Friday, May 2, 2014

You want to know why we can't have nice things on the Internet?

This is why we can't have nice things on the Internet.

Every f'n word is from his mouth to God's ears.  It starts with awesome:
Every friend I have with a job that involves picking up something heavier than a laptop more than twice a week eventually finds a way to slip something like this into conversation: "Bro, you don't work hard. I just worked a 4700-hour week digging a tunnel under Mordor with a screwdriver."
But then it dials the awesome up to eleven, and never looks back.  This is particularly good too, about the state of the code we run:
[Lots about a crummy-bridge-designed-by-a-disfunctional-organization stuff deleted]

Would you drive across this bridge? No. If it somehow got built, everybody involved would be executed. Yet some version of this dynamic wrote every single program you have ever used, banking software, websites, and a ubiquitously used program that was supposed to protect information on the internet but didn't.
Yup.  And this describes my life during the last two or three weeks:
Remember that stuff about crazy people and bad code? The internet is that except it's literally a billion times worse. Websites that are glorified shopping carts with maybe three dynamic pages are maintained by teams of people around the clock, because the truth is everything is breaking all the time, everywhere, for everyone. Right now someone who works for Facebook is getting tens of thousands of error messages and frantically trying to find the problem before the whole charade collapses. There's a team at a Google office that hasn't slept in three days. Somewhere there's a database programmer surrounded by empty Mountain Dew bottles whose husband thinks she's dead. And if these people stop, the world burns. Most people don't even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn't make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.
This is the most breathlessly cynical (and true) reflection of the State Of Things since Myers-Briggs met office politics.  Go RTW damn T - there's more, so very much more.  Yes, this is exactly why Internet security sucks infected canal water.  If you are remotely involved with tech, you have got to go read the whole cynical, glorious thing.  Especially the summing up:
So no, I'm not required to be able to lift objects weighing up to fifty pounds. I traded that for the opportunity to trim Satan's pubic hair while he dines out of my open skull so a few bits of the internet will continue to work for a few more days.

Oh. My. God.  This is the funniest thing I've read in weeks.  And every word is 100 proof distilled truth.


Chris Byrne said...

I read it a few days ago, and it reminded me of something I wrote about 15 years ago for Slashdot:

The High Tech Sweatshop

Near as I can tell, my writing that phrase is the first instance of it occurring.

Dave H said...

because the truth is everything is breaking all the time, everywhere, for everyone.

It's the truth. For years I wanted to work in telecom because I thought the phone network was this massive high tech construct with more nines of availability than anything created by man or God.

Then I got a job in telecom and learned the ugly truth. "High tech" was at least ten years old, and the majority of the system was much older. It still worked and it was paid for, so why change it?

But the reason it still worked was because there was an army of millions of support engineers with pagers, shuffling from their beds to the office every two hours like zombie Dunkin Donuts cooks. The network ran on their blood, sweat, and tears.

I got the hell out.

Jeremy Brock said...

I've programmed for fun, and still do so occasionally. This essay, more than anything I've seen recently, validates my refusal to ever attempt programming for a living.

Plus, it's hilarious. Great read; thank you.

Nosmo King said...


And people sometimes ask why I took early retirement....

At one shop, the boss got tired of some of us refusing to hack code in the VAX system the entire biz ran on, so she hired a team of consultants to look at the code. They quit 6 days into a 30-day contract with the recommendation "don't touch anything or the earth will stop rotating and the universe will implode." 2.5 million lines, plus or minus, of spaghetti bowl code, assembled by 15 years of whomever could recognize a keyboard, undocumented in every way it's possible to not document anything, and tied in to several UPSes because we were scared to death to ever have to reboot it because we already knew about that universe implosion thing. As a joke someone had glued a lawnmower recoil starter to the side of the box, labeled "Emergency Reboot." A few of us thought it might actually work like that, but nobody had the guts to pull the handle.

I moved on to slightly greener pastures in 2001, and at last report, the box is still running, and they have a pile of critical apps running on it.

When I retired I made sure to move upwind and well out of fallout range....

Borepatch said...

When I first started working at Three Letter Intelligence Agency in the 1980s, there was a home grown operating system called "Folklore". I was told that the name came from the lack of documentation on how things worked. If you wanted to find out how to do something, you had to go find one of the guys who wrote it.

It's a miracle that we beat the Soviets, but they were probably even worse.

Dave H said...

BP: The nice thing about a system with no documentation is nobody can steal it. Well, they can, but it's pretty much worthless.

Old NFO said...

Oh so frikkin true!!! :-)

Brigid said...

I was laughing so hard, I have no mascara left on. Back in my first year at squirrel central, in 2001, we still had one program we used that was MS DOS.

deadmandance said...

Hey, I still have several programs that I use at work to do dam analyses that are DOS. And one in FORTRAN that I had to do a lot of fiddling with to get it to work(ish).

drjim said...

We still have critical systems running Windows95 and NT 3.0!

Fortunately, they're not networked, but then the source code for the special applications was never given to us, there's NO documentation, and the new owners will NOT spend a nickle upgrading anything.

I'm sooooo glad I'll be out of there in a few months.....

MSgt B said...

Bro, you don't work hard...