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The 9 strangest software bugs

These glitches are a rare breed


Bugs are common in software, almost every program has one that exasperates its users. But truly unusual bugs that prompt technology to behave as if it was possessed are a rare breed. We round up nine of the most fascinating rare bugs.

2008: The day the Zunes stood still

You gotta feel sorry for Zune owners. Not only is their MP3 player of choice a synonym for 'yet another unsuccessful Microsoft attempt to be cool', but on December 31, everyone who owned models with 30GB hard drives discovered that their players were spontaneously rebooting and then freezing when the owners tried to restart them.

It was as if someone had booby-trapped the world's supply of 30GB Zunes to prevent them from making it into 2009.

The bug: Leap years may have been around since Julius Caesar invented them in 45 BC, but software developers still don't seem to understand them. The Zunes refused to start up because of an error in the way the devices dealt with leap years.

Fortunately, the fix was simple: Rebooting Zunes on January 1 brought them back to life. Kind of a drag for anybody who had been planning to use one to liven up a New Year's Eve party, though.

2009: Malware everywhere

Ever do a search on Google and notice that one of the listings in the results is accompanied by a warning that Google believes it may be laden with malware?

If you Googled bright and early on January 31, you might have. For 55 minutes that morning, Google results flagged every site as hazardous to your PC. That's every site as in the whole darn internet, including all of Google's own sites and services.

The bug: As Google's Marissa Mayer explained in a blog post, the malware-detection feature identifies dangerous sites by looking them up on a list of known offenders. On the morning of January 31, an update to that list accidentally included a slash (/).

All URLs include a slash, and the antimalware feature interpreted the slash as meaning that all URLs were suspect, and therefore it blithely attached warnings to every site that surfaced in results. Many software errors stem from typos, but it's rare to see one so simple have results so sweeping and strange.

  1. These glitches are a rare breed
  2. Auction interruptus
  3. Skype down and out
  4. The day the Zunes stood still

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