Recent Articles

Oct 2017

With the Router, In the Conference Room

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This is a follow-up to With the Router, In the Conference Room, revealing the… STUNNING CONCLUSION!

How It Really Ended

Darren took the case up to his boss, and then to their boss, up the management chain. No one was particularly happy with Cathy’s tone, and there was a great deal of tut-tutting and finger-wagging about professional conduct.

Ms. Scarlett, in Clue, delivering the line 'Flames, flames on the side of my face'

With the Router, In the Conference Room

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One of the most important aspects of software QA is establishing a good working relationship with developers. If you want to get them to take your bug reports seriously, you have to approach them with the right attitude. If your bugs imply that their work is shoddy, they are likely to fight back on anything you submit. If you continuously submit trivial “bugs”, they will probably be returned right away with a “not an issue” or “works as designed” status. If you treat any bug like it’s a critical showstopper, they will think you’re crying wolf and not immediately jump on issues that actually are critical.

Then there’s people like Mr. Green, a former coworker of submitter Darren A., that give QA a bad name. The Mr. Greens of the QA world are so incompetent that their stupidity can cause project delays, rack up thousands of dollars in support costs, and cause a crapstorm between managers. Mr. Green once ran afoul of Darren’s subordinate Cathy, lead developer on the project Mr. Green was testing.

A shot from the film Clue, where Mrs. White holds a gun in front of Col. Mustard

Drain the Swamp

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You may remember Virginia N from An Extinction Event, where she struggles to refactor a legacy project with some… unusual design principles. ReSharper still continues to choke to death on their codebase, but her management has let her know, this won’t be a problem going forward.

“You see,” her boss explained, “we’re going to move the logic into stored procedures. That way, we can more easily re-use the logic between the Windows Forms client and the Web app.”

Trick or Treat? Smell My Feet

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"Sorry, but 4.2 billion Microsoft points sounds like 'all tricks' to me," writes Ergin S.

10001 Problems

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A rat leaving a ship via the mooring rope, thus spreading th Wellcome V0010685

Our Anonymous submitter's first job was helping to support a distributed system running in a low-energy embedded platform. Interesting on its face, the platform was actually a bloated, outdated monstrosity made worse by the decision to use C++ in conjunction with a homemade (read: unsafe) binary data format.


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Sometime back, our friend Fred told us about his experiences with homegrown PK/FK relationships. Today, he regales us with a tale of trying to get users to use their new-and-improved sso mechanism, even if they don't want to.

His company currently runs a legacy reporting portal service that has an old-school sso which is used by several third party systems. This mechanism stores user names and passwords as clear text in the DB. It also passes them in clear text in a hidden HTML form. The third party code would create the hidden form with the user name and password in clear text and JavaScript-submit it to the login page - without HTTPS. OK, it was the way things were set up way back then.

A computer screen showing the prompt 'My name is *****. My voice is my passport. Verify me.

The Key to Lookups

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After some “miscommunications about coding standards”, Nicolas’s company decided that they should have one of their internal developers do code reviews on anything that came from their external, third-party developers. Nicolas drew the short straw on the most recent project.

The specific problem in play is that they had config-data, structured as nested dictionaries. You know the kind of data-structure- something like:

Secure Login

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“I logged into the admin app.”

Julie’s boss had the username and password for the admin app, so that wasn’t too surprising.

Legitimate Links

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"Swedish...Russian...English....same difference!" wrote Fred.

Abstract Test Case

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A great many breakfast cereals promise some sort of health benefit. This brand is good for your heart, that brand has 11 essential vitamins and minerals. This one’s got bran! Just because there’s a promise of health benefits doesn’t mean they actually exist- most of these cereals are lightly fluffed sugar held together with a smidge of starch.

Object-oriented languages promise a lot of code-health benefits, and used properly, they can certainly deliver. In this somewhat tortured metaphor, the Lucky Charms marshmallow of OO features is Inheritance. It’s tasty, it’s easy to explain, but it’s not really good for your code. A little bit, here-and-there, from time-to-time is great. But some folks buy the three pound bag and that’s just not good for anybody.

