Remy Porter

Remy is a veteran developer who writes software for space probes.

He's often on stage, doing improv comedy, but insists that he isn't doing comedy- it's deadly serious. You're laughing at him, not with him. That, by the way, is usually true- you're laughing at him, not with him.

Classical Design

by in CodeSOD on

There is a surprising amount of debate about how to use CSS classes. The correct side of this debate argues that we should use classes to describe what the content is, what role it serves in our UI; i.e., a section of a page displaying employee information might be classed employee. If we want the "name" field of an employee to have a red underline, we might write a rule like:

.employee .name { text-decoration: underline red; }

A Small Partition

by in CodeSOD on

Once upon a time, I was tuning a database performance issue. The backing database was an Oracle database, and the key problem was simply that the data needed to be partitioned. Great, easy, I wrote up a change script, applied it to a test environment, gathered some metrics to prove that it had the effects we expected, and submitted a request to apply it to production.

And the DBAs came down on me like a sledgehammer. Why? Well, according to our DBAs, the license we had with Oracle didn't let us use partitioning. The feature wasn't disabled in any way, but when an Oracle compliance check was performed, we'd get dinged and they'd charge us big bucks for having used the feature- and if we wanted to enable it, it'd cost us $10,000 a year, and no one was willing to pay that.


A Top Level Validator

by in CodeSOD on

As oft stated, the specification governing email addresses is complicated, and isn't really well suited for regular expressions. You can get there, but honestly, most applications can get away with checking for something that looks vaguely email like and call it a day.

Now, as complicated as the "accurate" regex can get, we can certainly find worse regexes for validating emails. Morgan did, while on a contract.


To Tell the Truth

by in CodeSOD on

So many languages eschew "truth" for "truthiness". Today, we're looking at PHP's approach.

PHP automatically coerces types to a boolean with some fairly simple rules:

  • the boolean false is false
  • the integer 0 is false, as is the float 0.0 and -0.0.
  • empty strings and the string "0" are false
  • arrays with no elements are false
  • NULL is false
  • objects may also override the cast behavior to define their own
  • everything else is true

Terminated By Nulls

by in CodeSOD on

Strings in C are a unique collection of mistakes. The biggest one is the idea of null termination. Null termination is not without its advantages: because you're using a single byte to mark the end of the string, you can have strings of arbitrary length. No need to track the size and worry if your size variable is big enough to hold the end of the string. No complicated data structures. Just "read till you find a 0 byte, and you know you're done."

Of course, this is the root of a lot of evils. Malicious inputs that lack a null terminator, for example, are a common exploit. It's so dangerous that all of the str* functions have strn* versions, which allow you to pass sizes to ensure you don't overrun any buffers.


They Key To Dictionaries

by in CodeSOD on

It's incredibly common to convert objects to dictionaries/maps and back, for all sorts of reasons. Jeff's co-worker was tasked with taking a dictionary which contained three keys, "mail", "telephonenumber", and "facsimiletelephonenumber" into an object representing a contact. This was their solution:

foreach (string item in _ptAttributeDic.Keys)
{
string val = _ptAttributeDic[item];
switch (item)
{
    case "mail":
    if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(base._email))
        base._email = val;
    break;
    case "facsimiletelephonenumber":
    base._faxNum = val;
    break;
    case "telephonenumber":
    base._phoneNumber = val;
    break;
}
}

A Valid Applicant

by in CodeSOD on

In the late 90s into the early 2000s, there was an entire industry spun up to get businesses and governments off their mainframe systems from the 60s and onto something modern. "Modern", in that era, usually meant Java. I attended vendor presentations, for example, that promised that you could take your mainframe, slap a SOAP webservice on it, and then gradually migrate modules off the mainframe and into Java Enterprise Edition. In the intervening years, I have seen exactly 0 successful migrations like this- usually they just end up trying that for a few years and then biting the bullet and doing a ground-up rewrite.

That's is the situation ML was in: a state government wanted to replace their COBOL mainframe monster with a "maintainable" J2EE/WebSphere based application. Gone would be the 3270 dumb terminals, and here would be desktop PCs running web browsers.


Gotta Catch 'Em All

by in CodeSOD on

It's good to handle any exception that could be raised in some useful way. Frequently, this means that you need to take advantage of the catch block's ability to filter by type so you can do something different in each case. Or you could do what Adam's co-worker did.

try
{
/* ... some important code ... */
} catch (OutOfMemoryException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (OverflowException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (InvalidCastException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (NullReferenceException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (IndexOutOfRangeException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (ArgumentException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (InvalidOperationException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (XmlException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (IOException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (NotSupportedException exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
} catch (Exception exception) {
        Global.Insert("App.GetSettings;", exception.Message);
}

Archives