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Re: A refinement to Radix-64

1992-06-02 17:59:58
Marshall Rose <mrose(_at_)dbc(_dot_)mtview(_dot_)ca(_dot_)us> writes: 
Cc: ietf-822(_at_)dimacs(_dot_)rutgers(_dot_)edu (MIME working group)
Subject: Re: A refinement to radix64 

I am really trying to restrain myself in answering your message.

The proposed change to base64 offers ZERO functional improvement.
Making that change would break the 3+ implementations already deployed
at ~500 sites.  (Not to mention screwing up the 12+ other
implementations currently being developed.)

The most charitable thing I can say about this "minor change" is that it
is "gratuitous".

In terms of practical engineering, one must always weigh the pros and
cons of making a change.  This analysis must include considertion of
the installed base.  I could continue in this vein, but you probably
understand where this argument is going.


Hmmm-- I guess you didn't like the idea, eh? 

I can see you point about the installed base.  If you look at it from
the point of view of "What's in it for MIME or PEM?", the answer is
"not much".  ZERO functional improvement, even.  You're absolutely 
right, but from within that context only.

But I'm looking at it from the perspective of spinoff benefits to the
rest of the programming world-- not just email stuff.  This is a
proposal for a new general-purpose base-64 notation, building from
and logically extending the venerable standard octal, decimal, and
hex notation.  It creates synergy between this email transport armor
and another way for everyone to print binary stuff in something that
mathematically "looks" like what one might expect base 64 to look
like.  For example, it gives people a smooth seamless choice of
printing RSA keys in octal, decimal, hex, or any base up to 64.

Even though it admittedly has ZERO functional improvement to email,
it helps the rest of the world in subtler ways.  It would cost email
implementors something to change, but it would be a sacrifice for the
greater good.  In the long run, the email implementors would reap
indirect benefits.

The 12+ implementations in development would not be hard to change if
they are not deployed.  It's real easy to change a table.  The more 
troubling question is the 3+ implementations already installed at 500
sites.  I didn't know about that.  Hmmm.  Are these experimental
implementations?  Released products?  How do we calculate the real
impact and costs?  Maybe it would not be worth it after all.  But
maybe people could have said that in the early days of TV, when an
early improvement in TV transmission format would have impacted
"hundreds" of installed TVs.

Well, I'm not going to keep pushing this idea if nobody wants it.  Is 
there anyone else out there who wants to say anything good about it?  
Any other critics who want to be less restrained than Marshall?


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