Archive for the ‘Work’ Category
I have a strange connection to R Budd Dwyer. When I used to compete in the NFL (in Radio Speech), the way it worked was you were given a few feet of news from an actual honest-to-God AP newsfeed printer and you had to prepare a top-of-the-hour newscast in a few minutes. The goal was to cover all of the stories given in exactly the time allotted, with the required reads (ads) inserted. At one of my last competitions I was handed a few feet of breaking news feed on the Dwyer suicide. The difference between breaking and wire news is wire copy is written to be read right onto the radio and can easily be estimated for time just by looking at the number of inches; breaking news is very fragmentary and not very coherent, so you have to generate filler material on the fly.
From that day forward, I can’t not hear the on-air talent doing the same thing. Even if they’re just doing reads, I know they’re looking at a digital countdown timer hoping to hit the mark cleanly. I see NPR publishes network clocks; I can hear the tick of those clocks on other stations.
A related phenomena in print media (in which I’ll lump all news websites) is something like the FIFO article for breaking news. As new information on something comes in, it is pushed in to the top paragraph of the article and the rest will be the previous article contents. If news is developing rapidly you might notice discontinuities as you read something about them as each paragraph is written by a different person.
I worked in ITG, Microsoft’s internal technology group (AKA operations) in the mid-late 90s, as well as Microsoft’s internal security group. ITG owned the internal USENET server; it was run on a machine under someone’s desk (maybe not literally, but it was recycled hardware well behind the current state of the art hardware). It did just fine – until it didn’t. It was falling over under extreme load, which it shouldn’t have. Looking into it, it was clear one user was downloading huge amounts of child porn via USENET. I was one of the few UNIX guys in tools, so it fell to me to add specific logging to see exactly what this guy was up to.
I saw the logs, which consisted of username, timestamp, subject, and file names (since these were UUENCODEd or MPACKed, this was a simple grep-like operation). That’s it. I didn’t see the pictures, videos, or any of that – I saw subjects and filenames.
I was really fucked up by this experience. I don’t know how cops handle this. Maybe I’m a wilting violet and should have just manned up and powered through it, but it disturbed me.
I write this article as a sidecar to a tweet from yesterday where I complained about how graphic people are on MSN Messenger when they don’t think anyone is looking. Nothing I read there was obviously illegal, but it was depraved.
Wrote an installer to download and unzip git repos from the internet. Someone else baked it into another installer, claiming that it was in there; running it seemed to produce no network traffic, but the files showed up. Suspecting they had merely downloaded the files and baked them into the installer (defeating the whole purpose of the exercise), I fired up WireShark and saw no traffic – they said I was Doing It Wrong. Fine, cleared all of my caches, unplugged the network cable, ran installer. Files showed up. They’re now “looking into it”.
In WireShark I trust.
Coworker was talking about his neighbors complaining that when his dad moved out, he didn’t sell to someone within his minority. I said if it bugged them that much, they should have bought his unit. “That’s what my dad said!”
Now I’m reminding coworkers older than me of their parents. I should think young thoughts.
My former employer, PhotoRocket, just sent out the long-expected “we’re closing the doors” email. It’s a hard, under-served space – photo sharing. I still think the problem we were solving needs solved, but the people writing the checks didn’t see PhotoRocket having enough adoption to make funding it worthwhile.
You might think I’m being snarky, since there is a seemingly never-ending torrent of photo sharing sites, but none of them captured the nub of what we were about. Maybe someday.
I’ve linked to it multiple times, but Feynman’s Appendix F to the Rogers Report should be required reading.
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
For software testers out there:
To summarize then, the computer software checking system and attitude is of the highest quality. There appears to be no process of gradually fooling oneself while degrading standards so characteristic of the Solid Rocket Booster or Space Shuttle Main Engine safety systems. To be sure, there have been recent suggestions by management to curtail such elaborate and expensive tests as being unnecessary at this late date in Shuttle history. This must be resisted for it does not appreciate the mutual subtle influences, and sources of error generated by even small changes of one part of a program on another. There are perpetual requests for changes as new payloads and new demands and modifications are suggested by the users. Changes are expensive because they require extensive testing. The proper way to save money is to curtail the number of requested changes, not the quality of testing for each.