Recent Articles

Apr 2020

A Quick Escape

by in CodeSOD on

I am old. I’m so old that, when I entered the industry, we didn’t have specializations like “frontend” and “backend” developers. You just had developers, and everybody just sort muddled about. As web browsers have migrated from “document display tool” to “enh, basically an operating system,” in terms of complexity, these two branches of development have gotten increasingly siloed.

Which creates problems, like the one Carlena found. You see, the front-end folks didn’t like the way things like quotes were displaying. A quote or a single quote should be represented as a character entity- &#39, for example.

Rushin' Translation

by in Feature Articles on

Cid works for a German company. From day one, management knew that they wanted their application to be multi-lingual, if nothing else because they knew they needed to offer it in English. So from the ground up, the codebase was designed to make localization easy; resource files contained all the strings, the language specific ones could be loaded dynamically, and even UI widgets could flex around based on locale needs.

In the interests of doing it right, when it came time to make the English version, they even went out and contracted a translation company. A team of professional translators went through the strings, checked through the documentation and the requirements, even talked to stakeholders to ensure accurate translations. The English version shipped, and everyone- company and customers included were happy with the product.

The Evil CMS

by in CodeSOD on

Content Management Systems always end up suffering, at least a little, from the Inner Platform Effect. There’s the additional problem that, unlike say, a big ol’ enterprise HR system or similar, CMSes are useful for just about everyone. It’s a quick and easy way to put together a site which anyone can maintain. But it never has enough features for your content. So you always install plugins- plugins of wildly varying quality and compatibility.

Lucio Crusca was doing a security audit of a Joomla site, found this block inside an installed plugin:

A Tern Off

by in CodeSOD on

Jim J's co-worker showed him this little snippet in the codebase.

foreach (ToolStripMenuItem item in documentMenuItem.DropDownItems) { item.Enabled = item.Enabled ? Document.Status == DocumentStatusConsts.New : item.Enabled; }

Burrito Font

by in Error'd on

"I've always ordered my burritos in Times New Roman. I'll have to make sure to try the Helvetica option next time I go in," Winston M. writes.

WTFYou, Pay Me

by in CodeSOD on

Julien’s employer has switched their payroll operations to a hosted solution. The hosted solution has some… interesting features. The fact that it has a “share” button, implying you can share your paystub infromation with other people is unusual (but good: keeping salaries confidential only helps management underpay their employees). More problematic is that this feature emails it, and instead of putting in an email address manually, you instead pick off a drop-down list- which contains the email of every user of the hosted system.

Seeing this, Julien had to take a peek at the code, just to see what other horrors might lurk in there.

Bad Code and Taxes

by in CodeSOD on

Here in the US, “tax season” is extended into the summer. No one likes dealing with taxes, obviously, but we agree that the social benefits outweigh the costs.

I can’t speak to how folks feel in Italy. But Riccardo B was perusing the Italian Revenue Service’s (INPS) website, and was having a bad time of it. This website was recently “modernized”, which Riccardo tells us cost €300M (I wasn’t able to track down much on this, and since I don’t speak Italian, I’ll take Riccardo’s word on it), so “having a bad time” doesn’t seem like it should be part of the process.

All the Small Things

by in Representative Line on

Kerry (previously) has a long held belief: people that can’t get the little things right have no hope of getting the big things right, and not just when it comes to software.

Personally, I don’t think that’s truly universal, but it’s certainly a good guideline. If nothing else, seeing certain simple mistakes gives you a hint of worse things to come. Like this interface definition:

A Sterling Interview

by in Tales from the Interview on

Greater blue-eared starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus)

Marissa's not-for-profit organization sought a college graduate with the ability to code and create basic software solutions. Given their organization's financial limitations, they couldn't afford to pay employees as well as many other places could, thus they'd been struggling for over a year to find a qualified entry-level candidate. Finally, a fresh graduate came along who made a strong impression during his interview. Greg was personable and possessed the required fundamentals. There was potential for him to learn more on the job.

Normal 0 False False Errord False EN-US

by in Error'd on

Andrew G. writes, "In these difficult times, I'm glad NBC News is having a normal O...and...other...stuff."

A Leap to SQL

by in CodeSOD on

When I was a baby programmer, I was taught that part of the power of SQL was that we had a generic, abstract language which meant we could easily change database engines out under our code without having to think about it. In short, I was taught a horrible pack of lies.

For all that SQL has a standard, every database vendor has non-standard features, especially around various built-in functions. The end result is that, if you adopt SQL Server, you’re going to be on SQL Server for the life of the application. If you adopt Oracle, you will suffer that choice for the remainder of your existence on this plane and perhaps the next.

