Pragmatic 27: Military Software

1 July, 2014


Casey and John have done some development and engineering in a military environment that comes with its own set of unique restrictions and pressures. We explore the good, the bad and the downright annoying aspects but don’t worry, it’s not all bad.

Transcript available
Welcome to pragmatic pragmatic as a weekly discussion show, playing the practical application of technology exploring the real-world trade-offs we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives nothing is as simple as it seems this episode is sponsored by life thanks visit life expelled LIF for more information and to take advantage of a special discount off their amazing LED smart bulbs exclusively for pragmatic business on your host John Geagea and I'm joined today by my guest host Casey lists Hayden casing well Harriet very good thank you very much arm I wanted to get you on the show to talk about something that's we both had experience with our I suspect you may have a little bit more experience with it but that's about some military software development so it is something that i.e. when I worked for Boeing are bow into thousand one through 2003 arm I worked on a project for the Australian defence forces are called EHF modernisation project and that was my first and only exposure to our evolving software for military contract which required all sorts of hoops to jump through on and so and so forth but you've also had some experience in that similarly about your experience yes so it was actually about the same amount of time and it was a few years ago but I worked for a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman and this particular company dear delight with naval navigation and things of that nature and so that the stuff I worked on obviously only to Bill Leavy about it but it was navigation systems for both the Navy the American Navy and send arm some civilian folks as well so for example arm this company does navigation system are dead at the time the navigation system for a Royal Corinthian and self you've ever been on a Royal Caribbean cruise and you got your destination are roughly on time and intact then I'm going to claim responsibility for that and I think relate to lines of code for that product still counts two lines are still two lines Ralph cool right excellent while one of the things that some and I think it's good place to start is don't just walk into a job and sit down start programming for military software because you have to go through a vetting process are screening screening processes and certainly I did and when I first signed up it was because the company because the company had military contracts and I was slated to work specifically on one it was one of those things that if you didn't get your clearance you're essentially told well thanks for coming see you later it yet it was a minimum requirement you had to get so you had to behave I suppose if there is any dog revisiting dogs in your past that it could jeopardise your job so was it was quite serious so when we synonymous of the application and they took took them probably about 654 to 6 weeks I think to it to do the assessment and COI had to sit down have an interview and fill in a bunch of forms going back to mail I know some point just after I was conceived of anyone late it was insane it was payout is at pages long and they want to go back and get contact details of anyone you you've associated with particularly if you've been overseas is something I learned in because I'd spent two years to 90 is roughly into separate stints in North America I was flagged as a more interesting when I done as a high risk but also a more interesting or worthy of more a closer examination of something which is why mine took longer to process apparently some told Sergio to suck drizzling similar yes still at the time I needed to get a some modicum of security clearance and I as far as I know it's not active any more but certainly I had to go through a very similar thing and so I had to fill out a form which even then I believe is done online but nevertheless it was a format to fill out that just like you said went through my arm employment history to the beginning of time including lichen hay score when I just had the off silly summer jobs my living history is in my Garber residents history forever admit what I think is a 10 to 15 years something I doubt I was fairly freshly out of our what we call culture Leavy Gaskell University in general I had I had moved your couple times because of that and then my dad worked for IBM up until two days ago and Sweeney retired himself we had moved arm primitively two years from lost my childhood and so when you're and I was 23 at the time something that we are for and when you're that Alden you need to go back 10 years I I'd go through like 10 different addresses or something like that some of which you know you did dig up from brackets that you will ensure that you and your parents out anymore and then of course left without you know the league tends to spend some time going and interviewing some of the people that you've listed as a witness is that you are that you are who you say you are in you are someone who lived in that police at that time and I actually never heard back from many of the people on my list whether or not they got interviewed by certainly I know the idea behind it wise newcomer hinted this was what it what is in Kesey spouse and what leveraged could somebody else have upon him so sick of this for the second discussion if I had dad up to my eyeballs I had a report that and then that's risky because if I am if I'm really someone occurs lighter dad and I get to the point that I'm freaking out about it some form government come in and say here's a suitcase full of money and it'll get all your debt problems away used to tell us the secret about what you're working on and that's that's risky for the government and that's no good and so that's what the whole process was about in 88 much had to stay away from most of the from most of the code base until I had my clearance and there are certainly absolutely meetings that I could not participate and yes until my clearance came in absolutely you and exactly the same in my case as well I found myself excluded for that first month and 1/2 just be a reading over the same induction manual basically welcomes the company my aha hi what I can do Argus already induction manual again it's only the fourth time in a scenario I deftly know where the coffee is the only help the point is that some i.e. over sometimes with you because at the time we were still on an old analog phone exchange row staying was it was an old apartment building are in no Brisbane and it had now old analog phone line and if you have an old analog phone line you can you can you'll know the noises in the background of the Azores of the faint hiss in the background strange clicks and sometimes he echoes and stuff and I'm a digital line many white I could have sworn that will during the assessment period that I could have swore that I heard strange noises on my phone line I just this one telling myself right gaseous like that they're listening to what I'm saying PI great I even joked at it with some people I was talking about me and I was like you know if they are I really don't want to be too much Miss Maas about this because what if she asked if I jokingly say hey of planet abominable largely are that it would be just dumb and now was old enough to not do something that stupid but clearness me anyway. In fact I just recently I was that I was a workable contract is a terminology I was queueing at you at an airport security gate and they actually had a signup lately car poster up that said in so many words do not make