Lisa thought that the Modesto Biology Institute was the perfect working environment. The scientists who showed her around were all friendly, not the "evil, lab-coated villains" portrayed in Fritz Lang films. The lab director, Howard, pointed out the lack of horror monsters in their lab after Lisa joked about it during her interview.

"See?" Howard said, gesturing. "You won't find anything scarier than a petri dish in here ... except for grant applications." He looked disgusted at the suggestion.

Bakdar was the only technical person at PromoCorp, a marketing company. When someone finally launched a technical project, he was ready. The product was a cutting-edge web-to-print technology, in which Joe User could easily upload an image of his plumbing company’s logo onto a mock-up of a pen, and send it to PromoCorp with his order. It would save time, money, and provide a revenue stream for PromoCorp. The project was big, the project was technical, and the project was the attractive sort of thing that made careers. Bakdar was over the moon.

It was a brilliant idea, with one problem. PromoCorp didn’t have the internal resources to create the web interface on their own, so they contracted a third party, Weblutions, to do it for them. Bakdar was the liaison between the two, tasked with making sure things went smoothly. The interface between Weblutions and PromoCorp was supposed to import the images from Weblutions so that they could be emblazoned onto things like crappy t-shirts nobody would ever wear. The finished goods would then be returned to the customer who initiated the request.

A Team of One


Bob worked at a small company. There’s a messy history in its founding. The owner, Aaron, worked for another company making basically the same software, until he finally got fed up with their coding style and practices. So he quit to found his own company, with his own rules about things, like how many blank lines there should be before a for loop (exactly 1), how to order variable declarations (alphabetically, with “::” coming after “z”), and how source control should be organized (about as organized as organized crime).

Aaron didn’t waste a lot of time managing, and made sure to keep his hands in the code. Of course, no one wanted to touch the code after he did, which meant Aaron wasn’t just the owner, but he was a one-man team. The other teams might deliver features, but Aaron’s team delivered vision. Well, vision, and code blocks like this, which parse parameters off the command-line:

"Apparently this truck has a few more features than standard trucks," writes Derek, "I'm sure the price would have been an even $3,000,000 but there are a few miles on it to drive it down."

Way back when Java first came out, if you wanted to split a string into tokens, you had to roll your own mechanism to do so. Of course, even as far back as Java 1.2, there were some built-in secrets to help you tokenize your string so you could iterate over the tokens.

David S. found this little gem written by one of his cohorts in a very recent version of Java (which we all know has absolutely no way of splitting a string into tokens).

Limited Options


Security is challenging to get right. It's always a complex balancing act between what users want and what administrators need. Between placing the server in a hermetically sealed container with no cables running the outside world, and setting the server up on the busiest street corner in town with an already logged-in administrator account pulled up on the attached monitor. Depending on the O/S update policy in practice at your company, that last example can be roughly the equivalent of connecting your server to the Internet.

Here at TDWTF, security is a common topic of submissions. If only because there are so many different (and creative) ways to set things up that are wrong and only a couple of ways to set it up that are correct. And there is a non-zero percentage of administrators that are, shall we say, less than diligent in how they go about their job. We're sure that none of you fit into that category. We're talking about other people.

Fred S. never much cared for zebra striping, the UI pattern than was all the rage after Mac OS X launched in 2001. It found its way into other Mac applications, web pages, even onto Linux. Like a tsunami of alternating grey-and-white waves, it overtook everything in its path.

After numerous requests from users, the project manager for WeightTracker asked Fred to add zebra striping to the weight journal window. Fred had inherited oversight of the application after the original developer, Louis, had been poached by their underperforming rival.

As an IT infrastructure manager, Jerry spent more time skimming his junkmail folder than he liked. Unfortunately, a large number of important messages landed there, because Garrett, the CSO, mandated an extremely aggressive approach to identifying spam. No less than once a week, a vital message was marked as spam.

NCI bacon.jpg

"I was looking at prices for a train journey," writes Hamish, "I think my company's accountant might raise an eyebrow if I upgraded to first class".

Chinese buffet2.jpg
"Chinese buffet2". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Assembler. C. C++. C#. PHP. Javascript. Bash. Perl. Ruby. Java. These were just some of the technologies featured on the resume of a candidate Christian recently interviewed for a senior Linux sysadmin position. The impressive list of programming languages (and related data-interchange acronyms like XSLT and JSON) made the candidate, let's call him Rob, seem more qualified for a developer position, but he went on to list common web server databases like MySQL and Postgres (plus a couple flavours of NoSQL), and, finally, the qualifications Christian was actually interested in: Tomcat, JBOSS, the Hotspot JVM, and every major Linux distro. While the resume reeked of keyword-baiting, Christian didn't want to risk missing out on an excellent sysadmin who just happened to spend a lot of time hacking, and brought Rob in.

Christian kicked off the interview by describing their infrastructure. Working for a major enterprise, his division was responsible for fifteen hundred Java application servers, clustered into groups of three or four. He explained to Rob how they managed the large number of identical deployments using Puppet, with SVN to track changes to their enormous catalog of scripts. He got through most of their rollout and monitoring processes before Rob cut in with a question.

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