Midnight stole my chair

The Week That Wasn’t

The Day Job is within a few weeks of finishing (at last) a major migration that will ultimately do us a whole lot of good and that has been in the works for years. If we’d had a larger team and dedicated time, we’d have been done quite a lot earlier, but when you’re working with a teensy weensy team that’s stretched just keeping up with basic maintenance, something this scale happens in baby steps.

Basically, if we’d needed to rewrite our software on this kind of resourcing, we might get it done before the heat death of the universe, but it would be a close-run thing. That kind of baby step.

Not that it’s the company’s fault, exactly. It’s one of those things that happens. But it also means that my available mental capacity is being consumed by work things. And of course, bizarre things. Because computer software generates bizarre no matter how much we try to pretend it’s all scientific and stuff.

This is why I remain convinced that any sufficiently complicated piece of software opens portals to the nether realms and will summon one of the Elder Gods if not properly supervised (preferably not by me). I’m reasonably certain that in the course of testing, I’ve written test harnesses that are capable of summoning Elder Gods, and one of them runs every weeknight. I have refrained from inserting “Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!” into the comments just in case.

In any case, at the moment I’m more or less counting days until 1) the new propane heater happens (2 weeks to go) and 2) the migration is done and the panicked flailing that follows from the customers has died down (it’s entirely possible that we deal with the most change-averse customers in existence. Seriously. We can’t change the tab sequencing because our customers complain. Heaven forbid we should introduce a new step in something… And you really do not want to know what we have to do to make a web page work like a 20 year old spreadsheet while keeping the damn thing more or less lightweight and able to do all the extra processing that’s expected – all because the original data entry 20+ years ago was run off a spreadsheet).

Anyway, sooner or later we’ll get past this crisis, and the next one shall appear.

In the meantime, enjoy Midnight stealing my chair (and the nice cozy heated blankie on said chair)

31 comments

  1. Because computer software generates bizarre no matter how much we try to pretend it’s all scientific and stuff.

    Lots of physical phenomena can be bizarre. It is properly scientific, the issues are more on the engineering side. My best guess: We just don’t explain things very well to even the professionals, so the laymen definitely don’t understand enough to hold the feet of the professionals to the fire until the professionals get the design arts to a reasonable level of maturity.

    This is why I remain convinced that any sufficiently complicated piece of software opens portals to the nether realms and will summon one of the Elder Gods if not properly supervised (preferably not by me).

    Oooh. See, I’m familiar with Oh My Goddess, the bizarre vrmmo genre, isekai, and I’ve been reading this xianxia/mythos fic, so the thought adds an interesting wrinkle to the stuff I’ve been playing with while short on sleep.

    1. Next you’re going to tell me that Cthulhu and friends have already been summoned and are living in the Intertubes watching cat videos.

      … That makes entirely too much sense.

      1. No, it’s not that bunch . . .
        Kek, of 4chan note, is an Egyptian god. Chaos and creation, IIRC, are his domain, and I can’t come up with better than chaos and creation as characteristics of the internet. Especially chaos.

        Obviously, as much homage goes to cats on the internet, Bast is around. She hasn’t gotten so many worshipers in centuries!

        Nope, it looks to me like it’s the Egyptian set that have taken up residense on the computers.

  2. Years ago, when I was still in high school (late 1980s), my mother worked in the business office of the local hospital. She was the office’s representative for the hospital’s big computer change. The computer company shall remain nameless, but they were looking at writing an integrated system to cover all aspects of the hospital business from what the doctors and nurses did on the floor to what the business office billed to what the employees were paid. It was supposed to streamline things so that Dept A didn’t have to run a report to send to Dept B, so that Dept B could then manually enter A’s info into their system, etc. It was ambitious and I believe unique for its time.

    It turned out that my mother had a knack for testing the system and ended up co-opted into the hospital’s IT dept. Eventually she just became a part of the IT dept instead of being paid through the Business office while working in IT. By the time her hospital was ready to go live with the new system it had been a couple of years worth of working back and forth with the vendor. Of the 3 test sites for the new system, her hospital was the only one that had it actually up and working as advertised. There were still some hiccups now and then, but it was working.

    Then the vendor decided that it just wasn’t worth it to go forward with the new system and pulled the plug. Since her hospital was actually ready to go live and it was working through all the testing, the vendor offered to give system to the hospital for free, but they wouldn’t be supporting it at all. Since the hospital didn’t have a large IT dept and few people that could write code, they passed and went looking for another vendor.

