Consistent errors

July 3, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

When I am working on a project and find myself consistently making mistakes I get angry and frustrated.

Fortunately, consistent errors are the easiest to fix. Repeatedly doing the same thing incorrectly is a pattern and patterns can be more easily dealt with than their sporadic counterparts.

Take for example an analog or digital circuit. If we find a consistent pattern of unacceptable performance it becomes easier to assign a fix to it: feedback, frequency compensation, even protection circuits.

It is the wild card, the maverick, the occasional gremlin that causes hair loss.

No, if we have to endure and then fix problems, give me the consistent variety.

Tracking down an occasional glitch is maddening.

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16 comments on “Consistent errors”

  1. Intermittent errors or faults are the really tough gremlins; guaranteed to send you bald at best or into the loony bin (like the one that I recently escaped from) at worst, or both.
    Hopefully years of engineering experience will give you a mental flow-chart for finding the cause of the errors & therefore (hopefully) a 'not too difficult' laid plans (eye rolling emoji)

    Happy Independence Day for tomorrow to all American's here on Paul's Posts.
    I really hope that the people of the U.S. can find peace amongst yourselves, after so much disunity lately. ✌

      1. I was going to suggest that if you can't keep your Republic you could rejoin our constitutional monarchy, although that's looking a bit dysfunctional as well. George III may have lost the American colonies, but he claimed Australia as British in 1770 and, so far, so good. Our politicians seem to be running into problems with a lot of homosexual groping ("a moment of madness" so they claim), but at least they don't want to take us back to a fascist version of the Stone Age. And Paul's worried about gremlins in his analogue circuits. My advice ... don't turn on the TV.

  2. Yes Martin, my immediate thought, intermittent faults are the hardest to find. Customer reports fault, engineer visits but fault is no longer there. Where do you start? Sometimes you just end up hoping the fault has permanently disappeared and in real world networks that can happen. I’d imagine that’s a lot less likely in Paul’s situation but anyway, hope is not what you’d call an engineering solution. It’s a bit like when you visit the dentist and your toothache has magically gone.

    Side note. Listening to some Gordon Lightfoot last night, specifically ‘Complete Greatest Hits’ and ‘Harmony’ an album I got some time ago yet never got round to playing, come on, we’ve all done it? I didn’t recognise any of the mixing or mastering engineers names but it was obvious it had all been done with care. On the later album his voice has gotten older but it’s a good sound, even at low volume, will be investigating some more.

    1. Lightfoot has been a favorite of mine over the years. “Harmony” was post-aneurysm for him and after that event it certainly changed his delivery and sound but the voice is still pleasing. “Solo” was his 2020 release and worth a listen as well. There is also a 2020 documentary about him I enjoyed watching that you can find streaming.

  3. Intermittent issues are a bear to deal with. The biggest trick I found is digging deep enough to find out exactly what was occurring just before the event occurred. (In the case of audio “playing music” is not exact enough). Once you can repeat it (even if not consistently) then it becomes easier to solve or develop a work around.

  4. Being of a perverse nature I relished those incomprehensible faults. Solving them forces you to really understand how a circuit or system works. After working on one of those for a while I'd become testy and short tempered but I learned almost all can fixed by careful sleuthing.
    Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away and work on something else for a while. Even though you weren't actively working the problem your brain is going through it "on the back burner" and an idea would present itself that made it easier to locate the culprit.

    1. Get your brain onto It in unpaid overtime = the miracle of dreaming.

      I’m serious. Many times a problem’s solution comes with waking after a good sleep.

      The Matt Walker Podcast. He is the guru of sleep research and a great presenter too. Like our Paul. 🙂

      1. Back in those days i wore a number of hats. I could stop working on a problem and switch over to calibrating some test gear or just walk through production to catch any problems before they got into everything, the women on the line would always call me over if something didn't seem right. We always ran several products at the same time, it was all custom work so it paid off to keep an eye on what was going on in production.

  5. I generally find it the opposite. I find that consistent errors are hard to solve because there is some long term/deep seeded habit that is at various levels hard to break. The occasional outlier doesn’t frustrate me that much, as I’m human and can’t be perfect every time. Those errors are generally corrected easily. In my case, 99% of the time they are related to rushing things.

  6. All of the above!

    For me, the tricky ones are compound errors. Seemingly unrelated bugs, that when interacting can be mystifying.
    Add to this multiple software vendors, hardware vendors and the drivers and updates for all.

    I have taken the “walk away” idea further - permanent 😉 …at least for the high-pressure medical environments, where you have $1500/hr and the endless questions, status checks and interruptions.

  7. One time a desperate airline at wits end called me and asked me to go out to one of their airport concourses and look at a water problem. For over a year airport maintenance and airline staff had scratched their head, coping with a flooded concourse corridor floor everytime it rained for a couple of days. Passengers had to trapse through standing water to get to and from the main terminal. I was a bit intimidated as I knew that if no one else could figure out the problem in over a year, what chance did I have? I do not own a divining rod, nor am I a miracle worker.

    Well, it took me only five minutes to notice that there was no raindrip flashing over the head of one of the emergency exit doors--a $20 fix for airport maintenance. Problem solved. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes is all it takes.

  8. Paul, it's a good thing you didn't work at Harry Pearson's house! I've said it in print; I swear the place was haunted when it came to equipment gremlins.

    I had some gray hairs before I started working for Harry. I had a lot more by the time I left.

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