What’s the worst bug you’ve ever dealt with?

We’re back with another Stack Overflow podcast. This week our guest is Clive Thompson, journalist, programmer, and author of the bookCoders: The Making of a New Tribe and Remaking of the World. He shares the secret to getting any developer to open up during an interview: ask them about the worst bug they’ve ever had to deal with.


Part 1 (0:00-9:58)

The crew discusses Google’s declaration of Quantum Supremacy and tries to wrap their mind around qubits and superpositions. Ben mangles the pronunciation of ASP.net, Sara finds a name for her new pet snake, and Paul wonders how JFK would have pronounced quantum. Also, updates on the Stack Overflow helicopter.

From our Physics and Quantum Computing Stack Exchanges:

Is Quantum Computing just pie in the sky?

Why is Google Quantum Supremacy experiment impressive?

What does Google’s claim of Quantum Supremacy mean?

Interview (9:59-26:05)

We chat with Clive Thompson. When it comes to bugs, Thompson says the best book on the subject is The Bug by Ellen Ulman. Got a different recommendation? Let us know in the comments below.

You can check out Clive’s band, the Dolorean Sisters, here. He is currently writing software to help optimize the group’s set lists. Clive, you owe me a blog post on this.

Part 2 (26:52-fin)

We chat about the wonderful Ian Allen and his introduction to programming.

Paul declares CSS is a plate of scrambled eggs.

Sara hips us to a wonderful talk from Jacob Thornton – Cascading S**t Show. As you might have guessed from the title, the language in the video is NSFW.

Sara proceeds to declares that CSS Grid is, in fact, just tables, mostly to troll her good friend Brenda Storer.

Paul protests, but then remembers an old tweet. Truly a magnificent own goal.

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  1. We need a way to reference to podcast episodes.

    E.g. in these announcements – this is (I think) officially episode #127.

    The feed suggests it is #4 (by file name). The previous series had the episode number prefixing the title (e.g. “Podcast #120 – Halloween Spooktacular with Anil Slash” (deliberate misspelling?), 2017-10-30) – at least in the RSS feed.

  2. “to podcast episodes”“the podcast episodes”

  3. It is not easy to follow what is going on, with the fast-paced chat. Though the show notes are really good and really helpful – thanks for that!

    It is like we, the 1000s of podcast listeners, overhear a conversion in a room through a secret microphone. E.g., there are a lot of in crowd jokes and references that few understand. It should also be funny for us.

    Can you change the format slightly, so we don’t feel excluded?

    For instance, invite a new hire (or the equivalent) to sit in the same room. She or he (sorry), will effectively be us podcast listeners’ stand in (representative).

    Or/and let there be a host that hands out the right to speak. So it is more like a panel discussion at a conference (where we, the 1000s of podcast listeners, are the audience).

  4. Bad eyesight saw:
    Should’ve been:

    Immortalized by NASA when a satellite went astray!

    BTW, it is not your father’s FORTRAN any more.

  5. Might not be the worst bug I’ve been dealing with, but definitely something annoying that I didn’t expect and I’ll always remember:

    I auto-filled an excel file with contents, including an image (using EPPlus library). The client complained, that the image in the printed form was not printed in the original image dimension. From there on, it was a pure bullshit rally.

    1. It turned out, that different versions of EPPlus somehow led to different detail of how the image size was handled
    2. The on-screen proportions and size of the image differed between normal view and page view
    3. print preview was different again, compared to the two mentioned views. I’m not quite sure anymore, whether the print preview size and proportion matched the actual printout or if there was another change involved
    4. don’t even ask me, how any of this related to the original image file that was added to the excel sheet – as far as I remember, none of the mentioned views or printout reached a 1:1 representation of the original picture without strange correcting arithmetic.

    Roughly 3 years old [question](https://stackoverflow.com/questions/39877078/epplus-addpicture-100-size) documents my desperation at that time…

  6. Alain Riffon says:

    Mac Catalina installed.
    No need for TeamViewer.
    Delete TeamViewer with (whatever app).
    Everything’s fine until restart.
    Never booted again after.
    Only access was Terminal through Recovery Mode
    to blindfolded put back in place a tiny .BUNDLE the mac’s security needs to boot.
    The whole planet is screaming after TeamViewer and Apple for this F _ _ (disastrous) problem. And they never provided anyone with the solution to solve this problem and recover all your data and your mac. Only a few nice guys like “Hex Out” dedicated themselves to help people. If it were not for them (me first)…
    How can an honorable (if so) company can do that and leave their clients down.

  7. “What’s the worst bug you’ve ever dealt with?”

    Mine is actually a question on Stackoverflow: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/2823440/troubleshooting-net-fatal-execution-engine-error/25524017#25524017.

    My own answer was a nasty issue caused by the imperfect union of managed code to unmanaged code. Cost me a few days work tracking that one down.

  8. Worst bug ever?

    I’m working in a new position at a small school. An otherwise decent programmer who didn’t fully understand accounting created a web application that could re-assess tuition on-demand in response to changing credits loads, etc. He moved on shortly after implementing this application.

    Students liked it, but after a few weeks of use, CFO noticed a growing imbalance between some general ledgers, to the tune of $800k! After a day or so of nail-biting, I found that this web application was toggling a “void” flag for transactions already posted to the GL and then creating new transactions. Normally, you can only void unposted transactions. Student statement printing functionality disregarded these supposedly-voided transactions, but they were still in the general ledgers.

    The fix was easy enough 1) Turn off the offending web application. 2) Un-mark the void flag for posted transactions. 3) Set accountants to work posting reversals for all the duplicate charges. I don’t think students ever saw the issue, and there was a proper audit trail at the end of the day. I gained credibility and a confidence boost.

    Whole situation should have never happened, but boy, was it scary for a day or two!

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