Remy Porter

Remy is a veteran developer who writes software for space probes.

He's often on stage, doing improv comedy, but insists that he isn't doing comedy- it's deadly serious. You're laughing at him, not with him. That, by the way, is usually true- you're laughing at him, not with him.

A Tip

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David was poking around in some code for a visualization library his team uses. It's a pretty potent tool, with good code quality. While skimming the code, though, David found this mismatched comment and code:

def get_tip(self): # Returns the position of the seventh point in the path, which is the tip. if config["renderer"] == "opengl": return self.points[34] return self.points[28] # = 7*4

Around 20 Meg

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Michael was assigned a short, investigatory ticket. You see, their PHP application allowed file uploads. They had a rule: the files should never be larger than 20MB. But someone had uploaded files which were larger. Not much larger, but larger. Michael was tasked with figuring out what was wrong.

Given that the error was less than half a megabyte, Michael had a pretty good guess about why this was.

Image Uploading

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The startup life is difficult, at the best of times. It's extra hard when the startup's entire bundle of C-level executives are seniors in college. For the company Aniket Bhattacharyea worked for, they had a product, they had a plan, and they had funding from a Venture Capitalist. More than funding, the VC had their own irons in the fire, and they'd toss subcontracting work to Aniket's startup. It kept the lights on, but it also ate up their capacity to progress the startup's product.

One day, the VC had a new product to launch: a children's clothing store. The minimum viable product, in this case, was just a Magento demo with a Vue Storefront front-end. Strict tutorial-mode stuff, which the VC planned to present to stakeholders as an example of what their product could be.

Junior Reordering

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"When inventory drops below the re-order level, we automatically order more," was how the product owner described the requirement to the junior developer. The junior toddled off to work, made their changes. They were not, however, given sufficient supervision, any additional guidance, or any code-reviews.

Dan found this in production:

The Contract Access Upgrade

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Microsoft Access represents an "attractive nuisance". It's a powerful database and application development platform designed to enable end users to manage their own data. Empowering users is, in principle, good. But the negative side effect is that you get people who aren't application developers developing applications, which inevitably become business critical.

A small company developed an Access Database thirty years ago. It grew, it mutated, it got ported from each Access version to the next. Its tendrils extended outwards, taking over more and more of the business's processes. The ability to maintain and modify the database decayed, updates and bugfixes got slower to make, the whole system got slower. But it limped along roughly at the speed the business required… and then Larry, the user who developed, retired.

A Sniff

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In November of 2020, the last IE release happened, and on June 15th of this year, the desktop app officially lost support on Windows 10. But IE never truly dies.

Eleanor inherited a web application for a news service. And, you won't be shocked that it's still doing user-agent sniffing to identify the browser. That's just plain bad, but by the standards of user-agent sniffing, it's not terrible code.

Classical Solutions

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CSS classes give us the ability to reuse styles in a meaningful way, by defining, well, classes of styling. A common anti-pattern is to misuse classes and define things like "redTextUnderlined" as a CSS class. Best practice is that a CSS class should define the role, not the appearance. So that class might be better named "validationError", for example. A class will frequently bundle together a bunch of stylesheet properties into a single, meaningful name. That's the ideal approach, anyway.

Now, Olivia's predecessor had an… interesting philosophy of how to use CSS classes.

Repetition is an Echo

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Annie works in a bioinformatics department. There's a lot of internally developed code, and the quality is… special. But it's also got features that are on their critical path of doing their jobs.

One example is that, based on one input form, the next input form needs to display a drop down. The drop down elements don't change, but the individual item that's selected does. So, if the rank HTTP POST variable is set, we want to make sure the matching entry is selected.