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Error messages seen at Storm in 2011

We work with a wide range of technologies, frameworks and tools at Storm and that means we’re working with new things and learning all the time.  As any developer will tell you, there are two critical requirements that make learning a new tool easier: good documentation and good error messages for when you inevitably get it wrong.

2011 has been a year of many new things and we’ve seen our fair share of error messages.  Some of which were just a little bit more…. special…than others.  We’d like to share these with you, so that when you’re writing your next library, toolkit, plugin or whatever, you take time to think about the error messages the mere mortals using your code will see!

“You don’t exist.  Go away.”

Paul received this error from SSH whilst trying to push a Git commit.  It turned out that a sector of his hard drive had gone rogue and completely borked his terminal session and the rest of OS X’s authentication.  A restart fixed the problem – but only after a lot of head scratching and complete bewilderment!


This error was displayed by TortoiseGit after an error occurred pushing to a Git repo.  I can only assume that a bug in the software truncated the error message.  I have absolutely no idea what the error actually was.

“The server is unwilling to process your request”

“WELL TRY HARDER!!” could often be heard coming from my desk as Active Directory returned one of the worst error messages ever written.  The beauty of this error is that is returned for, as far as I can tell, hundreds of different reasons.  From validation errors, to typos in queries, to non-existent attribute names.  I mean really, could somebody at Microsoft not have put just a tiny bit more effort in and returned something slightly more meaningful?

“Unknown COM error”

My favourite and most often seen error in 2011 as I battled my way through Active Directory.  This takes the prize for least helpful error message of the year.  As with the server being a lazy shit, this error can be returned for hundreds of different reasons.  However, unlike the previous error, this message is paired with a hex code, for example 0x8000500, which when Googled often yielded useful information about the cause of the error – so not exactly ‘Unknown’ then!!!  Could they have not have included that information in the error?!

Did you encounter any cretinous errors in 2011?  We’d love to hear about them!