What Google, GitHub and artificial cats are doing for Halloween

Halloween Special 2019: Bats, cats and scary developer stories

Maika Möbus
© Shutterstock / JeniFoto

Boo!—It’s that time of year again and spooky things are happening in the tech world. We’ve compiled a Halloween collection of scary database stories, games and more. Find out what horrors await when dev, test, and prod are all on the same server, as well as what GitHub and Google have in store for us this year. Let’s dive into our Halloween special, but only if you’re not afraid of getting nightmares.

We had a look at the tech world to see what’s happening this Halloween—and found out that database administrators can encounter scary situations not only on All Hallows’ Eve, as some have shared their experiences with us. Google created a Halloween Doodle like (almost) every year, while GitHub didn’t want to miss out on the fun and compiled a list of 13 “spooktacular games”. As an added bonus, take a look at some creepy AI-generated cats.

Thirteen scary GitHub games

Let’s start out with a mixture of fun and fiends. Game Off is GitHub’s annual game jam that takes place in November and is essentially a hackathon for creating games. It has brought some “fun, fiendish and forkable” games to light, of which thirteen were compiled in a blog post for this year’s Halloween.

Some of the games can be played in your browser, like The Wandering Wraith who wants to find his way back to his grave:

The Wandering Wraith; Source: GitHub

GitHub even offers a fun hack for infinite dash-jumping abilities. All you need to do is comment out this.dashed = true; in player-physics.ts L#285:

  this.player.body_.vel.y = 5 * (this.gravity > 0 ? -1 : 1);
-  this.dashed = true;
+  // this.dashed = true;
   zzfx(0.6, 1, 200, 0.1, 0.47, 4.2, 1.4, 1, 0.15);

The source code to the JavaScript game can be found on GitHub.

Among the other games are 2017’s Game Off winner Daemon vs. Demon as well as Monster Pong, a monstrous version of Breakout and Pong. See the full list of all thirteen games on the GitHub blog.

Scary database stories

Now that you have hopefully recovered from the fiendish games, let’s find out how scary databases can be. Some engineers working at Percona shared their stories with us.

One of them is Brian Walters, Director of Solution Engineering. As a Rookie DBA at a company with a shoestring budget, he had to deal with dev, test, and prod on the same server. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s hear the horrors he had to endure.

“So, I’m about two years into my career as a DBA and part of my job is maintaining the database for the company MRP system. This system is critical, without it the whole plant shuts down.

During the implementation of the MRP system, the company had fallen into the bad practice of using the production database server for development and testing purposes as well. I’d made several requests for dedicated dev/test hardware, but this just didn’t seem to be a priority for those controlling the budget.

My days usually started with the same few tasks: checking the backups from the night before, deleting the prior day’s testing database, and creating a new testing environment by restoring last night’s backup. I had my routine pretty tight, most of it was scripted. All I had to do was change an environment variable and run the daily scripts.

This all worked fine until one day… that morning, I was just a little more tired than normal. I logged into the database server and thought that I had set the environment variables so they pointed to the testing database. By some mistaken force of habit, mental lapse, or temporary spooky hallucination, I had actually, accidentally set the environment variables to prod… and then I ran the delete-database scripts.

Somehow, I realized my mistake almost before the enter-key was fully depressed. But by that time it was already too late. It took less than ten seconds for the first phone call to arrive. Naturally, I sent it to voicemail, along with the next three phone calls that immediately followed. My next instinct was to press the Send All Calls button. Head in my hands, fully realizing what had just happened, I struggled to bring myself to understand how I did it.

After a quick conversation with my boss, who also happened to be the CFO, my schedule was cleared for the day. The remainder of the morning was spent practicing my Point in Time Recovery skills. To this day, I am grateful that I had a solid and tested backup and restore plan. I went home early that day. And that was the last time I made a mistake like that. We purchased dedicated dev/test hardware about a month later.”

If you can’t get enough of scary database stories, there’s more: Audrey Swagerty, Customer Success Manager at Percona, shared her very own tech nightmare—literally!

“This is not a tech story but a real nightmare.

When I started as a CSR, 3.5 years ago, I was not familiar with our industry and the technologies so it was quite the challenge… for some time (I guess until I got more comfortable with my new job), I used to have a recurring nightmare. I was being chased through the woods by a girl… and she would finally catch up with me, grab me and I would ask her name (don’t ask me why…instead of asking her not to kill me right :) )… And she would say: I am MongoDB!!! Then, I would wake up!

I have not thought about that story in a long time (and have not had the same nightmare ever since) so it was fun to share it again with you! Hopefully, it won’t happen again this weekend… I have been trying to help a customer with Kubernetes questions so you never know!”

Google Doodle: Halloween 2019

Following the tradition Google started in 1999, when they celebrated Halloween with a pumpkin-modified logo, a new Google Doodle was launched today. In this year’s interactive Doodle, you can “trick” or “treat” animals that are typically considered “scary”, e.g. spiders or bats, and see what happens!

Google Doodle Halloween 2019; Source: Google

Google upheld their tradition of 20 years with only a few exceptions. Take a look at the overview for a journey back in time.

This cat does not exist but it’s disturbing

What could be scarier than a smiling purple and pink bat flapping its wings? How about some AI-generated cats! You may have heard of the recent hype around GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks), which can generate convincingly real looking images of human faces.

Phil Wang demonstrated that on his website He didn’t stop there though and went on to launch Every time you hit refresh, a newly generated cat will be looking back at you—one scarier than the next. Maybe it’s a cute kitty, but maybe it’s a Lovecraftian horror:

Do you have a scary developer story or creation of your own to share? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments.

Maika Möbus
Maika Möbus has been an editor for Software & Support Media since January 2019. She studied Sociology at Goethe University Frankfurt and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments