Recent Articles

Feb 2018

The Part Version

by in CodeSOD on

Once upon a time, there was a project. Like most projects, it was understaffed, under-budgeted, under-estimated, and under the gun. Death marches ensued, and 80 hour weeks became the norm. The attrition rate was so high that no one who was there at the start of the project was there at the end of the project. Like the Ship of Theseus, each person was replaced at least once, but it was still the same team.

Eric wasn’t on that team. He was, however, a consultant. When the project ended and nothing worked, Eric got called in to fix it. And then called back to fix it some more. And then called back to implement new features. And called back…


by in Feature Articles on

In software development, there are three kinds of problems: small, big and subtle. The small ones are usually fairly simple to track down; a misspelled label, a math error, etc. The large ones usually take longer to find; a race condition that you just can't reproduce, an external system randomly feeding you garbage, and so forth.

Internet word cloud

The subtle problems are an entirely different beast. It can be as simple as somebody entering 4321 instead of 432l (432L), or similar with 'i', 'l', '1', '0' and 'O'. It can be an interchanged comma and period. It can be something more complex, such as an unsupported third party library that throws back errors for undefined conditions, but randomly provides so little information as to be useful to neither user nor developer.

Waiting for the Future

by in CodeSOD on

One of the more interesting things about human psychology is how bad we are at thinking about the negative consequences of our actions if those consequences are in the future. This is why the death penalty doesn’t deter crime, why we dump massive quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and why the Y2K bug happened in the first place, and why we’re going to do it again when every 32-bit Unix system explodes in 2038. If the negative consequence happens well after the action which caused it, humans ignore the obvious cause and effect and go on about making problems that have to be fixed later.

Fran inherited a bit of technical debt. Specifically, there’s an auto-numbered field in the database. Due to their business requirements, when the field hits 999,999, it needs to wrap back around to 000,001. Many many years ago, the original developer “solved” that problem thus:

Everybody's Invited!

by in Error'd on

"According to Outlook, it seems that I accidentally invited all of the EU and US citizens combined," writes Wouter.

Functional IsFunction

by in CodeSOD on

Julio S recently had to attempt to graft a third-party document viewer onto an internal web app. The document viewer was from a company which specialized in enterprise “document solutions”, which can be purchased for enterprise-sized licensing fees.

Gluing the document viewer onto their internal app didn’t go terribly well. While debugging, and browsing through the vendor’s javascript, he saw a lot of calls to a function called IsFunction. It was loaded from a “utilities.js”-type do-everything library file. Curious, Julio pulled up the implementation.

Shiny Side Up

by in Feature Articles on


It feels as though disc-based media have always been with us, but the 1990s were when researchers first began harvesting these iridescent creatures from the wild in earnest, pressing data upon them to create the beast known as CD-ROM. Click-and-point adventure games, encyclopedias, choppy full-motion video ... in some cases, ambition far outweighed capability. Advances in technology made the media cheaper and more accessible, often for the worst. There are some US households that still burn America Online 7.0 CDs for fuel.

The Telltale Snippet

by in CodeSOD on

True! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly I can tell you the whole story. - “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe

Today’s submitter credits themselves as Too Afraid To Say (TATS) who they are. Why? Because like a steady “thump thump” from beneath the floorboards, they are haunted by their crimes. The haunting continues to this very day.


by in Feature Articles on

Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000

Every year, Initrode Global was faced with further and further budget shortages in their IT department. This wasn't because the company was doing poorly—on the contrary, the company overall was doing quite well, hitting record sales every quarter. The only way to spin that into a smaller budget was to dream bigger. Thus, every quarter, the budget demanded greater and greater increases in sales, and the exceptional growth was measured against the desired phenomenal growth and found wanting.

Preparing for the Future

by in Error'd on

George B. wrote, "Wait, so is it done...or not done?"

It's Called Abstraction, and It's a Good Thing

by in Feature Articles on

Steven worked for a company that sold “big iron” to big companies, for big bucks. These companies didn’t just want the machines, though, they wanted support. They wanted lots of support. With so many systems, processing so many transactions, installed at so many customer sites, Steven’s company needed a better way to analyze when things went squirrelly.

Thus was born a suite of applications called “DICS”- the Diagnostic Investigation Console System. It was, at its core, a processing pipeline. On one end, it would reach out to a customer’s site and download log files. The log files would pass through a series of analytic steps, and eventually reports would come out the other end. Steven mostly worked on the reporting side of things.

