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Red Hat warns "Big Boobs" could sink Microsoft Azure

'Sexist' hidden Linux kernel code could cause embarrassment and technical difficulties for software giant, rival warns

Shocked man

Microsoft Azure users may have their service disrupted as the software giant tries to rectify an embarrassing line of code, which roughly translates as "Big Boobs."

The 0x0B16B00B5 string of code has been causing blushes for Microsoft since its presence was highlighted by coder Paolo Bonzini. B16B00B5 is leet speak for ‘Big Boobs’.

However, it was Matthew Garrett, who works for open source provider Red Hat, who claimed the code could cause problems for Microsoft’s public cloud platform.

“At the most basic level it's just straightforward childish humour, and the use of vaguely-English strings in magic hex constants is hardly uncommon. But it's also specifically male childish humour," he said in a company blog post.

"Puerile sniggering at breasts contributes to the continuing impression that software development is a boys club where girls aren't welcome. It's especially irritating in this case because Azure may depend on this constant, so changing it will break things,” he said.

Meanwhile, Clive Longbottom, service director at analysis Quocirca, played down the risk "Big Boobs" poses to Azure's stability.

“It is a storm in a teacup as far as I can see. If [0x0B16B00B5] is a name for a routine or lump of code within the overall environment, then it still shouldn’t be that difficult to get around.  As it is a constant, then a general search and replace in any code that could be dependent on it will fix the problem once Microsoft has changed the underlying string.”

He also dismissed concerns over the ‘sexism’ of the code. “It’s a hidden bit of code that will never be seen by anyone outside of geekdom.  Yes, it’s pathetic; yes, it’s childish. [But] is it harmful to anyone?”

This is a view shared by Helen Lewis, noted feminist and deputy editor of the New Statesman magazine. “Like pretty much every schoolchild in Britain (female as well as male), I was taught how to write 58008 on a calculator and turn it upside down. If numbers happened to spell out a noteworthy bit of male anatomy, I’m sure we would have done that instead.

"I think whoever did this has more to fear from Microsoft, who are not renowned for celebrating cheeky attempts to subvert their brand, than feminists," she told Cloud Pro.

A Microsoft Spokesperson said: "We thank the community for reporting this issue and apologize for the offensive string. We have submitted a patch to fix this issue and the change will be published in a future release of the kernel. The fix for this issue should not impact any application or service."

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