Recent Articles

Jun 2019

Greek To Me

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Many decades ago—before laser printers, graphical operating systems, and device-independent imaging models—Gus worked in the IT department of a local college. As a personal project during slow moments at work, he took it upon himself to figure out how to print Greek text. About a week later, he'd hacked together a solution that resulted in a printout of classical Greek writing.


Do You Speak United States?

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Mark wrote, "A Computer Science Degree + a New York certification + ability to speak United States?...I'm the perfict fit!!"


The Honeypot

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Pitor works for a web development shop. They’ll develop and design sites, usually pretty simple ones, for their customers. They’ll host them. They’ll update them. Every once in awhile, a customer will think “we could do this cheaper in house!” and takes their site and their contract to a cheap webhost.

Sometimes, those customers come back when they realized their mistake.


Whose Tern is it to Play?

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Every once in awhile, someone sends us some code from a game. Now, I’ve never delved deep into game development, aside from making a 3D asteroids game as a final project for a class twenty years ago, but I’ve also read an article about how fast inverse square root works, and know that you shouldn’t blow in a Nintendo cartridge, so I’m basically an expert, and I understand that under the constraints of games, some of the rules about clarity and maintainability go out the window.

But Adam S found some code that’d be just plain bad in any context:


This Null Leaves Me Feeling Empty

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Stella needs to interface with a cloud-hosted marketing automation system. The documentation isn’t particularly great, and her organization doesn’t have anyone with any serious experience with the stack, so she’s been trying to find examples and wrapper libraries that can make it easier.

She found one. While digging through the wrapper code, she found this block:


Is Thinking Range Empty?

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Susi inherited some code which she fortunately wasn't expected to maintain. She had a worse problem: she was expected to figure out what it did so that a new version of the software could be created. No one actually understood all the ins-and-outs of the software, there was no document that fully specified what it did, but it was absolutely business critical and every feature needed to continue to work, even if no one knew exactly what those features were.

Features and functionality aside, internally, everything was stringly typed, and I do mean everything. Why use a struct in C++ when you can use a character delimited string? Why use a class when you can instead use multiple different kinds of delimiters to mean different things? Susi found cases where they stretched to delimiters involving characters Susi didn't even know existed, like the double o̿verscore.


Just Don't Look Too Closely

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"Balmuda's marketing has a lot to say about their products in Japan...just not in Japanese...or really in Latin either for that matter," writes Michael.


Sorted by Title

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Dictionaries/Maps are usually implemented on top of some sort of hashing system. This isn’t precisely required, but it allows extremely fast access by key. The disadvantage is that the data isn’t stored in any human-friendly order.

Cicely’s co-worker had a problem with this. They wanted to store key value pairs- specifically, the titles of a media item, and the actual object representing the media items. They wanted to be able to fetch items by their title, but they also wanted to be able to present the items sorted by their title.


Drink from the Font of Wisdom

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A long time ago, George G started at Initech’s downtown office. They had just rented a few floors in an old office building that had recently transitioned from “urban blight” to “twee coffee shops on the first floor and the scent of shoe polish and fresh leather on every floor.”

It was a big space, and George was in the part of his career where he merited a private office with a view of the alley.


Robot Anarchy

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Chaz had a pretty sweet gig as a software architect at a tech-based toy company. Being able to play around with computers AND toys all day wasn't terrible, but the pot got even sweeter when his company licensed a cool robotic product from a certain Danish toy company that specializes in small, colorful bricks. Chaz was happy to become the lead platform architect for this exciting new initiative.

The intended outcome was to make the robots consumer-programmable via an interface with a smartphone app. Chaz had grand ideas for how he wanted to build the app and backend from the ground up with stability, performance, and security as the main pillars. That dream was dashed by Stellan, the CFO-turned-CTO, who insisted they develop against the same in-house platform they'd been using for over a decade. Chaz argued with Stellan until he was blue in the face, but Stellan scoffed at him, "I don't care if smartphones didn't even exist when our platform was designed. The cost of building a whole new one would be astronomical. We want a quick turnaround and high profit margin on these robots!" Stellan clearly showed he was far more qualified to be a CFO than CTO.


This Event is Quite the Do

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Benjamin inherited some code from a fellow developer. The original author of this code wrote a lot of code for the company, and that code drives a lot of products which make the company piles of money. Tired of making money, that developer left to go open a restaurant.

Which means Benjamin is now responsible for maintaining code which lives in 15,000 line files where class-level variables are essentially treated as globals. There's also a lot of misunderstandings about how Windows Forms GUIs work.