• LCrawford (unregistered)

    I'm surprised that they retained the source to the "old" printout case that allowed a programmable solution. Also surprised that Argle wasn't fired for excessive initiative.

  • P (unregistered)

    TRWTF is they didn't order Argle to mine coins by performing hash calculations by hand and paper. At least there is some non-zero productivity with that.

  • P (unregistered) in reply to LCrawford

    Firing Argle would make too much a splash. You wouldn't want everyone else to realize that you fucked up and hired someone with no work to assign to them.

  • Fluffy (unregistered)

    That's practically a modern-day (well, relatively modern) retelling of Gauss's origin story, isn't it?

  • (nodebb)

    He should've used the program, then done his own stuff for 2 months, then come back and shown results. Here boss, just like you asked.

  • Little Bobby Tables (unregistered) in reply to Fluffy

    I was given a detention once from my Maths teacher. He assigned me the task of calculating 3 to the power of 20 or some such.

    I came back within 5 or 10 minutes or so.

    "How did you do that so quickly?"

    "Well, I got to 3 to the 5th quickly enough, then I just squared it and then squared it again. Long multiplication's no sweat." I showed him the piece of paper I'd done it on.

    "But ... but ... but I expected you to just multiply each successive product by 3!"

  • (nodebb)

    I would have completely believed the FAA requirement bit. I worked in medical research for a little while, and it was disturbing how many boxes on forms the auditors wanted hand-written instead of filled in on the computer and printed. If there was a mistake somewhere, or my handwriting was illegible (which it pretty much always is), it would be the auditors' fault.

  • Geoff (unregistered)

    Don't know exactly what was going on here. I have sometimes given interns I was thinking about hiring full time "shit tasks" never something entirely useless always some I at least wanted done but things I would not have used a professionals time on. I am interested in multiple things really. Will they 1) Find an innovative way to do the task. That shows creativity, initiative, smarts beyond I can follow these processes others have shown me. 2) Will they stick to and get it done somehow. Work isn't always fun sometimes its just work and at some point they are going to be faced with being responsible for doing an unpleasant but critical task and I want to know they wont have a tantrum.

  • Patrick (unregistered)

    At a previous job I was ordered to analyze the database log file for strange errors. I was told to do it manually, but of course after one or two times that becomes mind bogglingly boring so I wrote a program that remembered its position in the logfile from the previous day, opened the logfile, skipped forward and read line by line, comparing them with a list of known issues. If a new issue was found, it was saved in a separate file, which I included in my daily report. After a couple of months I received a compliment that my reports were always correct and in time.

    No surprise there for me, since the program worked fine and I had it scheduled to run every morning at 6:00 and send the results to myself via email.

  • Andrew (unregistered)

    TRWTF is using DOS in 2001.

  • Brian (unregistered)

    Ah yes, "compliance" - the bane of anyone who actually wants to get something done. Back when I worked for an avionics company, the ratio of compliance-related work to actual productive work was disturbingly high. I particularly remember when we had to do some unit testing, ensuring full (or close to it) code coverage of a graphics driver... at the assembly level, because our compiler (good old gcc) wasn't "certified". Given how contrived our testing procedure was, several months of effort produced absolutely nothing of value.

  • I'm not a robot (unregistered) in reply to Little Bobby Tables
    "But ... but ... but I expected you to just multiply each successive product by 3!"
    I doubt it would take very long even if you did do it that way.
  • (nodebb)

    I haven't heard of the Hunt-McIlroy algorithm either.

  • NotThatJim (unregistered) in reply to LCrawford

    Not surprising the old code was still in the system - when I was working on aircraft software we couldn't delete ANYTHING, just in case the FAA wanted to see our reproducibility process.

  • (nodebb) in reply to P

    TRWTF is they didn't order Argle to mine coins by performing hash calculations by hand and paper. At least there is some non-zero productivity with that.

