Systems run more robustly, and stay more secure, when built to be self-maintaining.I thought that everyone had read, by now, Robert Fulghums classic book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"newly released in an expanded 15th anniversary edition, which Amazon.com unaccountably failed to mention when I searched that site for "kindergarten" combined with the authors name. Many thanks to the readers of the e-mail version of this column who promptly told me of the oversight. Fifteen years is a long time, though, and perhaps that explains why NASAs Spirit rover had storage management problems soon after landing on Marsand possibly also accounts for that half-gigabyte of hard-drive space that I recently recovered on my laptop machine. The common connection that I suspect is expressed in the simple "Kindergarten" rule, "If you make a mess, clean it up." The Spirit rover got into trouble because its flash memory storage became cluttered with filesin all likelihood, a mixture of log entries and meant-to-be-temporary scratch padsthat shrank the free storage space to the point that the machine went into a cycle of reboots.
My laptop, I discovered when looking at a report of its most fragmented files, had more than 500 megabytes of image files accumulated in a temporary directorywhere they had been stranded when Microsoft Word had choked, on various occasions, when I tried to incorporate those images into reports. My workaround was always to go back and compress the image more aggressively before inserting it into a document, but it turned out that the remnants of my unsuccessful initial attempts had remained.