Bork!Bork!Bork! Welcome to another in our series of systems suffering from iffy coding or dirty data in the form of a Bork left hanging out for all to see.
NaN's the word this time around, after a Register reader found himself confronted with a decidedly dodgy British Gas account balance after persuading the utility's system to allow the submission of the digits showing on his meter. "I threw away their app," he explained, "because it only works if you have a spy meter or something, but I had to email them with my meter reading."
It all went swimmingly (bar the usual faffing with accounts that seems to be part and parcel of dealing with many utilities) right up until he was shown his account balance.
Standing for "Not a Number", NaN indicates that, whatever the value is, it isn't a legal number. Which is less than ideal when one is hoping to see how many pounds British Gas is expecting to extract from one's wallet.
As for what could cause the error, the possibilities are nearly endless. Floating point operations are, of course, the path to madness, but NaN might equally crop up if there's a divide by zero lurking around, dirty data or some dodgy arithmetic operators at play.
A spokesperson at Centrica sent us a statement:
“Unfortunately an error has occurred that our team is currently in the process of resolving. NaN means Not a Number and occurs when the meter is unable to process a reading to secure an outstanding balance. We realise this message isn’t very customer friendly, so while we fix, we ask that if any of our customers receive to please get in contact so we can check to why it has happened and provide the correct balance.”
It isn't alone in getting an unexpected NaN. One UK retailer likes the things so much it pops them on the shelf edge, as spotted by Register reader Ian. "Taken in Sainsbury's some years ago, at a time when supermarket shelves still had stuff on them," he said, "it's probably not what Coleridge had in mind when he wrote of caverns 'measureless to man'."
I like my pudding to be: butterscotch, immeasurable
Sadly, we don't believe Tideford Butterscotch Rice Pudding remains a thing. Launched in single serve form at the end of 2010, it no longer adorns the vegan-obsessed Tideford Organic site. We imagine all that milk and double cream is probably a bit of a no-no these days.
A shame, because an alternative pud option, butterscotch Angel Delight, is a thing of glory (although we're slightly concerned that happy childhood memories of decades ago might be sullied by the adult experience of today).
If the product has indeed gone the way of the butterscotch dodo, then the NaN might perhaps be a touching tribute to an impending zeroing of the stock. I am Not a Number. I am a pudding eater. ®