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Date:      Mon, 02 Jul 2007 15:11:56 -0500
From:      Martin McCormick <>
Subject:   Re: The worst error message in history belongs to... BIND9! 
Message-ID:  <>

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Jeffrey Goldberg writes:
> I still remember as a newcomer to  Unix a long long time ago getting
>   "Bad magic number"
> In retrospect, I suspect that I'd typed "ld" where I'd meant to type "ls".

	I have been doing things on Unix systems since about
1990 and the thing I run across that makes me ready to split a
brick with my bare hands to this very day is the "not found"
message one can get in a badly written shell script such as the

#! /bin/sh
a = 5

that's enough to make it happen. Run that, and you get:

a: not found

	Interestingly enough, if you run that same script in a
Debian Linux environment, you get:

./testfile: line 2: a: command not found

Most of you will probably instantly see what I did wrong in that
there shouldn't be any spaces between the variable name, the =
sign and the 5 which could be anything else. I just picked a 5
for the heck of it. If you are in a big messy shell script, just

a: not found

Doesn't tell me much except I know it's not working. The problem
could be either that there is a typo or it could be that $a is

	I usually find that I snuck a space in and didn't even
think about it at the time.

	I don't know if error messages from other OS's are off
limits, but some of the ones from the most widely-used OS on
Earth are treasures. How about running a gigantic piece of
commercial software that does God knows what on your computer,
and getting an error like:

The software has performed an illegal operation.

	I bet there is a second line that they had to print in
text using the same forground and background color so as to keep
from getting fired that reads:

"Now, try and find it. Ha ha ha ha!"

Then, there is the ultimate, the "Check engine." light on the
modern car. It would be so nice if it said some indication as to
the seriousness of the problem so that one knows whether to get
it fixed now and maybe save $5,000 worth of repair costs or let
it slide a few days until a better time.

	I like the quotation I read once that said that Unix is
a user-friendly operating system. It is just particular about
who it makes friends with.

Martin McCormick WB5AGZ  Stillwater, OK 
Systems Engineer
OSU Information Technology Department Network Operations Group

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