    By the time my mother quit in the early 2000s, they were about to implement their newest attempt (3rd vendor). It was more expensive and did less than the 1st vendor’s work. In the meantime the hospital had continued with its cobbled together system that didn’t talk between departments.

    I’ve always thought that if the hospital had been a little more forward thinking it could have hired another half dozen or so programmers and sold the program to other hospitals and funded the hospital for decades to come. What my hospital currently is using looks very similar, from a user standpoint, to what they were working on in the 1980s.

    1. Forward thinking? From _management_? Surely you jest. These are the people who think MBAs actually mean something (Apologies to sensible people with MBAs – there are way too many who think those three letters are enough to compensate for no domain knowledge and no common sense).

      1. I used to rent storage space from a company that got bought out by a national chain. The head of the national chain has “a Harvard MBA.” The instant I saw that, I started looking for other options. Doooooooooommm!

  3. Software is annoying – says someone who designs it for a living. Customers are even worse – says someone who is more-or-less forbidden from speaking to them. Both are necessary, these days, although arguably more the latter than the former.
    “It just does what you tell it to” only applies to toy programs written by college students. At least in quantum computing, the answer is expected to be (potentially) different every time.

    1. “Do what I want, not what I said,” is the bane of a lot of people, self included. “What DID I tell it to do, anyway?” Is also heard a lot in my home office, when I fat-finger the keyboard while typing too fast and something outré appears on the screen.

        1. Oh, yeah. No computer ever read minds. They do precisely what they’ve been told to do – although what they’ve been told to do is not necessarily what the programmer THINKS they told it to do. The programmer doesn’t always know what other horrible things lurk behind the layer of spaghetti code that any sufficiently long-lived program inevitably acquires, so there can often be conflicts.

    2. Get the GUI right first because you can gut it without complaint but users will regard the most useful UI change as poison.

      1. And they SEE a UI and figure EVERYTHING to support it simply MUST already be there, or it couldn’t exist.

        But yeah, Rule ONE is “Thou shalt NOT f(ar)k with the User Interface – UNLESS the *users* are demanding the change AND it actually makes sense.” (this coincidence is RARE. I have seen it… *ONCE*. That is, I’ve met more unicorns. THAT’S how rare it is.)

          1. Of course they do. There’s a number of people who aren’t happy unless they have something to complain about. Mix that with software, and the complaints are neverending. Some are even justified.

        1. Try “they see a wireframe someone put together in a few days and figure it will take maybe a little bit longer to build everything to support it”… Oh, wait. That’s upper-management.

    3. Even in quantum computing the thing does what it’s told to do. It’s just that what it’s told to do is subject to the uncertainty principle and needs to be expressed in terms of probabilities rather than something deterministic.

      Unless you’re programming Hex (the Discworld version). Then you can add “Want teddy” errors and “out of cheese” exception.

      … Actually, I think my personal universe is throwing an out of chocolate exception.

  4. ““It just does what you tell it to” only applies to toy programs written by college students.”

    Define “you”, when the result of even “toy programs” is determined by layers of software from the processor out that have never had their actual interactions fully defined or tested.

    1. Nothing is ever fully tested. Ever.

      It’s impossible.

      In a small enough system, it might be possible to test all the logic switches individually, but since pretty much all software has infinite navigation loops, there’s no way to test every possible path through the thing. It’s like a small town. You can drive over every street, but there’s an infinite number of ways to get from point A to point B, including looping around a block 100 times because you’re just that pig-headed.

      1. My mother’s greatest talent (the reason she ended up getting transferred to IT from the Business Office) was her ability to break the system. They’d hear from the vendor, “But you don’t have access to that. You can’t get there.” And everyone would turn to my mother, “Let me show you how I got there. I did this, then this, then this. I then backed out of that screen using this, and ended up here.” “But you shouldn’t be able to do that!” “Oh, but I did and so will someone else using the system.”

        1. Like the medical equipment maker who never, ever anticipated that a radiation technologist could type at more than 20 words-per-minute. The tech entered commands so quickly that a shielding plate couldn’t swing into position before the radiation dose was administered. Problem!

          1. THAT’s more serious than the lady that sat next to mother in the Business Office. She did the keying in of all the charges from the departments for the billing. She’d type for 10 minutes, then go the break room or grab a book and read for a few minutes while the system caught up. Luckily there was a fairly large buffer.

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