Thursday, November 15, 2018

Stub 9.2: Coding errors

It was a time for teary good-byes.

Word had come late the afternoon before that all programmers in Bora-Bora were to be expatriated.

AJ and Tim-Tom had asked the Sedelia administrators if they could be given asylum based on the political turmoil that was happening in Cali.

The administrators had already discussed the possibility among themselves. They were unable to offer asylum based on people’s premonition of future evil. Claims of asylum demand evidence.

Tim-Tom and AJ were both students of history and the fracture of the alliance between Silicon Valley and the Cali government had the same stench as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that sundered Poland before WWII. Like Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, the pact was based on incredible distrust of the other party. Consequently, dissolution of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was incredibly swift and cataclysmic in its unwinding.

The violence of the unwind resulted in the Soviet Union suffered 27,000,000 fatalities while the German Military suffered 5,500,000 casualties on the Eastern Front alone.

The alliance between Silicon Valley and the Cali government had evolved over time but there was no less tension between those two parties then there had been between Hitler and Stalin. Cali and Silicon valley were like a couple of enormous slabs of rock precariously balanced against each other. The erosion of time had cut away support and made the system inherently more unstable. The only things that kept the alliance going was the near-parity of power between the two monoliths and the friction between them.

Zev attempted to disrupt that equilibrium by first throwing his weight one way, and then the other. If Zev could challenge the perception of near-parity of power then the unwind could become self-sustaining.

Rumors on the net suggested that nearly all of the heads of Cali’s Information based industry had fled the country. And now the peons were being rounded up.

Neither AJ or Tim-Tom slept that last night. It was not due to pursuit of romance. It was to code a poison pill. It was a simple, recursing piece of code that initially mined data but then floated the data in the cloud in the devices nearest the targets.

If all went well and AJ and Tim-Tom were able to call Tory and Radhika every day then the poison pill would stay in the bottle.

If the daily calls ceased or if the code word “cancer” was said by either Tim-Tom or AJ in one of the daily calls, then the bottle would break.

AJ and Tim-Tom boarded the buses with the other programmers and the buses headed north. The buses did not even slow down at the frontier but it was waved on through. The buses did not take any of the westward exits that would have taken the bus toward Silicon Valley, rather they continued to travel up the Central Valley.

AJ elbowed Tim-Tom and said, “Tim-Tom, I think we are well and truly fucked!” as the bus pulled into the “mental health” hospital complex that was built on the ruins of the town of Paradise.

After de-boarding the bus, the programmers were in-processed. They were separated from their personal belongings. In-processing included hair cuts, showers and sprays with harsh disinfectants and insecticides.

Then they were issued uniforms and shown their “dormitories” which were small cubes three meters on a side with three, three-man bunks precast into the concrete walls.

Even though the officials said the programmers were their “for their own safety” it was clear that the programmers were in a prison.

Meanwhile, back in Sedelia…
Tory and Radihka were pouring over thousands of lines of code. AJ and Tim-Tom’s effort was a first draft.

Tory and Radihka had been able to get the two main modules to compile. They found a few minor errors and had been able to correct them. The code even benchmarked against the straw-man data but Tory and Radihka could not get the two parts of the program to talk to each other.

Time-after-time Tory or Radikha had an idea. They made changes or added some code or tweaked the existing code. No cigar. The database mining worked and the cloud portion worked but they coughed up a hairball when they were put together.

It was 1:30 in the morning and empty coffee cups littered the table in the nearly abandoned Bora-Bora complex. A young man who had that look that screamed “Programmer” was walking through, head down, hands clenched behind his back.

He almost missed Tory and Radikha until an angry flurry of keystrokes caught his attention.

He strolled over. “How is it going?” he asked.

“Sucks big donkey dicks.” Tory said, frustrated.

“Class project?” Dilip asked.

“More important that than.” Radikha said.

Dilip nodded as if he understood. He was not in the mood for long stories.

He was quite taken by their intensity. If they were curious about the presence of a programmer after all the Cali rock-stars left, they did not show it.

Dilip picked a seat behind them. “Mind if I watch?” he asked.

“Only if you keep your mouth shut.” Tory said. Tory could be direct.

It only took a few minutes for Dilip to see that they were struggling to pass variable from one portion of the program to the other.

He noticed what they were drinking and brought back a couple of double lattes for them. They barely noticed.

After forty more minutes, Tory said, “Well, I am stumped. How about you?” she said addressing the question to Radikha.

“I got nothing.” Radikha said.

Tory finally turned to Dilip and said. “What have you got?”

Dilip said, “I know this sounds stupid, but try resizing your screen.”

“That does sound stupid.” Tory said. But she resized the screen on the monitor. She would have tried rain-dancing if anybody had suggested it.

Dilip said, “I don’t know what your code is trying to do, but it looks like you were in a hurry when you coded it. You have a carriage return there" he said, pointing at the screen with his pinkie finger "instead of a ‘blank’ free-format space.”

Tory, short for Victoria, looked back at the screen and Tory and Radikha simultaneously shouted “SHIT!”

The change was made.

Tory graciously turned to Dilip and asked, “Would you like to type in the compile command. I have a feeling you are lucky.”

Dilip agreed that he was feeling lucky. Dilip typed in “compile and run” and hit enter.

If computer code sounded like motors Dilip would have heard a sound like a thousand gas-turbines slowly starting to spin.

Next Installment


  1. Oh... Seen THAT one before IRL... it sucks!

  2. The un-written words allow for a lot of fun as the brain struggles to comprehend. It's great fun.

    Thank you!