Archive for August, 2013

It’s Not A Geek Company, So You Didn’t Hear About The Problem

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 by The Director

If this had happened to Amazon, Google, or another company geeks love, you would have heard about it already: Computer Problems Leave Goods Stranded at New York Port:

Computer problems at one of the East Coast’s biggest ports have snarled the flow of cargo across the Northeast for weeks, delaying the delivery of consumer goods needed for back-to-school sales and the start of the holiday shopping season.

The problems at the Port of New York and New Jersey began in June, when Maher Terminals LLC, one of the world’s largest handlers of shipping containers, launched a new computer operating system, according to shipping, trucking, retail-industry and government officials.

. . . .

Maher Terminals and the operating system’s maker, Navis LLC, a division of Finland-based Cargotec Corp., said in a joint news release last week that “real-time interactions between the various system components deployed in the container yard were not operating as designed.” As a temporary solution, certain automated components of the system were scaled back, the companies said. They didn’t reveal the source of the problems.

Rest assured, it worked on a developer’s machine.

Meanwhile, even though it did not impact geeks directly, this bug had huge impact all down the logistical downstream.

Blackjack, Baseball, Software, and Startups

Friday, August 9th, 2013 by The Director

An article entitled An Important Life Lesson from Blackjack and Baseball: You gain more by not being stupid than you do by being smart has this brief takeaway:

The moral: You gain more by not being stupid than you do by being smart. Smart gets neutralized by other smart people. Stupid does not.

The gist: In some competitions, you can lose on purpose, but you can only try to win on purpose, so making the smart moves won’t necessary lead you to success and winning. But making stupid moves can and will thwart you.

In software development or startups, it’s easy to fall into that bad habit of pursing something new, neat, or smart and forgetting to take care of the little things like user experience and bounding your edit boxes.

That’s where QA comes in: We’re trying to box out some of the stupid.

Next, They Come For Comic Sans

Thursday, August 8th, 2013 by The Director

Firefox 23 nixes support for outdated blink HTML tag:

Mozilla announced on Tuesday that Firefox 23, the latest version of its browser, will not support the HTML tag blink.

I would tell you to enjoy it while you can, but it’s already gone, and you never noticed it.

I’ve always used the blink tag to test whether edit boxes appropriately strip HTML formatting because it was a nice, obvious way to see if that failed. Oh, well, I still have the h1 tag, I suppose.

UPDATE: This post was originally entitled Fortunately, It Still Works in IE 6 until someone pointed out it does not work in IE 6. Deep down I knew that, but I was too quick with the quippy headline. Thanks, Jen. I have updated the headline with an alternate quip.


Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 by The Director

Xerox scanners/photocopiers replacing 6s with 8s? In some cases, apparently so:

In this article I present in which way scanners / copiers of the Xerox WorkCentre Line randomly alter written numbers in pages that are scanned. This is not an OCR problem (as we switched off OCR on purpose), it is a lot worse – patches of the pixel data are randomly replaced in a very subtle and dangerous way: The scanned images look correct at first glance, even though numbers may actually be incorrect. Without a fuss, this may cause scenarios like:

  1. Incorrect invoices
  2. Construction plans with incorrect numbers (as will be shown later in the article) even though they look right
  3. Other incorrect construction plans, for example for bridges (danger of life may be the result!)
  4. Incorrect metering of medicine, even worse, I think.

Who knew you had to test your printed outputs? I did.

Vintage Defect: Moons Over My Halo

Thursday, August 1st, 2013 by The Director

Back in 2007, a developer caused a delay in a very large software launch for an Easter egg or a prank:

Microsoft reps have told Next-Gen the real reason for the Halo 2 Vista delay: partial nudity–specifically someone’s backside in the game’s map editor, the Entertainment Software Rating Board added today.

. . . .

Friday morning, however, the ESRB e-mailed Next-Gen a statement that said a “photograph of an individual showing his bare backside” is accessible within Halo 2 Vista’s exclusive map editor tool. Apparently, it pops up when an “.ass” error occurs….

Hijinks that cost the company millions.

Moral of the story: Always check your software for .ass errors.

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