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A Shell Game

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When the big banks and brokerages on Wall Street first got the idea that UNIX systems could replace mainframes, one of them decided to take the plunge - Big Bang style. They had hundreds of programmers cranking out as much of the mainframe functionality as they could. Copy-paste was all the rage; anything to save time. It could be fixed later.

Nyst 1878 - Cerastoderma parkinsoni R-klep

Senior management decreed that the plan was to get all the software as ready as it could be by the deadline, then turn off and remove the mainframe terminals on Friday night, swap in the pre-configured UNIX boxes over the weekend, and turn it all on for Monday morning. Everyone was to be there 24 hours a day from Friday forward, for as long as it took. Air mattresses, munchies, etc. were brought in for when people would inevitably need to crash.


Undermining the Boss

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During the browser wars of the late 90's, I worked for a company that believed that security had to consist of something you have and something you know. As an example, you must have a valid site certificate, and know your login and password. If all three are valid, you get in. Limiting retry attempts would preclude automated hack attempts. The security (mainframe) team officially deemed this good enough to thwart any threat that might come from outside our firewall.

The Murder of Julius Caesar

As people moved away from working on mainframes to working on PCs, it became more difficult to get current site certificates to every user every three months (security team mandate). The security team decreed that e/snail-mail was not considered secure enough, so a representative of our company had to fly to every client company, go to every user PC and insert a disk to install the latest site certificate. Every three months. Ad infinitum.


Finding Your Strong Suit

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Anyone with more than a few years of experience has been called upon to interview candidates for a newly opened/vacated position. There are many different approaches to conducting an interview, including guessing games, gauntlets and barrages of rapid-fire questions to see how much of the internet the candidate has memorized.

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By DavidLevinson


Walking on the Sun

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In 1992, I worked at a shop that was all SunOS. Most people had a Sparc-1. Production boxes were the mighty Sparc-2, and secretaries had the lowly Sun 360. Somewhat typical hardware for the day.

SPARCstation 1

Sun was giving birth to their brand spanking new Solaris, and was pushing everyone to convert from SunOS. As with any OS change in a large shop, it doesn't just happen; migration planning needs to occur. All of our in-house software needed to be ported to the new Operating System.


Flobble

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The Inner Platform Effect, third only after booleans and dates, is one of the most complicated blunders that so-called developers (who think that they know what they're doing) do to Make Things Better.™ Combine that with multiple inheritance run-amok and a smartass junior developer who thinks documentation and method naming are good places to be cute, and you get todays' submission.

A cat attacking an impossible object illusion to get some tuna from their human

Chops,an experienced C++ developer somewhere in Europe, was working on their flagship product. It had been built slowly over 15 years by a core of 2-3 main developers, and an accompanying rotating cast of enthusiastic but inexperienced C++ developers. The principal developer had been one of those juniors himself at the start of development. When he finally left, an awful lot of knowledge walked out the door with him.


The Wizard Algorithm

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Password requirements can be complicated. Some minimum and maximum number of characters, alpha and numeric characters, special characters, upper and lower case, change frequency, uniqueness over the last n passwords and different rules for different systems. It's enough to make you revert to a PostIt in your desk drawer to keep track of it all. Some companies have brillant employees who feel that they can do better, and so they create a way to figure out the password for any given computer - so you need to neither remember nor even know it.

Kendall Mfg. Co. (estab. 1827) (3092720143)

History does not show who created the wizard algorithm, or when, or what they were smoking at the time.


The Manager Who Knew Everything

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Have you ever worked for/with a manager that knows everything about everything? You know the sort; no matter what the issue, they stubbornly have an answer. It might be wrong, but they have an answer, and no amount of reason, intelligent thought, common sense or hand puppets will make them understand. For those occasions, you need to resort to a metaphorical clue-bat.

A few decades ago, I worked for a place that had a chief security officer who knew everything there was to know about securing their systems. Nothing could get past the policies she had put in place. Nobody could ever come up with any mechanism that could bypass her concrete walls, blockades and insurmountable defenses.


Many Happy Returns

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We've all encountered a situation where changing requirements caused some function that had a single native return type to need to return a second value. One possible solution is to put the two return values in some wrapper class as follows:


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