Recent Articles

Jun 2017

I Need More Space

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Beach litter, Winterton Dunes - geograph.org.uk - 966905

Shawn W. was a newbie support tech at a small company. Just as he was beginning to familiarize himself with its operational quirks, he got a call from Jim: The Big Boss.


A Lazy Cat

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The innermost circle of Hell, as we all know, is trying to resolve printer driver issues for all eternity. Ben doesn’t work with the printers that we mere mortals deal with on a regular basis, though. He runs a printing press, three stories of spinning steel and plates and ink and rolls of paper that could crush a man.

Like most things, the press runs Linux- a highly customized, modified version of Linux. It’s a system that needs to be carefully configured, as “disaster recovery” has a slightly different meaning on this kind of heavy equipment. The documentation, while thorough and mostly clear, was obviously prepared by someone who speaks English as a second language. Thus, Ben wanted to check the shell scripts to better understand what they did.


The CMS From Hell

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Hortus Deliciarum - Hell

Contracting can be really hit or miss. Sometimes, you're given a desk and equipment and treated just like an employee, except better paid and exempt from team-building exercises. Sometimes, however, you're isolated in your home office, never speaking to anyone, working on tedious, boring crap they can't convince their normal staff to do.


Highly Functional

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For a brief period of time, say, about 3–4 years ago, if you wanted to sound really smart, you’d bring up “functional programming”. Name-dropping LISP or even better, Haskell during an interview marked you as a cut above the hoi polloi. Even I, surly and too smart for this, fell into the trap of calling JavaScript “LISP with curly braces”, just because it had closures.

Still, functional programming features have percolated through other languages because they work. They’re another tool for the job, and like any tool, when used by the inexpert, someone might lose a finger. Or perhaps someone should lose a finger, if only as a warning to others.


@TitleOfErrord

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"I asked my son, @Firstname, and he is indeed rather @Emotion about going to @ThemePark!" wrote Chris @LASTNAME.


Classic WTF: Hacker Proof Booleans

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We continue our summer break with a classic case of outsmarting oneself in the stupidest way. Original -- Remy

"Years ago, long before I'd actually started programming, I spent my time learning about computers and data concepts by messing around with, believe it or not, cheat devices for video games," wrote Rena K., "The one I used primarily provided a RAM editor and some other tools which allowed me to tool around with the internal game files and I even get into muddling around with the game data all in the interest of seeing what would happen."

"As such, by the time my inflated hacker ego and I got into programming professionally, I was already pretty familiar with basic things like data types and binary. I was feeling pretty darn L33T."


Classic WTF: The Accidental Hire

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At least we get a summer break, I suppose. Not like over at Doghouse Insurance. Original -- Remy

Doghouse Insurance (as we'll call them) was not a pleasant place to work. Despite being a very successful player in their industry, the atmosphere inside Doghouse was filled with a constant, frenzied panic. If Joe Developer didn't delay his upcoming vacation and put in those weekend hours, he might risk the timely delivery of his team's module, which might risk delaying the entire project, which might risk the company's earnings potential, which might risk the collapse of the global economy. And that's just for the Employee Password Change Webpage project; I can't even begin to fathom the overarching devastation that would ensue from a delayed critical project.

To make matters worse, the primary business application that poor souls like Vinny maintained was a complete nightmare. It was developed during the company's "database simplification" era and consisted of hundreds of different "virtual attribute tables" stuffed into four real tables; it was a classic case of The Inner-Platform Effect. But amidst all this gloom and despair was an upbeat fellow named Chris who accidentally became a part of the Doghouse Insurance team.


Classic WTF: It's Like Calling Assert

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We continue our summer vacation with this gem- a unique way to interact with structured exception handling, to be sure. Original. --Remy

When we go from language to language and platform to platform, a whole lot of “little things” change about how we write code: typing, syntax, error handling, etc. Good developers try to adapt to a new language by reading the documentation, asking experienced colleagues, and trying to follow best practices. “Certain Developers,” however, try to make the language adapt to their way of doing things.

Adrien Kunysz discovered this following code written by a “Certain Developer” who wasn’t a fan of the try...catch…finally approach called for in .NET Java development and exception handling.


Classic WTF: Server Room Fans and More Server Room Fun

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The Daily WTF is taking a short summer break this week, and as the temperatures around here are edging up towards "Oh God I Want to Die" degrees Fahrenheit, I thought it'd be great to kick off this week of classic articles with some broiling hot server room hijinks. -- Remy

"It's that time of year again," Robert Rossegger wrote, "you know, when the underpowered air conditioner just can't cope with the non-winter weather? Fortunately, we have a solution for that... and all we need to do is just keep an extra eye on people walking near the (completely ajar) server room door."


Know Your Bits!

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"I know software can't always be perfect, but things like this make me want to shut down my PC and say that's enough computering for the day," writes Timothy W.


The Gassed Pump

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“Staff augmentation,” was a fancy way of saying, “hey, contractors get more per hour, but we don’t have to provide benefits so they are cheaper,” but Stuart T was happy to get more per hour, and even happier to know that he’d be on to his next gig within a few months. That was how he ended up working for a national chain of gas-station/convenience stores. His job was to build a “new mobile experience for customer loyalty” (aka, wrapping their website up as an app that can also interact with QR codes).

At least, that’s what he was working on before Miranda stormed into his cube. “Stuart, we need your help. ProdTrack is down, and I can’t fix it, because I’ve got to be at a mandatory meeting in ten minutes.”


A Promise of Timing

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Asynchronous programming is hard, and there’s never been a perfect way to solve that problem. One of the most widely used solutions is the “promise” or “future”. We wrap the asynchronous process up in a, well, promise of a future result. “Someday, there will be data here, I hope.” The real beauty of promises comes from their composability- “getData promises to fetch some records, and then the calling method can promise to display them.”

Of course, it’s still asynchronous, and when an application has multiple asynchronous processes happening at the same time, “weird behavior” can happen, thanks to timing issues. Keith W encountered one of those timing related Heisenbugs, and became immediately suspicious about how it was getting invoked:


The Insurance Plan

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When designing a new feature of an application, among other things, you always want to decide how it will be used. Is it single threaded or will it need to happen in parallel. Will only one user do it at a time, or does it need to support asynchronous access. Will every user want to do it in the same way, or will they each want something just a little different.

In Sewer Ants, ants in a Sewer

Charlie C. worked for a modestly sized financial startup that had gained some traction. The company had grown to about 100 people. They had garnered about 300 customers, and they were building software that would solve a problem that was causing regulators all manner of headaches.


Variation on a Theme

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If you’re not already aware, the Daily WTF is open source. We went the route of building our own CMS mostly because our application needs are pretty light. We don’t need themes, we don’t need WYSIWYG editors, we don’t need asset uploads. Also, with home-grown code, we know what’s in it, what it does, and any problems in the code are our own.

Which brings us to WordPress, land of the themes. There’s a cottage industry around building WordPress themes, and it’s a busy enough space that there are specialists in developing themes for specific industries. Alessandro ended up doing some work in the real estate business, tweaking a WP theme to change the way certain images would get displayed in a slide show.


A World Turned Upside Down

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John A. wrote, "Wait, so 'Cancel' is 'Continue' and 'OK' is really 'Cancel'!?"


Switched Over

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Twelve years ago, a company decided they needed a website. They didn’t have any web developers, and they didn’t want to hire any, so they threw a PHP manual at the new hire who happened to “be good with computers”, and called it a day.

Ms. “Good With Computers” actually learned something from the experience, and moved on to a lucrative career in web development. Unfortunately, she left behind the code she learned by doing, and now Bert has been brought in to clean up the code.