Buggy milk cartons, beeping computers, and other silliness


Some time ago, there was a performance-related bug that went something like this:

mm/dd/yy Created by bob
The attached file contains a dataset that takes a very long time to process.

The engineer who fixed the problem decided to take the cryptic approach:

mm/dd/yy Resolved as fixed by alice
It got better.

It was a common practice during highly stressful periods to file humorous bugs in the defect tracking system, and once the initial bug was filed, it turned into a sort of collaborative performance effort.

For some reason, milk is often a trigger.

Many years ago, the vendor who supplies milk to Microsoft changed the design of their milk cartons, and the new cartons were significantly harder to open than the old cartons. (Apparently they bought a new machine, and the glue level needed to be tuned.) This naturally inspired people to do what they usually do when they see something amiss: File a bug.

More than one person was inspired to file a milk carton bug, but probably the most famous one is the one reprinted by Korby Parnell back in 2003.

Kraig Brockschmidt describes an earlier milk carton bug:

A friend of mine who worked as a tester on Microsoft Excel once logged a bug against the cartons of milk in the free drink coolers. He noticed that the chocolate milk failed to list the ingredient "cocoa" whereas the plain 2% milk did. An intense discussion in raid [the defect tracking system] over the relative merits of these "features" continued for three or four weeks and involved as many as a fifteen different engineers. I think it set some kind of record. Anyway, someone finally went so far as to notify the dairy itself and the bug was closed as "won't fix—assigned to vendor."

(In the years since the original story occurred, our defect tracking system gained a new resolution class, and today it would be resolved as "external—assigned to vendor.")

Over in the languages group, there was a bug that went roughly "IDE fails to beep when build is finished." Nobody can find a copy of the bug any more, it having been archived away ages ago, but one of my colleagues recalls that it went something like this:

  • Start a build.
  • Leave office to get a beverage from the kitchen.
  • Return to office.
  • Observe that build has finished, but no beep was heard.

One person resolved the bug "Not Repro" because they stood just outside the office and clearly heard the beep, but that led to a debate over how far from the office you needed to be in order to reproduce the bug. Things got sillier and sillier until someone finally closed the bug after claiming to have taken their computer out to the forest behind the building and started the compilation. When they returned 30 minutes later, they found that a tree had fallen on the machine.

I admire the philosophical resolution to that one.

Bonus content: Mark Lambert posted the text of the "IDE fails to beep" bug.

Comments (13)
  1. Joshua says:

    Tvtropes link broken. Inserting a t in the obvious place results in a valid link that appears to be talking about something else.

  2. parkrrrr says:

    TVTropes renames topics to be more stodgy from time to time. I believe the correct link is tvtropes.org/.../UnexplainedRecovery

  3. Andre N. says:

    Hey, my chocolate milk bug!  That happened somewhere between 1993 and 1995.  If I remember correctly, an Excel developer, Ross, called up Darigold to tell them about the issue.  It took well over a month before the "fixed" cartons of milk actually showed up in the coolers.

  4. ptousig says:

    At one time, our WarTeam demanded that any server down time have a bug associated with it, for tracking purposes.

    This led to this bug:

       To repro:

    - Upgrade server

    - Wait for 6 days

       Result:

    - Spontaneous combustion in the uninterruptible power supply

       Expected:

    - Power to stay up

    After being bounced around a few teams, it was eventually resolved "Not Repro".

  5. alegr1 says:

    So that's why Explorer crashing bug was never fixed. Because your guys are screwing around.

  6. Torkell says:

    One bug I've seen go by was titled something like "My server ate my build CD". What had happened is someone, when doing an install on a HP DL380 (probably a G4) server, had managed to miss the laptop-style CD tray and instead had slid the CD into the gap between the top of the drive and the case such that it disappeared into the server. They then ended up rather confused for a bit trying to work out where the CD had gone.

  7. Sam says:

    Actually the chocolate milk bug is more serious than you might expect. Incorrect ingredients is a violation of FDA food labeling regulations. Of course people would expect cocoa in chocolate milk, but there are semi-regular recalls for stuff that might cause allergies like undeclared nuts.

    Example: http://www.fda.gov/.../ucm391106.htm

  8. Mark Lambert says:

    I still have a copy of this bug, I've uploaded it here:

    nonodes.spunow.co.uk/.../a-bug-report-i-helped-write-made.html

  9. Thomas Rushton says:

    I was just coming here to say "I knew one of the guys on that IDE fails to beep if no-one's listening" bug, but I see he's beaten me to it.  Hi Mark!

  10. Steve says:

    @Mark Lambert

    I got super-excited when one of my submissions (not, I hasten to add, some of my code) made the front page of TheDailyWTF.

    But you, sir, have made TheOldNewThing, and in the face of such superiority I can but salute you and humbly withdraw ...

  11. Timo Kinnunen says:

    Lost it at "the vendor who supplies milk to Microsoft". That's a joke that doesn't need a punch-line.

  12. There is no shortage of "silliness"-class posts on this blog. Try posting about someone having done something ingenious for a change.

    [I guess you haven't noticed that Tuesday is "silly day". This year April Fool's day was a Tuesday, so it was double-silly. Also, I'm more confident I won't get in trouble for revealing a silly thing than an ingenious thing. (Silly things are less likely to be trade secrets.) -Raymond]
  13. lol says:

    obvious troll is obvious

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