Thursday, July 2, 2009

Where Did Kilo, Mega, Giga and All Those Other Prefixes Come From?

They have entered our language. Everyone uses them. The terms, particularly with "byte", are almost commonplace. Kilobyte, Megabyte and Gigabyte are part of our lexicon.

But do you know where they came from?

First, let's show the terms:

Kilo 10001 103 1,000
Mega 10002 106 1,000,000
Giga 10003 109 1,000,000,000
Tera 10004 1012 1,000,000,000,000
Peta 10005 1015 1,000,000,000,000,000
Exa 10006 1018 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
Zetta 10007 1021 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Yotta 10008 1024 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000


Ok. So where did they come from?

Kilo comes from the Greek khiloi and means, curiously enough, 1000. It is interesting enough, the only prefix with a direct numerical meaning.

The next three come from Greek and Latin and are either descriptive or mythological.

Mega comes from the Greek mega meaning "great", as in "Alexandros O Megas" or "Megas Alexandros" (Alexander the Great).

Giga comes from Latin gigas meaning "giant".

Tera comes from Greek teras meaning "monster".

Now we return to numbers. Though not direct numerical references, the next two are indirect references.

Peta comes from the Greek pente meaning five. This is the fifth prefix (for 10005). This term, and the next one, were both added in 1975 by the General Conference of Weights and Measures (abbreviated CGMP because it is in France)

Exa comes from Greek hex meaning six. This is the sixth prefix (for 10006). Taking "Hexa" and making the "H" silent (as it is in France, home of  the CGMP) gives "Exa".

Here we leave the numerical references again. Unable to return to the mythological (after great, giants and monsters what else is there), we move to the Latin alphabet. For reasons I don't know, we start with the last letter (Zetta), working backwards to the beginning.

Zetta, often mistaken for the Greek Zeta, is the last letter of the Latin alphabet. This prefix and the next one were added in 1990 by CGMP.

Yotta is the penultimate (next to last) letter of the Latin alphabet.

Kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, and all that

Kilo, mega, giga, tera, and peta are among the list of prefixes that are used to denote the quantity of something, such as, in computing and telecommunications, a byte or a bit. Sometimes called prefix multipliers, these prefixes are also used in electronics and physics. Each multiplier consists of a one-letter abbreviation and the prefix that it stands for.

In communications, electronics, and physics, multipliers are defined in powers of 10 from 10-24 to 1024, proceeding in increments of three orders of magnitude (103 or 1,000). In IT and data storage, multipliers are defined in powers of 2 from 210 to 280, proceeding in increments of ten orders of magnitude (210 or 1,024). These multipliers are denoted in the following table.

PrefixSymbol(s)Power of 10Power of 2
yocto-y10-24 *--
zepto-z10-21 *--
atto-a10-18 *--
femto-f10-15 *--
pico-p10-12 *--
nano-n10-9 *--
micro-m10-6 *--
milli-m10-3 *--
centi-c10-2 *--
deci-d10-1 *--
deka-D101 *--
hecto-h102 *--
kilo-k or K **103210
exa-E1018 *260
zetta-Z1021 *270
yotta-Y1024 *280
* Not generally used to express data speed
** k = 103 and K = 210

Examples of quantities or phenomena in which power-of-10 prefix multipliers apply include frequency (including computer clock speeds), physical mass, power, energy, electrical voltage, and electrical current. Power-of-10 multipiers are also used to define binary data speeds. Thus, for example, 1 kbps (one kilobit per second) is equal to 103, or 1,000, bps (bits per second); 1 Mbps (one megabit per second) is equal to 106, or 1,000,000, bps. (The lowercase k is the technically correct symbol for kilo- when it represents 103, although the uppercase K is often used instead.)

When binary data is stored in memory or fixed media such as a hard drive, diskette, ZIP disk, tape, or CD-ROM, power-of-2 multipliers are used. Technically, the uppercase K should be used for kilo- when it represents 210. Therefore 1 KB (one kilobyte) is 210, or 1,024, bytes; 1 MB (one megabyte) is 220, or 1,048,576 bytes.

