Mo Bitar

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Notes to self. Working on Standard Notes, a simple and private notes app.

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The Secret Life of Software Bugs

Bugs simply do not reveal themselves to me when using my own product. They cower in fear, knowing somehow their all-powerful, all-punishing creator is watching, ready to descend upon them in wrath and eliminate their existence. No, my creations hide from me. Instead, they are attracted to my users. Poor, helpless users who do not have the tools to squash these creepy crawlers.

Some bugs are bewildering. A user will have found some way to place his app in an impossibly invalid state. My goal is to replicate his world using the clues I am provided. Tragically, the solution always lies not in what the user tells me, but in what they don’t tell me. The missing link is always some small, insignificant detail no one thinks is important enough to bring up.

A special few bugs are long term mysteries that can be solved only through divine intervention. Every day I’ll collect clues and pin new suspects on my investigation board. I have to be getting close.

Other bugs seemingly discover ways to transcend their given abilities. They do things that are just not supposed to be possible. This bug might set some text to a red color, but you search your code and find no where at all where the color red is used. How can this possibly be? You begin questioning your own sanity. And no doubt, your sanity does not escape these experiences unscathed.

You never do find what made the text go red. You’re in your late eighties now, sitting by a warm fire on a snowy day. You’ve long retired from the treacherous craft of bug-hunting—that was of another life. Snowflakes play through your window like a screensaver. The sound of hissing heat from your stovetop fills the room, and your teapot begins to whistle softly. Here and now, as you come to terms with the end of your life, somewhere atop a remote snowcapped mountain on the edge of the world, it hits you—the hex code for red is #F00. F00 was the default color value in case the input was null. You thought it said “FOO”, so you ignored it. In that moment, your heart accelerates. You fall to the ground with hands held against your chest. The camera switches to an aerial view, and lingers briefly on your face, then begins receding slowly.

You lived a good life. But alas,—your bugs did too.


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