Jake Vinson

Classic WTF: Security By Letterhead

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It's a holiday in the US, so we're turning back the clock a bit.
How do you make sure nobody issues an unauthorized request for a domain transfer? This registrar has serious security to prevent just that kind of event. You know this must be a classic, because it involves fax machines. Original -- Remy

Security through obscurity is something we've all probably complained about. We've covered security by insanity and security by oblivity. And today, joining their ranks, we have security by letterhead.

John O'Rourke wrote in to tell us that as a part of his job, he often has to help clients transfer domain names. He's had to jump through all kinds of crazy hoops to transfer domain names in the past; including just about everything except literally jumping through hoops. After faxing in a transfer request and receiving a rejection fax an hour later, he knew he was in for a fight.

Classic WTF: Illicit Process Improvement

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In celebration of Black Friday, also known as "Retail Hellscape", let's look at a retail-oriented classic WTF, which originally ran way back in 2007. We'll resume our regularly scheduled WTFs next week.--Remy

Christian R. was in trouble. Despite his experience across hardware and software, desktops and server clusters, thumb drives and SANs, he hadn't found any freelance work in weeks. It was clear that he'd have to figure something out to pay the bills.

In August, Christian applied at Drab's PCs, a large retail chain focused on computer hardware and software. He'd shopped there for years and had an impressive level of knowledge about their products, so he accepted a position in Technical Sales.

Classic WTF: Some Crazy Reason

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It's Memorial Day in the US, which is a holiday remembering those who have died in wars, which we celebrate by not going to work and generally grilling something. I leave it to someone smarter than myself to unpack the deeper meaning there. What it means here at TDWTF is that we're digging back into the archives to treat you to a classic WTF. - Remy

One time, out of boredom, I wrote a little utility called BitVerifier. It would loop over a folder and check every bit of each file. If the bit's value wasn't one or zero, it would prompt the user for the correct bit. At least in theory. I somehow never encountered a file with a "two" bit. But I got one key component right – an understanding of the valid range of values.

Rob K.'s colleague didn't even get that far.

Classic WTF: XML Abuse

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Is it still trendy to hate on XML? Of course it is! But this WTF would still be a WTF if it were built in JSON, because this is terrible.

This classic comes from 2008, but finding WTFs in XML knows no decade. - Remy

"Where I work we keep a lot of data stored in XML files," Ben writes. "They're not your average XML files, though — they're special." His colleague invented the following technique (recommended for senior level XML programmers only).

The Odd Job

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Photo credit: ramseyarnaoot@flickr Their first correspondence was an unsolicited call from Vilhelm. "I'm calling because I hear you do web work." Gaye B. responded that yes, he did, and began collecting whatever scant details he could about the project, telling Vilhelm he'd need some time to prepare an estimate. Vilhelm casually mentioned "you know, your last name sounds familiar. You wouldn't happen to be the son of Bob and Alice, would you?" He was. "Oh, that's great! Our parents are friends, they met on vacation at the coast last year!"

Beautiful, Gaye thought, he's going to want the "friend discount."

Double-Standard Operating Procedures

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"I write these SOPs for a reason," Ken barked, "and that reason isn't just so you can violate them!" Ken had the attitude of a drill sergeant from basically any movie with a cliché terrifying drill sergeant. In a previous career, Ken was a naval officer, and his rigid adherence to well-defined procedures was unshakable.

Ken was working for a clinical research company's central office in Ohio, where he struck fear into the hearts of his team, most of which were in a satellite office in Arizona. They frequently violated procedures, generally because they were unaware of the procedure being broken – and Garrett M. was the one that Ken watched most closely. He'd get his team following SOPs to the letter or die trying.

The Longest Yard and a Half

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Owein R. knew that security at the government facility was going to be a big deal, but it wasn't clear how big a deal it was going to be until he started his job.

To get anywhere in the facility, you needed a pass, and these were granted on a least-permissive basis. Even if your clearance was high enough, you still needed a pass to get into certain areas. To be granted access to a restricted area, you either had to have a pass, an appointment, or to be escorted at all times by someone with a pass – this included lunch and bathroom breaks.

Nerds, Jocks, and Lockers

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Mr. Zargas was the zany math teacher at Cliffmont High that everyone seemed to love. Whether you were a nerd or a jock, he made mathematics interesting, challenging, and fun to learn. That, in and of itself, was impressive enough, but Mr. Zargus took it one step further. When it came time for his frequent "Mathematical Battle of Wits," he would let the jocks use their brawn instead of their brains. The nerds never stood a chance, especially when it came to his "locker challenge."

The rules of Mr. Zargas' locker challenge were simple. Corridor G was a long-since abandoned section of Cliffmont High that a row of 100 unused, empty lockers. If you "toggled" the state of each locker (i.e. opening it if its closed, closing it if its open) in the following manner, which lockers would remain open?

  1. Every single locker is toggled (since all lockers start closed, this means each one is opened).
  2. Every other locker is toggled (in this case, closed), starting with the second.
  3. Every third locker is toggled, starting with the third.
  4. Every fourth locker is toggled, starting with the forth.
  5. ...
  6. The hundredth locker is toggled.