jokes about farms we will not find it funny take it very seriously and I thought was a wow okay you do now people need to be told these things this issue DME arm year because I'll be some smart us at some point it will say that and then W like in an interrogation room for the next five weeks and you can hardly okay so once you get through that vetting process and I say look your your approved up to this level of of you know of, of classified information you then you can get ology job which is great but the thing is that I learned that there are so many little things are about working in an environment that are different or very very strict so I decide to go through the list of things I thought were interesting and maybe you can add some of these will see how we go arm the first one that struck me is I'd I'd worked in that Nortel previously in telecoms as swipe card access systems you nothing everywhere has got these things no big deal but you you swipe swipe thing on the door it releases a solenoid the door sometimes automatically opens other times you push it that's a fine ASO case few calories I push the damn door open a big deal point is that you swipe it you hold the door open because you're a nice guy right you hold the door open for the next people to come and come right in and you are smiling as they could morning then not showing their badges and not me either not swiping themselves as walking right through that open door you open for them is very nice of you when you walk out that is in an infrared detector sometimes as a release button yes push the button all it takes is a body that automatically unlocks the door for you sometimes again automatically opens other times you open it now walk yet will when you working in this military stuff that I was involved with them that doesn't cut it you have to individually swipe in and swiping a swipe to get out again so you can't just swipe in and hold the door open without getting into a lot of trouble and I did get into a lot of trouble because I picked up those bad habits from previous company's artwork for the jury in trouble for something like that I call it tailgating yup yup they did content getting a wee warrior and am in trouble for it and I think in part that was because if the company was only about a thousand people that the subsidiary that I want for a song about a thousand people in now you at least recognise almost everyone else's faces even if you've never spoken and on other names and so everyone was very good about if you were to hold the door open for someone everyone was very good about still badly heading the little reader with their badge to make sure that your account theatre or what have you watching us of the audit trail is there are that you just enter or exit the building remember if exiting required you to badge out think it did here it's been a few years now but certainly did to your point getting in absolutely dead and people would definitely give you a locker remind you kind of sternly politely if the harm if you forgot to badge EN as your hall as you is someone else is holding the door for you get a reminder I think you forgot to hit your badge here and now the ticket seriously a letter very seriously see arm it's interesting you broke that thing that you you knew the people at work very knew their faces and one other thing is that when we went through our someone went through a security induction which was designed to bring people up to a standard that they would expect for your secure behaviour and a covered all sorts of things like you a lot this tailgating issue as well as no locking your PC when you get up from the desk and you just the usual housekeeping sorts of stuff right that on this particular issue they played out some scenarios and that the scenario played out was well just because you know that that person you've seen them around doesn't mean that they won't let go you don't know that they won't let go yesterday and they no longer have access to the building operator being let in to do malicious damage because they're emotionally upset from being let go what if these people were were removed from the building because they breached the arm you secrets official secrets act or something in and divulges classified information you don't know that so at you unless they have their badge unless they swipe in and unless said the face on the bad matches their phase you should contact someone security immediately announced we were told and that's what we did and I you know made the mistake once I'd like to say it was just once and so yes I got up 11 from security further tailgating in behind someone and CEO they didn't seem to care that someone else who was behind me did care and dog me in a Michael that was nice but I never made that mistake again I took it seriously as limits are facing is now Casey's that I go into a nonmilitary environment had done actually pretty much since 2003 and all swipe in and swipe out and swipe what actually don't have to swipe out but I do anyway and I swiping even though some else could be opening the door for me and other people say to me you know I'm holding it or you don't do swipe in a Mike sorry that habit it was a good hat I don't really know how is the see that it happened okay so anyway I guess it was little things that struck me so anyway the next one about security badges also though is some their removal from view whenever you're outside the premises and IDR I made that mistake as I walking walking down the are the sidewalk arm on lunch break going to get on and I was getting for lunch at that point and some just my luck the one of the security guys arm go from 50 from the company happened to be walking just behind me pulled me over to one side rather roughly on my dad and pointed out that my badge was showing and it's like the rules are very strict now you leave the building you take the badge offered in your pocket and get out of sight because that makes you a target for access to that building you's army what you don't okay remember having to do that and I don't to be that it's the right thing to do but cannot remember them being particular punch about in order to be honest more often than not I just eat at my desk anyway so I'll really doubt saving well and are in in later years I arm after that I had I had kids and was on a tight budget and an operating at my desk and census less initially these days I'll admit but it's a habit I got into an it's all those things maybe others got stuck with a really anal-retentive armed security dude that's also quite possible but hey anyway that he took it seriously even if no one else did but my but I did after that anyway are right cool number one the mass stairwells I think I took it as brief your previous abseiling was upset number eight arm I worked in a high writer with a bunch of different buildings was involved in the project that their high-rise building and is in a high-rise building there is this that there was a sort of unwritten rule whereby if you had to go more than two floors it would be okay to use the left but if you didn't if you're only going 142 floors was expected to use the stairwells and Iago sad reasons for that cycle may be is an exercise thing or maybe it's with only got four lifts and we need to be a nano if the energy efficient I don't know whatever that was a sort of like to unwritten rock so you get the stairwells in your swiping the stairwell go to the next level swipe out again no big deal right unfortunately at 5 o'clock in the afternoon every day at least at that point, is what is now the anti-intruder alarms would be set at 5 o'clock you could swipe into the stairwells because as a fire safety requirement that you couldn't swipe out again in other words once you're in your stuck