The choice of power-of-10 versus power-of-2 prefix multipliers can appear arbitrary. It helps to remember that in common usage, multiples of bits are almost always expressed in powers of 10, while multiples of bytes are almost always expressed in powers of 2. Rarely is data speed expressed in bytes per second, and rarely is data storage or memory expressed in bits. Such usages are considered improper. Confusion is not likely, therefore, provided one adheres strictly to the standard usages of the terms bit and byte.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Spinning Russia and Telenor

24 June 2009 – The Moscow Times by William Dunkerley When U.S. President Barack Obama first met President Dmitry Medvedev in April, almost two-thirds of Americans were thinking negative thoughts about Russia. Now, less than two weeks away from Obama's meeting with Medvedev in Moscow, the Kremlin is showing new concern about Russia's image abroad. Indeed, the importance of external PR has been elevated by making it a responsibility of presidential chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin.

What can Naryshkin possibly do to change the United States' negative views of Russia? Is simply putting a better spin on things really going to change anyone's mind about anything?

The answer is that it just might -- if it is done correctly. For many years I have studied the ups and downs of U.S. attitudes toward Russia, and what I found is that there seems to be a responsive relationship between attitudinal change and three external factors: leadership initiatives, geopolitical events and negative PR attacks.

In early 2001, Russia was viewed favorably by just over 50 percent of Americans. Then, following Sept. 11 and then-President Vladimir Putin's demonstrable overtures of support for the United States, Russia's favorability rating jumped to 66 percent. But a leadership initiative can influence opinions negatively, too. Take for example President Ronald Reagan's "evil empire" speech of 1983. Before the speech, the favorable rating of the Soviet Union had been riding just over 20 percent. Following that speech, only 8 percent of Americans maintained a favorable opinion. It took four long years before opinions rebounded.

In terms of geopolitical events, the collapse of the Soviet Union caused an upward spike in favorable opinion to 66 percent. The 1999 Kosovo conflict caused a sharp decline to 33 percent.

The impact of negative PR attacks can be seen in the past several years. There was a volley of assaults, most notably involving the murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the poisoning death in London of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko and the Georgia war in August. These events resulted in the drop of Russia's favorability rating from 58 percent in 2006 to a low of 40 percent in January.

Regarding the PR impact of the Russia-Georgia war, the administration of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili engaged a Western PR firm to help manage the event. That may explain in part why the headline "Russia Invades Georgia" predominated, while "Georgia Invades South Ossetia" got little play.

It's not only the Kremlin that falls victim to PR assaults. It was about three years ago that Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor was subjected to a negative PR campaign. On a single day, three major Russian newspapers ran stories alleging that Telenor was part of a NATO plot against Russia. The stories each had a slightly different slant and were bylined by three different journalists, but one of the names was strikingly similar to the name of an executive of Telenor's PR firm. Perhaps this was a mere coincidence, but this could have also been an attempt to add insult to injury.

Naryshkin has his work cut out for him in trying to improve Russia's image abroad. The latest Telenor scandal underscores this big challenge. On Friday, federal court marshals ordered the state to auction off Telenor's 26.6 percent stake in VimpelCom, which means that Telenor could lose its shares in the Russian telecommunications company. The proceeds of the auction will be used to pay off a $1.7 billion fine levied against Telenor for blocking VimpelCom's expansion in Ukraine after a little-known minority shareholder filed a lawsuit seeking damages.

The action by Russia's court marshals has been viewed by most foreign investors as a violation of investor rights. It is not clear how Naryshkin will be able to put a positive spin on this a heavy-handed government tactic. Perhaps he can get Medvedev to use a "leadership initiative" to turn around this latest PR disaster.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

China, Russia steadily deepen cooperation

(Xinhua) - 2009-06-15 - Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to pay a state visit to Russia on June 16-18.

The Sino-Russian strategic partnership has been steadily improving in recent years, as the two countries continue to achieve breakthroughs in political, economic and cultural cooperation.

Russian media said that China and Russia have set up an exemplar of international ties after 60 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations.

As friendly neighbors sharing common borders, China and Russia have unswervingly given emphasis to enhancing political trust and coordination while developing bilateral ties.

After the establishment of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership of cooperation in 1996, the two countries set up the mechanism for regular high-level visits, under which leaders from both countries can effectively communicate and understand each other through frequent meetings and talks.

Based on the consensus of a fair international order and the development of global situations, China and Russia hold the same or similar stances on a series of major world issues such as the situations on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East and Iran.

The two countries also have conducted effective collaboration under multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations.

Both sides believe pragmatic measures must be taken in fighting terrorism. With close cooperation within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, China and Russia have realized great achievements in joint combat against the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as drug trafficking.

