed at all; the latter jobs are better not printed at all than printed on punched paper. Users who rely on plain paper as the default deserve either plain paper or no paper at all, as they wish. They do not deserve punched paper.

To print onto punched paper, you should load it into a tray that is neither default nor dedicated, then specify to the printer that you would like to print to that tray.

—12 June 2001, reprinted at Landlubber

Followup Question: What about transparencies?
Followup Answer: Yeah, what about them.

Miss Protocol #2: Multiple dishwashing strategies comply

Dear Miss Protocol,

Are the dishes in the office dishwasher clean or dirty?

Upon seeing a full dishwasher, should I empty it, run the wash and empty it, or simply add my dish? The following protocol would seem to protect everyone from both washing clean dishes and using dirty dishes: The dishwasher is always assumed to contain no clean dishes, and hence, it is always appropriate to run the washer (though environmental interests dictate we refrain from doing so too often), and importantly, whoever runs the dishwasher or observes clean, warm dishes should promptly empty the dishwasher. This protocol, however, gives rise to concern; namely, the vast majority of dishwasher operations would be small inserts, which appear to contradict the only published dishware rule, “Please wash your own dishes.” I have never seen anyone empty the dishwasher, and I’m beginning to worry.

What is the correct protocol?

—All washed up, and disheveled,
Bakey, Anonymous Autonomous Kitchen-Using Robot

Compliant Reader,

Let us examine the protocol specification in more detail:

Please wash your own dishes.

What does it mean to wash a dish? Miss Protocol yearns for the bygone era of Generative Semanticists decomposing wash into cause to become no longer attached to dirt. Futile yearnings aside, note that—whatever wash means—if your dishes have not become clean, you have not washed them.

For a protocol implementation to be compliant, it must fulfill its contract as long as other participants fulfill their contracts. Suppose that all other kitchen users wash their dishes by hand and do not run the dishwasher (thus fulfilling their contracts). If you place your dirty dishes in the dishwasher without running it, they would not become clean. Thus it would not be compliant for you to place your dishes in the dishwasher without running it. As the saying goes, be liberal in what you accept.

Alternative protocol implementations do exist that are compliant. For instance, as noted above, you could ignore the dishwasher and wash your dishes by hand. You could also place your dirty dishes in the dishwasher and run it, perhaps cleverly waiting for a short time period before running the dishwasher to see if someone else has dirty dishes to wash as well. Miss Protocol encourages computer scientists tired of routing algorithms to study dishwashing strategies instead.

For the time being, Miss Protocol non-normatively recommends that you hand-wash individual dishes and use the dishwasher only for large jobs. Such a strategy, she feels, compares favorably in both environmental and complexity-theoretic aspects.

Miss Protocol agrees with you that whoever runs the dishwasher should promptly empty it afterwards, although on distinct theoretical grounds. Miss Protocol considers the verb wash ambiguous between one reading that includes placing clean dishes in proper storage and one that does not. As the saying goes, be strict in what you emit: It is prudent to assume the former reading when running the dishwasher.

—22 September 2001, reprinted at Landlubber

Miss Protocol #3: Clearness is a pre-condition for marriage

Dear Miss Protocol,

My daughter canceled her wedding 2 weeks prior to her wedding date. Now a month later she has decided she wants to get married after all. I do not know what to do. Will people still attend? Do we send out announcements again? I am sure we will scale it down this time but not sure as to what would be the correct thing to do. Is there any protocol for this problem I am facing?

Compliant Reader,

Miss Protocol is less concerned about your properly (re-)announcing your daughter’s wedding than about your daughter’s properly deciding to get married after all. Miss Protocol suggests that you conduct a web search for marriage clearness process. The questions posed by Quakers when it comes to marriage are relevant regardless of your religious beliefs. Once your daughter and her beloved have taken these questions into account, Miss Protocol is certain that the technical implementation of the wedding proper will resolve itself.

Best wishes.

—12 June 2003

Feeling proprietary?

Address your technical questions to Miss Protocol at The bandwidth shortage prevents Miss Protocol from answering questions except through this column.