    This ^^^^ should be the definitive Featured Comment

  • Little Bobby Tables (unregistered) in reply to I'm not a robot

    Probably not. He learned that my inattentiveness in class was due to nothing more than boredom.

  • Somebody Somewhere (unregistered)

    Hoo boy, I've been there as an intern. I was given a task my supervisor thought would take a week, but figured out how to script it and handed in the results two hours later.

    Thankfully, he immediately came clean that he didn't have any other work for me and suggested I do some self-directed learning, i.e. "browse the web or do whatever, just don't break anything".

  • (nodebb) in reply to Andrew

    TRWTF is MS Explorer that is so clippled you cannot manipulate or export file lists or do anything useful really. Don't get me started on searching for files in Windows. Much rather pull up a command-line window and search for certain files on a server like this:

    dir \machine\share*.pdf /b/s/a

    to get all the PDF docs across all folders into a neat little list, without having a drive mapped to that server. If you're stuck with authentication to reconnect just do a

    net use \machine\share /user:domain\myuser

    I use this weekly.

    But I'm sorry this is 2019, even worse than 2001.

    The Linux subsystem in Windows is even more useful.

    I'm saddened by how many programmers don't know their basic OS command-line functions, or that simply smirk at the idea of using the command-line since it's dated.

    Addendum 2019-08-22 10:33: *crippled

    Clippled too I guess...

  • Foo AKA Fooo (unregistered) in reply to Little Bobby Tables

    Even that shouldn't take so long. 3^20 is 10 digits, so the intermediate products are ~5 digits on average, so you'd have to do some 100 single-digit multiplications -- and all of them by 3, so even if you hadn't memorized the multiples of 3 well, you'd know them very well afterwards, or you could make a table. 5 minutes in total means 3 seconds per multiplication, which is not very fast. Sure it wasn't 3^100 or such?

    Anyway, your teacher was an idiot, and you were a young Gauss. (That's what you wanted to hear, didn't you? :)

  • Adamantyr (unregistered)

    Love the call out for the TI-99! Texas Instruments did have a mini-computer that used the same processor, the TMS9900. That allowed them to use it for software development for the TI-99; that was the only way you could have a side-by-side debugger.

  • Foo AKA Fooo (unregistered) in reply to Somebody Somewhere

    So good managers exist. That's what I was wondering when I read the article. How can a moderately sized company not have anything to do? Better document the code, add more or better tests, do manual testing, collect ideas for refactoring and clean-up (whether you are allowed to implement them is another question, of course), go through the backlog of old and obscure bugs (if you don't have any, you don't have a real-world product), whatever. Where I work, if I had a few employee weeks to waste, I could easily come up with (at least moderately useful) stuff to do.

    Or as in your case, do self-directed learning, or even some formal training, even if it costs a few bucks. Anything is better than wasting time with mind-numbing tasks -- better for productivity and for motivation.

    Or if allowed (this might depend on a lot of things, sure), let them leave 2 hours earlier each day and expect them not to make a fuzz about overtime during the next crunch time. Even if the overtime turns out to be less than the time taken off before (nice dream, I know ;), it would be a win-win.

  • LCrawford (unregistered)

    "The Linux subsystem in Windows is even more useful."

    Yes, I agree that

    find . -name "frist*"

    is so much clearer and easier to remember than

    dir frist* /s

  • (nodebb) in reply to Brian

    Regulatory compliance in aviation is meant to catch mistakes that could end up crashing a control system that lead to crashing the aircraft. You want to be able to say, we passed that test, so the system should not fail like that one did in that previous aircraft incident. Everything behaves as expected is what you want. Sure, it is a little boring and takes a while to make sure, but better safe than sorry.

    When things slip through the cracks you get situations like the 737 Max; the system failed because it did not handle invalid sensor data properly which lead to nose hard over if the crew did not respond in time to disable the auto-trim.