All the Rest Have Thirty One…

by in CodeSOD on

Aleksei received a bunch of notifications from their CI system, announcing a build failure. This was interesting, because no code had changed recently, so what was triggering the failure?

        private BillingRun CreateTestBillingRun(int billingRunGroupId, DateTime? billingDate, int? statusId)
            return new BillingRun
                BillingRunGroupId = billingRunGroupId,
                PeriodStart = new DateTime(DateTime.Today.Year, DateTime.Today.Month, 1),
                BillingDate = billingDate ?? new DateTime(DateTime.Today.Year, DateTime.Today.Month, 15),
                CreatedDate = new DateTime(DateTime.Today.Year, DateTime.Today.Month, 30),
                ItemsPreparedDate = new DateTime(2017, 4, 7),
                CompletedDate = new DateTime(2017, 4, 8),
                DueDate = new DateTime(DateTime.Today.Year, DateTime.Today.Month, 13),
                StatusId = statusId ?? BillingRunStatusConsts.Completed,
                ErrorCode = "ERR_CODE",
                Error = "Full error description",
                ModifiedOn = new DateTime(2017, 1, 1)

Budget Cuts

by in Feature Articles on

Xavier was the head of a 100+ person development team. Like many enterprise teams, they had to support a variety of vendor-specific platforms, each with their own vendor-specific development environment and its own licensing costs. All the licensing costs were budgeted for at year’s end, when Xavier would submit the costs to the CTO. The approval was a mere formality, ensuring his team would have everything they needed for another year.

Unfortunately, that CTO left to pursue another opportunity. Enter Greg, a new CTO who joined the company from the financial sector. Greg was a penny-pincher on a level that would make the novelty coin-smasher you find at zoos and highway rest-stops jealous. Greg started cutting costs left and right immediately. When the time came for budgeting development tool licensing, Greg threw down the gauntlet on Xavier’s “wild” spending.

Alan Rickman, in Galaxy Quest, delivering the line, 'By Grabthar's Hammer, what a savings' while looking like his soul is dying forever. "By Grabthar's Hammer, what a savings."

If It's Stupid and It Works

by in Coded Smorgasbord on

On a certain level, if code works, it can only be so wrong. For today, we have a series of code blocks that work… mostly. Despite that, each one leaves you scratching your head, wondering how, exactly this happened.

Whatever Happened to January 2nd?

by in Error'd on

"Skype for Business is trying to tell me something...but I'm not sure exactly what," writes Jeremy W.

I Take Exception

by in CodeSOD on

We've all seen code that ignores errors. We've all seen code that simply rethrows an exception. We've all seen code that wraps one exception for another. The submitter, Mr. O, took exception to this exceptionally exceptional exception handling code.

I was particularly amused by the OutOfMemoryException handler that allocates another exception object, and if it fails, another layer of exception trapping catches that and attempts to allocate yet another exception object. if that fails, it doesn't even try. So that makes this an exceptionally unexceptional exception handler?! (ouch, my head hurts)

How To Creat Socket?

by in CodeSOD on

JR earned a bit of a reputation as the developer who could solve anything. Like most reputations, this was worse than it sounded, and it meant he got the weird heisenbugs. The weirdest and the worst heisenbugs came from Gerry, a developer who had worked for the company for many, many years, and left behind many, many landmines.

Once upon a time, in those Bad Old Days, Gerry wrote a C++ socket-server. In those days, the socket-server would crash any time there was an issue with network connectivity. Crashing services were bad, so Gerry “fixed” it. Whatever Gerry did fell into the category of “good enough”, but it had one problem: after any sort of network hiccup, the server wouldn’t crash, but it would take a very long time to start servicing requests again. Long enough that other processes would sometime fail. It was infrequent enough that the bug had stuck around for years, but finally, someone wanted Something Done™.

For Want of a CR…

by in Feature Articles on

A few years ago I was hired as an architect to help design some massive changes to a melange of existing systems so a northern foreign bank could meet some new regulatory requirements. As a development team, they gave me one junior developer with almost a year of experience. There were very few requirements and most of it would be guesswork to fill in the blanks. OK, typical Wall Street BS.

Horseshoe nails, because 'for want of a nail, the shoe was lost…

The junior developer was, well, junior, but bright, and he remembered what you taught him, so there was a chance we could succeed.


by in CodeSOD on

Adam recently tried to claim a rebate for a purchase. Rebate websites, of course, are awful. The vendor doesn’t really want you to claim the rebate, after all, so even if they don’t actively try and make it user hostile, they’re also not going to go out of their way to make the experience pleasant.

In Adam’s case, it just didn’t work. It attempted to use a custom-built auto-complete textbox, which errored out and in some cases popped up an alert which read: [object Object]. Determined to get his $9.99 rebate, Adam did what any of us would do: he started trying to debug the page.

The Biggest Loser

by in Error'd on

"I don't know what's more surprising - losing $2,000,000 or that Yahoo! thought I had $2,000,000 to lose," writes Bruce W.

We Sell Bonds!

by in Feature Articles on

We Sell Bonds!

The quaint, brick-faced downtown office building was exactly the sort of place Alexis wanted her first real programming job to be. She took a moment to just soak in the big picture. The building's façade oozed history, and culture. The busy downtown crowd flowed around her like a tranquil stream. And this was where she landed right out of college-- if this interview went well.

Alexis went inside, got a really groovy start-up vibe from the place. The lobby slash waiting room slash employee lounge slash kitchen slash receptionist desk was jam packed full of boxes of paperwork waiting to be unpacked and filed (once a filing cabinet was bought). The walls, still the color of unpainted drywall, accented with spats of plaster and glue-tape. Everything was permeated with chaotic beginnings and untapped potential.