Halloween trick – or treat?

A week of IT

Halloween trick – or treat?

Software QA can be a thankless and even monkish task. A good QA tester will understand the development process well and be able to ferret out the bugs that hide in software and only emerge when a strange and unusual set of factors coincide.

Some bugs are so well hidden that no QA tester can be expected to dig them out. Take, for example, the bug that bit Apple’s Mail client on the last hour of Halloween. At 11pm on October 31, Mac users reported Mail suddenly started using 100% of available CPU capacity. Many spent an hour trying to track down the problem only to find that it disappeared as soon as November 1 rolled around.

A thread on Apple’s online discussion boards tracks the responses of users around the globe as CPU usage suddenly skyrockets. The bug was first noticed in Europe (obviously Mac users in Oceania and Asia have better things to do than read email on a Sunday night) and was then observed in the US, exactly as predicted in the thread.

But how did such a bug end up in Mail at all? Why would an email client go into CPU overdrive? Was it caused by code left by a mischievous — or superstitious — Apple developer? Is there something weird about a month with five Sundays?

The thread concludes with an observation that some countries finished daylight saving that day, so October 31 had 25 hours. Maybe so — although we’re grateful to the developers who managed not to subject NZ Mac users to the same problem when daylight saving finished here.

Clerics mull email divorces

An Muslim Indian man, now resident in the US, divorced his former wife by email, but Muslim clerics are debating whether such a means of divorce is legitimate. The Hindustan Times has reported that Rahat Iqbal was divorced via email by her husband, six years after he migrated to the US, leaving her in India. One cleric has said that since emails don't contain handwritten signatures, her husband would need to confirm the divorce, preferably by phoning her. The email would also have to contain the words talaq, talaq, talaq — "I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you." Another cleric states the divorce would need to be handwritten, so that the wife could recognise her husband's writing, while a third points out that the "triple talaq" way of divorce is a Sunni Muslim trait not practised by Shia Muslims. The Hindustan Times notes Malaysia (perhaps typically) has a legislative solution — the government there has already banned the practice of email and text message-based divorcing.

Lift(ing) security?

Overheard as a Computerworld journalist was getting into a lift accompanied by two or three others: an IT support person yelling across the reception area to one of the lift occupants that he was going to install a new printer driver and what was her network password?

In a display of quick thinking, security-conscious behaviour, she calmly looked around the lift and out across reception and offered a response. “I’ll tell you later when I get back — and I’m not surrounded by people.”

More PR professionalism

A local PR consultant last week phoned a Computerworld journo, and then the editor, asking why we weren't attending a launch event to be held later that week.

It was pointed out that Computerworld had already published the story three weeks before, so what was the news value to be gained by attending the official morning tea and biscuit launch?

Stunned silence at the other end of the phone, followed by “Still it’s a pity you can’t make it along.”

What he really meant was "A pity you can't boost the numbers so I look good to my client." Maybe instead of charging by the six minute block, PR consultants are now charging on a per head basis?

Have legs, will spam

Spam should be universally hated and we shouldn’t laugh at any of it. But one of our staffers admits to seeing the funny side — behind some irritation — of being accused of uttering language unacceptable to the proprietor of a porn-related site.

He received three identical messages from an individual he has never communicated with, saying his recent emails had been rejected on grounds of “unacceptable content”. The alleged recipient was clearly the webmaster of a site. Our man couldn’t resist taking a look — as the sender of the rejection doubtless meant him to do.

The site consists of a list of pointers to erotic resources, and is clearly designed to deliver teasers to drum up custom. We must say, though, it’s mild as far as that genre of sites goes; the listings do not include any images and avoid the classic four-letter words.

In view of our certain knowledge that we had never communicated with the man in question, we did wonder whether an action for forgery or possibly defamation would "have legs" (as the ancient Egyptians used to say).

It might be a useful test case to see whether the sending of the message can be construed as an act done in New Zealand’s jurisdiction, but seeing that the whois contact for the site proprietor is a snail-mail address at some dot of an island in the Caribbean, we don’t rate our chances.

Any local lawyer feel like a bit of “pro-bono” work?

Optimists, pessimists, engineers

“To an optimist, the glass is half full. To a pessimist, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”

– Seen on Ben Hammersley’s weblog, and apparently doing the rounds by email. (To journalists, of course, the glass invariably needs a top-up with something a little more fortifying.)

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