Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Are you geeky enough?

Posted by metaphorical on 4 March 2007

You can’t create a measure of geekitude with a single link. This one comes close, though. The link is “How to crash an in-flight entertainment system” on the CSO magazine website.

Here’s a quote a fair bit of it, which will cut into the joy you’ll experience when you read the whole thing. But I promise you it just gets better and better—if you’re geek quotient is sufficiently high. Or, just click here now.

The writer is Hugh Thompson, on a flight from Las Vegas to Orlando. The game in question is Tetris.

To give myself the biggest advantage in the game, I pressed the + control as many times as it would allow and got to the maximum value of 4. I then put on my “bad guy” hat on and asked: How *else* can I change the value in this field? Near my armrest was a small phone console; you know, the one where you can make very important calls for a mere $22 per minute. I noticed that the phone had a numeric keypad and that it also controlled this television monitor embedded in the seat in front of me.

I then touched the screen in front of me to highlight the number “4” in the options configuration shown in Figure 1. I tried to enter the number 10 into that field through the phone keypad with no luck: it first changed to the number “1” followed by the number “0”. Frustrated, I then made the assumption that it would only accept single digit values. My next test case was the number “8”; no luck there either, the number didn’t change at all. I then tried the number 5: success! ‘5’ is an interesting test case, it’s a “boundary value” just beyond the maximum allowed value of the field which was ‘4’. A classic programming mistake is to be off by 1 when coding constraints. For example, the programmer may have intended to code the statements:

0 < value < 5

When what actually got coded was

0 < value <= 5

I now had the software exactly where I wanted it, in an unintended state; the illegal value 5 was now in my target field.

If, like me, you’re laughing already, click here.

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