I got this one yesterday, and immediately decided to use a different library:

TypeError: publish_programmatically() takes exactly 17 arguments (1 given)

(I won't name and shame the library but you Python programmers may recognise it)

So, what is your most daunting/uninformative error message?

Edit: And before the duplicate people go crazy, I am not looking for "funny" or "weird" error messages.

+77  A: 

You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near '' at line 1

Also, this Adobe Flash or Flex error message:

TypeError: Error #1009: Cannot access a property or method of a null object reference.

Ionuț G. Stan
I actually laughed out loud. It was "at line 1" that got me.
I hate that error.
I also do... It's not a bit clear about what's happening
Jhonny D. Cano -Leftware-
+2  A: 

Error Error:Success

and that was an IDE error message from VS. I was like.. whut?

Did they not even manage to spell 'Success' correctly?
Pourquoi Litytestdata
+1  A: 

The Glockenspiel C++ compiler, a commercial product of the late 80s, used to core-dump if you gave it certain incorrect C++ syntax as input. I always thought that "syntax error at line xxx" might have been a better approach...

+19  A: 

ASP Classic

Server: "Error 500", something is wrong, have a nice day

Me: Can I get the slightest clue?

Server: No.

Easy fix: turn off friendly errors.
+1  A: 

I can't remember it and I don't think I can reproduce it. It was about the buggy libc on the system I happened to work and produced a full stacktrace right from the system calls.

+1  A: 
java.awt.HeadlessException     at

Huh? Guess I'll have to make do with the rest of the body.

+2  A: 

The old BBC Micro when faced with something it didn't understand would often come up with:

Bad program error
Are you sure it was 'Bad program error'? I saw a lot of 'Bad program' messages on my BBC Master Compact but never 'Bad program error'.
Pourquoi Litytestdata
Ah I think you're right. Its been like 20+ years.
“Bad program” meant the structure of the BASIC program has been corrupted, usually because some badly-behaved program had scribbled over the memory containing it. Woe betide you if you hadn't SAVE""d recently...
...and if you had SAVEd to tape, you might face the just-as-daunting ‘Block?’/‘Data?’/‘Rewind tape’...
+67  A: 
Gary Willoughby
Actually... I had that happen in every single operating system and the easiest way to replicate it is to print a document using Adobe PDF Printer and cancel the save as dialog...
Andrew Moore
This one gets to me! :|
Get this all the time from various printer drivers and the crystal report print dialog.
+20  A: 

Segmentation fault

when you're working in a higher-level/scripting language that's supposed to be crash-proof. Because debugging your basic toolset is so what you wanted to be doing today, right?

This is very true.
Ali A
I can get PHP to segfault more often than I'd like...
Ant P.
Been there. Often very low level in an external library. Narrow it down through "early returns" in the suspected functions.
+3  A: 

Crystal Reports

Load Report Failed

The problem could be the file path, crystal version, the report itself, etc..

+5  A: 

Daunting? How about 25 years ago, using the Aztec C compiler on multi-user CPM machines, a seg fault promoted you to user level 0 status?

+2  A: 

When writing Prolog: No can mean anything from "no, that clause doesn't hold" to "no, I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about".

+27  A: 

ORA-12154: TNS: could not resolve service name

What they should have said is:

ORA-12154: Could not connect to the Oracle database. Depending on your specific environment, any one of 14,325 possible things could be wrong. Try Google for a confusing morass of disinformation

Colin Pickard
LOL! It's gotten a little better but many Oracle error messages have left me dazed and confused.
Bernard Dy
+2  A: 

In Microsoft RPC: "The remote procedure call failed".

Completely useless – other MS RPC error texts at least offer some explanation, this one offers nothing.

This particular error is always a hosed RPC server that is still responding to the low-level requests but unable to actually dispatch the call. When it happens, it's time to terminate the RPC server process.
This is why I love stackoverflow. You get an error that you think is meaningless, and yet, someone can tell you exactly what it means. Thanks @Joshua.
I've spent too many hours painfully debugging COM/RPC.
+7  A: 

Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

Now, years later, I know that this means exactly what it says, but it caused me nothing but grief for the first few years of .NET development.