Highly Paid Entities

by in CodeSOD on

Years ago, Samuel’s company brought in some Highly Paid Consultants. The HPCs brought with them a binder full of best practices, a dedicated Agile coach, and a slick project plan that promised to accomplish everything the company needed in half the time budgeted.

One of their “best practices” was the advice that “ORMs are considered harmful,” and while the existing codebase already made liberal use of .NET’s Entity Framework, their new code would be “optimized”.

Better Off Ted

by in Feature Articles on

When working on a programming team, you need to make sure everyone on the team is aware of the changes you make. This is to ensure that everyone knows what task they're doing, what feature the rest of the team might not have to worry about, or any potential conflicts - among other reasons.

Once those changes are made, you want them reviewed. Perhaps one other developer does it, perhaps a group, or perhaps the whole team. Once approved, the changes get applied to the live application.

The Standard StringBuilder

by in Representative Line on

At a previous job, I became "The Code Review Guy". It was a big company, with a lot of bureaucracy. They were transitioning from VB6 to VB.NET and didn't trust developers to adapt to this new world, so they positioned code reviews as a "gateway" and the reviewers were guards, tasked with ensuring that any code going past met the standards.

That was already a pretty bad, and pretty hostile approach. Then some code would get submitted which didn't just violate the standards, but was barely comprehensible nonsense which followed no coherent convention and couldn't be tested let alone debugged. But it was mission critical and had a scheduled release date already, so the code review process had to let it pass. "Just make some notes, and they'll fix it in a future release," was the attitude. You can imagine how much of that code got fixed.

Google Translate is the Dog's Meow

by in Error'd on

"When a Brazilian teammate showed me a pet he was looking to adopt, I asked Google Translate for some help. It wasn't very helpful," Craig B. writes.

The Date Wrapper

by in CodeSOD on

As we’ve harped upon many, many, many, many, many, many times: writing your own date functions is bad. Use the built-ins or a library or anything but your own awful string-mangling date code.

But you can and should wrap the date handling stuff in your own functions as convenient. That’s just good programming.

Did You Null This?

by in CodeSOD on

If I were to catalog my biggest failings as a developer, it’s a carelessness around defensive programming. It’s tedious, and it takes work and forethought, and honestly, I just want to get the thing working and see the results. But I recognize it’s important, and work on developing that mindset.

Today’s anonymous submitter found some Java code that is extremely defensive.

To Repeat Yourself

by in CodeSOD on

Java’s history with web applications is, well, complicated. Java, heavily focused on being the True Object Oriented language, went the route of containers and service-providing classes and runtime bindings and dynamic hooks and lookups well before anyone else.

The core layer which underpins a lot of the web interactions is the Servlet specification. Servlets are just classes which are wired up to handle HTTP requests. Do whatever you want there. Slap a bunch of annotations for JAX-RS on there, and it’s a restful web service. Drop a JSP file in there, a it runs as a servlet with a template. Start playing with Java Server Faces? It’s servlets all the way down.

Now I Need an Injection

by in CodeSOD on

Frankie was handed a pile of PHP and told, "Move this to a new host." The process didn't go well- simply copying the code to the server chucked out a 500 error. So Frankie started digging into the code.

Like a lot of PHP code, this code wasn't written. It happened. A long chain of revisions, emergency fixes, quick and dirty hacks, and "I dunno what I did, but that fixes it," meant that it was a twisty pile of spaghetti that wasn't drained properly and now is all sort of sticking together into a starch blob that only vaguely resembles the pasta it once was.

Just Pick Something, Dummy!

by in Error'd on

Dave L. writes, "Spotted an option on Lenovo's 'Pick Your Laptop by Spec' that seems to be aimed, possibly, at the less than experienced laptop buyer."


by in CodeSOD on

Let’s say you’re a native English speaker. Let’s say you’re writing a library which is going to be used by Czech speakers, like our submitter Jan Krynický. You’ve been told to make sure the code is usuable by them, so you decided to use C#’s annotations to provide Czech documentation of various fields.

There’s just one problem: you don’t know Czech. You know enough to know that the Czech equivalent of “-ed”, as in “uploaded” is “-ováno”, so “uploadováno” seems perfectly reasonable to you. Czech documentation, done. It might not be the best choice, but they'll get the point.

Tern Java Into Python

by in CodeSOD on

Thomas K was browsing around, trying to give folks some technical help. While doing that, he found a poor, belaguered soul who had been given a task: convert some Java code to Python.

This was the code: