% fortune -ae paul murphy

Irony and the GLITCH/OS

Here's a bit from Seattle's King5.com news service:

There was a technical problem with the fireworks at the "New Year's at the Needle Show."

Just after the stroke of midnight, the "Star Wars" theme song played in the background, but the fireworks mysteriously stopped.

"What happened to the fireworks?" said KING 5 anchor Joyce Taylor.

Less than a minute later, a few bursts lit up the air, but it stopped again.

Finally, six minutes after midnight, the fireworks began in earnest, but appeared to only shoot out on the west side of the Needle.

Apparently the computer reboot didn't work, so technicians had to fire each firework sequence manually.

The eight-minute show ended up being about 12 minutes long, and outlasted the music.

What actually happened appears to have gone something like this:

First guy: "It's not working"

Second guy: "Well, reboot it."

First guy: "It's still not working"

Second guy: "Well, reboot it."

First guy: "It's still not working"

Approaching expert: "Just reboot it."

For obvious reasons fake Steve Jobs didn't miss a beat underlying the ironies here:

The dudes running the big fireworks show in Seattle had set up a computer to run the display and keep it timed with the music. But somehow the poor dumb piece of shit PC got messed up or crashed or needed to be rebooted or something and the whole show got ruined. Yup. In Seattle. Our spies say Ballmer was at the show and people around him started laughing and pointing at him and doing the monkey dance and chanting, "Vista sucks! Vista sucks!" Afterward Ballmer went back to the Borg campus and trashed an entire set of office furniture, although Frank Shaw of Waggener Edstrom says that this absolutely did not happen

But the less obvious ironies come from comparing what appears to have happened (Wintel reboot enthusiasm leading to file corruption) to wikopedia's elegantly oxymoronic (not to say self-referential) definition of a computer glitch:

A computer glitch is the failure of a system, usually containing a computing device, to complete its functions or to perform them properly. It frequently refers to an error which is not detected at the time it occurs but shows up later in data errors or incorrect human decisions. While the fault is usually attributed to the computer hardware, this is often not the case since hardware failures rarely go undetected. Other situations which are frequently called computer glitches are:

And there you have it: the quintessential windoze logic under which causes are indistinguishable from their effects - and if you think this is merely the tragi-comedic working out of idiocy let me point out that Wikopedia is itself a case in point when I point out that this kind of "thinking" underlies a lot of Wintel architecture management practice - where, of course, it causes similar effects.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.