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Software Error Causes Crisis in Mississippi 380

Posted by michael
from the you-are-mortal dept.
marklyon writes "Mississippi's Alcohol Beverage Control division shutdown its distribution center for an indefinite amount of time to fix computer problems today at noon. A software update applied to the inventory and ordering software last week is malfunctioning, causing orders and inventory to be lost or misrouted. 'It's a software problem, and it's an operational problem. We've gotten a lot of product in and we've got it going to the wrong location ... and the location numbers were wiped out,' said tax commissioner Ed Buelow. Buelow said the distribution center will fulfill all orders placed before noon today. He said he hopes the system will be fixed in a few days, but it's possible it could take weeks. Until that time, Mississippi bars, restaurants, and liquor stores will not be able to purchase additional stock. Many retailers are already complaining that they were unable to order sufficient quantities to supply them if the bug takes more than a few days to fix."
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Software Error Causes Crisis in Mississippi

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  • by Asgard (60200) * <jhmartin-s-5f7bbb@toger.us> on Friday October 17, 2003 @05:33PM (#7244305) Homepage
    This is the downside of Just In Time inventory -- the system has little resiliancy to burps in the supply chain. Every step should have enough buffer to handle problems (ie bad weather, computer problems, disasters, etc).
    • How much of a buffer would be needed for stag parties :)

      Rus
    • Every step should have enough buffer to handle problems

      If you have to build a buffer of "a couple of weeks" into your inventory system, you can't really call it Just In Time anymore, can you?

  • Embargo On!
  • Many retailers are already complaining that they were unable to order sufficient quantities to supply them if the bug takes more than a few days to fix."

    I'll be complaining too when is wasn't fixed tomorrow too. *Hiccup!*
  • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06@@@email...com> on Friday October 17, 2003 @05:34PM (#7244329)
    Louisiana!

    I call shotgun!

  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Friday October 17, 2003 @05:35PM (#7244333) Homepage
    Wait, so every drop of alcohol in the entire state goes through one warehouse, and the state is in charge of running this warehouse?
    And this seemed like a good idea?

    --

  • *something funny about Mississippi residents and lack of alcohol*

    =P
  • No lawmaker is going to be without booze. They'll (attempt) to fix it with some new law, or something.
  • Government's Role? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BandwidthHog (257320) <inactive.slashdo ... icallyenough.com> on Friday October 17, 2003 @05:36PM (#7244348) Homepage Journal
    A weekend without enough booze oughta help convince the populace that a single choke point on a large system is a bad idea, and the government being that choke point is a worse idea. There's absolutely no reason for alcohol not to be handled by the private sector. I live in a state that does this too, and it's just ridiculous on so many levels.

    Sure this is somewhat off-topic, but screw it. The whole idea has always bugged me, and I don't even drink that often (maybe twice a month).
    • There's absolutely no reason for alcohol not to be handled by the private sector.

      I'll give you one: In Ontario, Canada, alcohol distribution is similarly run by the Government. Since they buy their alcohol as a single body representing 8 million customers, they can demand great pricing deals from the alcohol producers, and buy at low cost.

      The government then sells the alcohol to the consumers at the same price as alcohol in other places, and put the difference into the tax coffers to fund social progr

  • Big Fucking Deal.

    The tone of the article makes it sound like this is a catastrophe. I'm sure it'll illicit all the of the holier-than-thou beardos tut-tutting and tsk-tsking about the stupidity of some developers.
  • Volkswagon Audi Group (VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Rolls Royce) switched systems(to SAP, I think?) for parts inventory+distribution a few years ago.

    It was so bad, for weeks European customers were getting parts with entirely hand-written paperwork(if any parts at all) because the system was so horribly broken.

    Reportedly VAG had 24x7 shifts of teams working to get things fixed as absolutely fast as possible...

    • VAG is Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft (think Inc. or Ltd.), not Volkswagen Audi Group.

    • Reportedly VAG had 24x7 shifts of teams working to get things fixed as absolutely fast as possible...

      Any company that names itself after a slang word for one of the female genitalia deserves to get fucked!
  • screw up the software, can't get drunk
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday October 17, 2003 @05:40PM (#7244399) Homepage Journal
    I'm trying to think of a polite way to explain just how little I care about this.

    Bruce

    • It's a holdover from prohibition that all alcohol goes through a state controlled distribution point to begin with. Prohibition may have been repealed (for alcohol anyway) but the means to bring it back if the state desired, were certainly preserved. Had there been an alternative distribution method (e.g., the opportunity for competition in the industry) this would not be a newsworthy story.

