Recent Feature Articles

Apr 2022

A Slice of Spam

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In addition to being a developer, Beatrix W manages a few small email servers, which means she sometimes needs to evaluate the kinds of messages arriving and their origins, especially when they're suspicious. One such suspicious message arrived, complete with a few malicious links, and some hints of possibly being the start of a spear-phishing attack.

That was concerning, and as it turns out, the email came through a vendor who specializes in sending marketing emails- but the requested sort (or at least the sort where you got confused about which box to uncheck at checkout and accidentially signed yourself up for a newsletter). So Beatrix tracked down the contact form on the company website.

Keeping Things Simple

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Sandra from Initrovent, previously featured here on the site, has finally left that job, finding herself at InitAg instead. InitAg is a small agricultural tech startup, a little rough around the edges for a data science company, but overall functional. With one notable exception: The customer portal.

Optimized Database Access Patterns for Dummies

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Initech sold some expensive devices which supported location tracking. Their customers wanted to track the location of these devices, with full history of all previous locations, down to five minute increments.

When Eurydice F joined the team, she understood that it would be a lot of data to manage. She was an experienced DBA, and had all sorts of ideas about how you might partition the database to make that scale of data manageable, and the ways you would index it to make access and retrieval efficient.

The Squawk Card

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In 1981, Mark was hired at a company that produced minicomputers widely used in retail establishments and small/medium businesses. On the first day, Roger gave him a tour of the plant and introduced him to his new coworkers. After shaking hands and parting ways with Walt, the Manufacturing QA manager, Roger beckoned Mark to lean in close with an impish smirk.

Classic WTF: Scratch One Inevitability

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Since this weekend was a holiday, and today is Tax Day in the US, we're reaching back into the archives for this classic that fits the theme. Original -- Remy

Before Curtis even got to sit down at his desk, he was accosted by a frenzied, sweating junior developer. "OhmygodCurtis," he began. Curtis extended his hand in a "calm the hell down" gesture and allowed him to continue. "A whole bunch of our stores had no data posted last night and I'm not sure why orwhat to doabout it or whoIshouldtalktoand-" Curtis gestured again, to which the developer handed him a thin stack of papers. After a deep breath, the developer continued. "It's a list of the stores that didn't post last night."

The stores in question were part of what we'll call Hewitt & Liberty Block – a reasonably large tax preparation company serving a handful of states with over 2,000 retail locations. Each of the locations was set up to post tax data and sales records to the central computer at the main facility. According to Curtis's list of stores that hadn't posted any data, it was nearly 1/4. It was going to be a long day.

Playing a Role

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Initech's latest offering, IniPrints, was a secure automation system for document management. The target audience was the banking industry, which meant that the system was sold as having robust and fine-grained role-based access control systems. As far as any one could tell, that was exactly what Initech was shipping, which meant IniPrints gained a reputation within IniTech as being a "good product", with "low maintenance".

When Alan was assigned support on IniPrints, he expected it to be pretty quiet. So he was surprised when three of the veterans of the project, Carole, Larry, and Arthur desceded on his cube with grim tidings.