Saturday, December 24, 2005

Santech Claus - The Technology Behind the Man in the Red Suit

On December 24th, I was granted the first ever technology interview with Santa. I tried to ask the probing, hard hitting questions you expect of me. Here is the interview in it's entirety.

Q: I know you're busy Santa getting ready for tonight's big ride. Thanks for giving us a few minutes to talk about the technology behind Santa Claus. You have a huge operation and you've embraced tech in a big way. What operating system does Santa use?
S.C.: Well, up until recently we used a custom mainframe system running on Chimneys. But fewer and fewer people support Chimneys so we've recently switched to Windows.

Q: Windows, wow! Have you ever considered open source software such as Linux?
S.C.: Yes, we looked very hard at Linux. As you know we have a high penguin population here at the North Pole. But as we researched Linux, we realized that actual penguins don't know anything about Linux, so switching wouldn't reduce our total cost of ownership and would add a huge amount of herring and sardines to the budget. Also, if we want to get any XBox 360's into stockings this year, we had to cut a deal with Bill Gates. I'm too old to wait in the snow outside of Best Buy. Plus, he and Steve Balmer have been very accommodating since they got those lumps of coal the year they introduced Windows ME.

Q: What hardware do you run Windows on?
S.C.: Everything run on Hewlett-Package PC's

Q: Er... Do you mean Hewlett-Packard?
S.C.: Packard? I thought he said package. That's it, lumps of coal for the hardware salesman!

Q: How do manage all the logistics and supply chain headaches for a once a year delivery?
S.C.: Oh, we're a very big SAP user. Send Anyone Presents. It's great software but the consulting fees will kill you, not to mention the travel and expense to the North Pole!

Q: Let's turn to your website, What can you tell us about it?
S.C.: Well, we make liberal use of cookies. Visitors are initially classified as naughty (IE) or nice (Firefox) depending on their browser and the site is designed for alternative access for challenged individuals, like elves.

Q: Very cutting edge! How about security?
S.C.: As you can imagine, we have trouble using firewalls here at the North Pole, so we use an alternative technology called Snow Forts. We do have a problem viruses though. With the Eskimos always rubbing noses, viruses can be tough to control. As for spyware, well I kind of started spyware with all that "making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out whose naughty or nice" stuff. It was OK for Santa because at least I disclosed what I'm doing. Heck, we played it over they radio. Everyone knows.

Q: Maybe we should move away from strictly computer related questions and look deeper. How do you get reindeer to fly year after year?
S.C.: Well, it's a question of genetics. We were worried about this a few years ago. We had some off breeding years. But now with the advances in genetic engineering, we've been able to clone flying reindeer. There were a few challenges, some of the early tests resulted in reindeer that flew like helicopters. They got so dizzy spinning around, they threw up!

We've upgraded Rudolph's nose to include Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) . Of course, we really don't need it now that the sleigh has GPS, but the Lockeed folks still got good toys that year. That was the year the sleigh got chaff ejectors and anti-radar paint so we could deliver in Iraq. That Saddam was verrrry naughty!

Q: Anti-Radar paint! But I thought NORAD tracked you every year as you flew around the globe? How can they do that with a stealth sleigh?
S.C.: Ho ho ho! That's just a myth my boy. Don't believe everything you hear.

Q: Last question Santa. How do you get all the presents delivered in one night?
S.C: I'm sorry son, but that information is not open source. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing me over it and Massachusetts is threatening to not let me deliver in their state unless I disclose it but that piece of information doesn't want to be free. Sorry but have to go now, I'm late.

As he walks off, the sensitive microphone attached to my mp3 recorder caught this...

"Rudolph, fire up the flux capacitor and let's get going. You know it takes forever to get the DeLorean up to 88 miles an hour with the snow chains on!"

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