Jacob’s palms slapped the desktop at the sides of the keyboard as he watched the screen in frustration and then shouted, “Damn it!”
Abruptly standing, sending the wheeled chair back five meters at a high velocity, he started pacing as he watched the idiotic character as it hopped around the screen. The character he’d nicknamed She Devil probably had laughter as well, but the laptop was set to mute for his concentration. This personal animated coach, delivered based on his logon credential, was annoying enough, but the real insult came from the box in the lower right hand corner.
Ha, Ha, Ha!
You missed, JACOB. Do you want to try again or is it time for milk and cookies?!
He reached over and pressed a key combination that removed the annoying creature his coworker and alleged friend, Quip, had inserted for entertainment. His pacing continued as he mentally replayed the steps of his program for this stage to see what he might have missed. The whole purpose of his efforts was to create a deflect program that morphed faster than the base code that a random hacker had created. As he shortened his pacing track in front of the monitor, he randomly ran his fingers through his thick, wavy hair before he stopped, retrieved the chair, and retook his seat. His blue eyes would have pierced the screen, if that were possible, to get past this step in this program. The latest program being dissected was open, and he reviewed it until he reached the point where he’d inserted his changes.
This program and the associated logs were part of the information detective hunt that Quip and Jacob had continued gathering from multiple sources across the Internet. The programs, logs, and information they’d gathered seemed to have the running theme of changing code that resided at the root of the system. It was like an extremely vicious virus with a mind of its own. How it was activated, deactivated, and sometimes vanished was his focus. The maddening part of the exercise was that he had no clean example to work from but only small residue pieces of code and a few overlooked log files, along with his imagination and experience. By all reports, this program was one that was lifted from the onboard computer of a very high-end smart car.
According to the information in the blog posting of the driver, this was from someone who had recently purchased a luxury vehicle. The driver and his female passenger were taking the new vehicle for a leisurely weekend drive. Jon and Carol Shaw, named as the owners of the car, hadn’t expected the random smart car behavior they had experienced with less than five hundred miles on the odometer. Driving along a scenic road near Tuscany, the driver had modestly set the cruise control at the posted speed limit rather than risk receiving a ticket from the automated Italian speed traps. For half an hour or so they chatted and took in the countryside, which was awash with summer color and dotted with various animals on the hillsides.
It was quite a pleasant road trip until the accelerator started to increase and then abruptly decreased before the driver could respond. In fact, controlling the steering wheel seemed to be the driver’s focus as the brakes completely disappeared. Then the wheels seemed to lock-up before the vehicle came to a stop. According to the post that had accompanied the smart car downloads, the driver had barely missed a head on crash with a Braunvieh, who had been calmly chewing her cud as she’d swatted flies with her tail, just before the vehicle crashed through a fence.
The Internet posting became a bit more interesting when the Shaw couple was issued a reckless driving citation by the police.
The police maintained the driver had foolishly set the cruise control, expecting the car to drive itself, while they had a grope and feel in the back seat of the driverless vehicle. The Shaw couple vehemently denied the allegation that they were too stupid to ride in a smart car believing that it would drive itself while on cruise control. The police maintained they found no faulty on-board computer code and no mechanical anomalies to explain the accident. The Shaw couple had taken their complaint to the social media ranks to see if anyone else was experiencing the same kind of issue.
Jacob had recovered a portion of the program from the hidden registry files, recreated the scenario, and had found another thread in the puzzle he’d been assembling. There was no real code residue and no log activity to check against as the program file was gone. However, on his closer inspection, the log time date stamps looked odd so Jacob had opened them up to compare them to each other during the questionable time frame. He noticed they were all identical. Something had indeed run on the smart car on-board systems, replaced actual logging files with manufactured ones, and then deleted itself, thus giving the impression that nothing had been done in the on-board computer. However phony the logs were, there was no real proof that rogue code had been executed on the smart car.
He had a partial tendril print from the programmer. It contained the same characteristics he’d isolated from the other incidents and pointed back to portions of the grasshopper-loop he had unraveled, be it nearly too late, from the former Professor Su Lin. He had his suspicions, which was why he continued to poke at the problem from each of the odd incidents randomly revealed as he and Quip trolled for data. This was what he measured himself against in this sixteenth scenario. He was on the verge of completing and confirming at least a similar tag in the strings he was trying to connect.
He was further annoyed as he and Petra had both looked at this type of vehicle to purchase for their travel while in Europe. However, after studying this series of events he was beginning to lean more towards more traditional rather than this new trend toward smart cars which could be readily hacked. He sent off a quick email to the poster of the incident to verify if the on board systems had received any automatic downloads, and if so when, in relationship to the events.
The door to the machine room tweeted as someone entered. Jacob looked up to the monitor that showed the live feed to the operations center entrance and smiled as he saw Petra enter. She was not only his coworker but the love of his life. She was short and petite with her long blonde hair tied up in her work bun, as he liked to think of it. She was beautiful.
In her lyrical voice, Petra gently asked with the amusement reaching her dark brown eyes, “Honey, should I ask what the score is or presume the crazy new hairdo is due to your doing calisthenics while waiting for the program to compile?
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