Searching for a quote

Larry Sheldon larrysheldon at
Sat Mar 14 14:00:39 UTC 2015

On 3/13/2015 08:47, Karl Auer wrote:
> On Fri, 2015-03-13 at 06:14 -0700, Stephen Satchell wrote:
>> what I was taught is that one has to be
>> able to handle *correctly* malformed input, and not yield astonishing
>> results.
> "No program should leave its sanity at the mercy of its input". PJ
> Plauger, I think.

I have no idea where I learned it but early in my career as a programmer 
and later as a manager of programmers I preached that "Above all else, 
programmer, your duty and responsibility is to protect your program from 
its input and its environment."

I may very well owe that to somebody smarter than me, but I think the 
idea solidified in my first paid programming job I got embroiled in a 
battle with programmers from another district in a huge batch system,

Their allegation was that bad input from a program I was responsible-for 
had caused a massive and expensive outage down-stream of us.  (They had 
amassed a collection of file-dump snap-shots that they said showed that 
the records from us had errors in them--we were able to show that the 
file-dumps were fraudulent in and of themselves, but my main argument 
was an early rendition to the thing quoted above.)

Parenthetically, one of my favorite management quotations came out of 
that when the District Manager that my boss reported to (We called him 
"The Senator" behind his back) stood up at his desk and announced to us 
and to the folks from the other District that "we would have a solution 
to the problem by four PM today or there will be a series of Nine 
O'Clock Announcements tomorrow morning."  (Big company, big inventory of 
thoroughly distasteful assignments for ambitious managers-on-the-climb.)

The unique Characteristics of System Administrators:

The fact that they are infallible; and,

The fact that they learn from their mistakes.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

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