      What is important about this story is not that the state uses software or that the software malfunctioned, but that
    • Hey, not all news is equally important to everyone. If I had posted a front-page story asking someone to return your laptop [slashdot.org] from Linuxworld, you would have cared quite a bit about that story, but maybe some of our other readers wouldn't have cared as much, eh?
    • I can see at least one application for this story in my life, as I can use it as an example of what can happen if your software breaks. It's good to impress the idea of quality controls on the minds of students. Especially hard-drinking college kids.
    • How do we know you are the REAL Bruce Perens? :->
  • by djeaux (620938) on Friday October 17, 2003 @05:41PM (#7244404) Homepage Journal
    I live in a Mississippi "dry county," but beer & wine coolers may be sold inside the city limits after 7 AM & no later than 10 PM, Sundays excluded. Quantities less than 32 oz may not be purchased. Since there's not a liquor store, everyone buys their "distilled spirits" by the case or pickup truckload anyway.

    There are other counties were even beer isn't sold & others where beer isn't available but liquor is. My personal favorite is Oktibbeha County (home of Miss'ippi State University) where, for many years, beer could only be purchased by the case, hot.

    And the state commission doesn't control the sale of 'shine, anyway, thank goodness.

    Contrary to what all the damyankees on /. think, most of the deep rednecks switched over to crystal meth several years back...

    • > I live in a Mississippi "dry county," but beer & wine coolers may be sold inside the city limits after 7 AM & no later than 10 PM, Sundays excluded. Quantities less than 32 oz may not be purchased. Since there's not a liquor store, everyone buys their "distilled spirits" by the case or pickup truckload anyway.

      Impact, Texas [utexas.edu] was founded as a 'wet' jurisdiction just north of Abilene, Texas, to serve the students at that dreary[*] city's three (IIRC) fundamentalist religious colleges.[*] Old-ti

  • Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    Backups backups backups backups
    We love to back up and backup the backups
    Back back back back UPS

    (refrain)
  • by 4of12 (97621)

    Blaster, Welchia, whatever cause my computer to crash, yawn.

    Software in nuclear power plants shutsdown, OK.

    Software in electric grid gets flaky - I'm cool - eat the ice cream by candlelight.

    Software in grandpa's life support system has to reboot - well, them's the breaks.

    Commercial airliner avionice system goes down - so sorry.

    But...

    Software messin' with my beer? SHIT, WE GOT A CRISIS HERE!

  • by freeze128 (544774) on Friday October 17, 2003 @05:43PM (#7244429)
    Mississippi's divorce rate jumped to a whopping 72% this weekend. But on a higher note, there were no DUI's...
  • I think someone is out playing capture the b33r [thinkgeek.com].
    I just hope they don't get sniped.
  • it is important for all Mississippians to leave behind their petty quarrels and band together, with neighbor supporting neighbor, to face the demands of the current troubles.

    Meanwhile, we here at Acme Enterprise Software Solutions and Live Bait will be working around the clock to overcome this crisis.

    Oh, and the CEO said to tell you there's going to be a huge keg party at his place tonight.

  • This is way worse than that pussy hurricane.
  • Seriously! All that beer didn't get rerouted through an adress in the Netherlands, I have not aquired a large cooled warehouze recently nor did I mess up their patch by screwing the boss' secretary for her login details. That said, anyone want a free beer?

  • 1) What the hell is the state doing in the business of alcohol sales? Isn't that a monopoly on distribution? Government intervention = Big Mess.

    2) Do these guys not have backups of the database?

    3) I can understand the plight of those who sell the alcohol, since their businesses rely on this, but why is this a major catastrophe for those on the receiving end? Does this state have the highest alcoholics rate or something? Get a f'ing hobby people.
  • I wonder what their control software was, and if there was some problem/exploit at the OS level (latest patch gone bad) or something more like a hardware/software failure at the user level (RAID died, new control software). The linked articles seem to be very light on details.

    Also, for the record, this probably doesn't count as a "crisis." For the love of $DEITY, it's only a little alcohol. If this is a crisis, you need to seek some help [alcoholics-anonymous.org]

  • Many retailers are already complaining that they were unable to order sufficient quantities to supply them if the bug takes more than a few days to fix.

    Nice choice of words...

    But all joking aside, isn't there some sort of fallback system so that at least partial distribution comes to mind? Pen and paper is just the first one to come to mind, after all, there had to be some human element in the wharehouse (unless they had robots pulling all the liquor, which would just be cool).

    Had this been something mo
    • Had this been something more important, say the postal service, a hospital, or even a fast food chain, what would the fallback have been?