in theyear and I didn't know this only been there a couple of months and is our anyhow bottomline is a my eyes could drop this down to levels handle whatever wasn't I going to the stairwell not thinking it's two or 5:03 I normally gone by five hadn't come across this problem before no one in there and you there go the any intrusion alarms and their these hundred and God knows what decibel inner ear piercing pitch that is designed to make you feel nausea and and disoriented I didn't feel disoriented exactly but geez I felt that launcher and I was I crippled up on the fly was in there for a good few minutes before they let me out sure enough open the door to my favourite security guy with two theory guys behind him and arms are like staggering out of the stairwell and I'm like arm I'm guessing the alarm got turned on at five ha thanks to the memo go yet she is so anyhow then they drew my attention to some leaflet that I'd had been given and said yet says it clearly hear my get great thanks guys anyway suffice to say did make that mistake again and anyway okay so arm while the other things was that if you were to breach to me the safety requirement so security rules after a while then they threatened with revoking your clearance and you are then essentially therefore be sacked because of that clearance you couldn't do your job are the official secrets act applies for your entire life anything that you well whatever the equivalent isn't in the US but you know it it's based on the same system as some of the British system whereby you know once you come across an information that that is considered to be classified will need to know you know you must maintain that secret for the entirety of your life and therefore if you lick any information any point that future can still be prosecuted you go to jail at Connor thing so you obviously the rest of this neighbour so reasonably speaking in certain vagaries but I don't I think it's okay to talk about the different bits and pieces of of the restrictions of working in an environment without being specific about exactly what we are working on site that's that's the goal anyway sulphide if this is the last episode of dealers is the last to hear my voice then perhaps you know what happened and implication should be safe because his arm is such a nice guy that no one were taken away or something there hopefully they will see okay right arm only see those access requirements and someone came to our billing the other stuff is pretty straightforward and absolutely ridiculous password requirements this is back in 2001 so these days I know it's gotta be a X number of our symbols you gotta have a mixture of uppercase and lowercase numbers you can't have repeated numbers or letters it is get together also part of these is insane but even back then they were really strict and they had a forced rotation was sizing a gallery for six weeks I forget that it was very very regular and it was so annoying because you're forever forgetting damn password and of course you couldn't write it down CSV right down on a better yellow sticking out of something well yea focaccia doing that well that's a big cross and that's a fail so don't ever even try that arm but you getting up and walking away from your our computer and not locking the screen I gobbled up on that a few times thankfully that it was by my manager not by the security guy was a more serious that's our yet control delete walk away because yes were developing in Windows write your name outsource your course bumming out your your your guy so it's all good right now legacy Windows is your friend up to a point okay it's a right arm ISO beyond that beyond that thing it's wishful little about the levels of secret because everyone I guess a lot of people know this maybe they do know they don't that arm because different levels are classified right totally out while it's in the US are probably butchered the details but my recollection of it was that there was classified which is a pretty dominant simple shack for clearance like they don't really go that deep into your history there was secret which involved a more thorough check and your history and then there is tarp secret which involves putting on a polygraph and in actually interviewing you in and things of that nature and then anything north of top-secret arm I'm sure there are several levels but I don't know them I found that's it so basically there's been a bunch of different variations of this the funny thing is that I am saying I lie like when I was just brushing up on arm the details of the show is that our back when I did it so astray had a subtly different system are there is more or less are pseudo-international standard which is derived from the British definitions originally are and is the top for that of the most well-known service classified as you say are is referred to as either protected or restricted and protect the restricted information would cause by their definition undesirable effects now goes on undesirable effects but mounts that the lender shows of Yuri up into what that means but if this is all if it if the information is made public so go classified/protected/restricted same kind of thing would result would cause undesirable facts was made public our confidential information would cause damage or be prejudicial to national security if it was made public secret would cause serious damage that can series now the national security was made public and top-secret would cause exceptionally grave damage to national security so is it that may or may not help but you and as you say the order in order to get clearance at different levels you need to go through ever-increasing levels of scrutiny including polygraphs in ice and other rubbish arm and I say rubbish is inevitably a polygraph is keep thinking of ways of bidding polygraph tests but never mind Lightner and sends I'm neither confirming or denying what my clearance level was or what I went through specifically a massive regard to get at the bottom line is that all of those levels of secret mean nothing because unless you have a need to know is the thing that I'd appreciate before I worked in a military project is the whole concept of need-to-know just because you got clearance up to top-secret ultra superhigh awesome level doesn't mean you just can walk in there and read everything or top-secret document that you feel like reading you have to have some kind need-to-know you specifically need-to-know in order to carry out your job and is I guess the funny thing for me was the decision about whether or not you actually have a specific need to know it's a little bit it can be a bit flimsy because it depends on the person so someone who is a superior or who is higher up in the chain on a project you're working on gets to make that decision that choice and sought a bit strange to me because I thought well what if he thinks what I am might need to know is actually not what I need are known as at reasoning else that I might need to know that he doesn't think I need-to-know you know that it's very it was very arm very subjective yeti and mint generally well that's being a little unfair is that this it was pretty clear most of the time what idea did not need to know when but there were certainly occasions where I was subjective but there are also some art rules about it kind of going back to the earlier part of a conversation about ardent parties with the security what are the things that I that I learned quickly was that unless you were actually boarding one of them you were none of us were ever supposed to know all three of the following facts about submarines what submarine were talking about where it will be and when it will be there so if if save for example that there was a shipper submarine