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Google is not only not evil, it is also human

2009-02-02 by ColasNahaboo in Koala, Tech
As most of you must know by now, Google http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/this-site-may-harm-your-computer-on.html suffered an outage on Jan 31, 2009 that was caused by a simple mistake: the search Goliath depended for its results on a small http://stopbadware.org/ David but didnt properly prepared themselves for the risk of such a dependency on a 3rd-party site. Unbelievably, when the http://stopbadware.com stopbadware site failed to respond (ironically, because a Google bug was DOS-ing them), they decided to... stop serving pages! A saner approach would have been to serve anyways, or perhaps better, reuse a cache of the stopbadware previous results.

Anyways, I was kind of relieved to find that Google was down, because when it happened, I was installing for the first time broadband at my father-in-law house, and not being able to google sent me in a mild panic on trying to understand how a broadband or Vista misconfiguration could result in these strange symptoms! (Well, nothing is impossible with Vista, I know, it can even work sometimes smile

It also brought me memories of a similar blunder I was responsible for at work. I set up a monitoring daemon to check that our vital http://www-sop.inria.fr/acacia/WORKSHOPS/IntraWebs2006/Chat_Intrawebs2006.pdf Intranet Wiki was up. The daemon checked various server health issues, and would eventually restart apache if it could find any other solution. One day, somebody by mistake locked the front page of the wiki so that nobody could see it... and the daemon, unable to see the page, would then endlessly restart apache... The resulting behavior puzzled me quite some time, especially since nobody uses a Wiki front page (everybody dwells in his own little corner) so the main cause was not found immediately... I can see the same human logic here in this bug: we are very bad at expecting the unexpected.

So, whatever you do, take some time to imagine what could go wrong. Expect the unexpected, and even the impossible. I often use an anecdote to bring people to realize this fact: Your computer memory bits can be http://www.ida.liu.se/~abdmo/SNDFT/docs/ram-soft.html changed by cosmic rays or radioactivity ! Now ponder this, and try to imagine how you can be sure of your data if it can be changed in your main computer memory, or hard disk controller, or disk... You will not see the world with the same eyes... and you will double check your monthly bank accounts smile

Topic revision: r15 - 12 Mar 2009, ColasNahaboo
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