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Ask Slashdot: Where's the Most Unusual Place You've Written a Program From? 310

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-get-zero-points-if-you-answer-starbucks dept.
theodp writes: "Michael Raithel was polling the SAS crowd, but it'd be interesting to hear the answers to the programming questions he posed from a broader audience: 1. What is the most unusual location you have written a program from? 2. What is the most unusual circumstance under which you have written a program? 3. What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a program from? 4. What is the most unusual application program that you wrote?"
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Ask Slashdot: Where's the Most Unusual Place You've Written a Program From?

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  • Caravan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by millwall (622730) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:30AM (#47162737)
    As a consultant in the UK I once worked for a council, programming out of a small caravan. It was cold, wet, and to add to the eeriness one of the guys there kept a collection of jars of pickled eggs on his table.
  • My Job (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cyclomedia (882859) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:31AM (#47162743) Homepage Journal

    Just my job, generally. They've no idea how to run a software business, think agile means throwing a constant stream of changing requirements and bugs at you until the minute before "go live" ... then they get annoyed at YOU for not being able to put out an emergency patch release within 24 horus (took me two weeks to track down and destroy a nasty bug, but that was my bad, apparently, not management for letting a piece of shit out the door). then there's finding out that our Prototype area of the system is being released to the public in a fortnight. Via a press release that one of our team happened to notice. And then there's the fact that despite my recommendations the manager decided the best platform was Silverlight with a VB backend. Oh and instead of using the .Net EntityFramework or in fact ANY standard components we'd write our own from scratch. Then be stuck with it for 3 years.

  • modified (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:33AM (#47162753)

    I didn't write the program, actually a script, but I did modify it to run on a Kindle. The epaper version with a keyboard. Needed some sort of calculations done while traveling without a laptop. Some sort of one line script, but the simplest solution was to take an existing sample script and modify hard coded numbers.

    Yes, modifying a script with a web based editor on an epaper device is a bit awkward. But it got the job done.

  • by Torp (199297) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:38AM (#47162767)

    When I do yearly oil changes and stuff like that it ain't worth going back home in a cab, or getting someone to drive me away, so I just take my laptop, find a quiet-ish corner and make a customer happy.

  • On the Toilet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by necronom426 (755113) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:38AM (#47162771)

    I once wrote the formula for a gravity routine while on the toilet, for a tank game written in Amiga Basic. It was in my head, so I had to quickly get back the the keyboard to type it in before I forgot it :-)

  • by Torp (199297) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @05:40AM (#47162785)

    As for most unusual circumstances, about 15 years ago me and the owner (and also programmer) of the company i was working for at the time fixed in 15 minutes a bug that neither of us had been able to fix in the last 2 weeks sober. It was 3 am and we were both dead drunk as we were celebrating someone's birthday at the office :)

  • Wind Industry (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DeathToBill (601486) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:04AM (#47162849) Journal

    1. From inside the base of a wind turbine tower in rural Inner Mongolia province, China. Or, alternatively, from a caravan in the middle of a forest in Eastern Finland in the middle of winter - minus 30 C outside.

    2. While nearly frozen to death (see 1b).

    3. Wrote a program from? Or wrote a program for? The latter is probably a Danish PLC which I will not name here. It has an in-house OS with an in-house executable format which is based on ELF, loosely enough that none of the standard ELF tools work on it. A serial console is the only debugging interface available. An actual debugger is out of the question. All debugging output is truncated to 20 characters. The thing has a 100MHz CPU and all floating-point math is done in software (no FPU). Its reaction to almost any programming error is to hard reboot (and "programming error" here includes calling printf with any but the most basic formatting string). Perhaps most frustratingly, when it hard reboots it claims to write a stack trace of the faulting code; about 4 times in 5, this is truncated to some extent, often to only the first function in the stack.

    4. A Windows programme to drive EtherCAT IO modules from a standard Ethernet socket.

    Do I win?

