Fix It Permanently

I was recently asked to “fix something permanently”. The most polite response I could muster at the time was “I got a sliver again yesterday”. A bit snarky, I guess. Another response that came to mind was “there are permanent fixes, but you’re not going to like any of them”. Too snarky? I thought so.

Technology is complicated. Technology is ever-changing. The only way to avoid the issues altogether is to avoid technology altogether.

I can’t begin to describe the complexity of a single personal computer. There are literally billions of components and millions of lines of code. Subsystem upon subsystem upon subsystem. Knock a bit out somewhere (called a Single Event Upset, ref: The World is Hostile to Computers), and the whole thing can come tumbling down. I’m amazed that computers work at all.

So we do our best, selecting the most stable hardware and software, maintaining that hardware and software, and preparing for issues by having backups and backup plans.

The thing that I was asked to “fix permanently” was a Windows backup over a network to a network drive. (Note: Complexity can be measured in bits, where 1 bit equals 2 combinations, 2 bits equals 4 combinations, etc.) That situation involved a third-party backup software (22M bytes = 200M bits), running on Windows 10 (3500M bytes = 33B bits), running on an Intel processor (roughly 2B transistors = 2B bits), over a network (wired and wireless) with a dozen other devices, and connecting to a NAS (another 200M bits running on a 2B bit operating system, running on 1B transistors). With the combination of all those bits (because they all have to work together), the number of combinations is more than the number of potential slivers on Earth (5×10^45, or 5 followed by 45 zeros vs the number of potentials slivers on earth = 3×10^12 trees x the number of slivers in a tree = 3×10^12 = 9×10^24, or 9 followed by 24 zeros). The network backup worked for 3 years before a problem appeared.

[In the preceding paragraph, M = million and B = billion.)

Of course I could fix my sliver problem permanently, but I don’t like any of my options. I can live with getting slivers.