Tuesday, February 28, 2012

[GURPS] Defining Computer Operation Skill

Disclaimer: this is my current understanding of computers, and may change as I learn more or as our use of computers continue evolve.

In GURPS we have a few computer skills, and its really designed for the cinematic as the "computer hacking" skill suggests. GURPS have tried to make clear how real world hacking works, it appears in the Basic Set and more tools found in GURPS Social Engineering, which is the real method most hackers bypass security systems (good thing SJGames was not raided for this, this time around).

I like the symmetry of the Sacred Trinity of Design, Repair and use in B190. Electronics Operation, Electronics Repair and (Electronic) Engineering. I was hoping to follow the precedents.

I use this gamification to simplify my understanding of the computer skill sets for myself. This is also a setting of expectations for my Spreadsheets and Spaceships game.

  • TL7 - Computer use is specialized, and a sit-down task. the revolution is that regular people can use computers.  
  • TL8 - Computer use is a task not just for work, it has become common place and part of everyone's every day life. 
  • TL9 - Computer is mobile and ubiquitous. Computers have gotten smaller and more powerful; it has found its way into a lot of our everyday tools, and are constantly at our side. This was true of the previous era, but now much of everything people are exposed to either have a processor, tracked by a computer, or designed by a computer.
  • TL10 - Computer use is innate, people do it like any other natural action. Because of Cybernetics, computers assist people in almost everything they do. A TL10 professional when comparing experience outside the enhancements provided by computers reality seems blurred, aesthetically displeasing, dull, filled with uncertainty, and incredibly challenging (especially since the standards such people are used have risen).  

Electronics Operation (Computers) (Average) IQ/TL8.
Computer Operations comes from the Electronics Operation Skill, specializing in computers. In TL8, computers had become easier because of Graphic User Interface. I prefer to consider it under Electronics Operations (Average) IQ/TL but give TL8 computers a different set of standards out of the aesthetic system symmetry.
First. You do not make a skill check to use a computer, if you are from TL8 and have cultural familiarity from TL8; then you can operate a computer out of shear familiarity. If you are TL8, you don't need computer skill, you can work in default or the skill that requires a computer program tool. A graphics artist, a writer, an architect, an engineer, etc... knows enough how to turn on his computer and access the programs he uses for his Artist, Writing, Drafting, Engineering etc...
Second. The computer operations skill is knowledge of making use of special features of the computer other than the most basic. The baseline is accessing Office Applications and Surfing, and what ever skill uses a special program (artists, engineers, music composers, etc.); this is a baseline and you don't need to roll.
Third. Once you have a skill, you have the ability to do the special actions found in an Operating Manual. Basically you are a Desktop User, and if you have a skill level of about 12 and up, you can apply for Desktop Professional Certification (the lowest level of IT; the certification passing is a perk that requires a skill of at least 12). Not all businesses are Certification Conscious, but certifications do mean a little bit higher pay.
As a Desktop Professional, you roll to be able to remember to do something that draws from the users manual without references. In any computer manual, you will notice there are many different tasks and each have their own difficulty level (TDM).
In TL8, only in extreme situations is where people work without a manual. The default is people work with references, the possession of such references means people can succeed automatically, skill becomes important in determining how quickly you do your task. At default a roll accomplishes the task in an average amount of time, on a failure means at the end of expending that average amount of time the task failed and the player has the option to roll again trying a different method with no modifiers OR take extra time, which means he/she is looking at references and tries other methods. 
  • System Admin is a special Technique. Defaults Computer Operations -3, and is an average technique. 
  • Cloud Systems Admin is a technique that defaults to System Admin at -2, and is an average difficulty technique. Cloud Systems are a more sophisticated and powerful computer system; basically its for handling computers larger than medium: managing the resources of computer clusters. 
  • Network Associate. Ave technique, defaults Computer Operations -3. (example CISCO Certified Network Associate, Huawei Certified Datacom Associate, Juniper Certified Network Associate etc. etc.)
    • Network Associate Specialization: Security, Design, WLan, WAN, Voice, etc. Ave technique. 
  • Network Professional. Ave technique, defaults Network Associate  -2. Network Professional gives you familiarity with Electronic Communications skill between and Electronic Operation: communications systems allow you to do some Network Professional Tasks at a -5 default.     
Optional Specialty (B170)
Electronics Operation (Computers, Desktop) (Easy) IQ.

