Recent Articles

May 2018

Improv for Programmers: Just for Transformers

by in Feature Articles on

We're back again with a little something different, brought to you by Raygun. Once again, the cast of "Improv for Programmers" is going to create some comedy on the fly for you, and this time… you could say it's… transformative. Today's episode contains small quantities of profanity.

Raygun provides a window into how users are really experiencing your software applications.


Business Driven Development

by in Feature Articles on

Every now and then, you come across a special project. You know the sort, where some business user decides that they know exactly what they need and exactly how it should be built. They get the buy-in of some C-level shmoe by making sure that their lips have intimate knowledge of said C-level butt. Once they have funding, they have people hired and begin to bark orders.

Toonces, the Driving Cat

About 8 years ago, I had the privilege experience of being on such a project. When we were given the phase-I specs, all the senior tech people immediately said that there was no way to perform a sane daily backup and data-roll for the next day. The response was "We're not going to worry about backups and daily book-rolls until later". We all just cringed, made like good little HPCs and followed our orders to march onward.


Aggregation of Concatenation

by in Representative Line on

A few years back, JSON crossed the “really good hammer” threshold. It has a good balance of being human readable, relatively compact, and simple to parse. It thus has become the go-to format for everything. “KoHHeKT” inherited a service which generates some JSON from an in-memory tree structure. This is exactly the kind of situation where JSON shines, and it would be trivial to employ one of the many JSON serialization libraries available for C# to generate JSON on demand.

Orrrrr… you could use LINQ aggregations, string formatting and trims…


The New Guy (Part I)

by in Feature Articles on

After working mind-numbing warehouse jobs for several years, Jesse was ready for a fresh start in Information Technology. The year 2015 brought him a newly-minted Computer and Networking Systems degree from Totally Legit Technical Institute. It would surely help him find gainful employment, all he had to do was find the right opportunity.

DNS hierarchy Seeking the right opportunity soon turned in to any opportunity. Jesse came across a posting for an IT Systems Administrator that piqued his interest but the requirements and responsibilities left a lot to be desired. They sought someone with C++ and Microsoft Office experience who would perform "General IT Admin Work" and "Other Duties as assigned". None of those things seemed to fit together, but he applied anyway.


Perfectly Technical Difficulties

by in Error'd on

David G. wrote, "For once, I'm glad to see technical issues being presented in a technical way."


Improv for Programmers: Inventing the Toaster

by in Feature Articles on

We always like to change things up a little bit here at TDWTF, and thanks to our sponsor Raygun, we've got a chance to bring you a little treat, or at least something a little different.

We're back with a new podcast, but this one isn't a talk show or storytelling format, or even a radio play. Remy rounded up some of the best comedians in Pittsburgh who were also in IT, and bundled them up to do some improv, using articles from our site and real-world IT news as inspiration. It's… it's gonna get weird.


Return of the Mask

by in CodeSOD on

Sometimes, you learn something new, and you suddenly start seeing it show up anywhere. The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is the name for that. Sometimes, you see one kind of bad code, and the same kind of bad code starts showing up everywhere. Yesterday we saw a nasty attempt to use bitmasks in a loop.

Today, we have Michele’s contribution, of a strange way of interacting with bitmasks. The culprit behind this code was a previous PLC programmer, even if this code wasn’t running straight on the PLC.


A Bit Masked

by in CodeSOD on

The “for-case” or “loop-switch” anti-pattern creates some hard to maintain code. You know the drill: the first time through the loop, do one step, the next time through the loop, do a different step. It’s known as the “Anti-Duff’s Device”, which is a good contrast: Duff’s Device is a clever way to unroll a loop and turn it into a sequential process, while the “loop-switch” takes a sequential process and turns it into a loop.

Ashlea inherited an MFC application. It was worked on by a number of developers in Germany, some of which used English to name identifiers, some which used German, creating a new language called “Deunglish”. Or “Engleutch”? Whatever you call it, Ashlea has helpfully translated all the identifiers into English for us.


CONDITION_FAILURE

by in CodeSOD on

Oliver Smith sends this representative line:

bool long_name_that_maybe_distracted_someone()
{
  return (execute() ? CONDITION_SUCCESS : CONDITION_FAILURE);
}

Kind of...but not really

by in Error'd on

"On occasion, SQL Server Management Studio's estimates can be just a little bit off," writes Warrent B.


