Remy Porter

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

Dec 2018

2018: JavaScript Centipede

by in Best of… on
As we wind up for the new year, it's time to take stock and look back at some of our best articles for the year. We start with this horrid bit of code, which hopefully has devoured itself since we posted it. --Remy

Starting with the film Saw, in 2004, the “torture porn” genre started to seep into the horror market. Very quickly, filmmakers in that genre learned that they could abandon plot, tension, and common sense, so long as they produced the most disgusting concepts they could think of. The game of one-downsmanship arguably reached its nadir with the conclusion of The Human Centipede trilogy. Yes, they made three of those movies.

This aside into film critique is because Greg found the case of a “JavaScript Centipede”: the refuse from one block of code becomes the input to the next block.

A Lumpy Christmas

by in Feature Articles on

Every "enterprise" shop has that one system you hope you never need to touch. It's older than you are, "documentation" consists of whispers and rumors about its behavior, and it is absolutely 100% business critical. If it goes down, the business goes down.

Fortunately, you'll never have to touch that system, because there's an Ancient Wizard who has been sitting in the same cube since 1973, and knows its secrets. As long as the Wizard is around, you'll never touch it. Of course, if the system goes down when the Wizard is out of the office… well, fixing that would require a Christmas miracle.

Explicitly True

by in Representative Line on

Part of Python’s appeal is its rich class library. The old XKCD about import antigravity sometimes doesn’t feel that far off. Combined with a few third-party libraries, like NumPy, you can do a lot with very little code.

Of course, that feels a bit like magic. As Python gurus like to say, “Explicit is better than implicit”. One of Mark’s co-workers took this perhaps a bit too far, when they started adding this import to every file:

Trim the Tree

by in CodeSOD on

Tis the season to think of trees.

Our Anonymous submitter has a program with a tree in it, and it’s a relatively big one: 7 levels deep, with 200,000 leaf nodes. Oh, and it’s managed in client-side JavaScript. In other words, it’s the sort of thing you really want to make sure you’re accessing efficiently.

A Short Leap

by in CodeSOD on

You know the story. A report is spitting out the wrong dates. Someone gets called in to investigate what’s wrong. After digging through piles of deeply nested SQL queries and views and trying to track down the problem, it turns out someone wrote their own date handling code which is wrong.

Darin P found the code this time.

Identify Yourself

by in CodeSOD on

Brian B stumbled across a bit of code to generate UUIDs. Seeing that tag-line, I was worried that they invented their own UUID generator. The good news, is that they just use java.util.UUID. The bad news is that they don’t understand how if statements work.

public class UuidGenerator implements IdentifierGenerator {

    private String profile;

    private Map<String, String> map;

    public Serializable generate(SessionImplementor session, Object object) throws HibernateException {
        UUID id = UUID.randomUUID();

        if(session.getFactory().getDialect() instanceof H2Dialect){
            return UUID.randomUUID();
        if( session.getFactory().getDialect() instanceof org.hibernate.dialect.PostgreSQLDialect ){
            return id;

        return id;

Strongly Unrecommended

by in CodeSOD on

Asynchronous programming is hard. Because it’s so difficult, developers are constantly trying to find ways to make it simpler, whether it’s promises or callbacks, or the async/await pattern. It gets more difficult when you need to deal with handling exceptions- when a task fails, trying to recover from that failure in a separate thread is an extra special challenge.

Which brings us to Betty’s co-worker. Using C#’s Task objects, which tie into the async/await pattern, they wanted to simply ignore any exceptions thrown by one of those tasks. That’s your first WTF, of course. Their approach, however, is a larger one:

The Key to Using Dictionaries

by in CodeSOD on

It's easy to use dictionaries/maps to solve the wrong kinds of problems, but deep down, what's more elegant than a simple hashed map structure? If you have the key, fetching the associated value back out happens in constant time, regardless of the size of the map. The same is true for inserting. In fact, hash maps only become inefficient when you start searching them.

Concetta recently started a new job. Once upon a time, a developer at the office noticed that the user-facing admin pages for their product were garbage. They whipped up their own internal version, which let them accomplish tasks that were difficult, time-consuming, or downright impossible to do in the "official" front end. Time passed, someone noticed, "Hey, this is better than our actual product!", and suddenly the C# code that just lived in one folder on one developer's machine was getting refactored and cleaned up into an application they could release to the public.

Stringed Out

by in CodeSOD on

The line between objects and maps can sometimes get a little blurry. In languages like JavaScript, there’s really no difference between the two. In Python, the deep internals of your classes are implemented essentially as dicts, though there are ways around that behavior.

In a language like C#, however, you’ve got types, you’ve got property definitions. This can offer a lot of advantages. When you layer on features like reflection, you can inspect your objects. Combine all this, and it means that if you want to serialize a data object to XML, you can usually do it in a way that’s both typesafe and generally doesn’t require much code on your part. A handful of annotations and a few method calls, and boom- any object gets serialized.

Golf Buddies

by in CodeSOD on

Hiring people you know is a double-edged sword. You already have an established relationship, and shared background, and an understanding of how they think and act. You’re helping a friend out, which always feels good. Then again, good friends don’t always make good co-workers, and if you limit your hiring pool to “people I know” you’re not always going to find the best people.

Becky’s boss, Chaz, tends to favor his golf buddies. One of those golf buddies got hired, developed for a few months, then just gradually ghosted on the job. They never quite quit or got fired, they just started coming in less and less until they stopped coming in at all.

Chunks of Genius

by in CodeSOD on

Brian recently started a new job. That means spending some time poking around the code base, trying to get a grasp on what the software does, how it does it, and maybe a little bit of why. Since the users have some complaints about performance, that's where Brian is mostly focusing his attention.

The "good" news for Brian is that the his predecessors were "geniuses", and they came up with a lot of "clever" solutions to common problems. The actually good news is that they've long since moved on to other jobs, and Brian will have a free hand in trying to revise their "cleverness".

A Reusable Application

by in Tales from the Interview on

Jay J had been helping a friend with the job hunt. As an experienced developer, with a strong network, Jay had a sense of who was hiring and what jobs were promising. One of his connections turned up a lead at Initech. Jay pointed his friend in that direction, and wished for the best.

"They won't let me apply," the friend explained when Jay asked how things were going. "Here, try it. These are my details. This is the link for the web application. Fill in the form and see what happens."