In safeguarding regional security and stability, the two countries have expanded the scale of joint anti-terror drills and have conducted several joint anti-drug operations.

With a shared boundary of more than 4,300 km that was determined in a survey concluded in July 2008, the Sino-Russian border issue has come to an end. The conclusion not only laid foundation for the advancement of bilateral cooperation, it also provided precious experience for other countries seeking peaceful solutions to territorial disputes.

The economic and trade cooperation between China and Russia has seen rapid growth in recent years. The annual bilateral trade volume has increased from several billion dollars in the 1990s to about $10 billion at the beginning of the 21st century. It stood at $56.83 billion in 2008.

The bilateral trade structure has been upgraded along with the expansion of trade. In particular, The China-Russia Chamber of Commerce of Machinery and Electronic Products founded in 2007 has set up a platform for a higher level of bilateral trade development.

Increasingly close economic links have become a "stabilizer" for Sino-Russian relations guaranteeing the healthy and stable advancement of bilateral ties, said Sergei Sanakoyev, head of the Russian-Chinese Center of Trade and Economic Cooperation.

One of the key fields of Sino-Russian economic cooperation, the energy sector, has also recently seen major breakthroughs.

Under a loan-for-oil deal signed in February, China would offer Russian firms a long-term loan of $25 billion, while Russia would supply a total of 300 million tons of crude to China from 2011 to 2030.

In addition, negotiations and cooperation on natural gas, nuclear energy and electric power have also been actively underway between the two sides.

Regional economic cooperation between Chinese provinces and Russian regions bears huge potential. Hundreds of cooperation agreements have been signed by local governments of both countries.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in May that Russia should coordinate the development of its Far East region with Chinese efforts to rejuvenate its old northeastern industrial bases.

Cultural cooperation is an indispensable component within the framework of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership. Upon proposals by the two countries' leaders, China and Russia have staged reciprocal national theme year activities, with "Year of Russia" in China in 2006 and "Year of China" in Russia in 2007.

Medvedev, who at the time was first deputy prime minister in charge of the "Year of China," once told Xinhua that the two countries can deepen their mutual understanding and enjoy closer friendship through such events.

To further consolidate their cooperation, the two countries decided to hold the "Year of Russian Language" in China in 2009 and the "Year of Chinese Language" in Russia in 2010.

Alexander Zhukov, Russia's deputy prime minister, said in Beijing in March when attending the opening ceremony for the "Year of Russian Language" that the event would promote mutual understanding and trust between the two peoples and advance bilateral cooperation.

After the devastating earthquake that claimed tens of thousands of lives in China's southwest Sichuan Province in May 2008, Russia immediately offered China aid, rescue workers and medical teams. A total of 1,571 Chinese children from the quake-hit regions were invited to Russian resorts for rehabilitation.

Liu Jianchao, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said Russia's move embodied the profound friendship of its people toward the Chinese people, and demonstrated a special Sino-Russian partnership of cooperation.

Sergei Razov, the Russian ambassador to China, said recently that the friendly cooperation between China and Russia has brought concrete benefits to the two peoples.

He said the bilateral ties have huge potential and he believed that Hu's upcoming visit to Russia will inject new energy into the development of Sino-Russian relations.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chernomyrdin Fired as Envoy to Kiev

15 June 2009 – The Moscow Times by Anatoly Medetsky - President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed Russia's long-serving ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, months before the presidential elections in a country that handles most of the Russian gas transit to the European Union.

Chernomyrdin's replacement, who hasn't been named yet, may pursue a tougher Moscow line in relations with Kiev but display more courtesy and be more public in promoting the Russian policy, observers said.

Medvedev ordered the dismissal Thursday night, appointing 71-year-old Chernomyrdin as special presidential envoy for economic cooperation with the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, the loose group of former Soviet republics.

In the same decree, Medvedev canceled the position of a special presidential envoy for developing trade and economic ties with Ukraine, which Chernomyrdin also held.

Russia's choice for the new ambassador will probably reflect the frostier relations between the two neighbors after the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought more pro-Western political leaders to power in Kiev, said Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the CIS Institute, a think tank. That person will also have to bring a more diplomatic style to the job, as opposed to Chernomyrdin's colorful but sometimes offensive language and overall lack of public statements and appearances, Zharikhin said.

