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On Bad Software and Cyberwar

All this time that I was complaining about my PC crashing, Blue Screens of Death, and various email bugs, I was looking at things all wrong. While I was busy complaining, engineers were actually busy saving us from the eventual Cyberwar. It's true. Read on, but I warn you, a sense of humor is required. 

Let's take a walk through history. 

In their first benevolent act, software engineers and developers everywhere got together and decided that, collectively, their stock options were just too valuable. They needed a way to share the wealth, so they started doing a worse job. A few years later, the support industry was born. IT guy. Sys-admin lady. The support desk. Not wholly created by any means, but certainly fostered by, engineers doing less work in more time with lower quality results.

But now that's all coming to a head. For anyone that's ever had one, (and I have), a good IT person is as valuable as a good family physician. IT folks wear flip flops walking around with that mug with the corporate logo on it, knowing that the migration to version X just went perfectly and saved their company 20 trillion bucks. Meanwhile, the poor scientists and engineers like myself are resigned to endless hours of Red Bull trying to create version X point [something one more than last time]. Just as it is in Auto Racing, the mechanics have become the unsung heroes, while the drivers get all the glory. And the milk.

So now what? Do engineers sit idle? Why no - instead they are busy saving the world from the next threat - Cyberwar.

Unless you live in a cave (and that might not be a bad idea going forward) you've seen the trend in computer hacking whereby the college punk has been replaced by the mobster and the international spy ring. Bad guys don't care about virtual graffiti anymore, nor the respect of geekdom at virtual sim-keggers. They want money and power. Hacking is a tool and a weapon, and if that doesn't scare you, than you just don't understand. I'd email you more data, but you haven't been able to pay your ISP since the Nigerians took all your money.

But with fully conscious effort, Redmond has kept the crashes coming better than ever. But what you don't realize is that they are trying to help. By getting us all used to unreliable systems that crash, are constantly hacked, and break more than they fix, they have forced us into a discipline of redundancy and backups. Two words: fault tolerance.

Do you realize what would happen if your email server went down? Well, OK, first you'd call the IT guy/sys-admin lady/help desk. But then they'd fix it. They can do that because engineers forced them to have contingency plans. What you thought was shoddy work was just the vitamins added to the enriched white bread. By forcing this constant stream of mini-disasters, Redmond has prepared us for the larger ones.

And hey, let's give credit where credit is due. Cisco caused my MacBook to kernel panic. I'm not entirely sure how to even do that even if I try - but thank goodness I don't have to know. I have a tool to do it automatically. And I suppose Apple should get some kudos for being involved as well. Maybe the open source community could do a better job, but I'll throw them a bone and say they're doing fine as well.

The only thing bad about this is that no one told me. I mean, here I am burning the midnight oil trying to make rock-solid code, algorithms, and firmware, all the while not realizing that I was hurting the cause.

So please accept this as my official apology, and my official thanks to Redmond, and basically everyone else on the West coast I left out. We Midwesterners and East Coast people will do our best to catch up.