called Black was another boat something there was some big divide and I forget I think something is about the things above water ships anyway if one of the submarines at slots either you assist ours because I love the Hunter of October in our solicitor your sister Alice is going to be somewhere I am 4 July then I can no wear that somewhere will be right or alternatively I know that there will be a Saab in Newport News Virginia on 4 July but I cant know which side that that will be and so you would only ever be allowed to know to the three pieces of information and I never actually got lucky enough to get a sub ride when I was when I was working there by if hypothetically some of my co-workers dead and they basically new account gone Newport News on the fourth and there will be a sub there I have no idea which one and then as they were getting on the bill they would find out about this is that you assist ours right cool yet I did come across and specifically arm when I well III didn't have any of the submarines to be honest and mine was a was age of mod so sort of arm and a dozen rabbit you yet it's is a good way of splitting up because in one person doesn't have all the information required to actually go to know the specifics about what where when yes what where when are the ES anyway so arm when I was involved I will I did a little bit of software I did a little bit of system work so systems are integration and the finger systems is that you have to know a little bit about the fringes of the other systems that are connecting together but the need-to-know was not always as clear because I didn't know what I didn't know and I had to rely on people that did note to tell me that I had a need to know in order to get access to tonight rate if the out-of-date actually are not the funny thing is unlikely trying to be funny when I say that that is actually accurate as to what the problem a great rate but anyway writes those were pauses for a second talk about our sponsor for this episode are so life X spelt LIF X is a smart lightbulb that gives you previously unheard of control 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you like right now I've been testing some demo bulbs and my kids went crazy upon the disco light effects and some strobe being and they went absolutely crazy had dance pain the main lounge room it was absolutely fantastic life X bowls are shipping today for only US$99 with free shipping worldwide head over to life X that's LIF to learn more and enter the coupon code pragmatic for 15% of the total price of your order thank you to life X for sponsoring pragmatic so this might talk about are the IT infrastructure a little bit and have be a little bit generic because I think it's probably better that I am arm so first of all I want to talk about Tempest did you come across Tempest now that doesn't ring a bell's okay what Tempest is something I came across is actually believe a non-NSA codename so not even in Australia thing it was actually a North American are United States singer should say and what does what is a refers to the spying on information that is being emanated so M emanations from equipment and they could be emanations that either electromagnetic i.e. radio or are or magnetic or electric fields article be visual are or could be sound or could be vibration anything that emanates from equipment that you're using that has secure information on so the thing that you learn a little bit about Tempest is that not just any building can be used so the thing is that there are restrictions as to how close you can be to Windows how close other buildings can be to your building and some buildings require you fitting with your additional shielding and all sorts of other little requirements now I don't have a list of requirements and can go through them but that's just an idea of something that needs to be considered you can't just set up shop wherever you feel like it and start working on a defence project the whole building needs to be approved so that whole Tempest thing is a very big deal with IT infrastructure now beyond that even that's not enough in some cases because well let's face it visually you've also got the ability of people looking through the windows in these ways of cutting through reflective glass and so on and then there's Des methods and all sorts of things so what you want to do is make sure that you also have rooms for the really highest level of security staff and these are rooms that are double treble heavy shielding no windows no completely isolated rooms where you can work on the highest level of of information and that sort of stuff is was something that I was never I only heard about because I was never involved with but some of the information I I was told arm is essentially so sensitive that it's not even left in the PC so in order to actually work on the information honour on a PC what you do is you would check out a hard drive and you inserted into a special dock and that dock would allow the PC to function you would work much had to work on and when you're finished you would then check it back in and log back into a secure safe and this is all now like Ultra Ultra no you needed to know definitely and you had to have the highest level of clearance to get in and I were very careful what went in and out of that room so you can't just you go in therein with your swipe card in and do what you want it's it's locked down very heavily the networks are split into two networks and is one of them I like to think of the sick as the secure LAN but they refer to as the Reglan of the red network and the other one was the corporate languages are the so-called black network and that was just the general business and any non-classified information so you setting up a meeting it was like I am meeting for a wink wink nudge nudge we are or codenames these are my codename that you are submitting for blah in this room now that's that's corporate land stuff was a secure LAN was of course for anything that was arm classified up to a certain level and if you want to get data in an in and out of that secure land there was a massive rigmarole you had to go through because they would lockdown everything they lockdown the USB ports they would lockdown the MAC address so the switches that were connected on the Reglan arm yet I will lock the MAC address so that port on that ethernet switch specifically in that rack in that room and that floor could only connect to this ethernet cards now port number one of that ethernet card on that computer and if it ever got connected in or desiccant to something else then alarm would go off which I discovered this one goes wow yak is okay if he was perfectly innocent of course and that was it was a simple mistake I was moving desks and I move my computers because that's just what you do I suppose and I was AC keeping the same arm that that the move the melting same hardware the same cable same everything but my tables for whatever reason were the same colourto be different colours right one for the Blackland with the red laminae mime are both blue psychiatric letter trace the cable you lost track of which it was which is all the MAC address possible be set up was all good to go bump in the night before rising and moving in plugging the next morning I was hunky-dory except the plug in the wrong way around so my my corporate LAN PC was plugged into the Reglan and vice versa and I think it took out 30 seconds maybe 45 before the security guy walked up to my desk in my shoulder and asked me what I was doing was a your same friend that you met outside on the way back from lunch as it happens yes it was funny about it really didn't like me either as D didn't like me I think that's what it was is a shame anyhow nevermind so it