Thirty days hath...


It's 1989, and this IT pilot fish is part of a Finnish research expedition to the Antarctic on a ship that's outfitted specifically for the mission -- or at least it's supposed to be.

"It was the first real trip for the boat, and there had been numerous delays and problems," says fish. "Many non-crucial subsystems had not been tested too well, and there had been time only for the mandatory ship checks, because Antarctic summer doesn't wait.

"The boat had numerous PCs and a network, but the heart of the system was a DEC VAX minicomputer, a server archiving all data, including things like ship position. This core part of the system came from a shipyard subcontractor, as it was integrated to the ship's bridge electronics.

"We started to be rather near Antarctica and passing the convergences between South America and our target. These are fascinating waters, full of life, and conditions change rapidly. Almost every scientist on board wanted to measure something, take samples, whatever.

"So everybody was busy doing their science and storing the data to the server...or not. It seems someone at the subcontractor had decided that every month has 30 days, so on Dec. 31, the server didn't save any data to its databases for that day.

"I hacked a crude raw-data collector that was running in parallel of this clever system, because January also has 31 days..."

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