His might not be a household name in everyday circles, but among computer literati, Erich Hoover is something of a giant right now.
That is because Hoover, the son of Monroe School District Superintendent Ken Hoover, has solved a computer problem that has been vexing programmers for a long time.
While most computers run some version of Windows or OSX as an operating system, many sophisticated computer users prefer a system called Linux.
Linux is open-source, which means that the people who use it can also improve it, developing additional functionality for it or fixing bugs.
One of the bugs that has defied attempts at a fix for a long time is that Linux users couldn’t get Netflix to work on their computers.
Thanks to Hoover, who took his first computer college class at the age of 10 and who, now 27, just completed his Ph.D in applied physics, now they can.
Hoover wasn’t trying to solve the Netflix problem at first. Initially, he was trying to get Amazon to download streaming movies onto Mac computers. He didn’t get very far addressing that problem, but it did occur to him that the Netflix problem might be somewhat similar.
“I dug into it, and I found that the Silverlight program is what makes Netflix run, and there were these little bugs in it,” he said.
So he fixed the bugs, and then found another, and another. As he continued to fix bugs, he got closer and closer to getting Netflix to load on his Linux-based computer.
“It was satisfying,” he said. “The big red Netflix screen, when I first started, would crash at zero percent, and then I’d fix an issue, and it would stop at 20 percent, and then I got it to 98 percent.”
The next bug was atrociously complex, and though he eventually addressed it, Netflix still wouldn’t load.
Hoover then had to take some time off to finish his dissertation.
When he came back to it, he found the last problem to be easier than he’d anticipated.
Once the problem was solved, he wrote a small program called Netflix Desktop that Linux users could download and install.
His achievement has been hailed widely across the internet, but there remains one sticking point, said Hoover.
“There’s been a lot of feedback that it’s great and a lot that it’s running really slowly,” said Hoover. “It’s frustrating, because I don’t really notice it.”
He plans to figure that problem out soon.
His dad and his mom are plenty impressed, even though neither of them uses Linux.
“We were very excited and pleased for him,” said Ken Hoover. “Obviously, it was a lot of hard work.”