was it was all perfectly innocent but yes there were alarm set up yes they did find out they were notified and they found me so yet they take that seriously so one over that just just as an aside people that do not MAC address locking as requested in case you don't MAC sensor media access control and it's our six groups of two hexadecimal digits and that's unique to every physical ethernet address and I think no Wi-Fi is well and you Apple doing some cool thing with rotating MAC addresses randomly to stop prevent tracking and I were Satan that's all very cool thumbs up awesome but so far as this goes that would not work in the sort of an environment obviously belies the fact MAC addresses fixed but anyway so did you have any experiences like that or anything similar not really I'm not with regards networks I know that that certainly is not in the office but on board vessels that there were two different networks there was a there was a kind of dirty network if you well that you can now run almost anything on and then there was the kind of clean if you welding in the classified information in those things that that are required for the ship to run properly those sorts networks but generally speaking during the day-to-day activities are generally run into that very much the one thing I will say though is that I was one of the first engineers of developers I should say because we are the kinds of engineers are I was one of the first developers to get a laptop which was a very weird thing and this was in what 2006 searched thousand seven some like that and it was very weird to have a laptop most of us a dustup that in fact most of us at CRTs at the time and this was lead enough that security is were kind of going by the wayside but arm we mostly had are actually IBM many towers and that was our work computer and one thing I do what misaligned about the company but one thing I missed very much is that because government contracting arm we couldn't work overtime without permission from the government and sell unlike the kind of consulting I do now wearing off you work overtime parity there. You had put your pencils down 40 hours and get the crap out of there because we didn't want to get in trouble for overcharging the government and so that was actually very refreshing because I never worked more than 40 hours a week except a couple rare occasions here that that that's a it's an interesting situation I have come across before not in this particular case I guess it was the way perhaps the contract was set up it in the EMI in my case no you want to work extra hours IN a dog to make you will let you all coerce you into doing it are some people there would really burn them cannot both ends and that it might young charges amount on a course that you only work in those extra hours and here anyway that's on exportation at all and now arm so as cerebral being so that the next thing is what it's all about is the red tape and I know how much of this she came across but one things in a bin out over been working now for all pre-will getting on 20 years and it was the single most amount of red tape of any job ever had to work in and the beer in ISI if you wanted to go release your build of what you're working on there was all these forms you had to fill in and I had to be signed off and so on when you are actually doing all this work you had that you had these had to get all the interfaces celebrated his interface specifications it had to be there were just so detailed and the reason I suppose in that case was that each of the individual teams did know all the details but all the other subteams were doing so if Uniface packs between the different subteams were actually detailed enough then I guess you could get caught out and you might have something where you of this message does nature respond the right information or whatever so they had they spent all this time and at the required all this extra rigour in all this red tape and it was frustrating as did you go through something similar failure arm yet understand that when I went to this company I had this is my second job out of out of college out of university and the prior wine was working on slot machines through the Oklahoma Native American Casino market way and that in the end the group voice Z it is in a depressing news was in the last episode I just did about slot machines than AI Dysart that that that that was one of the things he talked about in it immediately my interest after a psychotropic not so so I went from that which was a bunch of all arm deemed developers not all this in each malignant prior prior experience was doing real videogame development arm at some point there accompanying up water by EA and an EA shut them down likely do everyone and so it was a bunch of these generally speaking are guys that were in their mid to late 30s who really generally speaking didn't have wives or girlfriends or anything like that and they worked constantly and it was that it was an adventure but they were extremely knowledgeable extremely strong and knowledgeable and very casual about things because the sharp was all of 20 people or something like that go from that to do this big government contractor where I couldn't check in piece of code unless I had an issue request to associate with self I see a taper with that's on the user interface IKEA just go in there and fix it real quick I've got a reasoned bug it has to go through the change review board whatever we call that they have to approve it it has to be schedule prioritised and approved and then at that point I can go in and make that change and I left the company speaking of mostly because we are removing arm to where we live now bite I think I don't know I don't think I would have less to do much longer anyway because of all the red tape we did code reviews for every line of code that every Dutch act in which at first I heeded in in the end I actually ended up liking it but it was also the if it was it was unlike handcuffs because anytime I want to get anything done even fixing a taper which started with record review and if you did was set up our co-worker and a superior are you had to get the gifts squared away they had to be posted on the shared drives they can look at them in advance than these people had look at them in advance and figure out what they wanted to complain about anything and not my cold when I was reading nine trivial things got demonstrably better because of these could review so again I don't really besmirch the idea but nevertheless there were times when I want to do is change adorned paper and it was still hours upon hours of work between the reporting of the bug the change review board the opening of the bargain fixing of the bug checking and of the bug code review of the bug and all this is to change and favourite to not have a UN I mean it was the most ridiculous thing or ICS was you and that you think you are you just put on the table say that you hate exactly right and and it was the same for me and I am fortunate I say fortunate I guess I was involved in a very small part of a set of drivers essentially for a small piece of equipment involved in a particular subsystem and shall remain nameless the point is that I was just not was not dealing with this on a daily basis but I work in a team of engineers are developers that were working on with this stuff a daily basis and you never heard the end of it and although I only went through a handful of times what you just described is very very similar to what I went through also on the systems engineering side because I was writing a whole bunch of documents about different interfaces and requirements and such and it was the same kind of issue I need to get signatures from seven department heads in order to get