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DarthStar Release 1.0 (P Scannell)
(original, smirk, puns, computer)

                 "Darth Star Release 1.00"

Long long ago (so long ago that even Paul Bunyan couldn't
find a laptop worth having) in a galaxy far far away (so far
that when Carl Sagan talks about "billions and billions of
stars" he's still overlooking it) a half-vast star cruiser
passed through  with sound effects so loud you could hear
them through the vacuum of space.  (This is because it was
so long, long ago.  Nowadays they can fix that at any
muffler shop.  But don't let them work on your star cruiser
without a written estimate.)  Close behind was the really
vast Imperial star battleship, making so much noise you
could hear it in other dimensions, carrying the not
particularly vast but still extremely unpleasant Darth
Coder.  The smaller vessel contained the lovely and
sarcastic Princess Uza, who as Darth Coder closed in on her
ship left a message with two Voice Mail droids, who escaped
in a life boat.  (I realize that the CCITT standards for
ship abandonment specify,  "Women and children first!" but
this is long, far, etc.)

Okay, so the droids foolishly landed on Microoine (which
looks classier than Microweenie but is pronounced about the
same)  and were resold to a local farmer.  The droids were
put in the care of the farmer's son, Lint Seehacker, who
immediately proceeded to make unauthorized repairs which
voided the warranty.  (They might have been placed in the
care of the farmer's daughter, but that's a different joke.)

In the process of doing this, he managed to play back part
of the message recorded by the princess.  It was directed to
one Obi-Wan Methodology.  The rest of the message was
garbled or encrypted or something.

Wondering whether this could be some relation to Bob
Methodology who lived nearby, he drove out to check.  There
Obi-Wan (obviously it had to be the same person for this
plot to work) played back the rest of the message, in which
Princess Uza described the Rebellion's dire need for huge
amounts of new software.  "We really want that quality
kind," she said, "but unless you help us soon we're going to
have to take that bug-ridden stuff that Darth Coder keeps

Obi-Wan explained to Lint that by another amazing
coincidence Lint was the son of one of the old Zedi (for
Zero Difects, which is how they spelled it in those days --
just try and prove otherwise) Knights, and gave him a blue
pencil, the very thing which the Zedi Masters used to
correct defects in their code before they began debugging

"How could they do that?" asked Lint.  There is nothing on
earth quite so useful as a good straight man.

"They followed the Methodology.  And they used the Force."

"The Force?"

"Yes.  They Forced themselves to proofread their programs
carefully before they started testing them.  Naturally, this
is a dying art, because it's hard work."

"And what about this Darth Coder?"

"He was seduced by the dark side of the Methodology.  He
wanted the advantages of saying that he was following the
methodology, without the bother of having to do anything
productive.  He writes many specifications and conducts many
reviews, but his code is as bad as ever.  But when you are
eight foot seven and have a deep voice, you can get away
with murder."

"So he plans to turn us into mindless slaves, all following
his methodology?"

"Yes.  It's bad enough being mindless freemen, without being
turned into mindless slaves."

They returned to Lint's home to get his coat and galoshes
(which you should never embark on interstellar travel
without) but found it had been destroyed by Imperial Storm
Hackers, and Lint's parents killed.  Also they had made
illegal duplicates of his legal copy of Lotus 1-2-3.

"Don't be too upset, kid," said Obi-Wan.  Those weren't your
real parents.  You were adopted."

"I was?"

"Yes.  Didn't it ever strike you as odd that your parents
were named Pascal and Lovelace, but your last name was

"Well, yeah.  But they said it was for tax reasons."

"Besides, this is necessary to the plot.  Those two would
never have allowed us to go off into the unknown and spend
actual money on tools to improve the quality of software in
the universe.  The problem now is to get into the city and
hire a ship.  But there will be Imperial Storm Hackers
looking for us, so we'll have to be a little bit clever.
But only a little bit."

"What will we do?"

"We'll go in posing as developers, delivering a new

"How can we do that?  Won't they look at what we're bringing

"There are ways to prevent them from looking too hard.
Painful as it is to me, I must go prepare some source code
for them."

Later, just before shift change, they approached the city.
When challenged, Obi-Wan hands the guard a diskette.  "We're
delivering this new source code.  Of course you'll want to
audit it first before you let us in."

"Er, yes," replied the guard uncertainly.

"Let me just point out a few of the trickier features for
you.  You'll need to be very careful in auditing it, because
there are fifty-seven state variables to keep track of, and
there's a very tricky section just here where there's some
self-modifying code.  Well, not exactly self modifying.  The
assembly language part modifies the COBOL part, and the
COBOL part uses the ALTER verb to modify the assembly
language part.  But neither part actually modifies itself,
to be brutally technical about it."

