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Real Life Debugged » Real-life problems

Tag-Archive for ◊ Real-life problems ◊

My Blog Server(s) is Sentient and has Dementia
Saturday, June 20th, 2009 | Author: lisaksimone

What happens when you create a new user profile on a website and then it magically adds your picture to the profile? Do the servers trade stories after work over SMS martinis? Compare notes and plot random “Your Registration Has Expired” warnings to evil users?

I have a couple blogs with an elusive entity called “Wordpress.” I found out the hard way that massive social networking servers are as temperamental as Paris Hilton looking for a new BFF.

Apparently, according to Wordpress, I am 3 different people, but really only 2½, 2 of whom share the same face. Who had to be introduced to one another through a server matchmaker.

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When I didn’t duck my head low enough this morning, the people-eating mangroves ripped off my hat and some hair, snagged my Jet Ski’s tow line and skidded me into the jail-like root system. Then the engine wouldn’t start. Gah gah gah gah. And I was WAY to far into the twisted passages for my husband to reach me by boat.

Gah gah gah gah. I was to get very familiar with this sound.

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I suspected my antivirus/firewall software had a virus. Ya see, out of nowhere at 7am over a nice cup of coffee, BitDefender screamed at me, “Your system is NO LONGER PROTECTED!

Huh?!? I renewed it last month. It’s been running fine!

BitDefender further admonished, “The specified key is not valid. Please enter a valid license key.” After much cajoling and growing ire on my part, it refused to yield, and dragged me way down the rabbit hole.

This is one of those debugging scenarios where you DON’T get access to the source code. OR access to any tool to debug it faster than real time. So, we’re stuck debugging by permutation, with the results of our testing presented as snippy little error messages. But pictures are so much fun, so let’s have a go at it.

(And one of those big hints… Party Like It’s December 31, 1969.)

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Christmas Tree Worms

Christmas Tree Worms

Photographers who drag electronics underwater tempt fate. Camera equipment requires special attention; gentle words of encouragement. I’ve had problems which occasionally prevent me from taking pictures, but one nagged me at the start of our Alaskan dive trip.

When we arrived, I was shocked to find beautiful colors and corals in Alaska that dwarf the beauty of many Caribbean sights. One of the few times I’ve see that many vivid colors in once place in my life!

But while attempting to capture this beauty as I was being swept along a steep wall, my strobe (flash) went temperamental and decided to flash only when it felt like it.

“WHY NOW?!?” I screamed through my regulator. “I NEED PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF THIS BEAUTY! No one will believe this is Alaska!”

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The stereotypical learning style for engineers is that of visualization - we learn through seeing. Pictures and diagrams, watching facial expressions, doing practical projects. The other two learning styles are auditory (hearing) and kinesthetic (feeling). Since ~65% of the population are classified as visuals, proposed changes in education include adding more visual elements to improve learning.

And here it is in practice! While searching for a recipe online, I found Cooking for Engineers. Lemmee jump to the punch line - here’s the summary for Shrimp Scampi.

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I wrote before about my computer wasting CPU cycles by phoning home to HP.

I also wrote about my cat deleting important files and emailing government agencies in my absence. Josie-the-Editor’s subterfuge continued in her quest for increased thermo intake courtesy of my oh-so-toasty keyboard. But yet again I forgot to “retire” my computer for the evening, granting her leave to further exploit my foolishness.

I awoke last week to find my computer at a near complete standstill. Oooooh no. But Type A that I am, I scrambled for print-screens, suspecting a repeat performance of HP’s Calls to the Mothership. But the system was so clogged it took me 15 minutes of patiently moving the mouse 2 inches, waiting 20 seconds to see where it landed, readjusting, etc., until I was just over the button to frantically SAVE!

The little voice in the back of my head nagged, JUST REBOOT AND CUT THIS CRAP OUT!

I refused.

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Subtitle: Awarding Jobs to the Lowest Bidder

For years Verizon has subtly questioned my ability to use my own two-line phone.

It came to a head when the kids moved out, we trashed DSL and switched to cable modem. No longer needed two phone lines. So I called Verizon on our main line to turn off Line 2. Finally (I cheered internally), the end of 10 long years suffering through Verizon’s insistence that in fact, Ma’am, you are calling me from Line 2. I’d given up arguing the “Line 1 vs. Line 2″ nonsense, but now that I wanted Line 2 turned off, I figured it was a good idea to “confirm” somehow.

So for the zillionth time I responded, resigned, “No, I’m calling from Line 1. This is the phone that rings when people call our main number.”

“No Ma’am, you are calling from Line 2.” (Unspoken on her side I imagine, “This lady is an idiot.”)

Sigh. “Cancel Line 2.” I confirmed the telephone number. Fingers crossed. Five days later, Line 2 was truly dead. “dee Dee DEE, The number you have dialed….” Amazingly, Verizon actually turned off the right one.

But now Line 1 rang busy. Forever.

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Jack Ganssle is an embedded guru and also a really neat guy. He collects real life disasters - when products behave Not As Intended. Some are pretty sad when they involve loss of life, but others are funny - like this store sign that reports a temperature of 501 °F. Whew!

When I pitched the concept of individual product disaster mysteries like “Law and Order” or “CSI” for my book, he liked the idea. And I was even more psyched that he would dig through his collection to find Real Life Disasters with similar root causes to the bugs in each of my chapters.

So I thought of Jack when I ran across a post about errors at a site called “The Daily WTF.” (Man I like that name!)

Check out these pics of other interesting Bugs in Public at - There’s Gotta Be A Catch.

And the Walgreens bug? It’s still out there - a student of mine sent me a picture he took of it in mid 2008.

And what caused the bug?  The bias current to an unconnected processor input in the electronic billboard changed; the normal “zero” state drifted to a logic “one.”  Firmware didn’t ignore this unused bit, and accepted the unnecessary and incorrect new data, generating a temperature display that was insane. - From Jack

I wrote most of my book on a little Dell Inspiron 700m, carrying it in my backpack all over creation. It’s a lightweight little thing with a great screen and 5 hours of run time on the extended battery. Delayed flights, no problem. Writing on the patio, no problem.

Sweet.

But sometimes when I’m pursuing a life outside the office, it spins into overdrive, cranking the disk and fan up into a frenzy. And when I return, the CPU Usage is pegged at 100%.

What the heck is it doing, I wonder? Is it more productive than *I* am? Well, could be when I’m surfing icanhascheezburger, but when I look away it may be stuck on the home shopping channel.

Does your computer misbehave behind your back? Today I decided see where my computer wanders, using a little deduction and some pretty simple tools.

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Let’s Debug It: Keyboards and Endothermic Mammals
Saturday, January 24th, 2009 | Author: lisaksimone

First, recognize that in any disagreement with a Cat, the Cat will Win.

The main character of my book, Josie, was named after my oldest cat. My tiny little girl going on 13 who still jumps, plays, zips around and insists on her treats at EXACTLY 7:30 each night. But she’s gotten older, perhaps stiffer, and as such, she’s sought out the warmest areas in the house to snooze.

And then she discovered my laptop computer.

How do you stop a clever cat from using your laptop as a Really Nice and Warm Bed? While also preventing the sending of salacious emails to your co-workers?

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