Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Why do engineers feel a visceral urge to frack with things that work?


Ok.
I'm old.
But seriously.
Why do engineers feel the urge to frack with stuff that works?
It's not broken, so just don't fix it.

Example 1:
Decades ago when most people wehere struggling to get to grips with Windows 3.1 I was administering hundreds of Unix workstations across dozens of minesites across Australia.
Mining engineers aren't dumb.
And they have this visceral urge to change stuff.
To fix stuff.
Stuff that don't need fixing.
So one day, around 1990 I think, I turned up at a minesite and was given the task of figuring out why this program wasn't working.
I looked at the code and thought "Ah. This is C. I know C."
I tried to figure out why the program wasn't working.
We didn't have IDEs in those days (unless you include VisualAge) so all I had was vi.
Nothing worked.
It wouldn't compile.
The error messages didn't make sense.
After about 10 minutes I looked at the code in detail and saw that it was including a header.
Which was a *massive* list of macros.
Which made Pascal look like C.
WTF?
Why?
If you're writing code in C why use a pascal compiler?
If you have to macro a language to look like another you're using the wrong language.
Needless to say I fixed it...
But I asked myself: "Why the frack do people frack with stuff?"

Example 2:
On another minesite.
I sat down in front of this machine.
I opened an xterm and typed a command.
Utter garbage.
I stared uncomprehendingly at the keyboard.
WTF?
It took a while before I realised that the main user of this machine preferred French.
So he had remapped every key on a standard US keyboard to a French keyboard.
Why?
Needless to say I fixed it...
I asked myself: "Why the frack do people frack with stuff?"

Example 3:
Yet another minesite.
I opened an xterm and typed a command.
Utter garbage.
I stared uncomprehendingly at the keyboard.
WTF?
The user had a shed load of aliases that changed just about every Unix command to a DOS command.
Worse they had remapped every key to do something Emacsey.
Home? No... That means history -25 lines.
Left arrow? No... That means last command.
Why?
Worse was that he had aliased vi to emacs.
WHY?
Is it that hard to type emacs instead of vi?
Needless to say I fixed it...
I asked myself: "Why the frack do people frack with stuff?"

IT FRICKIN WORKS OUT OF THE BOX.
STOP FRACKIN WITH IT.
DEAL.

And that brings us to today.
I'm ripping our humungous DVD collection to drobos.
So I have a Mac with NO CHANGES AT ALL.
My /etc/bashrc and .bash_login are minimal to say the least.
The only changes I make are to map MP3, M3U8 and M4V to VLC.
Ok.
So I enlist my husbands Mac to help rip some DVDs.
Sit in front of it.
Log in.
And stare uncomprehendingly at the screen.
He's mapped every hot corner possible.
He's changed the Application menu to something incomprehensible.
He's changed just about everything that can be changed.
WTF?
Why?
STOP IT.
JUST STOP IT.
PLEASE.
FOR WOTANS SAKE.
It's not necessary.
And it makes life frackin difficult for others.
JUST STOP IT.
IF IT AIN'T BROKE DON'T FIX IT.

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