the changes incorporated the document by document control team and this sort of what I had that the epiphany is that working with the military is like working with a government department essentially and it comes along with all of that red tape that comes with it it's not just about classified information six secret secure information is not just about that it's just process driven to the nth degree and just when you thought it was not possible add more process and more red tape they added it is just unbelievable to me you absolutely and I think that there are several reasons that that happens I think the biggest and most obvious reason is it's it's fixing everything by prices and time anything ever goes wrong on others a procedure to prevent that and it was more deliberate and less organic and as I've gotten a little bit older I happen to believe that having just more organic error handling approach where you learn from your mistakes we don't necessarily add process because of it I think that makes more sense anyway so is like a process and end all about fixing or preventing future bugs and issues but a lot of it is also that the government is a big entity released here it is and it employs a lot of people and the easiest way to employ a lot of people is to have a Lada checking and balancing going on all over the place from the top of the way to the bottom and I think some of it not to see that it was necessarily deliberately written for that purpose because unlike where I believe that that a lot of the process is deliberately written to prevent some issue from happening a second time the kind of movies and of subversive is the word I'm looking for a but it's best I can come up with the subversive purpose of it of this process was just keep that big an organisation that leg because you elected to bring the prices back in the unit down in some is losing the job because they do not need to have all these checks and balances anymore they are me I'm on I'm with you and I made you seriously i.e. I do wonder how much process is therefore process sake I don't Dan and Mrs Kosana will be odd I guess maybe coming from me specifically but I guess I see processes being something that you should try and keep it high level so that people are on the same path but if it has to be so specific and so detailed and have so many old requirements then it process becomes for its own sake and it doesn't actually add any appreciable value actually suss subtract value and striking a balance is always can be difficult but honestly I honestly think is another angle as well to it is that you create process in like cases to spread accountability so eyeless trigger point yes so yes I similar say I am I'm concerned about this because I'm not an expert in this particular thing so I'm going to put out for review an ominous spread this accountability across multiple different people NASA skill do that now and say okay know what I'm doing is a lot of the time so what is on our credit process this document in this topic must be reviewed by minimum of these number of people right now uncovered SI okay I do and there's an earlier upset on numb design of username only and is the same kind of idea as well so if you are correct was not upset again if you want that that particular episode I went through this and discuss the really quickly again is that just because you give someone something to review does Menasha go effectively review it because people have other things that they need to do like-minded again our own documents reviewed actually being productive that's another thing they might want to do now and you guys have time to go and do a thorough review of the people stuff so epic it comes down to I now I'm waiting on signatures and is nothing a lot of them signatures and everything the scrubby wedding to definiteness digital signature stuff and I now anyone is another whole episode I should do on that wedding versus digital signatures goodness me anyway so yet as he reaches a point where the spread accountability wide enough then no one individual can be to blame so you ice my miss this on this document we went through and accidentally something sank or you exploded or whatever and then made your big review I say are well when out to review you know multiple people to blame well guess I call them harder no maybe not may wish to final them now don't think so and so so cynical of me but I think there is some some modicum of truth to it if not a lot of truth to it because you again part of the reason the government entity so big is just like you said to spread that accountability snow one no one had is going to roll if something goes pretty badly there were at least mildly badly now maybe there will be one singular human that that get that takes the blame air the submarine runs aground by in normal circumstances where something inconvenient happens well just the whole department as a team is given a stern yell tongue lashing and that's about it there that's it yes well am honestly air i.e. I don't know what the answer is because when I'll actually left arm going one of the big reasons was the red tape and just because it just edges drove me up the wall because I was getting feedback on the grammar in my sentences and is the thing that used to really irritate the heck out of me I'm trying so hard not swear right now because it was really really annoying I'm writing a sentence okay and there is one particular guy had department head who was our who saw saw himself as a grammar Nazi but in the end he was not fully qualified to be a grammar nicely so on depending on the phase of the moon the colour of the moon or the direction of the wind he would say on this is the right way should be worded and the like are okay I'll worded this wages for you and you would go and you do that update because that would mean you have to go get all the departments to heads to review that change and get their signatures again okay no worries there goes another week of my life as you have a five working day minimum waiting period to give them opportunity to review it great so you go back again the following week you know what he changed back to how I originally had and I just went down to his desk I put the two in front of them both with his signature against the markup and I said pick one now and unlike 22 something I was yeah so you know that they may have sounded aggressive but believe me was a lot more aggressive than horses younger and I don't think he was my friend after that I suddenly was not as Christmas list but the point was that arm that was a sort of frustration that drove me to leave because it's not that it's just it was these people were not adding value they were just picking that my the way I structure a sentence does not change the intent of the sentence of the detail of the design that I'm doing so why are we reviewing is why you review is what value are you adding come on so anyway that's when the process is just the sake process and I just had to go and I and I see it was really good massacres were letter then went to work for a company clamp engineering and that's when I got back into control systems and in smaller spin the sandbox I been playing in ever since this is more the software side mooring controls and so out in the cunning face making machinery work and that's no very little red tape so you might something it's funny because I being a consultant I occasionally will work with see for example really big financial firm and I see a lot of the same issues there a lot of the same red tape and additionally a lot of the middle management Gleick and I did a project at at about a year to go somewhere local and every meeting we had had what I would consider middle managers and it unusually for a five of them and I