Recent CodeSOD

Code Snippet Of the Day (CodeSOD) features interesting and usually incorrect code snippets taken from actual production code in a commercial and/or open source software projects.

Jun 2019

Classic WTF: The not-so-efficient StringBuilder

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As our short summer break continues, this one is from waaaaay back, but it's yet another example of how seemingly simple tasks and seemingly simple data-types can be too complicated sometimes. Original--Remy

The .NET developers out there have likely heard that using a StringBuilder is a much better practice than string concatenation. Something about strings being immutable and creating new strings in memory for every concatenation. But, I'm not sure that this (as found by Andrey Shchekin) is what they had in mind ...

Classic WTF: Uncovering Nothing

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As our little summer break continues, we have a tale about Remi (no relation) and a missing stored procedure. Original --Remy

Remi works on one of his country's largest Internet Service Providers, and has the fortune to be on an elite team that focuses on agile development. Or misfortune, depending on how you look at it: at his company, "agile development" actually means "we need that in two weeks".

One of Remi's first assignments was to fix an "emergency" on one of the ATM Addressing systems. Apparently, the application was coming up with incorrect routing data. After a solid day-and-a-half of digging through Visual Basic code that called SQL Server stored procedures which called VB-based COM objects which called more stored procs, Remi found a weird table ("Cal_ATM") that was referenced from an externally-linked database, and the data in that table was completely out of date.

Classic WTF: Logical Tiers? That Makes No Sense!

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It's that time of year when we take a short summer break, and that means we reach back into the archives for some classic WTFs that remind us of when things were better. Or worse. So much worse. Today, we find out where checkboxes come from. Original --Remy

Some developers just don't believe in "standards." I should know, I used to work with some of them. They had their own way of doing things, from reinventing the database to changing the web paradigm. I always found it ironic that these folks have a pretty good knowledge of the tools, but could never seem to figure out how to use 'em. Like Chris' predecessor, who seems to have done the equivalent of tightening screws with a voltammeter.

Ok, so I had to port over an ASP app to Coldfusion MX. It was a simple set of search pages so I didn't think it would take too long. Problem was, I couldn't find anywhere in the code where the HTML for one of the select boxes was. Silly me, I should have checked inside the SQL Server stored procedure first! And of course, this is just the tip of iceberg on this site. There were stored procedures that were used to build the actual HTML for the dynamic navigation as well.

Get Out Your Decoder Ring

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Back in the late 60s, early 70s, “Fourth Generation Languages” (4GL) seemed like the future. “Write programs without a programmer!” they promised. “It’s a specification-based language, you just tell the computer what should happen, and it figures out how to do it!”

The most famous and probably most widely deployed 4GL, when all its variants and dialects are taken as a single unit, has to be SQL. SQL is the epitome of a specification-based language: each SQL statement represents an expression in relational algebra, and the database gets to use its own internal logic for deciding the best way to execute that statement, making database tuning a dark art involving statistical modeling and a lot of, “I dunno, but when I use this hint it runs fast.”

The Map you Pay For

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Soraya’s company recently decided to expand the payment options that they support. This meant integrating “Inipay”, Initech’s API for handling payment processing globally. This particular API is open sourced, which means that Soraya was able to investigate exactly how the sausage was made.

Many of the classes were tagged as being @author auto create. In fact, there were about 2,000 such classes, all nearly identical aside from a few minor differences. What got Soraya’s attention though was that each of them referred to InipayObject and InipayHashMap. Re-implementing standard classes is always a concern.

ToArray, then REST a bit

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Mandy’s company was brought on to port some REST APIs to Java for a client. Those APIs were written in an in-house, proprietary programming language. Possibly this was a deployment of BobX? Regardless of what the in-house language was, it was everything one would expect from the Inner-Platform Effect. Weird, complicated, tortured logic.

Somewhere in Mandy’s company, a pointy-haired-boss decided they’d throw a junior developer at this. “They did a REST API during their internship, how hard could translating this logic be?” Well, that junior developer didn’t understand the ins-and-outs of Java that well. They certainly didn’t understand the original APIs they were trying to port. The result is that they tried to follow the twisted logic of the in-house language while trying to fumble through Java.

The Honeypot

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Pitor works for a web development shop. They’ll develop and design sites, usually pretty simple ones, for their customers. They’ll host them. They’ll update them. Every once in awhile, a customer will think “we could do this cheaper in house!” and takes their site and their contract to a cheap webhost.

Sometimes, those customers come back when they realized their mistake.

Whose Tern is it to Play?

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Every once in awhile, someone sends us some code from a game. Now, I’ve never delved deep into game development, aside from making a 3D asteroids game as a final project for a class twenty years ago, but I’ve also read an article about how fast inverse square root works, and know that you shouldn’t blow in a Nintendo cartridge, so I’m basically an expert, and I understand that under the constraints of games, some of the rules about clarity and maintainability go out the window.

But Adam S found some code that’d be just plain bad in any context:

This Null Leaves Me Feeling Empty

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Stella needs to interface with a cloud-hosted marketing automation system. The documentation isn’t particularly great, and her organization doesn’t have anyone with any serious experience with the stack, so she’s been trying to find examples and wrapper libraries that can make it easier.

She found one. While digging through the wrapper code, she found this block:

Is Thinking Range Empty?

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Susi inherited some code which she fortunately wasn't expected to maintain. She had a worse problem: she was expected to figure out what it did so that a new version of the software could be created. No one actually understood all the ins-and-outs of the software, there was no document that fully specified what it did, but it was absolutely business critical and every feature needed to continue to work, even if no one knew exactly what those features were.

Features and functionality aside, internally, everything was stringly typed, and I do mean everything. Why use a struct in C++ when you can use a character delimited string? Why use a class when you can instead use multiple different kinds of delimiters to mean different things? Susi found cases where they stretched to delimiters involving characters Susi didn't even know existed, like the double o̿verscore.

Sorted by Title

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Dictionaries/Maps are usually implemented on top of some sort of hashing system. This isn’t precisely required, but it allows extremely fast access by key. The disadvantage is that the data isn’t stored in any human-friendly order.

Cicely’s co-worker had a problem with this. They wanted to store key value pairs- specifically, the titles of a media item, and the actual object representing the media items. They wanted to be able to fetch items by their title, but they also wanted to be able to present the items sorted by their title.

This Event is Quite the Do

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Benjamin inherited some code from a fellow developer. The original author of this code wrote a lot of code for the company, and that code drives a lot of products which make the company piles of money. Tired of making money, that developer left to go open a restaurant.

Which means Benjamin is now responsible for maintaining code which lives in 15,000 line files where class-level variables are essentially treated as globals. There's also a lot of misunderstandings about how Windows Forms GUIs work.