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Bug Free Code™
A new de novo innovation from Microsoft Corporation.
It was the summer of 2004. Jim Allchin walked into the office of Bill Gates.
'We're in trouble', he said.
The chief software architect looked up from his desk where he was reading an instruction booklet for Gameboy. 'Oh really? Why is that?'
'Longhorn - it sucks.'
'It does? Give them more time. We can delay release until 2016 or something like that.'
'It's not going to help.'
Now the former CEO of Microsoft Corporation was really distracted. He put his bubble gum on the page he was reading, put the booklet in his desk drawer, and looked up.
'OK, so what will help?'
'We've got to rewrite the whole thing from the beginning.'
'The whole thing? The whole blasted thing?'
'That's right. The whole thing.'
'Not just bits and pieces but the whole thing? I mean the whole whole thing?'
'That's right. And we can still meet our deadline.'
'December 2006? Two years? We can rewrite the entire Windows operating system in two years?'
'Sure. We're Microsoft and we can do anything.'
'Oh. Of course. But why do we want to do this? What's going to be different this time? Why is it such a good idea?'
Allchin took a deep breath. This was the hardest part of the pitch. 'I got this guy working for us now. He's from Bombay. He's pretty smart. His English is still broken but he's on the ball. He's got a new system development model and I'd like to use it. Honestly, it's about our only chance. Google and Apple have totally fucked us up until now.'
The virtual knight squirmed in his seat. 'OK, go on - you've got my attention', he lied.
'Well I'll keep it simple because I know you prefer things told like that. This guy from Bombay has a way of automating the module integration process. As each module of code is added to the mix, it gets tested on the spot for potential bugs. And if there are too many bugs, it won't be accepted into the system build.'
'But then the system won't run', cracked Gates wisely and thought he finally had the upper hand.
'Oh no! Oh no!' squealed Allchin. 'That's the beauty of it! For the construction of the Windows system is reorganised in such a way that it can always run, no matter how many modules get rejected!'
Gates stared at Allchin a long time, ostensibly deep in thought. 'You're shitting me', he said at last. 'This is some kind of practical joke.'
'Oh no! No no! This is very real! I've seen it! And it works!'
Gates leaned forward in his seat. 'So you're telling me that if we go ahead with this new idea of yours and this guy from Bombay - what exactly are you telling me?'
Allchin took another deep breath. 'Look: Longhorn is shit. It sucks. It's never going to work. There are way too many bugs in there. We'll never find even a fraction of them all. The more new features we add on, the worse it gets. We have to start thinking differently right now or we're screwed. If we adopt this Bombay guy's idea, we can assemble the OS piece by piece and be fairly sure it's going to work and work good.'
Gates looked over at his Windows XP desktop. Notepad was frozen again due to lack of activity. He issued the three finger salute and looked again at Allchin.
'How is this all going to be organised?'
'Oh the Bombay guy. He'll do it. He's got just one request though.'
'Well he likes to do outdoor grill parties. He has to spend a lot of time at home doing burgers and teriyaki chicken and things like that. But he'll have his Windows notebook with him at the grill at all times and he'll be able to monitor the progress of our builds.'
'OK, but internally? Where is all this data going to reside?'
'Oh in the Registry. With COM. Like always.'
'So we'll still have a vulnerable system from that standpoint?'
'I suppose so. We could always change the Registry architecture later on if we made it into a module like everything else.'
'And our legacy file systems? If users still need these file systems, they're never going to be secure, are they?'
'Well no, but can't we take things one step at a time?'
'Sure. So you want my go-ahead on this one, Jim?'
'I'd appreciate it. We have a lot of work to do.'
'OK, but I'd still like a few people to continue work on the old Longhorn in parallel. No use scrapping all that code right away.'
'Right', said Allchin and left the office to tell everyone the good news.
Fast forward back to the present, early December 2006. Longhorn - now called Vista - is almost ready. The Bombay guy is hard at work on a mild Saturday at home, basting teriyaki chicken and watching his Windows notebook screen.
Module after module comes up. It's being compiled. It's being linked. It's being rebased. It's being added to the mix.
Several hours go by and then the first phase is complete. The phone rings and the Bombay guy's wife brings it out to him.
'Ready for the acceptance phase?' a voice says.
'Ready!' says the Bombay guy, hands the receiver back to his wife, and hits a key on his notebook keyboard.
The screen lights up, line after line of incomprehensible gobbledegook in Sanskrit flashes by. Five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour - finally it stops. And his screen is totally blank. He yells to his wife to bring the phone and he dials a number. It's the voice as before that picks up.
'My screen is blank! What the ^%&! happened?'
'We're not sure. We're looking into it now. It seems we've run into issues in the acceptance phase. Most of these modules had just too many bugs.'
'Well surely something must be salvageable! I should have a Vista login screen - all I've got is a black desktop! Nothing on it!'
'Hold on a sec.' The line went dead for a couple of minutes, then the voice came back.
'Hit Enter', it said.
'What?' screamed the Bombay guy. 'Do what?'
'Hit Enter', the voice repeated. 'Evidently there was one module that was saved, and you have to hit Enter to make it work. We're looking at it now but we can't make heads or tails out of it. Maybe you can. Hit Enter - just hit Enter and you'll see for yourself.'
The Bombay guy hit Enter, and in the upper left corner of his screen, in green text on the same black background, he could read:
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