Erik Gern

Erik Gern has more projects than he can count on his fingers. When he's not writing, he's programming for the web or updating his personal blog.

Rubbed Off

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Early magnetic storage was simple in its construction. The earliest floppy disks and hard drives used an iron (III) oxide surface coating a plastic film or disk. Later media would use cobalt-based surfaces, providing a smaller data resolution than iron oxide, but wouldn’t change much.

Samuel H. never had think much about this until he met Micah.


Dot-Matrix Ragnarok

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Fresh out of college and out of money, Johan K. started work at Midgard Manufacturing as a junior developer. His supervisor Ragna made it clear: he would only be responsible for coding error handlers.

“Our plant equipment is several decades old,” she said, “and we have to rely on the manufacturer-provided documentation for adequate coverage. To be honest, none of the senior developers want to bother. So instead of bothering one of them, you’ll be doing it.”


Crash Diet

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WT Durham had never met Bruce, former sales executive and new COO of Prepackaged Pixels, before he paid a visit to WT’s department. They were responsible for maintaining the licensing API for the company’s toolkit bundle, which included their prized platform-agnostic GUI. The bundle was used for internal projects as well as for third-party licensing, and customers often bought the entire bundle just to use the GUI. Bruce wasn’t too happy about that.

Weird Al in his 'Fat' music video, wearing a fat version of a Michael Jackson costume.

“We’ve conducted several customer surveys,” Bruce said. “Two-thirds of our customer base only want the GUI toolkit, not the rest of our bundle.”


Copy Protected

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Dominique finished her instant cup of ramen, her third day straight. She and the other developers at Bento had gone a month without pay as they finished the beta version of their only application: a browser for promotional materials of yet-to-be-released merchandise.

Her cellphone rang. It was CEO Stephen, who was wooing investors with a demo. “How hard is it to block a user from capturing a screen image?”

A menu offering a screen recording option

Frozen Out

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Lex was an employee at GreyBox in the late 90s, a PC-repair shop inside of a large electronics chain. He had spent the entire morning handling phone calls from customer after customer. Each of the calls was supposed to go to his co-worker Gerald, but Gerald hadn’t been picking up his phone. Each caller complained that Gerald had taken in their computer for repairs and not actually done the repairs.

An ice-cream cone in a bowl, turned up at an… erect angle.

“I brought my laptop in yesterday,” one caller, a wheezy old man, said, “and the young man behind the counter just took the laptop and said, ‘come back in an hour’. He went into the back room, and when I came back, he looked like he had been drinking. You know, red faced and sweaty. And the laptop smelled funny- like corn chips. And it wasn’t fixed!”


.gitignorant

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Brent, who had started at JavaChip in QA several years ago, was tapped for “real” work with the core development team. On the day of his transfer, he gathered his things from his desk in a cardboard box, told his teammates in QA that he’d continue to see them for D&D at lunch, and trekked down the hall to the larger office.

After finding his new desk, he went to find Karla, his team lead. As it turned out, Karla had called in sick, but she had sent Brent an email from home. Get settled in, she wrote. Our repo’s on the company git server. Make sure you have Maven and IntelliJ installed on your machine. Everything else is in the README.md file.


Aged Like Vinegar

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It was Brian’s first day at AutoDetective, a website for comparing listed car prices vs. blue book values. His work inbox was overflowing with style guides, best practices, and notes from the dozen or so other developers he would be working with. His interviewer, Douglas, had mentioned that the site ran on a substantial chunk of legacy code, but Brian had experience with plenty of old code.

He spent most of the day digging through the source, getting a feel for the in-house development style. It didn’t take long before he noticed how … off the code was.

An old car mouldering in a rotting garage

Optimizing the Backup

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Leslie, head of IT at BlueBox, knew there was trouble when one of her underlings called her at 3AM. “The shared server’s down,” she said. “Disk failure. Accounting can’t issue invoices, design can’t get to its prototypes, and the CEO just lost his PowerPoint for next week’s conference speech.”

BlueBox, like many companies, kept many important documents on a shared server. It also held personal directories for every employee, and many (like the CEO) used it to store personal files. That data, totaling 100 GB, was backed up to a remote server every 24 hours. “Okay, swap out the disk and restore it.”


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