think that in most cases most of these middle managers deep down inside knew there were expendable and that they were one of 15 people dislike themselves here and I think that a lot of times what they would do as they would paper up in make a stink about the silliest things and I genuinely believe the reason they did this was because they wanted to show everyone else around them they're worth something and so they would just paper up and let's say about a grammar issue and have about this grammar issue and because they think in their heads well everyone saw me make that smart yell might catch on a grammar problem they cant get rid of me not to get rid of Joel Susie instead and this is the place it was like living on kites of it's only there was a pending arm layoff or anything like that it's just that I think that the deep down inside knew that they will kind of redundant and so they did everything they could to seem not redundant and my goodness it was it was very very challenging even as a consultant where I knew I was getting out as soon as the project was done it was still very challenging yet identify Dorothy uses as a consultant and during that time are that was something it was nice to be on the outside of boats are the funny thing is one as a consultant for two years there I was actually back in the cunning face doing programming again are some of the things where you never admitted Yoshino had to do something because then they'll make you do that you know so so your experience was that was high-tech Skylark rate you can fix up this enormous drama we have a okay now the lower her ideas like I came here to do work in this area are now back to okay you visit you online you know you want a paycheck at the end of the day so you use shrug your shoulders like here we go again rolling eyes and is get typing that this year there it is it is terrible at home middle management load and that's another topical on unto itself but that the thing is I do wonder though people listening this that haven't actually had the say pleasure chronicler pleasure of working in a nonmilitary development is some people look good on it with a sense of arm Isaiah has sort of an allure to it sake you are cool and working on our stealth aeroplane or something I'm working on some yell submariner or something for some reasoning for a plane is really really cool or in a ammunition or whatever whatever floats your boat rightly cycle this is so cool once you realise that you get on the inside of it and you've gone through all the rigmarole to get clearance and everything you realise a you can't actually tell anyone about it and be there is so much red tape you have to go through some of BSF to deal with on a day-to-day basis it really can be quite frustrating it sort of you get to the end of it I'm sure a lot of people get disillusioned but the funny thing is they still seem to have a lot of people that stay in that environment so I came to the conclusion that it's an environment that works for certain people I was not one of those people sounds like you were probably either that you know if if if you're ever interested in doing that sort of thing hopefully if anything if nothing else is it has given you an opportunity to get a handle on what you could expect and whether it's your cup of tea or not or cup of coffee or cup of Lucozade of where the heck you drink the amount due possibly I don't know maybe not only some good things that came of my experience refer in N one example is everything that was hat that was dining that that happened was deliberate in many cases I think was taken away to Fond du Lac we just discussed Brighton it was deliberate and when a lot of developers often times I kinda shoot from the HEPA air and just screw it while rates and cultural figure itself out and that's not gonna cut it when you're working on things for an aircraft carrier or a submarine or a stealth bomber or what have you and so they were very deliberate which was something which is a skill that I think I've carried with me or is certainly a state of mind I've carried with me ever since the other thing that that that this company was for better or worse they were extremely good at reproducible results and so if you look at I'm on my podcast ETP episode 55 and we talked about us offer methodologies finally yell we talked a lot about how our Jordan scrum is a really good way of learning from the power asked in trying to handle something that is kind of inherently out of control while this might once you get to this sort of an environment of big government environment are that the company I work for CMM I Level 3 I believe which if we only remember what's MMI stands for abortive basically says is how mature is your prices and at a level III I believe it said something online so when you estimate something's gonna take a thousand hours needed percent of the time it's gonna take within 5% of a thousand hours and again I'm kind of get here we've had wheelie with the details because of specifics but that's the idea and so it was very deliberate and it was very reproducible and that's something that I think all software developers should aspire to be as both deliberate and be able to reproducible the estimate and also execute on projects I think that a lot of the red tape to secure seeing John I think it was overkill I think it was ridiculous by there is certainly a happy side the others are theirs against that young if you will while on radio several out because I know I either guess I did gonna paint that is being alone perhaps less than an optimal experience and perhaps you should have different expectations but the bottom line is you write absolutely there were positives and one things I did take away from it is the thoroughness with the documentation that is something that I've tried to carry with me since again I don't always succeed on human that's fine and I get affected by bosses screaming at me at times saying get the damn thing out the door yea it happens but you know it's something that I am far more thorough than I was as a direct result of that working on that on that project and working in an environment that you also mention the whole code review thing and that something else as well is that we also did your code review and in some cases it was line by line and I know that my drivers had that the once over and see how it was it was frustrating but it was also enlightening at the same time because absolutely yet because you get different people's perspectives just because this is the way gonna do a nested if statement whatever else he could have a switch statement away back in doing so is programming in C and it was you know what whatever whatever whatever you is someone else's approach to announce they will hear the reasons why would suggest the following and you would learn something from that you would go I knew it would make you a better programmer because the thing is if you don't do line by line reviews of code that stuff just doesn't come up people just tend to be very yellow hand wavy and say yeah I just didn't like the way you wrote this in an and they tend to be very vague as if you're liable on code review they have to be specifically what specifically is wrong about the way that I've structured this all out to find this of the way that I've yea laid this out what specifically is the issue and I found that to be valuable as well and honestly I think that more places should do detailed code reviews but if you do them you have the right mix of people and again at something that I discussed the previous episode bits are in any case it wasn't all bad you're quite right and and there are there are good lessons to be learned from and and predicting time is always difficult that's something I'm I'm eternally