A Quick Replacement

by in CodeSOD on

Lucio Crusca was doing a bit of security auditing when he found this pile of code, and it is indeed a pile. It is PHP, which doesn’t automatically make it bad, but it makes use of a feature of PHP so bad that they’ve deprecated it in recent versions: the create_function method.

Before we even dig into this code, the create_function method takes a string, runs eval on it, and returns the name of the newly created anonymous function. Prior to PHP 5.3.0 this was their method of doing lambdas. And while the function is officially deprecated as of PHP 7.2.0… it’s not removed. You can still use it. And I’m sure a lot of code probably still does. Like this block…


Exponential Backup

by in Feature Articles on

The first day of a new job is always an adjustment. There's a fine line between explaining that you're unused to a procedure and constantly saying "At my old company...". After all, nobody wants to be that guy, right? So you proceed with caution, trying to learn before giving advice.

But some things warrant the extra mile. When Samantha started her tenure at a mid-sized firm, it all started out fine. She got a computer right away, which is a nice plus. She met the team, got settled into a desk, and was given a list of passwords and important URLs to get situated. The usual stuff.


Yes == No

by in Feature Articles on

For decades, I worked in an industry where you were never allowed to say no to a user, no matter how ridiculous the request. You had to suck it up and figure out a way to deliver on insane requests, regardless of the technical debt they inflicted.

Canada Stop sign.svg


CHashMap

by in CodeSOD on

There’s a phenomenon I think of as the “evolution of objects” and it impacts novice programmers. They start by having piles of variables named things like userName0, userName1, accountNum0, accountNum1, etc. This is awkward and cumbersome, and then they discover arrays. string* userNames, int[] accountNums. This is also awkward and cumbersome, and then they discover hash maps, and can do something like Map<string, string>* users. Most programmers go on to discover “wait, objects do that!”

Not so Brian’s co-worker, Dagny. Dagny wanted to write some C++, but didn’t want to learn that pesky STL or have to master templates. Dagny also considered themselves a “performance junkie”, so they didn’t want to bloat their codebase with peer-reviewed and optimized code, and instead decided to invent that wheel themselves.


Version-itis

by in Error'd on

"No thanks, I'm holding out for version greater than or equal to 3.6 before upgrading," writes Geoff G.


The Same Date

by in CodeSOD on

Oh, dates. Oh, dates in Java. They’re a bit of a dangerous mess, at least prior to Java 8. That’s why Java 8 created its own date-time libraries, and why JodaTime was the gold standard in Java date handling for many years.

But it doesn’t really matter what date handling you do if you’re TRWTF. An Anonymous submitter passed along this method, which is meant to set the start and end date of a search range, based on a number of days:


A Password Generator

by in CodeSOD on

Every programming language has a *bias* which informs their solutions. Object-oriented languages are biased towards objects, and all the things which follow on. Clojure is all about function application. Haskell is all about type algebra. Ruby is all about monkey-patching existing objects.

In any language, these things can be taken too far. Java's infamous Spring framework leaps to mind. Perl, being biased towards regular expressions, has earned its reputation as being "write only" thanks to regex abuse.


An Obvious Requirement

by in Feature Articles on

Requirements. That magical set of instructions that tell you specifically what you need to build and test. Users can't be bothered to write them, and even if they could, they have no idea how to tell you what they want. It doesn't help that many developers are incapable of following instructions since they rarely exist, and when they do, they usually aren't worth the coffee-stained napkin upon which they're scribbled.

A sign warning that a footpath containing stairs isn't suitable for wheelchairs

That said, we try our best to build what we think our users need. We attempt to make it fairly straightforward to use what we build. The button marked Reports most likely leads to something to do with generating/reading/whatever-ing reports. Of course, sometimes a particular feature is buried several layers deep and requires multiple levels of ribbons, menus, sub-menus, dialogs, sub-dialogs and tabs before you find the checkbox you want. Since us developers as a group are, by nature, somewhat anal retentive, we try to keep related features grouped so that you can generally guess what path to try to find something. And we often supply a Help feature to tell you how to find it when you can't.