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Much fun was had last week when the Fish4 jobs website temporarily sank beneath the waves with only a very amusing error message bubbling to the surface.

Seems the site was taken out by the failure of "a very expensive piece of Sun hardware". When the engineer showed up to fix same, he'd not brought the parts he needed.

Fish4's admin staff, obviously more than a little irritated, decided to share their pain with the world and posted a very pissy little note explaining the lack of website to job hunters and workerseekers.

But while we chortled away to ourselves, not everyone thought the Fish4 admin had a leg to stand on:

Re: The greatest error message of all time?

Whether the Sun E6900 is an "Extreme Enterprise Powerhouse" is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that it is a single midrange server. It makes no claim to be failsafe, and even if it did, "failsafe" server can fail too.

So let's add some reality to Fish4's hubris:

"Thank you for coming to fish4 this morning. Unfortunately, the Fish4 website is unavailable this morning due to some incredibly bad planning on our part. We thought that a midrange server was a miraculous piece of equipment which never failed, so we decided that we didn't need a redundant solution. A Sun engineer is onsite, but didn't bring every single piece of hardware which might have failed! How inconsiderate of him not to carry a semi-trailer of spares around with him."

Back to reality...

I remember seeing one major SP datacentre where a steam filled pipe broken, spraying carbon-contaminated steam through every single piece of equipment in the room, including several Tandem Nonstops. If that had been Fish4, I'm sure they'd be blaming Tandem for the lack of a waterproof option.

Lesson in reality folks: hardware fails. Even failsafe hardware can fail. Datacenters can have catastrophic failures too. Competent companies - a group clearly not including Fish4 - engineer solutions around these realities.

This isn't the greatest error message of all time. It's just hubris and stupidity.

Ian


Very one sided story -- let any system architect respond and if one's business service is going down because of issues related to one server, sounds like a very POOR architecture.

-jason


Regarding the problem with the Fish4 website (as per http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/13/fish4_goes_down/), I have a couple of comments:

1. Sun engineers never carry the parts with them - they get them delivered direct to the customer from stores by courier. Admittedly, this isn't always foolproof, but it's not the engineer's fault.

2. Any 24x7 website which is wholly reliant on one server is insane... there should be, at the very least, some kind of disaster recovery position at a different site. Servers will break and will require downtime (even just for patching) and if they didn't allow for this, they deserve everything they get.

Jake


Many of you could see the funny side, though, and when we asked you to send in your favourite error messages, you did. And here they are:


While the fish4 message is indeed a fine example, it cannot replace my long-term favourite.

This is part of the original IBM PC BIOS POST (power-on self-test for non-technical readers):

"Keyboard error or keyboard not found. Press F1 to continue."

When this action fails, I recommend hitting any key, preferably with a sledgehammer.

Paul


Winner for best error message:

Cognos ReportNet RTM version: Error message reads "Error: You should not see this error"

Somewhere a developer sat there and actually wrote that.

Name withheld


"Flickr is having a massage" was actually better me thinks.

Just google the phrase to check the results or have a look at http://ishavingamassage.com/ for instance.

Arjan Bolhuis Amsterdam


I used a homegrown program that could output the following message: "I don't know what you did, but don't do it again!" IMHO, that is the greatest error message of all time :)!

Earl

Oh yes, very humble...


Oh... I can think of one more:

Zone alarm on Windows ME:

"You are not authorized to remember this answer."


We've been told our 404 page is quite funny/irreverent – think it was produced during one of those caffeine fuelled 'late nights' :)

Regards, Stuart


The fish4 error message is pleasing, but not, I think, up with the classics of the past. These sometimes indicated the state of mind of the developers:

"Goddarned caret got misaligned again" (Impression Publisher)

"Guru meditation" (Amiga)

...and of course, the Haiku error messages in NetPositive (BeOS); my favourites were:

The code is willing, It considered your request But the chips were weak.

To have no errors Would be life without meaning No struggle, no joy ...and :

These three are certain: Death, taxes, and site not found. You, victim of one.

There were also messages that were plain unhelpful:

"There were errors" (Amiga)

"Disk not recognized - format? [OK]" (Mac)

"Not enough memory to quit Windows" (Windows 3.11)

"Keyboard not present - press F1 to continue" (various BIOSes)

"Please insert RISC OS 3 ROMs and press any key to continue" (something on the Acorn).

To mix both, one more from NetPositive:

Errors have occurred. We won't tell you where or why. Lazy programmers.

Ah, memory lane. (Please insert more RAM and press F1 to continue.)

-- Andrew

Seven Steps to Software Security

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