  • I can be a robot if you want me to be (unregistered)

    To certify anything via software means the the certification software itself needs certifying, and that process can often take longer than doing the original task by hand.

  • Andrew (unregistered)

    We had a networking group at my old employer that frowned on all forms of script automation because it confused them and might make some of their jobs obsolete. They managed someone out for being "too efficient" because he had automated his entire job with python scripts.

  • just a dev (unregistered) in reply to Fluffy

    Great observation! http://www.math.wichita.edu/history/men/gauss.html

  • sizer99 (google) in reply to DonaldK


  • sizer99 (google)

    I've mentioned this story, but when I was (briefly, thank god) working for the govt (US) as a college student I was formally written up for getting two weeks worth of work done in half a day by automating it. They had told everyone it took them two weeks to make these reports, so if it got out a college student could do it in half a day there goes their fat lazy government sinecures.

    I still needed the money for the college, so I'd get my job done in half a day and send the other two weeks working on my own stuff, playing games, etc. Just like a good government worker.

  • Tim! (unregistered) in reply to P

    Pretty sure mining coins wasn't a thing in 1979?

  • (nodebb) in reply to Foo AKA Fooo

    If I had someone with time on their hands, I could find months worth of work for them to do.

    After a month or so, I expect them to find plenty to do by themselves.

    What the end result would be, and in what priority they should do it, should be discussed once they have an idea of what is necessary and the daily update to make sure they stay on track.

  • Andrew A. Gill (unregistered)

    These days if you want to do that just tell the programmer to write an HTML parser in regex.


  • Bruce W (unregistered)

    Back in 1992 I interned for a company that specialized in putting data onto CD-ROMs. One contract they had was for the World Almanac (the very think book of data & facts). Problem was, my company received the World Almanac in a large SGML-tagged text file but the CD-ROM presentation software needed it to be untagged, human friendly & formatted ASCII text. One of the programmers wrote a middling SGML parser to handle about 60% of the formatting. The other 40%? That's why you have an intern! I spent about a month hand-formatting text. I did learn a bit about writing macros in the DOS text editor I used to automate any little bit of manual work.

  • ABJ (unregistered)

    I had a temp job, supposed to last 4 days, where I was to copy a postcode from a spreadsheet, paste it into an Access form, hit tab and then copy the locality and ward for the postcode back into the spreadsheet. For a few thousand records.

    I dug around in the database, found the look-up tables and with a couple of vlookups, finished in minutes. (There were a few postcodes that needed reformatting to match up, and a few that were from outside our borough, which needed testing, but I was done in less than half an hour.

    Fortunately they were busy enough to find me more work to do, and I left three and a half years later.

  • Argle (unregistered) in reply to Andrew

    You would think, wouldn't you, Andrew. My current project is an internal website that's replacing a DOS program still in use. It's so dodgy that they have to put in a bogus current date and time to get it to work.

  • Argle (unregistered) in reply to Foo AKA Fooo

    There were a number of Dilbertesque qualities to that company. Fortunately, it wasn't all that bad. A few people wondered if I made a bit of a "splash" that should have gotten me fired. Fortunately, after a year in college, I was re-hired the following summer and given a far more interesting task. There was a change required on some flight-deck device so a certain light would come on differently. It required about 2-3 additional bytes of code. But I realized the "hidden" requirement was "figure out a way to wedge those byte in in such a way that we don't have to burn the entire set of 8 chips." So, I spent a summer poring over assembly code looking for tiny inefficiencies in the surrounding code and getting everything to land back on the chips the same as before except the one where my new change was supposed to be.

    This next bit will make anyone under 40 say "WTF?" I programmed the code on one of those big green-screen monster IBM terminals from the 70s. That went over to another building to an IBM mainframe that had the assembler on it. That was spooled to a Data General computer in another building that was about 6 filing cabinets big and looked like a prop from "Apollo 13." That in turn went onto punch tape that I carried to an electronics lab where I put in a rack of PROMS and fed in the tape. Afterwards, hosed those down with freon (goodbye ozone!) so I could take them out and put them in the device for final testing.

