Tuesday, April 20, 2021|
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|Stupidity Bonus |
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It's the 1990's, and at this electronics manufacturer, all the factory IT systems run on a cluster of VAX minicomputers, says a technician working
"Each software engineer's log-in ID was his last name," tech says. "Thus, the jobs they ran on the computers would show in the process list with their
names on them."
That list is displayed when a particular system command is run. But the monitor command is very resource-intensive, and there's only one person who
uses it except when absolutely necessary. That's the director of manufacturing IT, who runs it constantly.
"Why?" the systems administrator asks the director in a meeting. And the tech overhears the director whispering to his right-hand manager that he uses
it to keep an eye on who's being productive.
Tech is outraged. "This was not a fair measurement of productivity," he says. "An analyst running a data-crunching job would show up prominently on
the director's screen, but an engineer developing real-time code on a piece of manufacturing equipment would never show up. Also, somebody who wrote
shoddy code that took forever to run would be viewed in a more favorable light than somebody who wrote fast, tight code.
"As soon as the meeting was over, I went back to my desk and wrote a simple program that was nothing but an infinite loop. I then set myself up to be
able to launch the command at lowest priority on any computer to run for a random amount of time."
As a result, the tech's program only uses up idle CPU time -- but it always shows up at the top of the CPU-monitor list.
"Then I randomly launched the program on different computers in the cluster at different times," says the tech. "Especially evenings and weekends when
I was working overtime and the director happened to be in as well. I made sure my idle loop was prominently appearing on his screen from several
directions at once.
"For the entire time I worked for that division, I received stellar annual performance reviews. I also received higher-than-average merit pay
increases each year.
"I always wonder how much of that was due to the busy little program."
Received from Thomas Ellsworth.