Engineer (Electronics-Network) (Average*) IQ.
This is an engineering specialty, that requires a decent Network Professional skill level. Morbidly low network professional effective skill level should penalize Network Engineering skill. This has a lot of overlap with the Engineer (Electronics-Communications) (Average) IQ.

* Optional Specialty Rules in B170.

Computer Operations TL9
In TL9, learning an Operating System is not a big deal as it was in TL7 or TL8. In TL8 Most operating systems converge are actually easy to figure out, in fact most people learn new Operating Systems every few years as they switch mobile computing devices. As computers get more ubiquitous, Open Standards are enforced to create more market competition.  
Around this time, wearable computers have become more effective. Professionals, begin to invest in such computers as their ability to input in the device gets even much better despite increasing mobility. back in TL8, typing speed is what determined how fast people were to use computers. In TL9 wearable computers can now process gestures, sub-vocalization, bodily motions, eye movement, and some surface scan to draw more information and make better communication with the user.     
People can now work anywhere, and any time. They can carry all their work related data with them where they can wear a reasonable amount of light gear. People multi-task more, and intelligent tools and vehicles begin to do mundane things for people as their quality of attention goes down for these low value tasks.  
Mobility makes people more productive not just because of the work they can squeeze in. Tools become more portable, the tons of aids, props, visualizations and enhancements allow people to gain multiple perspectives quite easily and quickly. Certain non-portable computing allow people literally swim and immerse themselves in data and virtualizations. As most People still have a predominantly sophisticated Visual Processor, and slowly they gain ground with those who have better math and analytically skills as Visualization technology brings down the Multiple-Intelligence barrier.  
Powerful computer corporations of TL9, are investing in the future: Cybernetic Interface. As the frontier of the physical computer becomes thoroughly scoured. 

Computer Operations TL10
Cybernetics and Neural interfaces make TL9 wearable computers as interface obsolete. Cybernetics rapidly gets used, by those who can afford it. In early TL10, wearable computers still out-perform cybernetic enhancements. As the TL matures, hybrid systems become predominant. There comes into play multiple standards for Neural interfaces. Midway through TL10, we have Cybernetics becoming slowly more effective despite the power and space limitations inside the human body. Wearable computers are still the most cost effective, cyberware becomes the best "terminal" or interface device.  
For a long time, some people will want to try to push the Cybernetics line, to be better overall then wearable but laws of diminishing returns gives the edge to the hybrid system. Those who push really hard make evasive upgrades and enhancements. 
Around this late mature era of TL10, other technologies begin to compete for what TL11 is going to appear like. Bio-tech has come around with a way to power and integrate processing powers through biological enhancements. Then there are alternatives to micro-electronics, that function very different from current electronic theories; these create electronic-like devices that function with a newer branches of Physics. These are computers that don't need electricity and use another power-source, these are devices that overcome many of the weaknesses of electronics.
Bridge Systems, are a kind of terminal that allows to gestalt the computing and decision making power of an Officer Crew. This is not only meant for ships, there are such "bridge" systems that can be found in seats of government and corporations that are used to make powerful calculations to control forces that are impossible to predict in our TL8 world view. These are tools to navigate worlds of super-science physics, to make psycho-historical predictions, create and manipulate biological permutations or to control alien and powerful energies. 
Electronics Repair (Computers) (Average) IQ.
Engineering (Electronics-Computers) (Average) IQ.

Computer Programming (Hard) IQ.
In B184, Computer Programming is a generalist skill and gives the access to multiple program languages. If want to focus in particular computer languages (like a researcher only has SQL; web designer who only has HTML/PHP) can take advantage of the Optional Specialization rule.

Using the Optional Specialization Rule Computer Programming skill is a particularly hard language: C, C+, C++, SQL, Python, Perl, Java, etc. You can default from other Programming languages at a penalty of -1 to -4 depending on how closely these are related. Typically the strategy behind choosing and learning a language is similar to the rules of Improving Skills from Default B173. There is a core programming skill and the player buys other programming skill off setting the default penalty. In in this manner, the core skill keeps going up, but the skills bought up from default stay he same, as core skill gets so much better that it is better to default from the core skills, these past spent points are chalked up to familiarity.  

In TL8, the age where open source is a strong contender programming skills alows you to customize these open tools for your own purposes or make a due diligence regarding a program if you have access to the core code. note that Analyzing a program is a monumental task that is measured in weeks and can be measured in months without the right documentation material. Its easier to start a new program than to find out what you did wrong with the last one. 

Engineer (Electronics-Software) (Average*) IQ. This requires Computer Programming (Hard) IQ.
* Optional Specialty Rules in B170.
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