  • by Candlelight (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Demerara (256642) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:24AM (#47162905) Homepage

    I spent some time writing billing data analysis by candlelight. This, of itself, is not unusual in a developing country (where I lived at the time). But since the client was the electricity company and it was their data being analysed, the irony was not lost on my client who insisted that I never mention this fact to anyone... Well, that's all over now!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:26AM (#47162913)
    In a very expensive 6DOF full motion flight simulator capsule with projectors whilst the motion platform was malfunctioning, all jittery. Was easier to boot up Visual Studio on the system driving the projectors used for visuals and motion then it was elsewhere, so here I was coding in a cockpit that was being thrown about waiting for me to fix it, examining debug data.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:33AM (#47162929)

    Dripping with sweat, inside a demountable building with no air con and 12 other programmers + machines (including CRT monitors, heat makers that they are) in the middle of a large black-tar carpark in the middle of an Australian summer.

    The company we worked for was trying to get us to quit, so they dumped us there.

    We quickly reasoned that if they were prepared to pay us for working in debilitating conditions, we were going to take their money and produce the small amount of work it was possible to get done under those circumstances.

    Work attire was the first thing to go, replaced by shorts and hawaiian shirts. Management dropped in and threatened to put a mark on our files - prelude to being allowed to terminate our employment - until we pointed out that it was not in their interest for us to get the work safe authority involved.

    This continued for several months while our effective output dropped to near zero, but they were still paying us.

    Management blinked first. One lunchtime we all watched while the biggest forklift I've ever seen picked up the whole demountable and carried it inside one of the warehouses on site, where it became our home for the next couple of years.

    The warehouse was used for military storage. One day I came into work and looked over at Mark.

    "Hey, Mark" I yelled out.

    "Whaddya want?" he said

    "OK, " I replied, "follow these instructions. Put your chair in front of your monitor. Look at your screen. Now, swivel 90 degrees left".

    Mark was a sport, so he did all that.... pointed straight at his head on the other side of his window was some sort of military artillery cannon. He screamed and fell off his chair. How we all laughed!

  • LP Mud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:44AM (#47162951) Homepage

    So this is more of an "unusual way to patch a system" story...

    Back in the day, I used to code for an LP mud, and I accidentally locked myself - and everyone else who wasn't already logged in - out of the mud. The guy who could reboot the thing was often inaccessible, and there was only one person - another wizard (coder) - still logged in, coding away and oblivious to what had just transpired. I managed to get him to resolve the problem by inserting a file in his working directory called "(His name)_PLEASE_DO_NOT_LOG_OUT,_READ_THIS_IMMEDIATELY!!!.txt", which explained the problem and how to fix it. Half an hour later, he noticed the file and undid my mess ;)

    The problem was the consequence of a coding arms race (oh, coding for LP muds was so dang fun.... every instantiated class object is treated as a physical object, its functions can be bound to user commands, and you can override the default interaction functions). Wizards (coders) often made "dest" tools - tools designed to destruct player objects, aka, kick them (temporarily) off the mud and make them have to log back in. Often they were done with artistic fluorishes, such as a long leadup sequence.

    My friend at the time - oh, let's just pick a name nobody would realistically have and call him "Elim" - created this elaborate dest, wherein the target sees him pick up a flower and play "she loves me / she loves me not" with it, and when the last petal is plucked ("she loves me not"), the target would get kicked off. After he used it on me once, I wrote a counter tool which would detect when he was using his dest, and instead kick him off instead with my parody of his dest**. So he wrote an alternative dest tool, which would instantly kick me off without any leadup to detect, and do the flourishes afterward. So I wrote a tool which would be invisible and hop into his inventory and detect when he tried to use his dest tool, take precedence, and kick him off instead; plus a tool that would sit in my inventory and look for any unexpected objects and instantly destruct them. And on and on the code war went. The problem that one night, however, was when a bug led to my inventory-protector desting me and thus dropping to the floor, where it would wait to destruct any objects it could see in the same room (thinking the room was my inventory). And stupid me was coding in the login room at that time (which led to a new policy, never code in the login room! ;) )

    ** My parody of his dest involved sticking a paralyzation object into his inventory (one that would intercept and ignore all of his commands) and had a giant ogre run into the room, pick him as the flower, and play "She loves me, she loves me not" with his limbs making him randomly scream out for help.

  • by Port-0 (301613) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @06:53AM (#47162967)

    Currently I'm sitting in the rift valley of Kenya, in a small rural Maasai community. We are the last house on the power line. No one south of us has any Utility power. We had a Giraffe just outside the back yard a few days back. Internet is via the cell network... there is a single spot in the yard where I've found 3g works. So I've planted a short pole, which has a power and a spot for the hotspot modem to sit. It's covered with a plastic bottle with the bottom cut out. to keep the rain and dust off.