I feel your pain, that used to mess with me when I started .NET too.
I wish it could tell me *what* object reference...
+34  A: 


What the fuck does that mean??
LOL! It means the Laserjet printer is out of paper.
Mark Ransom
Michael Bolton? Is that you? :-)
Wouter van Nifterick
We're going to federal POUND ME IN THE ASS prison!
Gary Willoughby
It means that the printer is out of "Letter" sized paper (which is subtly different from A4). The printing application has requested "Letter" but: the paper tray is empty, or the paper tray has a different sized paper in it (e.g., A4). Often, I believe, the result of misconfiguration of the printing application.
Jason Musgrove
It's also one of the funniest lines from the film, Office Space . Please go and watch it now.
Gary Willoughby
Letter paper isn't 'subtly' different from A4. Their sizes are different, that's all. Letter is a bit wider and shorter.
Adriano Varoli Piazza
+21  A: 

I was once working on an archaic FORTRAN (IV) program which at one point produced an error message in Portuguese. After spending a day tracking down what it translated to, I found it meant "It is better to be a live donkey than a dead doctor."

Brian Postow
+5  A: 

The most cryptic I had were TRS-80 Level 1 BASIC: WHAT? (syntax error), HOW? (runtime error), or SORRY (out of memory, meaning that you used too high a subscript on the array (yes, the array, there was only one, and it was called A (is my fondness for Lisp showing up here?))). Since it was a fully interpreted language, syntax errors would only be detected when executing that line of code.

Of late, it's been the error message about incorrect configuration, maybe re-installing will work. It may be fine for an end user dealing with a shrinkwrap application, but as a developer for in-house software it was no help at all.

David Thornley
What? = I don't understand what's written here
Loren Pechtel
How? = I understand what I'm supposed to do but I don't know how to do actually do it. (Ex: divide by zero)
Loren Pechtel
Sorry = I understand what I'm supposed to do, it makes sense but I can't do it.
Loren Pechtel
+1  A: 

"A fatal error has occurred. Please check your pulse."

Josh Stodola

This isn't really a coding-related error, but I don't think you can get more daunting than "Keyboard error: press F1 to continue".

It means "keyboard may not be connected or needs to be replaced; please press F1 once you have fixed the problem."
Leonardo Herrera
I got that once. Pressed F1 and it worked. I was like, erm.. WTF?
Dead account
+2  A: 

fatal error C1001: INTERNAL COMPILER ERROR with Visual Studio 6.0.

For something as trivial as a full disk, no less
+3  A: 

When ruby says: testprog.rb:517: syntax error, unexpected $end, expecting kEND

because it tells me that somewhere in the previous 500 lines I'm missing an end. It really can't narrow it down better than that?

+7  A: 

"Catastrophic failure" in SQL Server. The very definition of daunting.

+10  A: 

One of my favs:

ORA-06502: PL/SQL: numeric or value error

So is my issue the numbers? Or the characters? Talk about helpful...

In my case it should usually read:

ORA-06502: PL/SQL: you forgot a semi-colon at line XXXX
Really, I find it impossible to work an hour with Oracle without getting a worthy candidate. "No such column/table" when a stored proc bails on a 10+ line SELECT that's crossing 4+ tables.
+3  A: 

A Generic GDI Error has occurred.

Neil N
+5  A: 

Not worthy of an upvote, but I HATE INFORMIX!

It only ever says "Syntax error" or something equally useless. It's like it's laughting at me. Obviously I know what it means, but it's so un-helpful.

I wrote a stored procedure today and spent half an hour with "Syntax Error" until I noticed I missed a ; from a statement.

Like I said. Im not looking for an upvote. I just HATE INFORMIX and wanted to vent that before going to bed. Ahh... I feel better now.

Dead account
+2  A: 

Programming with Java RMI and starting up the registry to get an NotBoundException because some other process has already nabbed port 1099.

Kill firefox? No good - port still bound.
Kill MSN? No good.
Kill Outlook? No good.
Kill anything and everything else that's running? No good.

Netstat -b? No useful info.

Restart my PC and start again then. Where's my coffee..?


+9  A: 
General Failure reading Drive A
Abort? Retry? Ignore? _
Chetan Sastry
Wasn't Abort, Retry, Fail?
Eduardo Molteni
Who is General Failure and why is he always reading my computer? :)
Markus Lux
@Eduardo: Fail was introduced MS-DOS 3.30 onwards.,_Retry,_Fail%3F
Chetan Sastry
Much more daunting when applied to Drive C
+9  A: 

How about the old Access error message when a repair/compact operation failed:

"Operation failed, Some data may be lost."

The horribleness of this message is that it says that something really scary MIGHT have happened to some of your data, but doesn't give you any way to figure out whether it happened or what specific data has gone missing. The only purpose it serves is to invoke doubt and fear.

