Recent Feature Articles

Jan 2021

Just Google It

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Based on the glowing recommendations of a friend, Philip accepted a new job in a new city. The new city was a wonderful change of pace. The new job, on the other hand…

The company was a startup, "running lean" and "making the best use of our runway". The CEO was a distant figure, but the CTO, Trey, was a much more hands on "leader". Trey was part of the interview process, and was the final decision maker for hiring Philip. On Philip's first day, Trey commented on the fact that Philip specifically hadn't gotten a degree in software engineering, but had twenty years of work experience.

Demo Most Dear

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Cars in traffic in Auckland, New Zealand - copyright-free photo released to public domain

Reese was driving home from work one day in 2012 when his cell phone rang out over his driving music. It wasn't a number he had stored in his contacts, but the area code and prefix were clearly from his office.

Failing the Test

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Like many dev teams, Rubi's team relies heavily on continuous integration. Their setup, like many others, relies on git hooks, and whenever someone pushes a commit to any branch, it automatically runs all the associated unit tests. Good code stays green, and any bugs are immediately revealed. Branches with failing tests cannot be merged into the main branch, which is all pretty reasonable.

Recently, Ruby pushed a commit on a branch up, and pretty much immediately realized that the tests were going to fail because she forgot to update a related code file. Even as she started to amend the commit, she waited for the CI server to cough up an error. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Go Forth, Young Programmer

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The past is another planet, but a familiar one. Back in the far off year of 1989, Rick Poleshuck took a job with a company that made a computer product for nurses's stations in hospitals. Now, this product was for notes, and it was an "all inclusive" product- software, proprietary hardware, networking, terminals, everything. And it was written in Forth.

Now, this is what we might call a "classic Forth" system, and in such a system, Forth ran on bare metal. No OS, no filesystem, and a simple scheduler. This was also the system they developed on: the source just lived in raw 1KB blocks on the hard disk, and they edited blocks directly. That's not a WTF, that's just how things were done in that environment.

Version Chaos

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Tangled power lines in Puerto Rico

Today's submitter, Erica, writes: Every time I tell this story to other developers they don't believe it, because this is quite possibly the dumbest way version control has ever been done.

It's a Gift

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Tyra was standing around the coffee maker with her co-workers when their phones all dinged with an email from management.

Edgar is no longer employed at Initech. If you see him on the property, for any reason, please alert security.

Going Backwards

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Nearly 15 years ago, fresh out of college, Giuseppe was hired on at a mobile networking company. The company wasn't a software company, but since they were heavy in networking and could handle all sorts of weird technical problems there, software must basically be the same thing, so they also started producing applications to manage those networks.

It didn't take them long to discover that "building networks" and "writing software" are different skillsets, and so they did what every company with some room in the budget does: they hire a pack of Highly Paid Consultants to get their project on track.

The Contract Position

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Mandi didn't plan to take a staff job at a university. To the contrary, she'd heard some bad things: loads of office politics, budgets so thin you need quantum mechanics to describe their position, and bureaucracy thick enough to drown any project.

But one day, she met her old colleague Scot for lunch, and they got to chatting about his university job. "Oh, yeah, that's common enough," he said, "which is why my team isn't structured that way. We're doing in-house development of educational solutions, which is a fancy way of saying 'nobody understands what we do, so they leave us alone'."