Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Night Watch

One of the most awesome computer papers ever written!
When you debug a distributed system or an OS kernel, you do it Texas-style. You gather some mean, stoic people, people who have seen things die, and you get some primitive tools, like a compass and a rucksack and a stick that’s pointed on one end, and you walk into the wilderness and you look for trouble, possibly while using chewing tobacco. As a systems hacker, you must be prepared to do savage things, unspeakable things, to kill runaway threads with your bare hands, to write directly to network ports using telnet and an old copy of an RFC that you found in the Vatican. When you debug systems code, there are no high-level debates about font choices and the best kind of turquoise, because this is the Old Testament, an angry and monochromatic world, and it doesn’t matter whether your Arial is Bold or Condensed when people are covered in boils and pestilence and Egyptian pharaoh oppression. HCI people discover bugs by receiving a concerned email from their therapist. Systems people discover bugs by waking up and discovering that their first-born children are missing and “ETIMEDOUT” has been written in blood on the wall.

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