I remember that one! Nothing scarier to someone in a database than some data may be lost.
+28  A: 

And the most famous of all:

"Keyboard not found, press F1 to continue."

It's not so bad, actually. If you manage to press F1, the problem is corrected :)
Doesn't that require you to become one with the machine?
John Baughman
No, only to plug in a keyboard.
Adriano Varoli Piazza
@John - You mean you aren't already one with your machine?
+2  A: 
Chris Lutz
+21  A: 
Absolute Classic!
Ali A
where is this from?
I believe it's a real messgae from Windows 95/98. I got that message several times in a row once and decided to just rebuild my pc. Ah, those were the days...
John Baughman
*Really*? Because I'm pretty sure I saw it on a joke site.. and those buttons are too small for it to be native windows box - maybe you had a virus :P
@Blorgbeard Windows **IS** a joke.
Adam Jaskiewicz
WTF? .
Gary Willoughby
It's just an old joke, probably made up by a linux fan to poke fun at how often it is required to reboot windows.
+4  A: 
+10  A: 

lp0 on fire

This one really needs the backstory:
+7  A: 

Error: General Error
Error: Unknown Error
Error: An Error Has Occurred

+15  A: 
Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_PAAMAYIM_NEKUDOTAYIM in Command line code on line 1

I knew I could find it here. That's the most f* ridiculous error message ever produced. What's the point in that? just confuse the hell out of your users, like we don't have enough trouble. PHP really pissed me off when I saw and found out the meaning of that error message. Not only you have an error and have to understand why, but you also have to understand what the freaking error message means. absurd.
Stefano Borini
+13  A: 

"Error rolling back transaction."

Sure enough, half of the transaction was committed.

Name and shame! Name and Shame!
Adriano Varoli Piazza
+12  A: 
It may look daunting, but more often than not, I've found the Windows blue screen to provide more than enough information to solve a problem. Analyze the crash dump with WinDbg and you can easily track down the issue.
David Brown
Oh it's quite easy to find the problem, but fixing it maybe a different story :)
Very true. ;) My last blue screen ended up being a hardware issue, so I had to get a tech at the data center to track it down.
David Brown
Last time I got this exact message I needed a new hard drive. But yes, I actually find these very informative too.
John Baughman
+18  A: 

From Tortoise SVN: "Reached unreachable code." Ah, to dream the impossible dream....

Mike Kantor
+3  A: 

When there's an error in the structure of your modification of the DOM in Internet Explorer using JavaScript:

Undefined Runtime Error
+29  A: 

In Visual C++ 6.0 when you assign a const iterator to a non-const iterator, and get something like this:

C:\batch\apps\test\test.cpp(15) : error C2440: 'initializing' : cannot convert from 'class std::_Tree<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,struct std::pair<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::c
har_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > const ,class std::vector<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::allocator<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std:
:allocator<char> > > > >,struct std::map<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::vector<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::all
ocator<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > > >,struct std::less<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > >,class std::allocator<class std::vector<clas
s std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::allocator<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > > > > >::_Kfn,struct std::less<class std::basic_string<c
har,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > >,class std::allocator<class std::vector<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::allocator<class std::basic_string<char,struct 
std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > > > > >::const_iterator' to 'class std::_Tree<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,struct std::pair<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_
traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > const ,class std::vector<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::allocator<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::all
ocator<char> > > > >,struct std::map<class std::basic_st
ring<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::vector<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::allocator<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<
char>,class std::allocator<char> > > >,struct std::less<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > >,class std::allocator<class std::vector<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class
 std::allocator<char> >,class std::allocator<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > > > > >::_Kfn,struct std::less<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char>
 > >,class std::allocator<class std::vector<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> >,class std::allocator<class std::basic_string<char,struct std::char_traits<char>,class std::allocator<char> > > > > >:
        No constructor could take the source type, or constructor overload resolution was ambiguous
The actual error message after the morass of type info is actually quite clear about the problem.
Adriano Varoli Piazza
@Adriano - Yes, but when your boss looks down on you and screeches like a little girl at the "size" of your error that little tidbit of information is about as good as @#%$.
The error only tells you that the two types are incompatible - trying to nail down the fact that one has a const in it and the other doesn't is lots of fun...
STLFilt is your friend.
Josh Kelley
+2  A: 

Strictly speaking, this is neither an error, nor "daunting", but I've wanted to share it for a while.

