Recent Articles

Aug 2017

Time To Transfer

by in Feature Articles on

TN-wall-clock hg

When people think about government, they usually think about a President or Prime Minister, Senators, MPs, or what have you. But government isn't just a handful of people at the top of the food chain: there's government all the way down to the city level, quietly making the country run. Driver's licenses have to be issued, as do pet licenses. Buildings have to be inspected and certified. All those elevator certificates get printed up somewhere. Increasingly, these small functions are being computerized—in bits and pieces, in incompatible systems—and hooked up to the Internet.


An Emailed Condition

by in CodeSOD on

For a change of pace, the code in this CodeSOD isn’t the real WTF. Our Anonymous submitter works for a company that handles meeting scheduling for corporate customers. This entails shipping off loads of HTML-emails, and that means using a relatively terrible WYSIWYG editor that generates code like this:

<p class="MsoNormal"><strong style="color: #003877;">Meals</strong></p>
<p class="MsoNoSpacing">
<span style="font-size:9.0pt;font-family:" verdana",sans-serif;="" mso-fareast-language:en-gb"="">
All breakfasts and lunches will be served in Food Capital on the ground floor of the hotel.
&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;
</span></p>
<p class="MsoNoSpacing"><span style="font-size:9.0pt;font-family:" verdana",sans-serif;="" mso-fareast-language:en-gb"="">
We look forward to hosting you for the following dinners:
<o:p></o:p></span></p>

Ride the URL Line

by in Error'd on

Michael R. wrote, "So, https://TfL.Gov.UK...does that bus go on the 'Information Superhighway'?"


Featurette: Hired!

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As you know, Hired has been sponsoring the site for the past few months. I went “behind the scenes” to have a brief chat with Michael Mitchell, a full stack web engineer focused on their “Candidate Experience” features.


Object Relational Mangling

by in CodeSOD on

Writing quality database code is a challenge. Most of your commands need to be expressed in SQL, which is a mildly complicated language made more complicated by minor variations across databases. Result sets often have a poor mapping to our business logic’s abstractions, especially in object-oriented languages. Thus, we have Object-Relational-Mapping tools, like Microsoft’s EntityFramework.

With an ORM, you use an object-oriented approach to fetching your objects, and could write something like: IList<HJFRate> rates = db.HJFRates.where(rate=>rate.typeOfUse == typeOfUse) to return all the rows as objects. There’s no concern about SQL injections, no need to process the result set directly. While ORMs can generate poor SQL, or create really inefficient data-access patterns, their ease-of-use is a big selling point.


Cut Short

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Marcus worked on a small networking team responsible for keeping a series of UK-based garages interconnected with the world-wide web. Seymour, the Team Leader (in title only), knew far less about networking than Marcus, but that didn't stop him from acting like the big shot. Seymour was working a cash register at the original garage several years ago when the owner asked him, "You're a young guy, right? That means you know how the internet works. What can we do to make this place internet-friendly?" After taking a Networking 101 course, Seymour managed to get the garage online, then enabled it to monitor gas prices and perform credit card transactions. This made Seymour a hero to the owner, and earned him the title, "Networking Team Leader" before he even had a team.

Eventually the garage grew from a single location into a chain. When each new location opened, Seymour made it "internet-friendly", using the same techniques he learned at the original store, which usually involved sloppy cable runs and the cheapest router he could buy. When it came time to do more than just have the ISP arrive to show where Seymour to plug in the network cable, he was completely lost. Having multiple locations networked together was really advanced stuff, so he convinced the owner to hire some help.


Attack of the "i" Creatures

by in CodeSOD on

Mrs S” works for a large software vendor. This vendor has a tendency to quickly increase staffing to hit arbitrary release targets, and thus relies heavily on contractors. Since they’re usually doing this during a time crunch, these contractors may have a… dubious skill set.

They also don’t care. There is no documentation, no tests, and no explanation. They are just paid tho write the code, not maintain it. They’ll be on another contract before long, so it’s some other schmuck’s problem.


D.O.A.

by in Error'd on

John A. writes, "Um, you know, I don't think this was a brilliant idead."


Protect Your Property

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Given the common need to have getter/setter methods on properties, many languages have adopted conventions which try and make it easier to implement/invoke them. For example, if you name a method foo in Ruby, you can invoke it by doing: obj.foo = 5.

In the .NET family of languages, there’s a concept of a property, which bundles the getter and setter methods together through some syntactical sugar. So, something like this, in VB.Net.


Disk Administrations

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It was a mandatory change control meeting. Steven S.’s department, a research branch of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Belgium, assembled in a cramped meeting room without enough chairs for everyone. Camille, head of IT, was nonplussed.

“These orders come directly from Security,” she began. “Just last month, we monitored over a hundred attempts to break into the HCP.” The Home Care Platform was a database of citizens’ requests for doctors’ visits, prescription coverage, etc. Steven’s team had developed a mobile app that gave citizens access to HCP’s records.


Drop it Like it's a Deployment

by in CodeSOD on

Zenith’s company went ahead on and outsourced 95% of their development to the lowest bidder. Said bidder promised a lot of XML and MVC and whatever TLAs sounded buzzwordy that day, and off they went. It’s okay, though, the customer isn’t just taking that code and deploying it- “Zenith” gets to do code reviews to ensure code quality. The general flow of the post-code-review conversation goes something like:

Zenith: This code shouldn’t go into production, hell, it’s so bad that a proud parent wouldn’t even hang it on their fridge.
Management: I’ll raise your concerns.
Outsourced Team: We did the needful, please review again.
Zenith: They didn’t change anything. It doesn’t even compile.
Offshore Team: There are too many barriers, we cannot hit deadlines, your team is too strict
Managment: Yeah… I guess you’re gonna have to lay off the contractors. Don’t be so strict in your code reviews. We have to deliver software!


Credential Helper

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302 El Born Centre Cultural, sala Casanova, claus dels calabossos de la Ciutadella

John S. worked with a customer who still owned several Windows 2008/R2 servers. Occassionally during automated management and deployments, these machines threw exceptions because they weren't configured for remote management. One day, John caught an exception on a SQL box and remoted in to address the problem.


A Test-imonial

by in Error'd on

"You know, usually these statements are just marketing B.S., but I think this guy's got the right idea," wrote Philip K.


Nature In Its Volatility

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About two years ago, we took a little trip to the Galapagos- a tiny, isolated island where processes and coding practices evolved… a bit differently. Calvin, as an invasive species, brought in new ways of doing things- like source control, automated builds, and continuous integration- and changed the landscape of the island forever.

Geospiza parvula

Or so it seemed, until the first hiccup. Shortly after putting all of the code into source control and automating the builds, the application started failing in production. Specifically, the web service calls out to a third party web service for a few operations, and those calls universally failed in production.


Synchronized Threads

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Tim was debugging one of those multithreading bugs, where there appeared to be a race condition of some kind. The developer who had initially written the code denied that such a thing could exist: “It’s impossible, I used locks to synchronize the threads!”

Well, he did use locks at the very least.


The 5% Candidate

by in Tales from the Interview on

Exams Start... Now

There are many kinds of jackasses in this world, from the pretentious prick to the smug cynic. Each has their own flavor of awfulness, their own way of making you hate not only them but the entire world that gave birth to them. This story is about one kind of jackass in particular, perhaps the most classic flavor: the man so sure of his own greatness that he becomes enraged at the world whenever it fails to bow before his massive intellect.