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table ("Cal_ATM") that was referenced from an externally-linked database, and the data in that table was completely out of date.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: Emergency Faxes

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One of my first teenage jobs was to work as an office assistant. As this was the 90s, that meant I had to use and understand a fax machine. I… did not. The fax machine forever was a dark mystery to me, something that required strange incantations to work. As our summer break continues, at least I never caused this much trouble with the damn thing. Original --Remy

As far as technologies go, faxing is ancient. It predates the telephone by over a decade and, despite vast advances in scanning and email technology, the fax still remains a standard form of communication.

When a transmission goes out, the occasional telecommunication ‘hiccup’ or line noise can corrupt the fax. Most modern fax machines have some rudimentary error handling that will alerts the user that the fax should be resent.

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.


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"I just logged in to StackOverlflow and gained two rep points! Wow, let's see who vot... uhmm... -20 +5 +10 +10 equals 2?" Ryan R. writes.

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.

Greek To Me

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Wikipedia favicon hexdump

Many decades ago—before laser printers, graphical operating systems, and device-independent imaging models—Gus worked in the IT department of a local college. As a personal project during slow moments at work, he took it upon himself to figure out how to print Greek text. About a week later, he'd hacked together a solution that resulted in a printout of classical Greek writing.