atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#5433: The center cannot hold-- (Oh, shut up.)

I may be misremembering, but I do not reall this kind of thing happening before this century. And this makes the second time it's happened within a year.

Actually, more than the second:

In October, United flights were delayed for hours because of a computer problem, causing a social media firestorm. United said it experienced an issue with its weight reporting system that was later resolved.

In September, British Airways suffered a computer problem that caused delays and long lines at airports in the United States and Europe.

In August, Delta was forced to cancel around 2,000 flights after a major system failure. That came only a few weeks after an outage caused more than 1,000 cancellations at Southwest Airlines.
During an idle moment the other day I was considering what "mission critical" actually meant, in terms of doing things like launching satellites into orbit, and it occurred to me that some businesses overuse the term, and others do not. Okay: if the failure of a single piece of hardware can cause your business to come to a screeching halt, there should be multiple redundancies to prevent that.

Example: long ago enough that they still used tubes in transmitters, there was an interruption of the broadcast of a football game because a power tube blew. Transmission cut for perhaps thirty seconds, during which the technicians figured out there was a problem, and rectified it. An executive then came into the engineering booth and demanded to see the part that had just cost the network a qaurter of a million dollars.

Who was it last year? Delta? I don't remember, but United is the second example of this kind of thing happening, and prior to this century I don't recall there ever being system-wide disruptions of air travel because of an "IT glitch".

And, not to put too fine a point on it, it's not a "glitch" if it brings your entire corporation to a screeching halt. Okay, you hit "send" on your e-mail client and for some reason the client crashes after sending the e-mail, that's a "glitch", especially if the problem rarely occurs. Forcing a complete ground stop on several billion dollars' worth of airplanes is a bit bigger than a glitch.


One may assume that the business of moving people and freight around via air is no less important and lucrative than it was two decades ago. Certainly, we know the result of three days' worth of inactivity on the airline industry in 2001: they all had to declare bankruptcy. (And there went my cushy tech writing job.) One may also therefore assume that the airlines care very deeply about not having this kind of thing happen.

The fact that these things have been happening, regardless of the (assumed) desire of the parties involved to avoid it, would seem to indicate that they can't help it. When, formerly, they could.

You do the math.

Certainly infrastructure spending is part of it, but it's not US government infrastructure that's to blame for this kind of thing.

When I do my job, I do it on a typical office computer. I don't do anything graphics intensive, nor do I do anything requiring a lot of processing power. A typical office desktop computer ought to be up to snuff. But no matter which computer I use, no matter what desk I sit at, I wait for things to happen. The machines are old enough that they came either with Windows Vista or Windows 7 on them (look at the stickers on the front of the case) but they feature multicore processors. They're highly locked down so there's no real way to tell, but I'd wager the real problem here is that the machines simply don't have enough RAM in them. Adding a couple of gigabytes would go a long way towards improving the performance of the computers, but of course that would cost money...and apparently someone's decided it's cheaper to have a couple hundred agents wait fifteen seconds every time they click something than it is to upgrade a couple hundred computers to 4 GB of RAM.

So, I'm not sure what the problem is at the airlines. Is it because their stuff is too old? Or is it because it's all too new and they're having trouble getting the bugs out? I know what I suspect...and that's why I'm saying what I'm saying here, which is that infrastructure is vital, yet no one cares about maintaining it. "We can get another few years out of that computer!" can doom you as surely as "This is the latest thing!" can.

* * *

As for me, I sure didn't manage anything today. Got up, called off, went back to bed for another seven up for a couple hours, flopped around uselessly the entire time, then went back to bed for another four hours. That's at least 16 hours of sleep today.

Since Thursday I have ached all over. My entire skeleton hurts, just aching with fatigue, like you feel when you have the flu. It's worst in my arms; when I went back to bed this morning I was wishing for some Vicodin, and it goes from shoulders to fingertips. It's even in my back, from neck to midsection; and of course on top of that I've had a headache of varying intensity the entire time.

But nothing else. No cold symptoms, no gut symptoms, just the crushing fatigue. The hypochondriac in me has already identified three or four possible fatal diseases which could cause that, but the most likely explanation is a lot simpler: I have the flu, and either the other symptoms haven't hit yet, or else it's highly similar to a strain I've had before and this is my body's response to it.

Regardless, I dragged myself to work Friday and Saturday, but failed my Will save today.

* * *

I got one sentence into the "burn down the library" vignette before I ran out of steam. Here it is in all its glory:
Zoot, Lackey, Stick, and Al were bored.
I am a genius.

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