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Occam’s Razor

I listened to two colleagues working on a problem for 40 minutes or so yesterday. Normally I wouldn’t have payed them any attention but my ears were perked because my fellow system administrator had suggested to them that they get my help as he was off for the day. It took a while but eventually one of them stuck his head around the partition and asked me to take a look at the problem which they characterised as “this user/script is not reading the environment settings”.

Once I had established the nature of the problem, they were running a script on two different hosts which worked on one and failed on the other, my first question was “are the scripts identical?”. They were absolutely certain the scripts were identical and quickly went back to the discussion about reading the environment settings. I asked again a couple of times in different ways with no success so I inserted myself on the keyboard and typed “more script_name” and then alt+tabbed to the other host and typed the same thing. Alt+tabbing between the two showed right up the top of the script one had java /some/stuff and the other had ${some_var}/java /some/stuff

Sherlock Holmes said “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Which is good advice but you have to take the time and do the work to eliminate all the other possibilities first. I prefer Occam’s Razor
myself, “The simplest explanation is the best.”