Recent Feature Articles

Dec 2016

'Twas the Night Before Go-Live

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Once again, we're hitting the holiday season. I had fun doing The PM Who Stole Christmas last year, so I decided to try my hand at another holiday classic. Expect your regularly scheduled Error'd tomorrow, but next week, we'll be revisiting our classic and best articles of the year. Happy Holidays! -- Remy

’Twas the night before go-live, and all throughout git,
Not a coder was coding, no single commit;
The release was planned by DevOps with care,
In hopes that userbase would soon be there.

The PMs were nestled all snug with their charts,
While dreams of big bonuses danced in their hearts;
My team in the team room, and I with donuts,
Cracked wise about our PM being a putz;

The Call of the 90s

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The 90s were a weird decade, and not just because of a strange obsession with flannel. Computers were just becoming a mass-market phenomenon, and nobody really quite grasped what that was going to mean. When I entered college in the late 90s, the campus was still littered with dumb terminals wired up to the VAX. Just a few years before, they’d installed the latest thing in networking- 100Base-TX Ethernet- to all of the dorm rooms and most of the classrooms. They loved their brand new network, and didn’t want punk kids messing it up, so you couldn’t just connect your computer to the network (you probably didn’t have a network card anyway). Instead, they had an outside vendor set up an office in a storage room on campus. You had to lug your tower over there, they’d take your computer for a week or two, and then give it back to you with a new NIC, a bunch of crapware, and a note which said your computer was cleared to use the network. You could then take that note over to the IT offices, and they’d put in a work order to activate the network port in your dorm room, and give you an Ethernet cable. Oh, and this entire process cost $200.

The 90s were a dark, dark time.

Eventually, they wised up, kicked the outside vendor off campus, and CS majors like myself got to make a couple of bucks installing NICs into freshmen’s computers. I think many of us might have had that sort of experience. Sabrina did a similar turn in her teens, helping a small ISP get people connected via modem or ADSL, but encountered a few… special edge cases.

Pulling Teeth

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"Jackie, Brian is leaving the company in two weeks," the boss revealed behind his closed office door. "You'll be taking over maintenance for CONLAB."

Easter Eggs

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Station Velo Antwerpen

Ada worked in QA in the Netherlands, testing a desktop application for a German bank. The app was simple: a C/C++ app that scanned in paper forms, read them with OCR, and processed their contents. It was constructed, as was the fashion at the time, from a number of separate DLLs, each serving one and only one purpose. It was usually fairly boring work, but it was paying for her education, so it was worth putting up with.

Frozen Out

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Lex was an employee at GreyBox in the late 90s, a PC-repair shop inside of a large electronics chain. He had spent the entire morning handling phone calls from customer after customer. Each of the calls was supposed to go to his co-worker Gerald, but Gerald hadn’t been picking up his phone. Each caller complained that Gerald had taken in their computer for repairs and not actually done the repairs.

An ice-cream cone in a bowl, turned up at an… erect angle.

“I brought my laptop in yesterday,” one caller, a wheezy old man, said, “and the young man behind the counter just took the laptop and said, ‘come back in an hour’. He went into the back room, and when I came back, he looked like he had been drinking. You know, red faced and sweaty. And the laptop smelled funny- like corn chips. And it wasn’t fixed!”

The Infrastructure

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George had just escaped from his job, a WTF-laden hellhole where asking for a test database to reproduce an issue resulted in the boss spending hours and hours hand-typing and debugging a fresh SQL script based on an old half-remembered schema.

Initech promised to be a fantastic improvement. “We do things right around here,” his new boss, Harvey, told him after hiring him. “We do clean coding. Our development systems and libraries are fabulous! And each of our programmers get a private office with its own window!” Yay, no more cubicle!

Just The Fax, Ma'am

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Muirhead fax machine - MfK Bern

Gus had been working at his new job for a month. Most of his tickets had been for front-end work, making it easier and more efficient to manage the various vendors that the company did business with. These were important flags like "company does not accept UPS deliveries" or "company does not accept paper POs". The flags had been previously set via an aging web-based UI that only worked in Internet Explorer 6, but now they were migrating one at a time into the shiny new HTML5 app. It was tiring work, but rewarding.