working on than I hope yes I hope one day to master but I fear perhaps it is an impossible thing to master but certainly there is still room for improvement song I go with that if I can get my estimates within what was it 80% let's say then Jesus be happy with that I really would seriously need to Jesus so hard that some people change in home deliverables change in different project pressures change and if you're anything like me I always think a much better at what I do that I am in so I'll file that'll take me 40 hours and then inevitably it takes anywhere between 1680 and so it was it was not too long after I started development deal doing this for a living that I just started multiplying whatever my internal estimate was by either a factor of 1 1/2 to 2 to get you to do now would be my reported estimate and so that 40 hour estimate I think I something I can do that but we will then outsell my bicycle worker whoever RDS can take me in about a week and have two weeks and more often than not actually end up break that way by almost doubling what I think it should yet polyol the old rules I was told was Dublin out of it and it's generally good advice but they want never ever ever tell anyone that that's what you do now how I made a mistake once of mentioning it to 1 of my engineering colleagues not I will note not the project planner not the project arm manager and the amis loose lips sink ships goes is hated you know that John does this this time estimates nonwhite burying my face in my hands unlike you jerk how can you do this to me so because now he started deconstructing all of my schedule estimates and I said you see what you've done to me and shrugged like it was no big deal and then for the rest the time I was there anyway now it's Ijaz muscle especially if you tell someone that's not a developer I am in the mistake of saying to a project manager you will be thinking it through out loud loud I think it will take about 40 hours the Seattle probably about two weeks MLB like what were then and you just said about 40 hours allowing our boat I'm always wrong whenever I see that I was busily doubling our Excel 40 hours help you understand it should be double that occupied by finite I'll give you 45 maybe 50 know it's a bit of P60 that is high is undergoing our our negotiation anything in the negotiation of its so infuriating because it's like I need five days to do this think is a cause careful keepers and inner monologue right again so I need are renewing in five days and site project notices really needed done to a nonwhite okay so let's just play back was just happened here showing you asked me how long this can take I told you honestly how long I thought it would take you now coming back to me telling me I can only have two days to do it while here's the thing next time don't bother asking me okay because yours can put down two days and I'm screwed either way thanks I see how this works are worse than I am told telling us now been sell your dyslexic post but does the other day ARO was having a marathon meeting at work and arm and we were doing sprint planning where we estimate how long each user story is going to take and then one of the things we also come up with is what we think or what will what one of the things we were told to come up with is what we think of lastly will be for that spring so that's just say that if it were going to meet user stories your summary points how many points of average we think will complete and so the developers in the room were looking at the project manager saying well how many did we do in the last couple sprints or the fact the matter was we were going as quick as we wanted and it was starting to look a little bad for the project managers to have this conversation so they were like when a community better than that if something of myself the whole point natural viewpoint of our jewel in my personal opinion is to you look at past performance as an indicator for future performance yes and sell we know that a number am I mimic the numbers that we know we've done 10 points for the last two sprints and you're telling me you think we can do 30 just my pure magic this time okay That's it starts the worst I know and and and project managers that have never been in the thick of of actual software development of other worst of the worst so inner that has convinced me I am so listlessness got negative limits and on a positive note unnatural the puzzle not as yet but send underpass that are positive note okay well to statistical do a quick recap then are there are good things about working in a military based software development environment it will teach you a lot more about thoroughness and consistency are and there are downsides because work focusing on the positive if you want have listened downsides you have to go back about 10 minutes we talked about the that work is an example of something that was great are one of the things that I got to do as part of my job was I had to you arm baby sets a deployments and that involved with the particular stuff I was working on going on a destroyer for an overnight cruise and so I went I went down to see you are one of the ports on the eastern seaboard guide on this site I think it was a destroyer and not that despite having worked at this company for a couple times are good and did destroy anything now that why was there while it's not a destroyer if you are anywhere near US economic death by the way I got to go on this this ship and spend overnight on the ship and it was doing like some high-performance terns and like high-speed runs and staff then it was extremely corporate in 24 hours a much more that I think I would have been miserable but 24 hours it was freaking awesome and so that was something that mean what jibe do you get where you other than being in the military where you as a civilian can go iron and steel United States or a Australian Navy ship and go for a spin just refunds is because that's kind of what it amounted to either it's a it's a very good point and on the project that I was working on it was spread over multiple locations spread around Australia and I had the opportunity to go to 2 different locations are undisclosed locations and see different parts of a straight I previously hadn't seen and one of those areas I haven't even been back to sense actually stunningly beautiful remote part of the world and you know if not for my involvement in that project I never would have been exposed to that and it was so quite quite an experience and I I thoroughly enjoyed that as well so certainly the opportunity to see things that modern civilians don't see is is Connor's conical I'll also agree with that and is actually the best point and I think I see we got there we got a fantastic okay well if you want talk more about this you can reach me on Twitter at John Geagea and check out my writing attack if you'd like to send any feedback please use the feedback form on the website and that's we also find the show notes that episode under pod casts pragmatic as you want to get in touch with UK see how they do that durable easiest way is probably on Twitter are my handlers at his US CAS EY ISS I also occasionally rate from a website which is also creatively at key solicitor calm and then you can catch me on my podcast with frenzy as an altar podcast which fantastic are also person I do thank life X for sponsoring this episode of pragmatic if you're looking for a great LED bulb with energy-efficient remotely controllable colourful and just plain fun to use remember 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Casey Liss

Casey Liss

Casey appears on the Accidental Tech Podcast each week as well as on Analog(ue) at and also blogs here.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.