"The style will be less of behind-the-scenes stuff and more about openness … and conformity with the traditional diplomacy, including ethic rules," he said Sunday. "An ambassador must be reserved about his feelings and emotions. Aphorisms are good but not enough."

Chernomyrdin said in one of his most recent newspaper interviews, in February, that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko "fight like cats and dogs," prompting an official reprimand from Kiev.

Russia could appoint a "tougher diplomat" to represent Moscow's more aggressive foreign policy, said Grigory Perepelitsa, director of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy.

"For us, the next ambassador will obviously be more difficult and more of a problem than Chernomyrdin," he said, Interfax reported.

Chernomyrdin was willing to seek compromises, he said.

The new ambassador will likely have the task of making clear Russia's preferences for the next Ukrainian president. The parliament will soon call a presidential election for some time at the end of this year or the start of next year.

The chairman of the Ukrainian parliament's international relations committee, Oleh Bilorus, named Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin as a possible candidate for the posting.

Interfax, however, cited "well-informed" Russian sources as saying Karasin was not in the running. They declined to give any names.

Chernomyrdin is a former head of the Soviet gas monopoly that later became Gazprom and a longtime prime minister under former President Boris Yeltsin.

Despite his history with Gazprom, Chernomyrdin's role in the recent gas disputes with Ukraine that left European countries without heat during the winter months was limited, at least publicly.

His stint as ambassador passed the eight-year mark on May 30.

The dismissal came after vigorous denials in December that he was on his way out.

Reacting to speculation about Chernomyrdin's departure, Karasin called it "media brouhaha" and "blatantly offensive."

Chernomyrdin bid farewell at a Kiev reception on Thursday dedicated to the Russia Day holiday.

"My presence here is drawing to an end, but I don't regret the years that I spent in Ukraine," he told the guests. "Thank you for everything."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When Interpreting History Becomes a Crime

03 June 2009 - Moscow Times by Yevgeny Kiselyov

I would be fascinated to know if Westerners can fully appreciate the political significance behind President Dmitry Medvedev's decision to create a special commission "for counteracting attempts to falsify history to the detriment of Russia's interests." Most foreigners would probably say, "This is very strange. Doesn't Russia have more pressing problems it needs to tackle, such as the managing the crisis, modernizing the country's political and economic institutions or battling corruption?"

Had the year been 1950, when the Soviet Union was making colossal efforts to recover from the aftermath of World War II, foreigners would have been equally perplexed that Josef Stalin chose that moment to initiate a huge public debate on the Marxist approach to linguistics.

Two decades before that, Stalin rewrote the history of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Red Terror and civil war. In this spirit, "A Short History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks)" was published under Stalin's orders to make sure that all Soviets understood the "historical record" correctly -- that Stalin was the one and only successor to Lenin.

In 1934, Stalin's childhood friend and top Kremlin bureaucrat Avel Yenukidze published the book "The Underground Print Shop in the Caucasus." It was interpreted as having diminished Stalin's contributions to the printing press and to Bolshevism in general. As a result, Stalin did not spare his old friend. Yenukidze was arrested and executed as an "enemy of the people." The crime: writing about his revolutionary youth without the necessary respect owed to Stalin.

Similarly, it was anyone's guess why Stalin prohibited the sequel to the film "Ivan Grozny" by the famous director Sergei Eisenstein or why Pravda lambasted a new opera by Dmitry Shostakovich. Soviet intelligentsia were left scratching their heads trying to figure out why Mikhail Zoshchenko's short stories and Anna Akhmatova's poems were subject to such harsh criticism in literary magazine reviews.

The worst "falsifier" of history, of course, has been the Kremlin, and it is difficult not to draw a parallel between Medvedev's decision to combat the falsification of history and similar steps taken during Stalin's rule.

As soon as Medvedev uttered the words "attempts to falsify history to the detriment of Russia's interests," it was clear what he really meant: The state would crack down on any attempts to objectively examine the more unpleasant -- and incriminating -- aspects of Russian and Soviet history. This includes a candid, historical discussion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of nonaggression between the Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany -- and, by extension, Stalin's passive and active role in helping Hitler start World War II. Likewise, questioning the Soviet Union's annexation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would be highly discouraged, as would raising the issue of how the Kremlin created and supported repressive puppet regimes all across Eastern Europe after rolling back Nazi forces at the end of World War II.