The guard's eyes were beginning to glaze over a little bit,
and he was clearly thinking about the end of shift and Jabba
time.  (Jabbaweiser and Jabba Light being the only beers
available in that part of the galaxy, unless one liked Alec
Guinness Stout.)  He placed the diskette in the drive and
perused the source code for all of thirty-seven seconds.
"I'm sure it's all right.  Go on in."

And so it was that they met Blaze Pascalo and his copilot
Mrspocca (a Trekkee) and escaped the planet a sidestep ahead
of the minions and grunions of Darth Coder.

Meanwhile, a million billion jillion miles away, Darth Coder
had captured the princess and was being very mean to her.

"Tell me where the Rebel base is or we will destroy your

"You can't do that," said Uza.  "It's illegal."

"Not at all," replied Coder.  "They signed an agreement to
be a beta site for Darth Star Release 1.0, which happens to
be a software package for destroying planets.  Some people
will sign up for anything as long as it's free."

"We thought it was a new word processor or something, like

"Fools.  You should have read the spec."

"You didn't write one."

"Silly me.  Now, where is the Rebel base?"

"All right, I'll tell.  It's on Platalinguiniie."

"Good.  Proceed with the test."


"Come, now --"


"That was just an interjection, you fool!  You can't expect
us to ship software without testing it.  If your planet
didn't want to accept the risks of being a beta site, they
shouldn't have signed up for it."

"Well, you better have one HELL of a customer support
organization, that's all I can say."

"Is the software ready?"

"Yes, Your Nastiness.  Just press the Execute key."

Coder pressed the Execute key.  Nothing happened.  "Oh, Ewok
doody.  Fire up the debugger."

"Yes, Your Sliminess."


          PART II or VII: "The Software Strikes Back"

A NOTE ABOUT LAST EPISODE: Our Human Factors department has
asked me to point out that not only did nothing happen when
Darth Coder hit the Execute key, but no message appeared to
inform him that an error had occurred.  Also, according to
good user interface design practice, the preferred method
for obliterating a planet is the Delete key, and the user
should be required to confirm the delete operation before it
is performed unless Undo is available.  These changes will
be made in Release 2.0, assuming Darth ever gets 1.0

On the planet Propellerbeeniie the incredible Darth Star
loomed over the landscape like a giant spaceship.  (How's
that for creativity?)  Also that peculiar rumbling sound
which magically travels even through vacuum was driving
everyone crazy.  But worst of all was the threat of total
annihilation which threatened them threateningly, or
threatened to if Darth Coder ever got the thing operational.

But on the planet, as somebody was saying (maybe it was me,
but you can't prove it) the members of the High Council were
feeling rather low, and were discussing the situation.
Firing most of their MIS staff had not made them feel any
better about the grim news Princess Uza had brought them.

"Perhaps we could write a problem report," suggested one.

"How can we write a problem report before the thing fails?
They'll want a dump, debris samples, and all that stuff."

"Besides, even if we sent a problem report they'd probably
reclassify it as a Technical Improvement."

They all looked glum.  The situation was hopeless.  At
least, they decided, they would invite the saleman who
talked them into the deal to come watch the demo with them.

Meanwhile, Obi-Wan was holding a meeting of his own at the
Rebel Base, which was really on Finitestatemachiniie.  The
Rebel Engineering staff had done a careful audit of listings
of the Darth Star program recovered from the Imperial
Garbage Dump and (surprise! surprise!) found a bug.  They
were discussing it with Obi-Wan, while Lint tried to follow
the flow of conversation.  Blaze Pascalo stood in the
corner, looking tough and macho but at the same time
strangely vulnerable.  It's just a thing he does.

Suddenly Obi-Wan cried out, as if in pain.  "What is it?"
asked Lint.

"I felt a grave disturbance in the Methodology, as if
someone were (gasp gasp) applying a hexadecimal patch
directly to an executable."

Then the meeting resumed.  It appeared that no code had been
provided to check the target coordinates for validity.  In
particular, if the proposed target were behind the Darth
Star the software would fire the destructive beam directly
through the very expensive peripheral device.  Coder, of
course, would blame it on the hardware, which was how he had
kept his job up till now.

          So all that remained was to move the planet just
before the demo, which of course is no big deal if you have
the right software tools.  Lint inquired whether Coder might
not notice that the planet had moved, and turn the Darth
Star.  But as Pascalo pointed out, "Darth Coder and his gang
are too busy debugging to notice anything that's going on in
the Real World."  (Though what that has to do with this
story is not clear.)

          So they moved the planet, Darth really didn't
notice it, the Darth Star blew up, Darth left the Empire to
become a consultant and Obi-Wan got a bigger budget.

          Lint and Princess Uza got married.  (I had been
thinking of having them turn out to be sister and brother,
but that would have been silly.)  Obi-Wan gave the bride
away, but to the wrong person.

And so everyone lived happily ever after, and it was all due
to the Methodology.

          Part XIII or LXVI: "Return of the Zedi"

Obi-Wan returned to Microoine.  The End.

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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