(yes, this was a real dream, this isn’t some wacky metaphor post or anything, a real, crazy, take-as-you-will dream)
So, the dream started with incredulity. My incredulity. A lot like real life.
It all started when my boss came up to me to let me know and give me the heads up that a pair of visiting faculty/researchers were upset about the compiler on our servers. And wanted to replace with their own. Only it was only the binary – not the source code.
“WHAT?!?” was followed by “NO WAY IN HELL”
And just like real life in “Eye-Tee”, my bluster was followed by the sinking feeling that no matter how absurd the request that somehow, someway, I was going to have to do this. And that pissed me off more.
Somehow then – and it gets a bit fuzzy here as dreams and the recollections of them are wont to do – I find myself watching a press conference given by the researchers, both of whom had some combination of Irish-European accents. They were pressing their case for the compiler, noting that it was the binary version because they had lost the compile flags. Then one of then started crying. Apparently their deceased mother had come up with the compile flags, and when she passed, they only were left with the binary.
I was not moved.
Fast forward to the confrontation. They were insistent, taken aback that a mere lowly system administrator would dare deny their request – all the while I’m trying to explain that (a) there was no way I was replacing core system software with some unknown binary and (b) it probably wasn’t going to work anyway. Some compiled binary from some unknown version of linux? No way it was going to run, and no way it was going to keep running through OS and libc upgrades. They ignored the former and didn’t understand the latter. We started getting spectators – sitting on walls around this kind of courtyard were in. Well, a courtyard inside a warehouse. You know the kind, steel roof, lots of dust, doodads and thingamajigs and whatchamacallits littering the floor.
I tried explaining it to them “It’s like taking a program written for OS X and running it on Windows” I cried. The spectators got it. The researchers didn’t.
I got angrier. Here I was having a one-sided conversation about having to upend my entire infrastructure for… wait, I didn’t even know why they wanted this compiler there in the first place.
One of the spectators – who was wearing a pair of headphones – well, half a headphone like some dance-club DJ, proposed parsing the binary’s header to see if the compiler flags could be reverse-engineered.
The researchers became more insistent. I got even angrier, looked at the DJ, who shook his head.
Then I dropped the F-bomb. (hey, a lot like real life – I told you this was vivid). The spectators were amused. The researchers were not.
I remember later, coming back up to them – at a picnic table under a park shelter. Offended/angry they didn’t go anywhere, but weren’t real happy to see me either. Maybe, like I knew that I had to do it, they knew that unless I did, it wasn’t going to get done.
I apologized, a sincere one, but with a “but” attached. It just wasn’t going to work. So maybe they could tell me what the compiler flags did, and why the current compiler didn’t work. The lead researcher relaxed, told me to call him “Erich” – and went beyond my question a step further and told me about the goals of the project – and what their current compiler did. (See, I told you it was a dream) – and I started thinking about how to come up with a way of getting the source and flags for their compiler and modifying it so we could get multiple ones to communicate in parallel with each other.
After that, all I remember is that I had this really cool, incredible shoes that had some kind of rubber on the outsole – but the entire insole was this silicone material that had no friction coefficient, sorta like those shoes with the wheels on them that the kids have now – only I was gliding – along the ground, through all these labs, trying to get back to wherever I was going thinking about totally awesome the shoes were, and how best to market them.
And then I woke up.
I really have to stop coding right before I go to bed.