      Don't underestimate the power of the un-necessary. Hospital ER has to shut down for 6 hours nobody complains. Cable goes out for 60 minutes and Americans call their lawyers. A weekend without booze will result a new govenor.

  • Mississippi as in "Beer-Free."
  • ... It does poorly.

    Especially true about the executive branch. And the further away from the local, common sense level (town, county, state, federal) the worse it gets.

    This monopoly on the alcohol distribution stems from prohibition -- can't we finally get rid of it? Usually, the states are not allowed to mess with the interstate commerce, but when it comes to alcohol, it is ok? Can't rely on the private sector's lobbying much either, because the established businesses enjoy the system as it provides ad

  • Calling all homebrewers, moonshiners, and old men who sit out front of the drugstore. Damn the rev'nooers, it's time to come together for a good old fashioned bootleggin'!

    By gar it's been awhile!
  • So to make matters worse, Slashdot posts their plight and their webserver gets slashdotted, causing even more chaos as suppliers are unable to get information on the problem.

    Is there a way I can invest in Louisiana alcohol stocks? I think there's going to be a whole lotta drinkin' after this crisis!
  • Exactly Why... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jchawk (127686) on Friday October 17, 2003 @06:05PM (#7244620) Homepage Journal
    This is exactly why government should not be involved in the business of selling alcohol... It just doesn't make any sense. Send it to the free market and regulate! Then if supplier A has problems with their software, union, whatever then supplier B can step in and fill the gap, without lost sales or tax reveneue.

    Some states get it, some just simply don't.
  • For a moment there, I thought the power grid was going to fail or perhaps airplanes would be unable to land safely. No, it's just that retailers can't order liquor from the state government.

    I think a better question, although perhaps off-topic for Slashdot, is why the hell a lot of states hold this much control over alcohol distribution and keep it centralized like this (using some Stalinist organizational theory that centralized government control is always the best way to handle any sector of the econo

  • by Ratbert42 (452340) on Friday October 17, 2003 @06:06PM (#7244629)
    This sounds like a job for these guys [art.com]
  • I brought up slashdot while waiting for a batch file to run to help me test the stock and distribution control system we're trying to release a patch for today.

    Quickly checks client list.

    Goes back to testing, unaffected but slightly rattled..
  • We have one of the more annoying Liquor Control Boards in the country, liquor can only be purchased at State Stores, etc.

    I sympathize with the people of Mississippi, but perhaps this will bring pressure against the state control of liquor distribution.
  • There are a ton of posts with uppity, sarcastic tones about how this can possibly be a crisis. I would like to point out that these posts are short-sighted and the posters are obviously not thinking before posting.

    If you own a pub, club, restaurant or booze store in the state, you have the potential to suffer serious business losses. Imagine the pub that has no beer. The rent and administration costs for pubs and clubs are astronomical... without anything to sell they will have serious problems.

    Ima
    • Imagine if you were in a retail business, and suddenly all of your suppliers stopped supplying. You are boned. If it's a large retail industry, a lot of people are boned. This is that exact situation. Hopefully it can be fixed in a short time before any serious losses are taken. If it stretches into weeks, then there are going to be lawsuits, I can almost guarantee it.

      This problem can be fixed tonight or tommorow, via a very nontechnological route.

      The governor can call a special emergency session of the
      • I agree with your post completely, except for the part about it being trivial to do. An emergency meeting of the state legislature would not be trivial, nor would the amount of effort needed to convince the legislature that this is the appropriate course of action. It would be difficult to make this come around, but maybe a situation like this will be a catalyst.
  • This weekend is the Ole Miss-Alabama football game in Oxford. If we run out of beer, you are likely to read about riots on the front page of national newspapers. This might actually bring attention to our archaic, prohibition-era alcohol laws. Like, for example, only warm beer can be bought at stores and no alcohol sales on Sunday at all, unless you drive 15 miles across the county line, where you can buy all the cold beer you want on Sunday, but not wine or liquor.

    I will keep you posted from the front
  • I thought the admins were idiots if they didn't apply patches the instant they became available.
  • The Horror
  • The related links almost read like a complete story by itself.
    Saves on having to read all the actual articles.

    Mississippi's
    Alcohol Beverage Control division
    shutdown
    indefinite
    will fulfill
    stock
    unable to order

    There. Any questions?
  • Here [theinquirer.net] is an article titled "Firm's attempt to down hyperlinks an attack on free speech, says EFF" which discusses how Diebold is using the DMCA to force ISP's to remove links to internal memos that were leaked regarding Diebold's crappy software and business practices. You can read the internal memos, for now, here [indybay.org].

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