I Did Not Write This Firmware!

The parking lot at JR’s building is guarded by a formidible adversary, an automated parking system that doles out timestamped magnetic tickets. When ready to leave, you (hopefully get the ticket validated inside and) pop it into a machine along with your credit card*, and now feeding the magnetic ticket back in at the exit gate will let you out again.

The firmware on the system leaves a bit to be desired. I got a bit of a shock once when it asked for $192 in parking fees for a few hours’ stay. Turns out the system’s internal clock got corrupted somehow and, without any sort of bounds-checking, recorded my entry time as sometime on January 117th, 1980. (Building security came out and overrode the gate when I showed them the date printed on the card.)

Just recently I found a much more friendly glitch. For validated guests, parking is nominally $12 a day. However, on weekdays there is a discounted “evening” rate, where evening is defined as between 6pm and 1am, of a paltry (for downtown asphalt rental) $3. (After 1am it rolls over to the next logical day and charges the full rate.) However, it calculates whether or not it’s a weekday relative to midnight, creating a 1-hr window on sunday evenings where the parking fee is decreased by staying longer.

Not that I’m a paragon of godlike infallibility**, but it’s amusing to run across sloppy little goofs like that, as long as they aren’t mine.

* or carefully de-crinkled dollar bills; the credit card stripe reader hasn’t worked for months.

** Freshman year of college, I threw together a program in Qbasic (bleh) that used the computer’s modem to call other rooms and act as sort of a morning wake-up-call service. Mostly because Kristoff was a cheap bastid and didn’t have a working alarm clock. He was the first user / beta tester, in the call list for 8:00 AM. Unfortunately, a small math bug in the program caused it to instead call every hour on the hour starting around midnight. I found this out when I woke up to find a very haggard-looking Kristoff at the door, ranting that “some fucker’s been pranking me all night, every hour on the hour…”


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