Thursday, November 22, 2007

Press Save to Reboot

I had to update a Notice today because Sun finally fixed a bug which we reference because, well, it fucks up $OurBigApp rather severely. I'd been putting it off for a few days since I'm so backlogged but I finally got it sorted. When I went to save the doc in Word, I did what I always do: hit control-S. And my desktop rebooted. Firefox may have a session restore but there's no such thing in Notepad. Three blog entries must now be rewritten from scratch.

Little has changed on the customer front:
"We want to do the impossible."
"But we want to."
"We NEED to."
"Not acceptable. You have to make it work!"

Right. I need to figure out a way for them to reboot a server on which persistent, interactive user sessions are running without those sessions being killed. I'm a big fan of String Theory (not surprisingly I'm in the M-Theory camp) and I know there are two ways that this problem can be resolved:
  1. Move to a different universe. Since they've imagined such a thing being possible there is a chance which is ever-so-slightly greater than zero that one of the other possible universes allows the rebooting of Windows 2003 servers while managing to maintain secure persistent sessions.

  2. Keep rebooting. Thanks to Uncertainty, sooner or later you'll reboot that server and the sessions will all remain connected. This may involve some creative use of a wormhole in conjunction with the server or router, but it may be possible to achieve once before our own galaxy is ripped to shreds or possibly incorporated into the Andromeda galaxy. On a bright note, should the galaxies collide our Sun should still have a couple billion years left in the main sequence before going all red giant on us. At that point any concerns about session persistence after reboots will likely be moved to the back burner, so to speak.
I'd strongly recommend the second solution since it's more likely to occur. I've experienced something similar myself. Back in the early '80s I was sitting at a Moon Cresta video game and had only a couple dollars left in my pocket. Only a couple days before I'd dealt with a weird error on a prototype board we'd built. Even though we were doing chip resets and warm reboots, we hadn't bothered to run a RAM-clearing routine because, well, you expect 4116s and 4164s to be full of 0s when you turn them on. Not so. An idea formed.

I started switching the game off and on very quickly. This generally resulted in garbage on the screen that self-corrected within 10 seconds, but after a minute of this I'd jumbled a name in the high score table. I kept switching the game off and on and finally it worked: the machine came up with 42 credits. I got very good at Moon Cresta that day and was able to sell the remaining 20 credits.

True, RAM is usually cleared before the OS starts, but if it's a really fast reboot, maybe -- just maybe -- those persistent sessions will remain connected. I'd sooner believe that Microsoft will one day write a truly professional server OS that doesn't need constant rebooting and even if they manage that, it's guaranteed to come with a Teletubbies UI. But hope springs eternal, right? Right?



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