Remy Porter

Remy escaped the enterprise world and now makes LEDs blink pretty. Editor-in-Chief for TDWTF.

Apr 2021

Secure By Design

by in CodeSOD on

Many years ago, I worked for a company that mandated that information like user credentials should never be stored "as plain text". It had to be "encoded". One of the internally-developed HR applications interpreted this as "base64 is a kind of encoding", and stored usernames and passwords in base64 encoding.

Steven recently encountered a… similar situation. Specifically, his company upgraded their ERP system, and reports that used to output taxpayer ID numbers now outputs ~201~201~210~203~… or similar values. He checked the data dictionary for the application, and saw that the taxpayer_id field stored "encrypted" values. Clearly, this data isn't really encrypted.


An Exceptional Warning

by in CodeSOD on

Pierre inherited a PHP application. The code is pretty standard stuff, for a long-living PHP application which has been touched by many developers with constantly shifting requirements. Which is to say, it's a bit of a mess.

But there's one interesting quirk that shows up in the codebase. At some point, someone working on the project added a kinda stock way they chose to handle exceptions. Future developers saw that, didn't understand it, and copied it to just follow what appeared to be the "standard".


Absolute Mockery

by in CodeSOD on

At a certain point, it becomes difficult to write a unit test without also being able to provide mocked implementations of some of the code. But mocking well is its own art- it's easy to fall into the trap of writing overly complex mocks, or mocking the wrong piece of functionality, and ending up in situations where your tests end up spending more time testing their mocks than your actual code.

Was Rhonda's predecessor thinking of any of those things when writing code? Were they aware of the challenges of writing useful mocks, of managing dependency injection? Or was this Java solution the best they could come up with:


Documentation on Your Contract

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Josh's company hired a contracting firm to develop an application. This project was initially specced for just a few months of effort, but requirements changed, scope changed, members of the development team changed jobs, new ones needed to be on-boarded. It stretched on for years.

Even through all those changes, though, each new developer on the project followed the same coding standards and architectural principles as the original developers. Unfortunately, those standards were "meh, whatever, it compiled, right?"


Saved Changes

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When you look at bad code, there's a part of your body that reacts to it. You can just feel it, in your spleen. This is code you don't want to maintain. This is code you don't want to see in your code base.

Sometimes, you get that reaction to code, and then you think about the code, and say: "Well, it's not that bad," but your spleen still throbs, because you know if you had to maintain this code, it'd be constant, low-level pain. Maybe you ignore your spleen, because hey, a quick glance, it doesn't seem that bad.


Universal Problems

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Universally Unique Identifiers are a very practical solution to unique IDs. With 10^30 possible values, the odds of having a collision are, well, astronomical. They're fast enough to generate, random enough to be unique, and there are so many of them that- well, they may not be universally unique through all time, but they're certainly unique enough.

Right?


Maximum Max

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Imagine you were browsing a C++ codebase and found a signature in a header file like this:

int max (int a, int b, int c, int d);

Constantly Counting

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Steven was working on a temp contract for a government contractor, developing extensions to an ERP system. That ERP system was developed by whatever warm bodies happened to be handy, which meant the last "tech lead" was a junior developer who had no supervision, and before that it was a temp who was only budgeted to spend 2 hours a week on that project.

This meant that it was a great deal of spaghetti code, mashed together with a lot of special-case logic, and attempts to have some sort of organization even if that organization made no sense. Which is why, for example, all of the global constants for the application were required to be in a class Constants.


The Truth and the Truth

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When Andy inherited some C# code from a contracting firm, he gave it a quick skim. He saw a bunch of methods with names like IsAvailable or CanPerform…, but he also saw that it was essentially random as to whether or not these methods returned bool or string.

That didn't seem like a good thing, so he started to take a deeper look, and that's when he found this.


A Form of Reuse

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Writing code that is reusable is an important part of software development. In a way, we're not simply solving the problem at hand, but we're building tools we can use to solve similar problems in the future. Now, that's also a risk: premature abstraction is its own source of WTFs.

Daniel's peer wrote some JavaScript which is used for manipulating form inputs on customer contact forms. You know the sorts of forms: give us your full name, phone number, company name, email, and someone from our team will be in touch. This developer wrote the script, and offered it to clients to enhance their forms. Well, there was one problem: this script would get embedded in customer contact forms, but not all customer contact forms use the same conventions for how they name their fields.


Exceptionally General

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Andres noticed this pattern showing up in his company's code base, and at first didn't think much of it:


A True Leader's Enhancement

by in CodeSOD on

Chuck had some perfectly acceptable C# code running in production. There was nothing terrible about it. It may not be the absolute "best" way to build this logic in terms of being easy to change and maintain in the future, but nothing about it is WTF-y.

if (report.spName == "thisReport" || report.spName == "thatReport") { LoadUI1(); } else if (report.spName == "thirdReport" || report.spName == "thirdReportButMoreSpecific") { LoadUI2(); } else { LoadUI3(); }

We All Expire

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Code, like anything else, ages with time. Each minor change we make to a piece of already-in-use software speeds up that process. And while a piece of software can be running for decades unchanged, its utility will still decline over time, as its user interface becomes more distant from common practices, as the requirements drift from their intent, and people forget what the original purpose of certain features even was.

Code ages, but some code is born with an expiration date.


He Sed What?

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Today's code is only part of the WTF. The code is bad, it's incorrect, but the mistake is simple and easy to make.

Lowell was recently digging into a broken feature in a legacy C application. The specific error was a failure when invoking a sed command from inside the application.


Switching Your Template

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Many years ago, Kari got a job at one of those small companies that lives in the shadow of a university. It was founded by graduates of that university, mostly recruited from that university, and the CEO was a fixture at alumni events.

Kari was a rare hire not from that university, but she knew the school had a reputation for having an excellent software engineering program. She was prepared to be a little behind her fellow employees, skills-wise, but looked forward to catching up.


Announcing the launch of TFTs

by in Feature Articles on

Totally Fungible Tokens

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are an exciting new application of Blockchain technology that allows us to burn down a rainforest every time we want to trade a string representing an artist's signature on a creative work.

Many folks are eagerly turning JPGs, text files, and even Tweets into NFTs, but since not all of us have a convenient rainforest to destroy, The Daily WTF is happy to offer at alternative, the Totally Fungible Token

What Is a Totally Fungible Token?