A Statistical Problem on Laptop Uptimes

Suppose you are in a large university campus. Most students here use laptops, and if you look around, you’d see most of them either working, listening to music or doing something else on their laptops. Suppose now you think of a quick project, of listing the uptimes of the laptops (how long they’ve been running). In Windows this is quite simple. Under the ‘Performance’ tab in Task Manager, you’ll notice that ‘Uptime’ gives the duration for which the laptop has been running. This timer, however, keeps counting from where it left off if you resume from hibernation, as it should, but we shall assume that no such cases happen in our campus.

Now, the campus is huge, and many students are using their laptops. You figure out some methodical way of visiting each student so that there are no over- or under-counting errors. But it takes you quite a while to visit all of them and note down their uptimes. So that if, for example, it took you six hours to collect all the data, then you took the last uptime reading six hours after the first.

If we assume a very large campus where the uptimes of the laptops of different students are completely independent of each other, the questions are the following:

1. On an average, is it going to make any difference to the statistics you collected, if instead of taking a long time to go around the campus, you could somehow acquire all of the uptimes at one instant of time?

2. Is the data you collected going to be distributed differently from that of the maximum uptimes of student laptops (duration before they shut it down)?

Unless I find myself without the time and effort, I plan to return and solve it in this blog post. (I haven’t solved it yet.)


I’ve cracked it. Finally.

This darned thing has been crashing over and over again for years. I was at my wit’s end to find what was wrong. Which part of this cryptic network is the culprit. I’ve finally cracked it. It was simple. But it was something I didn’t want to see. That’s why I missed it, just as I’d read in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was me. Not really me, but the way I am with respect to the rest of the system. I realize now that the singular problem was that any relevance of me to the rest of the system, every time, without exception, owes itself wholly and exclusively, to my usefulness to it.

Now for a fix.

Losing the Point

I keep getting dragged back again and again, to the gaping, absolute brevity of this life.

A fleeting moment. Transient as a shooting star. Wish before it fades.

And so little time to spend here. I cannot feel secure and sedentary in this situation. It’s here now, gone tomorrow.

And so all the little problems, all the big problems — I want to neglect them, ignore them, sit down and talk and conclude that they don’t exist. Because I’ve got so little time, and so many things I want to do. So many places to visit, so many colours to drown in, so many smiles to watch, so many useless moments to waste staring at nothingness…

Look around, it is everywhere. And yet it is nowhere. It is the meaning. It is in everything visible, audible, sensible and yet you can never feel it. You flow in this dynamic current of ‘happening’, and go around doing what is of utmost importance to you, because, well, others are doing it. You find meaning, purpose, structure. I wish I could be like that. But you see, I have a tendency to lose the point sometimes, when all I know is how brief this life is. That’s all that counts.

But I cannot be different. When you live in a wall, you have to be a brick like the others, and support the structure. Or the other bricks won’t support you. Hence I live, I flow in the current, I leave things unfulfilled, I neglect things that my heart wants to do, my mind hunts for structure in everything, and I would have been here like the rest of everyone, and I wouldn’t have made a difference. Here today, gone tomorrow.

I’m so comfortably settled in the warmth of a thousand years of structural garbage that the thought doesn’t even scare me.