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Rubber Ducky Debugging

Rubber Ducky Debugging

Have you ever wondered why your help desk guy always asked you to do the most basic things while trying to resolve technical issues? Adversely, are you someone who has worked within a technical field and has run into an issue that made you slam your head against a wall for hours only for the solution to be something that was staring you in the face? I would like to introduce you to a troubleshooting technique I picked up some years back that helps to alleviate unnecessary headache and anxiety.

What is Rubber Ducky Debugging? It is going to sound slightly crazy, but simply put, it is talking through a technical issue step by step with an inanimate object, in this case… a Rubber Ducky. It doesn’t have to be a Rubber Ducky, it can be anything you have on your desk- a red stapler, a pen, or even a Funko Pop from your favorite collection. It doesn’t have to be an inanimate object at all, it could be another person as well.

Start by identifying the actual issue you are having, for example testing an event grid notification for an expired secret on a key vault that will not trigger an event. You’re looking at the expiration date and it looks good, the time looks good, but no matter what you have tried the event will not trigger. You have tried everything to figure it out but have not seen what is causing it and are starting to get frustrated due to this being so simple and it not working. Before you start to question your sanity and technical qualifications, pick up your “Rubber Ducky” and explain at the most basic level what you are trying to do.

  • You: “Rubber ducky, my secret is expiring but the event will not trigger”
  • You (Imitating the Rubber Ducky) : “What is required to make this event trigger?”
  • You: “The predetermined time for the expiration of the secret passes by and event grid will trigger to automate a task”
  • You (Imitating the Rubber Ducky): “Is the current month passed the expiration month?”
  • You: “Yes Rubber Ducky, I checked that…”
  • You (Imitating the Rubber Ducky): “Is the current date, passed the expiration date?”
  • You: “Yes Rubber Ducky…”
  • You (Imitating the Rubber Ducky): “Is the year of the expiration date past the expiration date?”
  • You: “Yes Rubber… oh wait, the year is 2 years in the future so the date isn’t correct”

You will feel goofy utilizing this mechanism for troubleshooting something that is making you feel like pulling your hair out, but all it is truly doing is identifying the basic components of the issue you are encountering and forcing you to walk through them step by step at a rudimentary level. It forces you to take a step back and get out of your own way to identify the true problem without theorizing what the problem is. It’s something that can be applied to almost every problem and again, while it seems completely ridiculous, it can truly help anyone through almost any problem you run into. I have found myself personally using other people as rubber ducks on accident and figuring out problems before the other person even understands what my problem truly is.

If you have any ways that you personally troubleshoot problems or if you are going to give this method a try, let us know!