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AlBlue’s Blog

Macs, Modularity and More

Oh noes! The Twitpocalypse is upon us!

2009, crap, iphone

OK, so it's not very exciting. The Twitpocalypse has been and gone, the world hasn't ended, and life goes on.

The Twitpocalypse is caused by the fact that Twitter identifies its tweets by a numeric identifier, and recently the number of tweets posted exceeded the bound of SInt32, or 2^31-1 (2147483647). Programs written with the assumption of a SInt32 range (including my preferred iPhone client, Twitterific) started to fail on Saturday afternoon. This highlights a couple of interesting points:

  • Plan Ahead. Like the Y2K bug, this was predicted relatively well in advance, and was going to happen sooner (or later). Filesystems like ZFS use a 128-bit identifier to avoid out-of-range identifiers as storage grows in the future. 64-bit systems allow access of a massive 17MTb capacity of memory (though in practice, that's not likely to be met soon). But at the lower end, 4G is a relatively near target, and even some laptops can use more than this limit.
  • Getting apps into the AppStore is harder than a camel through the eye of a needle. The bug was fixed pretty quickly, but it's sitting in the Apple Random Rejection Queue waiting for someone to hit the button. It's not great for an app to exist in this state - and what happens if a more serious bug (like a security bug) exists in an application? How long might Apple iPhone customers be vulnerable before Apple accepts a security patch?

Whilst I doubt this is universal (or that there are other iPhone Twitter clients that exist that may suffer similar afflictions) this highlights an important point that the App Store process is a roadblock in the event of external factors impacting one (or more) programs that have no control about when the update gets issued.