Recent Feature Articles

May 2022

Classic WTF: Color Me Stupid

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It's a holiday in the US today, so we're flipping back through the archives to remember a classic WTF. These colors don't run, because they'll trip over their own shoelaces. Original. --Remy

Andy's company develops solutions for "Industrial" handheld devices. To make deployment and updates easier, they each run a thin client so only the server is different from project to project. This client was written by a long-gone employee in the early nineties, and had barely changed since because it "just worked". Updating it was discouraged for fear of breaking backward-compatibility.

Andy's new project was the first chance he'd had to use it, so he asked a colleague if there was some code that could be used to interface with it. What Andy received was essentially a giant method which responded to the client by cycling through a switch-statement to decide what to paint next based on the current state of the client. Andy took the initiative to create a library for making servers for these things a bit less spaghetti-like, and to encourage this new-fangled concept of code-reuse.

Minor Revisions

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In many places, driver's licenses work on a point system. As you commit infractions, you gain or lose points, when your point score hits a certain threshold, your insurance company raises your rates or you may even lose your driver's license. Where Christopher Walker lives, you start with twelve points, and each infraction takes a few away. Once a year, you have the option to attend a workshop on safe driving, where you can then regain a few of those points.

It's complicated and tedious, so several organizations, from the local department of motor vehicles to various insurance companies, have set up systems to manage this information. One of those organizations built a PHP application about fifteen years ago, and it gradually grew in kruft and complexity and confusion from that point forward. It works, but it's entirely unmaintainable.