Remy Porter

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

Aug 2019

Bassackwards Compatibility

by in CodeSOD on

A long time ago, you built a web service. It was long enough ago that you chose XML as your serialization format. It worked fine, but before long, customers started saying that they’d really like to use JSON, so now you need to expose a slightly different, JSON-powered version of your API. To make it easy, you release a JSON client developers can drop into their front-ends.

Conor is one of those developers, and while examining the requests the client sent, he discovered a unique way of making your XML web-service JSON-friendly.


Yesterday's Enterprise

by in CodeSOD on

I bumped into a few co-workers (and a few readers- that was a treat!) at Abstractions last week. My old co-workers informed me that the mainframe system, which had been “going away any day now” since about 1999, had finally gone away, as of this year.

A big part of my work at that job had been about running systems in parallel with the mainframe in some fashion, which meant I made a bunch of “datapump” applications which fed data into or pulled data out of the mainframe. Enterprise organizations often don’t know what their business processes are: the software which encodes the process is older than most anyone working in the organization, and it must work that way, because that’s the process (even though no one knows why).


Checksum Yourself Before you Wrecksum Yourself

by in CodeSOD on

Mistakes happen. Errors crop up. Since we know this, we need to defend against it. When it comes to things like account numbers, we can make a rule about which numbers are valid by using a checksum. A simple checksum might be, "Add the digits together, and repeat until you get a single digit, which, after modulus with a constant, must be zero." This means that most simple data-entry errors will result in an invalid account number, but there's still a nice large pool of valid numbers to draw from.

James works for a company that deals with tax certificates, and thus needs to generate numbers which meet a similar checksum rule. Unfortunately for James, this is how his predecessor chose to implement it:


Unstrung Manager

by in Coded Smorgasbord on

Deon was on a contract-to-hire job. In the beginning, it sounded like a good job. Then he looked at the C# codebase. It didn’t take him long to decide that this wasn’t going to be a job he’d work at full time. Still, he’d be happy to continue contracting, because it was quite obvious that it would be a lot of billable hours.

How many is “a lot”? Well, let’s talk about their StringManager class. A common WTF is a “god” class that does a thousand different things. Here’s a class made up of nothing but static functions which is 1800 lines long. This wasn’t assembled by a junior developer or an intern, but their senior technical lead, who was adamant that this was the right way to program, and god damn anybody who said otherwise.


I'm Sooooooo Random, LOL

by in CodeSOD on

There are some blocks of code that require a preamble, and an explanation of the code and its flow. Often you need to provide some broader context.

Sometimes, you get some code like Wolf found, which needs no explanation:


A Devil With a Date

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Jim was adding a feature to the backend. This feature updated a few fields on an object, and then handed the object off as JSON to the front-end.

Adding the feature seemed pretty simple, but when Jim went to check out its behavior in the front-end, he got validation errors. Something in the data getting passed back by his web service was fighting with the front end.


A Loop in the String

by in CodeSOD on

Robert was browsing through a little JavaScript used at his organization, and found this gem of type conversion.

//use only for small numbers
function StringToInteger (str) {
    var int = -1;
    for (var i=0; i<=100; i++) {
        if (i+"" == str) {
            int = i;
            break;
        }
    }
    return int;
}

Nullable Knowledge

by in CodeSOD on

You’ve got a decimal value- maybe. It could be nothing at all, and you need to handle that null gracefully. Fortunately for you, C# has “nullable types”, which make this task easy.

Ian P’s co-worker made this straightforward application of nullable types.


Internship of Things

by in Feature Articles on

Mindy was pretty excited to start her internship with Initech's Internet-of-Things division. She'd been hearing at every job fair how IoT was still going to be blowing up in a few years, and how important it would be for her career to have some background in it.

It was a pretty standard internship. Mindy went to meetings, shadowed developers, did some light-but-heavily-supervised changes to the website for controlling your thermostat/camera/refrigerator all in one device.


Swimming Downstream

by in CodeSOD on

When Java added their streams API, they brought the power and richness of functional programming styles to the JVM, if we ignore all the other non-Java JVM languages that already did this. Snark aside, streams were a great addition to the language, especially if we want to use them absolutely wrong.

Like this code Miles found.


Seven First Dates

by in CodeSOD on

Your programming language is PHP, which represents datetimes as milliseconds since the epoch. Your database, on the other hand, represents datetimes as seconds past the epoch. Now, your database driver certainly has methods to handle this, but can you really trust that?

Nancy found some code which simply needs to check: for the past week, how many customers arrived each day?


Bunny Bunny

by in CodeSOD on

When you deploy any sort of complicated architecture, like microservices, you also end up needing to deploy some way to route messages between all the various bits and bobs in your application. You could build this yourself, but you’ll usually use an off-the-shelf product, like Kafka or RabbitMQ.

This is the world Tina lives in. They have a microservice-based architecture, glued together with a RabbitMQ server. The various microservices need to connect to the RabbitMQ, and thus, they need to be able to check if that connection were successful.


A Truly Painful Exchange

by in CodeSOD on

Java has a boolean type, and of course it also has a parseBoolean method, which works about how you'd expect. It's worth noting that a string "true" (ignoring capitalization) is the only thing which is considered true, and all other inputs are false. This does mean that you might not always get the results you want, depending on your inputs, so you might need to make your own boolean parser.

Adam H has received the gift of legacy code. In this case, the code was written circa 2002, and the process has been largely untouched since. An outside vendor uploads an Excel spreadsheet to an FTP site. And yes, it must be FTP, as the vendor's tool won't do anything more modern, and it must be Excel because how else do you ship tables of data between two businesses?


Close to the Point

by in CodeSOD on

Lena inherited some C++ code which had issues regarding a timeout. While skimming through the code, one block in particular leapt out. This was production code which had been running in this state for some time.

if((pFile) && (pFile != (FILE *)(0xcdcdcdcd))) {
    fclose(pFile);
    pFile = NULL;
}