When your laptop battery hits a certain point, Windows XP will give a message box saying something like "Your battery is low. Please shut down or switch to outlet power to avoid losing any unsaved data."

The crazy thing about this message is that it interrupts the shutdown process, even if the lid is closed. Many times, I've opened my laptop to find this message smugly floating over the blue "Windows is shutting down..." screen. (Not an easy screenshot to take, alas.)

Having said that... I'd take that bug over Vista any day!

+7  A: 

JavaScript error in Internet Explorer < 8:

Error: Object expected

  • A totally useless error message for developers, because this is reported for almost every situation, and doesn't contain any real information.
  • Even more useless for website visitors. What are they supposed to do with this?
Wouter van Nifterick
+1  A: 

I do (not) like WCF client error NotFound when anything goes wrong on the server.

Nikolay R
+19  A: 
I get this all the time with Tversity on my Vista box. About as useful as a kick in the shins.
+2  A: 

PHP knows how to communicate errors effectively:

Unknown: failed to open stream: Permission denied in Unknown on line 0


I find that php usually serves pretty decent error messages. How in the world did you get this?!
+1  A: 

In our own application, when you typed a wrong login name or password, you got something like this:

"Login failed or database not connected. Check your user name and password or reinstall the server"

They fixed it later. Now it is:

"The password is wrong or was not typed correctly."

Still funny, but quite better, isn't it?

Stefan Steinegger
What's the difference between wrong and not typed correctly?
@MiseryIndex: Yes, that's exactly the funny part :-)
Stefan Steinegger
+6  A: 
Jason S
LOL @ the insane part.
+1  A: 

Maybe there is no hope for me but I still think this is funny...

Quoted from the classic Ed, man! !man ed :

("Ed is the standard text editor.")

Let's look at a typical novice's session with the mighty ed:

golem$ ed

eat flaming death

Note the consistent user interface and error reportage.  

Ed is generous enough to flag errors, yet prudent enough
not to overwhelm the novice with verbosity.

I included this one on a program of mine during college:

"ERROR: Something bad happened, but I won´t tell you what."

Decio Lira
(0x8000FFFF) Catastrophic failure
Paulo Guedes
+1  A: 

When you mixed VB6 and COM+, sometimes you got:

Method '~' of object '~' failed.

Always fun.

Mens. 8152, Nivel 16, Estado 9, Línea 1
String or binary data would be truncated.
The statement has been terminated.

I hate this as it doesn't state what table.column is failing

Jhonny D. Cano -Leftware-

Along with all the funny stuff, heres some good reading over at Coding Horror. Check that article out, as it fits this question perfectly.

+1  A: 

MY favorite one is still: While programming some GUI in Java, after a half-screen stacktrace:

Code too complicated.

Or something to the effect...


Not exactly an error message, but my personal favorite so far is a confirmation dialog with "Yes" and "No" buttons and text:

Please select 'No'.

If you pressed yes, you got a NullPointerException.

What on earth was this from?

Daunting SML compiler error: Expected signature Int * Int->Int but got Int * Int->Int.


FogBugz gives the following error when something goes wrong that is unhandled. I ran into it a bunch of times due to us having a very odd web environment that we were attempting to install into.

An internal error occurred in FogBugz. If you are unsure of how to fix this error, and you have made no changes to the source code of FogBugz, please report this error to Fog Creek Software by clicking "Submit."

The problem with the message is the part that says,

If you are unsure of how to fix this error...

It gives no information of what the error is so how could I ever be sure how to fix the error :) It really should give some indication of what is going on or not even bother with that line in the error message.

+2  A: 

Message from Hibernate when there is a query error usually ends with

Call getNextException to see the cause

Of course, by the time you see that in the log, the exception is long gone. It usually means there's a long debugging session ahead.


At the last place I worked I discovered this bit of modal awesomeness in the embedded software for a touchscreen device that relatively unsophisticated users were expected to use:

Invalid BRS
OK to continue

with a single "OK" button underneath. The total lack of punctuation was what made it so great -- it wasn't clear whether this was a question, or simply a statement of fact. Even better is the fact that the only available user action (i.e. pressing the "OK" button) was exactly the wrong thing to do since it would irretrievably delete all the apparently offending application data and restart from scratch (in an application where losing any data constituted "the worst case scenario"). The correct action to take was actually the less-intuitive "turn off the device and/or back away from it slowly." I fixed this message (and lots of similar ones) in a later release but there are still people running the older software today.

Rob Pelletier