After 40 years as a computer programmer and game developer—and the passing of his wife of 47 years—Rick has retired and is now living in Ye Olde Folks Home, where he still tinkers with tech and likes to write these amusing and/or thoughtful tales about his storied life.

The FCAL Project
Pepe Le Pew Finds New Lodgings
In Memoriam: Dale Lear
Bingo Bedlam at Ye Olde Folks Home
There’s a Shortage of Perfect Movies…
One Day at the DMV
A Visitor from Microsoft
“He Who Should Not Be Named”
Downton… Abbey?
This Home is a Liver-Free Zone
My 9/11 Rememberances
My Yearly Pumpkin Spice Rant
Done In By Baker’s Square
My Eulogy for Alice
“Dear Rikki…”
A Clean, Well-lighted Place for Books
Memories of my First Computer
A Little Excitement at the Staff Meeting
The Tale of Mrs. Butler
Sun, Sand, and a Margarita
“Thou Shalt Not Steal”
Troubleshooting at Ye Olde Folks Home
Stories of my Mother
I’ve Heard Angels Sing
Elevator Mishap at the Eye Clinic
One Day at Fair, Isaac
Saturday Morning Cartoons
A Sprig of Parsley
Fun With Recruitment Ads
Leave Her to Heaven
“Squirrel!”
Bring me Dave Bringle!
Beware! The Oldsters Are Coming!
Life Among the Progressives
A Family Ritual While Watching Masterpiece
The Unforgettable General Oppy
“Don’t Even THINK About Parking Here”
A Dubious Plan Gone Awry
The Singing Christmas Tree!
One Day in the Hospital Lab
The Legend of the Broken Timer
Nelson’s Fruit Stand
This One Time in Glee Club…
Star Trek References for the Win
Family Psalm, Stuck in Lodi
Vacation in Branson
Clyde and Ruth Revisited
COVID Policies During my Wife’s Fatal Illness
I Guess I’m the Shadow IT Department Now
The Tale of Clyde and Ruth
My Garden of Gethsemane Story
We Might Get a Virus!

We Might Get a Virus!

Warning, serious geekery follows:

The UNIX version of our software is bombing with “Segmentation Fault – Core Dumped” at a customer site? Hmm. Did it leave behind a “core” file? Yep. Okay, all I need is to get my hands on that, run adb to get a stack trace, compare it to an assembly language listing generated from the original C source, and it’s Miller time.

I get off the phone with the customer as my manager comes up. “Yeah, we just need to get that core file over here; no big deal. I’ll have them email it to me,” I tell him.

“Well, yeah, but it’s a binary file.”

“So?”

“So we can’t have them send us that. We might get a virus.”

Ten minutes of fruitless arguing later, I said, “Well, then, we can have them do a hex dump of the file into a text file. They email us that, I write a little utility to extract the data, and…”

“Data? We can’t have them send us an email attachment with data in it. We might get a virus.”

“Uh, but it’s a text file.”

“No, you just said it’s a data file. I heard you quite clearly.”

Much more arguing, to no avail. The file was too big to fit on a floppy that could be mailed to us. What to do?

The one solution my manager would accept? Have them create the hex dump file, print it out, and FAX us the listing. Take the thick stack of FAX paper and split it up into batches, giving it to various people to type out manually into text files. Carefully proofread the files, and then combine them into one file. Write a utility to read that file and create the original binary file. Everything proceeds normally from there.

There was a shocked silence on the other end of the phone after I proposed this procedure to the customer, followed by: “That’s insane.”

“That’s what I’ve been instructed to tell you,” I replied in as neutral a tone as I could muster.

Another shocked silence, and then: “You work for morons, you do know that, don’t you?”

“I’m sure that thought has occurred to at least one person in this building,” I replied in my best deadpan tone. They were pretty disgusted with us, but did what I asked anyway.

The problem was an uninitialized variable, by the way.