The Official Software

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At the very beginning of my career, I was a junior programmer on a team that developed software to control an electronics test station, used to diagnose problems with assorted components of jet fighters. Part of my job was the requisite grunt work of doing the build, which entailed a compile-script, and the very manual procedure of putting all the necessary stuff onto a boot-loader tape to be used to build the 24 inch distribution disk arrays.

An unspooled magnetic tape for data storagesource

This procedure ran painfully slowly; it took about 11 hours to dump a little more than 2 MB from the tape onto the target disk, and nobody could tell me why. All they knew was that the official software had to be used to load the bootstrap routine, and then the file dumps.

Too Salty

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The first rule of building your own password storage mechanisms is don’t. Like most other highly-specialized wheels, you aren’t going to do as good a job as someone who specializes in it. It’s bad enough when you write your own date mangling code, but for security-critical features, like passwords or encryption, you’re begging for trouble.

Joni spotted some trouble: many of the users in the database had the same password hash. This, of course, should never happen- the password should be combined with a user-specific salt as part of the hashing, so that even if two users had the same password, they’d have different hashes.

RAM On Through

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The company Tomasz worked for launched a new device line with more RAM than the previous generation. This was supposed to put an end to the sort of memory shortages common to embedded systems. However, it wasn't long before they began hearing from clients whose systems crashed whenever they attempted to upgrade the accompanying software package.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

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"After trying to close my steam support ticket, I got this," writes Joe, "Now, I'm not entirely sure."

Refactoring the Conditional

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Virginia N was trying to refactor some code, and that meant understanding where the value m_PSOC_SIG was used, and why. So, she did some searching, and found this line, which doesn’t contain our value:


We Know How This Works

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One of the selling points of a language like Java is that it comes with a rich standard library of useful classes. This allows developers to completely ignore those useful features, and instead reinvent the wheel badly. Once this novel square wheel has come off the assembly line, it becomes the defacto standard for the organization.

Take, for example, Caiwan’s office. They have a… special date-handling library.

A Case of Bad Timing

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Although I've retired from full time work, I still consult for lots of small mom-n-pop places. Mostly, it's little scripts to automate doing this and that. Sometimes, the boss' kid or nephew was asked to get ambitious and solve a problem. When the inevitable happens, they call me to bail them out.

For the most part, it's usually something like some file got moved/renamed/deleted. Sometimes, they got ambitious and attempted to write a batch file. This time, a college freshman, who claimed to be "good with computers", had written a program to control the little scripts and jobs in an automated fashion. Apparently, it was getting too complicated for him and they asked me if I could work with it.

Sorry for the Inconvenience

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"Yeah, I'm kinda sorry that I have to use Visual Studio too," wrote Kevin D.

Hired: State of Contracting

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Our sponsor, Hired, passed us off a report they just published: “The State of Contract Work”. I said to myself, “Wait a second, I’m a contractor!” Well, technically, I’m more of a consultant or sometimes a trainer- one of those evil highly paid consultants who swing in, tell developers how to do their jobs, and leave behind nothing more than the smell of brimstone and invoices.

The bad thing about this line of work, at least from the perspective of a TDWTF article, is that if I encounter a real WTF, it’s because someone wants me to fix it. A WTF that is getting fixed isn’t really a WTF anymore. That doesn’t mean I don’t encounter some real head-scratchers from time to time.

The Anty Pattern

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An anti-pattern that shows up from time to time here is the old “our IDE’s build output is mapped to a network drive on the web server”, but “Drummer” shows us a novel new variation on that theme.

It all started when a co-worker asked them, “how do I change the compiler version?” The code was built using Ant, so “Drummer” opened the build file and searched through it for a javac element- the Ant command which runs the Java compiler.

The Porpoise of Comment Easter Eggs

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Today's submitter writes: I wonder how many developers out there have managed, intentionally or otherwise, to have a comment Easter egg go viral within a project.

Dashboard Confessional

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Three years ago, this XKCD comic captured a lot of the problems we have with gathering requirements:

A comic where a customer asks a developer to a) Take a photo and determine if it's in a national park (easy says the dev), b) determine if it's of a bird (I need a research team and 5 years)