March 4th, 2010


Geeky amusement at work

#1. Last week, chibitatsuluna was flying Boston and I was going to meet her at Logan. When I asked for her flight info the day before she texted me her arrival time but said she didn't remember which flight it was. I tried Logan's web site, but it doesn't let you look up tomorrow's flights, only today's (and since the current time was later than its arrival time, that same flight on that day had already landed, so it wasn't listed for "today" either). Then I got an idea...

Recently at work, I've had to debug some problems involving software that reads flight schedules. In the airline industry they have this really old-skool file format called SSIM for flight schedules - fixed format all-caps ASCII with two-digit years, the sort of format that pre-dates the invention of more modern formats such as, say, CSV :)

I've had to learn a little bit about reading SSIMs, so I decided to put that to the test. One of the servers I take care of has a SSIM file, updated regularly, of pretty much all the airlines' schedules. Knowing only what time she was scheduled to arrive in Boston, and which city she was flying from, I grep'ed appropriately through that SSIM ... and easily found the flight!

I know enough to be able to read the airline, flight number, departure and arrival times and airports, which days of the week, and what dates that schedule entry is for. It has other info, like type of aircraft, that I don't know how to read, but that was pretty cool; it made the data I've been working with feel a lot more real to me.

#2. We have movies at work on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, along with free food. I usually don't watch the movies in the actual movie room, but they usually also show them on some screens we have in the cafeteria next to it, so those of us who are just eating sorta see them in the background. One day, the movie was Kill Bill.

Although I wasn't expecting as much of a reaction as I got, I randomly put this comment into a gap in the conversation around our table: [gesturing up at the screen] "Little known fact: This is actually the ninth movie in a series called Signal Bill."

I managed to silence the entire table as one by one people got it. Some took over a minute. It was beautiful!

Note: I expect only some of my readers to get that; it's very unixgeeky. For a particular subset of those of you who did get it (especially catness): The first in the series was not actually a movie, it was track 3 on an album by Head and Leg.