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Voodoo Informatics 

A term coined by me in 2004. Explains one of the only ways I have found over the years to troubleshoot and service the worst of closed and proprietary software and OSes.
Due to the closed nature, not all features and elements are documented. Voodoo Informatics describes the process of trying different things, without exactly knowing how effective they will be. Similar to Voodoo or sticking needles in a puppet and hoping it kills the problem.

This usualy leads to:

1. Unknown timeframe in problem solving, it could be another hour, it could be the whole night.
2. Uncertainty if the problem can be solved at all. All so far invested time will be wasted.
3. No matter how competent the solver, he has no real chance to guarantee solution of a problem.

This is different to open systems, where it is only a matter of time till a problem can be solved. There is a gurantee that it can, the customer just have to decide if it is feasible considering the effort and benefit.

Fitting to the term Vodoo, it also seem to be necessary with "possesed systems". This is a term that I came up with to describe some Windows system that behave erratically, booting sometimes and sometimes crashing or hanging, for no apparent reason. When a system does that, it always makes me wonder. Either a thing works, or it does not. Consitently, and always. I have never seen any Linux OS behave like this.

The 2 cornerstones of Voodoo Informatics troubleshooting are:
  1. Troubleshooting by rebooting. Ususally works like a charm on Windows, since many times something goes BING in Windows, fragments or just outright breaks and needs a fresh start. Usualy pretty useless in Linux.
  2. Reinstalling.
  3. Contacting vendor support and being told to do 1. or 2. or both.


Graphical user interface. In the windows world everything is pretty much running with a gui, in Linux you got the choice between command-line and gui.


For people that think DOS is dead, YES it is and better so. I had the benefit of not having to work much with it. But from what I have seen, it was a cheap copy of the unix shell command-line. The Linux command-line is not an outdated old thing that many think when they take a look at linux. Many new cool features have been integrated into it: Command completion for example, no need to type the whole filename, just push tab and it fills out the rest. Also, a powerful command history that can be cycled though.
Now why in the world would you want to use the command-line if you can have a gui for it? Simply because many things cannot be done with the gui at all. If you want something to happen automatically and repeatedly, you want to look into shell scripting and therefore, the command-line. There are many command lines, but to just mention one, bash is a very powerful thing indeed and a fully fledged programming language. It is still for scripting, so don't go overboard and write enterprise applications with it. It is to note that many things in linux, much of the startup process is actually run by scripts. This can be a marvelous way to check out how things work behind the hood. Ever had Windows XP failed to start? Had to give up on it since the boot process of XP is not transparent? There is no problem to ever get a Linux box to boot, it is all there to see and understand.


General Public License. Everybody probably heard about it, sueing some large companies over some code that they were not supposed to use. Is it the communists that try to take over the world? Nope.
But simply said: code under the GPL can be used, even for commercial projects. The catch is, that you have to also GPL all code that you write yourself and make it available. So if you write a great program, offer it to the world for free and want to make sure no profit oritented company scoops up your code, adds some to it and then sells it as a star product is just common sense.
I have always thought about it like this: There is this library with this trillions of books, you can all get them free and use parts of them in your own, but any book that you write you will also have to place in that library, open to everybody else.
Usually, one gets back more than he puts out with this system.
Instead of every company developing the same code over and over again, competing with one another, this system is cooperative and the best code prevails and gets used and extended. It is also inspiring to see the work of other and if you can do it better, nothing is holding you back. No license fees, no expensive compilers that you have to pay for. All you need is a smart brain and some creativity.

Quasi Support

Quasi support is when somebody at support tells you that the problem is currently being solved, although it is not. There will be no end to clueless bugfixes and delay tactics. This seems to be either because of incompetent support personell or profit maximizing and cost reduction concerns. You get a lot of quasi support these days and most companies don't seem to be able to tell the difference between quasi and real, and neither do they care.
If manager D in company xyz can tell his superior manager C that the problem is being solved by support company zzy, every body is happy. Real results and fast solutions? Who needs them if you know who to blame and push the problem away, that is what is seems like to me.

Real Support

Real support now is the thing we solution oriented people expect it to be. It delivers. Solutions! The end result is that the problem gets solved, the bug fixed or a workaround shown.

Security by sledge hammer

With this I refer to the new practice invented by Microsoft and many "security" Vendors to just disable or cripple functionality in a overkill way. A system that blocks any copy of autorun files from CDs goes in that category. Disabling of raw sockets in Service Pack 2 of Windows XP is another, crippling security scanners like nmap for white-hat use too.

this document was created on:
10. Oct. 2006
and last updated on:
09. May. 2007