timothy falconer's semantic weblog
Big Fractal Tangle

10) fixing a hole

Think of the last time you were frustrated with your phone or computer.  “Why is it doing that?  I don’t have time for this.”    You try something.  Doesn’t work.  You try something else.  No luck.  Maybe you ask a friend or IT.  Maybe you search online.

Since home computers were new, I’ve been one of Those Guys, the person you call when you’ve exhausted all options. I nearly always find a solution, often quickly.  My wife jokes that I just have to look at a computer and it’ll fix itself.  When problems last longer, she’s impressed with my patience, trying for hours, long after most would give up.  Being a software developer gives one a high tolerance for computer snags.  We spend our days fixing our own messes.  The minor glitches most people experience hardly phase us.

Occasionally I find a problem I just can’t solve.  We call this “falling into a hole,” and it’s NOT FUN.  For more than a week, I couldn’t get Tidepool talking to Storymill on Europa, our dedicated server.  I was using a technology called Enterprise JavaBeans, which was working fine on my machine, but not between machines.  I knew it was probably something simple, but after reading reams of forum posts and trying every nonsensical thing I could think of, it just wouldn’t work.

Being in a hole is its own kind of madness.  “Maybe this?”  (Nope)   “What about this?”  (Sorry dude)   Imagine clicking “run” with hope in your heart, over and over, six times an hour, for day after endless day.  This is the dark side of software development, the unsung trial-by-fire we all unfortunately experience from time to time.

In the end, the solution couldn’t have been simpler.  I simply had to move a single word from one line to the next in a text file on Europa.  So why did it take more than twenty hours to figure that out?  Good expletive question.

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