Ask Humorix: Segmentation Faults?
Feature written by on Wednesday, November 17, 1999
Anonymous Windows Refugee writes:
I have Windows and Linux both installed on my hard drive. Earlier today, when trying to run a C program I had just written, I got this error:
Segmentation fault (core dumped)
What does this mean? Am I doing something wrong?
The Humorix Oracle responds:
What you describe is a very dangerous situation. A segmentation fault ("segfault") is a grave error that should not be taken lightly. Stop what you are doing and read this carefully:
Think of Linux as "matter" and Windows as "anti-matter". On a dual-boot system such as yours, these two substances reside next to each other on your hard drive. A partition (think of a "lead wall") separates the two, but this division can be easily breached when heavy wear and tear is placed on the hard drive (i.e. anytime when using Windows).
When matter and anti-matter meet, they undergo mutual annihilation. Likewise, when Linux and Windows meet, they undergo a highly unstable nuclear reaction. The Linux partition, composed of "electrons", and the Windows partition, composed of so-called "anti-electrons", will combine to form a faultline along a segment of the breached partition wall -- in other words, they form a segmentation fault.
This segfault is highly unstable, and dangerous. Most times, the computer's BIOS will automatically execute a "core dump", in which the segfault is ejected from the hard drive and sent out through the back of the box. In these cases you will see the Segmentation fault (core dumped) message, indicating that the system has automatically dumped the dangerous segfault and "healed" itself.
However, if the computer is unable to contain the segfault, then the Linux kernel will display a Bus Error message. This is a potentially deadly situation; you must take action immediately by killing the power to the machine and ducking for cover. Don't mess with shutdown -h now or rm -rf /*, you must immediately turn off the machine.
If you fail to react in sufficient time, the segfault will continue to expand until it reaches a "critical mass" and forms a black hole (or, in the vernacular, a Big Uncontrolled Singularity, or Bus for short). This black hole will swallow everything in its immediate surroundings before destroying itself in a brilliant display of pyrotechnics.
For some unexplained reason, Bus errors occur most commonly when using Netscape. Segfaults are commonly associated with homebrew programs that have not been fully debugged, but this error can occur at any time you have Windows installed on your hard drive. I recommend you ditch Windows completely to prevent the formation of any unwanted space-time anomalies, which can be quite annoying.
You owe the Oracle a copy of IDG's "Quantum Mechanics For Dummies" book.