[Wolves] Oh boy, do I have a tale to tell you guys...

Mike Hingley computa_mike at hotmail.com
Fri Mar 16 18:03:13 UTC 2012

It's a story about the trust we place in technology, and what happens when that technology betrays that trust.

It's been quiet here in telford ...too quiet.  And it was this sense of isolation that prompted me to question what had happened to the LUG traffic... it was if a collection of Linux-y types were suddenly silenced.... I felt a great disturbance in the force*....

I started investigating, worried that something terrible had happened to the server.... I checked my hotmail account, and the inbox was suspiciously light in terms of LUG traffic.

The sense of panic was increasing - had I become a lone voice, screaming into the void? 

It was then that I tried accessing hotmail by the web interface. I started to dig...  The inbox showed the remnants of my recent emails, and I could see that the latest entries were there.  I then checked the WolvesLUG folder that I had setup months ago, using Microsoft's auto filing process.  Using a set of rules, messages can be automatically filed into folders.  This typical Microsoft process had worked as well as any other Microsoft process - it hadn't. Until recently it seems.

In this folder I found hidden treasure - messages from the list.  I realised that my state of isolation had been imposed by a computer process which had for some as yet undefined reason decided that today...today would be the day it would wake.

It seems that the auto filing system had automagically started working, moving wolvesLUG messages from the inbox into the wolvesLUG folder, meaning that the messages no longer synchronized to my phone, insulating me from the outside world - today .NET was my world.  I had trusted Microsoft technology to continue to be as broken today as it was months ago, when I first set up these cursed folders.  It was this trust that broken technology would continue to be broken that was my downfall. Damn Microsoft for eventually fixing what many would call a fundamental bug that I had been ignoring for months. 

Without access to the server logs, I can't tell why this somnambulist enemy had stirred from it's perma-slumber.  
Without the source I can't see the justification behind it's actions.  All I can see is the effect of it's actions.

This unpredictable nature of hotmail leaves me affraid for the future - I seem to recall a documentary where another unpredictable (and basically grumpy) computer system attempted to terminate mankind using robots called terminators designed to terminate humans.

I believe it was called "the human killing robot"

The effect of this has been that I spent the whole day at my desk "doing work" - with no escape.

I hope this cautionary tale serves to remind us all that with proprietary software we have as much control about how a process doesn't work as we do with a process that does work.


*In the Lucas universe, the force is described as an energy field that "binds the universe together".. obviously George was thinking of 3g here..
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