Brittleware, Mushware, Someware, Noware

A constant sense of dread accompanies the work I do. It never leaves me. Right this instant transactions flow through code I’ve written which, if malformed—in any way—could trigger failures that percolate and permeate systems deep and vast.

Of course, contingencies are expected, precautions taken and fail-overs set to trip. But it’s never enough. Preempting every possible wrinkle cannot be done. Holes will always exist. It is these holes that haunt me.

Critical software operates the world over. RTOSs, real-time operating systems in aircraft, medical equipment, telecommunications, financial systems can run error free for years. This software is not that. It’s not mission critical, life-or-death code. It’s software tracking the most pathetic of information: e-commerce. The word feels toxic on my tongue.

E-Commerce reigns, second only to “social” software, as the bane of society. There are few industries I despise more. Yet, here I am, worrying about the next alert, the next “incident” predicated on some coding assumption I’ve made. As careful and cautious as I can be, there will always be some unknown unknown that creeps up to bite me.

I hate computers.

20 thoughts on “Brittleware, Mushware, Someware, Noware

  1. I can understand the anxiety. However, doesn’t this translate to many other jobs? My first thought is – a surgeon. What if THEY make a mistake? A person dies. They have to live with that. They get sued, might lose their license, job, etc. IF an error was to occur, what would be the repercussions for you? (Though I am neither, I would probably prefer to be a surgeon than a code builder as the scramble of letters and numbers isn’t something my brain could keep straight.)

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    1. I used to spend time with brilliant musicians. Demoing gear (and by comparison, unable to play my way out of a wet paper bag). I spent my career waiting to be found out. A few good two hand voicings and a golden ear kept me employed. I was paranoid and frightened for forty years. Guess what? Anxiety is over rated.

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  2. I’d be sweating bullets if so much depended on my writing the code for it. If there were some global catastrophe because of me I’d just die! I do like computers though and wish I had studied them in college. I suspect I wouldn’t like them so much if I knew the full extent of the dastardly things people do.

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    1. Chances are, if you buy something online, not from Amazon, the order and associated data (shipping, tracking, service level agreements, inventory data, etc.) goes through this company. Millions of orders a day. Tens of millions during the holidays. It’s frickin’ scary.

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      1. What’s scarier is the order system is then shuttled to logistics that are Windows 98 era, if that. Check the sleep screen in Home Depot. Farmers Insurance is pictures wrapped on a green screen kernel. So is Guitar Center. Like internet speed. You can have gig speed but if you’re running a mid 90s “smart” terminal you’re throwing 90% of it away. So I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep of sleep over a potential one in gazillion fail. Air traffic control? Yeah. E commerce fuck up? That’s what all those people in India are for. If you can get one to stay on the phone/chat. The best thing about live music? Was it a clam, a happy accident, jazz, or intentional? It doesn’t matter – play through it, don’t judge. Easy for me to say, huh? Guess what – they took all the checkers out of a local Walmart, all self serve. Is that your fault? I don’t care how good the software is, idiots will fuck it up buying bacon and potting soil. But now I know who to blame. “Leroy done fucked it ALL up…” “Now now, Gladys. It was actually this guy in the Northwest who wants to be Jack London when he grows up.” “Really?” “Of course. ringing the bacon six times was that guy having a dog sled moment.”

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  3. Ugh. There’s nothing worse than having to work at something you hate. My guess, though, is that you’re good at it. I hope that one day you can turn that skill towards something you love instead. Maybe a game?

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  4. Nice post Anonymole, and nice reply Duke. I recently checked out the children new edition of the Britanica Encyclopedia. It was so nice, so not dangerous, so informative, great photos, great text I really it. Much more fun then Wikipedia, which I admit I use almost daily.

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  5. I also hate computers even though I use them every single day. I just don’t trust them, and I don’t trust folks to always use their computers for the good of humankind, animals, the climate, etc. Computers are just too invasive and too dangerous. There are things I like to be able to do with the computer because it is so fast to get answers to my posed questions, but it is a bit too powerful for it’s and humankinds good. How easily could a nuclear attack occur by accident. Even if the odds are very low’ they are not zero. I don’t believe you can ever get zero errors out of any operating system and this unfortunately includes the human brain. Be careful, be cautious, be wise and be kind. I

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  6. So I was reading Joan Didion and went to sleep. She was talking about how crazy she felt in 1968, during those times in LA. There is this little sound my computer makes when an email comes through and it woke me up. I lay there for a few seconds, which seemed a lot longer, and thought about getting an eye operation and seeing a girl in an entirely different light. I was explaining it to a doctor and then I remembered the little computer sound and I reached over and found your email and post and your writing is very close to the sentiment and rhythm of Joan Didion and I can see her hands when she got old and they were like birds taking flight. I think it a good thing you hate computers. I’d extend it to guns as well, maybe jets and power plants, anything that gives off unwanted consequences regardless of how “essential” we think they are, cause, you know the clock is ticking. Good luck. Duke

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