    Ah, you kids and your Javascript and Python! Get off my lawn! And pull up your pants.

  • Officer Johnny Holzkopf (unregistered)

    A week ago, I was forced to observe some similar kind of "work": In an office, the wife of the owner had a job, with a PC, with two screens: left one showed Excel with names of workers, right one showed Word with an empty document. She started to enter "Tom Worker, 28638671, time sheet for", looked at the calendar, "Monday, 19.8.2019". Enter Enter Enter Enter. Then she wrote "7:00" Enter Enter "8:00" Enter Enter, and proceeded to "18:00". She clicked on the Print button, then on the Close button. After that, she re-started Word, and continued with the next worker, "Jim Busyman, 28536774, time sheet for". You can guess what came next? The boss, her husband, explained: "We have always done it that way. We make efficient use of modern computers. You see, the worker names and numbers change, and the weekday and date changes, and sometimes, the times change, so it is technically not possible to just re-use something." That must be the modern paperless office everyone keeps talking about...

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon (unregistered)

    In reply to Argle...

    I just had a 'PTSD moment' flash of the Monty Python skit "Four Yorkshiremen". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue7wM0QC5LE (which I always think of as 'well, when I were a lad....'. Also brings back memories of programming on punch cards, then offering them, like alms to the high priests of the IBM 360, to be served up to the maw of the reader... and then awaiting, with baited breath, for the priests to dispense their augury, ('cause abating your breath for that long would make you turn blue, or worse you fool). (I used mint for bait, as bacon-breath never seemed to work, just made them jealous).

  • mwo (unregistered)

    I got in big-time trouble with my management at an engineering services company for automating such a task. It was printouts of files from two servers and this guy was manually comparing the contents and identifying which server had the newer file version. After working on it two weeks, he had barely scratched the surface. I did a simple text comparison of the directory listings and had it done in 5 minutes.

    Shortly after, my boss's boss was literally screaming at me that my performance was UNACCEPTABLE.

    I had just lost them MONTHS of billable hours. What a huge hit to the company.

    Well, I left those losers not long after that and, surprise surprise, the company closed it's doors not long after that.

  • ray10k (unregistered) in reply to Tim!

    Pretty sure that was a joke that flew over your head. Unless my sarcasm detector still isn't fixed and I missed your joke.

  • Guest (unregistered)

    In 2010 I was given a handful of lists. Some of the lists were the results of something like ls -lrt >> someFile.txt to get what was really in the directory, and the other lists were what a client claimed was in the directory. Said files in said directories were a Cobol code-base from the client's ancient and sacred vaults. I was told to document the differences. I did this: https://stackoverflow.com/q/3642165/241291

  • Argle (unregistered) in reply to Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    Howls of derisive laughter, Bruce.

  • Boot (unregistered)

    My first one of these happened when I was a typing/admin temp at a large brewery in Park Royal. (early 90s ish)

    Every month, about a foot and a half high of report came out in fanfold paper. This was distributed to us secretaries (me and the four permanent ladies). Each one would grab a pencil and a ruler and start marking column and header delimiter lines rows on every page. I ended up feeding it into the little tractor feed printer by my desk and printing it all on from lotus-1-2-3.

    Saved about three quarters of a day per person per month and earned me three crates of beer :-)

  • (nodebb)

    Such a waste of time. "Go learn sh*t" would create more value.

  • jgh (unregistered) in reply to ABJ

    Reminds me of a friend who worked (briefly) for a government agency. Each week they had to mail off loads of letters, and they got a discount rate if they were pre-sorted by postcode. The existing method was to print all the letters, and then spend three days sorting them. He noticed you could do "sort by field='postcode'" before printing, and bingo, three days' work done in 0.5 seconds. And, yes, he was bollocked for destroying the agency's billable hours.

