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C'est la Z

Ebooks, Nypl and Process Starvation

I'm a big fan of E Ink e-readers. I had one a number of years ago. An Aztak EZ Reader. It was great. Small, cheap, and independent - that is, not tied in to Amazon or Barnes and Nobles and I found myself doing a lot more recreational reading with it. I still preferred paper for technical books but for easy reading there was nothing like having tons of reading options always available.

Alas it sadly committed suicide by diving from my hand onto the hard stone floor of the NY Post office as I waited on the passport line. I tried other e-readers since then but found E ink so much easier on the eyes. Not wanting to do my usual "schlepp all the books I might want to read" on vacation a few years ago, I bit the bullet and bought a kindle.

When I originally had the EZ-Reader I loaded it with mostly public domain books. With the Kindle, I have purchased a small number of books from Amazon to go along with all sorts of goodies from Project Gutenberg but there's also been one HUGE change in the landscape. The New York Public Library. Public libraries are some of our greatest public goods and it's unfortunate that they're perpetually underfunded. Where else can a kid or indeed anyone go on any given day and spend time indoors with no expectation of spending money. What's more in addition to books and now movies and sometimes games they provide all manner of community services and programs to and for the public. In terms of e-books though, you can use the NYPL without leaving the comfort of your home.

NYPL has a web site where you can search for and take out ebooks and have them sent right to your kindle for 28 days at a time. If they don't have enough copies - something of a ludicrous point for a digital resource, you can place it on hold. If it's close to being due, you can renew it unless someone else is on the queue at which point the renewal request becomes a hold request. It's all rather seamless.

My reading habits now regularly include taking out books from the library and that's led to an interesting resource issue - process starvation.

In case there are any on CS people reading this, everything running on your computer at any point in time is a process. Each process gets a small slice of computer time and it appears that the computer is running everything at once. Some processes have a higher priority and can get a bigger slice of time. On older "batch processing" systems, high priority processes or jobs would run before lower priority ones. For example, in a university setting, jobs submitted by professors would be run before jobs submitted by grad students before those submitted by undergrads.

This of course could lead to some processes never getting run if higher priority jobs keep getting submitted. There's an apocryphal story about a computer at MIT that had a job submitted in 1967 but still hadn't run in 1973.

So what's happening to me? I have a number of free books just sitting on my kindle as well as books that I've purchased. My friend Paul said I had to read "Algorithms to Live By" so that's thre. So is "Captains Courageous" because I think I want to read it. There are also a bunch of others. The trouble is, I keep seeing books that I want to read in the library and I only have a 28 day window to read them, Most recently it was "Sapiens" but before that it was "Turn Right at Machi Picchu" and I read that right after "How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History," "The Witch of Lime Street." and "The Man with the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block." As soon as, or before I finish one, there's a new one on hold and then on loan and the books I own keep getting pushed back.

Operating Systems usually implement process aging. If a job isn't handled fdor a long period of time its priority is increased. This means that eventually it will be run. I guess I could do that and just force myself to not read the next hot library book but I don't kow if I have that in me.

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