  • Re:Caravan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SimonInOz (579741) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:11AM (#47163037)

    The inside of a small yacht, crossing the Atlantic.
    I was sailing (an Iroquois 30' cat, in case anyone's interested), and found sight reduction (yes, a sextant was involved) rather tedious. So I wrote a program for my HP calculator to do the calculations.

    Those HP41C calculators were really neat.

  • by arizonahockey (3681531) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @09:15AM (#47163617)
    On Christmas Day 2008 I stepped off a plane at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. After sitting in a cube for the first five years of my career coding, I needed to "go work with some end users" and volunteered to help out the Marine Corps. I was working on the Army Battle Command software of the time, Command Post of the Future. I did not know anything about the military, the ranks, the culture, the protocols. When the first rocket attack alarm sounded (a false alarm), I hightailed it out of the combat operations center where I worked, giving all the seasoned and salty Marines a good laugh. This, and working my ass off coding for them, I guess gets you on their good side. I became part of the team and learned a ton.

    About a month before I left in April, now slightly seasoned myself and quite used to the regular rocket attacks, I was coding up a personnel tracking system in CPOF. For the first time the operations officer could, in real time, know exactly where everyone was for whom he was responsible. It was towards the evening when about 80 meters away you heard the familiar THUD! followed by the alarm 10 seconds later. Not a drill and at this point annoying. Imaging being in the zone for hours, when suddenly you need to stop and run out to a crowded concrete bunker for hours. Damn! I was just about to compile, too. Well, being the operations center, Marines can't just leave. They have to continue running the war. So some them stay with the helmet and vest in case of a direct hit in the operations center.

    Some time later I finally returned and say the assist operations officer, a very tall Marine Major (now LtCol) and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, taking off his battle rattle. I notice a tomahawk on the back of his vest.

    "Sir, what's up with the tomahawk?".

    "This? Oh, I was platoon leader in Fallujah. Our designation was tomahawk and I was tomahawk-6." I smiled in genuine amazement which quickly turned to sadness.

    "That is so cool! All I've done so far in my life is sit in a cube coding."

    The Major stepped back and said "Wait a minute, you were just coding, weren't you?"

    "Yes. The perstat program for the OpsO."

    "Well, you were just coding under ENEMY FIRE. You are a COMBAT SOFTWARE ENGINEER!". He said with the seriousness you sometimes see in Marine Corps officers. It put the biggest smile on my face for the rest of my time there. On my last day, the team I worked with gave me a flag and plaque designating me a "Combat Software Engineer" which to this day is one of my most cherished possessions.

  • by netsavior (627338) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @09:51AM (#47163845)
    When we adopted my daughter, we were not allowed to leave the hotel grounds for 2 weeks, until some specific paperwork went through (or else it was considered felony kidnapping).

    The bank I was working for had this horrible transaction system that had a whole bunch of bugs and was written in a dead language (VB6, oh the humanity). I already had a Java stack running another newer arm of the application. When I landed, I learned that the whole time I was flying out there, I had been getting panicked emails from the higher-ups about how the whole world was finally falling down with this old VB6 horrorshow.

    I rewrote the whole thing. From top to bottom, replaced nearly a million lines of legacy code, in a 2 week feverpitch of sleepless nights and rocking a 2 day old baby in my arms while running unit tests.

    I worked with that application for 6 more years after that... and never had to change a single line of that "Adoption hostage" code. I'm actually shocked it went so well, looking back on it.
  • Tent in Djibouti (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @09:53AM (#47163863)

    I got deployed to Djibouti while working on my masters degree. Can't get a masters in math without programming. Can't put any unauthorized software on government computers. VBA in excel was my programming language. It was horrible, but it made me learn.

  • Submarine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @10:58AM (#47164301) Homepage

    *shrug* I wrote several programs for my Tandy PC-2 [oldcomputers.net]* inside a nuclear submarine (mumble) feet beneath your keel. I also diddled around with BASIC on the IBM-PC clone that Squadron bought and provided to the boats.

    * Obtained from my housemate in exchange for paying up his share of the rent. J. actually one of the best housemates I ever had other than his habit of occasionally blowing his paycheck on some new shiny.

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