Note: This is a re-post of my 1st post on our Official MacBU Blog, Mac Mojo. If you haven’t added Mac Mojo to your blogs to read, I’d recommend it. I’ll be posting over there along with about 10 or so other folk in MacBU. Check it out, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Hello! My name is David Weiss and I’m the Automation Test Lead in MacBU, which means that I build stuff to help us test our code better. It’s a great job. I could give you a detailed introduction, but I’ve kinda already done that. I could talk about automation practices or our sweet beowulf cluster, uh, I mean automation setup, but today, I’m not going to talk about work, at least directly. Today, it’s all about the food!
Since the MacBU was organized in 1997, we’ve moved from building 17 to building 44 and then to building 115. Change is one of those constants here at Microsoft and physical location is not excluded. Building 17 was the long time abode of Office, Win and Mac. When we moved to 44 it was the first time we were physically separated from the Win Office team which allowed us to develop some of our own unique identity, but the best part of building 44 was the conference rooms, or the food associated with, the conference rooms.
I don’t know how it is at other corporations, but often there would be a morning or afternoon conference room meeting and catering would be provided. It didn’t take us long to notice that after the attendees had finished eating and returned to their meeting, there was a small window of time where the food was available before catering would clean up the food and toss it out. Being the ecologically sound individuals we are, and dissatisfied with waste of any kind, we setup an email alert system. One of the team, we’ll call him Matt, setup an email rule on his machine so that any email sent to him with a subject that contained the text “[Food]” was duplicated and forwarded to other super secret food recon agents. In this way, we remained successfully “below the radar” of counter intelligence units. Until, of course, Matt turned his computer off. When that happened, we were all downgraded to free-pop-only status.
After about 2 days we realized that we had totally missed one of the key aspects to an Official Microsoft operation, and that is, of course, a whole bunch of letters stuck together in a crazy acronym and the FAQ explaining it. What did we name our operation?
Generally the standard encryption technology used to prevent unauthorized eaters from viewing our confidential communiqués was white colored text. This worked until we found that conspiring developers had added a feature to expose our secret messages to prying eyes: Auto Preview. We increased our encryption standard to include about 3 lines of non-encrypted babble prior to the encrypted message. This method has been found effective to this day, even with modern email clients!
Well, anyone familiar with food services and catering knows this one truth:
- Food quality degrades as the time increases in which the food sits idle, sad and unconsumed.
To combat this reality and better meet the cross group communication needs we developed a clear rating system (with easy to understand color coordination):
Code Red: Food is available, but guarded by food service personal. Be wary of a status change.
Code Yellow: Food is being consumed by conference room attendees. Soon we’ll be able to move in.
Code Green: Food is all clear. Act quickly, or you’ll regret it.
Code Brown: Food is still available, but due to prolonged exposure, it may taste like, well, not so good.
Code Puke Green: Food is still there, but eat at your own risk, it looks or tastes nasty.
With this plan in place, communication improved significantly, but alas, we continued to be plagued with the dependency on Matt’s computer being fully operational. Since Matt, being the good tester that he is, often found ways to crash his computer (in the days of Mac OS 9) and hang or crash his email client, we needed to permanently sever “the Matt dependency”. We did this by creating a distribution list on the mail server. The end result is that anyone who sent email to “food” would have that email sent to all who participated in the super-secret-group-mission of free food recon, disclosure and consumption.
However, this efficiency gain significantly increased our exposure to being “outed” by the catering overlords, so while we stealthily kept the short name of food, we changed the friendly name of the alias to, “Mac Crossteam Discussion” which has kept us safe ever since.
All of this lead to a namespace collision with the .NET team here at Microsoft. It all started with this fairly benign email:
To: Mac Crossteam Discussion
Subject: New snacks reported at Snack.NET!
A new snack in the Candy category has been reported in your building. Here is a description:
So much peanut brittle you’ll be sick for days.
Log on to Snack.NET for further details!
This email has been generated automatically. Do not reply to this email. If you would like to be removed from this list, please visit the Snack.NET website and unsubscribe. This has been a recording.
Of course, this kind of tempting notification led to simultaneous surprise, fear and hunger. Our covert ops team immediately got to work. Soon we discovered that Matt Stoecker was the author of a “test application” named “Snax.NET” which allowed for companywide snack notification. As he was testing the mail notification system, he used our alias. After Mr. Stoecker clarified and apologized, Agent Snook followed up with the salient question, “Can we still get the peanut brittle?” Agent B expanding on that theme continued, “I think Agent Snook makes a good point here. One cannot simply suggest the presence of peanut brittle and then not provide some easy way to access said tasty treat. I, for one, feel heinously bamboozled. And, I fear, this feeling of bamboozlement will only abate with copious quantities of peanut brittle…”
Not long after this email exchange two guys from the Snax.NET team showed up with 2 buckets of peanut brittle! Complete office delivery is way better than having to go out searching for leftover catering!
Today, the Snax.NET server has gone to that great big bit bucket in the sky, but here at MacBU, we are still on constant alert for what goodies might befall us. And now you know, the rest of the story. 😉