[buug] [OT?] Software Engineering, Microsoft, funny(?)

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Fri Jul 3 07:59:35 PDT 2009

Perhaps/likely mostly semi-/rather/highly? off-topic, but in any case

If you were at the BUUG meeting yesterday evening, you may have gotten
to hear a dramatic reading of ... :-) (unfortunately I don't think quite
everyone was there at the same time, due to some variability in folks
arrival/departure schedules ... perhaps also due to holiday weekend and

Anyway, ... some wee bits of software engineering points of (rather
broad and general) note, but, mostly a (somewhat/rather) tongue-in-cheek
(and hopefully enough trace of humor to help ease the pain a bit)
commentary upon a too typical example one of many reasons I tend to
quite dislike Microsoft.

I'd sent this email to a fair chunk of my coworkers (to a technical
list/alias, and CCed to a broader, but lower priority semi-random stuff
type list/alias also).

So, without (much) further ado (very slightly redacted, and I dropped
out the not-so-interesting reference at the end to a fair bit of an
earlier email I'd sent) ...

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Paoli
Sent: Thursday, July 02, 2009 2:52 PM
To: <redacted>
Cc: <redacted>
Subject: Gotta love Microsoft! <cough, cough>
Importance: Low

Well, it would seem most probable that this Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD)
seen repeatedly upon redocking:

*** Hardware Malfunction

Call your hardware vendor for support

NMI: Parity Check / Memory Parity Error

*** The system has halted ***


is the charming manner in which Microsoft uses XP to so graciously, and
with Microsoft's such uncanny accuracy, inform the user that the VGA
type video cable attached to the docking station isn't fully and
properly seated/attached at the monitor end of that cable.

After struggling repeatedly over two days with severe Wi-Fi
non-operability issues, issues upon [un]docking (including multiple of
those subtle charming indicators of issue noted above), and towards the
tail end of that string of inconveniences, problems getting external
video to work at all - it was discovered that said video cable
connection had managed to become loose and the cable was no longer
properly seated upon the connector.  Upon properly reseating and
securely attaching the video cable to the monitor, everything started
working properly again, and has continued to do so thus far quite
reliably - including running through numerous dock/undock transitions
and many transitions from wired Ethernet LAN to Wi-Fi and back - many
repeated cycles now, with no signs of the earlier problems recurring
(which had been quite frequent/persistent, and repeated).  I think this
likely also has something to do with Microsoft's marvelous
Plug-aNd-Play (PNP) technology - how it so nicely automatically detects
and deals with attaching/removing hardware, and helps gently alert
users to the fact that something may not be 100% correct with hardware.
Thank you Microsoft, for continuing to deliver that utmost of
reliability, robustness, fault tolerance, and highly helpful error
messages and diagnostics we've all come to love and expect from you.

1. Paraphrasing myself - as I've repeatedly said for a very long time
    now:  Error diagnostics are often the least exercised software code
    - so take what they say with a grain of salt.  E.g. they'll often be
    somewhat close or related to the issue, but often not precisely spot
2. In the case of Microsoft, that "grain" of salt should be appropriate
    sized block, e.g. 50 lb. cattle sized salt lick block or larger,
3. Never underestimate the extremes to which Microsoft will go to
    enhance and create highly memorable user experiences, create software
    of such remarkable quality, and produce standards of such levels of
4. 3rd party software (e.g. video drivers) may also share in the
    credit/blame - in such cases Microsoft often likes to play the blame
    game (and likewise for the 3rd party).  I like how Microsoft
    operating systems are able to run so well and independently of any
    such 3rd party software <cough, cough> ... well, ... if you don't
    need any video output anyway ... or likely also any keyboard or
    pointing device input, etc., ... or audio or network output or input.

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