It is highly symbolic and ironic that "The Gulag Archipelago," written by Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was denounced by the Soviet regime as "a gross falsification of history." This was because the novel exposed crimes that bankrupted the foundation of the Soviet system. The book thoroughly documented that mass repression began under Lenin, that terror was premeditated, systemic and systematic and that the country created and fostered a giant impersonal bureaucratic machine for the moral and physical destruction of human beings.

"The Gulag Archipelago" changed the world's attitude toward the Soviet Union. If there were people who previously viewed Soviet communism through rose-tinted glasses, "The Gulag Archipelago" exposed the harrowing truth about the government's heinous crimes. Published in the West in 1973, Solzhenitsyn's great "falsification of history" proved to be the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union.

Medvedev's plan for keeping the historical record "accurate" coincides with the introduction of a bill "opposing the rehabilitation of Nazism, Nazi criminals and their accomplices on the territory of the independent states, former republics of the Soviet Union." A prison term of three to five years is the recommended sentence for Russian and foreign offenders alike.

For example, anyone who condemns the Allies for handing over to the Soviet authorities in 1945 about 2 million "victims of Yalta" could be labeled as a "criminal." According to the secret agreement between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union that was confirmed at the 1945 Yalta conference, the Allies agreed to forcefully repatriate all Soviet citizens who had fallen into German hands before they were freed by the Allied advance. These victims included Russian Cossacks, prisoners of war, forced laborers, emigres and anti-Communists who had fought for Germany against Stalin. Hundreds of thousands of these people were executed upon their "repatriation" to the Soviet Union or sent to the gulag.

Similarly, authorities could bring criminal charges against any historian who questions the whether the British and U.S. bombing of Dresden in February 1945 was justified.

Even while declaring battle against "falsifying history," today's authorities turn a blind eye to history textbooks that describe Stalin as an "effective manager" and portray the mass repression of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s as the only way Stalin could overcome the country's colossal economic and security challenges.

Meanwhile, prime-time, state-controlled television is filled with historically garbled pseudo-documentaries. For example, one depicted the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis as being almost the greatest triumphs of Nikita Khrushchev's foreign policy because the United States feared -- which is to say, "respected," according to Russian psychology -- the Soviet Union as an equal superpower. Other "documentaries" portray the years under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Boris Yeltsin as being exclusively dominated by crises, disintegration and the loss of society's orientation and values. In general, then-President Vladimir Putin set the stage for this politically driven historical bias when he referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."

Regarding questions of history, it seems that Medvedev is dutifully following in Putin's footsteps. And this once again demonstrates who is really calling the shots in the country.

Yevgeny Kiselyov is a political analyst and hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gazprom eyes role in Iran-Pakistan pipeline

05-27-2009 - AFP - MOSCOW, Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom is keen to participate in a pipeline to carry Iranian gas to Pakistan, the Kommersant daily reported on Wednesday, citing company and government officials. "We are ready to join the project as soon as we receive an offer," Russia's deputy energy minister Anatoly Yankovsky told the daily. The paper quoted another top government official as saying Moscow sees the pipeline as a means to divert Iranian gas from competing with Russian exports on the European market. "This project is advantageous to Moscow since its realisation would carry Iranian gas toward South Asian markets so that in the near future it would not compete with Russian gas to Europe," Kommersant wrote. Russian exports satisfy over one quarter of Europe's gas needs, but the European Union has sought to lessen its dependence with the construction of the Nabucco pipeline to pump Caspian Sea gas to Europe which would bypass Russia. The multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan pipeline, which aims to pump an initial 11 billion cubic metres of Iranian gas per year to Pakistan, could deprive the Nabucco project of one possible source for gas supplies. Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupryanov confirmed the company's interest in the project, Kommersant reported. It cited an unnamed official in the company as saying Gazprom could serve as the pipeline operator or also participate in its construction. The start date for construction of the much-delayed pipeline is planned for september 2009 to be completed in June 2014, the paper reported. Iranian officials have said the supply of gas to Pakistan could begin in three to four years. The pipeline project, when initially mooted in 1994, had proposed to carry gas from Iran to Pakistan and India. But India withdrew last year from the talks over repeated disputes on prices and transit fees. The 900-kilometre (560-mile) pipeline is being built between Asalooyeh in southern Iran and Iranshahr near the border with Pakistan and will carry the gas from Iran's South Pars field. Iranian officials said Monday that the final contract would be signed in three weeks.