  • Feeling lucky (unregistered)

    Back in the mid '90 some company had a problem. A 300 pages course book done in Quark Xpress, needed to be converted to HTML. There was a text export of the course book, but it had issues.

    As they did not find anybody, they finally asked me, a student working for the computing department of the university, because I was known to be a very fast typer. They showed me the book and the export, and offered me to pay 400 DM if I was able to properly convert this to HTML within the next 6 weeks.

    So I looked at the file, compared this to the book, and saw, that it was doable and the payment was ok.

    It was Friday 3pm when I got this task.

    At the next morning I had done some crude AWK script which was able to cut the export file into proper HTML snippets for each course. The only problem was to correctly re-sequence the text in the layout into the proper HTML template. As the export and the presentation in the book were quite often not in sync.

    The solution was a hint-file, on which template to use when. 90% of the hint file was properly autodetected by the script, on the rest I had to decide. This took me the rest of the weekend.

    On Monday, I went back to the company and handed them over the disk with the HTML snippets and wanted to get paid. However they looked at me, calling me a cheater and a thief, because they expected me to work on this for 4 weeks full time, at least! (FYI: I calculated 1 week at mate's rates, because at Siemens I got 2200+ DM/month as a student worker.)

    Well, I never got paid and never did business with them. And I left them the HTML. Because I hate waste, it was fun to do it in a weekend, and also, I had learned a very valuable lesson in life:

    Never cum too early .. ;)

    Fun Fact: 2 years after, the Boss, who refused to pay me, got into trouble for illegally re-selling Internet connectivity of the university to his customers.

  • toaster (unregistered) in reply to Tim!

    Pretty sure mining coins wasn't a thing in 1979? Well, considering having to compute the hashes by hand, he really could use the head start.

  • oscar carserud (unregistered) in reply to Andrew A. Gill

    You can't parse [X]HTML with regex. Because HTML can't be parsed by regex. Regex is not a tool that can be used to correctly parse HTML. As I have answered in HTML-and-regex questions here so many times before, the use of regex will not allow you to consume HTML. Regular expressions are a tool that is insufficiently sophisticated to understand the constructs employed by HTML. HTML is not a regular language and hence cannot be parsed by regular expressions. Regex queries are not equipped to break down HTML into its meaningful parts. so many times but it is not getting to me. Even enhanced irregular regular expressions as used by Perl are not up to the task of parsing HTML. You will never make me crack. HTML is a language of sufficient complexity that it cannot be parsed by regular expressions. Even Jon Skeet cannot parse HTML using regular expressions. Every time you attempt to parse HTML with regular expressions, the unholy child weeps the blood of virgins, and Russian hackers pwn your webapp. Parsing HTML with regex summons tainted souls into the realm of the living. HTML and regex go together like love, marriage, and ritual infanticide. The <center> cannot hold it is too late. The force of regex and HTML together in the same conceptual space will destroy your mind like so much watery putty. If you parse HTML with regex you are giving in to Them and their blasphemous ways which doom us all to inhuman toil for the One whose Name cannot be expressed in the Basic Multilingual Plane, he comes. HTML-plus-regexp will liquify the n​erves of the sentient whilst you observe, your psyche withering in the onslaught of horror. Rege̿̔̉x-based HTML parsers are the cancer that is killing StackOverflow it is too late it is too late we cannot be saved the trangession of a chi͡ld ensures regex will consume all living tissue (except for HTML which it cannot, as previously prophesied) dear lord help us how can anyone survive this scourge using regex to parse HTML has doomed humanity to an eternity of dread torture and security hole

  • 🤷 (unregistered)

    I once had a college job, luckily they had enough to do for me. But I remember once coming in to work extra early because I thought the task at hand would require me at least 3 hours to complete. Turned out I greatly misjudged it, because I found a way to do it in like 10 minutes. Reminded me of that "office thoughts" meme: It's 8:03 and I'm done for the day!

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