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Explaining race conditions

Posted on | August 4, 2008 | 1 Comment

It can sometimes be difficult to explain abstract concepts to people who don’t have programming backgrounds. I was working on a really simple single system image cluster for someone, all that we had left to complete was the cluster announce mechanism and heartbeat configuration.

The design called for a completely automated / self-recovering setup. Even supervisory nodes were supervising each-other. If one controller went down, the other would reboot it. I found an instance where both controllers would be caught in a perpetual re-boot cycle.

I tried explaining “This is really racy … “, the tech that I was working with did not get it. So I explained again “The way these things join after recovery presents an interesting race condition”, still a blank stare.

Finally I asked “Would you take a laxative and a sleeping pill at the same time?” , he immediately understood. A few small patches later, it worked just fine.


One Response to “Explaining race conditions”

  1. Dusty Wilson
    August 9th, 2009 @ 7:34 am

    The funny part is that when I was going through chemo, I had to take both a laxative and a sleeping pill.

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