Remy Porter

Remy escaped the enterprise world and now makes LEDs blink pretty. Editor-in-Chief for TDWTF.

May 2017

Flubbed Buzz

by in CodeSOD on

Interviewing developers always poses a challenge. You can’t rate their skills at writing code without seeing them write code, and most of the code they’ve written probably belongs to someone else. Writing anything non-trivial takes time, which both the candidate and the interviewer may not be willing to spend. Even then, it’s not always representative. And let’s not even talk about whiteboard programming.

Douglas’s company makes a compromise- they’ll give a time-boxed programming challenge. A developer is given two hours, access to the Internet, and a moderately complex problem. A smart developer might make some mistakes on the trickier parts of the problems, which is great, because it doesn’t fail them- it shows how they think. One candidate, Steve, never quite got that far.

Icon on Fire

by in Feature Articles on

Tim joined a company that provided a SaaS solution for tracking attendance and grades in schools. The job was mostly minor updates to a ColdFusion application, although there was an active project to replace it with something more modern. Tim felt like half of his hiring was based on him knowing when to throw out buzzwords like SPA or REST or Reactive Programming.

The fire emoji, as an image.

“It’s not the first time,” Karmen explained. She’d been with the company for some time. “When I joined, they had just upgraded to ColdFusion from a VBA hack on Microsoft Access. Crazy days, back then, when the whole ‘selling service, not software’ thing was new. Sometimes, I think I was hired because I knew the right buzzwords.”

Take the Bus

by in Feature Articles on

Rachel started working as a web developer for the local bus company. The job made her feel young, since the buses, the IT infrastructure, and most of their back-office code was older than she was. The bus fare-boxes were cash only, and while you could buy a monthly pass, it was just a little cardboard slip that you showed the driver. Their accounting system ran on a mainframe, their garage management software was a 16-bit DOS application. Email ran on an Exchange 5.5 server.


Your Private Foursome

by in Bring Your Own Code on

Last week, I shared some code that, while imperfect, wasn’t that bad. I then issued a challenge: make it worse. Or better, if you really want. As many comments noted: one case covers only the first iteration of the loop, and one case only covers the last iteration of the loop. You could easily pull those out of the loop, and not need a for-case at all. Others noticed that this pattern looked like odd slices out of an identity matrix.

With that in mind, we got a few numpy, Matlab, or MatrixUtils based solutions generally were the “best” solutions to the problem: generate an identity matrix and take slices out of it. This is reasonable and fine. It makes perfect sense. Let’s see if we can avoid making sense.

Documented Concerns

by in CodeSOD on

There’s a lot of debate about how much a developer should rely on comments. Clear code should, well, be clear, and thus not need comments. On the other hand, code that’s clear the minute you write it might not be as clear six months later when you forget what it was for. On the other, other hand, sometimes a crime has been committed and we need the comments for a confession.

Austin S confesses his crime.

A Foursome of Arrays

by in Bring Your Own Code on

So, fun fact about myself: I didn’t know what the For-Case anti-pattern was until relatively recently, when there were a spate of articles condemning it as an anti-pattern. I’m sure I’ve probably used it, at some point, but I never knew it by name. It’s thought of as a textbook antipattern that generally implies a misunderstanding of for loop, case statements, the problem being solved, or some combination of all three. That said, there are certain problems that might be more clear to solve by using the For-Case. Like GOTO, it might be harmful, but its actual evil exceeds its reputation.

John A had a problem, and most unfortunately for him, this problem involved VBA macros embedded in an Excel spreadsheet. He needed to generate four arrays, that fall into this pattern:

How to Start Freelance Programming

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This article originally ran on Hired's blog. For more posts like these, and great career insights, join Hired. I chose to run this article here because, well- this is what I do these days. Freelance training, consulting, and development, and I've had the good fortune of connecting with some folks who do most of the sales work for me. That said, if anybody knows of these $1,000/hr jobs that the article mentions, point me in their direction!

Find out more by following their blog, or jumpstart your career by joining Hired today

-- Remy
By Brenna Flores

Where in the World Is Our Website?

by in Feature Articles on

It was a particularly irritating Monday morning, when Travis got a frantic text from his boss. The sun was shining, the birds were nattering, and everyone was greeting him with a smile; it was like everyone in the world had their coffee, but Travis overslept and was going to have to satisfy himself with whatever sludge he could scrape out of the office coffee maker. He had just crossed the threshold when the text arrived:


Strongly Bad Emails

by in CodeSOD on

If you want to send emails from a Java program, you might be tempted to use the javax.mail package, which contains objects for doing exactly that. It’s a relatively straightforward API, and while it’s a bit verbose, that’s hardly unusual for Java. You just wrap it up in a convenience function based on how you need to call it, and reuse that, right?

Well, PHP, an obviously superior language, already did that work. There’s a built-in mail function, which sends emails. It uses your php.ini file to figure out what SMTP service to use, making the parameters to the function more “obvious”.

On Punctuation

by in CodeSOD on

Have you ever fallen asleep on your keyboard? Aside from the awkward face-prints it leaves behind, did you notice yourself programming in your sleep? I suspect that Chris’s co-worker does sleep-program. At least, that’s the only explanation for the 7,088 line code-sample I’m about to show you. Don’t scroll too fast- there’s actual code mixed into the middle of this. And yes, I’m including all of the code.

Which is less than you’d think, from the line count.

Robotic Implementation

by in CodeSOD on

Pearl’s employer couldn’t find an off-the-shelf product that handled their call-center needs, so they developed one in house. One department didn’t want to use that front-end, so they developed a different one in house, but it still used the same backend… mostly. Another group did the same thing, adding some fields and extending the database. And then another.

Then there was an organizational restructuring, and suddenly the call-center reps found themselves in the annoying position of needing to do double- or sometimes triple-entry, in order to get all the right columns and fields filled out based on the current business rules.